The Church and Statues

When did the Church start using statues and images and why?

Here’s a good answer:

catholic.com/tracts/do-catholics-worship-statues

Peace,
Ed

From the earliest days, for the same reasons the United States has the Lincoln Memorial.

I think a better question for you is when certain factions of the Church began to oppose such images. This was known as “iconoclasm,” which, in Greek, means “icon breaking.” Icons came first, and opposition came later. And, indeed, many works of Christian art were destroyed in this centuries-long campaign.

Ironically, almost all of the works of Eastern Christian art that are known to Western Catholics as “icons” are the work of Eastern mystic artists which survived this purge (mainly because Western Catholics preserved them).

The Church has used images forever and we use them because the Bible shows us that the Apostles and Jesus used them.

See these articles for more info:

New Testament Support for Christian Sacred Imagery
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=871123

Pro-Image Quotes from the Pre-Nicene Fathers
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=856579

As soon as the Church understood the power of the Roman statues and images, they copied it.

Please also remeber that for many, many centuries, the majority of Catholics (especially during the first 1,500 years) were illiterate. The use of art, including statues, tapestries, paintings and the like, served to help the common people understand the most important elements of the bible. By seeing the Virgin Mary depicted as the Mother of baby Jesus, they could relate to her and uderstand that she was human, like them, and her Son was both human and God. Some of the most famous classical paintings helped the illiterate masses with their faith.

We have inherited an amazing collection of religious art from these masters and they still inspire and intrigue us today. Religious art, of any kind, is to charge the imagination and bring bible stories to life.

Even here in the US, there are some wonderful folk art traditions, such as bible quilts, which were also used to pass on stories to the poor and illiterate members of our society.

Yes, that’s also the reason God commanded the making of images, such as the serpent in the desert…because of the power of Roman statues and images. Solomon also copied the Roman image-power when he adorned God’s temple with these statues and images. God and Solomon, and everyone else who makes statues and images, copied the Romans because of the power of Roman statues. [End sarcasm.] :smiley:

Amen! Yes, images have been used to tell stories as far back as we can historically trace “history”. In our modern age, we take photographs of our loved ones, and some people even frame these pictures, or make busts of famous musical composers, or make collages of our friends and families so that we can remember certain things/times.

I think David Filmer’s question deserves an answer, and I hope someone will be courteous enough to answer it. “When [did] certain factions of the Church begn to oppose such images*?”*

Thank you for that, but I already knew the answer, and I think the answer is easy to discover, and it was a bit of a rhetorical question. The iconoclastic period began mid-Eighth Century, and originated in the East (Constantinople). Nobody disputes this (either the date or source). Nobody claims that the earliest Church had no artistic images of Jesus. Nobody claims that an image-deprived early Church had to contend with the introduction of artistic images.

Nobody disputes that images came first, and opposition came later. This very-public iconoclastic dispute involved Popes, Patriarchs, and Emperors for centuries. Historical documentation numbers into the thousands of documents (including images). This is settled history.

The earliest images which we could definitively identify as Christian appeared somewhere about AD 200. (We don’t exactly know where Christian images started: an older theory favors Rome, but a more recent idea favors the East.) Christian art was really a grassroots movement, being more the preserve of the laity; some clergymen (but not all, apparently) at the time opposed it, not so much due to the ban in the OT against graven images per se, but to a natural association in the early Christian mind of images and image-making with pagan religion and the whole pagan way of life. In other words, out of fear that image-making might lead to idolatry, and out of a desire to distinguish themselves from pagans, a number of authorities opposed image-making at the time. This partly explains why we don’t have that much surviving evidence of Christian use of art during the first two centuries, save for possible scattered references here and there. By the mid-3rd century, however, we have evidence in Christian literature of changing attitudes and by the next century, religiously meaningful paintings began to occur in Christian contexts.

The early Christians didn’t set out to produce an original or magnificent kind of art, but merely an art which would satisfy the needs of religious worship. Almost all existing pre-mid-4th century Christian artwork was funereal in nature, specifically created to decorate tombs or coffins, though this is probably just a small fraction of the total. Documentary sources from the period reveal that Christians built or converted buildings or parts of buildings for their assemblies, and that they owned liturgical implements as well as scripture books. Unfortunately, these examples of material culture have been lost or destroyed over the centuries, perhaps even during the great persecutions of the 3rd and early 4th centuries.

