Graven Image Problem


#1

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; - EXODUS 20:4-5

I know that us Catholics have ways of explaining our use for statues, but how could this POSSIBLY be explained. We didn’t look deep enough into this Bible verse. We say things like, “We’re not worshipping the statues, it’s the meaning behind them, and they’re reminders.” However, that still does not justify our usage of graven images. This Bible verse seems to clearly oppose the usage of graven images, altough we have so many at Mass.
Now I AM Catholic and by no means intend to bother or oppose all of you, but something must be solved about this. It’s been bothering me for quite a while now.
Please, PLEASE find a solution to this.


#2

[quote=PMV]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; - EXODUS 20:4-5

I know that us Catholics have ways of explaining our use for statues, but how could this POSSIBLY be explained. We didn’t look deep enough into this Bible verse. We say things like, “We’re not worshipping the statues, it’s the meaning behind them, and they’re reminders.” However, that still does not justify our usage of graven images. This Bible verse seems to clearly oppose the usage of graven images, altough we have so many at Mass.
Now I AM Catholic and by no means intend to bother or oppose all of you, but something must be solved about this. It’s been bothering me for quite a while now.
Please, PLEASE find a solution to this.
[/quote]

Verse five seems to suggest that we are not to make graven images for the purpose of worshipping them.

Although God forbids the making of graven images in Exodus chapter 20, He commands it in the following verses:

Exodus 25:10-22
Numbers 21:6-9

In addition, In 1 Kings 6:23 we see the temple decorated with images of angels.

It seems to me that we are not to worship any created thing, however God allows us to use images to draw us closer to Him.

Indeed, Paul tells us that Jesus is the image (ikon) of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).


#3

[quote=PMV]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; - EXODUS 20:4-5

I know that us Catholics have ways of explaining our use for statues, but how could this POSSIBLY be explained. We didn’t look deep enough into this Bible verse. We say things like, “We’re not worshipping the statues, it’s the meaning behind them, and they’re reminders.” However, that still does not justify our usage of graven images. This Bible verse seems to clearly oppose the usage of graven images, altough we have so many at Mass.
Now I AM Catholic and by no means intend to bother or oppose all of you, but something must be solved about this. It’s been bothering me for quite a while now.
Please, PLEASE find a solution to this.
[/quote]

The same solution that non-Catholics give us, we don’t worship them. Just go to Washington D.C. someday, non-Catholics had them built.


#4

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:

Although we do not worship them, that still doesn’t justify us to even have them, since this verse seems opposing to *make *them. And it says ‘or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above’ - in Mass we have statues of angels and Jesus (entities of Heaven). It also says ‘or that is in the earth beneath’ which obviously meant on earth or under earth, perhaps hell. The Lincoln Memorial could be a sin.
How do we explain this part in particular and justify *making *statues, when the scripture seems to straight out and clearly state not to?


#5

It’s all right. Catholics (and Orthodox) both are right in creating images.

In reading the Old Testament you have to remember that many things changed when Christ came in the flesh into the world. Before Christ, man did not really have a clear sense of who God was; however, in Christ, who is God, we can now create icons and the such as means to worship God. We do not worship the icons or the statues; but rather we worship the person whom they represent–in many cases, Christ, who is God.

We make icons and statues of the saints for similiar reasons. With the descent of the Holy Spirit, people become sons and heirs of God. People also become temples of God, as the Holy Spirit lives in them. We therefore owe devotion to these holy men and women who are glorified by God.

I probably didn’t explain that the best, but if you want a good explanation, check out St. John of Damascus. He defended the use of icons, and because of his writings, the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 confirmed the use of religious icons.

Many Protestants are critical of the Catholic use of icons and statues because of the commandment you mentioned. However, most Protestants end up being unfaithful to their own views by holding to a strict interpretation of this passage. Let’s look at it more closely:

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; - EXODUS 20:4-5

Notice how there are two injunctions. The first one is to not make any graven image or likness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

If one were to read that strictly, that would mean absolutely no art, no sculptures, no photography, no stuffed animals, no computer images, no lawn ornaments, etc. Surely nearly all Protestants (with perhaps the exception of the Amish) do not take this passage literally. In fact, if you go to the Protestant capital, Geneva, you’ll find statues of the Reformers. Also, many Protestants, though they are hesistant to put a statue of an apostle in their church, have no qualms about setting up a criche in front of their churches during the Christmas season. Another thought: when you read New Testament accounts about Jesus, your mind naturally creates images of Jesus. These images may not be physical replications of what Jesus truly looked like, or even what others around him looked like, but when we pray to Jesus thinking of these images in our mind, we are not praying to the image, but to Jesus (God) Himself.

