Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 30 November 2019; Revised 23 December 2019
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Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Scripture quotations may be taken from different versions. Click here for abbreviations of Bible versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online DSS Bible and DSS Docs. Click here for DSS abbreviations.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
● MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began in the 2nd century under Rabbi Akiva, but completed by Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th century. Online.
● Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. The Jerusalem Talmud, identified with "TJ," may be found here. Click here for Talmud abbreviations.
● Targums: The targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary: Targum Jerusalem (1st c. AD), Targum Neofiti (1st c. AD), Targum Onkelos (c. 35–120 AD) and Targum Jonathan (2nd c. AD). See an index of targum texts here.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations and pronunciation of Greek words. Parsing data for Greek words is from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms ADONAI (for 'LORD' when quoting a Tanakh source), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
In Chapter Seventeen Luke continues his narrative of the second journey of Paul into the Diaspora. Having left Luke behind in Philippi Paul travels to other cities in the province of Macedonia, accompanied by Silas and Timothy. As in previous communities Paul sought out the Jewish residents of each city and presented the good news in synagogues. In Thessalonica a great many Jews, both traditional and Hellenistic, accepted the good news of the Messiah. Yet, once again unbelieving Jews incited a mob against the apostolic team. The same story was repeated in Berea.
Because of hostile circumstances Paul left Silas and Timothy in Berea and went to Athens and proclaimed the good news in the local synagogue. Paul was also given the opportunity to address Greek philosophers on Mars Hill. His call to turn from idolatry is uncompromising in its revelation about the true nature of God, the resurrection of the dead and the future judgment of God.
Paul in Thessalonica, 17:1-9
Paul in Berea, 17:10-15
Paul in Athens, 17:16-21
Sermon on Ares Hill, 17:22-31
Response to Paul's Sermon, 17:32-34
Second Diaspora Journey (cont.)
Rome: Caesar Claudius (AD 41-54)
Procurator of Judaea: Ventidius Cumanus (AD 48-52)
Jewish High Priest: Ananias, son of Nebedaius (AD 47-55)
Paul in Thessalonica, 17:1-9
1 Now having traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the traditional Jews.
Luke continues his narrative of Paul's journey and ministry in Macedonia, accompanied by Silas and Timothy. See the map of Macedonia here.
Now: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast – but; (2) a transition – now, then; or (3) continuation – and, also, sometimes with emphasis, indeed, moreover (Thayer). The second meaning applies here. having traveled through: Grk. diodeuō, pl. aor. part., may way through, journey or travel through, go about. Amphipolis: Grk. Ho Amphipolis, a metropolis of Macedonia southwest of Philippi and situated on the Strymon River. The place name occurs only here in the Besekh. and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea. The first use applies here.
Apollonia: Grk. Apollōnia, a maritime city of Macedonia named for the Greek god Apollo, about 30 miles southwest of Amphipolis. The place name occurs only here in the Besekh. It is noteworthy that Paul did not remain in either Amphipolis or Apollonia to conduct ministry. they came: Grk. erchomai, aor. 3p-pl., 'to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. to: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, here complementing the verb to indicate completion of movement; in, into, to, toward. Luke does not intend Paul's arrival to be just chance or coincidence but his destination. He must have had knowledge of the Jewish population of the city.
Thessalonica: Grk. Thessalonikē, a prominent city on the Thermaic Gulf about 38 miles from Apollonia, the capital of the second division of Macedonia (of which there were four, Titus Livius History of Rome, 45:29). Thessalonica was named in honor of the wife of Cassander and the sister of Alexander the Great. With a population of 65,000 to 100,000 it was the largest city in Macedonia (Polhill 181). Thessalonica was a free city, which meant that the local Macedonians maintained their own legislative and governing privileges, were exempt from the provincial taxes, had their own rights of coinage, and had no Roman troops within its borders. The recent discovery of a marble inscription in Thessalonica, written partly in Greek and partly in a Samaritan form of Hebrew and Aramaic, testifies to the presence of Samaritans in Thessalonica (HBD).
where: Grk. hopou, adv., in what place, where. there was: Grk. eimi, impf., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past (was, were), present (are, is), or future (will be), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). a synagogue: Grk. sunagōgē, a gathering-place or place of assembly. In the Besekh the term refers to the place at which Jews gathered for worship and learning. The term does not necessarily mean a manufactured structure as the word "church" can mean (cf. Acts 16:13). In the LXX sunagōgē occurs 225 times and is generally used to translate the Heb. words edah (SH-5712), congregation (Ex 12:3) and qahal (SH-6951), assembly, convocation, or congregation (Ex 16:3) (DNTT 1:292ff).
The origin of the Jewish synagogue is not known for certain, but scholars generally date its beginning during the Babylonian exile (NIBD 1019). Pious Jews gathered on the Sabbath to listen to the Torah and to pray (cf. Ps 137; Jer 29:7; Ezek 14:1; 20:1). Eventually meetings came also to be held on other days, and at the same hours as the morning and evening services in the temple. According to Philo, the Jewish philosopher (20 B.C.−A.D. 50), synagogues were houses of prayer and schools of wisdom (On the Life of Moses II, 39). As Jews emigrated west synagogues followed.
In any community where at least ten Jewish men lived, the Jews would meet together for study and prayer and eventually build a sanctuary (Heb. shul) for their meetings. Synagogues were typically positioned so that when the congregation stood for prayer they would be facing Jerusalem. By the first century, synagogues, especially in the Diaspora, emerged as the central institution of Jewish life as a place where study, worship, exhortation, celebration, and various other kinds of meetings take place (OCB 722).
of the traditional Jews: pl. of Grk Ioudaios, Jew, Jewish, Jewess or Judean (BAG). Danker notes that the term may be used as an adjective (Judean, Jewish) or a noun (Jew, Judean). Ioudaios designates a person by belief and practice (cf. John 4:9). In the first century the term had a particular sectarian meaning to distinguish 'devout' (= Hebrew-speaking Torah/tradition-observant) Jews from non-observant Jews (Acts 2:5). Indeed the noun Ioudaismos, 'Judaism,' first appears in the Maccabean writings for a way of life devoted to observance of Torah laws (2Macc 2:21; 8:1; 14:38; 4Macc 4:26), and then used by Paul to describe his religion before his life-changing encounter with Yeshua (Gal 1:13-14) (DNTT 2:310).
Moreover, the tenets of their religion were governed by the Great Sanhedrin and the Pharisees, whose traditions they followed (cf. Matt 23:2-3; Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28). Traditional Jews revered Moses (John 9:28-29; Acts 6:11) and recognized the authority of the written Torah (John 7:23; Acts 21:20) and the traditions of the Sages (Matt 15:2; Gal 1:14; Col 2:8). For more information on the Ioudaioi see my note on the term in 9:22. The mention of traditional Jews in connection with the Thessalonica synagogue does not mean they were the only group in attendance. While they might have built the synagogue and supervised it, services were open to all who might wish to attend, including Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews.
2 And according to that having become habitual with Paul, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
And: Grk. de, conj. according to: Grk. kata, prep., with the root meaning of "down," generally expresses measure and the idea of something associated with or conforming with something else in terms of manner, direction, reference, position, or the like; down, against, according to. that: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having become habitual: Grk. eiōtha, perf. part., to be accustomed, behavior based on habit or tradition. Most versions translate the verb as a noun, "custom."
with Paul: Grk. Ho Paulos, which transliterates the Latin proper name Paulus ("small" or "humble"). As a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28) Paulus was probably taken from the patron who freed Paul's ancestors from slavery (Polhill 16). Paul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia, a Roman city (Acts 9:11; 21:39) of a Jewish family belonging to the tribe of Benjamin (Php 3:5). He was "set apart from his mother's womb" for a sacred life (Gal 1:15). Having received advanced education under Gamaliel the Elder (Acts 5:34; 22:3), Paul was a devout Pharisee (Acts 23:6; 26:5). Paul was called personally by Yeshua while traveling to Damascus to persecute disciples. From that point on he was an apostle to Israel and the nations. For a biography of Paul see my article The Apostle from Tarsus.
Of special interest among Bible versions is that the Complete Jewish Bible and Orthodox Jewish Bible consistently translate Paulos with the Hebrew Sha'ul. Stern explains his persistence in using Sha'ul for the apostle "to highlight the Jewishness of the New Testament and its major figures" (267). In contrast Paul apparently did not feel any loss of Jewish identity by using his Roman name, which is the only name by which the apostle refers to himself in his letters, and the only name Luke uses from Acts 13:13 to the end of the book. In addition, the OJB adds the title "Rav" in direct violation of Yeshua's instruction (Matt 23:8). Paul never used the honorific of himself and no one addressed Paul as "Rabbi."
he went: Grk. eiserchomai, aor., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" and conveys motion toward (DM 110); to, toward, with. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here and intends the traditional Jews. and: Grk. kai, conj. for: Grk. epi, prep. used primarily as a marker of position or location, upon, over, but used here in relation to time, 'for the space of,' or 'for as long as.' three: pl. of Grk. treis, adj., the cardinal number three.
Sabbaths: pl. of Grk. sabbaton, a transliteration of Heb. shabbath (SH-7676), day of rest, Sabbath (BDB 992), which is derived from the verb shabath (SH-7673), cease, desist, rest (BDB 991). In the commandments given at Sinai (Ex 20:8) and Moab (Deut 5:12) the instruction to rest is set in contrast to the work that provides one's livelihood. Sabbaton occurs 68 times in the Besekh, generally of the seventh day of the week (e.g. Matt 12:5; Mark 2:27; Luke 4:16; John 19:31). As faithful traditional Jews Paul and his team observed the Sabbath (Saturday), not to be confused with the Lord's day (Sunday). For the biblical background and Torah instructions regarding Sabbath observance see my web article Remember the Sabbath.
he reasoned: Grk. dialegomai, aor., presenting a reasoned position in public, getting a conclusion across; address, discuss, make a speech, speak. with them: pl. of Grk. autos. from: Grk. apo, prep., signifying either origin or separation; from, away from. the Scriptures: pl. of Grk. graphē, writing, and in the Jewish context and apostolic usage meaning the sacred Hebrew Bible (24 books) referred to by the acronym 'Tanakh,' and corresponding to the Christian Old Testament (39 books). The term 'Scripture' summarizes the body of literature containing God's inspired, infallible, inerrant words penned by over 25 writers, from Moses to Malachi. The Tanakh reveals God's plan for a Messianic Savior and salvation. This is the only Bible Yeshua and the apostles knew and as Scripture they upheld its authority over the philosophies and traditions of men.
