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Framing the JinaNarratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History$
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John Cort

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195385021

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195385021.001.0001

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The Inevitability of Tangible Form: A Natural Theology of Icons

The Inevitability of Tangible Form: A Natural Theology of Icons

(p.247) 6 The Inevitability of Tangible Form: A Natural Theology of Icons
Framing the Jina

John E. Cort (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In the twentieth century, we find new Jain narratives in defense of icons. These new narratives take into account a growing awareness of the fact that Jainism is just one among many religions in the world, and also the rise of new discourses such as that of “history.” The Murtipujaka monks Jnansundar, Buddhisagar, Bhadrankarvijay, and Kalyanvijay all responded with defenses of icons in the new language of modernity. They argued that since humans are embodied, they must use material form, and so icon worship is “natural.” They argued for a processual development from that which has form to that which is formless, an argument that is then compared to the similar much earlier argument advanced in Christianity by Dionysus Areopagite (Pseudo‐Dionysus), John of Damascus, Theodore of Studion, as well as the Protestant Christian defense of material form by Martin Luther. The Jain authors also argued that icons and icon‐use are universal, and therefore argued against what David Freedberg has termed “the myth of aniconism.” Their arguments had to account for the rise of iconoclasm; here, the Jain defenders of icons pointed to Islam as the global root of all iconoclasm. This leads to an investigation of the long‐standing trope of Muslim iconoclasm in Jain literature.

Keywords:   Bhadrankarvijay, Buddhisagar, Dionysus Areopagite (Pseudo‐Dionysus), David Freedberg, Islam, Jnansundar (Jñ_nsundar), John of Damascus, Kalyanvijay, Martin Luther, Muslim iconoclasm, myth of aniconism, Theodore of Studion

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