Did we Assume the Appearance of Jesus Christ? Why?

(Brandyn Noronha) #1

We know that in the Bible there is no specific or even a merely close enough depiction of the appearance of Jesus Christ in the form of Man. I understand historic paintings and sculptures of Jesus to symbolise the Glory of his Life. But I feel that lead the early Cristian Church to believe and inculcate and accept the idea of having various works of art such as paintings, posters, statues in our Churches and Homes. The first and other oldest paintings of Jesus are dated back to the second century more than 200 years after the ressurection of Christ in which Jesus did not even have a beard and also we do not have perfect proof of its historic background. Later in the 6th and 7th century artwork did he have a beard.(this difference just being one example)
The questions that arise to me are these:
If the Bible does not indicate any such depiction of the appearance of Christ, is it right on our part to assume his physical or facial appearance?
There must surely be a reason why it hasn’t been mentioned in the Bible?
If there Should be something to symbolise Christ in the Churches or Homes, isn’t the Cross enough ?
Could this be an irreversible Cardinal mistake made by the early church just for the sake of mankind to make it easier for us to believe in the person of Jesus?

(SeanO) #2

@Brandyn That is an excellent question and I do not think it is easy to answer. There are Christians who claim to have been deeply edified in their faith by icons or images of Jesus. I still remember a portrait of Jesus and the twelve disciples in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, GA that moved me nearly to tears because of its portrayal of the glorious strength and purity of Christ and His followers when the Kingdom comes. On the other hand, there are those who claim that because images can never fully capture God in His fullness that it is against the second commandment to use icons or images.

At the heart of both of these positions is the claim that either icons or the lack thereof help us to have an accurate view of God. This claim reminds me of a quote from Tozer.

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. - A. W. Tozer

As you will see below, C. S. Lewis did not agree with Tozer. But I think this quote raises an important question - do images of Christ or icons have the same affect on all people? Can they help us have a clearer vision of God or do they always obscur our vision of God? I think the evidence of Church history and my own experience is that they can edify the believer, though a thorough knowledge of Scripture and a strong prayer life are always more important, for it is God’s Spirit who can teach us the things of God and He alone.

Below is an argument for the view that images are unhelpful and then a defense of icons from an Orthodox perspective. Finally I have an article where Lewis disagrees with Tozer’s quote and forces us to question even the foundation of this objection against images. Do any of us, however studied, truly have an understanding of God in His fullness? Is it not always His grace and mercy that save us that we might know Him more? The apostle Paul said that we only see ‘as in a mirror, darkly’ in I Cor 13.

I hope these thoughts help you to dive deeper into this question. It is a good one and well worth exploring!

What are your thoughts after reading these views? Please do share.

View that Images Obscure God’s Fullness

The heart of the objection to pictures and images is that they inevitably conceal most, if not all, of the truth about the personal nature and character of the divine Being whom they represent.

In a similar way, the pathos of the crucifix obscures the glory of Christ, for it hides the fact of his deity, his victory on the cross, and his present kingdom. It displays his human weakness, but it conceals his divine strength; it depicts the reality of his pain, but keeps out of our sight the reality of his joy and his power. In both these cases, the symbol is unworthy of most of all because of what it fails to display. And so are all other visible representations of deity.

A Defense of Icons

We have seen that icons elevate believers from the physical to the
spiritual realm. By perceptible icons we are led to the contemplation
of the divine and immaterial. They instruct, edify and transform the
faithful. They act as catalytic agent;; for our sanctification. We can
rightly consider icons as ’ a kind of window between the earthly and
the celestial worlds.’

defense_of_icons.pdf (111.8 KB)

C. S. Lewis Disagrees with Tozer

I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to how He thinks of us. C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory