Paul's 1st Missionary Journey (begins
in Acts 13:4)
Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey synopsis (begins Acts 15:35)
Paul's 3rd Missionary Journey Goto (Acts 18:23)
They - Who is they? For one thing, it appears Luke is
now not with them (we changed to they) and also Timothy is not mentioned
again until Acts 17:14, so he may have remained in Philippi. Clearly,
however the believers at Thessalonica must have known him or about him (cf
Traveled through (diodeuo from dia = through + hodeuo
= to travel from hodos = way) means literally to make one's way through,
to go through or to travel through a place. They undoubtedly took the
Roman "superhighway" of the day, the Via Egnatia (Click
for discussion and map of the Egnatian Way)
which connected Philippi with Thessalonica.
Amphipolis and Apollonia - Traveling SW from Philippi along the Egnatian
Way Amphipolis was about 30 miles from Philippi, and Apollonia another 30
miles beyond. Forty miles beyond Apollonia was Thessalonica. Why Paul
hurried through these two large cities (if he did) we do not know.
Following the famous Egnatian Way, Paul and Silas went 100 miles from
Philippi to Thessalonica.
They came to Thessalonica (See
notes and pictures) -
This city was the capital of the province of Macedonia and had a
population of some 200,000. It was a major seaport city and an important
commercial center, rivaled only by Corinth in this area of the world.
Thessalonica was located on several important trade routes, and it boasted
an excellent harbor. The city was predominantly Greek, even though it was
controlled by Rome. 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.
Synagogue of the Jews (See
notes) - Paul established
the custom of preaching to the Jews first (Ro 1:16-note) whenever he entered a
new city (he went to the synagogues in Pisidian Antioch, Acts 13:14,42; in
Iconium Acts 14:1; in Thessalonica Acts 17:1, in Berea Acts 17:10, in Athens
Acts 17:17; in Corinth Acts 18:4, in Ephesus Acts 18:19, 19:8) because he
had an open door, as a Jew, to speak from the Scriptures and introduce the
gospel of the Messiah. Furthermore, if he had preached to Gentiles first,
the Jews would never have listened to him, their distaste for the Gentiles
being so great.
Synagogue (sunagoge from sunágo = lead together, assemble together) refers
to a group of people “going with one another” (sunago) thus congregating
in one place. Eventually, sunagoge came to mean the place where they
congregated together. The word was used to designate the buildings other
than the central Jewish temple where the Jews congregated for worship.
Historically, the Synagogues originated in the Babylonian captivity after
the 586 BC destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and served as
places of worship and instruction.
In the time of Jesus and the apostles every town, not only in Palestine
but also among the Gentiles if it contained a considerable number of
Jewish inhabitants, had at least one synagogue, the larger towns several
or even many. That the Jews held trials and even inflicted punishments in
them, is evident from such passages (Mt 10:17, 23:34)
Wiersbe comments on the strategic importance of Thessalonica noting
Not only was it the capital of Macedonia, but it was also a center for
business, rivaled only by Corinth. It was located on several important
trade routes, and it boasted an excellent harbor. The city was
predominantly Greek, even though it was controlled by Rome. 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
According to Paul's custom -
Paul established the custom of preaching to the Jews first whenever he
entered a new city (see above for cities he went first to the synagogue)
Reasoned (dialegomai from diá = denoting transition
or separation + légo = speak; English = dialogue) means to think
different things with oneself, to mingle thought with thought and so to
ponder or revolve in one's mind. It describes speaking to someone in order
to convince but not in the sense of a formal sermon but in a discussion
format. It meant to engage in speech interchange (being able to answer
questions about one's faith - see 1Pe 3:15-note) and in context referred to
a reasoned discussion as when one instructs someone about something.
Moulton and Milligan have this example...
"you know how I conversed with you
about the sesame"...These instances will suffice to show that has in the
vernacular the use seen in Mk 9:34. Elsewhere in the NT, as Bp E. L. Hicks
points out in CR i. p. 45, "it always is used of addressing, preaching,
lecturing," a use which he shows to be predominant in inscriptions.
Reasoning with them from the
Scriptures - This is more than just reading or quoting Messianic
prophecies. Reasoning requires logical argumentation, graciously
presented, based on thorough study of the Word and a firm persuasion in
the divine authority of the Scriptures on the part of both speakers and
Dialegomai is used again of Paul...
(In Athens) So he was reasoning in the
synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market
place every day with those who happened to be present. (Acts 17:17)
(In Corinth) And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and
trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:4)
(In Ephesus) And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he
himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. (Acts 18:19)
Three Sabbaths - We do not know
exactly how long Paul remained in Thessalonica, but it was long enough to
receive financial help twice from the church in Philippi (Php 4:15, 16-note).
1Thess 1:1-10 describes how God blessed Paul’s apparently brief ministry
and how the message spread from Thessalonica to other places. It was not a
long ministry, but it was an effective one.
During the week Paul apparently labored
as tentmaker ("by trade they were tent-makers" Acts 18:3) for in his first
letter to the Thessalonians he reminded them...
For you recall, brethren, our labor and
hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of
you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. (1Th 2:9-note, cf ; 2Thes
3:7, 8, 9, 10)
We do not know how long Paul remained
in Thessalonica, but it was long enough to receive financial help twice
from the church in Philippi
And you yourselves also know,
Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed
from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and
receiving but you alone 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more
than once for my needs. (Phil 4:15, 16-note).
In summary Paul approached the Jews in
the following manner...
1) Reasoned with them - dialogued with
them from the Scriptures
2) Explained (from the Scriptures)
3) Gave evidence (from the Scriptures) - he was laying down alongside,
setting before them one OT Messianic prophecy after another to prove that
Jesus was the Messiah.
4) Proclaimed Jesus is the Messiah
Paul was careful to give evidence of
the Messiah's suffering and resurrection which is the heart of the gospel
(see 1Cor 15:1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Note that in the sermons in Acts, you will find an emphasis on the
John Stott wrote that....
Christianity is in its very essence a
resurrection religion...The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If
you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.
Explaining (KJV = opening, which
is more literally correct) (dianoigo from dia = intensive +
anoigo = open up, remove that which obstructs) means to open up wide
or completely like folding door (both sides, dia, two). The idea is to
open thoroughly what had been closed as the firstborn opens the womb (Luke
The present tense pictures this as Paul's continuing practice.
Paul explained (“opened”) the OT Scriptures to them.
Jesus had thoroughly, totally opened the minds of the two on the road to
Emmaus by ''dividing'' their mind that was was previously closed and the
Word that was previously closed and causing them to understand spiritual
truths otherwise hidden to the natural mind (Lk 24:32) and He did the same
for His disciples (Lk 24:45 ) and for Lydia's heart Acts 16:14. Paul
speaking but it was the power of Acts 1:8.
Giving evidence (paratithemi from para = beside +
tithemi = place) means to place or lay down alongside, to prove by
presenting the evidence. The food for example would be set beside the
guest, since the tables were at their side! Here Paul is setting beside
his audience a veritable banquet of truth from the Scriptures which were
the Old Testament! The apostle was setting before them one Old Testament
proof after another (present tense) that Jesus is the Messiah (Jn 20:31).
The present tense pictures this as Paul's continuing practice.
