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Bible Commentaries

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary
Acts 17



Verse 2

was customary with St. Paul to open the Scriptures first to the Jews, (Acts xiii. 46.) and to argue with them from the law and the prophets. (Acts xxviii. 23.) St. Paul made use of the same passages of Scripture to convince the Jews, as Jesus Christ did on a similar occasion. (Mat. Polus.)

Verse 3

That the Christ was to suffer. The suffering of Christ was the great stumbling-block to the Jews, which St. Paul now attempted to remove, by shewing them from the Scripture, that this was one of the necessary characters of the Messias, contained in the prophets. All the other marks were likewise accomplished in Christ. (Denis the Carthusian) --- And that this is Jesus Christ, whom I preach to you. The transition from an oblique to a direct mode of speech is very common, especially in the holy Scriptures.

Verse 4



De colentibus Gentilibusque. In the common Greek copies, there is no and, but only of the worshipping Gentiles, Greek: ton de sebomenon elleuon, but in other copies, Greek: kai ellenon.

Verse 6



Qui urbem concitant, in the common Greek copies, Greek: oikoumenen, orbem: so that this difference might happen in the Latin, by the change of one letter only of urbem, for orbem: but some Greek manuscripts have Greek: ten polin, civitatem.

Verse 7

Another king. These Jews suppress, with great artifice, their true cause of vexation against the apostles, and change a mere question of religion into one of temporal policy. The accusation of raising up a new power in opposition to Cæsar's, had been sufficiently refuted and disavowed before Pilate by the author of our religion, and was therefore too gross to be repeated now. My kingdom, says our blessed Saviour, is not of this world. There is no necessary connection between spiritual and temporal power. It is thus that the abettors of persecution are never at a loss for pretexts, when necessary. Mad zeal is not scrupulously nice in the choice of arguments. (Haydock)

Verse 10

Synagogue. In flying from the face of persecution in due season, St. Paul imitated the instruction and example of his master. When his labours are unsuccessful in one place, he renews them in another, and wherever he is, his object is always the same, to announce the truth to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles. (Denis the Carthusian)

Verse 11

These were more noble than those of Thessalonica. According to the common exposition, the sense is, that these of Berœa, were of a more noble and generous disposition of mind, not carried away with envy and malice, like those of Thessalonica. --- Searching the Scriptures, or those places of the prophets by which St. Paul proved that Jesus was the Messias, who was to suffer death, &c. (Witham) --- Daily searching the Scriptures, &c. The sheep are not hereby made judges of their pastors, the people of the priests, and lay men and women of St. Paul's doctrine. The Berœans did not read the Old Testament (and the New was not then published) to dispute with the apostles, or to sanction his doctrines: but it was a great comfort and confirmation to the Jews that had the Scriptures, to find, even as St. Paul said, that Christ was God, crucified, risen, and ascended to heaven; which by his expounding they understood, and never before, though they read them, and heard them read every sabbath. So it is a great comfort to a Catholic to see in the Scriptures the clear passages that prove the truth of his tenets, and shew the grounds for his hopes. But this by no means authorizes him to be judge of the true pastors of the Church, whom he is commanded by Jesus Christ to hear and obey, and from whom they are to learn the genuine sense of the Scriptures.

Verse 16

ridicules the folly of idolatry in a neat strain of irony, which he introduces by the following verses from Lucilius: Ut pueri infantes credunt signa omnia ahena

Vivere et esse homines; sic isti omnia ficta

Vera putant, &c.

--- The poet compares these fools to children. I think them worse; for the latter only take the statues for men, they for gods. Age causes the error of the one, folly of the other. These soon cease to be deceived, but the folly of those lasts and increases always. (Lactanius, de fals. Relig. lib. i.)

Verse 18



Semini-verbius, Greek: o spermologos, the critics derive it from Greek: legein spermata, colligere semina.

Verse 19

To the Areopagus. In this place sat the Athenian judges: but some think that by this word may be here signified, some large hall or court, joining to the Areopagus, where all sorts of people met. (Witham) --- The Areopagus was the supreme and most famous tribunal of all Greece, before which all great causes were tried. The persons who composed it were much renowned for their wisdom. Cicero, and many other Romans, were ambitious of the honour of being an Areopagite; but the power of Athens being now much diminished, this court had sunk in importance, and was now not much more than the shadow of a great name. (Calmet)

Verse 22



Superstitiosiores, Greek: deisidaimonosterous, from Greek: deido, timeo, and Greek: daimon. Greek: Deisidaimonia is sometimes taken in a good sense for religio, as also superstitio in Latin. See Budæus, and Plutarch apud Scapulam. See also Suidas.

