Acts 17:17
Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
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(17) And in the market daily.—To teach in the synagogue, and to gather the devout persons, i.e., the proselytes to whom the Law had been a schoolmaster, leading them to Christ, was after the usual pattern of St. Paul’s work. The third mode of action, disputing in the market-place, the agora, which in every Greek city was the centre of its life, was a new experiment. He saw, we may believe, others so disputing; teachers of this or that school of philosophy, with listeners round them, debating glibly of the “highest good,” and the “chief end” of life, and man’s relation to the One and the All. Why should not he take part in the discussion, and lead those who were apparently in earnest in their inquiries to the truth which they were vainly seeking?

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.Therefore disputed he - Or reasoned. He engaged in an argument with them.

With the devout persons - Those worshipping God after the manner of the Jews. They were Jewish proselytes, who had renounced idolatry, but who had not been fully admitted to the privileges of the Jews. See the notes on Acts 10:2.

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.

17. Therefore disputed—or, discussed.

he in the synagogue with the Jews—The sense is not, "Therefore went he to the Jews," because the Gentile Athenians were steeped in idolatry; but, "Therefore set he himself to lift up his voice to the idol city, but, as his manner was, he began with the Jews."

and with the devout persons—Gentile proselytes. After that,

in the market—the Agora, or place of public concourse.

daily with them that met with him—or "came in his way."

Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews; as Acts 17:2, still giving the Jews, if there were any, the priority; or, having by that means an opportnnily to speak unto the proselytes of the Gentiles, who are the devout persons here meant: see Acts 13:43.

In the market, because of the concourse thither; throwing the net of the Gospel where there were most fish; and he himself preaching, as he exhorted others to do, in season and out of season, 2 Timothy 4:2.

Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews,.... There being a synagogue of the Jews here, and there being many Jews settled in this place, hence we read in Jewish writings (c) of men going from Jerusalem to Athens, and from Athens to Jerusalem; and hence it may be accounted for, how many of the Athenian philosophers came to be acquainted with the books and sentiments of the Jews, from whom they borrowed may things; since there were so many that dwelt among them, and doubtless had for years past, as well as by their travels into Egypt: and a Jewish synagogue being here, the apostle went into it, according to his usual manner, and began with them, as he was wont to do, preaching the Gospel to the Jews first, and then unto the Gentiles: with them he disputed, not about idolatry, or the worship of many gods, to which they were not addicted; nor about the one true and living God, whom they knew and professed; but about the Son of God, about the Messiah, contending and proving that Jesus of Nazareth was he:

and with the devout persons; that is, with the Gentiles, who were proselytes to the Jewish religion, and worshipped the God of Israel with the Jews, in their synagogues, but knew nothing of Jesus Christ, and the way of salvation by him:

and in the market daily with them that met him; where there was a concourse of people; and where, after the apostle had been once or twice, the people came purposely to meet with him, and to hear his discourses, and reason with him about points in religion: the Syriac version renders it, "in the street"; and then the sense seems to be, that as he met persons in the street, day by day, as he walked along, he would stop and talk with them, about religious things, and about their idolatry, vanity, and superstition.

(c) Echa Rabbati, fol. 43. 3, 4. & 44. 1.

Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with {h} them that met with him.

(h) Whoever Paul met with that would allow him to talk with him, he reasoned with him, so thoroughly did he burn with the zeal of God's glory.

Acts 17:17. Οὖν] namely, impelled by that indignation to counteract this heathen confusion. He had intended only to wait for his companions at Athens, but “insigni et extraordinario zelo stimulatus rem gerit miles Christi,” Bengel. And this zeal caused him, in order to pave the way for Christianity in opposition to the heathenism here so particularly powerful, to enter into controversial discussions (see on Acts 17:2) with Jews and Gentiles at the same time (not first with the Jews, and, on being rejected by them, afterwards with Gentiles).

ἐν τῇ ἁγορᾷ] favours the view that, as usual in Greek cities, there was only one market at Athens (Forchhammer, Forbiger, and others). If there were two markets (so Otfried Müller and others), still the celebrated ἀγορά κατʼ ἐξοχήν is to be understood[63], not far from the Pnyx, the Acropolis, and the Areopagus, bounded by the ΣΤΟᾺ ΠΟΙΚΊΛΗ on the west, by the Stoa Basileios and the Stoa Eleutherios on the south, rich in noble statues, the central seat of commercial, forensic, and philosophic intercourse, as well as of the busy idleness of the loungers.

[63] Not the Eretria (ἣ νῦν ἐστιν ἀγορά, Strabo, x. 10, p. 447).

