The word icon is a transliteration of the
Greek word eikon and is found in the New Testament, particularly in the letters of the
apostle Paul. While most Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians are familiar with the
biblical theme of Jesus as the Word of God made flesh (John 1:1-14), Orthodox Christians
also celebrate the biblical theme of Jesus as the Icon or Image of God. The icons found in
Orthodox Churches are a celebration of the fact that Jesus Christ is indeed the Word of
God made flesh and that anyone who has seen Jesus has seen the Father (John 12:45 and
14:8-12). As the 7th Ecumenical Council held in the city of Nicea in 787 AD proclaimed,
icons are in color what the Scriptures are in words: witnesses to the incarnation, the
fact that God has come among us as a person whom we can see, touch and hear. In fact, in
the traditional language of the Church, icons are not painted but written and an
iconographer is literally "one who writes icons."
Below are listed some of the places that
the word icon is found in the original Greek text of the New Testament. Normally
translated by the English words "image" or "likeness" in the New
Revised Standard Version and the New International Version, in the texts given below the
transliterated word icon has been left in the text.
THE WORD ICON APPLIED TO JESUS CHRIST
"He [Jesus] is the icon of the
invisible God" (Colossians 1:15).
"In their case, the god of this
world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the
Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the icon of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4).
HUMAN BEINGS IN THE CHURCH
"Do not lie to one another, seeing
that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature,
which is being renewed in knowledge after the icon of its Creator" (Colossians 3:10).
"And we all, with unveiled face,
reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His icon from one degree of glory
to another; for this comes from the Lord who is Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).