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"Written" or "painted"?
=="Written" or "painted"?==
The most literal translation of the word {{Lang-el|εικονογραφία}} (''eikonographia'') is "image writing," leading many English-speaking Orthodox Christians to insist that icons are not "painted" but rather "written." From there, further explanations are given that icons are to be understood in a manner similar to [[Holy Scripture]]—that is, they are not simply artistic compositions but rather are witnesses representation to the truth the way Scripture is. Far from being imaginitive creations of the iconographer, they are more like scribal copies of the Bible.
While the explanation of the purpose and nature of icons is certainly true and consistent with the Church's [[Holy Tradition]], there is a linguistic problem with the insistence on the word ''written'' rather than ''painted''. In Greek, a painted portrait of anyone is also a '{{Lang-el|γραφή}}' (''graphi''), and the art of painting itself is called ζωγραφική (''zographiki'') while any drawing or painting can be referred to as {{Lang-el|ζωγραφιά}} (''zographia''). Ancient Greek literally uses the same root word to refer to the making of portraits and the making of icons, but distinguishes whether it is "painting from life" '{{lang-el|ζωγραφιά}}' or "painting icons" '{{lang-el|εικονογραφία}}'. Thus, from a linguistic point of view, either all paintings—whether icons or simple portraits—are "written" or (more likely) "painted" is a perfectly usable English translation, simply making a distinction between the painting appropriate for icons and that appropriate for other kinds of painting, just as Greek does.

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