Monday, 25 March 2013

Theme Number 42 Paul and the Philosophers of Athens

Acts 17:16-34

Act 17:16  And in Athens, while Paul waited for them, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was full of idols.

Act 17:17  Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshippers, and in the marketplace daily with those coming by.

Now while Paul waited for Silas and Timothy to come from Berea - 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.Barnes

His spirit was stirred in him - His mind was greatly excited. The word used here (παρωξύνετο  parōxuneto) denotes “any excitement, agitation, or paroxysm of mind,” 1Co_13:5. It here means that the mind of Paul was greatly concerned, or agitated, doubtless with pity and distress at their folly and danger.
The city wholly given to idolatry - Greek: κατέιδωλον  kateidōlon. It is well translated in the margin, “or full of idols.” The word is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. That this was the condition of the city is abundantly testified by profane writers. Thus, Pausanias (in Attic. 1Co_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.” Barnes
Act 17:17  Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshippers, and in the marketplace daily with those coming by.
And in the market - In the forum. It was not only the place where provisions were sold, but was also a place of great public concourse. In this place the philosophers were not infrequently found engaged in public discussion.

Act 17:18  A few of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also encountered him. Some of them asked, "What has this beggarly babbler to say?" "His business," said others, "seems to be to cry up some foreign gods." This was because he had been telling the Good News of Jesus and the Resurrection.
Act 17:19  Then they took him and brought him up to the Areopagus, asking him, "May we be told what this new teaching of yours is?
Act 17:20  For the things you are saying sound strange to us. We should therefore like to be told exactly what they mean."
Act 17:21  (For all the Athenians and their foreign visitors used to devote their whole leisure to telling or hearing about something new.)
Act 17:22  So Paul, taking his stand in the centre of the Areopagus, spoke as follows: "Men of Athens, I perceive that you are in every respect remarkably religious.

Acts 17:18 Of the Epicureans - This sect of philosophers was so named from Epicurus, who lived about 300 years before the Christian era. They denied that the world was created by God, and that the gods exercised any care or providence over human affairs, and also the immortality of the soul. Against these positions of the sect Paul directed his main argument in proving that the world was created and governed by God. One of the distinguishing doctrines of Epicurus was that pleasure was the summum bonum, or chief good, and that virtue was to be practiced only as it contributed to pleasure.

And of the Stoics - This was a sect of philosophers, so named from the Greek στοά  stoa, 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; that all things were fixed by Fate; that even God was under the dominion of fatal necessity; that the Fates were to be submitted to; that the passions and affections were to be suppressed and restrained; that happiness consisted in the insensibility of the soul to pain; and that a man should gain an absolute mastery over all the passions and affections of his nature. They were stern in their views of virtue, and, like the Pharisees, prided themselves on their own righteousness. Barnes

Pauls Message at the Aeropagas
Act 17:23  For as I passed along and observed the things you worship, I found also an altar bearing the inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' "The Being, therefore, whom you, without knowing Him, revere, Him I now proclaim to you.
He proclaimed that the Creator God was Lord of heaven and earth.v.24
He is the One who gives life to all. v.25
Every race has One Fore-father [Adam].  God has determined our Lifespan and the Boundaries of our living.v. 26
We must seek Him with all our hearts. v.27
Act 17:28  and he gives us the power to live, to move, and to be who we are. "We are his children," just as some of your poets have said.
Act 17:29  Since we are God's children, we must not think that he is like an idol made out of gold or silver or stone. He isn't like anything that humans have thought up and made.
Act 17:30  So then these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent,
Act 17:31  because He has appointed a day in which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He appointed, having given proof to all, by raising Him from the dead."
Act 17:32  But when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some were scoffing, but others said, "We will hear you again concerning this."
Act 17:33  And thus Paul went forth from their midst.
Act 17:34  However, some men were joined to him and believed, among whom were also Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others

Putting yourself in Paul's shoes, how would you have felt about the  discussion with the Aeropagus? Depressed, excited or something in between?
Paul does not use quotes from Scripture with the Athenians. Is this a strength or weakness?
How would you witness to someone with little or no knowledge of God?
Paul used Greek poetry and idols as points of contact with the Athrenians. How could you use movies, books, TV shows, music to effectively relate the Gospel to others?  <>

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