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Idols (1497) (eidoeidolon from eídos = that which is seen, what is visible, figure, appearance) is primarily a phantom, form, image, shadow or likeness. Eidolon is found 11 times in the NAS (7.41" class="scriptRef">Acts 7:41; 15:20; Rom. 2:22; 1 Co. 8:4, 7; 10:19; 12:2; 2 Co. 6:16; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 Jn. 5:21; Rev. 9:20) most of which are briefly alluded to in the following discussion. (Related articles #1, #2, #3) Eidolon - 70 times in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (Lxx)- Gen. 31:19, 34f; Exod. 20:4; Lev. 19:4; 6.30" class="scriptRef">26:30; 25.2" class="scriptRef">Num. 25:2; 33.52" class="scriptRef">33:52; Deut. 5:8; 29:17; 21" class="scriptRef">32:21; 1 Sam. 31:9; 1 Ki. 11:2, 7f, 33; 2 Ki. 17:12; 21:11, 21; 23.24" class="scriptRef">23:24; 1 Chr. 10:9; 16:26; 2 Chr. 11:15; 14:5; 15:16; 17:3; 23:17; 18" class="scriptRef">24:18; 28:2; 33:22; 34:7; 35:19; Esther 4:17; Ps. 97:7; 115:4; 135.15" class="scriptRef">135:15; Isa. 1:29; 10:11; 27:9; 30:22; 37:19; 41:28; 48:5; 57:5; Jer. 9:14; 14:22; 16:19; Ezek. 6:4, 6, 13; 8:10; 16:16; 18:12; 23:39; 36:17, 25; 37:23; 44:12; Dan. 3:12, 18; 5:4, 23; 6:27; Hos. 4:17; 8:4; 13:2; 14:8; Mic. 1:7; Hab. 2:18; Zech. 13:2 NIDNTT has an excellent explanation of the background on eidolon which is necessary to understand the Greek use of this that... eidolon is used by Homer for the phantoms and shades in Hades (Il. 5, 451; Od. 4, 796). It can also mean any unsubstantial form, an image reflected in a mirror or water, an image or idea in the mind. Apart from Polybius 31, 3, 13-15, it was not generally used for the images of the gods in classic Greek). (Ed note: since the Greeks did not consider their gods to be idols, and they had no term for idolatry!) Although eidolon is used to render some 15 Hebrew terms in the LXX, it refers without exception to the images of the heathen gods and the deities represented by them. They include gillulim (1544) idols (always in a disdainful sense, e.g. Lev 26:30; Deut. 29:17; Ezek. 6:4ff., 13; 36:17f., 25; 37:23); and teraphim (8655) idols (again used disdainfully, perhaps connected with the idea of perishing, Ge 31:19, 34ff). To express the image of God in man, even where the Hebrew word is also applied to an idol, the term eikon is used. This Hellenistic-Jewish usage reflects Jewish contempt for heathen polytheism. The prohibition against serving other gods and the prohibition against making eidola are linked already in the Decalogue (Ex 20:3, 4, 5f.; Deut. 5:7, 6, 7f.). The depreciation of images based on this prohibition leaves its traces everywhere in the OT. This does not imply, however, that there is no reality behind the heathen idolatrous worship. Idols are bdelugmata (946), abominations (Ed note: the very Greek word used by Jesus to describe the Antichrist! Mt 24:15), behind which stand daimonia (Demon) (1142), demonic powers, with which one cannot come into contact without moving God to wrath (Deut. 32:16f., 21). In 2Chr 24:18 the worship of idols is equated with that of the Asherim, i.e. of the powers behind the idols. Israel often succumbed to the temptation to open the doors to these powers, especially when the rise of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires gave the impression that their gods were more powerful than the God of Israel (Isa. 36:19, 20f.). Jer. 44:15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and Ezek 8:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12f give graphic and terrible pictures of how widely heathen idol worship had spread in Israel in their day. The prophetic message to Israel was that the misfortune which had overtaken the people was God’s punishment for falling away from Yahweh and compromising with the heathen cultus (Isa 10:11; 13-Jer.9.16" class="scriptRef">Jer 9:13, 14, 15, 16; Ezek 8:17f.). The call to repentance combined a demand for right behaviour towards one’s neighbour (Amos 5:14f.; Hos 4:1, 2, 3f.; Isa 1:15, 16, 17f.) with the demand to turn away from false gods (Hos 14:9). The prophets never grew tired of stressing to the people how impotent and vain (mataios = empty) (3152) were the idols (Ezek 8:10; 1Chr. 16:26; 2 Chr. 25:15). For they are merely the creation of men’s hands which cannot hear or see, or do anything (Hos 8:4f.; 13:2; Je 14:22; Hab 2:18f.; cf. Ezek. 8:10; 2Chr. 11:15). The sharpest polemic against the cult images in an exilic setting occurs in Isa 40:18, 19, 20f.; 44:9-20; 46:1f. The making of the idols is described in language that renders them ludicrous; and the power of Yahweh who molds history is contrasted with them (Isa. 45-48). He will destroy the false gods (Jer 