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Bible Commentaries
Acts 17

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Act 17:1. Amphipolis and Apollonia were cities in Macedonia, but Paul did not pause for any work until he reached Thessalonica, another Macedonian city. The existence of a synagogue made it desirable to stop in this place.

Verse 2

2 Act 17:2. Three sabbath days. The Jews would be engaged in their regu lar occupations through the week, and on the sabbath days they would assemble to hear the reading of the Scriptures. Paul based his reasoning on things written in that very book.

Verse 3

3 Act 17:3. Thayer defines opening as follows: "To explain, expound," and alleging is virtually the same, except that it is a somewhat closer application of the statements in the Old Testament. Paul showed these Jews that their own Scriptures set forth the doctrine that he was giving them, namely, the death and resurrection of Jesus (Psa 16:8-10). Having proved by their own sacred writings that Jesus was to fulfill such predictions, he declared Him to be the Christ.

Verse 4

4 Act 17:4. Consorted means they associated with Paul and Silas because they believed their teaching. The devout Greeks were the ones religiously inclined, and chief women were the leading persons among the female sex.

Verse 5

5 Act 17:5. The original for lewd is defined "bad" and baser sort means the loafers around the markets. Such characters would be inclined toward the kind of service these envious Jews needed in their wicked plots. Paul and Silas were staying in the house of Jason (verse 7), but at the present time were not "at home."

Verse 6

6 Act 17:6. Being disappointed at not finding the preachers, they took their spite out on Jason and other brethren by forcing them before the rulers of the city. Turned the world upside down was a reference to the success accomplished by Paul's preaching.

Verse 7

7 Act 17:7. Whom Jason hath received was said as explanation for having him now in the presence of the rulers. Do contrary to the decree of Caesar was a false charge. Paul always taught obedience to the laws of the land, but he did not agree with the contentions of the Jews about the law of Moses.

Verse 8

8 Act 17:8. The rulers owed their official position to Caesar, and did not want any condition to arise that might endanger their place in the public affairs. That is why the report of the envious Jews troubled them and the people.

Verse 9

9 Act 17:9. Taken security denotes that they either required a deposit of money, or found some responsible person to stand good for their conduct toward the laws of the land. Such an arrangement would satisfy Caesar should he hear about the commotion in one of his provinces in Macedonia.

Verse 10

0 Act 17:10. When Paul was chased from one city to another he continued his work for Christ. Berea was another city of Macedonia and contained a synagogue.

Verse 11

1 Act 17:11. Noble is from eugenes and it means of better breeding; more highly cultured. Such a character caused them to be more reasonable in their attitude toward the preaching of Paul and Silas. Instead of attacking them enviously, they investigated their claims by reading up on the subject. If the preachers made an argument based on the statements of the Old Testament, the Bereans looked into the book to see if they were telling the truth: that was fair for both speaker and hearer.

Verse 12

2 Act 17:12. Finding that Paul was giving them the truth, many were made believers. Honorable is from EUSCHEMON which Thayer defines, "of good standing, honorable, influential, wealthy, respectable." All classes need and are offered the benefits of the Gospel, but it is well to know that it found those who accepted it among the high ranks of society as well as the lower classes.

Verse 13

3 Act 17:13. The envy of the Jews knew no bounds, so when they heard of the work of the Guspel at Berea they pursued the preachers there. Stirred up the people means they worked up a sentiment against Paul which cut off further opportunity for his work there.

Verse 14

4 Act 17:14. The feeling seemed to be more sharp against Paul than against Silas and Timotheus, so that he was induced to leave for other parts leaving them for the present.

Verse 15

5 Act 17:15. An escort of brethren went with Paul on his sea voyage until they came to Athens, which was the chief city of Greece, the province joining Macedonia on the south. From there they returned to Berea, taking back with them an order for Silas and Timotheus to come to Paul as soon as possible.

Verse 16

6 Act 17:16. Paul could not wait until Silas and Timotheus came to him when he saw the conditions. Given to idolatry is rendered "full of idols" in the margin, which is correct as may be seen by other verses it this chapter.

Verse 17

7 Act 17:17. Therefore is not a conclusion from the preceding verse because the synagogue was a meeting place of the Jews who were not idolaters. But the people in the market were a mixed group and contained idolaters. The verse means that Paul followed his usual practice of preaching the Gospel, first in the synagogue where he could meet the Jews, then in any other place where he could find some hearers.

Verse 18

8 Act 17:18. Athens was the chief city of Greece and the seat of learning and civilization for that province. Hence Paul would encounter various classes of citizens whose ears were alert for any literary or philosophical subject that might be introduced. The Epicureans were a class founded by Epicurus, who taught that fleshly pleasure should be the chief purpose of man on earth. The theory of the Stoicks was almost opposite of the Epicureans, but it was based chiefly on the supposed importance of philosophy. It is easy to see why both these groups would criticize the Gospel which seeks to find true pleasure in humble devotion to the risen Lord.

Verse 19

9 Act 17:19. Areopagus and Mars' hill (verse 22) were names for the same place, which was the highest court in Athens in the days of the apostles. Not only were criminal cases tried in this court, but also any subject thought to affect the public welfare.

Verse 20

0 Act 17:20. Thus far there was nothing particularly objectionable to the Athenians in the teaching of Paul, but he had raised their curiosity by introducing a new subject, or one that was strange which means an outside or unknown (to them) matter. They told him they wished to know what it all meant.

