Saturday, March 8, 2014

Simon Patrick on Exodus 32:1-4

Simon Patrick on Exodus 32:1-4:
Make us Gods.] Or rather, make us a God: for so Nehemiah expresses it in the Singular Number, IX 18. and so Elohim is often translated, XX Gen. 13. XXXV. 7, &c. For their meaning was, Make us a sacred Symbol or Sign, as other Nations have, that may represent God in a visible manner to us. So the Jews expound it in Pirke Elieser, c. 45. They said to Aaron, the Egyptians extol their Gods, they sing and chant before them; for they behold them with their eyes. Make us such Gods as theirs are, that we may see them before us. And so R. Jehudah in the Book Cosri, P. I. Sect. 97. THey desired a sensible Object of Divine Worship to be set before them; not with an intention to deny God, who brought them out of Egypt: but that something in the place of God might stand befroe them, when they declared his wonderful Works. Such, no doubt, was their meaning; for they could not be so senseless as to image the true God could be made by a Man; or that an Image could go before them (as it here follows) which may have feet, but cannot walk, as the Psalmists speaks. And therefore Eben-Ezra judiciously interprets it, Some Corporeal Image in which God may reside.

Which shall go before us. ] Conduct us through the Wilderness. God himself in a Pillar of Cloud and Fire, hitherto went before them: but that Cloud now covering the Mount where Moses was, and not stirring at all from thence, they imagined, perhaps that Moses being lost, it would no longer lead them as it had done.

For as for thsi Moses, &c.] THis doth not seem to be the Language of those who had any regard to him.

We wot not what is become of him.] They thought, perhaps, that he was consumed in the Mount, by the Fire which shone from the Face of God, as Jonathan paraphrases it. Greg. Nyssens Reflexion upon this Demand of the People is very natural; That they were like School-boys, who in the absence of their Master, were carried [Gk.], with senseless impetuous Motions into Rudeness and Disorder, p. 183. de Vita Mosis. For there were many among them who were infected with the Egyptian Idolatry, as we learn from XXIV Josh. 14. XX Ezek. 7, 8. XXIII. 3, 8. And therefore hankering after that way of Worship by Images, which they had learnt there, they took this opportunity to desire a visible Representation of God among them, as the Egyptians had. And so St. Stephen looks upon this as a turning back in their hearts unto Egypt, VII Acts 39, &c.

Ver. 2. And Aaron said unto them, break off the golden ear-rings, &c.] This confirms what I said, that there was some debate about this matter, before they spake those words to him v. 1. Up, make us Gods, &c. For it is not credible that Aaron would immediately consent to so foul a Fact as this, without the least Argument against it. Which is so unlikely, that the Jews have devised this Tale; That Hur rebuked them in his Presence, the People fell upon him and killed him: which affrighted Aaron into a speedy Compliance.

The golden ear-rings.] These, it is probable, were some of the Jewels which they borrowed of the Egyptians, XII. 35. and possibly might have worn superstitiously, as observed XXXV Gen. 5. they did very anciently. There are those who think Aaron hoped they would not have easily parted with these; and so their Design might have been broken.

From the ears of your Wives, of your Sons, and your Daughters.] Men wore these Ornaments in the Eastern Countries, as well as Women; as we find in the story of the Ishmaelite and Midianite Souldiers, VIII Judg. 24. and Pliny L. XI. c. 31. In Oriente quidem & viris aurum eo loci, &c. In the East it is esteemed an Ornament for Men to wear Gold in that place; speaking of their Ears. See Bochart. hierozoic. P. I. L. I. c. 34.

Ver. 3. And all the People.] All that were engaged in this Design; who were so many (as I said v. 1.) that the rest it's likely durst not oppose it.

Broke off the golden ear-rings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.] So zealous is Superstition; which prevails over Pride and Covetousness.

Ver. 4 And he received them at their hands.] They seem to have presented them as an Offering, towards the making of a Representation of God; wherein every one of them might have an Interest: and accordingly Aaron accepted them.