Verse 23

may be asked, why they had not implicit faith, worshipping the true, though unknown, God?(5) 1st. because the worship of the true God can never exist with the worship of idols; 2nd. because an explicit faith in God is required of all; 3rd. because it is repugnant to implicit faith, to admit any thing contrary to it, as comparing this unknown God with the pagan idols; for God to be at all, must be one. Lucan towards the end of his 2nd book, hath these words: ----------Et dedita sacris

Incerti Judæa Dei.

--- What, therefore, you improperly worship, that I preach to you, and instruct you in the true worship, far different from what you pay to your strange gods.



Ignoto Deo, Greek: agnosto theo. See Corn. a Lapide.


Verse 24

God...dwelleth not in temples. He who is infinite cannot be confined to space; nor stand in need of what human hands can furnish. Temples are not for God, but for man. It is the latter who derives assistance from them. The same may be observed of all exterior acts of worship. They are serviceable, inasmuch as they proceed from, or powerfully assist, interior devotion, by the impressions which exterior objects leave upon the soul. The reciprocal action of one upon the other, in our present state of existence, is great and inevitable. (Haydock) See chap. vii. above, ver. 48. --- God, indeed, dwelleth in the temple, yes, and in the soul of the just man, but his is not confined there, as the idols were to their temples. Hence the prayer of Solomon at the consecration of the temple: if heaven, and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thy immensity, how much less this house, which I have erected? God dwelleth there, then, to receive the prayers and sacrifices of the faithful, but not as though he needed any thing. See ver. 25. --- God is not contained in temples; so as to need them for his dwelling, or any other uses, as the heathens imagined. Yet by his omnipresence, he is bother there and every where. (Challoner)

Verse 27

Feel after him. Si forte attrectent eum, Greek: ei arage pselapheseian. It signifies palpare quasi in tenebris. (Witham)

Verse 28

. Paul here cites Aratus, a Greek poet, and his own countryman, a native of Cilicia.

Verse 29

, which extended wings, were ordered by God to be made, and placed over the propitiatory; (Exodus xxxvii. 7.) the brazen serpent is declared by Jesus Christ himself to have been a figure of him; therefore to blame the universally received practice of the Catholic Church, with regard to pictures and images, betrays either great prevention, or great ignorance. St. Gregory says: "What writing does for readers, that a picture does for the ignorant; for in it they see what they ought to follow, and in it they read, who know no letters." And he sharply rebukes Serenus's indiscreet zeal for removing pictures, instead of teaching the people what use may be made of them. (lib. ix. ep. 9.)

Verse 30

Overlooked. Despiciens, Greek: uperidon. It may either signify looking down on the ignorant world, and so taking pity of it; or rather that God having overlooked, and permitted mankind to go on so long in their sins, now invites them to repentance, by sending Jesus, their Saviour and Redeemer. See the Analysis, dissert. xxxiv. (Witham)

Verse 31

Because he hath appointed a day for judging all men with equity, by the man, to wit, Christ Jesus, a man, and also his true Son, whom he has appointed to be their judge; and by raising him (Jesus) from the dead, he hath made it credible, and given sufficient proofs of this truth, that every one shall rise from death. (Witham)

Verse 32

When they heard of the resurrection of the dead. This seemed so impossible, even to the philosophers among them, that some of them presently laughed, and made a jest of it. Others said, we will hear thee on this another time, and some believed. (Witham)

Verse 34

Dionysius the Areopagite. This illustrious convert was made the first bishop of Athens. They martyrologies say, St. Paul raised him to that dignity. It is the same person, who, observing the convulsions of nature, which paid homage, as it were, to its God, expiring upon the cross, and not knowing the cause, is said to have exclaimed: Either the universe is falling to ruin, or the God of nature must be suffering. It appears from his writings, that he was, previous to his conversion, of the Platonic school. Ven. Bede was mistaken in supposing that he was afterwards the bishop of Corinth, of that name, who so successfully employed his pen for the good of the Church. This Dionysius lived a whole century after the Areopagite. (Estius)

Verse 35


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Bibliography Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Acts 17:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

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