Acts 17:28
For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) For in him we live, and move, and have our being.—Better, we live, and are moved, and are. Each of the verbs used has a definite philosophical significance. The first points to our animal life; the second—from which is derived the Greek word used by ethical writers for passions, such as fear, love, hate, and the like—not, as the English verb suggests, to man’s power of bodily motion in space, but to our emotional nature; the third, to that which constitutes our true essential being, the intellect and will of man. What the words express is not merely the Omnipresence of the Deity; they tell us that the power for every act and sensation and thought comes from Him. They set forth what we may venture to call the true element of Pantheism, the sense of a “presence interposed,” as in nature, “in the light of setting suns,” so yet more in man. As a Latin poet had sung, whose works may have been known to the speaker, the hearers, and the historian:—

“Deum namque ire per omnes

Terras que tractusque maris, ccelumque profundum,

Hinc pecudes, armenta, viros, genus omne ferarum,

Quemque sibi tenues nascentem arcessere vitas,

Scilicet hinc reddi deinde ac resoluta referri,

Omnia; nec morti esse locum sed viva volare

Sideris in numerum atque alto succedere cælo.”

[“God permeates all lands, all tracts of sea,

And the vast heaven. From Him all flocks and herds,

And men, and creatures wild, draw, each apart,

Their subtle life. To Him they all return,

When once again set free. No place is found

For death, but all mount up once more on high

To join the stars in their high firmament.”]

—Virg. Georg. iv. 221-225.

In the teaching of St. Paul, however, the personality of God is not merged, as in that of the Pantheist, in the thought of the great Soul of the World, but stands forth with awful distinctness in the character of King and Judge. Traces of like thoughts are found in the prophetic vision of a time when God shall be “all in all” (1Corinthians 15:28), the discords of the world’s history harmonised in the eternal peace.

As certain also of your own poets have said.—The quotation has a special interest as being taken from a poet who was a countryman of St. Paul’s. Aratus, probably of Tarsus (circ. B.C. 272), had written a didactic poem under the title of Phenomena, comprising the main facts of astronomical and meteorological science as then known. It opens with an invocation to Zeus, which contains the words that St. Paul quotes. Like words are found in a hymn to Zeus by Cleanthes (B.C. 300). Both passages are worth quoting:—

(1)“From Zeus begin; never let us leave

His name unloved. With Him, with Zeus, are filled

All paths we tread, and all the marts of men;

Filled, too, the sea, and every creek and bay;

And all in all things need we help of Zeus,

For we too are his offspring.”

—Aratus, Phænom. 1–5.

(2)“Most glorious of immortals, many-named,

Almighty and for ever, thee, O Zeus,

Sovran o’er Nature, guiding with thy hand

All things that are, we greet with praises. Thee

’Tis meet that mortals call with one accord,

For we thine offspring are, and we alone

Of all that live and move upon this earth,

Receive the gift of imitative speech.”

—Cleanthes, Hymn to Zeus.

The fact of the quotation would at once quicken the attention of the hearers. They would feel that they had not to deal with an illiterate Jew, like the traders and exorcists who were so common in Greek cities, but with a man of culture like their own, acquainted with the thoughts of some at least of their great poets.

We are also his offspring.—We too often think of the quotation only as happily introduced at the time; but the fact that it was quoted shows that it had impressed itself, it may be, long years before, on St. Paul’s memory. As a student at Tarsus it had, we may well believe, helped to teach him the meaning of the words of his own Scriptures: “I have nourished and brought up children” (Isaiah 1:2). The method of St. Paul’s teaching is one from which modern preachers might well learn a lesson. He does not begin by telling men that they have thought too highly of themselves, that they are vile worms, creatures of the dust, children of the devil. The fault which he finds in them is that they have taken too low an estimate of their position. They too had forgotten that they were God’s offspring, and had counted themselves, even as the unbelieving Jews had done (Acts 13:46) “unworthy of eternal life.”

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.For in him we live - The expression "in him" evidently means by him; by his originally forming us, and continually sustaining us. No words can better express our constant dependence on God. He is the original fountain of life, and he upholds us each moment. A similar sentiment is found in Plautus (5, 4,14): "O Jupiter, who dost cherish and nourish the race of man; by whom we live, and with whom is the hope of the life of all men" (Kuinoel). It does not appear, however, that Paul designed this as a quotation; yet he doubtless intended to state a sentiment with which they were familiar, and with which they would agree.

