ARE ALL IMAGES, IDOLS?
Defense: Catholic Truth
By: Bro. Socrates Fernandez
Msgr. Adelito Abella
Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, D.D.
Archdiocese of Cebu
OBJECTION #1: It is clear in the bible which says, “Therefore, do not become corrupted; do not make an idol or a god carved in form of a man or of a woman” (Deut. 4:16). “You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, Yahweh, your God, I am a jealous God…” (Exodus 20:5). “I am Yahweh, that is my name, I will not give my glory to another or my praise to graven images” (Isa. 42:8).
Here, it is very clear that God prohibits the carving of images in the form of man or woman; what God allows to be carved are those images of cherubim or images of man (Ex. 25:18-19), but God never recommended those images to be worshipped.
ANSWER: Is the text used from Deut. 4:16 that God prohibits the making of any images of man or woman, a prohibition without any condition? Or the prohibition means that the images shall not be thought of as God? Because if you will say that the making of images, be it man or woman, is really prohibited without any condition, then, God is the first one who violated the law when He commanded Moses to make images of angels or cherubim.
If these angels are represented by the images allowed by Yahweh, these are images of men but with wings. Since the angels, upon appearing before Lot, were in form of men who are masculine (Gen. 19:1,5-8). Also, inside the temple or the House of God, these are images of cherubim and images of men: “He took me into the sanctuary…adorned with carved cherubs and palm tress and cherubs alternating, each cherub had two faces-the face of a man facing the palm tree on one side…” (Ezek. 41:1, 18-19). It is clear then that if all images represent false god, then God is the first one who erred when He commanded Moses to carve the images of angels (Ex. 25:18-19) and the image of a fiery serpent (Num. 21:8). But as we already know, God cannot commit any fault, therefore, it is our misinterpretation which led us to err in saying that all images represent false god. The Scripture teaches us what are false gods: “For we know an idol (false god) is without existence…” (1 Cor. 8:4). The Glory and praise of God can never be given to these idols which represent things which are non-existent. Therefore, it is very clear that the images of the angels and the saints are not idols because they are representing true beings.
OBJECTION #2: God also prohibits anyone to worship or to knell down in front of the images, even to procession the images, like Catholics are doing, because it is written: “Some pour out gold from their purses and with silver weight on the scales, they hire a goldsmith to make an image before which they bow and worship. They cry out to it, but it does not answer. It does not answer. It delivers no one from distress and disaster” (Isa. 46:6-7).
ANSWER: We have proven in the first answer that not all images are idols. This text quoted from Isaiah 46:6-7, wherein gold is made into an image, is worshipped and recognized as God can never be used to strike down the practice of Catholic sense there is no Catholic doctrine which teaches that images are being thought of as God. The passage from Exodus 20:5, which prohibits believer to bow down before images and served them is when this images are considered god. Proof to this is when the people of God in a procession of the ark, bearing the Ten Commandments, carried engraved stone tablets. Above the ark, two images of cherubim are placed (2 Samuel 6:2-5).
OBJECTION #3: He who casts his eyes on an idol or image is also worshipping idols for the Bible says, “But he who looks to the idols, does detestable things” (Ezequiel 18:12).
ANSWER: What is prohibited in Ezequiel 18:12 clearly cites the look of one’s eyes on the idols and here the idols mention in the scripture. “Bel bow down, Nebo stoops and their carriages weighed down with heavy images their idols borne by beasts of burden…” (Isa. 46:1).
But in the image of cherubim or that of a fiery serpent Yahweh had told Moses he is there to have a conversation with His people, there is no prohibition with that (Ex. 25:22). Anyone who looks at the graven fiery serpent, which represents the presence of God, will be cured from the poisonous bite of the snakes (Num. 21:8). “Moses pleaded for the people and Yahweh said to him, Moses a fiery serpent and a set on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.”
OBJECTION #4: One is also prohibited to kneel down before the image. “What was the answer of God? I kept for myself seven thousand who did not worship Baal” (Romans 11:4).
ANSWER: It is clear that the image prohibited by God to be worshipped is that of Baal who is a false god. However, Joshua, the man of God, while he prays, prostrates himself in front of the ark where the image is placed. The bible says, “Then, Joshua and all the leaders of Israel don their garments, put ashes on their heads remained prostate before the ark of Yahweh until evening” (Josh 7:6).
OBJECTION #5: It is unlawful to pray to images (1 Kings 18:26).
ANSWER: No Catholic who is normal prays to images. The Catholic doctrine says, “We are not praying to the crucifix or to the images or to the relics of the saints” (New Baltimore Catechism no. 3 page 132)
OBJECTION #6: It is unlawful to dance before images. “When he drew to the camp and saw the calf and dancing, his anger burst forth and he threw the slabs from his hands and shattered them against the base of the mountain” (Ex. 32:19).
ANSWER: Dancing before image is an act of idolatry. However, the man of God, King David, because of his abundant joy, danced before the ark of the Lord.
OBJECTION #7: It is unlawful to kiss an image. “Yet I will spare seven thousand in Israel who have not knelt before Baal whose lips have not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18).
ANSWER: It is the same men who kissed by men before Baal, the false god. Therefore, it is unlawful before the true God (1 Kings 19:18).
OBJECTION #8: All these prohibitions stated in the Bible regarding images are really violated by the Catholics. Here, the Catholics says that the worship the tree. The Catholic Church in its liturgy during Good Friday sings this line: “Ecce Lignum crucis, in quo salus mundi pepindit. Venite Adoremus”. (Behold the wooden cross, upon which the one crucified is the salvation of the world. Come, let us adore Him). After this song, the priest carefully places the cross above the cotton foam, bows his head three times before the cross and on the third time, the priest kissed it, while two of his lay assistants will sing the following: “Crucem tuam, adoremus Domine” (Lord, we worship your cross).
ANSWER: Our act of worshipping the cross during Good Friday does not mean that it is the wooden cross that we pay homage to, but the one crucified on the cross, whom we worship. It is figure of speech called metonymy which is an act of addressing, possessing or owning as if one the owner. Like when we mention the “crown or throne” which represents the king.
Just like what Jacob did. “By faith Jacob, before he dead, blessed both children of Joseph and worshipped as he learned on his staff” (Heb. 11:21). This simply means that the one he worships is the one represented by the staff who is Christ. “Extol the Lord, our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is He, and mighty!” (Psalm 98:5, Catholic version). The one to be worshipped in this passage is the footstool but actually footstool here represents the Lord himself.