Did the early Christians venerate images?

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by BRIANH, Dec 16, 2007.

  1. BRIANH

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    Due to the objection of many to a slew of posts on Catholicism, I have changed the term Catholic to the more generic "some". It should also be noted that contrary to popular view, the "art" in the catacombs is usually dated to the 3rd century and there is no proof they were venerated.

    We are very familiar with the Bible verse:



    Veneration of images is an integral part of some worship practices.
    Some though will contend that statues of Mary and of the Saints are not graven images and that bowing down to them is acceptable. Much to the surprise of some, this was not a practice of the early Christian church.
    Clement of Alexandria, writing around the year 200 AD said:

    “as Moses ages before enacted expressly, that neither a graven, nor molten, nor molded, 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 dishonor it by sense …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…”

    Around the year 3oo AD, a prolific Christian author named Lactanius from Africa writes the following about images:

    Whoever, therefore, is anxious to observe the obligations to which man is liable, and to maintain a regard for his nature, let him raise himself from the ground, and, with mind lifted up, let him direct his eyes to heaven: let him not seek God under his feet, nor dig up from his footprints an object of veneration, for whatever lies beneath man must necessarily be inferior to man; but let him seek it aloft, let him seek it in the highest place: for nothing can be greater than man, except that which is above man. But God is greater than man: therefore He is above, and not below; nor is He to be sought in the lowest, but rather in the highest region. Wherefore it is undoubted that there is no religion wherever there is an image. For if religion consists of divine things, and there is nothing divine except in heavenly things; it follows that images are without religion, because there can be nothing heavenly in that which is made from the earth.”[/

    Perhaps the best example comes from Letter 51, as quoted from Jerome, From Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, in Cyprus, to John, Bishop of Jerusalem. This letter originates around the year 400 AD. Epiphanius, a bishop, wrote about how he ripped an “icon” of a wall and why:

    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 s ent 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 religionshall not be hung up in any church of Christ. A than of your uprightness should be careful to remove an occasion of offense unworthy alike of the Church of Christ and of those Christians who are committed to your charge.”

    We also have the Council of Elvira, which prohibited images, as the Catholic Encyclopedia describes:

    “Held early in the fourth century at Elliberis, or Illiberis, in Spain, a city now in ruins not far from Granada. It was, so far as we know, the first council held in Spain, and was attended by nineteen bishops from all parts of the Peninsula. The exact year in which it was held is a matter of controversy upon which much has been written. Some copies of its Acts contain a date which corresponds with the year 324 of our reckoning; by some writers the council has accordingly been assigned to that yearCanon xxxvi (placuit picturas in ecclesia esse non debere ne quod colitur et adoratur in parietibus depingatur) has often been urged against the veneration of images as practised in the CatholicChurch.”
     
    #1 BRIANH, Dec 16, 2007
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  2. BRIANH

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    Origen writes the following in Against Celsus:


    “But Christians and Jews have regard to this command, "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve Him alone;" and this other, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me: thou shalt not make unto thee any graven 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: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them;" and again, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." It is in consideration of these and many other such commands, that they not only avoid temples, altars, and images, but are ready to suffer death when it is necessary, rather than debase by any such impiety the conception which they have of the Most High God….
    we may reply that it is easy to know that God and the Only-begotten Son of God, and those whom God has honored with the title of God, and who partake of His divine nature, are very different from all the gods of the nations which are demons; but it is not possible at the same time to know God and to address prayers to images.

    Finally, let us look at what Eusebius said about this matter, I just read a website that used him as an example to “prove” that statues of Jesus were part of the practice of the early church. The problem is that Eusebius did not support this! He calls such things “indiscriminate”:

    “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 Savior 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 Savior 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 Savior, 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
     
    #2 BRIANH, Dec 16, 2007
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  3. mcdirector

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    mmmmm

    I'm having a really hard time reading all the underlined text.
     
  4. BRIANH

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    I have changed it!
     
  5. Darron Steele

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    It is very unlikely that veneration of images occurred in the New Testament-era church.

    Exodus 20:3-5a "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them" (JPS 1917).

