Exodus 20: 4-6; my fundamentalist friend cites this to show catholic are falsely worshiping statues/images

How do I respond to my friend? I have repeatedly made the analogy to him that the statutes are merely a representation just as a photograph of a family member is. He doesn’t buy this analogy.

[BIBLEDRB]Exodus 25:18-20[/BIBLEDRB]

Ask him why God commanded the Jews to make images of the holy cherubim and a serpent. Prooftexting kills.


But, except for one late period, we notice that the commandment was never understood as an absolute and universal prohibition of any kind of image. Throughout the Old Testament there are instances of representations of living things, not in any way worshipped, but used lawfully, even ordered by the law as ornaments of the tabernacle and temple. The many cases of idolatry and various deflections from the Law which the prophets denounce are not, of course, cases in point. It is the statues made and used with the full approval of the authorities which show that the words, “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image”, were not understood absolutely and literally. It may be that the Hebrew translated “graven image” had a technical sense that meant more than a statue, and included the idea of “idol”; though this does not explain the difficulty of the next phrase. In any case it is certain that there were “likenesses of that which is in the sky above and on earth below and in the waters” in the orthodox Jewish cult. Whatever one may understand the mysterious ephod and theraphim to have been, there was the brazen serpent (Numbers 21:9), not destroyed till Ezechias did so (2 Kings 18:4), there were carved and moulded garlands of fruit and flowers and trees (Numbers 8:4; 1 Kings 6:18; 7:36); the king’s throne rested on carved lions (1 Kings 10:19-20), Iions and bulls supported the basins in the temple (1 Kings 7:25, 29). Especially there are the cherubim, great carved figures of beasts (Ezekiel 1:5; 10:20, where they are called beasts), that stood over the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:18-22; 1 Kings 6:23-8; 8:6-7, etc.). But, except for the human heads of the cherubim (Ezekiel 41:19, Exodus 25:20, the references to them when combined seem to point irresistibly to some such figures as the Assyrian winged bulls with human heads), we read nothing of statues of men in the lawful cult of the Old Testament. In this point at least the Jew seems to have understood the commandment to forbid the making of such statues, though even this is not clear in the earlier periods. The ephod was certainly once a statue of human form (Judges 8:27; 17:5; 1 Samuel 19:13, etc.), and what were the theraphim (Judges 17:5)? Both were used in orthodox worship.

The icons are one issue. Him essentially claiming that he can read minds and “knows” that Catholics are worshipping is quite another.

Ask him to show you from the catechism where the worshipping of icons is.


Until he softens his heart and opens his mind, he’ll simply be wrong. Conversions are accomplished solely by the Holy Spirit. Lent is a great time to pray for him.

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Here’s a very good answer.



I can’t see how the passage he quoted has any bearing on a picture of Jesus or Saints we hold in high esteem as models of what we would like to acheve in our lives. - ask him what Jesus looks like and where he got that idea.

Should the statue of Lincoln , statue Of liberty , the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr be torn down - no - they represent American values - and I’m not even american saying this. What does he say about these statues? There are statues everywhere and we no longer revere them as Gods as in the Time of exodus - if we were then it would be a sin and were not - hes speaking with out thinking.

Or even the american flag as a symbol - I’m assuming hes american. He can’t pick and choose - its all or nothing with the way hes speaking.

So how does he feel about all these American icons?

The Haydock Commentary has a quite long answer concerning this question.

A graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing, &c. All such images or likenesses, are forbidden by this commandment, as are made to be adored and served; according to that which immediately follows, thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them. That is, all such as are designed for idols or image gods, or are worshipped with divine honour. But otherwise images, pictures, or representations, even in the house of God, and in the very sanctuary, so far from being forbidden are expressly authorized by the word of God. See Exodus xxv. 15, &c. chap. xxxviii. 7. Num. xxi. 8. 9. 1 Chron. xxviii. 18. 19. 2 Chron. iii. 10. Ch. — Protestants insidiously translate “any graven image,” though pesel, eidolon, glupton, and sculptile, in the Heb. Gr. and Lat. denote a graven thing or idol. They will, however, hardly condemn his majesty for having his representation stamped upon the coin of the nation, nor so many of our wealthy noblemen, who adorn their rooms with the choicest efforts of painting and of sculpture. They know that the object of prohibition is the making and adoring of idols. But they probably wish to keep the ignorant under the stupid delusion of supposing, that Catholics are idolaters, because they have images, and that they themselves are not, though they have them likewise at home; and even in their churches admit the absurd figures of the lion and the unicorn, stretching their paws over the tables of the law, instead of the pious representations of Jesus expiring on the cross, &c. which were set up by their Catholic ancestors. Let them read, and adopt herein just weights and measures, proposed to them by Thorndike, one of their most discerning and moderate teachers. In the mean time, we will assure them, that we abhor all idols; both those made with hands, and those which are formed by the head of heretics, who set up their own fancies and delusions, to be adored instead of the true God. Our general councils of Nice and of Trent define what we ought to believe on this head; and the matter is so fully explained in our catechisms and books of instruction, as well as from our pulpits, that no person can well remain in ignorance. If we perform various actions of respect before pictures, which are also done in honour of God, can any man of sense infer, that we look upon both with equal respect? Do we not read of the people falling down to shew respect to the king, and supreme worship to God, by the same act of the body? H. — Altars and sacrifice we reserve solely for God, as S. Aug. (c. Faust. xx. 21) well observes. Other indifferent practices must be determined by the intention. — Latria, or supreme worship, can be given to none but the Deity. But we shew our respect and veneration for his servants in glory, by an inferior service called Dulia, giving honour to whom honour is due. How profane and impious must the words of the first reformers appear, who, after saying most falsely, that “papists make the Virgin Mary a god, (Luther. postil.) and worship images in heathenish manner,” (Melanct. Loc. com.) attribute various fictitious crimes to the blessed Virgin and other saints! Cent. Magd. Calvin, &c.) They knew that all the saints abhorred their impiety; and therefore, in revenge, they vilify the saints, and condemn all the doctors and fathers of the Church, since the death of the apostles, as guilty of superstition and idolatry. H. — “By this occasion, dead creatures, and bloodless half worm-eaten bones, began to be honoured, invocated, and worshipped with divine honour. All which the doctors of the Church not only winked at, but also set forward.” Cent. Magd. C. vi.) What is then become of the promises of God, to teach all the truth by the mouths of his pastors? Matt. xxviii, &c. Let others judge, whether we ought to pay greater deference to Saints Jerome, Aug. Greg. &c. or to Luther, Calvin, and the Centuriators of Magdeburg. But some will even admit that images were commanded by God. C. xxv. 18, &c. Hence they lay great stress upon the words to thyself; as if all images were forbidden that man should make, without the express sanction of God. So Parkhurst Lexic. But those who are conversant in Hebrew, know that these words have no such import; and if things were inseparable from idolatry, they could not be sanctioned by God. H. — No creature must be represented as a deity. But sovereign worship, both internal and external, must be given to the great Author of all good, while we abstain from every superstitious act, and from all dealings with the devil and false religions. C. — Protestants, therefore, who only forbid images, diminish God’s law. Were not the idols of Chanaan, Chamos, &c. which represented nothing in nature, also condemned?

=RosslynV;11861351]How do I respond to my friend? I have repeatedly made the analogy to him that the statutes are merely a representation just as a photograph of a family member is. He doesn’t buy this analogy.

Here’s both the good and the bad news;

Good: ONLY GOD has the power to Convert

& you did GOOD! Now pray foe them!

The Bad news is that God alone can grant understanding. They choose in GRAVE error to use the term “Worship”; which the RCC teaches IS reservered to God alone. we reverence, respect and honor Mary and the Saints because they modeled HOW we ought to live our life; and they ARE in the presence of God.

The Hail MAry prayer for example is solidly biblical:

Hail Mary, [Lk. 1:28]
Full of Grace [Lk. 1:28]
The Lord is with thee [Lk 1:27]
Blessed are you among all women [Lk 1:42]
And Blessed in the fruit of your womb: Jesus [Lk. 1;42]
Holy Mary [Lk.1: 28]
Mother of God 1:35
Pray for us sinners [our catholic petition]
Now and at the hour of our death
Amen” *

It is FAR more correct to SAY that Catholics PRAY THROUGH Mary & the Saints then “too” her.

We do this becaue they take our prayers and then ADD their own on top of them, then present them to God on our behalf.:thumbsup:

Don’t be overly concerned about your friend; BUT PRAY much for them.

