Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

Andra VS Elohim

ImageRecently I have been listening to Dr. Donald Kagan’s lectures on Ancient Greek history. Kagan is a professor at Yale University, and his university course is available both in audio and video on the internet.

In his lectures, he often references the similarities and differences between ancient Greek culture, and the Judeo/Christian ethic, both of which have been extremely influential to modern western culture.

From the Greeks we received democracy as a viable form of government. As a culture, their contributions to the world in the realms of philosophy, literature, language and literature are well documented. The Greek culture, though pervaded by their mythology, was nevertheless a very secular society. In other words, while they recognized and worshiped the gods of their mythology, they considered those gods to be only tangentially involved in their lives. As such, they trumpeted the potential and accomplishments of man. The gods were not the center of Greek culture; man was.

This, of course, stands in stark contrast to the teaching of our Bible. It is not surprising that the apostle Paul, in his address to the Athenians in Acts 17, would affirm that “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (vs. 24-25). The Greek gods were dependent upon man. The “unknown God” Paul asserts, was not.

To illustrate the point, Dr. Kagan used the first lines of the poet Homer’s two epic works, The Iliad, and The Odyssey (ca. 8th century B.C.), and compared them to the first lines of the Hebrew Bible.

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.

~ The Odyssey

Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles…

~ The Iliad

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

~ Genesis 1:1-5

In Homer’s works, the emphasis was on man. In The Odyssey, Odysseus; in The Iliad, Achilles. Though men interacted with the gods the poems were epics about the exploits and triumphs, the tragedy and ethos of men. Note especially the call of the muse to “Sing to me of the man.” (Greek word, andra). To the greek, it was all about “the man.”

In contrast, the Genesis account emphasizes ElohimGod. (The Greek Septuagint translation uses the term theos). God created the universe. God created man. God is worthy of worship by man. As the Psalmist sang, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” (8:3-4).

Kagan argues that the emphasis on man is more profitable for the development of society, and the quality of life on earth. The Bible denies this, showing that the foolishness of men leads to “a debased mind”, and the characteristic moral failings typical of the Greek/Roman world of the first century (cf. Romans 1:18-32).

In the end, the argument is irrelevant. What is important is not this life; it is, rather, the life to come! As such, God must be the focus. The wise man of Ecclesiastes knew this well: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” (12:13-14).