“Three Or Four” (Acts 17:28)

Many years ago, I attended the lecture of a world renowned dermatopathologist. An eloquent speaker and prolific writer, he had a penchant to pepper his speech with colorful literary and religious allusions. No surprise, as an undergraduate at Princeton, he majored in philosophy and theology. Whether one agreed with his views or not, all dermatologists and dermatopathologists needed to understand and be willing to discuss them with colleagues and patients alike. For many, his word was the final authority in dermatopathology.


The topic of his lecture dealt with a rare form of a skin cancer. The professor described some of the characteristic histopathological findings that one should observe, “We look for a collection of three of these abnormal cells within the epidermis.”


“Why three?” One of the audience members unexpectedly shouted.




“Why three? Why not two? Why not four?”


The professor smiled and pondered for a moment. “Three is a very important number. There are three primary colors, three stages of time…past, present, and future.” He paused, as if deliberating whether to continue with his examples. “And there is the Trinity.”


There were a few scattered chuckles as we adjourned for a break. Upon returning, the professor was contemplative. “During the break, several of you approached me and pointed out other numbers that should have equally important religious significance. For example, there are the four noble truths of Buddhism, the four Vedas in Hinduism.” He looked up from the podium and surveyed the audience, hanging upon his every word. “So the answer is three or four!”


…For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we are indeed his offspring.”

Acts 17:28 (ESV)

Religious analogies can be used to either defend or denigrate commonplace examples in life. Even the Apostle Paul utilized a literary allusion from the Greek poets when he was preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Athenians. Although the quotation was originally written to honor the greek god Zeus, Paul applied it to Jesus Christ, God and Creator. In so doing, Paul was able to effectively connect with his audience to transcend their understanding of many gods, pointing the path to the One True God.


Elements of God’s Truth are present in many works of secular and religious literature. The Bible and the Holy Spirit should always be our guide to determine how to best use these examples to share the Truth of Jesus Christ.




Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.


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