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Veneration of Images and Idolatry

Marcus Minucius Felix 190 A.D.

But do you think that we conceal what we worship, if we have not temples and altars? And yet what image of God shall I make, since, if you think rightly, man himself is the image of God? What temple shall I build to Him, when this whole world fashioned by His work cannot receive Him?And when I, a man, dwell far and wide, shall I shut up the might of so great majesty within one little building? Were it not better that He should be dedicated in our mind, consecrated in our inmost heart? Shall I offer victims and sacrifices to the Lord, such as He has produced for my use, that I should throw back to Him His own gift? It is ungrateful when the victim fit for sacrifice is a good disposition, and a pure mind, and a sincere judgment. Therefore he who cultivates innocence supplicates God; he who cultivates justice makes offerings to God; he who abstains from fraudulent practices propitiates God; he who snatches man from danger slaughters the most acceptable victim. These are our sacrifices, these are our rites of God’s worship; thus, among us, he who is most just is he who is most religious. But certainly the God whom we worship we neither show nor see. – Octavius (Minucius Felix)

Arnobius 225 – 330 A.D.

For you are here in the habit of fastening upon us a very serious charge of impiety because we do not rear temples for the ceremonies of worship, do not set up statues and images of any god, do not build altars, do not offer the blood of creatures slain in sacrifices, incense, nor sacrificial meal, and finally, do not bring wine flowing in libations from sacred bowls –  Against the Heathen, Book IV

Origen 185–254 A.D:

For what reasonable man can refrain from smiling when he sees that one who has learned from philosophy such profound and noble sentiments about God or the gods, turns straightway to images and offers to them his prayers, or imagines that by gazing upon these material things he can ascend from the visible symbol to that which is spiritual and immaterial. But a Christian, even of the common people, is assured that every place forms part of the universe, and that the whole universe is God’s temple. – Contra Celsus, Book VI, Chapter XLIV

And let not Celsus be angry if we describe as lame and mutilated in soul those who run to the temples as to places having a real sacredness and who cannot see that no mere mechanical work of man can be truly sacred – ibid, Contra Celsus, Book VI, Chapter LII

…so in the same way with those who cannot allow in the worship of the Divine Being altars, or temples, or images. The Scythians, the Nomadic Libyans, the godless Seres, and the Persians, agree in this with the Christians and Jews, but they are actuated by very different principles. For none of these former abhor altars and images on the ground that they are afraid of degrading the worship of God, and reducing it to the worship of material things wrought by the hands of men. Neither do they object to them from a belief that the demons choose certain forms and places, whether because they are detained there by virtue of certain charms, or because for some other possible reason they have selected these haunts, where they may pursue their criminal pleasures, in partaking of the smoke of sacrificial victims. But Christians and Jews have regard to this command, You shall fear the Lord your God, and serve Him alone; and this other, You shall have no other gods before Me: you shall not make unto you any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them; and again, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve. It is in consideration of these and many other such commands, that they (Christians) not only avoid temples, altars, and images, but are ready to suffer death when it is necessary, rather than debase by any such impiety the conception which they have of the Most High God. – ibid,  Contra Celsus, Book VI, Chapter LXIV

….although they were condemned to death or held up to ridicule by those who, in ignorance of what true religion is, give that name to what deserves to be called anything rather than religion. God doubtless saw the pride and arrogance of those who, with contempt for all others, boast of their knowledge of God, and of their profound acquaintance with divine things obtained from philosophy, but who still, not less even than the most ignorant, run after their images, and temples, and famous mysteries; and seeing this, He has chosen the foolish things of this world — the simplest of Christians, who lead, however, a life of greater moderation and purity than many philosophers— to confound the wise, who are not ashamed to address inanimate things as gods or images of the gods. For what reasonable man can refrain from smiling when he sees that one who has learned from philosophy such profound and noble sentiments about God or the gods, turns straightway to images and offers to them his prayers, or imagines that by gazing upon these material things he can ascend from the visible symbol to that which is spiritual and immaterial. But a Christian, even of the common people, is assured that every place forms part of the universe, and that the whole universe is God’s temple. – ibid

