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

Chapter 15

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1But you, our God, are kind and true and patient, a merciful ruler of all that is. 2Even if we sin, we are yours, since we acknowledge your power. But because we know that we are accounted yours we shall not sin. 3To know you is the whole of righteousness, and to acknowledge your power is the root of immortality. 4We have not been led astray by the perverted inventions of human skill or the barren labour of painters, by some gaudily coloured shape, 5the sight of which arouses in fools a passionate desire for an image without life or breath. 6They are in love with evil and do not deserve anything better to trust in, those who make such evil things, those who hanker after them, and those who worship them.

7A potter laboriously kneading the soft clay shapes every vessel for our use. Out of the selfsame clay he fashions without distinction the pots that are to serve for clean uses and the opposite; and what the purpose of each one is to be, the moulder of the clay decides. 8Then with ill-directed toil he makes a false god out of the same clay, this man who not long before was himself fashioned out of earth and soon returns to the place whence he was taken, when the living soul that was lent to him must be returned on demand. 9His concern is not that he must one day fall sick or that his span of life is short; but he must vie with goldsmiths and silversmiths and emulate the workers in bronze, and he thinks it does him credit to contrive fakes. 10His heart is ashes, his hope worth less than common earth, and his life cheaper than clay, 11because he did not recognize by whom he himself was moulded, or who it was that inspired him with an active soul and breathed into him the breath of life. 12No, he reckons this life of ours a game, and our existence a market where money can be made: ‘By fair means or foul’, he says, ‘one must get a living.’ 13But this maker of fragile pots and idols from the same earthy stuff knows better than anyone that he is doing wrong.

14The greatest fools of all, and worse than infantile, were the enemies and oppressors of your people, 15for they supposed all their heathen idols to be gods, although they have eyes that cannot see, nostrils that cannot draw breath, ears that cannot hear, fingers that cannot feel, and feet that are useless for walking; 16for it was a man who made them, one drawing borrowed breath who gave them their shape. But no human being has the power to shape a god in his own likeness: 17he is only mortal, but what he makes with his impious hands is dead. So he is better than the objects of his worship, for at least he is alive — they never can be.

18Moreover, these people worship animals, the most revolting animals. Compared with the rest of the brute creation, their divinities are the least intelligent. 19Even as animals they are without a trace of beauty which might make them desirable. When God approved and blessed his work, they were left out.

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