Paul and his company, passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia, come to Thessalonica, were they preach the Gospel to the Jews, several of whom believe, Acts 17:1-4. Others raise a mob, and bring Jason, who had received the apostles, before the magistrates, who, having taken bail of him and his companions, dismiss them, Acts 17:5-9. Paul and Silas are sent away by night unto Berea, where they preach to the Jews, who gladly receive the Gospel, Acts 17:10-12. Certain Jews from Thessalonica, hearing that the Bereans had received the Gospel, come thither and raise up a persecution, Acts 17:13. Paul is sent away by the brethren to Athens, where he preaches to the Jews, Acts 17:14-17. He is encountered by the Epicureans and Stoics, who bring him to the Areopagus, and desire him to give a full explanation of his doctrine, Acts 17:18-20. The character of the Athenians, Acts 17:21. Paul preaches to them, and gives a general view of the essential principles of theology, Acts 17:22-31. Some mock, some hesitate, and some believe, and, among the latter, Dionysias and Damaris, Acts 17:32-34.
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:Passed through Amphipolis - This city was the metropolis of the first division of Macedonia, as made by Paulus Aemilius: see the note on Acts 16:10. It was builded by Cimon, the Athenian general, who sent 10,000 Athenians thither as a colony. It stood in an island in the river Strymon, and had its name of Amphipolis because included between the two grand branches of that river where they empty themselves into the sea, the river being on both sides of the city.
Apollonia - This was another city of Macedonia, between Amphipolis and Thessalonica. It does not appear that St. Paul stopped at any of these cities: and they are only mentioned by the historian as places through which the apostles passed on their way to Thessalonica. It is very likely that in these cities there were no Jews; and that might have been the reason why the apostles did not preach the Gospel there, for we find them almost constantly beginning with the Jews; and the Hellenist Jews, living among the Gentiles, became the medium through which the Gospel of Christ was conveyed to the heathen world.
Thessalonica - This was a celebrated city of Macedonia, situated on what was called the Thermaic Gulf. According to Stephanus Byzantinus, it was embellished and enlarged by Philip, king of Macedon, who called it Thessalonica, the victory of Thessalia, on account of the victory he obtained there over the Thessalians; but, prior to this, it was called Thermae. But Strabo, Tzetzes, and Zonaras, say that it was called Thessalonica, from Thessalonica, wife of Cassander, and daughter of Philip. It is now in possession of the Turks, and is called Salonichi, which is a mere corruption of the original name.
A synagogue of the Jews - Ἡ συναγωγη, The synagogue; for the article here must be considered as emphatic, there probably being no other synagogue in any other city in Macedonia. The Jews in different parts had other places of worship called proseuchas. as we have seen, Acts 16:13. At Thessalonica alone they appear to have had a synagogue.
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,As his manner was - He constantly offered salvation first to the Jews; and for this purpose attended their Sabbath-days' meetings at their synagogues.
Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.Opening and alleging - Παρατιθεμνος, Proving by citations. His method seems to have been this:
1st. He collected the scriptures that spoke of the Messiah.
2d. He applied these to Jesus Christ, showing that in him all these scriptures were fulfilled, and that he was the Savior of whom they were in expectation. He showed also that the Christ, or Messiah, must needs suffer - that this was predicted, and was an essential mark of the true Messiah. By proving this point, he corrected their false notion of a triumphant Messiah, and thus removed the scandal of the cross.
And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.The devout Greeks - That is, Gentiles who were proselytes to the Jewish religion, so far as to renounce idolatry, and live a moral life, but probably had not received circumcision.
But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.The Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them - Instead of this sentence, the most correct MSS. and versions read simply, προσλαβομενοι δε οἱ Ιουδαιοι. But the Jews taking, etc., leaving out the words, ζηλωσαντες, απειθουντες, which believed not, moved with envy: these words do not appear to be genuine; there is the strongest evidence against them, and they should be omitted.
Certain lewd fellows of the baser sort - This is not a very intelligible translation. The original is, των αγοραιων τινας ανδοας πονηρους. The word αγοραιοι, which we translate the baser sort, is by Hesychius explained, οἱ εν αγορᾳ αναϚρεφομενοι, those who transact business in courts of justice. The same word is used by the Jews in Hebrew letters to signify judges; and אגוריאות של גוים agorioth shel goyim, signifies judges of the Gentiles. These were probably a low kind of lawyers, what we would call pettifoggers, or attorneys without principle, who gave advice for a trifle, and fomented disputes and litigations among the people. The Itala version of the Codex Bezae calls them quosdam forenses, certain lawyers. As the Jews, from their small number, could not easily raise up a mob, they cunningly employed those unprincipled men, who probably had a certain degree of juridical credit and authority, to denounce the apostles as seditious men; and this was, very likely, the reason why they employed those in preference to any others. They were such as always attended forensic litigations, waiting for a job, and willing to defend any side of a question for money. They were wicked men of the forensic tribe.
Gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar - And, after having made this sedition and disturbance, charged the whole on the peaceable and innocent apostles! This is precisely the same way that persecution against the truth and followers of Christ is still carried on. Some wicked man in the parish gets a wicked attorney and a constable to head a mob, which they themselves have raised; and, having committed a number of outrages, abusing men and women, haul the minister of Christ to some magistrate who knows as little of his office as he cares for the Gospel; they there charge the outrages which themselves have committed on the preacher and his peaceable hearers; and the peacemaker, appointed by a good king, according to the wise and excellent regulations of a sound constitution, forgetting whose minister he is, neither administers justice nor maintains truth; but, espousing the part of the mob, assumes, ex officio, the character of a persecutor. The preacher is imprisoned, his hearers fined for listening to that Gospel which has not only made them wise unto salvation, but also peaceable and orderly citizens, and which would have had the same effect on the unprincipled magistrate, the parish squire, and the mob, had they heard it with the same reverence and respect. Had I not witnessed such scenes, and such prostitution of justice, I could not have described them.
Assaulted the house of Jason - This was the place where the apostles lodged; and therefore his goods were clear spoil, and his person fair game. This is a case which frequently occurs where the Gospel is preached in its spirit and power. And, even in this moat favored kingdom, the most scandalous excesses of this kind have been committed, and a justice of the peace has been found to sanction the proceedings; and, when an appeal has been made to the laws, a grand jury has been found capable of throwing out the true bill!
And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also - The very character our forefathers had for preaching that Gospel, in every part of the land, by which the nation has been illuminated, the mob disciplined into regularity and order, and the kingdom established in the hands of the best of monarchs.
Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.These all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar - Persecutors always strive to affect the lives of the objects of their hatred, by accusing them of sedition, or plots against the state.
