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ACTS
The continued Life of Jesus through the Apostles

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

"The Unknown God"
Key Verse = Acts 17:27

  1. Preaching Christ at Thessalonica 4. The Philosophers at Athens
  2. Assault on Jason's House 5. To the Unknown God
  3. Ministering at Berea    


PREACHING  CHRIST  AT  THESSALONICA

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Acts 17:1
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(1)  Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.

Then they passed by the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia, and came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.

Amphipolis

Amphipolis was the capital of the eastern province of Macedonia. It was originally a colony of the Athenians, but under the Romans it was made the capital of that part of Macedonia. It was near to Thrace, and was situated not far from the mouth of the river Strymon, which flowed around the city, and thus occasioned its name.

It stands in a pass which Traverses the mountains bordering the Strymonic Gulf, and it commands the only easy communication from the coast of that gulf into the great Macedonian plains, which extend, for 60 miles, from beyond Meleniko to Philippi.

Apollonia

This city was situated between Amphipolis and Thessalonica, and was formerly much celebrated for its trade.

Thessalonica

The distances laid down in the Itineraries in regard to these places are as follows:
Philippi to Amphipolis, 33 miles
Amphipolis to Apollonia, 30 miles
Apollonia to Thessalonica, 37 miles
These distances are evidently such as might have been traversed each in one day; and since nothing is said of any delay on the road, but everything to imply that the journey was rapid, we conclude (unless, indeed, their recent sufferings made rapid traveling impossible) that Paul and Silas rested one night at each of the intermediate places, and thus our notice of their journey is divided into three parts.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

The road (Via Egnatia 16:9,12) continued further westward into Illyricum (Romans 15:19), but Acts reports only Paul's turn to the south, off this road, to Berea (17:10). Roads were usually no more than twenty feet wide, but they were better and safer than most European roads before 1850, and especially inviting to those who traveled on foot or with donkeys or mules.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

Following the famous Egnatian Way, Paul and Silas went 100 miles from Philippi to Thessalonica. (Timothy is not mentioned again until Acts 17:14, so he may have remained in Philippi.) As far as we can tell, they did not pause to minister in either Amphipolis or Apollonia. Perhaps there were no synagogues in those cities, and Paul certainly expected the new believers in Philippi to carry the message to their neighbors. It was Paul's policy to minister in the larger cities and make them centers for evangelizing a whole district (see Acts 19:10,26; and 1 Thessalonians 1:8 "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place.").
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Thessalonica was a seaport of the second part of Macedonia.
(1) It is situated at the head of the Bay Thermaicus.
(2) It was made the capital of the second division of Macedonia by Aemilius Paulus, when he divided the country into four districts.
(3) It was formerly called Therma, but afterward received the name of Thessalonica, either from Cassander, in honor of his wife Thessalonica, the daughter of Philip, or in honor of a victory which Philip obtained over the armies of Thessaly.
(4) It was inhabited by Greeks, Romans, and Jews. It is now called Saloniki, and, from its situation, must always be a place of commercial importance.
(5)  It is situated on the inner bend of the Thermaic Gulf, halfway between the Adriatic and the Hellespont, on the sea margin of a vast plain, watered by several rivers, and was evidently designed for a commercial emporium.
(6) It has a population at present of 60,000 or 70,000, about half of whom are Jews. They are said to have 36 synagogues, "none of them remarkable for their neatness or elegance of style."
(7) In this place a church was collected, to which Paul afterward addressed the two epistles to the Thessalonians.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

A city on the Thermaic Gulf, now called the Gulf of Salonika. The city was first called Therem, or Therma, “hot spring;” but Cassander, one of the successors of Alexander the Great, made it his residence and renamed it Thessalonica, after his wife Thessalonike. Under the Romans it was the capital of the 2nd district out of the 4 into which they had divided Macedonia. It was a military and commercial station on the Via Egnatia (the road from Italy to Asia). Fronting the sea, built in successive tiers upon a steep, rocky ascent, it was a beautiful city; and, under the Romans, a populous and wealthy commercial center. Attracted by the great advantages for trade, the number of Jews was large. Today the city is called Salonika, and is still one of the most flourishing cities of the Turkish Empire.

A Synagogue
Greek: where was THE synagogue hee (NT: 3588) sunagoogee (NT: 4864) of the Jews.  It has been remarked by Grotius and Kuinoel that the article used here is emphatic, and denotes that there was probably no synagogue at Amphipolis and Apollonia. This was the reason why they passed through those places without making any delay.

From the Amplified Bible
(1)  Now after [Paul and Silas] had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.

Acts 17:2-4
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(2)  Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,

And Paul, as was his custom, went in to join them, and for three Sabbaths he spoke to them from the scriptures,

(3)  explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ."

Interpreting and proving that Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead; and that he is the same Jesus Christ whom I preach to you.

(4)  And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

And some of them believed and joined Paul and Silas; and many of them were Greeks who revered God, and many of the were well known women, a goodly number.


His custom

Being an observant Jew, it was his usual practice to attend synagogue, not an occasional event when it suited him.

Thessalonica's non-Greek religious importations included not only Judaism but the Egyptian cult of Serapis and Isis. Paul had to be there long enough to receive support from Philippi (Philippians 4:15-16  "For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities."), about a hundred miles away; until then, his occupation, which would allow him to set up shop in the agora, must have supported him (1 Thessalonians 2:9  " For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you,").

Four key words in Acts 17:2-3 describe Paul's approach to the synagogue congregation.
Reasoned dialegomai (NT:1256) First he reasoned, which means he dialogued with them through questions and answers.
Explaining dianoigo (NT:1272) He explained ("opening") the Scriptures to them.
Demonstrating paratithemi (NT:3908) He proved ("alleging") that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.  The word translated "demonstrating" means "to lay down alongside, to prove by presenting the evidence."
Persuaded peitho (NT:3982) To convince (by argument, true or false).  The apostle set before them one Old Testament Proof after another that Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah God.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Gave them drashot, literally, “lectured to them.” A drash or drashah is, literally, a “searching”; the word denotes a sermon, exegesis, exposition or homiletical interpretation of a text. The word “Midrash” is related. The normal form for a drash in the midrashic period (100 B.C. to 500 C. E.) was:
(1) Introduction, consisting of a biblical verse with illustrations and parables, leading up to -
(2) The particular text to be explained, now expanded by stories, allegories and associations with other texts, and
(3) Conclusion, consisting of exhortations and words of comfort and ending with the Kaddish prayer (see Mt 6:9-13 N).
That Sha’ul Saul (Paul) frequently used Talmudic and midrashic thought patterns is illustrated by Romans 10:5-13; 1 Corinthians 9:9-14; 2 Corinthians 3:3-18; Galatians 3:16, 4:22-31.

Christ had to suffer and rise again
There was a fitness or necessity that the Messiah expected by the Jews, and predicted in their Scriptures, should suffer.  This point the Jews were unwilling to admit; but it was essential to his argument in proving that Jesus was the Messiah to show that it was foretold that he should die for the sins of people.
Daniel 9:26
And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
Isaiah 53:10, 11
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,  and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.  He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify  many, for He shall bear their iniquities.
1 Corinthians 15:3-5
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures
Psalms 16:10
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

Paul was careful to announce ("preach") the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the message of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1 ff). In the sermons in Acts, you will find an emphasis on the Resurrection, for the believers were called to be “witnesses of His resurrection" (Acts 1:21-22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32).
"Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion," says Dr. John R. W. Stott. "The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed."
As the result of three weeks' ministry, Paul saw a large number of people believe, especially Greek proselytes and influential women. Among the men were Aristarchus and Secundus, who later traveled with Paul (Acts 20:4). Luke's phrase "not a few" (Acts 17:4,12) is one way of saying, "It was a big crowd!"

This Jesus...is the Christ
The arguments by which Paul probably proved that Jesus was the Messiah were:
(1) That he corresponded with the prophecies respecting him in the following particulars:
(a) Micah 5:2 He was born at Bethlehem
(b) Genesis 49:10 He was of the tribe of Judah
(c) Isaiah 11:1, 10 He was descended from Jesse, and of the royal line of David
(d) Daniel 9:24-27 He came at the time predicted
(e) Isaiah 53 His appearance, character, work, etc., corresponded with the predictions
(2) His miracles proved that he was the Messiah, for he professed to be, and God would not work a miracle to confirm the claims of an impostor.
(3) For the same reason, his resurrection from the dead proved that he was the Messiah.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Explaining and quoting passages to prove, literally, “opening up and setting before them.” One hears opposition to “proof-texting,” a term that means explaining and quoting Scripture passages in order to prove something, just like Sha’ul. The main argument against proof-texting is that it can be misused: passages can be quoted out of context or invested with a meaning the author never intended. These are indeed abuses; “nevertheless, God's firm foundation stands” (2 Timothy 2:19): when passages are quoted with regard to context, with terms properly translated and explained, and with account taken of the culture and background of the author and his intended readers, the method is perfectly proper. It was used by the rabbis throughout Jewish history, and it is reasonable to suppose that Sha’ul's methods of using Scripture were well within Jewish tradition.

The fact that the Tanakh  is cited some 695 times in the New Testament shows that its writers were convinced that although God had done something unique and radically new in Yeshua Jesus, the meaning of what he had done could be adequately expressed only in relation to the Tanakh. This conviction set the first believers to reading the Tanakh with new eyes, which led to understanding how it relates to New Covenant truth. For some purposes it was sufficient to refer generally to “the Scriptures” or “the Tanakh” (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:3-4  "according to the Scriptures"); but frequently major events in the life of Yeshua were related to individual texts. However, one seldom finds in the New Testament the kind of far-fetched allegory common in later rabbinic and Christian interpretation; and there is rarely the kind of sustained verse-by-verse commentary on a Tanakh passage that can be found already at Qumran and later in both Jewish and Christian traditions (but John 3:7-4:11 has this character).

