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Icons, Iconoclasm, and the Lack of Effect in Western Europe

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The idea of an icon, which represents a figure, has thrived since the creation of the Jewish Torah, or what the Christians call the Old Testament. Icons came in many shapes and sizes to demonstrate stories from both the Old and New Testament. However, sometimes the use of icons was abused by world leaders with their people. Over time, some groups believed icons benefited the survival of their religion, although others thought to misuse the icon, since people worshipped it for qualities it did not have. This idea played a prevalent role and influenced the iconoclasts' focus on the destruction of religious icons in the Byzantine Empire, during the periods 717-754 CE, 754-775 CE, and 815-843 CE. Their ideals about the breaking of icons, however, did not penetrate Western Europe; where they praised the use of icons to better assist their followers enjoy their faith.
The Hebrew Bible, which Christians used as their Old Testament, held specific ideals about the practice of icons in accordance with idolatry. The Second Commandment, which God issued to Moses on Mount Sinai, clearly stated God's wishes about idols in Exodus chapter twenty verse four and five, "thou shalt not make unto thy any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them" (The Holy Bible). From a literal sense, God made man in his image, so when someone makes a figure of a man, the image of God is displayed, and this classified as idolatry. In the text of Exodus, the Israelites disobeyed God's commands when they fashioned a golden calf, which they worshipped as an idol. In the Byzantine Empire, the iconoclasts held the seco...

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...nately, these principles about the use of icons did not infiltrate Western Europe, but instead icons thrived as a means to create a more unified church for members who could not read. Without the use of icons in Western Europe, civilization would have lost an important part of the history of the early Christian religion.

Works Cited

Barber, Charles. Figure and Likeness: On the Limits of Representation in Byzantine Iconoclasm. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2002.
Images, Idolatry, and Iconoclasm in Late Medieval England. Ed. Jeremy Dimmick, James Simpson, and Nicolette Zeeman. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. Chattanooga, Tennessee: AMG International Inc., 1998
The Image and the Word: Confrontations in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Ed. Joseph Gutmann. Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1977.
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