The mention of 'the Scriptures' alludes to the fact and importance of reading from the Tanakh in synagogue services. Scrolls of Scripture for private use were not common and expensive to purchase, so the scrolls mentioned here were likely the property of the synagogue. It was not uncommon for there to be separate scrolls for the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. The scrolls could have been of Hebrew and purchased in Jerusalem, or even of Greek, as many synagogues in the Diaspora possessed the LXX. Philo mentioYns the reading of sacred volumes in synagogue services (On Dreams, 2:127). Luke's narrative of Paul's visit to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch mentions that Paul was invited to speak after the reading from the Torah and the Prophets (Acts 13:15).
A typical first-century synagogue service would have included the Shema, liturgical prayers while facing Jerusalem, such as the Amidah (standing) or Shemoneh Esreh (The Eighteen Blessings), a Torah reading, a Haftarah (Prophets) reading, a message (drash) on the Scripture passage, and a closing blessing. For synagogue Sabbath services the Torah is divided into 54 Parashôt (portions) for sequential reading. Parashôt appear in manuscripts as early as the Dead Sea Scrolls, but Jewish tradition assigns their creation to Ezra.
Paul's customary practice in a Jewish setting was to employ a rabbinic style of teaching which involved giving and receiving information, centered on the Scriptures, to enable his audience to reach a deeper understanding. As in Pisidian Antioch Paul probably used the Scripture portion read in the service as the starting point for his message. The sermon would contain three parts: (1) the promise and preparation for the coming of the Messiah; (2) the fulfillment of that promise in Yeshua; and (3) and application to the audience and an appeal to repent. Paul's manner of presentation demonstrates the importance of history to understanding how salvation was accomplished in fulfillment of covenantal promises.
3 explaining and setting forth that it behooved the Messiah to suffer and to be resurrected from death, and that, "This is the Messiah, the Yeshua whom I proclaim to you."
explaining: Grk. dianoigō, pres. part., to open up, from dia, 'through' and anoigō, 'to open.' The verb is used here of explanation of biblical content. and: Grk. kai, conj. setting forth: Grk. paratithēmi, pres. mid. part., may mean (1) to place something beside, set before; or (2) assign for security or safekeeping, entrust, commend. The first meaning applies here. that: Grk. hoti, conj. is used to (1) define a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introduce a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introduce a direct quotation, functioning as quotation marks; and (4) indicate causality with an inferential aspect. The second usage applies here. it behooved: Grk. dei, impf., impersonal verb from deō (lack, stand in need of) and thus conveys the idea of necessity or an expected outcome, something that must happen or something one is obligated to do.
the Messiah: Grk. ho Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. Christian versions translate the title as if it were a last name. The English 'Christ' transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it. Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), Anointed One, and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century. For a discussion of Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.
to suffer: Grk. paschō, aor. inf., to experience something, but often with a negative connotation in association with physical pain or ill treatment; suffer. There are numerous passages Paul could have cited from the Tanakh that depict the sufferings of the Messiah, but Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 provide the most substantive material. This was an important biblical truth about the Messiah since Jews had been taught that the Messiah was a victorious conqueror over the enemies of Israel. Paul taught as he would later write to Messianic Jews, "For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings" (Heb 2:10 NASB).
and: Grk. kai. to be resurrected: Grk. anistēmi, aor. inf., to rise, stand up or get up and in its ordinary use refers to the physical motion of transition from a sitting or prone position or simply standing. In the LXX anistēmi occurs in a few passages to refer to the dead coming back to life. In Job 14:12 anistēmi renders Heb. qum (SH-6965, to arise, stand up, stand), where Job questions the possibility of life after death. Then in Job 19:26 anistēmi occurs without Heb. equivalent to translate 'in my flesh' where Job affirms his expectation of seeing God. The verb anistēmi also renders Heb. amad (SH-5975), 'to take one's stand, to stand,' in Daniel 12:13 where it is used of the last days' resurrection.
In the Besekh the verb anistēmi is used 31 times (out of 108) in an idiomatic sense of restoring to life after death, mostly of Yeshua's own resurrection, and nine times of the resurrection at the end of the present age. A number of versions render the verb here with 'rise/risen again' (ASV, CJB, JUB, KJV, NASB, NKJV, NLV, WEB, YLT), which is a non sequitur. 'Again' means another incident that follows a previous incident. Yeshua had not risen on a previous occasion. The only ones who can 'rise again' are the few Bible characters who died and were raised by a prophet or Yeshua, only later to die, again. The majority of versions translate the verb here as 'rise,' implying an upward motion.
from: Grk. ek, prep. used to denote exit or separation from something with which there has been a close association, lit. 'out of, from within.' death: Grk. nekros may be used as (1) a noun, corpse or (2) adj., without life in the physical sense, being dead. The term, of course, applies to Yeshua's body not his spirit. Paul means 'death' as a state of Yeshua's body in the tomb. Several versions render nekros here as 'death' (CEV, ERV, GNB, ICB, NMB, WE). Paul makes the point that Yeshua did not resurrect himself. The common translation of 'rise from the dead' may be misleading. Paul does not imply that Yeshua was raised from Hades as declared in the Apostles' Creed. (For this unbiblical claim see my article Is the Apostles' Creed Apostolic?) When Yeshua died on the cross his spirit went to Paradise (Luke 23:43, 46; cf. Ps 16:10-11).
Unlike previously resurrected people who had to die again, Yeshua was given victory over death so that he could never die again. To say 'risen' is appropriate to describe people in Scripture previously brought back to life after death (cf. Heb 11:43-44), such as the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:14-15), and Lazarus (John 11:43-44). There were some key differences between their experience of being 'raised' and the resurrection of Yeshua: (1) none of them were brought back from Paradise; (2) none of those people received an incorruptible body. They were still liable to physical weakness, suffering, pain or disease; and (3) all of those people eventually died again. I prefer 'resurrected' in reference to Yeshua to emphasize the transformation of his dead body into an immortal body with his spirit returned from Paradise as first fruits of our future resurrection (1Cor 15:20-23).
Paul could have cited these specific passages as predictions of Messiah's resurrection: Psalm 2:7; 16:10-11; 110:1 and Isaiah 53:10. Moreover, he could point out that Yeshua had predicted that he would be resurrected after his death (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). After his resurrection Yeshua instructed his disciples in passages from Scripture that predicted resurrection (Luke 24:46). In addition, over 500 people could testify that they saw Yeshua in bodily form after his resurrection, including Paul (1Cor 15:5-6). For a list of the predictions of the Messiah found in the Tanakh see my article Prophecies of the Messiah.
and: Grk. kai. that: Grk. hoti, used here to introduce a quotation. This: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. the Messiah: Grk. ho Christos. the Yeshua: Grk. ho Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ('Jesus' in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua (Joshua), which means 'YHVH [the LORD] is salvation' (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his Jewish identity, and his principal titles see my web article Who is Yeshua?
whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. proclaim: Grk. katangellō, pres., to proclaim, with connotation of broad dissemination; announce, declare, proclaim. The verb alludes to teaching in a public place. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The pronoun refers back to the traditional Jews, but could imply the entire audience in attendance. Luke's summary statement implies that Paul recounted the narrative of Yeshua's life, ministry, opposition from Jewish leadership that led to his death, resurrection and ascension to heaven as declared in previous sermons in Acts.
4 And some out of them were persuaded and joined themselves to Paul and to Silas, also a large number of the worshipping Hellenistic Jews and not a few of the leading women.
And: Grk. kai, conj. some: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun to indicate non-specification; a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. The pronoun does not signify a great number. out of: Grk. ek, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun refers to the traditional Jews mentioned in verse 1 above. The description 'some of them' probably represents a small percentage of the synagogue. were persuaded: Grk. peithō, aor. pass., to bring about a convinced state in regard to something; convince, persuade, be persuaded. and: Grk. kai. joined themselves: Grk. prosklēroō, aor., assign by lot, allot, associate with, follow as a disciple. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The verb depicts seeking fellowship for discipling as a result of trusting in Yeshua, as well as recognizing apostolic authority.
to Paul: See verse 2 above. and: Grk. kai. to Silas: Grk. Silas, a contracted from the Latin name Silvanus. The CJB and OJB have 'Sila.' The website BehindtheName.com says it is possible that Silas was in fact a Greek form of the Hebrew name 'Saul' (via Aramaic). NASBEC also says the name is of Aramaic origin. The Greek form of the name appears 13 times in the Besekh, all in Acts. Silvanus occurs four times in the Besekh (2Cor 1:19; 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:1; 1Pet 5:12). According to patristic records Silas was one of the seventy disciples Yeshua sent out in Luke 10:1 (Hippolytus, 170-235, On the Seventy Apostles). Luke identifies Silas was a leader in the congregation of Syrian Antioch (Acts 15:22) and a prophet (15:32). Paul chose Silas as a companion to replace Barnabas (15:40).
also: Grk. te, conj. used to connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai; and, also, and likewise, both. a large: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, here denoting quantity. number: Grk. plēthos, relatively large number of any kind; multitude, great number. of the worshipping: Grk. ho sebō, pl. pres. pass. part., have a worshipful reverence for, worship. Some versions have 'devout' or 'God-fearing.' As a participle sebō describes both the action and the nature of the subject. While the verb sebō is used of proselytes of the gate (Acts 13:43), the verb is also used of traditional Jews (Matt 15:9; Mark 7:7), so the term does not automatically refer to Gentiles. Luke identifies 'the worshipping ones' and he does not use ethnos, the normal word for Gentile.
Hellenistic Jews: pl. of Grk. Hellēn, may mean (1) a person who speaks the Greek language; or (2) in the broader sense, all persons who came under the influence of Greek culture (BAG). Almost all Bible versions translate the plural noun as 'Greeks' (CEV has 'Gentiles'), and commentators regard the 'sebomenōn-Hellēnōn' as proselytes of the gate (e.g., Barnes, Ellicott, Gill, Poole, Thayer). Commentators (and readers) assume the noun refers to ethnic Greeks. However, at that time there was no nation of 'Greece' and the Greek word for 'Greek' (Graikos) appears nowhere in the Greek Bible. Natives of this land did not call themselves 'Greeks,' but identified themselves by their territorial name and in this province it would have been 'Macedonian' (Grk. Makedōn; cf. Acts 16:9, 19:29; 27:2; 2Cor 9:2, 4). Yet, Luke does not use 'Macedonian' to describe these new believers.
