Is it Wrong to Have PICTURES of Christ?

 

Exodus 20:3-4 says, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any LIKENESS of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them" (Exodus 20:4-5). We believe this means we should not create any image of the true God -- regardless of whether or not it is worshipped. That includes pictures or images of Jesus.

It is important to carefully guard against even OWNING any images of Jesus. In fact, it is evident from the lack of description of Jesus' appearance in the Bible that what Jesus looked like should not be an issue of concern. We don't even know what he looked like. "He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had NO BEAUTY OR MAJESTY to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem." (Isaiah 53:2-3). Matthew 26:48,49 says Jesus had to be kissed in order for the soldiers to know which one He was. Jesus wore a beard (Isa. 50:6). He was not a Nazarite because He drank wine (Matt. 11:19) which was forbidden if under a Nazarite vow (Num. 6:3). Therefore He did not have long hair which is a "shame" (1 Cor. 11:14). Yet most images of him portray a man with long hair. They are FALSE IMAGES. "Though you have NOT SEEN Him, you love Him; and even though you DO NOT SEE Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" (1 Peter 1:8). “To whom will ye liken God? or, what LIKENESS will ye compare unto him?” (Isa. 40:18). “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven BY ART OR MAN’S DEVICE. And THE TIMES OF THIS IGNORANCE God winked at; BUT NOW COMMANDETH ALL MEN EVERY WHERE TO REPENT.” (Acts 17:29-30). You "thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee" (Psa. 50:21). The true Christ is God-man; “Immanuel, God with us” (1 Tim. 3:16; Matt. 1:23). The heathen “became vain in their imaginations, they presently changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into IMAGES made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” (Rom. 1:21-23). John 4:24 says, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” John 20:29 says, “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: BLESSED ARE THEY THAT HAVE NOT SEEN, AND YET HAVE BELIEVED.”

Do Not Create an Image of the True God -- Regardless of Whether or Not It is Worshipped

"You saw NO FORM of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol (Hebrew "image" -- not idol), an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are" (Deuteronomy 4:15-20).

We don't know what He looked like (Deuteronomy 4:15). The word in verse sixteen is correctly translated "image" and not "idol" coming from the Hebrew meaning image. Therefore, do not even OWN an image of the true God -- regardless of whether it is an idol or not. We believe God bans two things. 1.) Any image of the true God that we make is forbidden regardless of whether or not it is worshipped. 2.) Any image of anything else we make is allowed unless it is intended to be worshipped.

Aren't the Constellations Images of God?

Even the biblical star charts, which often represent our Lord as one of the constellations in Scripture, are NOT TRUE IMAGES. Each constellation is an ARTIFICIAL grouping of stars that have been assigned a particular meaning and image that DOES NOT EXIST IN REALITY. There are no lines connecting the stars. A minimal outline is necessary to understand the Scriptures. Men did NOT CREATE these images. God Himself said, "let them be for signs" (Gen. 1:14) and revealed their form to his servants, including the apostle John on Patmos. We DIDN'T CREATE these images and we DON'T WORSHIP them. They are inspired images woven within inspired Scripture. In order to "measure the temple of God" (Rev. 11:1) accurately, we must have this inspired drawing known as the Zodiac.

Is it Lawful to Have Images or Pictures of Plants, Animals and Humans?

Yes, providing they are only ornamental, or educational, or preserve the memory of persons and their actions to posterity. Not objects of religious worship. Images of the cherubim (half man, half animal) and pomogranates (plant) were placed in the tabernacle and temple, by the command of God himself (Ex. 25-30; 2 Chr. 3). But they were not objects of worship. May we then place images of plants, animals and humans in churches for beauty, ornament or education? No, because we should avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22). The proper ornament of churches is the sound preaching of the Bible.

Is It Lawful for an Encyclopedia or Dictionary to Illustrate False "Gods" With Pictures?

Yes, because such pictures are not intended to be worshipped. They are intended to educate. In that way we can all avoid idolatry. Otherwise we would not be able to illustrate the planets or stars, birds, cattle, frogs, elephants, fish, or women. Evergreen trees, church steeples (obelisks or "groves"). Etcetera. All have been worshipped as gods. "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

What Should You Do If You Currently Own Any Statues or Pictures of "God"?

