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Meaning of Idolatry

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by John of Japan, Jan 26, 2006.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Okay, HankD, this is a good passage. It covers the "physical manifestation" part, the part that I've been emphasizing all along. And it is also very clear about the physical bowing down part, which I have also emphasized all along.

    What I'm wondering about the definition is, where does the priorities part come in, the part where just because someone puts something before God, that thing becomes his idol, even if he never bows down to it or worships it.

    As far as the "serving" part goes, yes of course. I have often seen people serving idols. I tried to witness to a Shinto priest one time while he was sprinkling his holy water around his shrine--no go. (Hmm, kind of like the Catholics!)

    So tell me, if a guy has an idol per his spiritual priorities, like you are saying, how is it that he serves it?
     
  2. RayMarshall19

    RayMarshall19 New Member

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    I don't know if you were responding to me, but the word Paul used in Collosians 3:5 for idolatry (Strong's #1495) is a combination of #2999 (service or worship) and #1497 (idol). In the definition my Greek dictionary gives for #1497 there is no mention of ANYTHING except an actual, literal idol.

    I found the following at www.etymonline:

    Idolatry: c.1250, from O.Fr. idolatrie, shortened from L.L. idololatria (Tertullian), from Gk. eidololatria "worship of idols," from eidolon "image" + latreia "worship, service."

    It is clear to me that the original meaning, both in Greek and in English, was the literal worship of and idol or idols. The use of the figurative sense in a literal manner came later.

    So, I still don't see anything in the original scripture to indicate that Paul's use of "idolotry" in Col. 3:5 was intended to be figurative.
     
  3. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Well said, Ray. [​IMG]
     
  4. HankD

    HankD Well-Known Member
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    One can make an "idol" out of anything (but you knew that [​IMG] )

    Even a "good" or neutral thing. Remember the serpent of brass (Nehushtan) Moses made?
    Well later the Israelites began to worship it.

    I suppose one could take an inventory of all one's time, energy and resources and then compare it to those whose object is the Lord.

    That might be telling as to where our money and service goes and their priorities.

    HankD
     
  5. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Okay, HankD, now you've gone to preaching. :eek: You're getting too close to home, here. I may have to repent or something. :confused:
     
  6. Marcia

    Marcia Active Member

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    John of Japan, you raise an interesting point, one which I've wondered about for some time.

    What do you think of 1 Jn. 5.21, "Little children, guard yourselves from idols."????

    I always hear people in church saying nowadays this can be applied to things like money, work, etc. but I was never sure of that.

    Do you think John meant the real stone or carved idols and do you think that is still the application for us today?
     
  7. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Yes, Marcia, I take this verse as referring to literal, physical idols. A. T. Robertson agrees and says it better than I could: "The active voice phulassete with the reflexive accents the need of effort on their part. Idolatry was everywhere and the peril was great."

    Here are literal cases in my church where I have to be aware: one family lives with Grandpa and Grandma, who has a "Butsudan" (Buddhist idol shelf), and has made the kids worship at it in the past. Another believer is the eldest son and will be expected to take the family altar when his parents die. (This one is a very common problem.) Kids in junior high usually go on a trip to a Buddhist temple or a Shinto shrine for "cultural reasons," but all the kids will be worshipping.

    I remember a sweet little junior high girl named Miki who got saved through my tract in Yokohama. She began corresponding with me, but was afraid to come to church because of persecution from her family. My tracts, though, clearly state that a Christian should not worship idols. Praise the Lord, she got the victory on Jan. 1, when during "first worship" time many people go to a shrine or temple to worship idols. She did not even walk through the "torii" gate (that neat Japanese-style gate), because to a Shinto believer just walking through it is a prayer!

    As you know perhaps better than anyone on the BB, Marcia, real idols are getting more and more common in America. Surely American pastors and other church workers should pay attention to 1 John 5:21, amen?
     
  8. HankD

    HankD Well-Known Member
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    You won't be alone. I felt a twinge myself.

    HankD
     
  9. Marcia

    Marcia Active Member

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    Thanks for your input, John of Japan.

    Do you mean idols in the sense of what they are in Japan are getting more common in the US because there are so many non-Christian religions growing here?

    The idols thing is not that alien to me because as a non-Christian, I used to go to a Hare Krishna place in Atlanta where they served vegetarian meals for anyone on Sunday nights. The food had first been offered up to Krishna, and there was a big statue of him right there where we ate, adorned with flowers, and with bowls of fruit at his feet.

    Also, just a few months ago, a friend and I were in Barnes & Noble, and we noticed a little book on Kali (a Hindu goddess who is pretty fierce). It contained a small statue of Kali and instructions on how to set up an altar and pray to her! This was not for Hindus, but clearly for Westerners.
     
