Bede the Venerable on the Old Testament Prohibition of Images

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

[I]f we examine the words of the law more carefully, perhaps it will become apparent that it is not making images of objects or animals that is forbidden. Rather what is entirely prohibited is making them for the purpose of idolatry. Finally, as the Lord on the holy mountain was about to say, You shall not make for yourself a carved thing, He first said, You shall not have strange gods before me, and then added, You shall not make for yourself a carved thing, or the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or of those things that are in the waters under the earth; and He concluded as follows: You shall not adore them or serve them. (Ex 20:3–5) These words are a clear statement that what people are forbidden to make are those images which the impious are in the habit of making for the worship of alien gods and which the gentiles have misguidedly devised for service and worship. Moreover, in my opinion, no prescription of the divine law forbids making these; otherwise even the Lord in response to the Pharisees who put him to the test on rendering to Caesar the coin of tribute on which, they said, Caesar’s name and image was depicted, would certainly not have said the words, Render to Caesar what are Caesar’s and to God what are God’s. Rather he would have corrected their error and said, ‘It is not lawful for you in the minting of your gold to make the image of Caesar because the divine law forbids such sculpture.’ For when the coin of tribute was shown him, it would have been an opportunity for him to say so, if Caesar’s image had been misrepresented upon it for purposes of idolatry and not rather in token of his royal authority. (On the Temple, Bk.2:19.11)

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