Hard time explaining Carven Images


Well, first off, I searched for an answer to this and I have not found a definitive answer for my question. So, this may have been asked before but I have not found the thread, so I will ask again.

Secondly, I do not have a problem with the pictures and statues in Catholic Churchs (I clearly see the concentration during Mass on Jesus, and Jesus alone) but I have found it hard to explain to others that these are not worshiped and that they are only used as ‘visual aid’ for us twenty-first-century people who have no other way of visualizing these long dead brothers and sisters. So, on to my question:

The first commandment prohibits carven images:
Deut. 5:8
"…You must not make yourselves any image or any likeness of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth;…"

now, I have not personally used these statues and images for prayer or anything other than visual aids, and I feel I have a good relationship with God, even without them (not saying that they may not help), but it seems to me that the Church has pushed the envelope a little on the ‘images’ and ‘likenesses’. I feel like right now I’m trusting the Catholic Church a little more than I am taking all 10 Commandments to be law (only in talking about the images and likenesses). I suppose what I am asking is, I’m not fully convinced that these are not the images and likenesses that the decalogue is talking about. Are these really necessary to pray for the saints to pray for us? Because it seems maybe the Church is cutting it as close as they can with the statues and pictures. Any insight will help.

and let me finish by saying, I love the Catholic Church and I will never be a part of any other organization in my life, I feel sure. If history repeats itself with all of my questions about the Catholic faith there is a great answer to this question and I cannot wait to know it.

The italicized text is the meat of the question. Thanks for listening to me babble on. Just wanted to get it all out. :smiley:


There are some very clear answers to your questions on the following thread:

? on images

Also, I think you mean graven images. :slight_smile:



It’s nothing new.


oh yes, graven, carven same thing (not really i know) :thumbsup: haha well still…


okay, I understand its nothing new, thanks. I’m more looking for a somewhat concise answer though and not really wanting to read from newadvent.com (it gets a little deep at times and my brain isnt in full gear right now)

I would prefer a person who has a good answer to my specific question. Is it really necessary to ‘seemingly’ cut it so close to violating the first commandment, in order to have these images and pictures as ‘tools’?


That says nothing about carven (is that a word?) images. That says, as plain as day, you must not make any image or any likeness of anything (!!!).

So why do people (not saying you) twist the plain meaning of those words into an attack only on Catholic statues? It’s because they don’t want to actually understand the prohibition, they just want to beat the Catholic Church over the head with it. It’s the same with “call no man father”. They ignore the fact that they call their own father “father”, and just focus on the Catholic Church.

IOW, they are intellectually dishonest.


Man, I wasn’t thinking when I typed carven was I? but i did find out its a word none the less;

carven: That has been wrought or decorated by carving.

wont forget graven ever again.


agreed on most points, but, what about this part:

The pictures and statues are images and likenesses of ‘things’. In the initial sentence it does not say ‘you shall not make these things to bow down to or worship’. It says (paraphrasing); ‘you shall not make these things. and you shall not bow down before them and worship them.’

I don’t know if this argument holds any water but its whats running around my head.


It is not so hard to discuss images and the prohibition if you use the scriptures as a whole without ‘cherry picking’ verses.

Moses was given the Ten Commandments with the prohibition against idol worship. As you remember the passages, the peple almost immediately created the golden calf and began to worship it.

However, from Numbers we have this passage

In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you. Pray the LORD to take the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people,
8 and the LORD said to Moses, “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover.” 9 ***Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he recovered. ***

and this from Exodus:

The propitiatory was made of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. 7 Two cherubim of beaten gold were made for the two ends of the propitiatory, 8 ***one cherub fastened at one end, the other at the other end, springing directly from the propitiatory at its two ends. ******9 ***The cherubim had their wings spread out above, covering the propitiatory with them. They were turned toward each other, but with their faces looking toward the propitiatory. 10 The table was made of acacia wood, two cubits long, one cubit wide, and one and a half cubits high.
11 It was plated with pure gold, and a molding of gold was put around it.

