Icons & Iconography
The Word “Icon” as It Appears 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.
“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.”
“He [Jesus] is the icon of the invisible God.”
“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
“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
Iconography at St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church
Orthodox Christians, like the earliest Christian communities who met in the catacombs of ancient Rome and other places, believe that art can be used to praise and glorify the living God. To learn more about the beauty and meaning of the art that adorns the interior of St. Paul’s, please view the brief videos below:
Fr. Steven Tsichlis answers the question: Why are there icons in the Orthodox church?
Fr. Steven Tsichlis discusses the iconography in the dome of St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church
In this video, Frederica Mathewes-Green explains why Orthodox Christians kiss icons as well as how Orthodox Christians make the sign of the cross and the meaning behind it.
In this video, Frederica Mathewes-Green talks about a lighting a candle in front of an icon. Is it idolatry?
Icons: Ancient & Modern
Classically trained iconographer, Lynette Hull, draws fascinating parallels between contemporary and ancient “icons.”
In this video, FOCUS shows how each of us is an icon, made in the image of God. FOCUS North America is a national movement of Orthodox Christians, united in faith and joined by a desire to provide action-oriented and sustainable solutions to poverty in communities across America.
Icons in Egypt & Russia
The icons of Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt
Revival of Orthodoxy In Russia – Exhibition in Moscow