|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
17:22-31 Here we have a sermon to heathens, who worshipped false gods, and were without the true God in the world; and to them the scope of the discourse was different from what the apostle preached to the Jews. In the latter case, his business was to lead his hearers by prophecies and miracles to the knowledge of the Redeemer, and faith in him; in the former, it was to lead them, by the common works of providence, to know the Creator, and worship Him. The apostle spoke of an altar he had seen, with the inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. This fact is stated by many writers. After multiplying their idols to the utmost, some at Athens thought there was another god of whom they had no knowledge. And are there not many now called Christians, who are zealous in their devotions, yet the great object of their worship is to them an unknown God? Observe what glorious things Paul here says of that God whom he served, and would have them to serve. The Lord had long borne with idolatry, but the times of this ignorance were now ending, and by his servants he now commanded all men every where to repent of their idolatry. Each sect of the learned men would feel themselves powerfully affected by the apostle's discourse, which tended to show the emptiness or falsity of their doctrines.
Verse 22. - And for then, A.V.; the Areopagus for Mars hill, A.V.; in all things I perceive that for I perceive that in all things, A.V.; somewhat for too, A.V. In the midst is simply a local description. He stood in the midst of the excavated quadrangle, while his hearers probably sat on the scats all round. Ye men of Athena. The Demosthenes of the Church uses the identical address - Ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι ( which the great orator used in his stirring political speeches to the Athenian people. Somewhat superstitious. There is a difference of opinion among commentators whether these words imply praise or blame. Chrysostom, followed by many others, takes it as said in the way of encomium, and understands the word δεισιδαιμονεστέρους ασ equivalent to εὐλαβεστέρους, very religious, more than commonly religious. And so Bishop Jacobson ('Speaker's Commentary'), who observes that the substantive δεισδαιμονία is used five times by Josephus, and always in the sense of "religion," or "piety." On the other hand, the Vulgate (superstitiosiores), the English Versions, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, etc., take the word in its most common classical sense of "superstitious;" and it weighs for something towards determining St. Luke's use of the word that Plutarch uses δεισιδαιμονία always in a bad sense, of superstition, as in his life of Alexander and elsewhere, and in his tract 'De Superstitione' (Δεισιδαιμονία). Perhaps the conclusion is that St. Paul, having his spirit stirred by seeing the city full of idols, determined to attack that spirit in the Athenian people which led to so much idolatry; which he did in the speech which follows. But, acting with his usual wisdom, he used an inoffensive term at the outset of his speech. He could not mean to praise them for that δεισιδαιμονία which it was the whole object of his sermon to condemn. Josephus ('Contr. Apion.,' 1:12) calls the Athenians τοὺς εὐσεβεστάτους τῶν Ἐλλήνων, the most religious of all Greeks (Howson).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill,.... Or of Areopagus, as it is better rendered in Acts 17:19 for it is the same place, and it is the same word that is here used: Paul stood in the midst of that court of judicature, amidst the Areopagites, the judges of that court, and the wise and learned philosophers of the different sects that were assembled together:
and said, ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious; or "more religious", than any other persons, in other places, which has been observed before on Acts 17:16 they had more gods, and more altars, and more festivals, and were more diligent and studious in the worship of the gods, than others. And this manner of addressing them, both as citizens of Athens, and as very religious persons, and who, as such, greatly exceeded all others, must greatly tend to engage their attention to him.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
22. Then Paul stood … and said—more graphically, "standing in the midst of Mars' hill, said." This prefatory allusion to the position he occupied shows the writer's wish to bring the situation vividly before us [Baumgarten].
I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious—rather (with most modern interpreters and the ancient Greek ones), "in all respects extremely reverential" or "much given to religious worship," a conciliatory and commendatory introduction, founded on his own observation of the symbols of devotion with which their city was covered, and from which all Greek writers, as well as the apostle, inferred the exemplary religiousness of the Athenians. (The authorized translation would imply that only too much superstition was wrong, and represents the apostle as repelling his hearers in the very first sentence; whereas the whole discourse is studiously courteous).
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