The Good Shepherd Sarcophagus: Detail, the frontal

In the 19th century this piece was found in a cemetery whose sarcophagi were mostly, but by no means exclusively, Christian. At first scholars assumed that it was Christian and gave it the name "Good Shepherd Sarcophagus," but since then there has been lively scholarly debate about whether it may have been pagan instead. The problem is that the work comes from a transitional period in which the well-attested pagan shepherd figure was being adopted by Christians to represent Jesus Christ, who had said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep.… I know mine and, and mine know me" (John 10:11,14). See Cambi for a survey of the scholarly debate and the history of shepherd representations.

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Photographed at the museum by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.