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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
Acts 17

 

 

Verse 1

When they had passed through (διοδευσαντεςdiodeusantes). First aorist active participle of διοδευωdiodeuō common verb in the Koiné (Polybius, Plutarch, lxx, etc.), but in the N.T. only here and Luke 8:1. It means literally to make one‘s way (οδοςhodos) through (διαdia). They took the Egnatian Way, one of the great Roman roads from Byzantium to Dyrrachium (over 500 miles long) on the Adriatic Sea, opposite Brundisium and so an extension of the Appian Way.

Amphipolis (την Αμπιπολινtēn Amphipolin). So called because the Strymon flowed almost around (αμπιamphi) it, the metropolis of Macedonia Prima, a free city, about 32 miles from Philippi, about three miles from the sea. Paul and Silas may have spent only a night here or longer.

Apollonia (την Απολλωνιανtēn Apollōnian). Not the famous Apollonia in Illyria, but 32 miles from Amphipolis on the Egnatian Way. So here again a night was spent if no more. Why Paul hurried through these two large cities, if he did, we do not know. There are many gaps in Luke‘s narrative that we have no way of filling up. There may have been no synagogues for one thing.

To Thessalonica (εις Τεσσαλονικηνeis Thessalonikēn). There was a synagogue here in this great commercial city, still an important city called Saloniki, of 70,000 population. It was originally called Therma, at the head of the Thermaic Gulf. Cassander renamed it Thessalonica after his wife, the sister of Alexander the Great. It was the capital of the second of the four divisions of Macedonia and finally the capital of the whole province. It shared with Corinth and Ephesus the commerce of the Aegean. One synagogue shows that even in this commercial city the Jews were not very numerous. As a political centre it ranked with Antioch in Syria and Caesarea in Palestine. It was a strategic centre for the spread of the gospel as Paul later said for it sounded (echoed) forth from Thessalonica throughout Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thessalonians 1:8).


Verse 2

As his custom was (κατα το ειωτος τωι Παυλωιkata to eiōthos tōi Paulōi). The same construction in Luke 4:16 about Jesus in Nazareth (κατα το ειωτος αυτωιkata to eiōthos autōi) with the second perfect active participle neuter singular from ετωethō Paul‘s habit was to go to the Jewish synagogue to use the Jews and the God-fearers as a springboard for his work among the Gentiles.

For three Sabbaths (επι σαββατα τριαepi sabbata tria). Probably the reference is to the first three Sabbaths when Paul had a free hand in the synagogue as at first in Antioch in Pisidia. Luke does not say that Paul was in Thessalonica only three weeks. He may have spoken there also during the week, though the Sabbath was the great day. Paul makes it plain, as Furneaux shows, that he was in Thessalonica a much longer period than three weeks. The rest of the time he spoke, of course, outside of the synagogue. Paul implies an extended stay by his language in 1 Thessalonians 1:8. The church consisted mainly of Gentile converts (2 Thessalonians 3:4, 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 2 Thessalonians 3:8) and seems to have been well organized (1 Thessalonians 5:12). He received help while there several times from Philippi (Philemon 4:16) and even so worked night and day to support himself (1 Thessalonians 2:9). His preaching was misunderstood there in spite of careful instruction concerning the second coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).

Reasoned (διελεχατοdielexato). First aorist middle indicative of διαλεγομαιdialegomai old verb in the active to select, distinguish, then to revolve in the mind, to converse (interchange of ideas), then to teach in the Socratic (“dialectic”) method of question and answer (cf. διελεγετοdielegeto in Acts 16:17), then simply to discourse, but always with the idea of intellectual stimulus. With these Jews and God-fearers Paul appealed to the Scriptures as text and basis (αποapo) of his ideas.


Verse 3

Opening and alleging (διανοιγων και παρατιτεμενοςdianoigōn kai paratithemenos). Opening the Scriptures, Luke means, as made plain by the mission and message of Jesus, the same word (διανοιγωdianoigō) used by him of the interpretation of the Scriptures by Jesus (Luke 24:32) and of the opening of the mind of the disciples also by Jesus (Luke 24:45) and of the opening of Lydia‘s heart by the Lord (Acts 16:14). One cannot refrain from saying that such exposition of the Scriptures as Jesus and Paul gave would lead to more opening of mind and heart. Paul was not only “expounding” the Scriptures, he was also “propounding” (the old meaning of “allege”) his doctrine or setting forth alongside the Scriptures (παρατιτεμενοςparȧtithemenos), quoting the Scripture to prove his contention which was made in much conflict (1 Thessalonians 2:2), probably in the midst of heated discussion by the opposing rabbis who were anything but convinced by Paul‘s powerful arguments, for the Cross was a stumbling-block to the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:23).

That it behoved the Christ to suffer (οτι τον Χριστον εδει πατεινhoti ton Christon edei pathein). The second aorist active infinitive is the subject of εδειedei with τον Χριστονton Christon the accusative of general reference. This is Paul‘s major premise in his argument from the Scriptures about the Messiah, the necessity of his sufferings according to the Scriptures, the very argument made by the Risen Jesus to the two on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:25-27). The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah was a passage in point that the rabbis had overlooked. Peter made the same point in Acts 3:18 and Paul again in Acts 26:23. The minor premise is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

To rise again from the dead (αναστηναι εκ νεκρωνanastēnai ek nekrōn). This second aorist active infinitive αναστηναιanastēnai is also the subject of εδειedei The actual resurrection of Jesus was also a necessity as Paul says he preached to them (1 Thessalonians 4:14) and argued always from Scripture (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) and from his own experience (Acts 9:22; Acts 22:7; Acts 26:8, Acts 26:14; 1 Corinthians 15:8).

This Jesus is the Christ (ουτος εστιν ο Χριστοσ ο Ιησουςhoutos estin ho Christosho Iēsous). More precisely, “This is the Messiah, viz., Jesus whom I am proclaiming unto you.” This is the conclusion of Paul‘s line of argument and it is logical and overwhelming. It is his method everywhere as in Damascus, in Antioch in Pisidia, here, in Corinth. He spoke as an eye-witness.


Verse 4

Some of them (τινες εχ αυτωνtines exō autōn). That is of the Jews who were evidently largely afraid of the rabbis. Still “some” were persuaded (επειστησανepeisthēsan effective first aorist passive indicative) and “consorted with” (προσεκληρωτησανproseklērōthēsan). This latter verb is also first aorist passive indicative of προσκληροωprosklēroō a common verb in late Greek (Plutarch, Lucian), but only here in the N.T., from προςpros and κληροςklēros to assign by lot. So then this small group of Jews were given Paul and Silas by God‘s grace.

And of the devout Greeks a great multitude (των τε σεβομενων ελληνων πλητος πολυtōn te sebomenōn Hellēnōn plēthos polu). These “God-fearers” among the Gentiles were less under the control of the jealous rabbis and so responded more readily to Paul‘s appeal. In 1 Thessalonians 1:9 Paul expressly says that they had “turned to God from idols,” proof that this church was mainly Gentile (cf. also 1 Thessalonians 2:14).

