Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Parmenter, "The Iconic Book"

Dorina Miller Parmenter, in “The Iconic Book: The Image of the Bible in Early Christian Rituals,” Postscripts 2 (2006): 160-189, describes the ritual display and manipulation of Bibles in Greek Orthodox and Protestant traditions. She argues that the Christian scripture functions in a manner precisely analogous to Orthodox icons. Bibles, therefore, are “iconic” in the strict sense—a fact recognized by medieval theologians engaged in the iconoclastic controversies of the seventh-ninth centuries. Dori argues that our recognition of this fact would enable us to better understand the social and religious function of scriptures in other periods and cultures as well. She concludes:

The iconophiles’ justifications for how icons function as mediators of the divine presence can help scholars today understand the veneration that has been shown to the Christian Bible in diverse, yet often unconscious, ways throughout Christian history. This reverence for the Bible as both text (Word) and object (Book) can be found in rituals that treat the book as if it were the divine presence itself and in myths that offer imagery of powerful divine books made available to humans. These rituals and myths linger in contemporary Christian attitudes, ideas, and practices: most overtly in formal liturgical rituals such as Gospel processions, but also in low-church Protestant displays of the Bible. The latter may be less formalized than the former, but they nevertheless manipulate the same image of the divine presence made possible through the medium of the book. (p. 184)

The full article is available in .pdf from Equinox publishing.

No comments: