Paul in AthensVolume 4, Number 34
Created Date: May 13, 2018
Posted Date: May 13, 2018
Dateline: Jerusalem, Israel
“Believe” in Acts: Part 16 - Paul in Athens:
Our last study found Paul and his group in the town of Berea (Greece), where, as was his custom, he taught in the Jewish Synagogue,. He found “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore, many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.” . (This is the 25th instance of the Greek word “pisteu’o,” translated believed in Acts.) It apparently didn’t take long for a group of Jews from Thessalonica who objected to Paul’s message to come to Berea and stir up trouble, so Paul was spirited to Athens where he sent word back to Berea asking Silas and Timothy to join him in Athens, . “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” . The phrase “wholly given to idolatry” is translated from the Greek word “kateidolos” (G2712) found only here in the New Testament (NT), the lexicon definition being “utterly idolatrous.” This state of affairs exasperated, or provoked Paul and he reasoned/ disputed with the Jews in the Synagogue, the religious people and in the market place with all who met with him, .
Everyone in Athens as well as their visitors spent their time discussing what was going on in the world at that time,. They were intellectuals, debating ideas, events and of course religion. “Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, ‘what will this babbler say?’ other some, ‘He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.’” . The word philosophy means literally “love of wisdom.” According to Wikipedia, Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based on the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, founded around 307 BC. Stoicism was founded in Athens in the early 3rd century BC by Zeno of Citium, a Phoenician; heavily influenced by certain teachings of Socrates. These philosophers or intelligentsia, were like many today who hold forth in our Universities teaching anything but the Truth of the Word of God. They are those of whom Paul wrote: “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” .
Some Athenian philosophers obviously looked down on Paul because they called him a “Babbler,” which is from the Greek word “spermologos,” (G4691) found only here in the NT, defined as “a seed picker (as the crow), that is, (figuratively) a sponger, loafer (specifically a gossip or trifler in talk): - babbler.” They observed Paul seemed to be a preacher of strange or novel gods because he spoke of Jesus and the resurrection, Acts 17:18. However, always wanting to discuss something new they escorted Paul to the Areopagus or Mar’s Hill and asked him to tell them what he was talking about,.
On Mar’s Hill, among Athenian prominent intelligentsia and their many idols, in sight of the Parthenon, home of the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron, Paul held forth. He told them they were more religious than others or “too superstitious.” He noted that as he passed the alters to their many gods he saw one inscribed “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD” and told them they worshiped this God ignorantly. He proclaimed this God to be the One who created the world and everything in it; the Lord of heaven and earth who does not live in temples made by men, nor worshiped with men’s hands; The One Who gives life and breath to all things; Who made all mankind to live; Who determined the borders of their lands; Who is not far from them and they should seek to know Him; “’For in Him we live and move and have our being’ As some of your (Plaque at Mar’s Hill in Athens, quoting passage in Acts 17 describing Paul’s visit here almost 2000 years ago. Photo taken with author in 2004.)own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'”-28. Paul told them since they were created by God they should not think of Him as a mere idol as they had done, and God had set a day when He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man He ordained (The Lord Jesus Christ) Who He offered faith by raising Him from the dead. . The mere mention by Paul of the resurrection of the dead set off the intellectuals. Some mocked him and others said they would hear (View from Mar’s Hill of the Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena, completed in 338 BC) him later about this so Paul left them, . “Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” . Here we find the 26th occasion of the Greek word “pisteu’o,” translated believed in Acts referring to those in Athens who came to believe, including Dionysius the Areopagite (a judge at the Areopagus court), a lady named Damaris who commentators indicate was perhaps a Gentile and other Gentiles with them.
We don’t know a great deal more about the believers in Athens; we have no epistle written to them; the only mention by Paul of Athens in his epistles is in 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. Inwe learn that Timothy joined Paul in Athens but when Paul heard the Thessalonians were suffering persecution/ trials he sent Timothy back to establish or strengthen and comfort/ exhort them in their faith. Timothy later reported back to Paul the good news about the Thessalonian’s faith and love and their desire to see him again. Paul was filled with Joy to hear this and prayed to see them again to perfect what was lacking in their faith, . Then, in 1 Thess. 5:28 and 2 Thess. 3:18 Paul notes he wrote these letters from Athens.