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Jehovah’s Witnesses

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AWAKE! OCTOBER 2014

 THE BIBLE’S VIEWPOINT

Images

Images

Millions of sincere people venerate images as part of their worship. But is the practice endorsed in the Bible? Does it please God?

Did faithful Jews of Bible times venerate images?

“You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be enticed to serve them.”Exodus 20:4, 5.

The veneration of images is consistently condemned in the Hebrew Scriptures, commonly known as the Old Testament

A COMMON CLAIM

According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, the Jews had an abundance of images associated with their worship “and these representations were honored, reverenced, and venerated.” * As examples, that encyclopedia cites the numerous engravings of fruits, flowers, and animals that adorned the temple in Jerusalem.1 Kings 6:18; 7:36.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Contrary to what the New Catholic Encyclopedia asserts, faithful Jews did not venerate any of the engravings or figures associated with the temple. In fact, nowhere in the Bible do we read of a faithful Israelite using an image for worship.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS

“I give my glory to no one else,” God said through the prophet Isaiah, “nor my praise to graven images.”Isaiah 42:8.

 Did the early Christians use images in their worship?

“What agreement does God’s temple have with idols? . . . Quit touching the unclean thing.”2 Corinthians 6:16, 17.

“The early Christians would have looked with horror at the bare suggestion of placing images in the churches, and would have considered bowing down or praying before them as nothing less than idolatry.”History of the Christian Church

A COMMON CLAIM

“The use of images in early Christian worship cannot now be reasonably questioned,” says the New Catholic Encyclopedia. “The Christian catacombs are veritable galleries of early Christian art. . . . Even mythological figures adorn the holy chambers of sacred worship and burial.” *

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

The oldest images found in these catacombs—underground passages used as burial places—date back only to the third century. That was some 200 years after Jesus died. Therefore, what the New Catholic Encyclopedia calls “early Christian worship” is not the earliest Christian worship—that which was practiced by first-century disciples and described in the Christian Greek Scriptures, commonly known as the New Testament. The fact that such images were in the catacombs merely shows that by the third century, nominal Christians had adopted the pagan custom of using images, likely to attract converts. *

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS

“Flee from idolatry.”1 Corinthians 10:14.

Should images be used simply as an aid to worship?

“Guard yourselves from idols.”1 John 5:21.

Veneration of images is a religious practice that has no support in the Bible. For that reason, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not venerate images, nor do they have religious images in their homes or in their places of worship

A COMMON CLAIM

“Since the worship given to an image reaches and terminates in the person represented,” says the New Catholic Encyclopedia, “the same type of worship due the person can be rendered to the image as representing the person.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

When Jesus taught his followers how to pray, he did not tell them to use images. The very idea of using an image to worship the true God cannot be found in the Christian Greek Scriptures.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS

“It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.”Matthew 4:10.

^ par. 7 The New Catholic Encyclopedia defines veneration as “a religious act, an act of worship.”

^ par. 13 In this context, images include pictures, icons, statues, symbols, and anything else that is venerated.

^ par. 14 The use of images was common in many ancient cultures, including those of Egypt, Greece, and India.

Learn More

Should We Worship Images?

Does God care if we use images or idols in our worship?