More Questions about Images


Hello all–thank you for your comments and insight. Unfortunately my time to come here is very limited, but I will follow up with your posts and questions as soon as I have the chance. --MatthewOU


I’ll provide some solid material for this one.

We actually do have images from Apostolic times! :thumbsup:

Luke, of The Gospel of Luke fame, is purported to be the first iconographer. There are, according to tradition, FOUR icons in existence that he painted. I know where two are…

One of these is the Black Madonna presently in Poland. Off to Wikipedia we go…

Here is a website of a church in Jerusalem. The site claims that the first icon on the left (scrolling down) was painted by Luke.

The other thing that I wanted to bring up is Jesus’ own icon - yes, I said Jesus’ own icon!

The Veil of Veronica is not a biblical story, but held as a tradition.

Here’s a picture…

According to tradition, while Jesus was carrying the cross on His way to Calvary, a woman stopped where he fell and wiped His face. He was so moved by her compassion that He left her a gift: an image of His face on the veil.

The term Veronica may be a compound word - vera (real) and icon (picture)

And with that, we can say that Christ Himself started that crazy icon practice.

Oh, yeah, and it’s at the Vatican.



I will try to respond to your comments and questions.


We don’t believe that Christ is in any way limited either to his human form or his human nature. Hence we believe the Eucharist, and the Eucharist alone, is truly Christ, since it contains his ‘soul and divinity’ as well as his human body and blood.

Certainly, since we believe so, we pay much much more attention and respect to the Eucharist than to any picture or statute made in his human likeness.

Certainly agreed. It’s easy for us to see this, but many Protestants would not. They may ask, assuming the Eucharist is truly what we say, why do we need other images?

As to the commanding of the making of images - well, Christ DID appear as a human being, did he not? Thousands, hundreds of thousands, of people clapped eyes on him in the form of a human being. They weren’t blinded nor struck dead for the blasphemy of beholding his ‘image’ (which his human body was). An image is simply a visual representation of someone or something. Christ’s body was not his entire self, but a representation or symbol of it, so those who saw it saw an image.

Also agreed–Christ was “an image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Many Protestants, though, would argue that later making an image of this image is specifically forbidden.

Church Militant: We Catholics do not worship material things, of course, and God certainly commanded the making of some images to be used by the Israelites. The difficulty here, though, was finding a way to clearly refute (in a way a Protestant would understand) the section in Romans where it is stated that images of God cannot contain His glory.


So to put it bluntly, this guy’s argument condemns equally every idea that we have about God, because no idea we have about God contains the glory of God.

A very good point, thank you! :slight_smile: I will have to think more about this and see how I can apply it to the idea of images.

Thank you for your input, it was helpful. The person I am speaking with, however, does believe that even mental images of Christ of any sort are forbidden.

So if one admits that the words of the bible are holy yet the images that are formed by those words are not is being hypoctitical.

I think this is a good point, and will see what I can do with it.

runandsew: Thank you for the link to the Second Council of Nicaea, I was unable to find this previously. While this may have settled the issue for Catholics, however, it has not for Protestants, who see it as an error in Church history (and one of the things they will point to as showing our supposed unbiblical practices).


Saying “an image of Christ” implies that the glory of God is also present." is not what the Church teaches.

Of course not; we Catholics know this. The main problem the Protestants seem to have with the practice, though, is the making of images in the first place.
Thank you for the link you sent–I will read it thoroughly.

Further responses to come in the next post…


Responses cont.:


There doesn’t seem to be much point to this. Our views of God are always incomplete anyway. In fact, being reminded of the incarnation gives us a more complete view of God than the people of the old testament ever had. Again, I see no logical connection here that says having an image of Christ lessens our already incomplete understanding, do you?

No, I don’t believe that having an image of Christ lessens our understanding of God. You bring up an interesting way of looking at this question–I will see what kind of response I get.

No logical connect. Just because God didn’t command the creation of images doesn’t mean he probited it. And even if we don’t have images from apostolic times (I think we have images from the catacombs though), that doesn’t mean they were prohibited.

