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Icons: Archaeological Evidence

Doubting Thomas

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Does anyone have a good reference work for the archaeological evidence of icon use by the early Christians? I've been debating some Baptists on the Baptistboard, trying to defend the veneration of icons against the charge of idolatry. The ones with whom I've been debating maintain that early Christians would have interpreted the Second Commandment in the same way as the Jews and would definitely not have bowed to any graven images. I tried to point out that there is some evidence of icons even in some synagogues (but I couldn't remember the details) and then I linked to the work of St. John of Damascus defending the holy images. Does anyone have anything more specific? Thanks.

DT
 

Doubting Thomas

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And also, is it wrong to bow to anyone other than Christ/God? Some on the Baptistboard have pointed out Revelation 22:8-9 in which an angel admonishes John for bowing down before him. They use this as justification against not bowing down to anyone other than God. Likewise with Peter admonishing Cornelius in Acts 10:25-26 saying: "Stand up; I myself am also a man." What say ye?
 

Matthew777

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Please consider the following:

"Images and Statues
Deut. 4:15 - from this verse, Protestants say that since we saw "no form" of the Lord, we should not make graven images of Him.

Deut. 4:16 - of course, in early history Israel was forbidden to make images of God because God didn't yet reveal himself visibly "in the form of any figure."

Deut. 4:17-19 - hence, had the Israelites depicted God not yet revealed, they might be tempted to worship Him in the form of a beast, bird, reptile or fish, which was a common error of the times.

Exodus 3:2-3; Dan 7:9; Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32; Acts 2:3- later on, however, we see that God did reveal himself in visible form (as a dove, fire, etc).

Deut. 5:8 - God's commandment "thou shall not make a graven image" is entirely connected to the worship of false gods. God does not prohibit images to be used in worship, but He prohibits the images themselves to be worshiped.

Exodus 25:18-22; 26:1,31 - for example, God commands the making of the image of a golden cherubim. This heavenly image, of course, is not worshiped by the Israelites. Instead, the image disposes their minds to the supernatural and draws them to God.

Num. 21:8-9 - God also commands the making of the bronze serpent. The image of the bronze serpent is not an idol to be worshiped, but an article that lifts the mind to the supernatural.

I Kings 6:23-36; 7:27-39; 8:6-67 - Solomon's temple contains statues of cherubim and images of cherubim, oxen and lions. God did not condemn these images that were used in worship.

2 Kings 18:4 - it was only when the people began to worship the statue did they incur God's wrath, and the king destroyed it. The command prohibiting the use of graven images deals exclusively with the false worship of those images.

1 Chron. 28:18-19 - David gives Solomon the plan for the altar made of refined gold with a golden cherubim images. These images were used in the Jews' most solemn place of worship.

2 Chron. 3:7-14 - the house was lined with gold with elaborate cherubim carved in wood and overlaid with gold.

Ezek. 41:15 - Ezekiel describes graven images in the temple consisting of carved likenesses of cherubim. These are similar to the images of the angels and saints in many Catholic churches.

Col. 1:15 - the only image of God that Catholics worship is Jesus Christ, who is the "image" (Greek "eikon") of the invisible God."
http://www.scripturecatholic.com/sacramentals.html

May peace be upon thee and with thy spirit.

 

Doubting Thomas

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Thanks. Matthew.

What about any historic (or archaeological) evidence that would show when this practice (using and venerating icons) became present in the church. I understand that a synagogue at Dura (in Syria?) from the 2nd or 3rd century had icons. What about the early Christians? And what about the passages I pointed out regarding bowing? (I see the great would-be Orthodox Reformer has given his 2 cents ;D )
 

Strelets

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DoubtingThomas,

I can provide you answers to all the questions you just raised. I'm on my way out, so it'll probably be tomorrow before I can post.
 

lpap

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Doubting Thomas,

I think that you do not did "evidence"
Ask brothers Baptists if they have photographs of their loved ones. They may kiss and honor this photos if the photographed person is far away.
Exactly the same honor we provide to icons being the photos of humans - Christ is iconized as human being. We do not worship icons. We worship the iconized persons. Much as they do not love the photos themselves as paper and color but they kiss and honor them, being in love with the real persons that are in the picture.
It is a matter of giving honor to the image of a loved person.

Also by talking through a telephone line to a person they are talking to a machine that reproduces the voice of the person. They actually do not listen neither they talk with him. They are talking to a microphone and they are listening to a resonator vibrating according to electrical pulses. So they are using material things to have a personal conversation with an absent person without engaging into a personal relationship with the phone itself. This is exactly the use of icons that we have in our Church.