Things changed when Constantine legalized Christianity in 313, starting a process which culminated in its being declared state religion of the Empire by Theodosius in 380. This change in fortune brought with it huge changes to popular culture, including art. Until then Christian art was more of a folk art which derived its style and much of its iconography from popular Roman art (although usually executed more crudely), but from this point grand Christian buildings built under imperial patronage (the basilicas) brought a need for Christian versions of Roman elite and official art to accomodate the wealthy newcomers to the faith, of which mosaics in churches in Rome are the most prominent surviving examples. While in earlier times, art was more the preserve of the laity, now it was ‘officially’ appropriated and sanctioned. Christians are now more free than in earlier centuries to express themselves via art.

Oh, and I should point this out: you don’t have that many examples of freestanding, early Christian sculptures. In the minds of the early Christians, three-dimensional statuary reminded them too much of the statues of Greek and Roman deities and the monuments of Roman emperors, which is why they preferred two-dimensional paintings and reliefs (and later, mosaics) over sculptures carved in the round. This mentality explains why icons became big in the East - they preserved the early Christian statue-phobia mentality. The reason why we have statues in the West, on the other hand, is because the medium was reintroduced under Charlemagne and the Franks - and since now it was ‘baptized’ and no longer associated with paganism (at least in Western eyes), Christian statuary developed freely in the West.

Patrick457 :: I always appreciate your contributions on this issue and the data you bring to the table is consistently top-rate. You always provide dates and pictures of examples to back up what you are saying. But there’s something I want to criticize. When history scholars come up with these dates for early Christian art, they often say things like, “These are the earliest examples of Christian art,” or “The history of Christian art begins in the year 200 A.D.,” or statements to that effect, and I think there are limitations and caveats to those statements that need to be clearly stated and stressed – namely, those dates are calculated based only on “surviving” Christian art.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think what you are saying is that 200 A.D. is roughly the date of the earliest examples of Christian art which we still have. Other scholars agree with this date. But it seems to me that we need to stress two things: first, this refers to religious art that we can definitively identify as being for Christian use, and second, there may be examples from before that, but if there are, they either haven’t survived, or we haven’t identified them yet.

Does that sound like it’s basically correct to you?

some clergymen (but not all, apparently) at the time opposed [sacred images], not so much due to the ban in the OT against graven images per se, but to a natural association in the early Christian mind of images and image-making with pagan religion and the whole pagan way of life.

When I read the writings of Christians from before 200 A.D., that’s not what I find. Just to give a few examples from before 200 A.D.:

St. Irenaeus said that the art of painting and sculpture is a virtue that is “approved universally” – by both Christians and pagans. (That’s in Against Heresies Book II Chapter 32 Paragraph 2.) That doesn’t sound to me like he naturally associated image-making with pagan religion and the pagan way of life.

The Letter of Barnabas says that Moses made religious art in the form of the bronze serpent, and it says he called the people together to honor that image, and that it was a figure for the Crucifixion. (Letter of Barnabas Chapter 12) That sounds to me like he associated sacred imagery with Jewish and Christian tradition, not paganism.

The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles both say that the early Christians worshiped in the Temple of Jerusalem, which contained sacred images, for a significant period of time before separate places of worship were established. (That’s in Luke 24:52-53, Acts 2:46, Acts 3:1-3, 8, Acts 5:21, 42.) It also says they occasionally worshiped in the Temple after the Council of Jerusalem. That Council seems to have made it clear that Christianity and Judaism were separate, but as long as the Apostles were welcome in the Temple, they used it: Acts 21:26, Acts 22:17, Acts 24:18, Acts 26:21. I think that shows that the Apostles were comfortable using a building with sacred images in it as a place of worship. It is evidence against the idea that they associated sacred images with paganism.

Jesus called the Temple “my house,” “[my] house of prayer” in Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, and Luke 19:46. To mean, that makes the Temple the first place of worship identified as Christian, and it had sacred images. Like the epistle of Barnabas, Jesus also says the bronze statue that Moses made was a figure for the Crucifixion – John 3:14-15. That doesn’t sound like He associated sacred images with paganism. It sounds to me like He associated it with the Jewish religion and Himself.

Galatians 3:1 compares the Crucifixion to a graphic image in a positive way. That seems to associate images with Jesus rather than with paganism. Hebrews 9:1-5 mentions the images on the Ark of the Covenant in a positive way. That seems to associate sacred images with the Jewish faith rather than with paganism.

To me, there’s lots of evidence from before 200 A.D. that the early Christians generally had no problem with sacred images. Sacred images and/or image-making are mentioned in the New Testament and in some of the earliest Church Fathers, and they are not associated with paganism but with Christian and Jewish tradition. I think you should take account of this evidence in the future. You seem to be saying that the early Christians didn’t want to make images because it reminded them of paganism, but I think the evidence suggests the opposite.

Heh heh, I knew you’d comment. :smiley: And yes! That is what I’m saying: the oldest specimens of art that we can identify as ‘Christian’ (not really an easy task, particularly for pre-4th/5th century art) come from around the early-to-mid 3rd century. You have the paintings in the house church at Dura Europos in Syria (ca. 233-256) or some of the catacombs in Rome as examples. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Christian art just sprang out of nowhere in the AD 200s - there could have been more earlier examples, but these are either lost or remain undiscovered.

The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles both say that the early Christians worshiped in the Temple of Jerusalem, which contained sacred images, for a significant period of time before separate places of worship were established. (That’s in Luke 24:52-53, Acts 2:46, Acts 3:1-3, 8, Acts 5:21, 42.) It also says they occasionally worshiped in the Temple after the Council of Jerusalem. That Council seems to have made it clear that Christianity and Judaism were separate, but as long as the Apostles were welcome in the Temple, they used it: Acts 21:26, Acts 22:17, Acts 24:18, Acts 26:21. I think that shows that the Apostles were comfortable using a building with sacred images in it as a place of worship. It is evidence against the idea that they associated sacred images with paganism.

Now it’s my turn to comment: the temple of Solomon and the temple of Herod are not the same. Yes, it’s true that Solomon’s temple is filled with imagery (mainly of common motifs from Ancient Near Eastern art) - but the one thing you’ll notice about Herod’s temple based on ancient descriptions of it is the near lack of any figural depiction. According to Josephus, there was a golden vine at the entrance to the sanctuary, and a ‘Babylonian tapestry’ serving as the dividing veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies “on [which] was portrayed a panorama of the heavens, the signs of the Zodiac excepted.” (War 5.212-214) There were no longer any cherubim - in fact, Josephus pretty much says that their appearance had already been forgotten: “no one knew what they looked like.” Since the Ark of the Covenant was already lost, the Holy of Holies was virtually empty.

This is what I’ve been pointing out for quite some time: the Israelite/Jewish attitude toward images really changed across the course of history, shifting from one opinion to the other and then back again. It’s true that before the Exile we have ample evidence of Israelite use of imagery, both ‘good’ and ‘bad’: the tabernacle and its furnishings, the serpent, Gideon’s ephod (Judges 8:27), Micah’s silver idol (Judges 17:3), the Ta’anach cult stand, Solomon’s temple-palace complex, Jeroboam’s calves (1 Kings 12:25-33), Judahite seals from the time of Hezekiah bearing images of winged scarabs and solar disks, the drawing which portrays ‘Yhwh of Samaria’, cultic figurines found in Jerusalem, the ivories from Samaria. In this case we can infer that the Israelites did not consider the act of making images in itself to be bad: cherubim and other images of ‘nature’ and ‘mythology’ were at times excepted. What is really forbidden is the direct depiction of God Himself (hence the non-human portrayals: the smaller cherubim in the Ark and the bigger ones in the Holy of Holies acting as symbolic empty thrones/footstools indicating His presence; perhaps even the solar disk depicted in the Ta’anach stand and the LMLK seals are symbols of Yhwh), and as we can see this rule was not always followed by some people (cf. again ‘Yhwh of Samaria’, the cultic figurines showing a man-like figure riding a bull).

http://www.bible-lands.net/images/stories/bible/cities/Jerusalemlinks/2-Jerusalem-First-Temple-int2.jpg


“Of Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Judah”

http://members.bib-arch.org/bswb_graphics/BSBA/27/03/BSBA270302910.jpg

Even after the Exile, the returning Jews still engaged in imagery: coins from Persian-era Yehud (= Judah) depict living creatures, flowers and even human beings. The most curious of these coins was one which shows a deity seated on a winged wheel, identified by the inscription as Yhw (= Yhwh?)

(Continued)

It is around the wake of the Seleucids and the time of the Hasmoneans (the dynasty the Maccabees founded after the Seleucids were kicked out) that we see the Jews begin to hold a different, stricter view towards images. Perhaps in reaction to forced Hellenization Jews in Judaea suffered under the Seleucids, the Greek use of art to portray their deities and a desire to forge a unique national identity, Jews began to hold that images of any living thing (human or animal) was forbidden, the only acceptable subjects being plants, inanimate objects, and abstract designs. To this end, most Jewish currency minted in Palestine at the time did not feature images of gods, men or animals as was common, but images of plants, inanimate objects, or abstract symbols as a concession. (The exceptions to this rule were Roman coins and, rather curiously, the Tyrian shekel in use at the Temple.) The houses of aristocratic and priestly families in Jerusalem themselves, while built and decorated in the Greco-Roman style, were mainly decorated with geometric patterns, imitations of architectural elements, or floral motifs unlike actual Greco-Roman houses. They were wholly devoid of images of humans and only rarely included images of animals.

http://img713.imageshack.us/img713/5279/fontanille2.jpg
Pilate’s coins

This explains why Herod’s temple did not have any figural depiction in it: the one time Herod the Great did try to put an image in the temple precincts (an eagle), Jews went up in arms against it (War 1.648-655; cf. Antiquities 17.150-152):

There also now happened to [Herod], among his other calamities, a certain popular sedition. There were two men of learning in the city [Jerusalem,] who were thought the most skillful in the laws of their country, and were on that account had in very great esteem all over the nation; they were, the one Judas, the son of Sepphoris, and the other Mattbias, the son of Margalus. There was a great concourse of the young men to these men when they expounded the laws, and there got together every day a kind of an army of such as were growing up to be men. Now when these men were informed that the king was wearing away with melancholy, and with a distemper, they dropped words to their acquaintance, how it was now a very proper time to defend the cause of God, and to pull down what had been erected contrary to the laws of their country; for it was unlawful there should be any such thing in the temple as images, or faces, or the like representation of any animal whatsoever. Now the king had put up a golden eagle over the great gate of the temple, which these learned men exhorted them to cut down; and told them, that if there should any danger arise, it was a glorious thing to die for the laws of their country; because that the soul was immortal, and that an eternal enjoyment of happiness did await such as died on that account; while the mean-spirited, and those that were not wise enough to show a right love of their souls, preferred a death by a disease, before that which is the result of a virtuous behavior.

At the same time that these men made this speech to their disciples, a rumor was spread abroad that the king was dying, which made the young men set about the work with greater boldness; they therefore let themselves down from the top of the temple with thick cords, and this at midday, and while a great number of people were in the temple, and cut down that golden eagle with axes.

Basically, what happened after this is that Herod had the perpetrators arrested and executed. Later, Pilate was also confronted with Jews who objected to his bringing ‘graven images’ to Jerusalem ( Antiquities 18.55-59; cf. War 2.169-174; Philo, The Embassy to Caligula 299-305):

**Now Pilate, the prefect of Judaea, when he brought his army from Caesarea and removed it to winter quarters in Jerusalem, took a bold step in subversion of the Jewish practices, by introducing into the city the busts of the emperor that were attached to the military standards, for our law forbids the making of images. ** It was for this reason that the previous prefects, when they entered the city, used standards that had no such ornaments. Pilate was the first to bring the images into Jerusalem and set them up, doing it without the knowledge of the people, for he entered at night.

But when the people discovered it, they went in a throng to Caesarea and for many days entreated him to take away the images. He refused to yield, since to do so would be an outrage to the emperor; however, since they did not cease entreating him, on the sixth day he secretly armed and placed his troops in position, while he himself came to the speaker’s stand. This had been constructed in the stadium, which provided concealment for the army that lay in wait. When the Jews again engaged in supplication, at a pre-arranged signal he surrounded them with his soldiers and threatened to punish them at once with death if they did not put an end to their tumult and return to their own places.

But they, casting themselves prostrate and baring their throats, declared that they had gladly welcomed death rather than make bold to transgress the wise provisions of the laws. Pilate, astonished at the strength of their devotion to the laws, straightway removed the images from Jerusalem and brought them back to Caesarea.

