Pictures, ANE Idols, Idolatry, and the common sense to know the difference

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by JonC δοῦλος, Dec 25, 2014.

  1. JonC

    JonC
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    On another thread I pointed out that ANE idols do not really look like “God” or “gods” (as the images are fictitious) and I was charged with claiming omniscience. How did I know, the poster quarried, that these gods didn’t actually look like the carvings? How I know is that the gods do not actually exist, which was my point. I reject the notion the objects themselves carry spiritual qualities (are idols apart from idolatry associated with the object). While I do believe that paganism is demonic, I find the idea that demons actually provided images of actual gods (or demigods?) to pagans who then carved the images based on this revelation (the images carrying a spiritual quality of themselves because of their origin) to be superstitious and unbiblical.

    Idols were not “idols” because the artists thought they bore a physical and accurate image of a “god.” ANE gods were most importantly represented through action. Jan Assmann (huh..huh..huh..he said…) illustrated it this way - “Nut was not so much the sky as what the sky did.” Here is a more modern example disproving the assumption that the artists believed they were copying how Jesus looked while on earth - Christ Pantokrator icons (the oldest of these images…T Alen posted one on the closed thread) were not intended to bear the physical image of Jesus Christ as much as express qualities of Christ (the skewed eyes representing deity and humanity, the awkwardness of the hands presenting “ICXC”).

    In ANE thought, the existence of an idol needed to be approved or authorized by the god. In the making of an idol, the deity is transferred from the spirit world to the physical world through ritual (for example, purification rituals which removed human contamination and enabled the idol to receive worship). What one did to an idol (once the process was complete and the image was also an idol) that person did to the deity which the idol/image represented. When someone worshipped the idol, they were worshipping (directly) a god. Idols did not simply represent the god, but manifested its presence. This is not what we see in more modern thought, so just on that premise alone “images of Jesus” are not identical in principle to ANE idols, although both can be idols as they are idolized and worshipped.

    Again, objects are idols because of idolatry - not because demons showed people those images, not because artists infused them with some power. ANE idols were created out of idolatry, but without someone to worship them they are nothing but artifacts. It is time that Christians grow up and drop the superstitious/Catholic nonsense of attributing to objects spiritual qualities and significance. The Kingdom is not of this world and if we are in Christ neither are we.

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.1086/380353?uid=3739912&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21104933132291
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/0801487293/?tag=baptis04-20
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B856DCK/?tag=baptis04-20
     
  2. DHK

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    What is the difference between the second and third commandments?
     
  3. JonC

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    Hey DHK....Merry Christmas.

    Off hand, I'd say that the second concerns idolatry and the third an attitude that would view God as common place. None of the commandments focus on mere objects isolated from the heart of man (idols are dependent on idolatry).
     
    #3 JonC, Dec 25, 2014
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  4. DHK

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    Correct me if I am wrong.
    [FONT=&quot]Exodus 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:[/FONT]
    --This concerns the production of images that eventually will turn into idols.
    No heart motive is mentioned. It is much like Demetrius in Acts 19.
    It could be the ones in the RCC that produce the many images or crosses, crucifixes, etc. They don't worship them, just make them.

    [FONT=&quot]Exodus 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;[/FONT]
    --This is the actual sin of idolatry--the bowing down to the images that represent the gods behind the idols or images.
    Correct?
     
  5. JonC

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    I don't presume to "correct" you, but I do disagree with your conclusion. Here is why.

    I believe that you misinterpret verse 4 and that idolatry is implied - not that it will become an idol, but that is in the making idolatry (I don't believe verses 4 and 5 should be separated into two distinct doctrines, but instead are written within a specific context concerning the same issue).

    The reason for my conclusion is that idols were not (in an ANE context…which would be the context in which the Commandments were given) manufactured as objects apart from idolatry. A carving was not an idol until it was made suitable for worship, but it's entire purpose was to be a manifestation of a god...to accept worship (idolatry). The golden calf was not an idol in because it was gold and looked like a calf. It was an idol because it was created as an object set apart for worship (idolatry) and garnered the idolatry of the people. In a modern context, to view paintings “of Christ” to be idols in and of themselves is to view images calves to be idols in and of themselves. Idolatry preceded the idol, even in Exodus. This, in my view, forms the foundation of idolatry and its application to us today. So I understand that anything can be an idol, but everything is not.
     
    #5 JonC, Dec 25, 2014
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  6. DHK

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    Knowledge is key.
    The Roman Catholics venerate or worship Mary. They have "idols" of her mass produced. They may not care who does it, as long as the job is well done. Therefore it is possible that it may be contracted out to a non-Catholic business. If so, the "idol" isn't an idol to that business. But he has the knowledge that he is producing an idol, and therefore it is wrong. It would be wrong for you and I to go into production and reproduce images of Mary for the RCC, wouldn't it? We have the knowledge that people would worship it.

    You gave the example that people, like the rich young ruler, turned away from Christ for he loved his riches more that he loved Christ. Money became his idol. So it is today. But the US Mint in America that produces America's money isn't committing any sin as they put out money just because some may worship it. They do as that money comes between them and God. The Mint does not have that knowledge. Neither is that money made in the image of God or a god. Mary is worshiped as a god, and is made in the image of "Mary."

    The fact that money can be an idol does not hold the US mint accountable. The money is not made in the image of God. The sin is in the believer who allows anything to come between him and God.
    But to make an image, that is an image of God, or an image that is worshiped as God, such as Buddha or Mary, is wrong.
    Do you see the difference.
     
  7. JonC

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    I understand what you are saying, DHK. My initial post was concerning these images being idols in the form of those dealt with in Exodus, and I still contend that they are not. I also do not believe that archeologists are obligated by God to destroy ancient idols when unearthed (The Biblicist argued that they should be destroyed, not you) even though they are no longer objects of worship. I will throw in the little comment HankD mentioned - our currency does indeed carry around what would be considered an ancient idol (the Eye of Horus, or of “providence”). Granted, it is not intended to convey the ancient Egyptian religion…but it is a “golden calf” nonetheless.

    Here is where we stand. The idea of idolatry that we see with Baptist’s possessing images “of Jesus,” or a cross for that matter, is foreign to Old Testament thought. I think that we can agree here…ANE thought is drastically different from twentieth century….or even 3Rd century AD…thought. Even Catholics with all of their idolatry do not associate their idols with God to the extent that ancient Mesopotamia considered their idols to be gods. But we have to see and apply the principle. I think we may agree to an extent, and disagree to a lesser extent.

    I simply do not view a young lady wearing a cross necklace or an elderly woman hanging a picture of the "Last Supper" as committing idolatry simply because of the nature of the items. If they idolize those items, worship them, perhaps even venerate them (depending on definition) then it'd be idolatry. If they just possess them, then it is no more idolatry than possessing a Bible makes one a Christian. I maintain that it is a heart matter, not a legalistic matter of possession or a quality of the object itself. That said, the reason I do not like those paintings is the supernaturalistic view many seem to have (which would be idolatry and those images would be idols to those people). Images of Buddha etc. are idols because they are produced to be worshipped and are worshipped. I still maintain that there has to be a link between the idol and idolatry or it is merely an image. I do not view illustrations in Bibles of Jesus praying, or between two thieves on the cross, to be idols. Although we disagree, I understand your position and I hope that I have made mine clear as well.
     
    #7 JonC, Dec 25, 2014
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  8. DHK

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    I think here we can have some degree of "compromise" and agree. Ancient artifacts, especially in museums fall into a different category--historical. I don't think they would need to be destroyed. I doubt if they would be worshiped either. I wouldn't take it that far.
    As far as the "eye" on the money, there is not much we can do about that. I think most people are ignorant of it. What would have been more obvious to the public would have been the image of Caesar who demanded worship as a god. His image was on every coin. Jesus said "Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's. He never spoke against the image of Caesar. It was the currency of that day, image or no image.
    I used to be a Catholic. I would never admit to idolatry then. Now I have to admit it was idolatry because of my knowledge of the Bible. I would come into a church and bow on one knee before a large crucifix that is representing God on the cross. That IMO is idolatry, even though I didn't consider it as such at the time. The carving represents Christ or God. Thou shalt not bow down to it, and I, in traditional reverence, did.
    The cross is simply the crucifix without Christ. It used to be that no Protestant church had any cross. It is a symbol of Catholicism. It is not a biblical association. It is not "the cross" of the bible. When Paul said "I glory in the cross," that meant the total sufferings of Christ, all that made up our redemption--not just a wooden stick. If the adornment were to relevant she would wear an image of an electric chair or something similar. It was the method of execution of that day. It was gross and terrible. What possible good could come of beautifying a blood stained gory cross with gold and wearing it around your neck. It gives the wrong impression.

    As for the picture, it also comes from Roman Catholicism, and from the imagination of a man who had never seen Christ nor knows what Christ looked like. The "image" of Christ, whom we are to be conformed to, is wrong. His image is more "hippie" like. It is very likely that Christ had short hair. He was a carpenter by trade.
    You have, and on some matters we have to agree to disagree.
     
