Images of Christ -- a loose end confessionally tied up

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TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
PuritanCovenanter said:
I do believe that a discussion on images of Christ can be discussed, pro or con.
......
These issues may be discussed if you wish, as long as the conversation is respectful of the biblical stances we hold to.


Hello all,

In a conversation recently, I presented (without espousing them) some common objections to the confessional view that an image of Jesus Christ necessarily violates the second commandment.

The brother I was discussing the matter with presented a rebuttal, and I expressed dissatisfaction with it. Since the thread went off on tangents and in the (very reasonable) judgment of the moderators needed to be put out of its misery... here is a loose end tied up.

The objection stated that Jesus Christ came as a true human being, and was very ordinary in his appearance. Therefore, the argument goes, why would it be wrong to make an image of him?

The answer is that the Incarnation didn't provide anything new from the perspective of that argument. Certainly it was new that God was a true human being of ordinary appearance. However, it was not new with the Incarnation that God had revealed his presence using ordinary human appearance.

Examples:

- Abraham entertained strangers in his home, being unaware that they were angels (as Hebrews also recalls). In a subsequent conversation, an angel speaks the word of God to Abraham using the first person, i.e. Abraham's conversation with the angel is a conversation with God.

- Jacob wrestles with a man (implication: a man of ordinary appearance) seeking a blessing. At least by the end of the ordeal, it is made plain that God has revealed his presence to Jacob by means of this man, and Jacob gets his blessing -- including a new name, to also be applied to the corporate people of God from that time forward: "Israel".

Objection to the objection: It may be argued that these were "just angels", not God himself.

Answer: Angel in the English language means a certain category of spirit being. But in Hebrew, it just means "messenger". Christ Jesus himself is the "messenger/angel of the Covenant" (Malachi).


Question: Can any of us imagine the Israelites carving an image of Jacob's wrestling match, and placing a label of "Jacob" under their forbear, and a label of "God" under the representation of the man God used to show his presence and interact with Jacob?

Hmmmm, I can't either.


Other examples of God revealing his presence using "ordinary-looking" human form are less clear, and the subject of theophanies in scripture is not without controversy. However, there is at least enough information to answer the specific objection above.
 

Quickened

Puritan Board Senior
I dont know how we can have images of Christ considering the fact that we know nothing of what He looked like. I am simpled minded i guess. I think the minute I see God there should be awe, reverence and worship.

Question: Can any of us imagine the Israelites carving an image of Jacob's wrestling match, and placing a label of "Jacob" under their forbear, and a label of "God" under the representation of the man God used to show his presence and interact with Jacob?

Hmmmm, I can't either.

Why not? Didn't they make a Golden Calf proclaiming that "this was the God that brought us out of Egypt?"
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
The fact of God's presenting Himself in human (or other) form is a weak objection indeed. It seems to me that God can send any representative of Himself in any form without any problem whatsoever. I don't see how Christophanies or Theophanies have any bearing whatever on the question of the 2nd commandment.

As for images of Jesus Christ, since He is not ONLY man but both God AND man, if any representation of Jesus Christ is to be made, it CANNOT only present an image of a human being. If it is an image of Jesus Christ, then unless the person who makes or has the image is planning to confess that Jesus is ONLY man, then he is in possession of or has made an image of God Himself... which is forbidden. You either 1) bear false witness about Christ or 2) break the 2nd commandment. Either way, it's a problem.
 

TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
Why not? Didn't they make a Golden Calf proclaiming that "this was the God that brought us out of Egypt?"

I should have stated that unambiguously -- my meaning was "... in obedience to the second commandment".

Unfortunately the Israelites were sinners, as we are today also.
 

Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The fact of God's presenting Himself in human (or other) form is a weak objection indeed. It seems to me that God can send any representative of Himself in any form without any problem whatsoever. I don't see how Christophanies or Theophanies have any bearing whatever on the question of the 2nd commandment.

