Acts 17
People's New Testament
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
17:1 Paul at Athens


The Journey to Thessalonica. Labors in the Synagogue. A Church Planted. The Jews Stir Up Persecution. Departure to Berea. Journey to Athens. The City Full of Idols. Paul's Evangelistic Labors. Taken to the Areopagus. His Address to the Athenians. The Diverse Results: Some Mock; Some Propose to Hear Again;. Some Are Converted.

Passed through Amphipolis... came to Thessalonica. They traveled along the great Roman military road, which passed through Macedonia and Greece to Dyrrachium on the Adriatic Sea, and then beginning on the other side at Brundisium, extended to Rome. Amphipolis was about thirty miles, a day's journey, southwest of Philippi; Apollonia about the same distance farther on, and Thessalonica about twenty-eight miles west of Apollonia. Thessalonica was a rich commercial city, the seat of the Roman governor of Macedonia, and is still a city of about 70,000 population, of whom one-third are Jews. Its excellent harbor makes it a coveted object of Austrian diplomacy in the Balkan provinces.

And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
17:2 Paul, as his manner was. It was his custom always to begin his work in the synagogue if he found one. Here he showed from the Old Testament that the promised Messiah should die, and rise again, that Jesus complied with these conditions, and hence must be the Christ. This line of argument was continued in the synagogue for three sabbaths. This indicates how long he continued to argue in the synagogue, not how long he remained here.
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.
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.
17:4 Some of them believed. Of the Jews who heard in the synagogue. Also,

of the devout Greeks a great multitude. These were religious Gentiles who had departed from heathenism, attended the synagogue, but had not been circumcised. See PNT Ac 10:2.

Of the chief women. Some of them, no doubt, the wives of the devout Greeks. Some of the converts made during Paul's stay were idolaters (1Th 1:9). The result of these labors was the establishment of a flourishing church, the existence of which called out the two letters to the Thessalonians.

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.
17:5 But the Jews. As usual, a part believed and the others were filled with hatred.

Lewd fellows of the baser sort. Vile fellows of the rabble (Revised Version). The Jews called in the worst classes to aid them.

Assaulted the house of Jason. Paul and Silas had abode there (Ac 17:7), but were not found, probably from having a warning.

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;
17:6 Drew Jason... unto the rulers of the city. Called politarchs in the Greek text, and so called in an inscription of the first century still seen on an ancient arch in the city.

These that have turned the world upside down. A strong tribute to the revolutionizing power of the new faith. It did change the world.

Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
17:7 These all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar. A false charge, but the one most likely to secure the attention of the magistrates.

Saying that there is another king. The Romans never called their ruler a king, but he was so called by subject nations. The Jews said to Pilate, We will have no king but Caesar (Joh 19:15). The only ground for the charge against Paul was that he preached the kingdom of Christ.

And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.
17:8 They troubled... the rulers. Troubled, because it was a charge of disloyalty to the Roman Caesar, and of an attempt to have another king. They were utterly ignorant of the nature of Christ's kingdom.
And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
17:9 When they had taken security. Of those asserted. They received some kind of guarantee that there would be nothing done contrary to the laws of the empire.
And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
17:10 Sent away Paul and Silas by night. By night so as to leave without a fresh disturbance.

Unto Berea. Howson places Berea sixty, Hackett forty-five, miles west of Thessalonica. The first states that it now has 18,000 population, and is called Verria.

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.
Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
17:12 Many of them believed. This would be the natural result. As elsewhere, the converts were Jews and devout Greeks, both men and women.

Honourable women. Of high rank.

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.
17:13 They came thither also. The inveterate hatred of the Jews of Thessalonica pursued him. When they began to stir up a disturbance at Berea, as Paul was the chief object of hatred, it was thought best for him to leave, but Silas and Timothy were left to continue the work.
And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.
17:14 To go as it were to the sea. He started as though to embark on the sea, Berea not being a seaport. Whether he did, or went to Athens by land, is not stated. The journey by land was about 250 miles. The sea voyage would be a much quicker route.
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.
17:15 They that conducted Paul. Some of the Berean brethren. When they returned they took a message to Silas and Timothy to join him at once. From 1Th 3:1,2 we learn that Timothy was at once sent to Thessalonica.
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
17:16 While Paul waited. At first he seems to have intended to await the arrival of Timothy and Silas before he opened his work, but his spirit was too much stirred.

Wholly given to idolatry. Full of idols in the Revised Version. This is confirmed by the Greek writers. The Greek historian Pausanias says that there were more idols in Athens than in all the rest of Greece combined. Many other writers bear the same testimony. Paul would see them wherever he turned his eyes.

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.
17:17 Disputed... in the market. There was in Athens one great market place, or public square. The porches around it were favorite places for discussion.

