The relevance of iconography in Old Testament studies

Ágnes Csabai – Károli Gáspár University

The present paper aims to outline the potentials offered by the investigation of Ancient Near Eastern visual sources, contemporary with the production of the written Old Testament material, which may add new fuel to Biblical studies, often restricted to textual matters.  I intend to reflect how related iconographic scenes may add new information to the textual interpretation. Upon doing so, I would like to differentiate three basic types of sources with regard to the relationship of text and image. In the first case, the text describes a concrete visual representation (e.g. Ezekiel 23:14), while the second case concerns well-known iconographic elements or traditions which assuredly affected some descriptions (e.g. II Kings 9:30). Finally, there is a third category which involves the textual and the visual representation of the very same event, object, entity, and so on, which, however, seemingly have no obvious connection (e.g. I Moz. 31:36-45). Within the frames of the present paper I would like to demonstrate that the boundaries between these types are in most cases rather elusive, and also to discuss the „third type” a bit more detailed ‒ by means of a case study which will review the famous description of the golden calf.