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2. The ministry in Macedonia 16:11-17:15
Luke recorded Paul’s ministry in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea to continue his history of Jesus’ works in Macedonia.
The Macedonians were a distinct national group, though they had strong ties to the Greeks. They had offered the most stubborn resistance against Rome’s efforts to extend its influence. In an attempt to break down their strong nationalistic spirit of independence, Rome divided Macedonian territory into four districts each of which had its own local government under Rome. We see this stubborn character in the Macedonians’ reaction to Paul’s preaching. Nevertheless once won over, the Macedonian converts became just as loyal to Paul as they had been hostile to him at first.
Paul, Silas, Timothy, and perhaps others left Philippi and headed southwest on the Egnatian Road. Luke evidently stayed in Philippi since he again described Paul’s party as "they" instead of "we" (cf. Acts 20:5-6). Paul and Silas probably stayed overnight in Amphipolis, which is 33 miles (a day’s journey by horse) along the Egnatian Way. It stood at the mouth of the Strymon River. The next day they travelled another 27 miles farther west-southwest to Apollonia. Another 35 mile day of travel farther west on the Via Egnatia took them to Thessalonica (modern Salonika) on the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea. The text does not state that Paul’s party stayed only overnight in Amphipolis and Apollonia, but most interpreters have inferred this from the narrative. Luke recorded more information concerning the apostles’ ministry in Thessalonica, where they stayed for some time. Thessalonica was the chief city and capital of Macedonia, about 100 miles from Philippi. As such it was a strategic center for the evangelization of its region (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8).
"Thessalonica was a ’free city,’ which meant that it had an elected citizens’ assembly, it could mint its own coins, and it had no Roman garrison within its walls." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:470.]
Ministry in Thessalonica 17:1-9
Paul evidently reasoned in the synagogue only three Sabbath days (cf. Acts 13:5; Acts 13:14; Acts 14:1), but he seems to have stayed longer in Thessalonica (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:5). We know Paul supported himself there by making tents (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10), and the Philippians sent two monetary gifts to him there (Philippians 4:15-16). Perhaps he ministered primarily to Jews the first three weeks and then turned to the Gentiles.
Luke described Paul’s method of evangelizing in Thessalonica as reasoning (Gr. dielexato, cf. Acts 17:17; Acts 18:4; Acts 18:19; Acts 19:8-9; Acts 24:25) from the Scriptures, explaining (dianoigon), giving evidence (proving, paratithemenos), and proclaiming (katangello). These terms imply that Paul dealt carefully with his hearers’ questions and doubts. He showed that the facts of gospel history confirmed what the Scriptures predicted. His subject was Jesus whom Paul believed was the Christ. His Jewish hearers needed convincing that their Scriptures taught that Messiah would suffer death and rise from the grave (cf. Acts 3:18; Acts 13:30; Acts 13:34; Luke 24:13-27; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Paul used the Old Testament to prove that Jesus was the Messiah (Christ).
"Interpretation of the Scriptures plays a key role in Paul’s message (Acts 17:2; Acts 17:11)." [Note: Tannehill, 2:206.]
Paul’s reasoning persuaded (epeisthesan) some in the synagogue services (cf. Acts 26:28; Acts 28:23). His converts seem to have been mainly Gentiles (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9) many of whom were God-fearers (cf. Acts 10:4; Acts 13:43; Acts 16:14), but some of them were Jews. Jason (Acts 17:5), Aristarchus (Colossians 4:10), and Secundus (Acts 20:4) appear to have been among these new believers. The "leading women" could have belonged to the upper classes or they may have been the wives of leading men of the city. [Note: Marshall, The Acts . . ., p. 277.] In either case the gospel had an impact on the leadership level of society in Thessalonica.
The Jews treated Paul harshly here as they had in Galatia (Acts 13:45; Acts 13:50; Acts 14:2; Acts 14:19) because they were again jealous of the popularity and effectiveness of his message.
"Loungers of the type employed here by the Jews to attack Paul and Silas were common in the agora or forum of Graeco-Roman cities. They invariably assembled around the rostrum where an orator was speaking, and applauded or heckled according to who paid them . . ." [Note: Merrill F. Unger, "Historical Research and the Church at Thessalonica," Bibliotheca Sacra 119:473 (January-March 1962):41.]
