john_of_damascus,_three_treatises_on_the_divine_images

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Unformatted text preview: ST VLADIMIR’S SEMINARY PRESS Popular Patristics Series . S T 10 N O F DA M A S C U S Editor IOHNBEHR Three Treatises on the @ivine Ymages Translation and Introduction by ANDREW LOUTH First Edition ST VLADIMIR’S SEMINARY PRESS CRESTWOOD, NEW YORK 10707 2003 Library of Congress Cataloging-in~Publication Data John, of Damascus, Saint. [On the divine images. English] Three treatises on the divine images / St. John of Damascus ; translation and introduction by Andrew Louth. — ist ed. p. cm. — (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press “popular patristics” series) Includes bibliographical references (p. ). ISBN 0—88141—245—7 i.Icons——Cult. 2.1conoclasm. I.Louth,Andrew. I[.Title. IIliSeries. 811651630513 2003 246' .53—dc21 2002031920 COPYRIGHT © 2003 ST VLADIMIR’S SEMINARY PRESS 57s Scarsdale Rd., Crestwood, NY 10707 1-800—204—2665 ISBN 0—88141—245—7 All Rights Reserved PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Introduction Treatise I Treatise II Treatise III Bibliography Table of Contents TREATISE I Defense against those who attack the holy images by our Father among the Saints John Damascene 1 It is necessary for us, always conscious of our unworthiness, to keep silence and confess our sins before God, but since all things are good in their season, and I see the Church, which God built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ his Son being the head cornerstone, battered as by the surging sea overwhelming it with wave upon wave, tossed about and troubled by the grievous assault of wicked spirits, and Christ’s tunic, woven from top to bot- tom, rent, Which the children of the ungodly have arrogantly sought to divide, and his body cut to pieces, which is the people of God and the tradition 0f the Church that has held sway from the beginning, I do not believe it right to keep silence and bridle my tongue, paying attention to the threatening judgment that says: “if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him,”1 and “if you see the sword coming and do not warn your brother, his blood I shall require at your hand.”2 Compelled to speak by a fear that cannot be borne, l have come forward, not putting the majesty of kings before the truth, but lHeb 10:38, citing Hub 2:4 (LXX). 2Ezek 33:6, 8. 20 JOHN OF DAMASCUS hearing David, the divine ancestor, say, “I spoke before kings and was not ashamed,”3 goaded more and more to speak. For the word of a king exercises terror over his subjects. For there are few who would utterly neglect the royal constitutions established from above, who know that the king reigns upon earth from above, and as such the laws of kings hold sway. 2 Therefore, holding firm in thought to the preservation of the ordinances of the Church, through which salvation has come to us, as a kind of keel or foundation, I have brought my discourse to the starting point, as it were urging on a well—bridled horse. For it seems to me a calamity, and more than a calamity, that the Church, adorned with such privileges and arrayed with traditions received from above by the most godly men, should return to the poor ele— ments, afraid where no fear was,4 and, as if it did not know the true God, be suspicious of the snare of idolatry and therefore decline in the smallest degree from perfection, thus bearing a disfiguring mark in the midst of a face exceeding fair, thus harming the whole by the slightest injury to its beauty. For what is small is not small, if it pro— duces something big, so the slightest disturbance of the tradition of the Church that has held sway from the beginning is no small mat- ter, that tradition made known to us by our forefathers, whose con- duct we should look to and whose faith we should imitate. 3 Therefore I entreat first the Lord Almighty, to whom everything is naked and laid open, about whom we speak, who knows the purity of my humble intention in this and the innocence of my purpose, to give me words when I open my mouth and to take up in his own hands the reins of my mind and to draw it to himself, making me to proceed in his presence on an straight path, neither declining to the seductive right nor knowing the clearly visible leftdand together 3P5 118:46. 4Ps 52:6. _-._...-._ r-w- M Treatise I 21 with Him all the people of God, the holy nation, the royal priest- hood, with the good shepherd of Christ’s rational flock, who repre- sents in himself the hierarchy of Christ, to receive my discourse with kindness, paying no attention to my little worth, nor expecting e10- quence in my words, for I am only too aware of my inadequacy, but rather considering the power of my arguments (“for the kingdom of heaven is not in word, but in power”); for my purpose is not to con— quer, but to stretch out a hand to fight for the truth, a hand stretched out in the power of freewill. Calling on the help of the one who is truth in person, I will make a start on my discourse. 