I wanted to make a list of quotations from the pre-Nicene Church Fathers which can be used to support the use of holy images or of images in general. The reason I wanted to use pre-Nicene Fathers is because I don’t think anyone doubts that after Emperor Constantine exerted his influence, holy imagery started appearing everywhere, including in his military. But before him, some people say that the early Church taught that any use of images was idolatrous.
So I made this list to show some contributions to the support of image-use in the pre-Nicene period. Here is what I’ve come up with so far…does anyone know of any other useful quotes from this period?
180 A.D. - St. Irenaeus - “[The] virtue[s], [which] are laborious, glorious, and skilful, which also are approved universally as being good…[include] the arts…the art of painting and sculpture, brass and marble work, and the kindred arts.” (Against Heresies Book II Chapter 32 Paragraph 2)
198 A.D. - St. Clement of Alexandria - “And let our seals be either a dove, or a fish, or a ship scudding before the wind, or a musical lyre, which Polycrates used, or a ship’s anchor, which Seleucus got engraved as a device; and if there be one fishing, he will remember the apostle, and the children drawn out of the water.” (The Instructor Book III Chapter 11)
208 A.D. - Tertullian - “No man will love the picture of his wife without taking care of it, and honoring it and crowning it. The likeness partakes with the reality in the privileged honor.” "[And] no honor is to be attributed to the image of anything which is itself unworthy of honor. As the natural state is, so will the likeness be.” (Against Marcion Book V Chapter 18, Book III Chapter 10)
222 A.D. - Tertullian mentions that the Catholics in his day had images on their chalices - “Even the images themselves on your chalices may be adduced” “wherein the lost sheep is…searched for by its pastor and brought back on his shoulders.” “That pastor [the Shepherd of Hermas]…you have carved on your chalice[s].” (On Modesty Chapter 7, Chapter 10)
~238 A.D. - St. Gregory the Wonderworker - “[W]e should allow those…good artists [who are] skilled to the utmost in their art and liberally furnished in the matter of colors, to possess the liberty of painting…not simply [things] of a uniform complexion, but also of various descriptions and of richest beauty in the abundant mixture of flowers, without let or hindrance.” (Panegyric Addressed to Origen Argument 1)
~318 A.D. - “Hence, even now the inhabitants [of Canaan] cherish the place where visions appeared to Abraham as divinely consecrated. The turpentine tree is still to be seen, and those who received Abraham’s hospitality are painted in picture, one on each side, and the stranger of greatest dignity in the middle. He would be an image of our Lord and Saviour, whom even rude men reverence, Whose divine words they believe.” (Proof of the Gospel Book 5)