Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Apologetic/On Idolatry/Idolatry: Origin and Meaning of the Name
Chapter III.—Idolatry: Origin and Meaning of the Name.
Idol in ancient times there was none. Before the artificers of this monstrosity had bubbled into being, temples stood solitary and shrines empty, just as to the present day in some places traces of the ancient practice remain permanently. Yet idolatry used to be practised, not under that name, but in that function; for even at this day it can be practised outside a temple, and without an idol. But when the devil introduced into the world artificers of statues and of images, and of every kind of likenesses, that former rude business of human disaster attained from idols both a name and a development. Thenceforward every art which in any way produces an idol instantly became a fount of idolatry. For it makes no difference whether a moulder cast, or a carver grave, or an embroiderer weave the idol; because neither is it a question of material, whether an idol be formed of gypsum, or of colors, or of stone, or of bronze, or of silver, or of thread. For since even without an idol idolatry is committed, when the idol is there it makes no difference of what kind it be, of what material, or what shape; lest any should think that only to be held an idol which is consecrated in human shape. To establish this point, the interpretation of the word is requisite. Eidos, in Greek, signifies form; eidolon, derived diminutively from that, by an equivalent process in our language, makes formling. Every form or formling, therefore, claims to be called an idol. Hence idolatry is “all attendance and service about every idol.” Hence also, every artificer of an idol is guilty of one and the same crime, unless, the People which consecrated for itself the likeness of a calf, and not of a man, fell short of incurring the guilt of idolatry.