In conclusion, what is seen in the New Testament is individual verses used with restraint to express the writers' underlying confidence that Yeshua the Messiah's coming is central to fulfilling God's purposes for Israel and the world. The Messiah had to suffer and rise again from the dead. Sha’ul had to show this from the Tanakh, e.g., from Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and Psalm 16:8-11 (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-4&N), because the Jewish people were expecting that the first and most important act of the Messiah would be political liberation (1:6-7&N). The first task was to re-order Jewish expectations. The second, here, is to show that these new expectations are fulfilled in Yeshua.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Some were persuaded = Jews
Some of the Jews were persuaded and threw in their lot with Sha’ul (Saul) and Sila (Silas). The normal consequence of trusting Yeshua is to remain in fellowship with those who led you to faith. Sha’ul and Sila, unlike many of today's evangelists, never left new believers to flounder for themselves; and we are not told of new believers who went off by themselves, eschewing the company of other members of the Body.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by
permission.)

Note: You will notice that the Jewish New Testament Commentary uses Hebrew names instead of our English.
Paul the Learner

A great multitude = Greeks
Religious Greeks; or, of those who worshipped God. Those are denoted who had renounced the worship of idols, and who attended on the worship of the synagogue, but who were not fully admitted to the privileges of Jewish proselytes. They were called, by the Jews, proselytes of the gate.

Not a few = Influential Women

Macedonian women had earlier gained a reputation for their influence, which they probably still exercised in this period. As patrons within church or synagogue, upper-class women could also enjoy higher status than was available to them in society at large due to their gender. Social conditions thus made it easier for well-to-do women than for men to convert.
(From IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

HISTORICAL OUTLOOK FROM 400 A. D. BY ARCHBISHOP JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Homily 37 - Acts 17:1, 2, 3
Again they haste past the small cities, and press on to the greater ones, since from those. the word was to flow as from a fountain into the neighboring cities. "And Paul, as his manner was, went into the synagogue of the Jews." Although he had said, "We turn to the Gentiles" (ch. 13:46), he did not leave these alone: such was the longing affection he had towards them. For hear him saying, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved" (Romans 10:1): and, "I wished myself accursed from Christ for my brethren." (Romans 9:3.) But he did this because of God's promise and the glory: and this, that it might not be a cause of offence to the Gentiles. "Opening," it says, "from the Scriptures, he reasoned with them for three Sabbaths, putting before them that the Christ must suffer." Do thou mark how before all other things he preaches the Passion: so little were they ashamed of it, knowing it to be the cause of salvation. "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." (v. 4.) (Chrysostom)
Homily 37 - Acts 17:1, 2, 3, 4, 5
(Recapitulation.) "Three sabbath-days," it says, being the time when they had leisure from work, "he reasoned with them, opening out of the Scriptures" (v. 2): for so used Christ also to do: as on many occasions we find Him reasoning from the Scriptures, and not on all occasions (urging men) by miracles. Because to this indeed they stood in a posture of hostility, calling them deceivers and jugglers; but he that persuades men by reasons from the Scriptures, is not liable to this imputation. And on many occasions we find (Paul) to have convinced men simply by force of teaching: and in Antioch "the whole city was gathered together" (ch. 13:44): so great a thing is this also, for indeed this itself is no small miracle, nay, it is even a very great one.
And that they might not think that they did it all by their own strength, but rather that God permitted it, two things resulted, namely, "Some of them were persuaded," etc. "And of devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few :" but those others did the contrary: "the Jews moved with envy," etc. (v. 4, 5) and, from the fact that the being called was itself a matter of God's fore-ordering, they neither thought great things of themselves as if the triumph were their own, nor were terrified as being responsible (for all). But how comes it that he said, "That we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision" (Galatians 2:9), and yet discoursed to the Jews? He did this as a thing over and above. For he did other things also more than he was obliged.
For instance, Christ ordained that they should "live by the Gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14; 1:17), but our Apostle did it not: Christ sent him not to baptize, yet he did baptize. Mark how he was equal to all. Peter to the circumcision, he to the Gentiles, to the greater part. Since if it was necessary for him to discourse to Jews, how said he again: "For He that wrought effectually in him toward the circumcision, the same was mighty also in me toward the Gentiles" (Galatians 2:8)? In the same way as those Apostles also had interrelation with the Gentiles, though they had been set apart for the circumcision, so likewise did our Apostle. The more part of his work indeed was with the Gentiles: still he did not neglect the Jews either, that they might not seem to be severed from them.
And how was it, you will ask, that he entered in the first place into the synagogues, as if this were his leading object? True; but he persuaded the Gentiles through the Jews, and from the things which he discoursed of to the Jews. And he knew, that this was most suitable for the Gentiles, and most conducive to belief. Therefore he says: "Inasmuch as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles." (Romans 11:13.) And his Epistles too all fight against the Jews.-That the Christ," he says, "must needs have suffered." (v. 3.) If there was a necessity for His suffering, there was assuredly. a necessity for His rising again: for the former was far more wonderful than the latter. For if He gave Him up to death Who had done no wrong, much rather did He raise Him up again. "But the Jews which believed not took unto them certain of the baser sort, and set all the city on an uproar” (v. 5).
(from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 11, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database
Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(2)  And Paul entered, as he usually did, and for three Sabbaths he reasoned and argued with them from the Scriptures,
(3)  Explaining [them] and [quoting passages] setting forth and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, This Jesus, Whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ (the Messiah).
(4)  And some of them [accordingly] were induced to believe and associated themselves with Paul and Silas, as did a great number of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.



ASSAULT  ON  JASON'S  HOUSE

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Acts 17:5
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(5)  But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.

But the Jews, being jealous, secured a band of bad men from the streets of the city and formed a great mob, who caused disturbances in the city, and who came and assaulted the house of Jason and sought to bring them out from it and deliver them to the mob.


Becoming envious
That they made so many converts, and met with such success.

Evil men
The Greek is, "And having taken certain wicked people of those who were about the forum," or market-place. The forum, or market-place, was the place where the idle assembled, and where those were gathered together that wished to be employed, Matt 20:3. Many of these would be of abandoned character, the idle, the dissipated, and the worthless, and, therefore, just the materials for a mob. It does not appear that they felt any particular interest in the subject; but they were, like other mobs, easily excited, and urged on to any acts of violence.

The idle unemployed of the marketplace could be stirred to mob action, as other ancient examples attest. Jewish inhabitants were a small minority in Thessalonica, so those Jews whom Paul did not persuade (v. 4) would need help to oppose Paul effectively. "The people" (KJV, NASB, TEV) means the citizen body (cf. "assembly" - NRSV); as a "free city," Thessalonica's gathered citizen body performed judicial functions.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S.
Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

The pretence on which the mob was excited was, that they had everywhere produced disturbance, and that they violated the laws of the Roman emperor, Acts 17:6-7. It may be observed, however, that a mob usually regards very little the cause in which they are engaged. They may be roused either for or against religion, and become as full of zeal for the insulted honor of religion as against it. The profane, the worthless, and the abandoned thus often become violently enraged for the honor of religion, and full of indignation and tumult against those who are accused of violating public peace and order.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights
reserved.)

House of Jason
Where Paul and Silas were, Acts 17:7. Jason appears to have been a relative of Paul, and for this reason it was probable that he lodged with him, Rom 16:21.

Jason was probably Jewish, for Sha’ul and Sila would not have needlessly offended the Jewish community by lodging with a Gentile. Many Greek-speaking Jews had Greek names; see 13:9. In his commentary I. Howard Marshall speculates (ad loc.) that if he was Jewish, “his Jewish name may have been Joshua, with Jason as a somewhat similar-sounding Greek name for use in a Greek environment.” Like thinking prevails in today's Jewish Diaspora: Hebrew and local-language names are often chosen to resemble each other, e.g., Bruce and Baruch. Josephus writes of a 2nd -century B.C.E. Cohen gadol, Joshua, who “changed his name to Jason” (Antiquities of the Jews 12:5:1).
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by
permission.)

He appears to be the same as Paul's kinsman of that name, to whom, in his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:21), he sends salutation; and as that name (as Grotius remarks) was sometimes used as a Greek form of the word Joshua, he was probably a Hellenistic Jew. At all events, he must have been among the converts of Thessalonica.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(5)  But the unbelieving Jews were aroused to jealousy, and, getting hold of some wicked men (ruffians and rascals) and loungers in the marketplace, they gathered together a mob, set the town in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring [Paul and Silas] out to the people.

Acts 17:6-9
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(6)  But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.

And when they failed to find them there, they dragged forth Jason and the brethren who were there and brought them before the authorities of the city, crying, These are the men who have created disturbances throughout the world, and behold, they have come here also,

(7)  Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king — Jesus."

And Jason has welcomed them; and all of them are against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.

(8)  And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things.

The authorities of the city and all the people were alarmed when they heard these things.

(9)  So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

So they took bail from Jason and some of the brethren and then let them go.


Rulers of the city
Luke uses the precise designation for Thessalonica's city officials, "politarchs," a term virtually restricted to Macedonia; there were five or six in Paul's day. Rome gave them a free hand to run the city, although they ultimately had to answer to Rome for inappropriate actions. Evidence indicates that local officials in the eastern Mediterranean were responsible for enforcing loyalty to Caesar.

