In the 8th Century, when the iconoclastic controversy erupted, Christians began destroying religious imagery of all types. In the first-ever translation of these remarkable discourses today entitled Three Treatises on the Divine Images, St John of Damascus defends the use of religious imagery in worship by arguing that icons and other religious images are not idols, but merely windows that point us toward a greater heavenly reality. Much like the Holy Scriptures, it is not the printed book itself that is hallowed but the life-changing message of God's truth contained within the pages that we hold sacred.
Further, John of Damascus argues that the Old Testament offers many instances where imagery was not only venerated, but commanded by God for our use--the bronze serpent on Moses' staff, the engraved tablets of the Ten Commandments, or the Ark of the Covenant. In each of these instances, the images were not worshipped, but merely revered.
Lastly, John teaches that when God became incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ, he effectively delivered an image of Himself to all of humanity. To deny the use of images in worship then, is to deny the Incarnation itself. In all, these seminal treatises of St John were so effective that they were the primary texts used at the Seventh Ecumenical Council to defend the use of iconography in churches and houses of worship.
About the Popular Patristics Series
The Popular Patristics series published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press provides readable and accurate translations of a broad range of early Christian literature to a wide audience--from students of Christian history to lay Christians reading for spiritual benefit.
Recognized Patristic scholars provide short but comprehensive and clear introductory essays according to their specializations for each volume.
Texts include classics of Christian literature, thematic volumes, homily collections, letters, spiritual guidance, and poetical works from a wide variety geographical contexts and historical backgrounds. The purpose of the series is to mine the riches of the early church and to make these invaluable writings available to all.
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