Acts 17
Pulpit Commentary
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
Verse 1. - Amphipolis. This was the ancient capital of that division of Macedonia (Macedonia Prima); see Acts 16:12, note. It was situated on the Via Egnatia, thirty-four miles southwest from Philippi, and three miles from the AEgean Sea. It lay in a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the Strymon, whence its name, Amphipolis; its modern name is Neokhoria, now a village. Its original name was Ἐννέα  ῾οδοί, The Nine Ways. Originally a Thracian city, it was conquered by the Athenians, then by the Lacedaemonians, then fell under the dominion of Philip of Macedon, and finally, with the rest of Macedonia, became part of the Roman empire. Apollonia; now probably Polina, thirty miles due west of Amphipolis, on the Via Egnatia. The modern track from Amphipolis to Thessalonica does not pass through Polina, but beneath it. Thessalonica; on the Via Egnatia, now the important seaport of Saloniki, on the Aegean Sea or Archipelago, thirty-eight miles from Apollonia, and con-raining about sixty thousand inhabitants. Its ancient name was Therma (whence the Thermean Bay), but it took the name of Thessalonica under the Macedonian kings. It continued to grow in importance under the Romans, and was the most populous city of the whole of Macedonia. It was the capital of Macedonia Secunda under the division by AEmilius Paulus (Acts 16:12, note), and in the time of Theodosius the Younger, when Macedonia consisted of two provinces, it was the capital of Macedonia Prima. But from its situation and great commercial importance it was virtually the capital of "Greece, Macedonia, and Illyricum" (Howson, in ' Dict. of Geog.'). Its trade attracted a great colony of Jews from before the time of St. Paul, and through the Roman and Greek and Turkish empires, down to the present day, when "one-half of the population is said to be of Israelitish race "(Lewin). Thessalonica had a terrible celebrity from the massacre of its inhabitants by order of the Emperor Theodosius, in revenge for the murder of Botheric, his general, which led to the famous penance imposed upon the emperor by St. Ambrose (Gibbon,' Decline and Fall,' Acts 27.). It was also taken three times in the Middle Ages: by the Saracens, with fearful slaughter, A.D. 904; by the Normans, with scarcely less cruelty, A.D. 1185; and by the Turks, in 1430. Its ecclesiastical history under its archbishops is also of great interest (see 'Dict. of Greek and Roman Geog.'). Where was a synagogue. It is needless to point out the exact agreement of this brief statement with historical fact as pointed out above. There is said to have been twenty-two Jewish synagogues at Thessalonica after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the fifteenth century, and the number at the present time is stated to be thirty-six. The existence of a synagogue at this time was the reason of St. Paul's visit and sojourn there.
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
Verse 2. - Custom for manner, A.V.; for three for three, A.V.; from for out of, A.V. Reasoned (see note on ver. 17).
Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
Verse 3. - It behooved the Christ to suffer, and to rise for Christ must needs have suffered, and risen, A.V.; whom, said he for whom, A.V.; proclaim for preach. A.V.; the Christ for Christ, A.V. The line of reasoning adopted by St. Paul in his preaching to the Thessalonian Jews was the same as that of our Lord to the disciples and apostles on the day of his resurrection, as recorded in Luke 24:26, 27; 44-47, and that of St. Peter (Acts 2:22-36; Acts 3:18; Acts 4:11, etc.), and it is irresistible. The fulfillment of prophecies relating to the Messiah in the person of Jesus is like the fitting of a key to the intricate wards of the lock, which proves that it is the right key. The preacher of the gospel should carefully study and expound to the people the word of prophecy, and then show its counterpart in the sufferings and glory of Christ. This did St. Paul. Opening (διανοίγων); as our Lord had done (διήνοιγεν ἡμῖν τὰς γραφάς, Luke 24:32), the hidden meaning of the prophecies, and then alleging (παρατιθέμενος), setting before them the propositions which had thus been established. The process is described in Luke 24:27 as interpreting ("expounded," A.V.). In this verse the opening was showing from the prophets that the Messiah was to die and rise again; the alleging was that Jesus was that very Christ.
And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.
