John of Damascus: In Defense of Icons, c. 730
The Iconoclastic controversy lasted from 726, when Emperor Leo III (717-741) began an attack on
the use of religious images, until 843 when The Empress Theodora allowed their restoration. The
two periods of Iconoclasm were separated by the reign of the iconodule Empress Irene, under
whom the Second Council of Nicea 787 was held. Although politics, and especially the politics of
church and state were involved, there were serious theological issues at stake. A number of defenses
of Icons were made: based on the existence of Divinely approved images in nature and Scripture;
based on the reality of the incarnation; and based on a Platonic metaphysics of ascending images
which participated in the prototype. The first two defenses are here presented in the first reading;
the Platonic defense in second. Both were written by the Icons’ most distinguished proponent, St.
John of Damascus (c.675-c.749), John was able to write freely since lived under Muslim rule
outside the boundaries of the Byzantine emperor. In this century plus discussion of art, we find one
of the most searching investigations into the nature of art in “western” culture before the Italian
from On Holy Images (c. 730)
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