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.
If you found this article helpful please consider making a donation to Judaism Resources by clicking on the link below.
Judaism Resources is a recognized 501(c) 3 public charity and your donation is tax exempt.
Yisroel C. Blumenthal