Friday, October 14, 2011

Does the Bible Prohibit Religious Images?


Earlier, I came across this discussion, in which an iconoclast Protestant accuses the Catholic Church of eliminating the Second Commandment because we have statues... and then asks how to add an image to his post. Bravo, irony!

But this is a real stumbling block for a lot of Protestant Christians, and even Catholics often are left a bit uneasy, unsure how to rectify what the Bible seems to say with what the Church teaches.  So let's have a serious discussion about idolatry and iconoclasm.

I. What Does the Bible Actually Say About Images?

The starting point has to be the King James Version of Exodus 20:4-6, straight out of the Ten Commandments:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
The word being translated here as “graven images” literally means that in Hebrew, but it’s a bit misleading as a translation. The Hebrew word (pecel) is used some thirty-one times in the Old Testament, and every time it refers to idols. So a better translation is that you shall not make idols.

Understanding the prohibition as literally against  “graven images” is problematic for two reasons.  First, it's far too narrow.  What about idols that aren't engraved?  For example, to the right is a picture of Kali, one of the goddesses worshiped by Hindus.  Is this picture okay to worship, since it's painted, rather than engraved?  Obviously not.

Second, it's far too broad.  If the prohibition is against images, rather than idols, then all sculpture is out, regardless of the artist's motivation.  We can't have Michelangelo's David, or even those miniature statues of lions that people have in front of their houses.  And if you ignore the graven part (as Protestants tend to do), it would prohibit all paintings and photographs of people, or animals, or nature.  That's the irony I pointed out in the first paragraph: even posting a photograph online would be against the Ten Commandments, regardless of who or what the photo was of.  Who actually abides by that rule?  Certainly not God.

In fact, it's much, much worse than all that.  In Exodus 25:17-22, God orders the engraving of two golden Cherubim on top of the mercy seat upon the Ark of the Covenant.  It was here that God would commune with Moses, and Moses would worship Him. Here's a helpful picture of what this would have looked like:



Yup, incense, and kneeling in front of a couple of statutes.  So did God just order Moses to violate the Ten Commandments?  Obviously not.  But that means that pecel cannot be understood to mean all images.  It just cannot, or we're forced to accuse God of violating His own Commandments.  

Instead, the prohibition against making and kneeling before pecels is a prohibition against making and praying to idols, as the NIV, NASB, NLT, and most modern Protestant and Catholic translations of the Bible recognize.  This is the only understanding of the passage that makes any sense.

What should be incredibly clear is that God doesn't order iconoclasm.  He doesn't prohibit art, even realistic art, even religious art.  In fact, as surprising as this tends to be for Protestants, He doesn't even prohibit art where there's a chance it'll be misused for idolatry.  In fact, He orders it in at least one case.

In Numbers 21:8-9, God orders Moses to create a bronze serpent and mout it on the pole: anyone who looks upon it is healed of snakebite.  He does this, knowing full well that within a short time, the people are going to start worshiping the statue, instead of the God who saved them through the statue.  And sure enough, the Israelites name the bronze snake Nehushtan, and begin worshiping it, until King Hezekiah destroyed it (2 Kings 18:4).  God foreknows that this will happen, yet he orders the engraving of the Nehushtan statue anyway.  Why?  Because before they fell into idolatry, the statue helped them visibly comprehend the majesty of the invisible God.  And it also prefigured the Cross, the most visible sign of God's love.

So what should we learn from the example of the bronze serpent?  God isn't upset with images themselves.  In fact, where images help draw us closer to Him, He wants us to have them.  That's why He orders the golden Cherubim: to remind us of Him.  But what upsets Him is anything that causes us to wander from Him.  Jesus illustrates this point dramatically in Matthew 18:7-9, when He warns us against letting our own bodies stand between us and right relationship with God.