They troubled the crowd
They excited the people to commotion and alarm. The rulers feared the tumult that was excited, and the people feared the Romans, when they heard the charge that there were rebels against the government in their city. It does not appear that there was a disposition in the rulers or the people to persecute the apostles; but they were excited and alarmed by the representations of the Jews, and by the mob that they had collected.

Security from Jason
This is an expression taken from courts, and means that Jason and the other gave satisfaction to the magistrates for the good conduct of Paul and Silas, or became responsible for it. Whether it was by depositing a sum of money, and by thus giving bail, is not quite clear. The sense is that they did it in accordance with the Roman usages, and gave sufficient security for the good conduct of Paul and Silas.
Heuman supposes that the pledge given was that they should leave the city.
Michaelis thinks that they gave a pledge that they would no more harbor them; but if they returned again to them, they would deliver them to the magistrates.

Jason is held responsible for their actions and required to post bond for them, as if they were members of his household. A fine was a lenient penalty as far as Roman courts went, and a bond to curtail troublemakers would not have been unusual. But given the charge (v. 7), had Paul himself been caught, he might not have been so fortunate. The politarchs' decision would stand till they left office (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:18).
(From IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

From the Bible Exposition Commentary:
The Jews wanted to drag the missionaries before their city assembly, so they manufactured a riot to get the attention of the magistrates. Unable to find the missionaries, the mob seized Jason, host to Paul and his friends, and took him and some of the believers instead. The Jews' accusations were similar to the ones used at the trial of Jesus: disturbing the peace and promoting treason (Luke 23:2). Their crime was that of "saying that there is another king, one Jesus."
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;
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! (Romans 5:6-10 "when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son")
The mob was agitated because they could not find Paul and Silas, so they settled for second best and obtained a peace bond against them. Jason had to put up the money and guarantee that Paul and Silas would leave the city and not return. It is possible that Jason was a relative of Paul's, which would make the transaction even more meaningful (Romans 16:21). Paul saw this prohibition as a device of Satan to hinder the work (1 Thessalonians 2:18  "Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us."), but it certainly did not hinder the Thessalonian church from "sounding out the word" and winning the lost.
1 Thessalonians 1:6-9
You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia — your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Paul's work had not been in vain in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:7 f; 2:13,20). Paul loved the church here. Two of them, Aristarchus and Secundus, will accompany him to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4) and Aristarchus will go on with him to Rome (Acts 27:2). Plainly Paul and Silas had been in hiding in Thessalonica and in real danger. After his departure severe persecution came to the Christians in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:14; 3:1-5; 2 Thessalonians 1:6).
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

From the Amplified Bible
(6)  But when they failed to find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brethren before the city authorities, crying, These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,
(7)  And Jason has received them to his house and privately protected them! And they are all ignoring and acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, [actually] asserting that there is another king, one Jesus!
(8)  And both the crowd and the city authorities, on hearing this, were irritated (stirred up and troubled).
(9)  And when they had taken security [bail] from Jason and the others, they let them go.



MINISTERING  AT  BEREA

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Acts 17:10-12
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(10)  Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.

Then the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night to the city of Berea; and when the arrived there, they entered into the synagogue of the Jews.

(11)  These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

For the Jews there were more liberal than the Jews who were in Thessalonica, in that they gladly heard the word daily and searched the scriptures to find out if these things were so.

(12)  Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.

And many of them believed; and of the Greeks there were many men and notable women.


Berea
The name meaning, "place of many waters."  The Via Egnatia (17:1) continued westward, but the road south, to Greece, led through Berea, sixty miles west of Thessalonica and the Via Egnatia.

Sopater, one of Paul's companions belonged to this city, and his conversion probably took place at this time (Acts 20:4). It is now called Verria.
(from Easton's Bible Dictionary, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

More fair-minded
 Eugenesteroi (NT: 2104)  This literally means nobler by birth; descended from more illustrious ancestors. But here the word is used to denote a quality of mind and heart. They were more generous, liberal, and noble in their feelings; more disposed to inquire candidly into the truth of the doctrines advanced by Paul and Silas. It is always proof of a noble, liberal, and ingenuous disposition to be willing to examine into the truth of any doctrine presented. The writer refers here particularly to the Jews.

It was a maxim among the Jews, that "none was of a noble spirit who did not employ himself in the study of the law." It appears that the Bereans were a better educated and more polished people than those at Thessalonica; in consequence far from persecuting:
1. They heard the doctrine of the Gospel attentively.
2. They received this doctrine with readiness of mind: when the evidence of its truth appeared to them sufficiently convincing, they had too much dignity of mind to refuse their assent, and too much ingenuousness to conceal their approbation.
3. They searched the Scriptures, i.e. of the Old Testament, to see whether these things were so: to see whether the promises and types corresponded with the alleged fulfillment in the person, works, and sufferings of Jesus Christ.
4. They continued in this work; they searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Judaism regarded nobly those who checked everything against the Scriptures and diligently listened to teachers; Greek philosophers likewise praised those who listened attentively.
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

They listened attentively and respectfully to the gospel. They did not reject and spurn it as unworthy of examination. This is the first particular in which they were nobler than those in Thessalonica.

The apostles always affirmed that the doctrines which they maintained respecting the Messiah were in accordance with the Jewish scriptures. The Bereans made diligent and earnest inquiry in respect to this, and were willing to ascertain the truth.  Not only on the Sabbath, and in the synagogue, but they made it a daily employment.

The Old Testament they received as the standard of truth, and whatever could be shown to be in accordance with that, they received. On this verse we may remark:
(1) That it is proof of true nobleness and liberality of mind to be willing to examine the proofs of the truth of religion.
What the friends of Christianity have had most cause to lament and regret is, that so many are unwilling to examine its claims; that they spurn it as unworthy of serious thought, and condemn it without hearing.
(2) The Scriptures should be examined daily.
If we wish to arrive at the truth, they should be the object of constant study. That man has very little reason to expect that he will grow in knowledge and grace who does not peruse, with candor and with prayer, a portion of the Bible every day.
(3) The constant searching of the Scriptures is the best way to keep the mind from error.
He who does not do it daily may expect to "be carried about with every wind of doctrine," and to have no settled opinions.
(4) The preaching of ministers should be examined by the Scriptures.
Their doctrines are of no value unless they accord with the Bible. Every preacher should expect his doctrines to be examined in this way, and to be rejected if they are not in accordance with the Word of God. The church, in proportion to its increase in purity and knowledge, will feel this more and more; and it is an indication of advance in piety when people are increasingly disposed to examine everything by the Bible.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Many of them believed
As the result of their examination.  This result will commonly follow when people search the Scriptures. Much is gained when people can be induced to examine the Bible. We may commonly take it for granted that such an examination will result in their conviction of the truth. The most prominent and usual cause of infidelity is found in the fact that people will not investigate the Scriptures. Many infidels have confessed that they had never carefully read the New Testament. Thomas Paine confessed that he wrote the first part of the Age of Reason without having a Bible at hand, and without its being possible to procure one where he then was (in Paris).
"I had," says he, "neither Bible nor Testament to refer to, though I was writing against both;" (Age of Reason, p. 65, ed. 1831; also p. 33).
None, it may safely be affirmed, have ever read the Scriptures with candor, and with the true spirit of prayer, who have not been convinced of the truth of Christianity, and been brought to submit their souls to its influence and its consolations.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

The Jews - there were many that believed.
At Thessalonica there were only some of them that believed (v. 4), but at Berea, where they heard with unprejudiced minds, many believed, many more Jews than at Thessalonica.
Note, God gives grace to those whom he first inclines to make a diligent use of the means of grace, and particularly to search the scriptures.
The Greeks - the Gentiles - many believed,
Both of the honorable women, the ladies of quality, and of men not a few, men of the first rank, as should seem by their being mentioned with the honorable women. The wives first embraced the gospel, and then they persuaded their husbands to embrace it. (1 Corinthians 7:16  For what knowest thou, O wife, but thou shalt save thy husband?)
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, PC Study Bible Formatted Electronic Database Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All Rights reserved.)

Today such open-mindedness is similarly welcomed by Messianic Jews and is praiseworthy. We are confident that when the Good News is given this sort of a fair hearing, and the hearers rely on the facts, including the Tanakh, to verify the message, the response today will often be like that in Berea, where many Jewish people came to trust in Yeshua—a clear success for Sha’ul's Jewish evangelism.
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

From the Amplified Bible
(10)  Now the brethren at once sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea; and when they arrived, they entered the synagogue of the Jews.
(11)  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.
(12)  Many of them therefore became believers, together with not a few prominent Greeks, women as well as men.

Acts 17:13-15
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(13)  But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds.

But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God was preached by Paul in the city of Berea, they came there also, and ceased not to stir up and alarm the people.

(14)  Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there.

Then the brethren sent Paul away to go to the sea; but Silas and Timotheus remained in that city.

(15)  So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.

And those who escorted Paul went with him as far as the city of Athens; and when they were leaving him, they received from him an epistle to Silas and Timotheus, requesting them to come to him in haste.


Stirred up the crowds
Saleuein (NT: 4531) denotes properly "to agitate" or "excite," as the waves of the sea are agitated by the wind. It is with great beauty used to denote the "agitation and excitement of a popular tumult," from its resemblance to the troubled waves of the ocean. The figure is often employed by the Classic writers, and also occurs in the Scriptures. See Psalm 65:7; Isaiah 17:12-13; Jeremiah 46:7-8.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights
reserved.)