As for images of Jesus Christ, since He is not ONLY man but both God AND man, if any representation of Jesus Christ is to be made, it CANNOT only present an image of a human being. If it is an image of Jesus Christ, then unless the person who makes or has the image is planning to confess that Jesus is ONLY man, then he is in possession of or has made an image of God Himself... which is forbidden. You either 1) bear false witness about Christ or 2) break the 2nd commandment. Either way, it's a problem.

How does this argument bear on Christ's divinity not being recognizable when He was on earth, since he "took the very nature of a servant, being found in appearance as a man"?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The basic argument against images of Christ, the God-man, is that the images are fundamentally Docetic. That is, they necessarily separate the two natures of Christ--divine and human. Christ is uniPersonal, so it is improper to represent the "human nature" of Christ, as if it were OK to reflect on that part of him to the exclusion of the rest of him.

If thoughts on a picture of "Christ" lead to reverence, then this is a textbook definition of idolatry. If it doesn't, then why are we having thoughts of Christ that don't?--all thought of Christ should lead to worship. So, images are a lose-lose proposition.

None of the apostles left us a hint as to the appearance of Jesus, either before or after his resurrection. Furthermore, there is some indication that Jesus was both recognizable and unrecognizable in his glorified body. The most identifiable things about him post-resurrection were (are!) his wounds/scars, and his behaviors (i.e. "the breaking of bread"). So, any picture of Christ is also a false or lying representation of him. Not commendable.

Finally, a dramatic problem with images of Christ is that they perform the exact opposite function of the Incarnation. The parents who reared Christ, the brothers and sisters who lived with him, and the disciples who spent 3 intense years with him started out viewing Jesus as "like them" in so many ways. And in the end, this contact with him for the most part resulted in the understanding that he was UNLIKE them in countless ways.

Our goal, like the people who knew him on the earth, is to stop being like we are now, so that we can be "like he is right now" (1Jn.3:2). No picture on earth can represent that. "It has not yet been revealed what we shall be." All pictures of Jesus represent him "as he is like us." It drags Jesus down to earth (Rom.10:6), instead of lifting us up to be where he is.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
The fact of God's presenting Himself in human (or other) form is a weak objection indeed. It seems to me that God can send any representative of Himself in any form without any problem whatsoever. I don't see how Christophanies or Theophanies have any bearing whatever on the question of the 2nd commandment.

As for images of Jesus Christ, since He is not ONLY man but both God AND man, if any representation of Jesus Christ is to be made, it CANNOT only present an image of a human being. If it is an image of Jesus Christ, then unless the person who makes or has the image is planning to confess that Jesus is ONLY man, then he is in possession of or has made an image of God Himself... which is forbidden. You either 1) bear false witness about Christ or 2) break the 2nd commandment. Either way, it's a problem.

How does this argument bear on Christ's divinity not being recognizable when He was on earth, since he "took the very nature of a servant, being found in appearance as a man"?

I'm not sure how your question bears on the discussion at hand...

The fact that He was unrecognizeable as being divine while on earth doesn't make any difference as to whether representing Christ in visual form is proper or not. He IS the God-Man; 100% God, 100% Man. To represent Him in any sense is to either say "I'm only representing the human-ness of Christ" which is downright ridiculous, because then you aren't representing Christ at all (while at the same time claiming to) or it is to represent His divinity in some way, which is expressly forbidden.

-----Added 12/19/2008 at 11:43:07 EST-----

of course Bruce has weighed in as I was composing my decidedly less eloquent and edifying post...
 

Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The fact of God's presenting Himself in human (or other) form is a weak objection indeed. It seems to me that God can send any representative of Himself in any form without any problem whatsoever. I don't see how Christophanies or Theophanies have any bearing whatever on the question of the 2nd commandment.

