Hutterites, Avatars and the 2nd Commandment

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tellville

Puritan Board Junior
So today on the news there was an article about Hutterite Christians in Alberta being forced by the Supreme Court of Canada that they have to have their pictures taken for their new driver licenses.

CTV.ca | Alta. Hutterites lose court fight over photos

Now I always thought this commandment was confined to idols, not images as a whole. So I thought, well, these Hutterites probably use the KJV so I thought I would give that translation a gander. Low and behold, it says that we should not make images period. Now I'm really confused because many people on this board have avatars (ironically named after incarnated Hindu gods) AND use the KJV or some of its close younger cousins. So what's the deal? Is this a case where the archaic language of the KJV and other formal translations that use archaic grammar, sytax and vocabulary are causing a Christian group to have a false view of images, is this a textual issue, or is this a case of most Christians ignoring the 2nd commandment including everyone on the Puritanboard?

P.S.
Contemporary translations translate the verse as restricting only images of idols (E.g, NRSV, HCSB, NIV, etc.)
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Surely it's a matter of context -- 'thou shalt not bow down thyself to them or serve them'; images of any sort are forbidden as objects of worship?
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Joshua, you're just like the big brother I never wanted. (You are actually just like my big brother :).

I have a relevant remark. Is the logic behind the golden cherubim that they were actually covering a 'symbol' of God's presence rather than themselves being a symbol used to worship?
 

tellville

Puritan Board Junior
So what's the deal? Is this a case where the archaic language of the KJV and other formal translations that use archaic grammar, sytax and vocabulary are causing a Christian group to have a false view of images, is this a textual issue, or is this a case of most Christians ignoring the 2nd commandment including everyone on the Puritanboard?
Neither, Mark. The second commandment has to be read within the context of the first commandment and the first table. When it speaks of making on images, it means making no images that are intended to represent the Triune God. Otherwise, God would be forcing Israel to break this commandment when He tells them to fashion certain images of creatures in the building of the temple, etc.

I don't really need convincing as I think it is confined to idols. But I am sure a Hutterite would say that verse 5 is just adding on to the commandment. Not only are you not allowed to make images but you are also not suppose to worship images. Given that there would be no need for the "don't worship them" comment if everyone just followed the first comment "don't make images" it seems like the English is suggesting an added comment, not clarification. As for God ordering the Ark images to be made I guess a Hutterite would just say that those were special circumstances.

Of course newer translations help make it clear that the context is talking about idols. But the English in the KJV is very clear in that you should not make any image of any kind (at least following the way English is spoken today).

I'm not trying to make this a "KJV is to hard to understand" thread, but it seems to me that the Hutterites are going through a lot of hassle due to some older translation. Now that I have thought about it though, the Hutterites speak German, so odds are they are using some old German translation. So does German have the same "KJV" issue with archaic language that the English world does?

Anyway, all this to say that I read the news article this morning and got really confused because I didn't realize some Christians thought this meant ALL images period.

-----Added 7/24/2009 at 02:54:50 EST-----

So what's the deal? Is this a case where the archaic language of the KJV and other formal translations that use archaic grammar, sytax and vocabulary are causing a Christian group to have a false view of images, is this a textual issue, or is this a case of most Christians ignoring the 2nd commandment including everyone on the Puritanboard?
Neither, Mark. The second commandment has to be read within the context of the first commandment and the first table. When it speaks of making on images, it means making no images that are intended to represent the Triune God. Otherwise, God would be forcing Israel to break this commandment when He tells them to fashion certain images of creatures in the building of the temple, etc.

