Update of Church Fathers on images (rejecting them)

Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by Stalwart, Mar 24, 2021.

  1. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    We have been discussing the ancient Church Fathers on images, and I wanted to gather the threads together in one place. Let's keep in mind that we're not opposing the existence of imagery as such (which was never the Anglican position), but merely the use of images in worship, which is what the 2nd Commandment is talking about (the use of graven images).

    And we've seen one Church Father after another affirm the Anglican position, over and above the modern Roman and Eastern Orthodox positions. So far we've seen quotes from:

    A big thread covering St. Augustine and his view of images:
    https://forums.anglican.net/threads/st-augustine-against-using-images-in-worship.4153/

    St. Epiphanius (he should receive a whole thread!)
    https://forums.anglican.net/threads...-to-mary-in-the-roman-church.3830/#post-36965

    Tertullian (also should receive his own thread)
    https://forums.anglican.net/threads/st-theodosia-of-constantinople-and-murder.4140/#post-42489

    Eusebius of Nicomedia, "Oration in Praise of Constantine" / "Tricenallian Oration" (335-6 AD)
    and, Nazarius, "Panegyric of Constantine" (321)
    https://forums.anglican.net/threads/st-theodosia-of-constantinople-and-murder.4140/#post-42347
    -these help to illuminate the mindset regarding statuary/imagery in the 4th century as a whole.


    ---

    Here I would like to list a bunch of other church fathers, whose views on this I've discovered since then:



    Athenagoras, "A Plea for Christians", ch.15
    -"Because of the multitude, who cannot distinguish between matter and God, or see how great is the interval which lies between them, pray to idols made of matter, are we therefore, who do distinguish and separate the uncreated and the created, that which is and that which is not, that which is apprehended by the understanding and that which is perceived by the senses, and who give the fitting name to each of them, - are we to come and worship images? If, indeed, matter and God are the same, two names for one thing, then certainly, in not regarding stocks and stones, gold and silver, as gods, we are guilty of impiety. But if they are at the greatest possible remove from one another – as far asunder as the artist and the materials of his art, - why are we called to account."

    Melito of Sardis, Fragment 1
    -"There are, however, persons who say: It is for the honour of God that we make the image: in order, that is, that we may worship the God who is concealed from our view. But they are unaware that God is in every country, and in every place, and is never absent, and that there is not anything done and He knoweth it not. Yet thou, despicable man! within whom He is, and without whom He is, and above whom He is, hast nevertheless gone and bought thee wood from the carpenter's, and it is carved and made into an image insulting to God. To this thou offerest sacrifice, and knowest not that the all-seeing eye seeth thee, and that the word of truth reproves thee, and says to thee: How can the unseen God be sculptured? Nay, it is the likeness of thyself that thou makest and worshippest. Because the wood has been sculptured, hast thou not the insight to perceive that it is still wood, or that the stone is still stone? The gold also the workman taketh according to its weight in the balance. And when thou hast had it made into an image, why dose thou weigh it? Therefore thou art a lover of gold, and not a lover of God."

    Clement of Alexandria (193-220), "Exhortation to the Heathen"
    -"how truly silly is the custom in which you have been reared, of worshipping the senseless works of men's hands."
    -"Anciently, the Scythians worshipped their sabres, the Arabs stones, the Persians rivers... hear at least your own philosopher, the Ephesian Heraclitus, upbraiding images with their senselessness: And to these images they pray, with the same result as if one were to talk to the walls of his house. For are they not to be wondered at who worship stones, and place them before the doors, as if capable of activity?"
    -https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/020804.htm

    Clement of Alexandria (193-220), "The Instructor", book 3 ch.2
    -"Moses commanded men to make not an image to represent God by art ..."

    Irenaeus, "Against Heresies"
    -"They [the gnostic heretics] 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 honoring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles."
    -https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.ii.xxvi.html

    Methodius (270-312), "Banquet of the Ten Virgins", discourse 2 ch.7
    -"And those artificers who, to the destruction of men, make images in human form, not perceiving and knowing their own Maker, are blamed by the Word, which says, in the Book of Wisdom, a book full of all virtue, 'his heart is ashes, his hope is more vile than earth, and his life of less value than clay; forasmuch as he knew not his Maker, and Him that inspired into him an active soul, and breathed in a living spirit;' that is, God, the Maker of all men; therefore, also, according to the apostle, He 'will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.'"

