The Roman Catholic Church claims to be the one and only apostolic church, and so does the Eastern Orthodox Church. In this series of articles, I’ll show that neither church’s claim can be true. One way of addressing their claims is to focus on their reasons why they believe they have apostolic authority, which I’ve addressed in other articles. This series takes a different approach. In these articles, I’ll evaluate one of the specific dogmatic beliefs that these churches share, and, in the process, I’ll show that their belief contradicts the historic Christian faith.
Each of these churches teaches and practices the veneration of icons, a practice that includes praying to images of Christ, saints, and angels.
Worship vs. Veneration
To someone on the outside looking in, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox practice may look very much like the worship of idols. After all, these Christians address prayers to images in the hope that the person depicted in the image will hear them. They also light candles and burn incense for these images.
However, these churches very clearly teach that they are not worshiping idols. The honor that they address to these images is not intended to be the sort of worship that belongs to God alone. Instead, they intend to be showing only the honor that they would give to the person depicted if that person were present in real life.
For example, if the apostle Peter appeared to them, they would bow to him and kiss him. They wouldn’t worship him as though he were God.
Whether or not you think that there is a real difference between idolatry and the veneration of icons, it’s important to recognize that the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox make this distinction. We shouldn’t misrepresent their intended position, even if we disagree with it.
Veneration is an official practice
The veneration of icons is not only a common practice; it is specifically taught by both churches. Back when they were the same church and had not yet divided from each other, the Second Council of Nicaea mandated the veneration of icons (also called “iconodulia”).
This council is considered by both churches to be an ecumenical council. An ecumenical council is a meeting of bishops who represent what they consider to be the entire church. For Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, decisions reached during such a council have authority on the level of the New Testament. In other words, if they say that something is part of the Christian faith, then it most definitely is, even if it isn’t found in the Bible.
The Second Council of Nicaea (abbreviated as “Nicaea II”) took place in AD 787, decided that anyone who doesn’t venerate icons is to be anathema, or excommunicated from Christ’s church. Here’s what those bishops said:
Therefore all those who dare to think or teach anything different [about icons], or who follow the accursed heretics in rejecting ecclesiastical traditions . . . or who spurn anything entrusted to the church (whether it be the gospel of the figure of the cross or any example of representational art or any martyr’s holy relic), or who fabricate perverted and evil prejudices against cherishing any of the lawful traditions of the catholic church [which at that time included Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox], or who secularize the sacred objects and saintly monasteries, we order that they be suspended if they are bishops or clerics, and excommunicated if they are monks or lay people. . . . If anyone does not accept representation in art of evangelical scenes, let him be anathema. If anyone does not salute such representations as standing for the Lord and his saints, let him be anathema. . . . [T]he false writings composed against the venerable icons, should be given in at the episcopal building in Constantinople, so that they can be put away along with other heretical books. If someone is discovered to be hiding such books, if he is a bishop, priest or deacon, let him be suspended, and if he is a lay person or a monk, let him be excommunicated.1(Norman P. Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1, Nicaea I to Lateran V, 137-146)
In substance, the council concludes that icons are so important that, if a Christian doesn’t salute them (e.g., by kissing them or praying to them as to Christ and the saints), that Christian is to be excommunicated. In fact, the council even orders Christians not to own any books that argue against iconodulia. While neither church would be so harsh today, both of them still believe that Nicaea II infallibly teaches the principle that icons should be venerated.
Notice that the council calls iconodulia a tradition of the church. By saying that, the council is claiming that the practice of venerating icons originated with the apostles, and that it has always been an accepted practice in the church.
However, the council was simply wrong. History clearly shows that the early church unilaterally rejected the veneration of images for the first centuries following the apostles. Before Constantine’s first influences on the church (starting around 313), and likely for a time following that, the veneration of images was not a legitimate Christian practice. This means that neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Eastern Orthodox Church teaches a faith that is consistent with what the original apostolic church taught.