Verse 4. - Were persuaded for believed, A.V. (ἐπείσθησαν). Consorted with; προσεκληρώθησαν a word only found here in the New Testament, but, like so many other words in St. Luke's vocabulary, found also in Pintarch, in the sense of being "associated with," or "attached to" any one; literally, to be assigned to any one by lot (comp. the use of the simple verb ἐκληρώθημεν, Ephesians 1:11). Of the devout Greeks. Observe the frequent proofs of the influence the synagogues had in bringing heathen to the knowledge of the true God (see ver. 12; Acts 10:2; Acts 11:21; Acts 13:48; Acts 14:1, etc.). The chief women (τῶν πρώτων). So in Acts 13:50 τοὺς πρώτους τῆς πολέως means "the chief men of the city." And Lake 19:49, οἱ πρῶτοι τοῦ λαοῦ are "the chief of the people" (" the principal men," R.V.) It has been already remarked that St. Lake especially notices the instances of female piety. In ver. 12 we have τῶν εὐσχημόνων in the same sense as the τῶν πρώτων in this verse.
But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.
Verse 5. - Jews for Jews which believed not, A.V. and T.R.; being moved for moved, A.V.; jealousy for envy, A.V. (see Acts 13:45, note); vile fellows of the rabble for lewd fellows of the baser sort, A.V.; gathering a crowd, set for gathered a company and set, A.V.; the city for all the city, A.V.; assaulting... they for assaulted... and, A.V.; forth for out, A.V. The house of Jason; where it appears from ver. 7, as well as from this verse, Paul and Silas were lodging. If, as is very probable, the Jason here mentioned is the same person as the Jason of Romans 16:21, it would seem that he joined the apostle, either at this time or on his visit to Macedonia mentioned in Acts 20:3, and went with him to Corinth, where the Epistle to the Romans was written. He was a relation, συγγενής, of St. Paul's, and doubtless a Jew. Jason was a Romanized form of the name Jesus, or Joshua, as we see in the case of the high priest, the brother of Chins (Josephus, ' Ant. Jud.,' 12. 5:1). It was borne also by Jason of Cyrene, the Jewish historian (2 Macc. 2:23), and by another mentioned in 1 Macc. 7. 1:17, etc. St. Luke seems to introduce Jason as a well-known person.
And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
Verse 6. - Dragged for drew, A.V.; before for unto, A.V. Certain brethren; some of the Thessalonian Christians who happened to be in the house of Jason. The rulers of the city (τοὺς πολιτάρχας, and ver. 8). This is a remarkable instance of St. Luke's accuracy. The word is unknown in Greek literature. But an inscription on an ancient marble arch, still standing in Thessalonica, or Saloniki, records that Thessalonica was governed by seven politarchs (see the inscription in Conybeare and Howson, col. 1. p. 360). Thessalonica was a Greek city, governed by its own laws. Hence the mention of the δῆμος in ver. 5. The polit-archs also were Greek, not Roman, magistrates. Crying; βοῶντες, often followed by μεγάλῃ φωνῇ (Acts 8:7; Mark 15:34, etc.), but whether so followed or not, always meaning "a loud cry" or "shout" (Acts 21:34; Luke 3:4, etc.). Turned the world upside down; ἀναστατόω is used in the New Testament only by St. Luke and St. Paul (Acts 21:38; Galatians 5:12); to unsettle or disturb; i.e. to make people literally ἀναστάτους homeless, outcasts, from their former settlements, or, metaphorically, unsettled in their allegiance to their civil or spiritual rulers, is the meaning of the word. In the mouth of St. Paul's accusers it contains a distinct charge of sedition and disobedience to the Roman law. The world (τὴν οἰκουμένην the Roman empire (Luke 2:1), viewed as coextensive with the habitable globe (see ver. 31; Acts 19:20; Acts 11:28, note).
Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
Verse 7. - Act for do, A.V. Received; i.e. as the word ὑποδέχομαι always means "received as a guest" (Luke 10:38; Luke 19:6; James 2:25, etc.). Hence the substantive ὑποδοχή, an entertainment or reception. The insinuation is that, by harboring these seditious men, Jason had made himself a partner in their sedition. That there is another king, etc. (comp. John 19:12, 15).
And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.
Verse 8. - Multitude for people, A.V. (τὸν ὔχλον, not δῆμον).
And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
Verse 9. - From for of, A.V.; the rest for of the other, A.V. The rest, or others, are of course the "certain brethren" of ver. 6.