And let not Celsus be angry if we describe as lame and mutilated in soul those who run to the temples as to places having a real sacredness and who cannot see that no mere mechanical work of man can be truly sacred – ibid

But Christians and Jews have regard to this command, You shall fear the Lord your God, and serve Him alone; and this other, You shall have no other gods before Me: you shall not make unto you any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them; and again, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve. It is in consideration of these and many other such commands, that they not only avoid temples, altars, and images, but are ready to suffer death when it is necessary, rather than debase by any such impiety the conception which they have of the Most High God. – ibid

Note: Origen has some heretical notions, thus his quotations should not be taken on the same level as that of the other Church Fathers. Origen in fact is not considered a Church Father by most, if not all,  Apostolic Churches. 

Hyppolytus 170 – 235 A.D.

The disciples, then, of this (Magus), celebrate magical rites, and resort to incantations. And (they profess to) transmit both love-spells and charms, and the demons said to be senders of dreams, for the purpose of distracting whomsoever they please. But they also employ those denominated Paredroi. “And they have an image of Simon (fashioned) into the figure of Jupiter, and (an image) of Helen in the form of Minerva; and they pay adoration to these.” But they call the one Lord and the other Lady. And if any one amongst them, on seeing the images of either Simon or Helen, would call them by name, he is cast off, as being ignorant of the mysteries. -Refutation of All Heresies, Book VI, Chapters XIV-XV  Note: this one is an example of an early proto-type for Icons and Images of Jesus and Mary showing a Gnostic Origin for these images.

The disciples, then, of this (Magus), celebrate magical rites, and resort to incantations. And (they profess to) transmit both love-spells and charms, and the demons said to be senders of dreams, for the purpose of distracting whomsoever they please. But they also employ those denominated Paredroi. “And they have an image of Simon (fashioned) into the figure of Jupiter, and (an image) of Helen in the form of Minerva; and they pay adoration to these.” But they call the one Lord and the other Lady. And if any one amongst them, on seeing the images of either Simon or Helen, would call them by name, he is cast off, as being ignorant of the mysteries. -ibid

Tertullian 160 – 220 A.D.

…it makes no difference whether a molder cast, a carver grave, or an embroiderer weave the idol; … since even without an idol idolatry is committed, when the idol is there it makes no difference of what kind it be, of what material, or what shape.- On Idolatriy III

If we refuse our homage to statues and frigid images, the very counterpart of their dead originals, with which hawks, and mice, and spiders are so well acquainted, does it not merit praise instead of penalty [Christians were punished for not worshiping Roman gods] that we have rejected what we have come to see is error? We cannot surely be made out to injure those whom we are certain are nonentities. What does not exist is in its nonexistence secure from suffering. – Apology XII

Even at this day [idolatry] can be practised outside a temple and without an idol. But when the devil introduced into the world craftsmen of statues, of images, and of every kind of likenesses, that former rude business of human disaster attained from idols both a name and a development. From then on every art which in any way produces an idol instantly became a fount of idolatry. For it makes no difference whether a molder cast, a carver grave, or an embroiderer weave the idol; … since even without an idol idolatry is committed, when the idol is there it makes no difference of what kind it be, of what material, or what shape; lest any should think that only that which is consecrated in human shape should be called an idol. – ibid, On Idolatry III

Enoch had preceded, predicting that “the demons, and the spirits of the angelic apostates, would turn into idolatry all the elements, all the garniture of the universe, all things contained in the heaven, in the sea, in the earth, that they might be consecrated as God, in opposition to God.” All things, therefore, does human error worship, except the Founder of all Himself. All things, therefore, does human error worship, except the Founder of all Himself. The images of those things are idols; the consecration of the images is idolatry. Whatever guilt idolatry incurs, must necessarily be imputed to every artificer of every idol. In short, the same Enoch fore-condemns in general menace both idol-worshippers and idol-makers together.- ibid