And move - κινούμεθα kinoumetha. Doddridge translates this, "And are moved." It may, however, be in the middle voice, and be correctly rendered as in our version. It means that we derive strength to move from him; an expression denoting "constant and absolute dependence." There is no idea of dependence more striking than that we owe to him the ability to perform the slightest motion.

And have our being - καὶ ἐσμέν kai esmen. And are. This denotes that our "continued existence" is owing to Him. That we live at all is his gift; that we have power to move is his gift; and our continued and prolonged existence is his gift also. Thus, Paul traces our dependence on him from the lowest pulsation of life to the highest powers of action and of continued existence. It would be impossible to express in more emphatic language our entire dependence On God.

As certain also - As some. The sentiment which he quotes was found substantially in several Greek poets.

Of your own poets - He does not refer particularly here to poets of Athens, but to Greek poets who had written in their language.

For we are also his offspring - 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.

28. For in him we live, and move, and have our being—(or, more briefly, "exist").—This means, not merely, "Without Him we have no life, nor that motion which every inanimate nature displays, nor even existence itself" [Meyer], but that God is the living, immanent Principle of all these in men.

as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring—the first half of the fifth line, word for word, of an astronomical poem of Aratus, a Greek countryman of the apostle, and his predecessor by about three centuries. But, as he hints, the same sentiment is to be found in other Greek poets. They meant it doubtless in a pantheistic sense; but the truth which it expresses the apostle turns to his own purpose—to teach a pure, personal, spiritual Theism. (Probably during his quiet retreat at Tarsus. Ac 9:30, revolving his special vocation to the Gentiles he gave himself to the study of so much Greek literature as might be turned to Christian account in his future work. Hence this and his other quotations from the Greek poets, 1Co 15:33; Tit 1:12).

In him we live, &c.; he is the God that made us, that preserves us, and not we ourselves; he keeps us as in the hollow of his hand, and compasseth our paths. Our breath is in our nostrils, and when we send it forth we have none to take in again, unless God furnish us with it, as out of his own hand.

As certain also of your own poets; Aratus, a Greek poet: not that St. Paul thought to derive any authority from these poets unto what he had said, but that he might shame them the more by the testimony of their allowed authors. Such quotations as these are (as the bringing in of a Greek into the temple) very rare; yet, besides this, we meet with the like, 1 Corinthians 15:33 Titus 1:12. For in him we live, and move, and have our being,.... The natural life which men live is from God; and they are supported in it by him; and from him they have all the comforts and blessings of life; and all motions, whether external or internal, of body or of mind, are of God, and none of them are without the concourse of his providence, and strength assistance from him; though the disorder and irregularity of these motions, whereby they become sinful, are of themselves, or of the devil; and their being, and the maintenance of it, and continuance in it, are all owing to the power and providence of God.

As certain also of your own poets have said; the Syriac version reads in the singular number, "as a certain one of your wise men has said"; but all others read in the plural; and some have thought, that the apostle refers to what goes before, that being an Iambic verse of some of the poets, as well as to what follows, which is a citation from Aratus (x) and whom the apostle might have called his own, as he was his countryman; for Aratus was a native of Solis, a city of Cilicia, not far from Tarsus yea, some say (y) he was of Tarsus, where the apostle was born: but Aratus being an Heathen, and the apostle speaking to Heathens, calls him one of them; and the rather, that what is cited might be the more regarded by them: though the expression is also (z) said to be in an hymn to Jove, written by Cleanthes, who taught at Athens; and so the apostle addressing the Athenians, might, with greater propriety, say, "as certain of your own poets say": it is also said to be in Aratus the astronomer, and in the poet Homer; so that the plural number may well be used. Which is,

for we are also his offspring; the offspring of Jove, says Aratus; which the apostle applies to the true Jehovah, the Creator of all men, by whom, and after whose image, they are made, and so are truly his offspring; upon which the apostle argues as follows.

(x) In Phaenomenis, p. 1.((y) Vid. Fabricii Biblioth. Gr. l. 3. c. 18. p. 451. (z) Vid. Fabricii Biblioth. Gr. l. 3. c. 18. p. 453.

