What Does the Bible Say About Statues and Images?

This past weekend, two statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary were vandalized. A statue at a church in Boston was set on fire and a statue at a church in New York had the word “idol” spray painted on it. These acts of vandalism speak to a common misconception that Catholics worship statues and images by kneeling before them or kissing them. To an outside observer, it may seem that Catholics make idols out of statues, but that is not the case. Catholics do not worship statues, though images do play an important role in our acts of worship.

But how do we, as Catholics, know that it’s actually OK for us to have images of Our Lord on the Cross? Or Jesus in the manger at Christmas time? Is there a biblical basis for having religious statues and images? Patrick Madrid recently addressed this topic on The Patrick Madrid Show, and gave an example of the biblical basis for having religious statues and images.

Some point to the book of Exodus as proof that God has condemned the carving of images, as in the First Commandment he said, “You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or serve them.” (Exodus 20:4-5)

Patrick responded to this point by saying, “First of all, God could not have been condemning graven images, per se. Because just five chapters later he says to Moses, ‘Now I want you to carve graven images.'”

“He says now I want you to carve graven images, and these are going to be made of gold. They will be angels, the cherubim, and will be placed atop, facing each other on top of the Ark of the Covenant. And these statues of angels will remind you, and all the people of Israel of the holiness of the Ark.”

Patrick pointed out that the Ark was holy because of what was inside it: the 10 Commandments and manna, among other things. He said, “It was so holy that God designated that there would be graven images of angels. So these are religious statues that were placed on top of the Ark.”

This is just one incident in the Old Testament, of several, in which God either permits the carving of religious images or he commands it. So God could not have been condemning all statues and images in the First Commandment, otherwise he would be contradicting himself to then order them to be made.

“What he was condemning was idolatry,” Patrick explained. “And there are people, sadly, who do worship graven images. There are people who worship the stock market, there are people who worship sports. Anything that you can think of, somebody somewhere is worshiping that in place of Almighty God. I know it sounds weird, but it happens.”

“And you may think it sounds weird, but look in your own heart. As I have to look into my heart. There are things that we are tempted to worship in place of God. So just keep that in mind.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

The Patrick Madrid Show airs weekdays from 8:00 – 11:00 a.m. Central on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.