Further Response to Mr. Albrecht Regarding Debate on Veneration of Images

In a new video (audio + slideshow only), Mr. Albrecht has responded to the comments in my post (link to post) regarding the debate. This is in addition to the comments he submitted to me by email, and which are already addressed in the original post via an update to that post. I’ve provided the following written response and a largely-overlapping video response (just audio), below.

Mr. Albrecht responded to the comments on my blog by way of video. He stated that I didn’t heavily emphasize the Old Testament prohibition on the veneration of images – his justification for this claim was simply his assertion that the Old Testament doesn’t prohibit the veneration of images. This assertion is patently false. I highlighted many passages which specifically prohibit the veneration of images, such as Exodus 20:5, which states: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.”

Or Leviticus 26:1, which states: “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.”

In point of fact, Mr. Albrecht barely engaged the text of Scripture. Instead he focused his time in other areas.

One of his main arguments to attempt to distinguish away the Old Testament texts was to assert that “There is, however, a clear distinction between idolatry and veneration.”

Can Mr. Albrecht show us this distinction in the Bible? No, he cannot.
Can Mr. Albrecht show us this distinction from the fathers of the first century? No, they don’t make that distinction.
What about the fathers of the second century? No, they too say nothing helpful to him.
He basically has to jump forward in time many hundreds of years to find anything like this distinction being brought out.

He refers to the latria/dulia distinction that Rome is fond of making. He and I debated that topic some time ago. He could not find the distinction in Scripture then – and he still cannot find it now. Even if he could find that distinction eventually enunciated in some father or other after some time, as we brought out in the debate the 2nd Council of Nicaea did not make the distinction that he would like to see.

Mr. Albrecht again appeals to Dura Europos. He states: “There was much stronger evidence to prove the early Christian church venerated images, statues. The Dura Europos is a clear-cut example of this.” During the debate we exposed this error. Nobody knows what sect worshiped in that church. Nobody knows how the images were used – whether just for decoration, for teaching, or for (as Mr. Albrecht claims) veneration. In fact, no one knows even whether the church was ever used.

He claims it is a Christian church from earlier than the mid-200’s. His assertion is empty and untrue.

He claims that I “have to fall back on the assertion that this church is not typical.” Listen to the debate. First he asked me whether I knew of Dura Europos, then he asked me whether it was typical. I told him it was not. That’s hardly me “falling back” on that position.

He then asks who am I to make an assertion that Dura Europos is not typical. Well, he asked me – so I told him. Why would anybody think that Dura Europos was typical? Mr. Albrecht does not give us any good reasons to think so.

He then states that he’s not aware of any scholars who say that unorthodox people worshiped there. I’m not sure what his ignorance of the subject is supposed to prove. Are there any scholars who claim orthodox Christians worship there? If so, who are these scholars? What is there basis for the claim? Mr. Albrecht can’t tell us, because Mr. Albrecht doesn’t know.

Mr. Albrecht claims that he showed that not a single father interpreted the key Biblical texts in the same way in which I interpreted them. There was not time for Mr. Albrecht to show anything remotely resembling that. All Mr. Albrecht did was assert such a thing. He did quote a small handful of fathers who neither explicitly supported nor explicitly condemned the position I took.

Then Mr. Albrecht tries to explain why his unproven assertion is true. His proposed reason why is “the fathers knew the difference between idolatry and true religious veneration.” But, of course, Scripture does not make that distinction and Mr. Albrecht cannot identify any church fathers that make that distinction. It’s another assertion on Mr. Albrecht’s part, but not one he can support with facts.

Mr. Albrecht tried to argue that Ancient Judaism is not on my side. This was another one of his blunders. He quotes Jacob Milgrim who indicates that in the mid-third century there starts to appear in Judaism a “grudging recognition of Jewish art” and that people began to paint pictures on the walls in that time. This just proves my very point. (Read the article for yourself!)

Mr. Albrecht then cites to a pseudographic Jewish Targum that specifically permits for carved stone columns as long as they are not worshiped. This Targum, however, dates to somewhere between the eighth century and the 15th century. It’s hardly representative of ancient Judaism.

And even if it were, it is simply distinguishing between having the images and venerating them.

Mr. Albrecht claims that his quotation from Basil is a “contested quotation.” That’s not true. It’s a spurious quotation. The consensus of scholarship agrees – both among Roman Catholic scholars and non-Roman Catholic scholars.

I pointed out that Mr. Albrecht was relying on a secondary source. I probably should have mentioned that his comments about Judaism were similarly drawn from a secondary source, which is probably why he didn’t realize the pseudographic Targum he quoted was so late.

