Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Images of Jesus - A Response to Hank Hanegraaff's Site

A friend recently directed me to a discussion of images of Jesus found at, which I understand to be the website of Hank Hanegraaff (the article itself is anonymous).

The article begins:
In the fourth-century AD Emperor Leo III ordered the abolition of icons (revered images or sculptures) of Jesus, Mary, angels, and saints. This sparked the great Iconoclastic controversy, so called because those who supported the eradication of icons, often on the grounds that they violated the second commandment’s prohibition of “graven images,” were known as iconoclasts or “image breakers.” The controversy sparked in the fourth century persists to this very day. Do images of Jesus really violate the second commandment?
Actually, Leo III (also known as Leo the Isaurian) was born in the 7th century and reigned exclusively in the 8th century.  Leo III did attempt to abolish (legislatively) the use of images, which had crept into use over time.  This met with some theological opposition, chiefly by John of Damascus (c. 645 or 676 – 4 December 749), who is sometimes referred to as the last of the church fathers.

More could be said, and perhaps ought to be said, but the long and short of it is that the use of icons, statues, and other images are corruptions of the apostolic faith, which ultimately lead to the iconoclastic controversy, as a minority attempted to maintain the purity of God's worship in the 8th century, at the very end of the patristic era.

Hanegraaff's page continued:

First, if the second commandment condemns images of Jesus, then it condemns making images of anything at all. Therefore, God would have been guilty of contradicting himself because he commanded the Israelites to adorn the ark of the covenant with the images of cherubim (Exodus 25:18–20).
This is a surprisingly common argument.  In fact, though, it merely forbids images of God.  Images of Jesus, the Father, or the Spirit - all are forbidden.  This false dichotomy/straw man is simply mistaken.  Indeed, the images of the cherubim demonstrate that the command is not broadly against all making of images, but only of those that purport to represent God or gods.
Furthermore, in context, the commandment is not an injunction against making “graven images,” but an injunction against worshiping them. As such, God warns, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4–5, emphasis added).
There are actually two commands there.  The second is about worshiping the idols.  The first is about making them.  It is amazing how someone can claim that the commandment is not an injunction against making graven images and then quote something that explicitly says just that.
The commandment is not an injunction against making “graven images,” but an injunction against using these carved images as objects of worship.

That is a false dichotomy.  Both are forbidden.
Finally, if viewing an image necessarily leads to idolatry, then the incarnation of Christ was the greatest temptation of all. Yet, Jesus thought it appropriate for people to look on him and worship him as God (Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:52). That worship, however, was to be directed to his person, not his appearance. Indeed, idolatry lies not in the making of images, but in the worship of manmade images in place of the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
a) Jesus wasn't a graven image.  He was both God and man in two distinct natures and one person.

b) Jesus was the image of the invisible God, but not by virtue of his appearance.  That "image of the invisible God" line is actually a powerful testimony to Jesus' divinity as my friend, Dr. White, recently pointed out in a debate against Patrick Navas.


1 comment:

PW said...

"There are actually two commands there. The second is about worshiping the idols. "

There are not two commands unless you want to read it that way. Biblical hebrew has no punctuation. The sentence can be read as two seperate commands, it can also be read as one sentence to wit; " You shall not make grave images for the purpose of worshipping them." If you read it your way however, viz., as two commands, you risk introducing a contradiction that the article pointed out regarding the command to build the cherubs.