It is a big sin for Christians to judge their fellowmen. Reading the Bible does not allow us to judge others especially if we have not studied entirely what is written in the Bible.

I decided to review the original text in Hebrew and Greek to fully understand the Word of God since many English versions were not translated correctly from the original text.

In my 16 years of defending Christianity, I often see people who introduce themselves as Christians judging fellow Christians particularly our Catholic friends.

The reason is they have images in their chapels and homes.

Many Christians use Deuteronomy 5:7 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.

Here is one of the oldest manuscripts of Deuteronomy and if we study closely verse 7.

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

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.

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

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In Deuteronomy 5: 9, there is the Hebrew word, tishtachave and here is the meaning of the related word in Hebrew word which is tishtachave.

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

She (3f sing.) will bow down to worship ” tishtachave” is the same form as You (2m sing.) will bow down to worship tishtachave Also, the context is the ten commandments: you/thou shall not.

We will discover not all images are idols.

Let us find out what can be seen inside Solomon’s temple.

King Solomon built the temple in the Bible in 960 BC. To understand its purpose, we must know that God made the world and created the rules. It was destroyed by Babylonians in 586 BC.

The temple was located on the eastern hill. It is north of the City of David where we can find the Dome of the Rock today. The temple mount was significantly smaller. Solomon made it bigger. Herod also added to the present size of the platform. It is known as Haram esh-Sharif. This is “the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite”. (2 Samuel 24:18), “Mouth Moriah” (2 Chronicles 3:1), and possibly the “Zion of the Psalms. The term belonged to the city of David.

The Temple was envisioned as the tabernacle rectangular, with a porch or vestibule facing east, a nave an inner sanctuary or Holy of Holies.

Here is the image of Solomon’s temple. We can see the images clearly.

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The holiest place housed the Ark of the Covenant and two winged figures (cherubim). These were made from olive wood coated with gold stretching from wall to wall. Similar doors separated the nave from the covered entrance. Only priests were allowed to enter the Holy Place every day.

The Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies) was God’s throne room which is the meeting place. This was between the two cherubim on the mercy seat above the Ark of the Covenant. The high priest sprinkled blood on the mercy seat on the day of atonement for the sins of the people.

We can also see the illustration in the Bible clearly.

“for the altar of incense made of refined gold, and its weight; also his plan for the golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the Lord.All this, in writing at the Lord’s direction, he made clear to me—the plan of all the works.”(1 Chronicles 28:18-19, NRSV)

We can read The Ark of the Covenant in Exodus 25:18-20.

“You shall make two cherubim of gold; you shall make them of hammered work, at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other; of one piece with the mercy seat you shall make the cherubim at its two ends.  The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings. They shall face one to another; the faces of the cherubim shall be turned toward the mercy seat.”(Exodus 25:18-20, NRSV)

The Ark of the Covenant was the place where God talked to Moses Exodus 25:22. It was made from acacia wood and covered with gold.

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The tabernacle (the “tent of meeting”) housed the Ark. The ark was the first furniture built after God ordered Moses to build the tabernacle Exodus 25:10-22.

The ark was to be the main focus of the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle as well as the temple Exodus 40:1-21.

The Ark was placed in the most holy place and separated by a thick veil Exodus 26:31-33.

According to scholars, when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem (586 BC) and plundered the temple, the ark could have been taken by Nebuchadnezzar and destroyed, or hidden by Levites.

Here is the Tabernacle

The tabernacle was a transferable “tent of meeting” that God commanded Moses to build Exodus 25:1-2, 25:8-9. God wanted to live with the Israelites. He had fellowship with them and communicated with them.

“There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat,from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the covenant, I will deliver to you all my commands for the Israelites.”(Exodus 25:22, NRSV)

tabernacle

The tabernacle was the place that God dwelt with his people for 4000 years. This was from the exodus until the time of King Solomon when the temple was constructed.

The tabernacle was at the heart of the Israelite camp. The 12 tribes of Israel encamped around it. The figures in the boxes refer to the number of males (20 years and above) in each tribe numbers 1-3.

Here is Herod’s Temple

 Scholars pointed at the illustration of Herod’s temple.

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Here is the illustration of Herod’s temple and other details when Jesus was still on Earth.

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It is different from Solomon’s Temple.

It started in 20 BC. Herod’s new structure was 15 stories high and followed floor dimensions of the former temples in the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.

According to the Book written by Bruce Metzger, The Oxford Guide to People and Places of the Bible in page 308.

Within this holy place, there were increasingly sacred areas; the court of the women at the east, the court of the priest, then the temple (naos). This area was separated from the women’s court, being 15 steps higher, and could be entered through the nicanor gate. Only the priests could enter the temple, and only the high priest could enter the holy of holies, and that only on the day of atonement.

The whole structure was destroyed by the Romans in Ad 70.

Are there images in Herod’s temple like what we see in Solomon’s Temple?

According to the Babylonian Talmud.

“There were no cherubim in the temple of Herod, but the walls were painted with figures of them (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 54a).”

For our information, the Talmud is the anthology of the historic rabbis “discussing” or “debating” what the Torah means.  The Talmud’s two elements are Mishnah (Hebrew: משנה, c. 200 CE), which is a written account of Rabbinic Judaism’s Oral Torah (Talmud means “instruction” in Hebrew)

Are There Images in the Synagogue?

Synagogue comes from the Greek term that means “house of assembly.”  In Hebrew, the word used is “beit k’nesset.” It means house of assembly.  English-speaking people do not translate it or use the Hebrew. They use an anglicized Greek word, synagogue. 

According to a respected and famous Jewish scholar, Professor Lawrence Schiffman (leading scholar of ancient Judaism):

“Some synagogues have two lions above the ark and one of the interpretations of this imagery is that it represents the cherubim. There are certainly no sculpted images in synagogues.”

We can see inside the synagogue two images of lions in the upper part.

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Professor Schiffman also said:

This is similar and look at the section above the ark curtain, where two lions face each other with a crown symbolizing the Torah beteen them.

Jews are more intelligent than us when it comes to the Old Testament because they know very well Hebrew.

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.

As a Christian, is my analysis correct that not all images are idols?

In our studies, it is very clear that some non-catholic pastors and their followers who were not able to study the Scriptures very well say all images are idols.

If we study closely, 2 noted scholars proved that not all images are idols.

1. Gleason Archer 

Who is Gleason Archer?

Gleason Leonard Archer Jr. (May 22, 1916 – April 27, 2004) was a biblical scholar, theologian, educator and author. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gleason_Archer_Jr.)

He is not a Catholic.

Gleason Archer wrote this in his book.

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The explanation of Archer is like that of Catholics who say not all images are idols since God ordered the creation of images.

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2. Norman Geisler

Who is Norman Geisler?

Norman L. Geisler is an evangelical scholar, Christian apologist, and the author/coauthor of over fifty Christian books defending the Christian faith by means of logic, evidence, and philosophy. He has also authored many scholarly articles on a wide range of theological and philosophical topics. (https://www.theopedia.com/norman-geisler)

Norman Geisler is not a Catholic.

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This is what Norman Geisler said in his book.

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