    Lactantius, "The Divine Institutes", book 3 ch.18
    -"I have shown that the religious rites of the gods are vain in a threefold manner: In the first place, because those images which are worshipped are representations of men who are dead; and that is a wrong and inconsistent thing, that the image of a man should be worshipped by the image of God, for that which worships is lower and weaker than that which is worshipped"

    St. Athanasius, "Against the Heathen", ch.21.1
    -"For ye carve the figures for the sake of the apprehension of God, as ye say, but invest the actual images with the honor and title of God, thus placing yourselves in a profane position."
     
  2. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    I agree to an extent. I don't think we should do as the EO do and bow down and venerate the image. That is a step to far even if their explanation is ok. That is much to dangerous. What I do find helpful is the feeling and reverence art can convey. It can help set the tone in a way
     
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  3. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Paying respect to what they represent by bowing or genuflecting is OK but if this becomes obligatory and idolatrous then two mistakes are being made which would two too far to have gone. :laugh:
    .
     
  4. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Yeah, I definitely don't verge into errors of iconoclasm which is the other ditch that most people fall into. Images are fine and even wonderful as a cultural product.

    They may even be (cautiously) helpful in piety; but that's when it can become dangerous. Our relation to sacred things has to be able to stand without a shape to attach ourselves to. That's the pattern that God has instituted, from all time. Yet our human nature yearns for shape and comprehensibility in everything around us. This is why the people of God are often so dissatisfied with the pattern that God has established, and they try to mould the sacred of God, into a pattern which they will find most comfortable.

    This is why the people of God constantly verge away from God and the shapelessness which he demanded that we worship him in; we need shapes; but he said no you must relate to the sacred without shapes.

    And that's why I say that even using images in piety is fraught with danger, because then we're just indulging in our human whims, and not wearing the hairshirt of orienting toward God the way he ordered. We are not training and learning how to orient toward God without shapes. It goes so much against human nature, but that's the way he set things up and we have to acquiesce.
     
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  5. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    I think we are nearing the same page here. THey can add beauty and reverence to the place but they are not to be central to worship or even part of it really. It is like having beautiful stained glass windows in the church showing scenes from the Bible. They help add reverence to the place and can be a great teachign tool to those who can't read but once worship starts they are just there.

    In a devotion corner they can be great also as to add beauty and reverence to a place but when it comes time to do the devotion there is not a whole lot of use for it unless it is used for a teaching aid in some way.
     
  6. BedtimePrayers

    BedtimePrayers Member

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    Where did God say this?
    Jews have been venerating the Torah scrolls and their religious garb and items since ancient israel
     
  7. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    They neither bow down to these things nor do they offer sacrifices to them.
     
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  8. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Honestly, the language of the Decalogue, in both Exodus and Deuteronomy, and in both the MT and LXX, would seem to rule out any images of saints, angels, etc., including stained glass. The word for "idol" is interpreted by both Rashi and the LXX as referring to a "carved" or "sculpted", i.e., three-dimensional, object. But then the text in both places goes on to say "...or likeness", which seems more broad, as anything which resembles something in heaven, earth, etc. It appears on the face of it to be a ban on depictions of living figures capable of movement (cf. Romans 1).
     
  9. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    The easy reply to that, the one which iconophiles frequently throw back at us, is that the Old Testament itself is filled with images, including sacred images, and images in sacred places. The 4 animals of the gospel, the ornaments of the temple, the seraphim of the Ark of the covenant. These and other examples would quickly refute a simplistic interpretation of the 2nd commandment.

    I think the only way forward is to interpret the 1st sentence of the commandment, in light of the second sentence. Thou shalt not make those images so as to worship them, or bow down to them, etc.
     
  10. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I think that’s right.
     