Search for and read the descirptions of the Temple…

It is the WORSHIP of objects as God that is offensive to the Creator of All, not th proper use of images…


What is God concerned with here? That we might make images of any sort? Not very likely. That we might make religious images? God commanded religious images in the OT. No, it is the worship of these images that concerns God, and nothing else.

This is another case where one has to ask, did the entire Church, both east and west, really get this completely wrong before the Protestants came along to figure it all out? Was everybody completely oblivious until 1517? Or did the Church understand quite well the meaning of this prohibition, as part of the understanding it received from Christ and the Apostles?

One more point worth mentioning. When Christ became incarnate he “condemned” Christians for all time to forming images of him in their own minds. No Christian can possibly go through life without imagining Christ as a child or as an adult. It is quite impossible. So did God set things up so that by the very act of believing in Christ, thinking of Christ, praying to Christ, we would all be breaking this commandment? Not likely! :slight_smile:


all great points, but, isn’t a commanded creation of an image natural exemption from the commandment, whereas an un-commanded creation of an image possible violation?


Better look at your scriptures again.

Catholics Worship Graven Images. NOT!


Pagans in the Mediterranean used to believe gods dwelt within their icons. Thus making these images was the same thing as creating false gods. Before Christ, God was not incarnate—there was nothing to make an image of (how do you create a statue of the burning thorn bush or the pillar of fire?)

It is a vastly different thing to create a statue out of reverence for a saint or Christ. Catholics know that Christ isn’t in the statue, but in the tabernacle.


The statues in the Catholic Church are there to remind us of our founder, Jesus Christ, His Mother and his Saints.

"You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky
above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth."
Exodus 20:4GOD clearly said make no images.

"And the Lord said to Moses, "Make a seraph (snake) and mount it on a
pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it he will recover."
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronzeserpent, he recovered."
Numbers 21:8-9

GOD clearly said make an image.

Now is this a Bible conflict, or a misunderstanding, or misinterpretation
by someone? It has to be one or the other.

So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron, who accepted their offering, and fashioned this gold with a graving tool, made a golden calf. Then they cried out, ‘this is your GOD, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt’.”

Exodus 32:3-4This is a clear violation of the first commandment. They had accepted and made for themselves a false god. So how did GOD respond?

"Thus the Lord smote the people for having had Aaron make the calf for them."Exodus 32:35

It is clear that GOD again said make no idols.

"Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the propitiatory,fasten them so that one cherub springs direct from each end."Exodus 25:17-18

Another clear message directly from GOD to make idols. Did you notice that these gold cherubim were to be mounted atop the most sacred object on earth, the Ark of the Covenant?

Chapters 5 and 6 of 1Kings tell of the building of Solomon’Temple as commanded by GOD, and decorating it inside with…
"And he made in the oracle two cherubim of olive tree, of ten cubits inheight."1Kings 6:23

Yet another command from GOD to make idols.
These idols were huge, as one cubit is about eighteen inches. That makeseach one fifteen feet tall.

So what do we have here? Are there more Bible conflicts than we realized,or are we missing something?

Do you see the pattern here? It is very clear.
GOD had said to make images that come from GOD but make no images that are against Him…

  1. Angels are Saints, St. Michael, St. Raphael, St. Gabriel.
  2. There are many Saints who never were Angels, St. Mary, St. Peter, etc.
  3. Saints are of GOD so what is the problem of having a statue of them?
  4. Jesus Christ is certainly of GOD, so what is the problem of having a crucifix to remind us of the passion He suffered for each of us?
  5. Catholics, when praying before a statue are not petitioning to the statue, but to the person of whom it represents.

Revelation 8:4
and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.

In Love, Peace OneNow1

PS. Hope this helps a little.


Ew! NO! God’s will is perfect in all places and times. To say that God must make exceptions to His will is to insinuate that God is NOT infinitely perfect. If God states “thou shalt not commit adultery” then the act of adultery is for all time and in all places inherently a disordered act.

Your question

The misunderstanding stems from poor interpretation of the commandments. The commandment in question has two key parts:

  1. Do not make images in the likeness of anything (already discussed that we have photographs and whatnot)
  2. For which to worship
    This is the problem: the two parts are inseperable. The meaning of the commandment is not to engage in idol worship. You cannot seperate the two parts in order to say that the imagery of the church is inherently bad.