They fail to use such a simple analogy in faith and they constrain themselves in a way of worship that eliminates bodily communication. They may as well stop talking at all because physical sound waves that come out of their lips are not allowed by Second Commandment as they are humanly created objects. And then they may understand why we refuse to take icons out of Church.
 

Doubting Thomas

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Ask brothers Baptists if they have photographs of their loved ones. They may kiss and honor this photos if the photographed person is far away.
I actually used that illustration. Personally, I think it is a good one. However, one fellow responded by saying that he didn't do that sort of thing (kiss photos) since there was no way his loved ones themselves could receive any affection that he gave to the photos as they would be far away and therefore couldn't see that gesture. I guess he was implying that saints in heaven couldn't see us kissing their icons either.

I guess that's why I was looking for actual evidence that this was practiced:  so I could demonstrate that this was indeed a practice of the church since ancient times.  Otherwise, they (the baptists) would continue to claim it was a pagan corruption that crept into the church.
 

Doubting Thomas

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DoubtingThomas,

I can provide you answers to all the questions you just raised. I'm on my way out, so it'll probably be tomorrow before I can post.
Thanks--I'm looking forward to reading that. It would be very helpful.
 

Aristocles

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While the primitive icons in the Roman catacombs are enough "proof" for me, the following might help some.

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/icon_faq.aspx

http://www.huntfor.com/arthistory/medieval/earlychristian.htm

I have more bookmarked on my regular computer which I'll be back to tomorrow night.
 

grov

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You'll find very specific archaeological evidence cited in some of Ouspensky's works (amazon.com), but be aware that much of the evidence was destroyed by the iconoclasts before the 7th ecumenical council, then more by the islamists.  Nevertheless, there remains strong evidence from very early years.

George
 

Strelets

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Does anyone have a good reference work for the archaeological evidence of icon use by the early Christians?
One first has to lay out the ground rules as to what constitutes an icon and whether the Old Testament injuctions would apply to an icon. This is where their polemic fails, as they can't tell you what separates an icon from an image, and how you can tell the difference merely by looking at them in caves or what have you. They want to say it's against OT law to create graven images, but when you show them examples of Jews and early Christians creating images of holy figures, they claim, "But.. but... that's not a venerated icon!" Whether veneration was performed or not is a side note. We must first understand whether images of the truly divine are forbidden, which they are not. In every case, you'll see that the iconoclast has misconstrued OT injuctions against images of false gods with images of the true God and His incarnated divinity in matter. Ask them to quote the passages that prohibit icons, and then show how their iconoclasm doesn't truly follow those passages. I've found that most of them won't quote the passages because they then have to explain why they are excused to create cheesy brochures with the usual graven blue-eyed Christ petting a child or some other cheap knock-off of Orthodox icons.

The ones with whom I've been debating maintain that early Christians would have interpreted the Second Commandment in the same way as the Jews and would definitely not have bowed to any graven images.
You need to quote to them the second commandment in its entirety, rather than the two separate components as they read it. What it says is to not bow to images of false gods. That's not what Orthodox do. And ask them why they believe in such an extreme iconoclasm when Jews don't.

I tried to point out that there is some evidence of icons even in some synagogues (but I couldn't remember the details) and then I linked to the work of St. John of Damascus defending the holy images. Does anyone have anything more specific?
Duro-Europos was the home of many Jewish and Christian mosaics and had a thriving Jewish community. In the 3rd century, the community produced mosaics of King David, events from Ezekiel, and nearly thirty others in the ancient synagogue located in this town. There is the floor at Hammas Tiberias with Jewish images. In this painting is the sacrifice of Isaac in the Beth Alpha Synagogue:
http://www.hum.huji.ac.il/cja/Index_pres/Beit-Alpha%20Isaac.htm

We also know that the Jewish community was vividly illuminating manuscripts during the Middle Ages.

The iconoclast has to prove how it was possible that the practice of iconography had been going on for hundreds of years without so much as a peep in the Christian community, then suddenly the emergence of iconoclasm with the rise of Islam is the "true" Christian belief. It's not believable, and it's no wonder that iconoclasm isn't embraced by the scholarly Protestants -- typically the Lutherans, Methodist, Episcopalians -- but only by Baptists and those from the charismatic movements. And the robber councils that favored iconoclasm were not real councils, evidenced by the fact that most of the Patriarchs were not there, and they were rejected by those Patriarchs and the Roman See.

And also, is it wrong to bow to anyone other than Christ/God? Some on the Baptistboard have pointed out Revelation 22:8-9 in which an angel admonishes John for bowing down before him. They use this as justification against not bowing down to anyone other than God.
They've not accurately read what's written in Revelation 22:8-9 --

"Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, 'See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.'"

