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Featured What is a graven image?

Discussion in 'General Theology' started by Jesus4Ever, Jun 17, 2017.

  1. Jesus4Ever

    Jesus4Ever Active Member

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    What is a graven image or creating an image in God's likeness mean? How do we avoid doing that?
     
  2. Raphael Jauregui

    Raphael Jauregui Episcopalian, liberal Anglican, Mdiv

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    Technically, anything carved is a graven image. I think the exhortation to not worship a graven image is to remind ourselves that these physical objects are not God. As long as we remember that, it's okay to have art or physical things.
     
  3. ViaCrucis

    ViaCrucis Evangelical Catholic of the Augsburg Confession

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    Graven is a bit archaic, but we can find it in other more common words such as "engraving" and the word "grave", from the German root meaning "to dig", a graven image is somewhat specifically something that is carved, etched, etc. The basic meaning here is to not create idols; and that includes attempting to make idolatrous images of God (c.f. consider what Aaron permitted the Israelites to do at the base of the mountain, making the image of a golden calf, this is strictly prohibited).

    In Christian practice this means, very simply, the Divine Essence cannot be depicted. When the Iconoclast Controversy erupted in the 8th century, the Iconoclasts claimed all images were forbidden; this was deeply problematic as it did not merely attack icons, the theological ramifications were understood to be far more dangerous: At the heart of the Christian confession is that God became man. And so the seventh ecumenical council (The Second Council of Nicea) convened expressly condemned Iconoclasm because of this danger, but was also very careful in laying forth what sorts of images were canonically acceptable and which were not:

    Images of Christ are acceptable because Jesus Christ, though God, is also human. However, images of the Father and the Holy Spirit were not acceptable, because it is inappropriate to try and depict the Divine Essence, which is invisible, unknowable, etc. We cannot depict God as God is, but images of Christ on account of His humanity are acceptable--for God Himself became flesh, and Scripture itself says Christ is the Icon of God (this is why Iconoclasm is rejected).

    We are forbidden from making idols and from depicting the Divine; but sacred images are not themselves forbidden (even the Holy Temple was decorated with images, and the Ark of the Covenant had two cherubim set atop of it). Thus there is a very firm line of distinction and separation between icons and idols in Christianity. Icons are images which depict sacred reality; idols are attempts by man to fashion God in a likeness for himself in order to worship something that is ultimately not God. One is sacred, and the other is profane.

    -CryptoLutheran
     
  4. Neogaia777

    Neogaia777 Apprentice Supporter

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    Also, anything that you covet, or place more value on than (God especially), but also people, and other living things or the earth, is idolatry... valuing things more than life is wrong and is in my opinion, idolatry... You can idolize almost anything... and when you do, it stumbles you and holds you back from being all you could be spiritually...

    God Bless!
     
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  5. Catherineanne

    Catherineanne Gone

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    Making likenesses is not forbidden. Worshipping them is.

    In one sense God has no likeness so it is not possible to make anything that looks like him so it follows that nobody is ever going to break that commandment.

    However, an added complication of Christianity is that we are told that Christ is himself the image of the Living God. He is the icon of God, we are icons of Christ. So if we want to find the nearest representation of God around us, we just have to look at the people we encounter in our everyday lives. Not that they look like God, but that they each contain something of God's likeness, and should be respected as such.
     
  6. Catherineanne

    Catherineanne Gone

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    Not really, no. Anything carved is just something carved.

    A graven image in this context is an object specifically created with the intention of being regarded as a deity or object of worship.
     
  7. Catherineanne

    Catherineanne Gone

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    Almost.

    Coveting is just coveting. Worship is something else, and idolatry something else again. There can be overlaps, but they are not complete synonyms.
     
  8. Catherineanne

    Catherineanne Gone

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    Who is 'we'?

    This is not standard Orthodox teaching irt icons.
     
  9. ViaCrucis

    ViaCrucis Evangelical Catholic of the Augsburg Confession

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    It has been my understanding that the Second Council of Nicea set forth the acceptance of sacred images of Christ and the Saints; but depictions of the Divine Essence, or to depict the Father or the Holy Spirit, is not acceptable. Iconographic depictions of the Father or the Spirit are outside of the canonical acceptance as laid forth by the synod. At least in the East, further synods have also set forth and established that iconic depictions of the Father are inappropriate, and while there do exist depictions of the Father in icons in both East and West, these are technically not in keeping with the historic, orthodox tradition of the Church.