Continuing, then, what about when catholics pray before statues? The problem here is again one of understanding on the part of protestants at large. They have so very few valid sacraments that prayer is the only form of worship they even fully grasp. They don’t seem to realize that to pray is only to ask, that the CONTENT and CHARACTER of prayer determines it’s status as worship. In fact, when you asked your question here you “prayed” to us at the forum for an answer. Catholics, on the other hand, understand that prayer CAN be worship… but our worship also lies in ministry, works of the faith, the Eucharist, confession and penance, etc etc etc.


cascherman, have you read the material – which is quite concise on the following thread? Yes or no please. Thank you.

? on images

We’ve just had this exact same discussion only a week or two ago. Your questions are answered on that thread.


[size=3]In the Exodus 20, God says:

[size=2](Exo 20:4)[/size] Thou shalt not make to thyself a thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth.

Then 5 short chapter’s later, when explaining how to make the Ark to contain the 10 Commandments, God says:

(Exo 25:18)[/size] Thou shalt make also two cherubims of beaten gold, on the two sides of the oracle.
(Exo 25:19) Let one cherub be on the one side, and the other on the other.
(Exo 25:20) Let them cover both sides of the propitiatory, spreading their wings, and covering the oracle, and let them look one towards the other, their faces being turned towards the propitiatory wherewith the ark is to to be covered.
(Exo 25:21) In which thou shalt put the testimony that I will give thee.

Excuse me… God just instructed the Israelites to create graven images of Cherubs (gasp!)

Which is it… Make graven images, or don’t make graven images? !!!

Or could it just be that God was just trying to say, “Don’t worship anyone but Me. You can have these statues to Help remind you of My Holiness and the Holiness of My word.”


You have to remember what the Hebrews were at the time the Ten Commandments were handed down.
(1) They had been resident in various stages of virtual slavery for generations (since the time of Joseph), assimilating into and with a culture that did create images and did worship those images (the Egyptians). It’s not a stretch to imagine that some Hebrews intermarried or “blurred” religions or at least came to accept that there may be other gods active in Egypt.
(2) During the Exodus, the Hebrews returned to their nomadic roots. A nomadic people has no need for “knick knacks” to decorate the tent–they had to bundle all their stuff up and move around with it. So, the creation of any image would have to be purposeful vice aesthetic, since it’s essentially excess baggage. I think about the only purpose for creating an image, then, would be for the purpose of worship. It makes sense, then, to prohibit them from creating an image that had no real decorational purpose and which might lead them to imitate their host nationals in worship.
(3) They were scientifically primative compare to us. Unexplained phenomena scared them, and nobody wants to be scared. Many children bitten by venomous snakes might trigger a build-an-idol-and-worship-it-so-the-kids-will-be-safe reaction. You and I might look at environmentals, time of year, etc. and decide to move or at least keep the children away from the rocks.

We use images/statues of saints, angels, Mary, Jesus in the same way we use photographs–when you look at them, your mind centers on the subject. The subject of the image is not the object of worship (exception in the case of Jesus), but certainly points us in that direction in the case of saints. In no case do we worship the object itself (the image). If we can presume that no one save a very small child might actually believe that a photo of grandma is actually grandma, then it’s a safe bet to infer that no one will believe a statue of Jesus is really Jesus.


5 full pages is a concise answer? i understand that a similar question is asked before (do some people not like the statues and images) but that is not my question, mine is why is it necessary to cut it so close, inasmuch that it needs to be exhaustively explained to everyone at some point and even keeps some people away from the Church?

and so far with the answers i have gotten i am understanding much better, but I’m still looking for that answer that answers the soul of my question. In bold above.


If we didn’t pray in Church at all, we could avoid “cutting things so close.”

Wait—if we didn’t GO to Church, still better…

Hang on! If we didn’t BUILD any Churches, even better…

You do see the danger of blowing one very valid concern up into the ONLY concern, don’t you?

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