Shaking the crowds like an earthquake (Acts 4:31 the same word - "saleuo" - was used there of the earthquake) and disturbing like a tornado (Acts 17:8  the same word - "tarassoo;"  NT:5015,   was used there).  Success at
Thessalonica gave the rabbis confidence and courage. The attack was sharp and swift. The Jews from Antioch
in Pisidia had likewise pursued Paul to Iconium and Lystra. How long Paul had been in Berea Luke does not
say. But a church was established here which gave a good account of itself later and sent a messenger (Acts
20:4
) with their part of the collection to Jerusalem.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005,
2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman
Press.)

The brethren sent Paul away
It is not clear whether Paul went all the way to Athens by land or took ship at Dium or Pydna, some
sixteen miles away, and sailed to Athens. Some even think that Paul gave the Jews the slip and went all the
way by land when they expected him to go by sea. At any rate we know that Paul was grieved to cut short his
work in Macedonia, probably not over six months in all, which had been so fruitful in Philippi,
Thessalonica, and Berea.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005,
2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman
Press.)

Silas and Timothy remained at Berea to help establish the fledgling church, while Paul went on south.
Whether Paul went to Athens by boat or by land is not known. In either case some brothers
accompanied Paul to guarantee his safe arrival. Paul told the friends to instruct Silas and Timothy to join
him in Athens as soon as possible.  It is clear from 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2,6 that Silas and Timothy did rejoin Paul at Athens. Silas likewise was commissioned by Paul to leave Athens and then meet him at Corinth (cf. Acts 18:1-5).

Athens
46 miles east of Corinth, Athens was situated 3 or 4 miles from the coast of the Sardonic Gulf, though connected by a wall-enclosure with its seaport, Piraeus. There were mainly five great centers of public attraction, centers of renowned historic transactions:
1. The “Agora” or market, upon a low level in a central locality – a place of concourse for traffic, for worship, and for public discourse and discussion. (Mentioned in vs. 17).
2. The “Museum” upon a hill (south of the Agora).
3. The “Pnyx” an enclosed rocky eminence (on the west side of the Agora) where political assemblages met.
4. The “Acropolis” a towering temple-crowned height on the east, with a table summit (1,000 by 500 feet), long appropriated to the structures and offices of worship.
5. 5. The Areopagus” or Mars Hill – so called from the legendary trial of Mars. This was another separate rocky eminence (on the north of the Agora, between the Pnyx and the Acropolis). A flight of 16 steps cut in the stone led up from the Agora to the Areopagus. Here was the seat of the supreme tribunal, which sentenced eminent State criminals, and adjudicated upon questions of religion.

Paul is probably here about A.D. 50. Politically Athens is no longer of importance when Paul comes though it is still the university seat of the world with all its rich environment and traditions. Rackham grows eloquent over Paul the Jew of Tarsus being in the city of Pericles and Demosthenes, Socrates and Plate and Aristotle, Sophocles and Euripides. In its Agora Socrates had taught, here was the Academy of Plato, the Lyceum of Aristotle, the Porch of Zeno, the Garden of Epicurus. Here men still talked about philosophy, poetry, politics, religion, anything and everything. It was the art center of the world. The Parthenon, the most beautiful of temples, crowned the Acropolis.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

Barnes' Notes:
This was the first visit of Paul to this celebrated city; and perhaps the first visit of a Christian minister. His success in this city, for some cause, was not great, but his preaching was attended with the conversion of some individuals. (See Acts 17:34). Athens was the most celebrated city of Greece, and was distinguished for the military talents, the learning, the eloquence, and the politeness of its inhabitants. It was founded by Cecrops and an Egyptian colony about 1556 years before the Christian era. It was called "Athens" in honor of Minerva, who was chiefly worshipped there, and to whom the city was dedicated. The city, at first, was built on a rock in the midst of a spacious plain; but in process of time the whole plain was covered with buildings, which were called the lower city. No city of Greece, or of the ancient world, was so much distinguished for philosophy, learning, and the arts.
The most celebrated warriors, poets, statesmen, and philosophers were either born or flourished there. The most celebrated models of architecture and statuary were there; and for ages it held its preeminence in civilization, arts, and arms.
The city still exists, though it has been often subject to the calamities of war, to a change of masters, and to the moldering hand of time. It was twice burnt by the Persians; destroyed by Philip II of Macedon; again by Sylla; was plundered by Tiberius; desolated by the Goths in the reign of Claudius; and the whole territory ravaged and ruined by Alarie. From the reign of Justinian to the thirteenth century the city remained in obscurity, though it continued to be a town at the head of a small state. It was seized by Omar, general of Muhammad the Great, in 1455; was sacked by the Venetians in 1464; and was taken by the Turks again in 1688.
In 1812 the population was 12,000; but it has since been desolated by the sanguinary contests between the Turks and the Greeks, and left almost a mass of ruins. It is now free; and efforts are making by Christians to restore it to its former elevation in learning and importance, and to impart to it the blessings of the Christian religion. In the revolutions of ages it has been ordered that people should bear the torch of learning to Athens from a land unknown to its ancient philosophers, and convey the blessings of civilization to them by that gospel which in the time of Paul they rejected and despised.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights
reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(13)  But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the Word of God [concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God] was also preached by Paul at Beroea, they came there too, disturbing and inciting the masses.
(14)  At once the brethren sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained behind.
(15)  Those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving instructions for Silas and Timothy that they should come to him as soon as possible, they departed.



THE  PHILOSOPHERS  AT  ATHENS

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Acts 17:16-17
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(16)  Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, he saw the whole city full of idols, and he murmured thereat in his spirit.

(17)  Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.

And he spoke in the synagogue to the Jews and to those who feared God, and in the market place daily with them who were there.


While Paul waited
He was waiting for Silas and Timothy.

How long he was there is not intimated; but doubtless some time would elapse before they could arrive. In the meantime Paul had ample opportunity to observe the state of the city.

Provoked
Paroxuno (NT:3947) to exasperate

The verb means "to spur," "to stir to anger."
Passive means "to be provoked, incensed."
The noun is rare and means "provocation" or "irritation."
Here the meaning is not that Paul is stimulated to preach but that he is honestly angered by the idolatry.
(from Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, abridged edition, Copyright © 1985 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. All rights reserved.)

Given over to idols
Kateidolos (NT: 2712). utterly idolatrous

The word, which occurs only here in the New Testament, and nowhere in Classical Greek, means "full of idols." It applies to the city, not to the inhabitants. "We learn from Pliny that at the time of Nero, Athens contained over three thousand public statues, besides a countless number of lesser images within the walls of private houses. Of this number the great majority were statues of gods, demi-gods, or heroes. In one street there stood before every house a square pillar carrying upon it a bust of the god Hermes. Another street, named the Street of the Tripods, was lined with tripods, dedicated by winners in the Greek national games, and carrying each one an inscription to a deity. Every gateway and porch carried its protecting god. Every street, every square, nay, every purlieu, had its sanctuaries" (G. S. Davies, Paul in Greece).
(from Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Pausanias (in Attic. 1:24) says, "The Athenians greatly surpassed others in their zeal for religion."
Lucian (t. i. Prometh. p. 180) says of the city of Athens, "On every side there are altars, victims, temples, and festivals."
Livy (45, 27) says that Athens "was full of the images of gods and men, adorned with every variety of material, and with all the skill of art."
And Petronius (Sat. xvii.) says humorously of the city, that "it was easier to find a god than a man there."
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

These statues were beautiful, but Paul was not deceived by the mere art for art's sake.
Pausanias says that Athens had more images than all the rest of Greece put together.
Pliny states that in the time of Nero Athens had over 30,000 public statues besides countless private ones in the homes.
Every gateway or porch had its protecting god. They lined the street from the Piraeus and caught the eye at every place of prominence on wall or in the agora.
The idolatry and sensualism of it all glared at him (Romans 1:18-32).
Romans 1:18-25
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.      (NKJV)
Renan ridicules Paul's ignorance in taking these statues for idols, but Paul knew paganism better than Renan. The superstition of this center of Greek culture was depressing to Paul.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

In this verse we may see how a splendid idolatrous city will strike a pious mind. Athens then had more that was splendid in architecture, more that was brilliant in science, and more that was beautiful in the arts, than any other city of the world; perhaps more than all the rest of the world united. Yet there is no account that the mind of Paul was filled with admiration; there is no record that he spent his time in examining the works of art; there is no evidence that he forgot his high purpose in an idle and useless contemplation of temples and statuary. His was a Christian mind; and he contemplated all this with a Christian heart. That heart was deeply affected in view of the amazing guilt of a people who were ignorant of the true God, who had filled their city with idols reared to the honor of imaginary divinities, and who, in the midst of all this splendor and luxury, were going down to destruction.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

He Reasoned
Dialegomai  (NT:1256)  to say thoroughly, i.e. discuss (in argument or exhortation)

In the synagogue with the
Jews Proving from the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah
Gentile Worshippers Those worshipping God after the manner of the Jews. They were Jewish proselytes, who had renounced idolatry, but who had not been fully admitted to the privileges of the Jews.
In the market place with
Those who happened by He tried to reach anyone he could, so he went to where people had time to talk with him and listen (this is the New Testament's example of street evangelism).
He did not expect others to approach him but went to them, and he was tireless about it—he went every day.