And fashioned it with a graving tool.] The Hebrew word [Heb.] (which we translate graving Tool) is used for a writing Pen, VIII Isa. 1. and for a crisping Pin, which Women used about their Hair, III Isa. 22. And therefore Interpreters take it here for an Instrument of Engraving. And some think that Aaron made such marks with it in this Calf, as there were in the Egyptian Apis: which was a Cow that had a Spot on her right side like a Crescent (as some Writers say, though Herodotus say otherwise, and the marks are variously reported. See Pignorius in his Mensa Isiaca, p. 18, &c.) and a square white spot in the forehead. But others think it more likely, that the Calf coming rought out of the Mould, Aaron only polished it with a proper Tool. For though Apis was in great honour among the Egyptians, yet it was a living Cow, and not the Image of one, which they had in such Veneration. Therefore Mr. Selden (in his Syntagma I. de Diis Syris, c. 4.) takes it to be probable, that htis golden Calf, or Ox, or Bullock (for so the Psalmist differently calls it, CVI. 19, 20.) was made in imitation of that golden Ox that represented Osiris; which was very famous among the Egyptians. Who had a mighty Veneration for the River Nile, called in Hebrew Sichor (from whence came Siris) and for teh Dog-star (called Siris likewise) at whose rising that River began to swell; and for the Sun (which was principally meant by this Name) to whom both the Bull at Heliopolis, and the Ox at Memphis were Consecrated, as Macrobius tells us L. I. Saturnal, c. 21. But though all this be very ingenious, yet the truth of it may be well questioned, as I shall show presently; when I have noted that this Translation, fashioned it with a graving Tool, is not so agreeable to what here follows, as another which the Hebrew words will as well bear.

After he had made it a molten Calf.] The words in the Hebrew are, and he made it, &c. we translate them after, &c. to make this agree with what goes before accordign to our Translation, he fashioned it with a graving Tool: which may as litterally be translated he bound them up in a bag. For we find the word jatzar, which we here translate fashioned, to have the signification also of binding or tying up: and cheret in the Plural Number to signifie a bag, 2 Kings V. 23. And thus the Prophet Isaiah (as Bochart observes) describes the making of Images, XLVI. 6. they lavish Gold out of the Bag, and they make it a God. Which agrees with what is here said of Aaron, He received the Ear-rings, and put them into a Bag, and then having made a Mold, cast them into it, and made a golden Calf. See v. 24.

A molten Calf.] So he calls it, because it was no bigger than a Calf, though the Head was like an Ox: and therefore, as I observed before, so called by the Psalmist. What moved Aaron to represent God in this figure, is hard to resolve. Most think he imitated the Egyptians, among whom he had long lived: which seems not to me at all likely, since he had seen the Judgment that God executed against all their Gods, XII. 12. yet so great a Man as J. Gerh. Vossius hath taken a great deal of pains to prove, that Joseph was adored by them under the Name of Apis and Serapis: and that his Symbol was an Ox. This he hath laboured to support by many ingenious Conjectures. But it is not likely, if he were thus publickly honoured as a God, that a Kind should arise who knew not Joseph; i.e. had not regard to him, I Exod. 8. and another succeed him, who endeavoured to ruin all his Kindred. The Worship of Serapis also was not so ancient; for Herodotus saith not a word of it, nor any Body else till the time of Alexander the Great; and many Authors say it was brought into Egypt out of Pontus by Ptolomy: See Bachartus in his Hierozoic. P. I. p. 338. And though Apis was more ancient, yet not of such antiquity as Moses, as a very learned person of our own (Dr. Tenison, now Arch-bishop of Canterbury) hath shown in his Book of Idolatry, Chap. VI. Part 4, 5, &c. And as for Osiris, both Plutarch and Strabo say he was the same with Apis: which was not then known, as I have said, in Egypt, no more than Typhus or Typhon, whom Philo thinks to be here intended; but was certainly a later Invention, and as Bochartus imagines, represented Moses himself, though very much disguised.