II. How The Incarnation Answers Iconoclasm

Hopefully, at this point, we all agree that the Old Testament doesn't prohibit images, doesn't prohibit statuary or engraved images, doesn't even prohibit religious images.  But the New Testament builds upon and fulfills the Old, and this is true when it comes to religious imagery, as well.  See, for example, Jesus' teaching in Matthew 22:15-22:
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap Him in His words. They sent their disciples to Him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is Your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap Me? Show Me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought Him a denarius, and He asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied. Then He said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left Him and went away.
So while the coin is made in the image of Caesar, each one of us is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and should give our everything to Him.  But look at what He uses to make that point: a coin with a graven image of Caesar, the very man being worshiped by many Romans.  Jesus doesn't order the denarius to be destroyed as some sort of idol. Instead, He uses the coin to show us God.


This is radical, because in the Old Testament, the One you couldn't do a depiction of was God Himself.  He was too big, too infinite, too far beyond human imagination. Any image was considered to be an insult to His Divinity.  Christ fulfills all of this in Himself.  Fr. Robert Barron, at the beginning of his book Catholicism, (which really is as good as everyone says), talks about this point.  On pages 1-2, he explains the importance of the Incarnation, and what it reveals about God:

The Incarnation tells central truths concerning both God and us. If God became human without ceasing to be God and without compromising the integrity of the creature that he became, God must not be a competitor with his creation. In many of the ancient myths and legends, divine figures such as Zeus or Dionysus enter into human affairs only through aggression, destroying or wounding that which they invade. And in many of the philosophies of modernity God is construed as a threat to human well-being. In their own ways, Marx, Freud, Feuerbach, and Sartre all maintain that God must be eliminated if humans are to be fully themselves. 
But there is none of this in the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. The Word does indeed become human, but nothing of the human is destroyed in the process; God does indeed enter into his creation, but the world is thereby enhanced and elevated. The God capable of incarnation is not a competitive supreme being but rather, in the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the sheer act of being itself, that which grounds and sustains all of creation, the way a singer sustains a song.
That passage is absolutely brilliant, even without diving into that theologically-rich final sentence.  This has huge implications for how we approach Creation, beauty, and science (the study of both Creation and truth), as well as how we understand God.  But let's just look at the implications for religious imagery.


Properly understood, then, the Incarnation answers the error of iconoclasm.  The infinite and immortal God, beyond all imagination, has taken on our humanity, that we might come to Him and share in His Divinity (2 Peter 1:4).  In other words, God isn't just telling us that Creation isn't evil. He's positively telling us that Creation is good.  Christ becomes the visible Image of God in a perfect way. Nehushtan is replaced by Our Crucified Lord.  St. Paul puts it simply  (Col. 1:15):  “the Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”  Imagery of the invisible God is no longer prohibited, because we can now envision God: Jesus Christ.

So in a nutshell, if religious images elevate your spirit, if they draw you towards God, they're fine. In fact, they're better than fine.  You should use them.  But if you can't tell the difference between religious images and God Himself, then you shouldn't.

III. The Dangers of Iconoclasm

The prohibition against religious art and imagery isn't harmless.  To the left is a picture of the doorway to a  Dutch church (St. Stevens), that was vandalized by Protestants in the 16th century.  They cut the heads off of the statues of Jesus and the saints, and the angels from the doorway.

Thank God that they didn't find the Ark of the Covenant, because I can think of no coherent reason why they'd be against statues of angels in the doorway to a church, but fine with statues of angels on the Ark of the Covenant.

Now, obviously, Protestants today aren't roving around destroying Catholic art. But iconoclasm has ongoing negative impacts.  When The Passion of the Christ came out, it was condemned as idolatry, with commenters making sweeping claims like “all pictures, statues or portrayals of our Lord are idolatrous.”  Taken seriously, this goes a lot further than outlawing the local Nativity play (or creche).

If re-enacting the words and actions of Christ constitutes idolatry, it's hard to see how even Protestant Lord's Suppers wouldn't be idolatry, since the pastor speaks the words of Christ in the first person.  For that matter, why is it okay to read the words of Christ out loud from the Gospels?  It's about as likely that someone hears their pastor reading Scripture and mistakes him for Jesus as is it that they'll mistake Jim Caviezel for Jesus Christ.

