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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why I have gotten the O.T. wrong... part V

It has been awhile since my last post... my bad. I shall, however, continue this study on why I have indeed gotten the Old Testament wrong by proceeding on to the Second Commandment. Exodus 20:4-5a 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..." (ESV).

When I was a child I became familiar with this commandment. (When I say "familiar" I mean that I had heard of it.) Rather than tell you my eventual interpretation of this verse, let me just paint a picture for you in your mind. Whenever I would see a picture of Jesus in a home or church building I would become uneasy. There you go... my interpretation of the Second Commandment. This is what I thought, and rightfully so, because this is what I had been taught up until the age of twenty-two when a seminary professor named Dr. Gentry set me straight. The King James Version states it like this: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,..." In other words, "DON'T MAKE AN IDOL!" In my mind a picture of Jesus was an idol because it is a false representation of Him, unless of course He really was an attractive, middle-class, white Republican.

My goal is to help put you into the mindset of an Israelite that would be hearing this command for the first time... so here's the deal: In the ANE (Ancient Near East) pagan cultures would make statues, or images, which, through a process, would eventually become gods and be used as a mediator between themselves and that god. Here are some other details: All public worship was around the image; it was awakened, clothed, fed twice a day, and put to bed (The image was seen as a way to meet the needs of the god); and they perceived the image as not simply a representation of the Deity, but as a manifestation of its presence. This is the context that helps us understand what an idol was back then. Now to bring it all together...

A comparison of translations:

"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything..." (Ex. 20:4, ESV)

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing..." (KJV)

"You shall not make for yourselves an idol, or any likeness..." (NASB)

"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything..." (NIV)

According to the Hebrew the NIV got it right while the others can be used to support the teachings of the early Rabbi's that said you were to make no images of creation at all. Do you see the differences in the translations? The first three should not say or, but of. "Do not make for yourselves an idol of any likeness." To make a long story short, the Second Commandment is saying that no image is to be used as the mediator from deity to people or as a mediator of worship. And we must remember that God has already made His image... man.

So, was I right to feel uneasy at the sight of a picture of Jesus in a church or home? Only if that church or home was making an idol out of it, which they were not. There is nothing inherently wrong with having an image of Jesus, but worshipping that image as the manifested presence of God is definately a sin. Until next time...

8 comments:

Lee said...

Good post - glad to hear and see what the Lord is teaching you.

chance n said...

lee,
great to hear from you sir... sorry for my negligence in communication. i'm still trying to figure out how to be married, work, and go to school, but i am enjoying the confusion. your post means a lot to me, thanks.

Mrs. Jamie Butts :) said...

Congrats..I need Amber's e-mail addy quick. :)

Gabriel said...

Chancey,

This is Gabealicious. I understand your interpretation of this passage, and I empathize with your conclusions. I had the opposite journey, theologically, about this commandment. I went from having pictures of Jesus all over the place, and loving the movie the Passion of the Christ, to abhoring anything like that. How can we have a representation of Jesus and NOT worship it? If it is Jesus, it is worthy of worship. Jesus can't NOT be worship-worthy, in any form. So, having a representation of him brings forth a dilemma, in my opinion... sure, we can represent him without worshipping him... but isn't THAT a sin as well? To NOT worship Jesus? Anyhoo, we can talk about this more later.

chance n said...

Gabealicious,
Thanks for the post sir. My goal in this was not to argue if having a pic of Jesus is a good idea or not (in fact, i think that it isn't), but to make an attempt at understanding this commandment the way the ancient Near Eastern Israelites would have upon hearing it for the first time. I understand your logic, however, i'm not convinced that it leads to a correct interpretation. If it is the making of images, or likenesses, that is forbidden then why so many likenesses (even heavenly beings) in the tabernacle? Or the temple? However, out of the two of us you are without a doubt the more intelligent and more well-read one... not to mention better looking. Thanks again for the comment.

Gabe said...

Hey man, I made my own blog. Comment and such. Tell everyone!!!!!!!!

chance n said...

everyone... Gabe has a blog!

Demissive, Delivered, Delighter said...

Hey Chancers! I just wanted to leave a note to say hello. I am not sure if you have recieved any of my phone, e-mail or blog messages, but I did want to congratulate you guys. Call me sometime. I would love to knwo how my little bro is doing.