Bible Tales and Art

Graven Images

COMMANDMENTS – GRAVEN IMAGES

Exodus 20 is the chapter that lists the 10 commandments of the Christian Faith. In particular, here is the second commandment, which has been ignored or struck out:

4Thou 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:

5Thou 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;

6And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

 

The New Testament declares:

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 5:19

How is it that this commandment which forbids the display of grave images is not obeyed by the highest Christian authority in the world?

Contrary, if this religious commandment would have continued in the Western Culture, there would have been no camera, and advertising as we know it, would not be. How would that work? It’s impossible to imagine seeing no reproductions or images.

We can see that the religious community of Israel honoured this culture, because we have no statues of their heroes like Elijah, King David, Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, or even Moses who lived in Egypt, which was not governed by the Jewish faith. Egyptians have many ancient idol carvings before 1400BCE.

However, when the Romans took charge of the Jewish Scripture in 325 CE, at the council of Nicea, great adjustments were made to whom God is. The only conclusion can be, God was changed for the pleasure of Romans. God became more Roman, or as we say now, more Western. One might say “God was created in the image of a Roman. The Christian authority at the time found paganism more appealing than the true worship of God.”

How and when did Christians start to depict images of Jesus on the cross? Some believe the early church avoided images of Jesus on the cross until the fourth or fifth century. In “The Staurogram: Earliest Depiction of Jesus’ Crucifixion” in the March/April 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Larry Hurtado highlights an early Christian crucifixion symbol that sets the date back by 150–200 years.
Larry Hurtado describes how a symbol known as a staurogram is created out of the Greek letters tau-rho: “In Greek, the language of the early church, the capital tau, or T, looks pretty much like our T. The capital rho, or R, however, is written like our P. If you superimpose the two letters, it looks something like this: . The earliest Christian uses of this tau-rho combination make up what is known as a staurogram. In Greek the verb to ‘crucify’ is stauroō; a ‘cross’ is a stauros … [these letters produce] a pictographic representation of a crucified figure hanging on a cross—used in the Greek words for ‘crucify’ and ‘cross.’”

The tau-rho staurogram is one of several christograms, or monogram-like devices used by ancient Christians, to refer to Jesus. However, Larry Hurtado points out that the staurogram only refers to the crucifixion, unlike others, which mention Jesus’ other characteristics. Also, the staurogram is visual—the tau-rho combinations create images of Jesus on the cross, making the staurogram the earliest Christian images of Jesus on the cross.

 

Can we say that everyone is condemned for disregarding the most demanding requests of God’s will? I say, “not at all!” This is only because no human can judge the eternal plight of another.

Nevertheless, I believe it is essential to question the direction that religious leaders are leading, if the future of our fate is at stake. Our future depends upon us alone.

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