Theodore the Studite: A Dogmatic Epistle on the Holy Icons


Saint Theodore the Studite, Icons, Iconoclasm, Pappas Patristic Institute

Letter 380, To Naukratios


Translated by Fr Maximos Constas and Dr Tikhon Pino


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Introduction


Theodore the Studite, b. 759 – d. 11 November 826, was a theologian, monastic reformer, and the abbot of the Stoudios Monastery in Constantinople. Born to a wealthy and socially connected family, his father was an official of the imperial treasury, his mother was from a senatorial family, and one of her cousins became the second wife of Constantine VI (sed. 780-797). Following his example, most of his family members became monks and nuns. Under his direction, the Stoudios monastery became a major center of social and cultural change. As a monastic reformer, Theodore’s aim was to free monastic life from government influence and control. A zealous opponent of Iconoclasm, he spent more than fifteen years in exile largely for his defense of the holy icons, and was given the title of Confessor of the Faith. He was also a prolific writer. Among his works are three Refutations of the Iconoclasts; a Small and Great Catechesis; more than a dozen homilies on various feasts and saints; a funeral oration for his mother; and a celebrated Paschal Homily incorporating the Paschal Homily of St John Chrysostom. He also wrote numerous rules and regulations concerning monastic life, and a large number of poems, hymns and canons, including the first canon in the Theotokarion, as well as more than 500 letters, many of which are important theological treatises. His last words were: “Keep your faith unshaken and your life pure.”


The letter translated below, Letter 380: To Naukratios, is dated to 818, when Theodore was an exile in Anatolia.[1] The monk Naukratios was Theodore’s disciple and future successor; at the time he was the steward (οἰκονόμος) of the Studios Monastery. Along with letter 57 (to his uncle Plato), letter 380 is in many ways an epitome of Theodore’s icon theology and was recognized as such by at least one Byzantine editor, who in one of the manuscripts identified it as an ἐπιστολὴ δογματικὴ περὶ τῶν ἁγίων εἰκόνων (“a dogmatic letter on the holy icons”). It has been translated below to offer readers and students of theology an idiomatic English version of the text.[2]

 

To my Son Naukratios (Ep. 380)


I rejoice in you, Naukratios my brother, for you are truly the son of my joy, which means that you have suffered for Christ, for what could be more joyous or glorious than this? In imitation of Christ, you were scourged; you were dragged from one prison cell to another; and you were delivered into the hands of the impious John,[3] with whom I also had to contend. And though he attacked you vehemently, you did not weaken or equivocate in your beliefs, but to the contrary you resisted that foolish-minded man and responded to him with a severe rebuke, which made me rejoice greatly and filled me with gladness. May the Lord continue to help you in whatever may befall you in the days ahead! You informed me that, during your interrogation, and in his efforts to undermine the holy icons, he brought forward arguments from Asterios,[4] Epiphanios,[5] and Theodotos.[6] I therefore consider it necessary to refute these arguments, even if it will extend the length of my letter.


According to Asterios, “One must not depict an image of Christ, since the one humiliation of his embodiment, which he accepted to undergo willingly for our sake, was sufficient; instead, you should bear the bodiless Word spiritually in your soul.”[7] One wonders, however, why he is opposed to making an image of Christ, saying that the “first humiliation of his embodiment was sufficient,” as if it were an inglorious, one-time thing that happened in the past, and Christ wanted to avoid a second portrayal (i.e., in an icon) of his humiliation. But how could the Word’s embodiment be inglorious if it was voluntary, seeing that whatever is voluntary is glorious and has nothing of the lack of glory found in what is involuntary? If this is not the case, and the icon of Christ is, as he says, a “second” humiliation, how could it be “second” if the image shows us the very likeness of the first humiliation?


