John of Damascus, Treatises
on the Divine Images
||From my lips in their
From my heart in its beguilement,
From my tongue which speaks not fair,
From my soul stained everywhere,
O my Jesus, take my prayer!
Spurn me not for all it says,
Not for words and not for ways,
Not for shamelessness endued!
Make me brave to speak my mood,
O my Jesus, as I would!
Or teach me, which I rather seek,
What to do and what to speak.
--from John of Damascus, Anacreontic Hymn
What are John's motivations for
writing? How does he describe the state of the Church?
How does he purify his motives
How does he answer the charges of
the iconoclastic position based on the Old Testament? Do you find his
exegesis convincing? Why or why not?
How does he distinguish veneration
for worship and veneration for honor?
Why does he take the time to
distinguish various kinds of images? (sec. 9-13)
How does John conceive of matter's
role in salvation?
Why is the hypostatic union of
Christ central to his argument?
How does he defend images of the
What theology undergirds this
defense? (cf. sec. 21)
What are some of the more important
commentaries he makes on the florilegia following section 23?
According to John, why are the body
and the senses important to receiving grace?
How does he refute the emperor's
involvement with the controversy? (sec. 66)
John of Damascus' Morphology of
The Son as the Cosubstantial Image
of the Father
The Eternal Archetypes in the Mind
Visible Symbols of Invisible Things
(Creation), including Scripture
Typological Images of What Are to
Words and Images of Past Things to
Be Remembered (e.g. Icons)
Human Beings as the Images of God
Do visual images have a role in
Do they have a role in private
Can one make a picture of God? of
Christ? of the Trinity?
Can one venerate an object,
picture, or person without the worship reserved for God? Explain.
What should our attitude be toward
the saints who have gone before us?
How important is the body to
How important is it to Christian
What is the relationship between
Christian tradition and belief?
If you were going to develop a
theology of the arts, what elements would need to be included?
Treatise 3 (sec. 1-41)
For next class, you will be
assigned a debating team. One group will defend the proposition,
"John of Damascus offers a biblically and theologically convincing
defense of icons." The other group will call this proposition into
question. You should muster your evidence in the following manner:
Locate important passages
in treatise 1 and treatise 3.1-41. (You may also draw from treatise 2
or from 3.42ff., though it is not required.)
Draw from the insights of
others as discussed in the "Early Christian
Theology and the Iconoclastic Controversy" handout.
own biblical exegesis and theological tradition or other traditions as
you see fit.
should attempt to anticipate the other side's claims and evidence and
be prepared to answer them.
Keep in mind that you may have to
defend a position for the debate that you don't entirely agree with. Treat
it as a learning exercise. At the end, we will drop the positions and
share as to what we each find most convincing.