What He Wishes He Said?

I already talked about what I wish I had said. How do I know what DVD might wish he had said? Obviously I don’t. But some speculation…

To be fair, if I had pushed back on DVD’s argument that the second commandment admits of no distinction between making/worship of images, it would not have been a slam dunk. In re-listening, I heard some clues that indicated he might have had a nuance in mind that did not come across very clearly to the audience. Observe (at about 12:24):

I think it’s safe to say that for Deuteronomy [4:15–], for the scriptures as a whole, making images and using them for worship are part and parcel of the same thing. In other words, the idea that one might make an image and not use it for worship was not really a possibility that the biblical writers even imagined. Why would you make an image if it wasn’t to worship it? What kind of confrontation with the deity would you undergo if you would not respond with worship?

Given that phrase “with the deity,” I think it’s safe to say that DVD is not arguing for a lack of distinction between making/worshipping — and thus a complete prohibition — of images altogether. Rather, he is speaking only of images of objects of worship — of God or god(s). This qualification would provide shelter from an accusation that he proves too much, and his arguments forbid all images whatsoever.

I have two lines of response to this hypothetical nuance.

First, the second commandment doesn’t give us that nuance. If anything it heads in the opposite direction, never mentioning God at all, but going to great lengths to prohibit everything but God (heaven, earth, waters).

Second, do we really believe that all images of objects of objects of worship are forbidden? It was for this reason that I wore that night a t-shirt with Kokopelli emblazoned on it. Kokopelli is the pagan god of fertility, music, and trickery for many Indian tribes of the American Southwest. How egregious could images of objects of worship be, if I was openly wearing such an idol on my chest, and nobody even blinked? But the opportunity never presented itself, so I let the ambush pass.

Note, my Kokopelli shirt was primarily there in preparation for a question like the following accusation of obeying the commandments only on Sundays:

Those who say that images are forbidden, but only for worship, imply that we can fulfill the command of God by not having images in worship, while we have them in books or at home on our walls. The logical conclusion is that we can have idols, but just not in worship. (Daniel Hyde, In Living Color, p. 87)

“Really, we can’t have an idol? If we visit an African country, we can’t buy a statue for ornamental purposes if somebody may have worshipped it before? I can’t go to Joshua Tree and buy a T-shirt like this one with Kokopelli on it?”

Continuing in this vein, where is the line to be drawn between what may not be imaged because it is an object of worship, and what may not be imaged because it is a potential object of worship? Who knows what people might or might not worship? I mean, look at the response to a coincidentally Mary-shaped scorch mark on a grilled-cheese sandwich! And again, consider the exhaustive nature of the second commandment. If there really is no distinction between making and worshipping, then isn’t the point of the second commandment that anything in creation, if imaged, might be worshipped by some crazy idolater, and therefore all images are absolutely verboten? In particular, God would have a lot of ‘splaining to do about all those images he commanded the Israelites to include in the house of worship he designed for himself.

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  1. […] What He Wishes He Said? […]

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