From the Amplified Bible
(16)  Now while Paul was awaiting them at Athens, his spirit was grieved and roused to anger as he saw that the city was full of idols.
(17)  So he reasoned and argued in the synagogue with the Jews and those who worshiped there, and in the marketplace [where assemblies are held] day after day with any who chanced to be there.

Acts 17:18
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(18)  Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, "What does this babbler want to say?"  Others said, "He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods," because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.

Philosophers, also, who were of the teaching of Epicurus, and others, who were called Stoics, argued with him. And some of them said, What does this babbler want? And others said, He preaches foreign gods, because he preached to them Jesus and his resurrection.


Epicurean philosophers
Followers of Epicurus (who died at Athens 270 B.C.), or adherents of the Epicurean philosophy. This philosophy was a system of atheism, and taught men to seek as their highest aim a pleasant and smooth life. They have been called the "Sadducees" of Greek paganism. They, with the Stoics, ridiculed the teaching of Paul. They appear to have been greatly esteemed at Athens.
(from Easton's Bible Dictionary, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

The school of thought was founded by Epicurus who was born in 341 B.C. on the Greek island of Samos. Epicurus founded his school (The Garden) in Athens. Around him he gathered his students and refined his philosophy. Epicurean thought had a significant impact on the Hellenistic world and later, Rome. Epicurean philosophy centered on the search for happiness. Pleasure is the beginning and fulfillment of a happy life. Often today, Epicurus' ideas are distorted. Many think he proposed a life of sensual pleasure and gluttony. This concept is far from his philosophy and his own life-style. To Epicurus happiness could only be achieved through tranquility and a life of contemplation. The goal of Epicureanism was to acquire a trouble-free state of mind, to avoid the pains of the body, and especially mental anguish. Epicureans sought seclusion from worldly temptations. Epicurus taught that a man should not become involved in politics or affairs of the state. These activities simply served to distract one from the life of contemplation. He believed in gods, but he thought that they were totally unconcerned with the lives or troubles of mortals.
(from Holman Bible Dictionary. Copyright © 1991 by Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.)

They denied the existence of a purposeful God and believed the universe originated by chance from a falling rain of atoms. They mocked the popular (pagan) gods and mythology. Their view of the soul was materialistic: it dissolved and dissipated at death. Thus the aim of life was gratification, not pursuit of higher or externally given moral and spiritual interests. Gratification could be gross and sordid if one was so inclined, or esthetic and refined. Today's successors to the Epicureans speak of “doing your own thing,” and their unabashed selfishness is rarely ameliorated by the common qualification usually honored in the breach, “so long as it doesn't hurt anybody else.”
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Stoic philosophers
Taught that a man should strive, unafraid and proud, to accept the law of the universe however harsh, and should work toward a world state founded on reason. They believed that the soul survived the body.

This was a sect of philosophers, so named from the Greek stoa (NT:4745), a porch or portico, because Zeno, the founder of the sect, held his school and taught in a porch, in the city of Athens. Zeno was born in the island of Cyprus, but the greater part of his life was spent at Athens in teaching philosophy. After having taught publicly 48 years, he died at the age of 96, that is, 264 years before Christ. The doctrines of the sect were, that
the universe was created by God;
all things were fixed by Fate
even God was under the dominion of fatal necessity
the Fates were to be submitted to
the passions and affections were to be suppressed and restrained
happiness consisted in the insensibility of the soul to pain
a man should gain an absolute mastery over all the passions and affections of his nature.

Although Stoics still professed belief in the gods, philosophers were often considered impious, because they questioned the old traditions, although allowing them for the masses. The charge against Paul, "proclaimer of strange deities" (NASB), would remind Greek readers of the charge of impiety against Socrates (cf. 17:19-20). Socrates had been sentenced to death for teaching strange doctrines, and force to drink hemlock. Many centuries before, a priestess had been stoned to death for this charge, and it still violated the Athenian psyche in Paul's day.

Babbler
A Greek expression applied originally to birds pecking up grain but came to apply to worthless persons; an English equivalent to the reproach might be "birdbrain." 

It properly means "one who collects seeds," and was applied by the Greeks to the poor persons who collected the scattered grain in the fields after harvest, or to gleaners; and also to the poor who obtained a precarious subsistence around the markets and in the streets. It was also applied to birds that picked up the scattered seeds of grain in the field or in the markets. The word came hence to have a twofold signification:
(1) It denoted the poor, the needy, and the vile the refuse and off scouring of society; and
(2) From the birds which were thus employed, and which were troublesome by their continual unmusical sounds, it came to denote those who were talkative, garrulous, and opinionated; those who collected the opinions of others, or scraps of knowledge, and retailed them fluently, without order or method.
It was a word, therefore, expressive of their contempt for an unknown foreigner who should pretend to instruct the learned men and philosophers of Greece. Doddridge renders it "retailer of scraps." Syriac, "collector of words."

But in the same verse Luke lets these critics demonstrate their own stupidity: they think 

Foreign gods
They thought Paul was preaching gods (plural), because he preaches Jesus and resurrection - "Resurrection" (Anastasis) was also a woman's name.

They worshipped many gods themselves, and as they believed that every country had its own special divinities, they supposed that Paul had come to announce the existence of some such foreign, and to them unknown gods.

The word translated "gods" daimonioon (NT: 1140) denotes properly "the genii, or spirits who were superior to human beings, but inferior to the gods." It is, however, often employed to denote the gods themselves, and is evidently so used here. The gods among the Greeks were such as were supposed to have that rank by nature. The demons were such as had been exalted to divinity from being heroes and distinguished men.

The phrase Jesus and the resurrection is understood in one of two ways:
(1) Paul was preaching about Jesus and the resurrection (probably not only about the resurrection of Jesus, but the doctrine of the resurrection in general), or
(2) Paul's hearers thought he was speaking about two deities, Jesus (the male deity) and Resurrection (the female deity). In light of the fact that there were a number of religions in which the male deity was brought back to life by the female deity, it is possible that Paul's hearers understood him to speaking of two gods, Jesus and Resurrection.
(from the UBS New Testament Handbook Series. Copyright © 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies.)

The Greeks had erected altars to Shame, and Famine, and Desire (Paus. i. 17), and it is probable that they supposed "the resurrection," or the Anastasis, to be the name also of some unknown goddess who presided over the resurrection. Thus, they regarded him as a setter forth of two foreign or strange gods, Jesus, and the Anastasis, or resurrection.

From the Amplified Bible
(18)  And some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him and began to engage in discussion. And some said, What is this babbler with his scrap-heap learning trying to say? Others said, He seems to be an announcer of foreign deities — because he preached Jesus and the resurrection.

Acts 17:19-21
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(19)  And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak?

So they arrested him and brought him to the court house which is called Areopagus, and said to him, May we know what is this new doctrine which you preach?

(20)  For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean."

For you proclaim strange words to our ears and we want to know what these things mean.

(21)  For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

(For all the Athenians and the strangers who were there, were uninterested in anything except something new to tell or to hear.)


Areopagus
Or "Mars' hill."  This was the place or court in which the Areopagites, the celebrated supreme judges of Athens, assembled. It was on a hill almost in the middle of the city; but nothing now remains by which we can determine the form or construction of the tribunal. The hill is almost entirely a mass of stone, and is not easily accessible, its sides being steep and abrupt. On many accounts this was the most celebrated tribunal in the world. Its decisions were distinguished for justice and correctness; nor was there any court in Greece in which so much confidence was placed. This court
took cognizance of murders, impieties, and immoralities;
punished vices of all kinds, including idleness;
rewarded the virtuous;
was especially attentive to blasphemies against the gods, and to the performance of the sacred mysteries of religion.
It was, therefore, with the greatest propriety that Paul was brought before this tribunal, as being regarded as a setter forth of strange gods, and as being supposed to wish to Introduce a new mode of worship. See Potter's "Antiquities of Greece," book 1, chapter 19; and Travels of Anacharsis, vol. i. 136,185; ii. 292-295.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Greek: Areios pagos  rendered “Areopagus” and “Mars' hill” in KJV (the god of war was called Ares by the Greeks and Mars by the Romans). The place-name referred colloquially to the High Council, which had once met there

May we know
This seems to have been a respectful inquiry; and it does not appear that Paul was brought there for the sake of trial. There are no accusations; no witnesses; none of the forms of trial. They seem to have resorted thither because it was the place where the subject of religion was usually discussed, and because it was a place of confluence for the citizens, and judges, and wise men of Athens, and of foreigners. The design seems to have been, not to try him, but fairly to canvass the claims of his doctrines. It was just an instance of the inquisitive spirit of the people of Athens, willing to hear before they condemned, and to examine before they approved.

Strange things
Literally, something pertaining to a foreign country or people. Here it means something unusual or remarkable-something different from what they had been accustomed to hear from their philosophers.

Athens was proverbial for the curiosity of its inhabitants. By the first century, Athenian desire for entertainment also extended to gladiatorial shows, drawing the criticism of several famous moralists.

Foreigners
Athens was greatly distinguished for the celebrity of its schools of philosophy. It was at that time at the head of the literary world. Its arts and its learning were celebrated in all lands. It is known, therefore, that it was the favorite resort of people of other nations, who came there to become acquainted with its institutions and to listen to its sages.

The learned and subtle Athenians gave themselves much to speculation, and employed themselves in examining the various new systems of philosophy that were proposed. Strangers and foreigners, who were there, having much leisure, would also give themselves to the same inquiries.

