Why would Jesus defy the 2nd commandment and create a "graven image" unto himself?

And this kind of thinking is why many will never be convinced
about the Shroud of Turin

Not too long ago we peeked in on a Shroud of Turin discussion in the JREF Forum (Savage Treatment in Randi Land). JREFers are the hardnosed, mostly Atheist, highly-skeptical-of-anything-religious crowd: people like James Randi, Joe Nickell, many of the CSICOP crowd. Now we find a new discussion thread, started just a couple of days ago on BibleForum.org. I’m not sure about how to characterize this forum but you might get an idea:

imagetheelderofgod starts things off by embedding the YouTube of Shroud of Turin: The New Evidence (Go ahead and click on it if you didn’t watch it earlier – in four parts. It is an hour and 15 minutes long).

He then writes:

I use to be a skeptic,but after a lot of reseach it’s hard to deny that something isn’t here.

Francis Drake responds:

Who really cares about the authenticity of a piece of idolatrous rag. Does it in any way add to our growth in the Holy Spirit, or does it gain kudos for a pagan system of worship

ChangedByHim writes:

An hour and 15 min? Do you have cliffs???

theelderofgod, seemingly incredulous writes:

You don’t care about what might very well be the shroud that Christ was wrapped in??If it is legit the disciples thought enough to take it…just saying.And no it doesn’t take from or add to my faith.I find it HIGHLY interesting!

chad jumps in with a copy and paste from Wikipedia:

Religious beliefs about the burial cloths of Jesus have existed for centuries. The Gospels of Matthew[27:59–60], Mark[15:46] and Luke[23:53] state that Joseph of Arimathea wrapped the body of Jesus in a piece of linen cloth and placed it in a new tomb. The Gospel of John[19:38–40] refers to strips of linen used by Joseph of Arimathea and John[20:6–7] states that Apostle Peter found multiple pieces of burial cloth after the tomb was found open, strips of linen cloth for the body and a separate cloth for the head.

Although pieces of burial cloths of Jesus are held by at least four churches in France and three in Italy, none has gathered as much religious following as the Shroud of Turin.[41] The religious beliefs and practices associated with the shroud predate historical and scientific discussions and have continued in the 21st century, although the Catholic Church has never passed judgment on its authenticity.[42] An example is the Holy Face Medal bearing the image from the shroud, worn by some Catholics.[43]

[ . . . you can read it in Wikipedia if you want ]

Reynolds357 tells us:

I do not care if it is real or not. If it is real, so what? You see a generic image of a face. I know Jesus had a face. I’m not trying to be sarcastic, but why would we really care if it is real? Is it going to do anything for you?

Jayne is very specific with Bible references:

Doesn’t the Bible say that after his death that Jesus didn’t even look human? I don’t see much signs of physical suffering in the shroud to cause someone to not look human. I’ve always been a doubter of the shroud.

(Isaiah 52:14) The Suffering Servant

"Just as many were astonished at you,– so his appearance was disfigured so to lose resemblance with man, so his form was marred beyond recognition as a man."
Also the face on the shroud doesn’t match the description of the abuse that Jesus suffered prophesied by Isaiah in describing the Suffering Servant and described by Matthew, Mark, and Peter.

  • Isaiah 50:6 – "I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting."
  • Mark 15:19 – "Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him."
  • Matthew 27:30 – "They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again."
  • Isaiah 52:13-14 – "See, My Servant will act wisely; He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted. Just as many were appalled at You – His appearance was so disfigured that He did not look like a man, and His form did not resemble a human being—"

Skipping past some other folks to continue with another entry by Jayne:

This thought isn’t original with me, but why would Jesus defy the 2nd commandment and create a "graven image" unto himself? But this next question is my thinking. I can’t find where Peter and John took the strips of cloth that they found in the empty tomb. What I can find is that they saw the strips of cloth with the head piece folded and then walked away NOT understanding that Jesus had been resurrected. (And it was strips of cloth according to the Bible: ""Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury" (John 19:40 KJV)"

8 thoughts on “Why would Jesus defy the 2nd commandment and create a "graven image" unto himself?”

  1. I don’t know what’s more frustrating, atheists claiming the Shroud is a forgery (despite the lack of evidence) or Christians dismissing it as nothing special. I guess walking on water and rising from the dead is simply too tough an act to follow.

  2. Why do so many people still think the proper translation was ‘STRIPS’ when it simply meant ‘CLOTHES’ lol….That kills me.

    The 2nd commandment defied? I think God is capable of doing whatever he deems appropriate, and the commandment was meant for us schmucks here on earth anyways.


    1. I once talk about this so-called “violation of the second commandment” with my friend Barry Schwortz and I explain to him that, for us Catholics, this commandment is somehow null and void since the day Jesus was born in our world. Effectively, since we believe in the Incarnation of God (at least, we should, but I seriously doubt that many Catholics really believe this), that means God has showed his face and from then on, we can make images of Jesus how many times we wants and the image on the Shroud, if it is truly the one of Jesus as I think, is no exception. And it’s even more allright since it is not an artistic image created by the imagination of an artist but an true image of Jesus made most probably by the natural laws created by God himself! In sum, there’s absolutely no violation of commandment regarding any image of Christ.