And of the chief women not a few (γυναικων τε των πρωτων ουκ ολιγαιgunaikōn te tōn prōtōn ouk oligai). Literally, “And of women the first not a few.” That is, a large number of women of the very first rank in the city, probably devout women also like the men just before and like those in Acts 13:50 in Antioch in Pisidia who along with “the first men of the city” were stirred up against Paul. Here these women were openly friendly to Paul‘s message, whether proselytes or Gentiles or Jewish wives of Gentiles as Hort holds. It is noteworthy that here, as in Philippi, leading women take a bold stand for Christ. In Macedonia women had more freedom than elsewhere. It is not to be inferred that all those converted belonged to the higher classes, for the industrial element was clearly large (1 Thessalonians 4:11). In 2 Corinthians 8:2 Paul speaks of the deep poverty of the Macedonian churches, but with Philippi mainly in mind. Ramsay thinks that Paul won many of the heathen not affiliated at all with the synagogue. Certain it is that we must allow a considerable interval of time between Acts 17:4, Acts 17:5 to understand what Paul says in his Thessalonian Epistles.


Verse 5

Moved with jealousy (ζηλωσαντεςzēlōsantes). Both our English words, zeal and jealousy, are from the Greek ζηλοςzēlos In Acts 13:45 the Jews (rabbis) “were filled with jealousy” (επληστησαν ζηλουeplēsthēsan zēlou). That is another way of saying the same thing as here. The success of Paul was entirely too great in both places to please the rabbis. So here is jealousy of Jewish preachers towards Christian preachers. It is always between men or women of the same profession or group. In 1 Thessalonians 2:3-10 Paul hints at some of the slanders spread against him by these rabbis (deceivers, using words of flattery as men-pleasers, after vain-glory, greed of gain, etc.).

Took unto them (προσλαβομενοιproslabomenoi). Second aorist middle (indirect, to themselves) participle of προσλαμβανωproslambanō old and common verb.

Certain vile fellows of the rabble (των αγοραιων ανδρας τινας πονηρουςtōn agoraiōn andras tinas ponērous). The αγοραagora or market-place was the natural resort for those with nothing to do (Matthew 20:4) like the court-house square today or various parks in our cities where bench-warmers flock. Plato (Protagoras 347 C) calls these αγοραιοιagoraioi (common word, but in N.T. only here and Acts 19:38) idlers or good-for-nothing fellows. They are in every city and such “bums” are ready for any job. The church in Thessalonica caught some of these peripatetic idlers (2 Thessalonians 3:10.) “doing nothing but doing about.” So the Jewish preachers gather to themselves a choice collection of these market-loungers or loafers or wharf-rats. The Romans called them subrostrani (hangers round the rostrum or subbasilicari).

Gathering a crowd (οχλοποιησαντεςochlopoiēsantes). Literally, making or getting (ποιεωpoieō) a crowd (οχλοςochlos), a word not found elsewhere. Probably right in the αγοραagora itself where the rabbis could tell men their duties and pay them in advance. Instance Hyde Park in London with all the curious gatherings every day, Sunday afternoons in particular.

Set the city on an uproar (ετορυβουνethoruboun). Imperfect active of τορυβεωthorubeō from τορυβοςthorubos (tumult), old verb, but in the N.T. only here and Acts 20:10; Matthew 9:23; Mark 4:39. They kept up the din, this combination of rabbis and rabble.

Assaulting the house of Jason (επισταντες τηι οικιαι Ιασονοςepistantes tēi oikiāi Iasonos). Second aorist (ingressive) active of επιστημιephistēmi taking a stand against, rushing at, because he was Paul‘s host. He may have been a Gentile (Jason the name of an ancient king of Thessaly), but the Jews often used it for Joshua or Jesus (II Macc. Joshua 1:7).

They sought (εζητουνezētoun). Imperfect active. They burst into the house and searched up and down.

Them (αυτουςautous). Paul and Silas. They were getting ready to have a lynching party.


Verse 6

When they found them not (μη ευροντεςmē heurontes). Usual negative μηmē with the participle in the Koiné, second aorist (effective) active participle, complete failure with all the noise and “bums.”

They dragged (εσυρονesuron). Imperfect active, vivid picture, they were dragging (literally). See note on Acts 8:3; and note on Acts 16:19. If they could not find Paul, they could drag Jason his host and some other Christians whom we do not know.

Before the rulers of the city (επι τους πολιταρχαςepi tous politarchas). This word does not occur in Greek literature and used to be cited as an example of Luke‘s blunders. But now it is found in an inscription on an arch in the modern city preserved in the British Museum. It is also found in seventeen inscriptions (five from Thessalonica) where the word or the verb πολιταρχεωpolitarcheō occurs. It is a fine illustration of the historical accuracy of Luke in matters of detail. This title for city officers in Thessalonica, a free city, is correct. They were burgomasters or “rulers of the city.”

Crying (βοωντεςboōntes). Yelling as if the house was on fire like the mob in Jerusalem (Acts 21:28).

These that have turned the world upside down (οι την οικουμενην αναστατωσαντεςhoi tēn oikoumenēn anastatōsantes). The use of οικουμενηνoikoumenēn (supply γενgenō or χωρανchōran the inhabited earth, present passive participle of οικεωoikeō) means the Roman Empire, since it is a political charge, a natural hyperbole in their excitement, but the phrase occurs for the Roman Empire in Luke 2:1. It is possible that news had come to Thessalonica of the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius. There is truth in the accusation, for Christianity is revolutionary, but on this particular occasion the uproar (Acts 17:5) was created by the rabbis and the hired loafers. The verb αναστατοωanastatoō (here first aorist active participle) does not occur in the ancient writers, but is in lxx and in Acts 17:6; Acts 21:38; Galatians 5:12. It occurs also in Harpocration (a.d. 4th cent.) and about 100 b.c. εχαναστατοωexanastatoō is found in a fragment of papyrus (Tebtunis no. 2) and in a Paris Magical Papyrus l. 2243f. But in an Egyptian letter of Aug. 4, 41 a.d. (Oxyrhynchus Pap. no. 119, 10) “the bad boy” uses it = “he upsets me” or “ he drives me out of my senses” (αναστατοι μεanastatoi me). See Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, pp. 84f. It is not a “Biblical word” at all, but belongs to the current Koiné. It is a vigorous and graphic term.


Verse 7

Whom Jason hath received (ους υποδεδεκται Ιασωνhous hupodedektai Iasōn). Present perfect middle indicative of υποδεχομαιhupodechomai to entertain, old verb, but in N.T. only in Luke 10:38; Luke 19:6; Acts 17:7; James 2:25. This is Jason‘s crime and he is the prisoner before the politarchs.

These all (ουτοι παντεςhoutoi pantes). Jason, the “brethren” of Acts 17:6, Paul and Silas, and all Christians everywhere.

Contrary (απεναντιapenanti). Late compound preposition (απο εν αντιapoτων δογματων Καισαροςenασιλεα ετερον λεγοντες ειναι Ιησουνanti) found in Polybius, lxx, here only in the N.T.

The decrees of Caesar (λεγοντεςtōn dogmatōn Kaisaros). This was a charge of treason and was a sure way to get a conviction. Probably the Julian Leges Majestatis are in mind rather than the definite decree of Claudius about the Jews (Acts 18:2).