Some new thing
Greek: "something newer" - kainoteron (NT: 2537)  The latest news; or the latest subject of inquiry proposed.
This is well known to have been the character of the people of Athens at all times. "Many of the ancient writers I bear witness to the garrulity, and curiosity, and intemperate desire of novelty among the Athenians, by which they inquired respecting all things, even those in which they had no interest, whether of a public or private nature” (Kuinoel). Thus, Thucydides (3, 38) says of them, "You excel in suffering yourselves to be deceived with novelty of speech."

On which the old scholiast makes this remark, almost in the words of Luke: "He (Thucydides) here blames the Athenians, who care for nothing else but to tell or to hear something new."
Thus, Aelian (5, 13) says of the Athenians that they are versatile in novelties.
Thus, Demosthenes represents the Athenians "as inquiring in the place of public resort if there were any NEWS" - ti (NT:5100) neooteron (NT:3501).
Meurslus has shown, also, that there were more than 300 public places in Athens of public resort, where the principal youth and reputable citizens were accustomed to meet for the purpose of conversation and inquiry.

From the Amplified Bible
(19)  And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus [Mars Hill meeting place], saying, May we know what this novel (unheard of and unprecedented) teaching is which you are openly declaring?
(20)  For you set forth some startling things, foreign and strange to our ears; we wish to know therefore just what these things mean —
(21)  For the Athenians, all of them, and the foreign residents and visitors among them spent all their leisure time in nothing except telling or hearing something newer than the last —



TO  THE  UNKNOWN  GOD

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Acts 17:22 & 23
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(22)  Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;

When Paul stood in the court at Areopagus, he said, Men of Athens, I see that above all things you are extravagant in the worship of idols.

(23)  for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:  TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.  Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:

For as I walked about, and viewed the house of your idols, I found an altar with this inscription: THIS IS THE ALTAR OF THE UNKNOWN GOD. He therefore, while you know him not but yet worship him, is the very one I am preaching to you.


To those who approach life intellectually Sha’ul offers knowledge in lieu of ignorance.  He does not use the Scriptures at all, since these would carry no weight with these highly educated pagans. Instead, he quotes from Greek poets in v. 28 (first Epimenides, then Aratus or Cleanthes).
Elsewhere he quotes
Menander (1 Corinthians 15:33)
Epimenides of Crete (Titus 1:12)
In verses 24-26 he presents God as
Creator  
Giver of all  
Ruler of nations  
and in verses 27-28 as
One who seeks our love
which consists not in idol-worship (vv. 24-25, 29) but in turning from sins (v. 30), because a day is coming when everyone will be judged by God through the resurrected Yeshua (v. 31). His resurrection gives public proof that the Gospel is true and therefore objectively demands belief (see 26:8).
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

It was customary to begin a speech by complimenting the hearers in the opening exordium, designed to secure their favor. This practice seems to have been forbidden at the Areopagus, but this would not prevent Paul from starting on a respectful note.

Religious
This meant that they were religiously observant, not that he agreed with their religion (KJV "superstitious" does not convey the right idea). His hearers may not have been extremely religious, though Stoics accepted the existence of the gods. Philosophers in Roman times dealt mainly with ethics, whereas pagan religion involved ritual rather than ethics.

During a plague a long before Paul's time, no altars had successfully propitiated the gods; Athens had finally offered sacrifices to an unknown god, immediately staying the plague. These altars were still standing, and Paul uses them as the basis for his speech. Paul does avoid, however, the practice of some of his Jewish predecessors and some second-century Christian successors, of accusing pagan philosophers of plagiarizing their good ideas from Moses!
(from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

His language was perfectly respectful, notwithstanding his heart had been deeply affected by their idolatry. Everything about this discourse is calm, grave, cool, and argumentative. Paul understood the character of his auditors, and did not commence his discourse by denouncing them, nor did he suppose that they would be convinced by mere dogmatically assertion. No happier instance can be found of cool, collected argumentation than is furnished in this discourse.
[I perceive] He perceived this by his observations of their forms of worship in passing through their city,
[In all things] In respect to all events
[Very religious] deisidaimonesterous (NT: 1174)
It properly means "reverence for the gods." It is used in the Classic writers in a good sense, to denote "piety toward the gods, or suitable fear and reverence for them"; and also in a bad sense, to denote "improper fear or excessive dread of their anger"; and in this sense it accords with our word "superstitious."  But the word here is designed to convey no such idea.  But it is altogether improbable that Paul would have used it in a bad sense. For:
(1) It was not his custom needlessly to blame or offend his auditors.
(2) It is not probable that he would commence his discourse in a manner that would only excite prejudice and opposition.
(3) In the thing which he specifies (Acts 17:23) as proof on the subject, he does not introduce it as a matter of blame, but rather as a proof of their devotedness to the cause of religion and of their regard for God.
(4)  The whole speech is calm, dignified, and argumentative-such as became such a place, such a speaker, and such an audience. The meaning of the expression is, therefore,
"I perceive that you are greatly devoted to reverence for religion; that it is a characteristic of the people to honor the gods, to rear altars to them, and to recognize the divine agency in times of trial."
The proof of this was the altar reared to the unknown God; its bearing on his purpose was that such a state of public sentiment must be favorable to an inquiry into the truth of what he was about to state.

An altar
An altar usually denotes "a place for sacrifice." Here, however, it does not appear that any sacrifice was offered; but it was probably a monument of stone, reared to commemorate a certain event, and dedicated to the unknown God.

The unknown God
agnoostoo (NT: 57) Theoo (NT: 2316). Where this altar was reared, or on what occasion, has been a subject of much debate with expositors. That there was such an altar in Athens, though it may not have been specifically mentioned by the Greek writers, is rendered probable by the following circumstances:
(1) It was customary to rear such altars.
Minutius Felix says of the Romans, "They build altars to unknown divinities."
(2) The term "unknown God" was used in relation to the worship of the Athenians.
Lucian, in his Philopatris, uses this form of an oath: "I swear by the unknown God at Athens," the very expression used by the apostle.
And again he says (chapter xxix. 180), "We have found out the unknown God at Athens, and worshipped him with our hands stretched up to heaven, etc."
(3) There were altars at Athens inscribed to the unknown gods.
Philostratus says (in Vita Apol., 6:3), "And this at Athens, where there are even altars to the unknown gods."
Thus, Pausanius (in Attic. chapter i.) says, that "at Athens there are altars of gods which are called the UNKNOWN ones."
Jerome, in his commentary (Titus 1:12), says that the whole inscription was, "To the gods of Asia, Europe, and Africa; to the unknown and strange gods."
(4) There was a remarkable altar raised in Athens in a time of pestilence, in honor of the unknown god which had granted them deliverance.
Diogenes Laertius says that Epimenides restrained the pestilence in the following manner: "Taking white and black sheep, he led them to the Areopagus, and there permitted them to go where they would, commanding those who followed them to sacrifice [too proseekonti theoo] to the god to whom these things pertained or who had the power of averting the plague, whoever he might be, without adding the name, and thus to allay the pestilence. From which it has arisen that at this day, through the villages of the Athenians, altars are found without any name" (Diog. Laert., book i, section 10)].
This took place about 600 years before Christ, and it is not improbable that one or more of those altars remained until the time of Paul. It should be added that the natural inscription on those altars would be, "To the unknown God." None of the gods to whom they usually sacrificed could deliver them from the pestilence. They therefore reared them to some unknown being that had the power to free them from the plague.

There is another feature of skill in the allusion to this altar. In other circumstances it might seem to be presumptuous for an unknown Jew to attempt to instruct the sages of Athens. But here they had confessed and proclaimed their ignorance. By rearing this altar they acknowledged their need of instruction. The way was, therefore, fairly open for Paul to address even these philosophers, and to discourse to them on a point on which they acknowledged their ignorance.

The true God (who had really delivered them from the plague), I make known to you his name, attributes, etc.
There is remarkable tact in Paul's seizing on this circumstance; and yet it was perfectly fair and honest. Only the true God could deliver in the time of the pestilence. This altar had, therefore, been really reared to Him, though His Name was unknown. The same Being who had interposed at that time, and whose interposition was recorded by the building of this altar, was He who had made the heavens; who ruled over all; and whom Paul was now about to make known to them.

HISTORICAL OUTLOOK - Chrysostom (400 A.D.)
Homily 38 - Acts 17:16-22
Observe how he meets with greater trials among the Jews than among the Gentiles. Thus in Athens he undergoes nothing of this kind; the thing goes as far as ridicule, and there an end: and yet he did make some converts: whereas among the Jews he underwent many perils; so much greater was their hostility against him.-" His spirit," it says, "was roused within him when he saw the city all full of idols." Nowhere else were so many objects of worship to be seen. But again "he disputed with the Jews in the synagogue, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain of the philosophers of the Stoics and Epicureans encountered him." (v. 18.) It is a wonder the philosophers did not laugh him to scorn, speaking in the way he did. "And some said, What does this babbler mean to say?" insolently, on the instant: -this is far from philosophy.
"Other some said, He seemed to be a setter forth of strange gods," from the preaching, because he had no arrogance. They did not understand, nor comprehend the subjects he was speaking of-how should they? affirming as they did, some of them, that God is a body; others, that pleasure is the (true) happiness. "Of strange gods, because he preached: unto them Jesus and the Resurrection :" for in fact they supposed "Anastasis" (the Resurrection) to be some deity, being accustomed to worship female divinities also. "And having taken him, they brought him to the Areopagus" (v. 19)-not to punish, but in order to learn -"to the Areopagus" where the trials for murder were held.
Thus observe, in hope of learning (they ask him), saying, "May we know what is this new doctrine spoken of by thee? For thou brings certain strange matters to our ears" (v. 20):everywhere novelty is the charge: "we would fain know therefore, what these things may mean." It was a city of talkers, that city of theirs. "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. Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I look upon you as being in all things" (v. 21, 22)
(from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 11, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(22)  So Paul, standing in the center of the Areopagus [Mars Hill meeting place], said: Men of Athens, I perceive in every way [on every hand and with every turn I make] that you are most religious or very reverent to demons.
(23)  For as I passed along and carefully observed your objects of worship, I came also upon an altar with this inscription, To the unknown god. Now what you are already worshiping as unknown, this I set forth to you.