The angel told him to not worship him, but only God. And Orthodox don't worship angels or saints, we worship only God.

Likewise with Peter admonishing Cornelius in Acts 10:25-26 saying: "Stand up; I myself am also a man." What say ye?
I say it's a well-worn and superficial argument, and another failure to read the entire passage in context in favor of a hacked interpretation that ignores the entire chapter, book, and NT.

Cornelius and his relatives thought Peter was a god and dropped to his feet to worship him. They were not venerating him in any sense of the Orthodox word "venerate." If I bow to St. Paul as a god, then I'm definitely breaking the OT commandments and the Orthodox faith. It's not the "bowing" that's problematic, but the attitude and belief behind it. Also, as Orthodox we don't venerate the living on earth, but only the living saints in heaven.

The other commonly misinterpreted passage is from Acts 14 where some people thought Paul and Barnabas were Zeus and Hermes, and tried to worship them as gods, while Paul and Barnabas rejected those attempts.

Try to demonstrate that what the Baptist polemicist is criticising is 1) an out of context interpretation that doesn't accurately describe what's occurring; and 2) a mischaracterization of Orthodox doctrine. If they choose to single-mindedly go back to the talking points handed down by Brother Ted, then you're fighting a fruitless battle.

What about any historic (or archaeological) evidence that would show when this practice (using and venerating icons) became present in the church. I understand that a synagogue at Dura (in Syria?) from the 2nd or 3rd century had icons. What about the early Christians?
As I wrote above, the veneration aspect is a side note, and it becomes a fruitless attempt to prove their arguing from silence wrong. You can't prove a fallacious mode of arguing wrong. You have to identify it as a fallacy and leave it alone. The other side loses the argument by default whether they recognize it or not.

What's most fascinating is that we have 2nd and 3rd century Christian artwork, and it's nearly identical in form to our current icons. Compare the following...

Theotokos and the infant Christ
http://campus.belmont.edu/honors/catacombs/madonna.jpg
http://www.skete.com/moreinfo_tn.cfm?Category=35&Product_ID=139

Christ, the Good Shepherd
http://campus.belmont.edu/honors/catacombs/goodshepherd1.jpg
http://www.skete.com/moreinfo.cfm?Category=34&Product_ID=94

(It should also be noted that the omophorion worn by our bishops is symbolic of the Good Shepherd pose with the lamb.)

Raising Lazarus
http://campus.belmont.edu/honors/catacombs/lazarus1.jpg
http://www.skete.com/moreinfo.cfm?Category=40&Product_ID=281

The Orans pose
http://campus.belmont.edu/honors/catacombs/orante2.jpg
http://www.skete.com/moreinfo_tn.cfm?Category=35&Product_ID=153

And what about the passages I pointed out regarding bowing?
Read above.
 

grov

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Does anyone know how to save a post?  This one's a keeper if I ever saw one.  Thanks, Strelets.

George
 

Thomas

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While I personally think the image of kissing the photos of ones loved ones is a good image.  It does not seem to work for most Americans except for teenage girls and  soldiers far away from home.  But it works well with people form the middle east, western and eastern europe and the far east where such open signs of affection are not looked down upon with the same disdain that Americans show.

An image of this display of love I remember is that of my mother months before she became an Orthodox Christian in her old age, asking my grandson to bring her the picture of her deceased husband (My father)  every night so she could kiss him good night since he was no longer physically with her. This same love was expanded to the icons of the Mother of God and several saints after her becoming an Orthodox Christian. They had become part of her family to the day she died and she asked them to take care of my Dad that he might come to know the Church as she had. In her simple way she had begun to pray for my father's soul through her beloved Saints whom she had icons of in her room. How easy it was to expand her act of love with my father's image to the images of her Saints in expressing that love to my father in death.

In Christ,
Thomas
 

lpap

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Doubting Thomas said:
I actually used that illustration. Personally, I think it is a good one. However, one fellow responded by saying that he didn't do that sort of thing (kiss photos) since there was no way his loved ones themselves could receive any affection that he gave to the photos as they would be far away and therefore couldn't see that gesture. I guess he was implying that saints in heaven couldn't see us kissing their icons either.
Exactly that is the point that needs to be made clear.

Baptists - along with every protestand - fail to participate in anything else other than the reality of their own selves. They think that their reality is the same with the reality of God. They fail to recognize that we live a created reality of life, instead of an Uncreated reality of Life that God has. We can meet Him not by joining our realities but by non-participation in His Devine reality. Because exactly that is the meeting of persons: to meet a non-existed living reality.