Saying that there is another king, one Jesus (ασιλεα ετερονBasilea heteron legontes einai Iēsoun). Note the very order of the words in the Greek indirect discourse with the accusative and infinitive after legontes Basilea heteron comes first, a different king, another emperor than Caesar. This was the very charge that the smart student of the Pharisees and Herodians had tried to catch Jesus on (Mark 12:14). The Sanhedrin made it anyhow against Jesus to Pilate (Luke 23:2) and Pilate had to notice it. “Although the emperors never ventured to assume the title rex at Rome, in the Eastern provinces they were regularly termed basileus ” (Page). The Jews here, as before Pilate (John 19:15), renounce their dearest hope of a Messianic king. It is plain that Paul had preached about Jesus as the Messiah, King of the Kingdom of God over against the Roman Empire, a spiritual kingdom, to be sure, but the Jews here turn his language to his hurt as they did with Jesus. As a matter of fact Paul‘s preaching about the kingdom and the second coming of Christ was gravely misunderstood by the Christians at Thessalonica after his departure (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:4; 2 Thessalonians 2). The Jews were quick to seize upon his language about Jesus Christ to his own injury. Clearly here in Thessalonica Paul had faced the power of the Roman Empire in a new way and pictured over against it the grandeur of the reign of Christ.


Verse 8

They troubled the multitude and the rulers (εταραχαν τον οχλον και τους πολιταρχαςetaraxan ton ochlon kai tous politarchas). First aorist active of ταρασσωtarassō old verb to agitate. The excitement of the multitude “agitated” the politarchs still more. To the people it meant a revolution, to the politarchs a charge of complicity in treason if they let it pass. They had no way to disprove the charge of treason and Paul and Silas were not present.


Verse 9

When they had taken security (λαβοντες το ικανονlabontes to hikanon). A Greek idiom=Latin satis accipere, to receive the sufficient (bond), usually money for the fulfilment of the judgment. Probably the demand was made of Jason that he see to it that Paul and Silas leave the city not to return. In 1 Thessalonians 2:17. Paul may refer to this in mentioning his inability to visit these Thessalonians again. The idiom λαμβανειν το ικανονlambanein to hikanon now is found in two inscriptions of the second century a.d. (O. G. I. S. 484, 50 and 629, 101). In Vol. III Oxyrhynchus Papyri no. 294 a.d. 22 the corresponding phrase δουναι εικανονdounai heikanon (“to give security”) appears.

They let them go (απελυσαν αυτουςapelusan autous). The charge was serious but the proof slim so that the politarchs were glad to be rid of the case.


Verse 10

Immediately by night (ευτεως δια νυκτοςeutheōs dia nuktos). Paul‘s work had not been in vain in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:7.; 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Thessalonians 2:20). Paul loved the church here. Two of them, Aristarchus and Secundus, will accompany him to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4) and Aristarchus will go on with him to Rome (Acts 27:2). Plainly Paul and Silas had been in hiding in Thessalonica and in real danger. After his departure severe persecution came to the Christians in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5; 2 Thessalonians 1:6). It is possible that there was an escort of Gentile converts with Paul and Silas on this night journey to Beroea which was about fifty miles southwest from Thessalonica near Pella in another district of Macedonia (Emathia). There is a modern town there of some 6,000 people.

Went (απηιεσανapēiesan). Imperfect third plural active of απειμιapeimi old verb to go away, here alone in the N.T. A literary, almost Atticistic, form instead of απηλτονapēlthon

Into the synagogue of the Jews (εις την συναγωγην των Ιουδαιωνeis tēn sunagōgēn tōn Ioudaiōn). Paul‘s usual custom and he lost no time about it. Enough Jews here to have a synagogue.


Verse 11

More noble than those (ευγενεστεροι τωνeugenesteroi tōn). Comparative form of ευγενηςeugenēs old and common adjective, but in N.T. only here and Luke 19:12; 1 Corinthians 1:26. Followed by ablative case τωνtōn as often after the comparative.

With all readiness of mind (μετα πασης προτυμιαςmeta pāsēs prothumias). Old word from προτυμοςprothumos (προ τυμοςproκατ ημεραν ανακρινοντες τας γραπαςthumos) and means eagerness, rushing forward. In the N.T. only here and 2 Corinthians 8:11-19; 2 Corinthians 9:2. In Thessalonica many of the Jews out of pride and prejudice refused to listen. Here the Jews joyfully welcomed the two Jewish visitors.

Examining the Scriptures daily (ανακρινωkath' hēmeran anakrinontes tas graphas). Paul expounded the Scriptures daily as in Thessalonica, but the Beroeans, instead of resenting his new interpretation, examined (ει εχοι ταυτα ουτωςanakrinō means to sift up and down, make careful and exact research as in legal processes as in Acts 4:9; Acts 12:19, etc.) the Scriptures for themselves. In Scotland people have the Bible open on the preacher as he expounds the passage, a fine habit worth imitating.

Whether these things were so (ειei echoi tauta houtōs). Literally, “if these things had it thus.” The present optative in the indirect question represents an original present indicative as in Luke 1:29 (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 1043f.). This use of ei with the optative may be looked at as the condition of the fourth class (undetermined with less likelihood of determination) as in Acts 17:27; Acts 20:16; Acts 24:19; Acts 27:12 (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1021). The Beroeans were eagerly interested in the new message of Paul and Silas but they wanted to see it for themselves. What a noble attitude. Paul‘s preaching made Bible students of them. The duty of private interpretation is thus made plain (Hovey).


Verse 12

Many therefore (Πολλοι μεν ουνPolloi men oun). As a result of this Bible study.

Also of the Greek women of honourable estate. The word ελληνιςHellēnis means Greek woman, but the word γυνηgunē is added. In particular women of rank (ευσχημονωνeuschēmonōn from ευeu and εχωechō graceful figure and the honourable standing) as in Acts 13:50 (Mark 15:43). Probably Luke means by implication that the “men” (ανδρωνandrōn) were also noble Greeks though he does not expressly say so. So then the Jews were more open to the message, the proselytes or God-fearers followed suit, with “not a few” (ουκ ολιγοιouk oligoi) real Greeks (both men and women) believing. It was quick and fine work.


Verse 13

Was proclaimed (κατηγγεληkatēggelē). Second aorist passive indicative of καταγγελλωkataggellō common late verb as in Acts 16:21.

Of Paul (υπο Παυλουhupo Paulou). By Paul, of course.

Stirring up and troubling the multitudes (σαλευοντες και ταρασσοντες τους οχλουςsaleuontes kai tarassontes tous ochlous). Shaking the crowds like an earthquake (Acts 4:31) and disturbing like a tornado (Acts 17:8). Success at Thessalonica gave the rabbis confidence and courage. The attack was sharp and swift. The Jews from Antioch in Pisidia had likewise pursued Paul to Iconium and Lystra. How long Paul had been in Beroea Luke does not say. But a church was established here which gave a good account of itself later and sent a messenger (Acts 20:4) with their part of the collection to Jerusalem. This quiet and noble town was in a whirl of excitement over the attacks of the Jewish emissaries from Thessalonica who probably made the same charge of treason against Paul and Silas.


Verse 14

And then immediately (ευτεως δε τοτεeutheōs de tote). They acted swiftly as in Thessalonica.

Sent forth (εχαπεστειλανexapesteilan). Double compound (εχ αποexōεχαποστελλωapo both out and away) common in late Greek. First aorist active indicative (εως επι την ταλασσανexapostellō liquid verb). Same form in Acts 9:30.