That there is another king, one Jesus - How malevolent was this saying! The apostles proclaimed Jesus as king - that is true; but never once insinuated that his kingdom was of this world. The reverse they always maintained.
And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.And they troubled the people and the rulers - It is evident that there was no disposition in either the people or the rulers to persecute the apostles. But these wicked Jews, by means of the unprincipled, wicked lawyers, those lewd fellows of the baser sort, threw the subject into the form of law, making it a state question, in which form the rulers were obliged to notice it; but they showed their unwillingness to proceed in a matter which they saw proceeded from malice, by letting Jason and his companions go off on bail.
And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.Taken security - Λαβοντες το ἱκανον, Having taken what was sufficient, or satisfactory. Sufficient for the present, to prove that the apostles were upright, peaceable, and loyal men; and that Jason and his friends were the like, and would be, at any time, forthcoming to answer for their conduct. Perhaps this is the sense of the phrase in the text.
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.Sent away Paul and Silas by night - Fearing some farther machinations of the Jews and their associates.
Berea - This was another city of Macedonia, on the same gulf with Thessalonica; and not far from Pella, the birth place of Alexander the Great.
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.These were more noble than those in Thessalonica - Ησαν ευγενεϚεροι, Were of a better race, extraction, or birth, than those at Thessalonica; but the word refers more to their conduct, as a proof of their better disposition, than to their birth, or any peculiar lineal nobility. It was a maxim among the Jews, that "none was of a noble spirit who did not employ himself in the study of the law." It appears that the Bereans were a better educated and more polished people than those at Thessalonica; in consequence far from persecuting:
1. They heard the doctrine of the Gospel attentively.
2. They received this doctrine with readiness of mind: when the evidence of its truth appeared to them sufficiently convincing, they had too much dignity of mind to refuse their assent, and too much ingenuousness to conceal their approbation.
3. They searched the Scriptures, i.e. of the Old Testament, to see whether these thing were so: to see whether the promises and types corresponded with the alleged fulfillment in the person, works, and sufferings of Jesus Christ.
4. They continued in this work; they searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.Therefore many of them believed - From the manner in which they heard, received, and examined the word preached to them, it was not likely they could be deceived. And, as it was the truth that was proclaimed to them, it is no wonder that they apprehended, believed, and embraced it.
Of honorable women which were Greeks - Probably mere heathens are meant; and these were some of the chief families in the place. Thus we find that the preaching of Paul at Berea was made the instrument of converting both Jews and Gentiles.
But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.The Jews of Thessalonica - stirred up the people - With what implacable malice did these men persecute the Gospel! And in the same spirit they continue to the present day, though it is evidently the sole cause of their wretchedness.
And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.To go as it were to the sea - This passage is generally understood to mean that the disciples took Paul towards the sea, as if he had intended to embark, and return to Troas, but with the real design to go to Athens. But it is more likely that his conductors, in order to his greater safety, left the public or more frequented road, and took him coastwise to Athens. Or, by taking a vessel at that part of the sea nearest to Berea, they might have coasted it to Athens, which was quite a possible case; and, as we do not hear of his stopping at any place on his journey to preach, it is very probable that he went by sea to this city. Though sleights and feints may be allowable in cases of life and death, yet there does not appear an absolute necessity for any in this case. And, as the text does not necessarily point any out, so we need not have recourse to any. I take it for granted, therefore, that Paul went by sea to Athens.
Silas and Timotheus abode there still - The persecution, it seems, was directed principally against Paul. Lo! he stayeth his rough wind on the day of his east wind. Silas and Timotheus, holy men, were left behind to water the seed which Paul had planted.
And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.Brought him unto Athens - This was one of the most celebrated cities in the world, whether we consider its antiquity, its learning, its political consequence, or the valor of its inhabitants. This city, which was the capital of Attica, and the seat of the Grecian empire was founded by Cecrops, about a.m. 2447, before Christ 1557, and was called by him Cecropia. About thirteen or fourteen hundred years before Christ, in the reign either of Erechtheus, or Erichthonius, it was called Athens, from Αθηνη, a name of Minerva, to whom it was dedicated, and who was always considered the protectress of the city. The whole city at first was built upon a hill or rock, in the midst of a spacious plain; but, in process of time, the whole plain was covered with buildings which were called the lower city; while the ancient was called Acropolis, or the upper city. In its most flourishing state this city was not less than one hundred and seventy-eight stadia, or twenty-two Roman miles in circumference. The buildings of Athens were the most superb, and best executed, in the world; but every thing is now in a state of ruin. Mr. Stuart, in his three folio vols. of the Antiquities of Athens, has given correct representations of those that remain, with many geographical notices of much importance. The greatest men that ever lived, scholars, lawyers, statesmen, and warriors, were Athenians. Its institutions, laws, and literature, were its own unrivalled boast, and the envy of the world. The city still exists; the Acropolis in a state of comparative repair. It is now in the hands of the Greeks; but the Turks, who held it till lately, have turned the celebrated Parthenon, or temple of Minerva, into a mosque. The inhabitants are reckoned at about one thousand. Christianity, planted here by St. Paul, still subsists; and about two-thirds of the inhabitants of Athens are Christians, who have several churches or oratories here, and it is the residence of a Greek bishop, who is a metropolitan. He who considers the ancient glory of this city, whether in its heathen or Christian antiquity, cannot but sigh over its present state.
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.He saw the city wholly given to idolatry - Κατειδωλον, Full of idols, as the margin has it, and very properly. Whoever examines the remains of this city, as represented by Mr. Stuart in his Antiquities, already referred to, will be satisfied of the truth of St. Luke's remark: it was full of idols. Bishop Pearce produces a most apposite quotation from Pausanias, which confirms the observation: Ουκ ην αλλαχου τοσαυτα ιδειν ειδωλα. There was no place where so many idols were to be seen. Paus. in Attic. cap. xvii. 24.
Petronius, who was contemporary with St. Paul, in his Satyr. cap. xvii., makes Quartilla say of Athens: Utique nostra regio tam Praesentibus Plena Est Numinibus, ut facilius possis Deum quam Hominem invenire. Our region is so full of deities that you may more frequently meet with a god than a man.
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.Disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews - Proving that Jesus was the Messiah: and with the devout persons, probably heathens, proselyted to the Jewish religion. And in the market: I suppose the αγορα here means some such place as our exchange, where people of business usually met, and where the philosophers conversed and reasoned. The agora was probably like the Roman forum, and like places of public resort in all countries, where people of leisure assembled to converse, hear the news, etc.
Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.Certain philosophers of the Epicureans - These were the followers of Epicurus, who acknowledged no gods except in name, and absolutely denied that they exercised any government over the world or its inhabitants; and that the chief good consisted in the gratification of the appetites of sense. These points the Epicureans certainly held; but it is not clear that Epicurus himself maintained such doctrines.
And of the Stoics - These did not deny the existence of the gods; but they held that all human affairs were governed by fate. They did not believe that any good was received from the hands of their gods; and considered, as Seneca asserts, that any good and wise man was equal to Jupiter himself. Both these sects agreed in denying the resurrection of the body; and the former did not believe in the immortality of the soul.
Epicurus, the founder of the Epicurean sect, was born at Athens, about a.m. 3663, before Christ 341.
Zeno, the founder of the Stoic sect, was born in the isle of Cyprus, about thirty years before Christ. His disciples were called Stoics from the Στοα, a famous portico at Athens, where they studied. Besides these two sects, there were two others which were famous at this time; viz. the Academics and the Peripatetics. The founder of the first was the celebrated Plato; and the founder of the second, the no less famous Aristotle. These sects professed a much purer doctrine than the Epicureans and Stoics; and it does not appear that they opposed the apostles, nor did they enter into public disputations with them. Against the doctrines taught by the Epicureans and Stoics, several parts of St. Paul's discourse, in the following verses, are directly pointed.
What will this babbler say? - The word σπερμολογος, which we translate babbler, signifies, literally, a collector of seeds, and is the "name of a small bird the lives by picking up seeds on the road." The epithet became applied to persons who collected the sayings of others, without order or method, and detailed them among their companions in the same way. The application of the term to prating, empty, impertinent persons, was natural and easy, and hence it was considered a term of reproach and contempt, and was sometimes used to signify the vilest sort of men.
A setter forth of strange gods - Ξενων δαιμονιων, Of strange or foreign demons. That this was strictly forbidden, both at Rome and Athens, see on Acts 16:21 (note).
There was a difference, in the heathen theology, between θεος, god, and δαιμων, demon: the θεοι, were such as were gods by nature: the δαιμονια, were men who were deified. This distinction seems to be in the mind of these philosophers when they said that the apostles seemed to be setters forth of strange demons, because they preached unto them Jesus, whom they showed to be a man, suffering and dying, but afterwards raised to the throne of God. This would appear to them tantamount with the deification of heroes, etc., who had been thus honored for their especial services to mankind. Horace expresses this in two lines, 2 Epist. i.:5: -
Romulus, et Liber pater, et cum Castore Pollux,
Post ingentia facta, deorum in templa recepti.
"Romulus, father Bacchus, with Castor and Pollux, for their eminent services, have been received into the temples of the gods."
And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?They took him, and brought him unto Areopagus - The Areopagus was a hill not far from the Acropolis, already described, where the supreme court of justice was held; one of the most sacred and reputable courts that had ever existed in the Gentile world. It had its name, Αρειος παγος, Areopagus, or the Hill of Mars, or Ares, from the circumstance, according to poetic fiction, of Mars being tried there, by a court of twelve gods, for the murder of Halirrhothius, son of Neptune: the meaning of which is, that Ares, a Thessalian prince, having slain Halirrhothius, the son of a neighboring prince, for having violated his daughter Alcippe, was here tried by twelve judges, by whom he was honourably acquitted: in the Athenian laws the death of the ravisher was the regular forfeiture for his crime. The justice administered in this court was so strict and impartial, that, it was generally allowed, both the plaintiff and defendant departed satisfied with the decision. "Innocence, when summoned before it, appeared without apprehension; and the guilty, convicted and condemned, retired without daring to murmur." The place in which the judges sat was uncovered; and they held their sittings by night, to the end that nothing might distract their minds from the great business on which they were to decide; and that the sight of the accused might not affect them either with pity or aversion. In reference to this, all pleaders were strictly forbidden to use any means whatever to excite either pity or aversion, or to affect the passions; every thing being confined to simple relation, or statement of facts. When the two parties were produced before the court, they were placed between the bleeding members of victims slain on the occasion, and were obliged to take an oath, accompanied by horrible imprecations on themselves and families, that they would testify nothing but truth. These parties called to witness the eumenides, or furies, the punishers of the perjured in the infernal world; and, to make the greater impression on the mind of the party swearing, the temple dedicated to these infernal deities was contiguous to the court, so that they appeared as if witnessing the oaths and recording the appeal made to themselves. When the case was fully heard, the judges gave their decision by throwing down their flint pebbles, on two boards or tables, one of which was for the condemnation, the other for the acquittal, of the person in question.
For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.Thou bringest - strange things to our ears - The doctrine of the apostles was different from any they had ever heard: it was wholly spiritual and divine; thus it was strange: it was contrary to their customs and manners; and thus it was strange also. As it spoke much of the exaltation and glory of Jesus Christ, they supposed him to be a setter forth of strange gods: and, therefore, on the authority of the laws, which forbade the introduction of any new deities, or modes of worship, he was called before the Areopagus.
(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)All the Athenians and strangers which were there - As Athens was renowned for its wisdom and learning, it became a place of public resort for philosophers and students from different parts of the then civilized world. The flux of students was in consequence great; and these, having much leisure time, would necessarily be curious to know what was passing in the world, and would frequently assemble together, in places of public resort, to meet with strangers just come to the city; and either, as St. Luke says, to tell or hear some new thing.
"The Athenian writers give the same account of their fellow citizens. Demosthenes, in his reply to Epist. Philippi, represents the Athenians as πυνθανομενοι κατα την αγοραν, ει τι λεγεται νεωτερον; inquiring, in the place of public resort, if there are any News. We find, likewise, that when Thucydides, iii. 38, had said, μετα καινοτητος μεν λογου απατασθαι αριϚοι, Ye are excellent in suffering yourselves to be deceived by Novelty of speech, the old scholiast makes this remark upon it, (almost in the words of St. Luke), ταυτα προς τους. Αθηναιους αινιττεται, ουδεν τι μελετωντας, πλην λεγειν τι και ακουειν καινον; He here blames the Athenians, who made it their only business to tell and hear something that was New." - Bp. Pearce. This is a striking feature of the city of London in the present day. The itch for news, which generally argues a worldly, shallow, or unsettled mind, is wonderfully prevalent: even ministers of the Gospel, negligent of their sacred function, are become in this sense Athenians; so that the book of God is neither read nor studied with half the avidity and spirit as a newspaper. These persons, forgetful not only of their calling, but of the very spirit of the Gospel, read the account of a battle with the most violent emotions; and, provided the victory falls to their favourite side, they exult and triumph in proportion to the number of thousands that have been slain! It is no wonder if such become political preachers, and their sermons be no better than husks for swine. To such the hungry sheep look up, and are not fed. God pity such miserable Athenians, and direct them to a more suitable employment!
