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Author Topic: Icons are not Written  (Read 7303 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: June 08, 2010, 10:49:46 AM »

What I've been saying all along (because I read the same article he refers to years ago, too)--and I know this guy personally--he is a professor of Art History and faithful. Smiley

http://orthodoxhistory.org/2010/06/icons-are-not-written/
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« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2010, 10:50:31 AM »

Just say no to pseudo-mystical jargon. Stick with proper English...we'll be....ok! Smiley
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« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2010, 10:52:04 AM »

I was very delighted when I saw this article on my facebook feed this morning.  I share Fr. A.'s use of proper English and rejection of "pseudo-mystical jargon" (nice turn of phrase, Father!).

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« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2010, 11:01:06 AM »

The article by Dr. Dr. John Yiannias, as well as the comments by Father Anastasios. and Schultz all make sense--natch!
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« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2010, 11:04:45 AM »

Thank you for posting the link.
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« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2010, 03:39:24 PM »

I am no doctor of anything and can claim no authority of my own but I had my own rant about this recently and I agree with him entirely.
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« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2010, 05:20:53 PM »

I am no doctor of anything and can claim no authority of my own but I had my own rant about this recently and I agree with him entirely.

FYI, regarding your second point in the rant, I have never heard someone intone "for this holy temple" instead of "for this holy house" in the litanies.  I've only heard the Church referred to as a temple outside of the Liturgical context.  In the prayers, "oikos" is translated as "house," and "naos" as "temple."  If you do a Google Images search for "ναός" you will find pictures of beautiful Churches and ancient pagan ruins.
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« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2010, 07:34:03 PM »

I am no doctor of anything and can claim no authority of my own but I had my own rant about this recently and I agree with him entirely.

FYI, regarding your second point in the rant, I have never heard someone intone "for this holy temple" instead of "for this holy house" in the litanies.  I've only heard the Church referred to as a temple outside of the Liturgical context.  In the prayers, "oikos" is translated as "house," and "naos" as "temple."  If you do a Google Images search for "ναός" you will find pictures of beautiful Churches and ancient pagan ruins.

Fr George, the use of temple instead of house in litanies is a quirk of the Russian church, particularly ROCOR. If you have only experienced the Greek tradition, this is why you have not heard the use of temple for house. In past centuries, khram could mean both house (oikos) and temple (naos), and it seems that this has led to English translators to use temple. Personally, I feel the word should be translated as house, not temple.
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« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2010, 07:38:12 PM »

Thanks for posting this, Fr Anastasios.  That's one pseudo-pious usage I wish would die.
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« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2010, 08:09:11 PM »

LBK, thank you for the background information!
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« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2010, 08:36:20 PM »

I don't know what all the fuss is about.

I didn't find the article all that convincing.

I do not in any way dispute his linguistic assessment. His entire sentiment however seems to rest on a silly presumption that those who speak of an icon being 'written' intend it literally, rather than poetically. Maybe some proponents of such language have thought it compelling to propose a literal component to the expression by claiming a linguistic basis for it, but I don’t think it would shake them up too much to discover that such a linguistic basis does not properly exist.

As far as I'm aware, the English language has been the subject of poetic use. You guys heard of Shakespeare? Cool guy. He had a bit of a thing with severely dysfunctional families—dudes trying to kill their dads, and other strange things that need not be mentioned. Poetry doesn’t do "violence" to the English language; it manipulates it, purposefully, and this has always been considered a legitimate use of such language ( unless you're a mathematician or scientist--but those guys are losers anyway, so their opinions don't count). Anyone else find it ironic that the author describes the idea of icons being written as *violence* to the English language?! Excuse me while I retract my raw fist from the face of the English language. Naww, look at that, English is bleeding; does English need a bandaid? *bows for applause* Thank you, thank you. Yes, I am very funny.

Ultimately, the main *poetic* point that proponents of “icons are written” language wish to drill home is that Icons serve a sacred theological function (one which we are most accustomed to as being served via the *written* word--get it?) which distinguishes them from mere paintings with their main concern for aesthetic appeasement (be it on the sensual, corresponsive or artistic/imaginative level)—and what is so bad about that?
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« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2010, 08:41:25 PM »

What I've been saying all along (because I read the same article he refers to years ago, too)--and I know this guy personally--he is a professor of Art History and faithful. Smiley

http://orthodoxhistory.org/2010/06/icons-are-not-written/

He is a professor of Art History not a theologian or a linguist.  He should stick to his own area of expertise.  Firstly there is no such language as "Slavonic".  He is showing his ignorance.

