Smashing Idols: A Paradoxical Semiotics

Massimo Leone
2016 Signs and Society  
A B S T R A C T The evolution of monotheism within a polytheist culture is strictly connected with the institution of the dialectics between "monolatry" and "idolatry." On the one hand, one divinity among many becomes the center of an increasingly exclusive cult; on the other hand, this exclusivity unfolds in parallel with the stigmatization of any alternative veneration. The establishment of monolatry is substantiated both in sacred texts, which designate the only god, forbid all others,
more » ... d all others, prescribe the legitimate cult, and condemn deviations, and in liturgy that avoids any reference to multiplicity of transcendence. The liturgical work of monolatry, however, is not only positive, since in addition to regulating the material, verbal, and actional signs of the cult, it also entails a destructive tension. Thus, in establishing monolatry, determining formulae for evoking the only transcendence is as essential as destroying any signs that might contaminate it by representing a rival divinity. Ἀλλ'ἄνθρωποι πάλιν παράφρονες, καταλιγωρήσαντες καὶ οὕτως τῆς δοθείσης αὐτοῖς χάριτος, τοσοῦτον ἀπεστράφησαν τὸν Θεόν, καὶ τοσοῦτον ἐθόλωσαν ἑαυτῶν τὴν ψυχὴν ὡς μὴ μόνον ἐπιλαθέσθαι τῆς περὶ Θεοῦ ἐννοίας, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἕτερα ἀνθ'ἑτέρων ἑαυτοῖς ἀναπλάσασθαι. -Athanasius Περὶ τῆς ἐνανθρωπήσεως τοῦ Λόγου, 11, 21-24
doi:10.1086/684586 fatcat:ftndcvwgybgf3nepp64j5l4sie