I was once asked by a Baptist friend why we make graven images statues of Mary, since it is forbidden in the Bible. “You shall not carve idols
for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you hall not bow down before them or worship them” (Exodus 20:4-5). “Do not make anything to rank with me; neither gods of silver nor gods of gold shall you make for yourselves” (Ex 20:23).
I pointed out to her that at the time that this was written; neither Mary nor any of the Christian Saints existed. And so I asked her, because Mary didn’t exist at that time, then what were the specific images that God was speaking against. She said she didn’t know.
I then made this point; before you can carry Exodus 20:4-5 forward and use it for something that didn’t exist at the time of Exodus, then you first have to understand, what God was speaking against, in Exodus. At this point she had this whimsical look on her face and she began to smile. She said; “I never looked at it that way before.”
When she couldn’t answer the question as to what specific idols were being spoken against, she didn’t know the context and yet she was applying this to Mary and the Saints. I really am not critically of her though because she had the humility to admit she didn’t know and therefore she had my admiration.
On the one hand we have God forbidding carved (graven) images of anything (specifically OTHER GODS (Ex 20:3), in the sky, on the earth or in the water, Exodus 20, and on the other hand we have God ordering images to be made. Is this a contradiction or a paradox?
“Make two angels of beaten Gold for the two ends of the of the propitiary” (Exodus 25 17:18); And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover”(Nm 21:6-9). So why would God forbid images on the one hand, and on the other hand order images?
They were specifically told not to make gods of silver or gold Exodus 20:23 and then in Exodus 32:1-7 the people asked Aaron to make us a god who will be our leader. And so Aaron made them a false Pagan god, a golden calf. The people had rejected the one true God for a false Pagan god.
And so now we have the context of Exodus 20 and what God was speaking of was not all images, but Pagan images that turn people away from the one true God. On the other hand the angels of gold on the Arc (Exodus 25 17:18) and the seraph mounted on a pole (Nm 21:6-9), were not Pagan gods. They were symbols that pointed to the one true God.
So if we want to apply this forward to Mary and the Saints does it fit? Is it wrong to have symbols of Mary and the Saints? Does Mary or any of the Saints turn people away from the one true God? The answer is no; Mary is not a Pagan god turning people away from Jesus? In fact it is she who in the Bible points to Jesus; “Do whatever He [Jesus] tells you”(Jn 2:5).
People who use Exodus 20:4-5 against the use of Christian and Jewish symbols always leave out VERSE 3; "You shall not have OTHER GODS besides me" (Ex 20:3). The reason they leave out verse 3 is simple, the moment you mention OTHER GODS then you can not use this against images of saints and angels. The saints and angels are not Pagan Gods, but friends of God. This is even reinforced further in verse 23 “Do not make anything to rank with me; neither gods of silver nor gods of gold shall you make for yourselves” (Ex 20:23).
There are people who treat Mary as though she is Satan, the adversary of Jesus and do whatever they can to explain her away, when in fact she is not the adversary of Jesus, but the Mother of Jesus.
My Baptist friend, seeing the intellectual dishonesty in using Exodus 20 against Mary, is no longer my Baptist friend. She is now my Catholic friend. She has come home. Welcome home Gina!!!
1st COMMANDMENT OF GOD
I the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or
worship them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments (Ex 20, 2-6). “Do not make anything to rank with me; neither gods of silver nor gods of gold shall you make for yourselves” (Ex 20:23).
THE LORD ORDERS ANGELS TO BE MADE
This is what the Lord then said to Moses. Make two angels of beaten Gold for the two ends of the of the propitiary (Exodus 25, 17- 18).
JESUS LIFTED UP
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life. For God so loved the… (Jn 3, 14-18).
GOD ORDERS A BRONZE SERPENT
[People complain about food] In punishment the Lord sent among the people seraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the Lord and you. Pray the Lord to take the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the
people, and the Lord prayed for the people, and the Lord said to Moses, “Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover.” Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it n a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he recovered (Nm 21, 6-9).
BRONZE SERPENT SMASHED He [Hosea] pleased the Lord, just as his one. It was he who removed the high places, shattered the pillars, and cut down the sacred poles. He smashed the bronze serpent called Nehnshtnn, which Moses had made, because up to that time the Israelites were burning incense to it. He put his trust in the Lord, the God of Israel; and neither before him nor after him was there anyone like him among all the kings of Judah, Loyal to the Lord, Hezekiah never turned away from him, but observed the commandments which the Lord had given Moses (2 Kgs 18, 3-6).
JESUS LIFTED UP
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life. For God so loved the (Jn 3, 14-18).