Exodus 20:4 and the Shroud of Turin

There's a controversial debate among Christian denominations over graven images. More specifically, over whether or not we can have statues or pictures of Jesus in our homes. And whether or not it's blasphemous to have a depiction of Jesus in popular Christian movies, shows, and plays about the Gospel. As someone who is no stranger to controversial topics like this, I have decided to tackle this issue head on by examining both sides and giving my opinion.

The driving force behind this debate is the concern of both idolatry and blasphemy. In the early church, Christians used the fish symbol to identify places of Christian worship. The Synod of Elvira pronounced a prohibition of exhibition of images in churches. But ever since the 3rd century A.D., certain churches have used images as part of worship.

Religious imagery is often associated with the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran church, which both have images and statues of Jesus as part of their worship services. Then there was a period of time known as the Iconoclastic Fury, which occurred in the 16th century, where mobs of Protestants influenced by John Calvin's iconoclastic views destroyed all sort of church images and decorations.

Now with that bit of church history out of the way, let's search the scriptures to see what we can find out about what the bible says about graven images. Commonly cited in opposition to graven images is Exodus 20:4, which reads as follows: "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:". Now, when we read just this verse alone, it seems to be an open and shut case. However, many forget about the verse that comes immediately after, which reads as follows: "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 forth generations of those who hate me;"

Judging from that following verse, I believe that the context of the whole commandment is simply not to make images for the purpose of worshiping them. Not that we can't have any images. Furthermore, in support of images, God commanded that art be made in the tabernacle. Let's take a look at Exodus 26:1. "Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them."

Hmm, now isn't that something. Why would we be forbidden to make images of things in heaven when God commanded that a tabernacle be built with images of cherubims? Sounds like the iconoclasts are focusing on one verse and then just ignoring the rest of scripture.

Now let's put our focus on Jesus. To be fair, there isn't a physical description of Jesus. That means all artistic renditions of Jesus are probably not what Jesus looked like. Why God didn't give us a description is beyond me, but I'm sure He has a good reason. The iconoclasts say that it's blasphemous to have pictures of Jesus since those pictures do not capture His glory and majesty.

However, I still believe that it's not wrong to have pictures of Jesus so long as you don't use it for the purpose of worship. I think pictures can serve as a reminder of the Gospel. It reminds us of who we are supposed to worship and reminds us to focus on the Lord and follow in His footsteps. I also think that cartoon and live action portrayals of Jesus and people from the Bible are of great benefit. Cartoons help little children to see what all the biblical events that took place might have been like. And adults can benefit from these cartoons and live action portrayals for the same reasons. Just so long as they know that it's just a movie and that it's probably not what they all looked like. I have a hard time believing that it's a sinful thing to use cartoons and movies to educate people about the Gospel, when they've played a part in teaching the Gospel to people around the world and have blessed lots of people.

Now there's one last thing to go over, which may be the nail in the coffin for the iconoclasts. That's the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud is a centuries old linen cloth that bears the image of a crucified man. Many people believe the image is that of Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified for us. Or is it just a medieval forgery? If it's a forgery, then the iconoclasts have something against those that have images of Jesus. But I believe that my God is faithful to preserve all evidence of Jesus' existence. And I believe He must have given us the shroud to show us that Jesus existed. Therefore, God gave us an image. Not for us to worship, but for us to see our Lord. And God would not break His own commandment. Therefore, again, the commandment of images must be only in the context of making images to worship for ourselves. Scientists have done lots of intense research on the Shroud. And the Shroud remains controversial to this day.

So, in light of all this, is it really a sin to have images of Jesus. You decide. If your conscience says it's a sin to have images, then don't have images. All power to you if you get rid of them all. As for me however, I firmly believe that images are not a bad thing, so long as they are not used for idolatry. What is your position? Let me know in the comments below, and back up your positions with scripture. God bless everyone!


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