For instance when we meet another man, he has a personal life of his own that is personal not in the way that he lives different human realities fromours. But he becomes a person in the sense that while sharing the same natural reality with us, he lives the reality of his being so exclusively personal that he is absolutely different and unknown to us. This non-existed reality for us is called “other Person”. For him this reality is absolutely existent, it is actually the only reality that he is certain of. The meeting with this non-existed reality is called a meeting of Persons.

Unfortunately Baptists are thinking that there is only one common shared reality and in this context there is no meaning in relating to the image of a person because this image is not the person himself. They fail to realize that we can only engage in personal relationship through images as long as the naked person himself is absolutely non-existed.

If you take the image away, then you take away the actual person. The Baptist that does not kiss the photo of the far away loved one because the photo is just an image of the loved person, he has his image in his heart regardless of the photo. If he was to reject any image about that person then the person just vanished in non-existence. For instance if I reject every image and notion about my mother then I would have loved a void idea, not a person.

By printing the image of her in a picture I make a reference to what is inside my heart: the image and notion of her visual bodily reality. That reference is not a personal reference because it does not presents her Personality. If my mother’s picture was to be seen by a stranger he may have not known anything about her Personality. He may just know how she looks like. I know my mother as a Person because I had the chance to meet her live image (to associate with her bodily manifestation). In this context I kiss her picture not as a way to communicate with her, but as a way to get in touch with her image. Through this I can refer to her in a Personal way. Because by kissing her image I contact a reality that implies a non-existed (not being a reality of my life) living reality: the reality that she personally lives, in an exclusive personal way unknown to me, that is assuring is "presence" because I have a visual reference of her body.

If Baptists should have been right then we might not even thing of other persons when they were absent. Because, only a joined reality of their presence with ours would justify a personal relation with them. As long the other person is absent I could not love him, or have feelings or express my relation with him. I would have been trapped in the reality of myself and I would also force everyone else to become part of my reality -literally- in order to become a person with whom I could relate with.

This is not the experience of Orthodox Church.

In this context, Jesus being human with body is being pictured in icons.

The Second Commandment was referring to the non-bodily reality that God lives in His Devine nature. So we could not use any picture as a reference of His image. That was changed after incarnation of Christ. Now we can do what Israel could not do!

Of course the picture of Christ is not referring to his Devine nature but to His human one. But the key to our behavior is that we know that both His Devine and His human nature were manifested through One Person: Christ. So by referring to His human image we are referring to human person Christ, which is no other than the same Devine Person that is living the realities of the Devine nature as Logos, the second Person of Trinity.

So we are actually do not act against the Second Commandment ! Icons refer to created human realities of Persons that they also participate in Uncreated realities of the Life of God. These persons are Christ and Saints of Church. By picturing them we do not imply that we picture Devine realities or Devine natures, but human Persons that participate in the Devine realities and a man-God Person that participate in the Devine Nature.

Second Commandment had an absolute meaning in the past because we just could not picture Christ as man-God (in His human image) before his incarnation.
 

Aristocles

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Just as an aside, until I get to my archived bookmarks, I always find it funny that the neo-iconoclasts always ask for archeological evidence from a period of the Church during which the great persecutions were made. Rare was a free standing temple until St. Constantine legalized Christianity. Shortly thereafter, churches and icons seem to just explosively appear.
 

Doubting Thomas

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Wow, Strelets...thanks for the post! I agree with grov; it's a keeper. :)

Also, I just thought of something: is there a distinction between bowing and prostration in regards to Orthodox worhsip and venertation? Because I did notice in each passage that Cornelius and John fell at the feet of Peter and the angel respectively. Perhaps, prostration is more of a posture exclusively for worshipping God Himself, and bowing is a more gerenal action of respect/honor?
 

Doubting Thomas

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Just as an aside, until I get to my archived bookmarks, I always find it funny that the neo-iconoclasts always ask for archeological evidence from a period of the Church during which the great persecutions were made. Rare was a free standing temple until St. Constantine legalized Christianity. Shortly thereafter, churches and icons seem to just explosively appear.
Good point.
 

Strelets

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... is there a distinction between bowing and prostration in regards to Orthodox worhsip and venertation?
They are essentially the same.