Agreed, but it could easily be said that Romans 1 prohibits the creation of images, which is the interpretation I’m trying to show is incorrect.

I have seen no evidence of Catholics worshipping something other than God by witnessing an image of God. Have you? Has your friend?

No, I have not. I fear we are going into the whole worship/venerate discussion, though, and would like to keep from bringing this topic area into the current debate if possible.

How specifically is the misrepresentation in this context an injustice or insult to God? For example, maybe he had curly hair when our pictures showed him with straight. What is innately evil in that? How is God’s glory lessened by such a misrepresentation? Of course, it is not. To assume it is is to judge a human’s worth according to his looks, to be prejudicial. Of course, it doesn’t matter we don’t get the hair color, height, or whatever detail correct. What is critical is the fact that Christ was human. That’s where the value lies, and that’s what the images tell us.

An interesting way of looking at this–you very clearly bring up the key point, I think (that the humanness of Christ is what ultimately matters).

Why not? In fact, even if we didn’t need other images, how does that mean that having others is bad? Again, no logical connect.

I’ll see what response I get from this.
Thanks for your input! :slight_smile:

savedsinner: agreed, what is in our hearts is, I think, the most important thing. I can’t see how this would allow or prohibit the making of images, though.


Because of our human limitations we need a visible reference that points our mind to the spiritual reality. Your mind will construct them if you don’t and the ones that really happened reveal God in ways we could never imagine.

This seems logical. As I said above, though, this person believes that even mental pictures are forbidden.

aaronjmagnan: thanks for your thoughts.


This principle seems to be what irritates Protestants, as making images, icons or statues and then venerating them seems to worship a human attempt to capture the infinite glory of God.

Very clearly stated, from what I’ve seen.

Saints, icons, beautiful church architecture, stained glass windows and other material objects are not meant to be venerated but to lift the mind up into invisible reality, which is Holy Being itself.

Okay, good point–similar to what was done in the Temple.

While God’s essence cannot be captured or represented in any image, images of various types can help raise the mind to God. Even with no physical images, scripture itself is full of many colourful images in the form of words which raise the mind to God.

Agreed. Thank you for your input!


There is absolutely no difference between using words on a page and religious art as a means to communicate and teach. We humans have many senses. We learn the best and live the fullest when all of our senses are used. Why restrict religion to use only a few of our senses? Makes no sense to me.

This is an interesting point–thank you.

Again, more replies to come…


Responses cont.:

BelFarfalla cont.:

We do not pay any kind of honor to statues, paintings or other objects. They have no power at all. They only serve to remind us of things such as scripture, the life of Jesus and the holiness of Jesus.

Agreed. I think this need of a reminder is important (i.e. the Incarnation).


Just paint a invisible picture of Jesus.:smiley:

This seems valid, especially while reading Scripture–although I do want this person to see the value in material images as well.


I think the caution against idols should at least be considered as valid. I am glad that most people can remain very clear in their hearts and heads about the use of statues, but it doesn’t hurt to remember that many cannot.

Agreed, strongly–God’s warning is obviously just as valid today as it ever was to the Israelites.

It is important to make sure these things don’t become stumbling blocks, when the intent is that their use will draw one closer to the Lord.



I would like to add. Genesis 1: 26 says that God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” From the very beginning humans themselves are in the image of God. Now Exodus 20:4 says “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven 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.” Given that, what do you think is happening when humans procreate? Well, in creating humans, we are creating images of God right there. If we are going to be to be so literalist in this image stuff, we would have to let our race just die out. Again, sadly it seems that some don’t realize the holiness of humanity infused by God. When we don’t allow ourselves to embrace the connection, we do both God and us a disservice.

You nicely draw contrast between the literalist and Catholic interpretations–thank you for this.