Christ had to suffer - The prevalent Jewish view of the Messiah
pictured a conquering King who would restore Jewish fortunes, defeat
Jewish enemies, and usher in His kingdom on earth. But the thought that
the Messiah would come to suffer and die at the hands of His own people
(cf 1 Thes 2:15) was incomprehensible to most Jews. To counter this false
belief Paul resorted to the OT Scriptures that spoke of Messiah's
suffering (Isaiah 53, Psalm 16, Psalm 22, Daniel 9:24, 25, 26, 27-note, etc)
The Jews (and the Gentile God fearers) in the synagogue already had a
general belief in the Old Testament Scriptures, a truth which Paul
proceeded to take advantage of in order to prove the promised Messiah must
die and rise again, and that Jesus was the promised Messiah . Not only did
Paul use the OT predictive prophecy but also his personal witness of the
historical fulfillment of Jesus' bodily resurrection. Paul's approach is
an excellent pattern for leading to Christ if they already believe in the
God of creation and accept the Bible as His inspired word. For those who
are skeptical a different approach is seen when Paul preached to pagan
Greeks in Athens (Acts 17:15-34).
A T Robertson comments that...
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, 26, 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.
Some were persuaded - Some
believed. They were persuaded particularly by kind words (Ro 2:4-note)
or motives. Some were persuaded to receive a belief--They were convinced,
ultimately the job of the Holy Spirit (1Pe 1:2-note; 2Th 2:13)
Joined (proskleroo) means to give or assign by lot, such as one's
destiny. They ''threw in their lot'' with Paul and Silas.
Jealous (zeloo from zeo =
boil) means to be heated or boil with envy, hatred, anger and reflects an
attitude of misplaced zeal.
As happened in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:45, 50), Iconium (Acts 14:2, 5),
and Lystra (Acts 14:19) on the first missionary journey, here also Paul is
opposed by a mob incited by envious people among the Jews
AS Paul explained in Romans his hope was that the salvation of Gentiles
would provoke the Jews into studying the Scriptures and discovering their
But I am speaking to you who are
Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my
ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and
save some of them. (see notes
Unfortunately, in this case, the
conversions provoked them to the "wrong kind" of jealously, the kind that
resulted in persecution.
John MacArthur one of the best
modern expositors of the Word (and one who has experienced the conflict)
Those who courageously proclaim the
right message and win converts will face conflict. Success will be
accompanied by opposition. Paul and his companions were no exception. The
unbelieving Jews at Thessalonica were enraged by the success of the
gospel. They "loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds
were evil" (John 3:19). "Becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men
from the market place, they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar"
ironically, the very thing they accused the missionaries of doing (Acts
City authorities (politarches
from pólis = city + árcho = rule) describes magistrate who
formed part of a town or city council and so a city official.
At this point the historicity of Acts has been attacked on the ground that
the city authorities at Thessalonica were not called "politarchs."
However, an inscription on the Arch of Galerius over the Egnatian Way
corroborates the usage of this title in Thessalonica and clearly refutes
the arguments of the skeptics.
These men who have upset the world - KJV has a vivid picture "these that
have turned the world upset down"
Now don’t put that down as an
oratorical gesture or hyperbole. When they said that these men were
turning the world upside down, that is exactly what they meant. When
Christianity penetrated that old Roman Empire it was a revolution. It had
a tremendous effect. (McGee,
J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson
God willing and blessing, people would
say such things about the effectiveness of Christians today!. Jesus did
not come only to be our teacher, but to turn our world upside-down. The
powerful and the eminent of this world are at the top of the power pyramid
and look down on the weak and insignificant; but Jesus comes and turns
that pyramid around and says, If you want to come to Me, you have to come
like a little child. As Paul says, God has chosen the foolish and weak
things of the world to confound the wise (1Corinthians 1:27), and so God
turns the world's power-pyramid upside down.
Jesus gave a great example of this
upside-down thinking when He spoke of a rich man who amassed great wealth,
and all he could think about was building bigger barns to store all his
wealth. We would make the man a civic leader or recognized him as a
prominent man; Jesus turned it all upside down and called the man a fool,
because he had done nothing to get his life right with God. (Luke
12:16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21)
Actually, God was working through Paul and Silas to turn the world right
side-up again. But when you yourself are upside-down, the other direction
appears to be upside-down! (Guzik)
Saying there is another king Jesus
- To acknowledge any other king but Caesar was one of the most serious
crimes in the Roman Empire. It was for allegedly claiming to be a rival
earthly ruler to Caesar that the Romans crucified Jesus (cf. John 19:12).
Failure to worship Caesar surely led to Paul's execution. The fact that
the Jews were "zealous" to safeguard the government of Caesar shows how
much they hated the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for they clearly had little or
no love for the Roman Empire.
Regarding another king Wiersbe remarks that...
The Greek word translated “another”
means “another of a different kind,” that is, a king unlike Caesar. When
you read Paul’s two Thessalonian letters, you see the strong emphasis he
gave in Thessalonica on the kingship of Christ and the promise of His
return. Of course, our Lord’s kingdom is neither political nor “of this
world” (John 18:36-37), but we cannot expect unsaved pagans to understand
this. The kingship of Jesus Christ is unlike that of the rulers of this
world. He conquers with ambassadors, not armies; and His weapons are truth
and love. He brings men peace by upsetting the peace and turning things
upside down! He conquers through His cross where He died for a world of
lost sinners. He even died for His enemies! (Ro 5:6, 7,8, 9, 10-see notes
Guzik comments that...
Even the unfounded accusation of
political revolution had a compliment hidden inside. Even the evil men
from the marketplace understood that Christians taught that Jesus was a
king, that He had the right to rule over His people. Why is it that all
too many churchgoers miss this message today?
literally means shake, stir up or agitate. To trouble by movement of the
parts to and fro and so to shake or agitate like water in a glass sharply
jarred. Figuratively it means to cause inward commotion and so to take
away a calmness of mind, to disturb one's equanimity or to make restless.
Crowd (ochlos) is generally a multitude or a throng of
people milling around or closely pressed together,
Pledge (hikanos) is
strictly that which reaches or arrives at a certain standard in this
context refers to a pledge, bail or bond representing an amount of money
needed for release from custody and which would be forfeited by Jason
should Paul and his companions cause more trouble. As a result, they had
no choice but to leave Thessalonica.
Released (apoluo from apó = from + lúo =
loose) means to let loose from and in this context to let go free or set
G. Campbell Morgan rightly declared that...
the measure of our triumph in work for
God is always the measure of our travail. No propagative work is done save
at cost; and every genuine triumph of the Cross brings after it the
travail of some new affliction, and some new sorrow. So we share the
travail that makes the Kingdom come. (The Acts of the Apostles).
To Berea (See
note)- about 45 miles away.
Timothy is not mentioned and presumably must have been behind at Philippi
(he is not mentioned at Thessalonica although Paul did later send him to
them 1 Thes 3:2ff).
Acts 17:11 Now these (the Berean
Jews) were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they
received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to
see whether these things were so.
Amplified: Now these
[Jews] were better disposed and more noble than those in Thessalonica, for
they were entirely ready and accepted and welcomed the message [concerning
the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God]
with inclination of mind and eagerness, searching and examining the
Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
NET: These Jews were more
open-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they eagerly received the
message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these
things were so.
Phillips: The Jews proved more
generous-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they accepted the message
most eagerly and studied the scriptures every day to see if what they were
now being told were true.
