Scala/Art Resource, NY

Early Christian artists seeking to illustrate their new repertoire of subjects often turned to classical art for models, so it would not be surprising if images of pagan gods influenced representations of Jesus. Portraits of Jupiter, father of the Roman pantheon, with his long curly hair, thick beard, broad forehead, bare chest and grim paternal countenance may well have influenced representations of Jesus in his mature, divine aspect as enthroned Supreme Lord and Judge. (The third-century C.E. Roman statue of Jupiter [shown here] is in the Vatican’s Museo Pio Clementino.) By the same token, younger gods like Dionysus or semidivine figures like Hercules were apt models for Jesus the wonder-worker and hero.