My translation of 'Hellenistic Jews' is based on history. After Alexander the Great (356−323 BC) conquered the world he and his successors sought to educate and assimilate people in the Greek way of life. All who spoke and understood the Greek language and adopted or accommodated Greek culture in varying degrees were counted as Hellenist (DNTT 2:124). All the lexicons recognize that Hellēn is a cultural term as well as an ethnic term. Jewish culture was not exempt from the Hellenistic influence resulting from Alexander's conquest and the imposition of Hellenism on the world. One only needs to read First and Second Maccabees to understand the seriousness of the culture war among Jews. By the first century thousands of Jews in the Diaspora were Hellenistic.
In spite of the fact that Hellēn is not a term restricted to Greece, ethnic Greeks or Gentiles in general, all the lexicons inexplicably exclude Jews from this definition. This omission reflects a major blind spot in modern Christian scholarship. Hellēn literally means 'Hellenist,' and a Hellenist might be a Gentile or he might be a Jew. Smith's Dictionary of the Bible (1884) states that the term Hellenist refers to "a Jew by birth or religion who spoke Greek and used chiefly of foreign Jews and proselytes in contrast with the Hebrews speaking the vernacular Hebrew or Aramaic." The church father Justin Martyr (110-165) in his Dialogue with Trypho (Chap. LXXX) lists seven Jewish groups, among whom he identifies Hellenists.
Hellenistic Jews could be completely secular, and in some places they accepted mixed marriage, dropped circumcision, and adopted Greek cults (Tarn & Griffith 223-227; Skarsaune 34). Hellenistic Jews could also be ascetic like the Essenes, or devout worshippers as the Greek-speaking Jews that John describes in John 12:20 and Luke describes in Acts 6:1. Indeed every occurrence of the plural form of Hellēn in Acts is found in the contexts of Jewish worship (14:1; 17:4; 18:4; 19:9-10, 17; 20:20-21; 21:28). So the Hellenistic Jews in Thessalonica were pious and faithful in Sabbath observance. For devout Hellenistic Jews piety did not necessarily mean keeping all the strict customs of the Pharisees. For the rationale to interpret Hellēn as 'Hellenistic Jew' see my article Hellenism and the Jews.
Among the Hellenistic Jews were probably Aristarchus and Secundus, who are later mentioned as companions of Paul on his third Diaspora journey (Acts 20:4). Luke implies that all these people heard the good news at the synagogue. and: Grk. te. not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. a few: Grk. oligos, adj., used (1) of extent or degree; little, small; (2) of quantity, few; or (3) adverbially of time. The second meaning is intended here, no doubt understatement. of the leading: Grk. prōtos, adj., having to do with beforeness, whether (1) indicating primary position in sequence; first, earlier, earliest; (2) standing out in significance or importance, or (3) adverbially denoting first of all, at the first. The second meaning applies here.
women: pl. of Grk. gunē, an adult female person, without respect to age, marital or social status except as defined in the context. In the LXX gunē renders the Heb. ishshah (woman, wife). The addition of this final clause of the verse could associate the 'leading women' with either traditional or Hellenistic Jews, or even Gentiles, such as Lydia in Philippi (Acts 16:14). As Gill suggests the description 'leading women' probably denotes wives of principal men of the city. There is no necessary implication that the women attended synagogue services with their husbands. Most commentators regard these women as Gentile 'proselytes of the gate,' but they could just as easily have been Jewish women who had married Gentile men.
Luke is noted for naming prominent women, mostly Jewish, such as Elizabeth of Hebron (Luke 1:7), Miriam of Nazareth (Luke 1:27; Acts 1:14), Anna of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38), Miriam of Magdala (Luke 8:2), Joanna and Susanna (Luke 8:3), Miriam and Martha of Bethany (Luke 10:38-39), Sapphira of Jerusalem (Acts 5:1), Candace, queen of Ethiopia (Acts 8:27), Tabitha of Joppa (Acts 9:36), Miriam of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), Lydia of Thyatira (Acts 16:14), Damaris of Athens (Acts 17:34), Priscilla of Corinth (Acts 18:2), Bernice, sister of King Agrippa (Acts 25:13), and Drusilla, wife of Felix (Acts 24:24).
5 Now the unbelieving Jewish leaders, having become jealous and having taken along some market-lounging men, and having collected a crowd, and were creating a tumult in the city; and having attacked the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them to the people.
Now: Grk. de, conj. the unbelieving Jewish leaders: pl. of Grk. ho Ioudaios. See verse 1 above. The negative use of Ioudaioi with the definite article points to the synagogue rulers or prominent men in the synagogue who rejected the message of Yeshua as the Messiah. A few versions do identify this adversarial group as 'Jewish leaders' (CEV, ISV, TLB). CJB has 'unbelieving Jews,' imitating the description in Acts 14:2. This group is clearly contrasted with the traditional Jews in verse 1 that believed in Yeshua. The common translation of 'the Jews' may give an unintended pejorative interpretation. The harsh reaction of this group owes to the perceived threat to Jewish orthodoxy and local synagogue leadership. Average Jewish laymen would not have had the social standing to cause all the trouble Luke describes.
having become jealous: Grk. zēloō, aor. part., may mean (1) to have a passionate interest in something, to be zealous; or (2) to envy, be jealous. Either meaning could have application here. In the LXX (and in Gen 37:11) zēloō renders Heb. qanah (SH-7065), to be jealous, even to the point of anger, or zealous. The Greek and Hebrew verbs have the unique duality of sometimes being a negative emotion and sometimes a positive emotion, here the former. The extreme reaction in Thessalonica was typical of Jewish orthodoxy resisting the Messianic message (cf. Matt 10:17; John 9:22, 34; 12:42; 16:2). Luke has already recorded many incidents of hostility by unbelieving Jewish leaders against the Jewish apostles of the Messiah (Acts 4:1-3; 5:17-18, 40; 6:9-12 7:54-59; 8:1-3; 9:23, 29; 12:2-3; 13:6-8, 45; 14:2, 5, 19).
and: Grk. kai, conj. having taken along: Grk. proslambanō, aor. part., take to oneself or take in addition with strong personal interest. some: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. market-lounging: Grk. agoraios, adj., a lounger in the market-place, an agitator, loafer. men: pl. of Grk. anēr, an adult man with attendant responsibilities. The term is used of men who may be single, betrothed or married. In the LXX anēr renders several Heb. words, primarily Heb. ish (SH-376), man (Gen 2:23) (DNTT 2:562). The recruitment of a bunch of Gentile thugs illustrates the depth of depraved hatred of the prominent unbelieving Jews. and: Grk. kai. having collected a crowd: Grk. ochlopoieō, aor. part, to gather a crowd, gather people together. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh.
and: Grk. kai. were creating a tumult: Grk. thorubeō, impf., make a noisy upheaval or tumult. in the city: Grk. ho polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town. and: Grk. kai. having attacked: Grk. ephistēmi, aor. part., may mean (1) to come or stand near in a non-threatening mode; or (2) come or stand near in a discomfiting or threatening mode. The second meaning applies here. the house: Grk. ho oikia may mean either (1) a habitable structure, house; or (2) fig. a group within a house, household or family. The first meaning applies here. The 'assault' may have just been verbal shouting, or possibly included throwing rocks against the house.
of Jason: Grk. Iasōn, which was derived from Greek iasthai 'to heal.' ISBE says that Jason was a common name among the Hellenizing Jews who used it for Yeshua or Y'hoshua. The mention of Jason reinforces the translation of Hellēnōn in the previous verse as Hellenistic Jews. Jason apparently served as host for Paul and his team while they were in Thessalonica. This Jason is likely the same man mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:21 as a kinsman in the sense of a fellow Israelite. they were seeking: Grk. zēteō, impf., may mean (1) be on the search for in order to find someone or something one has difficulty in locating; (2) search for ways to satisfy an interest; (3) have an interest in; or (4) press for. The second meaning applies here.
to bring: Grk. prosagō, aor. inf., to bring to or lead to. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Paul and his companions. to: Grk. eis, prep. the people: Grk. dēmos, people bound together by similar laws or customs, such as citizens of a Macedonian city. It could be that the unbelieving Jewish leaders were inspired by the narrative of the trial and crucifixion of Yeshua in which he was turned over to the Roman governor to be killed. So, let the Gentiles of the city put an end to Paul and his message.
6 But not having found them, they were dragging Jason and some brothers to the city authorities, shouting, that, "The ones having upset the world; these have come here also;
But: Grk. de, conj. not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, not. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought (DM 265). having found: Grk. heuriskō, aor. part., may mean (1) to come upon a person or thing by seeking; (2) to discover by inquiry, thought, examination, scrutiny, observation, or hearing; or (3) to find for oneself, to acquire, get, obtain, or procure. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun, i.e., Paul and his companions. The mob leaders had entered the house uninvited and searched the premises.
they were dragging: Grk. surō, impf., cause to move by dragging. The verb depicts forcible removal. Jason: See the previous verse. and: Grk. kai conj. some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 4 above. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. 'of the same womb,' and in secular Greek meant a male sibling; brother. In the Jewish context the term primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites. In the LXX adelphos renders Heb. ach (SH-251), a male sibling (Gen 4:2; 20:5), a male relative of the same tribe (Gen 13:8; Num 16:10) or the people of Israel (Ex 2:11; 4:18). The noun has the added meaning of new believers in Yeshua.
to: Grk. epi prep. the city authorities: pl. of Grk. politarchēs, a Macedonian title for the ruler of a city, a magistrate. The term is found only in this context. Being a free city Roman titles were not used. An inscription found on an arch dating to the first century where the names of the seven politarchs are mentioned shows that the term was an official title in this city (Vincent). shouting: Grk. boaō, pres. part., use one's voice at high volume; call, cry out, shout. that: Grk. hoti, conj., used here to introduce a quotation.
