The Jonah Sarcophagus: Detail, The Raising of Lazarus

This is the typical paleo-Christian image of the raising of Lazarus, faithfully following the story in John 11. Mary kneels at Jesus' feet as in verse 32. Jesus' arm gesture is the common device for indicating that a figure is saying something, in this case "Lazarus, come forth" (v. 43). At his shoulder is Martha, who worries, "Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he is now of four days" (v. 39). The figure can be identified as Martha because she is wearing a stola and mantle. Martha is the only other woman besides Mary in the episode.

His sister's worries notwithstanding, Lazarus responds to Jesus' command and "he that had been dead came forth, bound feet and hands with winding bands" (v. 44a), just as the artist shows here. The only scriptural detail that the early Lazarus scenes consistently ignore is that "his face was bound about with a napkin" (v. 44b).

As usual, the scene provides bystanders. The man directly behind Jesus has a square beard, so he could be Peter. The other man's head was restored in the 18th century, so we cannot know whether he was another Apostle or just one of the neighbors who ran to the tomb with Mary (v. 31).

The heads of Jesus and Mary are also 18th-century restorations, as are about half of the heads on the sarcophagus (Fuchs, 67, note 72).

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Photographed at the Museo Pio Cristiano by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.