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The Iconic Book: The Image of the Bible in Early Christian Rituals

Issue: Vol 2 No. 2-3 (2006)

Journal: Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Islamic Studies Biblical Studies

DOI: 10.1558/post.v2i2.160


To elucidate some of the origins of what Martin Marty has called “America’s Iconic
Book,” this article analyzes early Christian rituals in which the Bible functions as an
icon, that is, as a material object that invokes the presence of the divine. After an
introductory discussion of icons, it shows that early Christian communal rituals of
Gospel procession and display as well as popular and private ritual uses of scripture
as a miracle-working object parallel the uses and functions of Orthodox portrait icons
while circumventing issues of idolatry. Examples come from a survey of early
Christian liturgies, conciliar and legal records, the physical appearance of Bibles and
Gospel books, the representations of books in art, and written arguments from the
iconoclastic controversies of the eighth and ninth centuries.

Author: Dorina Miller Parmenter

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