Despiser Of Icons…

… that is me.

There has been some discussion of late on the issue of icons and the 2nd council of Nicaea.

One of the questions that has come up is the use of icons in the first two centuries after Christ’s Incarnation and thought I would review some of the Ante-Nicaene Fathers to see if they spoke on icons.  In a word… meh!   What I have found so far is not all that favorable to the iconodulist

Here are a couple of quotes,  (I am still reading)…

Justin Martyr arguing against the idolatry of the Greeks of his day:

“There is one only unbegotten God,

Omnipotent, invisible, most high,

All-seeing, but Himself seen by no flesh.”

Then elsewhere thus:-

“But we have strayed from the Immortal’s ways,

And worship with a dull and senseless mind

Idols, the workmanship of our own hands,

And images and figures of dead men.”

Justin Martyr quoting a Greek prophetess Sibyl. (Hortatory Address to the Greeks) in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus by Philip Schaff.  While he was quoting a pagan ‘seer’, the point was to argue that even the Greeks knew the foolishness of such straying.

Irenaeus, in Book I of his Against Heresies, lists Saturninus and Basilides as heretics and provides a long list of those practices which he considers heresy including their belief that:

5. Salvation belongs to the soul alone, for the body is by nature subject to corruption. He declares, too, that the prophecies were derived from those powers who were the makers of the world, but the law was specially given by their chief, who led the people out of the land of Egypt. He attaches no importance to [the question regarding] meats offered in sacrifice to idols, thinks them of no consequence, and makes use of them without any hesitation; he holds also the use of other things, and the practice of every kind of lust, a matter of perfect indifference. These men, moreover, practice magic; and use images, incantations, invocations, and every other kind of curious art.

He also lists Carpocrates as a heretic in Book I.  Among the practices of his followers we have:

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.

*Schaff notes at this point:  This censure of images as a Gnostic peculiarity, and as a heathenish corruption, should be noted.

As I continue reading I may follow this up again, but until then, just know that I do not despise images per se, but what sinful man does with them.  Such is the heart of the 2nd commandment:

“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 or 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 the fourth generation of those who hate me, “but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

 

al sends

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2 responses to “Despiser Of Icons…

  1. Al,

    Interestingly, we had a discussion on the second commandment last night. Your concluding statement is, in my opinion, the nub of the thing. We can make our systems of theology, our faith, the Bible, even Jesus himself idols if we do not perceive and deal with them correctly.

    But I’m a Baptist. Everyone knows we don’t have any problems in this area. I have no business participating in this conversation.

    (Thank you, Lord, that I am not like other men…)

  2. Pingback: Offered To A Plugged Nose… « After The Handbasket

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