gious associations, such as images of fish4 birds, shepherdsh or grapevines. Such ¿il may have been like the gilding of slippers. to bor row -L phrase frtint TerUiltim* ."id not especially Troubling by itself.
Notably, however, these were the very torts nf images first adapted for Christian use and perhaps given specific Christian meaning,
V l l111 tttry or so 111lt, A LI l.i r]i ufi vu j 1 t-l-j L i hl- i n.hl I Ii "error* öf the pagans'" thai attacked idolatry in language similar I o these earlier writers, while hinting a I his subsequent construction oí un in earn a-tional theology that would cleric material existence hy its in Korporation into divinitji hsr Alhauasiiisn the definition of idolatry is based less Lin actus] WOrïKip&t SpCCiflí mal liria I ObjeCtS than lin 1 lil' 4.IÍHlr:ii:linE ^tiLi] turning toward earthly pleasures and away frnni divine things. Hum ans who miiülgc their lusts come to linil their g^d.s in material ihinps.inJ,¿M i hey fail lower ind lower» corne to net up idols nude of ordinary and I LT-l--le-is material, deifying the shapes of an i nul h a.<¡ wefl a s ordinary mortals Lind mistaking the image for its model, dragging them even lint her into thé mud nf their vile praiorih tuf. Rom l\22+25).
The true Cod, on the other hand, is incorruptible and cannot he rep-resenled through tir in destructible materials, nor can God appear ici ^.uch exotic diversity of forms. Athanasius, interestingly, also claims that image worship i» condemned l>y sej-jpturtj but he omits a mentían of lilt' Decalogue, Iljnlíiijí instead 1n Ps I 15:4-S ("Their Ídolí art? Silver JTLd gold, ihe work of human hands") and Isa ("All who nuke idols
.ire nmhing----Who would fashion a god or Cast an image [hat can d i)
no good?"}. In addition, At ha ñas i li s m jkts an j r^u nu1 m that wr ursh i pers úf idols actually dishonor the skill of artists, who should be more highly honored tb.lii ib- prihJucts ol their uaii. J lowtver, lie would claim die more skillful the artist, the more likely the image will he seen to sum mon the deity, rather than generate homage [or the maker of thai image. *
Jewish Background for Christian Rejection of Visual Art
We have noted tlut some historians of Christianity iand of Christian art) cite Christianity! Jewish roots as a reason for its apparent reticenee regarding visual art* Such an assumption takes chronologically cuiitem-porary fewish ataiconism for granted, as well as a self-conscious Christian acceptance of this heritage ¿is the basi-h for j. similar an iconic position. Although the preceding review of the documentary evidenee shows thai some second- and third-century Christian condemnation« of idolatry cited the repudiation of graven images in the Ten Commandment (which they did not see as specifically Jewishap:irl from Grigen's argument with Gelsush actual fewiib practice ne^er figured pri.'-doininamly in iheir arguments. In fact, seholars have argued lhal the
Decalogue itself generally played a minor role in Christian theological reflection before the mid-second century and moreover was often misunderstood, abbreviated, or quietly sidelined."