(Continued)

This ‘hard-line’ interpretation of the command against images among contemporary Jews explains why Philo (On the Decalogue) and Josephus ( 3.75-3.101Antiquities) enumerate the Ten Commandments the same way as many modern Protestants (though to be fair, Eastern Christians - who are anything but iconoclastic - also use this same reckoning system under influence of the Greek Fathers) do: putting the ban on images as the second commandment.
Martin Goodman (Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations) writes:

Jewish culture was more oral than visual: when Jews referred to themselves in Hebrew as understanding a truth or a command, they would say that they had heard it; by contrast, in Latin, as in Greek and in English, the metaphor for comprehension is to “see” the truth. The aural metaphor, however, cannot have been overwhelming in the Jewish mentality, for Philo, writing in Greek, refers repeatedly to a false etymology of the name “Israel” as derived from the Hebrew ish-ra’ah-el, taken to mean “he who sees God.” At any rate, Jews in Jerusalem certainly demonstrated an appreciation of visual aesthetics both in the Temple and in the interior decoration of their houses. Excavated houses from the time of the war against Rome in 66-70 are decorated with patterned mosaic floors and wall plaster painted in the Pompeian Second Style. These provincials imitated Italy as others did elsewhere in the empire, even if they were behind the times in the fashions they followed. The major difference, clearly deliberate, was that the paintings in Jerusalem were wholly devoid of images of humans and only rarely included images of animals. The architectural frames of the pictures painted direct onto the plaster, and the deep reds and blacks, are all in the Italian style, but the central interest in each picture in Roman as in Hellenistic art, the depiction of the interplay of living bodies, is wholly lacking. The taboo which precluded such depictions was by no means static or universal among Jews, since later in antiquity Jews in the land of Israel were to commission fine synagogue mosaics with detailed images of humans and animals, and in the mid-third century CE the Jews of Dura-Europus depicted in detail on the walls of their synagogue a series of biblical scenes. Even in the first century, when Herod completed his rebuilding of the Temple by erecting an image of an eagle over its entrance, he must have believed this to be permitted in Jewish law, since he had just spent years, and huge amounts of money, in ensuring that the building be seen by his subjects as both magnificent and kosher. However, the riots that greeted the eagle image suggest that other first-century Jews disagreed with Herod’s interpretation. The “two sophists,” as Josephus describes the ringleaders of the crowd who tried to tear the eagle down, evidently saw the image as an affront, presumably in light of the commandment in Exodus, “You shall not make for yourself any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:,” although the symbolism of the eagle as an image of Rome may also have aggravated their anger. Later Jews were to interpret the commandment in Exodus in the light of the following verse (“You shall not bow down yourself to them [the images], nor serve them”), thus permitting images of all kinds providing that they are not worshipped, but most first-century Jews seem to have taken a hard line: the iconography on Jewish coins minted during the revolt against Rome reveals a willingness to depict objects such as palm branches, pomegranates and a chalice, but neither people not animals. Jewish homes thus lacked the riot of statues, reliefs and other images that enlivened the houses of their Roman contemporaries, and the public spaces of Jerusalem had no commemorative statues to link the citizens to the historic figures of the past.

As Goodman implies, we see things shift again after the Jewish-Roman War of the late 1st-early 2nd century, when Jews began to be tolerant of images once more. Again, there are a number explanations for the reintroduction of figural representation (not necessarily mutually exclusive): increasing Hellenization, increasing minority status which made the need to accommodate to the outside world more pressing, the slow decline of paganism and the perception that images are not really/no longer a threat to Jewish beliefs and way of life.

http://orthodoxbridge.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Dura-Europos-Synagogue.jpg

I’ll break off here for now. I’ll finish off later.

A little aside about Josephus. You’ll notice that he had a negative perception of the images in Solomon’s temple, going so far as to attribute them to Solomon’s mental decline in his old age. (Antiquities 8.194)

And as he grew into years, and his reason became weaker by length of time, it was not sufficient to recall to his mind the institutions of his own country; so he still more and more contemned his own God, and continued to regard the gods that his marriages had introduced nay, before this happened, he sinned, and fell into an error about the observation of the laws, when he made the images of brazen oxen that supported the brazen sea, and the images of lions about his own throne; for these he made, although it was not agreeable to piety so to do; and this he did, notwithstanding that he had his father as a most excellent and domestic pattern of virtue, and knew what a glorious character he had left behind him, because of his piety towards God. Nor did he imitate David, although God had twice appeared to him in his sleep, and exhorted him to imitate his father. So he died ingloriously.