    The Father can be signified, but not depicted, is my understanding. For example the Father is frequently signified by an eye or as an open hand (signifying His omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence); but the Father should not be depicted directly. As such the "old man" motif is, at the very least, very controversial, one may argue that this artistic representation as the "Ancient of Days" is itself intended symbolically; thus is it a depiction of the Father directly, or is it merely signifying the Father?

    It is my understanding that the established canons of the undivided Church set forth that the Father and the Spirit are not to be [directly] depicted. Christ can be depicted for He is Theanthropos, the God-Man; the Angels and Saints can be depicted because they are creatures.

    It is entirely possible that my understanding is inaccurate, but virtually all sources I've seen more-or-less affirm this position as being the historic and orthodox view and practice.

    From OrthodoxWiki,

    "Icons depicting God the Father do not conform to the teachings of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. God the Father is invisible and not able to be depicted. Since Christ was born of the indescribable Father, the Father cannot have an image." - God the Father - OrthodoxWiki

    -CryptoLutheran
     
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  10. Adstar

    Adstar Well-Known Member

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    A graven image is a carved image.. So a statue is a graven image.. So we should not make any carved image of God..
     
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  11. Albion

    Albion Facilitator

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    I'm more inclined towards catherineanne's line of thinking. The commandment concerns the use of images. The church addressed that in council. And it's obvious to me that merely fashioning an image cannot be idolatrous in itself since God in the Old Testament commanded the Israelites to do that very thing.
     
  12. Raphael Jauregui

    Raphael Jauregui Episcopalian, liberal Anglican, Mdiv

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    A graven image is graven, yes? That means molded and formed into that image, yes? The admonition or exhortation to not worship a graven image in Scripture is about not worshiping anything other than God. It's about loving God with your whole heart and worship.

    Statues, icons, pictures, carvings, artwork, and any other 'graven images' do not violate the Scriptural teaching because they are not worshipped.
     
  13. Raphael Jauregui

    Raphael Jauregui Episcopalian, liberal Anglican, Mdiv

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    Graven is an archaic English word now, and is hardly used. Here is the definition of the word as an adjective when used for "graven image" or "graven stone" or "graven floor." ViaCrucis is right. It would be more accurate today to refer to the commandment as an engraved image or statue or picture.
    "adjective
    2.
    strongly fixed"
    Graven definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary
     
  14. Catherineanne

    Catherineanne Gone

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    You are trying to explain my own language to me?

    Why, exactly?
     
  15. Catherineanne

    Catherineanne Gone

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    Yeah, no. That is not how it works.
     
  16. Catherineanne

    Catherineanne Gone

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    I was indeed thinking of the hand, the eye, the rays of light etc.

    And most importantly, the Rublev Trinity.
     
  17. Raphael Jauregui

    Raphael Jauregui Episcopalian, liberal Anglican, Mdiv

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    It's my own language too. You said that 'graven' did not mean what I had described earlier, without tagging or quoting you btw, and I have now provided the dictionary definition for it being used as an adjective.

    Also, the original text is in Hebrew, and the archaic use of 'graven' was meant to translate 'carved' or 'hand-fashioned.' I took Biblical Hebrew in graduate school. Here is a relatively good and free explanation.
    "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance
    carved graven image
    From pacal; an idol -- carved (graven) image.

    see HEBREW pacal"
    Strong's Hebrew: 6459. פֶּ֫סֶל (pesel) -- an idol, image

    Good day.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
  18. Raphael Jauregui

    Raphael Jauregui Episcopalian, liberal Anglican, Mdiv

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    Yes, Adstar is right. That is the dictionary definition of the adjective. As I said, in my first response, the exhortation here in the commandment is to not worship a carved image. That doesn't mean it's wrong to have carved images or even venerate carved images. But, we are encouraged to recognise that God is the centre of our worship, and that we should not worship any object. In our context, this extends to anything we may place above God.

    The original word, as I posted above, is in Hebrew and, in Hebrew, it can be translated as 'carved.'
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
  19. Raphael Jauregui

    Raphael Jauregui Episcopalian, liberal Anglican, Mdiv

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    Here is Strong's definition of the use of the phrase "graven image" taken from the Biblical Hebrew. Having taken Biblical Hebrew in graduate school, I would say this is a relatively decent and free source.

    "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance
    carved graven image
    From pacal; an idol -- carved (graven) image.

    see HEBREW pacal"
    Strong's Hebrew: 6459. פֶּ֫סֶל (pesel) -- an idol, image
     
  20. Catherineanne

    Catherineanne Gone

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    Good grief.

    I said 'that is not how it works'. I said nothing about the meaning of the word 'graven' and I really don't need you to provide a dictionary definition, far less to keep on repeating it. Kindly desist.
     
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