This is a huge problem for these churches. First, it shows that they have strayed from the apostolic faith. They no longer practice the unchanging Christian faith in its entirety. Second, it refutes their claim that their churches cannot err when teaching doctrine. One of their allegedly infallible councils proclaimed that the veneration of icons is a necessary part of the Christian faith, but of course, since it was wrong, this directly contradicts their claim to infallibility.
It’s important to note that, though both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches teach the veneration of icons, they approach the subject of doctrine in different ways. That’s because the Roman Catholic Church has introduced the idea that Christian doctrine can develop, in some ways, from what it was in the beginning. So in the next sections, I’ll address each of their approaches and explain why this subject creates an issue for each one.
The Eastern Orthodox Position
The doctrinal claims of the Eastern Orthodox Church are most straightforward. This church tradition typically claims to have remained essentially unchanged in both doctrine and practice since the days of the apostles. Any changes in the way a practice is engaged in, to the Eastern Orthodox, must not affect the core or the intention of the practice.
To many Christians today, this claim makes the Eastern Orthodox Church sound very attractive. Who wouldn’t want to join the church that believes and practices just like the apostles did? These Christians are often excited to find out that many of the changes that occurred in Roman Catholicism didn’t affect Eastern Orthodoxy. And because the Eastern Orthodox Church hasn’t changed much since around AD 900, it can be very easy to assume that it essentially hasn’t changed since AD 100.
The claim that the Eastern Orthodox Church is infallible and unchanging may help people feel secure about their beliefs. But a false security is no security at all. When it comes to the Christian faith, we can’t make assumptions. We need to find the original beliefs of the church, and follow the truth wherever it leads, rather than making choices based on how much we are attracted to one church or another.
Unfortunately, the strong claim of the Eastern Orthodox makes their position very easy to disprove. Since the veneration of icons was not a part of the Christian faith for the first centuries, and only developed later, the attractive claims of the Eastern Orthodox Church can be shown to be false. They no longer practice as the apostles did.
The Orthodox consider ecumenical councils to make infallible pronouncements on the faith. The conciliar decisions are what defines Eastern Orthodoxy, and they are thought to be exactly in line with the apostolic faith. So if the decision of Nicaea II does not align with the practice of the first several hundred years of the church, then Eastern Orthodoxy can no longer claim to be the unchanging, original faith.
The Roman Catholic Position
The Roman Catholic Church is in essentially the same position as the Eastern Orthodox Church, although the Roman Catholics have one thing in their favor that the Eastern Orthodox don’t. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Christian doctrine can legitimately develop over time. They agree that what is declared to be doctrine cannot change, but they believe that, if there are any gray areas where there is no consensus on what the truth is, those gray areas can be clarified with further dogmatic statements from the Pope, as well as ecumenical councils. These new statements are considered infallible doctrine and cannot be changed.
As I show in other articles, this is an incorrect understanding of doctrinal authority. However, my goal in this series is to show that these churches teach doctrines that are inconsistent with their own doctrinal criteria. So if it could be shown that the Christian church never came to a consensus about iconodulia until 787, then the Roman Catholic Church, by their own standards, would be just fine.
However, as I’ll show at the end of this article, this understanding of the source for Christian doctrine doesn’t make the case better for those who venerate icons. That’s because history shows that the Christian church did have a consensus up until (at least) the time of Constantine. Before then, Christian leaders considered the veneration of images not to be a legitimate Christian practice. So iconodulia is an alteration of the apostolic faith, not a development of it.
Near the Heart of Eastern Orthodoxy
In writing this response to iconodulia, I realize that I’m cutting very close to the heart of what Eastern Orthodox Christians believe and practice. These Christians, probably more so than Roman Catholics, deeply value their icons as an important part of their spiritual life. Because of this, they are the ones who have developed most of the arguments for iconodulia. Realistically, they’re probably the ones who will care the most about this subject, so I will mostly be addressing them.
Though I know this will disturb many Eastern Orthodox, I don’t mean to be offensive—I love the Eastern Orthodox tradition. There’s much beauty and so much love for God to be found there. But despite my love for the Eastern Orthodox tradition, I love the truth more. I’m only trying to fairly evaluate the historical evidence that we have, and I trust that anyone who wants to have a historically-grounded faith will want to know whether the veneration of icons is apostolic.
