Cappadocian responses I
This paper will respond to the questions posed by Frances Young in her paper “God’s Image: the ‘Elephant in the Room’ in the fourth Century?”, by examining theories of ‘imaging’ as they apply to theology and the arts and, in particular, by focussing on the concept of ‘mimesis’. This does not appear as an explicit theme in Young’s paper on which this workshop is based; however, mimesis is a prominent theme in her writing on early Christian exegesis, especially in her Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture. This paper will argue that the Cappadocian fathers (especially the two Gregories) reflect explicitly on the ‘mimetic’ quality of their theological writing: they connect this to artistic mimesis in general (including visual mimesis in pictures and sculpture) and this allows them to make a distinction between mimesis as mere representation or repetition and mimesis which is productive in some other more positive way. The paper will connect this move to art-historical analyses of ‘viewing’ in Late Antiquity (using the work of Jaś Elsner), arguing that the Cappadocians thought that Christian art did not attempt directly to represent the divine as pagan idols did. Furthermore, they claimed (against Eunomius) that bad theological writing was ‘idolatrous’ because it tried directly to represent the divine. The question is, then, whether/how the Cappadocians connected claims about visual and literary idolatry either to the exegesis of Ex 20:4 or to theological claims about Christ being the image of God (Col 1:15) and humans being created in God’s image (Gen 1:27)?