Historic Reformed and Patristic Understanding of Images of any Person of the Godhead, Mental Representation of any Person Godhead, Images of Mary, Images of Angels and Images of Prophets and Apostles

Historic Reformed and Patristic
Understanding of
Images of any Person of the Godhead, Mental Representation of any Person Godhead, Images of Mary, Images of Angels and Images of Prophets and Apostles

 

Do not approve of any images of the Godhead whether made for worship, decoration or art out of any form, stone, wood, silver, painting or any other kind.

 

” Now we must remark, that there are two parts in the Commandment — the first forbids the erection of a graven image, or any likeness; the second prohibits the transferring of the worship which God claims for Himself alone, to any of these phantoms or delusive shows. Therefore, to devise any image of God, is in itself impious; because by this corruption His Majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is. There is no need of refuting the foolish fancy of some, that all sculptures and pictures are here condemned by Moses, for he had no other object than to rescue God’s glory from all the imaginations which tend to corrupt it. And assuredly it is a most gross indecency to make God like a stock or a stone. Some expound the words, “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven image, which thou mayest adore;” as if it were allowable to make a visible image of God, provided it be not adored; but the expositions which will follow will easily refute their error. Meanwhile, I do not deny that these things are to be taken connectedly, since superstitious worship is hardly ever separated from the preceding error; for as soon as any one has permitted himself to devise an image of God, he immediately falls into false worship. And surely whosoever reverently and soberly feels and thinks about God Himself, is far from this absurdity; nor does any desire or presumption to metamorphose God ever creep in, except when coarse and carnal imaginations occupy our minds. Hence it comes to pass, that those, who frame for themselves gods of corruptible materials, superstitiously adore the work of their own hands. I will then readily allow these two things, which are inseparable, to be joined together; only let us recollect that God is insulted, not only when His worship is transferred to idols, but when we try to represent Him by any outward similitude.” – John Calvin, Commentary on the Second Commandment, Exodus 20:4

 

“That this commandment (Second Commandment) is against all making of images for religious service, is clear, from a threefold extent mentioned in the prohibition. 1. The image of nothing in heaven above, or in the earth beneath,or under the earth; that is, the similitude of no creature is allowed for this end. 2. Men are forbidden to make either similitudes or likeness, that is, no sort of image, whether that which is engraven in, or hewn out of stone, wood, silver, &c. or that which is made by painting; all kinds are discharged.”” -James Durham, The Law Unsealed, (1622-1658)

 

“We declare, on the contrary, that the making of images of the Trinity is absolutely forbidden. We neither know the spiritual nature of the angels nor the true physical appearance of Christ and the apostles. Thus, the images made of them are without resemblance, and it is vanity to make an image and say: That is Christ, that is Mary, that is Peter, etc. … In the first place, one may make no images of God whatsoever; that is, of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” – Wilhelmus a Brakel

 

“After we had carefully examined their decrees under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we found that the unlawful art of painting living creatures blasphemed the fundamental doctrine of our salvation—namely, the Incarnation of Christ, and contradicted the six holy synods. These condemned Nestorius because he divided the one Son and Word of God into two sons, and on the other side, Arius, Dioscorus, Eutyches, and Severus, because they maintained a mingling of the two natures of the one Christ.” -Epitome of the Definition of the Iconoclastic Conciliabulum held in Constantinople, A.D. 754, Original Seventh Ecumenical Council

 

“As it is Our diligent care to guard in every way the religion of the Celestial Divinity, We specially command that no one shall be permitted to trace, carve, or paint the image of Christ the Saviour either upon the earth, upon stone, or upon marble placed in the earth, but it shall be erased wherever found; and anyone who attempts to violate Our laws in this respect shall be subject to a heavy penalty.”-The Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian to Eudoxius, Prætorian Prefect. Justinian Code, 528

 

Heidelberg Catechism

“96. Q.What does God require in the second commandment?

 

A. We are not to make an image of God in any way, (1) nor to worship him in any other manner than he has commanded in his Word. (2)

(1) Deut 4:15-19; Is 40:18-25; Acts 17:29; Rom 1:23.

(2) Lev 10:1-7; Deut 12:30; 1 Sam 15:22, 23; Mt 15:9; Jn 4:23, 24.

 

97. Q. May we then not make any image at all?

A. God cannot and may not be visibly portrayed in any way. Creatures may be portrayed, but God forbids us to make or have any images of them in order to worship them or to serve God through them. (1)

(1) Ex 34:13, 14, 17; Num 33:52; 2 Kings 18:4, 5; Is 40:25.

 

98. Q.But may images not be tolerated in the churches as “books for the laity”?

A. No, for we should not be wiser than God. He wants his people to be taught not by means of dumb images (1) but by the living preaching of his Word. (2)

(1) Jer 10:8; Hab 2:18-20.