    Per Acts 21, Jewish Christians continued to follow the Judaic Law as applicable; It is unlikely that Jewish Christians forsook this pair of commands. In light of the idolatry prevalent in the ancient world outside Jewish populations, it is not likely that idol-like images would have been accepted among Gentile Christians.

    The New Testament never mentions any such practice. I cannot imagine that worship-like veneration of images was practiced in the New Testament-era church.
     
  6. Agnus_Dei

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    As a former Protestant now a Catechumen in the Orthodox Church, we do venerate Icons; unlike Catholicism we have no statues.

    To venerate simply means to pay respect, specifically due to what the Icon depicts. While I was in the US Navy, we would salute the American flag as we both walked onto the ship or left the ship. Were we worshiping the flag? No, we were venerating the flag and not the material, but what the flag stands for.

    Does the NT speak of venerating Icons? Well consider this...We do know that the Jews understood the difference in veneration and worship. For instance, a pious Jew kisses the Mezuza on his door post, he kisses his prayer shawl before putting it on, he kisses the tallenin, before he binds them to his forehead and arm. He kisses the Torah before he reads it in the Synagogue…No doubt Christ likewise being a Jew did the same thing.

    We do find Icons prevalent not only in the Tabernacle, but later in the Temple: On the Ark (Ex 25:18), On the Curtains of the Tabernacle (Ex 26:1), On the Veil (Ex 26:31), On the walls (1 Kings 6:29), On the doors (1 Kings 6:32) and on all furnishings (1 Kings 7:29, 36).

    ICXC NIKA
    -
     
  7. BRIANH

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    Do you have any sources that say this was a custom in the first century?
    Do you contend Agnus Dei that the practices of the Orthodox Church in the area of veneration of icons are traceable to teachings from the Apostles? I have never found any writings from the ECF to indicate this was practiced in the first 200 years of Christianity.
    No one denies that this practice developed, obviously it did. The question then if it does not have biblical support, if it does not have the support of the ECF, what is the basis for doing this?
    Are the icons you listed in the OT images of men?
     
  8. Agnus_Dei

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    What makes you think the early Jewish Christians of the first century no longer practiced their customs? The early Christians still worshiped in the Temple; they were still Jews. They still prayed as Jews and fasted as Jews.

    Why do they have to be traceable to the Apostles in order to be authentic? I’ve already shown how the Jewish culture of Jesus’ time used veneration. If kissing the Torah or kissing a prayer shawl, which is “veneration”, was considered idolatry, why didn’t the Apostles, whom all were Jews, write against it? Why didn’t the Apostles write against Christian Jews worshiping in the Temple among those images?

    Arguing from silence doesn’t quite cut it, obviously the practice developed from Jewish culture as I noted in my pervious post, and continued until Iconoclasm began, when Muslims began destroying Christian images.

    Even you mentioned the Catacombs and extensive archeological evidence shows that Icons were used throughout the Church, yet we read of no controversy on the subject until the Iconoclastic controversy.

    Again, as I posted in my last post, we read in Exodus and 1 Kings, of images used in the Tabernacle and the Temple…we see images on doors, curtains and the Veil. Even the Ark was venerated.

    I wouldn’t think so, at the time the OT Temple was an image of Heaven as St. Paul makes clear (Hebrews 8:5; cf. Exodus 25:40).

    The OT Saints weren’t in the presence of God in Heaven, but were in Sheol or the grave (Genesis 37:35; Isaiah 38:10) and as the parable of Jesus in Luke 16:19-31 points out.

    So the OT Temple had images of Heaven such as Cherubim and, since Christ conquered death through His Resurrection, the Saints are now numbered among the Cherubim in Heaven.

    So our Orthodox Temple today is an image or Icon of Heaven with the great cloud of witnesses that now reside in glory there! Did you know that even YOU are an Icon?

    ICXC NIKA
    -
     
    #8 Agnus_Dei, Dec 17, 2007
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  9. bound

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    Did the early Christians venerate images?

