The Second Commandment
There is no problem with the actual act of bowing. The problem is “to what do we people in the context of worship and liturgy?” The second commandment is very clear that we are never to bow in giving veneration toward man-made objects (24).
The second commandment isn’t saying there should be no pictures of God (a point for another day), but that no image of anything can be set up as an avenue of worship to God and the court of heaven (24).
Only one pesel
Pesel is the Hebrew word for “carving.” Jordan neatly takes the argument a step forward by pointing out that “there is another pesel in the Book of Exodus: The Ten Words, which God carved with his own finger” (26). “The opposition is between God’s content-filled graven Words and man’s silent graven images.”
God’s pesel is how he relates to us. The relationship is verbal. It is personal. “It is God-initiated.” Jordan comments, “When men set up a pesel it is always man-initiated” (27). “The ‘veneration’ of man’s pesel is not a conversation with God, but prostration before a man-made object.” This is the one objection even the most articulate anchorite cannot answer: is conversation–words–possible?
Anchorites love to counter that “Well, God commanded Israel to make various carvings.” So he did. We say, however, “what is prohibited is the creation of a contact-point with God in the likeness of other creatures” (28).
Jordan makes an interesting observation: nowhere in the Hebrew scriptures do we see God’s people condemned for making a picture of God. Rather, they make up images of God and use them as mediators (29).
“God initiates the mediation between himself and us, and He controls it” (29). “God’s mediation is verbal…God’s mediation is his pesel, the Word. Manmade mediators are images.”
Jordan concludes the chapter with a reflection on God’s 4th generation curse on image-worshipers.