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Paul at Athens

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was greatly upset[a] because he saw[b] the city was full of idols. 17 So he was addressing[c] the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles[d] in the synagogue,[e] and in the marketplace[f] every day[g] those who happened to be there. 18 Also some of the Epicurean[h] and Stoic[i] philosophers were conversing[j] with him, and some were asking,[k] “What does this foolish babbler[l] want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods.”[m] (They said this because he was proclaiming the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.)[n] 19 So they took Paul and[o] brought him to the Areopagus,[p] saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are proclaiming? 20 For you are bringing some surprising things[q] to our ears, so we want to know what they[r] mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there used to spend their time[s] in nothing else than telling[t] or listening to something new.)[u]

22 So Paul stood[v] before the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious[w] in all respects.[x] 23 For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship,[y] I even found an altar with this inscription:[z] ‘To an unknown god.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it,[aa] this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it,[ab] who is[ac] Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands,[ad] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything,[ae] because he himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone.[af] 26 From one man[ag] he made every nation of the human race[ah] to inhabit the entire earth,[ai] determining their set times[aj] and the fixed limits of the places where they would live,[ak] 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around[al] for him and find him,[am] though he is[an] not far from each one of us. 28 For in him we live and move about[ao] and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’[ap] 29 So since we are God’s offspring, we should not think the deity[aq] is like gold or silver or stone, an image[ar] made by human[as] skill[at] and imagination.[au] 30 Therefore, although God has overlooked[av] such times of ignorance,[aw] he now commands all people[ax] everywhere to repent,[ay] 31 because he has set[az] a day on which he is going to judge the world[ba] in righteousness, by a man whom he designated,[bb] having provided proof to everyone by raising[bc] him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard about[bd] the resurrection from the dead, some began to scoff,[be] but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul left the Areopagus.[bf]

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  1. Acts 17:16 tn Grk “greatly upset within him,” but the words “within him” were not included in the translation because they are redundant in English. See L&N 88.189. The term could also be rendered “infuriated.”sn His spirit was greatly upset. See Rom 1:18-32 for Paul’s feelings about idolatry. Yet he addressed both Jews and Gentiles with tact and reserve.
  2. Acts 17:16 tn Or “when he saw.” The participle θεωροῦντος (theōrountos) has been translated as a causal adverbial participle; it could also be translated as temporal.
  3. Acts 17:17 tn Although the word διελέξατο (dielexato; from διαλέγομαι, dialegomai) is frequently translated “reasoned,” “disputed,” or “argued,” this sense comes from its classical meaning where it was used of philosophical disputation, including the Socratic method of questions and answers. However, there does not seem to be contextual evidence for this kind of debate in Acts 17:17. As G. Schrenk (TDNT 2:94-95) points out, “What is at issue is the address which any qualified member of a synagogue might give.” Other examples of this may be found in the NT in Matt 4:23 and Mark 1:21.
  4. Acts 17:17 tn Or “and the devout,” but this is practically a technical term for the category called God-fearers, Gentiles who worshiped the God of Israel and in many cases kept the Mosaic law, but did not take the final step of circumcision necessary to become a proselyte to Judaism. See further K. G. Kuhn, TDNT 6:732-34, 743-44, and the note on the phrase “God-fearing Greeks” in 17:4.
  5. Acts 17:17 sn See the note on synagogue in Acts 6:9.
  6. Acts 17:17 sn See the note on marketplace in Acts 16:19.
  7. Acts 17:17 tn BDAG 437 s.v. ἡμέρα 2.c has “every day” for this phrase in this verse.
  8. Acts 17:18 sn An Epicurean was a follower of the philosophy of Epicurus, who founded a school in Athens about 300 b.c. Although the Epicureans saw the aim of life as pleasure, they were not strictly hedonists, because they defined pleasure as the absence of pain. Along with this, they desired the avoidance of trouble and freedom from annoyances. They saw organized religion as evil, especially the belief that the gods punished evildoers in an afterlife. In keeping with this, they were unable to accept Paul’s teaching about the resurrection.
  9. Acts 17:18 sn A Stoic was a follower of the philosophy founded by Zeno (342-270 b.c.), a Phoenician who came to Athens and modified the philosophical system of the Cynics he found there. The Stoics rejected the Epicurean ideal of pleasure, stressing virtue instead. The Stoics emphasized responsibility for voluntary actions and believed risks were worth taking, but thought the actual attainment of virtue was difficult. They also believed in providence.
