Icons or idolatry: iconoclasm in the early church

Andreas has graciously posted his recent paper on John of Damascus for your perusal. He provides an interesting summary of the iconoclastic controversy, offering much food for thought on the role of images in contemporary worship. I’d be interested in hearing your comments on Andreas’ paper, or just the idea of icons in general.

Here’s his paper and abstract:

Saint John of Damascus and the Iconoclastic Controversy: The Essential Need for Image(s) in Christian Worship

Scholars have pointed to various motives that may have induced the Iconoclastic emperors of the Isaurian dynasty (717-886). These motives have often been characterized as being mainly political: for one, the army was recruited from territories traditionally hostile to, not only the use of icons, but also the dominant Church and its practices (Armenians, Mardiates of Lebanon, Isuarians, Manicheans, Paulicians). Some have suggested that Leo was aiming to stabilize the Empire by suppressing local freedom. Unfortunately, for Leo III, this move seemed to have the opposite effect on the people. It increased the enthusiasm with which the images were defended, and Monks of the monastic movement, who stood for non-conformity, soon took advantage of the situation. They saw the opportunity to shake off the imperial yoke that the Emperor had placed on the Church, once and for all. Finally, considering the heightened presence of Islam, and the ongoing dialogue with Jews, it made sense for the Emperor to suppress or at least limit the use of images.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on May 12, 2010, in Historical Theology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. This paper looks great too! Wow, it seems like everyone has come up with some great subjects this far. It almost makes me wish we have a second class on the subject!

  2. Andreas, I’d be curious about what conclusions you have drawn from your research on the use of icons in contemporary worship. What do you think? Does EO have it right?

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