Monday, October 24, 2011

Idolatrous photography

Is the following syllogism true or false?

i) It is forbidden to make an image of God

ii) Man is the image of God

iii) A photograph of a man (woman or child) is an image of man

iv) An image of man is an image of God

v) Ergo, it is forbidden to photograph a human being

16 comments:

  1. I would haveto say false and then start a debate on what being made in the image of God means.

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  2. It truly falls apart at point (iv), because it implies that man = God.

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  3. For it to fall apart at (iv), you'd need to show that (iv) doesn't validly derive from (i-iii), or else show that one of those premises (i-iii) is false.

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  4. I agree with daniel. What the "image of God" means in (i) doesn't bear the same meaning as in (ii).

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  5. In terms of Pentateuchal usage and intertextuality, why assume they are essentially disanalogous?

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  6. You need the premise: a photograph of a man (woman or child) is an image of God, which follows from (iii) and (iv). (iv) seems false because (iii) uses image in the sense of a copy, but the image of God in (ii) is the uprightness that God endowed man with.

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  7. You need to exegete your concept of "image" from the Pentateuch.

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  8. Ah, but so do you Steve.

    Prima facie, [iv] is highly counterintuitive. That gives us good warrant for supposing that you've equivocated on the meaning of "image".

    Ie, if "image" means the same thing wrt God and man in the Pentateuch, you get prima facie absurdities in view of your argument. Thus, on the face of it, "image" must have different meanings wrt God and man in the Pentateuch.

    This certainly seems born out by the fact that the command against creating an image of God refers to physical representation, whereas the creation of man in God's image refers to spiritual representation, since God is Spirit.

    Unless you can show that spiritual representation and physical representation stand in a transitive relationship, your argument is fatally equivocal.

    (There's also the problem that an image of man is not an image of God. It is an image of an image of God. And it's not clear the Pentateuch forbids that!)

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  9. I think you're missing the premise:

    "An image of an image of God is an image of God."

    Or, generalising:

    "An image-of-an-image-of is an image-of."

    Your (iv) doesn't follow from (i)-(iii), rather:

    "An image of man is an image of an image of God"

    does.

    There is the possibility that there is equivocation between (i) and (ii), which is an exegetical matter, as you point out. There is also the possibility that it is not true that an image of an image of something is always itself an image of that thing. But since I can't think of any example of the latter, and I will happily take "image of God" univocally, I am inclined to find the syllogism true.

    But then I remember that we make babies, which are men and therefore, per (ii), images of God and so I reject the syllogism because (i) is false. It's not forbidden to make babies, per Gen. 1:28 and I Cor. 7:5.

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  10. (ii) is understood in the light of Col. 3:15, which is speaking of being renewed with a knowledge of holiness, while the image language of the Pentateuch speaks of likeness and creation. Adam was made very good because God saw it that way.

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  11. DOMINIC BNONN TENNANT SAID:

    “Prima facie, [iv] is highly counterintuitive.”

    You’re trying to short-circuit exegesis.

    “That gives us good warrant for supposing that you've equivocated on the meaning of ‘image.’”

    That doesn’t give you any exegetical warrant to suppose that I’ve equivocated.

    “Ie, if ‘image’ means the same thing wrt God and man in the Pentateuch, you get prima facie absurdities in view of your argument.”

    Such as?

    “Thus, on the face of it, ‘image’ must have different meanings wrt God and man in the Pentateuch.”

    That’s not an exegetical objection.

    “This certainly seems born out by the fact that the command against creating an image of God refers to physical representation, whereas the creation of man in God's image refers to spiritual representation, since God is Spirit.”

    That’s both exegetically and philosophically dubious.

    i) You seem to be suggesting that what’s material can’t represent what’s immaterial. But what about, say, the exemplification of abstract numbers in time and space?

    ii) In Scripture, spatiotemporal relations can symbolize aspects of the deity. For instance, you have the concept of sacred space in Eretz Israel and the tabernacle. Eretz Israel is holy compared to the nations outside her borders. The subdivisions of the tabernacle represent degrees of cultic holiness. So physical space symbolizes the holiness of God.

    Likewise, the plagues of Egypt, by which God delivers Israel, concretely symbolize the omnipotence of God.

    iii) Gen 1:26-27 describes man as the image of God, using a word (selem) commonly employed for statues or idols (e.g. Num 33:52). Exod 20:4 (par. Deut 4:16) uses a different word (pesel), which is also a synonym for statues or idols.

    So in Pentateuchal usage, both man and idols are religious images and physical representations.

    iv) In Gen 1:26-27, man in his totality is the image of God.

    “Unless you can show that spiritual representation and physical representation stand in a transitive relationship, your argument is fatally equivocal. (There's also the problem that an image of man is not an image of God. It is an image of an image of God. And it's not clear the Pentateuch forbids that!)”

    We have that transitive relation on display in the relation between Gen 1:26-27, 5:3, and 9:6. The image of God is reproducible through procreation.

    An image of an image (e.g. Adam’s posterity) is still an image of God.

    BTW, I’m quite open to the possibility that my syllogism is either invalid or unsound. I didn’t propose my syllogism on the assumption that it’s sound or valid. Rather, this is one way of testing the Puritan position. An invitation to “Puritans” to see if they can show where the syllogism goes awry. The challenge is to deny what they wish to deny without simultaneous denying what they wish to affirm.

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  12. VYTAUTAS SAID:

    “(ii) is understood in the light of Col. 3:15, which is speaking of being renewed with a knowledge of holiness, while the image language of the Pentateuch speaks of likeness and creation. Adam was made very good because God saw it that way.”

    i) As a matter of exegetical method, it’s preferable to begin with Pentateuchal usage as we try to understand the Pentateuchal view of idolatry. Genesis was written with the view to Exod-Deut, and vice versa. So they are mutually interpretive. So we should begin by comparing and contrasting the notion of religious images in Pentateuchal usage and Pentateuchal theology.

    ii) Likewise, if you restrict the image of God to something immaterial, how does that ground the death penalty in Gen 9:5-6? It’s not as though the murderer destroys the image of God if the image of God is something purely spiritual.

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  13. This is why the Amish do not have/take photographs.

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  14. That would be consistent.

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  15. We do not have to use Col 3:10 to understand what the image of God is.

    If the image of God is restricted to something immaterial, then the grounds for the death penalty is found in the command of God. The murderer destroys the man, who was made after the image of God.

    If I rip up a photograph of a man, do I rip up the man? No, there is a difference between the two. Likewise, a man and the image he is made after are different. So (iv) is false.

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  16. A compilation of most if not all our posts on the topic of graven images and the second commandment can be found here.

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