I was wondering what instructions, if any, the bible places on the creation of art. I imagine anything that is forbid by the Bible would be disallowed to be put in a piece of art, but I can not seem to find any specific passages about this.

The most obvious example to me is of something that is designed to make the viewer think about something sinful, such as a person in clothes that while cover everything, leave much to the imagination. A drawing depicting the beauty of a person is not inherently wrong, and in the end it's the eye of the beholder that is at fault, yet how much is the artist responsible? Is it only the intent, only the result? both?

3 Answers 3


 A drawing depicting the beauty of a person is not inherently wrong, and in the end it's the eye of the beholder that is at fault, yet how much is the artist responsible? Is it only the intent, only the result? both?

It certainly is not the result. Even a Satanic Bible is just ink. Jesus answered the same kind of question:

“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 15:17-20)

But as we approach intent the Bible assumes each person can discern their own intent. The Bible does not under the New Testament externalize intent under various Laws. In the Old Testament, it was slightly different and the Pharisees added a 'hedge' (extra external laws) around the law to help people figure out how to avoid sin. This is the mentality our Lord opposed.

We can see this principle in action when the Apostle prescribes rules for a woman's dress.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.(1 Peter 3:3-4)

Notice he did not forbid wearing jewelry, or forbid the length of a dress. He just says what their attitude should be. He let's them apply personal rules.

Now regarding lust, a piece of art has not ever tempted me, but a woman curved in the right manner, even clothed by a thick full dress and jacket,  presents more temptation than art.

If under this very tempting subject, the Apostle does not even try to formulate an external rule, why would he ever mention art? Even the Roman amphitheater that Herod built in Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Bible.  This is why you will not find what you are looking for.


Love is the Greatest Commandment

While none of the Biblical authors mention art specifically, they do offer some guidance in regards to the use of our freedom.

1 Corinthians 8:13 (NASB)
Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.

Paul's statement (probably) employs hyperbole, but the point is that nothing else—art implicitly included—is nearly as important as our brothers (and sisters).

We have some obligation to help our brothers and sisters (in Christ, at least, but even in a greater sense, everyone made in God's image), and that includes not ignoring their weaknesses.

The artists himself is obliged to put some thought into how his creation will be experienced. It would be impossible to know every possible use, but certainly he could take into account some common points of view (including typical healthy males, who are motivated visually; perhaps even people recovering or in the throes of personal problems with pornography). The extent to which you try to "please everyone" in this regard is not explicitly prescribed, but take note of Paul's example: if he can avoid causing people to stumble (needlessly), he'll do it. I'm sure there are lengths to which he wouldn't go, either, but those precise details are a matter of conscience, and you should listen to your own, because it is for your own heart and actions that you will have to give an account to God. Be prepared, too, to do something if someone tells you that your creation is having an undesired effect.

Moreover, don't just avoid "bad things," but actively seek after good things. Such intrinsically good things will give a purpose to the creation and usually offset or negate potential bad things (as small elements of the populous might perceive them) because it will give your work an overarching purpose whose goal is to draw people closer to God.

Philippians 4:8 (NASB)
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

  • +1. I wish I'd gone further and included those verses in my own answer. They address the "open the door to anything" problem at the end of it. Jun 26, 2012 at 12:31

Scripture doesn't address this directly. The closest relevant verses I can think of are:

Psalm 101:3 (KJV) I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

This would be an example of a (good) decision to not regard (or even look at) certain things. Things that would be depictions of sinful behavior.

This could be as obvious as watching pornography, or stretched as far as a personal conviction would take it. I may think that WWE Wrestling (does that even exist any more?) is sinful because of the violent behavior, or Betty Boop because she shows so much cartoon skin. that doesn't mean that you would necessarily agree with me. (And I don't. Those are just silly examples to illustrate the point.)

Matthew 5:28 (KJV) But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

This would seem to me to apply in the case of pornography. The point of that type of material is to incite lust. But where is the line on what is art and what is not? This doesn't address your question, either. What I find artistic, you may find lascivious, or vice-versa.

In the end, that comes down to a personal conviction. Unfortunately, there isn't a clear line. Society, cultural norms, our own background, and our own mental (and possibly genetic) makeup all determine what we find to be beautiful in an artistic sense, and what we find exciting, and arousing in a non-artistic sense.

The same can be said for other forms of art. Music, for example. Does Heavy Metal incite aggression, or does it give that extra bit of energy when working out? Theatre, literature, every form of art is different experientially for the consumer, and we may not get from it what the artist intended.

In the end, perhaps the most relevant verse is:

Romans 14:14 (KJV) I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

Whether or not something is artistic or sinful is in the eye of the beholder (believer).

I hate that answer, by the way, because it opens the door to anything being acceptable. I don't think that's what's meant. I believe that we do need to rely on Scriptural guidance, the leading of the holy Spirit, and our conscience (assuming we haven't seared our conscience).

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