4 (cf. 111.6) I know what the One who cannot lie said: “the Lord your God is one Lord,”6 and “you shall venerate the Lord your God and him alone shall you worship,”7 and “there shall be for you no other gods,” and “you shall not make any carved likeness, of any— thing in heaven above or on the earth below,”9 and “all who vener— ate carved [images] shall be put to shame,”10 and “gods, who did not make heaven and earth, shall be destroyed,”11 and these words in a similar manner: “God, who of old spoke to the fathers through the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us in his Only—begotten Son, through whom he made the ages.”12 I know the One who said: “This is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.”13 I believe in one God, the one begin— ning of all things, himself without beginning, uncreated, imperish- able and immortal, eternal and everlasting, incomprehensible, bodiless, invisible, uncircumscribed, without form, one being 51 Cor 4:20. 6Deut 6:4. 7Deut 6:13. 8Deut 5:7. 9Deut 5:8. 1"Ps 96:7. UIer 10:11. 12l-leb 1:1—2. 13In 17:3. 22 JOHN OF DAMASCUS beyond being, divinity beyond divinity, in three persons, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and I worship this one alone, and to this one alone I offer the veneration of my worship. I venerate one God, one divinity, but also I worship a trinity of persons, God the Father and God the Son incarnate and God the Holy Spirit, one God. I do not venerate the creation instead of me creator, but I venerate the Cre— ator, created for my sake, who came down to his creation without being lowered or weakened, that he might glorify my nature and bring about communion with the divine nature. I venerate together with the King and God the purple robe of his body, not asa garment, nor as a fourth person (God forbid!), but as called to be and to have become unchangeably equal to God, and the source of anointing. For the nature of the flesh did not become divinity, but as the Word became flesh immutably, remaining what it was, so also the flesh became the Word without losing what it was, being rather made equal to the Word hypostatically. Therefore I am emboldened to depict the invisible God, not as invisible, but as he became visible for our sake, by participation in flesh and blood. I do not depict the invisible divinity, butI depict God made visible in the flesh. For if it is impossible to depict the soul, how much more God, who gives the soul its immateriality? 5 (cf. 111.7) But they say, God said through Moses the lawgiver, “You shall venerate the Lord your God and him alone shall you wor— ship,” and “you shallnnot make any likeness, of anything in heaven or on the earth.” Brothers, those who do not know the Scriptures truly err, for as they do not know that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life,”” they do not interpret the spirit hidden beneath the letter. To these I might rightly say, the One who taught you this taught also what follows. Learn, how the lawgiver interprets this when he says in Deuteronomy, “And the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of his words and you did not see any likeness, M2 Cor 3:6. Treatise I 23 but only a voice,” and a little later, “take good heed to your soul, for you did not see a likeness on the day, when the Lord spoke to you on Horeb in the mountain in the midst of the fire. Beware lest you act lawlessly and make for yourselves a carved likeness, anyimage, a like— ness of a male or a female, a likeness of any beast that is upon the earth, a likeness of any winged bird” and so on, and after a little, “Beware lest you look up in the sky and see the sun and the moon and the stars and all the order of heaven, and being led astray ven- erate them and worship them.”15 6 (cf. 11.8, 111.7) You see that the single purpose of this is that one should not worship, or offer the veneration of worship, to creation instead of the Creator, but only to the One who fashioned all. There— fore everywhere it concerns worship by veneration. Again it says, “There shall be for you no other gods beside me, You shall not make for yourself a carved [image] nor any likeness, you shall not venerate them nor shall you worship them, for I am the lord your God,”16 and again “You shall tear down their altars, and break their pillars, and cut down their sacred groves, and burn up the carved [images] of their gods with fire, for you shall not venerate any other god,”17 and a lit— tle later “you shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.”18 7 (11.8, 111.7) You see, how it was on account of idolatry that he prohibited the fashioning of images, and that it is impossible to depict God who is incommensurable and uncircumscribable and invisible. “For,” it says, “you have not seen his form,”19 just as also Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said, “Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation of human art and imagination?” 15Deut 4:12, 15—17, 19. 16Deut 527—9. l7Exod 34:13—14. 18Exod 34:17. 19In 5:37. 20Acts 17:29. 