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Pagan Images, Statues and Idols

Early Church Fathers Quotes Against Pagan Images, Statues and Idols

Tertullian

But when the devil introduced into the world artificers of statues and of images, and of every kind of likenesses, that former rude business of human disaster attained from idols both a name and a development. Thenceforward every art which in any way produces an idol instantly became a fount of idolatry. For it makes no difference whether a moulder cast, or a carver grave, or an embroiderer weave the idol; because neither is it a question of material, whether an idol be formed of gypsum, or of colors, or of stone, or of bronze, or of silver, or of thread. For since even without an idol idolatry is committed, when the idol is there it makes no difference of what kind it be, of what material, or what shape; lest any should think that only to be held an idol which is consecrated in human shape. – On Idolatry

God prohibits an idol as much to be made as to be worshipped. In so far as the making what may be worshipped is the prior act, so far is the prohibition to make (if the worship is unlawful) the prior prohibition. For this cause–the eradicating, namely, of the material of idolatry–the divine law proclaims, “Thou shall make no idol;” and by conjoining, “Nor a similitude of the things which are in the heaven, and which are in the earth, and which are in the sea,” has interdicted the servants of God from acts of that kind all the universe over. Enoch had preceded, predicting that “the demons, and the spirits of the angelic apostates, would turn into idolatry all the elements, all the garniture of the universe, all things contained in the heaven, in the sea, in the earth, that they might be consecrated as God, in opposition to God.” All things, therefore, does human error worship, except the Founder of all Himself. The images of those things are idols; the consecration of the images is idolatry. Whatever guilt idolatry incurs, must necessarily be imputed to every artificer of every idol. In short, the same Enoch fore-condemns in general menace both idol-worshippers and idol-makers together. And again: “I swear to you, sinners, that against the day of perdition of blood repentance is being prepared. Ye who serve stones, and ye who make images of gold, and silver, and wood, and stones and clay, and serve phantoms, and demons, and spirits in fanes – On Idolatry

We will certainly take more pains in answering the excuses of artificers of this kind, who ought never to be admitted into the house of God, if any have a knowledge of that Discipline. – On Idolatry

Justin Martyr

There is one only unbegotten God,
Omnipotent, invisible, most high,
All-seeing, but Himself seen by no flesh.

Then elsewhere thus:

But we have strayed from the Immortal’s ways,
And worship with a dull and senseless mind
Idols, the workmanship of our own hands,
And images and figures of dead men. – Hortatory Address to the Greeks

Melito of Sardis

For there are some men who are unable to rise from their mother earth, and therefore also do they make them gods. from the earth their mother; and they are condemned by the judgments of truth, forasmuch as they apply the name of Him who is unchangeable to those objects which are subject to change, and shrink not from calling those things gods which have been made by the hands of man, and dare to make an image of God whom they have not seen. – Fragments

“But I have to remark further, that the Sibyl also has said concerning them that it is the images of deceased kings that they worship. And this is easy to understand: for, lo! even now they worship and honour the images of those of Caesarean rank more than their former gods; for from those their former gods both pecuniary tribute and produce accrue to Caesar, as to one who is greater than they. On this account, those who despise them, and so cause Caesar’s revenue to fall short, are put to death. But to the treasury of other kings also it is appointed how much the worshippers in various places shall pay, and how many vesselfuls of water from the sea they shall supply. Such is the wickedness of the world-of those who worship and fear that which has no sensation. Many of them, too, who are crafty, either for the sake of gain, or for vainglory, or for dominion over the multitude, both themselves worship, and incite those who are destitute of understanding to worship, that which has no sensation. – Fragments

Irenaeus,

Others of them employ outward marks, branding their disciples inside the lobe of the right ear. From among these also arose Marcellina, who came to Rome under [the episcopate of] Anicetus, and, holding these doctrines, she led multitudes astray. They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world that is to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest. They have also other modes of honouring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles. – Against Heresies, Book I

Clement of Alexandria

The senseless earth is dishonoured by the makers of images, who change it by their art from its proper nature, and induce men to worship – Exhortation to the Heathen

And again, when involved in calamities, the superstitious worshippers of stones, though they have learned by the event that senseless matter is not to be worshipped, yet, yielding to the pressure of misfortune, become the victims of their superstition; and though despising the images, yet not wishing to appear wholly to neglect them, are found fault with by those gods by whose names the images are called. – Exhortation to the Heathen

Why, I pray you, have you assigned the prerogatives of God to what are no gods? Why, let me ask, have you forsaken heaven to pay divine honour to earth? What else is gold, or silver, or steel, or iron, or brass, or ivory, or precious stones? Are they not earth, and of the earth? Are not all these things which you look on the progeny of one mother–the earth?

Why, then, foolish and silly men (for I will repeat it), have you, defaming the supercelestial region, dragged religion to the ground, by fashioning to yourselves gods of earth, and by going after those created objects, instead of the uncreated Deity, have sunk into deepest darkness? – Exhortation to the Heathen

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