  10. Acts 17:18 tn BDAG 956 s.v. συμβάλλω 1 has “converse, confer” here.
  11. Acts 17:18 tn Grk “saying.”
  12. Acts 17:18 tn Or “ignorant show-off.” The traditional English translation of σπερμολόγος (spermologos) is given in L&N 33.381 as “foolish babbler.” However, an alternate view is presented in L&N 27.19, “(a figurative extension of meaning of a term based on the practice of birds in picking up seeds) one who acquires bits and pieces of relatively extraneous information and proceeds to pass them off with pretense and show—‘ignorant show-off, charlatan.’” A similar view is given in BDAG 937 s.v. σπερμολόγος: “in pejorative imagery of persons whose communication lacks sophistication and seems to pick up scraps of information here and there scrapmonger, scavenger…Engl. synonyms include ‘gossip’, ‘babbler’, chatterer’; but these terms miss the imagery of unsystematic gathering.”
  13. Acts 17:18 tn The meaning of this phrase is not clear. Literally it reads “strange deities” (see BDAG 210 s.v. δαιμόνιον 1). The note of not being customary is important. In the ancient world what was new was suspicious. The plural δαιμονίων (daimoniōn, “deities”) shows the audience grappling with Paul’s teaching that God was working through Jesus.
  14. Acts 17:18 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.
  15. Acts 17:19 tn Grk “him”; the referent (Paul) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  16. Acts 17:19 tn Or “to the council of the Areopagus.” See also the term in v. The Areopagus has been traditionally understood as reference to a rocky hill near the Acropolis in Athens, although this place may well have been located in the marketplace at the foot of the hill (L&N 93.412; BDAG 129 s.v. ῎Αρειος πάγος). This term does not refer so much to the place, however, as to the advisory council of Athens known as the Areopagus, which dealt with ethical, cultural, and religious matters, including the supervision of education and controlling the many visiting lecturers. Thus it could be translated the council of the Areopagus. See also the term in v. 22.
  17. Acts 17:20 tn BDAG 684 s.v. ξενίζω 2 translates the substantival participle ξενίζοντα (xenizonta) as “astonishing things Ac 17:20.”
  18. Acts 17:20 tn Grk “these things,” but since the referent (“surprising things”) is so close, the repetition of “these things” sounds redundant in English, so the pronoun “they” was substituted in the translation.
  19. Acts 17:21 tn The imperfect verb ηὐκαίρουν (ēukairoun) has been translated as a customary or habitual imperfect.
  20. Acts 17:21 tn BDAG 406-7 s.v. εὐκαιρέω has “used to spend their time in nothing else than telling Ac 17:21.”
  21. Acts 17:21 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. The reference to newness may be pejorative.
  22. Acts 17:22 tn Grk “standing…said.” The participle ζηλώσαντες (zēlōsantes) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
  23. Acts 17:22 tn The term δεισιδαιμονεστέρους (deisidaimonesterous) is difficult. On the one hand it can have the positive sense of “devout,” but on the other hand it can have the negative sense of “superstitious” (BDAG 216 s.v. δεισιδαίμων). As part of a laudatory introduction (the technical rhetorical term for this introduction was capatatio), the term is probably positive here. It may well be a “backhanded” compliment, playing on the ambiguity.
  24. Acts 17:22 tn BDAG 513 s.v. κατά B.6 translates the phrase κατὰ πάντα (kata panta) as “in all respects.”
  25. Acts 17:23 tn Or “your sanctuaries.” L&N 53.54 gives “sanctuary” (place of worship) as an alternate meaning for the word σεβάσματα (sebasmata).
  26. Acts 17:23 tn Grk “on which was written,” but since it would have been carved in stone, it is more common to speak of an “inscription” in English. To simplify the English the relative construction with a passive verb (“on which was inscribed”) was translated as a prepositional phrase with a substantive (“inscription”).
  27. Acts 17:23 tn BDAG 13 s.v. ἀγνοέω 1.b has “Abs. ὅ ἀγνοοῦντες εὐσεβεῖτε what you worship without knowing it (on the subject matter Maximus Tyr. 11, 5e: all sorts of philosophers ἴσασιν οὐκ ἑκόντες καὶ λέγουσιν ἄκοντες sc. τὸ θεῖον = they know and name God without intending to do so) Ac 17:23.” Paul, in typical Jewish Christian style, informs them of the true God, of whom their idols are an ignorant reflection.