Cross References - (Proverbs
1:5; 9:9; Jeremiah 2:21; John 1:45, 46, 47, 48, 49) (Acts 2:41; 10:33;
11:1; Job 23:12; Proverbs 2:1, 2, 3, 4, 5; 8:10; Matthew 13:23;
1Thessalonians 1:6; 2:13; 2Thessalonians 2:10; Jas 1:21; 1Pe 2:2) (Ps
1:2,3; 119:97,100,148; Isa 8:20; 34:16; Luke 16:29; 24:44; John 3:21; John
5:39; 2Timothy 3:15, 16, 17; 1Pe 1:10, 11, 12; 2Pe 1:19, 20, 21; 1John
See offsite resource:
ON THE CHARACTER OF THE
BEREANS from Thomas
SPIRITUAL EXERCISES OF THE
HEART or CHRISTIAN RETIREMENT
Now these (Berean Jews) were more noble minded
- Paul had been overjoyed and filled with gratitude to God at the way the people in Thessalonica had
received the Word (1Th 2:13-note), so these “noble Bereans” must have really
encouraged his heart. What noble minded means is reflected in their
handling of the word of God (1) received the word with great eagerness (2)
Examining the Scriptures daily. Would Paul describe you as "noble minded"?
Noble minded (2104)
(eugenes) means literally of high or noble birth, but in this
context is used figuratively to describe men and women possessing that
type of attitude ordinarily associated with well-bred persons.
Eugenes is used not only for noble
birth but also for noble sentiments, character, morals. The implication is
that the Berean Jews were more noble in character than those in
Thessalonica in their welcome and cordial treatment of the apostles.
They received (1209) (dechomai)
means to to receive something offered
or transmitted by another (Luke 2:28). To take something into one's hand
and so to grasp (Luke 22:17). To be receptive to someone (Mt 10:14, 40).
To take a favorable attitude toward something (Mt 11:14).
Jesus used dechomai to
describe the way that humble, childlike believers (Matt. 18:5), faithful
preachers of the gospel (Matt. 10:14), and the gospel itself (Luke 8:13;
cf. Acts 8:14; 17:11) should be received.
Dechomai means to accept
deliberately and readily, receive kindly and so to take to oneself what is
presented or brought by another. It means to welcome as a teacher, a
friend, or a guest into one's house. The word describes accepting persons
with open arms, minds, and hearts, even going beyond normally expected
gracious hospitality. The term was often used of welcoming honored guests
and meeting their needs with special attention and kindness.
The Bereans deliberately and readily
accepted THE WORD (ton logos = "the specific Word"...not just ''any'' word! The specific Word
in context represents the Gospel - see the effect of their reception in
the next verse). The Bereans took the precious word to themselves,
welcoming it as what it was, the word of life (this same phrase is found
in Php 2:16-
(see note), and in 1Jn 1:1 refers to Jesus Himself cf Deut 32:47), as one
would welcome a guest or friend or wise counselor to their house ("...they
will receive [dechomai] me into their homes." Lk 16:4) Rahab the harlot
welcomed (dechomai) the spies in [He 11:31-note]. They had the right kind of
soil as Jesus described in Luke 8...
And the seed in the good soil, these
are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold
it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. (Lk 8:15, compare to Lydia who
heard [was listening] in Acts 16:14)
(meta) means in the midst of or in the company with prothumia, a
good attitude to manifest when the "guest" is the Living Word!
prothumos = predisposed, ready, willing, eager, prompt,
referring to one's spirit in Mt 26:41 "the spirit is willing" or prothumos) conveys the idea of
ready and willing, of readiness for action, or of having the will or purpose to act.
This word describes one's exceptional interest in being of service. It is
a determined disposition of one's mind.
Readiness. Forwardness. Willingness.
Inclination. Enthusiasm. Goodwill. Eagerness. Eagerness is a state marked by enthusiastic desire or interest and
implies ardor and enthusiasm.
In ancient Greece, prothumia was
a word commonly used in eulogies. The idea of voluntariness is also
present in the Qumran writings. A willing and cheerful treading of the
divine path is denoted.
Robertson commenting on the use
of prothumia in Acts 17:11 writes that...
In Thessalonica many of the Jews out of
pride and prejudice refused to listen. Here the Jews joyfully welcomed the
two Jewish visitors.
The NT uses are listed below and it is
notable that 4 of the 5 uses are in the 2 most comprehensive chapters on
Christian giving! (Interesting!)
Acts 17:11 Now these were more
noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with
great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these
things were so.
2 Corinthians 8:11 But now
finish doing it also; that just as there was the readiness to
desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability...12
For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what
a man has, not according to what he does not have.
2 Corinthians 8:19 and not only this, but he has also been
appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which
is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show
2 Corinthians 9:2 for I know
your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians,
namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has
stirred up most of them.
Prothumia indicates a positive
disposition, goodwill in the heightened sense of eagerness and ardor and
is a compliment that honors its subject.
These Bereans were predisposed, ready, willing, and thus their attitude
was one of eagerness. Prothumia includes the idea of ''rushing forward''...and
thus the Bereans were like
children in a candy store...like a man who found a pearl and recognized its
incredible worth (Mt 13:45, 46).
Examining (350) (anakrino from aná = again + kríno
= sift, judge, distinguish, separate out so as to investigate) (present
tense = continually)
means to sift up and down, to examine accurately or carefully
(re-examine), to make careful and exact research as in legal processes.
To interrogate. To cross-examine. To
put through a course of questioning as when one is questioned and examined
by a judge in a court of law. It was often used in secular Greek of the
interrogation of a prisoner. It was also used of a judicial examination
before the final verdict was rendered.
It is used in the general sense to
describe the process of evaluation (in sense of to judge, to estimate or
to determine the excellence or defects of any person or thing) in Acts
17:11, 1Corinthians 2:14, 15, 10:25, 27. The idea here is primarily to
distinguish so as to investigate and form an opinion. Such a process is
impossible in regard to spiritual things, without the Divinely imparted
In a judicial or legal sense
anakrino means to question in order to pass a judicial sentence (cf Lk
23:14, Acts 4:9, 12:19, 24:8, 28:18, 1Cor 4:3, 4)
Vincent has the following note
Originally implying a through
examination; ana, up, from bottom to top. Technically, of a legal
The fundamental idea of anakrino
is examination, scrutiny, following up (ana) a series of objects or
particulars in order to distinguish (krino). This is its almost
universal meaning in classical Greek. At Athens it was used technically in
two senses: to examine magistrates with a view to proving their
qualifications; and to examine persons concerned in a suit, so as to
prepare the matter for trial, as a grand jury. The meaning judged is, at
best, inferential, and the Revised Version inserts examined in the
margin, Bishop Lightfoot says: “anakrinein is neither to judge nor
to discern; but to examine, investigate, inquire into, question, as it is
rightly translated, 1 Cor. 9:3; 10:25, 27. The apostle condemns all these
impatient human praejudicia which anticipate the final judgment, reserving
his case for the great tribunal, where at length all the evidence will be
forthcoming and a satisfactory verdict can be given. Meanwhile the process
of gathering evidence has begun; an anakrisis investigation is
indeed being held, not, however, by these self-appointed magistrates, but
by one who alone has the authority to institute the inquiry, and the
ability to sift the facts” (“On a Fresh Revision of the New Testament”).