And how would he avoid repudiating the recollection of Christ’s Passion, which the written account offers to our hearing, if he denigrates the recollection by sight for being a replication of the event? For seeing and hearing are equal capacities, each one working in conjunction with the other, as the divine mouth, Basil the Great, has declared. Consider, for example, that a second image of the one cross is another cross, which is also true of the Gospel. And since both are reproduced and copied continuously, there are countless crosses and countless Gospels, and not simply one! At the same time, there is only one cross, and not another, even if it is reproduced thousands of times. And there is only one Gospel, and not another, even if innumerable copies of it exist. And there is one Christ, not two or more, even if, in the same way, his form is reproduced in countless images. When Christ is depicted in an icon, it is as if he is being described in Scripture, and our hearing is never sated with the sound of him; neither can our eyes ever be filled with seeing him, because we are hearing and seeing God who became man; the eternal one who appeared on earth as a child; the one who sustains the universe drinking milk from his mother; the one who cannot be contained being contained in her arms; the one who is beyond divinity and yet became man; the Depth of Wisdom immersed in the water of baptism, doing the things that are proper both to God and to man, though he is beyond all essence and being; the Lord of glory nailed to the cross; the life of the world buried and resurrected; he whom the universe cannot contain assumed into heaven as man.


Let the confused Asterios, then, cease to forbid and argue against the salvific portrayal of Christ in these two forms (i.e., images and words), that is, let him cease thinking that the glory of the Lord is dishonorable,[8] and that his voluntary humiliation was involuntary. And let him cease, furthermore, from placing himself in opposition to Basil the Great, whose voice—which is the voice of God—commands the following: “Let Christ, who presides over our struggles, be depicted in an icon.”[9] And let what Asterios affirms also be excluded from the company of the saints together with what he seeks to deny, since they are equally illogical and absurd: “You should bear the bodiless Word spiritually in your soul.” What madness is this? What mouth of any saint ever said that the Word was incorporeal after he became flesh? While the Apostle Paul did not continue to call Christ “flesh,” he did not say that the Word is now bodiless. According to Gregory the Theologian, the words: “Though we once regarded Christ after the flesh, we do so no longer” (2 Cor 5:16), mean that we no longer regard Christ as subject to fleshly passions such as ours, even if without sin. And elsewhere Gregory says, “no longer according to the ‘flesh,’ but neither ‘incorporeal’.”[10] Thus, anyone who says that after the Incarnation the Word is “without a body” contradicts not only these two Fathers but all the holy and God-bearing Fathers and teachers of the Church.


Thus it has been demonstrated that one illogical statement naturally follows from another. Having overthrown their lies, then, let us proceed to present the truth. How might you be able to do this? By depicting Christ in an image wherever it is necessary, and to do so while having him dwelling in your heart, so that when reading him in a book or seeing him in an image, he will be known through these two senses and illumine your mind in a twofold manner. In this way, the same one whom you learned about and came to know through your sense of hearing, you will likewise come to see and know with your eyes. For when in this manner he is heard and seen, God cannot but be glorified, and the pious man cannot but be moved to compunction—and what could be more salvific than this, and what can draw one nearer to God? Thus we who are nothing and of no account understand the truth in this way, even though some of our holy Fathers before us attempted to explain the matter at hand in another manner.


Having dealt with the views of Asterios, what are the views of Epiphanios?[11] “Your reverence will understand,” he says, “whether it is proper for us to depict God in colors.”[12] But look at this purveyor of lies! He did not say “Christ”—to whom we refer when we speak of the possibility of circumscription (in an image), and whom we affirm at the same time to be beyond circumscription, since here it is a question of indicating each of his two natures—but he says that we make “depictions of God,” stripping the Lord of his human nature (after the manner of the Manichaeans) and putting forward a naked God—and he says this in order to compel the hearer by the absurdity of the proposition. And indeed, it is truly foolish and irrational to speak of a “visible God,” since Scripture says that “no one has ever seen God”. And to the extent that he is both God and visible, the Only-Begotten Son “has made him known” (John 1:18). But it is obvious that a God naked of humanity has never been seen by anyone, but inasmuch as the Only-Begotten is not naked of humanity after he became flesh, then it follows that he is visible and can be seen. And thus, the Holy Apostle proclaimed: “God appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was proclaimed among the nations, was believed in throughout the world, and was assumed in glory” (1 Tim 3:16). The words “in the flesh” must be applied to each declaration in common, because the first formula is a kind of foundation not only for what follows but of all the human properties assumed in the Incarnation. Thus, just as God “appeared” in the flesh, so it was with all the other things that were just mentioned (for without being ‘in the flesh,’ he could not appear or be assumed), so too in the flesh he was nourished with milk, grew in age, walked on two feet, sweated in agony, and spoke with his tongue, along with every other activity of this kind.