Can you get to Christ without visible imagery? Certainly.  The blind do it all the time.  But step back and consider the countless number of people brought to Christ by The Passion of the Christ, or by the Oberammergau Passion Play, or by the numerous Nativity scenes and even Christmas school plays.  Those souls would be lost in the dreary world of the iconoclast.  That's far from harmless.

And take heed, Christian.  The Seventh Ecumenical Council, accepted by Catholics and Orthodox alike, and one of the seven that many Protestants give at least some weight to, actually declared “Anathema to those who do not salute the holy and venerable images.”  This is a real problem for those who pay lip service to the Seven Councils while ignoring what those Councils actually taught.

Conclusion

So, here's what we know:

  1. The Old Testament prohibits idols, not images;
  2. God sometimes commanded religious images in worship;
  3. In using religious images, we're not to worship them (obviously);
  4. The mere fact that religious images could be (and sometimes were) abused as idolatry didn't stop God from ordering them;
  5. The one major religious image taboo the Jews had, about the creation of Images of God Himself, is resolved in the Incarnation, since “the Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15).
  6. Iconoclasm (the total rejection of images) has prevented untold scores of people from coming to Christ;
  7. The Church, in a Council accepted by Catholics, Orthodox, and many Protestants, orders the use of religious images.
One final point: some Protestants try to argue that images in general are okay, but not Catholic statues, because we kneel down in front of them. But what's prohibited is kneeling in front of pecels, which as we've seen, only means idols. And again, there was a ton of kneeling in front of the Mercy Seat!

35 comments:

  1. Again, Joe, a totally awesome post!

    I usually explain that we're not worshiping the statutes or icons etc. The images are there as visual aids. If the living God came down again in human form, obviously we would ignore his image and worship him. But since he resides in heaven, it's good to have a point of focus. Some people are very visual learners and visual in general.

    I mean come on, even the most stark Protestant churches have a wooden cross in the back that people revere and look at. Does that mean they worship the cross? No certainly not.

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  2. "Thank God that they didn't find the Ark of the Covenant..."

    Nice :)

    Out of interest, what are you thoughts about representing the Father in art?

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  4. @Joe: By citing the 'seventh council' you admit you worship statues and images. Quite the contradiction. Joe, if you make a sign of the cross in front of, pray in front of, bow to, condemn for not showing reverence to, etc. to images and statues, you're doing EXACTLY what the commandment tells you NOT to do. The people of the Old Testament worshiped God and idols (yea, some worshiped just the idols), and they're practice was condemned. That also is EXACTLY what Catholics do. Oh, and don't use as one of your giant-stride, circle-talking, blasphemous examples: Moses praying in front of the Ark. He knew the Presence was right there. Plus, it is said that the angels on the Ark were made without a head so it wouldn't be worshiped. (Heard that from my father in faith, Perry Stone, who is excellent in Jewish tradition, history. I suggest you listen to him, too.)

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    1. i agree to your point @michaeladdison-- (y)

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    2. i agree to your point @michaeladdison-- (y)

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  5. @Michaeladdison,

    There is a big difference between showing reverence and worship/adoration. Reverence is simply being properly respectful of the sacred. By your logic, if you can't revere any image of Christ or the cross, what does it matter if someone does something obscene with it? Like putting an image of the Lord on the cross in a jar of urine. If we are not to have reverence for images of the sacred then there would be no reason for offense at exhibits such as "Piss Christ."

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    1. being respectful of the sacred doesn't mean to bow down on images..
      putting an image of the lord in a jar of urine?? crazy rebuttal!! the POINT here is to not make unto you any graven images... that's very clear... if no images, nothing is such putting image of the lord in a jar of urine...

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  6. Oh, and don't use as one of your giant-stride, circle-talking, blasphemous examples: Moses praying in front of the Ark. He knew the Presence was right there.

    "For the honor rendered to the image goes to its prototype, and the person who venerates an Icon venerates the person represented in it."- Seventh Ecumenical Council

    And BTW, was the Presence right there in the bronze serpent?

    Plus, it is said that the angels on the Ark were made without a head so it wouldn't be worshiped.