Anakrino is used 16 times in the
Luke 23:14 and said to them,
"You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion,
and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no
guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him.
Acts 4:9 if we are on trial
today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made
Acts 12:19 And when Herod had
searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and
ordered that they be led away to execution. And he went down from Judea to
Caesarea and was spending time there.
Acts 17:11 Now these were more
noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with
great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether
these things were so.
Acts 24:8 ordering his accusers
to come before you. And by examining him yourself concerning all
these matters, you will be able to ascertain the things of which we accuse
Acts 28:18 "And when they had
examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no
ground for putting me to death.
1 Corinthians 2:14 But a natural
man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are
foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are
spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises
all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man.
1 Corinthians 4:3 But to me it
is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any
human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4 For I
am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted;
but the one who examines me is the Lord.
1 Corinthians 9:3 My defense to
those who examine me is this:
1 Corinthians 10:25 Eat anything
that is sold in the meat market, without asking questions (e.g.,
Jews were only allowed to buy meat from Gentiles if it could be
established that it was not meat offered to idols) for
conscience sake...27 If one of the unbelievers invites you, and
you wish to go, eat anything that is set before you, without asking
questions (i.e., not raising the question as to whether the meat is
the residue from an idolatrous sacrifice) for conscience sake.
1 Corinthians 14:24 But if all
prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by
all, he is called to account by all
In Athens anakrino was used of the magistrates,
who would examine
persons concerned in a suit, so as to prepare the matter for trial. The
idea is to scrutinize, investigate, interrogate and thus to examine
accurately or carefully.
The opposite picture is 1Cor 2:14 (1Co 2:15: he who is spiritual appraises all
things) which uses 2 of the same verbs Luke uses to describe the Bereans (anakrino and dechomai)
but in this context
to describe the ''natural man''.
1 Corinthians 2:14 But a natural
man does not (ou = absolute negation!) accept (dechomai)
the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness (moria from
moros [denotes deficiency] - considered foolish, intellectually weak, or
irrational) to him, and he cannot (dunamia - inherent capacity -
natural men lack this continually =
understand them, because (explains why they have no ability to understand
God's Word) they are spiritually appraised (anakrino).
In contrast to the natural man these
discerning men and women would sift the words of other men up and down,
constantly making careful and exacting search as one would in preparing
for a lawsuit! The words of Paul were on trial, being actively
investigated to see if indeed they lined up with what God's Word in the OT
said. Every word was weighed as to it's significance. Ultimately the
purpose of the Bereans examining and questioning was in order to pass a
judicial sentence...pure words or straw words (see Jer 23:28,29,32 and
"the ancient paths" in Jer 6:16,17). They tested the spirits 1 Jn 4:1.
How? Drop the plumbline on every teaching no matter how wonderful it
sounds...the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately
sick. Who can understand it? We need God's Spirit of Truth guiding us into
all the Truth.
Anakrino is word used by Pilate
to describe his examination of Jesus...
(Pilate) said to them, "You brought
this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold,
having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man
regarding the charges which you make against Him. (Luke 23:14)
Anakrino clearly is a very legal
term, implying extreme attention to the Truth!
In Scotland people have the Bible open on the preacher as he expounds the
passage, a fine habit worth imitating. (anakrino means to sift up and
down, make careful and exact research as in legal processes as in Acts
4:9; 12:19 etc.) the Scriptures for themselves.
The more time you spend in observation,
the less time you will spend in interpretation, and the more accurate will
be your results. The less time you spend in observation, the more time you
will spend in interpretation, and the less accurate will be your results.
from grapho = to write; English = graphite - the
lead in a pencil!) means first a writing or thing written, a document.
The majority of the NT uses refer to the Old Testament writings, in a
general sense of the whole collection when the plural (Scriptures)
is used and other times of a particular passage when the singular
is used (the Scripture) and is used in such a way that quoting Scripture
is understood to be the same as quoting God!
Bereans did not run to their favorite commentary to check out Paul but to
God's OT writings.
Daily - The implication is that Paul must have expounded the
Scriptures daily...he was a man on a mission...souls to save...a Kingdom
to be built.
Guzik comments that...
When they arrived, they went into the
synagogue of the Jews: In Berea, they follow their familiar strategy, and
found that their audience was more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica.
Two things earned this compliment for the Bereans: first, they received
the word with all readiness. Second, they searched the Scriptures daily to
find out whether these things were so.
The Bereans were taught by the most
famous apostle and theologian of the early church, and the human author of
at least 13 New Testament books. Yet, they searched the Scriptures when
Paul taught, to see if his teaching was truly Biblical! They would not
accept Paul's word at face value, but wanted to know if these things were
so. When they heard Paul teach, their settled reaction wasn't "My, he's a
fine speaker." It wasn't "I don't like the way he talks." It wasn't "What
a funny preacher!" Instead, the Bereans wanted to know, "Are these things
. . . so? Is this man teaching us the truth? Let's search the Scriptures
daily to find out whether these things are so."
Their research was not casual. They searched the Scriptures. It was worth
it to them to work hard at it, and investigate what the Word of God said,
and how Paul's teaching matched up with it. They also searched the
Scriptures daily to find out. It wasn't a one time, quick look. They made
it a point of diligent, extended study. Also, they searched the Scriptures
daily to find out. They believed they could understand and find out truth
from the Bible. For them, the Bible was not just a pretty book of poetry
or mystery or nice spiritual inspiration for thoughts-for-the-day. It was
a book of truth, and that truth was there to find out.
But with all their diligent searching and concern for the truth, the
Bereans did not become skeptics. They received the word with all
readiness. When Paul preached, they had open hearts, but clear heads. Many
people have clear heads, but closed hearts, and never receive the word
with all readiness. It was both of these things that made the Bereans more
fair-minded than those in Thessalonica.
We should be more fair-minded than the Bereans. We should receive the word
with all readiness, with open hearts. But we must also have clear heads,
and when we hear a preacher, be those who search the Scriptures daily to
find out whether these things [are] so. If the great apostle Paul was
worthy of this kind of close examination, how much more should teachers
and preachers today be carefully compared with the Scriptures!
Therefore many of them believed: Paul
had nothing to fear by the diligent searching of the Scriptures by the
Bereans. If they were really seeking God and His Word, they would find out
that what Paul was preaching was true. This is exactly what happened among
the Bereans, and therefore many of them believed. (Ref)
Billy Graham was once asked
If you had to live your life over
again, what would you do differently?” Graham replied, “One of my great
regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more and
preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups, when I
should have been studying and preparing.
Whether these things were so -
Literally, "if these things had it thus." The Bereans 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 and not simply hearers who relied on the expositions of a
dynamic pastor or erudite Bible teacher. In fact the more eloquent or
entertaining the sermon, in some cases the greater the danger that one
might be deceived into believing that the sermon was all they needed to be
"fed" [unless of course those sermons stimulated and encouraged the sheep
to pursue personal study and meditation on God's word].
Another description related to examining the Scriptures is found in
Jesus' declaration in John...
