Scala/Art Resource. Courtesy Diocesan Museum. Cortona, Italy

Roman soldiers sleep, unaware of the momentous event taking place in their presence. Like the soldiers, Jesus seems to be dreaming as he ascends to heaven in the gray light of early morning. The artist of this “Resurrection,” Piero della Francesca (c. 1416–1492), painted his self-portrait in the dozing soldier shown full-face.

Most scholars attribute to Romans and Acts the earliest identification of Jesus as begotten of God. In Acts, for example, Paul, telling of Jesus’ resurrection observes that “what God promised to the fathers… he has fulfilled to us, their children by raising Jesus,” and referring to the very words of Psalms 2:7, Paul adds, “ ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’ ” (Acts 13:33). In later New Testament writings, Jesus becomes begotten of God at his baptism and, finally at his conception.