Because this subject is so important to the Eastern Orthodox, they have developed many, many responses to criticisms of iconodulia. The sheer number of arguments they have made is daunting, but I think that their arguments, though sincere, are fighting a lost cause. My goal for this series is to be comprehensive, and I will try to answer every relevant objection in this post and several related posts (which are linked in this article).
What am I trying to say?
First, I want to be very clear about exactly what I’m trying to prove in this series. I think that’s important, so that we can clear up any confusion right from the start. Here is my main contention:
The practice of addressing communications (such as bowing, kissing, and prayer) to images with the intent that whatever is addressed to the image passes to the prototype (the subject of the image, such as Christ, saints, or angels) was not considered a legitimate Christian practice by Christian leaders until sometime after Constantine’s influence on the church.
You can see that I’m defining the veneration of images in a very specific way. That’s not because the word “veneration” can’t have multiple meanings, but because there is one specific form of veneration which the Eastern Orthodox Church practices and which the early church condemned. In these articles, I am only focusing on that form of the veneration of images.
Since my main contention is a long sentence, I’ll use the following statement as shorthand for my main claim:
At least before Constantine, the veneration of images was not a legitimate Christian practice.
To support my claim, I’ll offer evidence from Scripture, archaeology, and early Christian writings from between AD 33 and approximately AD 313. To help give context, I’ll also include an article that addresses evidence from approximately a hundred years following 313, so as to see what changes led to Christian leaders accepting, and finally mandating, the veneration of images.
Why focus on the pre-Constantinian era?
But why would I focus on what was practiced in the pre-Constantinian period? That’s because the earliest Christians are the people who directly inherited the apostles’ faith. If they didn’t practice iconodulia, we can be pretty sure that practice wasn’t an apostolic one.
The pre-Constantinian Christians are the people who received the apostles’ teaching and who transmitted the tradition to later Christians. So, if there were any apostolic traditions that still hadn’t been written down by 313, the bishops after 313 could only have heard it from the pre-Constantinian Christians, who lived between them and the apostles. That means that we should trust earlier Christian beliefs before we trust later Christian traditions.
From 33 to 313 is a period of 280 years, which is a large enough time slice that we can tell what Christians believed and practiced during that period. We have plenty of texts and images from the pre-Constantinian era to use as evidence. This time period is also a large enough time slice that it’s easily conceivable that doctrinal drift could occur within 280 years or so following Jesus’ ascension. Keep in mind that the U.S. hasn’t even been around for 280 years, but huge amounts of changes have happened to American culture within that time period.
Finally, we have good reason to believe that changes happened to the Christian faith following the First Council of Nicaea. Some of these gradual changes could have been codified in the Second Council of Nicaea, four and a half centuries later, by leaders who mistakenly thought that their practices went back to the apostles.
So if the pre-Constantinian Christians did not consider the veneration of images to be a legitimate Christian practice, it wasn’t one—unless we can find strong evidence for it in Scripture. We shouldn’t consider the pre-Constantinian Christian teachings to be on the level of Scripture—far from it! But they are an important historical witness for what the church practiced in the beginning. If they and Scripture appear to be in agreement, then we need look no further for the apostolic faith.
Why not the pre-Nicene era?
Often, when doing historical theology, we use the First Council of Nicaea (AD 325) as a convenient cutoff point to divide writers into eras. In this article, I’ve used the earlier date of 313, which is when Constantine began to influence the church, for my cutoff point. This is not because there is evidence that, from 313 to 325, the veneration of images was a legitimate Christian practice. Instead, it’s because archaeologists, unlike historical theologians, tend to make Constantine the dividing line for their eras. That’s because, with Constantine’s favor, new churches and styles of religious images did appear pretty soon, although the legitimacy of veneration took some time to fully change. This makes sense, because images influence the outward perception of a religion or nation, and the art styles could conceivably begin to change before doctrine and practice would begin to change, and could perhaps even open the door for changes in practice.2`
What am I not saying?