We know that the names of the dead are nothing, as are their images; but we know well enough, too, who, when images are set up, under these names carry on their wicked work, and exult in the homage rendered to them, and pretend to be divine—none other than spirits accursed, than devils. We see, therefore, that the arts also are consecrated to the service of the beings who dwell in the names of their founders; and that things cannot be held free from the taint of idolatry whose inventors have got a place among the gods for their discoveries. Nay, as regards the arts, we ought to have gone further back, and barred all further argument by the position that the demons, predetermining in their own interests from the first, among other evils of idolatry, the pollutions of the public shows, with the object of drawing man away from his Lord and binding him to their own service, carried out their purpose by bestowing on him the artistic gifts which the shows require. For none but themselves would have made provision and preparation for the objects they had in view; nor would they have given the arts to the world by any but those in whose names, and images, and histories they set up for their own ends the artifice of consecration. -ibid

Offerings to propitiate the dead then were regarded as belonging to the class of funeral sacrifices, and these are idolatry. Idolatry, in fact, is a sort of homage to the departed, the one as well as the other is a service to dead men. Moreover, demons dwell in the images of the dead. … this sort of exhibition has passed from honors of the dead to honors of the living; I mean, to quaestorships [financial overseers]and magistractes, to priestly offices of different kinds. Yet, since idolatry still cleaves to the dignity’s name, whatever is done in its name partakes of its impurity. -ibid,  The Shows, Chapter XII.

Note: Tertullian, like Origen,  has some heretical notions, thus his quotations should not be taken on the same level as that of the other Church Fathers. Tertullian likewise is no considered a Church Father by most, if not all,  Apostolic Churches. 

Justin Martyr 160 A.D.

We have strayed from the Immortal’s ways And worship with a dull and senseless mind Idols, the workmanship of our own hands, And images and figures of dead men. – Apology

Irenaeus 180 A.D.

Others of them employ outward marks … They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted and others formed from different kinds of material. They maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world, such as Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest. They have also other modes of honoring these images just like the Gentiles. – Against Heresies

Clement of Alexandria 195 A.D.

For, in truth, an image is only dead matter shaped by the craftsman’s hand. But we have no sensible image of sensible matter, but an image that is perceived by the mind alone: God, who alone is truly God. – Exhortation to the Heathen

But it is with a different kind of spell that art deludes you … it leads you to pay religious honor and worship to images and pictures. – ibid, Exhortation to the Heathen

And let our seals be either a dove, a fish, a ship scudding before the wind, or a musical lyre, which Polycrates used, or a ship’s anchor, which Seleucus got engraved as a device. Then, if someone is fishing, he will remember the apostle and the children drawn out of the water. For we are not to delineate the faces of idols, we who are prohibited to cleave to them; nor a sword, nor a bow, since we follow peace; nor drinking cups, being temperate [meaning avoiding drunkenness, not drinking, as Clement recommends wine for those older than youth]. -ibid, The Instructor

The law itself exhibits justice and teaches wisdom by abstinence from sensible images and by calling out to the Maker and Father of the universe.- ibid, Miscellanies Chapter XVIII

And again, “Don’t wear a ring, nor engrave on it the images of the gods,” enjoins Pythagoras. This is as Moses ages before enacted expressly, that neither a graven, molten, molded, nor painted likeness should be made, so that we may not cleave to tangible things, but instead move on to intellectual objects. For familiarity with the sight disparages the reverence of what is divine. And to worship that which is not material with matter is to dishonor it by sensation. Therefore the wisest of the Egyptian priests decided that the temple of Athene should be hypaethral [open air, roofless], just as the Hebrews constructed the temple without an image. – ibid, Miscellanies V

He who prohibited the making of a graven image would never himself have made an image in the likeness of holy things [i.e., by creating an image of them here on earth]. Nor is there at all any composite thing or creature endowed with sensation [made by God here on earth] like those in heaven. But the face is a symbol of the rational soul, the wings are the lofty ministers and energies of powers right and left, and the voice is delightful glory in endless contemplation. -ibid, Miscellanies V

Now the images and temples constructed by mechanics are made of inert matter, so that they too are inert, material, and profane. Even if you perfect the art, it partakes of mechanical coarseness. Works of art cannot then be sacred and divine. – ibid,  Miscellanies VII

Arnobius 225 – 330 A.D.

