STO. NIÑO - IS IT BIBLICAL?
b y : J o s e F r a n c i s M a r t i n e z
"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy
and empty deception, according to the tradition of men,
according to the elementary principles of the world,
rather than according to Christ."
NE PROMINENT feature of a religion in the Philippines is
the veneration of the Sto. Niño. Although many are
questioning its practice, different people use different
arguments to justify it.
In the text that heads, the Holy Spirit, through the
Apostle, commands us to be very careful of deceptive
arguments that are according to the traditions of men
rather than according to Christ. And elsewhere, we are
commanded to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to
that which is good; abstain from every form of evil"
[1 Thes 5:21,22]. In addition, Jesus said, "And if the
blind leads the blind, both will fall into a pit.
A typical image
of the Sto.Niño
The following common are arguments used to justify the
veneration and worship of the Sto. Niño:
The sin of idolatry has exclusively to do with the
worship of other gods. But the image of the Sto. Niño
is a representation of Jesus who is God. Therefore,
the worship of the Sto. Niño is not idolatry.
In response to this argument, there are
two things to consider:
1. To say that the image of the Sto Niño represents Jesus
is devious or dishonest.
For does anyone really believe that Jesus who rose
from the grave and ascended into heaven is accurately
represented by the image of the Sto. Niño? Jesus, now in
heaven, is a grown up man! So how can the image
represent the Lord Jesus?
Furthermore, if the image is a representation of Jesus
why then are there many different kinds of Sto. Niño.
There is chinese-looking Sto Niño called the, "Sto Niño
de Chino" Another is a patron of the brown race called
"Sto Niño de Nigro del Mundo." There is also a European
- looking Sto Niño dressed like a member of an 18th
century French cavalier regiment. There is also a Sto.
Niño who is a boy fisherman with a fish in his hand. He
is also represented as a boy shepherd; a boy shoe maker;
a boy emperor; and a host of many others. So which of
these represent the Lord Jesus?
In addition, if the image is just a representation of
Jesus, then why do people give greater honor to one image
above the other? Everybody knowns that the Sto. Niño on
the dash board of many a jeepney is given very little
care and attention. But others are greatly revered.
2.To say that idolatry has to do exclusively with
the worship of other gods is also empty
deception. The bible makes it clear that even
making & using representation of God is idolatry!
This is clear in the 10 Commandments God gave at Mount
Sinai. The first commandment forbids the worship of any
other gods - "You shall have no other gods before Me".
[Exodus 20:3]. But coming right after that, is the second
commandment which may have omitted. And that commandment
forbids making or using representations in the worship of
God. "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any
likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth
beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not
worship them or serve them; for I am the Lord your God,
am a jealous God" [Exo. 20:4&5a].
The plain meaning of this commandment is confirmed in
God's admonitions to the nation of Israel prior to
their entrance to the land of Canaan. God said through
Moses, "Watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see
any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from
the midst of the fire" [Deut.4:15]. Now why did God not
appear to them in any form? Because God was afraid of
something the people might do. Thus, God further said
through Moses, "lest you act corruptly and make a graven
image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness
of male or female, the likeness of any animal
that is on the earth, the likeness of any bird that flies
in the sky, the likeness of anything that creeps on the
ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water
below the earth"[Deut 4:16-18]. God knew that the people
had that sinful tendency to make representations of Him
in violation of His second commandment. Therefore, the
Lord will not appear to them in any form.
Furthermore, the violation of this commandment is
clearly illustrated in the sin of the Israelites by
making a golden calf. Why did the people make a golden
calf? Not that they might worship other gods. But they
wanted a representation of God! This is clear in Exodus
32. After making the golden calf, Aaron said, "This is
your god, O Israel - who brought you out from the land of
Egypt"[Ex.32:4]. In other words, that image was intended
to represent God who brought the people out of Egypt with
signs and wonders. In addition, Aaron said to the people
after the golden calf was finished, "Tomorrow shall be a
feast to the Lord" [Ex.32:5]. The celebration the people
made was intended for the Lord.
How did God react to this? The Lord said to Moses, "Go
down at once, for your people, whom you brought out from
the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have
quickly turned aside from the way I commanded them. They
have made for themselves a molten calf, & have worshipped
it" [Exo 32:7&8]. Moreover, God said, "I have seen this
people, & behold, they are an obstinate people"[Ex.32:9].
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Therefore, even to make representations of God is
idolatry. It is a sin against the Lord. "But what about
the brazen serpent that God commanded the people to make
in the wilderness?" First, it must be emphasized that
the brazen serpent was not a representation of God.
Moreover, what happened to that brazen serpent? We read
in the scriptures, "He," King Hezekiah, "did what was right
in the sight of the Lord, according to what his father
David had done. He removed the high places & broke down
the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah (w/c were the
common paraphernalia of idolatrous worship). He also
broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses made, for
until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it"
[1 Kng 18:3&4]. That bronze serpent was never made to be
a representation of God, nor was it ever intended to
become an object to be worshipped. Thus, by destroying
it, King Hezekiah did what was right in the sight of the
But what about the 'Ark of the Covenant' God commanded
Moses to make in the wilderness? First, it needs to be
stressed that there was no representation of God in the
Ark of the Covenant. There were 2 cherubims covering the
"mercy seat." But there was no representation of God in
it (please read Ex. 25:10-22). In addition, that ark was
never to be seen by the people. It is always to be
covered. For anyone who would look at it would die! (Pls.
read Num 4:5,6; 1 Sam 6:19). Therefore, to use the Ark
of the Covenant as a way to justify the use of
representations of God is a desperate effort to try to
find support in the Bible for a practice God condemns.
