Do Illuminated Bibles violate the RPW?

Discussion in 'Worship' started by Myson, Jul 5, 2018.

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  1. Myson

    Myson Puritan Board Freshman

    Technically, reading the Scriptures in your own privacy isn't corporate worship which, from what I remember, is the only thing the properly RPW regulates, aside from icons. I guess do illuminated Bibles constitute icons, even if you're just reading and studying? And if so, how much is too much? Many editions of the Quran for example use stylized geometric art to accentuate the beauty of their word to them like in the link shared below. Bibles used to do the same, but fell out of style after mass production became more popular and artwork was inot really viable. Is there an actual prohibition against it? I own a KJV from Barnes and Noble that has old woodcarves of the stories throughout. Is this an RPW issue? Never really thought about it until recently.
  2. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I don't imagine there's anything wrong with a picture of Noah's ark or of David slaying Goliath. Just steer clear of images of God, and of things like icons that are intended for veneration of saints, etc. It's not an RPW issue as much as a Ten Commandments issue.

    But as for me, I'll keep my plain, pictureless, black-text Bible.
  3. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am o jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of then that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.' Exod 20: 4-6.

    I. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

    In the first commandment worshipping a false god is forbidden; in this, worshipping the true God in a false manner.

    Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.' This forbids not making an image for civil use. Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, It is Caesar's.' Matt 22: 20, 21. But the commandment forbids setting up an image for religious use or worship.

    Nor the likeness of any thing,' &c. All ideas, portraitures, shapes, images of God, whether by effigies or pictures, are here forbidden. Take heed lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make the similitude of any figure.' Deut 4: 15, 16. God is to be adored in the heart, not painted to the eye."

    Thomas Watson

    For prudence sake alone, even pictures of Moses or the Ark are suspect. in my opinion.
  4. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    I know this is a bit off topic, but I just read an interesting verse from John and thought I'd mention it while on images. In 1 John 4 he says that no one has ever seen God. I wonder why John wouldn't have mentioned Jesus (the human) who he spent years with, if he knew the flesh to be divine as well. Any thoughts?
  5. Myson

    Myson Puritan Board Freshman

    I see your point. However suspect though, might it be a conscience issue?
  6. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    You'll have to define "religious use". Personal study time? Private devotions? Children's Bibles? We're not talking about images of God only, which are of course off-limits. How about maps in the back of a Bible? Are those not images for "religious use"?
  7. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    To some degree, I would tend to think, as long as one doesn't violate a commandment.

    There have been groups who have thought that even a metrical psalter appended to the Bible was sin. Others are opposed to including the Apostles' Creed or other creeds somewhere at the back. Maybe there's someone who thinks the colourful maps are bad. I think, however, that we can avoid such extremes.
  8. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    "Religious use"

    That may be trickier than meets the eye. Anything that we use to get to know God and His ways better are things of religion. So defining the term, in my opinion, is as I stated.

    My opinion alone, as mentioned, for prudence sake, why do we need pictures? As Calvin mentions, 'men are idol factories'. Hence, I try and stay away from anything that may visually circumspect that prudence.

    Maps? I see nothing wrong with maps-colored or black and white.

    Prior to me coming to a solid conviction on Exclusive Psalmody, I believed that, 'for prudence sake alone', men should sing the Psalms only, just to be safe. Better to be correct than dead.
  9. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I would tend to agree that avoiding images is better, at least in the pages of a Bible. It can be distracting, or a waste of space. But I am not willing to say that all images are wrong.

    I have a children's Bible that includes pictures, although there are no pictures of Jesus. (I was looking specifically for a children's Bible with no images of God.) The passages in it are more summaries of Scripture than actual Scripture. I suppose it's meant to accompany actually reading a Bible. But isn't this using pictures for religious use? Is it wrong to have a picture of a sheep beneath the Parable of the Lost Sheep?

    Where is the line? You've said maps are fine. But why? If we read of Paul's journey's and then view a map to get a better idea of them, why can't we read of the dimensions of Noah's Ark or the temple and then look at a an artist's impressions of them? Are all such pictures always forbidden, or only when they're inserted in a Bible? Yet even when they're not in the Bible (for example, if I google a picture of a Levite's outfit) am I not using that for religious use? Or why would a diagram of the Solomon's Temple be better or worse than a picture of Noah's Ark?

    Of course I agree with Calvin that men's hearts are idol factories. But at the same time I'm wary of excessive prudence, which, taken to extremes, can, possibly, lead one to build rather too many hedges. Indeed, that brings us back to those same words from Calvin.
  10. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    One thing you might ponder is, if there were artists in all the ages of the church, why were no images ever part and parcel of the original manuscripts of God's word? In other words, artists have always been available; why do we not have any depictions included as helps for us when the original manuscripts were penned? Possibly there was no need or making any images would be a break in the RPW, which all the men of God knew and hence, refrained from such a thing.
  11. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I don't think that's necessarily a bad point, although it raises a few practical problems. Maps weren't part of the original manuscripts either, but you have already said that you have no issue with them, even if you have so far given no reason.

