Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Golitzin, Alexander

Second Advisor

Dempsey, Deirdre

Third Advisor

Barnes, Michel R.


This dissertation looks at the scriptural images of angel and temple, as they occur in key works by John Damascene: on the Heresies, chapter 100 "On the Ishmaelites;" Three Treatises on the Divine Images, and on the Orthodox Faith. Angelic and temple imagery forms an important core which holds together liturgy, ascesis, and theophany. These types of images constitute a consistent mode for understanding theology and anthropology. As part of revelation, they are important in the early Islamic context. Angel and temple imagery were used by John Damascene to push back against Islamic revelation claims and Islamic challenges to the centrality of these images from an older, more developed and ascetic way of dealing with the imagery of Jewish and Christian revelation. As such, John Damascene must argue in a way which reinforces both the biblical images and the sense of the hermeneutic propriety of worshipping Christ through images and other sacramental means. Christ himself as divine, and God expressed in his Will creating and provident, is defended by the claim for the Image within the Trinity.

In the context of both Islamic and Iconoclastic claims to a better understanding of Divine Law, either through Quran or Old Testament, John Damascene consistently tries to show Christian belief and practice as adhering to the Law as properly understood in Christ. In doing so, he ends up more powerfully affirming matter, sense (especially vision), and the body.

As regards the body, John Damascene consistently moves in the direction of asserting something bodily about God, definitely proclaiming angels as in some sense bodily and focusing on the theological import of Christ's incarnate enthronement and theophany. For John Damascene, both angel and temple work in tandem as icons, meeting places, and accompaniment of theophany for the Christian. These images help to emphasize human refinement and purification through ascesis and virtue, understood as movement to greater vision and participation in the place of God's appearance and human exaltation, in Christ.