Mr. Albrecht asserted that he relied on as secondary source “just as everything else Turretinfan relies on in scholarly works on the Biblical or patristic texts are secondary sources.” I’m not sure why this is particularly relevant. There’s no scholarly source that Mr. Albrecht has turned to that says anything other than what I’ve said – his quotation from Basil is spurious.

Mr. Albrecht goes on to argue with one of the patristic scholars who notes that the term “theotokos” became popular later than Basil. Mr. Albrecht misunderstands what the scholar wrote and goes off on a diatribe about how the term theotokos was used early.

Mr. Albrecht makes a serious blunder by alleging that the term theotokos was used “close to two centuries before Basil’s time” by citing a prayer found in a papyrus that was “dated by papyrologists to the mid-200’s.” The mid-200’s would be about 100 years before Basil (330-379). And frankly, given Mr. Albrecht’s numerous mistakes about dates and so forth, I would want to see what his source was regarding this prayer as well rather than just accepting it (though it may be correct).

Mr. Albrecht points out that work was probably not written by the Greek iconoclasts. One of the works that I quoted from does say “It has been attributed to the Greek Iconoclasts,” which is clearly wrong. So, Mr. Albrecht is quite right to point out the editor’s mistake in using the word “Iconoclast” instead of “Iconodule.” I’m not sure if Mr. Albrecht read the other notes, which indicated what this quotation obviously meant, which was that the work had been created during the Iconoclastic controversy. Nevertheless, I fully agree with Mr. Albrecht that it was not the iconoclasts, but the iconodules, who forged this particular letter.

Mr. Albrecht also suggests that many more “m s s” (as he calls them) have been discovered at a later date. I don’t know of any scholarly support for Mr. Albrecht’s assertion, and he does not provide any.

Mr. Albrecht then tries to bolster his position regarding Basil by quoting Basil’s statement that the honor paid to the image passes on to the prototype. This is very interesting, of course, because Basil is talking about worship of Jesus passing on to the Father. I’m not sure if Mr. Albrecht grasps the impact of his seizing on this phrase from Basil. Is his worship of Jesus the same as his worship of images? Does he really want to compare his worship of man-made images to his worship of the true image of the Father?

Basil certainly did not make that comparison. Basil was simply pointing out that by worshiping Jesus was are not becoming tritheists – we remain monotheists, because the worship given to Jesus is not only given to Jesus but to the Father. Basil did not compare the worship of Jesus to the worship of painted boards or statues.

Mr. Albrecht speaks with great emphasis on the word “Image” but he doesn’t seem to realize that Basil is speaking of the Son of God, not some carved stone column or other lifeless idol. I will grant him this – the veneration of Jesus is perfectly acceptable. There is no problem worshiping Jesus. It is man-made images that are the problem. Remember that Scriptures “thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image or any likeness,” it does not prohibit us from worshiping the image of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Albrecht says that in the authentic Basil quotation, the use of “icon” in its proper Christian usage is shown. I heartily agree. The one icon we can worship is Jesus himself. Not a picture of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the image of the Father. That’s the proper Christian worship of an icon – and it is the only worship of an icon supported by Basil.

Mr. Albrecht again repeats his statement that “Christianity has always been able to distinguish between proper religious veneration and idolatry.” Yet, as we’ve noted each time – Mr. Albrecht’s assertion is just not supported by any evidence.

Mr. Albrecht next turned to the issue of the Vienna Genesis. He admitted he made a mistake in saying that the Vienna Genesis was dated to the 300’s, and asserted that it was dated to the 400’s. Actually, while some people have placed it in the late 400’s, it appears that the consensus is for the early 500’s.

Mr. Albrecht then claims that he really meant to refer to the “Cotton Genesis.” But Bruce Metzger (who Mr. Albrecht cited during the debate) also tells us that the “Cotton Genesis” is from the 500’s and John Lowden tells us that some scholars (citing Weitzmann and Kessler) date this to the late 400’s (John Lowden, “The Beginnings of Biblical Illustration” in “Imaging the Early Medieval Bible,” John Williams editor), p. 15. The same work indicates the sixth century for the Vienna Genesis (p. 17).

Mr. Albrecht tries to argue that he has provided positive evidence for the veneration of images in the early church, but he has not. The most he has done is to point out that in some instances some of the ancient churches had images in the churches.


4 Responses to “Further Response to Mr. Albrecht Regarding Debate on Veneration of Images”

  1. theorthodoxlife Says:
  2. theorthodoxlife Says:
  3. ChaferDTS Says:
  4. zablause Says:

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