The AV translators described these men colorfully as "lewd fellows of the baser sort." Jason was evidently Paul’s host in Thessalonica as Lydia had been in Philippi (Acts 16:15; Acts 16:40). This Jason may not be the same one Paul named in Romans 16:21 since that name was common among the Greeks. It is the Greek equivalent of "Joshua."
The Jewish antagonists charged the missionaries with revolutionary teaching, namely, that another king, Jesus, would rule and reign (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; 2 Thessalonians 2:14).
"’Those,’ they said, ’who are upsetting the civilised world have arrived here.’ That is one of the greatest compliments which has ever been paid to Christianity. . . . When Christianity really goes into action it must cause a revolution both in the life of the individual and in the life of society." [Note: Barclay, p. 139.]
The Jews in Jesus’ ministry made similar charges, namely, that He advocated overthrowing the emperor (Luke 23:2; John 18:33-37). These Thessalonian Jews also claimed no king but Caesar (cf. John 19:15). Jason was guilty of harboring the fugitives.
Several inscriptions found in Thessalonica describe the rulers of the city as politarchs, the very word Luke used to describe them here (cf. Acts 17:8). [Note: E. D. Burton, "The Politarchs," American Journal of Theology 2 (1898):598-632.] This was a title used only in Macedonia to describe city officials.
"Since the term was unknown elsewhere, the critics of Luke once dismissed it as a mark of ignorance. Sixteen epigraphical examples now exist in modern Salonica, and one is located in the British Museum on a stone which once formed part of an archway. It was evidently the Macedonian term. It was Luke’s general practice to use the term in commmonest use in educated circles. Hence he called the officials of Philippi ’praetors’, and an inscription has similarly established the fact that this was a courtesy title given to the magistrates of a Roman colony." [Note: Blaiklock, p. 129.]
The city officials could not find the missionaries to bring them to trial. Consequently they made Jason and his friends pay a bond guaranteeing that Paul would cause no further trouble but leave town. If trouble continued, Jason would lose his money. If it did not, he would receive it back. Paul did leave town and wrote to the Thessalonians that Satan hindered his return (1 Thessalonians 2:18). His inability to return may have been the result of this tactic of his enemies. The Christians, however, carried on admirably, for which Paul thanked God (1 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).
For a second time Paul fled a city under cover of night (cf. Acts 9:25; Matthew 10:23). He and Silas left the Via Egnatia at Thessalonica and took the eastern coastal road toward Athens. They headed for Berea (modern Verria) about 45 miles west-southwest of Thessalonica. Berea was a very old Mecedonian city situated on the Astraeus River. In spite of continued Jewish antagonism Paul and Silas again launched their ministry in this town by visiting the synagogue.
Ministry in Berea 17:10-15
The Jews in Berea did not react out of jealousy (cf. Acts 17:5) but listened carefully to what Paul preached and compared it to the teachings of their Hebrew Scriptures. Their example of daily Bible study has inspired Christians ever since to do the same. Anyone who listens to new religious truth would do well to compare it with Scripture, as these Jews did. Many of these noble skeptics believed because Paul’s teaching was consistent with the Old Testament. Here there seem to have been many Jewish converts rather than a few, the usual result of Paul’s preaching. Many Gentiles also believed. Among them were more prominent women (cf. Acts 17:4) as well as men. Sopater, who later travelled with Paul, as did Aristarchus and Secundus, evidently was one of the converts (Acts 20:4).
Hearing of Paul’s presence in Berea, the Thessalonian Jews followed him there. They evidently adopted the same tactics they had used in Thessalonica to force Paul out of Berea (cf. Acts 17:5; Acts 17:9). They had charged the missionaries with stirring up trouble (Acts 17:6), but it was really they who were disturbing the peace.
The text is not clear if Paul took a ship to Athens or travelled there by land. Perhaps his pursuers did not know either. It seems that Paul’s escorts took him to the sea to give the impression that they intended to put him on a ship, but then they accompanied him to Athens by land. [Note: Kent, p. 138.] In any case he reached Athens, 195 miles south-southwest of Berea, safely and sent instructions back with the Berean brethren who had accompanied him that Silas and Timothy should join him soon. They apparently had stayed behind, or been sent back, to confirm the new converts (Acts 18:5). They appear to have rejoined Paul in Athens as he requested (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:1).
"Then Timothy was sent back to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2). Silas, however, seems to have gone back to Macedonia (cf. Acts 18:5)-probably to Philippi, where he received from the young congregation there a gift of money for the support of the missioners (Philippians 4:15). In the meantime, Paul had moved from Athens to Corinth (Acts 18:1) and was joined there by Silas and Timothy on their return from Macedonia (Acts 18:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:6)." [Note: Longenecker, p. 471.]
Thus Luke’s account of Paul’s evangelizing in Macedonia concludes. From there the gospel went south to the neighboring province of Achaia.
Athens stood five miles inland from its port of Piraeus, which was on the Saronic Gulf of the Aegean Sea. Athens had reached its prime 500 years before Paul visited it, in the time of Pericles (461-429 B.C.). During this time the events of the Book of Nehemiah transpired (ca. 445-420 B.C.), and the post-exilic prophets (Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) ministered. However Athens was still the cultural and intellectual center of the Greek world. Paul observed many of the temples and statues that still stand there today. Now these objects are of interest mainly for their artistic value, but in Paul’s day they were idols and places of worship that the Greeks regarded as holy.
"It was said that there were more statues of the gods in Athens than in all the rest of Greece put together, and that in Athens it was easier to meet a god than a man." [Note: Barclay, p. 141.]
Paul’s Jewish upbringing and Christian convictions made all this idolatry repulsive to him.
"The intellectual capital of the world was producing idolatry." [Note: Toussaint, "Acts," p. 402.]
3. The ministry in Achaia 17:16-18:17
Luke recorded this section to document the advance of the gospel and the church into the pagan darkness that enveloped the province of Achaia, southern modern Greece.
Paul’s preliminary ministry in Athens 17:16-21
Ministry in Athens 17:16-34
This section of Luke’s narrative contains three parts: the experiences of the missionaries that resulted in Paul preaching to the pagan Greeks there, the sermon itself, and the results of the sermon.
Paul continued his ministry to Jews and God-fearing Greeks in the synagogue but also discussed the gospel with any who wanted to do so in the market place (Gr. agora; cf. Jeremiah 20:9). These people were probably not God-fearing Gentiles but simply pagan Gentiles. The Agora was the center of civic life in Athens. There the philosophers gathered to discuss and debate their views. It lay to the west of the Acropolis, on which the Parthenon still stands, and Mars Hill.
Epicureans were disciples of Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) who believed that pleasure was the greatest good and the most worthy pursuit of man. They meant pleasure in the sense of tranquility and freedom from pain, disquieting passions, and fears, especially the fear of death. Epicurus taught that the gods took no interest in human affairs. Thus organized religion was bad, and the gods would not punish evildoers in the afterlife. Epicurus’ followers also believed that everything happened by chance and that death was the end of all. They were similar to "agnostic secularists." [Note: Bock, Acts, p. 561.] This philosophy is still popular today. One of its fairly modern poets was A. C. Swinburne.
"A motto, written by Diogenes, an Epicurean, in about A.D. 200, sums up this belief system: ’Nothing to fear in God; Nothing to feel in death; Good [pleasure] can be attained; Evil [pain] can be endured.’" [Note: Witherington, p. 514.]
". . . Epicureanism is most fairly described as the ancient representative of modern utilitarianism." [Note: Rackham, p. 304.]
Stoics followed the teachings of Zeno the Cypriot (340-265 B.C.). The name "stoic" comes from "stoa," a particular portico (Gr. stoa) where he taught when he lived in Athens. His followers placed great importance on living in harmony with nature. They stressed individual self-sufficiency and rationalism, and they had a reputation for being quite arrogant. Stoics were pantheists who believed that God is in everything, and everything is God. They were also fatalistic. Their teaching is also common today. A modern poet who set forth this philosophy of life, W. E. Henley, wrote, "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul," in his poem Invictus. Stoics were also idealists. [Note: See David A. deSilva, "Paul and the Stoa: A Comparison," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 38:4 (December 1995):549-64, for a comparison of Paul’s teaching and the Stoics’.]
The Greek word spermologos, translated "babbler," refers to someone who picked up the words of others as a bird picks up seeds. Paul’s hearers implied that he had put together a philosophy of life simply by picking up this and that scrap of an idea from various sources. Others accused him of proclaiming new gods, though his critics may have misunderstood his references to the resurrection (Gr. anastasis) as being references to a person, perhaps a female counterpart of Jesus. This is less likely than that they simply did not believe in resurrection. [Note: Bock, Acts, p. 562.]