(2)Rom 10:14, 15, 17; 2 Tim 3:16, 17; 2 Pet 1:19.”

 

“Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?

Answer: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature: Whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense: Whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God has appointed.” Westminster Larger Catechism

 

Do not approve of mental imaging of any person of the Godhead.

 

“Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment? Answer: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature: Whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense: Whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God has appointed.” -Westminster Larger Catechism

 

Believe it to be an excuse and vain, a complete chimaera to say I neither worship the image but I admire a physical image and likeness.

 

“But they consider themselves to have excused their religion who say: ‘I neither worship an image nor an intermediary spirit, but I admire a physical image and likeness of the very thing which I ought to worship.’ Accordingly they expound images in the same way as others who say that the earth is signified by temples dedicated to Tellus; others the sea, in like manner, by the image of Neptune; others the heavens by Juno, others fire by Vulcan, others the mornings star by Venus, others assign the same name to the sun and the moon by the image of Tellus, others the former or her star, either her or her offspring: nor, indeed, are we able to enumerate the entire list. Of which matters in turn they have begun to be stirred up, because they worship corporal things, and especially the earth, the sea, the heavens and fire, which we are always ready to enjoy (for with regard to the heavenly bodies, seeing by our selfsame body to handle and to hold, except we are able by the rays of our eyes not thus they are ashamed), they venture to answer we do not worship the corporal thing, but those ruling gods which preside over them. Accordingly one passage from the Apostle testifies of their punishment and condemnation: ‘Who exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever,’ (Romans 1:25).”- Augustine of Hippo

 

Do not approve of any representations of any person of the Godhead whether by an old man (Father), a lamb (Christ), or a dove (Spirit).

 

“All representing of the persons as distinct, as to set out the Father (personally considered) by the image of an old man, as if he were a creature, the Son under the image of a lamb or young man, the Holy Ghost under the image of a dove, all which wrongeth the Godhead exceedingly; and although the Son was and is man, having taken on him that nature, and united it to his Godhead, yet he is not a mere man; therefore that image, which only holdeth forth one nature, and looketh like any man in the world, cannot be the representation of that person which is God and man.” -James Durham, The Law Unsealed

 

Canon 82 of the Quinisext Council of 692 addressed controversies in this area: prohibition of the representation of Christ as a lamb.

 

Do not approve of any symbolism that is not commanded or either represents the Godhead or has been abused seriously in the church such as the Cross. When most people look at a cross they automatically picture and image Christ on that Cross whether He is made on the cross or not..

 

“I must tell you that we neither adore crosses nor desire them. You it is, ye Pagans, who worship wooden gods, who are the most likely people to adore wooden crosses, as being part of the same substance with your deities. For what else are your ensigns, flags, and standards, but crosses, gilt and beautiful. ” -(Octavius of Minucius Felix, chapter XXIX). 197 A.D.

 

Canon 73 of the Quinisext Council of 692 addressed controversies in this area: prohibition of the representation of the cross on church pavements

 

“As soon as anyone has devised an image of God, they have instituted false worship. The object of Moses is to restrain the rashness of men, lest they should travesty God’s glory by their imaginations.” -John Calvin (16th c.), Treatise on Relics

 

“Further, we have the example of Jehu, who is commended for the destroying of Baal out of Israel, with his image, his house, and his very vestments, 2 Kings x. 22-28. And what example more considerable than that of Hezekiah, who not only abolished such monuments of idolatry as at their first institution were but men’s invention, but break down also the brazen serpent (though originally set up at God’s own command), when once he saw it abused to idolatry? 2 Kings xvii. 4. This deed of Hezekiah Pope Steven doth greatly praise, and professeth that it is set before us for our imitation, that when our predecessors have wrought some things which might have been without fault in their time, and afterward they are converted into error and superstition, they may be quickly destroyed by us who come after them. Farellus saith, that princes and magistrates should learn by this example of Hezekiah what they should do with those significant rites of men’s devising which have turned to superstition. Yea, the Bishop of Winchester acknowledgeth, that whatsoever is taken up at the injunction of men, when it is drawn to superstition, cometh under the compass of the brazen serpent, and is to be abolished; and he excepteth nothing from this example but only things of God’s own prescribing. Moreover, we have example of good Josiah, 2 Kings xxiii., for he did not only destroy the houses, and the high places of Baal, but his vessels also, and his grove, and his altars; yeaj, the horses and chariots which had been given o the sun. The example also of penitent Manasseh, who not only overthrew the strange gods, but their altars too, 2 Chron. Xxxiii. 15. And of Moses, the man of God, who was not content to execute vengeance on the idolatrous Israelites, except he should also utterly destroy the monuments of their idolatry, Exod. Xxxii. 17-20. ” Disputation Against the English Popish Ceremonies, George Gillespie

 

Do not approve of images of Angels as it is impossible to know their nature or how they look. Therefore would be a Ninth Commandment Violation.