The ones: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having upset: Grk. anastatoō, aor. part., upset the stability of an entity; properly to turn something over, up to down; disturb, upset, unsettle. the world: Grk. ho oikoumenē, the world as an inhabited area, often with focus on its inhabitants. In the earliest classical Greek literature the term was used of the world inhabited by Greeks in contrast to those lands inhabited by barbarians, but later literature included the lands of barbarians. In the Roman period the term meant the lands under Roman rule, because whatever lay outside was of no account.
these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. The pronoun refers to Paul and his ministry team. have come: Grk. pareimi, pres., to be present, to be here or there, reflecting the perfect tense 'had come.' In Greek literature the verb is used to mean to be by or near one, to be present so as to help, stand by (LSJ). In the LXX pareimi translates Heb. qarob, (SH-7138), 'near, at hand' (e.g., Deut 32:35), and indicates the proximity of someone. here: Grk. enthade, adv., in this place, here. also: Grk. kai. The description indicates knowledge of what had been happening in Jewish communities, both in the land of Israel and the Diaspora, as a result of the apostolic proclamation of Yeshua as the Messiah. The Pharisees were having difficulty maintaining their influence over the synagogues.
7 whom Jason has welcomed. And, these all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying another to be king, Yeshua."
whom: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun; used of Paul and his team. Jason: See verse 5 above. has welcomed: Grk. hupodechomai, perf. pass., receive as a guest, entertain hospitably, welcome. And: Grk. kai, conj. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. The phrase 'these all' likely includes Jason and the brothers along with Paul and Silas, and is intended clearly to depict the disciples of Yeshua as co-conspirators. act: Grk. prassō, pres., to engage in activity with focus on productivity; do, perform, engage in, carry out. The verb is often associated with evil or harmful conduct (e.g., Luke 23:41; John 3:20; Rom 1:32; 2:1-3; 7:15, 19; 13:4).
contrary to: Grk. apenanti, prep., may mean (1) in a position facing an entity, in sight of, before; or (2) over against, opposite. The second meaning applies here. the decrees: pl. of Grk. dogma, a pronouncement or declaration with binding force; decree, edict or ordnance. of Caesar: Grk. Kaisar, originally the family name of Julius, the first emperor. In time it became a title of the Roman head of state. The Caesar in power at this time was Claudius, although the statement may not refer to a specific decree of Claudius. The claim may allude to laws that forbade the introduction of Jewish opinions among the Romans themselves, but the accusers were not Romans, as occurred in Philippi.
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, and often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. another: Grk. heteros, adj., a distributive pronoun used here to express dissimilarity of one item relative to another, whether generically or qualitatively; other, another or different. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. king: Grk. basileus, king or chief ruler. In the LXX basileus appears frequently to translate Heb. melek (SH-4428). In the Tanakh the title 'king' was not associated with the size of territory governed (often a city), but the authority wielded. The executive and judicial functions (and sometimes legislative) of government were vested in one person. Yeshua: See verse 3 above.
The charge is essentially the same as presented by the chief priests to Pontius Pilate against Yeshua, which is preserved in Luke's narrative: "We found this One perverting our nation and forbidding payment of taxes to Caesar and saying himself to be Messiah, a King" (Luke 23:2 BR). The matter was important because no man of a conquered people could officially have the royal title except by permission of Caesar. Upon his father's death Herod Antipas went to Rome to seek approval as 'king of the Jews,' but it was denied him by Caesar Augustus (Josephus, Ant. XVII, 9:4; 11:4). Herod's continual pursuit of the title would eventually lead to his dismissal and exile to Gaul in AD 39 under Caligula (Ant. XVIII, 7:2).
The slander against the apostles seeking to have the government brand them as fomenting rebellion against the government may have been based on apostolic teaching. From the time of Pentecost disciples routinely referred to Yeshua as Kurios, 'Lord' (Acts 2:36; 7:59-60; 9:10, 17, 27, 35, 42; 11:21; 13:12; 15:11, 26; 16:31). However, Caesar believed he was kurios of the world and the Caesar cult, with faithful devotees scattered throughout the empire, provided a serious obstacle to discipleship. Eventually, the simple confession that Yeshua is Lord would create many Christian martyrs. While Peter never refers to Yeshua as 'king,' Paul does apply the title to Yeshua in his later writings (1Tim 6:15; Heb 7:1-25).
8 Then they stirred up the crowd and the city authorities hearing these things.
Then: Grk. de, conj. they stirred up: Grk. tarassō, aor., 3p-pl., caused to be in a disturbed state; agitate, stir up, trouble. the crowd: Grk. ho ochlos, an aggregate of people or an assembled company of people; crowd, multitude, great number. In many passages the term denotes common people in contrast to the ruling classes and religious elite. and: Grk. kai, conj. the city authorities: pl. of Grk. politarchēs. See verse 6 above. hearing: Grk. akouō, pres. part., to hear aurally, often with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. The plural pronoun alludes to the two charges in the previous verse.
Luke paints the scene before the magistrates as tumultuous. The unbelieving Jewish leaders were able to disturb the state of mind of the magistrates and the crowd observing the proceedings to make them fearful of a revolution that would bring Roman reprisal. The message of the Messiah had certainly turned the Jewish world upside down and the soul of the synagogue was at stake. These Jewish leaders sought assistance from people that actually hated and persecuted Jews to help them maintain the status quo.
9 And having received satisfaction from Jason and the others, they released them.
And: Grk. kai, conj. having received: Grk. lambanō, aor. part., to lay hold of by actively accepting what is offered (HELPS), to take or receive. satisfaction: Grk. hikanos, adj., of a quality or extent that is quite enough. Most versions have 'security' or 'sum of money.' from: Grk. para, prep., with the root meaning of beside (DM 108), conveys association between persons, things, or circumstances, which may denote (1) a point of origin, from; or (2) a close association or proximity, with, beside, in the presence of. The first usage applies here. Jason: See verse 5 above. and: Grk. kai. the others: pl. of Grk. ho loipos, adj., remaining of what's left, other, rest of. The adjective refers to the 'brothers' in verse 6 that were dragged from Jason's home.
they released: Grk. apoluō, aor., 3p-pl., may mean (1) to set free from a condition or obligation, to release or to free; or (2) to cause to depart from a place, to send off or dismiss. The first meaning applies here. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. While Luke does not provide a record of the proceedings before the magistrates, and commentators are divided over the significance of the terms used in the narrative. Most Bible versions and commentators interpret the adjective hikanos to be an amount of money, a bond or bail, given as insurance that the public peace would not be violated again. Against this interpretation is that Luke does not indicate the magistrates assessed an amount of money nor does he use any word that means currency or payment of money, such as found in Matthew 28:12.
There is also the logistical complication of the men actually having money with them and so would have to be released in order to obtain the required money from home or elsewhere and return with it. Luke offers no hint that this is what happened. Gill and Poole suggest that the magistrates received 'satisfaction' from Jason and the brothers. That is, they provided a convincing defense and persuaded the magistrates that there was no truth to the charge of sedition against Caesar. Evidently the magistrates did not consider the evidence weighty enough to convict and punish Jason and his friends. After all, the real complaint was against Paul and Silas who were not found.
Paul in Berea, 17:10-15
10 And the brothers immediately sent forth Paul and Silas by night to Berea, who having arrived, went into the synagogue of the traditional Jews.
And: Grk. de, conj. the brothers: pl. of Grk. ho adelphos. See verse 6 above. The plural noun indicates there were male believers in the newly formed congregation shepherded by Luke. immediately: Grk. eutheōs, adv., immediately, forthwith, or right away. The adverb is a dramatic device that energizes the narrative, often shifting the reader's attention to another scene. sent forth: Grk. ekpempō, aor., 3p-pl., dispatch, to send forth, to send out. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh and the previous time the sending was by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:4). Luke may imply that the urgency of being sent by the brothers was also motivated by the Holy Spirit. Paul: See verse 2 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. Silas: See verse 2 above. While not mentioned Timothy also went with Paul and Silas (cf. verse 14 below).
by: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The first usage applies here. night: Grk. nux, night as a chronological period, sunset to sunrise. The noun alludes to the Jewish day beginning at sunset. Travel from a city did not normally take place at night, so sending at night implies a perceived imminent threat against Paul and Silas. The adversaries were not content with the ruling of the magistrates and were determined to exact their own revenge.
to: Grk. eis, prep. Berea: Grk. Beroia, 'place of many waters' (HBD), a city of Macedonia, about 50 miles west of Thessalonica near Pella, at the foot of Mount Bermion in the Olympian mountain range. In the second century B.C. Berea had been the capital of one of the four divisions of Macedonia and was still a sizable city at this time (Polhill 183). who: pl. of Grk. hostis, relative pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb or a preceding entity; who, which. having arrived: Grk. paraginomai, aor. mid. part., to make one's way so as to be present; come, arrive, be present. The verb probably intends that Paul and Silas found lodging. It is likely that the apostles had an one or more men from the congregation in Thessalonica to go along as security, as well as make introduction to a Jewish host in Berea (cf. verse 15 below).
went: Grk. apeimi, impf., to go away or depart, used of movement from a locality with intention to arrive at another. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The verb depicts leaving their lodging to go to the place of worship. The imperfect tense, which denotes continuous action in past time, may indicate repeated trips, perhaps even the three-Sabbath custom of Paul. into: Grk. eis, prep. the synagogue: Grk. sunagōgē. See verse 1 above. of the traditional Jews: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios. See verse 1 above. As noted in verse 2 above Paul acted according to his habitual practice in order to proclaim the good news of Yeshua the Messiah to the Jewish population.
11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, who received the word with all eagerness, every day examining the Scriptures to see if these might hold so.
Now: Grk. de, conj. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. were: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. more noble-minded: Grk. eugenēs, adj., may mean (1) well-born, high-born, of a noble family; or (2) noble-minded, high-minded. The second meaning is intended here with a comparative connotation of a willingness to listen to a different point of view without becoming antagonistic. Among them was probably Sopater, son of Pyrrhus, who later served as a companion of Paul on his third Diaspora journey (Acts 20:4) and whom Paul mentions as a fellow Israelite in his Roman letter (Rom 16:21). than those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. 'in,' 'within' or 'among.' Thessalonica: See verse 1 above. The comparison is clearly pejorative toward the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica.
