Author Topic: Icons in the early Church  (Read 1756 times)

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Offline Didymus

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Icons in the early Church
« on: November 06, 2007, 12:54:12 PM »
This topic was split off from another thread about Assyrians in Armenia:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13272.0.html



I wouldn't expect them to; I don't think iconography was very popular in the primitive stages of the church.

St. Luke wrote the first icon of the Theotokos with our Lord.
There are many other early icons and bass reliefs of OT saints as well.
The Assyrians don't have icons because of their lack of saints.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2007, 09:25:12 PM by Salpy »
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Offline EkhristosAnesti

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Icons in the early Church
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2007, 07:07:17 PM »
St. Luke wrote the first icon of the Theotokos with our Lord.
There are many other early icons and bass reliefs of OT saints as well.
The Assyrians don't have icons because of their lack of saints.

You are looking at this rather one-sidedly. Many scholars have noted that by at least the fourth century, the Church was rather iconoclastic--an attitude primarily shaped by her opposition to pagan cultic images. Tertullian was one of the first to demonstrate such an attitude. The pagan writer Celsus, in attempting to expose a double-standard in the Christian opposition to the pagan use of idols and images, refers not to Christian iconography but the Christian anthropological conception of man as being in the "image of God." Origen's response shows no interest in defending Christian iconography over and against pagan images and idols, but rather focuses on the precise subject of Celsus' objection. Origen is generally quite dismissive of image-making in general. Both Eusebius of Casarea and St Epiphanius of Salamis, the former being pro-Origen and the latter being anti-Origen, denounced images that depicted Christ.

When you look at the broader evidence the picture you get of the historical development of iconography is not as rosy as one might want to expect. Yes, there were examples of Christian iconography in the early centuries which indicate that the practice was at least in its infancy, but such a practice had not yet become normative or universally accepted. The wider Theological, Christological and Eschatological issues that lead to its becoming standard practice within the Churches were not borne in the conscience of the Church until much later.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2007, 07:08:16 PM by EkhristosAnesti »
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Re: Icons in the early Church
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2007, 09:46:17 PM »
You are looking at this rather one-sidedly. Many scholars have noted that by at least the fourth century, the Church was rather iconoclastic--an attitude primarily shaped by her opposition to pagan cultic images. Tertullian was one of the first to demonstrate such an attitude. The pagan writer Celsus, in attempting to expose a double-standard in the Christian opposition to the pagan use of idols and images, refers not to Christian iconography but the Christian anthropological conception of man as being in the "image of God." Origen's response shows no interest in defending Christian iconography over and against pagan images and idols, but rather focuses on the precise subject of Celsus' objection. Origen is generally quite dismissive of image-making in general. Both Eusebius of Casarea and St Epiphanius of Salamis, the former being pro-Origen and the latter being anti-Origen, denounced images that depicted Christ.

When you look at the broader evidence the picture you get of the historical development of iconography is not as rosy as one might want to expect. Yes, there were examples of Christian iconography in the early centuries which indicate that the practice was at least in its infancy, but such a practice had not yet become normative or universally accepted. The wider Theological, Christological and Eschatological issues that lead to its becoming standard practice within the Churches were not borne in the conscience of the Church until much later.

Is it possible that there existed some churches that had icons and defended iconography, or was iconoclasm a common Christian theme?
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Offline EkhristosAnesti

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Re: Icons in the early Church
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2007, 09:58:45 PM »
Well, as I said:

Quote
Yes, there were examples of Christian iconography in the early centuries which indicate that the practice was at least in its infancy, but such a practice had not yet become normative or universally accepted.


As for an early Christian defense of iconography, I don't think you get one until about the mid-seventh century. The one I have in mind was composed by Leontius of Neapolis and arises within the context of an anti-Jewish polemic.
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