There is Old Church Slavonic used for all the historical chronicles and Church Slavonic still in use today as a liturgical language.

Old Church Slavonic is taught at major universities.  It is necessary for Russian and East European historians to be able to read manuscripts and chronicles in the original language.  Old Church Slavonic is also important for scholars of Slavic linguistics.  And most seminarians in the Slavic Orthodox tradition study Church Slavonic.

The word zhivopísets, the male form of the noun for an iconographer, is from the verb to write.  Why? Because it is under the influence of the Holy Spirit that an iconographer "writes" an icon just as the Holy Spirit and the writers of the Gospel wrote the Gospels.  An unknown professor from the University of Virginia is not going to change the Slavic Orthodox tradition.  Live with it.

I am not asking the Greeks to change so why should we?
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« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2010, 08:45:16 PM »

EA,

You are, indeed, missing the obvious.  In my experience, most of the people who insist on saying an icon is "written" are using it literally, not poetically.  Again, in my experience, people who refuse to say an icon is "painted" or even  "depicted" are advocating that an icon is the same thing as a book.  I feel this is dangerous because it reduces the Word of God (as in the 2nd Person of the Trinity) to a mere "Word" of alphabetic characters instead of the vast array of meanings the word "word" has, not only in English, but across many languages, especially Greek.

As the writer of the article pointed out, this is a primarily American phenomenon, brought about as immigrants tried to explain their tradition via translation to a largely evangelical Protestant native population that adores the Bible as the Word of God while rejecting traditional iconography.  The rich nuances of the non-English words gave way to, as Fr. A said, a pseudo-mystical literalism that does violence to the theology behind iconography.
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« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2010, 09:05:31 PM »

Schultz,

I have not missed the point. I have dismissed its legitimacy.

To say people intend the expression literally is to suggest that they are complete idiots. That’s neither a plausible nor charitable presumption to make. Furthermore, a cursory consideration of how people who use the expression themselves actually explain their understanding of their use of it, clearly demonstrates their poetic mentality. Take for example the following brief explanation by an iconographer on their online blog (one of the first finds I came across after a quick google search):

Quote
Just as the Christian scriptures have been translated from Aramaic, Greek, and to Latin and into other world languages, an iconographer translates the Gospel into color and image. That is why we often say the icons are written rather than painted.
http://www.orthodox-icons-olympia.blogspot.com/

Clearly the iconographer is not a complete imbecile; she clearly recognises that an icon is composed of colour and image, not text. It is also clear that she intends the expression to be a symbolic expedient expressing the truth that Icons convey spiritual/theological principles and as such serve a pedagogical function. Your fear, therefore, is unfounded. The term "written" is clearly not a literal reference to the medium normally associated with "writing" i.e. text/words, it is a reference to the general purpose for which people write: to convey a particular point/message. I can't believe I even have to spell this out.
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« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2010, 09:13:45 PM »

The word zhivopísets, the male form of the noun for an iconographer, is from the verb to write.  Why? Because it is under the influence of the Holy Spirit that an iconographer "writes" an icon just as the Holy Spirit and the writers of the Gospel wrote the Gospels.  An unknown professor from the University of Virginia is not going to change the Slavic Orthodox tradition.  Live with it.

I am not asking the Greeks to change so why should we?

The author's argument from Greek is that the same word that was used to indicate writing was also used to indicate painting in Ancient Greek, thus, the word encompassed two present English words, and should be translated appropriately (write for words, paint for pictures).  I do not know if the same argument could be used on the Old Church Slavonic.  However, it is dangerous to impugn motive on the choice of terminology older than 1,000 years (i.e. "Why? Because it is under the influence of the Holy Spirit that an iconographer "writes" an icon just as the Holy Spirit and the writers of the Gospel wrote the Gospels.").  It would be best to argue, "This is the word we choose, and this is why we choose it right now," rather than weakening your position by stating conjecture as fact (that the word for iconographer was first chosen because of ...).

