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Acts 17:29 (NIV) says:

“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image (charagmati) made by human design and skill.

The greek charagmati means, according to Strong's 5480:

definition: a stamp, impress

usage: sculpture; engraving, a stamp, sign

Some people argue this is only a prohibition of making statues, and not two dimensional images, i.e. icons. Since statues are 3D objects, and made of stone, gold ,etc., while icons are painted.

But I think this is somewhat missing the point. For example I wonder if charagmati could not be used to describe coins with images on them? Because in Matthew 22:20, Jesus uses the word eikon, icon, to describe the coin (NIV):

and he asked them, 'Whose image (eikon) is this? And whose inscription?'

Is the greek charagmati related to eikon? Is so, how? Does Acts 17:29 only prohibit statues?

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    Is is the Son who is the χαρακτηρ of the υποστασεως of God. Hebrews 1:3. That is how God is seen and known and worshipped. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 12:52
  • Could you take two steps back and drop any suggestion that either Acts 17:29 includes anything about charagmati or even that Acts 17:29's with that possessive apostrophe does or could mean anything useful? If you're suggesting gold or silver or stone - or any image made by human design and skill - is charagmati, why not simply ask about that, instead of misleadingly wrapping that term into English, where it clearly doesn''t belong? Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 21:38
  • If the Greek charagmati means, (according to Strong's 5480 or wherever else) a stamp, impress or sculpture, engraving or sign why not work with that? Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 21:41
  • @RobbieGoodwin Could you be more kind? And Acts 17:29 does speak about charagmati, check the Greek.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 11:16
  • @RobbieGoodwin because that's the point of asking here, I want to understand if there's a larger sense and meaning to the passage, the broader usage and not just the definition of the word.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 11:17

1 Answer 1

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Acts 17:29 does not prohibit images or graven images. It simply teaches that God is not like anything that man could make.

Now to the specific question of the OP. There are two Greek words in view. Here I will quote the meaning as given by the standard lexicon, BDAG:

χάραγμα (charagma)

  1. a mark that is engraved, etched, branded, cut, imprinted, mark, stamp, eg, Rev 13:16, 14:9, 11, 15:2, 16:2, 19:20, 20:4.
  2. an object fashioned by artistic skill involving alteration of a medium, thing formed, image, Acts 17:29.

Thus, in Acts 17:29, χάραγμα (charagma) can mean an image, whether a carved/cast statue or an engraved/stamped image.

εἰκών (eikón)

  1. an object shaped to resemble the form or appearance of something, likeness, portrait, eg, Matt 22:20, Mark 12:16, Luke 20:24, Rev 13:14, 14:9, 11, 15:2, 16:2, 19:20, 20:4
  2. That which has the same form as something else (not a crafted object as in 1 above), living image, eg, 1 Cor 11:7, 15:59, 2 Cor 4:4, Col 1:15.
  3. that which represents something else in terms of basic form and features, form appearance, eg, Rom 1:23, 8:29, 2 Cor 3:18, Heb 10:1, Col 3:10.

Note that the word can include a carved statue, image or an engraved/stamped image as per a coin in Matt 22:20, Mark 12:16, Luke 20:24.

It is immediately apparent that the meanings of these two words overlap. In the book of Revelation, they are held as quite distinct.

However, Paul's point in Acts 17:29 is that the true "unknown God" (Acts 17:23) is unlike anything man-made, whether cast, graven, etched, stamped, etc. That is, God is not like, and cannot be represented by any χάραγμα (charagma) whether, carved in a statue, or engraved, or stamped on a coin.

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