Christ Walking on Water

Circa 249 A.D.
Wall painting, Church at Dura-Europos, Syria
Yale University Art Gallery

This picture was painted in the baptistery of the church. It and the other pictures in the baptistery are the oldest known Christian images.

A cursory glance would suggest that Peter is the figure on the left and that he is placed lower in the image because he is sinking into the sea, as in most images of this episode (Matthew 14:22-33). But Peppard (87-93) cites a number of scholars who conclude that Peter is the one on the right, walking with both feet on the water toward Christ, who is beckoning to him with his right hand. This would differ from the usual early Christian interpretation of the scene as a lesson in the need for steadfastness in faith, but in the context of a baptistery it makes sense as an assurance that "the power granted to Jesus through his anointing as Christ was passed on to those anointed as Christian disciples."

On the boat, four men raise their arms. This gesture could refer either to the disciples' initial reaction to Jesus's approach across the water, "they…were troubled, saying: It is an apparition. And they cried out for fear" (14:26), or more likely to their concluding remark: "And they that were in the boat came and adored him, saying: Indeed thou art the Son of God" (14:33).

Read more about images of St. Peter.

Source: this page at Wikimedia Commons..