The Eastern Orthodox claim that their church has an "unbroken" history back to the Apostles. While, first, a Biblical Christian would want to note that ancient history is never made a criteria for the truthfulness of a faith, in this case, we can take on this claim with history. Let's take the use of icons, which is more central to the Eastern Orthodox than it is for Roman Catholics. The Orthodox have to assert that their iconography goes back to the Apostles. Indeed, they insist that Luke himself made the first icon (of Mary). What does history say about this claim? Do the icons go back to the earliest church? First, many of the early Christians were Jews and they had very strict rules against representing God in images. The Talmud condemns the use of images in synagogue worship. If anyone had imagined doing such a thing in the early church, there would have been an uproar and we would have known about it. There was already controversy over circumcision and eating ceremonially unclean meat. How much more would there have been if believers had violated the second commandment. Furthermore, early Christians were commonly called "atheists" by the Romans because they did not have any images in their homes or churches? Because the Romans couldn’t see any images of gods, they assumed that they were atheists. The pagan philosopher and critic of Christianity Celsus made Christian rejection of all images a point of criticism, claiming that Greek philosophers understood that the images were not the gods themselves. According to Celsus, The Greek worship of the gods did not terminate on the physical object or icon, but through them passed into the actual god never resting on the mere medium or icon. This would later become exactly the theological defense of the veneration of icons in “Orthodoxy”. Origin (84-254) responded to Celsus (in Contra Celsus, Book VII), admitting that Christians used no images, mocking the notion that images were helpful in worship, and, citing the Second Commandment wrote, “It is in consideration of these and many other such commands, that they not only avoid temples, altars, and images, but are ready to suffer death when it is necessary, rather than debase by any such impiety the conception which they have of the Most High God.” Clement of Alexandria wrote, "Works of art cannot then be sacred and divine.” (Translated by Rev. William Wilson, The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Clement of Alexandria, Book VII, Chapter V.) While there is one small church in Syria (Dura-Europas) with decorations and the catecombs contained some early Christian art, there is no evidence from the early church of using decorations as "icons" (objects of worship or "veneration"). Indeed, normally the early church appears to have been more strict at prohibiting decorations in churches than most modern evangelicals would be because they were aware of the potential for the decorations to become involved with worship. Christians kept these convictions against the use of images in worship for over the first 300 years. A major council of the church, meeting in Elvira, Spain in the year 305, expressed its shocked disapproval of some churches with just paintings on the walls. Canon 36 of the Council of Elvira states, "Pictures are not to be placed in churches, so that they do not become objects of worship and adoration."Keep in mind that even by this late date they were objecting just to the presence of art in a church; for example, they would object to our stained glass, saying that it had the potential to become idolatrous. There was no hint of actually using images as “aids in worship” or “points of prayer.” About the year 327 the famous early church historian Eusebius, who lived around Jerusalem, received a letter from the emperor’s sister, Constantia, asking him for a picture of Christ. Eusebius wrote her a very stern reply. He knew that such pictures existed in the marketplaces but he didn’t believe that the people who make such things were Christians. He took it for granted that only pagan artists would dream of making such representations. Eusebius. He insisted that even the incarnate Christ cannot appear in an image, for “the flesh which He put on for our sake … was mingled with the glory of His divinity so that the mortal part was swallowed up by Life.” This was the splendour that Christ revealed in the Transfiguration and which cannot be captured in human art. To depict purely the human form of Christ before its transformation, on the other hand, is to break the commandment of God and to fall into pagan error." (David M. Gwynn, From Iconoclasm to Arianism: The Construction of Christian Tradition in the Iconoclast Controversy [Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 47 (2007) 225–251], p. 227.) A prominent example is Epiphanius, ironically considered a "saint" in the "Orthodox" church. He was Bishop of Salamis, in Cyprus. He wrote, in the last section of Letter 51 (c. 394), to John, Bishop of Jerusalem: "I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loath that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ's church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person." He goes on to tell John that such images are "contrary to our religion". But as more and more people like Constantia came into the church with little or no Biblical background, they brought more and more pagan customs with them. So that although in 305 a church council (Elvira) vehemently objected to even just art in a church, in less than 100 years portrayals of Christ and the saints were widespread. With the influx of superficially converted pagans after 312, the early church began to drift away from its earlier convictions. Yet these images of Christ caused pain to those who remembered the older, simpler worship. And many Christians insisted that the use of such images, especially in worship was a blatant violation of the 2nd commandment. So the icons were a source of discontent which emerged in the eighth century (the 700s) as the bitter iconoclastic controversy. This was especially strong in the east, the Greek speaking part of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire. In 726, the emperor Leo started a campaign to eliminate the icons. The controversy lasted for over a century as Christian emperors in Constantinople sought to wipe out the icons. In 754 the first “Seventh Ecumenical Council” met and condemned the icons. “If anyone ventures to represent in human figures, by means of material colours, by reason of the incarnation, the substance or person (ousia or hypostasis) of the Word, which cannot be depicted, and does not rather confess that even after the Incarnation he [i.e., the Word] cannot be depicted, let him be anathema!” (Ninth Statement.) Meanwhile, the western part of the empire had completely collapsed politically. There was no effective political power based in Rome. The bishop of Rome – the Pope – was the major force there. But in the East the emperor was the major force and for a century many of the emperors were in favor of abiding by the 2nd commandment. They believed that the images were idols – which seems to me to be self-evident – and that they were associated with the idolatry Christianity had come to destroy. They believed that the representations of Christ, Mary, and the Apostles, clearly borrowed from pagan idols. And as the well-known church historian Henry Chadwick writes, “In this instinct there was a measure of truth. The representations of Christ as the Almighty Lord on his judgment throne owed something to pictures of Zeus. Portraits of the Mother of God were not wholly independent of a pagan past of venerated mother-goddesses. In the popular mind the saints had come to fill a role that had been played by heroes and deities.” (The Early Church, 283.) So there was a great struggle in the Eastern Church – that church that has evolved into what is the “Eastern Orthodox Church” to this day. For much of a century the icons were prohibited but eventually they were allowed back in, by the Empress Irene. Hence, we see that the claim of Eastern Orthodoxy that their icons and liturgy go back to the “earliest Christians” is a the myth. The assertion that their rituals have been faithfully handed down from the Apostles completely unaltered is utter nonsense.