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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
Acts 17

 

 

Verse 1

Acts 17:1. διοδεύσαντες δὲ: “and they went along the Roman road” (Ramsay): verb only found in Luke, Luke 8:1, and here, but frequent in LXX, and used also by Polyb. and Plut., cf. Genesis 13:17, etc., so in 1 Macc. three times. The famous road, the Via Egnatia, Horace, Sat., i., 5, 97, extended for a distance of over five hundred miles from the Hellespont to Dyrrhachium; it was really the continuation through Macedonia of the Via Appia, and it might be truly said that when St. Paul was on the Roman road at Troas or Philippi, he was on a road which led to the gates of Rome; see some interesting details in C. and H., p. 244. The article “certam atque notam viam designat,” Blass, in loco, and Gram., p. 149, but see also Weiss, in loco.ἀμφ., thirty-two or thirty-three miles from Philippi. The Via Egnatia passed through it (cf. C. and H., and Hackett, in loco). The import of its name may be contained in the term applied to it, Thuc., iv., 102, περιφανής, conspicuous towards sea and land, “the all around [visible] city”; or the name may simply refer to the fact that the Strymon flowed almost round the town, Thuc., u. s. Its earlier name, “Nine Ways,” ἐννέα ὁδοί, Thuc., i., 100; Herod vii., 114, indicated its important position, and no doubt this occasioned its colonisation by the Athenians in B.C. 437. In the Peloponnesian War it was famous as the scene of the battle in which both Brasidas and Cleon fell, Thuc., v., 6–11, whilst for his previous failure to succour the place Thucydides had himself been exiled (Thuc., i., 26). From the Macedonians it passed eventually into the hands of the Romans, and in B.C. 167 Æmilius Paulus proclaimed the Macedonians free and Amphipolis the capital of the first of the four districts into which the Romans divided the province (Liv., xlv., 18, 29). In the Middle Ages Popolia, now Neochori: B.D.2 and Hastings’ B.D., C. and H. The route may well have been one of the most beautiful of any day’s journey in St. Paul’s many travels, Renan, St. Paul, pp. 154, 155.— ἀπολλωνίαν: to be carefully distinguished from the more celebrated Apollonia in Illyria—apparently there were three places in Macedonia bearing this name. The Antonine Itinerary gives it as thirty miles from Amphipolis, and thirty-seven from Thessalonica, but the other authorities, for example, the Jerusalem Itinerary, differ a little. The Via Egnatia passed through it, and the name is probably retained in the modern Pollina. It is quite possible that the two places are mentioned as having formed St. Paul’s resting-place for a night, see references above.— θεσσαλονίκην: Saloniki; formerly Therme; the name had been most probably changed by Cassander in honour of his wife Thessalonica, the sister of Alexander the Great, Polyb., xxiii., 4, 4. Under the Romans it became the capital of the second of the four districts of Macedonia Provincia (Liv., xlv., 29), and later it was made the metropolis of the whole when the four districts were united into one. It was the largest as well as the most populous city in Macedonia, and like Ephesus and Corinth it had its share in the commerce of the Ægean. From its geographical position it could not cease to be important; through the Middle Ages it may fairly be described as the bulwark of Christendom in the cast, and it still remains the second city in European Turkey. St. Paul, with his usual wisdom, selected it as marking a centre of civilisation and government in the district: “posita in gremio imperii Romani,” as Cicero says. C. and H., p. 247 ff.; Zahn, Einleitung, i., p. 151; Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 253 ff.; Schaff—Herzog, Encycl., iv.— ὅπου ἦν συν.: implying that there was no synagogue at Amphipolis or Apollonia, the former being a purely Hellenic town, and the latter a small place. ὅπου may = οὗ simply, but if distinguished from it implies oppidum tale in quo esset (as in distinction to the other places named); see Wendt and Blass. In Agrippa’s letter to Caligula we have plain evidence of the existence of Jews in Macedonia, O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, p. 180; Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. ii., E.T., pp. 222, 232. As the name remains in the modern Saloniki, manent Judaei quoque (Blass), C. and H., 250, see also in this connection, Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 236.


Verse 2

Acts 17:2. κατὰ τὸ εἰωθὸς: phrase peculiar to St. Luke, only here and in Luke 4:16. St. Paul follows his usual principle: “to the Jew first”.— ἐπὶ σάββατα τρία: “for three Sabbath days” or “weeks,” R.V., margin, the latter strongly supported by Zahn, Einleitung, i., 152. This may be the exact period of work within the synagogue. For ἐπί cf. Acts 3:1, Acts 4:15, Acts 13:31, Acts 16:18, etc.; Hawkins, Horæ Synopticœ, p. 152, used in the “We” sections, and also predominantly, though not exclusively, in the rest of Acts or Luke or either of them; see on Acts 27:20; Acts 28:6; Klostermann, Vindiciæ Lucanæ, p. 53; see also Blass, Gram., p. 133.— διελέγετο αὐτοῖς: he reasoned, rather than disputed, as the word is sometimes rendered—ten times in Acts, seven times rendered by R.V., “reasoned,” cf. also Hebrews 12:5, and twice “discoursed,” Acts 20:7; Acts 20:9, once only “disputed,” Acts 24:12, cf. Judges 1:9. Here the word may point to a conversational intercourse between St. Paul and his fellow-countryman (cf. Acts 17:17 and Mark 9:34); so Overbeck, Holtzmann, Wendt, on the force of the verb with the dative or πρός. That such interchange of speech could take place in the synagogue we learn from John 6:25; John 6:29, Matthew 12:9. In classical Greek with the dative or πρός the word means to converse with, to argue, and thus in Xen., Mem., i., 6, 1, ii., 10, 1, we have the construction διαλ. π. τινι or πρός τινα to discuss a question with another, so that the word might easily have the meaning of arguing or reasoning about a question, but not of necessity with any hostile intent; even in Hebrews 12:5 it is the fatherly παράκλησις which reasoneth with sons. Blass supports the imperfect as in T.R., Gram., p. 186.— ἀπὸ γραφῶν, i.e., drawing his proofs from them, or if a discussion is meant, starting from them; Winer-Moulton, xlvii., Grotius, so Overbeck, Kuinoel, Weiss, Wendt take the word with διανοίγων.


Verse 3

Acts 17:3. διανοίγων, sc., αὐτάς, a favourite word with St. Luke, cf. Luke 16:14; here, as in Luke 24:32; Luke 24:45, he alone uses it of making plain to the understanding the meaning of the Scriptures, “opening their meaning”.— καὶ παρατιθ. “and quoting to prove” (Ramsay), i.e., bringing forward in proof passages of Scripture; so often amongst profane writers in a similar way, instances in Wetstein; lit(304), the word means “to set forth,” and this was the older English meaning of allege; in middle voice, to set forth from oneself, to explain; to quote in one’s own favour, as evidence, or as authority, “Non other auctour allegge I,” Chaucer, Hours of Fame, 314.— τὸν χ. ἔδει παθεῖν: “that it behoved the Christ to suffer,” R.V., cf. Luke 24:25; Luke 24:46; now as ever “to the Jews a stumbling-block,” see above on p. 113, and cf. Acts 26:23; so also in writing to the Thessalonian Church the Apostle insists on the same fundamental facts of Christian belief, 1 Thessalonians 4:14.— καὶ ὅτι οὗτος κ. τ. λ.: “and that this Jesus whom, said he, I proclaim unto you is the Christ,” R.V. adds before . The words said he are inserted because of the change of construction, cf. Acts 1:4, Acts 23:22, Luke 5:14, specially frequent in Luke. On St. Paul’s preaching that “Jesus was the Christ,” and what it involved, see Witness of the Epistles, p. 307 ff.


Verse 4

Acts 17:4. προσεκληρώθησαν: “there were in addition gathered to them” (Ramsay), giving the verb a passive meaning answering to its form; or “these were allotted to them, associated with them, as disciples [by God],” cf. Ephesians 1:11. The verb is often used in Philo, also found in Plutarch, Lucian, but only here in N.T. Mr. Rendall, while pointing out that the A.V. and R.V. “consorted” gives the impression of outward association only, regards the passive aorist as a middle in meaning, and renders “threw in their lot with Paul and Silas”. According to A.V. and R.V., W. H., Weiss, and Hort, Judaistic Christianity, p. 89, two classes seem to be mentioned besides the Jews, viz., devout Greeks, and some of the chief women. According, however, to Ramsay, comparing A and (see p. 235, St. Paul), we have three classes besides the Jews, viz., proselytes, Greeks, chief women (added as a climax), see critical note, but also McGiffert, Apostolic Age, p. 247. The difficulty in T.R. and authorities first mentioned is that their rendering restricts St. Paul’s work not only to three Sabbaths or weeks, but to the synagogue and its worshippers, whereas from 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:14, it would appear that the Church contained a large number of converted heathens. McGiffert thinks it possible that St. Luke may have only recorded the least important of Paul’s labours, just as he only mentions his work in three Macedonian towns, whereas he may easily have laboured over a wider area, 1 Thessalonians 1:7; but see Paley, Horæ Paulinæ, ix., 6, and on the reading, Zahn, Einleitung, i., p. 152. In any case it would seem that a small minority of Jews is contrasted with a large number of born Gentiles, so that the Thessalonian Church may have been spoken of by St. Paul as one of Gentile Christians, who had been opposed not only to Christianity, but earlier still to Judaism, 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.— γυν. τε τῶν πρώτων οὐκ ὀλίγαι: here, as at Philippi and Berœa, the three Macedonian towns, the prominence assigned to women quite in accordance with what we know from other sources; see above. The mention both here and in Acts 17:12 that the women were the leading high-born women intimates that the poorer women would follow the men of the lower orders, Acts 17:5. Dr. Hort regards the women here as the Jewish wives of heathen men of distinction, as in Acts 13:50, Judaistic Christianity, p. 89, but in Acts 13:50 the opposition to the Apostles proceeds from these women of the higher classes, and it seems much more likely that those mentioned here were Macedonian women.


Verse 5

Acts 17:5. ἀπειθ., see critical note.— ζηλώσαντες: the jealousv is apparent, whether the word is read or not (cf. (305)), a jealousy aroused not only by the preaching of a Messiah, but also by the success of such preaching.— προσλαβ., cf. Acts 18:26 for similar sense of the verb, cf. 2 Maccabees 8:1; 2 Maccabees 10:15.— τῶν ἀγοραίωνπον.: “certain vile fellows of the rabble,” R.V.; πον. translated in A.V. “lewd” (A.-. loewede) means simply “people,” hence (1) the common people and (2) the ignorant and rude among the people, cf. Spenser, Shep. Kal. Feb., 245: “But little ease of thy lewd tale I tasted” (Skeat); and in the sense of vicious, Ezekiel 16:27, A. and R.V. (see Lumby’s note in loco—the German Leute is the word nearest akin to it.)— ἀγορ.: hangers-on in the market-place; Blass renders “tabernarii aliique in foro versantes,” see instances in Wetstein (Aristophanes, Xen., Plut.), who compares “canalicolæ” hodie canaille. In Latin, subrostrani, subbasilicani; Germ. Pflastertreter, our Loafer, Grimm-Thayer, Farrar, St. Paul, i., 513, and Nösgen, in loco. On the distinction sometimes but probably fancifully maintained between ἀγοραῖος and ἀγόραιος, see Alford on Acts 19:38; Wendt (1888), in loco; Winer-Schmiedel, p. 69; Grimm-Thayer, sub v. For the accent of πονηρός see also Winer-Schmiedel, u. s.τῇ οἰκίᾳ .: in which the Apostles were lodging, or in which the Christian assemblies were held. We know nothing further for certain of this Jason, cf. Romans 16:21 where a Jason is mentioned as a companion of Paul, and amongst his συγγενεῖς. If he was a Jew, as is most probable, we may infer that his Jewish name was Joshua or Jesus, but that he used the name Jason, the nearest Greek equivalent, in his intercourse with Greeks and Hellenists; cf. for a similar change of the two names 2 Maccabees 1:7; 2 Maccabees 4:7, and cf. Jos., Ant., xii., 5, 1, where we read that Jason’s real name was Joshua, but that he changed it into the former, owing no doubt to his Hellenising; see Deissmann, Bibelstudien, p. 184, note; Wendt and Zöckler express themselves doubtfully, and hold that the name may be here a Greek name, and its bearer not a Jew at all.— ἐπιστάντες, cf. Acts 4:1, Acts 6:12, Friedrich, p. 87.— δῆμον: to a public meeting, or to the crowd who shall inflict vengeance on them, there and then (so Weiss, Lumby); C. and H. take it of the free assembly of the people, so Ramsay. A true cause does not need such methods or supporters, “non tali auxilio nee defensoribus istis”.


