Let’s Clean House, Religiously Speaking
DATING back to the time of ancient Babylon and Egypt, the use of religious articles in homes has been popular. From the ruins of ancient homes archaeologists have unearthed all manner of religious images, statues, shrines, paintings and evidence of religious symbols such as the cross.
This may surprise you, but it is a fact that religious articles and symbolisms used in ancient pagan Babylon and Egypt are in use today in many “Christian” homes. It is high time for those who want to be true Christians to clean house, religiously speaking.—Acts 17:29-31.
Before we examine what the Holy Bible has to say about cleaning house, religiously speaking, let us take a look at a typical Latin-American home, similar in some respects to homes in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico and elsewhere.
As we near the house we notice a shrine along the sidewalk at the corner. The small hole in the front is for an offering to the image. As we enter the yard we note another home shrine with the image of family devotion, usually the national goddess or saint, differing from country to country. Some are very elaborate and costly. Near the door a cross can be seen. On knocking, we are welcomed into the hospitable home by the expression, “Adelante, tomen asiento.” “Come on in, take a seat.” The householder is pleased to show us her home. Did you notice that small platform or shelf over your head as we entered? A religious picture with a glass of water or something to eat is placed on it. Often such small platforms can be seen in front of a picture of a deceased member of the family with flowers placed before it.
In a humble home with an earth floor we note the cross again painted on each door. An elaborate one of metal or wood will be found in other homes. As we follow the housewife we note this same religious symbol over the beds on the wall and upon the home altar, which at times occupies a corner of a room or even possibly an entire wall. This is usually decorated with shiny papers of many colors along with religious pictures, candles or colored electric lights and flowers. Religious pictures of the “Sacred Heart” and “The Last Supper” will also be found in the rooms.
What are we to think of the use of these many religious articles and symbols? We must think what God thinks.
We are not to think that there is necessarily something wrong with every art object, an image or statue. So we must differentiate between objects that are simply works of art and objects of religious devotion, images used to represent some saint or deity. If one takes a worshipful attitude toward any image, making it a religious object, then the possessor of such image ought to reflect upon God’s view of religious images. For instance, God commanded the Israelites of ancient time not to have any images to represent the true God. (Ex. 20:4; Deut. 4:15-19) Nor were they to bring the images or symbols of the pagan Egyptians and Canaanites into their homes. God’s clear-cut declaration was:
“The graven images of their gods you should burn in the fire. You must not desire the silver and the gold upon them, nor indeed take it for yourself, for fear you may be ensnared by it; for it is a thing detestable to Jehovah your God. And you must not bring a detestable thing into your house and actually become a thing devoted to destruction like it. You should thoroughly loathe it and absolutely detest it, because it is something devoted to destruction.”—Deut. 7:25, 26.
True Christians appreciate this same principle of a clean home, religiously speaking, especially in view of similar commands given in the Christian Greek Scriptures: “We ought not to imagine that the Divine Being is . . . like something sculptured by the art and contrivance of man.” “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (Acts 17:29; 1 John 5:21) So the early Christians kept their homes free of religious images. How, then, did images of Christ, for example, get started? By turning to history books dealing with the early Christians, you will learn this: “Heathens, who, like [Emperor] Alexander Severus, saw something Divine in Christ, and sects, which mixed heathenism and Christianity together, were the first who made use of images of Christ.”a Since no images of Christ were used by the early Christians, it is evident they had no images of Mary, Jesus’ mother, either.
So when an image becomes an object of religious devotion, it is time for the possessor of such, if he wants to be a true Christian, to clean house, religiously speaking—no matter what the image represents or who made it.
It is well for every Christian to remember what took place in connection with the figure of the copper serpent made by Moses. During the sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness, God commanded Moses, who had led Israel out of Egypt, to make the figure of a copper serpent, which was a symbol and had prophetic significance, but it was not for religious worship. (Num. 21:4-9; John 3:14, 15) Thus the copper-serpent image was not adored or used for worship in Moses’ day. Though that image was made under proper circumstances, even at the command of God, yet, finally, it had to be destroyed. How so? Because centuries after Moses’ day the Israelites turned that same image of the copper serpent into an object of religious devotion, even burning incense to it. (2 Ki. 18:4) So when King Hezekiah purged the land of Judah of religious images, he had the copper serpent made by Moses crushed into pieces and utterly destroyed.
That destruction of religious images had God’s blessing, since the true God wants to be worshiped without images or not through images, as Jesus Christ himself stated: “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”—John 4:24; 2 Ki. 18:1-7.
But what could be objectionable about pictures? After all, a Christian may properly have or display a photograph, a drawing or a painting. It may be of friends or relatives, of scenery or of Biblical subjects. Jehovah’s witnesses, for example, have a calendar with a different illustration each year of an important Biblical event. Well, then, what determines whether a picture is objectionable? This: Is the picture reverenced or worshiped, perhaps food placed before it? Does the picture have pagan symbolism? Does the picture misrepresent the Bible?