For Josephus, making images was the ultimate offense of Solomon’s old age. It has been argued that Josephus was trying to ‘save’ Solomon from the accusation of out-and-out idolatry (which is the sin attributed to him in the actual OT text) by using the charge of illicit imagery as an excuse. He had pretty much laid down his views in Against Apion, when he said:

Moreover Apion would lay a blot upon us, because we do not erect images for our Emperors. As if those Emperors did not know this before: or stood in need of Apion, as their defender. Whereas he ought rather to have admired the magnanimity and modesty of the Romans; whereby they do not compel those that are subject to them to transgress the laws of their countries; but are willing to receive the honours due to them after such a manner, as those who are to pay them esteem consistent with piety, and with their own laws. For they do not thank people for conferring honours upon them, when they are compelled by violence so to do. Accordingly, since the Grecians and some other nations think it a right thing to make images: nay when they have painted the pictures of their parents, and wives, and children, they exult for joy. And some there are, who take pictures for themselves of such persons as were no way related to them. Nay some take the pictures of such servants as they were fond of. What wonder is it then, if such as these appear willing to pay the same respect to their princes and lords? But then, our legislator hath forbidden us to make images; not by way of denunciation beforehand, that the Roman authority was not to be honoured: but as despising a thing that was neither necessary, nor useful for either God or man. And he forbad them, as we shall prove hereafter, to make these images, for any part of the animal creation, and much less for God himself: who is no part of such animal creation. Yet hath our legislator no where forbidden us to pay honours to worthy men: provided they be of another kind, and inferior to those we pay to God. With which honours we willingly testify our respect to our Emperors, and to the people of Rome. We also offer perpetual sacrifices for them. Nor do we only offer them every day, at the common expences of all the Jews, but although we offer no other such sacrifices out of our common expences, no not for our own children; yet do we this as a peculiar honour to the emperors, and to them alone: while we do the same to no other person whomsoever. And let this suffice for an answer in general to Apion; as to what he says with relation to the Alexandrian Jews. …]

What are the things then that we are commanded, or forbidden? They are simple, and easily known. The first command is concerning God: and affirms that God contains all things; and is a being every way perfect, and happy; self-sufficient, and supplying all other beings: the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things. He is manifest in his works, and benefits; and more conspicuous than any other being whatsoever: but as to his form and magnitude he is most obscure. All materials, let them be never so costly, are unworthy to compose an image for him: and all arts are unartful to express the notion we ought to have of him. We can neither see, nor think of any thing like him. Nor is it agreeable to piety to form a resemblance of him. We see his works; the light, the heaven, the earth, the sun, and the moon, the waters, the generations of animals, the productions of fruits. These things hath God made; not with hands, not with labour; nor as wanting the assistance of any to co-operate with him. But as his will resolved they should be made, and be good also, they were made, and became good immediately. All men ought to follow this being; and to worship him in the exercise of virtue. For this way of worship of God is the most holy of all others.

(Continued)

Josephus was trying to show to his Roman audience how ‘idolatrous’ imagery is incompatible with Judaism and to this end he has an overall negative perception of images throughout his works. He even condemns some of the images in Solomon’s temple and basically edits others out of the picture by carefully omitting any reference to them. His description of the veil in Solomon’s temple also quietly omits anything that smacked of ‘images’: he follows 2 Chronicles 3:14 in its description of the temple veil in Solomon’s temple, but never mentions the cherubim said to be embroidered on them. In fact, as for the cherubim, as I mentioned earlier, he basically evades the question by simply quipping that “no one can say or imagine what they looked like.”

He also had veils of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and the brightest and softest linen, with the most curious flowers wrought upon them, which were to be drawn before those doors. He also dedicated for the most secret place, whose breadth was twenty cubits, and length the same, two cherubims of solid gold; the height of each of them was five cubits they had each of them two wings stretched out as far as five cubits; wherefore Solomon set them up not far from each other, that with one wing they might touch the southern wall of the secret place, and with another the northern: their other wings, which joined to each other, were a covering to the ark, which was set between them; but nobody can tell, or even conjecture, what was the shape of these cherubims.