As for images of Jesus Christ, since He is not ONLY man but both God AND man, if any representation of Jesus Christ is to be made, it CANNOT only present an image of a human being. If it is an image of Jesus Christ, then unless the person who makes or has the image is planning to confess that Jesus is ONLY man, then he is in possession of or has made an image of God Himself... which is forbidden. You either 1) bear false witness about Christ or 2) break the 2nd commandment. Either way, it's a problem.

How does this argument bear on Christ's divinity not being recognizable when He was on earth, since he "took the very nature of a servant, being found in appearance as a man"?

I'm not sure how your question bears on the discussion at hand...

The fact that He was unrecognizeable as being divine while on earth doesn't make any difference as to whether representing Christ in visual form is proper or not. He IS the God-Man; 100% God, 100% Man. To represent Him in any sense is to either say "I'm only representing the human-ness of Christ" which is downright ridiculous, because then you aren't representing Christ at all (while at the same time claiming to) or it is to represent His divinity in some way, which is expressly forbidden.

-----Added 12/19/2008 at 11:43:07 EST-----

of course Bruce has weighed in as I was composing my decidedly less eloquent post...

Right, perhaps I thought you were saying something else, namely that images of Christ are wrong because they cannot portray both of his natures, but that's beside the point, since both of his natures were not "portrayed" (i.e. visible to the eye) when we walked among men. The divine nature is, after all, invisible. I was just saying that because of this latter point, it's best to just say they're wrong on reason of the 2nd commandment, and not on specifications on the ability of artistic portrayal. So I guess I'm saying I disagree that an image of Christ would be docetic, as Bruce says.
 

LadyFlynt

Puritan Board Doctor
I'm just stunned that one would dare place Christ on the same level of Angels (unless one were Mormon or JW).
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
God can take whatever form he chooses and he could never break the second commandment as whatever form he took could rightly be worshipped and also it is by necessity a commandment that can only apply to created beings, not the divine.

As sinners we create idols and seek to worship a projection that we call God, the only way we can approach God is through his revelation to us and God has chosen not to provide us with any revelation as to the image of Christ.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
The Second Commandment and Pictures of Christ - The PuritanBoard

"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, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven." Deut. 4.15-19
 

TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
Right, perhaps I thought you were saying something else, namely that images of Christ are wrong because they cannot portray both of his natures, but that's beside the point, since both of his natures were not "portrayed" (i.e. visible to the eye) when we walked among men. The divine nature is, after all, invisible. I was just saying that because of this latter point, it's best to just say they're wrong on reason of the 2nd commandment, and not on specifications on the ability of artistic portrayal. So I guess I'm saying I disagree that an image of Christ would be docetic, as Bruce says.

I suspect there is not much, if any, disagreement at root among the participants in this thread.

David, good scripture reference about Christ's being "found in appearance as a man".

Also of note is:

Mat 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
Mat 16:14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
Mat 16:15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Mat 16:16 Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Mat 16:17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.​

It was only those who were given faith who saw Jesus Christ for who he was.

-----Added 12/19/2008 at 02:13:58 EST-----

I'm just stunned that one would dare place Christ on the same level of Angels (unless one were Mormon or JW).

Hello Jamal,

While I am not sure whom you are replying to, I want to emphasize that nobody places Christ on the same level of the angels (except as the author of Hebrews relates, that Christ was in a certain sense made even lower than the angels, which was only for a time, and in order to fulfill the plan of salvation).

Did you see my note above that "angel" in Hebrew doesn't always mean the same thing as "angel" in English? When we use the term, we mean members of a certain class of spirit being who serve God and/or are ministering spirits to his people.