If, then, these things are so, and if one of the properties of the body is circumscription, it is obvious that God is circumscribed in the flesh, either through the use of colors or through some other means. This is because, by necessity, both of these two things must be true. If he “appeared in the flesh,” then he must necessarily also be circumscribed, because each is a concomitant and corresponding feature of the other. If, then, the second is not true, then neither is the first. But if the first is true, then so also is the second. Thus, consistent with both sacred Scripture and logical thinking, it would be senseless not to admit that God can be depicted in the flesh, for the simple reason that he was seen in the flesh. Elsewhere this impetuous wretch says: “I have heard that some people instruct others to depict even the ungraspable Son of God in images, a thing which is terrifying even to hear.”[13] But what person, possessing even a small share of intelligence, would not laugh at such a ridiculous statement? Has he never read where it says, “They arrested Jesus and bound him and led him first to Annas,” the high priest? (John 18:12) Or where it says: “They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with strips of linens and with spices”? (John 19:40). Does he not profess that Jesus is God? If he is God, how then was the ungraspable one arrested and bound, unless he was in the flesh, just as the wise Paul has taught us? Let, then, this deluded man stop his mouth from raging in madness against Christ.


To be sure, if it should come to his attention that we have a God who is eaten (i.e., in the Eucharist), I imagine he would not only quake with terror, but would rend his garments, being unable to endure what he has heard. But what does Christ say? “Whoever eats me will live because of me” (John 6:57). Naturally, there is no other way he can be eaten than in the flesh. This is because Christ, who is at the same time perfect God and perfect man, can be named and identified by either of the two natures of which he is composed, and he can be called both God and man—literally and in the strict sense of each word—without the particularity of either one of them being diminished or confused within his singular and unique hypostasis. And the witness of my words is God the Word himself, who in one place says: “Why do you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth?” (John 8:40) (even though the one who said this was the immortal God), and in another: “Why do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” (John 10:36) (though the one who said this was also the son of man). Thus it follows that when we apply the names that are proper to just one of the natures, we take nothing at all away from Christ.


Since we may now set aside the words of this fellow, too, let us see what is the argument of Theodotos?[14] Here are his own words:


Concerning the outward forms of the saints, we have not received the tradition of depicting them in icons made of material colors, but rather we have been taught to receive their virtues like living images through whatever we have been told about them in books, and to be inspired thereby with a zeal like theirs. But let those who set up such images tell us what benefit they derive from them, or to what kind of spiritual contemplation the recollection of such forms raises them. But it is quite obvious that these contrivances are futile and an invention of diabolical deception.[15]


To be sure, the point of departure for reflection (i.e., in the writings and lives of the saints) is not by itself worthy of condemnation, even if it is meant to prepare us for the absurd and foolish things that follow, since many of the sacred teachers consider verbal descriptions to be of greater necessity than visual depictions, without of course condemning the latter. Yet some teach the opposite. So the two actually have the same value, as Basil the Great says: “For the things that the written word describes through hearing, the same things are expressed silently by the image through imitation.”[16] And not all are artists, just as not all are writers; but to each one God has given a measure of grace.