    I ask again: How far do you take this? What is the limit?

    Is a children's Bible allowed to have pictures or not?

    What is the difference between a map, a diagram of the temple and a picture of Noah's Ark?

    Is there a difference between a picture inserted in a Bible and an image in book on biblical archaeology? Both are arguably some kind of "religious use".
  12. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't believe maps are worshipful nor do I believe they have a propensity to stumble anyone.

    Prudence is the goal.

    No. This would be a break in the RPW.

    A map is a generalization; a diagram or the ark would be specific.

    The bible is God's word. God's word never contained pictures-and for good reason. A book on archaeology is not religious.
  13. Grant Jones

    Grant Jones Puritan Board Sophomore

    I am okay with pictures in children's bibles, so long as they do not contain images of any member of the Godhead. After all Kids bibles are not really bibles, they are rather books that help illustrate the stories of the Bible for small children. Pictures and images can be great teaching aids for adults and kids, but like most things..we can take them too far.

    The logic must be consistent. Maps may not be worshipful to you, but they could potentially be for others. What if the map maker includes a tree on the map...on the map?..oh no! I can't use the map now? I think not. God had his buildings constructed with images of things after all (I am not using those verses to say we should, but rather to show in context God at one time did command his people to make symbols in his house if worship)

    Scott I am assuming you do believe that drawing pictures is okay (artwork and crafts outside of the bible), but your problem is having any image included in a "Bible"? Is that correct?

    The best and hardest line to draw in the sand should be forbidding images of the godhead...and worshipping any form of an mage as God. Going any further cannot logically be maintained. Should a Christian get rid of his bible if it has a cross engraved on the cover? Would it be sinful to show a cartoon image of David and Goliath if I were to teach that lesson to kids in SS?

    I looked at the illuminated bibles, as I had never heard of them before. My biggest concern with the images I saw, is that is soon becomes obvious that the human publishers are trying to make the words of God more if that were even possible. So I would avoid the illuminated bible mainly because it seems weird...and I have not really studied on it.....haha
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 8, 2018
  14. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    I will only comment on this section: definitions and elements of worship have been removed from the "hand" (imaginations) of man for good reason- we will most certainly pervert them. We don't decide what is worship or "worshipful to me" (subjective) but God has already decided what it is (objective).
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
  15. Grant Jones

    Grant Jones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Forgive me, I am not sure I follow. Could you explain?

    The point I was trying to make from my comment was that Scott determined that maps were not worshipful. I was not agreeing or disagreeing with him (truthfully I do not see them as worshipful for myself). But knowing man, we can make an idol of worship out of anything. In other words, technically it is logically plausible that one could worship the image of a map (which would of course be idolatry).
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 8, 2018
  16. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Freshman

    A few chapters after forbidding the use of images of Himself, God commands Moses to make a tabernacle with statues of cherubims, carvings of pomegranates, knops (whatever those are), flowers, all sorts of things. Solmon's temple had statues of oxen in it.
    The only things we must not do are: worship images of any sort, nor make images of God for any purpose. Drawings, statues, pictures, etc are not unclean in themselves, unless they purport to be of God, and are lawful for all sorts of decorative use. The fact that some people use lawful things for bad purposes does not mean we should outlaw the lawful things.
    Otherwise we could not eat, because some folk are gluttons.
  17. Grant Jones

    Grant Jones Puritan Board Sophomore

    For curiosity and clearly besides your original point,

    Would you forbid your children from coloring in a color booklet (ex. at home or during SS)..lets say a depiction of a whale illustrating Jonah's Story?
  18. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    My only point is that (in contrast to what it appeared to me you were saying, possibly errantly on my part) the "power" of deciding matters of worship are not in the hands of man. When we speak in terms of "to me", we are already into trouble.....

    I will preface my statement by the expressing my utter contempt for the "childishness" with which our society (and often the church) treats youngsters. Children are far smarter than we oft treat them and the perpetualization of childishness is reaping disastrous results in the culture and in many sectors of the church. /rant. That said, a coloring book at home or in S.S., wouldn't make me convulse. Teaching kids systematic theology is probably far more beneficial than coloring pictures in the business of knowing God.......
  19. Grant Jones

    Grant Jones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Trust me, I do share agreement and sentiment with both your point and your preface...mostly with kids 5 and over.

    Well maybe this will make you happy that my kids color and are catechized with systematic theology...haha

    My 4yr. old little girl...knows GCP Catechism Questions 1-35.