Verse 6

Acts 17:6. ἔσυρον: the word indicates the violence of the mob.— πολιτάρχας: the word is an excellent instance of the accuracy of St. Luke; it is not used by any classical author of the magistrates of any city (in classical Greek we have only the form πολίαρχος and πολίταρχος), but an inscription on an arch spanning a street of the modern city has been preserved containing the title (and also containing the names which occur among the names of St. Paul’s converts, Sosipater, Gaius, Secundus), see Bœckh, C. I. Gr(306), 1967. The arch is assigned to the time of Vespasian, and the entablature preserved by the British consul at the instance of Dean Stanley in 1876 is in the British Museum, see Blass, in loco, Speaker’s Commentary, C. and H. (small edition), p. 258, Knabenbauer in loco, and for other inscription evidence, Zahn, Einleitung, i., 151. But more recently Burton (Amer. Jour. of Theol., July, 1898, pp. 598–632) has collected no less than seventeen inscriptions on which the word πολιτάρχαι or πολιταρχοῦντες ( πολειταρχ-), the latter more frequently, occurs: of these thirteen are referred to Macedonia, and of these again five to Thessalonica, extending from the beginning of the first to the middle of the second century, A.D. The number of the politarchs in Thessalonica varies from five to six (see Theol. Literaturzeitung, 1899, 2, for notice of Burton’s article by Schürer), and on spelling, Winer-Schmiedel, p. 82 note.— τὴν οἰκουμένην: no doubt in the political sense “the Roman Empire” since the charge was a political one, and was naturally exaggerated through jealousy and excitement. There is therefore no need for the hypercritical remarks of Baur, Zeller, Overbeck, against the truthfulness or accuracy of the expression.— ἀναστατώσαντες: only in Luke and Paul, Acts 21:38, Galatians 5:12, see LXX, Daniel 7:23 (in a different sense), Deuteronomy 29:27, Græc. Venet. (Grimm-Thayer, sub v.), and several times in the O.T., fragments of Aquila, Symmachus, and in Eustathius, see also Hatch and Redpath, sub v.). οὗτοι, contemptuous.


Verse 7

Acts 17:7. ὑποδέδεκται: no notion of secrecy as Erasmus and Bengel, but as in Luke 10:38; Luke 19:6; only found in these three passages in Luke, and in James 2:25, cf. LXX, Tobit 7:8, Judges 13:13 (see Hatch and Redpath for both instances), 1 Maccabees 16:15, and 4 Maccabees 13:17, often in classical Greek without any notion of secrecy.— οὗτοι πάντες: the words may be taken as referring not only to Jason and the accused, but with Alford, “all these people,” i.e., Christians wherever found.— ἀπέναντι: only here in N.T. in this sense (common in LXX and Apocrypha, so also Polyb., i., 86, 3), cf. Sirach 36 (33):14.— δογματων, see on Acts 16:4. The word may here refer to the successive decrees of the emperors against treason, and there is no need to refer it in this passage to the decree of Claudius, see on Acts 18:2, but rather to the Julian Leges Majestatis.— β. λέγοντες ἕτερον εἶναι: this was the charge, the political charge of high treason, brought against our Lord Himself by the Jews, Luke 23:2, John 19:12; John 19:15. The nature of this charge may fairly point to a Jewish source, for the Jews thought of the Messiah as a king, and in their hostility to Paul they could easily accuse him of proclaiming Jesus or another king, another emperor (Ramsay), instead of Caesar; so McGiffert on this passage, “whose trustworthiness can hardly be doubted” (Apostolic Age, p. 246). The Epistles to the Thessalonians contain passages which might be as easily perverted in the same direction, 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-8, or the fact that Jesus was so often spoken of as κύριος, “that deathless King Who lived and died for men,” might have given colour to the charge, cf. on the coincidence and accuracy of the Acts and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, Paley, Horæ Paulinæ, ix., 5, and McGiffert, u. s.


Verse 8

Acts 17:8. ἐτάραξαν: the people would be disturbed at intelligence which might point to a revolution, and the politarchs, lest they should themselves be liable to the same charge of treason for not defending the honour of the emperor. No charge would be more subtle in its conception, or more dangerous in the liabilities which it involved, cf. Tacitus, Ann., iii., 38.


Verse 9

Acts 17:9. λαβόντες τὸ ἱκανὸν = satis sccipere (cf. Mark 15:15, and Wetstein, in loco). Blass regards the phrase as a commercial one, due to the frequency of commercial intercourse, and cf. Acts 5:31, Acts 18:15, Acts 19:38 (Acts 24:24, (307)); properly a pecuniary surety, or sureties, here security for good behaviour from Jason and the others, that nothing illegal should be done by them, and certainly nothing against the majesty of the emperor. The words have been explained as meaning that securities were given for the production of the Apostles, and that thus Jason and his friend, by sending them off at night, ran a risk of their lives (Chrys., Grotius), or that the Apostles should not be sheltered any longer, or that they should be obliged to depart at once. Evidently the magistrates did not consider the evidence very weighty = ἀπέλυσαν αὐτούς.


Verse 10

Acts 17:10. εὐθέωςἐξέπεμ.: there was need of immediate action, either in obedience to the direct charge of the magistrates that Paul should not come again to Thessalonica, or from danger of a revival of the tumult. That St. Paul left Thessalonica with grief and pain is evident from 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20, but he felt that the separation was necessary at least for a time. But still he looked back upon Thessalonica and his work with an ungrudging affection, and his converts were his glory and joy. In the opening words of his First Epistle, Acts 1:7 (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:4, 2 Corinthians 8:1), he speaks in a way which not only implies that his own work extended further in and from Thessalonica than the Acts alone enables us to learn, but that the furtherance of the Gospel was due to the Thessalonians themselves. See McGiffert, p. 255, on St. Paul’s quiet hand-to-hand work at Thessalonica. For it was not only in the synagogue that St. Paul laboured, as in the message of the Gospel was formal and official, but amongst them who were working like himself for their daily bread, 1 Thessalonians 2:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:8, see Ramsay’s note, Church in the Roman Empire, p. 85, on St. Paul’s work at Thessalonica. The phrase “night and day,” 1 Thessalonians 2:9, need not imply, as the Speaker’s Commentary, that Paul had only the Sundays for preaching, because his other days were so fully occupied; but the phrase means that he started work before dawn, and thus was able to devote some of the later part of the day to preaching. On the striking parallel between the characteristics of the Thessalonians of St. Paul’s Epistles and the Acts and the characteristics which were marked by St. Jerome in his day, see Speaker’s Commentary, iii., 701.— βέροιαν (or βέρροια): in the district of Macedonia called Emathia, Ptol., iii., 12, originally perhaps Pherœa, from Pheres, its founder (see Wetstein): about fifty miles southwest of Thessalonica. It was smaller and less important than the latter, but still possessing a considerable population and commerce, owing to its natural advantages, now Verria or Kara Feria, see B.D.2 and Hastings’ B.D., Renan, St. Paul, p. 162, and C. and H., small edition, p. 261. According to the Itineraries, two roads led from Thessalonica to Berœa, Wetstein quotes a curious passage from Cicero, In Pisonem, xxvi., which may possibly indicate that Paul and Silas went to Berœa on account of its comparative seclusion (so Alford, Farrar, Felten): Cicero calls it “oppidum devium”.— εἰς τὴν συν. The Jewish population was at least considerable enough to have a synagogue, and thither Paul, according to his custom, went first.— ἀπῄεσαν: only here in N.T., cf. 2 Maccabees 12:1, 4 Maccabees 4:8; here it may imply that on their arrival Paul and Silas left their escort, and went into the synagogue.


Verse 11

Acts 17:11. εὐγενέστεροι: only in Luke and Paul in the N.T., so in classics the word is used of noble birth, Luke 19:12, 1 Corinthians 1:26 (Job 1:3), or of nobility of character as here, cf. also its use in 4 Maccabees 3:5; 4 Maccabees 9:23; 4 Maccabees 9:27 (and εὐγενῶς in 2 Maccabees 14:42, and several times in 4 Macc.). We may compare the wide and varying use of the Latin ingenuus in accordance with the context, its meaning here is that the Berœans were far from the strife and envy of the Thessalonian Jews; see Ramsay, Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 154, 160, 163, on the less favourable attitude of Codex Bezæ to the Berœans than the T.R., and critical note; see also above on Acts 13:50.— προθ.: another word only in Luke and Paul, cf. 2 Corinthians 8:11-12; 2 Corinthians 8:19; 2 Corinthians 9:2; not in LXX, but once in Sirach 45:23, frequent in classical Greek.— τὸ καθʼ ἡμέραν: indicates that St. Paul made a lengthy stay at Berœa also, cf. Luke 11:3; Luke 19:47, but elsewhere without the article, with the article peculiar to Luke (see Plummer’s note on Luke 11:3). On the frequency of καθʼ ἡμέραν in Luke’s writings see Friedrich, p. 9, and above on Hawkins, Horæ Synopticæ, p. 33. If τό is read, see critical note, it particularises the repetition or constancy of the act.— ἀνακρ.: “examining,” R.V. (the word in St.John 5:39, which A.V. also renders “search,” is ἐρευνάω), cf. 1 Corinthians 10:25; 1 Corinthians 10:27, used elsewhere by St. Luke of a judicial inquiry or investigation, Luke 23:14, Acts 4:9; Acts 12:19; Acts 24:8; Acts 28:18. The word is only found in Luke and Paul, once in LXX, 1 Samuel 20:12, in a general sense, and in Susannah, ver 48, 51, where it is connected with a judicial inquiry, as elsewhere in Luke. In classical Greek used also in the general sense of examining closely, questioning, sifting.— τὰς γραφάς: Blass explains “locos a Paulo allatos,” but although these were ipso facto included, the term can hardly be so limited, cf. Acts 18:24; Acts 18:28, and Lightfoot on Galatians 3:22. “Character verae religionis, quod se dijudicari patitur,” Bengel.— εἰ ἔχοι, Burton, p. 52, cf. Luke 1:29; Luke 3:15. Wendt rightly points out that the positive praise bestowed on the Jews of Berœa tends in itself to contradict the theory that Acts was written to emphasise the unbelief of the Jews, and to contrast their unbelief with Gentile belief.


Verse 12

Acts 17:12. See critical note and Ramsay, Church in the Roman Empire, u. s. As at Thessalonica, so here the Apostles’ work extended beyond the limits of the synagogue. ἑλληνίδων: the term relates to the men as well as to the women—the Jewish men had already been included in the first word πολλοί, see Alford, Weiss, Wendt, Zöckler.— εὐσχημόνων, see above on Acts 13:50. Blass refers the term to ἀνδρῶν also, and points out that Sopater of Berœa alone in Acts is named πατρόθεν according to Greek custom, cf. Acts 20:4 (R.V., W.H(308), Weiss, Wendt). See also Orr, Neglected Factors in the Early Progress of Christianity, p. 107.


Verse 13

Acts 17:13. οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς θ. .: as before in the first journey, the bitter and enduring malice of the Jews followed Paul from one place to another, and the use of his name alone shows that he was their chief aim.— κἀκεῖ: the word is often taken with σαλεύοντες, for it was not their advent which had happened previously, but their incitement to risk against Paul, so Page, Weiss, Wendt, Rendall, etc.; on the word see above on Acts 14:7.— σαλεύοντες, cf. also for its figurative use 2 Thessalonians 2:2, very frequent in LXX, and sometimes in figurative sense, as often in the Psalms, cf. 1 Maccabees 6:8, see above on Acts 2:25, and critical note on .


Verse 14

Acts 17:14. εὐθέως δὲ τότε: evidently the same riot and danger followed as at Thessalonica; St. Luke often passes over the difficulties and dangers which drove Paul from place to place (Ramsay).— ὡς: if we read ἕως, R.V., see critical note, “as far as to the sea,” but ὡς ἐπί might well mean ad mare versus, ad mare, so Alford, Blass, and instances in Wetstein. There is no need to suppose that the words express a feigned movement to elude pursuit, “as if towards the sea” (see this meaning supported by Rendall, p. 108).— ἐπὶ τὴν θ.: probably he would embark at Dium near the foot of Olympus, which was connected by a direct road with Berœa (Lewin, C. and H., but see, however, Renan, Saint Paul, p. 166, note).— ὑπέμ.… ἐκεῖ, i.e., remained behind at Berœa, probably to gain the first intelligence from Thessalonica as to the possibility of St. Paul’s return, and to bring the news to the Apostle, whose next stage may not have been decided upon until he reached the coast.