    Yes, in Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). The word translated here is the Greek "ikon". The Church has already been through the Iconoclasm due to the unfortunate influences of Judaizers and Muslims I dare say we don't need to go through it again if we follow the consensual teachings of the Christian Church. We have our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the flesh the very icon of the invisible God and they didn't believe. I see no reason to side with them now. If God made Flesh was a blasphemy then I have no doubt ikons will be a blasphemy as well.

    Please take the time to read about the Seventh Council in Nicaea (787 AD). Because God has clothed Himself in the Incarnation we have seen the invisible God in visible Man. Because Christ became true man, it is legitimate to depict his face upon the holy Ikons; and, since Christ is one person and not two, these ikons do not just show us his humanity in separation from his divinity, but they show us the one person of the eternal Logos incarnate.
     
    #9 bound, Dec 17, 2007
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  10. BRIANH

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  11. Matt Black

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    Interesting discussion; I'd like to throw another stone into the water, as it were: to what extent do we think that the prohibition on graven images is a regulation peculiar to the Old Covenant ie: before the Word of God became Incarnate as the image of the living God (II Cor 4:4); put another way, to what extent is this prohibition relaxed or lifted post-Incarnation?
     
  12. BRIANH

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    The quick answer is that it certainly appears that the ECF I mentioned had not relaxed their view.
    But your point is well taken and the question a good one.
     
  13. Eliyahu

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    1. I can find no clue that implies any possibility of Veneration of the images by the Early Church in the Bible.
    I have never read any words that the Early Church in the Bible called Mary as Mother of God or venerated her, or said that Mary ascended on high to the heaven after her death though Apostle John must have outlived her, nor mentioned he about her ascension, nor asked he the church to remember such event, nor asked he the church to venerate Mary as he supported her during her life.


    2. The Oldest Church discovered in Meggido recently tells us that the church had a simple table instead of any Altar for the Lord Supper.

    Read it here:

    Archaeologists say may have found oldest church
    By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent, and AP Nov 6, 2005

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml

    itemNo=641806&contrassID=2&subContrassID=15&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y
    A mosaic and the remains of a building uncovered recently in excavations on the Megiddo prison grounds may belong to the earliest church in the world, according to a preliminary examination by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
    One of the most dramatic finds suggests that, instead of an altar, a simple table stood in the center of the church, at which a sacred meal was held to commemorate the Last Supper
    .
    Photographs of three Greek inscriptions in the mosaic were sent to Hebrew University expert Professor Leah Di Segni, who told Haaretz on Sunday that the use of the term "table" in one of them instead of the word "altar" might lead to a breakthrough in the study of ancient Christianity. It is commonly believed that church rituals based on the Last Supper took place around an altar.
    The excavation was begun prior to the issuing of building permits for a new wing of the Megiddo prison, which houses security prisoners. Some 60 inmates from the Megiddo and Tzalmon prisons took part in the excavation.The site is close to Tel Megiddo, believed to be Armageddon of the New Testament book of Revelation.The northern inscription mentions a Roman army officer who donated the money to build the floor. The eastern inscription commemorates four women, and the western inscription mentions a woman by the name of Ekeptos, who "donated this table to the God Jesus Christ in commemoration." The mosaic also contains geometric patterns and a medallion with a fish design."I was told these were Byzantine," Di Segni said, "but they seem much earlier than anything I have seen so far from the Byzantine period. It could be from the third or the beginning of the fourth century."
    A pottery vessel discovered at the site confirms Di Segni's dating, however she said the church's age can only be determined with certainty after excavators reach the level below the floor. "The problem is that in Israel we have no mosaic inscriptions from this period, and they will have to be compared with inscriptions from Antioch or Rome," she said.
    Christian rituals were prohibited in the Roman Empire prior to the year 313 CE, and Christians had to pray in secret in catacombs or private homes. The earliest churches, dating from around 330 CE, are the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Nativity in Bethlehem, and Alonei Mamre near Hebron. However, they contain only scant remains of the original structures, which were built by Emperor Constantine I.
    The structure discovered at the Megiddo prison is a simple rectangular one lacking the later characteristics of churches, such as an apse facing east. "I don't know if this structure can even be called a church," Di Sengi said.


