The Jonah Sarcophagus: Detail, the shepherd

Visually this scene is an obvious counterpart to the Lazarus scene on the opposite end of the upper register. Like Lazarus, the two sheep emerge from a temple-like structure. Like Jesus, the shepherd gestures to them. Fuchs (54-55) sees the relationship between the two scenes as a parallel contrast, with this shepherd representing the person of Death conducting the unrighteous to Sheol in Psalm 49:14: "Death will shepherd them." Since Lazarus is unquestionably emerging from a tomb and the structure here seems an echo of it, one might also adduce 49:12, "their sepulchres shall be their houses for ever."

But there is little in the image to suggest the dark tones of those lines from the Psalm. The shepherd does not look at all malign, and his gesture appears to be calling the sheep forth, not consigning them to a sepulchre. Both are quite large in comparison to the shepherd, suggesting the kind of abundance stressed elsewhere on the right side of the sarcophagus, and the one in front has crossed its legs in a visual echo of the crossed legs of Jonah sleeping peacefully below.

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Source: Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.