You (Jews) search (ereunao = attempt to
learn something by careful investigation or searching) the Scriptures,
because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that
bear witness of Me" (Jn 5:39)
Unfortunately most of the Jews failed
to manifest the heart attitude of the Bereans for Jesus went on to say...
and you are unwilling to come to Me,
that you may have life. (John 5:40)
Commenting on the phrase you search the
Scriptures, C H Spurgeon has this to say...
The Greek word here rendered search
(ereunao) signifies a strict, close, diligent, curious search, such as men
make when they are seeking gold, or hunters when they are in earnest after
We must not rest content with having given a superficial reading to a
chapter or two, but with the candle of the Spirit we must deliberately
seek out the hidden meaning of the word. Holy Scripture requires
searching—much of it can only be learned by careful study. There is milk
for babes, but also meat for strong men.
The rabbis wisely say that a mountain of matter hangs upon every word,
yea, upon every title of Scripture.
Tertullian exclaims, “I adore the fulness of the Scriptures.” No man who
merely skims the book of God can profit thereby; we must dig and mine
until we obtain the hid treasure. The door of the word only opens to the
key of diligence. The Scriptures claim searching. They are the writings of
God, bearing the divine stamp and imprimatur— who shall dare to treat them
with levity? He who despises them despises the God who wrote them. God
forbid that any of us should leave our Bibles to become swift witnesses
against us in the great day of account. The word of God will repay
searching. God does not bid us sift a mountain of chaff with here and
there a grain of wheat in it, but the Bible is winnowed corn—we have but
to open the granary door and find it. Scripture grows upon the student. It
is full of surprises. Under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to the
searching eye it glows with splendour of revelation, like a vast temple
paved with wrought gold, and roofed with rubies, emeralds, and all manner
of gems. No merchandise like the merchandise of Scripture truth. Lastly,
the Scriptures reveal Jesus: “They are they which testify of me.” No more
powerful motive can be urged upon Bible readers than this: he who finds
Jesus finds life, heaven, all things. Happy he who, searching his Bible,
discovers his Saviour. (Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, June 9)
Acts 17:12 Many of them therefore
believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.
Believed - This passage is a
beautiful illustration of the principle Jesus declared in John 5...
For if you believed Moses, you would
believe Me; for he wrote of Me. (Jn 5:46)
Believing the OT, many of the Bereans
believed the Gospel of Christ, for in fact the Gospel is found in the OT.
In Galatians Paul declares...
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God
would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to
Abraham, saying, "ALL THE NATIONS SHALL BE BLESSED IN YOU." (Gal 3:8)
Regarding the phrase many of them
therefore believed John MacArthur has an interesting comment...
A similar rich harvest was reaped in
Berea, where many of the Jews, eager to understand, believed, along with a
number of prominent Greek women and men. The Thessalonians had to be
persuaded (Acts 17:2, 3); the Bereans were ready and believed. Their hearts
were more open to the truth, as evidenced by their eager searching of the
Scriptures. The Thessalonians and Bereans typify two kinds of people
encountered in evangelism. The Word of God can persuade the closed and the
open; the obstinate and the pliant; because of those who seek the truth,
and those who do not. (Acts)
This phrase the Word of God is
found numerous times in Acts - Acts 4:31, 6:2, 6:7, 8:14, 11:1, 13:5,
13:7, 13:44, 13:46, 17:13,18:11 Without question this phrase is most often
another way of referring to the Gospel.
Jews of Thessalonica - not those in Berea for they were more noble
They came there likewise agitating and stirring up the crowds - The
principle is playing out in Paul's ministry and will in your ministry
likewise beloved - the principle is "Preach the Word of God and duck!"
Stirring (saleuo from salos = wave) means to cause to move
to and fro, cause to waver or totter, make to rock. To shake or agitate as
by winds or storms. It refers to unexpected and disastrous shaking, of
what would be thought to be stable, e.g. earth or sky shake. Figuratively
it means stirring up a crowd which is incited or agitated. It can also
describe an agitated state of mind as if the source of agitation
"dislodges" or drives the mind away from more sober senses (2Th 2:2).
In Acts 17:13 it is used figuratively, but in the previous chapter, Acts
16, it is used literally of an earthquake (Acts 16:26). Saleuo described a
ship at anchor slipping its mooring in the midst of a heavy wind. In an
ancient letter we read "you sent me letters which would have shaken
(saleuo) a stone, so much did your words move me".
Silas and Timothy remained there
- Paul again is forced to leave a place of rich ministry and break away
from people he had come to love. It appears that Silas and Timothy later
joined Paul in Athens, but that because of his concern for following up
the Thessalonians, he is compelled to send Timothy to strengthen and
encourage them in their faith (1Th 3:1, 2-note).,
Silas apparently was also sent on a special mission somewhere in Macedonia
because later both men return to Paul after he has moved on to Corinth
(Acts 18:1-5). It was upon this return that Timothy brought good news of
the Thessalonians faith and love (1Thes 3:6-note)
and this occasion prompted Paul to write the letter to the Thessalonians
to encourage them (especially 1 Thes 1-3) and to instruct and exhort them
(especially 1 Thes 4-5).
Receiving a command for Silas and
Timothy to come to him as soon as possible - As discussed in Acts
17:14 notation, it appears that they did come to him but that he soon
decided to send them on special follow-up missions, especially Timothy (1
Thes 3:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6-note).
Waiting (1551) (ekdechomai
from ek = from + déchomai = receive kindly, accept
deliberately and readily) (see
prosdechomai) means literally to receive
or accept from some source. The preposition ek in this compound may have a
perfective idea indicating that one is read and prepared to deal with the
situation when it arrives. It means to remain in a place or state and
await an event or the arrival of someone. The idea is to look or tarry
for, to watch for, expect, be about to receive from any quarter. In regard
to of future events it means to wait for them expecting them to happen.
note) - At this time in
world history, Athens was in a period of decline, though it was still
recognized as a center of culture and education. However, the glory of
politics and commerce of Athens had faded. Athens still maintained a
famous university and numerous beautiful buildings, but it lacked the
influence it once enjoyed. Athens was a city populated by "cultured
pagans" who fed off of the worship of idols, novel ideas and philosophy.
Corynbeare in his book Life and Epistles of St Paul wrote that...
The Greek religion was a mere
deification of human attributes and the powers of nature. It was a
religion which ministered to art and amusement, and was entirely destitute
of moral power.
Greek mythology dealt with so called gods and goddesses that were
whimsical and acted more like human beings than divinity. One person has
quipped that in Athens it was easier to find a god than a man and Paul was
pricked in his heart over this plethora of vain dead, lifeless idols. How
interesting that in our day we admire Greek sculpture and architecture as
works of art, but in Paul's day, these works were associated with their
Paul knew that idolatry was demonic (1Co 10:14-23) and that the many gods of the Greeks were only characters
in stories who were unable to change men's lives (1Co 8:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). With all
of their culture and wisdom, the Greeks did not know the true God (1Cor
1:18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25).
The city was also devoted to philosophy. When you think of Greece, you
automatically think of Socrates and Aristotle and a host of other thinkers
whose works are still read and studied today.
Newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams
once defined philosophy as
unintelligible answers to insoluble
The Greeks would not have agreed with
him. They would have followed Aristotle who called philosophy
the science which considers truth.
Being provoked (paroxuno
from pará = at point of, implying movement toward a certain point +
oxúno = sharpen, incite, irritate) literally means to sharpen but
both NT uses are figurative and mean to be stimulated, excited or aroused.