Added to that, the ways that Jews themselves understood the injunction against graven images at this time (or any time) are neither clear nor consistent. The Hebrew Scriptures themselves offer some internal contradictions, if we note that the apparent condemnation of figurative art is shortly followed by vivid descriptions of the cherubim set up in the tabernacle over the mercy seat (E>iod 25:17-22), A bronze serpent healed the Israelites in the wilderness from snakebite (Num 21:8-9), and the figurative decorations of Solomon's temple included lions and oxen as well as cherubim (1 Kings 6-8). Enacting the Decalogue's prohibition of graven images may date no earlier than to the religious reforms of images of King losiah in the seventh century b.c*e.— reforms that may have had political motivations as much as religious purity at heart (2 Kings 23).The iconoclastic destruction of the high places coincided with a centralized juridical and religious power in Jerusalem and its temple. Thus the prohibition came to be understood as prohibiting any sculpted figure that might be taken as an image of a god or Otherwise draw Lhe people of Israel into polytheism (the worship of foreign or multiple gods) and idolatry (the worship of divine images) and away from the exclusive worship of their one, invisible God. No one is allowed to paint or sculpt an image of God according to the book of Deuteronomy, becausc no one actually knows what God looks like (Deut 4:15-18) *
Jews in the Greco-Roman period, like Christians, consistently condemned images associated with other religious cults, especially when they were required to tolerate or even worship those images by foreign occupiers or Roman governors. Such repudiation is evident in the polemic against worshiping Baals and Astartes in judges 2, the humorous description of Bel and Nebo hanging off pack animals in Isaiah 46, or the 1 Maccabees account of Jewish resistance to the desecrations and anti-lewish practices instituted by Antiochus IV Epiphanes* In the first century c.e., Joseplms criticized Solomon for allowing images in the temple, and he records Jewish repudiation of certain kinds of figurative art (including images of living creatures and God), especially their refusal to set up images of [he Roman emperor, which, he explains, was an allowance made by the Romans themselves to the Jews,'1 In his history of the Jewish war, Josephus tells about Jewish riots in opposition to Roman imposition of images of the gods or the effigies of the emperor (busts or portraits attached to the standards). Not only did [ewish law generally forbid figurative images, but these portraits were particularly offensive because the Romans wanted to set them up at particular Jewish holy places. Moreover, he insists, the Romans themselves had granted Jews the right to abide by their ancient religious laws. lake the
V15 \j A.. A P. T. P O RT PL A1T i. A N D IDOL AT R V
liiki Christian aptikjgijil.s, Josephgs .iUo ^ .■ --1 - h-.vi-.li convictions as pi I
allcl to stjund philosophical teachings, that mag« were useless tilings, worths nci[her of humans nor of th e divine JJ
I11ili>-. thé lewish Alexandrian phikistipher, objects tf> figurelive art uneven m tire; sell-cons* ions philosophical terms, Philo's treatise on the Decalogue ¡isserti iliac ihcise hi■ ■ worship |Jit mii'i. m (ion, or o-ihcr heavenly bad Les. are less grievously id error than .1 -ri ïs.;l i : who fashion images oui i^l .■ lL. .siones, t>r prêtions metals, ^ the workmanship of which, either by statuary, ot painter, or artisan, ha.HJtmegn.-ai injury in the lift" nf man," by undercutting the soul's mainstay namely* r11 =.- proper mi M-jimn of the ever-living Cod. The 1 ■ 1 ■■ r iuiiK ih.:.i ihe artisans have deceived with :iiL-ir work misunderstand 1101 only [ht nature o\ God, but also the difference between the creator and llu-obi« 1 of< -■.'.! li^n. Furthermore, they attribute some kind of life or soul to dead and lifeless matter to which the ankt gives shape, lossing the remaining material away for a lesser purpose li ■ mid. lu better, he sa\ k 10 deify the sculpture rather than ihcir statues, or the artisans themselves to worship the» tools or ikei: hands instead ot iheir prod ucts. In another place, Philo descriltes Miw as lar removed as possible rr--: n 1 ¿jiv invention f>f fables and who thinks fil unIy [ci ■.v.ik in the paths of truth i r I r. ' rhe outcome of such resistance to pursuits of ilu- imagination i* lIi.lI he "banished J'rnm ihe constitution, which he has establishedh those celebrated and beautiful arts of statuary and painting, bc< ause they, falsely imitating the nature of the trull:, contrive deceits and snares, in order, through ike medium o 1 die eyes, in beguile the s^uls Inich .u'l.' liable to be easily '.von over/ " Here HhiLo'i negative view of art is detached Irnm ihe prohibition "t 'he ( onimandnients and is bas.ed on its ability In deceive aid seduce naive
Despile Jciscphus's historical record and Philos phi osophical argumentation, archaeological discoveries of the past century have demon strated that Jews of 1 he first several centuries oi the < ornmon Era held varying and sometimes even positive view* of figurative an, even ari made for religious contexts, rhese discoveries have included a variety of media, motifs» and venues: frescos of various birds, animals, or dolphins found in the lewish catacombs of Rome and on sarcophagi figurative motifs : including zodiac figures and représentai ion h of the god I Iclios) found nr. mosaic tloors of synagogues in the i. ialilee between the fourth and sixth centuries^ and, more significant, the mi d-third-ccnlury monumental frescoes filled with figurative painting in the Dura I uropns, synagogue.k I umerlts dated 1 1 these same centuries suggest thai at least ¿Ortie lewisll leaders were (like their Christian counterparts more concerned with tin- practice of idolatry than ^nli the making o\ picinrial an a.s such. 11 iK- urging Jews In avoid contact v,-itS an idolatrous Gentile culture, they took .1 variety of -l.ljih.\- on visual art.