Come to think of it... I think someone has, at some point, outlined this argument somewhere else on this site...

Take for example the following brief explanation by an iconographer on their online blog (one of the first finds I came across after a quick google search):

Quote
Just as the Christian scriptures have been translated from Aramaic, Greek, and to Latin and into other world languages, an iconographer translates the Gospel into color and image. That is why we often say the icons are written rather than painted.
http://www.orthodox-icons-olympia.blogspot.com/

Clearly the iconographer is not a complete imbecile; she clearly recognises that an icon is composed of colour and image, not text. It is also clear that she intends the expression to be a symbolic expedient expressing the truth that Icons convey spiritual/theological principles and as such serve a pedagogical function. Your fear, therefore, is unfounded. The term "written" is clearly not a literal reference to the medium normally associated with "writing" i.e. text/words, it is a reference to the general purpose for which people write: to convey a particular point/message. I can't believe I even have to spell this out.

Thankfully, the iconographer you've quoted does not do what many (including, most likely, those who the OP's blog quote is responding to) insist upon: that one cannot say that an icon is painted, but must say that it is written.  I think it is largely this line of thinking that leads to the counter-argument (from which this thread is born), rather than any sort of occasional or optional use of "write" instead of "paint."
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« Reply #15 on: June 08, 2010, 09:21:36 PM »

Previous discussions:
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,24767.msg382471.html#msg382471 (An extended discussion, IIRC)
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,8894.msg344930.html#msg344930 (A post or two)
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« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2010, 09:28:23 PM »

The term "writing an icon" is at best a mistranslation, at worst an affectation, as some here have stated. It is perfectly acceptable, and grammatically more correct, to say an icon is painted. The Slavic pisat' can mean either write or paint; the Greek root words graphe and graphia also have this dual meaning, in all forms of Greek language, ancient, intermediate, and modern, including the current vernacular. This duality is even preserved in English: Do we not use the term graphic when we wish to describe something in great detail, as in visual, pictorial terms?

Even the Greek work eikona can mean simply picture, illustration, image, without a religious context; or, in the correct context, means the holy religious art of the Orthodox Church. Similarly, obraz is a Slavic word which has the identical sense as the Greek eikona: that of image. Obraz can refer to any image, and it can refer to an icon. Anyone with a reasonable working knowledge of either Greek, or the various Slavic languages (or both) would be rather bemused at certain English-speakers' insistence that icons are written. It simply doesn't make sense, historically, or linguistically.
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« Reply #17 on: June 08, 2010, 09:38:36 PM »

The term "writing an icon" is at best a mistranslation, at worst an affectation, as some here have stated. It is perfectly acceptable, and grammatically more correct, to say an icon is painted. The Slavic pisat' can mean either write or paint; the Greek root words graphe and graphia also have this dual meaning, in all forms of Greek language, ancient, intermediate, and modern, including the current vernacular. This duality is even preserved in English: Do we not use the term graphic when we wish to describe something in great detail, as in visual, pictorial terms?

Even the Greek work eikona can mean simply picture, illustration, image, without a religious context; or, in the correct context, means the holy religious art of the Orthodox Church. Similarly, obraz is a Slavic word which has the identical sense as the Greek eikona: that of image. Obraz can refer to any image, and it can refer to an icon. Anyone with a reasonable working knowledge of either Greek, or the various Slavic languages (or both) would be rather bemused at certain English-speakers' insistence that icons are written. It simply doesn't make sense, historically, or linguistically.

Agreed.  However, does that restrict us from using the word written in a poetic sense, as advocated by EA?

I still wonder what the answer is to my question from a not-so-long time ago:
Wrong.  The expression "writing an icon" is correct because iconographers are writing the Gospel just in different medium. It is the Gospel for the unlettered. The translation is deliberate, not mistranslated and is no mere affectation.

I must ask: is this a philological debate that is only relevant/pertinent in English?  IOW, are the words for "write" and "paint" the same in the other Ancient languages of the Church (Slavonic, Coptic, Greek, Arabic, Ethiopian, Georgian, etc.)?

If the debate is only pertinent in English, then we must treat the subject in a new way, just as treatment of the subject of Love in Greek (agape, filia, storgi, eros, philanthropia) versus English (love) must be different.

