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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Puritan iconoclasm : its origin and motivation Zimmermann, Jens


The thesis examines the debate about iconoclasm during the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth century by tracing the development of iconoclastic thought from the conflict between Martin Luther and Andreas Bodenstein von Carlstadt (1521/22) through the Swiss Reformers and Jean Calvin up to the time of the English Puritans. Karlstadt's iconoclastic treatises were read in Switzerland and much of their content adopted, defended and refined by men like Leo Jud, Ludwig Haetzer and Ulrich Zwingli. The introduction of Jean Calvin's hermeneutics of synecdoche revolutionized iconoclastic thought, because it increased the weight of the idolatrous offense and also explored the subjective mental aspects of image worship. Secondly, I discuss the reception and adoption of Calvin's synechdocal hermeneutics by the English Puritans to show that the Puritans' uncompromising attitude towards image worship, as well as their call for a consistent application of the ten commandments to every aspect of the social and political spheres of life, is based on Calvin's hermeneutical tool. Furthermore, the connection between image worship, the Eucharist controversy and the Puritan view on music in worship is explored. Attention is also given to the most important analogies and metaphors which were used in the iconoclastic debate, predominantly the equation of unfaithfulness to God and the breaking of His covenant with the violation of the marital covenant through adultery. Because the Puritans' iconoclastic writings and actions were based on their love for God, their motivation for a reconstruction of worship and society ought to be seen as primarily theological, rather than political, and they themselves deserve to he seen not as aesthetic barbarians but as God-fearing men who acted out of a genuine concern for the individual’s as well as for their nation's relationship to God.

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