Verse 15

Acts 17:15. καθιστῶντες, see critical note, i.e., the Berœan brethren. In N.T. only here in this sense, cf. Joshua 6:23, 2 Chronicles 28:15, so also in classical Greek and in later Greek (instances in Wetstein); they accompanied Paul probably for protection as well as guidance (it has sometimes been supposed that disease of the eyes rendered the guidance necessary, but the word is used quite generally); see further additional note at end of chapter and critical note above, Ramsay, Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 159, 160. If we compare Acts 18:5 it looks as if Timothy and Silas only overtook Paul at Corinth, and that he had left Athens before they reached that city. But from 1 Thessalonians 3:1 it appears that Timothy was with Paul at Athens, and was sent from thence by him to Thessalonica, and this is quite in accordance with Paul’s earnest wish that Timothy and Silas should come to him as quickly as possible (if we suppose that they only rejoined him in Acts 18:5, they must have taken a much longer time than was necessary for the journey). But if Paul remained alone, as he states, 1 Thessalonians 3:1, at Athens, Silas must also have been sent away; and we may well suppose that as Timothy was sent to comfort the Thessalonians for St. Paul’s delay in returning to them, so Silas may have been sent to Philippi, with which St. Paul was frequently in communication at this time, Philippians 4:15. But after their return to Corinth from their mission, they found that St. Paul had already gone on to Corinth, and there they rejoined him. See on the whole subject, Ramsay, St. Paul, pp. 233, 240, as against McGiffert; Wendt (1899) and Felten, in loco; Paley, Horœ Paulinæ, ix., 4.


Verse 16

Acts 17:16. ἐκδεχομένου, cf. 1 Corinthians 11:33; 1 Corinthians 16:11, rare in classical Greek in this sense.— παρωξύνετο: “was provoked,” R.V., only found elsewhere in N.T. in St. Paul’s own description of ἀγάπη, 1 Corinthians 13:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:39 (see note) and Hebrews 10:24 for the cognate noun, see on the latter, Westcott, in loco. In LXX both verb and noun are used for burning with anger, or for violent anger, passion, Hosea 8:5, Zechariah 10:3, Deuteronomy 29:28, Jeremiah 39 (32):37; cf. Dem., 514, 10; ὠργίσθη καὶ παρωξύνθη (Meyer-Wendt).— τὸ πνεῦμα: expression principally used in Paul, cf. 1 Corinthians 2:11, Romans 1:9; Romans 8:16, etc. Blass calls it periphrasis hebraica, and cf. Luke 1:47.— θεωροῦντες: “beheld,” R.V., as of contemplation in thought, Latin, contemplari.— κατείδωλον: “full of idols,” R.V.—the rendering “wholly given to idolatry” was not true, i.e., idolatry in the sense of worshipping the innumerable idols. If the city had been sincerely devoted to idol worship St. Paul might have had more to appeal to, “verum monumenta pietatis reperiebat Paulus, non ipsam, quæ dudum evanuerat,” Blass. A.V. follows Vulgate, “idololatriæ deditum”. The adjective is found only here, but it is formed after the analogy of κατάδενδρος, κατάμπελος, so Hermann, ad Vig., p. 638 (1824), “ κατείδωλος πόλις non est, uti quidam opinantur, simulacris dedita urbs, sed simulacris referta”. No word could have been more fitly chosen to describe the aspect of Athens to St. Paul as he wandered through it, a city which had been described as ὅλη βωμός, ὅλη θῦμα θεοῖς καὶ ἀνάθημα, see below on Acts 17:17. Before he actually entered the city, as he walked along the Hamaxitos road, St. Paul would have seen altars raised at intervals to the unknown gods, as both Pausanias and Philostratus testify, see “Athens,” F.C. Conybeare, in Hastings’ B.D. “He took these incomparable figures for idols,” writes Renan (Saint Paul, p. 172) as he describes the beautiful sculptured forms upon which the eyes of the Apostle would be fixed, but the man who could write Romans 1 must have been keenly alive to the dangers which followed upon “the healthy sensualism of the Greeks”.


Verse 17

Acts 17:17. μὲν οὖντινὲς δὲ, see Rendall, p. 162, Appendix on μὲν οὖν, for the antithesis; a simple instance of two parties acting in opposition. Page however finds the antithesis to μὲν οὖν in Acts 17:19. ἐπιλαβ. δὲ (so W. H.), and regards τινὲς δὲσυνέβαλλον αὐτῷ as almost parenthetical, see below on Acts 17:19.— διελέγετο: “he reasoned,” R.V. (so Ramsay), see above on Acts 17:2.— ἐν τῇ συν.: on the synagogue see “Athens,” F. C. Conybeare, in Hastings’ B.D., but St. Paul did not confine himself to the synagogue, although undeterred by their hatred he went first to his own countrymen, and to the proselytes. But probably they were not numerous (see Farrar, St. Paul, i., 533), and the Apostle carried the same method of reasoning into the market-place—as was natural in the city of Socrates, he entered into conversation with those whom he met, as the same philosopher had done four hundred years before. Thus he became an Athenian to the Athenians: see the striking parallel in the description of Socrates, “he was to be seen in the market-place at the hour when it was most crowded,” etc., and the words used by Socrates of himself, Plato, Apol., 31 A, quoted by Grote, viii., 211, 212, small edit., p. 212. F. C. Conybeare, u. s., compares the experiences in Athens of the Apostle’s contemporary Apollonius with those of St. Paul; he too reasoned διελέξατο with them on religious matters, Philostr., Vit. Apollonii Tyanæ, iv., 19. The words ἐν τῇ συν. are placed in brackets by Hilgenfeld, and referred by Clemen to his Redactor Antijudaicus, whilst Jüngst retains the words but omits 16b, and with Van Manen and Clemen regards the whole of Paul’s subsequent speech to the philosophers as the interpolation of a Redactor, p. 161 ff.— ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ: not the market-place like that which fills a bare space in a modern town, but rather to be compared with its varied beauty and its busy crowd to the square of some Italian city, e.g., the Piazza di Marco of Venice. There the Apostle’s eye would fall on portico after portico, adorned by famous artists, rich in noble statues, see F. C. Conybeare, u. s., and Renan, Saint Paul, p. 180. On the west lay the Stoa Pæcile, whence the Stoics received their name, and where Zeno met his pupils, whilst the quiet gardens of Epicurus were probably not far distant (see on the site of the Agora to which St. Luke refers, “Athens,” B.D.2, i., 292, 293, and also C. and H., smaller edition, p. 273, Hackett, in loco, for different views as to its site).— κατὰ πᾶσαν ἡμέραν: every day, for he could take advantage by this method not only of the Sabbaths and days of meeting in the synagogues, but of every day, cf. the words of Socrates, Plato, u. s., in describing his own daily work of conversation with every one τὴν ἡμέραν ὅλην πανταχοῦ προσκαθίζων. The phrase seems to denote some time spent at Athens.— παρατυγχάνοντας: “chance comers” (like another Socrates), used only here in N.T., but cf. Thuc., i. 22, not in LXX or Apocrypha. Athens was full not only of philosophers, but we can imagine from the one phrase applied to it, Tac., Ann., ii., 55, what a motley group might surround the Apostle, ilia colluvies nationum.


Verse 18

Acts 17:18. συνέβαλλον αὐτῷ: a word peculiar to St. Luke; three times in his Gospel, four times in Acts; it need not have necessarily a hostile sense as in Luke 14:31, but simply means that amongst the chance comers in the Agora there were some who “engaged in discussions,” with him (so Blass like Latin, consilia conferre, sc. λόγους), a meaning perhaps suggested by the imperfect. Grotius and others take it as “translatio de prœliis sumpta, ut apparet, Luke 14:31. Utitur ita sæpe Polybius, quem sequi amat Lucas.”— ἐπικουρείων: so called from Epicurus, 342–270 B.C.; his disciples were known also as the School of the Garden, from the garden in Athens where the master instructed them, in distinction from the disciples of the Porch or the Academy. We must be careful to remember that as in numberless other cases, so the system of the founder suffered at the hands of his successors, and that the life of Epicurus himself was far removed from that of a mere sensualist, or “Epicure” in its later sense. But it was evident that a life which made pleasure and happiness the be-all and end-all of existence, however safeguarded by the conditions imposed at the outset by Epicurus, was liable to degenerate into a mere series of prudential calculations, or a mere indulgence of the senses and appetites. In his determination to rid men of the superstitious fears which were the chief cause of the miseries of humanity, Epicurus opposed the popular Polytheism, and regarded the gods as living a life of passionless calm far removed from mundane strifes and sorrows, “careless of mankind”. The Stoics branded Epicurus as an Atheist, but the materialistic creed of Epicurus and his followers had at all events this merit, that its bold criticism of existing beliefs was serviceable in undermining the prevailing acceptance of a gross and crude mythology, whilst it helped to assert in contradistinction to a paralysing fatalism the doctrine of the freedom of man’s will (see F. C. Conybeare, “Epicureans,” Hastings’ B.D.; Westcott, “Epicureans,” B.D.2; Wallace, Epicureanism).— στωϊκῶν: The Stoics, so called from the Stoa Pæcile at Athens where Zeno of Citium, the founder of the school, 340–260 B.C., met his pupils, and where his successors debated (Capes, Stoics, p. 30), spoke in their theology of a providence ruling the world, of a first cause and a governing mind. But their creed was essentially Pantheistic, although the verses of Cleanthes’ Hymn (“the most important document of the Stoic theology,” Ueberweg) seemed to breathe the accents of a higher and nobler belief. But no devotional phrases could disguise a Pantheism which regarded the world as the body of God, and God as the soul of the world, which held that apart from external nature the Supreme God had no existence which identified Him with fate and necessity, while the history of the universe was an unfolding of the providence of God, but a providence which was but another name for the chain of causation and consequences, inviolable, eternal. The leading maxims of the ethical system of the Stoics was the injunction to live according to nature, although the expression of the rule varied in the earlier and later schools. But as this life was best realised in conformity to the law of the universe, in conformity with reason as the highest element in man, the Stoic ideal, in spite of its recognition of virtue, became not merely stern and intellectual, but impassive and austere; in aiming at apathy the Stoic lost sympathy with the most ennobling and energetic emotions, and thus wrapped up in the cloak of his own virtue he justified, at least from an ethical point of view, the description which classed him as the Pharisee of Greek philosophy. In addressing an audience composed at all events in part of the representatives of these two great philosophic schools it may be said that St. Paul was not unmindful of his own former training in the early home of Stoicism (see on p. 235). And so in speaking of creation and providence, of the unity of nations in the recognition of all that was true even in Pantheism, St. Paul has been described as taking the Stoic side against the Epicureans, or at least we may say that he in his speech asserts against some of the cardinal errors of the Epicureans the creative and superintending power of God. But to the Stoic and Epicurean alike the Christian Creed would proclaim that All’s Love, yet all’s Law; to the Stoic and Epicurean alike, the Pharisee and Sadducee of the world of philosophy, the bidding came to repent and obey the Gospel, no less than to the crowd whom sages and philosophers despised: “Paulus summa arte orationem suam ita temperat, ut modo cum vulgo contra Philosophos, modo cum Philosophis contra plebem, modo contra utrosque pugnet,” Wetstein; see Capes, Stoicism; Lightfoot, Philippians, “St. Paul and Seneca”; Zahn, Der Stoiker Epiktet und sein Verhältniss zum Christenthum; Ueberweg, Hist, of Phil., i., p. 185 ff.; Rendall, Marcus Antoninus, Introd. (1898); Gore, Ephesians, p. 253 ff.— καί τινες ἔλεγον: these are generally taken to include the philosophers, and the remarks following are referred to them; sometimes the first question to the Epicureans, and the second criticism to the Stoics. But it has recently been maintained that we need not refer to the two sects of philosophers this unfavourable criticism on St. Paul; “Epicureans,” Conybeare in Hastings’ B.D. Certainly the οἱ δέ has no οἱ μέν as if two opposing schools were meant. The punctuation in R.V., which simply states the fact that amongst those in the Agora certain also τινὲς δὲ καὶ of the philosophers, etc., admits of this view that the criticisms were uttered not by the philosophers, but by the curious crowd which thronged the Agora. Ramsay however takes the verse as marking the opinions of the philosophers, and the use of the word σπερμολόγος by Zeno of one of his followers may help to confirm this.— τί ἂν θέλοι: “what would this babbler say?” R.V., not future as in A.V.; the ἄν with optative being used to express what would happen as the fulfilment of some supposed condition, Burton, p. 79, so Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 33 (1893), the condition being if we would listen to him, or if his words have any meaning; optative with ἄν only in Luke, see Burton, u. s.σπερμολόγος: primarily an adjective, - ον; as a substantive σπερ. of a rook or crow, or some small bird, picking up seeds, cf. Arist., Av., 233, 580. σπέρμα- λέγω: so far as derivation is concerned it is not connected with σπείρω- λόγους, Latin, seminiverbius (so Augustine, Wycliffe, “sower of words”). The accent shows that this latter derivation is incorrect. Hence a man hanging about the shops and the markets, picking up scraps which fell from the loads and thus gaining a livelihood, so a parasite, one who lives at the expense of others, a hanger-on, Eustathius on Hom., Odys., v., 490; see in Grimm, sub v.; so Dem. speaks of Aeschines, 269, 19, as σπερ. περίτριμμα ἀγορᾶς. The word thus came to be used of a man who picked up scraps of information, and retailed them at second hand. So Eustathius speaks of rhetoricians who were mere collectors of words and consistent plagiarists διʼ ὅλου σπερμολογοῦντες; so again he remarks that the word is applied to those who make a show in unscientific style of knowledge which they have got from misunderstanding of lectures (see for these quotations Ramsay, Expositor, September, 1899, p. 222, and the whole article “St. Paul in Athens”). Ramsay maintains therefore that there is no instance of the classical use of the word as a babbler or mere talker, and he sees in the word a piece of Athenian slang, caught up as the Athenians had themselves used it (“sine dubio hoc ex ipso ore Atheniensium auctor excepit” Blass), and applied to one who was quite outside any literary circle, an ignorant, vulgar plagiarist. At the same time it is perhaps difficult to find any single word more to the point than “babbler,” A. and R.V. (Tyndall), for, as Alford urges, it both signifies one who talks fluently to no purpose, and hints also that his talk is not his own. We may, however, well owe this rendering to the fact that σπερμολόγος was wrongly derived, as if it meant seminator verborum, whereas its true derivation is given above. De Wette, Overbeck, Nösgen, Weiss, Holtzmann, Zöckler, Wendt, all so render it. An ingenious attempt has been made to connect the word with the Aretalogi (Juvenal, Sat., xv., 16; Suet, Aug(309), 74) or praters about virtue, who hired themselves as entertainers for the wealthy Roman nobles at their dinners: “mendax aretalogus,” Juv., u. s.; Zöckler, in loco. For instances of the use of the word see Wetstein, Ramsay, Nösgen, Bethge, Die Paulinischen Reden, p. 77; Rendall (who agrees with Ramsay), and “Babbler,” Hastings’ B.D.— ξένωνδαιμ. δοκεῖ καταγ.: The same kind of accusation had been already made against Socrates, Xen., Mem., i., 1, as also against Anaxagoras and Protagoras, see Josephus, . Apion., ii., 38, who also tells us how a certain priestess had been condemned in Athens ὅτι ξένους ἐμύει θεούς. In Athens the introduction of strange gods was a capital offence, if by such an introduction the home deities were rejected and the state religion disturbed, but there is nothing to show that the Athenians regarded Paul’s teaching in this light, and there is no evidence that the Areopagus had cognisance of serious charges of impiety or of the introduction of foreign religion (Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 247).— ξένων: “strange,” i.e., foreign.— δαιμονίων used here like the Greek δαιμόνιον in a neutral sense which might refer to deities good or bad. In classical Greek we have καινὰ δαιμόνια, cf. the charge against Socrates, Xen., Mem., i., 1; Plato, Apol., 24 B. καταγγελεὺς: only here in N.T., not found in LXX or classical Greek, the verb καταγγέλλειν occurs twice in 2 Maccabees 8:36; 2 Maccabees 9:17, of declaring abroad the power of the God of the Jews. In Plutarch we have κατάγγελος.— δοκεῖ, see Burton, p. 153; on the personal construction with δοκεῖ cf. Galatians 2:9, James 1:26, etc.— τὸν . καὶ τὴν ἀνάστασιν, see critical note. It is possible that the Athenians thought that Paul was preaching two strange, deities, Jesus and Resurrection (the latter as a female deity ἀνάστασις), just as they had their own altars erected to Pity, Piety, Modesty, a view which gains support not only from the collocation of the words, but from the use of the article with both, and from the supposition that Paul was held to be a preacher of more than one strange God; so Chrys., Oecum., Selden, and list given by Wendt (1888), in loco. Wendt also (1899) inclines to this view, which is adopted by Renan, Overbeck, Holtzmann, Felten, McGiffert, Knabenbauer, cf. also the punctuation in R.V., which may imply this view (see Humphry on R.V., in loco). As against this view see Hackett’s note, p. 213, who thinks it hardly conceivable that the Apostle could express himself so obscurely on the subject as to afford any occasion for this gross mistake (so also Farrar). The article before ἀνάσ. is taken by Nösgen as referring simply to the general resurrection, a view which he regards as agreeing with the prominence given to the doctrine in Acts 17:31. It is argued that if ἀνάσ. referred to the resurrection of Jesus we should have αὐτοῦ which has crept into some copies, but the address itself shows that the Apostle spoke of the resurrection of Jesus as affording a pledge of a general resurrection.


