The Iconic Book

The Image of the Bible in Early Christian Rituals


  • Dorina Miller Parmenter Syracuse University



Martin Marty, icon, scripture, Gospel, Christian liturgies


To elucidate some of the origins of what Martin Marty has called “America’s Iconic Book,” this article analyzes early Christian rituals in which the Bible functions as an icon, that is, as a material object that invokes the presence of the divine. After an introductory discussion of icons, it shows that early Christian communal rituals of Gospel procession and display as well as popular and private ritual uses of scripture as a miracle-working object parallel the uses and functions of Orthodox portrait icons while circumventing issues of idolatry. Examples come from a survey of early Christian liturgies, conciliar and legal records, the physical appearance of Bibles and Gospel books, the representations of books in art, and written arguments from the iconoclastic controversies of the eighth and ninth centuries.

Author Biography

Dorina Miller Parmenter, Syracuse University

PhD candidate in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University.


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How to Cite

Parmenter, D. M. (2008). The Iconic Book: The Image of the Bible in Early Christian Rituals. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 2(2-3), 160-189.