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Iconography

684 bytes added, 12:17, April 21, 2007
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The most literal translation of the word {{Lang-el|εικονογραφία}} (''eikonographia'') is "image writing," leading many English-speaking Orthodox Christians to insist that icons are not "painted" but rather "written." From there, further explanations are given that icons are to be understood in a manner similar to [[Holy Scripture]]—that is, they are not simply artistic compositions but rather are witnesses to the truth the way Scripture is. Far from being imaginitive creations of the iconographer, they are more like scribal copies of the Bible.
While the explanation of the purpose and nature of icons is certainly true and consistent with the Church's [[Holy Tradition]], there is a linguistic problem with the insistence on the word ''written'' rather than ''painted''. In Greek, a painted portrait of anyone is also a '{{Lang-el|γραφή}}' (''graphi''), and the art of painting itself is called ζωγραφική (''zographiki'') while any drawing or painting can be referred to as {{Lang-el|ζωγραφιά}} (''zographia''). Ancient Greek literally uses the same root word to refer to the making of portraits and the making of icons, but distinguishes whether it is "painting from life" '{{lang-el|ζωγραφιά}}' or "painting icons" '{{lang-el|εικονογραφία}}'. Thus, from a linguistic point of view, either all paintings—whether icons or simple portraits—are "written" or (more likely) "painted" is a perfectly usable English translation, simply making a distinction between the painting appropriate for icons and that appropriate for other kinds of painting, just as Greek does. Some have suggested that icon writing be used because of the fact that for many centuries, (whether the early Church, the persecutions against the Christians by the pagan authorities, or more recently around the Orthodox World when the faithful have been subjected to non-Orthodox authority), icons were the books of the illiterate and through the depiction of an often simple image refer to and confirm the fundamental belief of the Church; the Incarnation. God's becoming human, His undertaking and sanctifying of human nature and matter in general means that He can be depicted using matter.
==See also==
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