Those who are acquainted with the Roman Catholic Church know that this organization teaches its members to worship images. You can see the faithful Catholics bowing to statues and pictures, kissing them, praying before them, and even burning incense to them. They believe that these images are channels by which God’s grace is bestowed upon the faithful. They even teach that the presence of Christ himself can be found through the worship of these images.

But how did this custom enter the Church? Any student of the Bible will recognize that this religious exercise was never practiced in the first century church. In fact for centuries the early Church forbade the use of images for any purpose. The heathen who repented and believed upon Christ took their images and burned them.

Notice the following quote, actually taken from the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia:

""Long before the outbreak [of Iconoclasm] in the eighth century there were isolated cases of persons who feared the ever-growing cult of images and saw in it danger of a return to the old idolatry. We need hardly quote in this connection the invectives of the Apostolic Fathers against idols (Athenagoras "Legatio Pro Christ.", xv-xvii; Theophilus, "Ad Autolycum" II; Minucius Felix, "Octavius", xxvii; Arnobius, "Disp. adv. Gentes"; Tertullian, "De Idololatria", I; Cyprian, "De idolorum vanitate"), in which they denounce not only the worship but even the manufacture and possession of such images. xxxvi of the Synod of Elvira is important. This was a general synod of the Church of Spain held, apparently about the year 300, in a city near Granada. It made many severe laws against Christians who relapsed into idolatry, heresy, or sins against the Sixth Commandment. The canon reads: "It is ordained (Placuit) that Pictures are not to be in churches, so that that which is worshipped and adored shall not be painted on walls."

Eusebius of Caesarea (d. 340), the Father of Church History, must be counted among the enemies of icons. In several Places in his history he shows his dislike of them. They are a "heathen custom" (ethnike synetheia Hist. eccl., VII, 18); he wrote many arguments to persuade Constantine's sister Constantia not to keep a statue of our Lord (see Mansi XIII, 169). A contemporary bishop, Asterius of Amasia, also tried to oppose the spreading tendency. In a sermon on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus he says: "Do not Paint pictures of Christ he humbled himself enough by becoming man." (Combefis, "Auctar. nov.", I, "Hom. iv in Div. et Laz."). Epiphanius of Salamis (d. 403) tore down a curtain in a church in Palestine because it had a picture of Christ or a saint.""

New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia – Veneration of Images

So where did this practice of image worship enter the Church?

In the late third and fourth centuries there were a few paintings brought into the Church as teaching aids, and over the course of time these images multiplied. As the images multiplied the apostasy of the Roman Church grew, with more and more unconverted men filling its ranks. Soon the worship of the Romans looked more and more like the worship of the pagans around them. This blending of Christianity with paganism included the worship of images. In the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth centuries there was great conflict between those who refused to worship images and those who bowed their knees to statues and paintings. Finally in the Apostate Church of Rome the worship of images won out during the Second Council of Nicea of the Eighth Century.

This is can be verified by the following article from the Encyclopedia Britannica:

“In the early church, the making and veneration of portraits of Christ and the saints were consistently opposed. The use of icons, nevertheless, steadily gained in popularity, especially in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. Toward the end of the 6th century and in the 7th, icons became the object of an officially encouraged cult, often implying a superstitious belief in their animation. Opposition to such practices became particularly strong in Asia Minor. In 726 the Byzantine emperor Leo III took a public stand against icons; in 730 their use was officially prohibited. This opened a persecution of icon worshippers  that was severe in the reign of Leo's successor, Constantine V (741–775).

In 787, however, the empress Irene convoked the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea at which Iconoclasm was condemned and the use of images was reestablished. The Iconoclasts regained power in 814 after Leo V's accession, and the use of icons was again forbidden at a council (815). The second Iconoclast period ended with the death of the emperor Theophilus in 842. In 843 his widow finally restored icon veneration, an event still celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church as the Feast of Orthodoxy.”  Encyclopedia Britannica “Iconoclast Controversy”

The following is an actual quote from the Seventh Ecumenical Synod at Nicea, which decreed in its Oros the following:

