Friday, May 01, 2009


Hier folgt eine erste Fassung meiner Übersetzung des untenerwähnten Artikels mit Beiträgen von Robert Zahn und Johannes Reil zum Amulet des Orpheus, das angebligh ein Beweisstück dafür ist, daß Jesus eine Erfindung auf Basis der Orpheusfigur ist. Ich habe bis jetzt nur Leipoldts Einleitung und Robert Zahns Beitrag übersetzt. Den Antichristen möge es bestens schmecken.


Thus reads the inscription of an amulet that is preserved in Berlin's Kaiser Friedrich Museum (cf. _Museen zu Berlin. Beschreibung der Bildwerke der christlichen Epochen, 3. Band: Altchristliche und mittelalterliche byzantinische und italienische Bildwerke, arranged by Oskar Wulff 1 1909 p. 234 Nr. 1146). Above the inscription a crucifix is depicted (see illustration, from an enlarged photograph of a plaster cast; also in Hans Achelis's Das Christentum in den ersten Drei Jahrhunderten 1925 Table V 2). In recent times, this amulet has often been the subject of discussion, since Otto Kern placed it in a larger context (Orphicorum fragmenta 1922 p. 46 Nr. 150). Most recently, Robert Eisler made reference to the "cylindrical seal" (Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg. II. Vorträge 1922-1923. II. Teil 1925 p. 338f). Age, meaning, authenticity of this piece are difficult to judge. I therefore asked two specialists for their opinions: Prof. Dr. Robert Zahn of Berlin, as an expert in gems, and Pastor Dr. Johannes Reil in Chemnitz, as an expert in ancient Christian depictions of the crucifixion. I thank both gentlemen for their cordial responses. Robert Zahn sent a long letter on January 28, 1926, and permitted its reprinting. Johannes Reil contributed an essay on December 13, 1924. As Hans Achelis informed me, Erwin Panofsky had already expressed doubts about the authenticity of the Berlin amulet on December 13, 1924, in a letter directed to Achelis. Panofsky points out that the crucified figure is depicted "with feet nailed on top of each other, and with bent knees", "thus [is] of a type which is seen nowhere else before the 13th century, and which occurs in this form for the first times in the 14th and 15th centuries" (cf. A. Goldschmidt in the Jahrbuch der Preußischen Kunstsammlungen 1915).



I closely examined the stone with the depiction of the crucified figure and the inscription ΟΡΦΕΟΣ ΒΑΚΚΙΚΟΣ closely in the Kaiser Friedrichs Museum. First a bit about the shape of the stone itself. It is not a cylinder seal, but rather the stump of a cone. The stone would therefore be inconvenient to use as a seal. Since the inscription runs from right to left, the whole depction may not have been conceived as a seal. Such cones and similar forms are known from very early days of the gem-cutting art (Furtwängler Beschreibung der geschnittenen Steine im Antiquarium p. 9 Nr. 81 Table 2; Furtwängler Die antiken Gemmen III p. 60). These, however, when they are to serve as seals, have the impression on the surface of the base, and were thus used like signets. It is thus conceivable that the gem-cutter used an older stone cone that was only intended to be a pendant [1. The Berliner Antiquarium possesses an example acquired in Syria (Inv. der Miszelaneen Nr. 905I). It has the same longitudinal grooves as the above stone.].

Based on the form of the letters, the piece cannot be dated later than into the 3rd century, and certainly not to the 5th century at the earliest, as J Dölger Ichithys I p. 234 (cf. II p. 256 n. 4 and III Table XXVI 2 and 2a) wishes. It would thus belong to the series of early depictions of the Crucifixion on gems, such as are collected by Leclercq in FCAbrol Dictionnaire d'Archéolgie Chrétienne et de Liturgie III 2 Sp. 3048ff. comfortably under the rubric "croix et crucifixe". Dölger also assigns (as I believe) too late a date to these. They fit together completely with the other glyptic works of the later imperial period (2nd and 3rd centuries). However, when I compare the stone in the Kaiser-Friedrichs-Museum with precisely these representation [evidently, the glyptic works of the alter imperial period are meant], and even with more recent ones like the relief on the door of Santa Sabina in Rome and the ivory panel in the British Museum (Dalton Catalogue of Early Christiian [sic] Antiquities No. 291 Table VI), I cannot at all comprehend how such a discrepancy in the representation of the crucified figure is possible contemporaneously. On the above-mentioned monuments, Christ stand in front of the cross on the ground or on a footrest. The cross is almost completely obscured; in particular, the horizontal member is not visible, elelvated high overhead. Here [on the amulet], by contrast, Christ hangs limply on the cross, with crossed legs and feet laid over one another, as in much later art.

In the enlarged illustrations in Dölger ibid., it appears that the head is gazing painfully upward. In the original [the Orpheus amulet] I was not able to confirm this [pose]. On a crude stone depicted in Leclercq op. cit. (Fig. 3356) as well as in his Manuel II p. 369 Fig. 269 (according to the Bulletin de la Societé Nationale des Antiquaires de France XXX, 1867 p. 111f)), Christ is indeed represented (without cross) with somewhat bent knees. But there is a world of difference between this representation and the depiction on our cone. Therefore I cannot escape according the greatest suspicion to this [depiction on the cone]. Dölger I p. 334 discusses counterfeiters of Christian engraved gems around the middle of the previous century. Our piece passed in 1869 into the Antiquarium from the estate of Eduard Gerhard (A. Furtwängler Beschreibung der geschnittenen Steine Nr. 8830); later it was transfered with other gems with Christian engravings to the Altchristliche Sammlung of the Kaiser-Friedrichs-Museum. However, I have no explanation whatsoever whither, on my supposition, a counterfeiter can have taken the quite clever [Ger. 'verschmitzt'] inscription. He must have had an exceedingly erudite accomplice.

Robert Zahn