  28. Acts 17:24 tn Grk “all the things that are in it.” The speech starts with God as Creator, like 14:15.
  29. Acts 17:24 tn Or “because he is.” The participle ὑπάρχων (huparchōn) could be either adjectival, modifying οὗτος (houtos, “who is Lord…”) or adverbial of cause (“because he is Lord…”). Since the participle διδούς (didous) in v. 25 appears to be clearly causal in force, it is preferable to understand ὑπάρχων as adjectival in this context.
  30. Acts 17:24 sn On the statement does not live in temples made by human hands compare Acts 7:48. This has implications for idols as well. God cannot be represented by them or, as the following clause also suggests, served by human hands.
  31. Acts 17:25 tn L&N 57.45 has “nor does he need anything more that people can supply by working for him.”
  32. Acts 17:25 tn Grk “he himself gives to all [people] life and breath and all things.”
  33. Acts 17:26 sn The one man refers to Adam (the word “man” is understood).
  34. Acts 17:26 tn Or “mankind.” BDAG 276 s.v. ἔθνος 1 has “every nation of humankind Ac 17:26.”
  35. Acts 17:26 tn Grk “to live over all the face of the earth.”
  36. Acts 17:26 tn BDAG 884-85 s.v. προστάσσω has “(οἱ) προστεταγμένοι καιροί (the) fixed times Ac 17:26” here, but since the following phrase is also translated “fixed limits,” this would seem redundant in English, so the word “set” has been used instead.
  37. Acts 17:26 tn Grk “the boundaries of their habitation.” L&N 80.5 has “fixed limits of the places where they would live” for this phrase.
  38. Acts 17:27 tn See BDAG 1097-98 s.v. ψηλαφάω, which lists “touch, handle” and “to feel around for, grope for” as possible meanings.
  39. Acts 17:27 sn Perhaps grope around for him and find him. The pagans’ struggle to know God is the point here. Conscience alone is not good enough.
  40. Acts 17:27 tn The participle ὑπάρχοντα (huparchonta) has been translated as a concessive adverbial participle.
  41. Acts 17:28 tn According to L&N 15.1, “A strictly literal translation of κινέω in Ac 17:28 might imply merely moving from one place to another. The meaning, however, is generalized movement and activity; therefore, it may be possible to translate κινούμεθα as ‘we come and go’ or ‘we move about’ or even ‘we do what we do.’”
  42. Acts 17:28 sn This quotation is from Aratus (ca. 310-245 b.c.), Phaenomena 5. Paul asserted a general relationship and accountability to God for all humanity.
  43. Acts 17:29 tn Or “the divine being.” BDAG 446 s.v. θεῖος 1.b has “divine being, divinity” here.
  44. Acts 17:29 tn Or “a likeness.” Again idolatry is directly attacked as an affront to God and a devaluation of him.
  45. Acts 17:29 tn Grk “by the skill and imagination of man,” but ἀνθρώπου (anthrōpou) has been translated as an attributive genitive.
  46. Acts 17:29 tn Or “craftsmanship” (cf. BDAG 1001 s.v. τέχνη).
  47. Acts 17:29 tn Or “thought.” BDAG 336 s.v. ἐνθύμησις has “thought, reflection, idea” as the category of meaning here, but in terms of creativity (as in the context) the imaginative faculty is in view.
  48. Acts 17:30 tn Or “has deliberately paid no attention to.”
  49. Acts 17:30 tn Or “times when people did not know.”
  50. Acts 17:30 tn Here ἀνθρώποις (anthrōpois) has been translated as a generic noun (“people”).
  51. Acts 17:30 sn He now commands all people everywhere to repent. God was now asking all mankind to turn to him. No nation or race was excluded.
  52. Acts 17:31 tn Or “fixed.”
  53. Acts 17:31 sn The world refers to the whole inhabited earth.
  54. Acts 17:31 tn Or “appointed.” BDAG 723 s.v. ὁρίζω 2.b has “of persons appoint, designate, declare: God judges the world ἐν ἀνδρὶ ᾧ ὥρισεν through a man whom he has appointed Ac 17:31.”sn A man whom he designated. Jesus is put in the position of eschatological judge. As judge of the living and the dead, he possesses divine authority (Acts 10:42).
  55. Acts 17:31 tn The participle ἀναστήσας (anastēsas) indicates means here.
  56. Acts 17:32 tn The participle ἀκούσαντες (akousantes) has been taken temporally.
  57. Acts 17:32 tn L&N 33.408 has “some scoffed (at him) Ac 17:32” for ἐχλεύαζον (echleuazon) here; the imperfect verb has been translated as an ingressive imperfect (“began to scoff”).
  58. Acts 17:33 tn Grk “left out of their midst”; the referent (the Areopagus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.