The second injuction tells us not to bow down to these creations. If you read the Old Testament, you will notice that in many cases people created statues–as in the Golden Calf–and believed that the statues were actually a god, or believed that the statues were a replica of what a god looked like. In the polytheistic world in which the Jews lived, to bow down to another god was to deny the one true God. Notive how in the last sentence it mentions how God will revisit the inquity “of them that hate me.” This phrase really accentuates that this commandment was created by God in fear that people would create statues and end up worshipping a god rather than God.

So, in short, you really have to take into consideration the incarnation and the ascension (remember that Jesus is in heaven in the flesh, too).

Here’s a good link:
newadvent.org/fathers/33044.htm
Go especially to Chapter XVI

Hope I helped :slight_smile:


#6

[quote=PMV]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:

Although we do not worship them, that still doesn’t justify us to even have them, since this verse seems opposing to *make *them. And it says ‘or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above’ - in Mass we have statues of angels and Jesus (entities of Heaven). It also says ‘or that is in the earth beneath’ which obviously meant on earth or under earth, perhaps hell. The Lincoln Memorial could be a sin.
How do we explain this part in particular and justify *making *statues, when the scripture seems to straight out and clearly state not to?
[/quote]

“Any likeness of any thing that is in the heaven above or the earth below.” Sounds like it means no images of anything. No statues in Washington DC. No replicas of the Ten Commandments in courthouses. No photographs of famiily and friends. No TV. No movies. No billboards. Nothing in newspapers or magazines except text. No carvings, images, or representations at Disney World. No illustrated bible stories. No “The Passion of The Christ.”

Either we’re in big trouble or we’re being too literal.


#7

Some translations have zealous instead of jealous.

Does it make sense that God could be jealous? Maybe angry and disappointed, but jealous is close to covet.


#8

PMV: You seem to have skipped over ICXCNIKA’s point. God’s direction was not exhaustive or complete, because God Itself directed the creation of images of things in heaven and earth. We are taking the passage too literally if we believe it exludes everything for any purpose.


#9

I agree with Madaglan. If you are going to interpret that commandment too strictly, then I suggest you get rid of all of your photographs, stuffed animals, figurines, etc.


#10

I think that verse in interpreted such that we are not to make any graven image for the purpose of worshipping it.

And God commanded that there be the likeness of angels be carved on the Ark of the Covenant.


#11

[quote=PMV]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; - EXODUS 20:4-5

I know that us Catholics have ways of explaining our use for statues, but how could this POSSIBLY be explained. We didn’t look deep enough into this Bible verse. We say things like, “We’re not worshipping the statues, it’s the meaning behind them, and they’re reminders.” However, that still does not justify our usage of graven images. This Bible verse seems to clearly oppose the usage of graven images, altough we have so many at Mass.
Now I AM Catholic and by no means intend to bother or oppose all of you, but something must be solved about this. It’s been bothering me for quite a while now.
Please, PLEASE find a solution to this.
[/quote]

You are making a fundamental error of taking something out of context by chopping off what precedes it. The verses you quote cannot be correctly understood by doing this. To put it simply, God is telling His people not to set false Gods before them and then He goes on to discribe some false Gods. These things are only false gods if the people give to them what belongs to God only, namely worship. Images per se are not being proscribed here, idols are. The difference between the bronze serpent, as it was used to heal them from the snake bites, and the bronze serpent as an idol later on, requiring its destruction, is the significance or use the people placed upon it. The characteristic that distinguishes an idol from a statue is the way it is treated by the people and is not inherent in the object itself.


#12

I feel the need to add some to All4lifetoo’s post. What he says is correct. However, it may be important to define “worship.” In its older usage, the word was used more freely than today. It used to mean simply “showing respect/reverence,” and the word was attached to both God and men. A few examples of its use with men remain today, such as calling an English Magistrate, “Your Worship.” Nowadays, however, the word is almost exclusively associated with the honor and praise due to God alone.

There are two types of reverence. The first type of reverence involves showing human reverence to others by nature of their humanity and the tasks which God has assigned them. We honor (or should) or school teachers because of the authority God has given them. We honor our anscestors, especially those who made great sacrafices for the family or for society. We honor the saints, for they have responded to the call of God to holiness. We honor many other people for various reasons. However, we do not worship these people as gods.

There is a second type of worship–and that is to God alone. This worship must be held higher than the reverence we give to human beings. We worship God as the one and only God, as omniscient, as all loving and merciful, etc.–and we recognize that God is the source of all grace–without which we woud never have existed.