As far as to the sea (heōs epi tēn thalassan). It is not clear whether Paul went all the way to Athens by land or took ship at Dium or Pydna, some sixteen miles away, and sailed to Athens. Some even think that Paul gave the Jews the slip and went all the way by land when they expected him to go by sea. At any rate we know that Paul was grieved to cut short his work in Macedonia, probably not over six months in all, which had been so fruitful in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Beroea. Silas and Timothy (note his presence) remained behind in Beroea and they would keep the work going. Paul no doubt hoped to return soon. Silas and Timothy in Beroea would also serve to screen his flight for the Jews wanted his blood, not theirs. The work in Macedonia spread widely (1 Thessalonians 1:7.).


Verse 15

But they that conducted Paul (οι δε κατιστανοντες τον Παυλονhoi de kathistanontes ton Paulon). Articular present active participle of κατιστανωkathistanō (late form in A B of κατιστημιkathistēmi or κατισταωkathistaō), an old verb with varied uses to put down, to constitute, to conduct, etc. This use here is in the lxx (Joshua 6:23) and old Greek also.

To Athens (εως Ατηνωνheōs Athēnōn). To make sure of his safe arrival.

That they should come to him with all speed (ινα ως ταχιστα ελτωσιν προς αυτονhina hōs tachista elthōsin pros auton). Note the neat Greek idiom ως ταχισταhōs tachista as quickly as possible (good Attic idiom). The indirect command and purpose (ιναελτωσινhinȧelthōsin second aorist active subjunctive) is also neat Greek (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1046).

Departed (εχηιεσανexēiesan). Imperfect active of εχειμιexeimi old Greek word, but rare in N.T. All in Acts (Acts 13:42; Acts 17:15; Acts 20:7; Acts 27:43)


Verse 16

Now while Paul waited for them in Athens (Εν δε ταις Ατηναις εκδεχομενου αυτους του ΠαυλουEn de tais Athēnais ekdechomenou autous tou Paulou). Genitive absolute with present middle participle of εκδεχομαιekdechomai old verb to receive, but only with the sense of looking out for, expecting found here and elsewhere in N.T We know that Timothy did come to Paul in Athens (1 Thessalonians 3:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:6) from Thessalonica and was sent back to them from Athens. If Silas also came to Athens, he was also sent away, possibly to Philippi, for that church was deeply interested in Paul. At any rate both Timothy and Silas came from Macedonia to Corinth with messages and relief for Paul (Acts 18:5; 2 Corinthians 11:8.). Before they came and after they left, Paul felt lonely in Athens (1 Thessalonians 3:1), the first time on this tour or the first that he has been completely without fellow workers. Athens had been captured by Sulla b.c. 86. After various changes Achaia, of which Corinth is the capital, is a separate province from Macedonia and a.d. 44 was restored by Claudius to the Senate with the Proconsul at Corinth. Paul is probably here about a.d. 50. Politically Athens is no longer of importance when Paul comes though it is still the university seat of the world with all its rich environment and traditions. Rackham grows eloquent over Paul the Jew of Tarsus being in the city of Pericles and Demosthenes, Socrates and Plato and Aristotle, Sophocles and Euripides. In its Agora Socrates had taught, here was the Academy of Plato, the Lyceum of Aristotle, the Porch of Zeno, the Garden of Epicurus. Here men still talked about philosophy, poetry, politics, religion, anything and everything. It was the art centre of the world. The Parthenon, the most beautiful of temples, crowned the Acropolis. Was Paul insensible to all this cultural environment? It is hard to think so for he was a university man of Tarsus and he makes a number of allusions to Greek writers. Probably it had not been in Paul‘s original plan to evangelize Athens, difficult as all university seats are, but he cannot be idle though here apparently by chance because driven out of Macedonia.

Was provoked (παρωχυνετοparōxuneto). Imperfect passive of παροχυνωparoxunō old verb to sharpen, to stimulate, to irritate (from παρα οχυςparaπαροχυσμοςoxus), from τεωρουντοςparoxusmos (Acts 15:39), common in old Greek, but in N.T. only here and 1 Corinthians 13:5. It was a continual challenge to Paul‘s spirit when he beheld (αυτουtheōrountos genitive of present participle agreeing with τεωρουντιautou (his), though late MSS. have locative εν αυτωιtheōrounti agreeing with κατειδωλον ουσαν την πολινen autōi).

The city full of idols (ουσανkateidōlon ousan tēn polin). Note the participle κατειδωλονousan not preserved in the English (either the city being full of idols or that the city was full of idols, sort of indirect discourse). Paul, like any stranger was looking at the sights as he walked around. This adjective καταkateidōlon (perfective use of ειδωλονkata and καταμπελοσ καταδενδρονeidōlon is found nowhere else, but it is formed after the analogy of ολη βομοσ ολη τυμα τεοις και ανατημαkatampeloskatadendron), full of idols. Xenophon (de Republ. Ath.) calls the city holē bomosholē thuma theois kai anathēma (all altar, all sacrifice and offering to the gods). These statues were beautiful, but Paul was not deceived by the mere art for art‘s sake. The idolatry and sensualism of it all glared at him (Romans 1:18-32). Renan ridicules Paul‘s ignorance in taking these statues for idols, but Paul knew paganism better than Renan. The superstition of this centre of Greek culture was depressing to Paul. One has only to recall how superstitious cults today flourish in the atmosphere of Boston and Los Angeles to understand conditions in Athens. Pausanias says that Athens had more images than all the rest of Greece put together. Pliny states that in the time of Nero Athens had over 30,000 public statues besides countless private ones in the homes. Petronius sneers that it was easier to find a god than a man in Athens. Every gateway or porch had its protecting god. They lined the street from the Piraeus and caught the eye at every place of prominence on wall or in the agora.


Verse 17

So he reasoned (διελεγετο μεν ουνdielegeto men oun). Accordingly therefore, with his spirit stirred by the proof of idolatry. Imperfect middle of διαλεγωdialegō same verb used in Acts 17:2 which see. First he reasoned in the synagogue at the services to the Jews and the God-fearers, then daily in the agora or marketplace (southwest of the Acropolis, between it and the Areopagus and the Pnyx) to the chance-comers, “them that met him” (προς τους παρατυγχανονταςpros tous paratugchanontas). Simultaneously with the synagogue preaching at other hours Paul took his stand like Socrates before him and engaged in conversation with (προςpros) those who happened by. This old verb, παρατυγχανωparatugchanō occurs here alone in the N.T. and accurately pictures the life in the agora. The listeners to Paul in the agora would be more casual than those who stop for street preaching, a Salvation Army meeting, a harangue from a box in Hyde Park. It was a slim chance either in synagogue or in agora, but Paul could not remain still with all the reeking idolatry around him. The boundaries of the agora varied, but there was always the Ποικιλη ΣτοαPoikilē Stoa (the Painted Porch), over against the Acropolis on the west. In this ΣτοαStoa (Porch) Zeno and other philosophers and rhetoricians held forth from time to time. Paul may have stood near this spot.


