Pantocrator - Christ.
 Greco, 1541?-1614

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Title:Pantocrator - Christ

This magnificent painting by El Greco offers a portrait of Christ as the ruler, the resurrected presence, who in God form, speaks to us. The scripture reading for today from Luke is a hard one, in which Jesus warns his disciples of hard tests ahead. This painting provides a vision of a savior who will sustain, and in the end, triumph over suffering and death.

The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Volume 1, 1995, pg. 1077, offers this explanation of the early development of the theology and iconography of the Pantocrator tradition: "Eymologically, the Greek word "pantocrator" means "all-ruler." It was used regularly in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew "Sabaoth", an attribute of Jahweh. When the Christian profession of faith was formulated in Greek, the term Pantocrator was applied to God the Father, but translated into Latin as "omnipotens." Thus Pantocrator was taken to mean all-powerful rather than all-ruler...Omnipotence was also attributed to the Holy Spirit, but more particularly to God the Son who, as it were, usurped the attribute, so that by the 12th century it was applied to Christ almost exclusively.

In this El Greco painting, the complex gesture of God-in-Christ's right hand has its own rich tradition of meaning. His left hand rests on a globe/orb, supporting the ruler of all attribute.

Artist:Greco, 1541?-1614
Building:National Gallery of Scotland
Country:Great Britain

Scripture:Luke 21:5-19
Lectionary links:CProp28
General Subject:Christ Pantocrator
Library of Congress Subject:Christian art and symbolism -- Spain
ICONCLASS Number:11D321

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Copyright Permission:This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to use and to share the file for non-commercial purposes under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license compatible with this one. For uses other than the above, contact the Divinity Library at
Attribution:Greco, 1541?-1614. Pantocrator - Christ, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved October 22, 2016]. Original source:
Record Number:48051 Last Updated: 2010-11-12 13:37:33 Record Created: 2006-11-30 00:00:00
Institution:Vanderbilt University Unit: Collection: Art in the Christian Tradition