Cuperus indeed hath made it probably (in his Harpocrates, p. 83, &c.) that there was a Serapis worhsipped in Egypt, before that brought out of Pntus: But whether it be so or no, I do not take it to be at all material, because it is not likely that Aaron would make such a Repreesentation of Divinity, asa was in use among them from whose Slavery God had lately deliver'd them. For how could he think the LORD, to whom he proclaimed a Feast, would be pleased to be represented by any of thos Idols, on whom, as I said before, he had executed Judgment, at their departure out of Egypt? Or what reson is there to think the israelites themselves could be inclined to think their God to be like any thing, which that People worshipped, who abhorred the Sacrifices which the God of Israel required? Their Conjecture seems to me far more likely, who think that Aaron, in making this Calf, took his pattern from some part of the SCHECHINAH which appeared to him and the Elders of Israel (when they eat before God, XXIV. 10.) attended with the Angels: Some of which called Cerubim, they think appeared with the faces of Oxen. But as there is no mention in that place of Cherubims, nor of the Angels appearing in any shape whatsoever; and Moses expresly saith, the Israelites saw no manner of Similitude on the day when the LORD spake to them in Horeb, IV Deut. 15 (and therefore Aaron and the Elders, in all probability saw none afterward) so I think there is no evidence that the heavenly Ministers at any time Appeared in this shape, till the SCHECHINAH departed from the Temple, in the days of Ezekiel. See XXV. 18, 20.

After all this considered, Aaron seems to me to have chosen an Ox to be the Symbol of the Divine Presence, in hope the People would never be so sottish as to worship it; but only be put in mind by it of the Divine Power, whichwas hereby repersented. For an Oxes head was anciently an Emblem of Strength, and Horns a common sign of Kingly Power. So they were among the Phonicians (as Pignorius observes in his Mensa Isiaca, p. 15. out of Eusebius his Praepar. Evang. L. I. cap. ult.) and among the Egyptians (as Diodorus Siculus relates L. I.) and among the Romans, as appears by that fmaous story of Genucius Cipus (in Val. Maximus L. V. c. 6) who when he was Praetor had Horns come out of his Head on a sudden, as he was going out of the City to the Wars: whereupon he was told, Regem eum fore, si in Urbem revertisset, That he should be a King, if he returned into the City. And something like it is related by Julius Capitolinus concerning Clodius Albinus, at whose Birht a Cow broguht forth a Calf with purple Horns,  which they lookt upon as signum Imperij, a Toekn of Empire. Which mad ethe ancient Fathers, perhaps, when they spake of this Calf, or Ox of Aarons, mention only its Head. For so doth Tertullian ( versus Judaeos c. I.) cum processisset eis bubulum caput: and St. Cyprian, Lactantius, St. Hierom, St. Ambrose, and others: Not because they thought Aaron made only the Head; but because this was the principal part whereby God was represented.

"And they said.] The People cried out aloud.

These be thy Gods, O Israel.] Or, as Nehemiah expresses it, IX.18.  This is thy God, &c. the Image or Symbol of the Divine Majesty: or as Abulensis interprets it, His Divine Vertue resideth in this golden Body. The Plural Numer is commonly used for the Singular, especially when God is spoken of, as I observed beofre, XX Gen. 13. XXXV. 7. 2 Sam. VII. 23.

Which brought thee up out of the Land of Egypt.] This shows they lookt upon this Ox, only as a Representation of the Almighty LORD their God; for it being but newly made, they could not imagine they were brought by it from the Egyptian Slavery, but by his Power, which perhaps they fancied now resided in it.

Ver. 5. And when Aaron saw it, he built an Altar before it.] As at the Peoples request he made it , so he seeing them receive it with such applause, presently Consecraeted it by building an Altar, offering Sacrifices, and keeping a solemn Feast in its honour.

And Aaron made proclamation.] Caused it to be publickly proclaimed throughout the Host, that every one. might have norice os the Solemnity.

And said, to morrow is a Feast.] Which was a partof Worship ordained by his Authority.