The exact location of the Areopagus (Gr., Areios Pagos; lit. court or council of Ares, the Greek god of war) is difficult to determine. The Athenians used the word in two ways in Luke’s day. It referred to the Hill of Ares (i.e., Mars Hill) on which the Council of the Areopagus conducted its business in ancient times. It also referred to the group of about 30 citizens known as the Council of the Areopagus who met in the Royal Portico of the Agora. [Note: Barclay, pp. 141-42.] The question is, does "the Areopagus" refer to the people or the place? Luke’s description is ambiguous, though I favor the people in view of the context.
The Council of the Areopagus had authority over religion, morals, and education in Athens. Its members wanted to know what Paul was advocating. Enemies of Socrates had poisoned him for teaching strange ideas in Athens, so Paul was in some danger.
Luke inserted this sentence to help his readers who might not be familiar with Athenian culture know how unusually attracted the Athenians were to new ideas. One Athenian wrote the following.
"We Athenians stay at home doing nothing, always delaying and making decrees, and asking in the market if there be anything new." [Note: Demosthenes (384-322 B.C.), quoted by Clarence E. N. Macartney, Paul the Man, p. 107.]
They were guiltier of "seed picking" than Paul was, but their interest gave Paul an opportunity to preach the gospel.
Paul was not flattering his audience by calling them "very religious;" this was a statement of fact. The Greek words simply mean that they were firm in their reverence for their gods. Paul again followed his policy of adapting to the people he was seeking to evangelize and met them where they were in their thinking (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:22).
"Paul really began with the note of conciliation, and from beginning to end there was nothing calculated to offend, or drive away the men whom he desired to gain." [Note: Morgan, p. 327.]
Paul’s sermon to the Athenians 17:22-31
Luke probably recorded Paul’s address (Acts 17:22-31) as a sample of his preaching to intellectual pagans (cf. Acts 13:16-41; Acts 14:15-18; Acts 20:18-35). [Note: See Dean W. Zweck, "The Areopagus Speech of Acts 17," Lutheran Theological Journal 21:3 (December 1987):11-22. See also Witherington, p. 518, for a rhetorical analysis of this speech.] In this speech Paul began with God as Creator and brought his hearers to God as Judge.
Paul may have meant that he was going to tell his audience more about a God whom they worshipped but did not know much about, namely, Yahweh. This interpretation assumes that there were people in Athens who were worshipping the Creator. Alternatively Paul may have meant that he would inform them of a God whom they did not know but had built an altar to honor. In either case, Paul began with the Athenians’ interest in gods and their confessed ignorance about at least one god and proceeded to explain what Yahweh had revealed about Himself.
"An altar has been found at Pergamum inscribed ’to the unknown deities’. Such altars had no special deity in view. The dedication was designed to ensure that no god was overlooked to the possible harm of the city." [Note: Blaiklock, p. 140.]
"His point, as in Romans 2:14-16, is that God has revealed some knowledge of himself and his will to all men, but that this has been clarified and illuminated by his special revelation through the Scriptures and now finally in the Gospel." [Note: Neil, pp. 190-91. Cf. 14:15-17.]
The true God created all things. Since He is Lord of heaven and earth, human temples cannot contain Him. He is transcendent over all (cf. Acts 7:48-50). This harmonized with the Epicureans’ idea of God as above the world, but it corrected the Stoics’ pantheism. Some Greek philosophers, including Euripides, agreed that temples did not really house their pagan gods, but many Greeks thought they did. [Note: Bock, Acts, p. 565.]
The true God also sustains all things; He does not need people to sustain Him. In other words, He is imminent as well as transcendent. He participates in human existence. This contradicted the Epicureans’ belief that God took no interest in human affairs as well as the Stoics’ self-sufficiency.
The Greeks, and especially the Athenians, prided themselves on being racially superior to all other people. Still Paul told them that they, like all other people, had descended from one source, Adam. This fact excludes the possibility of the essential superiority of any race. God also determines the times of nations-their seasons, when they rise and fall-and their boundaries. In other words, God is sovereign over the political and military affairs of nations. The Greeks liked to think that they determined their own destiny.
God’s purpose in regulating times and boundaries was that people would realize His sovereignty and seek Him (cf. Romans 1; John 6:44; John 12:32). God, Paul said, is not far from human contact. This again harmonized with some Greek philosophy, but it contradicted the teachings of other philosophers.
"It is implied in Acts xvii that the pagan world had made little progress in searching for its Creator. In Romans it is more vigorously stated that, for all God’s visible presence in His creation, the world at large had failed to find Him." [Note: Blaiklock, p. 142.]