The description of the Jews of Berea being more 'noble-minded' is clearly pejorative toward the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica. The difference between the two synagogues may be likened to the difference between the two prominent Pharisee leaders in Jerusalem, Hillel (c. 110 B.C.—A.D. 10) and Shammai (50 B.C.—A.D. 30), and their followers. Shammai was much stricter than Hillel in religious matters and had a habit of responding in anger to those whom he disapproved (see Gittin 9:10 and Shabbat 17a; 31a). It was common for the School of Hillel to refer to the School of Shammai as 'the synagogue of Satan' (Moseley 96). In a Talmudic anecdote R. Dosa b. Harkinas of Beit Hillel called his younger brother of Beit Shammai, 'the first-born of Satan' (Yebamot 16a; MW-Notes 158).
who: pl. of Grk. hostis, relative pronoun. received: Grk. dechomai, aor. mid., 3p-pl., to receive, frequently with the connotation of enthusiastic acceptance. the word: Grk. ho logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning, including 'speech, word, report, thing, matter' (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). 'The word' is shorthand for the good news of the Kingdom of God and God's grace and salvation through Yeshua. with: Grk. meta, prep., may be used (1) as a marker of association or accompaniment; with, among; or (2) as a sequential or positional marker; after, behind. The first usage is intended here.
all: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 7 above. eagerness: Grk. prothumia, state of exceptional interest; readiness, eagerness, willingness, promptness. every: Grk. kata, prep., lit. 'according to.' See verse 2 above. Here the preposition is used in a distributive sense, indicating a succession of activity. day: Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period (BAG). The second meaning applies here. The phrase kata hēmera can mean 'daily,' but since the root meaning of kata is 'down,' the phrase hints at the sovereign grace from above providing opportunity each day. Luke indicates that the people couldn't wait until the next Sabbath to learn more of Messianic prophecy.
examining: Grk. anakrinō, pl. pres. part., to engage in careful inquiry, make a close study of, ask questions about, to examine or investigate. the Scriptures: pl. of Grk. ho graphē. See verse 2 above. to see if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker, generally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. might hold: Grk. echō, pres. opt., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application. The optative mood is used to denote strong contingency or possibility. so: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. The Jews of Berea wanted what Paul said to be true, so they studied the passages he cited to evaluate his interpretation.
12 Therefore indeed many of them believed, also of the Hellenistic Jews, prominent women and men not a few.
Therefore: Grk. oun, inferential conj., used here as an indication of taking account of something in the narrative immediately preceding; therefore, now then, accordingly so. indeed: Grk. mén, a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Many versions do not translate the particle. many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse 4 above. of them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun, which refers to the traditional Jews mentioned in verse 10 above. believed: Grk. pisteuō, aor., 3p-pl., to have confidence in the trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman (SH-539), to confirm or support, and in application may mean, believe, trust, be true, reliable or faithful (BDB 52; DNTT 1:595). The verb does not denote an intellectual confirmation of a creedal doctrine, but a heart response of believing-trust.
also: Grk. kai, conj. The conjunction denotes additional of believers from a different group. of the Hellenistic Jews: pl. of Grk. Ho Hellēnis, fem. of Hellēn, thus a female Hellenistic Jew. See verse 4 above. The great majority of versions translate the plural noun as a singular adjective 'Greek.' A few have 'Greeks' (AMPC, KJV, MSG, NKJV) and two have 'Gentiles' (DRA, NEB). Bible commentators generally interpret this group label as referring to God-fearing Gentiles or 'proselytes of the gate.' prominent: pl. of Grk. ho euschēmōn, adj. (from eú, 'well, good' and sxēma, 'outward form, figure'), can mean (1) good form, comely, decorous and desirable; or (2) a person in an honorable position in society, wealthy, and who properly uses influence in a respected position. The second meaning is intended here and the plural feminine form likely refers to the women.
women: pl. of Grk. gunē. See verse 4 above. The description of 'prominent women' is comparable to the 'leading women' of Thessalonica in verse 4 above in terms of status, but the 'prominent' women of Berea may have been born into wealthy families. and: Grk. kai. men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 5 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. a few: Grk. oligos, adj. See verse 4 above where the understatement is applied to women. These men likely belonged to the category of Hellenistic Jews as the prominent women. Since anēr can refer to a married man, the men here may be husbands of the prominent women. The second part of this verse perhaps indicates a proportional comparison of the total number of Hellenistic Jews to the many traditional Jews that believed.
13 But when the unbelieving Jewish leaders from Thessalonica learned that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul even in Berea, they came there also, disturbing and stirring up the crowds.
But: Gr. de, conj. when: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components, used here in a temporal sense. the unbelieving Jewish leaders: pl. of Grk. ho Ioudaios. See verse 5 above. The negative use of Ioudaioi with the definite article points to the synagogue rulers or prominent men in the synagogue who rejected the message of Yeshua as the Messiah. A few versions do identify this adversarial group as 'Jewish leaders' (CEV, ISV, WE). CJB has 'unbelieving Jews,' as in verse 5 above, imitating the description in Acts 14:2. This group is clearly contrasted with the traditional Jews in verse 1 that believed in Yeshua.
from: Grk. apo, prep. Thessalonica: See verse 1 above. The common translation of 'the Jews of Thessalonica' may give an unintended pejorative interpretation and imply all the Jews in that city. The harsh reaction of this group owes to the perceived threat to Jewish orthodoxy and local synagogue leadership. Average Jewish laymen would not have had the social standing to cause all the trouble Luke describes. learned: Grk. ginōskō, aor., to know, used here in the sense of receiving information. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada, which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning from a teacher (DNTT 2:395).
that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 6 above. Here the conjunction introduces a subordinate clause that complements the verb 'learned.' the word: Grk. logos. See verse 11 above. of God: Grk. theos, God or god, as determined from the context. In secular Greek literature a number of male and female deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly, as here, for the God of Israel.
To this point the expression 'word of God' has occurred eight times in Acts (4:31; 6:2, 7; 8:14; 11:1; 13:5, 7, 46) and represents the message of the Messianic movement, i.e., the good news of Yeshua. The content of the 'word of God' for a Jewish audience was essentially (1) the announcement that the age of fulfillment has arrived; (2) a repetition of the ministry, death and resurrection of Yeshua; (3) citation of relevant Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh; and (4) a call to repentance and immersion. These elements may be seen in the previous sermons of Peter (Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12) and Paul (Acts 13:16-41).
had been proclaimed: Grk. katangellō, aor. pass. See verse 3 above. by: Grk. hupo, prep., may be used to indicate (1) agency or cause; by; (2) a position that is relatively lower; below, under; (3) time, equivalent to 'about;' or (4) being subject to the power or authority of someone, under. The first meaning applies here. Paul: See verse 2 above. even: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. Berea: See verse 10 above. Luke does not explain how the synagogue leaders in Thessalonica learned of Paul's ministry in Berea, but there must have been the passage of time of a few weeks in which someone from Berea was perhaps visiting relatives in Thessalonica and mentioned Paul's presence.
they came: Grk. erchomai, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 1 above. there also: Grk. kakei, adv., a combination of kai, 'and,' with ekei, 'in that place, there;' serving as a simple connective. The conjunction alludes to city of Berea. disturbing: Grk. saleuō, pres. part. (from salos, 'disturbance'), cause to waver or totter, used here to mean provoking emotional instability. and: Grk. kai. stirring up: Grk. tarassō, pres. part. See verse 8 above. the crowds: pl. of Grk. ho ochlos. See verse 8 above.
Just as unbelieving Jewish leaders in Pisidian Antioch and Iconium had stirred up trouble for Paul in Lystra (Acts 14:19), so now unbelieving Jews of Thessalonica arrived in Berea to repeat what had been an effective strategy against Paul in Thessalonica. Such hateful conduct proved their lack of noble-mindedness. It seems incredible that Jews would be able to influence the Gentile crowds that would ordinarily be antisemitic. The use of deception and slander were essential to motivate violence.
14 So, immediately then, the brothers sent Paul to go as far as to the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there.
So: Grk. de, conj. immediately: Grk. eutheōs, adv. See verse 10 above. The adverb signals a sudden disruption in Paul's ministry for a protective response to the threat of violence. then: Grk. tote, adv. that focuses on a time or circumstance that is closely associated with what precedes in the narrative; at that time, then, thereupon. the brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 6 above. The 'brothers' may refer back to the men in verse 12 who believed in Yeshua. sent: Grk. exapostellō, aor., send, which may focus on (1) moving persons from one place to another, send out/away/forth; or (2) dismissal, send away. The first usage is intended here. Paul: See verse 2 above.
to go: Grk. poreuomai, pres. mid. inf., may mean (1) to move from one area to another; go, journey, make one's way, transport, travel; or (2) in an ethical sense, to conduct oneself, live, walk. The first meaning is intended here. In the LXX poreuomai renders mainly Heb. halak (SH-1980), with the same range of meaning (DNTT 3:946). as far as: Grk. heōs, adv., a particle marking a limit, here to mark the terminus of the trip. to: Grk. epi, prep. the sea: Grk. thalassa is used of both oceanic bodies water and inland bodies of water, whether salt or fresh.
In the English language 'sea' normally refers to a body of salt water and 'lake' to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule. Thalassa simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. Here the term refers to the Aegean Sea. Bruce suggests that Paul was escorted to Methone or Dium on the coast, about 24 miles from Berea, and put him on board a ship bound for Piraeus, the port of Athens. Athens was 250 miles south of Berea.
and: Grk. kai, conj. Silas: See verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai. Timothy: Grk. Timotheos (from timaō, honor, and theos, God), 'one who honors God.' The name occurs 24 times in the Besekh, first in Acts 16:1. Timothy was from Lystra and the son of a traditional Jewish mother and a Hellenistic Jewish father. Timothy and his mother Eunice had embraced the Messiah during Paul's first journey. After being circumcised Timothy was ordained to ministry by the laying on of hands by Paul and the elders of the congregation (1Tim 4:14; 2Tim 1:6) and from that point became a member of Paul's ministry team (Acts 16:3).
remained: Grk. hupomenō, aor., may mean (1) to stay in a place when others are leaving; or (2) be steadfast in face of difficulty. The first meaning is intended, but the second meaning could also have application. there: Grk. ekei, adv. See the previous verse. The term refers to Berea. Luke emphasizes the urgency of getting Paul out of town, since he was the primary focus of the persecution. Thus, Silas and Timothy did not travel with Paul.
The Byzantine Text inserts hōs instead of heōs to imply that the brothers engaged in a ruse, pretending to take Paul to the sea, but instead took a highway to Athens (Metzger 404). The KJV has "the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea." However, the earliest MSS have heōs. Metzger also notes that the Western Text has simply 'to go to the sea,' which supports the reading of the earliest MSS.
15 Now those escorting Paul brought him as far as Athens; and having received a command to Silas and Timothy that they should come to him as quickly as possible, they departed.