  10. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Yes, that's exactly what I mean. Also, it is arguable that Allah is a false god and that worshipping him is idolatry.

    Hinduism is such an appalling religion in its moral bankruptcy. It's sad to hear of the book you mentioned--and I'm sure many Americans will read it and think that Kali is a wonderful "spiritual" being. :eek: [​IMG]

    Gotta run. In addition to all the idol temples in our town, we also have a Starbucks in our new mall! My best friend/wife are headed out for a little R & R.

    God bless. [​IMG]
     
  11. Craigbythesea

    Craigbythesea Active Member

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    But, can you find a verse to refute it? You should not build a doctrine upon one verse, but one verse can build up a doctrine.

    As someone else stated, the graven image is simply a physical manifestation of that which is put before God. That does not refute the idea that covetousness is idolatry. (There are manifestations of this covetousness, as well, but they are not graven images per se.)
    </font>[/QUOTE]There has to be a doctrine in existence from other passages before a verse can be used to build it up.

    Here is the Greek for Col. 3:5--"thn pleonexian htiV estin eidwlolatreia." (Sorry, I don't know how to make a Greek font work on the BB.) Not that there is an article before "covetousness." However, the other words in the list (fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence) do not have articles, meaning there is something important about "covetousness." Note a literal translation: "the covetousness which is idolatry." In other words, there is a covetousness which is NOT idolatry. Covetousness is not, per se, idolatry, but can rise (sink!) to the level of idolatry.

    I saw this once on a Japanese documentary about a man who did seminars on how to get rich. He painted a coke can gold, put it in the middle of the floor, and crawled to it saying, "Gold. Gold! GOLD!!!" Now I'll certainly classify that as idolatry, since he was bowing down to money and making it that which ruled him. [​IMG]
    </font>[/QUOTE]Paul is not building any doctrine—he is stating a simple fact: “Covetousness is idolatry.” And Paul is not stating anything new—he is simply stating what has already been taught by several Jewish writers who preceded him. See, for example, The Testament of Judah, 19:1).

    As for Paul’s use of the definite article Col. 3:5, it is a stretch of the imagination to say that it means that “there is a covetousness which is NOT idolatry.” Blass and Debrunner write in their Greek Grammar that the addition in Col 3:5 of the relative clause, ἥτις ἐστὶν εἰδωλολατρία, “occasions the use of the definite article by making the preceding noun definite; this use may be called kataphora, i.e. reference forward to a subject adjunct; cf. A 19:3, 26:27, 2 C 8:18.” Peter T. O’Brian (Word Biblical Commentary) and Eduard Lohse (Hermeneia) concur with Blass and Debrunner. They also cite Ancient Jewish writers who expressed in essence what Paul states so clearly and concisely in Col. 3:5.

    The bottom line here is that New Testament scholarship, with few exceptions, holds that Paul’s statement that covetousness is idolatry means exactly what it says, and when one consults scholars of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, one finds them documenting from ancient Jewish sources that the concept of covetousness being idolatry was common among ancient Jews.

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Craigbythesea

    Craigbythesea Active Member

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    RayMarshall19 wrote,

    The compound Greek word ειδωλολατρεία (eidōlolatreia) appears only in the New Testament and later Christian literature and therefore the meaning of the compound word can be found exclusively from its use is Christian literature because, like very many compound Greek words, it meaning is not necessarily the sum of its parts. Rostock Friedrich Büchsel writes in the 10 volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, that this word “denotes a gross sin,” and further writes, “Particularly striking is the equation of πλεονεξίαν and ειδωλολατρεία in Col. 3:5 and Eph. 5:5 Mammon is regarded as an idol in Mt. 6:24; Participation in heathen feasts is ειδωλολατρεία according to 1 Cor. 10:14, 7.”

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Craigbythesea

    Craigbythesea Active Member

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    Eph. 5:5. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (NASB, 1995)

    There is not the very slightest suggestion in this passage that Paul is using the word metaphorically or symbolically.

    It absolutely amazes me that any conservative evangelical Christian would try to find a way to circumvent the fact that covetousness is idolatry just as much as bowing down and whole-heartedly worshiping a statue of Satan himself. The absolute wickedness of covetousness is as wicked as wicked can possibly be. Those who practice this extremely wicked sin shall spend eternity in the fires of hell just as surely as worshipers of Satan himself.

    Phil 4:11. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. (NASB, 1995)

    [​IMG]
     
  14. RayMarshall19

    RayMarshall19 New Member

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    Believe what you want to believe.

    I see nothing in the scripture or etymology to indicate a literal equality between idolatry and other sins.