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill - That is, in the midst of the judges, who sat in the Areopagus.
Ye are too superstitious - Κατα παντα ὡς δεισιδαιμονεϚερους ὑμας θεωρω; I perceive that in all respects ye are greatly addicted to religious practices; and, as a religious people, you will candidly hear what I have got to say in behalf of that worship which I practice and recommend. See farther observations at the end of the chapter.
For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.Beheld your devotions - Σεβασματα, The objects of your worship; the different images of their gods which they held in religious veneration, sacrificial instruments, altars, etc., etc.
To the Unknown God - ΑΓΝΩΣΤΩ ΘΕΩ. That there was an altar at Athens thus inscribed, we cannot doubt after such a testimony; though St. Jerome questions it in part; for he says St. Paul found the inscription in the plural number, but, because he would not appear to acknowledge a plurality of gods, he quoted it in the singular: Verum, quia Paulus non pluribus Diis indigebat ignotis, sed uno tantum ignoto Deo, singulari verbo usus est. Epist. ad Magn. This is a most foolish saying: had Paul done so, how much would such a begging of the question have prejudiced his defense in the minds of his intelligent judges! Oecumenius intimates that St. Paul does not give the whole of the inscription which this famous altar bore; and which he says was the following: Θεοις Ασιας και Ευρωπης και Λιβυης, Θεῳ αγνωϚῳ και ξενῳ, To the gods of Asia, and Europe, and Africa: To The Unknown and strange God. Several eminent men suppose that this unknown god was the God of the Jews; and, as his name יהוה was considered by the Jews as ineffable, the Θεος αγνωϚος may be considered as the anonymous god; the god whose name was not known, and must not be pronounced. That there was such a god acknowledged at Athens we have full proof. Lucian in his Philopatris, cap. xiii. p. 769, uses this form of an oath: νη τον αγνωϚον τον εν Αθηναις, I swear by the Unknown God at Athens. And again, cap. xxix. 180: ἡμεις δε τον εν Αθηναις αγνωϚον εφευροντες και προσκυνησαντες, χειρας εις ουρανον εκτειναντες, τουτῳ ευχαριϚησομεν ὡς καταξιωθεντες, etc. We have found out the Unknown god at Athens - and worshipped him with our hands stretched up to heaven; and we will gave thanks unto him, as being thought worthy to be subject to this power. Bp. Pearce properly asks, Is it likely that Lucian, speaking thus, (whether in jest or in earnest), should not have had some notion of there being at Athens an altar inscribed to the unknown God? Philostratus, in vit. Apollon. vi. 3, notices the same thing, though he appears to refer to several altars thus inscribed: και ταυτα Αθηνῃσι, οὑ και αγνωϚων Θεων βωμοι ἱδρυνται, And this at Athens, where there are Altars even to the Unknown Gods. Pausanias, in Attic. cap. 1. p. 4, edit. Kuhn., says that at Athens there are βωμοι Θεων των ονομαζομενων αγνωϚων, altars of gods which are called, The Unknown ones. Minutius Felix says of the Romans, Aras extruunt etiam ignotis numinibus. "They even build altars to Unknown Divinities." And Tertullian, contra Marcion, says, Invenio plane Diis ignotis aras prostitutas: sed Attica idolatria est. "I find altars allotted to the worship of unknown gods: but this is an Attic idolatry." Now, though in these last passages, both gods and altars are spoken of in the plural number; yet it is reasonable to suppose that, on each, or upon some one of them, the inscription αγνωϚῳ Θεῳ, To the unknown god, was actually found. The thing had subsisted long and had got from Athens to Rome in the days of Tertullian and Minutius Felix. See Bp. Pearce and Dr. Cudworth, to whose researches this note is much indebted.
Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship - There is here a fine paronomasia, or play on the words. The apostle tells them that (on their system) they were a very religious people - that they had an altar inscribed, αγνωϚῳ Θεῳ, to the unknown God: him therefore, says he, whom, αγνουντες, ye unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you. Assuming it as a truth, that, as the true God was not known by them, and that there was an altar dedicated to the unknown god, his God was that god whose nature and operations he now proceeded to declare. By this fine turn he eluded the force of that law which made it a capital offense to introduce any new god into the state, and of the breach of which he was charged, Acts 17:18; and thus he showed that he was bringing neither new god nor new worship among them; but only explaining the worship of one already acknowledged by the state, though not as yet known.
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;God that made the world, etc. - Though the Epicureans held that the world was not made by God, but was the effect of a fortuitous concourse of atoms, yet this opinion was not popular; and the Stoics held the contrary:
1. St. Paul assumes, as an acknowledged truth, that there was a God who made the world and all things.
2. That this God could not be confined within temples made with hands, as he was the Lord or governor of heaven and earth.
3. That, by fair consequence, the gods whom they worshipped, which were shut up in their temples could not be this God; and they must be less than the places in which they were contained. This was a strong, decisive stroke against the whole system of the Grecian idolatry.
Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;Neither is worshiped with men's hands - This is an indirect stroke against making of images, and offering of sacrifices: he is not worshipped with human hands, as if he needed any thing, or required to be represented under a particular form or attitude; nor has he required victims for his support; for it is impossible that he should need any thing who himself gives being, form, and life, to all creatures.
Giveth - life, and breath, and all things - These words are elegantly introduced by St. Paul: God gives life, because he is the fountain of it: he gives breath, the faculty of breathing or respiration, by which this life is preserved; and though breathing or respiration, be the act of the animal, yet the πνοην, the faculty of breathing, and extracting from the atmosphere what serves as a pabulum of life, is given by the influence of God, and the continued power thus to respire, and extract that pure oxygen gas which is so evident a support of animal life, is as much the continued gift of God as life itself is. But, as much more is necessary to keep the animal machine in a state of repair, God gives the τα παντα, all the other things which are requisite for this great and important purpose, that the end for which life was given may be fully answered. St. Paul also teaches that Divine worship is not enacted and established for God, but for the use of his creatures: he needs nothing that man can give him; for man has nothing but what he has received from the hand of his Maker.
And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;Hath made of one blood - In AB, some others, with the Coptic, Ethiopic, Vulgate, Itala, Clement, and Bede, the word αἱματος, blood, is omitted. He hath made of one (meaning Adam) all nations of men; but αἱμα, blood, is often used by the best writers for race, stock, kindred: so Homer, Iliad, vi. ver. 211:
Ταυτης τοι γενεης τε και αἱματος ευχομαι ειναι.