Verse 18

And certain also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him (τινες δε και των Επικουριων και Στωικων πιλοσοπων συνεβαλλον αυτωιtines de kai tōn Epikouriōn kai Stōikōn philosophōn suneballon autōi). Imperfect active of συνβαλλωsunballō old verb, in the N.T. only by Luke, to bring or put together in one‘s mind (Luke 2:19), to meet together (Acts 20:14), to bring together aid (Acts 18:27), to confer or converse or dispute as here and already Acts 4:15 which see. These professional philosophers were always ready for an argument and so they frequented the agora for that purpose. Luke uses one article and so groups the two sects together in their attitude toward Paul, but they were very different in fact. Both sects were eager for argument and both had disdain for Paul, but they were the two rival practical philosophies of the day, succeeding the more abstruse theories of Plato and Aristotle. Socrates had turned men‘s thought inward (Γνωτι ΣεαυτονGnōthi Seauton Know Thyself) away from the mere study of physics. Plato followed with a profound development of the inner self (metaphysics). Aristotle with his cyclopaedic grasp sought to unify and relate both physics and metaphysics. Both Zeno and Epicurus (340-272 b.c.) took a more practical turn in all this intellectual turmoil and raised the issues of everyday life. Zeno (360-260 b.c.) taught in the ΣτοαStoa (Porch) and so his teaching was called Stoicism. He advanced many noble ideas that found their chief illustration in the Roman philosophers (Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius). He taught self-mastery and hardness with an austerity that ministered to pride or suicide in case of failure, a distinctly selfish and unloving view of life and with a pantheistic philosophy. Epicurus considered practical atheism the true view of the universe and denied a future life and claimed pleasure as the chief thing to be gotten out of life. He did not deny the existence of gods, but regarded them as unconcerned with the life of men. The Stoics called Epicurus an atheist. Lucretius and Horace give the Epicurean view of life in their great poems. This low view of life led to sensualism and does today, for both Stoicism and Epicureanism are widely influential with people now. “Eat and drink for tomorrow we die,” they preached. Paul had doubtless become acquainted with both of these philosophies for they were widely prevalent over the world. Here he confronts them in their very home. He is challenged by past-masters in the art of appealing to the senses, men as skilled in their dialectic as the Pharisaic rabbis with whom Paul had been trained and whose subtleties he had learned how to expose. But, so far as we know, this is a new experience for Paul to have a public dispute with these philosophical experts who had a natural contempt for all Jews and for rabbis in particular, though they found Paul a new type at any rate and so with some interest in him. “In Epicureanism, it was man‘s sensual nature which arrayed itself against the claims of the gospel; in Stoicism it was his self-righteousness and pride of intellect” (Hackett). Knowling calls the Stoic the Pharisee of philosophy and the Epicurean the Sadducee of philosophy. Socrates in this very agora used to try to interest the passers-by in some desire for better things. That was 450 years before Paul is challenged by these superficial sophistical Epicureans and Stoics. It is doubtful if Paul had ever met a more difficult situation.

What would this babbler say? (Τι αν τελοι ο σπερμολογος ουτος λεγεινTi an theloi ho spermologos houtos legeiṅ). The word for “babbler” means “seed-picker” or picker up of seeds (σπερμαsperma seed, λεγωlegō to collect) like a bird in the agora hopping about after chance seeds. Plutarch applies the word to crows that pick up grain in the fields. Demosthenes called Aeschines a σπερμολογοςspermologos Eustathius uses it of a man hanging around in the markets picking up scraps of food that fell from the carts and so also of mere rhetoricians and plagiarists who picked up scraps of wisdom from others. Ramsay considers it here a piece of Athenian slang used to describe the picture of Paul seen by these philosophers who use it, for not all of them had it (“some,” τινεςtines). Note the use of ανan and the present active optative τελοιtheloi conclusion of a fourth-class condition in a rhetorical question (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1021). It means, What would this picker up of seeds wish to say, if he should get off an idea? It is a contemptuous tone of supreme ridicule and doubtless Paul heard this comment. Probably the Epicureans made this sneer that Paul was a charlatan or quack.

Other some (οι δεhoi de). But others, in contrast with the “some” just before. Perhaps the Stoics take this more serious view of Paul.

He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods (ζενων δαιμονιων δοκει καταγγελευς ειναιzenōn daimoniōn dokei kataggeleus einai). This view is put cautiously by δοκειdokei (seems). ΚαταγγελευςKataggeleus does not occur in the old Greek, though in ecclesiastical writers, but Deissmann (Light from the Ancient East, p. 99) gives an example of the word “on a marble stele recording a decree of the Mitylenaens in honour of the Emperor Augustus,” where it is the herald of the games. Here alone in the N.T. ΔαιμονιονDaimonion is used in the old Greek sense of deity or divinity whether good or bad, not in the N.T. sense of demons. Both this word and καταγγελευςkataggeleus are used from the Athenian standpoint. ΧενοςXenos is an old word for a guest-friend (Latin hospes) and then host (Romans 16:23), then for foreigner or stranger (Matthew 25:31; Acts 17:21), new and so strange as here and Hebrews 13:9; 1 Peter 4:12, and then aliens (Ephesians 2:12). This view of Paul is the first count against Socrates: Socrates does wrong, introducing new deities (αδικει Σωκρατησ καινα δαιμονια εισπερωνadikei Sōkratēsοτι τον Ιησουν και την αναστασιν ευηγγελιζατοkaina daimonia eispherōn Xen. Mem. I). On this charge the Athenians voted the hemlock for their greatest citizen. What will they do to Paul? This Athens was more sceptical and more tolerant than the old Athens. But Roman law did not allow the introduction of a new religion (religio illicita). Paul was walking on thin ice though he was the real master philosopher and these Epicureans and Stoics were quacks. Paul had the only true philosophy of the universe and life with Jesus Christ as the centre (Colossians 1:12-20), the greatest of all philosophers as Ramsay justly terms him. But these men are mocking him.

Because he preached Jesus and the resurrection (ευαγγελιζωhoti ton Iēsoun kai tēn anastasin euēggelizato). Reason for the view just stated. Imperfect middle indicative of αναστασιςeuaggelizō to “gospelize.” Apparently these critics considered anastasis (Resurrection) another deity on a par with Jesus. The Athenians worshipped all sorts of abstract truths and virtues and they misunderstood Paul on this subject. They will leave him as soon as he mentions the resurrection (Acts 17:32). It is objected that Luke would not use the word in this sense here for his readers would not under stand him. But Luke is describing the misapprehension of this group of philosophers and this interpretation fits in precisely.


Verse 19

And they took hold of him (επιλαβομενοι δε αυτουepilabomenoi de autou). Second aorist middle participle of επιλαμβανωepilambanō old verb, but in the N.T. only in the middle, here with the genitive αυτουautou to lay hold of, but with no necessary sense of violence (Acts 9:27; Acts 23:27; Mark 8:23), unless the idea is that Paul was to be tried before the Court of Areopagus for the crime of bringing in strange gods. But the day for that had passed in Athens. Even so it is not clear whether “unto the Areopagus (επι τον Αρειον Παγονepi ton Areion Pagon ”) means the Hill of Mars (west of the Acropolis, north of the agora and reached by a flight of steps in the rock) or the court itself which met elsewhere as well as on the hills, usually in fact in the Stoa Basilica opening on the agora and near to the place where the dispute had gone on. Raphael‘s cartoon with Paul standing on Mars Hill has made us all familiar with the common view, but it is quite uncertain if it is true. There was not room on the summit for a large gathering. If Paul was brought before the Court of Areopagus (commonly called the Areopagus as here), it was not for trial as a criminal, but simply for examination concerning his new teaching in this university city whether it was strictly legal or not. Paul was really engaged in proselytism to turn the Athenians away from their old gods to Jesus Christ. But “the court of refined and polished Athenians was very different from the rough provincial magistrates of Philippi, and the philosophers who presented Paul to their cognizance very different from the mob of Thessalonians” (Rackham). It was all very polite.