It can describe one as aroused to anger. This Greek word gives us our
English word paroxysm, which describes a convulsion or sudden outburst of
emotion or action. Love guards against being irritated, upset, or angered
by things said or done against it. Easily provoked ("touchy") (love is
not...) (See use in 1Co 13:5). The imperfect tense pictures this
provocation as occurring over and over again. Every time he saw one of the
lifeless idols, he was provoked anew.
Beholding (theoreo from theoros = a spectator - one
who looks at things with interest and purpose and with careful observation
of details) means to observe with sustained attention (as would a
spectator). The present tense pictures this as Paul's continual action
(for apparently he was continually confronted with idols!).
Wiersbe comments that...
Paul arrived in the great city of
Athens, not as a sightseer, but as a soul-winner. The late Noel O. Lyons,
for many years director of the Greater Europe Mission, used to say,
"Europe is looked over by millions of visitors and is overlooked by
millions of Christians." Europe needs the Gospel today just as it did in
Paul's day, and we dare not miss our opportunities. Like Paul, we must
have open eyes and broken hearts.......As for novelty, it was the chief
pursuit of both the citizens and the visitors (Acts 17:21). Their leisure
time was spent telling or hearing "some new thing." Eric Hoffer wrote that
"the fear of becoming a has been keeps some people from becoming
anything." The person who chases the new and ignores the old soon
discovers that he has no deep roots to nourish his life. He also discovers
that nothing is really new; it's just that our memories are poor.
Solomon tragically understood the
vanity and abysmal emptiness of the novel and wrote...
All things are wearisome; Man is not
able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor is the ear
filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, And that
which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new
under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, "See this, it is
new"? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us. There is no
remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will
occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come
later still. I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.
(Eccl 1:8, 9, 10, 11, 12).
(see note on Acts 17:2 where same word is used).
Market place (agora) (see note on Acts 16:19)
Happened (paratugchano from pará = near + tugcháno
= happen to be, chance upon) means to chance near, and so to meet with, to
fall in with someone, to happen near.
from phílos = friend/lover + sophía = wisdom) is literally a
friend or lover of wisdom often from a particular worldview (especially
non-Christian). One who is fond of wise things. Those who professed the
study of wisdom were, among the ancient Greeks, called sophoí
(4680), wise men; but Pythagoras introduced the more modest name of
philosophos, a lover of wisdom, and called himself by this title.
Newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams
once defined philosophy as "unintelligible answers to insoluble problems,"
but the Greeks would not have agreed with him. They would have followed
Aristotle who called philosophy ?the science which considers truth.
Thayer writes philosophos refers
philosopher, one given to the pursuit
of wisdom or learning (Xenophon, Plato, others); in a narrower sense, one
who investigates and discusses the causes of things and the highest good:
This is one of the only two specific references in the Bible to
"philosophy," the other being Colossians 2:8-note.
Both have strongly negative emphases, warning against philosophy--the love
of human wisdom.
Epicurean - followers of
Epicurus (341-270BC) believed that while God existed but that He had no
interest in humankind, and the main purpose of life was pleasure. Sounds
very modern, doesn't it? In fact the word has lost its original sense and
so Epicurean describes the pursuit of fine food.
Epicurus, a contemporary of Zeno, considered practical atheism the true
view of reality. Denying a future life entirely, he claimed pleasure as
the ruling principle of life. He allowed for the existence of gods but
considered them distant and unconcerned with the lives of men. Both these
systems, with their doctrines of self-discipline on the one hand and
fruitful earthly life on the other, differed sharply from the Christian
resurrection hope for life in eternity. This should have generated a
desire for the gospel in true philosophers, i.e., those serious-minded,
Epicurus was an existentialist in that he sought truth by means of
personal experience and not through reasoning. The Epicureans were
materialists and atheists, and their goal in life was pleasure.
The Stoic said "Endure Life" while the Epicureans said "Enjoy Life"!
Stoics - This group believed God was the world's soul, and life's
goal was to rise above all things, showing no emotional response to either
pain or pleasure.
The Stoics were pantheists, much like modern New Age evolutionists. They
rejected the idolatry of pagan worship and taught that there was one World
God. The Stoics emphasized personal discipline and self-control and their
goal in life was to follow one's reason and be self-sufficient, unmoved by
inner feelings or outward circumstances. It telling that the first two
leaders of the Stoics committed suicide
Zeno (360-260 B.C.) taught in the Stoa (Porch), and his teaching
accordingly was called Stoicism. He advanced many noble ideas, such as
self-mastery, but occasionally he or his followers would adhere to the
ideas with such strictness that their austerity led to immense pride, and
suicide became the solution for failure. Thus, many followers were
distinctly selfish and unloving, frequently espousing a pantheistic world
view (Modern day New Age Movement). Pantheism says that god is the all,
and therefore all that exists is god. God is almost always an impersonal
god in any pantheistic system.
The doctrine of the Stoics taught that human beings should be free from
passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submissive to natural law, calmly
accepting all things as the result of divine will.
Stoicism was one of the most influential Greek schools of philosophy in
the NT period. It took its name from the Stoa Poikile, the painted
“portico” (stoa) in Athens where the founder Zeno of Citium (about 280
b.c.) taught. Zeno was followed by Cleanthes (about 260 b.c.), Cleanthes
by Chrysippus (about 240 b.c.), who was regarded as the intellectual
founder of the Stoic system. Stoicism soon found an entrance at Rome, and
under the empire Stoicism was not unnaturally connected with republican
The Stoics believed that people are part of the universe, which itself is
dominated by reason. God is identified with the world-soul and so inhabits
everything. Therefore, one’s goal is to identify oneself with this
universal reason that determines destiny, to find one’s proper place in
the natural order of things. Since people cannot change this grand design,
it is best for them to cooperate and to take their part in the world
order. Moreover, they must live above any emotional involvement with life,
exemplifying a detached virtue in serving others. Above all, they must be
self-sufficient, living life with dignity and pride. Individual Stoics,
including the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, set a high standard of
The ethical system of the Stoics has been commonly supposed to have a
close connection with Christian morality. But the morality of Stoicism is
essentially based on pride, that of Christianity on humility; the one
upholds individual independence, the other absolute faith in another; the
one looks for consolation in the issue of fate, the other in Providence;
the one is limited by periods of cosmical ruin, the other is consummated
in a personal resurrection.
In Stoicism God was not a personal Being but a spiritual force or
soul-power immanent in men and things. He was given many names—Logos or
Reason, Nature, Providence, divine Spirit et al. His substance was the
whole world and the heavens. An elaborate pantheon was developed to agree
with God’s total immanence. The highest good was to follow reason or
virtue, suppress the emotions, and conduct oneself according to what
nature wills. In the end there was reabsorption into the world Soul, but
no individual immortality. The "greatness" of Stoicism was found in its
high ethical concepts and doctrine of human brotherhood.
Idle babbler (spermologos from sperma = seed + lego = collect or
gather) was used originally of birds picking up seed. It came to be
applied in Athenian slang to one who gains a hand to mouth living in the
markets by picking up anything that falls from the loads of merchandise
which was carried about. Hence spermologos passed into the meaning of one
who gathers scraps of information and retails them at second hand without
any real knowledge of their meaning. A babbler is one who talks idly with
no definite purpose. Moffatt translates it "fellow with scraps of
learning". Goodspeed has "rag picker".
