Paul in his epistles Says God Does Not Live in Temples Made of Human Hands, But Jesus Says He Does

Paul says "God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." (Acts 17:24)(Greek cheiropoietois - hand-made).

However, Jesus said, in a correction of Pharisees who thought an oath offered "by" articles offered at the Temple were binding but not an oath by the Temple at Jerusalem itself: "And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it." (Matt. 23:21.) Jesus elsewhere referred to the Temple at Jerusalem as a "Temple made with hands." (Mark 14:58)(Greek cheiropoieton, 'made with hands.') Hence, Jesus clearly said God dwells at the Temple made of human hands. Paul quite clearly says the opposite as a principle true at all times.

The importance of this is that Jesus affirms God does live in a temple made of human hands, but Paul says this is untrue

How do we understand this


In Hebrews 9, Paul explains that while God used to occupy the Temple, with the formation of the New Covenant, God no longer occupies nor needs to occupy the Temple.

He begins this chapter in verse 1-2b by saying

Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up.

Then in verses 11-12, he continues

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

Finally in verses 19-23 Paul concludes

When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, "This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep." In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.

So while Jesus was correct in his statement at the time he made it, Paul is also correct because with the tearing of the curtain to the Holy of Holies recorded in Matt 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45 God left and no longer occupied the Temple in Jerusalem made with human hands and only occupied his eternal temple; Heaven.

  • You are aware, surely, that Hebrews nowhere claims Paul as its author. Consequently one could argue that your answer is not relevant to the present question.
    – fdb
    Dec 14 '19 at 16:34

The Lord, the glory of the Lord, or the presence of the Lord dwelt in the middle of His people for a time. Being that He is Spirit and Omnipresent we should not read these passages in through physical eyes.

Example: We should not read it like, the Lord is dwelling in the temple or sanctuary and He is no where else or is confined to this location.

Psalm 33:13 The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; 14 From His dwelling place He looks out On all the inhabitants of the earth, 15 He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works.

Psalms 26:7-8 O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house And the place where Your glory dwells.

Exodus 25: 8 Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.

Exodus 29: 46 They shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God.

Is 66:1 Thus says the Lord,“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? 2 “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.


Acts 7:48-50

Yet the most High dwelleth not in houses made by hands, as the prophet saith: Heaven is my throne, and the earth my footstool. What house will you build me? saith the Lord; or what is the place of my resting? Hath not my hand made all these things?

The point is that God is not containable, or able to be confined to a single place, as he pervades all things, by upholding everything in existence (Acts 17:28, Col. 1:17):

Psalm 139:7-8

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I descend into hell, thou art present.

Idols and the various man-made conceptions of false gods usually imply a god who literally dwells in a temple, as though he required safety or protection from the elements, whereas Yahweh is the One who upholds both the building, the elements, and its builders in existence; if He's said to dwell or be present, it's by way of a special signification of His activity with regard to certain people or in a certain place only—that is, by way of an anthropomorphism: practically the only way we can interact with the God who is a pure and ineffable spirit and has no analogy to the natural world except by... analogy.

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