Do we have pictures of Christ in our homes? --in our Bibles? God commanded the ancient Israelites in Numbers 13:52: “Destroy all their (the heathen’s) PICTURES, and destroy all their molten IMAGES, and quite pluck down all their high places.”“Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, AND DESTROY all their PICTURES, and DESTROY all their molten IMAGES, and quite pluck down all their high places” (Num. 33:52). This includes statues of Mary, the saints, a crucifix, a Nativity scene, the baby "Jesus", or even statues of Buddha or totem poles. Incidentally, since pornography is the WORSHIP of the female body, we must DESTROY these pictures as well.

Why Do Catholics Worship Idols?

The seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (year 787) justified the veneration of icons -- of Christ, but also of the "mother of god", the angels, and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, they believe the Son of God introduced a new "economy" of images (did away with the commandment against idolatry). Their reasons were that the Christian veneration of images is supposedly not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. They argue that "the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it." They believe the honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone. They are deceived into the false concept that religious worship of images is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but to God incarnate.

Early Christians Forbade Images and Pictures

Not only did Jesus teach the commandments of God (Matt. 19:16-22), but His apostles also did (1 John 2 :3,4). It is not any wonder that those individuals converted by Christ and the apostles kept the commandments --including the Second. Dr. Farrar in his monumental book “The Life of Christ as Represented in Art,” pages 5 and 6 says that early Christians of all ranks regarded the painting or representation of Christ as profanity and an act of irreverence. There is ample evidence to show that they took the same stand as the Jews as far as Art was concerned. They needed no images or pictures to remind them of Christ or the Father. Jesus had said that those who worship Him must do so “in Spirit and truth.” The only mediator between man and the Father is Christ -- there is no need of intermediate pictures or images. This early abhorrence for images and pictures of the Father or Christ was so indelibly planted upon the minds of early Christians that for over 300 years after the death of the apostles, there was no official representation of deity made.

Early Catholic Officials Denounce Imagery As Idolatrous

In the year 326 A.D., one of the great Catholic leaders, Eusebius of Caesarea, showed great distaste for the request for a picture of Christ from the sister of Emporer Constantine. She had requested a picture to see how Christ looked. Notice what Eusebius wrote back to her. “And since you have written about some supposed likeness or other of Christ, what and what kind of likeness of Christ is there? . . . Such images are forbidden by the second commandment. They are not to be found in churches, and are forbidden among Christians alone” (Farrar, p. 56). This is striking testimony that even the Catholic Church at this time understood the laws of God on this matter. Farrar also records that Irenaeus, Clement, Origen and Lactantius, all of whom were high ranking Catholic officials, sternly condemned their use in any fashion. And, Irenaeus and Clement distinctly appeal to the Second Commandment as authority (p. 60).

Later, there was another Bishop of the Fourth Century, whom Catholic historians regard as one of the saintliest and most orthodox, who had an energetic abhorrence for anything resembling a sacred picture. This was Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis. Farrar records an excerpt from one of his letters to the Bishop of Jerusalem. It concerned a condition he found existing in the Jerusalem area. It appears that on a journey to Jerusalem, near Bethel, he had come upon a building in which he saw a lamp burning. On being informed the building was a church, he entered to pray...He saw there a curtain which had on it (as he goes on to write), “an image, as it were, of Christ, or of some saint, for I cannot quite remember whose likeness it was. Horrified to see the likeness of a man, hanging contrary to Scripture, in a Christian Church, I tore it down and ordered the vergers (attendants) to use it as the shroud of some pauper” (See also Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, vol. 14, p. 272). Yes, even in the Fourth Century, the majority of Catholic officials were vehemently against the violation of the Second Commandment. Although, from this example, you can see that some Bishops were beginning to allow pictures even in the churches.

By the end of the Fourth Century, because of the increased influx of pagan influence, the tide was beginning to be in favor of the use of pictures for worship. Augustine, at the beginning of the Fifth Century, “complains that he knew many worshippers of superstitious pictures” (Farrar, p. 59). Still, however, the majority was opposed to their use. Farrar goes on to say that about the year 600 A.D., there was one Serenus, Bishop of Massilia who “broke up pictures and images in churches.” This act of the Bishop’s reached the ears of Pope Gregory who disapproved “of his breaking them, though he commends his opposition to their idolatrous use” (p. 59).

How Does Christ Actually Look Today?

Revelation 1:13-16 is the real Christ. It is a description that no artist could paint nor any sculpturor mold. His "countenance (face) was as the sun shineth in his strength" (1:16). This is the Christ who has a face that shines as the sun in its full strength. He was so bright that John fell at His feet as dead when he saw Him (Rev.1:17). And this is the way He will appear when He comes back to this earth with all His glory (Matt. 24:30).

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