Are Images of Jesus Idolatry?

BY PGF
11 months, 4 weeks ago

We’ve already explored why you are made in the Image and Likeness of God in three parts; OneTwo, and Three. Those posts, starting from Genesis, regard what our final estate will be. And we previously posted on this very topic discussing The Image of Christ.

Humans are visual creatures. It’s the most prevalent of our five senses. We have 3d depth perception in one of the broadest color spectrums of any creature on earth. Humans become enamored with beauty for a season. Some men appreciate specific facial structures and adornments given by God, while other men may respect different ones.

We’ve seen folks enamored with the appearance of somebody to the point of refusing to acknowledge that soul’s inward condition and ugliness. And conversely, if Christ had been attractive, could any have heard His great word and the offer of the Kingdom? The Father, through Christ, was and is seeking a people to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), not in outward impression.

Lovely, however, is the notion that He grew before God as a tender shoot [Isaiah 53], indeed, born of a virgin, God in a helpless child nurtured into manhood. So too that He grew from dry ground, an infertile hard pack where no life of the Spirit would grow; all Israel hadn’t heard from God in 400 years and was far astray from the Holy Creator of heaven and earth when John Baptist came preaching repentance toward God making way for the Holy One. Jesus arrived right on time, according to the prophet Daniel. But, praise God, not all were in darkness; some waited for the consolation of Israel and the Kingdom of God at His appearing. Simeon in the temple – Luke 2:25 and Joseph of Arimathea, who buried Christ’s body – Mark 15:43, are two examples.

The Stoic Christian, who I’m not very familiar with but seems solid in doctrine from what I’ve read, has a succinct article about artwork depicting Jesus, wherein this question is raised based on the Second Commandment. This is a consideration we’d not made previously.

Theologians often grapple with the question of visual representations of God and the incarnation of Christ. This document explores the four main objections raised by the Orthodox and Reformed traditions regarding visual representations of God and provides insights into the theological discourse surrounding this topic.

1. Violation of the second commandment

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: [Exodus 20:4 KJV]

The objection stems from the belief that creating pictures of Jesus or God goes against the second commandment, which prohibits making idols. Critics argue that visual depictions of God, made by human hands, can lead to idolatry. They refer to Old Testament descriptions of pagan idols made of earthly materials, incapable of hearing, seeing, or acting.

The question arises: Do visual representations of Jesus, whether in Sunday School books, galleries, or places of worship, amount to idolatry? Furthermore, how should we understand the relationship between the unique revelation of God in the incarnation and visual depictions of that Word?

The other three concise objections are at the link.

It has occurred to me that many problems in some churches and church groups have arisen from idolatry, which is not a stretch since the word of God is replete with warnings. A question was asked, why is sodomy rampant in certain churches, sects, and denominations? God warns us in Romans 1 of this path when making idols of creatures.

“23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.”

Now, doubtless, Christ is not a creature but the Creator (Colossians 1:16); nonetheless, He is the image of God not in appearance but in manifest power, grace, truth, and by instruction in righteousness (John 1:14). Images of an effeminate or beautiful Jesus have their own disrespectful effect on the senses. The Image of Christ is His holy word (the Holy Bible); after all, He is the word made Flesh (again John 1:14). He is the Son of God and having been raised from the dead: “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:” – Romans 1:4. Context is critical, this declaration is near the outset of the entire Romans thesis on New Covenant doctrine, and before verses 23 through 25 above. Having risen from the dead, all power also given Him (Matthew 28:18), He is The Word of God (Revelation 19:13) coming to destroy His enemies and bringing in His kingdom.


Comments

  1. On May 25, 2023 at 6:44 pm, Michael said:

    grav·en im·age
    [ˈɡrāvən ˈimij, ɡrāvnˈimi]
    NOUN
    a carved idol or representation of a god used as an object of worship.

    If creating a picture of Jesus causes someone to Worship THE Picture instead of the Son of God, that would be idolatry.

    2 definitions of Idolatry
    Idolatry today is the activity of the human heart, where anything that is treasured more than God becomes an idol12345. Idolatry can take various forms, such as materialism, the attainment of wealth and riches, the desire for status, power, and control4. Idolatry is an issue of the heart and can only be broken by a transformation of the heart2. Even good things can become idols if they are treasured more than God5.

    i·dol·a·try
    [īˈdälətrē]
    NOUN
    the worship of idols.

    AKA American Idol and such maybe?

    I’m not a serious Bible scholar but I do have daily readings from Genesis to Revelations.

  2. On May 26, 2023 at 4:40 am, Dov said:

    This is an important point! We don’t know what Jesus looked like when He walked the earth, and He wanted it that way. I am sure He could manifest any way He wanted since He is God. “Pictures of Jesus” are not pictures of Jesus, but pictures of how we imagine Jesus, and what follows is that we imagine how else we want the Lord to be other than what He revealed Himself to be. Excellent article.

  3. On May 26, 2023 at 8:41 am, Ron W said:

    A prophetic general description of the Messiah, Jesus:

    For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground. He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. —Isaiah 53:2

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