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
Verse 10. - Beraea for Berea, A.V.; when they were come for coming, A.V. Beraea. In the third division of Macedonia, about sixty miles from Thessalonica; its modern name is Verria. Went into the synagogue. No amount of ill usage from the Jews could weaken St. Paul's love for "his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:3); and no amount of danger or suffering could check his zeal in preaching the gospel of Christ.
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.
Verse 11. - Now these for these, A.V.; examining for and searched, A.V.; these for those, A.V. Note the immense advantage which the preachers and the hearers had in the previous knowledge of the Scriptures gained by the Beraeans in the synagogue. Note also the mutual light shed by the Old and New Testaments the one upon the other.
Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
Verse 12. - Many... therefore for therefore many, A.V.; the Greek women of honorable estate for honorable women which were Greeks, A.V. Honorable; εὐσχημόνων, as Acts 13:50, where it is coupled with τοὺς πρώτους τῆς πόλεως (see ver. 4; comp. Mark 15:43). Meyer thinks that it is meant that the men were Greeks too; but this is uncertain. The only Beraean convert whose name we know is Sopater (Acts 20:4), or Sosipater, who is probably the same (Romans 16:21). If so, he was apparently a Jew, whose Hebrew name may have been Abishua.
But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.
Verse 13. - Proclaimed for preached, A.V.; Beraea also for Berea, A.V.; likewise for also, A.V.; stirring up and troubling the multitudes for and stirred up the people, A.V. and T.R.
And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.
Verse 14. - Forth for away, A.V.; as far as for as it were (ἕως for ὡς), A.V. and T.R.; and for but, A.V. and T.R.; Timothy for Timotheus, A.V. As far as to the sea. If the reading of the T.R. is right, ὡς merely indicates the direction. Literally, ὡς ἐπὶ κ.τ.λ, means "with the thought of going to the sea," but thence, by a common usage, it describes the action without reference to the thought. The English phrase, "they made for the sea," is nearly equivalent. The object of going to the sea, seventeen miles from Beraea, was to take ship for Athens. This he probably did either at Pydna or at Dium. Silas and Timothy. Whether Timothy left Philippi with St. Paul, or whether, as is not improbable, he joined him at Thessalonica, cannot be decided. Anyhow, Paul now left Silas and Timothy to watch over the Thessalonian converts.
And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.
Verse 15. - But for and, A.V.; as far as for unto (ἕως), A.V.; Timothy for Timotheus, A.V.; that they should come for for to come, A.V. They that conducted, etc. (οἱ καθιστῶντες). The verb καθίστημι, in its primary sense, means to "place any one" in a given spot; and thence secondarily, to "conduct" or" escort" any one to a place, to "set him down" at such a place. So Homer ('Odyssey,' 13:294) uses the word of transporting any one by ship to this or that town (quoted by Meyer). There is the indication in the word of St. Paul's defect of sight or infirmity. Receiving a commandment, etc. We learn here that St. Paul sent a message to Silas and Timothy to join him at Athens as quickly as possible, and at ver. 16 that he waited at Athens for them. From 1 Thessalonians 3:1, 2, we learn that he sent Timothy from Athens back to Thessalonica; and from 1 Thessalonians 3:6 we learn that Timothy came to St. Paul at Corinth (where the Epistle to the Thessalonians was written) from Thessalonica. We also learn from 1 Thessalonians 1:1 that Silas and Timothy were both with him at Corinth when he wrote the Epistle, and from Acts 18:5 that they had both come to Corinth from Macedonia, some weeks after Paul himself had been at Corinth (Acts 18:4, 5). All these statements harmonize perfectly (as Paley has shown) on the supposition that Silas and Timothy did join St. Paul at Athens; that for the reasons given in 1 Thessalonians 3, when he was unable to return to Thessalonica himself, as he much wished, he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica, and Silas probably to Beraea; and that Silas and Timothy came together from Macedonia to Corinth, where St. Paul had gone alone; where it may be noted, as another undesigned coincidence, that whereas the First Epistle to the Thessalonians implies that Silas did not go to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2), Acts 18:5 does not say that Silas and Timothy came from Thessalonica, but from Macedonia. The inaccuracy supposed by Meyer (on this verse) is purely imaginary. Acts 18:5 does not say that Silas and Timothy "only joined Paul at Corinth," but merely relates some change in St. Paul's procedure consequent upon their joining him at Corinth. Alford (on this verse), in saying that Paul sent Timothy from Beraea, not from Athens, is guided by his own idea of what is probable, not by the letter of the narrative (see further note on Acts 18:5).
