When reading icons, devils and monsters are in the details

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Orthodox icons of the baptism of Christ include small “sea monsters” fleeing from him.

The three synoptic gospels (that is, those of Matthew, Mark and Luke) describe the baptism of Christ in detail. Matthew’s version reads:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:13-17
This passage is known as the Epiphany (or the Theophany) of the Holy Trinity – the word epiphany being Greek for “revelation,” thus implying Jesus’ baptism is a “revelation of God,” an event in which God reveals himself.

Several paradoxes stem from this revealing character of the event, as Icon Reader points out.


To begin with, Jesus Christ is revealed as the Son of God the moment he submits to a mere manJohn the Baptist. But John returns the gesture and, even though he is the one baptizing Jesus, in most of these baptism icons we find him bent over in reverence. In some others, the Baptist is shown as beholding the miracle of the Theophany, his head looking up to the open heavens.

The baptism of Christ: “The sea saw and fled, the Jordan turned back”​


Continued below.