|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
17:16-21 Athens was then famed for polite learning, philosophy, and the fine arts; but none are more childish and superstitious, more impious, or more credulous, than some persons, deemed eminent for learning and ability. It was wholly given to idolatry. The zealous advocate for the cause of Christ will be ready to plead for it in all companies, as occasion offers. Most of these learned men took no notice of Paul; but some, whose principles were the most directly contrary to Christianity, made remarks upon him. The apostle ever dwelt upon two points, which are indeed the principal doctrines of Christianity, Christ and a future state; Christ our way, and heaven our end. They looked on this as very different from the knowledge for many ages taught and professed at Athens; they desire to know more of it, but only because it was new and strange. They led him to the place where judges sat who inquired into such matters. They asked about Paul's doctrine, not because it was good, but because it was new. Great talkers are always busy-bodies. They spend their time in nothing else, and a very uncomfortable account they have to give of their time who thus spend it. Time is precious, and we are concerned to employ it well, because eternity depends upon it, but much is wasted in unprofitable conversation.
Verse 21. - Now for for, A.V.; the strangers sojourning there for strangers which were there, A.V. Spent their time. This gives the general sense, but the margin of the R.T., had leisure for nothing else, is much more accurate. Αὐκαιρεῖν, which is not considered good Greek, is only used by Polybius, and in the sense either of "being wealthy" or of "having leisure" or "opportunity." In the New Testament it occurs in Mark 6:31 and 1 Corinthians 16:12. Some new thing. So Cleon (Thucyd., 3:38) rates the Athenians upon their being entirely guided by words, and constantly deceived by any novelty of speech (καινότητος λόγου). And Demosthenes in his first 'Philippic' (p. 43, 7), inveighs against them because, when they ought to be up and doing, they went about the Agora, asking one another, "Is there any news? (Λέγεταί τι καινόν;)." The comparative καινότερον ix a little stronger than καινόν: "the very last news" (Alford).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For all the Athenians,.... The natives of Athens, who were born and lived there, and were inhabitants of the city, and free of it:
and strangers which were there; who came there from several parts of the world, to get wisdom and knowledge, to learn the several arts and sciences, and to attend the several sects of philosophers they made choice of:
spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing; that is, they did so for the most part; and this was the complexion and taste of the generality of them; and with this agrees what Demosthenes himself says of them (m),
"we, says he (for the truth shall be said), sit here, , "doing nothing"----inquiring in the court, , "whether any new thing is said."''
The character of such persons is given, and they are described in a very lively manner by Theophrastus (n). The Jewish doctors, at this time, were much of the same cast in their divinity schools; the usual question asked, when they met one another, was, , "what new thing" have you in the divinity school today (o)?
(m) Respons. ad Philippi Epistolam. (n) Ethic. character. p. 13. (o) T. Hieros. Taanith, fol. 75. 4. Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 14. fol. 212. 4.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
21. all the Athenians … spent their time in nothing else but to tell or hear some new thing—literally, "newer thing," as if what was new becoming presently stale, they craved something still more new [Bengel]. This lively description of the Athenian character is abundantly attested by their own writers.
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