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 17:28. Reason assigned (γάρ) for οὐ μακρ. ἀπὸ ἑνὸς κ.τ.λ., for in Him we live, we move, and we exist. Paul views God under the point of view of His immanence as the element in which we live, etc.; and man in such intimate connection with God, that he is constantly surrounded by the Godhead and embraced in its essential influence, but, apart from the Godhead, could neither live, nor move, nor exist. Comp. Dio Chrys. vol. I. p. 384, ed. Reiske: ἅτε οὐ μακρὰν οὐδʼ ἔξω τοῦ θείου διῳκισμένοι, ἀλλʼ ἐν αὐτῷ μέσῳ πεφυκότες κ.τ.λ. This explanation is required by the relation of the words to the preceding, according to which they are designed to prove the nearness of God; therefore ἐν αὐτῷ must necessarily contain the local reference—the idea of the divine περιχώρησις (which Chrysostom illustrates by the example of the air surrounding us on all sides). Therefore the rendering per eum (Beza, Grotius, Heinrichs, Kuinoel), or, as de Wette more correctly expresses it, “resting on Him as the foundation” (comp. already Chrysostom: οὐκ εἶπε· διʼ αὐτοῦ, ἀλλʼ ὃ ἐγγύτερον ἦν, ἐν αὐτῷ), which would yield no connection in the way of proof with the οὐ μακρὰν εἶναι of the Godhead, is to be abandoned. In opposition to the pantheistic view, see already Calvin. It is sufficient to urge against it—although it was also asserted by Spinoza and others—on the one hand, that the transcendence of God is already decidedly attested in Acts 17:24-26, and on the other, that the ἐν αὐτῷ ζῶμεν κ.τ.λ. is said solely of men, and that indeed in so far as they stand in essential connection with God by divine descent (see the following), in which case the doctrine of the reality of evil (comp. Olshausen) excludes a spiritual pantheism.

ζῶμεν κ. κινούμεθα κ. ἐσμέν] a climax: out of God we should have no life, not even movement (which yet inanimate creatures, plants, waters, etc. have), nay, not even any existence (we should not have been at all). Heinrichs and others take a superficial view when they consider all three to be synonymous. Storr (Opusc. III. p. 95), on the other hand, arbitrarily puts too much into ζῶμεν: vivimus beate ac hilare; and Olshausen (after Kuinoel), too much into ἐσμέν: the true being, the life of the spirit. It is here solely physical life and being that is meant; the moral life-fellowship with God, which is that of the regenerate, is remote from the context.

τινες τῶν καθʼ ὑμᾶς ποιητ.] Namely, Aratus (of Soli in Cilicia, in the third century B.C.), Phaenom. 5, and Cleanthes (of Assos in Mysia, a disciple of Zeno), Hymn. in Jov. 5. For other analogous passages, see Wetstein.

The acquaintance of the apostle with the Greek poets is to be considered as only of a dilettante sort[69] (see Introduction to the Epistle to the Romans, § 1); his school-training was entirely Jewish, but he was here obliged to abstain from O.T. quotations.

τῶν καθʼ ὑμᾶς ποιητ.] Of the poets pertaining to you, i.e. your poets. See Bernhardy, p. 241.

τοῦ γὰρ καὶ γένος ἐσμέν] The first half of a hexameter, verbatim from Aratus l.c.; therefore γὰρ καί is not to be considered in logical connection with the speech of the apostle, but as, independently of the latter, a component part of the poetical passage, which he could not have omitted without destroying the verse. Nam hujus progenies quoque sumus: this Paul adduces as a parallel (ὡς καί τινεςεἰρήκασι) confirming to his hearers his own assertion, ἐν αὐτῷ ζῶμενἐσμέν. As the offspring of God, we men stand in such homogeneity to God, and thus in such necessary and essential connection with God, that we cannot have life, etc. without Him, but only in Him. So absolutely dependent is our life, etc. on Him.

τοῦ] Here, according to poetical usage since the time of Homer, in the sense of τούτου. See Kühner, § 480, 5; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 198. Paul has idealized the reference of the τοῦ to Zeus in Aratus.