Having heard what St. Basil says, then, let the fool say again: “Let those who set up such images tell us what benefit they derive from them, or to what kind of spiritual contemplation the recollection of such images raises them.” Now this rash and insolent man can be made to answer for himself: What spiritual benefit and what sacred vision can we not attain through the holy icons? Because, if it is the nature of every image to be an imitation of the archetype—as Gregory the Theologian says[17]—and if, moreover, the archetype is manifested in its image—according to the wise Dionysios[18]—it is perfectly obvious that, from the imitation, by which I mean the icon, there comes forth great spiritual benefit, and through the imitation we are raised up even more to spiritual contemplation of the prototype. Testifying to the truth of my words is the divine Basil himself, who says: “The honor paid to the image ascends[19] to the archetype.”[20] If it “ascends,” then it hardly needs to be said that it also descends to the image from the archetype, and thus not even a person of limited intelligence could say that honoring the icon is without any benefit, or that the imitation does not bear the stamp or form of that which it imitates, so that each is present in the other, according to the divine Dionysios.[21] What could possibly be more beneficial or more effective in raising us up through anagogy than that? This is because the icon is the impression of a vision that one has seen with his own eyes, not unlike the like light of the moon—if I may use a familiar example from our own experience—in relation to the light of the sun. Because if this is not what the icon is, then what benefit to the people of old was the Tent of Witness, which was an imitation of heavenly realities?[22] For among other things contained therein was the glorious cherubim, which overshadowed the altar of propitiation, that is, images made with anthropomorphic features. All these things had an anagogical function and were allegories of worship in the spirit (cf. John 4:23). But according to this man’s empty theory, even the form of the cross is of absolutely no benefit to us; of no benefit to us is the form of the lance, or the form of the sponge, because they are all imitations (though they are not anthropomorphic); and neither is there any benefit in the other sense-perceptible images, which—to speak in the manner of Dionysios—have been handed down to us and which anagogically raise us up, to the extent that this is possible for us, to the contemplation of intelligible realities.


After this comes imagination (phantasia), which is one of the five powers of the soul.[23] Imagination itself can be considered a kind of image, for both are likenesses.[24] It follows, then, that that the image is not without benefit, since it is like the power of imagination. And if the former is without benefit, then the latter must be of even far less benefit, and there would be no point in having it as part of our nature. And if it is without benefit, then everything that corresponds to it would likewise be without benefit, by which I mean the power of sensation, opinion, logical thinking, and intellect. Thus, a rational investigation of nature shows, by induction, that the person who denigrates the image, that is to say, the imagination, is himself devoid of an intellect. But I admire the power of imagination for a different reason. Some people say that a certain woman, who, during the moment of conception imagined an Ethiopian, subsequently gave birth to an Ethiopian.[25] This is what happened with the patriarch Jacob, when he peeled strips of bark off the rods, so that the sheep that were born from the flock took their white spots and stripes from the visual impression that this produced (Gen 30:38), and—oh, the wonder of it!—what was imaged in the mind produced actual, visible results.[26]


But let us return to the point, namely, his statement: “Let those who put forward such forms tell us what benefit they derive from them, or to what spiritual contemplation they are raised by their recollection.” And who, we might ask this tedious and tiring man, having attended closely and clearly to the depictions of various forms, is able to depart from them without his intellect being filled on all sides with their likeness and imprint? If the images are admirable, then the impressions will be excellent, but if they are disgraceful, so too will be the reflections, and thus it often happens that, even when we do not leave the house, we are moved to compunction by the one or suffer a fall because of the other. And is it not the case that images seen at night in dreams can leave us feeling either happy or sad? And if this is the case in dreams, how much more so is this true in the case of images—either good or bad—seen when we are awake? And has this excellent little fellow never read that by means of ‘copies’ and ‘shadows’ the people of the Old Testament worshiped heavenly realities? And what were those things if not images? And was it not through these images that they were led up to the contemplation of heavenly realities? And, to speak in the manner of David, does not “every man move forward in an image” (Ps 38:7)? And are not you yourself, O Iconoclast, an image of God? Were you not born according to the paternal likeness? Can you not be depicted on a wooden board? Or are you alone not susceptible of depiction, as if you were not a human being but some sort of freak, which is why you think the same of the saints?