Before getting into the historical evidence, I would like to clarify a few more things. I hope this doesn’t get tedious for readers, but clarification helps us not to talk past each other in theological discussions.
In this article series, I’m arguing that the practice of venerating icons is not part of the apostolic faith. That’s the only thing I’m trying to say. However, when we object to iconodulia, Eastern Orthodox Christians often hear us as saying other things as well. Because of that, I will clarify my position on several related areas.
I appreciate the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
First, I love Eastern Orthodoxy as a religious tradition. I don’t have anything against the Eastern Orthodox. In fact, I admire many things about Eastern Orthodoxy. They desire to practice the original faith as it was practiced in the beginning. They stay away from many developments that were introduced in the Roman Catholic tradition, such as Augustinian original sin. They respect the lives and memories of past Christians. And they don’t typically insist that they have clarity about speculative areas of theology, such as the atonement. I appreciate all these things. I’m not bashing them; instead, I’m trying to follow the truth where it leads.
Second, I actually am personally attracted to Eastern Orthodox icons. I understand that there are people who react negatively to the idea of icons and their veneration, but I don’t have that reaction, personally.
By saying this, I may draw some fire from people in my own camp, but I’ll be honest. I love the meaningful stories and beautiful truths that Eastern icons communicate to the viewer. I even find the concept of iconodulia to make sense. I don’t personally feel that it’s worship.
In fact, I don’t have any personal reaction to venerating saints at all. I love that the Eastern tradition cares deeply about holy people of long ago; so do I. I do react very negatively to venerating people who didn’t live holy lives, such as Constantine, whose life has been whitewashed by overly-zealous Christians. But in general, I have a wistful appreciation of bowing, kissing, and even praying to icons.
Why, then, don’t I go out and buy icons, so that I can start venerating them? Why do I argue against iconodulia, if I find the practice personally compelling?
The only reason is that I trust the witness of the early church more than I trust my own understanding. The historical evidence is just too strong for me to deny it. It is clear that, before Constantine, the veneration of images was not a legitimate Christian practice.
No matter what my personal leanings are, I can’t conscientiously practice something that masquerades as a historic practice, if is the exact opposite of what the early church universally taught.
The early Christians had images.
In the past, some scholars argued that the early Christians had no images at all. The claim was that the early church believed all figurative art to be wrong. Academia has moved on from that idea, since it’s just not true. The early Christians did have images—they just didn’t venerate images.
There may have been a few early Christians who thought no religious images should be allowed. However, we have plenty of examples of religious art from this time period, such as in the catacombs. Furthermore, we have textual evidence that the early Christians believed art to be appropriate. Clement of Alexandria, one of the bishops who wrote most clearly against the veneration of images, spoke favorably of art.3But it is with a different kind of spell that art deludes you, . . . it leads you to pay religious honour and worship to images and pictures. The picture is like. Well and good! Let art receive its meed of praise, but let it not deceive man by passing itself off for truth. (Exhortation to the Heathen 4 ANF)
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. For we are not to delineate the faces of idols, we who are prohibited to cleave to them (The Instructor 3.11) Irenaeus discussed art in a way that suggests that he doesn’t regard it to be essentially wrong.4He criticizes the Valentinians: “Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king.” (Against Heresies 1.8)
So Christian religious art existed before Constantine. They had images; that is not under dispute. However, as I’ll show, the church did not consider veneration of art to be appropriate. That’s very much what most Anabaptists and Protestants believe today.
We believe that it is appropriate to have pictures of Christ or of dead Christians. But it is inappropriate to address communications through them to Christ or to dead Christians.
Veneration is appropriate in one sense.
Sometimes the Eastern Orthodox point out that “venerate” can simply mean “honor.” Is it wrong to honor the saints, such as through having pictures of them and placing those pictures in places of honor? And if not, then why would other forms of honoring the saints through images be wrong?