10:10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15; Ezek 6:4, 5, 6f, 13; Mic 1:7), and men will throw away their idols on the day of God’s judgment (Isa 2:18, 19, 20f.). (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan or Logos computer version) In summary, the spiritual significance of eidolon is primarily derived from the use of this word in the Septuagint (LXX) where (as discussed above in the NIDNTT) eidolon is considered a derogatory term for images of the gods or pagan deities. The Septuagint uses of eidolon emphasize the fact that idols are the products of fantasy and are manufactured by human hands (e.g. Isa 44:12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17). The Old Testament writers considered that these so-called gods had no reality at all, but were simply pieces of wood or stone. They were not alternative gods, but rather unreal gods. The NT usage is based on the understanding of eidolon in the Septuagint. Read 2" class="scriptRef">Psalm 115:1, 2, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9-note for a vivid description of what it is like to worship an idol. Arthur Wallis an English evangelical writer said that... An idol may be defined as any person or thing that has usurped in the heart the place of preeminence that belongs to the Lord. In Scripture eidolon is an image or representation whether corporeal or imaginary or some other thing which resembles a person, animal, false god, etc. and which is an object of worship. In Colossians 3 Paul broadened the meaning an idol using the combination word eidololatreia (eidolon + latreia = render religious service) writing... Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (see notes Colossians 3:5) When people engage in either greed (literally = "desire to have more"), they follow their desires rather than God’s desires, in essence worshiping themselves, which amounts idolatry. Greed then in this context is any materialistic desire including lust that disregards the rights of others. As one writer has phrased it greed is "the arrogant and ruthless assumption that all other persons and things exist for one’s own benefit." Louw and Nida write that... The technical distinction between an image and an idol is that an image may merely represent a supernatural being, while an idol not only represents such a being but is believed to possess certain inherent supernatural powers. Images often become idols when they are assumed to possess such powers in and of themselves rather than being mere representations of some supernatural entity. If, for example, various images of a particular supernatural being are supposed to have different healing powers, then what began merely as images or representations of a supernatural power have become idols, in that the different images themselves have acquired special efficacy. (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. United Bible societies) Eidolon in a practical sense is anything, anyone, etc that takes priority over the True and Living God. Idols therefore are not just carved images but any objects which come between the soul and Christ, including things like money, pleasure, fame or material things. Many idolaters literally serve idols as in ancient Egypt where statues of gods were regularly and ritually clothed and fed! In Lystra when the pagan Gentile idol worshipers began calling Barnabas, "Zeus" (the supreme Greek deity) and Paul "Hermes" (the messenger of the Greek gods), they countered by preaching the gospel and instructing them to turn from (epistrepho) these vain things (futile or profitless things -- Scripture frequently refers to idols as vain things or vanity) to a living God, Who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them. (Acts 14:15) Because idolatry was inseparably connected with all phases of pagan life, a conversion that led to the rejection and renunciation of idols was indeed a revolutionary experience. There seemed to be a solid basis for the Jewish opponents' charge that the missionaries were men who "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). The first NT use of eidolon is to describe Israel's sin at Mt Sinai... And at that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands." (Acts 7:41) In Jerusalem at a council of the Jewish believers James declared that... we write to (the Gentiles turning to God) that they abstain from things contaminated by idols (eidolon) and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. (Acts 15:20) (It was not that these restrictions (any more than circumcision) were required for salvation, but rather for fellowship with the Jerusalem church and with Jewish Christians in general) In Romans 2:22 (note) Paul addressed individuals (which in context appear to be Jews) as those "who abhor idols (eidolon)", the Jews having been taught, by the severe discipline of the 70 year Babylonian Captivity, to obey God’s decree against idolatry. Writing to the Corinthians who lived a city alive (really "dead") with idol worship Paul explained... Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols (eidolon), we know that there is no such thing as an idol (eidolon) in the world, and that there is no God but one." (1Cor 8:4) Later in the same letter Paul explained further about idols asking "What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols (eidolon) is anything, or that an idol (eidolon) is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons." (1Cor 10:19-20) Paul was making the point that even though the physical images worshiped by idolaters are nothing but vanity, they do represent a dangerous reality. The idols and the things sacrificed to them have no spiritual nature or power in themselves (8.4" class="scriptRef">1Cor 8:4, 8), but they do represent demonic beings. In some mysterious way, idol worship is linked with demons and using the idols, the demons can exert control over the hearts and minds of those who worship them, thereby impressing them with the validity of their false religion, and binding them ever more securely in the spirit's grasp. We see this bondage to demonic spirits in many of the unreached people groups in the 10/40 window. In 1Cor 12:2 Paul says that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb (speechless in contrast with the living God who does speak) idols, however you were led (Before conversion the Corinthians had been idolaters, enslaved by and living in fear of demonic spirits and being led about by them witnessing supernatural manifestations of the spirit world). In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul emphasizes that as believers we are to live a separated life asking... what agreement has the temple of God with idols? (Answer = nothing and he immediately explains why) For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. (2Cor 6:16) John warns believers in his first epistle... Little children, guard (aorist imperative = urgent, do this now, don't delay, take whatever steps necessary to fulfill) yourselves from idols. (1John 5:21) Morris commenting on John's warning writes... Idols are either physical images or mental constructs with which men try to explain and control the forces and systems of nature without acknowledging the one true God as Creator and Sustainer of all things. Paganism, with its pantheism and polytheism, worshipping the various forces and systems of nature personified as Mother Earth with all her other personifications as various gods and goddesses, was rife in John's day and, through various forms of evolutionism, has always been arrayed in opposition to the true God of creation and redemption. This is more true today than ever before, and it is absolutely vital that true Christians should refrain from all forms of idolatry, whether rationalistic humanism, economic materialism, or New Age pantheism--all of which are founded on an evolutionary world view. (Morris, Henry: Defenders Study Bible. World Publishing) Marvin Vincent commenting on 1Corinthians 8:4 (see above) notes that... An idol is a nonentity. The emphasis is on the nothingness of the idol, hence the emphatic position of ouden = nothing. It is a mere stock or stone, having no real significance in heaven or on earth. One of the Old Testament names for heathen gods is elilim = nothings! Idol (eidolon) is primarily an image or likeness. In Greek writers it is sometimes used of the shades of the dead, or the fantasies of the mind. In the Old Testament, the number and variety of the words representing the objects of heathen worship, are a striking commentary upon the general prevalence of idolatry. Eidolon = image stands in the Septuagint for several of the different Hebrew terms for idols; as, elilim things of nought; gillulim things rolled about, as logs or masses of stone; chammanim sun-pillars, etc. Other words are also used to translate the same Hebrew terms, but in all cases the idea is that of the material object as shaped by mechanical processes, or as being in itself an object of terror, or a vain or abominable thing, a mere device of man. (Bolding added) It is notable that there are no occurrences of eidolon in the Gospels, which suggests that at that time idolatry among the Jews was not a major problem. But as soon as the apostolic preaching moved into the pagan world of the Gentiles we see the use of eidolon revived. As noted here in first Thessalonians turning to the "living and true God" was impossible without a turning away from idols and pagan