I glory in being of that same race and blood.
So Virgil, Aen. viii. ver. 142, says;
Sic genus amborum scindit se Sanguine ab uno.
Thus, from one stock, do both our stems divide.
See many examples of this form in Kypke. The Athenians had a foolish notion that they were self-produced, and were the aboriginals of mankind. Lucian ridicules this opinion, Αθηναιοι φασι τους πρωτους ανθρωπους εκ της Αττικης αναφυναι, καθαπερ τα λαχανα. The Athenians say that the first men sprung up in Attica, like radishes. Luc. Philo-pseud. 3.
To dwell on all the face of the earth - God in his wisdom produced the whole human race from one man; and, having in his providence scattered them over the face of the earth, by showing them that they sprang from one common source, has precluded all those contentious wars and bloodshed which would necessarily have taken place among the nations of the world, as each in its folly might have arrogated to itself a higher and more excellent origin than another.
And hath determined the times before appointed - Instead of προτεταγμενους καιρους, the times before appointed, ABDE, and more than forty others, with both the Syriac, all the Arabic, the Coptic, Ethiopic, MS. Slavonian, Vulgate, and Itala, read προστεταγμενους καιρους, the appointed times. The difference between the two words is this: προτασσειν signifies to place before others; but προστασσειν is to command, decree, appoint. The προστεταγμενοι καιροι, are the constituted or decreed times; that is, the times appointed by his providence, on which the several families should go to those countries where his wisdom designed they should dwell. See Genesis 10:5-32; and see Pearce and Rosenmuller.
And the bounds of their habitations - Every family being appointed to a particular place, that their posterity might possess it for the purposes for which infinite wisdom and goodness gave them their being, and the place of their abode. Every nation had its lot thus appointed by God, as truly as the Israelites had the land of Canaan. But the removal of the Jews from their own land shows that a people may forfeit their original inheritance, and thus the Canaanites have been supplanted by the Jews; the Jews by the Saracens; the Saracens by the Turks; the Greeks by the Romans; the Romans by the Goths and Vandals; and so of others. See the notes on Genesis 11:1-32 (note).
That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:That they should seek the Lord - This is a conclusion drawn from the preceding statement. God, who is infinitely great and self-sufficient, has manifested himself as the maker of the world, the creator, preserver, and governor of men. He has assigned them their portion, and dispensed to them their habitations, and the various blessings of his providence, to the end that they should seek him in all his works.
Feel after him - Ψηλαφησειαν αυτον, That they might grope after him, as a person does his way who is blind or blindfolded. The Gentiles, who had not a revelation, must grope after God, as the principle of spiritual life, that they might find him to be a Spirit, and the source of all intellectual happiness; and the apostle seems to state that none need despair of finding this fountain of goodness, because he is not far from every one of us.
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.For in him we live, and move, and have our being - He is the very source of our existence: the principle of life comes from him: the principle of motion, also, comes from him; one of the most difficult things in nature to be properly apprehended; and a strong proof of the continual presence and energy of the Deity.
And have our being - Και εσμεν, And we are: we live in him, move in him, and are in him. Without him we not only can do nothing, but without him we are nothing. We are, i.e. we continue to be, because of his continued, present, all-pervading, and supporting energy. There is a remarkable saying in Synopsis Sohar, p. 104. "The holy blessed God never does evil to any man. He only withdraws his gracious presence from him, and then he necessarily perisheth." This is philosophical and correct.
As certain also of your own poets - Probably he means not only Aratus, in whose poem, entitled Phaenomena, the words quoted by St. Paul are to be found literatim, του γαρ και γενος εσμεν; but also Cleanthus, in whose Hymn to Jupiter the same words (Εκ σου γαρ γενος εσμεν) occur. But the sentiment is found in several others, being very common among the more enlightened philosophers. By saying your own poets, he does not mean poets born at Athens, but merely Grecian poets, Aratus and Cleanthus being chief.
We are also his offspring - Του γαρ και γενος εσμεν The Phaenomena of Aratus, in which these words are found, begins thus: -
Εκ Διος αρχωμεσθα, τον ουδεποτ' ανδρες εωμεν
Αρῤητον· μεϚαι δε Διος πασαι μεν αγυιαι,
Πασαι δ' ανθρωπων αγοραι· μεϚη δε θαλασσα,
Και λιμενες· παντη δε Διος κεχρημεθα παντες·
ΤΟΥ ΓΑΡ ΚΑΙ ΓΕΝΟΣ ΕΣΜΕΝ ὁ δ' ηπιος ανθρωποισι
Δεξια σημαινει. κ. τ. λ.
With Jove we must begin; nor from him rove;
Him always praise, for all is full of Jove!
He fills all places where mankind resort,
The wide-spread sea, with every shelt'ring port.
Jove's presence fills all space, upholds this ball;
All need his aid; his power sustains us all.
For we his offspring are; and he in love
Points out to man his labor from above:
Where signs unerring show when best the soil,
By well-timed culture, shall repay our toil, etc., etc.
Aratus was a Cilician, one of St. Paul's own countrymen, and with his writings St. Paul was undoubtedly well acquainted, though he had flourished about 300 years before that time.
Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, etc. - This inference of the apostle was very strong and conclusive; and his argument runs thus: "If we are the offspring of God, he cannot be like those images of gold, silver, and stone, which are formed by the art and device of man; for the parent must resemble his offspring. Seeing, therefore, that we are living and intelligent beings, He from whom we have derived that being must be living and intelligent. It is necessary, also, that the object of religious worship should be much more excellent than the worshipper; but a man is, by innumerable degrees, more excellent than an image made out of gold, silver, or stone; and yet it would be impious to worship a man: how much more so to worship these images as gods! Every man in the Areopagus must have felt the power of this conclusion; and, taking it for granted that they had felt it, he proceeds: -
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:The times of this ignorance God winked at - He who has an indisputable right to demand the worship of all his creatures has mercifully overlooked those acts of idolatry which have disgraced the world and debased man; but now, as he has condescended to give a revelation of himself, he commands, as the sovereign, all men every where, over every part of his dominions, to repent, μετανοειν, to change their views, designs, and practices; because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness; and, as justice will then be done, no sinner, no persevering idolater, shall escape punishment.
The word ὑπεριδειν, which we translate, to wink at, signifies simply to look over; and seems to be here used in the sense of passing by, not particularly noticing it. So God overlooked, or passed by, the times of heathenish ignorance: as he had not given them the talent of Divine revelation, so he did not require the improvement of that talent; but now, as he had given them that revelation, he would no longer overlook, or pass by, their ignorance or its fruits.
Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.He hath appointed a day - He has fixed the time in which he will judge the world, though he has not revealed this time to man.
By that man whom he hath ordained - He has also appointed the judge, by whom the inhabitants of the earth are to be tried.
Whereof he hath given assurance - ΠιϚιν παρασχων πασιν, Having given to all this indubitable proof, that Jesus Christ shall judge the world, by raising him from the dead. The sense of the argument is this: "Jesus Christ, whom we preach as the Savior of men, has repeatedly told his followers that he would judge the world; and has described to us, at large, the whole of the proceedings of that awful time, Matthew 25:31, etc.; John 5:25. Though he was put to death by the Jews, and thus he became a victim for sin, yet God raised him from the dead. By raising him from the dead, God has set his seal to the doctrines he has taught: one of these doctrines is, that he shall judge the world; his resurrection, established by the most incontrovertible evidence, is therefore a proof, an incontestable proof, that he shall judge the world, according to his own declaration."
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.When they heard of the resurrection, etc. - Paul undoubtedly had not finished his discourse: it is likely that he was about to have proclaimed salvation through Christ crucified; but, on hearing of the resurrection of the body, the assembly instantly broke up; the Epicureans mocking, εχλευαζον, began to laugh; and the Stoics saying they would take another opportunity to hear him on that subject. And thus the assembly became dissolved before the apostle had time to finish his discourse, or to draw all the conclusions he had designed from the premises he had laid down. St. Stephen's discourse was interrupted in a similar manner. See Acts 7:54, and the note there.
So Paul departed from among them.So Paul departed from among them - He could not be convicted of having done any thing contrary to the law; and, when the assembly broke up, he was permitted to go about his own business.
Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.Certain men clave unto him - Became affectionately united to him, and believed the doctrines he had preached.
Dionysius the Areopagite - There can be no doubt that this man was one of the judges of this great court, but whether the president or otherwise we cannot tell. Humanly speaking, his conversion must have been an acquisition of considerable importance to the Christian religion; for no person was a judge in the Areopagus who had not borne the office of archon, or chief governor of the city; and none bore the office of judge in this court who was not of the highest reputation among the people for his intelligence and exemplary conduct. In some of the popish writers we find a vast deal of groundless conjecture concerning Dionysius, who, they say, was first bishop of Athens, and raised to that dignity by Paul himself; that he was a martyr for the truth; that Damaris was his wife, etc., etc., concerning which the judicious Calmet says, Tout cela est de peu d' autorite. "All this has little foundation."
1. In addition to what has been said in the notes on this subject, I may add, the original word δεισιδαιμονεϚερος, from δειδω, I fear, and δαιμων, a demon, signifies, "greatly addicted to the worship of the invisible powers;" for, as the word δαιμων signifies either a good or evil spirit, and δειδω, I fear, signifies not only to fear in general, but also to pay religious reverence, the word must be here taken in its best sense; and so undoubtedly St. Paul intended it should; and so, doubtless, his audience understood him; for it would have been very imprudent to have charged them with superstition, which must have been extremely irritating, in the very commencement of a discourse in which he was to defend himself, and prove the truth of the Christian religion. He stated a fact, acknowledged by the best Greek writers; and he reasoned from that fact. The fact was that the Athenians were the most religious people in Greece, or, in other words, the most idolatrous: that there were in that city more altars, temples, sacrifices, and religious services, than in any other place. And independently of the authorities which may be quoted in support of this assertion, we may at once perceive the probability of it from the consideration that Athens was the grand university of Greece: that here philosophy and every thing relating to the worship of the gods was taught; and that religious services to the deities must be abundant. Look at our own universities of Oxford and Cambridge; here are more prayers, more religious acts and services, than in any other places in the nation, and very properly so. These were founded to be seminaries of learning and religion; and their very statutes suppose religion to be essential to learning; and their founders were in general religious characters, and endowed them for religious purposes. These, therefore, are not superstitious services; for, as superstition signifies "unnecessary fears or scruples in religion; observance of unnecessary and uncommanded rites or practices," - Johnson, it cannot be said of those services which are founded on the positive command of God, for the more effectual help to religious feelings, or as a preventive of immoral practices. I consider the Athenians, therefore, acting in conformity to their own laws and religious institutions; and Paul grants that they were much addicted to religious performances: this he pays as a compliment, and then takes occasion to show that their religion was defective: they had not a right object of devotion; they did not know the true God; the true God was to them the unknown God; and this an altar in their own city acknowledged. He therefore began to declare that glorious Being to them whom they ignorantly worshipped. As they were greatly addicted to religious services, and acknowledged that there was a Being to them unknown, and to whom they thought it necessary to erect an altar, they must, consistently with their character as a religious people, and with their own concession in the erection of this altar, hear quietly, patiently, and candidly, a discourse on that God whose being they acknowledged, but whose nature they did not know. Thus St. Paul, by acknowledging their religious disposition, and seizing the fact of the altar being inscribed to the unknown God, assumed a right which not a philosopher, orator, or judge in the Areopagus could dispute, of bringing the whole subject of Christianity before them, as he was now brought to his trial, and put on his defense. The whole of this fine advantage, this grand stroke of rhetorical prudence, is lost from the whole account, by our translation, ye are in all things too superstitious, thus causing the defendant to commence his discourse with a charge which would have roused the indignation of the Greeks, and precluded the possibility of their hearing any thing he had to say in defense of his conduct.
2. That the original word, on the right interpretation of which I have laid so much stress, is taken in a good sense, and signifies religious worship and reverence, I shall show by several proofs; some of which may be seen in Mr. Parkhurst, under the word Δεισιδαιμονια, which Suidas explains by ευλαβεια περι το Θειον, reverence towards the Deity. And Hesychius, by φοβοθεΐα, the fear of God. "In this good sense it is often used by Diodorus Siculus. Herodotus says of Orpheus, he led men, εις δεισιδαιμονιαν, to be religious; and exhorted them, επι το ευσεβειν, to piety; where it is manifest that δεισιδαιμονια must mean religion, and not superstition. But, what is more to the present purpose, the word is used by Josephus, not only where a heathen calls the pagan religion δεισιδαιμονιας, (Antiq. lib. xix. cap. 5. s. 3), or where the Jewish religion is spoken of by this name, in several edicts that were made in its favor by the Romans, (as in Antiq. lib. xiv. cap. 10, s. 13, 14, 16, 18, 19), but also where the historian is expressing his own thoughts in his own words: thus, of King Manasseh, after his repentance and restoration, he says, εσπουδαζεν πασῃ περι αυτον (Θεον) τῃ δεισιδαιδαιμονιᾳ χρησθαι, he endeavored to behave in the Most Religious manner towards God. Antiq. lib. x. cap. 3, s. 2. And, speaking of a riot that happened among the Jews on occasion of a Roman soldier's burning the book of the law, he observes that the Jews were drawn together on this occasion, τῃ δεισιδαιμονιᾳ, by their religion, as if it had been by an engine; οργανῳ τινι. - De Bell. lib. ii. cap. 12, s. 2." It would be easy to multiply examples of this use of the word; but the reader may refer, if necessary, to Wetstein, Pearce, and others.
