The defense of the Church's affirmative answer to the key question of the Byzantine iconoclastic controversy - 'Can God be represented?' - rested primarily upon the incarnation of Christ: 'I am emboldened to depict the invisible God, not as invisible, but as he became visible for our sake, by participation in flesh and blood' (St. John Damascene). Although the precise nature of angels is difficult to define, ranging from the biblical characterization of them as fire and wind (Ps. 104:4) to the assertion by Macarius the Great that they have subtle bodies, it is certain that they are incorporeal in so far as they do not participate in flesh and blood, which raises the central question of this inquiry: 'How does one make an image of an incorporeal being, and what meaning does that image have for devotion to and comprehension of that being?' Drawing from a deep well of resources, including icons, saints' lives, and patristic texts, art historian Glenn Peers addresses these questions by describing the theological contours of the Byzantine debate over icons with particular emphasis upon angelic images and by exploring the impact of such imagery upon the public devotion of Late Antiquity. A topic too often neglected, Peer's examination of angels within the context of the iconoclastic controversy is a unique and intriguing contribution to the growing field of Byzantine studies.
An Eighth Day View:
Throughout the course of Byzantine history, Christian doctrine taught that angels have a powerful place in cosmology. It also taught that angels were immaterial, bodiless, invisible beings. But if that were the case, how could they be visualized and depicted in icons and other works of art? This book describes the strategies used by Byzantine artists to represent the incorporeal forms of angels and the rationalizations in defense of their representations mustered by theologians in the face of iconoclastic opposition. Glenn Peers demonstrates that these problems of representation provide a unique window on Late Antique thought in general.