Does the word venerate mean worship?

Author: BibleAsk Team

Venerate and Worship

Devout Catholics say that it is right to venerate the statues and images of Christ and His saints because these images are merely representations of them. To the Catholic, these images are venerated, revered, honored, prayed to, kissed, and blessed.

Catholics defend their practice by saying: “We don’t worship statues, relics, or images. We only venerate them.” But if we examine the dictionary definitions of the word “venerate,” we will clearly see that it simply means “worship.”

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary records the following definition of “venerate”:

[R]egard with great respect,…from Latin venerat-venerari ‘adore, revere.’”

The Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language records the following definitions for “venerate”:

“To worship, reverence…, to look upon with feeling of deep respect; regard as venerable; revere.”

The Espasa Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms lists the following synonyms (among others) for the word “venerate”:

“Worship, honor, reverence, idolize, exalt, etc.”

The Catholic Cofrade Dictionary notes the following definition for the word “venerate”:

“To worship God, Saints or sacred things.”

From these definitions, we can see clearly that the main meaning of the word “venerate” is simply “to worship or to revere.”

The Second Commandment

The Lord in His second commandment clearly states: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6).

The second commandment stresses God’s spiritual nature (John 4:24) in disapproval of idolatry and materialism. There is nothing in this world that can properly represent the Almighty (Jeremiah 51:17). God is infinitely great. To represent His exalted nature in a material object is to minimize His greatness. God refuses to share His glory with idols (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11). He does not accept the worship and service of a divided heart (Exodus 34:12–15; Deuteronomy 4:23, 24; 6:14, 15; Joshua 24:15, 19, 20). Jesus Himself said, “No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).

To set one’s devotion upon icons, statues and images, to place one’s faith in anything besides the Lord, is to “hate” Him. Those who do so will without a doubt bring trouble and pain not only upon themselves but also upon their children. The apostle Paul said of those who tried to make representations of God: “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:22-23).

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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