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Old Apr 4, '12, 12:50 am
Little Mac's Avatar
Little Mac Little Mac is offline
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Default Hand Signs & Gestures in Christian Art?

In a lot of Christian art, especially in a lot of the older, more ancient stuff, hands are always depicted in these sort of weird poses. It's as if they're communicating in sign language.

Case in point:

What do these mean? Is there a source where I could see all the various meanings, presented clearly in picture form? It would be nice to have a greater tool for understanding the artistic significance when looking at a lot of these older Christian pieces of art.

Thank you for your time.
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Old Apr 4, '12, 4:01 am
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Jennet Jennet is offline
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Default Re: Hand Signs & Gestures in Christian Art?

Oooh, interesting question! I've wondered about this myself from time to time, but not bothered to try and find out until now.

Although I've not found the sort of handy (no pun intended!) pictorial guide that would have been most helpful, I've found Christ Blessing Hand Signs on Icons to provide a lot of useful information.
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Old Apr 4, '12, 8:38 am
japhy japhy is offline
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Default Re: Hand Signs & Gestures in Christian Art?

Originally Posted by Little Mac View Post
In a lot of Christian art, especially in a lot of the older, more ancient stuff, hands are always depicted in these sort of weird poses. It's as if they're communicating in sign language.
The hand of Christ is often contorted (if you will) to make the Greek letters ICXC, which are short for "IESOUS CHRISTOS". (The Greek letter sigma had three forms: upper case Σ, lower case σ, lower case in word-final position ς. This is why the Latin letter "C" is used to represent the final S's in ICXC.) The pinky would be straight up (I), the ring and thumb fingers would curve together (C), and the middle and pointer fingers would criss-cross (X).

However, that doesn't appear to be the form of Christ's hand in the picture you linked to. I'm pretty sure in that icon, Christ is flashing a gang sign. Probably one that was the last straw and caused the pharisees to seek His death.

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Old Apr 6, '12, 7:55 pm
jmj33777 jmj33777 is offline
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Default Re: Hand Signs & Gestures in Christian Art?

Often, the fingers on the hand are separated into to groups. One group has three fingers and the other group has two.

The three fingers refer to the Blessed Trinity and the Two fingers refer His two natures, Fully Human and Fully Divine.

Anyway, here is an excerpt of an excerpt from a blog on icons and their artistic meaning.

What does this hand gesture mean in Icons?
Posted on May 26, 2011

Close-up of Christ's Icon

This is an extract from a longer post about the Icon of Christ, but deserves a separate entry. It explains the meaning behind the way Christ and the Saints are sometimes shown holding their right hand in icons, as shown in the picture above.

To any Orthodox or Catholic Christian, Jesus’ right hand in Icons is unmistakably shown as being raised to give a blessing. The arrangement of the hand is repeated by clergy when blessing others and so the Saints in icons, if they were clergy, often hold their right hand in the same way.

Symbolism of the Blessing
The fingers spell out “IC XC”, a widely used four letter abbreviation of the Greek for Jesus (IHCOYC) Christ (XPICTOC). It is by the name of Jesus that we are saved and receive blessings: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;” (Phil 2:10).

The three fingers of Christ – as well as spelling out “I” and “X” – confess the Tri-unity of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The touching finger and thumb of Jesus not only spell out “C”, but attest to the Incarnation: to the joining of divine and human natures found in the body of Jesus Christ.

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