If, however, these other languages have words for "paint" but have not used them, then why?  My suspicion is that this is a new debate (i.e. the other languages have only had "write").

We have at times expanded our dictionaries with borrowed words, or have refused to translate words, to effectively convey the meaning of Orthodox concepts.  Is the same not permissible now?  (I'm not "for" using the word write for iconography, but I'm not against a logical discussion of the position.)
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« Reply #18 on: June 08, 2010, 09:47:33 PM »

Quote
Thankfully, the iconographer you've quoted does not do what many (including, most likely, those who the OP's blog quote is responding to) insist upon: that one cannot say that an icon is painted, but must say that it is written.


But cannot even such insistence be justified so long as we give those who insist as such the benefit of the doubt as to their mental stability?

In my opinion, the insistence is justified when we consider a basic element of any language; namely, that words convey more than their literal definitions. They may convey extraneous or incidental ideas/sentiments according to how they are often used or applied.

As I suggested above, painting and writing can very generally/loosely be distinguished, not simply in terms of that by which they are foremost defined, viz., the medium with which they are concerned, but also their general purpose. We normally tend to associate writing with the delivery of a message; we normally tend to associate paintings with the delivery of an aesthetic experience. Those who speak of icons as being written seem to me to simply be concerned with the want to steer our idea of icons away from that which we tend to associate with "paintings". Those who *insist* on icons being written want to do that emphatically. Such emphasis may be justified depending on the importance and value of the implications that follow from the distinction being insisted upon. As far as I can discern, an intended practical implication of such insistence is to make sure that when one approaches/observes an icon, they look beyond the artistic surface and realise that they behold a sacred expression of theological/spiritual truth. And that is a good thing, is it not?

Well, I think I've made my point so I'll just leave it at that. I've been accused of missing the point, but my whole point is that it would seem to me that those criticising language of icons being written seem themselves to be missing the point, particularly by getting all caught up in etymological/linguistic issues. Like I suggested above, I think that those who have made linguistic arguments in favour of the expression of icons being written, have thought such arguments to be a nice novel support for the expression, rather than a necessary basis for it.
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« Reply #19 on: June 08, 2010, 09:50:58 PM »

Schultz,

I have not missed the point. I have dismissed its legitimacy.

To say people intend the expression literally is to suggest that they are complete idiots. That’s neither a plausible nor charitable presumption to make. Furthermore, a cursory consideration of how people who use the expression themselves actually explain their understanding of their use of it, clearly demonstrates their poetic mentality. Take for example the following brief explanation by an iconographer on their online blog (one of the first finds I came across after a quick google search):

Quote
Just as the Christian scriptures have been translated from Aramaic, Greek, and to Latin and into other world languages, an iconographer translates the Gospel into color and image. That is why we often say the icons are written rather than painted.
http://www.orthodox-icons-olympia.blogspot.com/

Clearly the iconographer is not a complete imbecile; she clearly recognises that an icon is composed of colour and image, not text. It is also clear that she intends the expression to be a symbolic expedient expressing the truth that Icons convey spiritual/theological principles and as such serve a pedagogical function. Your fear, therefore, is unfounded. The term "written" is clearly not a literal reference to the medium normally associated with "writing" i.e. text/words, it is a reference to the general purpose for which people write: to convey a particular point/message. I can't believe I even have to spell this out.

 This is exactly how I've always understood the meaning behind "written" when used in an iconography context. 
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« Reply #20 on: June 08, 2010, 09:51:10 PM »

The term "writing an icon" is at best a mistranslation, at worst an affectation, as some here have stated. It is perfectly acceptable, and grammatically more correct, to say an icon is painted. The Slavic pisat' can mean either write or paint; the Greek root words graphe and graphia also have this dual meaning, in all forms of Greek language, ancient, intermediate, and modern, including the current vernacular. This duality is even preserved in English: Do we not use the term graphic when we wish to describe something in great detail, as in visual, pictorial terms?