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1635817,00.html

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=641806&contrassID=2&subContrassID=15&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y

    http://www.israeltoday.co.il/default.aspx?tabid=136&view=item&idx=892


     
    #13 Eliyahu, Dec 17, 2007
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2007
  14. BRIANH

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    Thank you very much for this post.
     
  15. BobRyan

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    Good point.

    Brian H quotes Lev 26 -

    Lev 26:1 Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up [any] image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I [am] the LORD your God

    Good point.

    in Christ,

    Bob
     
  16. DHK

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    Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

    1 Timothy 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

    You are completely illogical here. First the word is "eikon."
    Christ is a visible representation of the invisible God. That is the teaching of the verse, which you allude to in your first paragraph. And then you go on to contradict yourself in your second paragraph.
    Keep in mind the Ten Commandments, where the Jews (and we as well) are commanded not to make any graven image or any likeness thereof of God. Icons are idolatry. And yet you give credence to them.
    Who, 2,000 years past the time of Christ, knows for sure what Christ looked like? The answer is no one. Any "replica" or representation of him will be faulty and simply the faulty misrepresentation of a vain man's imagination. We have no idea what Christ looked like. How can one possibly make a representation of someone they have never seen? Even in that respect you err.
    Christ is God. Thou shalt make no graven images. The Ten Commandments are violated.
    These ikons are worshiped by the RCC and the Orthodox. They deny that the do, but they are. To bow down before an image is to worship it. The Ten Commandments specifically say: "Thou shalt not bow down before them."

    Christ is not an ikon. He is the visible representation of the invisible God, the only way that God could visibly manifest himself to mankind. To equate Christ with an ikon is blasphemy.
     
  17. bound

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    Before leaping to conclusions perhaps it is wiser to ask questions?

    If you care to do a bit more research outside of strongs you might find that 'ikon' is an alternative speaking in much greater use...

    "representation"... only if you believe that Christ was 'figuratively' God and not 'actually' God made Flesh. You are using the figurative definition of the term. Do you believe that Christ was not literally God?

    This could actually be a thread all by itself. I'd love for us to explore what the Early Church thought of the Old Convenant.

    So to bow down before Christ is blesphemy? Doesn't the Scriptures call Him the 'image' of God? Yet we recognize He 'is' what He depicts...

    He is the visible representation of the Invisible God. Again you are speaking of Him as if He is only figurative. If He is truly only a representation then He is not the literally God and thus we blaspheme God for thinking of Him as God.

    You are getting yourself into a lot of trouble with your thinking.
     
  18. Matt Black

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    Or, as Bound points out, "icon"; it can also be spelt "ikon" (often to distinguish it from the computing term); all are perfectly acceptable Roman alphabet transliterations of eikon
    How does this tie up with my question about the Incarnation, to which Bound also alludes: the idea that since God in Christ has already produced an image of Himself, that loosens the Decalogic prohibition?
     
  19. BobRyan

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    Excellent question.

    Answer: "Not at all"

    Christ said "The Word of God can not be broken".

    Rom 3:31 NASB
    "Do we then make void the Law of God by our faith? God forbid! In fact we Establish the Law"[/b] Rom 3:31 NASB

    The Post-cross teaching of the apostles CONTINUES to support that importance of God’s Word – God’s Commandments – and obedience rather than rebellion.

    I Jn 5:2-3
    2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
    3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

    Rev 12:17
    17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

    Rev 14:12
    12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

    Rev 22:14
    14[b] Blessed are they that do his commandments,[/b] that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

    I Jn 2:3-4
    3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
    4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

    1 Corinthians 7:19
    Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but
    what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.






    Matt 5:17-22
    17 Think not that I am come to[b] destroy the law
    , or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
    18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
    19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.


    The NT writers NEVER make the argument "God's Law is just not as authorotative as it used to be".

    in Christ,

    Bob
     
  20. Matt Black

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    Then to what extent does the Incarnation of Christ as the 'image' ('icon') of the living God transgress this prohibition if it still stands.
     

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