In the passage of Cleanthes, which was also in the apostle’s mind, it is said: ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν, where γένος is the accusative of more precise definition, and means, not kindred, as with Aratus, but origin.

[69] That Paul after his conversion, on account of his destination to the Gentiles, may have earnestly occupied himself in Tarsus with Greek literature (Baumgarten), to which also the βιβλία, 2 Timothy 4:13, are supposed to point, is a very precarious assumption, especially as it is Aratus, a fellow-countryman of the apostle, who is quoted, and other quotations (except Titus 1:12) are not demonstrable (comp. on 1 Corinthians 15:33). The poetical expression itself in our passage is such a common idea (see Wetstein), that an acquaintance with it from several Greek poets (τινές) by no means presupposes a more special study of Greek literature.Acts 17:28. St. Chrysostom comments (Hom., xxxviii.): Τί λέ γω μακράν; οὕτως ἐγγύς ἐστιν, ὡς χωρὶς αὐτοῦ μὴ ζῆν. ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν κ.τ.λ.… καὶ οὐκ εἶπε, διʼ αὐτοῦ, ἀλλʼ ὃ ἐγγύτερον ἦν, ἐν αὐτῷ. In the three verbs it has been sometimes maintained there is an ascending scale; in God we possess the gift of life, in Him we move, in Him we are (not “have our being” simply), i.e., we are what we are, personal beings. Bethge and Plumptre may be named as two chief supporters of some such view as this, whilst others regard the words (Bengel, Weiss) as merely expressing what had been already expressed in Acts 17:25, or as referring simply (so Overbeck, Wendt, Felten) to our physical life and being.—τῶν καθʼ ὑμᾶς π.: “of your own poets,” see Grimm., sub v. κατά, with the accusative as a periphrasis for the possessive pronoun; see also Winer-Moulton, xxii., 7, xlix. d. Blass takes it as = ὑμέτεροι., on the reading see W. H. marg. καθʼ ἡμᾶς, though the limited range of attestation prevents them from reading this in the text: “there would be a striking fitness in a claim by St. Paul to take his stand as a Greek among Greeks, as he elsewhere vindicates his position as a Roman (Acts 16:37; Acts 22:25; Acts 22:28), and as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6)”: W. H., ii., p. 310.—τοῦ γὰρ καὶ γένος ἐσμέν: half of an hexameter, the γὰρ καὶ has nothing to do with the meaning of the quotation in the N.T., but see Winer-Moulton, liii. 10. The words are found in Aratus, B.C. 270, Phœnom., 5, and Cleanthes, B.C. 300, Hymn to Jove, 5; for other parallels see Blass, in loco, and Wetstein, so that Zöckler may go too far in saying that St. Paul quoted from the former as his fellow-countryman, Aratus being of Soli in Cilicia. Both poets named were Stoics, and the words may have been well known as a familiar quotation, see on Tarsus, chapter lx. 11. In Cleanthes the actual words are rather different, ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν, where origin rather than kinship may be meant. No doubt it is possible to exaggerate, with Bentley, St. Paul’s knowledge of classical literature, but on the other hand it is not perhaps an unfair inference that a man who could quote so aptly from the poets as here in 1 Corinthians 15:35, and in Titus 1:12, could have done so at other times if occasion had required, cf. Curtius, ubi supra, Blass, in loco, and Farrar, “Classical Quotations of St. Paul,” St. Paul, 2, Exc., 3. As the words of the hymn were addressed to Zeus, a difficulty has been raised as to the Apostle’s application of them here, and it has been questioned whether he was acquainted with the context of the words, or whether he was aware of their application. But he must at least have known that they were not originally written of the God Whom he revealed. If so, however, there seems no more difficulty in supposing that he would apply such a hemistich to a higher purpose, than that he should make the inscription on a heathen altar a text for his discourse.28. for in him we live] i.e. through or by Him. All our existence is through His care, therefore He must be near to all of us. The preposition is rendered by in Acts 17:31, “By that man whom he hath ordained.”

and move] More literally, are moved. The word does not refer to the motion of persons from place to place, but to those internal movements of the mind and spirit of which the outward actions are the effect. St Paul means that the feelings of men are acted on by God, who speaks to the heart through all nature if men will but hearken. This is the truth of which Pantheism is the caricature.