worship. Their retention was a sign of lack of repentance as demonstrated in the final NT use of eidolon in the Revelation, which contains several statements concerning those who are barred from heaven. High on the list are those who worship man-made idols, John recording that... the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols (eidolon) of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts. (Rev 9:20-21). Ray Stedman notes that "Modern America is surely one of the most idolatrous countries the world has ever seen. We are surrounded with idol worship. I once heard of a Chinese man who visited here and was asked upon his return to China whether Americans worshipped idols. "Yes, they do," he reported. "They have three of them. In the winter they worship a fat man in a red suit. In the spring they worship a rabbit. And in the fall they sacrifice a turkey!" Pulpit Commentary adds that... "The Thessalonian Church was mainly Gentile; there were a few Jews among them, but the Jews as a body bitterly persecuted the infant Church. The gospel was glad tidings indeed to thoughtful Gentiles. The Jews had great and precious truths, though their teachers had well-nigh hidden them under a mass of traditions and idle forms. But what was there in the heathenism of the day on which a thinking man could rest his soul? There were temples everywhere, but what man who felt the yearnings of the human soul for righteousness and God could in his heart reverence the deities who were worshipped there?" Martin Luther warned of the danger of idolatry writing... "We easily fall into idolatry, for we are inclined to it by nature; and coming to us by inheritance, it seems pleasant." J Vernon McGee gives an excellent summary of this section writing that... when Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he preached Christ. When he preached Christ, they turned to God from idols. Notice that he doesn’t say they turned from idols to God. Someone will say, "You’re splitting hairs." I surely am. These are hairs that need to be split. We need to do some straight thinking about this. "How ye turned to God from idols." We hear today that repentance is essential to salvation. Repentance and believing are presented as two steps in a process. Actually, they are both wrapped up in the same package, and you have them both right here. When Paul preached Christ, they turned to God from idols. I want you to see something that is very important. When they turned to God, that is the work of faith; that is what faith did. The Lord Jesus said, "… This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29, italics mine). These people turned to God from idols; they turned from idols, too. That’s right—and that is repentance. The repentance followed the turning to God. It didn’t precede it. When they turned to God, they automatically turned from idols. Take your hand and hold it so the palm of your hand is facing toward you. Now turn your hand around. When you turned your hand around, the back side of your hand now faces you, and the palm of your hand automatically turned away from you. Just so, you cannot turn to Christ Jesus without turning from something, my friend. That turning from something is repentance. We need to hold up Jesus Christ as the Savior from sin. A man needs to know that he is a lost sinner. He can sit and weep about his sins until Judgment Day, and it won’t do him one bit of good. I know an alcoholic man who died an alcoholic. He could sit in my study and cry about the fact that he was an alcoholic and how terrible he was to be a drunkard. He could shed great tears and repent, but nothing changed because he never did turn to Christ! My dad used to tell about a little boat that went up and down the Mississippi River. It had a little bitty boiler and a great big whistle. When that boat was carrying a load and was going upstream, it was in trouble when the whistle would blow, because the boat would begin to drift downstream. There are a lot of people who have a little boiler and a great big whistle. They can repent and shed tears all over the place, but that doesn’t do any good. It is only when a person turns to Christ that he will turn from something. He will turn from his sin. If a man doesn’t turn from his sin, it is because he hasn’t turned to Christ. (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Nashville: Thomas Nelson) TO SERVE A LIVING AND TRUE GOD: douleuein (PAN) theo zonti (PAPMSD) kai alethino: (Dt 5:26; 17.26" class="scriptRef">1Sa 17:26,36; Ps 42:2; 84:2; Isa 37:4,17; Jer 10:10; Da 6:26; Hos 1:10; Ro 9:26; 2Co 6:16,17; 1Ti 4:10; Heb 12:22; Rev 17:2) (See Torrey's topics Conversion; Idolatry; Repentance)

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