  9. JonC

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    Yes, and that’s fine. I also recognize that my background (a Baptist who never associated outside of that narrow religious circle until an adult) may make me less aware of how others view these things. I was not exposed to the idea of venerating these types of objects until I befriended a more diverse group of people in service. Until then the notion that crosses and paintings were sacred was a foreign concept to me.
    Very true. I don’t believe many think of it that way, but crosses are often items of meditation or superstition (at least approaching idolatry). I wonder how we came to ignore the suffering of Christ (Protestants at one time often objected to the crucifix because Catholics “left Christ on the cross,” the cross to many symbolized the risen Savior). I understand the objection to these images.
     
  10. Rolfe

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    Pictures, ANE Idols, Idolatry, and the common sense to know the difference

    Perhaps I missed it, but what does "ANE" mean? Probably a stupid question.
     
  11. JonC

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    Not a stupid question...I failed to be clear (sorry). ANE meaning Ancient Near-Eastern. The ANE understanding of idols (the understanding of idols during the time Moses was given the Law) was not that they were mere images of gods. Idols held a deeper significance than that as the idols themselves were, for all practical purposes, deity (their gods didn't receive worship through the idol, but as the idol). Their idols were idolatry before the images were even formed (they were, like the image of the calf in Exodus, made to be worshipped). This is not the case with the illustration in grandma's Bible of Jesus on the cross between two thieves.
     
    #11 JonC, Dec 26, 2014
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  12. The Biblicist

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    If you are going to represent my argument then do it correctly instead of the nonsense you posted above. I said no such thing. Go back and read what I said. You had claimed that the artist was not giving any visible likeness to any mental concept he had of the gods or god being conveyed. How do you know if he was or was not? That would take omniscience to know that the visible expression he gave did not come from his/her own mental concept of the gods or god that he claims to be expressing in a visible image.

    In contrast, I claimed that the mental concept and its mental design to convey a visible likeness of God or a god (Christ is God) is just as much idolatry as any reverence given to the image once having been made.

    Second, what you claim to be superstition, the Bible claims to be reality. Demons are behind false doctrines and that is a MENTAL reality (1 Tim. 4:1). They are also behind idols (1 Cor. 10:20-22). The Corinthians were making the very same boast you are! They were boasting that the idol was no god and therefore, they could attend the feasts and purchase their meats cheaper there because they were not attending to worship idols, as the idols were nothing. Paul told them that a supernatural presence attending the idols and all who were in attendance were actually communing with demons.
     
  13. Rolfe

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    Thanks. Had not heard the abbreviation before.
     
  14. The Biblicist

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    This is an absurd argument. The Second commandment is speaking of idolaters making images that bear the "LIKENESS" of what they are worshipping!

    Again you are claiming omniscience in that you actually believe you can speak for all ancient peoples and all ancient idolaters.


    Another ridiculous argument! Paul starts with the MIND not with the visible image or action. Idolatry is first a MENTAL action before it is ever a VISIBLE action:

    Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
     
    #14 The Biblicist, Dec 26, 2014
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  15. The Biblicist

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    This is an absurd argument. The Second commandment is speaking of idolaters making images that bear the "LIKENESS" of what they are worshipping!


    Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

    Again you are claiming omniscience in that you actually believe you can speak for all ancient peoples and all ancient idolaters.


    Another ridiculous argument! Paul starts with the MIND not with the visible image or action. Idolatry is first a MENTAL action before it is ever a VISIBLE action:

    Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.





    Another ridiculous argument! How do you get permission from a non-existent deity?????? The MENTAL conception that gave rise to visible expression is idolatry as much as any visible action of bowing down, praying toward it, etc.



    Another ridiculous argument! Demons at work in the MIND bring forth the conception of such and idol according to Paul or don't you know about trying the spirits? That false doctrine (mental concepts) originate with demons (1 Tim. 4:1). That demons accompany the demonically conceived images (1 Cor. 10:20-22)??? No ritual is necessary to have demonic presence although the whole worship ritual that attends has its origins with demons as well.




    This is pure ignorance on display! God certainly did not conceive such thoughts in them to produce such an idol or image! No one said the artists "infused them with some power" as that is another perverted twisted straw man argument. It is THE IMAGE itself that is wrong due to the DEMONIC produced thinking that leads up to producing it in violation of the Second Commandment condemns making the LIKENESS. It is the production of the LIKENESS of a god, or gods conceived by design that is inseparable from idolatry.

    Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:



    It is about time you grow up spiritually and recognize what you are doing is idolatrous by defending idolatry. No one is attributing to the physical objects spiritual qualities! However, these idols, like false doctrine are demonic by design and use, as they were not conceived by any leadership of the Spirit of God in either their concept, design or making. They are demonic in origin, concept/design and making as well as in use for worship. To simply claim that only the use is demonic is absurd, as their conceptional origin and design are just as demonic. That is like saying murder is only the actual visible taking of life. No murder is the heart intent and design whether it is ever carried out visibly or not.
     
