Christ Pantocrator May 28, 2014 00:00

The most common translation of Pantocrator is "Almighty" or "All-powerful". Another, more literal translation is "Ruler of All" or, less literally, "Sustainer of the World". In this understanding, Pantokrator is a compound word formed from the Greek for "all" and the verb meaning "To accomplish something" or "to sustain something." This translation speaks more to God's actual power; i.e., God does everything (as opposed to God can do everything.).

Meaning

The Pantokrator, largely an Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic theological conception is less common by that name in Western (Roman) Catholicism and largely unknown to most Protestants. In the West the equivalent image in art is known as Christ in Majesty, which developed a rather different iconography. The primary transference of the title "Pantokrator" to refer to Christ rather than the Creator was a result of the Christological shift that occurred during the fourth century, reflected through iconography; Christ Pantocrator has come to suggest Christ as a mild but stern, all-powerful judge of humanity.

Adapted Imagery?

The icon of Christ Pantokrator is one of the most widely used religious images of Orthodox Christianity. Generally speaking, in Byzantine church art and architecture, an iconic mosaic or fresco of Christ Pantokrator occupies the space in the central dome of the church, in the half-dome of the apse or on the nave vault. Some scholars consider the Pantocrator a Christian adaptation of images of Zeus, such as the great statue of Zeus enthroned at Olympia. The development of the earliest stages of the icon from Roman Imperial imagery is easier to trace.

As an Icon

The icon, traditionally half-length when in a semi-dome, which became adopted for panel icons also, depicts Christ fully frontal with a somewhat melancholy and stern aspect, with the right hand raised in blessing or, in the early encaustic panel at Saint Catherine's Monastery, the conventional rhetorical gesture that represents teaching. The left hand holds a closed book with a richly decorated cover featuring the Cross, representing the Gospels. An icon where Christ has an open book is called "Christ the Teacher", a variant of the Pantocrator. Christ is bearded, his brown hair centrally parted, and his head is surrounded by a halo. The icon is usually shown against a gold background comparable to the gilded grounds of mosaic depictions of the Christian emperors.