The Work in Greece: Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens
1 And having journeyed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was the synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul’s custom he went in among them, and on three sabbaths reasoned with them from the scriptures, 3 opening and laying down that the Christ must have suffered and risen up from among the dead, and that this is the Christ, Jesus whom “I” announce to you. 4 And some of them believed, and joined themselves to Paul and Silas, and of the Greeks who worshipped, a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. 5 But the Jews having been stirred up to jealousy, and taken to themselves certain wicked men of the lowest rabble, and having got a crowd together, set the city in confusion; and having beset the house of Jason sought to bring them out to the people; 6 and not having found them, dragged Jason and certain brethren before the politarchs, crying out, These men that have set the world in tumult, are come here also, 7 whom Jason has received; and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying, that there is another king, Jesus. 8 And they troubled the crowd and the politarchs when they heard these things. 9 And having taken security of Jason and the rest, they let them go. 10 But the brethren immediately sent away, in the night, Paul and Silas to Berea; who, being arrived, went away into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 And these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, receiving the word with all readiness of mind, daily searching the scriptures if these things were so. 12 Therefore many from among them believed, and of Grecian women of the upper classes and men not a few. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica knew that the word of God was announced in Berea also by Paul, they came there also, stirring up the crowds. 14 And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as to the sea; but Silas and Timotheus abode there. 15 But they that conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and, having received a commandment to Silas and Timotheus, that they should come to him as quickly as possible, they departed. 16 But in Athens, while Paul was waiting for them, his spirit was painfully excited in him seeing the city given up to idolatry. 17 He reasoned therefore in the synagogue with the Jews, and those who worshipped, and in the market-place every day with those he met with. 18 But some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers attacked him. And some said, What would this chatterer say? and some, He seems to be an announcer of foreign demons, because he announced the glad tidings of Jesus and the resurrection to them. 19 And having taken hold on him they brought him to Areopagus, saying, Might we know what this new doctrine which is spoken by thee is? 20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears. We wish therefore to know what these things may mean. 21 Now all the Athenians and the strangers sojourning there spent their time in nothing else than to tell and to hear the news.
22 And Paul standing in the midst of Areopagus said, Athenians, in every way I see you given up to demon worship; 23 for, passing through and beholding your shrines, I found also an altar on which was inscribed, To the unknown God. Whom therefore ye reverence, not knowing him, him I announce to you.
24 The God who has made the world and all things which are in it, “he”, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, 25 nor is served by men’s hands as needing something, himself giving to all life and breath and all things; 26 and has made of one blood every nation of men to dwell upon the whole face of the earth, having determined ordained times and the boundaries of their dwelling, 27 that they may seek God; if indeed 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 exist; as also some of the poets amongst you have said, For we are also his offspring. 29 Being therefore the offspring of God, we ought not to think that which is divine to be like gold or silver or stone, the graven form of man’s art and imagination. vv.24-29 The Irrationality of Idolatry. In v.28 Paul quotes several Greek poets. First, he quotes a native prophet of the Crete, a philosopher called Epimenides of Crete from the 6th century BC, who wrote a poem called Cretica concerning the Greek god Zeus; “in him we live and move and exist”. Actually, Paul quotes this famous poem twice, once in Acts 17:28 and once in Titus 1:12. The poem was written by a pagan idolater who believed Zeus was immortal, an opinion that differed from the common view of the Cretans, which was that Zeus was mortal. Paul quotes two lines from this poem for separate purposes, and shows that they are true.1 In Acts 17 Paul explains that the idolatrous poet was correct in describing the attributes of the Creator, although wrong in assigning them to Zeus. But in Titus he shows that the line about the Cretans, although intended by Epimenides for a different purpose, was intrinsically accurate in that described the deceitful, base, and slothful character of the people of Crete. Then Paul quotes a famous line that is found in two places, first in a poem called Phenomena by Aratus of Cilicia (Paul’s countryman) in the 3rd century BC, and again in Cleanthes of Assos’ Hymn to Zeus, also written in the 3rd century BC; “For we are also his offspring”. In both cases Paul takes an element of truth from the otherwise idolatrous statement, and shows the folly of idolatry itself! If we live and move and have our being from God, how could He “be like gold or silver or stone, the graven form of man’s art and imagination”? And if we, living, breathing, thinking creatures, are His offspring, how could God be an inanimate object?
30 God therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, now enjoins men that they shall all everywhere repent, 31 because he has set a day in which “he is going to judge the habitable earth in righteousness” [Psalm 9:8] by the man whom he has appointed, giving the proof of it to all in having raised him from among the dead. 32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, and some said, We will hear thee again also concerning this. 33 Thus Paul went out of their midst. 34 But some men joining themselves to him believed; among whom also was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman by name Damaris, and others with them.