May we know? (Δυναμετα γνωναιDunametha gnōnai). Can we come to know (ingressive second aorist active infinitive).

This new teaching (η καινη αυτη διδαχηhē kainē hautē didachē). On the position of αυτηhautē see Robertson, Grammar, pp. 700f. The question was prompted by courtesy, sarcasm, or irony. Evidently no definite charge was laid against Paul.


Verse 20

For thou bringest certain strange things (χενιζοντα γαρ τινα εισπερειςxenizonta gar tina eisphereis). The very verb used by Xenophon (Mem. I) about Socrates. ΧενιζονταXenizonta is present active neuter plural participle of χενιζωxenizō and from χενοςxenos (Acts 17:18), “things surprising or shocking us.”

We would know therefore (βουλομετα ουν γνωναιboulometha oun gnōnai). Very polite still, we wish or desire, and repeating γνωναιgnōnai (the essential point).


Verse 21

Spent their time (ηυκαιρουνēukairoun). Imperfect active of ευκαιρεωeukaireō A late word to have opportunity (ευ καιροςeuτι καινοτερονkairos) from Polybius on. In the N.T. only here and Mark 6:31. They had time for,.etc. This verse is an explanatory parenthesis by Luke.

Some new thing (καινοςtōi kainoteron). Literally “something newer” or “fresher” than the new, the very latest, the comparative of πυντανομενοι κατα την αγοραν ει τι λεγεται νεωτερονkainos Demosthenes (Philipp. 1. 43) pictures the Athenians “in the agora inquiring if anything newer is said” (punthanomenoi kata tēn agoran ei tōi legetai neōteron). The new soon became stale with these itching and frivolous Athenians.


Verse 22

Stood in the midst of the Areopagus (στατεις εν μεσωι του Αρειου Παγουstatheis en mesōi tou Areiou Pagou). First aorist passive of ιστημιhistēmi used of Peter in Acts 2:14. Majestic figure whether on Mars Hill or in the Stoa Basilica before the Areopagus Court. There would be a crowd of spectators and philosophers in either case and Paul seized the opportunity to preach Christ to this strange audience as he did in Caesarea before Herod Agrippa and the crowd of prominent people gathered by Festus for the entertainment. Paul does not speak as a man on trial, but as one trying to get a hearing for the gospel of Christ.

Somewhat superstitious (ως δεισιδαιμονεστερουςhōs deisidaimonesterous). The Authorized Version has “too superstitious,” the American Standard “very religious.” ΔεισιδαιμωνDeisidaimōn is a neutral word (from δειδωdeidō to fear, and δαιμωνdaimōn deity). The Greeks used it either in the good sense of pious or religious or the bad sense of superstitious. Thayer suggests that Paul uses it “with kindly ambiguity.” Page thinks that Luke uses the word to represent the religious feeling of the Athenians (religiosus) which bordered on superstition. The Vulgate has superstitiosiores. In Acts 25:19 Festus uses the term δεισιδαιμονιαdeisidaimonia for “religion.” It seems unlikely that Paul should give this audience a slap in the face at the very start. The way one takes this adjective here colours Paul‘s whole speech before the Council of Areopagus. The comparative here as in Acts 17:21 means more religions than usual (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 664f.), the object of the comparison not being expressed. The Athenians had a tremendous reputation for their devotion to religion, “full of idols” (Acts 17:16).


Verse 23

For (γαρgar). Paul gives an illustration of their religiousness from his own experiences in their city.

The objects of your worship (τα σεβασματα υμωνta sebasmata humōn). Late word from σεβαζομαιsebazomai to worship. In N T. only here and 2 Thessalonians 2:4. The use of this word for temples, altars, statues, shows the conciliatory tone in the use of δεισιδαιμονεστερουςdeisidaimonesterous in Acts 17:22.

An altar (βωμονbōmon). Old word, only here in the N.T. and the only mention of a heathen altar in the N.T

With this inscription (εν ωι επεγεγραπτοen hōi epegegrapto). On which had been written (stood written), past perfect passive indicative of επιγραπωepigraphō old and common verb for writing on inscriptions (επιγραπηepigraphē Luke 23:38).

To an Unknown God (ΑΓΝΟΣΤΟ ΤΕΟAGNOSTO THEO). Dative case, dedicated to. Pausanias (I. 1, 4) says that in Athens there are “altars to gods unknown” (βωμοι τεων αγνωστωνbōmoi theōn agnōstōn). Epimenides in a pestilence advised the sacrifice of a sheep to the befitting god whoever he might be. If an altar was dedicated to the wrong deity, the Athenians feared the anger of the other gods. The only use in the N.T. of αγνωστοςagnōstos old and common adjective (from αa privative and γνωστοςgnōstos verbal of γινωσκωginōskō to know). Our word agnostic comes from it. Here it has an ambiguous meaning, but Paul uses it though to a stern Christian philosopher it may be the “confession at once of a bastard philosophy and of a bastard religion” (Hort, Hulsean Lectures, p. 64). Paul was quick to use this confession on the part of the Athenians of a higher power than yet known to them. So he gets his theme from this evidence of a deeper religious sense in them and makes a most clever use of it with consummate skill.

In ignorance (αγνοουντεςagnoountes). Present active participle of αγνοεωagnoeō old verb from same root as αγνωστοςagnōstos to which Paul refers by using it.

This set I forth unto you (τουτο εγο καταγγελλω υμινtouto ego kataggellō humin). He is a καταγγελευςkataggeleus (Acts 17:18) as they suspected of a God, both old and new, old in that they already worship him, new in that Paul knows who he is. By this master stroke he has brushed to one side any notion of violation of Roman law or suspicion of heresy and claims their endorsement of his new gospel, a shrewd and consummate turn. He has their attention now and proceeds to describe this God left out of their list as the one true and Supreme God. The later MSS. here read οντουτονhoṅ̇touton (whom--this one) rather than οτουτοhȯ̇touto (what--this), but the late text is plainly an effort to introduce too soon the personal nature of God which comes out clearly in Acts 17:24.


Verse 24

The God that made the world (ο τεος ο ποιησας τον κοσμονHo theos ho poiēsas ton kosmon). Not a god for this and a god for that like the 30,000 gods of the Athenians, but the one God who made the Universe (κοσμοςkosmos on the old Greek sense of orderly arrangement of the whole universe).

And all things therein (και παντα τα εν αυτωιkai panta ta en autōi). All the details in the universe were created by this one God. Paul is using the words of Isaiah 42:5. The Epicureans held that matter was eternal. Paul sets them aside. This one God was not to be confounded with any of their numerous gods save with this “Unknown God.”

Being Lord of heaven and earth (ουρανου και γης υπαρχων κυριοςouranou kai gēs huparchōn kurios). ΚυριοςKurios here owner, absolute possessor of both heaven and earth (Isaiah 45:7), not of just parts.

