Christ is risen!
Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 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. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ (Acts 17:22-28)
When St Paul is in Athens at the Areopagus, he sees polytheism all around him, and perhaps uncharacteristically for Paul, takes a moment to praise the pagans of Athens for their religiosity in honoring so many gods, even dedicating a temple to the Unknown God. Paul takes this temple as an opportunity to proclaim the God of Israel as the one Creator God of the universe – the God who the Greeks think of as The Unknown God. He tells the pagans that God is not unknown but has revealed Himself to the world through Israel and through Jesus the Messiah.
St Irenaeus of Lyons, writing in the 2nd Century, comments on what the God of Israel and St Paul has revealed about Himself to us as the Creator of all that exists:
… all things are God’s: and therefore God is the Almighty and everything is from God. . . . it is demonstrated [that there is] One God, the Father, uncreated, invisible, Creator of all, above whom there is no other God, and after whom there is no other God. And as God is verbal (logikos), therefore He made created things by the Word; and God is Spirit, so that He adorned all things by the Spirit, as the Prophet also says, ‘By the Word of the Lord, were the heavens established, and all their power by His Spirit’ (Ps 32:6). Thus, since the Word ‘establishes’, that is, works bodily and confers existence, while the Spirit arranges and forms the various powers, so rightly is the Son called Word and the Spirit the wisdom of God. Hence, His apostle Paul also well says, ‘One God, the Father, who is above all, and through all and in us all’ (Eph 4:6). (ON THE APOSTOLIC PREACHING, pp 42-43)
St Ephrem of Syria, writing in the 4th Century, proclaims that God’s revelation can be discovered through the Holy Scriptures. As biblical scholar Sidney Griffith puts it: “For just as in the Son, God clothed himself in flesh, in the scriptures, one might say, God clothed himself in human words.” She goes on to quote Ephrem who describes God’s revelation in the Scriptures this way:
Let us give thanks to God who clothed himself in the names of the body’s various parts:
Scripture refers to His ‘ears,’ to teach us that He listens to us;
it speaks of his ‘eyes,’ to show that He sees us.
It was just the names of such things that He put on,
and, although in His true being there is not wrath or regret,
yet He put on these names too because of our weakness.
We should realize that had He not put on the names
of such things, it would not have been possible for Him
to speak with us humans. By means of what belongs to us, did He draw close to us:
He clothed Himself in our language, so that He might clothe us
in his mode of life. (‘FAITH ADORING MYSTERY: READING THE BIBLE WITH ST EPHREM THE SYRIAN, pp 23-24)
The ineffable, indescribable God reveals Himself in terms which we can experience and understand: the Word became flesh in the God-man Jesus of Nazareth. Thus God has made it possible for us to enter into a relationship with Him and to be united to Him bringing an end to all that separates materiality from spirituality, heaven from earth, the living from the dead, divinity from humanity, Creator from creation. What the pagans thought was unknown has been fully revealed in Jesus Christ.