Perhaps, prostration is more of a posture exclusively for worshipping God Himself, and bowing is a more gerenal action of respect/honor?
The bowing is merely a salutation. We salute our parents, our civil leaders, our friends, and some salute much lesser dignified objects such as pop icons and themselves. The form of this salutation isn't what's important, but the belief and behavior behind it. The quibbling over the act of "bowing" is an example of extreme literalness run amok. The bowing in the commandment in question isn't the point; it was the honoring and worship of false gods that was being condemned. It could very well be that someone worships a false god, perhaps their consumerist lifestyle and material goods, without physically bowing to those gods but they bow in their hearts and minds.

Another interesting item to note is that in Acts 5:15, we read about the sick lining up in the streets so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on them and heal their illness. Compare the reaction of Peter in this passage, with the others where some tried to worship him. There's no mention in Acts about Peter or others being outraged by those lying in the streets at his feet, and there would have been no reason for them to be angry because these people weren't worshipping him as a god.

Another good resource...
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/icon_bowing.aspx
 

lpap

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Here are some picture of icons in the Jewish synagogue at Dura Europos (or Dura Europa) in eastern Syria that already been referenced in previous postings: http://sio.midco.net/danstopicalstamps/dura.htm,http://www.library.yale.edu/exhibition/judaica/jcsml.2.html,These are lot of pictures here:http://images.library.wisc.edu/ArtHistory/S/16/t/248156t.jpg

some information on Dura Europos http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dura-Europos_synagogue, http://www.janus.umd.edu/May2001/Stephanos/01.html

Also there is a fine selection of ancient Christian art : http://www.wisc.edu/arth/ah201/27.html,http://www.scrollpublishing.com/store/catacomb pictures.html,http://www.goarch.org/en/resources/clipart/icondetail.asp?i=32&c=LifeOfChrist&r=catacomb

This is an explanation of Second Commandment from a Judaic perspective: http://www.umass.edu/judaic/anniversaryvolume/articles/18-D1-CEhrlich.pdf

You may also find this Orthodox site usefull:

The Orthodox Understanding of Icons

Here follows an excerpt:

...The issue begins with Scripture and the second commandment:
Exodus 20:4 You shall not make a graven image of anything that is in heaven above, in the earth or in the water, nor shall you bow down to worship them.
So, are images a violation of the Second Commandment?

What God actually forbade was the making of graven images of anything in heaven or earth, for the purpose of worshipping them. This is the actual command:
You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:4,5).

If this passage prohibits any kind of pictures of the incarnate Christ, or of angels or our heroes in the Faith, then we must also abandon all of our children’s Sunday school materials, anything that depicts Bible stories, and we need to destroy our photos of our families, posters of landscapes, nor can we take any vacation pictures and email them to friends. Those are all images of things in the heaven or earth or water. In reality, of course, no one but the Muslims and some VERY fundamentalist Christians really believe that God meant to prohibit all images of anything in heaven or earth; it's the worshipping of images that He forbids.


The Temple and the Jews
The Jews received the second commandment and in the same historical timeframe God also commanded the building of the tabernacle and its furnishings. We are all familiar with the infamous golden calf that Aaron set up while Moses was receiving the 10 commandments. One MIGHT conclude that ANY image of a bull would be absolutely forbidden in God’s tabernacle.
But the image of a bull was set up in the Temple - by God’s command and with God's approval! Here are a couple of examples:
"And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the Ark; and in the Ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the Ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel." (Ex. 25:18, see also Ex. 26:1, I Kings 6:29, Ezek. 41:25)

1 Kings 7:25 tells about the brazen sea - the huge 15-foot diameter basin in the courts of the Temple. It was made with graven images of twelve bulls surrounding the sea. This should tell us, if nothing else, that God is NOT displeased by the presence of pictorial representations in His holy places of worship. In fact, these were even graven images identical to those the Israelites periodically worshipped! Apparently God knows the difference between pagan worship and true worship even though similar artifacts might be present in both.

If you read the commands of God regarding the building of the Tabernacle, those weren't the only graven images. You'll also find:
Two fifteen-foot-tall cherubim in the Holy of Holies (1 Kings 6:23-28)
All the Temple's inside walls were covered with carved figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. (1 Kings 6:29)
The doors of the sanctuary and of the inner sanctuary were carved gold-overlaid images of cherubim, palm trees, and flowers (1 Kings 6:32,34)
On the Temple carts, images of bulls and lions. (1 Kings 7:29,36)
and of course the two cherubs on top of the Ark itself!

God also commanded the making of icons, or images for spiritual purposes. He commanded Moses to display an icon in Numbers 21:8,9 - God healed the Israelites from snakebite when they looked to the icon of the snake. It was not until a later generation, when the people had named this icon Nehushtan and worshipped it as a god, that it was necessary to destroy it (2 Kings 18:4). At another time, God specifically commanded Ezekiel to paint an icon of the city of Jerusalem and to treat the icon as a symbol of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:1ff).