===

And in the house of the holy of holies he fashioned a work of two cheroubin out of wood, and he gilded them with gold. And the cheroubin’s wings were twenty cubits in length, and the one wing was five cubits, touching the wall of the house, and the other wing was five cubits, touching the wing of the other cheroub. And the wing of the one cheroub was five cubits, touching the wall of the house and other wing was five cubits, touching the wing of the other cheroub. And the wings of the cheroubin extended twenty cubits. And they stood on their feet, and their faces were toward the house. And he made the veil out of blue and purple and scarlet and linen and wove cheroubin into it. (2 Chronicles 3:10-14 LXX (NETS))

His earlier description of the veil in the Tabernacle also went along these lines:

Now on each side of the gates there stood three pillars, which were inserted into the concave bases of the gates, and were suited to them; and round them was drawn a curtain of fine linen; but to the gates themselves, which were twenty cubits in extent, and five in height, the curtain was composed of purple, and scarlet, and blue, and fine linen, and embroidered with many and divers sorts of figures, excepting the figures of animals. …] There was also an ark made, sacred to God, of wood that was naturally strong, and could not be corrupted. This was called Eron in our own language. Its construction was thus: its length was five spans, but its breadth and height was each of them three spans. It was covered all over with gold, both within and without, so that the wooden part was not seen. It had also a cover united to it, by golden hinges, after a wonderful manner; which cover was every way evenly fitted to it, and had no eminences to hinder its exact conjunction. There were also two golden rings belonging to each of the longer boards, and passing through the entire wood, and through them gilt bars passed along each board, that it might thereby be moved and carried about, as occasion should require; for it was not drawn in a cart by beasts of burden, but borne on the shoulders of the priests. Upon this its cover were two images, which the Hebrews call Cherubims; they are flying creatures, but their form is not like to that of any of the creatures which men have seen, though Moses said he had seen such beings near the throne of God. In this ark he put the two tables whereon the ten commandments were written, five upon each table, and two and a half upon each side of them; and this ark he placed in the most holy place.

In this passage he also edits his source by omitting the reference to the cherubim woven into the veil (Exodus 26:31; 36:35). It’s as if Josephus can’t deny that the Ark and the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s temple had images of cherubs because that’s what the Bible says, but at the same time their existence is somewhat problematic for him and his agenda, so while he acknowledges that they were there, he avoids discussing them in detail by simply remarking that their form was a mystery. The golden calf incident is, in fact, omitted by Josephus (why did the Israelites make an image right under Moses’ nose?) as well as the incident involving the bronze serpent (why would God order Moses to make a graven image?)

Galatians 3:1 compares the Crucifixion to a graphic image in a positive way. That seems to associate images with Jesus rather than with paganism.

I wrote this in another thread:

I think you’re both reading too much into the verse and its use of “publicly portrayed” (proegraphē). The literal sense of the word is “to write before,” either in a temporal or spatial sense (cf. Romans 15:4; Ephesians 3:3; Jude 4). The phrase “before whose eyes” requires the verb be translated in another sense: to proclaim or portray publicly. I don’t think Paul was talking so much about a literal piece of sculpture or painting showing Jesus crucified but rather about how his preaching had the graphic effect of presenting the crucified Christ to the Galatians. In other words, his public declaration served as a visual image of the Messiah nailed on a cross for them.

The Letter of Barnabas says that Moses made religious art in the form of the bronze serpent, and it says he called the people together to honor that image, and that it was a figure for the Crucifixion. (Letter of Barnabas Chapter 12) That sounds to me like he associated sacred imagery with Jewish and Christian tradition, not paganism. …]

Like the epistle of Barnabas, Jesus also says the bronze statue that Moses made was a figure for the Crucifixion – John 3:14-15. That doesn’t sound like He associated sacred images with paganism. It sounds to me like He associated it with the Jewish religion and Himself.

The problem with your citations really is that they address imagery from the Old Testament. They don’t really address the issue of contemporary art. You might even say that the common excuse could have been applicable here: they are exceptions because God Himself ordered Moses to have them made. He might have been the One who laid the laws in the first place, but He doesn’t have to be bound to it.

To me, there’s lots of evidence from before 200 A.D. that the early Christians generally had no problem with sacred images. Sacred images and/or image-making are mentioned in the New Testament and in some of the earliest Church Fathers, and they are not associated with paganism but with Christian and Jewish tradition. I think you should take account of this evidence in the future. You seem to be saying that the early Christians didn’t want to make images because it reminded them of paganism, but I think the evidence suggests the opposite.

