Theodore Studite on Holy Icons


Updating from an old blog. via On the Holy Icons (Theodore)

This book is a sharpened update of St John of Damascus’s treatises on icons. In many ways it is preferable. The core of St Theodore’s argument hinges on the relationship between image and prototype.  We can set up the argument this way:

P1: If something is a prototype, then it can be imaged.

Obviously, and quite brilliantly, Theodore is using St Basil’s very argument for the Holy Spirit, meaning if Theodore’s structure is wrong, so is Basil’s.  This seems a very high price to pay.

St Theodore the Studite

Theodore is correct that while it is true that the divine nature qua nature can’t be circumscribed, that point is irrelevant per the Incarnation.  Christ had the divine nature but was himself circumscribed.  But does it follow, however, that

P2: Therefore, imaging Christ on wood is okay?

That’s the key conclusion and most of the battle hinges back on P1.

However, Theodore’s opponents aren’t quite the same as iconoclasts today.  Earlier iconoclasts could allow for icons but only rejected veneration.  Reformed deny both.


How does this fare with Damascene’s work?  It is sharper and shorter.


About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
This entry was posted in Book Review, Church History, Fathers and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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