From Iconoclasm to 'the Triumph of Orthodoxy'
April 16, 2004
Telford Work, Religious Studies
What is the relationship in the case of God? (Ex. 20:4, Rom. 1:22-23, John 4:24)
Historical setting: Muslim Conquests in the Byzantine empire
Had earlier Jewish practice been superseded? How or why?
What is the relationship in the case of Jesus Christ? (John 1:1-18)
Historical setting: centuries of Christological controversies and councils define the debate
First-round challenge: Iconoclastic emperors seek to overturn Christian uses of images
Argument: Only the Eucharist is an authorized representation of Christ
Terms of debate: Icons are Arian or Docetic
First-round response: John of Damascus defends images
Argument: Incarnation changes God's relationship to creation
Second-round challenge: The Iconoclastic Synod of 754 forbids images (NPNF II.14 543-544)
Arguments: Icons are Nestorian or Eutychian
Second-round response: Theodore of Studium responds to the Iconoclastic Synod
Argument: images portray the person in whom the natures are united
What is the relationship in the case of Christians? (Rom. 8:28-30)
Examples: Mary, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and their relics
Challenge: images and relics conjure the dead
Response: The saints are in Christ; the Church is the Spirit's Temple; honoring believers honors Christ whose image they now bear
Outcome: "The Triumph of Orthodoxy"
Nicea II, the Seventh Ecumenical Council, upholds holy images (NPNF II.14 549-551)
Lingering Issue: What are the rules that distinguish proper vs. improper uses of images?