 

“From this ground also it would seem, that painting of angels might be condemned, as a thing impossible, they being spirits, which no corporeal thing can represent, beside that the representing of them has some hazard with it: and for those cherubims that were made by God’s direction under the Old Testament, they were rather some emblem of the nature and service of angels, as being full of zeal, and always (as it were) upon wing ready to obey God’s will, than any likeness of themselves. And it is hardly possible to fancy representations of spirits, good or evil, but thereby men will wrong themselves in the right description of them; though we grant angels being but finite spirits, there is another kind of danger and impossibility of representing God, who is an infinite Spirit. Also some say, That these cherubims mentioned did not represent the nature of angels, but angels appearing under such visible shape; and we find, Ezek. 1. there are divers shapes by which they are pointed out, but it is as to their fitness and readiness for service, and not as to their nature.” -James Durham, The Law Unsealed, Exposition of the Ten Commandments

 

“Q. 25. Were not the images of the cherubims placed in the tabernacle and temple, by the command of God himself? A. Yes; but out of all hazard of any abuse, being placed in the holy of holies, where none of the people ever came: they were instituted by God himself, which images are not; and they belonged to the typical and ceremonial worship, which is now quite abolished.” – James Fisher, The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained

 

“We declare, on the contrary, that the making of images of the Trinity is absolutely forbidden. We neither know the spiritual nature of the angels nor the true physical appearance of Christ and the apostles. Thus, the images made of them are without resemblance, and it is vanity to make an image and say: That is Christ, that is Mary, that is Peter, etc. … In the first place, one may make no images of God whatsoever; that is, of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” – Wilhelmus a Brakel

 

Do not approve of images of Mary nor of the Prophets or Apostles as it is impossible to know how they look, therefore any image would be false and a violation of the Ninth Commandment.

 

“We declare, on the contrary, that the making of images of the Trinity is absolutely forbidden. We neither know the spiritual nature of the angels nor the true physical appearance of Christ and the apostles. Thus, the images made of them are without resemblance, and it is vanity to make an image and say: That is Christ, that is Mary, that is Peter, etc. … In the first place, one may make no images of God whatsoever; that is, of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” – Wilhelmus a Brakel

 

“If, however, some say, we might be right in regard to the images of Christ, on account of the mysterious union of the two natures, but it is not right for us to forbid also the images of the altogether spotless and ever-glorious Mother of God, of the prophets, apostles, and martyrs, who were mere men and did not consist of two natures; we may reply, first of all: If those fall away, there is no longer need of these. But we will also consider what may be said against these in particular. Christianity has rejected the whole of heathenism, and so not merely heathen sacrifices, but also the heathen worship of images. The Saints live on eternally with God, although they have died. If anyone thinks to call them back again to life by a dead art, discovered by the heathen, he makes himself guilty of blasphemy. Who dares attempt with heathenish art to paint the Mother of God, who is exalted above all heavens and the Saints? It is not permitted to Christians, who have the hope of the resurrection, to imitate the customs of demon-worshippers, and to insult the Saints, who shine in so great glory, by common dead matter.” -Epitome of the Definition of the Iconoclastic Conciliabulum held in Constantinople, A.D. 754, Original Seventh Ecumenical Council

 

Do not approve of any decoration or art within the Sanctuary of God, the Church Building for it is not command to do so.

 

“Q. 24. May they not be placed in churches for beauty and ornament? A. No; the proper ornament of churches is the sound preaching of the gospel, and the pure dispensation of the sacraments, and other ordinances of divine institution.” – James Fisher, The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained

 

“Pictures ought not to be in churches, nor any object of adoration or praise be painted on the walls.” -Council of Elibertine

 

Do not approve of any of these things for instructions for illiterates nor for instruction of children whether in the church or outside of the church.

 

“Q. 23. Is it lawful, as some plead, to have images or pictures in churches, though not for worship, yet for instruction, and raising the affections? A. No; because God has expressly prohibited not only the worshipping but the MAKING of any image whatever on a religious account; and the setting them up in churches, cannot but have a natural tendency to beget a sacred veneration for them; and therefore ought to be abstained from, as having at least an “appearance of evil,” Isa. 45:9-18. 1 Thess. 5:22.” – James Fisher, The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained

 

“Question 107: Which is the second commandment?

Answer: The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven 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: 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; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

 

Question 108: What are the duties required in the second commandment?

Answer: The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

 

Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?

Answer: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature: Whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense: Whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God has appointed.” Westminster Larger Catechism

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