Having shown briefly how impious and infamous are the opinions which you have formed about your gods, we have now to speak of their temples, their images also, and sacrifices, and of the other things which are nailed and closely related to them. For you are here in the habit of fastening upon us a very serious charge of impiety because we do not rear temples for the ceremonies of worship, do not set up statues and images of any god, do not build altars, do not offer the blood of creatures slain in sacrifices, incense, nor sacrificial meal, and finally, do not bring wine flowing in libations from sacred bowls

Lactantius 240 -320 A.D.

—but with a pure mind and with a good and honourable purpose. TEMPLES ARE NOT TO BE BUILT TO HIM WITH STONES PILED UP ON HIGH; HE IS TO BE CONSECRATED BY EACH MAN IN HIS OWN BREAST.” Therefore, if any one thinks that GARMENTS AND JEWELS AND OTHER THINGS WHICH ARE ESTEEMED PRECIOUS, ARE VALUED BY GOD, HE IS ALTOGETHER IGNORANT OF WHAT GOD IS, SINCE HE THINKS that those things ARE PLEASING TO HIM WHICH EVEN A MAN WOULD BE JUSTLY PRAISED FOR DESPISING. What, then, is pure, what is worthy of God, but that which He Himself has demanded in that divine law of His?…

There are two things which ought to be offered, the gift and the sacrifice; the gift as a perpetual offering, the sacrifice for a time. But with those who by no means understand the nature of the Divine Being, a gift is anything which is wrought of gold or silver; likewise anything which is woven of purple and silk: a sacrifice is a victim, and as many things as are burnt upon the altar. But God does not make use either of the one or the other, because He is free from corruption, and that is altogether corruptible. Therefore, in each case, that which is incorporeal must be offered to God, for He accepts this. His OFFERING IS INNOCENCE OF THE SOUL; His sacrifice PRAISE AND A HYMN. For if God IS NOT SEEN, He ought therefore TO BE WORSHIPPED WITH THINGS WHICH ARE NOT SEEN. Therefore NO OTHER RELIGION IS TRUE BUT THAT WHICH CONSIST OF VIRTUE AND JUSTICE….

Also in that perfect discourse, when he heard Asclepius inquiring from his son whether it pleased him THAT INCENSE AND ODOURS for divine sacrifice were offered to his father, exclaimed: “Speak words of good omen, O Asclepius. For it is the GREATEST IMPIETY TO ENTERTAIN ANY SUCH THOUGHT CONCERNING THAT BEING OF PRE-EMINENT GOODNESS. For these things, and things resembling these, ARE NO ADAPTED TO HIM. FOR HE IS FULL OF ALL THINGS, AS MANY AS EXIST, AND HE HAS NEED OF NOTHING AT ALL. But let us give Him thanks, and adore Him. For His sacrifice CONSIST ONLY OF BLESSING” And he spoke rightly…..

For we ought to SACRIFICE TO GOD IN WORD; inasmuch as God is the Word, as He Himself confessed. Therefore the chief ceremonial in the WORSHIP OF GOD IS PRAISE FROM THE MOUTH OF A JUST MAN DIRECTED TOWARDS GOD….That this, however, may be accepted by God, there is need of humility, and fear, and devotion in the greatest degree, lest any one should chance to place confidence in his integrity and innocence, and thus incur the charge of pride and arrogance, and by this deed lose the recompense of his virtue -Lactantius

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