Warm-Up Question #2

Truth or Myth: The first Christians did not use images of Christ or the saints.

A.                 Truth

B.                Myth


The Answer is…..B….Myth….The first Christians, of course, had images.

As any archeology student knows, the first Christians loved to adorn their catacombs with paintings of Christ, Mary, the saints, and tableaus of Bible stories.

According to Catholic Encyclopedia:

“That Christians from the very beginning adorned their catacombs with paintings of Christ, of the saints, of scenes from the Bible and allegorical groups is too obvious and too well known for it to be necessary to insist upon the fact. The catacombs are the cradle of all Christian art. Since their discovery in the sixteenth century -- on 31 May, 1578, an accident revealed part of the catacomb in the Via Salaria -- and the investigation of their contents that has gone on steadily ever since, we are able to reconstruct an exact idea of the paintings that adorned them. That the first Christians had any sort of prejudice against images, pictures, or statues is a myth (defended amongst others by Erasmus) that has been abundantly dispelled by all students of Christian archaeology.”

Read these Catholic Encyclopedia articles: Veneration of ImagesReligious Painting, & Religious Art


Also, be sure to check out Portraits of the Apostles


Below are excerpts from “Beginning Apologetics I” by Fr. Frank Chacon

“The Catholic Church teaches that only God is to be worshipped: to worship anything created is to commit the serious sin of idolatry. In Exodus 20:4-5, God prohibits the making of images for the purpose of worshipping them. BUT GOD DOES NOT PROHIBIT IMAGE-MAKING ALTOGETHER. In Ex 25:18-19, God commands Moses to make statues of angels (cherubim). In Num 21:8, God tells Moses to make a bronze serpent (seraph), which the Israelites had to look upon in order to be healed. The Jews also used many carved images in the Temple, including cherubim, oxen, lions, palm trees, and flowers (1 Kings 6 and 7).”

“Catholics use statues and other images to call to mind the holy people they represent: Jesus, the angels, and the saints. For the same reason, Protestants use Christmas nativity scenes to depict the same holy people: Jesus, the angels, and the saints. Catholics simply use statues and images in devotions all year around.”

“The rejection of statues and other images in Church devotional life is a heresy known as “iconoclasm.” It was first seen in Christianity in the 8th Century when the wicked Emperor Leo the Isaurian, influenced by the new religion of Islam (founded in 622 A.D.), began attacking the use of statues and icons in the Church. In the Second Council of Nicea in 787 A.D., the Church condemned this heresy. It did not resurface in Christianity until the Reformation.” (Father Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham: Beginning Apologetics 1: How to Explain and Defend the Catholic Faith San Juan Catholic Seminars 1998) p.34


www.catholic.com/library/Do_Catholics_Worship_Statues.asp (do Catholics worship statues?)

www.scripturecatholic.com/sacramentals.html (Images and Statues)

home.nyc.rr.com/mysticalrose/ex204.html (Do Catholics worship graven images?)

www.catholicherald.com/saunders/03ws/ws030904.htm (Graven Images)

www.envoymagazine.com/backissues/1.4/nutsandbolts.html (The Biblical reasons why statues and icons are okay in God’s Book)

jloughnan.tripod.com/statues.htm  (images were used by the first Christians…just check out the catacombs)

www.newadvent.org/cathen/03417b.htm (The Roman Catacombs)

www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=2981 (Madonna and Child: one of the very first images used by the first Christians)



Below are excerpts from THIS ROCK magazine Volume 12, Number 4, April 2001:

Early in Israelite history the Jews were forbidden to make pictures of God because he had not revealed himself to them in a visible form. Had the Israelites made images of God, they might have been tempted to worship them, much as the pagans around them worshiped images. God later revealed himself under visible forms. One instance is found in Daniel 7:9-10: "As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took his seat; his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire."

“The Holy Spirit revealed himself under two visible forms--that of a dove, at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, John 1:32) and as tongues of fire, on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

“Most notably, God the Son visibly revealed himself in the Incarnation: "[A]nd going into the house they [the magi] saw the child with Mary his mother" (Matt. 2:11).

“Since God has revealed himself in the above forms, he can now be depicted under these forms. Keep in mind that Protestants have pictures of Jesus in Bible story books, that they depict the Holy Spirit as a dove, and that they depict the Father as an old man sitting on a throne. They do all these without the least temptation to worship these images as God.” [This Rock magazine Volume 12, Number 4, April 2001]



“The idea that the Church of the first centuries was in any way prejudiced against pictures and statues is the most impossible fiction. After Constantine (306-37) there was of course an enormous development of every kind. Instead of burrowing catacombs Christians began to build splendid basilicas. They adorned them with costly mosaics, carving, and statues. But there was no new principle. The mosaics represented more artistically and richly the motives that had been painted on the walls of the old caves, the larger statues continue the tradition begun by carved sarcophagi and little lead and glass ornaments. From that time to the Iconoclast Persecution holy images are in possession all over the Christian world. St. Ambrose (d. 397) describes in a letter how St. Paul appeared to him one night, and he recognized him by the likeness to his pictures (Ep. ii, in P. L., XVII, 821). St. Augustine (d. 430) refers several times to pictures of our Lord and the saints in churches (e. g. "De cons. Evang.", x in P. L., XXXIV, 1049; "Contra Faust. Man.", xxii 73, in P. L., XLII, 446); he says that some people even adore them ("De mor. eccl. cath.", xxxiv, P. L., XXXII, 1342). St. Jerome (d. 420) also writes of pictures of the Apostles as well-known ornaments of churches (In Ionam, iv). St. Paulinus of Nola (d. 431) paid for mosaics representing Biblical scenes and saints in the churches of his city, and then wrote a poem describing them (P. L., LXI, 884). Gregory of Tours (d. 594) says that a Frankish lady, who built a church of St. Stephen, showed the artists who painted its walls how they should represent the saints out of a book (Hist. Franc., II, 17, P. L., LXXI, 215). In the East St. Basil (d. 379), preaching about St. Barlaam, calls upon painters to do the saint more honour by making pictures of him than he himself can do by words ("Or. in S. Barlaam", in P. G., XXXI). St. Nilus in the fifth century blames a friend for wishing to decorate a church with profane ornaments, and exhorts him to replace these by scenes from Scripture (Epist. IV, 56). St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) was so great a defender of icons that his opponents accused him of idolatry (for all this see Schwarzlose, "Der Bilderstreit" i, 3-15). St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) was always a great defender of holy pictures (see below).” [source www.newadvent.org/cathen/07664a.htm  ]


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