So the use of the image of Sto. Niño is nothing but
sheer idolatry. It is a gross violation of God's command
ment. It is displeasing to God & stirs up His holy anger!
All miracles come from God. And the Sto. Niño is known
to perform miracles. Therefore, the Sto Niño is God -
1. It is claimed that pagan idols perform miracles.
That is why they are venerated. So there is nothing
peculiar different about the Sto. Niño from those pagan
2. The supposed miracles of the Sto. Niño do not fit
the biblical characteristics of a miracle. For one thing,
they are trivial and are not undeniably convincing.
Biblical miracles are of such that they could not be
denied to be real miracles even by sceptics and critics.
Thus even those who vehemently opposed Jesus Christ could
not deny the factuality of the miracles He performed. We
read in John 11:47, 48 what the Pharisees and the chief
priest in a council said, "What are we doing? For this
Man (Jesus Christ) is performing many signs. If we let
Him go on like this, all men will believe Him, and the
Romans will come and take away both our place and our
3. The Bible clearly teaches that God allows
counterfeit miracles to occur in judgment on those who
refuse to believe the truth God has revealed. The Holy
Spirit, through Paul, speaking of the Anti-Christ, says,
"that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the
activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false
wonders, & with all the deception of wickedness for those
who perish, because they did not receive the love of the
truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will
send them a deluding influence so that they all may be
judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure
in wickedness." (2 Thess. 2:9-11).
The use of the image of the Sto Niño only serves as a
gradual transition from paganism to Christianity. It
serves only as a link or bridge.
When the Spaniards came, they found the Filipinos
wedded to pagan practices. Therefore, they could not
just introduce Christianity righ away. A link was needed
and since the Filipinos were already worshipping 'anito'
gods, the Sto Niño served as a convenient link or bridge.
In response to this argument often used by the
educated, there are three things to examine:
1. If the practice serves only as a link, then why
are there no efforts being made to get rid of the
practice? Everybody knows that in Cebu, it is being
zealously promoted yearly through the "sinulog"
celebrations. And the "(Roman Catholic) priests" do not preach
against the practice. They encourage the people to be
zealous for it.
|Santo Niño de Atocha|
2. It must be understood that the end never justify
the means. No matter how good and noble the end we have
in view, we are never at liberty to use any means which
is clear violation of God's commandments. Never! Those
who justify the use of the image on the grounds of that
the end justifies are saying that they are wiser than
God! They are saying that somehow God is wrong in
forbiding the use of imgaes because it is the most
convenient link between paganism and Christianity.
3. The method of approach used by the Apostles in
evangelizing pagan societies was entirely different from
the method used by the Spaniards. A careful reading of
the New Testament clearly proves this. Please read: Acts
14:8-18; 17:16-31; 19:23-41; 1 Thes. 1:9,10.
The devotion to the image of the Sto Niño particularly
during its annual festival is a great boost to the
It greatly helps the government's efforts to boost
tourism. Besides, it helps vendors make a living by
selling these images. So, why make a fuss about it?
Now what about this argument?
Well, no doubt that the devotion to the Sto. Niño does
help economically. But how does God view those who make
religion as a means of material gain? God abominates it.
He hates it.
This is clear in the two episodes where the Lord Jesus
cleanced the temple in Jerusalem - that temple which was
part of the Old Covenant worship. We read, "And Jesus
entered the temple and cast out all those who were buying
and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of
the money changers and the seat of those who were selling
doves." [Mt.21:12]. Please read also John 2:13-17.
The image of the Sto. Niño is a matter of national
identity and pride.
It makes Christianity in the Philippines distinctively
Filipino. If we do away with it, then we destroy our
cultural identity. But what does Scriptures say about
this argument? Proverbs 14:13 reads, "Righteousness
exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people."
The use of the image is not a matter of pride but of
Besides, the Scriptures tell us of the frightening
consequence of those who practice idolatry. God in wrath
will abandon any nation which practices idolatry - sexual
uncleanness, sexual perversity, and callousness of heart.
Please read Romans 1:18-32.
My dear reader, if you agree with
those who approve of
the use of the image of the Sto Niño & even go along with
it, then you've been carried away by vain philosophy and
empty deception. This practice is sin against God
Almighty. And I urge you to repent of it and turn to the
risen Christ for salvation. For those who continue in
this practice will be cast into the lake of fire. As Rev
21:8 puts it, "but for the cowardly and unbelieving and
abominable and murderers and immoral persons and
socerrers and idolaters and all liars, their part will
be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which
is the second death."
But if you are one who is a true disciple of Christ, a
true christian, then stay away from festivities in honor
of the Sto. Niño. As we are exhorted in 1 Cor. 10:14,
"Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry". Let us never
soften our stand against this abominable practice, but
let us be bold to declare to the people their sins.
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