By Greg Stolze

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Or, how could Solomon decorate the Temple with images of plants, animals, humans and 8 even angels if God prohibited the depiction of any images? Furthermore, how could a Jewish synagogue at Dura-Europos be decorated with narrative scenes of the Old 9 Testament if the second commandment strictly forbade all religious art? Indeed, the 7 See Paul Corby Finney, The Invisible God, 7 – 10 for an overview of this argument and its proponents, including Adolf von Harnack’s student Hugo Koch whose work has influenced so many prominent scholars such as Walter Elliger, Edwin Bevan, Hans von Campenhausen, Norman Baynes, and Ernst Kitzinger.

53 Martin, History of Iconoclastic Controversy, 110. 31 while there were admittedly many contributing factors to the outbreak of the controversy, as outlined above, there were in fact particular ideas and theological arguments undergirding the two sides of the debate. Therefore, to view the theological contours of the controversy as a mere surface issue, or to dismiss them as completely irrelevant is simply an oversight of the obvious. ” Indeed, in order to understand the eighth- and ninth-century debate over icons it is necessary to trace both the heritage and the controversy over art from the birth of Christianity through the catacombs and up to the rising popularity of icons in the sixth and seventh centuries.

The Platonic tradition had always understood material images as representations of the eternal forms. As a result, intellectuals such as Celsus, Porphyry, and even Julian, developed the Neo-Platonic tradition by articulating a system in which the visible images were merely a means to the higher world of invisible realities, thereby 15 creating access to the prototype. Thus understood, the object of worship was not the image or statue itself, but rather the deity it symbolized. Such a view, however, created a paradoxical situation.

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