    Covetousness, etc. are not IDENTICAL TO idolatry. They are EQUIVALENT TO idolatry in that they put something else (like mammon) ahead of God in life's list of priorities.

    If that meets your definition of "literal" that's fine with me.
     
  15. Craigbythesea

    Craigbythesea Active Member

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    I believe the Bible, not just because it is the Bible, but because in this case it is very strongly substantiated by a number of other ancient Jewish writings and the concept of idolatry in the first century church.

    • Col 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (ESV)

    • Eph 5:5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (ESV)

    • Testament of Judah 19:1

    • Writings of the Qumran community: 1QpHab 6:1; 8:11, 12; 1QS 10:19, 11:2, etc.

    I also believe the finest and most learned of the New Testament scholars and authorities of New Testament Greek as referenced and quoted above.

    But not everyone believes the facts; some people choose to believe what they want to believe in spite of the facts, and nothing will persuade them to believe otherwise—and we have a massive host of J.W.’s and Mormons to prove that this is so!

    [​IMG]
     
  16. RayMarshall19

    RayMarshall19 New Member

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    Not all "scholars" agree with your "facts". I don't, either. We have different opinions based on the "facts" as we both know them.

    But I did not stoop to attacks on a personal level as you did in your last two posts. I don't think that's the right thing to do. But that's just my opinion. too.
     
  17. Craigbythesea

    Craigbythesea Active Member

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    RayMarshal9,

    In my last post, I was responding to your words,

    It appeared to me that you were addressing me in that post and suggesting that I believe what I want to believe, and I took that as a highly-offensive personal insult because I NEVER believe ANYTHING ‘because I want to believe it,’ but ONLY because the great preponderance of evidence causes me to believe it. And it seemed to be to be ironical that you would say such a thing to me considering that the great preponderance of evidence supports the interpretation that I believe rather than the interpretation that you choose to believe. Indeed, I have studied this matter in some detail, and I have been unable to find even one New Testament scholar who believes as you do. If you know of any of them, I would very much appreciate it if you could supply their names and quote them so that we might all be informed of the evidence and consider it.

    If the interpretation to which I and very the substantial majority of New Testament scholars hold to is correct, covetousness is idolatry, just as the Bible says that it is, and is, therefore something to be avoided at all cost. And, of course, if the interpretation to which I and the substantial majority of New Testament hold to is correct, the rascally old devil would have a VERY strong motivation to convince others that the interpretation is not correct, and therefore a lesser sin than idolatry, the most horrendous of all sins.

    One of us is posting an incorrect view. Which view do the facts most strongly support?

    Please note that it is not my intention to attack you in any manner whatsoever, but exclusively this one particular interpretation of the Scriptures that you are defending.

    [​IMG]
     
  18. Craigbythesea

    Craigbythesea Active Member

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    RayMarshal19 wrote,

    I find your use of the quotation marks in the above sentence to be highly insulting, not only of me, but of every scholar of the New Testament. And I find your use of the expression, 'your "facts" to be particularly insulting and intellectually dishonest. They are not 'my' facts, but facts, indisputable and objective facts. You may disagree if you choose with my interpretation of the significance of the facts, but the facts remain factual, and in order for ANY interpretation to the correct interpretation, it is NECESSARY that the interpretation be in harmony with ALL of the facts. Unless you can demonstrate that your interpretation is in harmony with ALL of the facts, it must be discarded. Simply posting, 'your "facts," proves nothing at all.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Johnv

    Johnv New Member

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    I concur with you, John of Japan. Greed is greed, not idolatry. In fact, we have called everything from greed to gluttony as idolatry. Doing so results in not only the belittling of genuine idolatry, but also of perverting the Commandment against idolatry.

    Yes, referring to blind or excessive devotion to something as idolatry is fine in the informal use of language, but scriptural idolatry is specific to the worship of images or things that are not God, or in lieu of God.

    Watching 14 hours of TV a day might be idolatrous in the casual sense, but it is not idolatry in the biblical sense. We should not confuse the two, lest we belittle the severity of either.
     
  20. Craigbythesea

    Craigbythesea Active Member

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    Johnv wrote,

    The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians,

    The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians,

    The Testament of Judah 19:1 is in harmony with what Paul wrote, and contradicts what Johnv wrote.

    Writings of the Qumran community: 1QpHab 6:1; 8:11, 12; 1QS 10:19, 11:2, etc., are in harmony with what Paul wrote, and contradict what Johnv wrote.

    The finest and most learned of the New Testament scholars and authorities of New Testament Greek as referenced and quoted above all agree that Paul wrote that covetousness is idolatry. Johnv disagrees with all of them, but agrees with John of Japan.

    :rolleyes: :confused: :eek: :(

    [​IMG]
     
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