Verse 19

Acts 17:19. ἐπιλαβ.: as to whether we regard this as done with hostile intent, or not, will depend upon the view taken of the meaning of the Areopagus. If the latter means “the Hill of Mars,” to which the Apostle was taken for a quiet hearing and for unimportant discussion, then the former is clearly inadmissible; if, however, the Areopagus meant the Council of Areopagus, then that action would seem to have been indicative at least of malice and dislike. The verb in the N.T. is used only in the middle, with accusative or genitive, and most frequently by St. Luke, five times in his Gospel, seven times in Acts, twice by St. Paul, only once by St. Matthew and by St. Mark. In each case it can be determined by the context whether it is used in a favourable or unfavourable sense. So too in LXX (always with genitive), where it is frequently used, the context alone decides. Certainly Acts 9:27 presents a close verbal parallel in language, as the participle ἐπιλ. is followed as here by ἤγαγον (Weiss), but the context there expresses beyond all doubt a friendly action. Grotius (so Weiss, Wendt, Felten, Zöckler, Bethge) attributes friendliness to the action here, and renders “manu leniter prehensum,” so too F. C. Conybeare, “Areopagus,” Hastings’ B.D., renders it “took Paul by the hand,” but in three of the four parallels to which he refers χείρ is expressed, and for the fourth see above. But the view taken of the following words will help us to decide, Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 245, and Expositor, September, 1895, pp. 216, 217.— ἐπὶ τὸν . πάγον, Curtius, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, ii., p. 528, note, and Ramsay, Expositor, u. s., p. 217, point out that ἐπί with accusative would be the correct expression for taking any one before an official court, cf. Acts 9:21, Acts 16:19, Acts 17:6, Acts 18:12—a regular Lucan preposition in this sense—cf. also Herod., iii. 46, 156; viii. 79. But it does not therefore follow that a regular trial was instituted, as Chrys., Theophylact and others have held, since there is nothing in the context to indicate this. But the form of expression certainly does seem to indicate that Paul was taken not to the Hill of Mars, as is generally held, but before a court or council. And there is substantial evidence for believing that the term Areopagus (as Blass admits) was not merely local, but that it was sometimes used as = the Council or Court of Areopagus, cf. Cicero, Ad Atticum, i., 14, 5; De Nat. Deorum, ii., 29; Rep., i., 27. Moreover, there is good reason to believe that the council, although deriving its name from the hill, did not always meet on the hill, and also that it had the power of taking official action in questions bearing upon public teaching in the city (cf. Renan, Saint Paul, pp. 193, 194, and authorities cited). It is therefore not an improbable inference that Paul would be brought before such a court for inquiry into his teaching; beyond this inference perhaps we cannot go; even to call the inquiry a προδικασία (so Curtius) may be to apply a technical term unwarranted by the context, which bears no trace of a criminal procedure, cf. Curtius, u. s., pp. 528, 529; Ramsay, u. s.; Plumptre and Rendall, in loco. But where did the council meet for the discharge of such duties as inquiries into the qualification of teachers, as a public court for the maintenance of public order? Probably in the Stoa Basileios; here Demosthenes informs us that some of its duties were transacted (see Expositor, October, 1895, p. 272, and Curtius, u. s., p. 528), and the scene before us is full of the life of the Agora with the corona of people thronging to listen, rather than of the sacred or solemn associations of the Hill of Mars, or of the quietude of a spot far removed from the busy life of the market-place. So too the name “Areopagus” might have been easily transferred to the council sitting in a place other than the hill, so that βουλὴ ἐξ . π. might easily become ἄρειος πάγος informally and colloquially, and the word as used here by St. Luke may really be another proof that, as in σπερμολόγος, the author catches the very word which the Athenians would use, Ramsay, Expositor, September, 1895, p. 216, and Renan, u. s., p. 194, note. But it has further been urged both by Curtius and Ramsay (so also Renan, u. s.) that the Hill of Mars would be a most inconvenient place for public assemblies and speakers, see Ramsay, u. s., p. 213, and Curtius, u. s., p. 529, and even if the spot had been suitable for such purposes, there would have been a want of fitness in the Athenians taking this σπερμολόγος to harangue them on a spot so inseparably associated with the dignity and glory of their city; see also below on Acts 17:22; Acts 17:33.— δυναμεθα γνῶναι: like the Latin, Possum scire? the question may have been asked in courtesy, or in sarcasm, or ironically; in the repetition of the article the irony may be accentuated.— ὑπὸ δοῦ λαλ.: “which it spoken by thee,” R.V., the Apostle was not speaking about the doctrine, A.V., his words were the doctrine (Lumby). Felten regards the question as courteously put, and sees in it a decisive proof that Paul was not put upon his trial, since a man could not be tried on a charge of which his accusers had no knowledge. But this would not prevent a preliminary inquiry of some kind before the court, prompted by dislike or suspicion.


Verse 20

Acts 17:20. ξενίζοντα: rather perhaps startling or bewildering than strange—so too in Polyb., cf. 1 Peter 4:12, but see Grimm-Thayer, sub v. Ramsay renders “some things of foreign fashion” as if the words were connected with the opinion that the Apostle was an announcer of foreign gods, cf. also 2 Maccabees 9:6, Diod. Sic., xii., 53.— τινα: the rhetorical use of the indefinite τις here strengthening the participle, cf. Acts 8:9, Acts 5:6, Hebrews 10:27.— εἰσφ.… ἀκοὰς: Blass suggests a Hebraism, but on the life of Greeks we must look no further than the parallel which the same writer adduces, Soph., Ajax, 147, cf. also Wetstein. The verb is only used here in this sense in N.T.— τί ἂν θέλοι, see critical note and Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 112: “de rebus in aliquem exitum tendentibus,” Grimm; cf. Acts 2:12; so Bethge.


Verse 21

Acts 17:21. ἀθην. δὲ πάντες: “now all Athenians,” without any article, a characteristic of the whole people, cf. Acts 27:4, but see Ramsay, Expositor, October, 1895, p. 274, and Blass, Gram., p. 157.— ἐπιδημοῦντες: “sojourning there,” R.V., A.V. takes no notice of the word = resident strangers: “unde iidem mores,” Bengel; on the population of Athens see F. C. Conybeare, “Athens,” Hastings’ B.D.; Renan, Saint Paul, pp. 183, 185, 187.— εὐκαίρουν: “had leisure for nothing else,” R.V. margin, cf. Mark 6:21 (only elsewhere in N.T. in 1 Corinthians 16:12), used by Polyb., Rutherford, New Phrynichus, p. 205. How fatally the more important interests of life were sacrificed to this characteristic (note imperfect tense), restless inquisitiveness, their great orator, Demosthenes, knew when he contrasted this idle curiosity with the vigour and ability of Philip of Macedon, Philippic I., p. 43. The words go to support the interpretation that there was no formal indictment, but they do not destroy the view that there may have been an examinaton into the Apostle’s teaching, Curtius, u. s., p. 529.— καινότερον: certainly there is, as Blass says, “mirus consensus” as to this characteristic of the Athenians; see instances in Wetstein: Dem., Philippic I., 43, and Philipp. Epist., 156, 157; Thuc., iii., 38; Theophr., Char., iii., περὶ λογοποΐας μὴ λέγεταί τι καινότερον; cf. Seneca, Epist., 74. Lit(310), “some newer thing,” something newer than that which had just preceded it as new up to the time of asking. The comparative may therefore indicate more vividly the voracious appetite of the Athenians for news, although it may be also said that the comparative was the usual degree used by the Greeks in the question What news? (usually νεώτερον); indeed their fondness for using the comparative of both νέος and καινός is quite singular (Page, see also Winer-Moulton, xxxv., 4; Blass, Gram., p. 138). The words of Bengel are often quoted, “nova statim sordebant, noviora quærebantur,” but it should be noted that he adds “Noviora autem quærebant, non modo in iis quæ gentilia accidunt; sed, quod nobilius videtur, in philosophicis,” see for a practical and forcible lesson on the words, F. D. Maurice, Friendship of Books, pp. 84, 85.