    #15 The Biblicist, Dec 26, 2014
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  16. JonC

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    Hi Biblicist,
    Exactly. The idols of Exodus are not exceptions. The issue is idolatry and not images.
    I will also note that I may have misunderstood aspects of your argument as the thread closed. That’s neither here nor there. Out of that thread I wondered if others viewed Exodus within a more contemporary context and I decided to start a thread to look at that topic.
    Biblicist, I will simply encourage you to take the time to read and study the context of the Old Testament. Until you understand (at least a bit more) of the pagan world in which God revealed Himself then you cannot grasp the implications of this revelation to the Hebrew people as they are exposed to a transcendent God. It is an entire shift in worldview which did not begin internal to the people. I do not claim to be an expert in ANE religions, but it does not take much study and research to at least learn how they viewed deity, idols, temples, and worship. This is not as subjective as you seem to believe (although I have to rely on the research of others, I have yet to see evidence to the contrary) – take a little time and research what is available, and then come on back to the discussion prepared if you wish (at least you could then address the topic/issues at hand instead of me).
     
    #16 JonC, Dec 26, 2014
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  17. The Biblicist

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    Two points!

    1. There are things that may or may not be used for idolatry as anything can be an idol.

    2. However, I am talking about the production of a visible likeness that by intentional conception and by design was to portray the likeness of God (Jesus is God) or a god.

    In your responses you pit one against the other or defend one while ignoring the other and that accounts for your inconsistencies and abuse of my statements.

    Thus the intentionally production of God as a visible image is a MENTAL SIN because the proper MENTAL conception of God forbids the INTENT to design or produce any visible likeness of God. Therefore, the artists (sculpter, carver, painter, etc.) who merely embraces the THOUGHT to make a visible representation of God has already committed idolatry in his heart as his very THOUGHTS are idolatrous in nature as the very THOUGHT of making a visible expression demands a MENTAL PERCEPTION that already PERVERTS the revelation of God in the Scriptures. Those who embrace with their THOUGHTS the revelation of God in Scriptures, those very THOUGHTS repudiate any kind of INTENT to make a visible likeness of ANY KIND for ANY PURPOSE that they themselves or others would mentally or visible ASSOCIATE to be God (Christ is God).

    Those who mentally take up the task of designing a visible portrait of Jesus Christ that they or others can conceive of ASSOCIATING with Jesus Christ have violated the Second commandment that forbids even MAKING such a "LIKENESS" which can be ASSOCIATED with God in any visible form.

    Of course not! Any argument that exposes your fallacious thinking is of no consequence in your already made up mind.


    What arrogance! I am a college graduate, a seminarian graduate and have read, studied and taught the Old Testament for over 40 years and you arrogantly imagine that I have never studied the Old Testament in its historical context???? What arrogance! Of course, this is the best you can do, so I should not expect anything less.
     
  18. T Alan

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    WOW! you guys have debated in over 100 exchanges and show no signs of stopping or swaying. :applause: (standing):applause::applause:
     
  19. JonC

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    And here is where I said we disagree. I believe that the prohibition in Exodus regards making images with an intent of idolatry (images designed for worship, idolatry - not merely images) and you do not. I am not trying to change your mind, this thread was not for you. But you are right, until you (or anyone else) produces suitable (to me) evidence to the contrary my mind is made up. I respect that yours is also.

    I am sure that you've studied the Old Testament, and from other statements that you have made I concluded that you were also a seminary graduate. I was not trying to respond in kind, merely pointing out that your comments did not accurately reflect what is known of ANE thought.

    Having graduated college and seminary, and having been and still being a student of the Bible, I know from experience that this does not mean I am beyond error or question. I know from experience that I can still learn, and often from people who have no educational "qualifications." Unfortunately some of my peers reflect an arrogance that prevents such learning, but that is not an issue for me to contend. What I do not understand is why you continue to post. It is obviously not to change my mind or teach me (your personal affronts make my reception highly unlikely). It is not for yourself (you have made up your mind regardless of any information to the contrary that may be presented). Out of respect and benefit of the doubt, I'll dismiss pride and arrogance...but I am not left with a reason for your response.
     
  20. JonC

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    :laugh::laugh: And we've transcended threads. (Actually this was supposed to be another thread. The concluding posts in the last thread brought up another connected issue I wanted to explore....the differences in ANE thought and modern thought when it came to idols, idolatry, and what the images represented).
     
    #20 JonC, Dec 26, 2014
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