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
Verse 16. - Provoked within for stirred in, A.V. (παρωξύνετο: see Acts 15:29, note); as he beheld for when he saw, A.V.; full of idols for wholly given to idolatry, A.V. The Greek κατείδωλος occurs only here, either in the New Testament or elsewhere. But the analogy of ether words similarly compounded fixes the meaning "full of idols" - a description fully borne out by Pausanias and Xenophon and others (Steph., 'Thesaur.;' Meyer, etc.).
Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
Verse 17. - So he reasoned for therefore disputed he, A.V.; and the devout for and with the devout, A.V.; market-place every day for market daily, A.V. Reasoned (διελέγετο, as in ver. 2; Acts 18:19 and Acts 24:12). "Disputed" gives the force of διαλέγεσθαι better than "reasoned," because the word in Plato, Thucydides, Xenophon, AElian, etc., is especially used of discussions and arguments in which two persons or more take part. Διάλεκτος is "discussion;" ἡ διαλεκτίκη is the art of drawing answers from your opponent to prove your conclusion; διάλαγος is a "dialogue" (see, however, Acts 20:7). The market-place. "The celebrated Ἀγορά, ... not far from the Pnyx, the Acropolis, and the Amopagus,... rich in noble statues, the central seat of commercial, forensic, and philosophic intercourse, as well as of the busy idleness of the loungers" (Meyer, in loc.).
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.
Verse 18. - And certain also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers for then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, A.V.; would for will, A.V.; preached for preached unto them, A.V. and T.R. The Epicureans (so called from Epicurus, their founder) and the Stoics (so called from the στοά, the colonnade or piazza where Zeno their founder taught) were the most numerous sects at Athens at this time; and their respective tenets were the most opposite to the doctrines of the gospel. Encountered him; σύνεβαλλον. In Acts 4:15 it is followed by πρός, and is properly rendered "conferred;" here it is followed by the dative, and may be understood to mean "disputed" (συμβάλλειν λόγους). It may, however, not less properly be taken in the sense of a hostile encounter of words, as Luke 14:31, and frequently in classical Greek. This babbler (σπερμολόγος); literally, a picker-up of seeds, applied to a crow (Aristoph., 'Ayes,' 232, 579). Plutarch too ('Demet.,' 28) has σπερμολόγοι ὅρνιθες, birds picking up seeds. Hence it is used of idle hangers-on in the markets, who get a livelihood by what they can pick up, and so generally of empty, worthless fellows. Hence it is further applied to those who pick up scraps of knowledge from one or another and "babble them indifferently in all companies" (Johnson's 'Dictionary,' under "Babble"). A setter forth of strange gods. There does not seem to be the least ground for Chrysostom's suggestion that they took Anastasis (the Resurrection) for the name of a goddess. But the preaching of Jesus the Son of God, himself risen from the dead (ver. 31), and hereafter to be the Judge of quick and dead at the general resurrection, was naturally, to both Stoics and Epicureans, a setting forth of strange gods. Χένα δαιμόνια are "foreign deities," or "daemons," inferior gods. The word καταγγελεύς, a setter forth, does not occur elsewhere. But the nearly identical word κατάγγελος is used by Plutarch.
And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
Verse 19. - Took held of for took, A.V.; the Areopagus for Areopagus, A.V.; teaching is for doctrine... is, A.V.; which is spoken by thee for whereof thou speakest, A.V. Took hold of him. The word ἐπιλάβεσθαι means simply to "take hold of" the hand, the hair, a garment, etc. The context alone decides whether this taking held is friendly or hostile (for the former sense, see Matthew 14:31; Mark 8:23; Luke 9:47; Luke 14:4; Acts 9:27; Acts 23:19, etc.; for the latter, Luke 23:26; Acts 16:19; Acts 18:17; Acts 21:30, 33). Here the sense is well expressed by Grotius (quoted by Meyer): "Taking him gently by the hand." The Areopagas. Mars' Hill, close to the Agora ("the market") on the north, was so called from the legend that Mars was tried there before the gods for the murder of a son of Neptune. It is (says Lewin) a bare, rugged rock, approached at the south-eastern corner by steps, of which sixteen still remain perfect. Its area at the top measures sixty paces by twenty-four, within which a quadrangle, sixteen paces square, is excavated and leveled for the court. The judges seem to have sat on benches tier above tier on the rising rock on the north side of the quadrangle. There were also seats on the east and west sides, and on the south on either side of the stairs. The Areopagus (the upper court) was the most august of all the courts at Athens. Socrates was tried and condemned before it for impiety. On the present occasion, there is no appearance of judicial proceedings, but they seem to have adjourned to the Areopagus from the Agora, as to a convenient place for quiet discussion.