However, Christ Jesus is properly called the Messenger (Greek, "Angel") of the Covenant. Since the word "angel" comes from Greek, I show the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew below:

Mal 3:1 "Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

Mal 3:1 ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐξαποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου, καὶ ἐπιβλέψεται ὁδὸν πρὸ προσώπου μου, καὶ ἐξαίφνης ἥξει εἰς τὸν ναὸν ἑαυτοῦ κύριος, ὃν ὑμεῖς ζητεῖτε, καὶ ὁ ἄγγελος τῆς διαθήκης, ὃν ὑμεῖς θέλετε· ἰδοὺ ἔρχεται, λέγει κύριος παντοκράτωρ.​
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
I'm really not sure what the purpose of this thread is, unless, TsonMariytho, you are trying to make room for representations of Christ, and thereby taking an antiConfessional and antiBiblical position - but you've already denied that you were trying to do this, so I'm left without any understanding of why we're still discussing this. The following points have been made multiple times in the thread:

1) Theophanies and Christophanies do not bear on the question of whether representations of Christ are permissible.

2) The fact that to the eye of flesh Christ's divinity was not visible does not bear
on the question of whether representations of Christ are permissible.

3) The eye of faith was ABLE to "see" Christ's divinity, but not in a physical manner - and at any rate, this, too, has no bearing on whether representations of Christ are permissible.

Any representation of Christ that purports to actually portray Him cannot possibly portray him in truth - because either a) one must pretend to portray His divinity, which
expressly violates the 2nd commandment, or b) one must subdivide His person into human (which sometimes people claim they're trying to represent) and divine. If one is trying to represent Christ by representing only Human side, then one is guilty at least of the 9th commandment, because it is a false image of Christ.

Now it is my position that regardless of what one is TRYING to do, one is aiming to represent Christ who is ONE person with TWO natures, both divine and Human... and as such, it is an express violation of the 2nd commandment to depict Him in any form - since by necessity one is depicting God Almighty. Any attempt to "wiggle out" by claiming "but God took on flesh, so we can represent that flesh" is docetic at best, as Bruce has ably said.

I'm really not sure what the point of continuing this discussion is.
 

TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
Well, except for the (off topic) exchange with LadyFlynt, I don't have anything else to say, so I will request that one of you gentlemen officially "close 'er up". :^)
 

LadyFlynt

Puritan Board Doctor
I'm just stunned that one would dare place Christ on the same level of Angels (unless one were Mormon or JW).

Hello Jamal,

While I am not sure whom you are replying to, I want to emphasize that nobody places Christ on the same level of the angels (except as the author of Hebrews relates, that Christ was in a certain sense made even lower than the angels, which was only for a time, and in order to fulfill the plan of salvation).

Did you see my note above that "angel" in Hebrew doesn't always mean the same thing as "angel" in English? When we use the term, we mean members of a certain class of spirit being who serve God and/or are ministering spirits to his people.

However, Christ Jesus is properly called the Messenger (Greek, "Angel") of the Covenant. Since the word "angel" comes from Greek, I show the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew below:

Mal 3:1 "Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

Mal 3:1 ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐξαποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου, καὶ ἐπιβλέψεται ὁδὸν πρὸ προσώπου μου, καὶ ἐξαίφνης ἥξει εἰς τὸν ναὸν ἑαυτοῦ κύριος, ὃν ὑμεῖς ζητεῖτε, καὶ ὁ ἄγγελος τῆς διαθήκης, ὃν ὑμεῖς θέλετε· ἰδοὺ ἔρχεται, λέγει κύριος παντοκράτωρ.​

Regardless, it appeared that you were implying that if images of angels may be portrayed, then we should also be able to portray Christ in like manner. Something I find reprehensible.
 

TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
Regardless, it appeared that you were implying that if images of angels may be portrayed, then we should also be able to portray Christ in like manner. Something I find reprehensible.

I'm glad you find that reprehensible, since I do as well. You are responding to the inverse of my proposition, which is not logically equivalent.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
I am sorry, but I'm not following any of these arguments: how is God manifesting himself under some visible species in any way parallel to humans making a man-made image to represent him?

I think Todd's statement firmly stands:
1) Theophanies and Christophanies do not bear on the question of whether representations of Christ are permissible.
 
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