Or they might point out that many of us have pictures of departed relatives. Would we consider it wrong to speak to these pictures, or even to kiss these pictures in memory of our relatives? And if not, why would it be wrong to speak to or kiss the images of saints?
This argument is a misunderstanding of the issue. Words can have multiple definitions, and the word “veneration” is no exception. To venerate saints in the sense of honoring and praising them is different from venerating saints in the sense of praying to them. To honor someone by placing their picture in a prominent place is different from trying to communicate to the person through that image.
The key is this: When we see an image of those we love, we don’t think that the image stands in for them; instead, we believe that the image reminds us of them. If I were to speak to a picture of my grandfather, I wouldn’t be assuming that the image plays a mediatorial role. I wouldn’t think that my words will pass on to my grandfather because they were addressed to his image. Instead, I would be voicing the words that I wish I could say to my grandfather.
In contrast, the Eastern Orthodox practice of iconodulia assumes that actions addressed to an image are passed on to the subject of the image. They try to actually communicate with Christ and the saints through their images. That type of veneration is what I’m talking about in this article. That’s the kind of veneration that the early Christians roundly condemned.5I have heard it said that the Eastern Orthodox don’t venerate images; instead, they venerate saints and angels by means of images. This isn’t a historical distinction, but again, I’m responding to the position of those who pray toward material objects and expect to be heard by saints by doing so. If you do that, I’m sorry. But if you don’t do that, I’m glad! You don’t practice iconodulia. If you use images to remind you of saints and angels, but you don’t bow to, pray to, or kiss their images in the expectation that that communication passes on to the person depicted in the image, then I’m not arguing against your practice.
It’s appropriate to use images for many different purposes.
Some Eastern Orthodox Christians try to argue that non-iconodules (those who don’t venerate icons) have a huge burden of proof—if we are saying that early Christian images were merely didactic or merely decorative, we need to show them some good hard evidence for that!
Of course, this is a strawman of our position. In this article series, I’m not assuming that images must only play one particular role. Images can serve many purposes; the early church consensus was only that they must not be venerated. If we have the burden of proof, fine. The historical sources are abundantly clear.
The trouble with these arguments is that images can play all sorts of roles for religious people. The early Christians’ images could easily have ranged from artistic, symbolic, evocative, commemorative, decorative, instructive, didactic, or pious. We don’t need to limit images to just one of these roles; it seems that the Eastern Orthodox are limiting images to primarily being one (for veneration).
I’ve also heard it argued that images will affect our worship either positively or negatively, and that there is no middle ground. Thus, if early Christians had images at all, then they must have used the images in worship.
This is simply a false dilemma. It’s possible for images to aid us in worship without our needing to have the Eastern Orthodox view of veneration. Images can inspire us to remember Christ even if we don’t think that we can pray to Christ and the saints through them. Conversely, it’s also possible to argue that images are not wrong, but that images could be a distraction if they are focused on too much. There are many nuances to this subject.
Furthermore, these objections fail to notice something that is very obvious in pre-Constantinian Christian art. As I show in my article on archaeology, most of the early Christian art consisted of images that even the Eastern Orthodox wouldn’t venerate—such as symbols, animals, Bible stories, and the like. Obviously such art was not venerated. That means that early Christian art obviously filled other roles besides being venerable images. They had very few actual portraits of Christ and the saints, and since we know that many of their images certainly weren’t venerated, it seems quite reasonable to suppose that the few images of the saints weren’t venerated either (although we don’t need to suppose; we have excellent evidence).
I’m not an iconoclast, nor were the pre-Constantinian Christians.
In the 500s to 800s, as the Christian veneration of images grew in strength, a countermovement called “iconoclasm” also developed. The iconoclasts pitted themselves against the iconodules, and many of the iconoclasts destroyed sacred images. Though I agree with the iconoclasts that the veneration of icons is not a legitimate Christian practice, I’m not writing this as an iconoclast.
That’s because I don’t believe in the destruction of others’ property; I follow the apostolic church’s command to nonviolence. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the pre-Constantinian Christians destroyed other people’s images.