I’ve not heard of J.I. Packer, and don’t know if the other person has or not. I may look into some of his teachings, if his work is a good representation of Protestant thought.
P.S. what does ‘OP’ mean? I’ve seen it on the forum a lot and assume it refers to me, but apparently it stands for something?

Subrosa: Thank you for sending the information about early images of Christ. I will look into these, and if they have historical truth, will be very helpful. :slight_smile:

Thanks again for all your replies. I hope to be posting to this thread more in the future as more things under the images topic undoubtedly will come up. --MatthewOU


I have a very simple question/Comment.

First… I would like to address something Cheddar said. He is right in saying while there is nothing wrong with using images to help us worship God, we do have to keep in mind some people not as well versed CAN take it too extremes.

That Being said…

There is NOTHING wrong with using images to help us honor. There is NOTHING wrong with knelling before an Image/Statue and using the depiction on that Image/Statue to pray to god.

Please do NOT assume God is so narrow and incompetent in that he cannot decide the intentions behind the prayer and knelling.

Just the fact that you would kneel down before any image is worship, whether you believe it to be or not. God said don’t do it, and we must obey him.
Just like the statue of the serpent was allowed by God, before the Jews began to kneel before it, then God demanded it be destroyed.
Those Jews didn’t think they were worshiping either, they thought they were just paying honor to it. but God knew what was really in their hearts, even if they did not.

This is the crux to the WHOLE thing. God DOES know what is in our hearts. If we knell before a statue, and our hearts are centered to God… then there is no problem be the very argument you put forth.

The purpose behind “make no graven images before me” is nothing more than an extension of there should be no GOD before me. It is NOT a second commandment saying you shouldn’t make pictures and images.

Please do NOT limit God by saying that we cannot use images to aid in our devotion to Him. If someone is truly worshiping an idol, they should be corrected… Catholics do not. We use the image/statue as a starting point to God. not as a god in and of itself.

God knows the intentions of the heart. Please don’t limit him

In Christ


I thought I would get a little less academic and a little more reflective on this whole issue. If I were in this debate, I would ask WHY God would make the commandment in the way the opponent interprets it. I mean, the opponent asserts the mere creation of an image is wrong. Well, what is the evil in creating an image (especially one that brings one closer to God) that would cause him to prohibit it? As long as there is no idolotry, why would God have a problem with it? We know its not because God is incomprehensible, because Christ revealed his human image to us. Is it because it might simply *lead *to confusion or idolatry?? Well, quite frankly that compromises the intelligence and free will God gave us. See, Catholics can give a good reason for their understanding of the commandment. The iconoclastic reasoning…well, I would like to hear that. Again, its not an academic argument, but might get someone’s heart stirring.



iam catholic an i do have three images in my house. when i pray i do kneel sometimes an then when my knees started aching i sit. i light a candle an then i of the images is of the virgin, the other one of baby my heart i honor them. but i don’t get it when fundamentalist think of this as idolatry. nor have i ever heard a fundamentalist take offense at the presence of statues of our country’s heroes at national this is what the President does every year during Memorial this will be consider idolatry then. the answer is no. and i quoted : We should give to relics, crucifixes and holy pictures a relative honour, as they relate to Christ and his saints and are memorials of them."
“We do not pray to relics or images, for they can neither see nor hear nor help us.” " The Catholic Encyclopedia’’:slight_smile: May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be Adored, Glorified, Loved & Preserved throughout the world, now & forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus, please pray for me. Saint Jude, Worker of Miracles, please pray for me. Saint Jude, Helper of the Hopeless, please pray for me. Amen:)



  • Because of our human limitations we need a visible reference that points our mind to the spiritual reality. Your mind will construct them if you don’t and the ones that really happened reveal God in ways we could never imagine. *

This seems logical. As I said above, though, this person believes that even mental pictures are forbidden.

Matt, I find that intellectually honest of him considering his perspective. I wonder what your friend thinks about the images of Jesus and His surroundings as they occured? Were they Holy images? Would it be ok to put an actual photograph of Jesus in front of you and kneel down and pray?


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