So it is clear that the Jews NEVER were iconoclasts or without images in their worship. The New Testament-era Jews had no qualms about lavishly decorating their synagogues with images of biblical figures. In Dura Europa (click here for a link) in modern Syria a second century synagogue was unearthed, and it was covered with wall-paintings that were in excellent condition.

It is clear FROM SCRIPTURE that the second commandment DOES NOT apply to ALL images and their presence in the context of a place of worship...
 

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Thomas,

And also, is it wrong to bow to anyone other than Christ/God?  Some on the Baptistboard have pointed out Revelation 22:8-9 in which an angel admonishes John for bowing down before him.  They use this as justification against not bowing down to anyone other than God.  Likewise with Peter admonishing Cornelius in Acts 10:25-26 saying: "Stand up; I myself am also a man."  What say ye?
In the end much of this has to do with the humility of the parties being reverenced.  For example, living Saints have never been in the business of heaping glory upon themselves.

What has to be made clear to your Protestant friends is why a Christian would venerate something/someone relating to God.  See, that's the key - the relationship of that which is being reverenced to God.  We venerate the Saints, precisely because they are an extension of Christ, and are fountaints of grace.  It is no different than having reverence for the book of the Gospels because they cantain the inspired Holy Writ, or the Chalice used to contain the precious Holy Gifts.

Now this can raise questions of "why bother" in the sense of "why not just reverence God?"  Well, such questions are actually more loaded than those posing them typically realize - it's the kind of query which actually calls into question the whole business of our praying at all ("why bother - doesn't God already know what you need, or what you'd pray for without you doing it?"), or bothering to live a moral life, or even bothering to "have faith" at all ("isn't insisting on faith just a hidden form of works?").

While there is a logic to why we should have recourse to the Saints (and to the prayers of others with us - indeed, that's another question to ask as well; why have anyone pray for you?), in the end the simplest answer is that it is because this is how God has arranged His economy of salvation.  One could also ask why God chose the Incarnation and all that came with it as our means of redemption - could He have not chosen some other way?  Well to say "no", is to deny God's omnipotence.  I mean, couldn't He have just kind of "blinked" and accomplished the same thing?  Well, yes...but He didn't.  I'd also be inclined to say, He did things this way, precisely because it was the best way; but that's actually beside the point.

As for the veneration of Icons, this is derivative.  The question your Protestant friends should be asking themselves is not "did the early Christians venerate Icons of Christ", but rather, is the image (icon) of Christ worthy of profound reverence?  Just how seriously do they take the Incarnation?  Do they really believe God became a man, and that this had some significance for humanity and materiality, in particular the human nature He directly assumed?  To say God became a man, is to say He now has a face, a hair colour, two hands, two feet, etc.  Are these worthy of our contempt, or indifference, or our worship?  The visage of these things, their form, are they owed reverence or not?

The same would be true also, relatively speaking, of the Saints - if they're honourable, worthy of reverence (even if it is relatively and qualitatively inferior to that owed to God), then the same is true of their image, which is sanctified with their bodies...which btw. is precisely why we venerate their relics.

As for early iconography, there is little said in the earliest period on the topic.  Church Tradition has it that the prototype for later Icons of the Mother of God with the Christ Child was written in the Apostolic period (by St.Luke - and that a few of them were made, in fact).  However, you're not going to find too much in the way of liturgical items from this period, owing both to the poverty of the Church, and the various persecutions (for example, the later ones were the most vicious, and specifically aimed at the destruction of Holy items, such as scriptures, vestments, etc.)  Also, what did survive, likely was subsumed into the Christian Temples which were erected as soon as Christianity was "legalized."

And see, that's the telling thing - the moment the Church could regularly and safely buy public buildings to hold services, and the moment they "had a budget" so to speak, it's interesting to see what they did with it - and what they did, was build Houses which would probably make your typical non-liturgical Protestant crawl up the wall.  They built permanent stone altars, filled the places with ornate Crosses, mosaic murals, Holy Icons, nice vestments, gilded Chalices, etc.  And before anyone goes off about a "secularized" or "paganized" Church, it's important to remember that most of those Bishops contemporary to St.Constantine, who were being granted these Churches, had tasted a great deal of suffering.  I remember watching one of those silly A&E documentaries on Christian history, in which they did a dramatic portrayal of the Council of Nicea.  They showed a bunch of stodgy old white guys in togas, who looked more like bored University professors than anything else.  This was funny and sad, because it did not reflect reality at all.  The Bishops attending would in fact have been of all sorts of skin colours, almost all bearded, and a whole lot of them pretty rough looking after lifetimes spent in austerities, or quite likely, persecution.  A lot of them would have been missing hands, eyes, feet, been burned, had deep lash scars across their backs, etc.

