Early Rabbinic sources have a very ‘hard line’ against all kinds of images, or pictorial representations on coins, or whatever other form. Not only for using them in gross idolatry, through aids in worship, but in various seemingly legitimate activities. This is why even the possession of a coin, for example, with Caesars image on it, could constitute idolatry. In this case the image was idolatrous as the coin has an inscription that identified Caesar as God. This may have partly underpinned the dilemma over paying taxes to Caesar. Not only did the tribute to Rome offend the Zealots, but even the conflict of conscience over the coins themselves may have attributed to the ‘tricky question’ asked of Jesus: “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Jesus avoided the tricky question by saying:
“You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” 21“Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. (Matthew 22: 18-21)
In trying to control the sin of idolatry, by uses of images, they made distinctions over ‘having such pictorial representations’, buying/selling them fro profit’, ‘making them’ or ‘finding them’. (Alfred Edersheim, ‘Rabbinic Views as To The Lawfulness Of Images, Pictorial Representations On Coins, Etc.’)
Although there was a ‘hard line view’ about all representations of human beings, the Talmud seems to allow representations of human beings for ornament under certain conditions. However the Mishnah forbids any image of a person that carries “in their hand some symbol of power, such as a staff, bird, globe, or as the Talmud adds, a sword, or even a signet-ring”. (The Talmudic Tractate Abhodah Zorah, on Idolatry. 3. 1).
We can really understand the idea of ‘pictorial power’ being hotly opposed by any Jew. ‘Any image’, that ‘in any way’ indicated that’ any man’ could be somehow ‘elevated’ into ‘any kind of worship’ -- was gross idolatry and could result in stoning. For example: “the law as regarded signet-rings, that it was forbidden to have raised work on them, and only such figures were allowed as were sunk beneath the surface, although even then they were not to be used for sealing”. (The Talmudic Tractate Abhodah Zorah, on Idolatry. 43 b).
Given this very scrupulous way that the Jews avoided all kinds of images and icons, it seems obvious that using icons and images to help them worship would never be allowed unless the second commandment were to be removed:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or 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. (Exodus 20:4)