What about the author of the apocryphal Acts of John, Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Epiphanius of Salamis? I’m not disputing the fact that some early Christians had no problem with images at all (I agree with you about Irenaeus). What I’m really questioning is the other extreme: ignoring instances of early Christians who did have a problem with images in a Christian context. That’s why I said “some clergymen (but not all, apparently) at the time opposed it.” But then again, I should have just written “early Christian opinion on images and imagemaking was divided.” It’s more accurate that way.

Regarding the Temple of Herod, I am aware that it is different from the Temple of Solomon, but I still think the early Christian usage of it is evidence that they were okay with sacred images, for two reasons. First, although it didn’t have images of people or animals, it still had the image of the grapevine and the image of the heavens that Josephus mentions. To me, that supports sacred images because those images were part of the Temple, and the Temple was holy.

The second reason I think the early Christian usage of the Temple of Herod supports sacred images is because it was modelled at least on the idea of the Temple of Solomon, and that had very impressive sacred images. Even though the Temple of Herod had less imagery, I would argue that it was still modeled on that ideal, and people who worshipped in it are implicitly honoring its memory.

To use the Temple of Herod is therefore to use sacred images of nonliving things at the very least. But it also supports the use of sacred images of living things, because the Temple of Solomon had them. At least, that’s how I see it. I think it is plain that Josephus would object to this, but the way I see it, his arguments on this subject are silly. He reads that there were sacred images in Solomon’s Temple, and responds that half the images weren’t really sacred (they were products of Solomon’s aging mind) and the other half weren’t really images (the cherubim didn’t have a distinguishable form). To me he seems to be grasping at straws, and I don’t think the Apostles or Jesus would have thought the same.

I don’t think Gal. 3:1 has to refer to an actual image of the crucifixion in order for us to use it to support sacred images. If I’m reading you right, you’re basically saying that Paul only meant, “Our preaching was so intense on this subject that it painted a metaphorical picture in your minds, O Galatians.” That interpretation is fine with me. But that still compares the Crucifixion to an image in a positive way.

The problem with your citations really is that they address imagery from the Old Testament. They don’t really address the issue of contemporary art.

I think that any author who addresses sacred images in a positive way supports contemporary use of sacred images, unless the author gives a reason otherwise, such as saying that this was permitted in the Old Testament due to the hardness of hearts. (I haven’t yet found an ecclesiastical author who says that, but I’ll bet someone in history did if we looked hard enough.) As an example, when the Iconoclast controversy was happening, the iconodules mostly defended images using arguments drawn from Old Testament imagery. But they wanted us to infer that contemporary art is okay.

To me, once an author says that images can be used in a positive way, he has let the cat out of the bag, and he counts as a testimony in favor of sacred images, unless he makes an explicit attempt to put the cat back in the bag. (Origen comes to mind on this point.) If they refer to Old Testament images in a positive way, or if they refer to contemporary images in a positive way, or small images, like seals and coins, or abstract images, like the sign of the cross or the theory that letters are based on images – any of that counts as support for sacred images in my mind, because once you allow images, then we should use them to glorify God.

You might even say that the common excuse could have been applicable here: they are exceptions because God Himself ordered Moses to have them made. He might have been the One who laid the laws in the first place, but He doesn’t have to be bound to it.

I don’t think we should attribute that argument to an author unless he himself makes it.

What about the author of the apocryphal Acts of John, Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Epiphanius of Salamis? I’m not disputing the fact that some early Christians had no problem with images at all (I agree with you about Irenaeus). What I’m really questioning is the other extreme: ignoring instances of early Christians who did have a problem with images in a Christian context.

With Tertullian, although he did not like sacred images, I think he can be used to support them in several ways, not least of which is, after he became a Montanist one of his arguments against the Catholics was that they had carved images of the Good Shepherd and of the Shepherd of Hermas on their chalices. That tells me that Catholics were using images to decorate holy objects.

The other authors on your list were generally against sacred images but I think they made some statements that were important to the development of the Church’s use of icons and statues. Origen’s discussion of the sign of the Cross indicates that he honored the form of the Cross. Clement discusses the use of images on seals and coins and indicates that he knew of some Christian symbols that were used to remember the Apostles and the Lord – that’s still part of the function of religious imagery today. Although these two authors did not support sacred images themselves, some of their statements were important to that cultus.

So we can do this:

:bowdown:        	:bowdown2:

Joking :extrahappy: :rotfl:

It is annoying when people lie about us and say we worship statues, we could easily lie back and say they worship Hitler etc…

But we won’t because we are Christian :slight_smile:

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