Acts 17:17. μὲν οὖντινὲς δὲ, see Rendall, p. 162, Appendix on μὲν οὖν, for the antithesis; a simple instance of two parties acting in opposition. Page however finds the antithesis to μὲν οὖν in Acts 17:19. ἐπιλαβ. δὲ (so W. H.), and regards τινὲς δὲσυνέβαλλον αὐτῷ as almost parenthetical, see below on Acts 17:19.—διελέγετο: “he reasoned,” R.V. (so Ramsay), see above on Acts 17:2.—ἐν τῇ συν.: on the synagogue see “Athens,” F. C. Conybeare, in Hastings’ B.D., but St. Paul did not confine himself to the synagogue, although undeterred by their hatred he went first to his own countrymen, and to the proselytes. But probably they were not numerous (see Farrar, St. Paul, i., 533), and the Apostle carried the same method of reasoning into the market-place—as was natural in the city of Socrates, he entered into conversation with those whom he met, as the same philosopher had done four hundred years before. Thus he became an Athenian to the Athenians: see the striking parallel in the description of Socrates, “he was to be seen in the market-place at the hour when it was most crowded,” etc., and the words used by Socrates of himself, Plato, Apol., 31 A, quoted by Grote, viii., 211, 212, small edit., p. 212. F. C. Conybeare, u. s., compares the experiences in Athens of the Apostle’s contemporary Apollonius with those of St. Paul; he too reasoned διελέξατο with them on religious matters, Philostr., Vit. Apollonii Tyanæ, iv., 19. The words ἐν τῇ συν. are placed in brackets by Hilgenfeld, and referred by Clemen to his Redactor Antijudaicus, whilst Jüngst retains the words but omits 16b, and with Van Manen and Clemen regards the whole of Paul’s subsequent speech to the philosophers as the interpolation of a Redactor, p. 161 ff.—ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ: not the market-place like that which fills a bare space in a modern town, but rather to be compared with its varied beauty and its busy crowd to the square of some Italian city, e.g., the Piazza di Marco of Venice. There the Apostle’s eye would fall on portico after portico, adorned by famous artists, rich in noble statues, see F. C. Conybeare, u. s., and Renan, Saint Paul, p. 180. On the west lay the Stoa Pæcile, whence the Stoics received their name, and where Zeno met his pupils, whilst the quiet gardens of Epicurus were probably not far distant (see on the site of the Agora to which St. Luke refers, “Athens,” B.D.2, i., 292, 293, and also C. and H., smaller edition, p. 273, Hackett, in loco, for different views as to its site).—κατὰ πᾶσαν ἡμέραν: every day, for he could take advantage by this method not only of the Sabbaths and days of meeting in the synagogues, but of every day, cf. the words of Socrates, Plato, u. s., in describing his own daily work of conversation with every one τὴν ἡμέραν ὅλην πανταχοῦ προσκαθίζων. The phrase seems to denote some time spent at Athens.—παρατυγχάνοντας: “chance comers” (like another Socrates), used only here in N.T., but cf. Thuc., i. 22, not in LXX or Apocrypha. Athens was full not only of philosophers, but we can imagine from the one phrase applied to it, Tac., Ann., ii., 55, what a motley group might surround the Apostle, ilia colluvies nationum.

17. Therefore disputed (reasoned) he in the synagogue] Going first to the Jews, and naturally expecting sympathy from them in his excitement against idolatry.

the devout persons] As before, the proselytes of the gate. Cp. Acts 13:50, and above Acts 17:4.

and in the market daily] One cannot but be reminded of the way in which Socrates some centuries earlier had thus gone about in the same city seizing eagerly on every one who would listen, and trying, according to his light, to shew them higher things, to open their eyes that they might discern between real knowledge and conceit without knowledge.

Verse 17. - So he reasoned for therefore disputed he, A.V.; and the devout for and with the devout, A.V.; market-place every day for market daily, A.V. Reasoned (διελέγετο, as in ver. 2; Acts 18:19 and Acts 24:12). "Disputed" gives the force of διαλέγεσθαι better than "reasoned," because the word in Plato, Thucydides, Xenophon, AElian, etc., is especially used of discussions and arguments in which two persons or more take part. Διάλεκτος is "discussion;" ἡ διαλεκτίκη is the art of drawing answers from your opponent to prove your conclusion; διάλαγος is a "dialogue" (see, however, Acts 20:7). The market-place. "The celebrated Ἀγορά, ... not far from the Pnyx, the Acropolis, and the Amopagus,... rich in noble statues, the central seat of commercial, forensic, and philosophic intercourse, as well as of the busy idleness of the loungers" (Meyer, in loc.). Acts 17:17
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