For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
Verse 20. - Strange things. Χενίζειν, in this use of it, means to act or play the foreigner, to imitate the manners and language and appearance of a foreigner (ξένος), just as Ἰουδαίζειν Ἐλληνίζειν Αττικίζειν, etc., mean to Judaize, Hellenize, Atticize, etc. Here, then, the Athenians say that St. Paul's doctrines have a foreign air, do not look like native Athenian speculations.
(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)
Verse 21. - Now for for, A.V.; the strangers sojourning there for strangers which were there, A.V. Spent their time. This gives the general sense, but the margin of the R.T., had leisure for nothing else, is much more accurate. Αὐκαιρεῖν, which is not considered good Greek, is only used by Polybius, and in the sense either of "being wealthy" or of "having leisure" or "opportunity." In the New Testament it occurs in Mark 6:31 and 1 Corinthians 16:12. Some new thing. So Cleon (Thucyd., 3:38) rates the Athenians upon their being entirely guided by words, and constantly deceived by any novelty of speech (καινότητος λόγου). And Demosthenes in his first 'Philippic' (p. 43, 7), inveighs against them because, when they ought to be up and doing, they went about the Agora, asking one another, "Is there any news? (Λέγεταί τι καινόν;)." The comparative καινότερον ix a little stronger than καινόν: "the very last news" (Alford).
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
Verse 22. - And for then, A.V.; the Areopagus for Mars hill, A.V.; in all things I perceive that for I perceive that in all things, A.V.; somewhat for too, A.V. In the midst is simply a local description. He stood in the midst of the excavated quadrangle, while his hearers probably sat on the scats all round. Ye men of Athena. The Demosthenes of the Church uses the identical address - Ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι ( which the great orator used in his stirring political speeches to the Athenian people. Somewhat superstitious. There is a difference of opinion among commentators whether these words imply praise or blame. Chrysostom, followed by many others, takes it as said in the way of encomium, and understands the word δεισιδαιμονεστέρους ασ equivalent to εὐλαβεστέρους, very religious, more than commonly religious. And so Bishop Jacobson ('Speaker's Commentary'), who observes that the substantive δεισδαιμονία is used five times by Josephus, and always in the sense of "religion," or "piety." On the other hand, the Vulgate (superstitiosiores), the English Versions, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, etc., take the word in its most common classical sense of "superstitious;" and it weighs for something towards determining St. Luke's use of the word that Plutarch uses δεισιδαιμονία always in a bad sense, of superstition, as in his life of Alexander and elsewhere, and in his tract 'De Superstitione' (Δεισιδαιμονία). Perhaps the conclusion is that St. Paul, having his spirit stirred by seeing the city full of idols, determined to attack that spirit in the Athenian people which led to so much idolatry; which he did in the speech which follows. But, acting with his usual wisdom, he used an inoffensive term at the outset of his speech. He could not mean to praise them for that δεισιδαιμονία which it was the whole object of his sermon to condemn. Josephus ('Contr. Apion.,' 1:12) calls the Athenians τοὺς εὐσεβεστάτους τῶν Ἐλλήνων, the most religious of all Greeks (Howson).
For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
Verse 23. - Passed along for passed by, A.V.; observed the objects of your worship for beheld your devotions, A.V. (τασ` σεβάσματα υμῶν: see 2 Thessalonians 2:4); also an altar for an altar, A.V.; an for the, A.V.; what for whom, A.V. and T.R.; worship in ignorance for ignorantly worship, A.V.; this for him, A.V. and T.R.; set forth for declare, A.V. AN UNKNOWN GOD. There is no direct and explicit testimony in ancient writers to the existence of any one such altar at Athens, but Pausanias and others speak of altars to "unknown gods," as to be seen in Athens, which may well be understood of several such altars, each dedicated to an unknown god. One of these was seen by St. Paul, and, with inimitable tact, made the text of his sermon. He was not preaching a foreign god to them, but making known to them one whom they had already included in their devotions without knowing him.