Verse 22

Acts 17:22. σταθεὶς, Lucan, see Acts 1:15.— ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ . π., i.e., in the midst of the Council or Court of Areopagus, see above on Acts 17:19, cf. Acts 4:7, Peter stood in the midst of the Sanhedrim. Ramsay pertinently remarks that the words “in the middle of Mars’ hill” are far from natural or clear, and those who adopt them usually omit the word “midst,” and say that Paul stood on Mars’hill, justifying the expression by supposing that ἐν μέσῳ is a Hebraism for ἐν, Acts 1:15, Acts 2:22. But whilst a Hebraism would be natural in the earlier chapters referred to, it would be quite out of place here in this Attic scene, cf. also Acts 17:33, Ramsay, Expositor, September, 1895, so too Curtius, u. s., p. 529, in support of the rendering adopted by Ramsay.— ἄνδρες ἀθην.: usual way of beginning a speech; strange to allege it as a proof that the speech is not genuine: “according to the best MS. evidence, Demosthenes habitually, at least in some speeches, said ἄνδρες ἀθηναῖοι without . It is therefore a mistake to note as unclassical the use of the vocative here without , cf. Acts 1:14, Acts 19:35,” Simcox, Language of the New Testament, p. 76, note.— κατὰ πάντα: “in all things I perceive that ye are,” R.V., meaning that wherever he looked he had evidence of this characteristic—the A.V. would imply that in all their conduct the Athenians were, etc. The phrase which is common in classics is only found here, in Acts 3:22, Colossians 3:20; Colossians 3:22, Hebrews 2:5; Hebrews 4:15, in N.T.— ὡς, see Grimm-Thayer, sub v., i., d., Winer-Moulton, xxxv., 4.— δεισιδαιμ.: “somewhat superstitious,” R.V., but in margin, “somewhat religious,” so in Acts 25:19 the noun is rendered “religion,” R.V. (in margin, “superstition”), where Festus, in speaking to Agrippa, a Jew, would not have been likely to call the Jewish religion a superstition. R.V. gives a better turn to the word than A.V. with Tyndale, “too superstitious,” cf. Vulgate, superstitiosiores, as it is incredible that St. Paul should have commenced his remarks with a phrase calculated to offend his hearers. The R.V. has modified the A.V. by introducing “somewhat” instead of “too,” according to the classical idiom by which the comparative of an adjective may be used to express the deficiency or excess (slight in either case) of the quality contained in the positive. But the quality in this case may be good or bad, since the adjective δεισιδαίμων and the cognate noun may be used of reverence or of superstition, cf. for the former Xen., Cyr., iii., 3, 58; Arist., Pol., v., 11; cf. C. I. Gr(311), 2737b; Jos., Ant., x., 32; Polyb., vi., 56, 7, and for the latter, Thcoph., Char., xvi.; Plut., De Superstit., 10; Jos., Ant., xv., 8, 2; M. Aurelius, vi., 30, and instances in Philo, cf. also Justin Martyr, Apol., i., 2 (see Hatch, Biblical Essays, p. 43). Ramsay renders: “more than others respectful of what is divine”; so Renan, “le plus religieux”; Holtzmann, “Gottesfürchtige,” so Weiss, so Zöckler, “religiosiores ceteris Græcis” (Horace, Sat., i., 9, 70), cf. Winer-Moulton, xxxv., 4. In thus emphasising the religious spirit of the Athenians, St. Paul was speaking in strict accordance with similar testimonies from various quarters, cf. Thuc., ii., 40; Soph., O. C., 260; Jos., C. Apion., ii., 11; Pausanias, In Attic., 24; Petronius, Sat., c. 17. The context, Acts 17:24, where εὐσεβεῖτε, religiose colitis (Wetstein), is one result of this δεισιδαιμονία, strengthens the view that the adjective is used here in a good sense; cf. the comment on its good use here by St. Chrys., Hom., xxxviii., and Theophylact. There is therefore no reason to suppose that Paul’s words were an accommodation to the usual practice of Athenian orators to commence with a mere compliment. At the same time it is possible that with delicate tact the Apostle made use of a word of doubtful meaning, verbum per se μέσον, which could not possibly provoke hostility at the outset, while it left unexpressed his own judgment as to the nature of this reverence for the divine “with kindly ambiguity,” Grimm-Thayer.


Verse 23

Acts 17:23. διερχόμενος γὰρ: “for as I passed along,” R.V., through the streets, or perhaps “was wandering through”—Renan has passant dans vos rues, see also on Acts 17:16 above, and also on Acts 8:40. A.V., “as I passed by” does not give the force of the word, and apparently means “passed by the objects of your devotion”.— ἀναθεωρῶν: accurate contemplari, “observed,” R.V., only in later Greek, and in N.T. only in Hebrews 13:7, “considering with attentive survey again and again,” see Westcott, in loco: Weiss renders it here,, immer wieder betrachtend, cf. critical notes, cf. Diod. Sic., xiv. 109, and references in Grimm.— τὰ σεβάσματα: “the objects of your worship,” R.V., Vulgate, simulacra, the thing worshipped, not the act or manner of worshipping. The A.V. margin gives “gods that ye worship,” cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4, where A. and R.V. both render “that is worshipped,” σέβασμα in text, and R.V. in margin, “an object of worship”; Bel and the Dragon, Acts 17:27, Wisdom of Solomon 14:20; Wisdom of Solomon 15:17.— καὶ βωμὸν: “I found also an altar,” R.V., i.e., in addition to those with definite dedications; only here in N.T., often in LXX, sometimes of heathen altars, Exodus 34:13, Numbers 23:1, Deuteronomy 7:5.— ἐπεγέγραπτο, cf. Luke 16:20; on the pluperfect with augment, Blass, Gram., p. 37, see critical note: Farrar, St. Paul, i. 542, takes the word as implying permanence, and perhaps antiquity, so in Speaker’s Commentary as of an ancient decayed altar, whose inscription had been forgotten; Mark 15:26, Revelation 21:12 (Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 10:16).— ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ: “to an unknown God,” R.V.: all previous versions like A.V., but there is no definite article, although in inscriptions it was often omitted. For the existence of altars of this kind the testimony of Pausanias and Philostratus may be fairly quoted; Pausan., i., 1, 4 (cf. Acts 5:14; Acts 5:6), βωμοὶ θεῶν τε ὀνομαζομένων ἀγνώστων καὶ ἡρώων, and Philost., Vit. Apollon., vi., 2, σωφρονέστερον περὶ πάντων θεῶν εὖ λέγειν, καὶ ταῦτα ἀθήνησιν, οὗ καὶ ἀγνώστων θεῶν βωμοὶ ἵδρυνται, see references in Wetstein, and cf. F. C. Conybeare, u. s.; Renan, Saint Paul, p. 173; Neander, Geschichte der Pfianzung, ii., 32 ff.; Wendt, etc. Baur, Zeller, Overbeck have maintained that there could have been no such inscription in the singular number as the plural is so much more in harmony with polytheism, although the last named admits that the authorities cited above admit at least the possibility of an inscription as in the text. To say nothing of the improbability that Paul would refer before such an audience to an inscription which had no existence, we may reasonably infer that there were at Athens several altars with the inscription which the Apostle quotes. A passage in Diog. Laert., Epim., 3, informs us how Epimenides, in the time of a plague, brought to the Areopagus and let loose white and black sheep, and wherever the sheep lay down, he bade the Athenians to sacrifice τῷ προσήκοντι θεῷ, and so the plague ceased, with the result that we find in Athens many βωμοὺς ἀνωνύμους, see the passage quoted in full in Wetstein; from this it is not an unfair inference that in case of misfortune or disaster, when it was uncertain what god should be honoured or propitiated, an altar might be erected ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ. (It is curious that Blass although he writes ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ in (312) thinks that the true reading must have been the plural.) To draw such an inference is much more reasonable than to suppose with Jerome, Tit., Acts 1:12, that the inscription was not as Paul asserted, but that he used the singular number because it was more in accordance with his purpose, the inscription really being “Diis Asiæ et Europæ et Africæ, Diis ignotis et peregrinis,” cf. the inscription according to Oecumenius θεοῖς ἀσίας καὶ εὐρώπης καὶ λιβύης θεῷ ἀγνώστῳ καὶ ξένῳ. But at the very commencement of his speech the Apostle would scarcely have made a quotation so far removed from the actual words of the inscription, otherwise he would have strengthened the suspicion that he was a mere σπερμολόγος. St. Chrysostom, Hom., xxxviii., sees in the inscription an indication of the anxiety of the Athenians lest they should have neglected some deity honoured elsewhere, but if we connect it with the story mentioned above of Epimenides, it would be quite in accordance with the religious character of the Athenians, or perhaps one might rather say with the superstitious feeling which prompted the formula so often employed in the prayer of Greeks and Romans alike Si deo si deæ, or the words of Horace (Epod., Acts 17:1), “At deorum quidquid in coelo regit”. There is no reason for the view held amongst others by Mr. Lewin that the inscription refers to the God of the Jews. But in such an inscription St. Paul wisely recognised that there was in the heart of Athens a witness to the deep unsatisfied yearning of humanity for a clearer and closer knowledge of the unseen power which men worshipped dimly and imperfectly, a yearning expressed in the sacred Vedic hymns of an old world, or in the crude religions of a new, cf. Max Müller, Selected Essays, i., p. 23 ff.; Zöckler, in loco, “Altar,” B.D.2; Plumptre, Movements of Religious Thought, p. 78 ff.— ὂν οὖν ἀγνοοῦντες, see critical notes. If we read for ὅν, we may render with R.V., “what therefore ye worship in ignorance”: Vulgate, quod colitis. The mere fact of the erection of such an inscription showed that the Athenians did reverence to some divine existence, although they worshipped what they knew not, St.John 4:22; not “ignorantly worship,” as in A.V., this would have been alien to the refinement and tact of St. Paul.— εὐσεβεῖτε: used here as elsewhere of genuine piety, which St. Paul recognised and claimed as existing in the existence of the altar—the word throws light on the meaning which the Apostle attached to the δεισιδαιμονία of Acts 17:22; in N.T. only in Luke and Paul, cf. 1 Timothy 5:4, of filial piety (cf. pietas), cf. Susannah, ver 64 (LXX), and 4 Maccabees 11:5; 4 Maccabees 11:8; 4 Maccabees 11:23; 4 Maccabees 18:2. “That divine nature which you worship, not knowing what it is” (Ramsay).— τοῦτον ἐγὼ καταγγέλλω ὑμῖν: in these words lay the answer to the charge that he was a σπερμ. or a καταγγελεύς of strange gods. ἐγὼ, emphatic; I whom you regard as a mere babbler proclaim to you, or set forth, the object which you recognise however dimly, and worship however imperfectly. Since the days of St. Chrysostom the verse has been taken as a proof that the words of St. Paul were addressed not to a select group of philosophers, but to the corona of the people.


Verse 24

Acts 17:24. θεὸς ποιήσας: “the God Who made all,” R.V., the definiteness of the words and the revelation of God as Creator stand in marked contrast to the imperfect conception of the divine nature grasped by the Athenian populace, or even by the philosophers: ἐφθέγξατο φωνὴν μίαν, διʼ ἧς πάντα κατέστρεψε τὰ τῶν φιλοσόφων. οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἐπικούρειοι αὐτόματά φασιν εἶναι τὰ πάντα, καὶ ἀπὸ ἀτόμων συνεστάναι· οἱ δὲ στωϊκοὶ σῶμα καὶ ἐκπύρωσιν· δὲ ἔργον θεοῦ λέγει κόσμον καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐν αὐτῷ. ὁρᾷς συντομίαν, καὶ ἐν συντομίᾳ σαφήνειαν. St. Paul’s language is that of a Jew, a Monotheist, and is based upon Genesis 1:1, Exodus 20:11, Isaiah 45:7, Nehemiah 9:6, etc., but his use of the word κόσμος (only here in Acts, only three times in St. Luke’s Gospel) is observable. The word is evidently not used in the moral sense, or in the sense of moral separation from God, which is so common in St. John, and which is sometimes employed by the Synoptists, and it may well have been chosen by Paul as a word familiar to his hearers. Both by Aristotle and Plato it had been used as including the orderly disposition of the heaven and the earth (according to some, Pythagoras had first used the word of the orderly system of the universe), and in this passage οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς may perhaps both be taken or included in the κόσμος, cf. Acts 4:24, Acts 14:15. In the LXX κόσμος is never used as a synonym of the world, i.e., the universe (but cf. Proverbs 17:6, Grimm, sub v.), except in the Apocryphal books, where it is frequently used of the created universe, Wisdom of Solomon 7:17; Wisdom of Solomon 9:3; 2 Maccabees 7:23; 2 Maccabees 8:18; 4 Maccabees 5:25 (24), etc., Grimm, sub v., and Cremer, Wörterbuch.— οὗτος: “He being Lord of heaven and earth,” R.V., more emphatic and less ambiguous than A.V., “seeing that”.— ὑπάρχων “being the natural Lord” (Farrar), “He, Lord as He is, of heaven and earth” (Ramsay); see Plummer’s note on Luke 8:41; the word is Lucan, see above on οὐρ. καὶ γῆς κ., cf. Isaiah 45:7, Jeremiah 10:16, and 1 Corinthians 10:26.— οὐκ ἐν χειροποιήτοις ναοῖς κ.: as the Maker of all things, and Lord of heaven and earth, He is contrasted with the gods whose dwelling was in temples made with hands, and limited to a small portion of space, cf. 1 Kings 8:27; Jos., Ant., viii., 4, 2, and St. Stephen’s words, Acts 7:48, of which St. Paul here as elsewhere may be expressing his reminiscence, cf. for the thought Cicero, Leg., ii., 10, and in early Christian writers Arnobius and Minucius Felix (Wetstein), see also Mr. Page’s note.