It is said that the Athenians applied this name to those who made their
living by collecting and selling refuse they found in the market places.
Therefore, they were men of no account, low and contemptible persons.
Jesus and the resurrection - The central truth of the Gospel was always at
the forefront of Paul's mind and it should likewise be at the forefront of
Deities ( daimonion from daímon = a demon) refers
here to heathen gods. In the context of a Jewish use it more often refers
to a demon, evil spirit, devil, or one who is subject to Satan
The venerable council that had charge
of religious and educational matters in Athens in Paul's time. It possibly
met on the Hill of Ares W of the Acropolis, the hill also being known as
the Areopagus, though some think it met in a building in the agora
MacArthur writes that...
Paul created enough of a stir that
finally they took him and brought him to the Areopagus. The Areopagus was
a court, so named for the hill on which it had once met. The power of that
tribunal had fluctuated over the centuries but in Roman times was
considerable. (Athens was a free city in the Roman Empire, with the right
of self-government.) Paul was not formally tried before this court (which
several centuries earlier had condemned Socrates), but he was informally
required to give an account of his teaching. (MacArthur,
J: Acts 1-12; Acts
13-28 Moody Press or
Areopagus (from ISBE) -
AREOPAGUS - ar-e-op'-a-gus (Areios pagos; Acts 17:19,22. Mars' Hill,
17:22 the King James Version): A sort of spur jutting out from the western
end of the Acropolis and separated from it by a very short saddle. Traces
of old steps cut in the rock are still to be seen. Underneath are deep
grottoes, once the home of the Eumenides (Furies). On the flat surface of
the summit are signs still visible of a smoothing of the stone for seats.
Directly below to the North was the old Athenian agora, or market-place.
To the East, on the descent from the Acropolis, could be seen in antiquity
a small semicircular platform--the orchestra--from which rose the
precipitous rock of the citadel. Here the booksellers kept their stalls;
here the work of Anaxagoras could be bought for a drachma; from here his
physical philosophy was disseminated, then, through Euripides, the poetic
associate of Socrates and the sophists, leavened the drama, and finally
reached the people of Athens. Then came the Stoics and Epicureans who
taught philosophy and religion as a system, not as a faith, and spent
their time in searching out some new thing in creed and dogma and opinion.
Five centuries earlier Socrates was brought to this very Areopagus to face
the charges of his accusers. To this same spot the apostle Paul came
almost five hundred years after 399 BC, when the Attic martyr was
executed, with the same earnestness, the same deep-rooted convictions, and
with even greater ardor, to meet the philosophers of fashion. The Athenian
guides will show you the exact place where the apostle stood, and in what
direction he faced when he addressed his audience. No city has ever seen
such a forest of statues as studded the market-place, the streets and the
sides and summit of the Acropolis of Athens. A large part of this wealth
of art was in full view of the speaker, and the apostle naturally made
this extraordinary display of votive statues and offerings the
starting-point of his address. He finds the Athenians extremely religious.
He had found an altar to a god unknown. Then he develops theme of the
great and only God, not from the Hebrew, but from the Greek, the Stoic
point of view. His audiences consisted, on the one hand, of the advocates
of prudence as the means, and pleasure as the end (the Epicureans); on the
other, of the advocates of duty, of living in harmony with the
intelligence which rules the world for good. He frankly expresses his
sympathy with the nobler principles of the Stoic doctrine. But neither
Stoic nor Epicurean could believe the declarations of the apostle: the
latter believed death to be the end of all things, the former thought that
the soul at death was absorbed again into that from which it sprang. Both
understood Paul as proclaiming to them in Jesus and Anastasis
("resurrection") some new deities. When they finally ascertained that
Jesus was ordained by God to judge the world, and that Anastasis was
merely the resurrection of the dead, they were disappointed. Some scoffed,
others departed, doubtless with the feeling that they had already given
audience too long to such a fanatic.
The Areopagus, or Hill of Ares, was the
ancient seat of the court of the same name, the establishment of which
leads us far back into the mythical period long before the dawn of
history. This court exercised the right of capital punishment. In 594 BC
the jurisdiction in criminal cases was given to the archons who had
discharged the duties of their office well and honorably, consequently to
the noblest, richest and most distinguished citizens of Athens. The
Areopagus saw that the laws in force were observed and executed by the
properly constituted authorities; it could bring officials to trial for
their acts while in office, even raise objections to all resolutions of
the Council and of the General Assembly, if the court perceived a danger
to the state, or subversion of the constitution. The Areopagus also
protected the worship of the gods, the sanctuaries and sacred festivals,
and the olive trees of Athens; and it supervised the religious sentiments
of the people, the moral conduct of the citizens, as well as the education
of the youth. Without waiting for a formal accusation the Areopagus could
summon any citizen to court, examine, convict and punish him. Under
unusual circumstances full powers could be granted by the people to this
body for the conduct of various affairs of state; when the safety of the
city was menaced, the court acted even without waiting for full power to
be conferred upon it. The tenure of office was for life, and the number of
members without restriction. The court sat at night at the end of each
month and for three nights in succession. The place of meeting was a
simple house, built of clay, which was still to be seen in the time of
Vitruvius. The Areopagus, hallowed by the sacred traditions of the past, a
dignified and august body, was independent of and uninfluenced by the
wavering discordant multitude, and was not affected by the ever-changing
public opinion. Conservative almost to a fault, it did the state good
service by holding in check the too rash and radical younger spirits. When
the democratic party came to power, after Cimon's banishment, one of its
first acts was to limit the powers of the Areopagus. By the law of
Ephialtes in 460 the court lost practically all jurisdiction. The
supervision of the government was transferred to the nomophulakes
(law-guardians). At the end of the Peloponnesian war, however, in 403 its
old rights were restored. The court remained in existence down to the time
of the emperors. From Acts 17:19,22 we learn that it existed in the time
of Claudius. One of its members was converted to the Christian faith
(17:34). It was probably abolished by Vespasian.
As to whether Paul was "forcibly apprehended and formally tried," see
Conybeare and Howson, The Life and Epistles of Paul, chapter x, and The
Expositor, 5th series, II, 209 f, 261 f (Ramsay). -- J. E. Harry
(International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
This proclivity of ancient intellectual
philosophers is still characteristic of modern evolutionists, especially
those espousing New Age concepts.
"Ares" was the Greek god of war,
corresponding to "Mars" in Rome.
Paul did not accuse his Athenian hearers of something wrong, such as
superstition but rather he complimented them, a wise approach for a public
speaker in the opening remarks to his audience. The religious character of
his hearers provided common ground as a basis for communicating the
specific revelation of the gospel. The logic of this statement appears
forcefully as Paul adds v. 23 in the next breath.
"To an unknown god" - More
substantiation (as if it was needed) that the Bible is God's fully
inspired, inerrant, eternal, omnipotent Word...
The above altar (click to enlarge) is
located on Palatine Hill, Rome, where once stood the palaces of the
Caesars. It dates from about 100 B.C. and has the same inscription Paul
encountered at Athens ´To the unknown God.´
A.W. Pink has the following note
regarding knowing God...
