Why do Catholics depict God?

In Judaism wasn’t it against the law to make statues of God or to physically depict God? If so, then how is it in Catholicism that it is ok to paint God in stain glass windows and paintings?

Because God chose to depict Himself, in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth.


My understanding is that Christ Himself is an image, thus it becomes acceptable to depict God. Mind, I got that from the Archbishop of Canterbury, so I’m not sure how Catholic it is.

Couldn’t have said it any better.

I think the commandment was against idolatry. These images were used wrongly, worshipping snakes, lizards, etc., not the true God. Further, people of that time were quite primitive, actually believed the images WERE God, not just representations of one.

We do not believe these images are God. We believe they are images. I find them helpful in prayer, staying focused.

We believe it is not only acceptable, but good, to have statues, pictures, stained glass, and religious artwork of every kind which is to help us in our devotion, provided it’s with the intent to worship and honor the one true God.

Because God chose to depict Himself, in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth.

The above are correct. We had a council about this 1200 years ago (cf. Iconoclasm)

Images are helpful when we are trying to understand. I have found them most helpful, especially when growing up. I’d see depictions of Christ in various aspects of his life, understand much better than without.

Even as an adult, I have a Bible. To accompany it, I got an illustrated book. Though I’m an adult, the illustrations made all the difference in my understanding of biblical events. They acted as visual aids.

“A picture is worth 1,000 words”, right?

I volunteer with the blind. I read to a 17 y.o. who pretty much can’t see. I have to try to describe pictures, and it’s actually quite hard. A picture really does convey a tremendous amount of information like few other things can.

Pictures, images, and art are also helpful, for anyone learning, particularly children.

Further, some saints, like St. Faustina, insist Christ said that she was to paint his image and give it to us, that of Divine Mercy.

Haven’t other saints had similar experiences, St. Margaret Mary, the Sacred Heart? They were told to keep certain images of Christ to encourage people to have these images in their homes, etc.

We were encouraged to.



In the early days of Christendom, most people were illiterate and creating sacred images conveyed important information to the people. And still do.


That’s why spelling out God is okay, too. No need for G-d (which, frankly, I never understood since whether you use the letter O or a dash/hyphen, you’re still using symbols to represent a word that refer to the same thing…O or no O, you’re still making a representation of God…)

For visual representations, like paintings etc, God gave us an amazing adaptation called Sight. And it would be hard to argue that Sight is just for safety purposes, rather we also enjoy the site of things and are reminded of good (and bad) things by sight. So, seeing an image of God that we can relate internally to a prayerful and loving memory of God, then I think God would be pleased.

Afterall, he did command images of him be made AND created us in his likeness, so unless we dont look at eachother either… :wink:

Among the Jewish religious groups, the word God cannot be spelled out in full. I don’t know if any of the branches can: Ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, Reform, etc.


I have worked in literacy in the US (and Mexico), and they said there were about 1/5 people who couldn’t read at a functional level (5th grade reading level) in the US. So, we have some illiteracy today, believe it or not. These statistics are often much worse in some other countries, so images are helpful, today.

I live in Mexico, and we have a lot of illiteracy, particularly in, but not exclusively, in indigenous territory. The indigenous people, especially, seem to really appreciate images, statues, pictures. I know a number of people who can’t read, are lucky if they can sign their names.

Some here use an “X” or a fingerprint, because they can’t write their names.

Of the thousands of words in the Bible there is no mention or instruction ,( from God) in relation to his worship , to make any kind of image .There are countless types or figures of Christ in the OT .

Even in regards the Temple at Jerusalem,Jesus showed us : It too was a picture or a representation,more meaningful than words alone (John2:19)

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up”

The passover lamb ,also is but to name a few .

For me, that creation by God the Holy Ghost ,in the womb of the virgin,resulting in the incarnation ,which was acted upon ,uniquely ;and through the initiative of God alone :in three persons. It was not ,I believe ,an invitation to “go and do likewise” and present(however well intentioned) or reproduce his image ,from our imaginations.

The word “God " is seen or approved for use in the NT; but as regards the image of his person:
2Corinthians 5:16 " though we have known Christ after the flesh ,yet now henceforth know we him no more”

If then ,for those who actually witnessed his bodily image and person ,visual sight or physical attachment thereby ,was ,in my opinion ,an obstacle to faith : “the substance of things hoped for ,the evidence of things not seen”( Heb11:1)

Then what of mere pictures ?

John 20:17 “Touch me not ,for I have not yet ascended to my Father”

This is the lesson I believe ,Jesus was teaching to Mary.

I believe our faith is to be rooted in the evangel ( words) and that through He who gave us it.
“Faith cometh by hearing ,and hearing by the word of God”

My friend, evangelion means “good” and “news/report”, but not necessarily words. An “angelos” in Greek is a messenger - someone who conveys information to you. I think of the messenger at the battle of Marathon who ran to report to the Greeks that they won the battle.

In primitive times, people made objects that they said WERE gods. They were sculptures of beasts, snakes, a golden calf. People bowed down to these saying that the images were gods.

God found this offensive, of course, because they were not God. To us Catholics, it is quite different to have a statue or picture that reminds us of Christ, that we know is not God, and using it to focus our prayers.

I have gone into some other churches. No religious art whatsoever was permitted, not even if it was in the interest of helping people worship the one true God.

We believe images are useful for teaching children, adults, the illiterate, as I have explained. We Catholics, even children, are taught that these images are of Jesus but NOT Jesus. Even now, I find all these statues and pictures helpful.

It’s a little like having a picture of your mother in your wallet. You know this isn’t your mother, but it is a reminder, helps you to better remember her.

We do not consider images of Jesus to be idolatry, because they are not. We are not worshipping these images, but God. Even small children will be able to tell you this. To say we are worshipping these images is to falsely accuse us, and false accusation is a sin in and of itself.


I kind of think that the OP meant God the Father. In my experience such depictions are rare, and I shy away from them myself. I have seen photos of stained glass windows of the Holy Trinity with the Father as an old man with a beard on the left, the Holy Spirit as a dove in the centre and then Jesus as a young man on the right.

But churches around here tend to be newish and I have never seen one in person.

I’ve always wondered about the icon of coronation of Mary. If Mary is queen, is God the Father just so infinitely greater that there is no equivalent title we can envision and He just “Is”?

Or whether the Holy Spirit really is a Person and not just “symbolic” Love proceeding from the Father (and/through the Son)…

Will the Holy Spirit have an appearance like the Father and the Son and say to triumphant souls in heaven, “See, I’m actually not a bird?” Moses only saw a brief glimpse of God the Father, so He must have some resemblance that humans can perceive, right…?

Friend,my reference to the evangel ,or as you rightly say the message of “good”" news " ,is in the context of the NT ; and as such is used singularly in connection with the preached Gospel.

Within the boundaries of the NT ,the Gospel message or good news ,in my opinion,is conveyed through means of preaching .
(Romans 1:15&16)
"So,as much as in me is,I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth;to the Jew first,and also to the Greek"(KJV)

Timothy a son to Paul ( in the Faith) received tuition from his “father” in regards :“do the work of an evangelist,make full proof of thy ministry”(2 Tim4:5)

What is this work or ministry?

2Timothy 2:15. “Study to show thyself approved unto God,a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,rightly dividing the word of truth”

"Angel "as you know ,means messenger ,and it was by such that Moses received the Law.
Acts 7:53
“Who have received the law by the disposition of angels,and have not kept it.”

What law was this then?

The Ten Commandments: written in stone.

Notice that there are no images here ,except in relation to how Gods thoughts are conveyed to man , that is: in language alone ( written or spoken)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.