This book contains, I believe, all the questions and the answers that I was seeking for in regard to images in the early Church and how that relates to icons in the later Orthodox Church.
Basically, what Bigham does is put a dent in the hostility theory, which claims that the early Church was against all images whatsoever (iconophiles). This he is very clear about though. He makes no claim to having demolished it.
What is very interesting is that he admits that icons as the EOC understands them today are a development of what the early Church understood them to be. This is groundbreaking really, because the EOC claims to have an unbroken line of doctrinal orthodoxy from the times of Jesus to our own day. If one of their defining councils (the 7th) is based on development of doctrine (something that Newman put solidly within the field of Christian doctrinal study), then it puts a serious dent in their claims of unchanged Apostolicity.
But here is what Bigham says. He obviously doesn't feel that development of doctrine dents his position if understood properly:
"Few defenders of the idea of Tradition claim that nothing has changed since the beginning of the Church, and everyone recognizes that all the changes that have taken place have not necessarily been for the good. We can easily see in the New Testament itself several theological tendencies, both practices and beliefs, that no longer exist or have been radically changed. A healthy doctrine of Holy Tradition makes a place for changes, and even corruption and restoration, throughout history while still affirming an essential continuity and purity. This concept is otherwise known as indefectibility: the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. This theoretical framework, indefectibility, takes change and evolution into account but denies that there has been or can be a rupture or corruption of Holy Tradition itself."
What is interesting is that Development of Doctrine is always after the fact. It is quite easy to say after some doctrine has been altered that this was "development" rather than alteration. The early Church had no concept of Development of Doctrine. Tertullian does speak of a Development of Discipline, which RC's sometimes use in defense of Development of Doctrine, but this is discounted on two counts.
1. this writing is post-Montanist, and they believed the Holy Spirit was giving them new revelation
2. He specifically states in the passage that there is no Development of Doctrine. He is here making a distinction, and a case for Montanism, that it is still holding the Faith Once Delivered.
Every Ante-Nicene writer either does not deal with the subject of images at all or is hostile. But what he shows is that all of these writers who do deal with the subject are dealing with pagan art and not a Christian art, purified of pagan idolatry. He shows that men like Tertullian were highly sensitized to pagan art and images since it was all around them. They were probably bombarded with it, and so a very strong stance against art in general should be expected. Also, I have noted in my own reading that Tertullian was an extremist. This is shown not only from his writings, but from his later fall into Montanism with its strict ascetic practices and lack of grace for those who had sinned once after baptism. I personally take much of what Tertullian wrote with a grain of salt these days.
He does not deal at all with archaeology which provides very strong evidence against the hostility theory, but does not support very much his Orthodox position.
In the end, he is very honest with the facts, and I salute him for that. More could be said, but I hope that will suffice. Sorry for the delay. My wife is abroad and I am at home, very sick with the 6 children.
I will write for you what the back of the book says as there is very little information about this book on the web and I only knew it was what I was looking for because of another reviewer on www.Amazon.com. I have not as yet read the book myself, but I am very excited about it.
For all iconophiles, that is, those who accept the dogma of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, but especially the Orthodox who claim that the icon has a sacramental and mystical character, it is naturally disquieting to hear the claim that the early Christians were aniconic and iconophobic. If this claim is true, the theology and the veneration of the icon are seriously undermined. It is, therefore, natural for iconophiles to attempt to disprove the thesis according to which the early Christians had no images whatsoever (aniconic) because they believed them to be idols (iconophobic). It is equally natural for iconophiles to want to substantiate, as much as this is possible, their deep intuition that the roots of Christian iconography go back to the apostolic age. This study weakens the notion and credibility of the alleged hostility of the early Christians to non-idolatrous images, providing a more balanced evaluation of this question.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fr. Steven Bigham is an Orthodox priest in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in the Carpatho-Russian Diocese. He teaches in the program Certificat en théologie orthodoxe (Certificate in Orthodox Theology) at the Université de Sherbrooke (Quebec). He specializes in iconology (history and theology of icons). He has authored several books and articles on the subject. Fr. Steven is married and has two children.
Table of Contents:
I. The Theory of the Early Christians' Hostility Toward Images
1. Aniconic and Iconophobic
2. Icon, Idol and the Hostility Theory
3. Absolute or Relative Prohibition
4. The Argument from Tradition
II. The Jewish Attitudes Toward Images
2. A Theoretical Framework
3. The Application of the Hypothesis: The Old Testament
4. The Illuminated Bible
5. Between the Exile and Herod the Great
6. From Herod the Great to the Destruction of the Temple: Josephus and Philo
7. After the Destruction of the Temple: Rabbinical Judaism
III. The Early Christian Images
2. The New Testament
3. Traditions Relating to the New Testament
4. The Pro-Constantinian Literature
5. The Archaeological Monuments
IV. Eusebius of Caesarea and Christian Images
2. At Paneas, the Statue of Christ and the Woman with a Hemorrhage: The History of the Church VII, XVIII
3. At Paneas, the Statue of Christ and the Woman with a Hemorrhage: Commentary on Luke 8:43-48
4. The Image of the Three Visitors to Abraham: The Proof of the Gospel
5. The Cross in the Hand of a Statue of Constantine: The History of the Church IX, IX, 10
6. A Cross in the Hand of a Statue of Constantine: The Life of Constantine I, XI
7. Rejection of Christ's Image: The Letter to Constantia
8. Evidence from the Life of Constantine
9. Analysis of the Data
Annex: Texts in Translation
About the Author