Take, for example, a picture that appears in many interpretations, the so-called “Last Supper.” Jesus instituted “The Lord’s Supper” or, as a modern Bible translation calls it, “the Lord’s evening meal,” on the date of Nisan 14, 33 C.E., after 6 p.m., on a Thursday. (1 Cor. 11:20, 23, 24) Just before the Lord’s Evening Meal, Jesus and his twelve apostles had eaten the annual passover lamb. But how many plates of fish do you see on the table of some paintings? Fish was not eaten by Jesus and his apostles that Thursday night, but, rather, the meat of a lamb. Pictures that show fish are misrepresenting the Holy Bible.
The Bible shows that, along with roasted lamb, unleavened bread was used for the passover. (Ex. 12:8-15) You will notice in some pictures that the buns, one for each apostle, are leavened or risen bread. The Bible account shows, too, that the faithful apostles ate from one loaf of unleavened bread; each did not have his own leavened bun.—Matt. 26:26.
The Bible also shows that all the faithful apostles were to drink from the same cup. (Matt. 26:27) In the pictures we usually are led to believe that after the passover meal and during the Lord’s Supper each apostle had his own glass, while Jesus alone had a special chalice of wine. Actually, they partook of the same loaf and drank from the same cup.
You will note, too, that in many pictures all are seated. The custom in Jesus’ day was to eat in a reclining position, as can be noted by reference to a Bible dictionary. The Bible itself shows that John was reclining on the bosom of Jesus, something he would be unable to do if seated while eating.—John 13:23-25.
How many apostles do you count? The Bible indicates that Judas left “immediately” after the passover celebration and hence before Jesus instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal with the faithful eleven apostles. (John 13:30) Pictures showing twelve apostles along with Jesus do not portray the truth.
Thus our example shows misrepresentation of the Bible with regard to the passover lamb, the unleavened bread, the one loaf and the one cup, the manner of reclining and the number of apostles. When a picture misrepresents God’s Holy Word, it is time to clear it out.
Then with regard to pictures of Jesus Christ, do you notice any halo or circle of light encompassing his head? This is called a “nimbus.” You will find it revealing to go to a good encyclopedia and look up the word “nimbus,” for you will learn that it was used by the ancient pagan Egyptians, Greeks and Romans in their religious art; such a symbol is of Babylonish origin, since it appears in artistic representations of the main deities of Babylon. The circle of light was the symbol of the sun-god, and thus it is paganism.
No picture that smacks of Babylonish paganism belongs on the wall of a Christian home.
One of the symbols commonly seen in homes is the cross. Actually, the Holy Scriptures show that Jesus Christ was nailed to a tree or stake without a cross arm. The apostle Peter mentioned on at least two occasions that Jesus died on a tree (xýlon). (Acts 5:30; 1 Pet. 2:24) The other original Greek word used in the Bible is staurosʹ and means a stake without any cross arms of any kind.
Even if it had been a cross upon which Jesus was impaled, would that be a fitting religious symbol for Christians? No, no more than one would adore or worship a bullet or machete that had killed a dear loved one! No wonder the early Christians had no crosses in their homes! “There was no use of the crucifix,” says one historian of the early Christians, “and no material representation of the cross.”b
Where, then, did the cross come from? Centuries before Christ the cross was used by pagan religionists in India, China, Persia, Egypt and, of course, Babylon. The upright cross was the sacred symbol of the Babylonian god Tammuz. It was also the symbol of the sun-god Sol, in ancient Rome. Such a cross was the original form of their letter “T,” the initial letter of the name of the god Tammuz.
Further, encyclopedias will tell you that ancient Egypt had a cross that was a symbol of immoral sex worship. The Egyptian cross, the ankh (crux ansata or handled cross), consisted of a “T” with an oval handle on its top representing the male and female reproductive organs. The Israelites did not use this pagan symbol of the phallic cross in their homes.
As it was in pagan Egypt, however, so also the use of the phallic symbol is common in Latin America and elsewhere. Some church buildings are built on its “T”- shaped design. On the cathedral in San Pedro Sula in Honduras the shield over the doors uses the cross and oval. As the ancient Egyptian tombs and mummies contained many crosses, so today burial places are filled with crosses, some with the oval included.
LET’S CLEAN HOUSE
What, then, should be our attitude toward images, paintings and crosses? As for images and statues, the danger comes when people bow or pray before these lifeless idols, when they offer food before them, when they view them as something holy. Though there is nothing wrong with a picture correctly portraying a Bible event, yet if one gives a picture reverence and worship, that is wrong. If it is a picture of a deceased loved one, does the possessor give it religious devotion? Then, of course, it is wrong. And if a picture misrepresents the holy Word of God or contains pagan symbolisms such as the halo or nimbus and a cross, then why have it around the house?
So look around your house. Do you have any religious images? Do you have any religious paintings with the pagan halo encompassing the subject’s head? Do you have representations of a cross? Do you have any pictures toward which you have a worshipful attitude?
If you do, it is time to clean house. Your taking this positive step, without fear of man, toward the pure and undefiled worship of Jehovah God will mean obedience to the commandments of God. It will mean the end of all Babylonish paganism in artworks around your home. It will show your desire to worship God, as Jesus Christ stated, “with spirit and truth.” So let’s clean house, religiously speaking.
a The History of the Christian Religion and Church, During the Three First Centuries, Dr. Augustus Neander.
b History of the Christian Church, J. F. Hurst, Vol. I, p. 366.
[Picture on page 395]
Tammuz Wearing Crosses