"Since you saw no form" – 2nd Commandment

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Puritan Board Freshman
When I was reading through Deuteronomy, and came across the repeated 10 commandments, I found that the reasoning behind the implementation of the second commandment was because Israel did not see a form of God. Iconophiles argue that, since God came into the flesh as a human, it is now permissible to make images of the Son. Disregarding the fact that we still cannot know the form of his divine nature, does not this argument only work if we knew what Jesus looked like? Sure, we know he is a human, but humans vary a LOT in terms of appearance. Therefore, since we don't have a photo of Jesus, aren't we in the same position as ancient Israel was? We haven't seen his form– human or divine.

Is this a valid observation?
does not this argument only work if we knew what Jesus looked like?

Seems to me that it doesn't work even if we did know what he looks like.

Would it have been permissible for a sculptor disciple who knows what he looks like to craft a statue in his likeness? Not at all.
There were theophanies that took human flesh in the OT (indeed, the elders sat and ate and saw God), and yet the Lord said they saw no form. Appearances in human flesh then must not argue against what was said in Deut applying to Christ also.

Matthew Poole: "
By which caution he insinuates man’s great proneness to the worship of images.

God, who in other places and times did appear in a similitude, in the fashion of a man, now in this most solemn appearance, when he comes to give eternal laws for the regulation and direction of the Israelites in the worship of God, and in their duty to men, he purposely avoids all such representations, to show that he abhors all worship of images, or of himself by images of what kind soever, as it here follows, Deu 4:16-19, because he is the invisible God, and cannot be represented by any visible image. See Isaiah 40:18 Acts 17:29.
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In Deuteronomy, the point is not really that we don't know what God looks like. It isn't as if God looks an ox, or a bull, or an eagle, but because we haven't seen him, we don't know which it is and therefore shouldn't make images. Rather, the point is that God is beyond such created beings and has not revealed himself in any such form.

So, the argument that we shouldn't make pictures of Jesus because we don't know what he looks like (long nose or short, big ears or small, etc.) is not the best way to apply Deuteronomy. There are stronger, more biblical arguments against pictures of Jesus.
Even if we "knew what Jesus looked like" this argument wouldn't work.

But that's not really the best way to word it. Let's presume for the sake of argument that the incarnation happened today or that in some other mysterious fashion, the incarnation occurred in a time and place where it was possible in the ordinary course of things to visually capture and document someone's existence. In other words, Jesus in the flesh lives in a world with cameras or even iPhones.

Just think about this. His own disciples at times didn't recognize him, and even pre-resurrection he was able to veil his presence and mysteriously transport from one place to another. I'm not at all convinced that in such a world there would be a single recognizable picture of our Lord, nor am I convinced that this would even really register as abnormal. His detractors would be utterly blind to his glory and his followers wouldn't be - sometimes.

I'm not convinced his disciples could have recognized or painted a picture of him even if they wanted. Maybe they could have generally described him, though I tend to think that if asked to do so, they would have said "My Lord and my God" or "He is the one who has words of eternal life." I don't think that would be any different now and were Jesus alive today, he just somehow wouldn't show up in any social media posts, at all, ever.

In the end none of it matters. Jesus did not come as a man to pose for portraits - he came to save the lost. God has not and will not give us the tools or opportunities to make any meaningfully accurate visual representing of the bodily incarnation of our Lord. We should not attempt to contain him in this way when God in his will has thrown up so many historical and theogical roadblocks to doing so.
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