24 JOHN_OF DAMASCUS 8 (cf. 111.8) It was, therefore, for the Jews, on account of their slid— ing into idolatry, that these things were ordained by law. To speak theologically,“ however, we, to whom it has been granted, fleeing superstitious error, to come to be purely with God, and having rec- ognized the truth, to worship God alone and be greatly enriched with the perfection of the knowledge of God, and who, passing beyond childhood to reach maturity, are no longer under a custo- dian, have received the habit of discrimination from God and know what can be depicted and what cannot be delineated in an image. “For,” it says, “you have not seen his form.” What wisdom the legis- lator has! How could the invisible be depicted? How could the unimaginable be portrayed? How could one.without measure or size or limit be drawn? How could the formless be made? How could the bodiless be depicted in color? What therefore is this that is revealed in riddles? For it is clear that when you see the bodiless become human for your sake, then you may accomplish the figure of a human form; when the invisible becomes visible in the flesh, then you may depict the likeness of something seen; when one who, by transcending his own nature, is bodiless, formless, incommensu— rable, without magnitude or size, that is, one who is in the form of God, taking the form of a slave, by this reduction to quantity and magnitude puts on the characteristics of a body, then depict him on a board and set up to View the One who has accepted to be seen. Depict his ineffable descent, his birth from the Virgin, his being bap- tized in the Jordan, his transfiguration on Tabor, what he endured to secure our freedom from passion, the miracles, symbols of his divine nature, performed by the divine activity through the activity of the flesh, the saving cross, the tomb, the resurrection, the ascent into heaven. Depict all these in words and in colors. Do not be afraid, do not fear; 1 know the different forms of veneration. Abraham vener— ated the sons of Emmor, godless men suffering from ignorance of 21That is, to speak in the manner of St Gregory the Theologian. The first part of this sentence follows Hom. 39.8.1—2 (ed. Moreschini, 162) quite closely. | l 1 Trea tise I 2 5 God, when he acquired the cave as a double inheritance for a tomb.22 Jacob venerated Esau his brother and Pharaoh the Egyptian, bowing in veneration over the head of his staff.23 They venerated, they did not worship. Jesus24 the son of Nave and Daniel venerated the angel of God, but they did not worship.25 The veneration of worship is one thing, veneration offered in honor to those who excel on account of something worthy is another. 9 But since this discourse is about the image and its veneration, let us elucidate their meaning. An image is a likeness depicting an archetype, but having some difference from it- the ima e is not like the archetype in every way. The Son is a living, natural and undevi— ating image of the Father, bearing in himself the whole Father, equal to him in every respect, differing only in being caused. For the Father is the natural cause, and the Son is caused; for the Father is not from the Son, but the Son from the Father. For [the Son] is from him, that is the Father who begets him, without having his being after him. 1 0 There are also in God images and paradigms of what he is going to bring about, that is his will that is before eternity and thus eter— nal. For the divine is in every respect unchanging, and there is in it no change or shadow of turning. Saint Dionysius, who had great insight in matters divine, what belongs to God and what may be said about God, says that these are images and paradigms and predeter— minations.26 For in his will everything predetermined by him, that 22John is following Acts 7:16, which seems to conflate two accounts: Abraham’s purchase of a cave as a tomb from Ephron, one of the Hittites, to whom he bowed down (or venerated: Gen 23:7), and the burial ground in which Joseph was buried, that had been purchased by Jacob from Emmor (Hamor in English Bibles: Gen 33:19—20). 23Esau: Gen 33:3; bowing over the head of his staff. Heb 11:21 (cf. Gen 47:31 LXX). In his encounter with Pharaoh, Jacob did not bow down, but blessed him: cf. Gen 47:7—10. 2“Joshua, in English Bibles. 25Jos 5:14; Dan 8:17. I 26Dionysius the Areopagite, Divine Names, 5.8 (ed. Suchla, 188). 