Verse 25

Acts 17:25. οὐδὲθεραπεύεται: used in LXX and in classical Greek of the service of the Gods, significantly twice in Epist. Jer(313), 17:27, 39, of the worshippers and priests of the idols overlaid with silver and gold, which are contrasted with the true God in that they can save no man from death, or show mercy to the widow and the fatherless, before which the worshippers set offerings and meat as before dead men. “Non quærit ministros Deus. Quidni? ipse humano generi ministrat,” Seneca, Epist., 95, and instances in Wetstein; but St. Chrysostom’s comment must also be noted, λέγων δέ, μὴ ὑπὸ χ. ἀνθ. θεραπεύεσθαι τὸν θεόν, αἰνίττεται ὅτι διανοίᾳ καὶ νῷ θεραπεύεται.— προσδεόμενός τινος: only here in N.T., to need in addition, as if necessary to perfection, “qui habet quidem aliquid, sed non satis, qui insuper eget,” Wetstein, so “cum … nullius boni desideret accessionem,” Erasmus; a close parallel is found in 2 Maccabees 14:35 (3 Maccabees 2:9); in both passages the word ἀπροσδεής is used of God, and in the former reference is made to the fact that God was pleased that the temple of His habitation should be amongst the Jews, cf. also Ecclus. 52:21. Blass and Wetstein both quote a striking Pythagorean saying from Hierocles, see in loco, and to this αὐτάρκεια of the divine nature both the Jewish philosopher Philo and the Roman Epicurean Lucretius from their varying standpoints bore witness, see the instances in Wetstein (cf. Psalms 51:9).—Luther takes τινος as masculine, which as Wendt admits corresponds well to the preceding and also to the following πᾶσι, but it seems best to take it as neuter, of the service which men render, cf. Clem., Cor(314), lii., 1, ἀπροσδεής, ἀδελφοί, δεσπότης ὑπάρχει τῶν ἁπάντων, οὐδὲν οὐδενὸς χρῄζει εἰ μὴ τὸ ἐξομολογεῖσθαι αὐτῷ, and Epist. ad Diognetum, iii., 5.— αὐτὸς διδοὺς: “seeing he himself giveth,” R.V., so Vulgate ipse, but although αὐτός is so emphatic it was unfortunately ignored in Wycl., Genevan and A.V. The best commentary on the words is in David’s words, 1 Chronicles 29:14, cf. the striking passage in Epist. ad Diognetum, iii., 4.— πᾶσι: taken as neuter or masculine, but perhaps with Bengel “omnibus viventibus et spirantibus, summe προσδεομένοις indigentibus. De homine speciatim, v. seq.”— ζωὴν καὶ πνοὴν, cf. Genesis 2:7, not a mere hendiadys, vitam animalem, or spiritum vitalem, but the first word = life in itself, existence; and the second the continuance of life, “per spiritum (halitum) continuatur vita,” Bengel: on the paronomasia, see Winer-Moulton, lxviii., 1. For πνοή LXX, Psalms 150:6, Job 27:3, Isaiah 42:5, Ecclus. 30:29 (Sirach 33:20), 2 Maccabees 3:31; 2 Maccabees 7:9, etc.— τὰ πάντα: omnia quæcumque, Romans 8:32, the expression need not be limited with Bethge to all things necessary for the preservation of life and breath.


Verse 26

Acts 17:26. “And he hath made of one every nation of men for to dwell,” R.V., so also A.V. takes ἐποίησε separately from κατοικεῖν, not “caused to dwell”; ἐποίησε, cf. Acts 17:24, he made, i.e., created of one; see Hackett’s note.— κατοικεῖν: infinitive of purpose.— ἐξ ἑνὸς ( αἵματος), see critical note. Rendall renders “from one father” as the substantive really understood, the idea of offspring being implied by ἐξ, cf. Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 11:12 : Ramsay, “of one nature, every race of men,” etc. Such teaching has often been supposed to be specially directed against the boast of the Athenians that they were themselves αὐτόχθονες (so recently Zöckler, and see instances in Wetstein, cf. e.g., Arist., Vesp., 1076; Cicero, Pro Flacco, xxvi.); but whilst the Apostle’s words were raised above any such special polemic, yet he may well have had in mind the characteristic pride of his hearers, whilst asserting a truth which cut at the root of all national pride engendered by polytheism on the one hand, by a belief in a god of this nation or of that, or of a philosophic pride engendered by a hard Stoicism on the other. When Renan and others speak of Christianity extending its hand to the philosophy of Greece in the beautiful theory which it proclaimed of the moral unity of the human race (Saint Paul, p. 197) it must not be forgotten that Rome and not Greece manifested the perfection of Pagan ethics, and that, even so, the sayings of a Seneca or an Epictetus wanted equally with those of a Zeno “a lifting power in human life”. The cosmopolitanism of a Seneca no less than that of a Zeno failed; the higher thoughts of good men of a citizenship, not of Ephesus or elsewhere, but of the world, which were stirring in the towns where St. Paul preached, all these failed, Die Heraklitischen Briefe, p. 91 (Bernays); it was not given to the Greek or to the Roman, but to the Jew, separated though he was from every other nation, to safeguard the truth of the unity of mankind, and to proclaim the realisation of that truth through the blood of a Crucified Jew (Alford). On the Stoic cosmopolitanism see amongst recent writers G. H. Rendall, Marcus Antoninus, Introd., pp.88, 118, 137 (1898).— ἐπὶ πᾶν τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γῆς, cf. Genesis 2:6; Genesis 11:8, etc.; Winer-Moulton, xviii., 4, cf. in Latin, maris facies, Æn., v., 768, naturæ vultus, Ovid, Met., i., 6.— ὁρίσας προτεταγ. καιροὺς: if we read προστεταγ. see critical note, “having determined their appointed seasons,” R.V. καιρ. not simply seasons in the sense used in addressing the people of Lystra, Acts 14:17, as if St. Paul had in mind only the course of nature as divinely ordered, and not also a divine philosophy of history. If the word was to be taken with κατοικίας it would have the article and χρόνος would be more probably used, cf. also πρόσταγμα, Jeremiah 5:24, Sirach 39:16. It is natural to think of the expression of our Lord Himself, Luke 21:24, καιροὶ ἐθνῶν, words which may well have suggested to St. Paul his argument in Romans 9-11, but the thought is a more general one. In speaking thus, before such an audience, of a Providence in the history of mankind, assigning to them their seasons and their dwellings, the thought of the Stoic πρόνοια may well have been present to his mind; but if so it was by way of contrast (“sed non a Stoicis Paulo erat discenda πρόνοια,” Blass, in loco). St. Paul owed his doctrine of Providence to no school of philosophy, but to the sacred Scriptures of his nation, which had proclaimed by the mouth of lawgiver, patriarch, psalmist, and prophet alike, that the Most High had given to the nations their inheritance, that it was He Who had spread them abroad and brought them in, that it was His to change the times and the seasons, Deuteronomy 32:8, Job 12:23, Psalms 115:16, Daniel 2:21, see further the note on πρόνοια, Wisdom of Solomon Acts 14:3 (Acts 17:2), Speaker’s Commentary (Farrar).— τὰς ὁροθεσίας τῆς κατοικίας: the first noun is not found elsewhere either in classical or biblical Greek, but cf. Blass, Gram., p. 69. κατοικία: only here in N.T., but frequent in LXX found also in Polyb., of a dwelling; so in Strabo, of a settlement, a colony. Here, as in the former part of the verse, we need not limit the words to the assertion of the fact that God has given to various nations their different geographical bounds of mountain, river or sea; as we recognise the influence exerted upon the morale of the inhabitants of a country by their physical surroundings, St. Paul’s words teach us to see also in these conditions “the works of the Lord”—the words of the most scientific observer perhaps of Palestine, Karl Ritter, are these: “Nature and the course of history show that here, from the beginning onwards there cannot be talk of any chance”: G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land, pp. 112, 113, and 302, 303 ff.; Curtius, “Paulus in Athen.,” Gesammelte Abhandlungen, ii., 531, 536.


Verse 27

Acts 17:27. ζητεῖν = ὅπως ζητῶσι, telic infinitive, Winer-Moulton, xliv. 1.— κύριον, see critical note. θεόν: the more fitting word before this audience—Ramsay renders “the God”.— εἰ ἄρα γε: “if haply,” A. and R.V., ἄρα strengthened by γε; in classical Greek we have ἆρα followed by γε, but not ἄρα. This ἄρα and ἄρα γε are generally regarded as = Latin si forte (Blass, Grammatik, p. 211), although Simcox, Language of the New Testament, pp. 180, 181, in admitting this, is careful to point out that it is misleading to regard ἄρα as = forte. Alford (so Page) maintains that the expression here, as in Acts 8:22, indicates a contingency which is apparently not very likely to happen. On the other hand Rendall holds that the particle here, as in Acts 8:22, should be rendered not perhaps or haply, but indeed: “if they might indeed feel after him,” etc., expressing a very real intention of God’s providence, the optative pointing to the fact that this intention had not yet been realised (pp. 66, 110), cf. also Mark 11:13, and in 1 Corinthians 15:15, εἴπερ ἄρα (see further Blass, Gram., pp. 254, 267; Burton, pp. 106, 111). With the whole passage, Wisdom of Solomon 13:6 should be compared. On St. Paul’s study of the Book of Wisdom at some time in his life see Sanday and Headlam, Romans, p. 52.— ψηλαφήσειαν, Æolic aorist, the verb is used several times in LXX for the act of groping in the dark, Deuteronomy 28:29, Job 5:14; Job 12:25; Isaiah 59:10; cf. its use also in classical Greek, Odys., ix., 416; so Plato, Phædo, 99 B, where it is used of vague guesses at truth (Wendt, Page). The word would therefore fitly express the thought of men stretching lame hands of faith and groping, and calling to what they feel is Lord of all. Weiss finds the idea of the word as used here, not in the LXX as above, but in 1 John 1:1, of some palpable assurance, which was everywhere possible in a world made by God, Acts 17:24, Romans 1:20, and where men’s dwellings had been apportioned by Him. But the word might still be used in the above sense, since the recognition of God in His Creation is after all only a partial recognition, and not the highest knowledge of Him; and the inscription “To an Unknown God” testified in itself how imperfect that recognition had been. For the meaning of the verb in modern Greek see Kennedy, p. 156.— καίτοιγε, see critical note, καί γε, cf. Acts 2:18, quin etiam (quamvis καίτοιγε “vix aptum,” Blass). The word ψηλαφ. had intimated “et proximum esse Deum et oculis occultum” (Blass, Knabenbauer), and the Apostle now proclaims the nearness of God, not only in creation, in its maintenance and preservation, but in the spiritual being of man: “Closer is he than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet”.— οὐ μακρὰν: the word implies not mere local nearness, but spiritual, cf. Jeremiah 23:23, and Ephesians 2:13. With this we may compare Seneca, Ep. Mor., xliv. 1. “God is near thee; He is with thee; He is within” (quoted by Lightfoot, Philippians, p. 290). The relation of man to God is a personal relationship: God is not “careless of the single life”: ἀπὸ ἑνὸς ἑκάστον ἡμῶν, “from each one of us,” R.V. The words may well have struck a responsive chord in the hearts, not only of some in the crowd, but of some of the Stoics who were listening, contradictory and incongruous as their system was, with its strange union of a gross material pantheism, and the expression of belief in the fatherly love and goodness of God (see further Lightfoot, u. s., p. 298, and Curtius, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, ii., 530, 531).