"Since this is the case, following the royal path and the teaching divinely inspired by our holy Fathers and the Tradition of the catholic Church—for we know that it is inspired by the Holy Spirit who lives in it—we decide in all correctness and after a thorough examination that, just as the holy and vivifying Cross, similarly the holy and precious Icons painted with colors, made with little stones or with any other matter serving this purpose, should be placed in the holy churches of God, on vases and sacred vestments, on walls and boards, in houses and on roads, whether these are Icons of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ, or of our spotless Sovereign Lady, the holy Mother of God, or of the holy angels and of holy and venerable men. For each time that we see their representation in an image, each time, while gazing upon them, we are made to remember the prototypes, we grow to love them more, and we are more induced to worship them by kissing them and by witnessing our veneration (proskenesin), not the true adoration (latreian) which, according to our faith, is proper only to the one divine nature, but in the same way as we venerate the image of the precious and vivifying cross, the holy Gospel and other sacred objects which we honor with incense and candles according to the pious custom of our forefathers. For the honor rendered to the image goes to its prototype, and the person who venerates an Icon venerates the person represented in it. Indeed, such is the teaching of our holy Fathers and the Tradition of the holy catholic Church which propagated the Gospel from one end of the earth to the other."

As the reader can see, the Roman Church justified the worship of images by declaring that the worship that was permissible for icons was a bit different than the worship that they performed toward God. This argument of latrea and dulia worship is still the common argument given by Roman Catholics in the defense of icon worship.

The following is an explanation of the argument by the Catholic Archbishop Trench.

"But while it is true of the Hebrew of the Old Testament that there is no word which refers alone to Divine Worship this is not true of the Septuagint Greek nor of the Greek of the New Testament, for in both proskuneo has always its general meaning, sometimes applying to the creature and sometimes to the Creator; but latreuo is used to denote divine worship alone, as St. Augustine pointed out long ago.
This distinction comes out very clearly in the inspired translation of the Hebrew found in Matthew iv. 10, "Thou shalt worship (proskuneseis) the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve (latreuseis )." "Worship" was due indeed to God above all but not exclusively to him, but latria is to be given to "him only." "" — Vide the Synod's Letter to the Emperor and Empress

The following is my basic illustration of the Catholic argument. .

Imagine a circle, all that is in the circle represents the whole of [Proskunea] veneration, honor and worship, which is given by man to God or to creature.

Inside this circle is a smaller circle which represents the [Proskunea] veneration, honor and worship that is restricted to God. This small circle of proskunea is called by the Catholics latrea and the proskunea that exists outside the small circle they call dulia.

Dulia and Latrea are simply two forms of Proskunea: latrea being restricted to the worship of God alone.

The Roman Catholics then teach that it is right to give dulia [the proskunea that exists outside of the small circle of latrea] to images, but it is wrong to give latrea to any creature, though they do give latrea to the bread [a piece of creation] during Communion, but that is another study for another day.

But what does the Bible say about this?

Here is the Second Commandment from the GREEK Septuagint, followed by an English translation of it.

Exodus 20:5 ou proskunhseiv *[proskuneo] autoiv oude mh latreushv [latrea] autoiv egw gar eimi kuriov o yeov sou yeov zhlwthv apodidouv amartiav paterwn epi tekna ewv trithv kai tetarthv geneav toiv misousin me

Exodus 20:5  Thou shalt not bow down [perform proskunea] to them [to images], nor serve them [perform latrea]; for I am the Lord thy God, a jealous God, recompensing the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation to them that hate me [THE GREEK SEPTUAGINT AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION].

As we can see from the Commandment of GOD both proskunea and Latrea of images are forbidden by God. Both are mentioned distinctly and both circles of reverence are condemned as sin and idolatry.

If the Apostles Peter, James and John were resurrected and walked into a Roman Church and observed their worship of images they would instantly conclude the person was a pagan; and no doubt they would be shocked and amazed to hear that the one who bows and kisses idols calls himself a Christian. No doubt a swift rebuke would be given to the poor ignorant soul.

The Roman Catholic Church has simply failed to take heed to the warnings of Scriptures against idolatry [the worship of images].

1 John 5:21  Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

In many of the Catechisms they actually do not innumerate the Second Commandment against idolatry, and instead divide the Tenth Commandment of “Thou shalt not Covet” into two parts. Surely they have laid aside the Commandments of God and have invented many traditions that contradict them.

Mark 7:6-8  He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.  Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men

A blatant disregard to the Word of God is indeed very dangerous to the soul..

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: ...idolaters...  shall inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

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