    Where does the commandment say that headless images are exempt?

    Heard that from my father in faith, Perry Stone

    "And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." Matthew 23:9.

    What's with this father in the faith business? Oh, and don't use as one of your giant-stride, circle-talking, blasphemous examples about how Paul said he became the believers' father.

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    1. shameful both of you.. who are calling the POPE the Holy Father?

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    2. ^ Holy Father? Some people don't know the Origin of the WORDS...

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  7. @michaeladdison- While I could go into how what your saying isn't correct (although a few people have already), I will say that I take offense to you deciding "EXACTLY" what Catholics do. Joe has eloquently explained the Catholic view point. You've chosen to ignore it.

    Joe maintains a charitable blog. Screaming that a whole lot of Catholics are wrong will not make your point of view correct.

    You can, however, choose to argue his points one by one in a charitable manner without resorting to a rudimentary if not completely wrong understanding of Catholicism and Catholic worship practices.

    If you want to win your argument, I suggest educating yourself otherwise you look foolish and you set yourself up to a lot of nasty comments (which I'm guessing Joe would like to avoid).

    I would like to point out that in your flawed arguments, you've set up Protestants as idol worshipers when they "pray in front of" a wooden cross or pulpit or other visual image of Jesus. I've personally seen a rather large woven tapestry hung in the back of Baptist sanctuary (in a place that worshipers sat and viewed). The image was of Jesus kneeling and praying. Please explain how that is different than a Catholic praying in front of any other image of Jesus?

    Thank you for your time.

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  8. @michaeladdison,

    When a mother kisses a photo of her son who off at war, is it the photo she loves? Or rather is it her son?

    I, as a Catholic, find it very helpful to come to know the Father through beauty. I think it is a clear example of His love for us. But the creation is not what is to be worshiped, but rather the Creator. So, I hope you can take me at my word that when I prostrate myself before any image, it is not the image that humble myself for, but the Father, who is ever present.

    "Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart." 1Sm 16:7

    In Christ,
    Shane

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    1. you are thinking that GOD is like a human... right, if you are kissing the image of GOD... are you sure that was the real image of GOD... ?
      and if you are kissing the images of saints, DOES GOD LOVES WHAT GOES ON???

      Com'on! Catholic is paganism!!!!!

      remember, HE is a jealous GOD..

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    2. ^ Aren't you not God's OWN IMAGE AND LIKENESS?
      If every I will kiss someone's images, I will be punish in idolatry?

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  9. @CJ: Judging by your insult to my "father in faith" comment, you must not be Catholic. Um, you do call priests 'Father' with a capital F as if it were their name, right? I use "father in faith" like Paul, not like your blasphemy. Oh, and thanks for citing the 'seventh council' that way you admit worship since reverence for a statue is the same for whom it represents according to your blasphemy.
    @Deltaflute: I did comment on Joe's blog since I mentioned he admitted worship by citing the 'seventh council'. Also, is Joe's calling 'protestants' out charitable, whereas if a 'protestant' corrects one of the RCC, then that's not charitable? (Very much a contradiction/hypocritical.) Also, before you bear false witness, you should really think if 'protestants' ACTUALLY pray in front of a cross like the RCC does. And if you'd really do some research, you'd know that not one denomination says we should do so, right? If there is, let me know. (Don't cite other Mary-worshipers as an example since they're the RCC's daughter.)
    @ShaneD: A mother kissing her son/daughter's photo is superstition. Also, I'm not against religious images or statues. I am, like God and all true believers, against bowing to them like your example states.

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  10. Michael,

    I suggest you read Deltaflute's thoughtful comment again, or my earlier comment to you, in which I asked you to put yourself in the shoes of someone who didn't already agree with you, and see if you were giving anyone reason to change their minds.

    No one here has a problem with you "calling out" Catholics. But it's how you do it that chafes: it comes across as ignorant and arrogant, which I'm sure you don't intend. In this case, there was a specific post showing (amongst other things) that the word "pecel" in the context of the Ten Commandments prohibits the making and kneeling before idols, not all statues or images.

