Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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ACTS - Chapter 17

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Acts 17

Supplemental Commentary:

THE MISSIONARY JOURNEYS OF ST. PAUL  13, 1 -- 28, 31 (continued)

2.  Second Missionary  Journey  15, 36 -- 18, 22 (continued)

17, 1-9:  Thessalonica.  The Apostle traveled southwest along the great Egnatian highway which led from Dyrrachium on the Adriatic through Thessalonica, Apollonia, Amphipolis, and Philippi to Byzantium.  Thessalonica was about a hundred miles southwest of Philippi.    2.  After the three weeks in the synagogue the work seems to have been continued for a considerable time among the Gentiles, perhaps with Jason's house as a center (5).  In his letters to this church St. Paul writes as though most of the converts had been won over from paganism.    6.  Magistrates of the city: called "politarchs" in the Greek text, an example of St. Luke's accuracy in the use of local titles.    7.  As in the trial of our Lord, the charge is that of treason to the Emperor by trying to set up a new kingdom.

17, 10-15:  Beroea.  Since "we" is not used after 16, 16 until 20, 5 f, St. Luke seems to have remained at Philippi to care for the new community, as Silas and Timothy later remained at Beroea (15).  Beroea was about fifty miles southwest of Thessalonica.

17, 16-21:  Athens.  In this center of culture St. Paul encountered entrenched intellectual paganism and met with little success.  Pride of intellect scorns the humility demanded by faith.  Of the two most popular schools of philosophy, the Epicureans were materialists and set up pleasure as the highest good, while the Stoics were pantheistic and placed man's highest good in devotion to duty with a balanced contempt as armor against the ills of life.

17, 22-34:  Paul's Discourse.  St. Paul tried to bring them to recognize the one true God by dwelling on His presence in creation, His conservation, and provident care for the human race.  He must be superior to their idols, since even men is above such material objects.  God was then calling on them to repent of their past folly, for He had appointed a day of judgment and a Judge whom He had sanctioned by raising Him from the dead.    23.  Unknown god:  in superstitious fear lest they should omit any god from among their idols.    28.  The quotations are from Epimenides, Aratus, and Cleanthes.    32.  Neither Epicureans nor Stoics believed in the resurrection of the body or in the survival of the soul after death.    34.  According to a tradition dating from the second century Denis (Dionysius) was the first bishop of Athens.

Confraternity Bible:

Thessalonica  1 Now after passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.  2 And Paul, as was his custom, went in to them and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures; 3 explaining and showing that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead, and that this is the Christ, even Jesus, whom I preach to you.  4 And some of them believed and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the worshipping Greeks and of the Gentiles, and not a few women of rank.  5 But the Jews, moved with jealousy, took certain base loafers, and forming a mob, set the city in an uproar.  They attacked Jason's house and sought to bring them out to the people; 6 but not finding them, they dragged Jason and certain brethren before the magistrates of the city, shouting, "These men who are setting the world in an uproar have come here too, 7 and Jason has taken them in; and they are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus."  8 And they stirred up the people and the magistrates of the city who heard this; 9 and they accepted bail from Jason and the rest and then let them go.

Beroea  10 But the brethren straightway sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea, and on their arrival there they went into the synagogue of the Jews.  11 Now these were of a nobler character than those of Thessalonica and they received the word with great eagerness, studying the Scriptures every day to see whether these things were so.  12 Many of them became believers, and so did no small number of prominent Gentiles, women and men.  13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that in Beroea too the word of God had been preached by Paul, they came there also to stir up and excite the multitude.  14 Then straightway the brethren sent forth Paul to go as far as the sea, while Silas and Timothy remained there.  15 But those who escorted Paul took him as far as Athens, and receiving instructions from him to Silas and Timothy to rejoin him as soon as possible, they set out.

Athens  16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, he was exasperated to see how the city was wholly given to idolatry.  17 He had discussions therefore in the synagogue with the Jews and those who worshipped God, and in the market place every day with those who were there.  18 And some of the Epicurian and Stoic philosophers debated with him; and some said, "What is this babbler trying to say?"  But others, "He seems to be a herald of strange gods," because he proclaimed to them Jesus and the resurrection.  19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know just what is this new doctrine which thou teachest?  20 For thou bringest some strange things to our ears; we wish therefore to know what these things mean."  21 (Now all the Athenians and the visitors there from abroad used to spend all their leisure telling or listening to something new."

Paul's Discourse  22 Then Paul stood up in the midst of the Areopagus, and said, "Men of Athens, I see that in every respect you are extremely religious.  23 For as I was going about and observing objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: 'To the Unknown God."  What therefore you worship in ignorance, that I proclaim to you.  24 God, who made the world and all that is in it, since he is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples built by hands; 25 neither is he served by human hands as though he were in need of anything, since it is he who gives to all men life and breath and all things.  26 And from one man he has created the whole human race and made them live all over the face of the earth, determining their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands; 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps grope after him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  28 For in him we live and move and have our being, as indeed some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also his offspring.'  29 If therefore we are the offspring of God, we ought not to imagine that the Divinity is like to gold or silver or stone, to an image graven by human art and thought.  30 The times of this ignorance God has it is true overlooked, but now he calls upon all men everywhere to repent; 31 inasmuch as he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world with justice by a Man whom he has appointed, and whom he has guaranteed to all by raising him from the dead."

32 Now when they heard of a resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We will hear thee again on this matter."  33 So Paul went forth from among them.  34 Certain persons however joined him and became believers; among them where Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.