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What Does the Bible Say About...Religious Symbols?

I just recently came across a question you answered entitled What Does the Bible Say About... Religious Pictures or Symbols? And I have a few comments I would like to make.

I agree with you that there is no point in having such items (i.e. Pictures, crosses, clothing, etc.) And that pictures of Jesus or Mary could be total misrepresentations of them, but as to whether or not it is wrong, well please consider the following passages

Exodus 20:4-5 - "you shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below." You shall not bow down to them or worship them...

Is this not saying, firstly - don't have them to begin with and secondly if you should decide to have them, do not worship them?

I believe Acts 17:29-30 is another good passage - " therefore since we are god's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone - an image made by man's design and skill. In the past god overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."

Sure wearing a cross or having a crucifix on the wall is symbolic to what the lord Jesus Christ did for us, but think about what crucifixion involved - the torture inflicted on humans that were crucified. Christ underwent this persecution for us and yet we present these items openly.

Ask yourself this question; would we wear an electric chair or a guillotine around our neck?

Isaiah 40:18-31 is a good passage to look at also.

We are to do everything through Jesus' authority and he did not give us the authority to have such items or symbols

These are my views on the subject. Please feel free to reply with any comments.


I thank you for your comments on my answer concerning religious pictures and symbols. You make some good points, and I generally agree with you. There are, however, some things to which I would like to respond.

You quote the command to the Jews about making idols and worshipping them. That is a valid point only so long as the images are being worshipped as idols. Many people who have religious pictures do not worship them. Most Catholics, for instance, will insist that they do not worship Mary. Whether their actions match their words is a different question, for each of them to consider. One could argue, as I did in my original answer, that putting up a picture of anybody indicates at least a small amount of worship. If you take Exodus 20:4-5 to apply even in this extreme then nobody should display any pictures in their homes or offices. If you have a picture of a friend, spouse, or children in your wallet you would be in violation of this command. There are various interpretations of how strict one must keep this command. They range from no pictures at all, through no pictures of people, to pictures are acceptable as long as you don't worship them (or who they represent) as gods. I tend to lean more toward this latter end.

The passage in Acts 17 is very specifically talking about calling an image a representation of God, as is the passage in Isaiah 40. I know of few Christians, Jews, or Muslims who make such claims about any pictures or symbols.

I think everyone who wears a cross should, as you suggest, think about what crucifixion involved every time they look at it, and thank God for suffering that pain for them. Unfortunately, for many it has become such a normal part of their lives that they don't think about what it means.

You ask, "would we wear an electric chair or a guillotine around our neck?" First of all, those are both extremely humane forms of execution and wouldn't represent the suffering Jesus went through. But if Jesus had been executed by an electric chair or guillotine, rather than a cross, then that would be the symbol that many Christians would wear, for the same reasons they wear a cross.

Yes, we are to do all religiously by the authority of Christ. He did not give us authority to have such items or symbols. On the other hand, he did not specifically forbid it. In this respect it becomes more of a matter of "speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where the Bible is silent." To forbid it would be to claim authority he did not claim. I do not recommend the wearing of religious symbols other than a wedding ring, but as long as they are not worshipped as gods I can find nothing in scripture to specifically forbid it.