    Your response ignores all of this context, and just parrots the debunked "Catholics worship statues" claim. Worse, if you'd bothered to read the Seventh Ecumenical Council before telling us what it taught, you'd see that it prohibited idolatry, and distinguished between venerating images in prayer, and worshipping idols. If you don't understand that distinction, fine- feel free to ask about it. I have no doubt that from your perspective, it's confusing. But when you're speaking out of ignorance, at least do so humbly.

    And if you're sure enough that you want to slam Catholics or call us out, form a coherent argument. I'd love to tackle any logic objections you have. But I haven't see any yet. Please take this as what it is: a rebuke of someone I truly consider a brother in Christ. God bless,

    Joe

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  11. I subscribe to the Bible Archaeology Research magazine. It reported that many statues of people and animals are found in the towns of Israel. The explanation is that only statues of animals that were worshiped in Egypt were forbidden, bulls, crocodiles, etc. Statues of eveything else were permitted by the commandment.

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  12. @michaeladdison

    We call priests Father because they beget spiritual children in Christ through baptism. It is not the "father" you think it is. It is a spiritual father. Very similar to your "father in faith". When God commanded us to increase and multiply, this increase can be obeyed in two measures... by the soul or by the body.

    Did you ever ask why Jesus also refers to others as father?

    Matt. 3:9; Luke 3:8 - Jesus refers to Abraham as our "father."

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  13. Superstition: Unreasoning awe or fear of something unknown, mysterious, or imaginary, esp. in connection with religion; religious belief or practice founded upon fear or ignorance (OED)

    Interesting that someone kissing an image could be guilty of superstition, if they believe (ignorantly) that action supersedes an unknown force, or worse yet, God. Essentially they would make an idol of the image. People with OCD struggle with this.

    If one does the same action, but their intention is of a different sort, is it the same? Is it possible for someone to venerate without being motivated by awe or fear? Could someone simply keep a photo because it reminds them of a loved one?

    So, from the comments above about the specificity of the commandment regarding pecel, one should be able to see that intention is involved with making an idol. If someone says that their intention is directed to communion with God. Why not take them at their word? Lest you should judge the hearts of men...

    In Christ,
    Shane

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  14. Dear Michael Addison:

    I think you typed your post out of order.

    "That also is EXACTLY what Catholics do. Oh, and don't use as one of your giant-stride, circle-talking, blasphemous examples: Moses praying in front of the Ark. He knew the Presence was right there."

    "... examples: Moses praying in front of the Ark. He knew the Presence was right there. That also is EXACTLY what Catholics do."

    There. Fixed it for you.

    God bless.

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  15. @Joe: I'm sorry if I come off as arrogant, but what are you coming off as? What about your, "...But I haven't seen any yet," and your previous "baseless" statements? Why don't you just call me "stupid" instead of "beating around the bush", as you once said to me? Here it is: As long as we don't murder each other, that's possibly as charitable as apologetics gets. So don't be a hypocrite. Anyways, we both think we're both in some way, lost and confused. Also, neither of us are giving up on each other, as you've before admitted. Good! Now back to the issue: The council 'distinguished' between veneration of images and idol worship. But, there is no distinction. So whether you take giant, blasphemous strides in using the cheribum and 'protestant' images as examples, it doesn't matter. Don't be blinded by some Nicolaitian-like pope, bishop, etc. circle-talking the Scripture to you. Yea, some Scripture needs explaining like the eunuch needed; but some Scripture, like the commandment that the RCC erased, are what they are. Even children can understand them. I mean, don't you see a problem in the fact that venerated images didn't creep in until well after the twelve, and when they did, there were councils (that the RCC just happens to conveniently not recognize) that condemn the practice?
    @Irenaeus: Only the Father is a spiritual father with a capital F. All others are just spiritual fathers. And their being a spiritual father CAN be taken away. Only Yeshua is a spiritual rabbi with a capital R. All others are just spiritual teachers. And their being a spiritual teacher CAN be taken away. That is what He was saying. Our authority can be taken away. Our brotherhood in the Great One can't. Otherwise Paul's command to correct our 'brothers' and his handing the two over to Satan would be pointless. "He who exalts himself will be humbled." So to ALL whom call themselves Father, Pastor, etc. like it was their names: Whatever! As it is written: "I, Paul". And again: "Paul, an apostle". He knew his name was just Paul. Why can't they that exalt themselves?