Acts 17:24 & 25
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(24)  God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.

For the God who made the world and all things therein, and who is the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hinds;

(25)  Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.

Neither is he ministered to by human hands, nor is he in need of anything, for it is he who gave life and breath to all men.


WHO GOD IS
God, who made...everything
The main object of this discourse of Paul is to convince them of the folly of idolatry, and thus to lead them to repentance. For this purpose he commences with a statement of the true doctrine respecting God as the Creator of all things. We may observe here:
(1) That he speaks here of God as the Creator of the world, thus opposing indirectly
their opinions that there were many gods.
(2) He speaks of him as the Creator of the world, and thus opposes the opinion
that matter was eternal;
that all things were controlled by Fate;
and that God could be confined to temples.
The Epicureans held that matter was eternal, and that the world was formed by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. To this opinion Paul opposed the doctrine that all things were made by one God. Compare Acts 14:15.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
He is Lord of heaven and earth
Proprietor and Ruler of heaven and earth.
It is highly absurd, therefore, to suppose that he who is present in heaven and in earth at the same time, and who rules over all, should be confined to a temple of an earthly structure, or dependent on man for anything.
WHAT GOD IS NOT
He does not dwell in temples made with hands
Here Paul quotes Stephen, the man he first heard preach (Acts 7:48)
He is not worshipped with men's hands
The word here rendered "worshipped" therapeuetai (NT: 2323) denotes to "serve"; to wait upon; and then to render religious service or homage.
Perhaps, also, Paul had reference to the fact that so many persons were employed in their pagan temples in serving them with their hands; that is, in preparing sacrifices and feasts in their honor. Paul affirms that the great Creator of all things cannot be thus dependent on his creatures for happiness, and consequently, that that mode of worship must be highly absurd.
He does not need anything
Psalms 50:10-12
For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness.      (NKJV)
WHAT GOD DOES
He gives to all
Life
God gives life, because he is the fountain of it
Every thinking person asks,
"Where did I come from?"
"Why am I here?"
"Where am I going?"
Science attempts to answer the first
question, and philosophy wrestles with the second; but only the Christian faith has a satisfactory answer to all three.
Breath
The power of breathing, by which life is sustained. He not only originally gave life, but he gives it at each moment; he gives the power of drawing each breath by which life is supported.
It is possible that the phrase "life and breath" may be the figure hendyades, by which one thing is expressed by two words. It is highly probable that Paul here had reference to Gen 2:7: "And the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life."
Job 12:7-10
But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?       (NKJV)
All Things
All the other things which are requisite for this great and important purpose, that the end for which life was given may be fully answered.
Paul also teaches that divine worship is not enacted and established for GOD, but for the use of his creatures: he needs nothing that man can give him; for man has nothing but what he has received from the hand of his Maker.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
Romans 11:36
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.       (NKJV)
In this message, which is similar to his sermon at Lystra (Acts 14:15-17),  Paul shared four basic truths about God:
(verse 24) The Greatness of God He is Creator
(verse 25) The Goodness of God He is Provider
(verses 26-29) The Government of God. He is Ruler
(verses 30-34) The Grace of God He is Saviour
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

The last part of the verse, dealing with God's providing people with life (cf. v. 28) and material needs (cf. 14:17), suited the Stoic philosophy of aligning their lives with the "Purpose" of the Cosmos. Paul was thus beginning where his listeners were and was leading them from their inadequate concepts of the truth.
(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(24)  The God Who produced and formed the world and all things in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in handmade shrines.
(25)  Neither is He served by human hands, as though He lacked anything, for it is He Himself Who gives life and breath and all things to all [people]. [Isaiah 42:5.]

Acts 17:26-29
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(26)  And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,

And he has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and he has appointed seasons by his command, and has set limits to the age of men;

(27)  so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

So that they should seek and search after God, and find him by means of his creations, because he is not far from any one of us;

(28)  for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'

For in him we live and move and have our being, as some of your own wise men have said, For we are his kindred.

(29)  Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising.

Now therefore, man, being of the family of God, is not bound to worship resemblances made of gold or silver or stone shapen by the skill and knowledge of man into resemblances of the Deity.


One Blood
All the families of mankind are descended from one origin or stock.
However different our complexion, features, or language, yet we are derived from a common parent.
The word blood is often used to denote "race, stock, kindred."  This passage affirms that all the human family are descended from the same ancestor; and that, consequently, all the variety of complexion, etc., is to be traced to some other cause than that we were originally different races created.
Malachi 2:10
Have we not all one Father?  Has not one God created us?        (NKJV)
The design of the apostle in this affirmation was probably to convince the Greeks that he regarded them all as brethren; that, although he was a Jew, yet he was not enslaved to any narrow notions or prejudices in reference to other people.

It follows from the truth here stated that no one nation, and no individual, can claim any pre-eminence over others in virtue of birth or blood.
All are in this respect equal; and the whole human family, however we may differ in complexion, customs, and laws, are to be regarded and treated as brethren.
It follows, also, that no one part of the race has a right to enslave or oppress any other part, on account of difference of complexion, customs, and laws.

Determined...the boundaries of their dwellings
Determined - Greek: horisas (NT: 3724).  Having fixed, or marked out a boundary.

God, by his providence, has so ordered it that the descendants of one family have found their way to all lands, and have become adapted to the climate where he has placed them.

This evidently refers to the dispersion and migration of nations. And it means that God had, in his plan, fixed the times when each country should be settled, and the rise, the prosperity, and the fall of each nation. The different continents and islands have not, therefore, been settled by chance, but by a wise rule, and in accordance with God's arrangement and design.

By customs, laws, inclinations, and habits he has fixed the boundaries of their habitations, and disposed them to dwell there. We may learn:
(1) That the revolutions and changes of nations are under the direction of infinite wisdom;
(2) That people should not be restless and dissatisfied with the place where God has located them;
(3) That God has given sufficient limits to all, so that it is not needful to invade others; and,
(4) That wars of conquest are evil. God has given to people their places of abode, and we have no right to disturb those abodes, or to attempt to displace them in a violent manner.
This strain of remark by the apostle was also opposed to all the notions of the Epicurean philosophers, and yet so obviously true and just that they could not gainsay or resist it.

That they should seek the Lord
The design of thus placing them on the earth was, that they should contemplate his wisdom in his works, and thus come to a knowledge of his existence and character. All nations, though living in different regions and climates, have thus the opportunity of becoming acquainted with God. The fact that the nations did not thus learn the character of the true God shows their great stupidity and wickedness. The design of Paul in this was doubtless to reprove the idolatry of the Athenians. The argument is this: "God has given to each nation its proper opportunity to learn his character. Idolatry, therefore, is folly and wickedness, since it is possible to find out the existence of the one God from his works."
Romans 1:20-23
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.        (NKJV)

Grope for Him
Pseelafeeseian (NT: 5584)  - "to touch, to handle"
And then to ascertain the qualities of an object by the sense of touch.  And as the sense of touch is regarded as a certain way of ascertaining the existence and qualities of an object, the word means "to search diligently, so that we may know distinctly and certainly."  It means "to search diligently and accurately for God, to learn his existence and perfections." The Syriac renders it, "That they may seek for God, and find him from his creatures."

He is not far
This seems to be stated by the apostle to show that it was possible to find him; and that even those who were without a revelation need not despair of becoming acquainted with his existence and perfections. He is near to us:
(1) Because the proofs of his existence and power are round about us everywhere.
Psalms 19:1-4
The heavens tell about the glory of God. The skies announce what his hands have made. Each new day tells more of the story, and each night reveals more and more about God's power.
You cannot hear them say anything. They don't make any sound we can hear. But their message goes throughout the world. Their teaching reaches the ends of the earth.
(2) Because he fills all things in heaven and earth by his essential presence.
Psalms 139:7-12
Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence?
If I went up to heaven, you would be there; if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there. If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, you would be there to lead me, you would be there to help me. I could ask the darkness to hide me or the light around me to turn into night, but even darkness is not dark for you, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to you.      (GNT)
Jeremiah 23:23-24
I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place only.  No one can hide where I cannot see them. Do you not know that I am everywhere in heaven and on earth?      (GNT)
We should learn then:
(1) To be afraid of sin.
God is present with us, and sees all.
(2) He can protect the righteous.
He is always with them.
(3) He can detect and punish the wicked.
He sees all their plans and thoughts, and records all their doings.
(4) We should seek him continually.
It is the design for which he has made us; and he has given us abundant opportunities to learn his existence and perfections.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

In Him
We Live
Apart from Him our life would decay, and be extinguished as a flame which had been suddenly deprived of its sustaining element.
We Live
Apart from Him we are not only inert and helpless, but not even such movement as sustains the life of plants would be possible for us.
We Exist
In Him we are; apart from Him we should not only cease to be what we are, but we should cease to be at all; it is only the hand of God that interposes between us and annihilation.
(W. L. Alexander.)  (from The Biblical Illustrator Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 Ages Software, Inc. and Biblesoft, Inc.)