Now: Grk. de, conj. those: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. escorting: Grk. kathistēmi, pres. part., lit. 'set down,' and used here to mean bring down to a location; conduct, escort. Paul: See verse 2 above. At least two brothers led Paul to the port and remained with him to aid him in reaching his destination, with which they were likely familiar. brought him: Grk. agō, aor., to cause movement by taking the lead; lead, bring, carry, take. as far as: Grk. heōs, adv. See the previous verse. Some interpreters believe that Luke's narrative implies taking a land route.
A Roman highway ran from Thessalonica, along the coast of Thessaly, through the town of Larissa, around the Gulf of Euboea, into the province of Achaia, through Thebes to Athens. The trip over mountainous terrain of 250 miles would have taken as much as ten days to two weeks by foot. Traveling by sea would have been much faster, the time easily reduced by at least half, perhaps only a few days with favorable weather.
Athens: Grk. Athēnai, the capital of ancient Attica, a prominent city in the province of Achaia, and considered the intellectual capital of the Hellenistic world. The city was located about two miles from the sea. The city was named for Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Athens is one of the oldest cities of antiquity and home of many notable dramatists, such as Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, and philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. In the Roman era Athens was given the status of a free city because of its widely admired schools (Polhill 208). Luke implies that Athens was Paul's intended destination, perhaps even recommended by the brothers in Berea due to the presence of a synagogue. The distance would put Paul effectively out of reach of the persecutors from Thessalonica.
and: Grk. kai, conj. having received: Grk. lambanō, pl. aor. part. See verse 9 above. a command: Grk. entolē, a directive for action, command, order or instruction. The noun refers to instruction that is obligatory and not merely informative. In the LXX entolē generally renders Heb. mitsvah (SH-4687), 'commandment' (e.g., Ex 20:6; Ps 119:6). A mitsvah may be a human command, but is mostly divine instruction intended for obedience. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 2 above. Paul gave the command to the brothers that escorted him. Silas: See verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai. Timothy: See the previous verse. that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. they should come: Grk. erchomai, aor. subj. See verse 1 above.
to: Grk. pros. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Paul. as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 13 above. The adverb is used here to focus on how to do something. quickly as possible: Grk. tachista, adv., most swiftly, most quickly, as quickly as possible. The term is used only here in the Besekh. Paul likely implies that Silas and Timothy travel by boat rather than taking the highway. they departed: Grk. exeimi, impf., 3p-pl., to go forth, to go out. The subject of the verb is the brothers that escorted Paul. Their return trip could have been by land or sea.
Paul in Athens, 17:16-21
16 Now in Athens Paul awaiting them, his spirit was being provoked in him, seeing the city full of idols.
Now: Grk. de, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. Athens: See the previous verse. Paul: See verse 2 above. awaiting: Grk. ekdechomai, pres. part., to wait for someone or some thing. them: 3p-pl. of Grk. autos, masc. personal pronoun; i.e., Silas and Timothy. his: Grk. autos. spirit: Grk. ho pneuma (for Heb. ruach), may mean (1) wind, (2) breath of the nostrils; (3) the vital principle by which the human body is animated; (4) a non-corporeal sentient being; (5) the Holy Spirit; or (6) fig. of an inner quality or disposition. The third meaning is intended here. The spirit of man is that which man has in common with God who is Spirit (Gen 1:2; John 4:24).
was being provoked: Grk. paraxunō, impf. (from pará, 'alongside' and oxus, 'a sharp edge'), cut close alongside, and by extension to incite someone and stimulate their feelings; become emotionally provoked, upset, or roused to anger (HELPS). in: Grk. en. him: Grk. autos. seeing: Grk. theōreō, pres. part., may mean (1) pay attention to; look at, observe, watch, behold; or (2) conclude on the basis of personal experience; infer, see. The first meaning is intended here. the city: Grk. ho polis. See verse 5 above. full of idols: Grk. kateidōlos, adj., full of images of idols, grossly idolatrous. The observation no doubt occurred as a result of touring the city.
Greek and Roman writers of the period wrote that there were more images in Athens than all the rest of the country and exceeded all other cities in their zeal for honoring various deities. There were temples devoted to the principal deities of the pantheon. In addition, Ellicott notes that there busts or statutes of deities at every corner and in the court-yard of every house. A traditional Jew knowing that there was only one God would be overwhelmed with shock and perhaps anger that Satan had such a complete grip on a community.
17 Indeed he was reasoning in the synagogue with the traditional Jews and those worshipping, and in the market place according to every day with those being present there.
Indeed: Grk. mén, conj. See verse 12 above. he was reasoning: Grk. dialegomai, impf. mid. See verse 2 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the synagogue: Grk. ho sunagōgē. See verse 1 above. with the traditional Jews: pl. of Grk. ho Ioudaios. See verse 1 above. This detail indicates the synagogue was established by Torah observant Jews. and: Grk. kai, conj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. worshipping: Grk. sebō, pres. mid. part. See verse 4 above. Some versions inaccurately translate the verb as 'God-fearing Gentiles' or 'Greeks.' The verb that means God-fearing is phobeomai-Theos (Acts 10:2). Also, the verb here is not qualified by either ethnos (Gentile) or Hellēn (Hellenistic Jew).
The verb sebō is used previously in Acts in connection with proselytes (13:43), women (13:50) and Hellenistic Jews (verse 4 above). So, 'those worshipping' with the traditional Jews could be Gentiles and/or Hellenistic Jews. and: Grk. kai. in: Grk. en. the marketplace: Grk. ho agora, a public place for gathering, a town square, often of a marketplace. The central marketplace of Athens was called The Agora, a large open plaza located in the lower city, lying northwest of the Acropolis, and north of Ares Hill. The Agora served as a place where Athenian citizens gathered to discuss politics and socialize as well as shop.
every: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 7 above. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 11 above. with: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 2 above. The preposition emphasizes face-to-face contact. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. being present there: Grk. paratugchanō, pres. part., (1) happen to be near, be among; (2) happen to be present, be present at; or (3) in participle form, whoever chanced to be by, present in the circumstances, i.e., the first comer (LSJ). The third usage is intended here. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. So, those in the marketplace when Paul went there heard the good news.
18 Now also some of the Epicureans and Stoics, philosophers, were conversing with him. And some were saying, "What would this scavenger wish to say?" But others, "He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign deities," because he was proclaiming the good news of Yeshua and the resurrection.
Now: Grk. de, conj. also: Grk. kai, conj. some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 4 above. of the Epicureans: pl. of Grk. Ho Epikoureios, one who holds the tenets of Epicurus (3rd c. BC). The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Epicurus believed that the aim of life is personal happiness, and happiness is primarily defined as pleasure (egoistic hedonism). The way to attain such pleasure is to live modestly and to gain knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of one's desires. Thus, happiness consists not so much in the satisfaction of desires, as in the suppression of wants, and in arriving at a state of independence of all circumstances, which secures a peace of mind that the privations and changes of life cannot disturb. For the history of Epicureanism see the article at ISBE.
Jews were quite aware of the Epicureans, which are mentioned in a list of those who would suffer eternal condemnation.
But the heretics and renegades and traitors and Epicureans, and those who denied the Law, or separated themselves from the ways of the congregation, or denied the resurrection of the dead, and all who sinned and caused the many to sin, like Jeroboam and Ahab, and who set their dead in the land of the living, and stretched out their hands against the Temple, Gehenna is shut up after them, and they are condemned in it for ever. (Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:4; See Herbert Danby's translation of the Tosefta, p. 123)
and: Grk. kai, conj. Stoics: pl. of Grk. Stoikos, adj., an adherent of Stoic philosophy, the author of which, Zeno of Citium (3rd c. BC), taught at Athens. The adjective occurs only here in the Besekh. In religious terms the Stoics ascribed to pantheism. To live a good life one had to understand the rules of the natural order since everything was rooted in nature. In practical terms seeking the good meant a life of moderation and frugality. The path to personal happiness and inner peace could be accomplished by extinguishing all desire to have or to affect things beyond ones control and through living for the present without hope for or fear of the future. The apostle Paul would have been knowledgeable of Stoicism since his hometown of Tarsus was a center of Stoic philosophy, and the birthplace of Chrysippus, a well-known leader of the Stoic movement in the third century BC. For the history of Stoicism see the article at ISBE.
philosophers: pl. of Grk. philosophos, a lover or friend of wisdom, one given to the pursuit of wisdom or learning; also one who investigates and discusses the causes of things and the highest good (Thayer). The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. The word philosophos does not occur in the LXX, but it is found in other Jewish literature (Philo and Josephus) (BAG). In Against Apion (1:22; 2:17) Josephus mentions some well known Hellenistic philosophers with a brief description of what they taught. As a Pharisee Paul was quite capable of carrying on a philosophical discussion.
Moseley points out several characteristics of the Athenian philosophers that were similar to the Pharisees (109).
1. the philosophers taught without pay;
2. the philosophers had disciples who followed them and served them;
3. the philosophers were supported by gifts from their admirers, in addition to their private employment;
4. the philosophers were exempt from taxes;
5. the philosophers could be distinguished on the street by their walk, their speech, and their peculiar clothing;
6. the philosophers generally practiced a simple lifestyle; and
7. the philosophers discussed the same sorts of questions the Pharisees discussed and could find common points of agreement.
While there were important differences between the philosophers of Athens they all focused on 'the good,' which basically meant determining what was best for the individual and seeking the kind of life that was most beneficial and satisfactory for oneself. Hellenistic philosophy was thoroughly self–focused and contrary to biblical values. In Scripture the concept of 'the good' is totally linked with trust in God and faithfulness to God. 'The good,' cannot be experienced apart from the holy Creator God. The good is always a gift of God and as such is outside the control of man to produce in his own strength. God is the one, the only one, who is innately or inherently good. So, 'the good life' cannot be achieved by focusing on one's self, but by doing what imitates the nature of God by the power of God. The prophet Micah defined 'the good' this way, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Mic 6:8 NASB).
were conversing with: Grk. sumballō, impf., the basic idea of 'cast in with' or 'cast together' and dependent on context may mean (1) engage, in combative fashion; (2) take up matters of mutual interest; (3) give thought to a medley of matters; or (4) fall in with. The second meaning applies here. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e. Paul. And: Grk. kai, conj. some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. were saying: Grk. legō, impf. See verse 7 above. What: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. would: Grk. an, a disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might, in that case, anyhow. The particle indicates what could occur under certain conditions, and the context determines the limits of those conditions (HELPS). The particle is often not translated.
this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 3 above. scavenger: Grk. spermologos, adj. (from sperma, seed, and legō, to speak), a term used in imagery of a bird that picks up seeds here and there, thus one who picks up scraps of knowledge and used here as an insult to depict a dabbler in learning. The adjective occurs only here in the Besekh. Many versions translate the noun as 'babbler,' which is really inaccurate since 'babbler' refers to one who utters words imperfectly, indistinctly, or incoherently. Two versions have 'scavenger' (DLNT, NABRE). wish: Grk. thelō, pres. opt., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. to say: Grk. legō, pres. inf. See verse 7 above.