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  11. BedtimePrayers

    BedtimePrayers Member

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    Well, good thing nicea II did not condone sacrificing to images.
    In all seriousness, I think people forget who the Israelites were.
    There’s archeological evidence some of them worshipped pagan gods along Yahweh.
    This doesn’t tell us anything new because the Bible is filled with their idolatry.
    Are we really going to put Christians who venerate icons, who know they are mere paintings and do not treat them as a god, to the Israelites who had a penchant for pagan gods?
    The whole point of the commandments against idolatry is against idolatry, AKA other gods.
    No one in the civilized world believes that statues or pictures become imbued with the divine. But that’s what people did. They did some ritual where after the statue was thought to be inhabited by the god. It’s why they offer food to them.
    I think it’s just reading the Bible without any context whatsoever.
    The Israelites lived in the BC era in a world completely different from ours, with vastly different scientific knowledge. People back then really believed a statue was god. No one except maybe some pagan Buddhist or Hindus believe that this day and age. It’s an absurd belief, given all the knowledge we have of the world.

    I also think there’s no difference in bowing your head to the name of Christ, to the cross, or when entering the pews, than in venerating icons.
    The fact that a person knows it’s not god, does not do a single ritual in order to make a god “live” in the painting, and merely pays respect to a holy painting of the church, should be enough to dispel any thought of idolatry.
    I’m sure no one here would say it’s ok to burn a picture of Jesus Christ in the middle of a large crowd. Not because the picture is God, but because it represents him who is.
    And so, if you wouldn’t burn it or trample on it out of pure respect, what is wrong about kissing it or saluting it?
    Do we not salute the flag of our country?
    In fact, every day in school as a child I was forced to stand up, face the flag, and salute it. Then I would sing a song in the direction of the flag while saluting it.
    Sounds pretty idolatrous doesn’t it?
     
  12. BedtimePrayers

    BedtimePrayers Member

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    I posted this somewhere else on here :
    “ The two ends of the atarah of the tallit are kissed just before putting on the prayer shawl.
    • The tefillin are kissed when taken out and returned to their bag.
    • The tzitzit (fringes) are kissed at the end of Baruch she-Amar and during the recitation of the Shema.
    • The curtain of the ark (parochet) is kissed before opening and after closing (when the Torah is taken out and then returned).
    • The Torah mantle is kissed when it passes by in procession in the synagogue.
    • The Torah scroll is kissed before one recites the blessings over it, either with the intermediary of the edge of the tallit or the sash used to tie the scroll together, but never with the bare hand.
    • A siddur (prayer book) and Chumash are kissed before putting them away; they also are kissed if accidentally dropped on the floor.
    • The mezuzah on the doorpost is kissed when entering or leaving a house”


    I’m pretty sure jews do bow every time they pray, I’ve seen it myself. They bow and they have a Torah in front of them, and they kiss it.
    This doesn’t seem too far from what Christians do tbh…
    Don’t see what the uproar and allegation of idolatry is about
     
  13. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I repeat, they neither bow to them nor do they offer sacrifices to them.
     
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  14. Distraught Cat

    Distraught Cat Active Member

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    As you once said, "instead of going into hyper denial mode and saying it’s all false, try and realize" that Stalwart might have a point in this case.
     
  15. BedtimePrayers

    BedtimePrayers Member

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    They do bow to the Ark which contains the Torah scrolls, and points in direction of Jerusalem.
    Repeating that they don’t bow to those things doesn’t take away from the fact Jews grace ritual veneration of items in their prayer life and synagogues, which was my original point
     
  16. BedtimePrayers

    BedtimePrayers Member

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    Uh I would, except those quotes all talk about worshipping images not venerating them lol…
     
  17. Distraught Cat

    Distraught Cat Active Member

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    Might be wrong, but this sounds like, wait for it... *to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus...*
    It would be nice if we could get Greek copies of these.
     
  18. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    The words translated as “veneration” specifically mean “to prostrate”. This remains the practice in Eastern Orthodoxy and in Islam. Merely kissing something isn’t veneration. Having icons is fine. Kissing them is fine. Prostrating before them is not.
     
  19. Distraught Cat

    Distraught Cat Active Member

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    I presume this include the EO practice of censing the images.
     
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  20. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    It can but often does not. They are really separate actions.
     
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