The Athenians' very creation and continued existence depended on this one God whom they did not know!
No such claim could ever be made of any of the scores of false gods worshiped by the Greeks.

Your own poets
This precise expression is found in Aratus ("Phaenom.," v. 5), and in Cleanthus in a hymn to Jupiter. Substantially the same sentiment is found in several other Greek poets. Aratus was a Greek poet of Cilicia the native place of Paul, and flourished about 277 years before Christ. As Paul was a native of the same country it is highly probable he was acquainted with his writings. Aratus passed much of his time at the court of Antigonus Gonatas, king of Macedonia. His principal work was the "Phoenomena," which is here quoted, and was so highly esteemed in Greece that many learned men wrote commentaries on it.

The sentiment here quoted was directly at variance with the views of the Epicureans; and it is proof of Paul's address and skill, as well as his acquaintance with his auditors and with the Greek poets, that he was able to adduce a sentiment so directly in point, and that had the concurrent testimony of so many of the Greeks themselves. It is one instance among thousands where an acquaintance with profane learning may be of use to a minister of the gospel.

The Divine nature
It is absurd to think that the source of all life and intelligence resembles a lifeless block of wood or stone. Even degraded pagan, one would think, might see the force of an argument like this.

Since God is the creator of men, he must at least be greater than men. Therefore to identify the Deity with something man has made or imagined is the height of folly and the depth of sin
(from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1962 by Moody Press. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(26)  And He made from one [common origin, one source, one blood] all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined [their] allotted periods of time and the fixed boundaries of their habitation (their settlements, lands, and abodes),
(27)  So that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after Him and find Him, although He is not far from each one of us.
(28)  For in Him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your [own] poets have said, For we are also His offspring.
(29)  Since then we are God's offspring, we ought not to suppose that Deity (the Godhead) is like gold or silver or stone, [of the nature of] a representation by human art and imagination, or anything constructed or invented.

Acts 17:30 & 31
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(30)  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,

For the times of ignorance God has made to pass, and at this time he has commanded all men, everywhere, to repent.

(31)  because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."

For he has appointed a day in which he will judge all the earth with righteousness by the man whom he has chosen, he who has turned every man towards his faith; on that account he has raised him from the dead.


To those who approach life intellectually Sha’ul offers knowledge in lieu of ignorance (v. 23). He does not use the Scriptures at all, since these would carry no weight with these highly educated pagans. Instead, he quotes from Greek poets in v. 28 (first Epimenides, then Aratus or Cleanthes); elsewhere he quotes Menander (1 Corinthians 15:33) and Epimenides of Crete (Titus 1:12). He presents God as
(vv. 24-26) Creator, Giver of all, and Ruler of nations and history,
(vv. 27-28) and as One who seeks our love,
(vv. 24-25, 29)  which consists not in idol-worship
(v. 30) but in turning from sins,
(v. 31) because a day is coming when everyone will be judged by God through the resurrected Yeshua.
His resurrection gives public proof that the Gospel is true and therefore objectively demands belief (see 26:8).
(from Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

These times of ignorance
The long period when people were ignorant of the true God, and when they worshipped sticks and stones. Paul here refers to the times preceding the gospel.

God overlooked
Huperidoon (NT: 5237). Overlooked; did not come forth to punish.

God overlooked human ignorance revealed in idol-making, that is, He was patient.  Though people are under His wrath (Romans 1:18) and are without excuse because of natural revelation (Romans 1:19-20), God "in His forbearance left the sins committed beforehand unpunished" (Romans 3:25).
(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)

See notes on Acts 14:16.

Now commands all men everywhere
At this point Paul introduced a distinctively Christian viewpoint. His reference to the Man clearly looks to Daniel 7:13-14 which speaks of the Son of Man
This One, appointed by God the Father, will judge the world with justice (cf. John 5:22).
The authentication of Christ's person and work was His resurrection. Here again the resurrection of Jesus was preached. The idea of resurrection (cf. Acts 17:18,32) was incompatible with Greek philosophy. The Greeks wanted to get rid of their bodies, not take them on again! A personal judgment was also unpalatable to Greeks. The gospel message struck at the center of the Athenians' needs.
Interestingly Paul discussed the topics of
sin    ("to repent")
righteousness    ("justice")
judgment    ("He will judge")
the same areas in which Jesus said the Holy Spirit would convict people (John 16:7-11).
(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)

Appointed a day
He has fixed the time in which he will judge the world, though he has not revealed this time to man.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

At this point Paul introduced a distinctively Christian viewpoint.
His reference to the Man clearly looks to Daniel 7:13-14 which speaks of the Son of Man.
Daniel 7:13-14
I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.       (NKJV)
This One, appointed by God the Father, will judge the world with justice (cf. John 5:22  "For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son"). The authentication of Christ's person and work was His resurrection. Here again the resurrection of Jesus was preached. The idea of resurrection was incompatible with Greek philosophy. The Greeks wanted to get rid of their bodies, not take them on again! A personal judgment was also unpalatable to Greeks. The gospel message struck at the center of the Athenians' needs.

Paul discussed the topics of
sin "to repent")
righteousness ("justice")
judgment ("He will judge")
The same areas in which Jesus said the Holy Spirit would convict people (John 16:5-11).
John 16:8-11
And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.       (NKJV)
(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved.)

As he brought his message to a close, Paul summarized the clear evidences of God's grace. For centuries, God was patient with man's sin and ignorance (see Acts 14:16; Romans 3:25).
Romans 3:23-26
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,  to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.        (NKJV)
This does not mean that men were not guilty (Romans 1:19-20), but only that God held back divine wrath.
Romans 1:18-23
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,  because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,  because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools,  and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.        (NKJV)
In due time, God sent a Saviour, and now He commands all men to repent of their foolish ways. This Saviour was killed and then raised from the dead, and one day, He will return to judge the world. The proof that He will judge is that He was raised from the dead.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

From the Amplified Bible
(30)  Such [former] ages of ignorance God, it is true, ignored and allowed to pass unnoticed; but now He charges all people everywhere to repent (to change their minds for the better and heartily to amend their ways, with abhorrence of their past sins),
(31)  Because He has fixed a day when He will judge the world righteously (justly) by a Man Whom He has destined and appointed for that task, and He has made this credible and given conviction and assurance and evidence to everyone by raising Him from the dead. [Psalms 9:8; 96:13; 98:9.]

Acts 17:32-34
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(32)  And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter."

And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, and others said, We will hear you again on this matter.

(33)  So Paul departed from among them.

So Paul left them.

(34)  However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Some of them, however, followed him and were converted; one of them was Dionysius, one of the judges of Areopagus, and another a woman named Damaris, and others with them.


The same division noted earlier between open- and closed-minded Jews (John 7:43  "So there was a division among the people because of Him.") is now seen among Gentiles.

There were three different responses to the message.
Some laughed and mocked and did not take Paul's message seriously.
Others were interested but wanted to hear more.
A small group accepted what Paul preached, believed on Jesus Christ, and were saved.
Compare this with the first sermon preached to the Jews after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus:
Acts 2:12 They were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?"
Acts 2:13 Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."
Acts 2:41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
When you contrast the seeming meager results in Athens with the great harvests in Thessalonica and Berea, you are tempted to conclude that Paul's ministry there was a dismal failure. If you do, you might find yourself drawing a hasty and erroneous conclusion.

Some of the philosophers derided him. The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was believed by none of the Greeks; it seemed incredible; and they regarded it as so absurd as not to admit of an argument, It has nor been uncommon for even professed philosophers to mock at the doctrines of religion, and to meet the arguments of Christianity with a sneer. The Epicureans particularly would be likely to deride this, as they denied altogether any future state. It is not improbable that this derision by the Epicureans produced such a disturbance as to break off Paul's discourse, as that of Stephen had been by the clamor of the Jews, Acts 7:54.

We still need witnesses who will invade the "halls of academe" and present Christ to people who are wise in this world but ignorant of the true wisdom of the world to come. "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called" (1 Corinthians 1:26); but some are called, and God may use you to call them.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Some men
Instead of mocking or politely waiving the subject, having listened eagerly, they joined themselves to the apostle for further instruction, the consequence of which was that they "believed."
Dionysius the Areopagite
One of the judges of the Court of the Areopagus. The Areopagus included only those of highest status in this university community, so the conversion of Dionysius is significant.  That of itself was no small victory. He was one of this college of twelve judges who had helped to make Athens famous. Eusebius says that he became afterward bishop of the Church at Athens and died a martyr. 
A woman named Damaris
Not the wife of Dionysius as some have thought, but possibly an aristocratic woman.  It is unlikely that women would be permitted in gatherings of the Areopagus; indeed, the most educated and publicly seen women in Athens were probably still prostitutes and foreigners. Whatever her background, Damaris may have been in the marketplace listening to Paul's speech to the Areopagus
And there were "others"
A small group, but strong enough to keep the fire burning in Athens.

Although it is said occasionally that Sha’ul was unsuccessful in Athens, this verse proves the contrary: the persons named became the core of that city's Messianic community.
(From Jewish New Testament Commentary Copyright © 1992 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

From the Amplified Bible
(32)  Now when they had heard [that there had been] a resurrection from the dead, some scoffed; but others said, We will hear you again about this matter.
(33)  So Paul went out from among them.
(34)  But some men were on his side and joined him and believed (became Christians); among them were Dionysius, a judge of the Areopagus, and a woman named Damaris, and some others with them.



(End of Chapter Seventeen)

 

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