Verse 21

1 Act 17:21. The inspired writer throws in this verse by way of explanation of the curious inquiry of the people. Nothing was as exciting to them as the prospect of hearing something that had not been told them before. It will develop that what Paul had to offer the Athenians was new to them, but yet did not meet their demands that it must be something new along the lines of philosophy.

Verse 22

2 Act 17:22. Paul was invited to speak before this highest court in Athens. His audience was composed of idolaters and various classes of philosophers and Greek statesmen. His introduction was not intended as a criticism but rather a friendly comment. The adverb too is not justified by the Greek original, for it does not have any separate word in the Greek at this place. It is a part of the original for superstitious, so the phrase too superstitious should be rendered "very religious." This extensive religious attitude was indicated by the presence of so many idols or altars. (See verse 16.)

Verse 23

3 Act 17:23. Paul had not seen them engaging in their idolatrous services. Devotions is from SEBASMA which Thayer defines, "whatever is religiously honored, an object of worship." An altar was an elevated place on which to offer sacrifices. Among the places Paul saw was one that had an inscription written upon it which read to the unknown god. The occasion for such an altar is explained by Horne, Introduction, Volume 1, Page 90, as follows: "The Athenians, being afflicted with a pestilence, invited Epimenides to lustrate [purify with sacrifice] their city. The method adopted by him was, to carry several sheep to the Areo-pagus, whence they were left to wander as they pleased, under the observation of persons to attend them. As each sheep lay down, it was sacrificed on the spot to the propitious [gracious] God. By this ceremony, it is said, the deity was satisfied; but as it was still unknown what deity was gracious, an altar was erected to the unknown God on every spot where a sheep had been sacrificed." It is not known just what actually took place, but since all blessings come from the true God, if any miraculous cure was bestowed upon the community, it was through the goodness of Him; hence the Athenians ignorantly gave the credit for their great blessing to the right One, whose existence and power Paul declared unto them. These idolaters actually did worship the true God though ignorantly. (See the note at Mat 2:2 on worship.)

Verse 24

4 Act 17:24. The God who made everything in the universe could not be expected to dwell (be confined) in manmade temples, and certainly not in as small and lifeless a thing as an altar of earth or stone, such as the Athenians had erected for the purpose.

Verse 25

5 Act 17:25. The Athenians offered their worship to God in connection with a supposed case of healing, hence Paul selected a word from their vocabulary that pertains to the art of medicine and healing. Worship in this passage is from THERAPEUO which Thayer defines, "to heal, cure, restore to health." The word also means "to serve," but Paul used it in the first sense because the Athenians were worshiping God (unknowingly) in connection with their experience in the healing of the epidemic. Since God is the source of all the creatures of life and health, it would be foolish for such to think they could grant healing to Him through the works of their hands.

Verse 26

6 Act 17:26. One blood. The Lord said that the blood is the life of all flesh (Lev 17:14), and God is the creator of all flesh. The conclusion is that all life originated with Him, therefore it is foolish to think that he can be represented by objects made of metal or stone. Determined the times before appointed. Not that the moral conduct of man has been predetermined by the Lord regardless of his own will, for that would rule out any human responsibility. But the statement just means that the universe did not come "by chance," but was the intelligent work of God, who did set a boundary to the habitation of man which is the face of the earth.

Verse 27

7 Act 17:27. This restricted location for man's habitation away from the visible presence of God made it necessary that they seek the Lord. If haply, etc., is said in the sense as if it said, "with the intent that man would seek or feel after the invisible God and succeed in finding Him through the evidence shown in chapter 14:17."

Verse 28

8 Act 17:28. If we live in Him with all our activities of life, it follows that He is greater than any of us or anything that we can make, which is another argument against man-made images of God. Making reference to their own heathen poets was good psychology. They would be bound to accept their own authors, and finding that they taught the same things as Paul, it would incline them to think favorably of the statements of the apostle. Chief of the quotations was the one that spoke of man as the offspring of God.

Verse 29

9 Act 17:29. It would be inconsistent to think that living, intelligent beings like men could be the offspring of a God who was represented by objects made of stone or metal.

Verse 30

0 Act 17:30. Winked at is from HUPER-EIDON which Thayer defines, "to overlook, take no notice of, not attend to." The heathen in times past did not have the complete information that was to be given the whole world through the Gospel, hence God did not hold them to strict account. That leniency was to end with the period of the law of Christ, and all men were then required to come to repentance. (See 2Pe 3:9.)

Verse 31

1 Act 17:31. Appointed a day but not a "date." If God has predetermined just when the judgment day is come, it must be learned from some passage other than this one. It means only that God has made an appointment with the risen One to be the judge of the people of the world whenever the proper day arrives. By raising Jesus from the dead, God not only proved that He is able to manage "all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph 1:11), but gave notice that all must meet the risen Jesus as the Judge.

Verse 32

2 Act 17:32. The Athenians were interested in philosophical subjects only, as they regarded them, and the resurrection from the dead did not come under that classification in their estimation. Some of them made fun of the matter, but others were a little more polite and promised to give it their attention at some other time.

Verse 33

3 Act 17:33. Paul did not take their promise seriously, but departed from the court and went elsewhere in the city.

Verse 34

4 Act 17:34. The preaching of Paul was not an entire failure as to results, for one member of the Aeropagite court became a believer, also some private persons.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Acts 17". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/acts-17.html. 1952.
 
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