often permití in^ íciv.h ta make and own images ¿o long as they did not worship i J i 111.""" hot evajinple, according t<> thc lerusalem Talmud, the third ccntury Rabbi Johanan apparcntly (ulerated in¡.iLLL-h painted on walls, and Rabbi Ahim pemñtted the niaking of images .ti mosaica Oiher rabbis dearl) considered figurative images dangerous and urged Icmvs lo--lililí them. I sen when wr firtd .i Cihristian reference to fewish .LiikmiiMi".. such as OíLgens <:ited. above, we rru:-st decide whcthcT thi-í was based on ñ-j':nal observaron or only i projection ut .1 uscful assumption,
Tbus, k-]--Ii aniconism i:i the second and third centuries i\e. may 11 .1 v l' Ih-l' 11 mai nly di rec ted .i^.-,i nal lewisli worsh ip of fore 11 i mapos, 11 l i t against visual art in general, nr cven .1 i^.li 1 í.-c enhancing ihe interior* of synagogues ^\:tli Figurative decoration. Il is unlikely» therefore, íhat Christians emulated rheir lewisb neighbors aniconism, Instcad, tarly f hristian motivations lor resisiing figtirílive .iri werí, Like PhiL[>nsN \ h .i | Vs I by philos*iphical arrumen ts jIhh i C Ü dec eptive and dist ratling 11 UlI 1 Lties Ln herent in art or we 1 s: based 11 n concer 11 s thal making or usi 11 £ art would eventually draw the faithful Ln(o thc idoLatry a-ssociated wiih
íurrnunding culture. I he early apologists present Christianity as ,1:1 intellectuaLLy and spirituall) enlightened faith, and they clearly hoped ihal their arguments would appeal to thc scnsibiLities ni .1 philusophi-ca 11 v -.11 ph isticated .L1 i l"I i en cc. They taiuLd easiLy 11 ave bel i l1 \ themsel ves on fairly safe ground attaeldng images as iliusory and even dangerous, -.in. l- í hí- rcs[ ti'iK- reek > .l^l^ ^seii i i a 11 y ag reed wilh l 1. "
[n . ■ ■ 1 ^ ntithijr cnrictrns for ohserving llu- I1il1lif.1l command ment against iinagea ñor awareness ofthe phiLusuphical ■- rii ¡l|iil- oí imitative art seenied to have daunted the individuáis who first decorated the walls 111 Tul- Christian catacombs ir thc earJy ibird century.The -lnl-sans and their chents did not underrtand what [hey wene doing -jiS ii.ln¡-atry,probably because the worknot inlended,designed,01 so as lo attract a ti y kind of worship. It was not like the fashioningof of the pagan gods, íhc images rh-.-y crealcd were ensentially btilii", narrative, oí tliiijL.ii-, und not likeh to be mistaken foi idols nor invite worship
Thenefore, r. seetins reasonable to conclude that ifí "hristiansbegan t" inake and ii\c significant ancharacteristic visual art oí their own amund i! 1L- begittrting Ull1 third ceiiLm v it not because most first and second-ccntury ( hristians ^-ere gcnerally iwnophobieor un.Lin-jhíhi^ in tlu-ir views on the mattei of imagen, Once tliís art began to appear, ii liecame imtnenseh popular and ¡nfluential, n was widely dispersed and copied by others, first ncar.iiKl then far. M l he sanie time> wc know 1h.1i L iiurJi ^iJihíiriiies h.ul a continuiog concern with ch^ probleni ofidolatry, not identiñed with the tnaking of images but per-hapí related to it, Art, in particular an made \or religiouí cootestj wa¿ soniething that, while permissible, required management and control to ensure Lhat iL was understood in its proper sense. In other words, it should include only appropriate images (extluding certain forbidden fines) and be ¡is different from a pagan idn[ as possible.
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