Here Paul cited lines from two Greek writers who expressed ideas that were consistent with divine revelation. The Cretan poet Epimenides (ca. 600 B.C.; cf. Titus 1:12) had written, "For in thee we live and move and have our being." [Note: From his poem Cretica, cited by Longenecker, p. 476.] The Cilician poet Aratus (c. 315-240 B.C.), and Cleanthes (331-233 B.C.) before him, had written, "We are also his offspring." [Note: From Aratus’ Phaenomena 5, and Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus, also cited ibid.] Paul’s purpose in these quotations was to get his audience to continue to agree with him about the truth.
Paul’s conclusion was that idolatry, therefore, is illogical. If God created people, God cannot be an image or an idol. Paul was claiming that God’s divine nature is essentially spiritual rather than material.
Before Jesus Christ came, God did not view people as being as guilty as He does now that Christ has come. They were guilty of failing to respond to former revelation, but now they are more guilty in view of the greater revelation that Jesus Christ brought at His incarnation (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2). God overlooked the times of ignorance (i.e., when people had only limited cf. Revelation 3:17; Revelation 14:16; Romans 3:25; 2 Peter 3:9) in a relative sense only. Before the Incarnation people died as unbelievers and were lost, but now there is more light. Consequently people’s guilt is greater this side of the Incarnation. Obviously many people have not heard the gospel and are as ignorant of the greater revelation of God that Jesus Christ brought as were people who lived before the Incarnation. Nevertheless they live in a time when God has revealed more of Himself than previously.
This makes it all the more important that Christians take the gospel to everyone. Greater revelation by God means greater responsibility for people, both for the unsaved and for the saved. God previously took the relative lack of understanding about Himself into consideration as He dealt with people. Now that Christ has come, He will hold people more responsible for their sins.
"Paul appeals to the relation of Creator and creature, and to God as universal judge, in order to provide a foundation for a gospel that can address the whole of humanity. The internal impulse for this speech (internal to the implied author’s perspective) comes from the need to speak of all humanity sharing an essentially similar relation to God as a basis for an inclusive gospel, a gospel commensurate with the inclusive saving purpose of God announced in Luke 2:30-32." [Note: Tannehill, 2:211.]
"The Bible requires repentance for salvation, but repentance does not mean to turn from sin, nor a change in one’s conduct. Those are the fruits of repentance. Biblical repentance is a change of mind or attitude concerning either God [Acts 20:21], Christ [Acts 2:38], dead works [Hebrews 6:1], or sin [Acts 8:22]. When one trusts Christ it is inconceivable that he would not automatically change his mind concerning one or more or even all of these things." [Note: Cocoris, Lordship Salvation . . ., p. 12.]
The true knowledge of God leads to (encourages) repentance because it contains information about coming judgment. Paul concluded his speech by clarifying His hearers’ responsibility.
"He has presented God as the Creator in His past work. He shows God as the Redeemer in His present work. Now he shows God as the Judge in His future work." [Note: McGee, 4:591.]
Wiersbe outlined Paul’s speech as presenting the greatness of God: He is Creator (Acts 17:24); the goodness of God: He is Provider (Acts 17:25); the government of God: He is Ruler (Acts 17:26-29); and the grace of God: He is Savior (Acts 17:30-34). [Note: Wiersbe, 1:473.]
Note that Paul referred to sin (Acts 17:29), righteousness (Acts 17:31), and judgment (Acts 17:31; cf. John 16:5-11; Romans 1-3). The resurrected Jesus is God’s agent of judgment (cf. Acts 7:13; Psalms 96:13; John 5:22; John 5:27), the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13). Paul stressed that Jesus was a man, rather than an idol or a mythological character such as the Greek gods, whom the true God has appointed as His agent of judgment.
The proof of Jesus’ qualification to judge humanity is His resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection vindicated His claims about Himself (e.g., His claim to be the Judge of all humankind, John 5:22; John 5:25-29).
