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3. Early Christian and Medieval Concepts of Time

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Chapter Summary

Many of the speculations and theories of time set forth in medieval theological literature had no direct expression in the visual arts. This chapter briefly points to some major theoretical sources in an attempt to demonstrate dialectical issues of time relevant to the imagery in early Christian art. The appropriation and assimilation of non-Christian symbols into Christian contexts during the first centuries has been widely demonstrated and analyzed in the literature. During the same period, there is a conspicuous gap in the depiction of time, a seeming denial of the concretization of time that raises fundamental questions. Time, as the nucleus of Augustines's thought, was admittedly a source of perplexity and his definitions involved ambiguities and paradox. Along with the twelfth century revival of Greek philosophical and scientific sources and the fostering of a more critical, empirical approach, time emerged as an issue of theological debate.

Keywords: early Christian art; Greek philosophical sources; medieval theological literature; theories of time



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