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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 13

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1 WHAT born fools were all who lived in ignorance of God! From the good things before their eyes they could not learn to know him who is, and failed to recognize the artificer though they observed his handiwork! 2Fire, wind, swift air, the circle of the starry signs, rushing water, or the great lights in heaven that rule the world — these they accounted gods. 3If it was through delight in the beauty of these things that people supposed them gods, they ought to have understood how much better is the Lord and Master of them all; for it was by the prime author of all beauty they were created. 4If it was through astonishment at their power and influence, people should have learnt from these how much more powerful is he who made them. 5For the greatness and beauty of created things give us a corresponding idea of their Creator. 6Yet these people are not greatly to be blamed, for when they go astray they may be seeking God and really wishing to find him. 7Passing their lives among his works and making a close study of them, they are persuaded by appearances because of the beauty of what they see. 8Yet even so they do not deserve to be excused, 9for with enough understanding to speculate about the universe, why did they not sooner discover its Lord and Master?

10The really degraded ones are those whose hopes are set on lifeless things, who give the title of gods to the work of human hands, to gold and silver fashioned by art into images of living creatures, or to a useless stone carved by a craftsman long ago. 11Suppose some skilled worker in wood fells with his saw a convenient tree and deftly strips off all the bark, then works it up elegantly into some household vessel suitable for everyday use; 12and the bits left over from his work he uses to cook his food, and then eats his fill. 13But among what is left over there is one useless piece, crooked and full of knots, and this he takes and carves to occupy his idle moments. He shapes it with leisurely skill into the image of a human being, 14or else he gives it the form of some worthless creature, smearing it over with vermilion and raddling its surface with red paint, so that every flaw in it is daubed over. 15Then he makes a suitable shrine for it and fixes it on the wall, securing it with nails. 16It is he who has to take the precautions on its behalf to save it from falling, for he well knows that it cannot fend for itself: it needs help, for it is only an image. 17Yet he prays to it about his possessions and his wife and children, and feels no shame in addressing this inanimate object; 18for health he appeals to a thing that is weak, for life he prays to a thing that is dead, for aid he asks help from something utterly incapable, for a prosperous journey from something that cannot put one foot before the other; 19where earnings or business or success in handicraft are in question he asks effectual help from a thing whose hands are entirely ineffectual.

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Oxford University Press

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