To the L O R D.] Not to this Ox, but to the Creator of the World, whom they worshipped in this Image. Notwithstanding which, this was no better than an Idol , VII Act: 41. and they gross Idolaters, CVI Psalm. 19, 20. I Cor. X. 7. Some think indeed, that Moses being gone, and, as they imagined , either burnt up or famished, they desired this Representation of God to go before them and direct them, as a kind of Teraphim: but God allowed no such visible sign to be made of his Presence with them, which he knew would in a short time have their Adoration.

Lancelot Andrewes on the Ten Commandments and Idols

Read and download Lancelot Andrewes' commentary on the Ten Commandments (including the Second Commandment) here (HT: Book Academny) or here.

Of the general thing here forbidden.

The general thing here forbidden is the making of images But a further thing is set down Col. ii. 23 invented worship for 'to make' in this place signifieth 'to invent.' By the fault here expressed and forbidden we must understand all sins of like nature ; for so by a synecdoche in other commandments under one gross sin expressly forbidden the rest of inferior or equal impiety are forbidden So that , 'will worship' Col. ii. 23 is forbidden ; man must not think himself so wise to devise a worship for God nor must he be so humble as to bow down to any representation of God ; this honour is only due to one Lord God.
To take away all images, God made sure work by forbidding all manner of likeness in heaven, earth, waters ;

a. In heaven; then,
not of the Deity, Isa. xl. 18 "to whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?"
Among the councils they [papists] only allege the second council of Nice at the which there were more unlearned and evil disposed men than ever at any Constantia was their president an heathen and unnatural woman who plucked out her son's eye because he loved not images This council is so absurd that it hath more than the papists would have it viz unam adorationem et unum honor em Dei et imaginis 'one adoration and one honour of God and the image.'
Other councils directly are against images.
3. That they worship not the image itself.

Object. But now the learneder sort seeing this distinction fail them, have found out another shift, non colere et adorare imagines sed Christum et sanctos per imagines, 'not to worship and adore images but Christ and the saints by the images.'

Answ. And this was the very allegation of the heathen, non idola sed numen aliquod cui idolum cedificatur,' not the idol but some deity to whom the idol was erected Lactantius De orig. error., cap. 2; non simulachra sed Mortem et Venerem per simulachra, 'not the images but Mars and Venus by the images,' saith Chrysostom, Hom. xviii. in Epist. ad Eph. b And indeed it was plainly the error of the Israelites ; they would not worship the calf, for they did not think it to be God, but by the calf they would worship God, the calf being used as a representation of God.
4. That the ignorant need the help of an image.

Object. And here the Romans fly to a third shift which is that the ignorant people must have something to help them to remember God.

Answ. But if the people must be put in mind, of what shall it be?

a. Not of the Deity, for they themselves are weary of that, and Hosius saith, In Decalog., cap. 66, such images crept in, dormientibus pastoribus, 'while the pastors slept.'
b. Not of Christ as God, for His attributes are infinite ; and that were but to divide Christ, seeing His deity cannot be painted, and so they fall into that anathema, 1 Ephes. Coucil.
c. Not of Christ as man and now glorified, for as Eusebius saith to Constantia, His glory is now greater than it was upon the mount, when the disciples could not look upon Him.
d. Nor as He was man in the flesh for that were to teach lies, Abac. ii. 18; and it teacheth us to forget His passions, which cannot be painted.
From another work:

God in the goodness of his fatherly love made Heaven, and Earth, and all in them; And that he might have a Creature above all others, to whom he might impart and bestow them, he made Man after his own likeness; so he made all things, non suo commodo, Job. 35. 6, 7. for we can doe him no good; neither did he give them us nostro merito, Esay 40. 5, 6. For how could we deserve any thing, when he gave all things to us before we were, and when we were made we were but vanity; therefore it was his mere and gratious goodness that brought forth Heaven and Earth for us at the beginning. Psal. 115. 15. We are the blessed of the Lord, which made Heaven and Earth: So in that Psalm is distinguished the true God from all idolls; for they cannot move, nor speak, nor doe any thing; but God did all with his word. So St. Paul, by the same reason, exhorteth the Lycaonians to turn from idolls to the true God, Acts 14. 15. But most plainly Jeremiah 10. 11. teacheth this use to be made of the knowledge of Gods Creation. In captivitie, saith he, you shall be tempted to serve their Idols; but he telleth them what answer they must make, which is written in the Caldee tongue, all the rest of the book being in Hebrew, which answer is this: Our God made Heaven and Earth, and all in them is; but your Gods can doe nothing, but their names shall vanish away, and not be heard upon the Earth. By which we see, that this maketh a plain difference between the true God of Heaven, and Idols, their names shall perish before the earth; but as our God was before the Earth was made, so the Earth and Heavens shall pass away before him, which endureth for ever. The Gentils made their gods the ofspring of heaven & Earth; but we know that Heaven and Earth are the ofspring of our God, which made all; and this is the difference to discerne the true God from the false; thus we have seen what we are to learn out of this, for the grounding of our judgement and sound knowledge, and perfecting our understanding in the Creation.

—Lancelot Andrewes, Apospasmatia sacra, or A collection of posthumous and orphan lectures

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"the devil came pretending to be Christ"

How many deluded enthusiasts both in former and latter times have been imposed on by Satan's appearing visibly to them, pretending to be a good angel. And moreover, he may be said to transform himself into an angel of light, because of his appearing in the form of holy men, who are the children of light, yea in the shape and habit of eminent ministers of God. So did he appear to Mr. Earl of Colchester in the likeness of Mr. Liddal an holy man of God, and to the Turkish Chaous baptized at London, Anno 1658, pretending to be Mr. Dury, an excellent minister of Christ. And how often has he pretended to be the Apostle Paul or Peter or some other celebrated saint? Ecclesiastical histories abound with instances of this nature. Yea, sometimes he has transfigured himself into the form of Christ. It is reported that he appeared to St. Martin gloriously arrayed, as if he had been Christ. So likewise to Secundellus, and to another saint, who suspecting it was Satan transforming himself into an angel of light had this expression, "If I may see Christ in heaven it is enough, I desire not to see him in this world"; whereupon the spectre vanished. It has been related of Luther, that after he had been fasting and praying in his study, the devil came pretending to be Christ, but Luther saying, "Away thou confounded devil, I acknowledge no Christ but what is in my Bible," nothing more was seen.
Increase Mather

The stronger any christian is, the more he doth walk by faith; and the more he doth live by faith, the more he doth choose to walk by the Scripture, the written word of God, the object of faith. It is recorded of Luther, that when he had fasted and prayed a whole day, and then had a vision of Christ, he cried out, and said, Avoid, avoid, thou confounded devil, I know no picture of Christ but the Scripture. Therein is Christ lively pictured, described, and set forth before our eyes: it is not so in revelations and visions.
—William Bridge

The scripture (saith Luther) is so full, that as for visions and revelations, Nec curo, nec desidero, I neither regard nor desire them. And when he himself had a vision of Christ, after a day of fasting and prayer, he cried out, Avoid Satan, I know no image of Christ, but the scriptures. An hankering mind after these things, speaks a sickly and distempered state of soul, as longing after trash in young distempered persons, doth a distempered state, or ill habit of body.
—John Flavel

That the Devil can mask himself in Christ's Person.
IT is a fearful thing when Satan intendeth to torment the sorrowful consciences with intolerable melancholy ; then the wicked villain, wasterlike, can mask and disguise himself into the person of Christ, so that it is impossible for a poor creature (whose conscience is troubled, to discover the villainy of the devil. From hence it falleth out, that many of those (that neither know nor understand the same) run headlong into despair, and make themselves away; for they are blinded and deceived so powerfully by him, that they are fully persuaded it is not the devil, but Christ himself that vexeth and tormenteth them in such sort.
I am a Doctor of Holy Scripture, and for many years have preached Christ; yet, to this day, I am not able to put Satan off, nor to drive him away from me, as willingly I would; neither am I able so to comprehend Christ and to take hold on him, as in Holy Scripture he is placed before me; but the devil continually seeketh how to put another Christ into my mind. Yet, nevertheless, we ought to render humble thanks to Almighty God, who hitherto hath preserved us by his holy Word, through faith and by prayer, so that we know how to walk before him in humility and fear, and not to depend or presume on our own wisdom, righteousness, strength, and power, but to cheer and comfort ourselves in Christ, who is always more than sufficiently strong and powerful; and although we be weak and faint, yet we continually vanquish and overcome through his power and strength in us poor, weak, and feeble creatures. For this may his holy name be blessed and magnified for evermore. Amen.
Martin Luther