But so that my discourse might have further confirmation, and not simply dogmatize on the basis of our own arguments, let me now bring forward those shining beacons of the oikoumene, who will themselves respond to your questions.


Gregory of Nyssa: “Many times have I seen a painted icon of the suffering (i.e., of Isaac in Gen 22:9) and did not depart from the vision of it without shedding tears, because art clearly brought the historical event to my sight.”[27]


John Chrysostom: “I love even the image made from wax, because it is filled with piety. For I saw an angel in an icon routing ranks of barbarians. I saw hordes of barbarians being trampled down, and I saw David declaring truthfully: ‘Lord, you will obliterate their image from the city’ (Ps 72:20).”[28]


Cyril of Alexandria: “In a painting on a wall, I saw a young maiden being martyred, and it moved me to tears.”[29]


Gregory the Theologian: “When a courtesan saw Polemon[30] peering out from an image, she departed immediately, being overwhelmed by the sight (for it was a venerable image) and she was put to shame by the portrait as if it were alive.”[31]


Basil the Great: “Arise, o you eminent painters of feats of combat, and glorify by your skill the image of the general to which I have not done justice. Illuminate the crowned one with the colors of your wisdom, for I have depicted him too faintly with my words. May I depart vanquished by your depiction of the martyr’s achievements. May I rejoice at being defeated today by this victory of your superior talent. May I see the wrestling of his hand with the fire depicted more accurately by you; may I see the wrestler depicted on your image more brightly. May the demons once again wail that they are struck down by the martyr’s prowess which you have made visible. May the hand, burnt but victorious, be displayed to them again.”[32]


Do you see how the one adds the painted image to the written text, and how the visual experience of the former is so great that it causes the demons to wail? Do you see how the other calls an icon “venerable,” so that it had the ability to move a courtesan to chastity? Or how the other did not walk away without tears in his eyes after seeing a painted image of a martyr undergoing martyrdom? Or again how another says that a wax image is beloved, for in it he beheld the archetype? Or the one who follows them, how even he could not refrain from weeping at the sight of the image, as if he had seen the actual event? You see all the advantages, consider for a moment all the benefits. And since you ask what the benefit is, listen not to what is said by this or that individual who was of small or no significance, but to those who spoke in the spirit of God, and whose voice thundered forth across the earth, and come to the proper conclusion, you brilliant dogmatist! You, that is, who said: “It is quite obvious that these contrivances are futile, and that it is an invention of diabolical deception.” To these words, it is time to cry out mightily: “O heaven, be astounded” (Jer 2:12) that the sacred doctrines of the God-bearing Fathers have been slandered as “futile contrivances” and “deceitful inventions of the devil.” But it is not so, you greatest of deceivers, but to the contrary all your flashy eloquence has been turned against you.


As we have now reached the end of our argument, there is one thing, brother, that I wish you to know: Whatever passages or proof-texts the Iconoclasts bring forward are clearly taken from the writings of heretics (for the truth does not grow together with falsehoods, as tares do with wheat). And should they cite passages from the Holy Fathers, they invariably twist and misinterpret them according to their darkened way of thinking; while those passages that identify the icon of Christ with the idols of the pagans are totally bizarre and alien to the faith. You must never accept anything they say uncritically, and neither should you enter into dialogue with heretics, which is something contrary to apostolic counsel. As for what remains ahead of us, may you find salvation, my dear child, and pray that I too may be saved.


Theodore the Studite, Dogmatic Epistle on the Holy Icons (Letter 380), Pappas Patristic In
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[1] On Theodore’s exile, see letter 48.


[2] For the text of the letter, see George Fatouros, Theodori Studitae Epistulae, vol. 1 (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae, Series Berolinensis 31) (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1991), 511-19.


