Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) - Christian Symbols

Symbols in Christianity

Christianity has always incorporated symbols - that is, visual representations and signs - into its practice, as valuable expressions of truth. The depiction of an important element of the faith, by means of an animal or color, for instance, can be powerful and encouraging. What words cannot say, sometimes symbols can. While Christians are known for being people of faith, the religion has produced some of the most beautiful art in history. Whether they be carved on first-century tombs or tattooed on twenty-first century bodies, symbols matter in the Christian religion.

Christians believe that God created human senses - sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell. Of course faith is of utmost importance in Christianity, but the physical abilities God gave people aren't unimportant. It is helpful to understand that the Christian worldview doesn't teach that immaterial and the material are in competition with each other or opposed to each other. in fact, faith experiences can be supported by a sensory experience such as when the Apostle Paul laid hands on people when he prayed for them (Acts 19:4-6).

Lamb imagery in the Bible

The imagery of a lamb in the New Testament is built upon how lambs were used in the Old Testament. Lambs were among the animals that were sacrificed by the ancient Israelites as an atonement for humanity's sins. Sacrificial lambs took the place of a human sinner, absorbing the cost of sin, which is death. The New Testament teaches that as animals took the place of people in the sacrificial system, so Jesus takes the place of sinners when he dies for their sins upon the cross.

The symbolism of the lamb, used by Christians today can have different meanings:

  • In general, the lamb represents Jesus, "the Lamb of God" (Agnus Dei).
  • Standing with a banner, the lamb represents the risen Christ triumphant over death.
  • Standing with a cross and a gash in its side, it symbolizes the passion of Christ.
  • Seated on a throne or a book, the lamb represents the judgment of Christ.

Because the lamb is humble, gentle, and innocent, lambs are sometimes engraved on the tombstones of children.

Related Bible Verses

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" (Rev 5:11-12)

  1. Color illustration at top left by Walter E. Gast.
  2. Patricia S. Klein, Worship without Words: The Signs and Symbols of Our Faith (2000).
  3. Carolle E. Whittenmore, ed., Symbols of the Church.
  4. W.E. Post, Saints, Signs, and Symbols.
  5. George Wells Ferguson, Signs & Symbols in Christian Art.
  6. Frederick Rest, Our Christian Symbols.