Missing Things

01 December 2011

Visual imagery

This is just something interesting I ran across.

You've probably heard of the notion that human beings were 'created in the image of God'. Biblically, the concept originates from Genesis, where the exact words used are tzelem elohim. 'Tzelem' means image, shape, form, &c; 'Elohim' is one of the titles of God (since calling him by name is grammatically verboten).

This may shed a new light on one of the other places where tzelem is used - in the second commandment "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below". Here, tzelem is translated as 'idol' (in other translations, 'graven image').

In my experience this commandment has been the subject of confusion among Christians I've known, including pastors and teachers, since on the surface it seems to be a restatement of 'you shall have no other gods before me', so this connection was something of a minor epiphany for me. God is specifically forbidding depictions of himself for worship, in any form - no balls of fire, no golden calves, no Nehushtan - follow that link, it's a really interesting one - possibly not even the crucifixes and nativity scenes we're all so accustomed to, though I'm not nearly qualified enough as a theologian to say that with any certainty yea or nay.

Why this unique ban? Because God makes his own idols, from clay, that no human artisan can reproduce, and one of them is you. I don't recommend worshiping them - that would violate the preceding commandment - but loving them, on the other hand, is specifically encouraged. :)

1 comment:

  1. The word has also been translated as "impression". Matthew recounts Jesus telling the Scribes and Pharisees to give to Caesar what is his and to God what is His, based on whose "impression" is borne. On the coin, Caesar's. On us, God's.

    Nice post, by the way.


Go ahead, say something! I'm the shy one here.