Dwelleth not in temples made with hands (ουκεν χειροποιητοις ναοις κατοικειouken cheiropoiētois naois katoikei). The old adjective χειροποιητοςcheiropoiētos (χειρ ποιεωcheirpoieō) already in Stephen‘s speech (Acts 7:48). No doubt Paul pointed to the wonderful Parthenon, supposed to be the home of Athene as Stephen denied that God dwelt alone in the temple in Jerusalem.


Verse 25

As though he needed anything (προσδεομενος τινοςprosdeomenos tinos). Present middle participle of προσδεομαιprosdeomai to want besides, old verb, but here only in the N.T. This was strange doctrine for the people thought that the gods needed their offerings for full happiness. This self-sufficiency of God was taught by Philo and Lucretius, but Paul shows that the Epicurean missed it by putting God, if existing at all, outside the universe.

Seeing he himself giveth to all (αυτος διδους πασινautos didous pasin). This Supreme Personal God is the source of life, breath, and everything. Paul here rises above all Greek philosophers.


Verse 26

And he made of one (εποιησεν τε εχ ενοςepoiēsen te exō henos). The word αιματοςhaimatos (blood) is absent from Aleph A B and is a later explanatory addition. What Paul affirms is the unity of the human race with a common origin and with God as the Creator. This view runs counter to Greek exclusiveness which treated other races as barbarians and to Jewish pride which treated other nations as heathen or pagan (the Jews were λαοςlaos the Gentiles ετνηethnē). The cosmopolitanism of Paul here rises above Jew and Greek and claims the one God as the Creator of the one race of men. The Athenians themselves claimed to be αντοχτονουςantochthonous (indigenous) and a special creation. Zeno and Seneca did teach a kind of cosmopolitanism (really pantheism) far different from the personal God of Paul. It was Rome, not Greece, that carried out the moral ideas of Zeno. Man is part of the universe (Acts 17:24) and God created (εποιησενepoiēsen) man as he created (ποιησαςpoiēsas) the all.

For to dwell (κατοικεινkatoikein). Infinitive (present active) of purpose, so as to dwell.

Having determined (ορισαςhorisas). First aorist active participle of οριζωhorizō old verb to make a horizon as already in Acts Acts 10:42 which see. Paul here touches God‘s Providence. God has revealed himself in history as in creation. His hand appears in the history of all men as well as in that of the Chosen People of Israel.

Appointed seasons (προστεταγμενους καιρουςprostetagmenous kairous). Not the weather as in Acts 14:17, but “the times of the Gentiles” (καιροι ετνωνkairoi ethnōn) of which Jesus spoke (Luke 21:24). The perfect passive participle of προστασσωprostassō old verb to enjoin, emphasizes God‘s control of human history without any denial of human free agency as was involved in the Stoic Fate (ειρμαρμενηHeirmarmenē).

Bounds (οροτεσιαςhorothesias). Limits? Same idea in Job 12:23. Nations rise and fall, but it is not blind chance or hard fate. Thus there is an interplay between God‘s will and man‘s activities, difficult as it is for us to see with our shortened vision.


Verse 27

That they should seek God (ητειν τον τεονZētein ton theon). Infinitive (present active) of purpose again. Seek him, not turn away from him as the nations had done (Romans 1:18-32).

If haply they might feel after him (ει αρα γε πσηλαπησειαν αυτονei ara geō psēlaphēseian auton). First aorist active (Aeolic form) optative of πσηλαπαωpsēlaphaō old verb from πσαωpsaō to touch. So used by the Risen Jesus in his challenge to the disciples (Luke 24:39), by the Apostle John of his personal contact with Jesus (1 John 1:1), of the contact with Mount Sinai (Hebrews 12:18). Here it pictures the blind groping of the darkened heathen mind after God to “find him” (ευροιενheuroien second aorist active optative) whom they had lost. One knows what it is in a darkened room to feel along the walls for the door (Deuteronomy 28:29; Job 5:14; Job 12:25; Isaiah 59:10). Helen Keller, when told of God, said that she knew of him already, groping in the dark after him. The optative here with ειei is due to the condition of the fourth class (undetermined, but with vague hope of being determined) with aim also present (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1021). Note also αρα γεara geō the inferential particle αραara with the delicate intensive particle γεgeō

Though he is not far from each one of us (και γε ου μακραν απο ενος εκαστου ημων υπαρχονταkai geō ou makran apo henos hekastou hēmōn huparchonta). More exactly with B L (και γεkai geō instead of καιτοιkaitoi or καιτοι γεkaitoi geō), “and yet being not far from each one of us,” a direct statement rather than a concessive one. The participle υπαρχονταhuparchonta agrees with αυτονauton and the negative ουou rather than the usual μεme with the participle makes an emphatic negative. Note also the intensive particle γεgeō f0).


Verse 28

For in him (εν αυτωι γαρen autōi gar). Proof of God‘s nearness, not stoic pantheism, but real immanence in God as God dwells in us. The three verbs (ζωμεν κινουμετα εσμενzōmenΚινουμεταkinoumethaως και τινες των κατ υμας ποιητωνesōmen) form an ascending scale and reach a climax in God (life, movement, existence). Εκ σου γαρ γενος εσμενKinoumetha is either direct middle present indicative (we move ourselves) or passive (we are moved).

As certain even of your own poets (hōs kai tines tōn kath' humās poiētōn). “As also some of the poets among you.” Aratus of Soli in Cilicia (ab. b.c. 270) has these very words in his Ta Phainomena and Cleanthes, Stoic philosopher (300-220 b.c.) in his Hymn to Zeus has Ek sou gar genos esōmen In 1 Corinthians 15:32 Paul quotes from Menander and in Titus 1:12 from Epimenides. J. Rendel Harris claims that he finds allusions in Paul‘s Epistles to Pindar, Aristophanes, and other Greek writers. There is no reason in the world why Paul should not have acquaintance with Greek literature, though one need not strain a point to prove it. Paul, of course, knew that the words were written of Zeus (Jupiter), not of Jehovah, but he applies the idea in them to his point just made that all men are the offspring of God.


Verse 29

We ought not to think (ουκ οπειλομεν νομιζεινouk opheilomen nomizein). It is a logical conclusion (ουνoun therefore) from the very language of Aratus and Cleanthes.

That the Godhead is like (το τειον ειναι ομοιονto theion einai homoion). Infinitive with accusative of general reference in indirect discourse. Το τειονTo theion is strictly “the divine” nature like τειοτηςtheiotēs (Romans 1:20) rather than like τεοτηςtheotēs (Colossians 2:9). Paul may have used το τειονto theion here to get back behind all their notions of various gods to the real nature of God. The Athenians may even have used the term themselves. After ομοιοςhomoios (like) the associative instrumental case is used as with χρυσωι αργυρωι λιτωιchrusōiχαραγματι τεχνης και εντυμησεως αντρωπουargurōiχαραγματιlithōi

Graven by art and device of man (χαρασσωcharagmati technēs kai enthumēseōs anthrōpou). Apposition with preceding and so τεχνηςcharagmati in associative instrumental case. Literally, graven work or sculpture from εντυμησεωςcharassō to engrave, old word, but here alone in N.T. outside of Revelation (the mark of the beast). Graven work of art (technēs) or external craft, and of thought or device (enthumēseōs) or internal conception of man.


