Question: Does Acts 17:24-25 teach that the idea of temple worship is foreign to Christianity?

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Question: Does Acts 17:24-25 teach that the idea of temple worship is foreign to Christianity?

Christians continued to honor, revere, and worship at the Jerusalem temple

It is claimed that Acts 17:24-25 teaches that the idea of temple worship is foreign to Christianity, [1] when Paul says:

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.

Christians continued to honor, revere, and worship at the Jerusalem temple. Paul's remarks about temples "made with hands" were designed to counter the pagan idea that god(s) could only be worshiped in temples, and that they were confined to such man-made structures.

In the scripture cited above, Paul is addressing Greeks (the Athenians) and their temple "to an unknown god". Paul's point is that God does not swell solely in a physical object, like the temple of Athena at Athens (see Acts 7:48). This is not to say that there is no temple where the true God can be worshiped—Paul respected the temple and even underwent ritual purification after one of his missionary journeys (REF). The early Christians also continued to show great reverence to the Jerusalem temple. Rather, Paul argued that God is the God of the whole world and can be worshiped at all times and at all places.

An analysis of the Greek text also supports this view, since the term, "made with hands" likely refers to idolatrous worship.

The expression "made with hands" is defined as follows: in

4654 χειροποίητος
χειροποίητος,
“made by hands,” in the [Septuagint] applied only to idols, but in the NT used of material temples (Acts 7:48, 17:24): cf. Orac. Sib. xiv. 62 ναῶν ἱδρύματα χειροποιήτων. In the travel-letter, P Lond 8544 (i/ii A.D.) (=111. p. 205, Selections, p. 70), the writer remarks that many go by ship ἵνα τὰς χει]ropοι]ήτους τέ]χνας ἱστορήσωσι, “in order that they may visit works of art made by hands,” on the banks of the Nile. [2]

The term appears, in the same form, in Acts 7:48:

ἀλλ᾽ οὐχ ὁ ὕψιστος ἐν χειροποιήτοις κατοικεῖ, καθὼς ὁ προφήτης λέγει· (BGT)

The NRSV reads:

Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says, (Act 7:48 NRS)


Notes

  1. "Dr." James White, "Temples Made With Hands," e-tract. off-site
  2. G. Milligan and J.H. Moulton, Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Baker Academic, 1995), 687. ISBN 978-0801047206.