Icons: veneration of pagan images

One fundamental justification for “venerating” images as opposed to worshipping them (as if this is different) is that we are not really doing anything to the icon, but to the saint or God behind the icon. And yet, that is exactly what an ancient worshiper of Zeus would have said. Alain Besancon writes:

The biblical texts directly targeted popular idolatry, which confused God and the idol. For example, images were taken to the sites of battles and shared the arm’s fate. Pausanias reports the case of images that were chained to restrain the god, and of images that were mistreated when it was necessary to punish him. The theologians of paganism took care to avoid that confusion, however: the idol was only the image, the representation, of the deity. They argued that worship and honor were not directed toward the image, but toward the deity of which it was the image (that argument was later adopted by Christian iconodules). All the same, they admitted that the gods inhabited the statues through their pneuma and that this inhabitation made them venerable and beneficient.






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