[3] John the Grammarian was the last Iconoclast patriarch of Constantinople (sed. 21 January 837 to 4 March 843); his theological learning and political power made him a formidable and dangerous opponent. Though this letter is addressed to Naukratios, it is primarily a response to the iconoclast arguments of the patriarch (and thus Theodore concedes that his “letter” goes beyond the form proper to epistolography).


[4] I.e., Asterios of Amasea (ca. 350-410), an Arian bishop from Cappadocia and the author of sixteen surviving homilies (Photios knew of additional works by him). Here, one of the manuscripts adds the following comment in the margin: “It should be noted that this is the same Asterios who was anathematized by St Sophronios of Jerusalem in his synodical letters, as well as by another Father, who found him to be of the same mind as Apollinarios and Eutyches.”


[5] I.e., Epiphanios of Salamis (ca. 310-403). The Iconoclasts invoked the authority of Epiphanios, though the passages they cited were either interpolations or of dubious authenticity; see Kenneth Parry, Depicting the Word: Byzantine Iconophile Thought of the Eighth and Ninth Centuries (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 148-51.


[6] I.e., Ps.-Theodotos of Ancyra, on whom, see below.


[7] Asterios of Amasea, Homily on the Rich Man and Lazarus 4 (ed. C. Datema, Asterius of Amasea, Homilies I-XIV [Leiden: Brill, 1970], 10-13); cited at the Sixth Session of the Seventh Council; trans. Richard Price, The Acts of the Second Council of Nicaea (787) (Translated Texts for Historians 68) (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2018), 505.


[8] In the Gospel of John, the “glory” of Christ is associated directly with his crucifixion.


[9] Basil of Caesarea, Homily on the Martyr Barlaam 3 (PG 31:489B).


[10] Gregory the Theologian, Oration 30.14: “For even now, as man, he intercedes for my salvation, because he continues to exist with the body he assumed, even if he is no longer known according to the flesh, by which I mean the fleshly passions” (SC 250:256); and id., Oration 40.45: “He will come again to judge the living and the dead, no longer according to the flesh, but neither without the body, for reasons known to him, but in a more divine body, so that he may be seen by those who pierced him (John 19:37; Zech 12:10)” (SC 358:306).


[11] Here, some of the manuscripts contain the following scholion in the margin: “Note that the teachings of Valentinos and Isidore are found under the name of Epiphanios in chapter 42 of his Against Heresies [PG 41:544ff.], and that these two, together with Carpocrates, were anathematized by St Sophronios.”


[12] Epiphanius, fragment 21 (ed. K. Holl, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte, II [Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (P. Siebeck), 1928; repr. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1964]), 360.


[13] Epiphanius, frag. 22 (Holl 361).


[14] Some of the manuscripts contain the following scholion in the margin: “It should be noted that this is one of the four men named Theodotos anathematized by St Sophronios, though only three were mentioned by name, the other implicitly, and who was also condemned by another Father, who, as I have read, named him as Theodotos of Ancyra.


[15] Ps.-Theodotos of Ancyra, a passage cited at the Sixth Session of the Seventh Council (trans. Price 509), and not known from any other source. Nikephoros likewise discusses the authenticity of this fragment in his Refutatio (93), which was written ca. 820-30.


[16] Basil of Caesarea, Homily on the Forty Martyrs 2 (PG 31:509A).


[17] Gregory the Theologian, Oration 30.20: Αὕτη γὰρ εἰκόνος φύσις, μίμημα εἶναι τοῦ ἀρχετύπου (SC 268:23-25).


