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The King James Version translates Romans 1:20 as follows:

‘For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:’

Now, how can we interpret ‘by the things that are made’? (‘Tois poiemasin’ in Greek) Normally, this is interpreted as ‘by seeing Gods creation’. However, could it also be interpreted as ‘by the people that are created’?

So in the normal interpretation, the verse would be read as

‘For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by seeing Gods creation, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:’

In the alternative interpretation, the verse would read as

‘For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the people that are created, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:’

So in the alternative interpretation, ‘tois poiemasin’ would be similarly translated as ‘poiema’ in Ephesians 2:10, where it says ‘we are His workmanship’

The difference between the two interpretations, is the reason that people understand Gods eternal power and Godhead. In the normal interpretation, the reason for this is that people can see the creation which is the proof. In other words, anyone can use logic to deduce that God is there. In the alternative interpretation, the verse does not really give a reason why people know it: they ‘just know’. That would mean that there is a knowledge of God inside people which surpasses all logic.

Is the alternative interpretation consistent with the grammar used in ‘tois poiemasin’?

4 Answers 4

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It's chillingly interesting to notice a thin edge of a wedge being inserted into a particular verse in the Bible, then two developments further on, a wide gap has appeared that risks alienating the reader from the biblical point. It doesn't usually happen so quickly. So, how has this alternative developed? It is based on Greek language, or not?

First, consider the word translated 'invisible' with regard to God - it's aoratos in Greek. It means 'unseen'. The implication is that it means 'unseen things' but other translations render it a bit differently. For example, as 'invisible qualities' (NIV 1987 & KIT 1969 & GNB 1976 & NLT 2008). Given that God is Spirit - unseen by us - that is acceptable.

In Ephesians 2:10, where this Greek wording occurs again, it's worth noting the KJV rendition: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works..." This speaks of a particular purpose God has for those ones - to do designated works that will glorify God. Clearly, those people who deny that which may be known of God (which has been manifested to them, Rom. 1:19) are not included in those who do what God purposes! They seek to be outside of that divine purpose, perhaps even denying any divine will exists. This accords with Romans 1:21-25 which refers to those who are unthankful to God, vainly supposing they know better than God, many ending up worshiping idols and not their Creator, who forbids worship of that which is created.

Whereas it is true that humans are part of God's creation, and there can be scope to see something of God's invisible qualities feebly demonstrated in sinful humanity, there's a need to sort out mere observers of objects from those who observe God's qualities in the objects he created. Humanity, further, is not spoken of as 'objects' as could be said of stars, or trees, or rocks. Yet many who deny God as Creator can imply that life on earth is nothing more than the fortuitous clashing of atoms, of which humans are just as randomly alive as are flowers.

Also, the final suggested interpretation (for, indeed, it is not a translation) has made a pendulum swing, ending up confining the things seen to looking only at humans and not including logical observation the massive rest of God's creation, which incorporates the massive universe as well as everything on earth. This is the exact opposite to what Romans 1 is all about; it shows the folly of humans not looking to see God in creation. This alternative interpretation encourages humans to consider humans. Yet created humans are sinful creatures, so anything we see of God in them risks being warped - not by any means the whole picture. Indeed, Romans 1 goes on to show just how corrupted some humans become when they disdain to look for God's invisible qualities in his glorious creation.

This is one reason why it is important to stick to the text of scripture in order to arrive at an interpretation, instead of taking an alternative interpretation and seeking to see if it could be made to fit in with the text. Never a good idea.

Finally, knowing something about the existence of God is logical because it is based on observable evidence (of a three-fold nature). It is reasonable to believe in the existence of an invisible Creator who created humanity to be made in his likeness. To say that a particular knowledge 'surpasses logic' gives a misleading impression. Logic is included in the knowledge of God. It is entirely reasonable for humans (who can think and reason logically) to included God in their knowledge even if they are, say, blind (and cannot see God's creation around them) or deaf and cannot hear any information about God, or to hear sounds God has created. However, those people who dismiss God from their thinking, despising the very idea of there being a Creator God, are without excuse, as that section in Romans explains. Nobody seeking to 'discover' God's invisible qualities should look to humans who disregard God, or who think that human reasoning is on a par with divine reasoning.

The alternative interpretation is totally at odds with the Greek language used because the text is urging humans, who have been created by God, to look to what God has done via his creation (which includes making them), but not to themselves or their own 'inner urges' or feelings.

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  • To clarify: the alternative interpretation does not say that we should look at other people to see that God exists, but rather that God has given each human being the deep conviction that God exists, just as God gave people a conscience, even though people can try to suppress this deep conviction
    – Riemann
    Nov 16, 2022 at 16:14
  • Also, the alternative interpretation does not say that the earth, flowers etc. are not created by God. The existence of the earth is a huge argument that God exists, but according to the alternative interpretation you don’t neccessarily need this argument because God already gave you the conviction that He exists
    – Riemann
    Nov 16, 2022 at 16:16
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    @Riemann Clarification does not come by adding more words to a proposed interpretation. Biblical hermeneutics delves into the text itself to clarify its already written statement. By introducing a proposed interpretation first, then seeking to find ways of having the text accommodate that idea flies in the face of what this site is about. Further, the site specifically says that personal interpretations are not sought here, but you seem to be seeking just that.
    – Anne
    Nov 16, 2022 at 16:22
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The noun ποίημα only occurs in two places, namely:

  • Rom 1:20 - For from the creation of the world His invisible qualities, both His eternal power and divinity, are clearly seen, being understood by the things made, for them to be without excuse.
  • Eph 2:10 - For we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

In each case, the preceding word is different. In the first case it is the dative Greek article; and in the second case, it is a phrase, "for we are His". Thus, the context is different and the grammatical construction is different. BDAG gives this meaning for ποίημα:

that which is made, work, creation

Thus, the word does not necessarily refer to people but to any object that has been created, generally. It is also true that Eph 2:10 specifically refers to the people that God created; however, Rom 1:20 refers to ALL things that God created. "workmanship" would be an acceptable translation in both places.

Therefore, the OP's translation is too restrictive as Rom 1:20 points to the entirety of the things that God created, not just people. This is confirmed by the surrounding statements such as discovering "God's invisible qualities and eternal power" from the entirety of His created universe.

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It's not consistent with the grammar: if the author had meant people, they would have used a masculine form, not a neuter one.

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  • The Greek word poiema in Ephesians 2:10 is also in neutral form
    – Riemann
    Nov 17, 2022 at 21:35
  • On the other hand, the word autous in Romans 1:20 is masculine, so I get your point: since poiemasin and autous are not the same gender they are probably referring to different things
    – Riemann
    Nov 17, 2022 at 21:37
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This was primordial 🌎. An inhabited land that turned into an invisible void by those that were made before the creation account of Adam See gen Gen 1:1.5

Invisible - that's the word in Koine Sept version

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