Is Veneration of Icons Idolatry? Essay

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Is Veneration of Icons Idolatry?

That "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them" (Exodus 20:4-5 and Deuteronomy 5:9) might, at first glance, be seen as an absolute command or prohibition against worship of any kind of image (A. Fortescue, Veneration of Images, 1910, Volume VII). "For iconoclasts (image-breakers), every image could only be a portrait and a portrait of God was inconceivable in view of God's ineffable and unknowable qualities." Claim that icons were a sacred art was, iconoclasts argued, simply to clothe them in superstition and even
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"The law was not an image but it was like a wall which hid the image" said St. John of Damascus (Ouspensky, 1992:44-45).

St. John of Damascus further argued that God's revelation in the Old Testament was made manifest only by word whereas in the New Testament it was made manifest both by word and by image: the Invisible became visible, the non-representable became represent and that God not only addressed man by word and through prophets but also showed Himself in the person of the incarnate Word. Thus the distinctive trait of the New Testament is the direct connection between the word and the image (Ouspensky, 1992:46-47). On the other hand, Dr. Cavarnos argues that holy icons serve to help believers to be transformed and sanctified and to lift them up to the prototypes which they symbolize, to a higher level of thought and feeling (1992:1). History shows that the subject of iconography precipitated the longest-running and most violent of the theological debates to shake the internal life of the Orthodox Church: the so-called iconoclastic controversy which produced many martyrs and confessors like St. John of Damascus during the reign of Constantine V (741-755) and St. Theodore the Studite during the reign of Leo V (813-820) as well as the Seventh Ecumenical Council held
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