Let Satan appear in what shape he will, we ought ever to put on great heart and good courage. For the faith of what Jesus is to us, will inspire with these. Let us ever look to Christ our conqueror, and ever resist our adversary.
—John Bunyan

LET Satan appear in every Form of Artifice, or of Rage, possessed, as he is, of such formidable Remainders of angelic Knowledge, or angelic Strength. We know, that by Christ were all Things created, whether visible or invisible, not excepting Thrones and Dominions, Principalities and Powers [Colossians 1:16]. So that all the Knowledge, and all the Force, which this Prince of Hell could ever boast, even in his primæval State, when a shining Cherub in the Regions of Glory, was only a feeble Reflection of the Glories of his great Original. His Hand formed this crooked Serpent [Job 26:13]; and how easily can his Hand crush him, and enable even the weakest of his Servants, to trample him under their Feet [Romans 16:20]?   
—Philip Doddridge

Idolatry in the Evangelical Camp Pictures of “Christ” or the Glory of God? By J. Virgil Dunbar and Richard Bennett

It seems as if most denominations use Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ painting, or images like it. These pictures obviously are acceptable images of “Christ” for modern Christians. But in the light of Scripture, can they really be excluded from falling under the Second Commandment? 

1. Pictures of Christ” are idols, not by popular definition, but by dictionary and Bible definitions.

Nowadays, on a popular level, the word idolmeans only an image of a false god, or a heathen deity, the word “idol has a more basic meaning also. However in Bible and theology dictionaries the wordidolmeans the worship of Jehovah by means of images”1, “the worship of Jehovah under image or symbol.2  Idolatry, strictly speaking, denotes the worship of deity in a visible form, whether the images to which the homage is paid are symbolical representations of the true God or of the false divinities which have been made the objects of worship in His stead.3  Baker’s Dictionary of Theology says, Because God was unseen and transcendent, men set up idols as a materialistic expression of Him. Soon the created thing was worshiped as a god instead of the Creator.”4

The idolatry of the golden calf

Everybody knows that the golden calf of Exodus 32 was an idol, but most people do not realize that it was made intentionally to represent God, “Elohim who had brought the people up out of Egypt.  Exodus 32:4-5 states And he [Aaron] received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.  And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD. In I Kings 12:28, Jeroboam, fearing that the people would return to the house of David, devised a plan:  Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them [the people], It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” Both passages of Scripture make it clear that the people who made and used those images used them as images of the LORD God, the God who delivered Israel from Egypt. Even though our English translations call the images gods with a small g, the Hebrew word used,Elohim”, is the same word that is elsewhere translated as God (e.g. Genesis 1:1). The Bible will not give God’s name to any image. The context shows that the people intended to use these images to represent the Elohimwho delivered them from Egypt. Every attempt to make a similitude of God--representing Him in some materialistic form--is basically a practice of the same sin as making the golden calf. 

The issue at stake in the making of idols is clearly presented in Deuteronomy 4:12-13, 15, And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire:  ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded of you to perform, even ten commandments;... Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure....

2. Pictures presume to represent God

Acceptance of pictures as professedly to representing God has deceived believers. They think that our  deity  pictures  are  not  idols,  especially  since  they  are  not  three-dimensional  and, therefore, it cannot be idolatrous to use such pictures. But the definition from the Bible says very simply no similitude.