Even the Greek work eikona can mean simply picture, illustration, image, without a religious context; or, in the correct context, means the holy religious art of the Orthodox Church. Similarly, obraz is a Slavic word which has the identical sense as the Greek eikona: that of image. Obraz can refer to any image, and it can refer to an icon. Anyone with a reasonable working knowledge of either Greek, or the various Slavic languages (or both) would be rather bemused at certain English-speakers' insistence that icons are written. It simply doesn't make sense, historically, or linguistically.

A "Slavic" word?  There is no Slavic language but there is a Slavic family of languages.  While the word obraz in either Russian or Ukrainian has been used to refer to an icon or holy picture, the work "ikon" is for icons only.  The verb pisaty or pisats in various Slavic languages means to write.  I diasagree with your wild generations above above about "anyone" and the various Slavic languages etc. I am cradle orthodox not a convert and I grew up speaking a Slavic language in the home and a Slavic language for the celebration of the liturgy in church.  I have also studied Russian, Ukrainian and Church Slavonic all at the university level.  When taking courses dealing with iconography or the Orthodox Church taught in English at university the professors used the verb "to write" in English.  It has nothing to do with affectation.  It has to do with the Eastern Slavic Orthodox tradition and the symbolism of the Holy Spirit comparing the Gospel in pictures or colour to the written Gospels.
There are other cultural religious differences between Greek Orthodoxy and  Slavic Orthodoxy: the translation of the Greek word for "Orthodox" comes to mind: doctrine versus praise or glory.  Live with it.  There will always be these minor cultural religious differences.
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« Reply #21 on: June 08, 2010, 09:59:35 PM »

Quote
I must ask: is this a philological debate that is only relevant/pertinent in English?  IOW, are the words for "write" and "paint" the same in the other Ancient languages of the Church (Slavonic, Coptic, Greek, Arabic, Ethiopian, Georgian, etc.)?

If the debate is only pertinent in English, then we must treat the subject in a new way, just as treatment of the subject of Love in Greek (agape, filia, storgi, eros, philanthropia) versus English (love) must be different.

If, however, these other languages have words for "paint" but have not used them, then why?  My suspicion is that this is a new debate (i.e. the other languages have only had "write").


I, and others, have already answered these questions from the Greek and Slavic language perspective. I cannot speak for the Coptic, Arabic, Ethiopian or Georgian languages. I am not particularly familiar with French, but German does have separate words for painting and writing. This may explain the English vocabulary, given its strong Germanic roots.

As for translating into English the various shades of meaning of "love": it's not too difficult.

agape: love

filia: friendship

storgi: tenderness and protection (such as maternal love for her child)

eros: physical/sexual love, the love of two uniting as one. Has also been used to describe theosis, though I much prefer theosis to "divine eros".  angel

philanthropia: compassion for one's fellow man.
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« Reply #22 on: June 08, 2010, 10:05:09 PM »

But cannot even such insistence be justified so long as we give those who insist as such the benefit of the doubt as to their mental stability?

Yes, I suppose so.  You are being more charitable than I have been, to your credit.

As I suggested above, painting and writing can very generally/loosely be distinguished, not simply in terms of that by which they are foremost defined, viz., the medium with which they are concerned, but also their general purpose. We normally tend to associate writing with the delivery of a message; we normally tend to associate paintings with the delivery of an aesthetic experience.

Well, I'm sure that there are a number of artists who would disagree with your characterization of the association with "painting," but your statement is about general association, which is seemingly spot-on.

Those who speak of icons as being written seem to me to simply be concerned with the want to steer our idea of icons away from that which we tend to associate with "paintings". Those who *insist* on icons being written want to do that emphatically. Such emphasis may be justified depending on the importance and value of the implications that follow from the distinction being insisted upon. As far as I can discern, an intended practical implication of such insistence is to make sure that when one approaches/observes an icon, they look beyond the artistic surface and realise that they behold a sacred expression of theological/spiritual truth. And that is a good thing, is it not?

Yes, it is.

Well, I think I've made my point so I'll just leave it at that. I've been accused of missing the point, but my whole point is that it would seem to me that those criticising language of icons being written seem themselves to be missing the point, particularly by getting all caught up in etymological/linguistic issues. Like I suggested above, I think that those who have made linguistic arguments in favour of the expression of icons being written, have thought such arguments to be a nice novel support for the expression, rather than a necessary basis for it.