The response to Paul’s preaching 17:32-34
Most Greeks rejected the possibility of physical resurrection. [Note: See N. Clayton Croy, "Hellenistic Philosophies and the Preaching of the Resurrection (Acts 17:18, 32)," Novum Testamentum 39:1 (1997):21-39, for the Epicurean and Stoic views. See also Witherington, p. 532, for the view of Apollo at the founding of the Areopagus, who also rejected the possibility of resurrection.] Many of them believed that the most desirable condition lay beyond the grave where the soul would finally be free of the body (e.g., Platonists). The response of the Athenians to Paul’s preaching was typical: some mocked, others procrastinated, and a few believed. Among the believers were Dionysius, a member of the Council of the Areopagus that had examined Paul, and Damaris, a woman about whom we know nothing more. Paul later wrote that the household of Stephanas was the firstfruits of Achaia (1 Corinthians 16:15), so this man and his household may have been additional converts that Luke did not mention here. Or perhaps Stephanas lived in Corinth but he and his household became Christians through Paul’s early ministry in Achaia.
Some Bible students have interpreted Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 1:18 to 1 Corinthians 2:5 as evidence that the apostle believed he had taken the wrong approach in Athens. [Note: E.g., Neil, p. 193.] In that passage Paul repudiated worldly wisdom. He wrote that he determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified when he preached. He also said that he had entered Corinth, his next stop after Athens, with fear and trembling. In Athens, Paul had preached Christ, but he had spent considerable time, assuming Luke’s summary of his sermon accurately reflects the whole, discussing natural revelation and philosophy. I agree with those interpreters who do not think Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians reflect belief that he had taken the wrong approach in Athens. The lack of response in Athens was due to the fact that the Athenians loved to discuss issues but did not like to take action. Moreover unsaved educated, intelligent people generally tend to be more critical and non-committal than others when they first hear the gospel. Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians seem to reflect his general commitment to elevate Jesus Christ in all aspects of his ministry including his preaching, which he also did in Athens.
The absence of any reference to a church being planted in Athens in this passage or elsewhere in the New Testament is hardly an adequate basis for concluding there was none. As we have seen repeatedly in Acts, Luke made no attempt to provide a comprehensive history but selected only those facts and events he wished to emphasize. In this section (Acts 17:16-34) he emphasized Paul’s preaching to cultured pagans. We do not know if Paul planted a church in Athens; there is no record that he did. I suspect that if he did Luke would have mentioned it since the spread of the gospel is such a major theme in Acts. However, there is evidence that the gospel took root in Athens, if not during Paul’s visit.
"In the next century that Church at Athens gave to the Christian church Publius, Quadratus, Aristides, Athenagoras, and others, bishops, and martyrs; and in the third century the church there was peaceable and pure. In the fourth century the Christian schools of Athens gave to the Christian Church Basil and Gregory." [Note: Morgan, p. 332.]
Donald Meisner argued that the structure of the record of Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts 12:25 to Acts 21:16 is chiastic. [Note: Donald R. Meisner, "Chiasm and the Composition and Message of Paul’s Missionary Sermons" (S.T.D. thesis, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 1974), pp. 273-322; and idem, "The Missionary Journeys Narrative: Patterns and Implications," in Perspectives on Luke-Acts, pp. 199-214.]
Chiasm is "a stylistic literary figure which consists of a series of two or more elements (words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or longer sections) followed by a presentation of corresponding elements in reverse order." [Note: Ronald E. Man, "The Value of Chiasm for New Testament Interpretation," Bibliotheca Sacra 141:562 (April-June 1984):146.]
Writers used this device to highlight the central elements in the structure and or to clarify the meaning of paired elements. The central section of the Acts 12:25 to Acts 21:16 chiasm, as Meisner saw it, is Paul’s sermon in Acts 17:16-34.
"The chiastic structure of the missionary journeys narrative suggests that, of all the places on the itinerary, Athens is the most significant intermediate point as the gospel moves to the end of the earth. . . .
"The Areopagus speech . . . is the only sermon reported by Luke which is preached to Gentiles by ’the apostle to the Gentiles’ (except for the brief Lystra sermon [Acts 14:15-17]). . . . Now that Paul had preached the word in the spiritual capital of the Greek world, he turned his face toward the imperial capital of the Greco-Roman world. It is only after the Athens climax that Luke noted Paul’s expression of his necessity to go to Rome, which he stated both at Ephesus (Acts 19:21), and at Jerusalem (Acts 23:11)." [Note: Meisner, "Chiasm and . . .," pp. 315-16.]
To the Philippian jailer Paul preached Christ as the personal savior of individuals. To the Jews in Thessalonica he presented Him as the promised Messiah. To the intellectual Gentiles in Athens he proclaimed Him as the proven judge of all humankind appointed by the one true God.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Acts 17". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
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