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Author Topic: First Century Icons and Prayers to Saints  (Read 1389 times) Average Rating: 0
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GregoryLA
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« on: June 26, 2010, 12:54:20 AM »

I think this sort of topic has come up before and I tried to find a thread on this topic, but couldn't.

I was wondering why it is that there are no icons or prayers to the saints from before the 3rd century.  I'm not interested in a defense of iconography or prayers to the saints but just the simple question of why are there no icons or documented prayers to the saints from an earlier time period.

Is it because of the general scarcity of things we have from that time period?  Am I wrong and that there actually icons and prayers to the saints from the 1st and/or 2nd century?

I know that the tradition has it that St. Luke painted an icon of the Theotokos and Christ but I'm wondering about something a bit more verifiable- like archaeological evidence like in the Church at Dura Europos.  I'm also aware that there's evidence showing the earliest Christians believed the saints were praying for us in heaven, but I'm wondering about the practice of directly addressing the saints.

Thanks!
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ialmisry
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« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2010, 01:05:14 AM »

I think this sort of topic has come up before and I tried to find a thread on this topic, but couldn't.

I was wondering why it is that there are no icons or prayers to the saints from before the 3rd century.  I'm not interested in a defense of iconography or prayers to the saints but just the simple question of why are there no icons or documented prayers to the saints from an earlier time period.

Is it because of the general scarcity of things we have from that time period?  Am I wrong and that there actually icons and prayers to the saints from the 1st and/or 2nd century?

I know that the tradition has it that St. Luke painted an icon of the Theotokos and Christ but I'm wondering about something a bit more verifiable- like archaeological evidence like in the Church at Dura Europos.  I'm also aware that there's evidence showing the earliest Christians believed the saints were praying for us in heaven, but I'm wondering about the practice of directly addressing the saints.

Thanks!
Read the martyrdom of Polycarp.

As for "physical" evidence, yes, very little survives from the first couple centuries (remember, a persecution was going on, which included destroying Christian objects).
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Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth
GregoryLA
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« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2010, 01:13:21 AM »

I think this sort of topic has come up before and I tried to find a thread on this topic, but couldn't.

I was wondering why it is that there are no icons or prayers to the saints from before the 3rd century.  I'm not interested in a defense of iconography or prayers to the saints but just the simple question of why are there no icons or documented prayers to the saints from an earlier time period.

Is it because of the general scarcity of things we have from that time period?  Am I wrong and that there actually icons and prayers to the saints from the 1st and/or 2nd century?

I know that the tradition has it that St. Luke painted an icon of the Theotokos and Christ but I'm wondering about something a bit more verifiable- like archaeological evidence like in the Church at Dura Europos.  I'm also aware that there's evidence showing the earliest Christians believed the saints were praying for us in heaven, but I'm wondering about the practice of directly addressing the saints.

Thanks!
Read the martyrdom of Polycarp.

As for "physical" evidence, yes, very little survives from the first couple centuries (remember, a persecution was going on, which included destroying Christian objects).

I suppose the small size of the early Christian community would play into this as well, making artifacts and whatnot even slimmer.

What kind of archaeological remains and whatnot do exist from the first two centuries?
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Salpy
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« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2010, 02:04:30 AM »


I suppose the small size of the early Christian community would play into this as well, making artifacts and whatnot even slimmer.

I think that is the issue.  We're talking about a very persecuted underground religion which met in people's homes for worship.  You didn't have structures like the churches we have today.  It is in fact remarkable that we even have the remains of the Dura Europos house church, dating back to the early 200's.  I think that it has the earliest surviving icons, in the form of frescoes on the walls.

Who knows?  Perhaps within our lifetime another archeological dig will turn up the remains of an even earlier Christian community.   Smiley
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LBK
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« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2010, 06:35:17 AM »

There are icons in the Roman catacombs, some dating from the first century.
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GregoryLA
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« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2010, 07:09:54 AM »

There are icons in the Roman catacombs, some dating from the first century.

I didn't think that the catacomb art dating back that far.  In fact, I was under the impression that the catacombs themselves didn't even go back to the first century. 

Not that I don't believe you, but would mind provide a link or source for that information?  I'd be very interesting in seeing it.  Thanks!
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« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2010, 07:25:09 AM »

Catacombs were used by the Jews of Rome as burial sites before the advent of Christianity. The Roman custom was cremation, not burial, of their dead.
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ialmisry
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« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2010, 08:50:21 AM »

I think this sort of topic has come up before and I tried to find a thread on this topic, but couldn't.

I was wondering why it is that there are no icons or prayers to the saints from before the 3rd century.  I'm not interested in a defense of iconography or prayers to the saints but just the simple question of why are there no icons or documented prayers to the saints from an earlier time period.

Is it because of the general scarcity of things we have from that time period?  Am I wrong and that there actually icons and prayers to the saints from the 1st and/or 2nd century?

I know that the tradition has it that St. Luke painted an icon of the Theotokos and Christ but I'm wondering about something a bit more verifiable- like archaeological evidence like in the Church at Dura Europos.  I'm also aware that there's evidence showing the earliest Christians believed the saints were praying for us in heaven, but I'm wondering about the practice of directly addressing the saints.

Thanks!
Read the martyrdom of Polycarp.

As for "physical" evidence, yes, very little survives from the first couple centuries (remember, a persecution was going on, which included destroying Christian objects).

I suppose the small size of the early Christian community would play into this as well, making artifacts and whatnot even slimmer.

What kind of archaeological remains and whatnot do exist from the first two centuries?
This something from the end of the second century in Rome:

http://faculty.bbc.edu/rdecker/images/AlexGrafitto2c.jpg

http://www.biblepicturegallery.com/free/Pics/Grafiti1.gif

On some gems:
http://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/2440/21742/1/09phh285.pdf
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Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth
Salpy
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Pray for the Christians of Iraq and Syria.


« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2010, 11:15:31 AM »

I've seen that before.  It's a piece of Roman graffiti in which the person who made the drawing is mocking someone he knows who is a Christian.  I guess the insulting depiction of the crucified Christ with a donkey's head indicates that the Christian being mocked used to worship in front of a crucifix, or an icon of the crucifixion.  I didn't know it dated back to the end of the 100's.  Cool.
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Alveus Lacuna
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« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2010, 12:35:01 PM »

I'm going to agree with reading the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, as well as reading the Martyrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Feliitas.

It's been a couple of years for me, but I seem to recall those writings giving me a clear indication of visions and appearances of saints after their deaths, and thus communion with those who had passed on. I don't remember dates offhand, but I believe those are both from the early 2nd century.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2010, 12:36:06 PM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
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