    My 18-month old little girl knows GCP Catechism Question #1. Right now she thinks the answer to the rest of the questions is the same "God"...haha but I am not stressing.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 8, 2018
  20. Myson

    Myson Puritan Board Freshman

    I've always found that point poignant. No images... But... Here's some images you have to have. The point (I believe) is that images and symbols can be an aid or a hindrance and should be be taken with caution but not rejected.
  21. Myson

    Myson Puritan Board Freshman

    It's also worth noting that "images" need not necessarily be pictures like stained glass windows or medieval catholic imagery. "Images" is such a broad term to begin with. Words are obviously images when written in books. What may look like an image to us may simply be a stylistic rendering of words in Arabic, which ultimately just comes down to font! Might not geometric shapes and patterns (as in the jpeg attached at the top) which can add, not to the words of Scripture, but to the transmission of these words via temporal medium of books, be "images" but not a kind of worship? The thing with symbols is that they're utterly meaningless in and of themselves and we give them meaning. Seeing a few different colored squares on a page can be something I find beautiful and aesthetically appealing, but not "mean" anything and therefore not be a religious aid. The covers of Bibles may be of different binding and material that may be beautiful, but mean nothing in and of itself, so why not the same application on the pages?
  22. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    What are you referring to? God commanding a thing and the creature responding is not one and the same with man taking it upon himself to indulge his mind.
  23. Myson

    Myson Puritan Board Freshman

    Sure, but I think the larger point is that images, in and of themselves, are not sinful in every and all types of worship. Whether these images can continue to be applied isn't really an issue I meant in that particular post, only that God isnt opposed to images themselves (unless they depict him) since he commanded they use them. I'm not even saying that anyone here was even arguing such a strict distinction, it was more of a "Yeah I guess I hadn't really connected the dots there."
  24. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Again, God commanding a thing and men fabricating, are not one and the same and really shouldn't be compared.
  25. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Freshman

    I hesitate to call even OT temple decorations an "aid". They were necessary furniture, and were made to be decorative, but I don't believe they were to "aid" worship. Would you call varnished pews and aid? A place to sit is necessary; that they are beautiful is a bonus, but at the end of it all they are a circumstance. Likewise, a bound book with God's word printed in it is a circumstance. The binding and font is not an aid to worship, and should not be allowed to be a distraction. If you want to doodle designs in your copy, or buy one with designs doodled in, is indifferent. If you cannot have illustrations without sinning in your heart, then you should not have them. If illustrations don't cause you to sin, then all things are lawful, as long as your liberty doesn't cause your brother to stumble.
    I can only wonder: why would anyone want anything other than a plain, readable font? It's the words were after; the voice of the Shepherd feeding His people. What more glory could you desire in a book?
  26. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    The decorations or funiture of differing sorts were not just decorative but depicted an inner spiritual lesson, or a teaching method to the people in their minority. But the reality has come, so that these forms have been done away with. What was glorious has been superceded by a greater glory.
  27. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    Agreed. Nor do I think pictures of boats or diagrams of buildings are particularly worshipful, however. Is this merely a matter of opinion?


    How so? A children's bible such as the one I mentioned above, which is not Scripture but rather includes a number of summaries of Bible stories as well as some application questions. (In fact, this one calls itself a book of Bible stories, not a "Bible".) Does the RPW apply to every Christian book?

    Why does that matter?

    So if I have my Bible open to read it while I am simultaneously consulting a book on biblical archaeology, that's fine. But if those same pictures are bound in the same volume as the words of Scripture, we've crossed a line? Is it only "religious use" when the images are in the Bible?

    Imagine that, while reading the Bible I encounter the word "ox". "Hmm," I say to myself. "I don't really know what an ox looks like." Am I allowed to search the internet for a picture of one? Would that be "religious use"? Or is the only problem when that ox (or altar, or ephod, or whatever) is pictured in a Bible?

    And what about BibleHub and other similar websites? They often have advertisements next to Scripture. Does that mean we can't use those websites?
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
  28. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I agree.

    The images in the temple were commanded by God as part of Israel's worship. Not that they were to worship those images, but that they were to make use of them in some sense, according to God's commands.

    And images are not in themselves bad. Art is not forbidden. But worship is different. Man is not permitted to worship as he pleases, making images after his own fancies.

    What I've been saying about illustrations in Bibles is a different point. I'm saying that images in Bibles (ie. the ark, diagrams of the temples, as well as maps) are not worship.

    I will say again that, as a matter of preference, I don't care for images in Bibles. But are all images necessarily sin? I'm not at all convinced of that.
  29. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    If the intent is to extrapolate on God's word, yes.

    In regard to pictures of the Ark:
    Most will see pictures of the ark to possess some level of holiness; hence, their response will most likely cause people to stumble. Consider the 'Holy land' and the Ark exhibit.

    Your example of oxen:
    I do not believe an oxen in itself would be seen as holding any holy connotation; however, if it were a picture of the priests sacrificing an oxen....

    There aren't any images in the bible.....Do the original autographs have images?
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