Also, I just realized that if the passage is meaning as you say that "making no images that are intended to represent the Triune God" then that means this passage isn't talking about not making idols. It's about not making pictures of the Triune God. In that case, all modern translations are wrong in thinking it is talking about idols. Even the KJV seems to be talking about idols. Where does the "don't make images of the Triune God" come from this passage unless the passage is blanketly saying don't make images period?
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
What I can know, from the analogy of Scripture, and also the passage in Deuteronomy 4 is that the surface-level purpose of the 2nd Commandment is pertaining the formation of images that are intended to represent God. Otherwise God's command to fashion images (even the serpent Moses used) would be a violation of said commandment. I think the broader (in one sense) point of the commandment is to worship God in the way He has prescribed, as opposed to imposing our own choice and will in the matter.
Thanks; that does help -- I have some friends who would argue that images of saints etc. are allowed in worship as they aren't depicting God Himself, and cite the cherubim. I have taken the argument of God prescribing how He is to be worshipped with them (to no avail); but I am wondering if there isn't also a way to explain that the images of the cherubim actually had a different purpose than the images of saints: that is, the whole purpose of the cherubim was not to make something more visible to our eyes, so much as to cover something from them?

Mark, I'm sorry if I'm distracting from your thread! Perhaps if my questions are making yours more difficult to get answered we could split mine?

PS. :) my big brother taught me to beat him back. Unfortunately I'm not the beating back kind.
 

tellville

Puritan Board Junior
So, the second commandment comes after God has made clear that:

1. He's the God that brought them out of Egypt
2. He's the only true God (1st Commandment proper)

Thus, since He's the God that saved them, and He's the only true God that they're to worship, there should be no images made that are intended to represent Him because there is none like him.
There is no other. To make an image with the intent to represent, depict, or portray Him is to break not only the 1st Commandment but also the 2nd and 3rd Commandments.

I am not sure of the logic here. You seem to be saying:

1. God saved Israel
2. God is the only God. There is no other like him.

Therefore
3. Don't make images of God?!?!

That doesn't make sense. That conclusion doesn't follow from the premises. Does not the flow and logic of the passage seem to be more like this:

1. God saved Israel
2. God is the only God. There is no other like him.

Therefore
3. I am the only God you should worship. Thus, don't make idols of other gods and definitely don't worship other images and idols.

Am I missing something here?
 

tellville

Puritan Board Junior
1. God saved Israel
2. God is the only God. There is no other like him.

Therefore
3. I am the only God you should worship. Thus, don't make idols of other gods and definitely don't worship other images and idols.

Am I missing something here?
Yes. The Analogy of Scripture:

Read through Deuteronomy 4 and see how Scripture contrasts how Israel did not see God, but only heard Him, then follows the prohibitions of making images or likenesses of any creature. Why? Because He doesn't want them:

1. Making any idols
2. Likening God to any creature, since He is Creator.

Thus, no images that are intended to depict, portray, symbolize, or represent the unique Holy God that is unlike anything or anyone else.

K, I read Deuteronomy 4 and that cleared up a lot of things. I agree Deuteronomy 4 teaches what you are saying. And when you use the analogy of scripture it teaches what you are saying. And I agree the Bible as a whole teaches what you are saying. But I still don't think Ex 20:2-6 teaches by itself not to make images of God, rather I think it is confined to teaching that making idols is wrong. Deuteronomy 4 seems to expand and clarify that teaching including the reason why we should not make idols or any images of God (because you didn't actually see Him).

But back to the purpose of my post: Reading an older translation of Ex 20 and Dt 4 the English still seems to say that we shouldn't make any images period. Of course, when I read the HCSB or NRSV or more dynamic translations like the NIV and NLT the English complies with EXACTLY what you are saying. So I am still wondering if the Hutterite misunderstanding is due to using an older translation? What else could cause this misunderstanding among the Hutterites?
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
Mark, I just came out of the bush today ( several days with no news or interweb, but lots of great fishing) and I heard this story.

I sympathise with the Hutterites on this one. I think that they do have a "fundamental right" to live outside the system. And Canadian courts have always allowed them this, as part of the "Rights of Englishmen" that are the bedrock of our rights.

However, I wonder in this case if they are being forced to act as proxies for Islamic practices? After all more people live in Canada today that refuse to be photographed that are of the Islamic faith, then of the annabaptistic faith.

I have seen (personaly) a (presumed) member of the Islamic faith be Photographed with a black towel over her (?) head at the local DMV. Of what value is a photo of a towel? How is it that this is reconed an image of person that was not born in this Country, vs a non-photo of someone that was born here?
 
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