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
Verse 24. - The God for God, A.V. (surely a change for the worse); he being Lord for seeing that he is Lord, A.V. Made with hands (χειροποιήτοις); see the same phrase in Mark 14:5, 8; Acts 7:48; Hebrews 9:11. St. Paul applies it, too, to the circumcision made with the knife, as distinguished from that wrought by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:11). It is frequent in the LXX. It is a striking instance of St. Paul's unflinching boldness and fidelity to the truth, that he should expose the hollowness of heathen worship, standing within a stone's throw of the Parthenon and the temple of Theseus and the countless other temples of gods and goddesses, which were the pride and glory of the Athenian people. Note how he begins his catechetical instruction to the Athenians with the first article of the Creed: "I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth."
Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
Verse 25. - Is he served by for is worshipped with, A.V.; he himself for he, A.V. Served by men's hands. Θεραπεύεται, is "waited upon," as a man is waited upon by his servant, who ministers to his wants; θεράπων and θεραπευτής are "an attendant." So in Hebrew: עָבַד, to serve God; עָבֵד, a servant of God; עְבודָה service as of the Levites in the temple, etc. Anything; or as some take it, as if he needed anybody's help or service. The argument, as Chrysostom suggests, is similar to that in Psalm 50:8-12.
And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
Verse 26. - He made for hath made, A.V.; of one for of one blood, A.V. and T.R.; every nation for all nations, A.V.; having determined their appointed seasons for and hath determined the times before appointed, A.V. From the unity of God Paul deduces the unity of the human race, all created by God, all sprung from one ancestor, or one blood (whichever reading we take), and so not to have their several national gods, but all to be united in the worship of the one true and living God, the Father of them all. It may be remarked by the way that the languages of the earth, differing like the skins and the features of the different races, and corresponding to those various bounds assigned by God to their habitations, yet bear distinct and emphatic testimony to this unity. They are variations, more or less extended, of the speech of man. Bounds of their habitation; τὰς ὀροθεσίας κ.τ.λ.: the word only occurs here; elsewhere, though rarely, τὰ ὀροθέσια.
That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
Verse 27. - God for the Lord, A.V. and T.R. (Meyer does not accept this reading); is for be, A.V.; each for every, A.V. If haply they might feel after him. Ψηλαφάω is "to touch, feel, or handle," as Luke 24:39; Hebrews 12:18; 1 John 1:1. But it is especially used of the action of the blind groping or feeling their way by their hands in default of sight. So Homer describes Polyphemus as χερσὶ ψηλαφόων, feeling his way to the mouth of the cave with his hands after he was blinded by Ulysses ('Odyssey,' 9:416). And in the LXX. of Deuteronomy 28:29 we read, Ἔση ψηλαφῶν μεσημβρίας ὠς εἴ τις ψηλαφήσαι τυφλὸς ἐν τῷ σκότει, "Thou shall grope at noonday as the blind gropeth in darkness." The teaching, therefore, of the passage is that, though God was very near to every man, and had not left himself without abundant witness in his manifold gifts, yet, through the blindness of the heathen, they had to feel their way uncertainly toward God. In this fact lies the need of a revelation, as it follows ver. 30, etc. And hence part at least of the significance of such passages as, "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8); "Who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9 ); "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" (2 Corinthians 4:6), and many more like passages.
For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
Verse 28. - Even for also, A.V. For in him, etc. This is the proof that we have not far to go to find God, Our very life and being, every movement we make as living persons, is a proof that God is near, nay, more than near, that he is with us and round about us, quickening us with his own life, upholding us by his own power, sustaining the being that we derive from him (comp. Psalm 139:7, etc.; Psalms 23:4). Certain even of your own poets; viz. Arstus of Tarsus (), who has the exact words quoted by St. Paul, and Cleanthes of Asses (), who has Ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν. As he had just defended himself from the imputation of introducing foreign gods by referring to an Athenian altar, so now, for the same purpose, he quotes one of their own Greek poets. (For the statement that man is the offspring of God, comp. Luke 3:38.)
Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
Verse 29. - Being then for forasmuch then as we are, A.V.; device of man for man's device, A.V. Graven by art, etc. In the Greek the substantive χαράγματα, graven images, things engraven, is in apposition with the gold, silver, and stone, and a further description of them. Art, τέχνη, is the manual skill, the device; ἐνθύμησις is the genius and mental power which plans the splendid temple, or exquisite sculpture, or the statue which is to receive the adoration of the idolater. Compare the withering sarcasm of Isaiah (Isaiah 44:9-17).