Verse 28

Acts 17:28. St. Chrysostom comments (Hom., xxxviii.): τί λέ γω μακράν; οὕτως ἐγγύς ἐστιν, ὡς χωρὶς αὐτοῦ μὴ ζῆν. ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν κ. τ. λ.… καὶ οὐκ εἶπε, διʼ αὐτοῦ, ἀλλʼ ἐγγύτερον ἦν, ἐν αὐτῷ. In the three verbs it has been sometimes maintained there is an ascending scale; in God we possess the gift of life, in Him we move, in Him we are (not “have our being” simply), i.e., we are what we are, personal beings. Bethge and Plumptre may be named as two chief supporters of some such view as this, whilst others regard the words (Bengel, Weiss) as merely expressing what had been already expressed in Acts 17:25, or as referring simply (so Overbeck, Wendt, Felten) to our physical life and being.— τῶν καθʼ ὑμᾶς π.: “of your own poets,” see Grimm., sub v. κατά, with the accusative as a periphrasis for the possessive pronoun; see also Winer-Moulton, xxii., 7, xlix. d. Blass takes it as = ὑμέτεροι., on the reading see W. H. marg. καθʼ ἡμᾶς, though the limited range of attestation prevents them from reading this in the text: “there would be a striking fitness in a claim by St. Paul to take his stand as a Greek among Greeks, as he elsewhere vindicates his position as a Roman (Acts 16:37; Acts 22:25; Acts 22:28), and as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6)”: W. H., ii., p. 310.— τοῦ γὰρ καὶ γένος ἐσμέν: half of an hexameter, the γὰρ καὶ has nothing to do with the meaning of the quotation in the N.T., but see Winer-Moulton, liii. 10. The words are found in Aratus, B.C. 270, Phœnom., 5, and Cleanthes, B.C. 300, Hymn to Jove, 5; for other parallels see Blass, in loco, and Wetstein, so that Zöckler may go too far in saying that St. Paul quoted from the former as his fellow-countryman, Aratus being of Soli in Cilicia. Both poets named were Stoics, and the words may have been well known as a familiar quotation, see on Tarsus, chapter lx. 11. In Cleanthes the actual words are rather different, ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν, where origin rather than kinship may be meant. No doubt it is possible to exaggerate, with Bentley, St. Paul’s knowledge of classical literature, but on the other hand it is not perhaps an unfair inference that a man who could quote so aptly from the poets as here in 1 Corinthians 15:35, and in Titus 1:12, could have done so at other times if occasion had required, cf. Curtius, ubi supra, Blass, in loco, and Farrar, “Classical Quotations of St. Paul,” St. Paul, 2, Exc., 3. As the words of the hymn were addressed to Zeus, a difficulty has been raised as to the Apostle’s application of them here, and it has been questioned whether he was acquainted with the context of the words, or whether he was aware of their application. But he must at least have known that they were not originally written of the God Whom he revealed. If so, however, there seems no more difficulty in supposing that he would apply such a hemistich to a higher purpose, than that he should make the inscription on a heathen altar a text for his discourse.


Verse 29

Acts 17:29. γένος οὖν ὑπάρχοντες: for ὑπάρχειν, see above on Acts 17:24; is the inference simply that because we are dependent upon God for all things, it is absurd to suppose that the divine nature can be like to the work of men’s hands? This is correct so far as it goes, but is not the further thought implied that as men are the offspring of God, they ought not to think that man is the measure of God, or that the divine nature, which no man hath seen at any time, can be represented by the art of man, but rather as conscious of a sonship with a Father of spirits they ought to worship a Father in spirit and in truth? see quotations from Seneca in Lightfoot, Philippians, p. 290: “The whole world is the temple of the immortal gods. Temples are not to be built to God of stones piled on high.…” Fragm. 123 in Lactant. Div. Inst., vi., 25: “God is near thee; He is with thee; He is within,” Ep. Mor., xcv., 47: “Thou shalt not form Him of silver and gold, a true likeness of God cannot be moulded of this material,” Ep. Mor., xxxi., 11. See also the striking parallels from Letters of Pseudo-Heracleitus, Gore, Ephesians, p. 254. For a recent view of the possible acquaintance of Seneca with the Christian teaching of St. Paul see Orr, Some Neglected Factors in Early Christianity, pp. 178 ff.— τὸ θεῖον: not “godhead,” but “that which is divine,” R.V. margin, “the divine nature”; probably the word which the Athenians themselves used, Xen., Mem., i., 4, 18, see instances in Grimm, sub v., of its use in Philo and Josephus, who employ it in the neuter of the one God, Grimm thinks, out of regard for Greek usage.— χρυσῷ ἀργ. λίθῳ: (on the form of the word see Blass and critical notes) including, we may suppose, the chryselephantine statues of Phidias in the Parthenon, and a reference to the silver mines of Laurium, and the marble hewn from Pentelicus, cf. Epist. ad Diognetum, ii., 2.— χαράγματι: in apposition to χρύσῳ. χαράσσω, Latin, sculpo, insculpo, only here in N.T. in this sense. Polyb. uses the words of coins stamped (so in Anth. ., v., 30) τὸ χαραχθὲν νόμισμα.— τέχνης καὶ ἐνθ.: “artis externæ, cogitationis internæ”. ἐνθ.: a rare word (in the plural, thoughts, cf. Matthew 9:4, etc.), but used by Thuc., Eur., and also by Hippocrates. See the remarks of Curtius (Gesammelte Abhandlungen, ii., 535) on the words, as indicating that Paul was acquainted with the phrases of Greek authors. The passage in Wisdom of Solomon 13:6 should be carefully noted (see Acts 17:27 above), and also Acts 17:10, in which the writer speaks of gods which are the work of men’s hands, gold and silver to show art in, i.e., lit(315), an elaboration of art, ἐμμελέτημα τέχνης. In the words Bethge further sees an intimation that the Apostle had an eye for the forms of beauty represented in the carved statues and idols which met his gaze in Athens; but for a very different view of St. Paul’s estimate of art see Renan, Saint Paul, p. 172, Farrar, St. Paul, i., 525, McGiffert, Apostolic Age, p. 260.— ἀνθρώπου: stands contrasted with τὸ θεῖον; it is the device of man which forms the material into the idol god, and thus human thought becomes the measure of the divine form; Xenophanes (570 B.C.) had ridiculed the way in which the Thracians represented their gods, with blue eyes and fair complexions, whilst the Æthiopians had represented their gods as flat-nosed and swarthy. Zeno had renewed the protest, but some of the best of the heathen philosophers had spoken in inconsistent language on the subject; St. Paul’s plain and direct words were the utterances of a man who had in mind the severe and indignant protests of the Hebrew prophets, cf. Isaiah 44:12.— οὐκ ὀφείλομεν: at the same time the use of the 1st person plural again points to the conciliatory tone of the speech, “clemens locutio” (so Bengel, Wendt); or possibly the words may mean that he is referring in a general way to the beliefs of the people, to the crowd and not to the philosophers: πρὸς τοὺς πολλοὺς λόγος ἦν αὐτῷ, Chrys. But Nestle has lately called attention to the question as to whether we should not translate: “we are not obliged, not bound to think, we are at liberty not to think so,” and thus, instead of a reproof, the words become a plea for freedom of religious thought. The first shade of meaning, he adds, i.e., “clemens locutio,” as above, comes nearer to ὀφειλ. μὴ νομίζειν, the second agrees with the other passage in the N.T., 2 Corinthians 12:14, where the negative particle is connected with ὀφείλειν; see Nestle’s note in Expository Times, March, 1898, p. 381.


Verse 30

Acts 17:30. τοὺς μὲν οὖν χρ.: a contrast drawn between the past times of ignorance, and the present times with God’s summons to repentance, but instead of a finite verb we have the participle ὑπεριδών, and so δέ is omitted in the apodosis; see Rend all, in loco, and Appendix on μὲν οὖν, p. 163, and to the same effect, Blass, in loco.— τῆς ἀγνοίας: simply “the times of ignorance,” R.V., not “this,” as in Vulgate and all E.V(316)Ignorantia objicitur Atheniensibus? Hanc ipsi sunt fassi. ἀγνώστῳ, ignoto; ἀγνοοῦντες, ignorantes, Acts 5:23.”— ὑπεριδὼν: “overlooked,” R.V., “winked at,” A.V. The latter rendering occurs three times in LXX, Wisdom of Solomon 18:19, Sirach 28:7; Sirach 30:11 R.; for the verb παρορᾶν Skeat quotes Lever, Serm., p. 81: “For if ye winke at such matters, God wyl scoull upon you,” when the word evidently means to connive at, but not the sense required here, cf. also Chapman, Il., iv., 66. The verb ὑπερορᾶν is frequent in the LXX, but rather in the sense of despising, neglecting, Genesis 42:21, Deuteronomy 22:3-4, Psalms 54 :(55) 1, Job 31:19, and Sirach 2:10, etc. But here it is used rather as the opposite of ἐφορᾶν, a verb used in classical Greek of overseeing, observing, as of the divine providence of the gods (cf. in N.T. Luke 1:25, Acts 4:29); so ὑπερορᾶν = (1) to look over, (2) to overlook, i.e., not attend to, to let pass (cf. the use of ὑπεριδεῖν in LXX, Leviticus 26:44 and 3 Maccabees 6:15). Tyndale rendered “regarded not,” with which we may compare: “et cum videas perinde te gerere quasi non videas,” Erasmus. Both Chrys. and Oecum. comment on the words, pointing out that it is not παρεῖδεν or εἴασεν, but ὑπερεῖδεν, τουτέστιν, οὐκ ἀπαιτεῖ κόλασιν ὡς ἀξίους ὄντας κολάσεως. With the statement of St. Paul here cf. Acts 14:16, Romans 3:25. But it must be remembered that πάρεσις, Romans 3:25, is by no means the same as ἄφεσις (“idem paene est παριέναι quod ὑπεριδεῖν, Acts 17:30,” Bengel); in considering the strictures of Overbeck against the use of the passage in Romans as a parallel to our present passage, it is not alleged, let it be noted, either here or there that God inflicted no punishment upon the sins of the heathen. Romans 1:19 is a decided proof of the contrary in the case of the very sin of idolatry which St. Paul condemns in Athens; see the words of Chrys. and Oecum. above, and cf. the comments of Weiss, Wendt, Felten, Plumptre, and McGiffert’s note, pp. 260, 261.— τὰ νῦν, see above p. 135; “hic dies, haec hora, inquit Paulus,” Bengel, in contrast to the “overlooking” on account of ignorance, and so relatively of excuse (cf. ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ, Romans 3:26, i.e., from the N.T. times of salvation to the final judgment).— παραγγέλλει: “commandeth,” but in margin, R.V., ἀπαγ., “he declareth”: cf. Friedrich, p. 29, on the constant use of the latter in St. Luke’s writings, but used twice by St. Paul elsewhere, 1 Corinthians 14:25, 1 Thessalonians 1:9.— πᾶσι πανταχοῦ: on this and other collocations with πᾶς as frequent in Luke see Friedrich, p. 5. πανταχοῦ is used in the N.T. four times by St. Luke, cf. Luke 9:6, Acts 24:3; Acts 28:22 (elsewhere in the Gospels, Mark 1:28; Mark 16:20), but it is also used, although only once, by St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 4:17. Wetstein quotes instances of the same collocation in Dem., Philo, and adds: “ex toto terrarum orbe plurimi Athenas advenerant, adeoque hac ipsa Pauli oratione omnibus prædicatur doctrina Evangelii”.— μετανοεῖν: for all had sinned, and all would be judged; infinitive after verbs dicendi, expressing what they must do, cf. Acts 14:15, Acts 4:18, Acts 5:28; Acts 5:40. The context requires something more than a reference of the words to the turning from idol worship to the true God (Holtzmann), it points to the change of mind which was demanded of those whose consciences by sin were accused. To both Stoic and Epicurean the counsel would appear not merely needless, but objectionable. To the latter because it would conflict not only with his denial of immortality, but with his whole idea of the gods, and to the Stoic because the wise man was himself a king, self-sufficing, who stood in no need of atonement, who feared no judgment to come; the famous picture of Josephus was so far realised, and the Epicurean might be called the Sadducee, and the Stoic the Pharisee of ancient philosophy; but in one respect both Stoic and Epicurean were at one—whether they were just persons or not, they “needed no repentance,” Bethge, Die Paulinischen Reden, p. 115; Lightfoot, “Paul and Seneca” (Philippians, pp. 280, 296, 305); Plumptre, in loco; Zahn, Der Stoiker Epiktet, und sein Verhältniss zum Christenthum, pp. 26, 33, etc.


Verse 31

Acts 17:31. διότικαθότι, R.V., see critical note, only found in St. Luke = quia (Blass) in Luke 1:7; Luke 19:9, Acts 2:24; Acts 2:45; Acts 4:35 = according as: see Plummer on Luke 1:7, and Blass, Gram., p. 268.— ἔστησεν ἡμέραν: hence the command to repent, cf. 1 Maccabees 4:59 and Blass, in loco.— μέλλει κρίνειν, LXX, Psalms 9:8; Psa 95:13,(Psalms 96:13), Psalms 97:9, Psalms 98:9; its form here may = Acts 12:6, “on the point of judging” (Weiss).— τὴν οἰκ., so often in LXX, as in instances above.— ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ = δικαίως (as of the moral element in which the judgment will take place), cf. 1 Peter 2:24 and Revelation 19:11, cf. Psalms as above, and Sirach 45:26.— ἐν ἀνδρὶ: in the person of the man (so Ramsay, Meyer, Alford), not ἄνθρωπος but ἀνήρ, in viro (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12, ἐν ὑμῖν κρίνεται); above we have ἀνθρώποις, but here the nobler appellation. We may compare with the Christian doctrine Book of Enoch, xli. 9, although according to other Jewish statements it would seem that God, and not the Messiah, was to judge the dead.— ὥρισε: attraction, cf. Acts 2:22, see Winer-Schmiedel, p. 225, cf. Acts 10:42, Romans 1:4. The whole statement, as indeed the general tenor of the address, is entirely in line with the preaching to the Thessalonians in the Epistles written some few months later, cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:12; McGiffert, Apostolic Age, p. 259, and Plumptre, in loco. “Pour un juif, dire que Jésus présidera au jugement, c’éait à peu près dire qu’il est créateur. Aussi je ne sais pas de preuve plus éclatante de l’immense impression produite par le Galiléan que ce simple fait … après qu’il eut été crucifié, un pharisien, comme l’avait été Paul, a pu voir en lui le juge des vivants et des morts,” Colani, J. C. et les Croyances Messianiques de son temps.— πίστιν παρασχὼν: in classical Greek to afford assurance, a guarantee, see instances in Wetstein. But it is difficult to say how much St. Paul included in the words—to a Jewish audience he would no doubt, like St. Peter, have insisted upon the resurrection of Christ as a final proof given by God that the claims of Christ were true; but to an audience like that at Athens he might well insist upon the fact of the resurrection of the Man ordained by God as a guarantee that all men would be raised; R.V., “whereof he hath given assurance,” “whereof” implied in the Greek: marginal rendering in A.V. “offered faith” is omitted in R.V.; “and He hath given all a guarantee in that He hath raised Him from the dead”: so Ramsay. Others have taken the words to mean that God thus affords assurance that He will judge the world righteously in that He hath shown His righteousness by raising Christ, others again connect πίστιν closely with ἐν ἀνδρί (so Bethge). If at this point the Apostle was interrupted he may have intended to pursue the theme further, if not then, on some other occasion. But the fact that the speech contains so little that is distinctively Christian is a strong proof of its genuineness; none would have invented such a speech for Paul, any more than they could have invented his discourse at Lystra, see below on p. 381, and Ramsay, St. Paul, pp. 150 and 250, 251. Yet in this short address at Athens the Apostle had preached both Jesus and the Resurrection.