But: Grk. de, conj. others: pl. of Grk. ho, used here as a demonstrative pronoun. He seems: Grk. dokeō, pres., the basic idea of receptivity to the intellect; to entertain an idea or form an opinion about something on the basis of what appears to support a specific conclusion; opine, regard, suppose, think. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. a proclaimer: Grk. katangeleus, a reporter, announcer, proclaimer, or herald. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. of foreign: Grk. xenos, relating to what is normally outside one's immediate experience, used here as an adjective to mean strange or foreign. deities: pl. of Grk. daimonion. While the term normally refers to an evil-spirit or demon in the Besekh, daimonion was used by secular authors to refer to the divine Power, deity, or divinity, such as Xenophon of Athens (The Memorabilia Book I, 1:1) and Josephus (Wars I, 2:8).
because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 3 above. he was proclaiming the good news: Grk. euangelizō, impf. mid., to announce the good message, specifically God's salvation, to 'not-yet-believers.' In the LXX euangelizō stands for Heb. basar, to publish or bring news or a report, whether good or bad (DNTT 2:108-109). of Yeshua: Grk. ho Iēsous. See verse 3 above. The definite article perhaps emphasizes the name of a particular Jew whose name means salvation. and: Grk. kai, conj. the resurrection: Grk. ho anastasis (from ana, 'up, again' and histēmi, 'to stand') may mean either (1) rise, which may be bringing to a higher position in a physical sense or a higher status in a relational sense; or (2) resurrection from the condition of being dead (BAG). The second meaning is intended here.
The definite article could point to the resurrection of Yeshua (verse 31 below) or the resurrection of the last day of the present age (Dan 12:13; John 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24). Anastasis is the principal Greek word in the Besekh for resurrection, with references divided between the resurrection of Yeshua and the resurrection at the end of the age. In the LXX anastasis occurs in Zephaniah 3:8 for Heb. qum (SH-6965; BDB 877), to arise, stand up, stand, which could be a Messianic prophecy of Yeshua's resurrection.
The Athenian philosophers did believe in the immortality of the soul. When a person died he went to Hades, the general place of the dead, located in the lower parts of the earth and consisting of various regions. If the person had been especially good he would go to a paradise region called Elysium and enjoy eternal blessedness. If he had been wicked he would go to Tartarus where he is tortured for eternity. However, various Greek philosophers proposed the idea that after a period of purification in Hades the soul migrated back to earth to find its way into human or animal bodies, what we call reincarnation. There is some evidence to suggest that this idea was brought back from India after the conquest of Alexander the Great.
19 And having taken hold of him and brought him to Ares Hill, saying, "We are interested to know 'what is this new teaching which is spoken by you?'
Also: Grk. te, conj. See verse 4 above. having taken hold of: Grk. epilambanomai, pl. aor. mid. part., to take or lay hold of with the hands, here with no adversarial intent. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. and: Grk. kai, conj. brought him: Grk. agō, aor. See verse 15 above. to: Grk. epi, prep., lit. 'upon.' the Ares: Grk. ho Areios, named for Ares, the Greek god of war, the same as the Roman deity Mars. Hill: Grk. pagos, a rocky hill. The great majority of Bible versions combine the Greek nouns into one Latin word, Areopagus. A few versions have 'Mars Hill' (CEB, TLB, NLV, RGT). The name designated a rocky height in the city of Athens not far from the Acropolis toward the west.
Pausanias (c. 110-180 AD), a Greek traveler and geographer, reported that the Areopagus, or Mars Hill, gained its name from the story that Mars, having slain the son of Neptune for the attempted violation of his daughter Alcippe, was tried for the murder here before the twelve gods as judges (Description of Greece 1.28.5). The Areopagus was where judges convened who had jurisdiction of capital offences and the court itself was called by that name (Thayer). Areopagus was also the name given to a governmental council in the city of Athens. Among the many functions of the council was supervising education, particularly controlling the many visiting lecturers (Rienecker). This oversight function explains the query by the philosophers.
saying: Grk. legō, pres. inf. See verse 7 above. We are interested: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., 1p-pl., the quality or state of being capable. Most versions translate the verb as an invitation 'may we.' to know: Grk. ginōskō, aor. inf. See verse 13 above. The verbal phrase introduces a question that has the appearance of courteous curiosity, but probably with an undertone of sarcasm. what: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See the previous verse. is this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. new: Grk. kainos, adj., new, has three applications in the Besekh: (1) of recent origin or unused; (2) different and superior in quality relative to something old with no criticism of the old; or (3) different in reaction generated for something not previously present. The third meaning is intended here.
teaching: Grk. didachē (from didaskō, to teach), the act of teaching with content implied. In the LXX didachē is found only in the superscription of Psalm 60:1 to render the Piel inf. of Heb. lamad (SH-3925), 'to exercise in, to learn' (BDB 540), an action attributed to David (DNTT 3:767). which: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. is spoken: Grk. laleō, pres. mid. part., to make an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; assert, proclaim, report, speak. by: Grk. hupo, prep. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. The question indicated that the philosophers had never visited the Jewish synagogue and knew nothing of Scripture and its teachings.
20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know 'what are these things purposed to be?'"
The philosophers then explain the reason for the question. For: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge (yet) and ara (then), and in a broad sense means 'certainly it follows that; for.' The conjunction has an explanatory use here. you are bringing: Grk. eispherō, pres., cause to be brought into a place or condition; lead into, bring in. some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. strange things: Grk. xenizō, neut. pl. pres. part., may mean (1) to receive as a guest, entertain hospitably; or (2) to surprise or astonish by the strangeness and novelty of a thing. The second meaning applies here. The participle functions as a noun here. The verb does not occur in the LXX, but is found in other Jewish literature (2Macc 9:6; Josephus, Ant. I, 1:4; Thayer). to: Grk. eis, prep. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person.
ears: pl. of Grk. akoē may mean (1) hearing as a sensory faculty; (2) the organ of hearing; or (3) that which is heard. The second meaning applies here. so: Grk. oun, conj. we want: Grk. boulomai, pres. mid., 1p-pl., may mean (1) have in one's mind; wish, want, desire; or (2) reach a decision upon deliberation; intend, decide, plan, will. The first meaning applies here. to know: Grk. ginōskō, aor. inf. See verse 13 above. The philosophers then ask a second question. what: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. are these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. purposed: Grk. thelō, pres. See the previous verse. The verb is used here of things that tend or point to some conclusion (Thayer). to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. In other words, "what is your intention?"
No one had ever brought Jewish (= biblical) teaching to the Athenian philosophers before. The revelation of true history in the Bible, including the revelation about the person and nature of God and His expectations, are indeed strange to those who know nothing of them and even objectionable when they are heard. God's standards revealed in the Bible are even counter-cultural in so far as the culture condones wicked behavior and expects the Bible-believing community to accommodate and accept that wickedness as normal.
21 Now all Athenians and the strangers visiting were spending time in nothing other than to tell or to hear something new.
Now: Grk. de, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. Athenians: pl. of Grk. Athēnaios, adj., belonging to Athens. The masculine adjective denotes Gentile men having been born and raised in Athens. See verse 5 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. the strangers: pl. of Grk. ho xenos, adj., an alien, foreigner, guest or stranger. In the LXX xenos occurs 21 times and translates mostly Heb. nokri (SH-5237), alien, foreign, first used by Ruth to describe herself (Ruth 2:10). David also used this noun to describe himself in relation to his brothers (Ps 69:8). visiting: Grk. epidēmeō, pl. pres. part., stay in a locality while in transit; visit, stay for a while. Visitors to Athens were treated with respect, but they had no legal rights there. Only native born men possessed the rights of citizenship in Athens.
were spending time: Grk. eukaireō, impf., 3p-pl., to give time to something, to have leisure or opportunity. in: Grk. eis, prep. nothing: Grk. oudeis, adj. used to indicate negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment; no one, none, nothing. other: Grk. heteros, adj. See verse 7 above. than: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote (1) an alternative, 'or,' or (2) a comparative function, 'than.' The second usage applies here. to tell: Grk. legō, pres. inf. See verse 7 above. or: Grk. ē, conj., used here to denote an alternative. to hear: Grk. akouō, pres. inf. See verse 8 above. something: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. new: Grk. kainos, adj. See verse 19 above. The adjective is intended to mean something newer than what they had heard previously (Rienecker).
For Bible scholars and translators that interpret the term Hellēn to only mean 'Greek,' I would point out that in Luke's narrative of Paul's ministry in Athens he does not use Hellēn to identify the local pagan Gentiles as would be expected (or any label that means 'Greek'), but uses the name by which the residents referred to themselves.
Sermon on Ares Hill, 17:22-31
Paul's discourse delivered to the intellectual elite of Athens is an example of what Dr. Henry M. Morris calls 'Creation Evangelism.' The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were all evolutionists. While they did accept the idea of a reality beyond the senses and existence after death, they did not believe the Jewish Scriptures, and they certainly did not believe in the special creation of all things by an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God, the God of Israel. Paul was not interested in debate or hearing their point of view. Rather, Paul's method was to declare in an uncompromising manner a dozen propositions that while not quoting Scripture allude to biblical revelations about the Creator-God that rebut and rebuke pagan philosophy.
22 Then Paul having stood in the midst of Ares Hill, he was declaring, "Men, Athenians, I observe you as god-fearing in all respects.