My point is, these were men whose faith had been proved by a lot of suffering, and they saw nothing unfit about all of the "Romish" things non-liturgical Protestants get so worked up over (all the while attending their mega-churches with big screen tv's and comfy seating, and only the best in rock...err "modern praise" music to entertain... err, worship with.)

While it is true the Jews of the time of Christ often had pictures/murals in their synagogues (just as were to be found in the Temple), these were not Icons in the sense we understand them.  These were more didactic representations, and not reverenced the way we'd reverence the Icons of the Saints or of our Lord.

What was an Icon though, was the Holy Temple and the Ark of the Covenant.  These were typological representations of Heaven, the mysteries of Redemption, and the Throne of God.  As such, they were regarded with incredible reverence by the Jews, and heavy taboos (in terms of how one approached them) were placed upon them, often carrying death sentences associated with their violation.

 

Doubting Thomas

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Augustine,

Thanks for the post! :)

Augustine said:
In the end much of this has to do with the humility of the parties being reverenced. For example, living Saints have never been in the business of heaping glory upon themselves.
Good point.

What has to be made clear to your Protestant friends is why a Christian would venerate something/someone relating to God. See, that's the key - the relationship of that which is being reverenced to God. We venerate the Saints, precisely because they are an extension of Christ, and are fountaints of grace. It is no different than having reverence for the book of the Gospels because they cantain the inspired Holy Writ, or the Chalice used to contain the precious Holy Gifts.
That was basically the point I was trying to make when posting over on the Baptistboard.com today.

(BTW--for those interested in reading this discussion, it's in the "Religion of Ruin" topic of the "Other Religions" section of the Baptist board. I hope I'm not violating a rule for posting this.)



As for the veneration of Icons, this is derivative. The question your Protestant friends should be asking themselves is not "did the early Christians venerate Icons of Christ", but rather, is the image (icon) of Christ worthy of profound reverence? Just how seriously do they take the Incarnation? Do they really believe God became a man, and that this had some significance for humanity and materiality, in particular the human nature He directly assumed? To say God became a man, is to say He now has a face, a hair colour, two hands, two feet, etc. Are these worthy of our contempt, or indifference, or our worship? The visage of these things, their form, are they owed reverence or not?
I agree with you, but about this point one of the baptists quipped that no one knew what Christ looked like and so we shouldn't be honoring ("worshipping") a picture that someone "drew off the top of their head", or WTTE, since it's not a real image of Christ.

Of course, this same Baptist thinks that anything physical pertaining to worhip was one of those "beggarly elements" that Paul was condemning the Galatians for observing. (Gal 4:9)

The same would be true also, relatively speaking, of the Saints - if they're honourable, worthy of reverence (even if it is relatively and qualitatively inferior to that owed to God), then the same is true of their image, which is sanctified with their bodies...which btw. is precisely why we venerate their relics.
I didn't even begin to bring up relics. BTW--was there ever a problem of abusing the veneration of relics in the Orthodox Church as there seemed to be in the West in the Middle Ages, particularly as they were connected to indulgences, etc?


And see, that's the telling thing - the moment the Church could regularly and safely buy public buildings to hold services, and the moment they "had a budget" so to speak, it's interesting to see what they did with it - and what they did, was build Houses which would probably make your typical non-liturgical Protestant crawl up the wall. They built permanent stone altars, filled the places with ornate Crosses, mosaic murals, Holy Icons, nice vestments, gilded Chalices, etc. And before anyone goes off about a "secularized" or "paganized" Church, it's important to remember that most of those Bishops contemporary to St.Constantine, who were being granted these Churches, had tasted a great deal of suffering.
Another excellent point.

My point is, these were men whose faith had been proved by a lot of suffering, and they saw nothing unfit about all of the "Romish" things non-liturgical Protestants get so worked up over (all the while attending their mega-churches with big screen tv's and comfy seating, and only the best in rock...err "modern praise" music to entertain... err, worship with.)
Touche. ;D


 

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I agree with you, but about this point one of the baptists quipped that no one knew what Christ looked like and so we shouldn't be honoring ("worshipping") a picture that someone "drew off the top of their head", or WTTE, since it's not a real image of Christ.
Ask them how they know those are pictures of Christ. And why is it not idolatry to create and reproduce these images in their minds? Whether it's an exact likeness isn't the point. The fact is that we immediately recognize it as Christ. The icon is to serve as a focal point of our reverence to Christ. The OC never claimed to be producing an exact duplicate, which is in fact a philosophical and physical impossibility with any medium.
 

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My mom asked me the same question. 

I asked my mom if she minded if I went to their front yard and burned down the flag.  She said she'd be angry.  I asked her if she'd mind if I drug it along the ground and used it as a blanket.  She said she'd be angry.  I asked if she thought it was more appropriate if I saluted the flag and recited the "Pledge of Allegiance."  She said she would.

I asked her which was more important, our faith in Christ or our faith in our country?

She got the point.

Ask these baptists the same questions.  I'll bet you they are more willing to burn the image of Christ and a symbol of their salvation than they are the symbol of their favored nation-state and form of government.
 

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Doubting Thomas -

I've read books by iconographers who think that examples of the earliest art of icon painting (or icon writing), can be traced back to the time of the Fayum portraits.

For examples, see http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Arts/Fajum.htm
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museumstudies/websites03/fayum/
http://www.artfilm.org/Art/Pic-fayu.htm
http://www.kolahstudio.com/fayum%20english.htm
http://www.rfpaints.com/PUWin/Fayum.htm
http://echoesofeternity.umkc.edu/Portraitofawoman.htm

As I understand, during the first two centuries A.D. in Egypt, these Fayum portraits are depictions of Egyptians (both Christians and non-Christians) who were mummified like their ancestors, and then put in a coffin, and their likeness was painted over that coffin. These authors argue that it was common to have portaits painted of dead family members, and Christians who lost many people during the Roman persecutions similarly had portaits painted of those friends and relatives who were lost during the persecutions. At first, icons were painted very "life-like," and then they became more stylized centuries later.

Other sites of interest:

http://www.pallasweb.com/ikons/early.html
http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/copticpainting.htm
http://touregypt.net/featurestories/antinoe.htm
 

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Doubting Thomas said:
Does anyone have a good reference work for the archaeological evidence of icon use by the early Christians?  I've been debating some Baptists on the Baptistboard, trying to defend the veneration of icons against the charge of idolatry.  The ones with whom I've been debating maintain that early Christians would have interpreted the Second Commandment in the same way as the Jews and would definitely not have bowed to any graven images.  I tried to point out that there is some evidence of icons even in some synagogues (but I couldn't remember the details) and then I linked to the work of St. John of Damascus defending the holy images.  Does anyone have anything more specific?  Thanks.

DT
Firstly, don't pander to their approach.  There is no need for the evidence that you seek.

Their desire to use the "early church" as their model of how things ought to be is a symptom of their rejection of 2000 years of Holy Tradition.

My response to them would be "So what if the early church didn't use them?  So what if scripture doesn't mention the early church using them.  This developed as the Church grew and matured in the Faith and has become part of her Holy Tradition".

They will not understand, but not because of any failing on the part of your argument, but because of their predisposition to reject anything not found in 1st century Christendom, which is, of course, a nonsensical position.
 

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I neglected to ask Doubting Thomas if the request for archeological evidence was his alone or from another poster on the other board, but I checked some more on the persecutions.
Between 303 and 309 there were four imperial edicts, of increasing severity, ordering the destruction of all Christian churches, the return of all pagan temples to their former use, the destruction of all Christian Scriptures and liturgical items. Along with all this came, of course, feeding Christians (who only numbered 2-5% of the total population of the Empire at that time) to lions and confiscation of all of their property. Little wonder the physical record is scant before Constantine.
 

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+æ-ü+¦-â-ä+++¦+++«-é said:
I neglected to ask Doubting Thomas if the request for archeological evidence was his alone or from another poster on the other board, but I checked some more on the persecutions.
Between 303 and 309 there were four imperial edicts, of increasing severity, ordering the destruction of all Christian churches, the return of all pagan temples to their former use, the destruction of all Christian Scriptures and liturgical items. Along with all this came, of course, feeding Christians (who only numbered 2-5% of the total population of the Empire at that time) to lions and confiscation of all of their property. Little wonder the physical record is scant before Constantine.
Yes, read Eusebius if you want an idea of just how much was destroyed in Diocletian's persecutions. In the east, of course, the persecutions lasted even longer than they did in the west - past the end of Diocletian's lifetime and Constantine's eastern co-ruler (whose name I forget) started them back up again until Constantine finally defeated him and became sole Emperor. There is absolutely no mystery as to why there's so little archaeological evidence prior to Constantine - the amazing thing is that there's as much as there is.

James
 
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