St. John of Damascus gives these two types of worship fancy names. I think one is called latria; can’t remember the other. Maybe someone can help me, as I am falling asleep.


#13

The other terms are dulia and hyperdulia newadvent.org/cathen/05188b.htm


#14

it’s been said already, but let me make it very clear for anyone, including PMV, that we are NOT commanded not to make any kind of image in the Bible.

if you take the scripture that PMV (in an honest question, with no deceit intended) quoted, remove it from its context, and make it an absolute (a favorite means of exegesis by many protestant groups), then you seem to have a teaching that contradicts the catholic church. the Bible seems to say ‘don’t make any statues’. and the catholic church makes statues.

but read on. a couple posters have mentioned that the context goes on to say that God commanded moses to make some graven images. if you actually read the context, you’ll see (once again, as always) that the catholic church takes the entirety of scripture into consideration. God commands moses, RIGHT AFTER giving him this command not to make graven images, to make some of the most elaborate statues and works of art mentioned anywhere in the Bible TO PLACE IN THE TEMPLE where people will be worshiping!! there are trees and flowers and bulls and fruit and all sorts of beautiful statues commanded by God to be made for use in the temple.

the reason moses (and israel) was (were)commanded not to make any graven images was so that they would not worship them. while God was telling moses this, btw, aaron was making a golden calf at the foot of the mountain, and the children of israel were worshiping it. :frowning:

so you see, once again, that if you take scripture as a whole, it makes sense - the kind of sense that the catholic church makes every day.

thanks for your honest question - and remember - never be afraid. the church has been thinking about this stuff for a long time - it knows what the Bible says. :slight_smile: when you have an honest question, just ask, and i assure you: you’ll find an honest answer.

God bless.


#15

Maybe some people can read this and refute it. It comes from Hobbes’ Leviathan, which I have posted elsewhere:

Another relic of Gentilism is the worship of images, neither instituted by Moses in the Old, nor by Christ in the New Testament; nor yet brought in from the Gentiles; but left amongst them, after they had given their names to Christ. Before our Saviour preached, it was the general religion of the Gentiles to worship for gods those appearances that remain in the brain from the impression of external bodies upon the organs of their senses, which are commonly called ideas, idols, phantasms, conceits, as being representations of those external bodies which cause them, and have nothing in them of reality, no more than there is in the things that seem to stand before us in a dream. And this is the reason why St. Paul says, “We know that an idol is nothing”: not that he thought that an image of metal, stone, or wood was nothing; but that the thing which they honored or feared in the image, and held for a god, was a mere figment, without place, habitation, motion, or existence, but in the motions of the brain. And the worship of these with divine honour is that which is in the Scripture called idolatry, and rebellion against God. For God being King of the Jews, and His lieutenant being first Moses, and afterward the high priest, if the people had been permitted to worship and pray to images (which are representations of their own fancies), they had had no further dependence on the true God, of whom there can be no similitude; nor on His prime ministers, Moses and the high priests; but every man had governed himself according to his own appetite, to the utter eversion of the Commonwealth, and their own destruction for want of union. And therefore the first law of God was: they should not take for gods, alienos deos, that is, the gods of other nations, but that only true God, who vouchsafed to commune with Moses, and by him to give them laws and directions for their peace, and for their salvation from their enemies. And the second was that they should not make to themselves any image to worship, of their own invention. For it is the same deposing of a king to submit to another king, whether he be set up by a neighbour nation or by ourselves.

(continued)


#16

Actually, the text would take too long to post because of the text limits. More can be found at this link:

darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/hobbes/leviathan4.html


#17

How about a graven mental image? An “image” is perception, so how is that different? “Image” can also mean pretty much anything that is not an exact copy of, not the real thing, but contains vestiges of what we perceive the real thing to be.

Many people seem to presume to know the mind of God, and judge each other on that basis. We are told that our thoughts are not God’s thoughts and vice-versa, but we contantly use human reasoning to rationalize whether we think God would be pleased or upset with this or that. To me, imagining God to be a partaker in our human reasoning in moral issues and using it as a guideline to judge our lives or those of others, is a form of putting a “graven image” of God above Him.

Alan


#18

so alan - you discount entirely the role of reason in forming our moral theology?


#19

“I will bow down toward your holy temple…” (Psalm 138:2).

What was in the Temple?

“In the inner sanctuary… two cherubim of olivewood, each ten cubits high” (1 Kings 6:23).

What is a cherubim of olivewood?

A “. . . likeness of anything that is in heaven above. . .” (Exodus 20:4).

:slight_smile:


#20

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