What is at stake is God’s glory and the authority of His written word! If we hold to imagery and visualization of the character of God, then we have given up the very principle of the Bible only being the authority. We have given up the very basis of truth, negating the very foundation on which we stand. Rather than an issue of preference or feeling, the issue is most serious for in the Bible, idolatry is clearly spoken of as something God hates. Idolatry has always been the Achilles heel by which the people of God have been wounded and brought down. In our own day, men desire to do it “my way--to give in to the humanistic way of portraying God in a manner that He has commanded He is not to be portrayed.

Christ is the all Holy God in His humanity. In His earthly days, His humanity contained the fullness of His divinity, but that humanity is now no longer on earth. We know Him no longer after the flesh, as the Scripture says, rather we know Him now in spirit and in truth, for we know spiritual things spiritually5 and it is in God’s light that we see light.6 The Word of God is written now into the heart of the believer. His Word is crystal clear on the Second Commandment; the clarion call is as Paul says in I Corinthians 4:6, ...not to think beyond what is written...”

The Gospel is at stake, for the Scripture states that Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.7 The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation as it is written, read, and spoken one to another. The power of the Word is that it is propositional truth. Rather than subjective and tacit, The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.8 Continually, in the Old and New Testament, there is the commandment of God and the warning of God not to depict Him in a visual way.  In olden times in Israel people deviated from the written word and then there would come a famine in the land. For example, in Amos 8:11-12, Behold the days are coming says the Lord God and I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord....” Thus in our day, if young children are given pictures of Christ”, or if they see videos of Christ, then in their hearts there is a famine for the written word. There is no desire or longing to know God because they think they have known Him through the form of images, the very thing that God forbids in His Word.

Children brought up to see Christ rather than to meditate on the God given words of Him who is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person.9  So quite easily they fail when it comes to understanding that they are dead in trespasses and sin10  and therefore in need of being justified freely by His grace (Romans 3:24). The one whom they see is so easy to look upon and the message to receive Him into their heartsis such an easy action, it is one quick ritual. They have been sold idolatry while failing to be taught the Gospel verse by verse, and doctrine by doctrine, that salvation is freely given to the sinner by God’s grace alone through faith alone and to God alone be the glory. To furnish children (or anyone for that matter) with pictures and videos of Jesusis to withhold the birthright and to serve them a mess of pottage instead.  Woe to those who cause these little ones to stumble...

3. These pictures break God’s law and defile God’s grace.

The present day Bible believing church seems ignorant of the meaning of the Second Commandment which forbids using images to represent God. Exodus 20:4-6 states, 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. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

God’s Law is Christological: that is, it points to Christ. God’s Law is eternal and His grace writes it on the believer’s heart. In the old covenant, the Law was written on tables of stone. In the grace of the new covenant, the Law is written on the hearts and in the minds of God’s covenant people.

While we blame the Supreme Court for not allowing the Ten Commandments to be posted on schoolroom walls, we in the church break this commandment whenever we use a picture to represent Christ. We teach our children to break the Ten Commandments when we give them pictures to represent Christ. Can we legitimately expect Holy God to refrain from applying Exodus 20:5 to our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren?

4. The picture as a mediator opens the door for pantheism.

The picture is a part of creation. The creation is not God. To picture a created man, and to label that picture with the name of the Creator is to confuse the Creator with the creation. Romans 1:21 states the cause of such confusion is Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. The regression continues, Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beats, and creeping things.” (Vv. 22-23) Isaiah 40:18 states the problem, To whom then will ye liken God?  or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?” Romans 12:2 states the Scriptural answer to this problem unequivocally, And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”

Any picture of God” makes the picture itself into a mediator because the viewer thinks Gnostically that he knows God, at least in some measure, by seeing the picture. In this Gnostic-type knowledge of Christ, the viewer is allowed to go on silently thinking his own thoughts unhindered by the transforming power of God’s Word; thus the viewer’s mind continues to be conformed to the world by the limits of the created image and by his own subjectivity. In this Gnostic type knowledge of Christ, pictures of Jesus silently address the physical senses of the viewers without presenting His propositional truth objectively and explicitly to their minds. Rather, the viewer of a picture attaches his own subjective interpretation to whatever the picture presents to him. Thus the artist and the viewer blend God and His creation into a single continuum in the picture.

