Sometimes people who think they know everything suddenly realize they still have something to learn, and even make some embarrassing mistakes.  This happened with Paul, one of the early Christian leaders and communicators, arrived in Athens, the hotbed of Greek philosophy.

[16] Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. [17] So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. [18] Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. [19] And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? [20] For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” [21] Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

(Acts 17:16-32 ESV)

Paul had apattern of visiting synagogues, finding devout Jews, and building on their foundation of faith in the God of Israel.

But now, he’s going elsewhere.  Like in another recent story, he’s gone to the marketplace and starts talking about Jesus and the resurrection.

Some Greek philosophers come and listen, then have a good laugh, calling him a babbler.  They think he’s proclaiming foreign divinities.  The Greeks have lots of gods, and the Romans who rule the joint have many more gods.  Now this guy thinks he can introduce them to new gods?

Why do they think this?  What did he say that seemed to be babbling about foreign gods?

Take a closer look.  Divinities?  I can see Greek people thinking he’s proclaiming a foreign God named Jesus.  But gods?  Divinities plural?

I think Luke explains this – it’s because he was proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection.  In Greek – Jesus and anastatis.  Perhaps to Greek ears, this sounds like Jesus and Anastasia, a god-goddess pairing like all the other gods Greeks knew and loved.

It seems like Paul has charged in using the usual words and ideas he’s always used, like the idea of resurrection central to the faith of many Jews.  And they are totally confused.

It’s also possible they just didn’t get the whole story, and it had nothing to do with anastasis sounding like Anastasia.  Maybe they just thought this story about a Jewish carpenter was ridiculous the first time they heard it…lots do.

Even though they think he’s strange, there was clearly something intriguing all the same. Thankfully they give him another chance, and they invite him to the Areopagus, also known as Mars Hill, where a council of elders had met for centuries, sometimes for trials.  It seems like Paul was simply brought there to speak, and give him a bigger and more prominent and intellectual audience than the marketplace.

But Luke seems to think they’re all full of hot air.  They just spend their days there throwing around empty ideas.  They are just debating philosophy, trying to figure out truth, when truth is someone not something, and Paul plans to introduce them to him, not just ideas.

Tomorrow, we’ll see what happened.  First, here’s a question to consider:

Question: Why do you think they gave him Paul a second chance to speak?  What might have been so intriguing?


Meeting with a Group?  Your discussion questions are in this week’s Group Study Guide

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