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Iconoclastic Controversy.

Controversy (726–842) in Eastern* Orthodox Chs.; concerned the role of icons* in the cultic life of the ch. First phase began when E emp. Leo III (“the Isaurian”; ca. 680–741; emp. 717–741), probably partly for pol. reasons and partly to remove an obstacle to conversion of Muslim and Jews, proscribed the use of icons. Constantine* V severely continued this policy. Leo IV (the Khazar; ca. 750–780; son of Constantine V; emp. 775–780) was milder. Under Irene (752–803; b. Athens; m. Leo IV 769; regent 780; abdicated 790; empress 792; sole ruler 797; dethroned 802; exiled) the 7th Ecumenical Council (Nicaea* II; 787) reest. veneration of images. During this phase iconodules, represented mainly by monks, depended on John* of Damascus for theol. support.

Second phase began ca. 841 under Leo V (“the Armenian” [because Armenian by birth]; emp. 813–820) and continued under Michael II (“the Amorian”; emp. 820–829) and Theophilus (son of Michael II; emp. 829–842). Under Theodorea (d. ca. 867; 2d wife of Theophilus; regent 842; retired to a convent 858) the decisions of Nicea II were reaffirmed. Theodore* of Studion was a leading inconodule in this phase of the controversy.

Chief theol. questions in the controversy: (1) What is an image, and were iconodules guilty of idolatry? (2) Did veneration of images violate Chalcedonian formulations (see Chalcedon, Council of) on the nature and person of Christ? (3) Were arguments from tradition of either iconoclast or iconodule authentic? These arguments, based essentially on the same sources (OT, NT, tradition, and speculation) were also related to other soc., pol., and cultural issues. But the ultimate questions for the iconodules were hist. and theol.; though there may be no absolute identity bet. image and person represented, there is relative identity. Reverence offered to the icon passes to the prototype. To deny that Christ can be portrayed in an icon is to deny that Christ was man, part of hist. The incarnation lends justification to legitimate use of the icon. Icons preserve hist. continuity with the early ch. These “hist.” arguments froze the style and form of the icon. Sculpture in the round disappeared in the E Ch. as a result of the controversy. WGR

See also Luther, Martin, 15; Luther, Controversies of, d; Reformation, Lutheran, 8.

E. W. Benz, The Eastern Orthodox Church, tr. R. and C. Winston (Chicago, 1963); E. J. Martin, A History of the Iconoclastic Controversy (New York, 1930); E. R. Bevan, Holy Images (London, 1940); G. Ostrogorski, Studien zur Geschichte des byzantinischen Bilderstreites (Breslau, 1929); Der byzantinische Bilderstreit, comp. H.-J. Geischer (Gütersloh, 1968).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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