[18] Dionysios the Areopagite, On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy IV.3: “As in the case of sensible images, if the artist looks without distraction upon the archetypal form … he will, if one may be permitted to say so, duplicate (εἰ θέμις εἰπεἶν, διπλασιάσει) the very person (αὐτὸν ἐκεῖνον) being depicted, [and will show the reality in the likeness, and the archetype in the image,] and each one being present in each, except for the difference in substance (ἑκάτερον ἐν ἑκατέρῳ παρὰ τὸ τῆς οὐσίας διάφορον). Thus, to copyists who love the beautiful in mind, the contemplation of hidden beauty will confer the unerring and most Godlike appearance (θειοειδέστατον ἴνδαλμα)” (ed. Günter Heil and Adolf Martin Ritter, Corpus Dionysiacum II [Berlin: De Gruyter, 1992], 96, 5-11). The passage in brackets seems to be a later interpolation, though extant in many of the earliest manuscripts of the corpus Dionysiacum. On the phrase, ἑκάτερον ἐν ἑκατέρῳ, see Aristotle, Top. 150a28; Damascius, Parm. 211, 21; and Theodore, letters 57, 20; 476, 24; 524, 38, 48; 528, 48-50; 532, 110.


[19] Theodore has ἀναβαίνει whereas Basil has διαβαίνει, though the difference is negligible.


[20] Basil of Caesarea, On the Holy Spirit 18.45 (PG 32:149C); cited at the Fourth and Sixth Session of the Seventh Council (Price 312-13; and 518).


[21] Dionysios, EH 4.3 (as above).


[22] See Exodus 25:20.


[23] Theodore’s defense of phantasia, which is often cited as a standard element in iconophile theology, is in fact a minority opinion (even in the context of Theodore’s own theology); Nikephoros, for example, has virtually nothing positive to say about the imagination, which was long disparaged by the Greek philosophers. Theodore likely invoked the category because he saw it being alluded to implicitly in the quotation from Ps.-Theodotos (which also speaks of epinoia). Note that Theodore’s discussion pertains primarily to the arousal of the passions through the imagination. On Scripture’s use of impassioned language to describe the activity of God and various individuals, see Maximos the Confessor, Responses to Thalassios, Qu. 1.4 (Constas 2018, 96).

[24] ἰνδάλματα, which also means form or appearance, and is often used to describe mental images.


[25] The emphasis here is on the transmission of color and not nationality. Heliodoros of Emesa, Aethiopica IX.14, 7 (a novel written in the 3rd or perhaps 4th century AD), recounts the story of a woman whose child bore the likeness of a painting she was staring at during intercourse; the story is central to the narrative since it reveals the heroine’s true origins.


[26] See Aglae Pizzone, “Theodore and the Black Man: Imagining (through) the Icon in Byzantium,” in Knotenpunkt Byzanz, ed. A Speer and P. Steinkruger (Miscellanea Mediaevalia 36) (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012), 47-70.


[27] Gregory of Nyssa, On the Divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit (PG 46:572C); cited at the Fourth and Sixth Session of the Seventh Council (Price 265-66; and 518).


[28] John Chrysostom (= Severian of Gabala), Homily on the Legislator 6 (PG 56:407); cited at the Sixth Session of the Seventh Council (Price 502).


[29] This quotation is not found among the extant works of St Cyril, but it is cited by other iconophile authors, e.g., Nikephoros of Constantinople, Adversus Epiphanidem 17 (ed. J. B. Pitra, Spicilegium Solesmense, vol. 4 [Paris: Didot, 1858], 351).


[30] Not to be confused with the Desert Father of the same name, Polemon was the head of the Platonic Academy in the 4th-century BC. He was known for his debauchery but repented and embraced a life of chastity.


[31] Gregory the Theologian, Carmina 1.2.10 (PG 37:489A); cited by John of Damascus, Images III.109 (ed. Boniface Kotter, Die Schriften Johannes von Damaskos III [Berlin: De Gruyter, 1975], 189-90); the Fourth Session of the Seventh Council (Price 268-69); and Nikephoros, Antirrheticus III.17 (PG 100:401AB). The text is available in a critical edition by Carmelo Crimi, Gregorio Nazianzeno, Sulla Virtù: Carme giambico [I,2,10] (Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 1995), 170-72.


[32] Basil of Caesarea, Homily on the Martyr Barlaam 3 (PG 31:489AB). St Basil’s sermon continues, “May there also be depicted on the panel the judge of the contest, namely, Christ, to whom is glory for ever and ever.”