3. That the Athenians were reputed, in this respect, a devout people, the following quotations may prove. Pausanias, in Attic. cap. xvii. p. 39, edit. Kuhn., says that the Athenians were not only more humane, αλλα και ες θεους ευσεβειν, but more devout towards the gods; and again he says, δηλα τε εναργως, ὁσοις πλεον τι ἑτερων ευσεβειας μετεϚιν, it appears plainly how much they exceed others in the worship of the gods; and, in cap. xxiv. p. 56, he says, Αθηναιοις περισσοτερον τι, η τοις αλλοις, ες τα θεια εϚι σπουδης, that the Athenians are abundantly more solicitous about Divine matters than others. And Josephus seals this testimony by the assertion, contr. Apion, ii.:10: Αθηναιους ευσεβεϚατους των Ἑλληνων παντες λεγουσι; Every body says that the Athenians are the most religious people of all the Greeks. - See Bp. Pearce. From all these authorities it is palpable that St. Paul must have used the term in the sense for which I have contended.
4. In the preceding notes, I have taken for granted that Paul was brought to the Areopagus to be tried on the charge of setting forth strange gods. Bp. Warburton denies that he was brought before the Areopagus on any charge whatever; and that he was taken there that the judges might hear him explain his doctrine, and not to defend himself against a charge which he does not once notice in the whole of his discourse. But there is one circumstance that the bishop has not noticed, viz. that St. Paul was not permitted to finish his discourse, and therefore could not come to those particular parts of the charge brought against him which the bishop thinks he must have taken up most pointedly, had he been accused, and brought there to make his defense. The truth is, we have little more than the apostle's exordium, as he was evidently interrupted in the prosecution of his defense. As to the supposition that he was brought by philosophers to the Areopagus, that they might the better hear him explain his doctrine, it appears to have little ground; for they might have heard him to as great advantage in any other place: nor does it appear that this court was ever used, except for the solemn purposes of justice. But the question, whether Paul was brought to the Areopagus that he might be tried by the judges of that court, Bishop Pearce answers with his usual judgment and discrimination. He observes:
1. "We are told that one effect of his preaching was, that he converted Dionysius the Areopagite, Acts 17:34; and this seems to show that he, who was a judge of that court, was present, and, if so, probably other judges were present also.
2. If they who brought Paul to Areopagus wanted only to satisfy their curiosity, they had an opportunity of doing that in the market, mentioned Acts 17:17. Why then did they remove him to another place?
3. When it is said that they brought Paul to Areopagus, it is said that they took him, επιλαβομενοι αυτοι, or rather, they laid hold on him, as the Greek word is translated, Luke 23:26; Luke 20:20, Luke 20:26, and as it ought to have been here, in Acts 21:30, Acts 21:33, and especially in this latter verse.
4. It is observable that Paul, in his whole discourse at the Areopagus, did not make the least attempt to move the passions of his audience, as he did when speaking to Felix, Acts 24:25, and to Agrippa, Acts 26:29; but he used plain and grave reasonings to convince his hearers of the soundness of his doctrine.
"Now, we are told by Quinctilian, in Inst. Orat. ii. 16, that Athenis actor movere affectus vetabatur: the actor was forbidden to endeavor to excite the passions. And again, in vi. 1, that Athenis affectus movere etiam per praeconem prohibebatur orator: among the Athenians, the orator was prohibited by the public crier to move the passions of his auditory. And this is confirmed by Philostratus in procem. lib. i. de Vit. Sophist.; and by Athenaeus, in Deipnosoph. xiii. 6. If, therefore, it was strictly forbidden at Athens to move the affections of the courts of justice, especially in that of the Areopagus, we see a good reason why Paul made no attempt in that way; and, at the same time, we learn how improperly the painters have done all they could, when they represent Paul speaking at Athens, endeavoring both by his looks and gestures to raise those several passions in his hearers which their faces are meant to express."
I have only to add here, that, though St. Paul did not endeavor to excite any passions in his address at the Areopagus, yet each sect of the philosophers would feel themselves powerfully affected by every thing in his discourse which tended to show the emptiness or falsity of their doctrines; and, though he attempted to move no passions, yet, from these considerations, their passions would be strongly moved. And this is the idea which the inimitable Raphael took up in his celebrated cartoon on this subject, and which his best copier, Mr. Thomas Holloway, has not only engraved to the life, but has also described in language only inferior to the cartoon itself; and, as it affords no mean comment on the preceding discourse, my readers will be pleased to find it here.
By the cartoons of Raphael, we are to understand certain Scripture pieces painted by Raphael d'Urbino, and now preserved in the palace at Hampton court. They are allowed to be the chefs d'oeuvre in their kind. They have been often engraved, but never so as to give an adequate representation of the matchless originals, till Mr. Thomas Holloway, who has completely seized the spirit of the artist, undertook this most laborious work, in which he has been wholly engaged for several years; and in which he has, for some time past, associated with himself Messrs. Slann and Webb, two excellent artists, who had formerly been his own pupils. The cartoon to which I have referred has been some time finished, and delivered to the subscribers; and with it that elegant description, from which the following is a copious extract: -
"The eye no sooner glances on this celebrated cartoon than it is immediately struck with the commanding attitude of the speaker, and the various emotions excited in his hearers.
"The interest which the first appearance of St. Paul at Athens had occasioned, was not calculated to subside on a sudden; his doctrines were too new, and his zeal too ardent. From the multitude it ascended to the philosophers. The Epicureans and Stoics particularly assailed him. Antecedently to the scene described in the picture, among the various characters already encountered by the apostle, many undoubtedly, in their speculations upon Divine subjects, had often imagined a sublimer religion than that commonly acknowledged: such, therefore, would make it their business to hear him again. Others, to whom truth was of less value than the idle amusement of vain disquisition, felt no other motive than curiosity. By far the greater part, however, obstinately bigoted to their particular tenets, and abhorring innovation, regarded him as impious, or a mere babbler: these also wished to hear him again, but with no other than the insidious view, that, by a more regular and explicit profession of his doctrines, he might expose his own absurdities, or render himself obnoxious to the state. The drapery accords with the majesty of the figure; and the light is so managed, especially on the arms and hands, as greatly to assist the energy of the action.