Sinc thes picture    confus and  obscure  the  distinction  betwee     God         and     Hi create world Delightful as they may be to the senses, nevertheless they have presented a deception. The pictures confirm to the pantheist that Jesus is merely part of their pantheon. Similarly, to the natural man puffed by his own darkened imaginations, these pictures confirm that the Word of God is of no interest to himself.  The pictures lay the foundation for the pantheistic concepts of God” in the church. No wonder the western church is now being ravaged by eastern cults. No wonder that such peoples, as Hindus love pictures of Christas much as they do those of Lhatchme. Yet God has ordained the means by which people, old and young shall be saved and taught. It is clearly spelled out in Romans 10:14-15,

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?  and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

5. Pictures of “Jesuscorrupt true worship of Christ.

People who use pictures ofChrist” deny that they worship the pictures, but rather that the pictures help them to worship Christ. This is essentially justifying the use of a medium, a practice well established in the Roman Catholic Church. In rationalizing her setting aside of the Second Commandment, the RCC states clearly and heretically, ...the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype, and whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.11 While in fact the pictures do help to form a concept of  Christ” for those who use them in worship, the basis of their worship is not the written word of God but rather becomes the visual depiction before them.  Rather than drink from the fountain of living water, they have turned for their knowledge of God to broken cisterns, which they have hewn out with their own hands.

Pictures of Christ corrupt the meanings of many Biblical words. The definition of idolatry is changed so that the category will exclude pictures of Christ, pictures of the Father, and representations of the Holy Spirit. To so redefine idolatry is an attempt, however sincerely undertaken, to corrupt what man is to believe concerning God as given to us through the Scriptures. The pictures eventually impact and change the meaning of salvation” and the church. First, we accept the false pictures to know Christ (Gnosticism again). These Gnostic pictures serve as mediators for knowing Christ. Using the pictures serves as mediators for knowing Christ. Using the pictures rituals are developed. The representative pictures need a special priesthood to officiate in the development and performance of a suitable liturgy. The Roman Catholic Mass is a classical example of such go-between priesthood. In the Mass, the highest point of Rome's liturgy she claims "worship which is due to the true God" for the Communion bread.12   All this, in Roman Catholicism is claimed to be done in His name. The end result is that Christ is replaced, as people look to the image. Thus evangelical world a similar reasoning tries to justify the false pictures of Christ. These pictures corrupt evangelism, the Christian education, and true worship of the Church. The Bible accepts no man-made picture as being a picture of Christ. Neither should we.

6.  The Bible is sufficient.

In the sixteenth century when the great Reformers preached, there was a return to Biblical truth. The Bible was seen to be the ultimate authority, the words of the Bible were all sufficient to show the transcendent character and person of God, Who He is, that He is Spirit, infinite, eternal, unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

The words of the Bible and the power of God unto salvation in the Gospel message were paramount.  Until quite recently, this was still the case in the evangelical world. There were no pictures of Christ, no giving in to the worldly ways of mankind on this issue, but rather the truth of God was explained in God’s way, in written words of propositional truth. The punishment of idolatry is severe, as the Second Commandment and the Old Testament make clear. The temptation to visualize Christ, the Father, or the Holy Spirit must be repented of, for God is holy and the Bible is sufficient. And we know that the son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (I John 5:20-21)


1 Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, p. 368.
2 Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p. 512.
3 Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary, F. N. Peloubet & Alice D Adams, Eds. (Philadelphia, PA: The John C. Winston Co., 1925) p. 271.
4 Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, “Gods” (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House, 1960) p. 248.
11 Catechism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 1994). #2132.
12 Vatican Council II Documents, No. 9, Eucharisticum Mysterium, Vol. I, Sec. 3, p. 104.

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Richard Bennett’s website is:
Virgil Dunbar has written a book on this topic, Christ Can’t Be Pictured—God is not like Art.The book is available for free online at