Saturday, August 22, 2015


1 John 5:21 reads: Τεκνία, φυλάξατε ἑαυτὰ ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων.

The ancient Christians (first century) diligently endeavored to uphold this basic tenet expressed in the Johannine Epistle and elsewhere in Holy Writ. But one such person who later claimed to be a follower of Christ was Epiphanius of Salamis: he is an illuminating study in early "Christian" attitudes on idolatry and his story can be found among other places in Patrology (Vol. III) by historian Johannes Quasten.

The story of Epiphanius is too lengthy to recount in detail here. Therefore, it would be wise to see Quasten's work as well as the valuable five-volume series written by the late and eminent ecclesiastical historian Jaroslav Pelikan. But I now offer a few details about Epiphanius.

He was a bishop of Constantia (Salamis), who was born circa 315 CE. Epiphanius presided forty years as bishop, during which time he vehemently waged intellectual and doctrinal warfare against Origen of Alexandria and John Chrysostom as well as those who supported Origenist "heretical" notions. Yet Epiphanius seems to be especially known for his iconoclastic stance. So shocking are some of his indictments against idols that a number of scholars have tried to prove that some works containing Epiphanius' name are really forgeries; however, such scholarly claims have been adequately rebuffed and it appears that Epiphanius truly did oppose the use of idols in the church during his fourth-century tenure (until 403 CE when he died).

Today, his views can be found in the Epistles of Epiphanius and in his treatises, and pamphlet against images. Interested ones should also consult his Letter to the Emperor Theodosius I and a work known as The Testament or A Last Will and Testament. His letter to Emperor Theodosius explicitly declares that all images should be removed from churches having them since neither Scripture nor our Lord Jesus Christ ever approved of such veneration. I think you will find his works interesting and enlightening to peruse.

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