Israel’s Scriptures clarify that “Solomon built the house (בית; bayit) of the Lord in Jerusalem” (1 Chronicles 6:32). Jesus also describes the Temple as God’s abode, saying, “Whoever swears by the Temple swears by it and by him who dwells (κατοικέω; katoikéo) in it” (Matthew 23:21). Since Yeshua affirms that God dwells in the Temple, it is strange to hear Stephan assert that “Solomon built [God] a house, but the Most High does not dwell (οὐχ… κατοικέω; oux… katoikéo) in handmade [houses]” (Acts 7:48; cf. 17:24). Does God dwell in the Temple or not?
When Yeshua says that God “dwells” in the Temple, he reinforces common biblical language. For instance, Hezekiah calls the Temple the “dwelling (משׁכן; mishkah) of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 29:6), and Joel refers to God as the one “dwelling (שׁכן; shokhen) in Zion” (3:17). Yet, if this is so, then why does Stephan seem to suggest that God does not dwell in an earthly abode? As with most interpretive questions, the answer lies in the immediate narrative context.
The whole of Stephan’s proclamation, which includes a quotation from Isaiah, reads, “The Most High does not dwell in [that which is] handmade (χειροποιήτοις; cheiropoiétois), as the prophet says, ‘The skies are my throne, and the land is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, declares the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Have not all these been made by my hand (ἐποίησεν ἡ χείρ μου; epoímsen he cheír mou)?’” (Acts 7:48-50; cf. Isaiah 66:1-2 LXX). Stephan is not claiming that the Lord does not dwell in the Temple, but rather that the house in Zion was made by God’s hand—not by human hands. Yes, Solomon may have overseen the building’s construction, but it was really God who built the Temple. This idea aligns with Stephan’s prior recollection that Moses built the tabernacle—the prototype for the Jerusalem Temple—“after the example (τύπος; túpos) he had seen” (Acts 7:44; cf. Exodus 25:40 LXX; Heb 8:5). God does dwell in the Temple, but that holy habitation is made in heaven before its construction on earth.