26 JOHN OF DAMASCUS will unfailingly come to pass, is designated and depicted before it comes to be, just as, if one wants to build a house, its form is described and depicted first in the mind. 11 Then again there are images of invisible and formless things, that provide in bodily form a dim understanding of what is depicted. For Scripture applies forms to God and the angels, and the same divine man27 gives the reason when he says that if forms for formless things and shapes for shapeless things are proposed, some- one might say that not the least reason is because our analogies are not capable of raising us immediately to intellectual contemplation but need familiar and natural points of reference. If then the divine Word, foreknowing our need for analogies and providing us every- where with something to help us ascend, applies certain forms to those things that are simple and formless, how may not those things be depicted which are formed in shapes in accordance with our nature, and longed for, although they cannot be seen owing to their absence? For through the senses a certain imaginative image is con- stituted in the front part of the brain and thus conveyed to the fac— ulty of discernment and stored in the memory. The divinely eloquent Gregory therefore says that the intellect, tiring of trying to get past all things corporeal, realizes its impotence;28 but “the invis- ible things of God, since the creation of the world, have been clearly perceived through the things that have been made.”29 For we see images in created things intimating to us dimly reflections of the divine; as when we say that there is an image of the holy Trinity, which is beyond any beginning, in the sun, its light and its ray, or in a fountain welling up and the stream flowing out and the flood, or in our intellect and reason and spirit, or a rose, its flower and its fragrance. 27Idem, Celestial Hierarchy, 1.1.3 (ed. Heil, 8—9). 2EGregory Nazianzen, Hom. 28.13 (ed. Gallay, 128). Cf. Images, 11.5,111.2, 21. 29Rom 1:20. Treatise I 27 1 2 Again there are said to be images of the future, describing the things to come in shadowy enigmas, as the ark30 foreshadows the holy Virgin Mother of God, as does the rod31 and the jar;32 and the serpent” the one who did away with the bite of the primordially evil serpent through the cross; or the sea, water, and the cloud the Spirit of baptism.34 13 Again there are said to be images of what is past, either the memory of a certain miracle, or honor, or shame, or virtue, or vice, for the benefit of those who behold them later, so that they may flee what is evil and be zealous for what is good. This kind of image is twofold: through words written in books, as God engraved the Law on tablets and ordered the lives of men beloved of God to be recorded; and through things seen by the sense of sight, as when he ordered the jar and the rod to be placed in the ark as a memorial.35 So now we register the images and virtues of the past. Therefore, either destroy every image and establish laws against the One who ordered that these things should be, or receive each in the reason and manner fitting to each. Having discussed the different forms of the image, let us now talk about veneration. 1 4 Veneration (bowing down) is a symbol of submission and honor.m we know different forms of this. The first is as a form of worship, which we offer to God, alone by nature worthy of venera— tion.36 Then there is the veneration offered, on account of God who is naturally venerated, to his friends and servants, as Jesus the son of Nave and Daniel venerated the angel; or to the places of God, as 3"The ark of the covenant; Exod 25:10—16. 3'Aaron’s roct Num 17:8. 32The jar of manna: Exod 16:33. “Moses’ bronze serpent: Num 21:8; cf. In 3:14. 34Cf. 1 Cor 10:1—4. 35Heb 9:4. 36Cf. Gal 4:8. . r 28 JOHN OF DAMASCUS David said, “Let us venerate in the place, where his feet stood”;37 or to things sacred to Him, as Israel venerated the tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem standing in a circle around it, and then from everywhere bowing in veneration towards it, as they still do now, or to those rulers who had been ordained by Him, as Jacob venerated Esau, made by God the elder-born brother, or Pharaoh, appointed by God his ruler, and his brothers venerated Joseph.38 And I know that such veneration is offered to others as a mark of honor, as Abra— ham venerated the sons of Emmor. Either, therefore, reject all ven- eration or accept all of these forms with its proper reason and manner. _ 15 Answer me this question. Is God one God? Yes, you say, as it seems to me, one lawgiver. Why then does He decree what is contra- dictory? For the cherubim are not Outside creation. Why then does he prescribe carved cherubim fashioned by human hands to over- shadow the mercy seat? It is clear that it is impossible to make an image of God or of anything like God, since he is uncircumscribable and unimaginable, lest the creation be venerated in worship as God. Since the cherubimiare circumscribable, He prescribes the making of an image of them prostrate before the divine throne, to over- shadow the mercy seat; for it was fitting that the image of the divine mysteries should shadow the image of the heavenly servants. And what do you say about the ark, the jar and the mercy seat? Were they not handmade? Not the work of human hands? Were they not fash— ioned, as you put it, from unworthy matter? What of the whole tab— ernacle? Was it not an image? Not a shadow and a copy? Therefore the divine apostle says about the sacred things made in accordance with the law: “Thes...
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