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  16. @GRMead: You more than anyone admitted to the worship of images in that 'correction' by stating that the Presence is in and with the images according to the original context of the comment. Now make sure your sarcasm makes sense before your two bits are added.

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  17. Michael,

    I'm not saying that you're stupid. I just disagree with the tactics you take in witnessing to your personal interpretation of the Gospel, particularly in your refusal to lay out a reasonable argument that other people could listen to, believe, and accept. I believe you’re capable of doing this, or I wouldn’t ask it of you. When I called your arguments baseless, I meant that you’re providing conclusions, but no support.

    Agree or disagree, there are plenty of good reasons to believe that veneration of images isn’t idolatry:

    (1) The Seventh Ecumenical Council said so, praising one and condemning the other, and It’s a Council accepted by Catholics, Orthodox, and many Protestants (unlike whatever "councils" you're referring to, and not bothering to substantiate);

    (2) The distinction between veneration and idolatry makes intuitive sense. As Shane pointed out, plenty of people kiss pictures of their children, out of fondness for the kids depicted in the pictures (rather than superstition or idolatry).

    (3) The distinction also accounts well for the Scriptural evidence: the cherubim on the Mercy Seat, the bronze serpent in the desert (that you keep ignoring), the pomegranates on the priestly garments (Exodus 28:33), etc.

    (4) Even you acknowledge: “I'm not against religious images or statues.” So clearly, “religious images or statues” aren’t the same thing as “idols.” If that’s true, we’re not dealing with the sort of conduct prohibited by the First Commandment (the Second, in the Protestant re-ordering).

    In response, you say that veneration of images and idolatry are not only both bad, but are actually one and the same thing. But what reasons have you offered in support of your conclusions? These seem more like assertions than arguments.

    In Christ,

    Joe

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  18. @MichaelAddison

    From what you are saying about [F]ather with a capital ‘F’. You are against it as a title of honor. Yet the Lord told us to honor our parents. This would include our spiritual parents (priests, god-parents etc). However, the distinction you are trying to make between upper and lowercase is a false one. I say this because such a title as Father or Doctor, or Esquire, merely states the obvious station that was earned by the individual. If I address a Doctor as Mister, this does not change the reality of the person being a doctor. Somehow thinking you are obedient by denying the title Father but recognizing the station is absurd.

    A person cannot baptize himself. He must be sponsored. Even St Paul refers to those he baptized as his children. If they are his children, logic dictates he is the father.


    Luke 16:24 “And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame.”

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  19. Everybody, OK, let us reason. You can't look at Ex 20:4 without looking at Ex 20:5. Yes, images and statues aren't idols. But images and statues that you bow to and serve are idols. Catholics bow to and revere the RCC statues and images. Catholics serve them by having processions and lighting candles to them. Catholics become a judgement on themselves by blatantly ignoring the obvious and listening to blasphemous 'councils' and such that condemn not saluting them.
    Plus, Yeshua states that anything you ask the Father in His name would be granted to you. (Of course it can't contradict faith and the Word of God.) And with Yeshua's statement, because 1) the Spirit is a witness and two or three witnesses are to settle all matters, and 2) 2 Tim 3:16, then even an 'Our Father' needs an "In Jesus name" to be heard. Also, Steven, being full of the Holy Spirit, prayed to Yeshua. So, in Scripture, a prayer to the Father in Jesus' name and a prayer to Jesus are the ONLY ones stated. And "blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it". That said, ALL prayers that aren't as the before mentioned actually go out to demons. (Of course because Yeshua wasn't totally, completely revealed in the Old Testament days, then a prayer to the God of Heaven was sufficient at that time even though One God in the plural sense was a given in numerous Old Covenant passages.)
    @Irenaeus: Way to be foolish and take my comment out of context. Did I not mention "spiritual" in my statements about using a 'capital'? So why did you use the Doctor, Mister, earthly father statements? Um, what's absurd?

