Paul, Athens, and Isaiah 45

Figured Out: Typology and Providence in Christian ScriptureThough Christopher Seitz’s work isn’t always the easiest reading, it is often worth the effort.  Here’s a section on his essay that deals with the biblical phrase found in the Nicene Creed: “Maker of heaven and earth.”

“To be sure, among the many, many gods Paul was sickened by seeing at Athens, one was likely in charge of one realm, heaven, and another, earth, and so his statement was canceling out some false and idolatrous things.  But his was not a statement about the character of creation as an independent matter that the Athenians were in the dark about (which they were) and needed to be corrected about (which they did).  In the first instance, Paul was stipulating that the Lord of heaven and earth was not the summation of all the other gods (a high God) or an alternative with a more compelling account of creation (a better god) but an unknown and unknowable God, without his own speaking or sending, without his own self-declaration.”

“Paul was virtually enacting the logic of Isaiah 45 at Athens.  Isaiah reads, ‘They [the nations] shall come to you…saying, ‘God is with you only; and there is no other. Truly thou are a God who hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior’ (45:14-15).  Paul announces, ‘What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you’ (17:23), filling Isaiah’s promise to the fullest measure.”

“[Paul was] asserting that the maker of heaven and earth is the sole Lord – is the LORD who brought Israel out of Egypt – is the Lord who has appointed one to judge the earth.”

These quotes are taken from chapter 13 of Seitz’s Figured Out: Typology and Providence in Christian Scripture.

shane lems

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