"The painter has proceeded, from the warmth of full conviction, through various gradations, to the extremes of malignant prejudice, and invincible bigotry.
"In the foreground, on the right, is Dionysius, who is recorded to have embraced the new religion. With the utmost fervor in his countenance, and with a kind of sympathetic action and unconscious eagerness, he advances a step nearer. His eye is fixed on the apostle: he longs to tell him his conversion, already perhaps preceded by conviction wrought in his mind by the reasonings of the sacred teacher on previous occasions, in the synagogue, and in the forum or marketplace. He appears not only touched with the doctrine he receives, but expresses an evident attachment to his instructer: he would become his host and protector.
"This figure is altogether admirable. The gracefulness of the drapery and of the hair; the masculine beauty of the features; the perspective drawing of the arms; the life and sentiment of the hands, the right one especially, are inimitable.
"Behind is Damaris, mentioned with him as a fellow believer. This is the only female in the composition; but the painter has fully availed himself of the character, in assisting his principle of contrast; an excellence found in all the works of Raphael. Her discreet distance, her modest deportment, her pious and diffident eye, discovering a degree of awe, the decorum and arrangement of her train, all interest the mind in her favor.
"Next to these, but at come distance, is a Stoic. The first survey of this figure conveys the nature of his peculiar philosophy - dignity and austerity. Raphael has well understood what he meant in this instance to illustrate. His head is sunk in his breast; his arms are mechanically folded; his eyes, almost shut, glance towards the ground: he is absorbed in reflection. In spite of his stoicism, discomposure and perplexity invade his soul, mixed with a degree of haughty mortification.
"Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed that 'the same idea is continued through the whole figure, even to the drapery, which is so closely muffled about him that even his hands are not seen;' and that, 'by this happy correspondence between the expression of the countenance and the disposition of the parts, the figure appears to think from head to foot.'
"Behind the Stoic are two young men, well contrasted in expression: anger in the elder, and in the other, youthful pride, half abashed, are finely discriminated.
"Beyond, in the same continued half circle with the Stoic, is perhaps exhibited the most astonishing contrast ever imagined; that of inexorable sternness, and complete placidity.
"Of the two figures, the first is denominated a Cynic, who, disappointed in his expectation of the ridiculous appearance which he conceived the apostle, when confronted, would make among them, abandons his mind to rage. His formidable forehead concentrates its whole expression: with a fixed frown and threatening eye, he surveys the object of his indignation. He alone would engage to confute him, or punish his temerity. His eager impatience and irritation are not discovered in his features only; he raises his heel from the ground, and leans with a firmer pressure on his crutch, which seems to bend beneath him.
"Pass from him to the more polished Epicurean. This figure exhibits perfect repose of body and mind: no passions agitate the one; no action discomposes the other. His hands, judiciously concealed beneath beautiful drapery, shows there can be no possible motion or employment for them. His feet seem to sleep upon the ground. His countenance, which is highly pleasing, and full of natural gentleness, expresses only a smile of pity at the fancied errors of the apostle, mingled with delight derived from his eloquence. He waits, with an inclined head, in passive and serene expectation. If a shrewd intelligence is discovered in his eyes, it is too gentle to disturb the general expression of tranquillity.
"Behind are two other young men: the first discovers a degree of superciliousness with his vexation; his companion is more disgusted, and more morose.
"These, and the two young figures previously described, are not introduced merely to fill up the group; they may be intended as pupils to the philosophers before them, though by some considered as young Romans, who have introduced themselves from ennui or curiosity.
"Beyond is a character in whose mind the force of truth and eloquence appears to have produced conviction; but pride, vanity, or self-interest, impel him to dissemble. His finger, placed upon the upper lip, shows that he has imposed silence upon himself.
"In the centre is seated a group from the academy. The skill of Raphael in this instance is eminent. These figures are not only thrown into shade, to prevent their interference with the principal figure; but, from their posture, they contribute to its elevation, and at the same time vary the line of the standing group.
"It seems as if the old philosopher in profile, on the left, had offered some observations on the apostle's address; and that he was eagerly listening to the reply of his sage friend, in whose features we behold more of the spirit of mild philosophy. The action of his fingers denotes his habit of reasoning, and regularity of argument. The middle figure behind appears to be watching the effect which his remarks would produce.
"The action of the young man, pointing to the apostle, characterizes the keen susceptibility and impetuosity of his age. His countenance expresses disgust, approaching to horror. The other young man turns his head round, as though complaining of unreasonable interruption. The drapery of both the front figures in this group is finely drawn: the opening action of the knees in the one is beautifully followed and described by the folds; in the other, the compression, in consequence of the bent attitude, is equally executed; the turn of the head gives grace and variety to the figure.
"The head introduced beyond, and rather apart, is intended to break the two answering lines of the dark contour of the apostle's drapery, and the building in the background.
"In the group placed behind the apostle, the mind is astonished at the new character of composition. The finest light imaginable is thrown upon the sitting figure; and, as necessary, a mass of shade is cast upon the two others.
"It is difficult to ascertain what or whom Raphael meant by that corpulent and haughty personage wearing the cap. His expression, however, is evident: malice and vexation are depicted in his countenance; his stride, and the action of his hand, are characteristic of his temperament.
"The figure standing behind is supposed to be a magician. His dark hair and beard, which seem to have been neglected, and the keen mysterious gaze of his eye, certainly exhibit a mind addicted to unusual studies. Under him, the only remaining figure is one who listens with malignant attention, as though intending to report every thing. He has the aspect of a spy. His eye is full of danger to the apostle; and he crouches below that he may not be disturbed by communication.
"If this figure be considered with reference to Dionysius, it may be remarked that Raphael has not only contrasted his characters, but even the two ends of his picture. By this means the greatest possible force is given to the subject. At the first survey, the subordinate contrasts may escape the eye, but these greater oppositions must have their effect.
"When, from this detailed display of the cartoon, the eye again glances over the whole subject, including the dignity of the architecture; the propriety of the statue of Mars, which faces his temple; the happy management of the landscape, with the two conversation figures; the result must be an acknowledgment that in this one effort of art is combined all that is great in drawing, in expression, and in composition." Holloway's description of Raphael's Cartoon of Paul preaching at Athens.