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  20. Michael,

    I agree that Exodus 20:4-5 should be read in conjunction with one another. But for that reason, you can't say that v. 4 refers to only idols, and v. 5 refers to all statues. Read it over, and you'll see what I mean. It doesn't say, "if you bow before a statue, it becomes an idol.". It says don't make idols, and don't bow to idols. You're saying don't make idols, ad don't bow to statues. There's a logic leap there that I don't think you're acknowledging, and which unravels your entire argument.

    In Christ,

    Joe

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  21. Another great article!

    Only one minor quibble though:

    Jesus would not have held up a coin with the face of Antonius Pius, as you have depicted. He was born about 50 years after Jesus was crucified.

    The coin that Jesus would have most likely would have held would have had the face of emperor Tiberius on it, who did rule during the time of Jesus' ministry.

    And thanks to those words spoken by Jesus 2000 years ago recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, every single Ancient Roman coin with Tiberius' mug on it is more expensive than coins depicting the other Julio-Claudian emperors because "This might have been the coin held by Jesus himself!!!"

    Which is really frustrating if one is an ancient numismatist, like yours truly, with limited funds...

    Again, great article!

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  22. @Rob

    Your comment made me appreciate once more the wonders of the Catholic faith. It pervades every facet of human life, even in the most unexpected places, such as numismatics. Thanks for the piece of trivia!

    God bless

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  23. Rob,

    Loved the story, and your attention to detail. I actually knew that wasn't Tiberius, but I happened to like the image (and know it's not copy-written, since I took it from Wikipedia). I admit I was shocked someone noticed!

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  24. Such a great post. I especially like your point about images which God dictates in the O.T.

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  25. If the angels on the ark were made without a head, where were their faces?

    Ex. 25:20 The cherubim shall have their wings spread out above, covering the propitiatory with them; they shall be turned toward each other, but with their faces looking toward the propitiatory.

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  26. @Michaeladdison,

    I'm going to point this out again because it seems to have been overlooked the first time.

    There is a big difference between worshipping someone/thing and showing someone/thing reverence. Showing reverence is simply showing the appropriate respect. When we revere a picture of Christ, for example, we are showing the appropriate respect that is due to our Lord by being respectful of his image (or a portrayal of his image).

    I would be willing to guarantee that you yourself show reverence for a sacred object in the same way Catholics do. Let's take your Bible for example. If someone were to start ripping out pages, you'd be upset, correct? How about if someone were to spit upon it? Burn it? That would be extremely upsetting. Why? Because you revere the Bible as the word of God. Is your particular bound book of pages and lettering the literal word of God? Of course no. It's a representation in a language that you can understand of the words that were written down by God's inspiration thousands of years ago. So unless your personal Bible was written by the finger of God himself, any reverence you show it is a reverence of what that book represents.

    This is exactly the same thing Catholics do. We hold things that are representations of the sacred in great respect not out of love for the representations themselves but of love for the person they represent. When we revere an image of Christ, we are showing love for Christ Himself, not a statue or a picture. When we're offended by someone who would vandalize or desecrate an image of our Lord (as I'm sure you would be, too) we're not offended for the sake of the statue or picture but because of the disrespect those actions show for our Lord himself.

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  27. Thank you so much for this article. I am a Protestant convert, and one of my mom's biggest arguments against the Catholic Church is that they have removed the 2nd commandment so they can worship images. We have debated this for years. This article was excellent to help understand this debate. I sent it to her this morning, and hope it can help her understand a little bit. Keep up the good work!

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  28. It seems your point #6 is unfounded and unsupportable. I'd go so far as to call it wild speculation. It seems what we should each be more concerned with is not what others have done which is keeping people from coming to Christ, but what each of us individually has done (or hasn't done) to hinder the message of salvation, such as failing to respond to the Great Commission. Let us remove the logs from our own eyes.

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