Friday, April 3, 2020

4 non-Catholic Bible Scholars who Agree with Us on Exodus 20:4

Our Protestant brothers assail the Catholic Church repeatedly because of the images and statues which we place in churches and our homes.

Our friends often claim that Catholics worship these images and statues in their homes and chapels. 

How do ordinary Protestants understand Exodus 20:4?
  • Exodus 20:4 proves all images are forbidden.
  • Exodus 20:4 proves Catholics are idolaters.
  • Exodus 20:4 proves creating sacred images is not allowed like what the Catholics do. 
How do Protestant scholars understand Exodus 20:4?

Here are the books of 4 non-Catholic Bible scholars who agree with official beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church regarding Sacred Images:

1. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer

The Bible Scholar  clarifies on page 116 that it is not wrong to make a statue or image unless you adore it as a god.
“The Second commandment (Exod. 20:4-5) deal with sin of idolatry and concerns itself, therefore, with the fashioning of carves images or other representations of “any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth ” (NASB) for the purposes of worshiping them as numinous powers of deities.” (New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Archer Jr., Gleason L., Zondervan Academic; Supersaver ed. edition (2001), p. 116).

2. The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Norman Geisler at Thomas Howe
“Finally, the prohibition in Exodus 20:4 is not against religious art as such, which includes things in heaven (angels) and on earth (humans or animals). Rather, it was against using any image as an idol” (The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation, Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe, Baker Books (2008), p.84).
Catholics often say that God is not against the images. It is very clear that you make an idol if you make a god out of any statues, pictures and material things. We can consider this a false god which is not adored by Catholics or recognized as God by our brothers.

It was explained on page 107 that “not all ‘images’ are idols” which is a big slap on the face of Protestants who insist that images are idols.
“Further, not all “images” are idols. Religious art contains images but it is not thereby idolatrous. .” (The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation, Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe, Baker Books (2008), p.107)

3. An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach, by Bruce K. Waltke
No prophet ever condemned the Israelites for engaging in artistic pursuits and other biblical writers made no mention of a proscription against forms and images. In practice the second  commandment is not against art. In theory I would support the making of Icons. Many make use of icons in their worship, and it serves as a wonderful expression of faith and art.” (An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach, Bruce K. Waltke, Zondervan Academic (2007), p. 417)

If you like to collect Exegetical commentaries for your personal library, I would like  to recommend the commentary of Bruce K. Waltke. He is an expert on the Old Testament and well-known American Reformed evangelical professor of Old Testament and Hebrew.

4.Judaism and the Visual Image: A Jewish Theology of Art by Melissa Raphael

Prof. Raphael is a Professor of Jewish Theology at the University of Gloucestershire. According to her book on page 23, worshiping images is forbidden in Exodus 20:4 and not the making of images. 
"Yet the following verse, Exodus 20:5, 'you shall not bow down to them or serve them', appears to immediately gloss or quality verse 4 by suggesting that it is the worship of images that is forbidden, not the making of an image of an object as such.“ (Judaism and the Visual Image: A Jewish Theology of Art, Melissa Raphael, Bloomsbury Academic, p. 23)

Not all image makers are idol makers!
"The righteousness of Bezalel, the artist-craftsman appointed by God to construct and decorate the ark of the covenant and the Tent of Meeting, is not in question. In Exodus, Bezalel crafts utensils for the tabernacle but there is no suggestion that he is an idol-maker (31:3, 35:31). On the contrary, Bezalel is filled by God with intelligence, skill and a developed aesthetic sense" (Judaism and the Visual Image: A Jewish Theology of Art, Melissa Raphael, Bloomsbury Academic, p. 23)

If Protestants do not want to believe these four non-Catholic Bible scholars, whom shall we believe? The non-scholars or scholars? 

Many Christians use Deuteronomy 5:8 and Exodus 20:4 to conclude that all images are idols.

Personally, I am not in favor of treating images as god since this is idolatry. Yet, we will find out that not all images can be called idols if we study the Bible well.

If Deuteronomy 5:8 and Exodus 20:4 really forbid keeping images, even the Jews failed to obey this since they put images of lions inside their synagogue. Yet, they know the meaning of the Hebrew words: Elohim Acherim, Pesel and Tishtachave which we can read in Deuteronomy 5:7-9 and Exodus 20:3-5.

Here is one of the oldest manuscript of Deuteronomy:

The Hebrew word “Elohim Acherim” refers to other gods. 

How do Protestant scholars understand Exodus 20:3?
“A common view among Bible scholars for a long time has been that this idea—one God—was a late development in Judaism. They say that it was a product of exile: the Jews had no monotheism until after the Babylonians drove them out of their country in 587 BCE and deported thousands of them to Babylon. Until then, not only the masses, but the leaders, the priests, the writers, maybe even the prophets, all still had the gods. They were polytheists, or at most henotheists, meaning they followed one god but still believed that the other deities existed too.” (The Exodus: How It Happened and Why It Matters, Richard Elliott Friedman, HarperOne; Reprint edition ,2018, [PDF File])
“However, in the first commandment the prohibition describe as the relation of Yahweh to Israel by Categorically eliminating other gods as far as Israel is concerned. The use of Singular (lo yihyeh leka) emphasizes the restricted nature of the reference.” (The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary, Brevard S. Childs, Westminster Press; New edition (1974), p. 403)
Normal word order in Hebrew is for adjective to follow verb, like often in Greek, the opposite of English. Thus, "other gods" is the proper English way to translate Elohim Acherim.

The Hebrew word "Pesel" is in Verse 8 and refers to idols.

These are the verses used by our brothers about "IDOLS" so we can read the Hebrew Word Pesel.

Pasal is a verb which means “carve out.” Pesel is a noun denoting
something carved from wood or sculpted from stone, and when
used in the Bible usually means a divine image carved from wood
or stone. So both “graven image” and “idol” are good translations:
“graven image” is more literal, and “idol” is clearer modern English.

The English translation in Septuagint is correct.

What is written in Septuagint is εἴδωλον (eidolon) meaning, “an
image (i.e. for worship).”

Can the word “Pesel” be used to describe the statue of Mother Mary?

No! We do not consider the statue of Mother Mary an idol.

If I use a Hebrew term for her image, I will use “Miqla’at.”
“Miqla’at: A feminine noun designating something carved or engraved. It indicates something that has been  cut out, whittled, such as flowers, cherubim, palm trees, etc. (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 7:31). It could be made of wood, stone, or metal.” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament, p. 661)

If you write a sentence for the image of the Virgin Mary, the Hebrew word is Miqla’at (singular, both absolute and construct).

For example, a person created the image of the Virgin Mary.
Miqla’at ‘as’a (He made an image.) – absolute.

Miqla’at bethulah ‘as’a. (He made an image of the virgin.) – construct:
a construct noun (Miqla’at “image OF”) tied to an absolute
noun (bethulah).

Also, what is written in Exodus 20:5 is “Tistachave”.

She (3rd feminine singular) will bow down to worship is the
same form as You (2nd masculine singular) will bow down to worship. Also, the context is the ten commandments: you/thou shall not.

He will bow down to worship - yishtachave
I will bow down to worship - 'eshtachave
You will bow down to worship - tishtachavoo
They will bow down to worship - yishtachavoo
Bow Down to Worship (command, singular) - hishtachavi
Bow Down to Worship (command, plural) - hishtachavoo

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