your own poets have said] The words are a quotation from Arâtus, Phænomena, 5, and are also found in Cleanthes, Hymn to Jupiter, 5. Arâtus was a native of Cilicia, and St Paul may in consequence be supposed to have known of his writings as of those of a fellow-countryman. By quoting from their own literature to the Athenians, St Paul illustrates his own declaration that in his labours “he became all things to all men.” Such a quotation was also very well devised for arresting the attention of these cultivated hearers, and winning it may be some consideration for the speaker, as also being a man of culture.Acts 17:28. Ἐν αὐτῷ) In Him, not in ourselves: ἐν, in, expresses the most efficacious presence flowing from the most intimate tie of connection, so that we cannot think of (feel) ourselves without thinking of (feeling) Him.—ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμὲν we live and move and are [Engl. Vers. have our being]) These verbs are equivalent to those three things in Acts 17:25, life and breath and all things: ἐσμὲν, we are, whatever we are, who without Him would have no being at all. Being is implied of that kind which follows motion, as motion follows life.[100] Cypria[101] writes: “We are in the Father, we live in the Son, we have motion and make progress in the Holy Ghost.”—ΤΙΝῈς ΤῶΝ ΚΑΘʼ ὙΜᾶς, certain of your own) Many add ποιητῶν [The margin of both Editions, with the concurrence of the Germ. Vers., leaves the question undecided.—E. B. ΠΟΙΗΤῶΝ is supported by [102]

[103]

[104] Vulg. Orig. It is omitted by [105]

[106]

[107] Iren.]. And indeed Aratus, whose testimony Paul quotes in showing that God is a Spirit, was a poet: but with a weighty effect he abstains from the term poet, and from the name of Aratus.—τοῦ) for ΑὐΤΟῦ, His, i.e. GOD’S.—γένος, offspring) This is an article of natural theology: and in Christian theology it ought not to be so urged, as that more weight should not be given to the other ties of connection which bind us to GOD in Christ; αὐτοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν ποίημα, for we are His workmanship, Ephesians 2:10.—ἐσμὲν, we are) we all, we men, endowed with mind.

[100] Therefore Bengel takes ἐσμὲν not of our bare existence, as Engl. Vers.; but of all that we are; which follows life and motion.—E. and T.

[101] yprian (in the beginning and middle of the third century: a Latin father). Ed. Steph. Baluzii, Paris. 1726.

[102] the Alexandrine MS.: in Brit. Museum: fifth century: publ. by Woide, 1786–1819: O. and N. Test. defective.

[103] Cod. Basilianus (not the B. Vaticanus): Revelation: in the Vatican: edited by Tisch., who assigns it to the beginning of the eighth century.

[104] Laudianus: Bodl. libr., Oxford: seventh or eighth cent.: publ. 1715: Acts def.

[105] Bezæ, or Cantabrig.: Univ. libr., Cambridge: fifth cent.: publ. by Kipling, 1793: Gospels, Acts, and some Epp. def.

[106] Bezæ, or Cantabrig.: Univ. libr., Cambridge: fifth cent.: publ. by Kipling, 1793: Gospels, Acts, and some Epp. def.

[107] Cantabrigiensis, do.: the Gospels, Acts , , 3 d Ep. John.Verse 28. - Even for also, A.V. For in him, etc. This is the proof that we have not far to go to find God, Our very life and being, every movement we make as living persons, is a proof that God is near, nay, more than near, that he is with us and round about us, quickening us with his own life, upholding us by his own power, sustaining the being that we derive from him (comp. Psalm 139:7, etc.; Psalms 23:4). Certain even of your own poets; viz. Arstus of Tarsus (), who has the exact words quoted by St. Paul, and Cleanthes of Asses (), who has Ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν. As he had just defended himself from the imputation of introducing foreign gods by referring to an Athenian altar, so now, for the same purpose, he quotes one of their own Greek poets. (For the statement that man is the offspring of God, comp. Luke 3:38.) We are also his offspring

A line from Aratus, a poet of Paul's own province of Cilicia. The same sentiment, in almost the same words, occurs in the fine hymn of Cleanthes to Jove. Hence the words, "Some of your own poets."

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