Devout persons. See PNT Ac 10:2.

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.
17:18 Of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks. Two of the philosophical schools then prevalent in Athens. The first held that the gods were careless about human affairs, and that a man's best course was to get as much pleasure out of life as possible. With them pleasure was the chief good. The Stoics were fatalists, believers in a sort of pantheism, and insisted on self-righteousness. Epicurus was the founder of the first sect; Zeno, of the second.

What will this babbler say? A contemptuous expression.

A setter forth of strange gods. He spoke of God and the risen Jesus. Some have thought that they mistook Anastasis, the Greek for resurrection, for the name of a goddess.

And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
17:19 Brought him unto Areopagus. The Greek term for Mars' hill. See Ac 17:22. The hill was a place of assembly. There the supreme court of Athens met. There the courts that sat concerning religious matters convened. The associations had something to do, probably, with Paul being taken here to speak, though the meeting was informal and not official. The hill is about fifty feet high, and was then surrounded by the most glorious works of art in Athens.
For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
(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.)
17:21 To tell, or to hear some new thing. Demosthenes himself speaks of this propensity of the Athenians (Philipp. 1:43). It was harmony with the spirit of the city that he should be called on to speak to gratify the curiosity of the populace.
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.
17:22 Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill. In the Areopagus. Let the reader keep in mind that this address was spoken in the literary capital of the ancient world, the most cultured city of the earth to which every Roman who sought a finished education resorted to complete his studies, the home of philosophers, orators, sculptors, painters and poets, and the great university where many thousands of strangers were gathered for study. This ancient city of so glorious history is the modern capital of Greece, and has about 100,000 inhabitants.

Ye men of Athens. The introduction of Paul has always been regarded as a masterpiece of skill. He does not say,

In all things ye are too superstitious, but that ye are very religious (Revised Version), or ye are more religious than others. His remark is a compliment, and he confirms it by a statement that he had found an altar to the unknown God (Ac 17:23).

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.
17:23 THE UNKNOWN GOD. Besides thousands of altars and statues of deities whom they named, this altar was dedicated to the Unknown, as if to some deity whose presence they felt, but whom they did not comprehend. This Unknown, he announces,

I declare to you. Ancient writers speak of altars at Athens to the unknown God, or gods. Such an introduction was well calculated to fix the attention of his critical audience.

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;
17:24-29 God that made the world. He now declares the attributes of that unknown God: (1) The God that made the world; (2) Lord of heaven and earth; (3) dwelleth not in temples; (4) not worshiped by human hands; (5) giveth life to all that lives; (6) made of one blood all nations; (7) appointed that men should seek the Lord; (8) we are his offspring; (9) hence, the Godhead is not like any idol made by human hands. It dishonors so glorious a being to liken him to man's device. Then comes the application.
Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
17:24-29 God that made the world. He now declares the attributes of that unknown God: (1) The God that made the world; (2) Lord of heaven and earth; (3) dwelleth not in temples; (4) not worshiped by human hands; (5) giveth life to all that lives; (6) made of one blood all nations; (7) appointed that men should seek the Lord; (8) we are his offspring; (9) hence, the Godhead is not like any idol made by human hands. It dishonors so glorious a being to liken him to man's device. Then comes the application.
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;
17:26 The times before appointed. Athens had had her day. She was once the mistress of the seas. The same fact is true of every nation.
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:
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.
17:28 Certain also of your own poets. Aratus, who wrote about 200 years before. Also Cleanthes, in his Hymn to Jupiter.
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.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
17:30 The times of this ignorance. The times when there was no revelation in to those in darkness.

God winked at. God overlooked (Revised Version).

Now commandeth. The gospel is world embracing. (1) All men, (2) everywhere, are command to repent.

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.
17:31 Because he hath appointed a day. This call to repentance is urged because God hath appointed a day, the day of coming judgment, when the world will be judged through Christ. Of this the resurrection of Christ is an assurance.

Raised him from the dead. If Jesus was raised, all men will be raised; hence, the assurance of a general judgment after death.

And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
17:32 When they heard of the resurrection of the dead. The Epicureans were materialists like the Sadducees (see PNT Mt 3:7). They no doubt mocked at the idea of a resurrection. The Stoics probably wished to hear again of this matter. There was a division of sentiment.
So Paul departed from among them.
17:33 So Paul departed. He regarded the field less fruitful than others.
Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
17:34 Certain men... believed. His labors were not without results. One of the judges of the court of the Areopagus, the judges which were chosen from the noblest men of the city, Dionysius, was converted, along with others. A church does not seem to have been founded at this time; at least it is not elsewhere mentioned in the New Testament. Even as late as the time of Constantine the Great, Athens was a rallying point of the dying Paganism.
The People's New Testament by B.W. Johnson [1891]

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