The cult surrounding a statue of a god or goddess. Such idols were common in Near Eastern religions, but it is not certain whether the worshippers held the statue itself to be a deity or whether the deity was somehow embodied by the image in such a way that the worshipper met the deity through the image. It would seem that at the time of the Exile [[➝ Exile, the]], when the worshippers of Yahweh encountered the alien cults of Babylon, the prophet believed that their neighbours did indeed worship a piece of wood or stone (Isa. 46).
The prohibition against idols is emphatic in the book Exodus and the worship of the God who liberated them from Egypt is part of the covenant. It was, however, often tempting to fuse the worship of Yahweh with the fertility cults of the Canaanites: and the dramatic contest arranged by Elijah on Mount Carmel [[➝ Carmel, Mount]] (1 Kgs. 18) between Yahweh and Baal shows the gravity of the challenge (c.860 BCE) The efforts earlier (c.930 BCE) by Jeroboam Ⅰ to dissuade his subjects from travelling south to Jerusalem by installing a sacred calf at Bethel and another at Dan (1 Kgs. 12:29) are depicted as gross apostasy, though in fact the calves, or bulls, may have been regarded as a throne or seat for the invisible god—whom some of the worshippers may have regarded as Yahweh himself (Exod. 32:5).
After the Exile the condemnation of idolatry is less shrill (Zech. 10:2); monotheism is secure.
Paul warns the Corinthian Christians about a kind of idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14) which might have been some form of civic ceremony. In the case of meat previously offered in idolatrous sacrifice, the advice is that it is harmless, since the so-called gods are nonentities (1 Cor. 8:4); but it could be an act of charity towards less instructed Christians to decline such meat (1 Cor. 8:13). Idolatry is also used metaphorically for evil desires (Col. 3:5).
Worship of the Roman emperor and obligatory participation in heathen rites was later to prove a fiery test for Christian believers.

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  • Idolatry — • Etymologically denotes divine worship given to an image, but its signification has been extended to all divine worship given to anyone or anything but the true God Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Idolatry     Idolatry …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Idolatry — I*dol a*try, n.; pl. {Idolatries}. [F. idol[^a]trie, LL. idolatria, L. idololatria, Fr. Gr. ?; ? idol + ? service.] 1. The worship of idols, images, or anything which is not God; the worship of false gods. [1913 Webster] His eye surveyed the dark …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • idolatry — index laudation Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • idolatry — (n.) mid 13c., from O.Fr. idolatrie, from V.L. idolatria, shortened from L.L. idololatria (Tertullian), from Eccles. Gk. eidololatria worship of idols, from eidolon image (see IDOL (Cf. idol)) + latreia worship, service (see LATRY (Cf. latry)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • idolatry — ► NOUN 1) worship of idols. 2) adulation. DERIVATIVES idolater noun idolatrous adjective. ORIGIN from Greek eid lon idol + latreia worship …   English terms dictionary

  • idolatry — [ī däl′ə trē] n. pl. idolatries [ME idolatrie < OFr < LL(Ec) idolatria < Gr(N.T.) eidōlolatreia: see IDOLATER] 1. worship of idols 2. excessive devotion to or reverence for some person or thing …   English World dictionary

  • Idolatry — The Adoration of the Golden Calf by Nicolas Poussin. Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god,[1] or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard… …   Wikipedia

  • IDOLATRY — Greek eidōlon originally meant image or fantasy. By the time of the Septuagint the term was used for images of gods. Idolatry is literally image worship. To grasp the character of image worship in biblical literature one must first realize that… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Idolatry —    Image worship or divine honour paid to any created object. Paul describes the origin of idolatry in Rom. 1:21 25: men forsook God, and sank into ignorance and moral corruption (1:28).    The forms of idolatry are,    1) Fetishism, or the… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • idolatry — /uy dol euh tree/, n., pl. idolatries. 1. the religious worship of idols. 2. excessive or blind adoration, reverence, devotion, etc. [1200 50; ME idolatrie < ML idolatria, by haplology from LL idololatria Gk (NT) eidololatreía. See IDOL LATRY]… …   Universalium

  • Idolatry — (Roget s Thesaurus) < N PARAG:Idolatry >N GRP: N 1 Sgm: N 1 idolatry idolatry idolism Sgm: N 1 demonism demonism demonolatry Sgm: N 1 idol worship idol worship demon worship devil worship fire worship Sgm: N 1 zoolatry …   English dictionary for students

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