But even more importantly, the view I’m putting forward in this series originated hundreds of years before the iconoclastic movement gathered strength. It would be anachronistic to call the pre-Constantinian Christians “iconoclasts.”
Overview of the rest of this series
Now that we’ve clarified the matter at hand, it’s time to take a look at the evidence. Because there’s so much ground to cover, I’ve separated it into several articles, which are linked below.
I invite anyone who is researching Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy to wrestle with this evidence. Ask yourself honestly, “Has the Eastern Orthodox Church maintained the original faith unchanged? Has the Roman Catholic Church stayed true to the apostolic deposit and the consensus of the church?”
My second post deals with the archaeological evidence for early Christian art. Because the evidence from art is more ambiguous, I demonstrate only the more modest claim that evidence from archaeology does not suggest that before Constantine, the veneration of images was a common Christian practice.
Feel free to continue to the second article and, from there, to the third one, and so on. Or, if you are more interested in particular aspects of this debate, feel free to read the overview of the rest of the series, so that you can choose which subjects you want to focus on.
Evidence from Scripture and biblical theology
My third post discusses Scripture and theology. Though Scripture speaks very clearly against the worship of idols, the Eastern Orthodox Church does not intend to worship idols. Does Scripture give us any principles that can help us better understand the veneration of images? I conclude that Scripture seems to oppose iconodulia, though it doesn’t explicitly mention the practice.
The early church’s view of icon veneration
My fourth post digs deeply into the pre-Constantinian evidence—the church fathers before 313. It copiously quotes early Christian texts, and shows very clearly that the consensus of the pre-Constantinian church is against the veneration of images.
Eastern Orthodox arguments
My fifth post discusses some arguments that the Eastern Orthodox and others use in order to maintain their beliefs, in spite of the strong evidence presented in the fourth article. It explains why those objections fail. Since I intend this series to be comprehensive, the fifth article responds to every relevant textual objection that I know of. It also addresses arguments from amateur archaeology.
The evidence that I cite, especially in the fourth and fifth posts, should be enough to convince anyone that the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox position on iconodulia is diametrically opposed to the early Christian position. These churches have taken a 180-degree turn from where they started.
The origins of iconodulia
My sixth post discusses evidence starting from 313 to see how the veneration of images could have arisen. I examine the writings of John Chrysostom and other favorite saints of the Eastern Orthodox, and show that these church fathers did not practice iconodulia. I also sketch out how the veneration of images could have slowly crept into the church.
Is doctrinal development an option?
Since my first six posts show that iconodulia is so obviously a change from the earliest practice, my seventh and final post discusses the possibility that it could be a legitimate change. Of course, the early church repudiated the idea that doctrine could develop from what the apostles delivered to the church. But even if the development of doctrine were a possibility, I show that iconodulia couldn’t meet the criteria proposed by Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox for doctrines that can develop. I also discuss the possibility that iconodulia is not a doctrine at all, and that the church could therefore change it at will.
- 1(Norman P. Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1, Nicaea I to Lateran V, 137-146)
- 3But it is with a different kind of spell that art deludes you, . . . it leads you to pay religious honour and worship to images and pictures. The picture is like. Well and good! Let art receive its meed of praise, but let it not deceive man by passing itself off for truth. (Exhortation to the Heathen 4 ANF)
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. For we are not to delineate the faces of idols, we who are prohibited to cleave to them (The Instructor 3.11)
- 4He criticizes the Valentinians: “Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king.” (Against Heresies 1.8)
- 5I have heard it said that the Eastern Orthodox don’t venerate images; instead, they venerate saints and angels by means of images. This isn’t a historical distinction, but again, I’m responding to the position of those who pray toward material objects and expect to be heard by saints by doing so. If you do that, I’m sorry. But if you don’t do that, I’m glad! You don’t practice iconodulia. If you use images to remind you of saints and angels, but you don’t bow to, pray to, or kiss their images in the expectation that that communication passes on to the person depicted in the image, then I’m not arguing against your practice.