Verse 30

The times of ignorance (τους χρονους της αγνοιαςtous chronous tēs agnoias). The times before full knowledge of God came in Jesus Christ. Paul uses the very word for their ignorance (αγνοουντεςagnoountes) employed in Acts 17:23.

Overlooked (υπεριδωνhuperidōn). Second aorist active participle of υπεροραωhuperoraō or υπερειδωhupereidō old verb to see beyond, not to see, to overlook, not “to wink at” of the Authorized Version with the notion of condoning. Here only in the N.T. It occurs in the lxx in the sense of overlooking or neglecting (Ps 55:1). But it has here only a negative force. God has all the time objected to the polytheism of the heathen, and now he has made it plain. In Wisdom Acts 11:23 we have these words: “Thou overlookest the sins of men to the end they may repent.”

But now (τα νυνta nun). Accusative of general reference, “as to the now things or situation.” All is changed now that Christ has come with the full knowledge of God. See also Acts 27:22.

All everywhere (παντας πανταχουpantas pantachou). No exceptions anywhere.

Repent (μετανοεινmetanoein). Present active infinitive of μετανοεωmetanoeō in indirect command, a permanent command of perpetual force. See note on μετανοεωmetanoeō Acts 2:38 and the Synoptic Gospels. This word was the message of the Baptist, of Jesus, of Peter, of Paul, this radical change of attitude and life.


Verse 31

Inasmuch as (κατοτιkathoti). According as (κατα οτιkataεστησεν ημερανhoti). Old causal conjunction, but in N.T. only used in Luke‘s writings (Luke 1:7; Luke 19:9; Acts 2:45; Acts 4:35; Acts 17:31).

Hath appointed a day (ιστημιestēsen hēmeran) First aorist active indicative of μελλει κρινεινhistēmi to place, set. God did set the day in his counsel and he will fulfil it in his own time.

Will judge (μελλωmellei krinein). Rather, is going to judge, κρινωmellō and the present active infinitive of κρινειkrinō Paul here quotes Psalm 9:8 where εν ανδρι ωι ωρισενkrinei occurs.

By the man whom he hath ordained (ωιen andri hōi hōrisen). Here he adds to the Psalm the place and function of Jesus Christ, a passage in harmony with Christ‘s own words in Matthew 25. ωρισενHōi (whom) is attracted from the accusative, object of οριζωhōrisen (first aorist active indicative of ανδριhorizō) to the case of the antecedent πιστιν παρασχωνandri It has been said that Paul left the simple gospel in this address to the council of the Areopagus for philosophy. But did he? He skilfully caught their attention by reference to an altar to an Unknown God whom he interprets to be the Creator of all things and all men who overrules the whole world and who now commands repentance of all and has revealed his will about a day of reckoning when Jesus Christ will be Judge. He has preached the unity of God, the one and only God, has proclaimed repentance, a judgment day, Jesus as the Judge as shown by his Resurrection, great fundamental doctrines, and doubtless had much more to say when they interrupted his address. There is no room here for such a charge against Paul. He rose to a great occasion and made a masterful exposition of God‘s place and power in human history.

Whereof he hath given assurance (παρεχωpistin paraschōn). Second aorist active participle of πιστιςparechō old verb to furnish, used regularly by Demosthenes for bringing forward evidence. Note this old use of πιστιςpistis as conviction or ground of confidence (Hebrews 11:1) like a note or title-deed, a conviction resting on solid basis of fact. All the other uses of πειτωpistis grow out of this one from αναστησας αυτον εκ νεκρωνpeithō to persuade.

In that he hath raised him from the dead (ανιστημιanastēsas auton ek nekrōn). First aorist active participle of anistēmi causal participle, but literally, “having raised him from the dead.” This Paul knew to be a fact because he himself had seen the Risen Christ. Paul has here come to the heart of his message and could now throw light on their misapprehension about “Jesus and the Resurrection” (Acts 17:18). Here Paul has given the proof of all his claims in the address that seemed new and strange to them.


Verse 32

The resurrection of the dead (αναστασιν νεκρωνanastasin nekrōn). Rather, “a resurrection of dead men.” No article with either word. The Greeks believed that the souls of men lived on, but they had no conception of resurrection of the body. They had listened with respect till Paul spoke of the actual resurrection of Jesus from the dead as a fact, when they did not care to hear more.

Some mocked (οι μεν εχλευαζονhoi men echleuazon). Imperfect active of χλευαζωchleuazō a common verb (from χλευηchleuē jesting, mockery). Only here in the N.T. though late MSS. have it in Acts 2:13 (best MSS. διαχλευαζωdiachleuazō). Probably inchoative here, began to mock. In contempt at Paul‘s statement they declined to listen further to “this babbler” (Acts 17:18) who had now lost what he had gained with this group of hearers (probably the light and flippant Epicureans).

But others (οι δεhoi de). A more polite group like those who had invited him to speak (Acts 17:19). They were unconvinced, but had better manners and so were in favour of an adjournment. This was done, though it is not clear whether it was a serious postponement or a courteous refusal to hear Paul further (probably this). It was a virtual dismissal of the matter. “ It is a sad story--the noblest of ancient cities and the noblest man of history--and he never cared to look on it again” (Furneaux).


Verse 33

Thus Paul went out from among them (ουτως ο Παυλος εχηλτεν εκ μεσου αυτωνhoutōs ho Paulos exēlthen ek mesou autōn). No further questions, no effort to arrest him, no further ridicule. He walked out never to return to Athens. Had he failed?


Verse 34

Clave unto him and believed (κολλητεντες αυτωι επιστευσανkollēthentes autōi episteusan). First aorist passive of this strong word κολλαωkollaō to glue to, common in Acts (Acts 5:13; Acts 8:29; Acts 9:26; Acts 10:28) No sermon is a failure which leads a group of men (ανδρεςandres) to believe (ingressive aorist of πιστευωpisteuō) in Jesus Christ. Many so-called great or grand sermons reap no such harvest.

Dionysius the Areopagite (Διονυσιος ο ΑρεοπαγιτηςDionusios ho Areopagitēs). One of the judges of the Court of the Areopagus. That of itself was no small victory. He was one of this college of twelve judges who had helped to make Athens famous. Eusebius says that he became afterwards bishop of the Church at Athens and died a martyr.

A woman named Damaris (γυνη ονοματι Δαμαριςgunē onomati Damaris). A woman by name Damaris. Not the wife of Dionysius as some have thought, but an aristocratic woman, not necessarily an educated courtezan as Furneaux holds. And there were “others” (ετεροιheteroi) with them, a group strong enough to keep the fire burning in Athens. It is common to say that Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 alludes to his failure with philosophy in Athens when he failed to preach Christ crucified and he determined never to make that mistake again. On the other hand Paul determined to stick to the Cross of Christ in spite of the fact that the intellectual pride and superficial culture of Athens had prevented the largest success. As he faced Corinth with its veneer of culture and imitation of philosophy and sudden wealth he would go on with the same gospel of the Cross, the only gospel that Paul knew or preached. And it was a great thing to give the world a sermon like that preached in Athens.

 


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Acts 17:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/acts-17.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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