Deuteronomy 4:15 – Isaiah 45:19
The Bible continuously repeats and emphasizes the prohibition against idolatry. But what is idolatry?
Generally, we understand that idolatry mens directing devotion towards an entity other than the God who created heaven and earth. There is no question that this is a valid definition of idolatry, but it is not a complete definition of idolatry.
In Deuteronomy 4:15 God reminds His people that they saw no form when He spoke to them at Sinai. It is for this reason, because they saw no form, that they are not to create an image. God is telling us, that even when we intend to worship Him, the One who spoke to us at Sinai, we should use no form to represent Him.
So the correct Biblical definition of idolatry would include two categories: worshiping another entity aside from God, and using any image to represent God to ourselves in our worship.
Christianity advocates a devotion that is a violation of the prohibition against idolatry according to both definitions.
If they were to advocate devotion to Jesus without claiming that Jesus is one and the same with the God of Israel, that would be a violation of the first definition of idolatry: directing worship to an entity other than the God of Israel. If the Church were to claim that Jesus is merely a symbol, a representation of the God of Israel, with no significant character of his own – that would be a violation of the second definition of idolatry: using an image to represent God to ourselves in our worship.
But Christianity insists that Jesus was a distinct person with an identity of his own, yet they also contend that worship of Jesus is somehow also worship of the Father. The devotion, the love and the adoration that the Church is encouraging is devotion to an entity other than the God of Israel and at the same time, it is using an image to represent the God of Israel.
There is no shortage of Christian responses to the charge that the devotion that the Church advocates is idolatry. The Christian theologians speak of a “mystery of the god-head”, and the impossibility of understanding God’s nature.
But God did not expect us to understand His nature, nor did He expect us to base our devotion to Him on our lack of comprehension. God made a covenant with us. A covenant that He expects us to keep. He spoke the terms of the covenant clearly and unequivocally. He did not send us on a “mystery search” or on a trip to the realm of the unknown. He told us in no uncertain terms what it is that we are not to worship. According to our limited human understanding of God’s command, devotion to Jesus is exactly what God does not want us to do. We are well aware of the fallibility of human understanding, but we are also cognizant that God knows our weaknesses even better than we do. God spoke to us, and He handed the responsibility of keeping His commandment to us, fallible humans. He made it clear to us, to the degree that nothing is more clear to our fallible minds. It behooves us to obey.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
Very good points Rabbi. Also, Xtians who speak of the mystery of the godhead believe that Jsus is a hypostatic union, meaning he is 100%god and100%man. This would by definition mean that there is humanity in the godhead since according to them, Jsus never ceased being a human being. So, their god is a bi-natured godhead. The divine and human natures coexisting. god the father, god the spirit and god the son (divine and human).
Never in all of Tanach (OT) does G-d ever teach that He is bi-natured or incorporates humanity into a godhead. This is a thoroughly pagan Grecco-Roman concept.
In Exodus 24 Moses,Aaron,Nadab and Abihu saw God the God of Israel. They ate and drank in his presence. At Sinai they didn’t see a form but here they did. It is also repeated that we are not to make unto ourselves a graven image. This certainly doesn’t say that God cannot cause that he be seen in a bodily form again as in Exodus 24, and the one Abraham saw in Genesis 18.
Since one of the authors on this blog goes by the name “Thomas” – the fact that you have the same name causes a bit of confusion. I respectfully request that you make some change to prevent this confusion – such as adding a letter or a number to your name.Thank you for your understanding.
No need. I can do it myself.
Ahem- that’s me, the ‘original’ Thomas.
The article does not state that God has no form, nor does it say He cannot take on form.
Rather, the article states that God, when He revealed Himself to Israel, showed nothing. Nowhere in Scripture does the nation of Israel see God in any physical form; thus, Israel has no standard for evaluating what is a ‘true’ manifestation or not.
Thomas, it’s true- nowhere does Scripture say God “cannot” be seen in bodily form, but nor does it say he cannot be seen in the form of an eagle, either. Scripture never commands us to worship any “form,” “manifestation,” “incarnation” of God. The Sinai experience taught Israel only to worship the God they were commanded to worship. God appears to have manifested in the tabernacle, and in the burning bush, but are we to understand those as the 4th and 5th members of the trinity?
You are certainly correct that it is “possible” God might have in future incarnated as a human, and then demanded worship of himself, but I’m more curious as to why Scripture never actually says he will. In other words, I’m less concerned about theoretical possibilities, and more concerned about what God actually asked of Israel. The fact that I (or anyone else) can claim God manifested Himself as just about anything, and that *technically* is posssible, not only does not help us understand what constitutes idolatry, but it also serves to make the Sinai experience meaningless? I mean- you are essentially suggesting the Sinai experience – the singular event in Scripture where Israel met God on a national scale – left Israel with a perception of God which could include almost anything in existence.
Idolatry includes worshipping God through a representative form, or another god we were never commanded to worship. In a sense, Jesus is both a representation of God (worship the father through the son), as well as another God (the son- a person distinct from the father, who Israel was actually commanded to worship).
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