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Thread: Duplicity of Iconophiles in the Byzantine church

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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Duplicity of Iconophiles in the Byzantine church

    So I'm a huge podcast listener, and one of my favorite podcasts is the History of Byzantium by Robin Pierson, which, if you're familiar with historical podcasts, is the successor of the hugely popular History of Rome podcast by Mike Duncan.

    In the podcast, which, as far as I can tell, is secular and denominationally unbiased, Pierson brings up the point that the use of icons, especially the portable ones and their dissemination in the church and home, is mostly an innovation of the late 7th century. He doesn't deny that there existed earlier examples of religious iconography before this period, but that their widespread proliferation and cultural acceptance didn't exist till much later.

    But one of the most interesting points made in the podcast is that, to argue their points for the use of icons in the ecumenical councils that followed, iconophiles would regularly forge, alter and interpolate earlier church writings to make it appear as though iconography was a very common and regular ancient church practice. Apparently this didn't convince many people during the first iconoclast period, but by the time the second iconoclast period the forgeries met less resistance.

    Pierson uses a number of sources for his podcast, but it appears much of his reference material on the iconoclast period comes from the book, "Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, c. 680-850: A History" by scholars of Byzantium, Leslie Brubaker (University of Birmingham) and John Haldon (Princeton). So, for instance,


    Source: Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, C. 680-850: A History by Leslie Brubaker, John Haldon, Cambridge University Press, 2011

    There is thus little support for a 'cult of sacred images' in pre-iconoclast Byzantium. The textual and the material evidence agree that sacred portraits existed, but there is no indication that these images received special veneration in any consistent fashion before the late seventh century. In texts that assuredly date before c. 680, sacred images were identified and described; they are present but passive when saints perform miracles; and they allow people to identify saints whom they have seen in dreams or visions. By the second half of the sixth century they can be miraculously produced acheiropoieta (like the Edessa image); and by the end of the century they have assumed the old role of Roman palladia, protecting a city from assault. Little then seems to have changed for a century: even were all the apparently interpolated texts that refer to images actual seventh-century creations, there would be very few references to sacred portraits at all, and the sacred portrait would remain far less important than relics or visions as a means of accessing holy presence.

    . . .

    It is during the last decades of the seventh century that holy portraits seem to have been absorbed into the cult of saints, and to have become widely recognized as mediators between humanity and divinity. But while the balance of the evidence suggests that the holy portrait assumed this responsibility by the end of the seventh century, the theology and codification of its roles surfaced only during the debates between iconoclasts and iconophiles during the eighth century. What we might legitimately call a cult of images did not lead to iconoclasm; it was generated by the discourse of the debate about iconoclasm itself. In this context, the iconoclasts of 754 were right when they condemned image veneration as an innovation that ran counter to the venerable traditions of the church: holy portraits were not new, but their magnified role was an ongoing contemporary development and their veneration was a recent phenomenon.

    © Copyright Original Source



    They go on and talk about a number of case examples of documents that were fabricated or interpolated by iconophiles to spin the facts in their favor.

    Below, I believe, is where the podcast starts getting into the subject of icons, and it carries on for a number of episodes afterwards,
    https://thehistoryofbyzantium.com/20...71-iconoclasm/
    Last edited by Adrift; 07-15-2016 at 06:01 PM.

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    tWebber Spartacus's Avatar
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    I took a class on early Christian art and architecture in college. One of the assigned readings was of a sermon celebration the addition of icons the the Hagia Sophia; the sermon called it the restoration of icons, but the church wasn't built with icons in mind and didn't have them at any point prior to the "restoration."

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    Must...have...caffeine One Bad Pig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    So I'm a huge podcast listener, and one of my favorite podcasts is the History of Byzantium by Robin Pierson, which, if you're familiar with historical podcasts, is the successor of the hugely popular History of Rome podcast by Mike Duncan.

    In the podcast, which, as far as I can tell, is secular and denominationally unbiased, Pierson brings up the point that the use of icons, especially the portable ones and their dissemination in the church and home, is mostly an innovation of the late 7th century. He doesn't deny that there existed earlier examples of religious iconography before this period, but that their widespread proliferation and cultural acceptance didn't exist till much later.

    But one of the most interesting points made in the podcast is that, to argue their points for the use of icons in the ecumenical councils that followed, iconophiles would regularly forge, alter and interpolate earlier church writings to make it appear as though iconography was a very common and regular ancient church practice. Apparently this didn't convince many people during the first iconoclast period, but by the time the second iconoclast period the forgeries met less resistance.

    Pierson uses a number of sources for his podcast, but it appears much of his reference material on the iconoclast period comes from the book, "Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, c. 680-850: A History" by scholars of Byzantium, Leslie Brubaker (University of Birmingham) and John Haldon (Princeton). So, for instance,


    Source: Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, C. 680-850: A History by Leslie Brubaker, John Haldon, Cambridge University Press, 2011

    There is thus little support for a 'cult of sacred images' in pre-iconoclast Byzantium. The textual and the material evidence agree that sacred portraits existed, but there is no indication that these images received special veneration in any consistent fashion before the late seventh century. In texts that assuredly date before c. 680, sacred images were identified and described; they are present but passive when saints perform miracles; and they allow people to identify saints whom they have seen in dreams or visions. By the second half of the sixth century they can be miraculously produced acheiropoieta (like the Edessa image); and by the end of the century they have assumed the old role of Roman palladia, protecting a city from assault. Little then seems to have changed for a century: even were all the apparently interpolated texts that refer to images actual seventh-century creations, there would be very few references to sacred portraits at all, and the sacred portrait would remain far less important than relics or visions as a means of accessing holy presence.

    . . .

    It is during the last decades of the seventh century that holy portraits seem to have been absorbed into the cult of saints, and to have become widely recognized as mediators between humanity and divinity. But while the balance of the evidence suggests that the holy portrait assumed this responsibility by the end of the seventh century, the theology and codification of its roles surfaced only during the debates between iconoclasts and iconophiles during the eighth century. What we might legitimately call a cult of images did not lead to iconoclasm; it was generated by the discourse of the debate about iconoclasm itself. In this context, the iconoclasts of 754 were right when they condemned image veneration as an innovation that ran counter to the venerable traditions of the church: holy portraits were not new, but their magnified role was an ongoing contemporary development and their veneration was a recent phenomenon.

    © Copyright Original Source



    They go on and talk about a number of case examples of documents that were fabricated or interpolated by iconophiles to spin the facts in their favor.

    Below, I believe, is where the podcast starts getting into the subject of icons, and it carries on for a number of episodes afterwards,
    https://thehistoryofbyzantium.com/20...71-iconoclasm/
    Is there a typo in there? 680 is rather AFTER the sixth century.
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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    Is there a typo in there? 680 is rather AFTER the sixth century.
    Nope. Not a typo. They're referring to sacred imagery before c. 680.

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