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Author Topic: Icons and the Church Fathers  (Read 562 times) Average Rating: 0
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neon_knights
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« on: July 04, 2012, 12:38:35 AM »

Here is a list of quotes from Church Fathers which supposedly condemn images and icons.

http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/Ancients_on_Images.html

What do you think of this?
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« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2012, 12:48:28 AM »

I don't know a lot about most of them, but as for the quotes of St. Irenaeus, that is from a passage in which he is describing the beliefs/practices of the gnostic group started by Carpocrates. It is probable IMO that what he was against was not iconography (Christian images were common by the late 2nd century, e.g. in the catacombs), but rather against both the how and the who involved. That is, the Carpocratians believed that Jesus was enlightened, but that anyone could achieve the same thing, or even surpass Jesus. Thus when they made a likeness of Christ and put it right next to images of "Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle," it was not in the same spirit that the Orthodox do it (with the difference between Jesus and the saints clear).
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« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2012, 01:39:13 AM »

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« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2012, 02:06:15 AM »

"Here also the advocates of images are wont to say this also, that the ancients knew well that images have no divine nature, and that there is no sense in them, but that they formed them profitably and wisely, for the sake of the unmanageable and ignorant mob, which is the majority in nations and in states, in order that a kind of appearance, as it were, of deities being presented to them, from fear they might shake off their rude natures, and, supposing that they were acting in the presence of the gods, put away their impious deeds, and, changing their manners, learn to act as men" - Arnobius (Against the Heathen, 6:24)

The above quote seems to be speaking of images of false gods. He points out examples of images of pagan gods that are not designed to inspire men to holiness while our icons are designed to inspire men to holiness by following Christ.

25. For what grandeur— if you look at the truth without any prejudice — is there in these images of which they speak, that the men of old should have had reason to hope and think that, by beholding them, the vices of men could be subdued, and their morals and wicked ways brought under restraint? The reaping-hook, for example, which was assigned to Saturn, was it to inspire mortals with fear, that they should be willing to live peacefully, and to abandon their malicious inclinations? Janus, with double face, or that spiked key by which he has been distinguished; Jupiter, cloaked and bearded, and holding in his right hand a piece of wood shaped like a thunderbolt; the cestus of Juno, or the maiden lurking under a soldier's helmet; the mother of the gods, with her timbrel; the Muses, with their pipes and psalteries; Mercury, the winged slayer of Argus; Aesculapius, with his staff; Ceres, with huge breasts, or the drinking cup swinging in Liber's right hand; Mulciber, with his workman s dress; or Fortune, with her horn full of apples, figs, or autumnal fruits; Diana, with half-covered thighs, or Venus naked, exciting to lustful desire; Anubis, with his dog's face; or Priapus, of less importance than his own genitals: were these expected to make men afraid?
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« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2012, 02:24:38 AM »

"In a word, of not one of these statues can it be said that it was not made by man. If, then, these are gods, why did they not exist from the beginning? Why, in sooth, are they younger than those who made them? Why, in sooth, in order to their coming into existence, did they need the aid of men and art? They are nothing but earth, and stones, and matter, and curious art....it is affirmed by some that, although these are only images, yet there exist gods in honour of whom they are made; and that the supplications and sacrifices presented to the images are to be referred to the gods, and are in fact made to the gods" (A Plea for the Christians, 17-18)

This is less about the images themselves and more about the gods they represent.

This then especially I beg you carefully to consider. The gods, as they affirm, were not from the beginning, but every one of them has come into existence just like ourselves. And in this opinion they all agree.


They who draw men to idols, then, are the aforesaid demons, who are eager for the blood of the sacrifices, and lick them; but the gods that please the multitude, and whose names are given to the images, were men, as may be learned from their history. And that it is the demons who act under their names, is proved by the nature of their operations. For some castrate, as Rhea; others wound and slaughter, as Artemis; the Tauric goddess puts all strangers to death. I pass over those who lacerate with knives and scourges of bones, and shall not attempt to describe all the kinds of demons; for it is not the part of a god to incite to things against nature.... That, moreover, those who exert the power are not the same as those to whom the statues are erected, very strong evidence is afforded by Troas and Parium.
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« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2012, 03:23:01 AM »

"the law itself exhibits justice, and teaches wisdom, by abstinence from sensible images" - Clement of Alexandria (The Stromata, 2:18)

I don't know how to interpret this quote, but the source doesn't address idolotry but on the cultivation of virtues and worshipping God with a pure heart.

Quote
"familiarity with the sight disparages the reverence of what is divine; and to worship that which is immaterial by matter, is to dishonour it by sense." - Clement of Alexandria (The Stromata, 5:5)

This seems to be condemning the the assignment of an image for something that has not been revealed to us in a physical form.

And again, “Don't wear a ring, nor engrave on it the images of the gods,” enjoins Pythagoras; as Moses ages before enacted expressly, that neither a graven, nor molten, nor moulded, nor painted likeness should be made; so that we may not cleave to things of sense, but pass to intellectual objects: for familiarity with the sight disparages the reverence of what is divine; and to worship that which is immaterial by matter, is to dishonour it by sense.