God Bless you,

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“Understanding is the reward given by belief. Do not try to understand in order to believe, but believe so that you may understand.”

      -    Saint Augustine

=po18guy;11863374]“Understanding is the reward given by belief. Do not try to understand in order to believe, but believe so that you may understand.”

      -    Saint Augustine

[and I Love Bishop Sheen!]

God Bless you,

The argument of thinking of it like a picture of a relative doesn’t really hold water with me… as I wouldn’t ever think of kneeling before a picture of my grandpa and praying.

I don’t have a problem with statues/pictures of saints… that’s not my argument… I think you just need to use a better argument than the one you cited.

I will help you out a little bit though. For me, what helped me understand the practice was when someone else explained it like this. (just an example). You know when you are driving down the road and all of a sudden you find yourself pondering the life of Mary, how sad she might have been, what she knew about the future when her son was born, how she managed to hold it together and not lose her faith through the crucifixion… well some people like me ( and I mean myself) am able to ponder these things and meditate on how I can model my life more like theirs without a visual tool. Others need visual tools to get in the “mode”.

I happen to like the pictures and "movies’ I make up in my mind better than any other artist or movie maker could make them, they are personal to me. And probably just as accurate. The only thing I have issues with is that I keep thinking all the statues of the saints look alike, I like to imagine some as children, some elderly, some handicapped etc.

Sometimes it’s a problem that non-catholic Christians divide the 10 commandments differently than most Catholics do. They treat the “Don’t make graven images” part of the first commandment as a commandment of its own. The way most Catholic commentaries divide the first three commandments is (paraphrased):

  1. I AM GOD!! THE ONE AND ONLY!! Do not worship anything but ME (and that includes things like nature, each other and statues).

  2. I have told you what my NAME is. Use it wisely, or else…

  3. I have blessed the Seventh Day. Keep it Holy. You can work for yourselves for six days, but the Seventh day is mine.

Please remember that I said MOST commentaries, not all. There is debate about it. But it makes more sense to me having the first three be about G-D and right-worship, and the last seven being about how we treat one another. And if we place the part about the graven images in this context, you can see how it specifically says we are not to WORSHIP graven images. They are gods (small g). The pagans believed that the images they carved were actual gods.

Show your friend the Catechism where it says we do not worship idols. Then you will have given evidence. Now he has to give evidence to support his stance. His opinion is not evidence. If he just desires to go by his opinion, there is no way to convince him; he’s just being stubborn. Many people think just because they believe something, that makes it true. That’s how schisms came about in the first place.

I find this to only work if and only if the receiver understands what true worship is and that it comes only from the heart and that God alone knows true worship. You can use this approach but there will always be those who see worship as something other than coming from only the heart because of how worship was depicted prior to Christianity.

If you are dealing with people who view worship in terms of form, as opposed to the heart, then you must approach it in those terms. So my question is to those people is - If having a statue of Mary is falsely worshiping then what does proper worship LOOK like?

This eventual argument, if it stays on track of visual referencing defining worship, will always fail and should end in an understanding of true worship coming from the heart.


I find this to be true. Is the friend basing his/her opinion on seeing Catholics bow or kneel in front of the icons? Because if it is, then you can show him/her the many references in the bible to bowing to other people:

Gen 19:1 - Lot bows before three strangers
Gen 23:7 - Abraham bows before the Hittites
Gen 33:3 - Jacob bows before Esau 7 times
Ex 18:7 - Moses bows to Jethro
Matt 18:26 - servant bows before his master in the parable of the unforgiving servant

There are many more.

Question: How did the Roman Catholic Church view the use of icons during the iconoclastic controversy with the Eastern Catholic church?

Not arguing - just wondering if the reasoning was similar? :o

Not familiar with this at all but I know there are some here on CAF that are. It sounds like it deserves its own thread but I would post it in the apologetics main forum for wider audience.


This is dealt with in some detail in chapter 15 (“Iconoclasm”) of Dissent from the Creed by Fr. Richard M. Hogan. It is an excellent book that details each of the major heresies in the Church, from the Acts 15 Judaizers up to the post Vatican II crisis in the Church (1962-2000). Excellent book. I will FF to this chapter and have a read.

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