God can only be known by means of a
supernatural revelation of Himself Apart from the Scriptures, even a
theoretical acquaintance with Him is impossible. It still holds true that
'the world by wisdom knew not God' (1Cor 1:21). Where the Scriptures are
ignored, God is "the unknown God' (Acts 17:23). But something more than
the Scriptures is required before the soul can know God, know Him in a
real, personal, vital way. This seems to be recognized by few today. The
prevailing practice assumes that a knowledge of God can be obtained
through studying the Word, in the same way as a knowledge of chemistry may
be secured by mastering its textbooks. An intellectual knowledge of God
maybe; not so a spiritual one. A supernatural God can only be known
supernatural (i.e. known in a manner above that which mere nature can
acquire), by a supernatural revelation of Himself to the heart. 'God, who
commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts,
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of
Jesus Christ' (2Cor 4:6). The one who has been favored with this
supernatural experience has learned that only 'in thy light shall we see
light' (Ps 36:9-note).
God Who made the world - God is
the Creator of all. This
teaching flatly contradicted both the Epicureans, who believed matter was
eternal and therefore had no creator, and the Stoics, who as pantheists
believed God was part of everything and could not have created Himself.
Paul’s teaching finds its support throughout Scripture.
How blessed is he whose help is the God
of Jacob, Whose hope is in the LORD his God; Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever; (Psalm
Who has measured the waters in the
hollow of His hand, And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated
the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a
balance, And the hills in a pair of scales? (Isa 40:12) (Comment:
The entire universe is on a miniature scale when compared to God the
The heavens are telling of the glory of
God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day
pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2)
Paul amplifies this truth
18 For the wrath of God is revealed
from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who
suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known
about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For
since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal
power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through
what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though
they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they
became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of
the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of
birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (See notes
19; 20; 21; 22; 23)
Neither is He served by human hands
- Men may pride themselves in serving God, but it is God who serves man.
If God is God, then He is self-sufficient and needs nothing that man can
supply. Not only do the temples not contain God, but the services in the
temples add nothing to God! In two brief statements, Paul completely wiped
out the entire religious system of Greece!
It is God who gives to us what we need:
“life, and breath, and all things.” God is the source of every good and
perfect gift (Jas 1:17-note).
He gave us life and He sustains that life by His goodness (Mt 5:45-note).
It is the goodness of God that should lead men to repentance (Ro 2:4-note). But instead of worshiping the Creator and glorifying
Him, men worship His creation and glorify themselves (see notes
Breath - This is the only occurrence of "breath" in the New
Testament. The Greek word pnoe occurs elsewhere only in Acts 2:2, speaking
of the Holy Spirit coming as a "rushing mighty wind."
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. This Supreme
Personal God is the source of life, breath, and everything. Paul here
rises above all Greek philosophers. Paul brushes aside the necessity, let
alone appropriateness, of idolatrous worship servicing the divine nature
by affirming that, conversely, it is God who gives all men life and breath
and everything else (Ge 1:29; 2:7; 9:3; Isa 42:5; Acts 14:17).
What good news Paul had for the
Epicureans and Stoics living as they did under impersonal chance or
inexorable fate! Behind or within reality stands neither of these but
rather a gracious, personal Creator, Ruler and Sustainer of all. For
modern scientific humanity, living as it does within an impersonal
universe that has evolved quite by “chance” from the big bang to the last
whimper of a dark and frigid night without starfire, Paul’s message is
also very good news. And for postmodern humanity this gracious, personal
God breaks the bonds of pantheistic “karma.”
He made from one every nation of
mankind - The concept of "race" has no basis in Scripture for all men
are descended from Adam, through Noah, and thus all are members of only
one race--the human race. The term "race," as ordinarily used, is strictly
an evolutionary concept, with "race" understood as a sub-species in the
process of evolving into a new species. There is no observational
scientific evidence for such evolutionary transformations, among either
men or animals.
Having determined their appointed times - In ways unknown, yet
real, God raises nations up and puts them down, as He will in accordance
with their faithfulness to His respective purposes for them (Deuteronomy
32:7, 8, 9; Daniel 2:20,21). "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD"
"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget
God" (Psalm 9:17-note).
Deut 32:8; Job 12:23; Dan 4:35)
Though people are under His wrath (Ro
) and are without excuse because of natural revelation (Ro
Ro 1:19; 20),
God “in His forbearance (anoche holding back, delay - Ro 2:4-note) left the sins
committed beforehand unpunished” (Ro 3:25-note). This parallels Acts 14:16, All
through time the Gentiles were responsible for the general revelation
given to them; now with the worldwide proclamation of the gospel, the
Gentiles (WHO HEAR IT) are also responsible to special revelation. That
response is to obey God’s command to repent of their sins. Even the
Gentiles who do not hear the gospel are still under God's wrath.
Repent (metanoeo - see study of related word
metanoia) means have another mind, to change the mind, and
is used in N.T. to indicate a change of mind in respect to sin, God, and
self. This change of mind may, especially in the case of Christians who
have fallen into sin, be preceded by sorrow (2Cor 7:8, 9, 10, 11); but sorrow for
sin, though it may cause repentance, is not repentance. The son in Mat
21:28, 29 illustrates true repentance. Repentance is not an act separate
from faith, but saving faith includes and implies that change of mind
which is called repentance
God, who created all men, must be the
Judge of all men, and "the Judge of all the earth" will certainly "do
right" (Ge 18:25). And since God both "created all things by Jesus Christ"
(Eph 3:9-note), and has also "made peace through the blood of his cross, by him
to reconcile all things unto himself" (Col 1:20-note), it is appropriate that
"He shall judge" all things by Christ (Jn 5:22,27 Mt 25:31).
Furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead - Death has
always been man's greatest, and finally victorious, enemy (1Cor 15:26),
and only the Creator of life, the Judge who imposed the sentence of death
because of sin (Ge 3:17, 18, 19, 20), can conquer death. The founders and leaders
of all other religions and philosophies eventually die, but Jesus Christ
is alive! His tomb is empty, and He has ascended in His resurrection body
to the Father in heaven. His bodily resurrection, which is the best-proved
fact of biblical history, is the certain assurance that He is the Creator
and Judge of all.
Sneer (chleuazo from
chleúe = joke, jest related to cheilos = a lip) means to throw
out the lip and thus to mock, scoff, deride or sneer. To sneer stresses
insulting another by contemptuous facial expression, phrasing, or tone of
voice. To scoff stresses insolence, disrespect, or incredulity as
motivating the derision. It means to make fun of someone by joking or
jesting. The response is typical. Whenever one preaches or witnesses of
the creation and resurrection to unbelievers, especially to pagan
evolutionists such as the Stoics and Epicureans, many will ridicule, some
will defer judgment, and some will believe. The same is true, for that
matter, when one witnesses to those monotheists (Jews, Muslims) who
believe in a Creator but refuse to acknowledge that He must also be the
Masses did not accept Christ, but the
power of the gospel did work among Athen's intellectual elite. God calls
us to be salt, to be light, not to make believers. Only God can open a
closed heart and blind eyes and deaf ears.
Dionysius the Areopagite was one of the
members of the upper echelons of the Athens Council, whose members all had
once held some high office of state and were more than 60 years of age.
Tradition (Eusebius) maintains that Dionysius was the first bishop of
Athens and that he died the death of a martyr.
It is notable that there is no record
of a church in Athens. Paul calls certain Corinthians the first converts
on mainland Greece (1Co 16:15).