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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The local western Synod of Elvira: Did it really condemn Icons?

Thanks to Perry I now know the true answer to this question. Thanks for the correction!

Energetic Procession

"Apologetics can be cheesy too or perhaps better said, cheesy apologists. Such are the types who toss out references to little known events as evidence for their views without any substantial investigation or argument and without showing any proficiency in the sources that they cite. Unfortunately the Internet is replete with such persons who simply recycle oft repeated claims.

One of these is in reference to the council of Elvira in the late third century/early fourth century. (Its exact date can’t be fixed.) Elvira was a local synod in Spain which put forward 81 canons. Canon 36 is usually trotted out in reference to icons. Rarely is the text of the canon given and almost never analyzed. Sometimes the claim is that Elvira forbade all images. Sometimes the claim is that there was no uninamity regarding the legitimacy images in the early church or similar claims. I don’t think the canon supports either claim.

The canon states,

“It has seemed good that images should not be in churches so that what is venerated and worshipped not be painted on the walls.”

The canon does not prohibit the use of images per se. It does prohibit them on the walls of the church without mentioning other locations either in the church or outside it, say in private homes. The canon also implicitly recognizes that this was practised in the prior period. Probably, there would be no need to pass a canon for a practice that was non-existent. The canon also shows that Christians could distinguish between various forms of representations since it refers to images of figures in Christian theology. The canon does not equate images in the church on walls with images of pagan deities (idols). And the canon has the framework of a minor disciplinary procedure since it carries with it no sanctions or anathama. The language of “it seemed good to us” is prudential. Better safe than sorry. Consequently, the canon is not the carte blanch condemnation of images that many Protestant cheesy apologists like to spin it."

To read the rest please visit Energetic Procession

I knew about this synod back in my protestant years, back when I was still a protestant Iconoclast. But I never knew the full context of it.



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