I wouldn't argue that you've missed the point.  I'm glad you continued to engage all of us in the discussion!
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« Reply #23 on: June 08, 2010, 10:13:21 PM »

As for translating into English the various shades of meaning of "love": it's not too difficult.

I think there is an over-simplification involved in the process, if we want to keep our translations short, that is.

agape: love

If we start by making the most complex one simply "love," then where do we end up?  (I'm only playing the 'contrarian' in this case - I agree with the translation)

filia: friendship

While it seemingly works, I don't think the full weight of the Greek is translated well by "friendship," unless there is a more in-depth definition of friendship offered (especially since "friendship" has become increasingly watered down in recent years).  The only practical way to translate "Philanthropos" is "Friend of man/human," but it seemingly lacks layers present in the Greek, IMO.

storgi: tenderness and protection (such as maternal love for her child)

But we also use storgi for other familial/familiar bonds - so storgi is tendernes & familiarity.

eros: physical/sexual love, the love of two uniting as one. Has also been used to describe theosis, though I much prefer theosis to "divine eros".  angel

I think there is merit for both uses (viz-a-viz "divine love") - I need to find the quote from St. John Chrysostom that expresses Christ's burning love for us...

I only engage in the discussion on the points of translating "love" to indicate the possibility of layering within the terms that is not found in translation and, thus, possible when attempting to translate "paint" or "write" for iconography.  I think the discussion should transcend the simple philological (even though, again, I'm not in favor of "write"); I'm wondering if others feel the same way, or if they disagree (and why).
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« Reply #24 on: June 08, 2010, 10:24:49 PM »

Right, it is what oikos was translated into the slavonic: khram (temple).  You are correct of course, that the original is "this holy house" and that is the reason why the OCA for example when collating the Slavonic with the Greek has translated it as "house."  Nevertheless, many jurisdictions us "temple."

I am no doctor of anything and can claim no authority of my own but I had my own rant about this recently and I agree with him entirely.

FYI, regarding your second point in the rant, I have never heard someone intone "for this holy temple" instead of "for this holy house" in the litanies.  I've only heard the Church referred to as a temple outside of the Liturgical context.  In the prayers, "oikos" is translated as "house," and "naos" as "temple."  If you do a Google Images search for "ναός" you will find pictures of beautiful Churches and ancient pagan ruins.

Fr George, the use of temple instead of house in litanies is a quirk of the Russian church, particularly ROCOR. If you have only experienced the Greek tradition, this is why you have not heard the use of temple for house. In past centuries, khram could mean both house (oikos) and temple (naos), and it seems that this has led to English translators to use temple. Personally, I feel the word should be translated as house, not temple.

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« Reply #25 on: June 08, 2010, 10:26:11 PM »

I am ok with either "written" or "depicted."  I suppose this goes back to what type of english we are using.
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« Reply #26 on: June 08, 2010, 10:29:37 PM »

The article was ok.   I do worry about using this as trying to justify the "pictures" vs. traditional iconography.  The picture icon of Pentecost with the Theotokos in the middle does not "say" as much "graphically" as does the traditionally "written" icon with Christ enthroned invisibly in the midst of the Apostles as the Head of the college.  
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« Reply #27 on: June 08, 2010, 10:32:42 PM »

Quote
I only engage in the discussion on the points of translating "love" to indicate the possibility of layering within the terms that is not found in translation and, thus, possible when attempting to translate "paint" or "write" for iconography.  I think the discussion should transcend the simple philological (even though, again, I'm not in favor of "write"); I'm wondering if others feel the same way, or if they disagree (and why).

Fr George, please look at my comments on the English word graphic.  Smiley
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« Reply #28 on: June 08, 2010, 10:33:05 PM »

Just to clarify, I don't care what terminology is used, but I do care about the content of icons.  There are some from bishop on down that cherish the theologically void depictions that barely cut it as icons, and are impoverished of what the fully traditional icons "says."
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« Reply #29 on: June 08, 2010, 10:35:08 PM »

Quote
I only engage in the discussion on the points of translating "love" to indicate the possibility of layering within the terms that is not found in translation and, thus, possible when attempting to translate "paint" or "write" for iconography.  I think the discussion should transcend the simple philological (even though, again, I'm not in favor of "write"); I'm wondering if others feel the same way, or if they disagree (and why).

