Works of God

views updated

WORKS OF GOD

Biblical expression denoting both the acts in history that God performed and the objects in nature made by Him. The theme is common to both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

In the early Old Testament literature, especially the yahwist traditions of the Pentateuch, God is presented anthropomorphically, as if He worked in a human way. Thus, He molds man out of clay (Gn 2.7), forms woman from the man's rib (Gn 2.2122), makes skin garments (Gn 3.21), "comes down" to confuse men's speech (Gn 11.7), and writes the Decalogue with His finger (Ex 31.18).

Since the Israelites' experience of God was an experience of salvation, their consciousness was first directed to His "mighty works" in history, performed with "strong hand and outstretched arm" (Dt 4.34; 5.15; etc.). The "wonderful works of God" were primarily the escape from Egypt, crossing of the Red Sea, journey through the desert, Sinai covenant, and occupation of the promised land. These historical deeds of God were ceaselessly celebrated in the prophetic literature (Hos 11.13; Is 12.4; Jer 2.27) and in the hymns of the Psalter [Ps 104 (105); 134 (135).814; 135 (136).1024]. The Prophets denounced the people for their failure to recognize God's continued working in the present (Is 5.12; Jgs 2.7, 10), and they proclaimed that His work in the future would constitute a judgment on their infidelity (Is 10.12; 28.21; Hab 1.5).

While the idea of creation was already latent in early times (Jgs 5.20), it became explicit only through reflection upon God's saving acts in history. If Yahweh was master not only of Israel but of all nations, it was but a step further to regard Him as artisan and master of the universe, so that His "works" were extended to embrace all of nature. Jeremiah referred to God's work of creation (Jer 5.22; 27.2; 31.3536), and it became a common theme after the Exile, especially in Deutero-Isaiah (Is 40.1213, 28; 42.5; etc.) and in the hymns of the Psalter [Ps 8; 18 (19); 28 (29); 32 (33); 103 (104); 148]. The Lord of history is also God of nature [Ps 144 (145).4, 9, 10, 17].

In the New Testament God's work is the salvation of mankind, begun in the Old Testament but fulfilled in the work of Christ (Acts 2.22). The theme occurs especially in St. John: the works of Jesus are the works of God Himself (Jn 4.34), which the Father has shown Him (5.20), the proof of His mission (5.36) and of God's continued activity among men (9.34). For St. Paul, God's continuing work is the building up of the Church (Rom 14.20); hence, the apostolate is the Apostle's work for God (1 Cor 9.1;16.10), but more profoundly the work of God in him (1 Cor 15.58; Phil 1.6).

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by l. hartman (New York, 1963) 260304. c. r. north and g. a. buttrick, The Interpreter's Bible (Nashville 1962) 4:872873. g. kittel, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935) 2:633640. g. e. wright, God Who Acts (Studies in Biblical Theology 8; Chicago 1952). f. michaÉli, Dieu à l'image de l'homme (Neuchâtel 1950). j. l. mckenzie, "God and Nature in the Old Testament," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 14 (Washington, DC 1952) 1839, 124145.

[c. j. peifer]

About this article

Works of God

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article