"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Hermeneutics of Iconoclasts

This book came out some months back, but I missed it until Paulist sent me their most recent catalogue. It treats of a very important issue that is often overlooked in the more popular treatments of iconography and iconoclasm: Hermeneutics of the Ban on Images, The: Exegetical and Systematic Theological Approaches by Friedhelm Hartenstein and Michael Moxter (Paulist Press, 2021), 232pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:

In the history of Judaism and Christianity the biblical ban against images has been a decisive factor in shaping collective identity around opposition to the veneration of images. The biblical ban inspired the iconoclastic controversy in Byzantium as well as iconoclasm during the Protestant Reformation. Even in the present, biblical texts prohibiting images may be easily misunderstood in ways that can lead to religious conflicts and even violence. At the same time, the humanities are experiencing an “iconic turn,” a marked attention to the role of images. Recognizing both the potential for misunderstanding the biblical texts and the promise of a more nuanced appreciation of the role of images in human experience, this book constructs a framework for understanding the place of images, and their prohibition, within the biblical text and Christian religious practice. In the form of a dialogue between an Old Testament scholar and a Protestant systematic theologian, the volume explores potential lines of convergence between the rationale behind rejecting visual representations of God and that behind regarding the icon of Christ as a representation of the invisible God. Consideration of Old Testament texts in their cultural context clarifies key distinctions underlying the prohibition of material representations of God, while explaining the central importance of the biblical texts for creating “mental iconography” of God. †

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