Fr George, please look at my comments on the English word graphic.  Smiley

Good point to be pondered
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« Reply #30 on: June 08, 2010, 10:43:42 PM »

The article was ok.   I do worry about using this as trying to justify the "pictures" vs. traditional iconography.  The picture icon of Pentecost with the Theotokos in the middle does not "say" as much "graphically" as does the traditionally "written" icon with Christ enthroned invisibly in the midst of the Apostles as the Head of the college.  

Why not? Honest question, no ulterior motive (I don't like Western-style pictures in churches, btw; just wondering what is wrong with having the Theotokos at Pentecost; is that equivalent to St. Paul depicted at the Last Supper perhaps? A theological statement that can be backed up with traditional Byzantine iconography?)

And why is an article by a professor of Byzantine art who is a faithful Orthodox Christian only "ok" and not definitive? (again, no ulterior motive; I am trying to understand what the alternative considerations are; I don't see how avoiding pseudo-mystical jargon necessitates an approval of Western paintings?).

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« Reply #31 on: June 08, 2010, 10:45:09 PM »

Just to clarify, I don't care what terminology is used, but I do care about the content of icons.  There are some from bishop on down that cherish the theologically void depictions that barely cut it as icons, and are impoverished of what the fully traditional icons "says."

OK, I think you clarified what my questions were. Content vs. expression/language. But please do comment if you are so inclined.
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« Reply #32 on: June 08, 2010, 10:50:50 PM »

The earliest Pentecost icons we have do not depict her (at least not at the center).  That is because Christ is enthroned invisibly in the center.  This reflects our entire ecclesiology (that even Peter and Paul as protos still are the eldest of brothers, not the head of the Church)

As for "ok," I find that I cannot say this to my wife when she asks how she is dressed for a brilliant occasion.  I was hoping I could say it here.  They are all valid points.  My only worry is that anything that is painted can be thereafter construed as an icon.   Really, there is nothing more.  Not taking away from his writing, most of which I agree with, but still with concern for where such as "push" for distinction would bring us.

The article was ok.   I do worry about using this as trying to justify the "pictures" vs. traditional iconography.  The picture icon of Pentecost with the Theotokos in the middle does not "say" as much "graphically" as does the traditionally "written" icon with Christ enthroned invisibly in the midst of the Apostles as the Head of the college.  

Why not? Honest question, no ulterior motive (I don't like Western-style pictures in churches, btw; just wondering what is wrong with having the Theotokos at Pentecost; is that equivalent to St. Paul depicted at the Last Supper perhaps? A theological statement that can be backed up with traditional Byzantine iconography?)

And why is an article by a professor of Byzantine art who is a faithful Orthodox Christian only "ok" and not definitive? (again, no ulterior motive; I am trying to understand what the alternative considerations are; I don't see how avoiding pseudo-mystical jargon necessitates an approval of Western paintings?).

Fr A.
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« Reply #33 on: June 09, 2010, 07:58:07 AM »

Generally, in Western art, subject matter is not considered important.  A painting can be of a slab of beef or of Jesus, for example; it makes no difference.  What is considered important is the use of color, line, form, materials used and the composition.

In the East, however, subject matter is VERY important.  Icons:  An Icon ALWAYS refers back to a WRITTEN story; the Old and/or New Testaments.

Hence, Icons are considered 'written'.

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« Reply #34 on: June 09, 2010, 09:40:05 AM »

Quote
I only engage in the discussion on the points of translating "love" to indicate the possibility of layering within the terms that is not found in translation and, thus, possible when attempting to translate "paint" or "write" for iconography.  I think the discussion should transcend the simple philological (even though, again, I'm not in favor of "write"); I'm wondering if others feel the same way, or if they disagree (and why).
Fr George, please look at my comments on the English word graphicSmiley

Noted.  I agree with your position; I'd like to also hear developed contrary positions from others, methinks.
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« Reply #35 on: June 09, 2010, 09:42:56 AM »

Fr. Anthony Salzman of St. Philothea Greek Orthodox Church in Athens, Georgia (US) is an established iconographer who studied in Greece for 6 years. He explained to me that icons are written because they are a visual form of the Gospel, and not just some fancy painting of a random scene. Their intent is to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, whether it be through the depiction of a saint or a scene from scripture.