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Verse 30. - The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked for and the times of this ignorance God winked at, A.V.; he commandeth for commandeth, A.V.; men for all men, A.V.; that they should all everywhere repent for everywhere to repent, A.V. and T.R. The times of ignorance; perhaps with reference to ver. 23, and also implying that all the idolatry, of which he had spoken in ver. 29, arose from ignorance. God overlooked; or, as it is idiomatically expressed in the A.V., winked at; made as if he did not see it; "kept silence," as it is said in Psalm 50:21; made no move to punish it. That they should all everywhere. The gospel is for the whole world- "Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world" (Romans 10:18); "Preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Repent. The key-note of the gospel (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Acts 20:21).
Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
Verse 31. - Inasmuch as for because, A.V. and T.R.; the man for that man, A.V. He hath appointed a day. Hitherto the Athenians seem to have listened with interest while St. Paul was, with consummate skill, leading them onwards from the doctrines of natural religion, and while he was laying down speculative truths. But now they are brought to a stand. They might no longer go on asking, Τι καινόν; A day fixed by God, they were told, was at hand, in which God would judge the world in righteousness, and in which they themselves would be judged also. And the certainty of this was made apparent by the fact that he who was ordained to be Judge was raised from the dead, and so ready to commence the judgment. The time for immediate action was come; God's revelation had reached them. The man (ἀνδρί). So Acts 2:22, Ἰησοῦν τὸν Ναζωραῖον ἄνδρα ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀποδεδειγμένον κ.τ.λ. And so in John 5:27 our Lord himself says of himself that the Father gave him authority to execute judgment "because he is the Son of man;" and in Matthew 26:24, "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power." (For the connection of the judgment with Christ's resurrection, see especially Acts 10:40-42.) So too the Creeds.
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
Verse 32. - Now for and, A.V.; but for and, A.V.; concerning this yet again for again of this matter, A.V. Some mocked. Athenian skepticism could not accept so spiritual a truth as the resurrection of the dead; and Athenian levity of purpose deferred to another day the decisive step of accepting the salvation of the risen Savior, just as it had deferred resistance to Philip of Macedon till their liberties were gone and their country enslaved. (For "We will hear thee again," comp. Acts 24:25.)
So Paul departed from among them.
Verse 33. - Thus for so, A.V. and T.R.; went out for departed, A.V. The meaning is that he left the assembly in the Areopagus. At ver. 22 we were told that he stood ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ Ἀρείου πάγου (where see note); now he went out ἐκ μέσου αὐτῶν, leaving them still sitting on their benches, while he walked down the steps to the city again from the place where he stood.
Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
Verse 34. - But for howbeit, A.V.; whom also for the which, A.V. Dionysius the Areopagite. The earliest notice we have of him in ecclesiastical writers is the well-known one of Eusebius, 'Eccl. Hist.,' 3. 4, in which he says, "We are told by an ancient writer, Dionysius the pastor of the diocese of Corinth (ob. ), that his namesake Dionysius the Areopagite, of whom St. Luke says in the Acts that he was the first who embraced the faith after St. Paul's discourse in the Areopagus, became the first bishop of the Church in Athens." Eusebius repeats the statement in his long notice of Dionysius of Corinth, in 4. 23. Other uncertain traditions speak of him (Suidas) as one who rose to the height of Greek erudition, and as having suffered a cruel martyrdom (Niceph., 3:11). "The works which go by his name are undoubtedly spurious" (Alford). Damaris; "wholly unknown" (Meyer), but certainly not the wife of Dionysius, as Chrysostom (' De Sacerd.,' 4:7) and others have thought ('Dictionary of the Bible'). And others with them. These would seem to be but few from St. Luke's way of mentioning them, and from our hearing nothing more in the Acts about the Church at Athens. It is remarkable that this small number of converts coincides with the weakness of the synagogue at Athens - too weak to persecute, and too weak to make proselytes among the Greeks of Athens. It scorns clear that nowhere else had St. Paul won so few souls to Christ. And yet God's Word did not return to him wholly void. The seed fell on some good ground, to bring forth fruit unto eternal life.



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