Verse 32

Acts 17:32. οἱ μὲν ἐχλ.… οἱ δὲ: verb only here in N.T., implies outward gesture as well as words of scorn ( χλεύη, χεῖλος, cf. μυκτηρίζω, μυκτήρ). We usually think of the οἱ μέν as the Stoics, and the οἱ δέ as the Epicureans; e.g., Wetstein after describing the Epicureans adds οἱ δέ = Stoici: cf. Cicero, De Natura Deorum, ii., 17, and Plutarch, De Or. Def., 32. But if the Epicureans ridiculed a resurrection and judgment to come, the Stoics also were separated by a wide gulf from the teaching of St. Paul. Even if it may be said that in general they approximated towards the doctrine of personal existence after death, some of their most famous representatives departed from it; Capes, Stoicism, p. 173; Wallace, Epicureanism, p. 121; Ueberweg, Hist. of Phil., i., p. 196; E.T. Rendall, Marcus Antoninus, Introd., pp. 107, 108. “On one point alone were the professors of this school [Stoic] agreed; an external existence of the human soul was out of the question,” Lightfoot, Philippians, p. 323. The idea of retribution beyond the grave would have been equally alien to the Stoic as to the Epicurean, and both Stoic and Epicurean alike would have ridiculed the idea of a resurrection of the body. Zöckler, in loco, while referring the οἱ μέν without hesitation to the Epicureans, thinks that possibly Platonists rather than Stoics may be represented by the οἱ δέ. If St. Paul was addressing not only a philosophical but a popular audience, as we have seen reason to believe, it is quite possible that while the majority would laugh at his closing words, Juvenal, Sat., ii. 149, there may have been others who clung to the popular mythology and its crude conceptions, and the Apostle’s prediction of a judgment to come may have sufficiently interested them to prompt a desire for further disclosures.— ἀκουσόμεθά σου πάλιν ( περὶ τούτου, R.V., neuter, we can hardly refer it to the αὐτόν of Acts 17:31). The words are often taken to imply a polite rejection of the Apostle’s appeal, a courteous refusal to hear anything further; or at all events to express a very cold interest in his announcement. But if we adopt the reading καὶ πάλιν (see critical note) “yet again,” R.V., the words rather indicate that a real interest had been excited in some of the hearers (so Calvin, Grotius, Weiss, Alford) and that the marked and defined division of opinion was not merely a dramatic device of the author.


Verse 33

Acts 17:33. οὕτως: may mean, with this scanty result, or simply, after these events, in this state of the popular mind, with an expectation of being heard again (Alford); “ancipiti auditorum obsequio; nullo edito miraculo”: Bengel.— ἐκ μέσου αὐτῶν: at the opening Paul stood ἐν μέσῳ Acts 17:22, τοῦ . π.: “the two expressions correspond to and explain each other, … he that ‘went forth from the midst of them’ must have been standing ‘in the midst of them’ ”; cf. Ramsay, Expositor, September, 1895, and for the bearing of the words see above on Acts 17:22. For similar phrase with μέσου as frequent in St. Luke’s writings, Friedrich, p. 22. Ramsay thinks that some danger is indicated, but nothing is said of this; the words apparently refer to no trial, although, perhaps, to some kind of preliminary inquiry, see above, Acts 17:22.


Verse 34

Acts 17:34. τινὲς δὲ: may contrast the favourable with the unfavourable, or perhaps merely continuous.— κολληθέντες, see above on Acts 5:13, implies close companionship upon which their conversion followed, see additional note.— διονύσιος .: “quam doctrinam scurræ rejecerunt, Areopagita vir gravis accipit”. Dionysius was a member of the Council, the words can mean nothing less—it is evident, therefore, that this convert must have been a man of some distinction, as an Areopagite would previously have filled the office of Archon. On the honour attached to the term cf. Cicero, Pro Balbo, xii., and instances cited by Renan, Saint Paul, p. 209, note. It is not improbable that St. Luke may have received from him the draft of St. Paul’s address. On the other hand the conversion of a man occupying such a position has excited suspicion, and Baur, Paulus, i., 195, considers that the whole scene on the Areopagus is unhistorical, and owes its origin to the tradition that an Areopagite named Dionysius was converted. So Holtzmann holds that the whole scene was placed on the Areopagus, because, according to report, a member of the Areopagus was converted, Apostelgeschichte, p. 393, similarly Weizsäcker. See further, “Dionysius,” B.D.2, Hastings’ B.D., Smith and Wace, Dictionary of Christian Biography, i., p. 846; Felten, Apostelgeschichte, p. 337 and notes below.— δάμαρις: perhaps δάμαλις, a heifer, a name popular amongst the Greeks, so Grotius, Wetstein, and Renan, Saint Paul, p. 209, note; see critical note above. We know nothing certain about her, but Ramsay makes the interesting conjecture that as the woman is not described as εὐσχήμων (cf. the description of the women at Thessalonica, Berœa, and Pisidian Antioch, Acts 13:50, Acts 17:4; Acts 17:12), she may have been a foreign woman (perhaps one of the educated Hetairai), as at Athens no woman of respectable position would have been present amongst St. Paul’s audience. St. Chrysostom (so St. Ambrose and Asterius) thought that she was the wife of Dionysius, but St. Luke calls her γυνή, not γυνή αὐτοῦ. No mention is made of her in (but see above critical note), and Ramsay accounts for this by the view that the reviser of Codex Bezæ was a Catholic, who objected to the prominence given to women in Acts, and that under the influence of this feeling the changes occurred in Acts 17:12 (see above) and 34: this prominence assigned to women was, in Ramsay’s view, firstly, pagan rather than Christian, and, secondly, heretical rather than Catholic; Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 160, 161; see “Damaris,” Hastings’ B.D., and Felten, Apostelgeschichte, p. 337.— καὶ ἕτεροι: a significant contrast to the precise results of the Apostle’s preaching elsewhere, and yet a contrast which carries with it an evidence of truth. Spitta, p. 242, justly remarks that he knows not how the author of the “We” sections, who was not present at Athens, could have represented the activity of St. Paul in that city better than he has done; the idle curiosity of the Athenians, Acts 17:21, and after a speech received with ridicule and indifference, a scanty result, graphically represented by two names, of which it is a mere assertion to say that they refer to the sub-apostolic age. Spitta thus refuses to allow any justification for Weizsäcker’s rejection of the historical worth of the narrative. Thus in the simple notice of the results of St. Paul’s preaching we gain an indication of the historical truthfulness of the narrative. If anywhere, surely at Athens a forger would have been tempted to magnify the influence of St. Paul’s intellectual power, and to attribute an overwhelming victory to the message of the Gospel in its first encounter with the philosophic wisdom of the world in a city which possessed a university, the greatest of any of that time, which was known as “the eye of Greece, mother of arts,” whose inhabitants a Jewish philosopher (Philo) had described as the keenest mentally of all the Greeks. In answer to the earlier criticism of Zeller and Overbeck, we may place the conclusion of Weiss that the result of St. Paul’s labours is plainly not described after a set pattern, but rests upon definite information, whilst Wendt, who refers the composition of the speech, as we have it, to St. Luke, and regards it as derived from information of a speech actually delivered at Athens, insists equally strongly upon the difficulty of supposing that such slender results would be represented as following, if the speech had been composed with a view of exalting Jewish and Christian monotheism against polytheism. Moreover the narrative bears the stamp of truthfulness in its picture of the local condition of Athens, and also in its representation of St. Paul’s attitude to the philosophical surroundings of the place and its schools. “One must be at home in Athens,” writes Curtius, “to understand the narrative rightly,” and no one has enabled us to realise more fully the historical character and vividness of the scene than Curtius himself in the essay to which reference is made above, of which the concluding words are these, that “he who refuses to accept the historical value of the narrative of Paul in Athens, tears one of the weightiest pages out of the history of humanity” (Gesammelte Abhandlungen, ii., p. 543, “Paulus in Athens”: see further, Knabenbauer, pp. 308, 309). The character of the people, the moving life of the Agora, the breadth of view which could comprehend in one short speech the crude errors of the populace and the fallacious theology of the schools, “the heart of the world” too generous to ignore all that was best in men’s thoughts of God’s providence and of human brotherhood, and yet too loving to forget that all men had sinned, and that after death was the judgment—we recognise them all. If we turn to the speech itself we find abundant evidence of characteristic Pauline thoughts and teaching (cf. e.g., Acts 17:27 and Romans 1:19; Romans 2:14; Acts 17:26 and Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:45; Acts 17:30 and Romans 3:25, etc., Zöckler, p. 268, and instances in notes above, McGiffert, Apostolic Age, p. 259), and it is worthy of note that Weizsäcker, while rejecting with Baur, Zeller, Schwegler, and Overbeck the account of St. Paul’s visit to Athens as unhistorical, fully recognises, after an examination of the Apostle’s method of dealing with idolatry and polytheism in Romans 1:20, that if we compare with the Apostle’s own indications the fine survey of the world, and especially of history from a monotheistic standpoint, ascribed to him by the Acts at Lystra, Acts 14:15, and afterwards at Athens, Acts 17:24, the latter, whatever its source, also gives us a true idea of Paul’s method and teaching, Apostolic Age, i., p. 117, E.T. On the whole tone of the speech as incredible as a later composition, see Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 147 ff., whilst no one perhaps has drawn up more clearly than Wetstein, see on Acts 17:25, the consummate skill of the speech addressed to an audience comprising so many varieties of culture and belief. (To the strange attempt of Holtzmann to reproduce at some length the argument of Zeller, who maintains that the scene at Athens was a mere counterpart of the scene of Stephen’s encounter with his foes at Jerusalem, a sufficient answer may be found in Spitta, Apostelgeschichte, p. 240.)

If we ask from whom the report of the speech was received, since Luke, Silas, Timothy all were absent, it is possible that a Christian convert like Dionysius the Areopagite may have preserved it (Zöckler); but a speech so full of Pauline thoughts, and so expressive of Athenian life and culture, may well have been received at least in substance from St. Paul himself, although it is quite conceivable that the precise form of it in Acts is due to St. Luke’s own editing and arrangement (see for an analysis of the language of the speech Bethge, Die Paulinischen Reden der Apostelgeschichte, p. 82). The results of St. Paul’s work at Athens were small if measured by the number of converts, although even amongst them it must not be forgotten that it was something to gain the allegiance to the faith of a man holding the position of Dionysius the Areopagite (see further an interesting account of the matter in Expository Times, April, 1898). But in addition to this, it is also important to remember that St. Paul has given us “an invaluable method of missionary preaching” (Lechler, Das Apost. Zeitalter, p. 275), that to the Church at Athens Origen could appeal against Celsus as a proof of the fruits of Christianity (Bethge, p. 116), that its failing faith was revived in time of persecution by its bishop Quadratus, the successor of the martyr-bishop Publius; that in the Christian schools of Athens St. Basil and St. Gregory were trained; and that to an Athenian philosopher, Aristides, a convert to Christ, we owe the earliest Apology which we possess (Athenagoras too was an Athenian philosopher), see Farrar, St. Paul, i., p. 551; Humphry, Commentary on the Acts. It is significant that St. Paul never visited Athens again, and never addressed a letter to the Saints at Athens, although he may well have included them in his salutation to “the Saints which are in the whole of Achaia,” 2 Corinthians 1:1.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Acts 17:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/acts-17.html. 1897-1910.

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