And the next chapter says

Quote
Hence the Son is said to be the Father's face, being the revealer of the Father's character to the five senses by clothing Himself with flesh.

Quote
"Works of art cannot then be sacred and divine." - Clement of Alexandria (The Stromata, 7:5)

What he is saying is that God doesn't dwell in images, which is consistent with our beliefs concerning icons.

Now the images and temples constructed by mechanics are made of inert matter; so that they too are inert, and material, and profane; and if you perfect the art, they partake of mechanical coarseness. Works of art cannot then be sacred and divine.

...

And if sacred (το ἱερόν) has a twofold application, designating both God Himself and the structure raised to His honour, how shall we not with propriety call the Church holy, through knowledge, made for the honour of God, sacred (ἱερόν) to God, of great value, and not constructed by mechanical art, nor embellished by the hand of an impostor, but by the will of God fashioned into a temple? For it is not now the place, but the assemblage of the elect, that I call the Church. This temple is better for the reception of the greatness of the dignity of God.
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« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2012, 09:12:07 AM »

"Moreover, I have heard that certain persons have this grievance against me: When I accompanied you to the holy place called Bethel, there to join you in celebrating the Collect, after the use of the Church, I came to a villa called Anablatha and, as I was passing, saw a lamp burning there. Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ's church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person. They, however, murmured, and said that if I made up my mind to tear it, it was only fair that I should give them another curtain in its place. As soon as I heard this, I promised that I would give one, and said that I would send it at once. Since then there has been some little delay, due to the fact that I have been seeking a curtain of the best quality to give to them instead of the former one, and thought it right to send to Cyprus for one. I have now sent the best that I could find, and I beg that you will order the presbyter of the place to take the curtain which I have sent from the hands of the Reader, and that you will afterwards give directions that curtains of the other sort--opposed as they are to our religion--shall not be hung up in any church of Christ. A man of your uprightness should be careful to remove an occasion of offence unworthy alike of the Church of Christ and of those Christians who are committed to your charge." - Epiphanius (Jerome's Letter 51:9)

Epiphanius of Salamis, Doctor of Iconoclasm? Deconstruction of a Myth represents a thorough examination of the dispute over the authenticity of five relevant texts of St. Epiphanius between iconoclasts and iconophiles in the 8th/9th century and between modern scholars in the 20th century: ... (ch. 2); an analysis of the "Byzantine Controversy," which focuses on the arguments (against authenticity) of St. John Damascene, of the Seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (787), of St. Nicephorus of Constantinople and of St. Theodore the Studite (ch.3); an analysis of the modern controversy focusing especially on the debate between Karl Holl (for authenticity) and George Ostrogorsky (against authenticity), including the reactions of several scholars (ch. 4); and, finally, a critical evaluation of the arguments for authenticity, which concludes that such arguments "are sufficient to justify their rejection." Fr. Bigham has convincingly argued that Epiphanius's so-called iconophobia, a notion that is present in the popular imagination and in scholarly works for nearly a century, is only a myth
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« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2012, 09:33:31 AM »

"Since I have mentioned this city I do not think it proper to omit an account which is worthy of record for posterity. For they say that the woman with an issue of blood, who, as we learn from the sacred Gospel, received from our Saviour deliverance from her affliction, came from this place, and that her house is shown in the city, and that remarkable memorials of the kindness of the Saviour to her remain there. For there stands upon an elevated stone, by the gates of her house, a brazen image of a woman kneeling, with her hands stretched out, as if she were praying. Opposite this is another upright image of a man, made of the same material, clothed decently in a double cloak, and extending his hand toward the woman. At his feet, beside the statue itself, is a certain strange plant, which climbs up to the hem of the brazen cloak, and is a remedy for all kinds of diseases. They say that this statue is an image of Jesus. It has remained to our day, so that we ourselves also saw it when we were staying in the city. Nor is it strange that those of the Gentiles who, of old, were benefited by our Saviour, should have done such things, since we have learned also that the likenesses of his apostles Paul and Peter, and of Christ himself, are preserved in paintings, the ancients being accustomed, as it is likely, according to a habit of the Gentiles, to pay this kind of honor indiscriminately to those regarded by them as deliverers." (Church History, 7:18)

This doesn't really seem to condemn iconography, but rather describes the use of images and statues as a normal means of showing honor.
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« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2012, 09:39:09 AM »

"Others of them employ outward marks, branding their disciples inside the lobe of the right ear. From among these also arose Marcellina, who came to Rome under the episcopate of Anicetus, and, holding these doctrines, she led multitudes astray. They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world that is to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest. They have also other modes of honouring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles." (Against Heresies, 1:25:6)

The bolded part is what is being condemned, equating Christ to being another great philosopher.
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« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2012, 09:46:01 AM »

"And neither do we honour with many sacrifices and garlands of flowers such deities as men have formed and set in shrines and called gods; since we see that these are soulless and dead, and have not the form of God (for we do not consider that God has such a form as some say that they imitate to His honour), but have the names and forms of those wicked demons which have appeared." (First Apology, 9)

This is against the worship of false Gods and assigning an image to something that has not been revealed to us in a physical form.
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