whom you worship without knowing,
is the one I’m telling you about.
He is the God
who made the world
and everything in it.
Since he is Lord of heaven and earth,
he doesn’t live in man-made temples,
and human hands can’t serve his needs
for he has no needs.
This Unknown God you worship but don’t know His name or nature, this God made the [kosmos]. The majority of translations opt for “world”. The statement “God made the world” would make most of us think of the earth, the globe on which we live: Our world. But the word Paul uses here is the word kosmos. The cosmos to the Greek meant far more than the earth. Other translations use the word universe to capture the enormity of what Paul meant. The idea is the world, the globe or earth on which we live but included in that is its surrounding atmosphere and system which enables it to operate and sustain life. Wider still is the cosmos and the facts we know about the cosmology of the universe and its nature in this day and age. We are talking about the world and its system. Or as the Greeks conceived of it back then, the earth and the stars and planets that were observable to the naked eye. This was at a time when there was not yet a Galileo or other innovators to determine the expanse of the heavens. The sense of the philosophers at the time Paul said these words, those who were keen to debate God and the cosmos was the immediate observable world system beyond which was infinity and nothingness.
My resource for digging into the depths of meaning of what Paul is saying and what his audience were hearing or thinking is Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. I have thirty pages of discussion before me as to what it meant to Paul and the Greek philosophers at the time. The sense above all was the system which lay behind the observable world. To the Greek the kosmos was the world system – both in terms of the natural world and in terms of human affairs and how it all worked. We might say now, including the worldly system. For the Greeks, while cosmology (the study of the workings of the universe) hadn’t discovered what we know now, they were aware it was a regulated system. It is this system of order suitable for life on earth that Paul is alluding to.
I have given you a link to something posted on YouTube that astounds me and would have rocked the world of the Greek philosophers back in Paul’s day had they seen it.
The Greek philosophers Paul was speaking to clearly had no idea of an expanding universe of these dimensions neither were they aware of the microscope world which matched the cosmic world of time and space. But their discussions centered around all of this though. The ordered-regular-planned-like-clockwork universe. Paul made that clear when he added, “This God . . . who made the world and everything in it, since he is Lord of heaven and earth.” You could read “heaven and earth” or “the heavens and the earth”. The notion back then was of a multi-layered heaven, hence Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:4. The educated world back then perceived of an ordered world; they didn’t know the scale and immensity of the orderliness of the universe.
For Paul, this is the God who spoke the world and the universe into being by the words of His mouth. Paul began with the concept of the one God who had made the cosmos. This God was in opposition to the idolatry of the Greek gods. Paul was not talking about one god among many. Paul was referring to the One True God of the Hebrew people. This God didn’t dwell on earth in man-made temples, nor was He dependent on humans appeasing Him nor feeding Him. He doesn’t reside in a sanctuary or idol house which is man-made. Neither does He require feeding or nourishing by the offerings left for the Greek gods. My mind turns in seeking a parallel to my experience of the Hindu gods and the little woven offering trays put out to appease and feed the gods in Bali. That was the notion that lay behind the Greek gods and certainly lay at the heart of Stoics and the Epicureans.
Paul is attempting to expand the universe of his hearers to counter the philosophies of the day and to introduce them to the one true God who made the heavens and the earth. If only I could send Paul the link to the expanding universe on What’s App, but I can’t. I think it might have helped him to explain. What Paul was doing was combining the common ground in the philosophies of the Stoics who said that God was the source of all life and the Epicureans who said God needs nothing from man and cannot be served by man. Oh you have got that right people, let me tell you about it.
I wonder if Paul took them over to Isaiah 44:9-20 to tell them of the difference between This God and the gods the Greeks followed. I know he didn’t pull out the scrolls to show them because he would not have carried the Isaiah scroll with him. But he didn’t need to because he likely had it memorized. O how I would have loved to have been there when Paul explained all this to the member of Areopagus.
Now to return to the question I left you with from the previous Gem – how is it that we have the words of Paul’s speech recorded for us? I believe we don’t have all of it. I think what we have is a summary of how Paul went about convincing the Areopagus. In terms of the words Luke wrote for us I am sure he got them from Paul himself who remembered what he said in summary form and told Luke in the times they shared together when Luke was writing his book. After all we are dealing with an oral tradition which is far more capable of remembering large chunks of text or spoken words than we given them credit for.
The biblical term “fear of God” doesn’t mean dread causing us to shrink away from Him, but awed respect drawing us toward Him.Ian Vail
The nature of cosmos and the world God created with His spoken word should make us stand in awe-struck wonder.Ian Vail
God’s love for humanity was written on the body of Jesus.Deron Spoo
God’s love for all people is greater than our hatred for even our worst enemies.Deron Spoo
You can’t give God anything He doesn’t already have; in short, He has made and given everything to you.Ian Vail