It is for this reason we say icons are "written," and not "painted."
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« Reply #36 on: June 09, 2010, 09:54:25 AM »

Fr. Anthony Salzman of St. Philothea Greek Orthodox Church in Athens, Georgia (US) is an established iconographer who studied in Greece for 6 years. He explained to me that icons are written because they are a visual form of the Gospel, and not just some fancy painting of a random scene. Their intent is to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, whether it be through the depiction of a saint or a scene from scripture.

It is for this reason we say icons are "written," and not "painted."

But the Gospel was originally spoken.  We don't say that spoken words, especially those that come about through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit on the fly (as the Apostles most assuredly orginally spread the Word), are "written;" we say that they are "spoken."

In the same light, pictures are not "written;" they are "drawn" or "painted".  An icon is the Gospel in picture form.

Again, let me point out that, contrary to what it may seem, I am not against using the word "written" in relation to iconography in a poetic form.  Many do, as the iconographer in the link EA provided, with the caveat that icons are also "painted."  However, as noted in my second post in this thread (in a reply to EA), it has been my experience that those who insist on saying that icons must be "written" tend to look on those who say one can refer to an icon as "painted" as guilty of some sort of heretical understanding of iconography.  I have been told by well meaning people that I "don't know what I'm talking about" and that "I'm just a crypto-Roman Catholic playing at Orthodoxy" because I refer to an icon being "painted".  How is that good theology?

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« Reply #37 on: June 09, 2010, 10:33:42 AM »

By the time Icons came into existence, both the Old and New Testaments were written down.
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« Reply #38 on: June 09, 2010, 10:37:19 AM »

By the time Icons came into existence, both the Old and New Testaments were written down.

And you're missing the point.

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« Reply #39 on: June 09, 2010, 10:57:55 AM »

By the time Icons came into existence, both the Old and New Testaments were written down.

And you're missing the point.


Read my earlier post; you are the one missing the point
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« Reply #40 on: June 09, 2010, 11:02:44 AM »

By the time Icons came into existence, both the Old and New Testaments were written down.

And you're missing the point.


Read my earlier post; you are the one missing the point

I did.  

I was unaware that the icon of, say, The Protection of the Mother of God, refers to a WRITTEN "story", but, rather, to an historical event where God's glory was made manifest.

The icons of the saints are not "written stories," but, visual depictions of the glory of God made manifest through His creation.  

And with that, I am done arguing this issue in this thread.  I've made my point and cannot make it any clearer.  
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« Reply #41 on: June 09, 2010, 12:24:52 PM »

Generally, in Western art, subject matter is not considered important.  A painting can be of a slab of beef or of Jesus, for example; it makes no difference.  What is considered important is the use of color, line, form, materials used and the composition.

In terms of western religious art, I think this is complete nonsense. I am quite sure that the subject matter of the majestus in the reredos for the high altar at the National Cathedral is not the least bit indifferent as to whether it depicts a slab of beef (which it does not) or Jesus (which it does).
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« Reply #42 on: June 09, 2010, 01:26:22 PM »

Fr. Anthony Salzman of St. Philothea Greek Orthodox Church in Athens, Georgia (US) is an established iconographer who studied in Greece for 6 years. He explained to me that icons are written because they are a visual form of the Gospel, and not just some fancy painting of a random scene. Their intent is to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, whether it be through the depiction of a saint or a scene from scripture.

It is for this reason we say icons are "written," and not "painted."

We could use the same logic to say that children's book illustrations are "written."

The point is, to say that icons are "written" is a "gee-whiz" gimmick and affectation which has no serious basis in Tradition.
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« Reply #43 on: June 09, 2010, 07:57:35 PM »

By the time Icons came into existence, both the Old and New Testaments were written down.

Wrong. The first icons were the large number of cherubim in the first tabernacle, and, later, in the Temple at Jerusalem. Are you suggesting Exodus (especially chs 25 and 26) was written before Moses built the tabernacle?
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« Reply #44 on: December 13, 2011, 04:36:15 PM »

I thought it worthwhile to resurrect this thread since I see this "written, not painted" schtick popping up recently.
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