THE WORD “ICON” AS IT OCCURS IN THE SCRIPTURES
The word icon is a transliteration of the Greek word eikon and is found in the New Testament, particularly in the letters of the apostle Paul. While most Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians are familiar with the biblical theme of Jesus as the Word of God made flesh (John 1:1-14), Orthodox Christians also celebrate the biblical theme of Jesus as the Icon or Image of God.
The icons found in Orthodox Churches are a celebration of the fact that Jesus Christ is indeed the Word of God made flesh and that anyone who has seen Jesus has seen the Father (John 12:45 and 14:8-12). As the 7th Ecumenical Council held in the city of Nicea in 787 AD proclaimed, icons are in color what the Scriptures are in words: witnesses to the incarnation, the fact that God has come among us as a person whom we can see, touch and hear. In fact, in the traditional language of the Church, icons are not merely painted but written and an iconographer is sometimes called “one who writes icons.”
Below are listed some of the places that the word icon is found in the original Greek text of the New Testament. Normally translated by the English words “image” or “likeness” in the New Revised Standard Version and the New International Version, in the texts given below the transliterated word icon has been left in the text.
THE WORD ICON APPLIED TO JESUS CHRIST
“He [Jesus] is the icon of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
“In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the icon of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
HUMAN BEINGS IN THE CHURCH
“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the icon of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10).
“And we all, with unveiled face, reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His icon from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Articles on Icons and Iconography
- The Kissing Part by Frederica Matthewes Green
- Orthodox Art and Architecture by John Yiannias
- Praying with Icons: Integrating Body and Soul by Jim Forest
- Praying with Icons: A Short History of Icons by Jim Forest
- Praying with Icons: Qualities of the Icon by Jim Forest
- Theology Without Words: Understanding the Language of Icons by Jim Forest
- Icons: Word and Image Together by Jim Forest
- Icons From Our Acolyte Room
- See video of the “Icons of Sinai” exhibition and life at St. Catherine’s Monastery
- Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Digital Icon Library
- Icons of Saint Andrei Rublev
- Ikons as Windows into Heaven: A Collection of Sacred Images
- Orthodox Arts Journal
- New World Byzantine Studios
- Aidan Hart Sacred Icons
- Byzantine Art Icons
Videos About Icons at St. Paul’s
Orthodox Christians, like the earliest Christian communities that met in the catacombs of ancient Rome and other places, believe that art can be used to praise and glorify the living God. To help in understanding the beauty and meaning of the art that adorns the interior of St. Paul’s, please view the brief videos below:
One of the most striking features of our Church is the dome and its depiction of Christ, as well as other figures from both the Old and New Testaments:
General Videos About Icons
Holy Image, Holy Space: Icons from Greece
Hosted by Medieval and Byzantine Art Curator, Dr. Gary Vikan, the show focuses on icons as objects of religious worship and artistic achievement. The history of iconography-from St. Luke to El Greco-is examined step-by-step in this superbly photographed video and features more than 80 icons and frescoes, which are analyzed in detail regarding significance and symbolism.
Part 1: Windows into Heaven
Part 2: Theology in Colors