      And here’s an important point: In Jesus time, the image on the Shroud would not have been considered as a violation of the second commandment for a pious Jew since it would only have been for him the image of a man and not the image of God… Only Christians eventually started to believe Jesus was God incarnated in our humanity and it takes a pretty long period of time before they started to really believe this truth. Of course, for a pious Jew of Jesus time, the image on the Shroud would have been considered scandalous because it shows the naked body of a man (and a crucified man at that!) and also because it is completely gruesome, but it would not have been considered a violation of the second commandment since no Jews of ancient time would have think for one second that this would be a representation of God…

  3. Hi I am not a person of many words. In no way can I understand how the image of Jesus Christ on the Shroud of Turin can be considered a “graven image”. I ended up having to look up the term in a few dictionaries. One of them described spiritual words used in the Bible and the others were common words. In no way can I see how our Lord Jesus intended for people to treat that image as a God. It is what it is, an image of Jesus after he was dead and covered with the linen and placed in the grave. There may be some supernatural or spiritual aspects to the image because of his resurrection but those in themselves do not make the image a God, it is just an enhanced image. Has anyone ever seen photographs of their own family members whom they love or even of them selves? What is in your mind when you look at them?? Maybe some people misconstrue their own thoughts??

  4. If Jesus would violate the second commandment by leaving an image on a cloth, then did he violate the commandment when he left footprints on the ground, left fingerprints on objects he touched, cast a reflection of himself on water he walked past, left an image of his appearance in the minds of people who saw him, etc.?

    Even before the New Testament era, the Jewish people were permitted to include images in the structure of the temple, create a bronze serpent, etc. The second commandment doesn’t forbid all images. Rather, it forbids the creation or use of images for improper veneration. See 2 Kings 18:4 for an illustration of that distinction. As we see in that passage, making and preserving the bronze serpent wasn’t sinful. What was sinful was the improper veneration of the image that eventually developed.

  5. Regarding Isaiah’s Suffering Servant passages, I see no reason to think the Shroud is inconsistent with them. Isaiah 52:14 refers to the human form in general, not just some parts of it. It seems to be referring to a significant disfigurement, a significant departure from what humans normally look like. The Shroud image meets that standard. Having thorns driven into your head, nails driven through your wrists and feet, scourging wounds covering your back, legs, and other parts of your body, a spear thrust through your rib cage, etc. constitute a significant disfigurement.

    How far are we going to take our interpretation of Isaiah? How disfigured are we supposed to think Jesus was? If Jesus didn’t look like a human at all, then what are we supposed to think he looked like? A blob? A giraffe? How were people able to put clothes on Jesus (Matthew 27:31), how were the Roman soldiers able to tell where to place the nails, why did people continue to speak to him while he was on the cross, how was his mouth discernable (Matthew 27:48), how were the Roman soldiers able to discern that he was dead (John 19:33), how was the precise area of his rib cage that needed to be pierced discernable (John 19:34), etc.? Clearly, the Biblical authors I just cited didn’t take Isaiah in the absurd way that some critics of the Shroud suggest we should. Jesus was significantly disfigured. But his body as a whole and individual parts of it were still recognizable as human. That’s what the Bible reports, and it’s what we see in the Shroud.

  6. Commandments:
    1. I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
    2. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
    3. Remember to keep holy the LORD’S Day.


    The ancient rule to not make a graven image does not mean “make no images” since right after the giving of this rule, God instructed his people to make all kinds of things including images or angels, etc. I don’t think the rule against graven images is understood because the understanding skips over graven to simply focus on images. There’s a big different between graven images and images, the modifier graven indicating the idolatrous state of heart and mind.

  7. The commandment against graven images is in Exodus 20:4-5, and is echoed in Deuteronomy 5:8-9. It is quite possible that the proto-Exodus version of the second commandment was more simple and direct, as are the other commandments there, but was since edited by deuteronomic redaction. The decalogue section seems a little disjointed from the flow of the main Exodus narrative here.

    “You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God (etc)” Exod 20:4-5 [JB]

    However images were frequently made, either in apostasy, or as part of legitimate liturgy and worship, e.g. refer Solomon’s temple. Israel was surrounded by pagan cultures, reliant on agriculture, and fertility cults were important. They included idolatry, infant sacrifice and temple prostitution to sustain life. They go some way towards explaining the intent of the commandment in banning such practices. Within Israel and later Judaism there were occasional bouts of iconoclasm, seen as a cleansing and a return to the essential prescriptions of Moses, notably by such as Hezekiah and Nehemiah, but they seldom lasted. Imagery persisted until the time of the Maccabees, which rejected any kind of images in worship, and crass idolatry.

    Essentially the ban is only a token of what ought to be in the peoples’ hearts, lip service only. Jesus makes it plainer. “You cannot serve God and Mammon” In other words, it is what is in the heart that matters, and nothing in the heart should displace the rightful position of God as the object of worship. Jesus made it clear that making possessions central to life, was also idolatry. Paul considered that idolatry was not as may be thought, a first step towards an evolutionary progress to monotheism, but he saw it as an apostasy from a natural religion which ought to marvel at the wonderful works of Creation – Romans 1:18-25.

    If God has so ordered nature, that the cloth in which His only Son was buried in, should produce an image of Him for the benefit of His posterity and His people, then we should say Amen and give thanks, and not quibble about the motives of the Almighty.

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