Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 7. The Church in the Catacombs. (Includes sections 82-87, loc. 15829-16152).
§ 86. Epitaphs.
Epitaphs are often a challenge. They attempt to summarize a person’s life for future generations, using just a few words (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16018). Many of the inscriptions have been published and studied. A great challenge to scholars is the simple fact that many early epitaphs are undated (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16034). Regardless of the date, Christian epitaphs regularly express hope and the concept of immortality. Some of the language, predictably, is similar to epitaphs of the pagans. The care for and sorrow over the deceased is an important theme (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16095). Schaff appends a selection of epitaphs in translation (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16056). He then describes a cemetery and inscription discovered near Autun in 1839 (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16801). His description illustrates some of the challenges inherent in cemetery studies, as dating of inscriptions and remains can be very difficult.
§ 87. Lessons of the Catacombs.
Schaff observes that a study of the catacombs teaches the modern observer much the same lessons as it did those in antiquity. The places are solemn, somber, and full of an association with sacred things (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16103). Both Roman and Protestant writers have tried to use the catacombs for their own purposes of arguments. Solving these problems is beyond the scope of archaeological inquiry, though more investigation into the ages and symbolism of the artifacts will continue to build context. Dating and interpretation will help to link artifacts with their appropriate historical settings (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16125). Significance of various symbols has been known to change over time. Understanding them is a challenge. Schaff also emphasizes the view of eschatological hope expressed in the catacombs. Death for the Christian is merely a time of rest until the resurrection (Schaff 2014, Loc. 16141).