Then: Grk. de, conj. Paul: See verse 2 above. having stood: Grk. histēmi, aor. pass. part., may mean (1) cause to be in a place or position; (2) to be in an upright position; (3) to set or place in a balance; (4) fig. to stand ready, to be of a steadfast mind. The second meaning applies here with perhaps a nuance of the fourth meaning. in: Grk. en, prep. the midst: Grk. mesos, adj., at a point near the center, midst, middle, in the midst of, among. The adjective could be used in a topographical sense or in relation to the gathering of philosophers at the location. Luke is fond of using the adjective in relation to being in the presence of people (cf. Luke 2:46; 5:19; 10:3; 22:55; 24:36; Acts 1:15; 2:22; 4:7). of Ares Hill: See verse 19 above.
he was declaring: Grk. phēmi, impf., to make known one's thoughts through verbal communication; declare, say. The point of using this verb is that Paul did not begin his sermon with the ambiguity of 'I think' or 'I feel' so characteristic of modern communications. Paul's approach was categorical with the implied force of "thus says the Lord." Men: pl. of Grk. anēr, voc. See verse 5 above. A few versions omit the noun (NRSV, VOICE). Some versions have gender neutral 'people' (CSB, CEB, CEV, EXB, NCV, NIV, OJB), but the majority have 'men.' Paul was addressing the male philosophers identified in verse 18 above. The use of the plural andres probably denotes respect and implies 'noteworthy men' or 'leading men.'
Athenians: pl. of Grk. Athēnaios, voc. See the previous verse. These men were natural born citizens of Athens. The majority of versions translate the address as 'Men of Athens,' but Paul uses the same syntax used in addressing an audience in previous group settings, such as Peter (Acts 1:11; 2:14, 22, 29; 3:13; 5:35; 15:7), Stephen (Acts 7:2), and himself in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:16, 26). The address is intended to show respect and to acknowledge their pride in their city. The audience included Epicureans, Stoics, and other philosophers (verse 18 above), and no doubt prominent business, judicial and political leaders.
I observe: Grk. theōreō, pres., may mean (1) pay attention to; look at, observe, watch, behold; (2) conclude on the basis of personal experience; consider, infer, see; or (3) have awareness in depth; perceive, experience. The second meaning has primary application here. Ellicott notes that on the height of that hill stood the colossal bronze statue of Athena as the tutelary goddess of her beloved Athens, and Paul could see that below and all around him were religious statues and altars. Even though he was disturbed by the degree of idolatry in the city, Paul was on a mission to persuade men of the merits of believing in the Jewish Messiah. Thus, he chose a conciliatory and respectful approach.
you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. as: Grk. hōs, adv., used here of a personal quality. god-fearing: Grk. deisidaimōn, adj. (from deidō, 'to dread' and daimōn, 'a deity'), lit. 'fearing the gods,' was used by Greek writers to mean (1) in a positive sense, reverencing the gods; or (2) in a negative sense, superstitious (LSJ). HELPS defines the adjective as meaning religious or superstitious fear, driven by a confused concept of God and producing sincere but very misdirected religion. A few versions translate the adjective as 'superstitious' (BRG, KJV, JUB, RV), which is not really Paul's intention. The great majority of versions have 'religious,' but this rendering, too, can be misleading.
The term deisidaimōn describes a pagan attitude or worldview. The Epicureans and Stoics were not known to be devoted to the forms and rites of popular religion. Nevertheless, they defended belief in the gods and advocated reverence toward the gods. See the Additional Note below on the Athenian pantheon. Two Bible versions recognize the literal meaning of the term with 'god-fearing' (LITV) and 'fear of the gods' (BBE). The English word 'religious' often connotes being devout, godly or pious, which could never apply to the Athenians. Pagan religion had no absolute moral code such as found in Scripture.
in: Grk. kata, prep., lit. 'according to.' See verse 2 above. all respects: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 7 above. Many versions translate the phrase as 'in every way.' The expansive description suggests that the 'god-fearing' attitude had touched every aspect of life in Athens as reflected in the fact of the city being 'full of idols.' Nicoll suggests that Paul meant wherever he looked he had evidence of this characteristic. Barnes suggest the description means 'in all events.' In other words, people attributed whatever happened to them, whether good, or bad to the gods. Gill interprets Paul's description as meaning the Athenians had more gods, and more altars, and more festivals, and were more diligent and studious in the worship of the gods, than others.
The general Athenian populace was given to much activity to honor the gods. There were many temples in Athens where people brought offerings, usually food for the priests, and prayed. Liquid offerings (libations) were also commonly made. Sometimes people sought help and advice through an oracle, typically a woman who claimed powers to see the future. People stopped at the sacred sites scattered throughout the city to petition a deity for some favor. People also prayed to images in their homes. Festivals were held periodically that included a parade to a temple, then an animal sacrifice (oxen, goats or sheep) of the same sex as the god being worshiped, followed by a feast in which the participants consumed the slaughtered animal. Sporting events were also held in honor of the gods.
So, the Athenians were god-fearing in all respects. Thayer says Paul offered the description with 'kindly ambiguity.' The plain statement of truth would be taken as an uncritical compliment by his hearers. This statement by Paul provides the basis for his comment in the next verse.
Additional Note: The Pantheon of Athens
In Greek mythology, there is no single original text that introduces all of the important gods, goddesses, minor deities, demigods, heroes, or mythical creatures and their origin stories. The Greek myths were part of an oral tradition that began as early as the 18th century BC, and these stories were eventually put in written form in the literature of the Archaic (c. 800–500 BC), Classical (c. 500–300 BC), and Hellenistic (c. 300–100 BC) periods.
Homer of Chios (8th c. BC, of whom little is known) was the first to record the mythological characters in his epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Then two poems by Hesiod of Aeolis (8th c. BC), the Theogony and the Works and Days, contain accounts of the origin of the world, the succession of divine rulers and human ages, the origin of human woes, and the origin of sacrificial practices. These and other works of Greek mythology may be found online at The Theoi Classical Texts Library. The Greeks had four categories of deities in their pantheon:
Primordial deities: The primordial gods were the original gods that brought the elements of the orderly universe into existence. The first deity at the beginning of time was Chaos, personified as a female. Out of Chaos jumped Erebus (darkness), Aether (light), Nyx (night), Hemera (day), Tartarus (the underworld), Eros (procreation) and Gaea (mother earth). Without a mate, Gaea brought forth Uranus (the starry sky), Ourea (the mountains), and Pontus (the sea). Gaea then mated with Uranus to birth 18 children, the first twelve of which were Titans.
Titans: The Titans were the children of the primordial deities Uranus and Gaea. The Titans ruled during the Golden Age. There were a total of thirty Titans. Cronus was the leader of the Titans after he overthrew his tyrant father Uranus.
Olympians: The Olympians were the children of the Titans. The Olympians were twelve and included Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Athena, Hades, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Hestia, Poseidon and Zeus. The name, Olympian, originates from Mount Olympus in Athens, which was their place of residence. The Twelve Olympians came into power after a great war between the Olympians and the Titans. Zeus was considered the ruler of all gods and he was referred to as 'Father.'
Other gods: There were over 100 other major and minor deities believed to exist before and during the era of Zeus. Some examples include the numerous nymphs and deities of the forests, the seas and the rivers, demigods, and many others that represented every aspect of the life and the surroundings of ancient Greeks. For detailed information on the Greek pantheon see GreekMythology.com.
23 "For passing through and beholding your objects of worship, I found even an altar on which had been inscribed, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore, whom you worship not knowing, this one I proclaim to you.
Source: Psalm 82:5; Jeremiah 24:7.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 20 above. passing through: Grk. dierchomai, pres. mid. part., to go through, go about. Paul alludes to his walk through the city. and: Grk. kai, conj. beholding: Grk. anatheōreō, pres. part., give careful consideration to, observe closely. your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. objects of worship: pl. of Grk. sebasma, an object of religious veneration and worship. The term was used of temples, altars, statues, and other sculpted images of deities. There were temples devoted to each of the Olympian gods. I found: Grk. heuriskō, aor. See verse 6 above. even: Grk. kai, conj. an altar: Grk. bōmos, a raised platform, an altar. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. on: Grk. en, prep. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. had been inscribed: Grk. epigraphō, plperf. pass., to write upon, inscribe, or imprint a mark on.
TO AN UNKNOWN: Grk. agnōstos, adj., without recognition, unknown, unknowable. The adjective occurs only here in the Besekh. GOD: Grk. theos. See verse 13 above. Pausanias wrote that there were altars of gods named 'Unknown' in Athens (Description of Greece 1:1.4). Bruce says that the Romans venerated the gods of conquered nations, erecting altars to divinities unknown to themselves (fn 60, 335). However, the Romans would have known the names of the foreign deities. The Description of Pausanias written a century after Paul does not prove there were multiple altars bearing the inscription 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD' at this time in Athens.
The Athenian polytheists were willing to acknowledge that in their devotion to the Pantheon and the many deities believed to be in existence there could be a transcendent being who was either unknowable or had chosen not to reveal himself. So as to avoid causing offense the altar was erected. Henry Morris suggests that the altar had been built to commemorate an ancient deliverance of Athens from military peril or pestilence as a result of prayer to a greater God than any of their usual deities. Many animistic and polytheistic cultures do retain a dim remembrance of a 'high God,' greater and more powerful than any of the gods which they honored and worshipped in their daily lives.
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. you worship: Grk. eusebeō, pres., to show piety or respectful attitude towards someone, here a deity. Paul's description may imply that offerings were left there occasionally to show respect to the unknown god or that people stopped to offer a prayer for help from the unknown god. not knowing: Grk. agnoeō, pres. part., to be without knowledge of something; be ignorant, be uniformed. The populace knew absolutely nothing about this particular deity being honored by the altar. Yeshua made a similar claim of worshipping in ignorance to the woman of Samaria (John 4:22), although she did believe in the God of Israel.
this One: Grk. houtos, neuter demonstrative pronoun. I proclaim: Grk. katangellō, pres. See verse 3 above. to you: Grk. humeis. The suggestion by Morris regarding the reason for the erection of the altar has credence given Paul's declaration. He would never attribute an altar as being in honor of the God of Israel unless he believed there to be a connection. So, Paul used this altar as a visual aid to introduce the truth about God he knew and worshipped.
24 "God, the One having made the world and all things in it, this One being Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in hand-made temples;
Source: Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-2; Psalm 33:6, 9; 1Kings 8:27; Isaiah 54:5; 66:1.
Although Paul does not quote Scripture to the Athenians, he does declare three propositions in this verse that allude to biblical revelations. The first proposition is based on Genesis 1:1. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 13 above. The presence of the definite article suggests that Paul meant the only God in existence, and thus he dismisses the entire Greek pantheon. the One: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. Among Jews 'The One' was a circumlocution for the God of Israel (e.g., Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 11:27; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6).
having made: Grk. poieō, aor. part., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition. The first meaning applies here. The aorist tense points to the action as completed, so that no 'making' occurred after God declared His work finished and rested (Gen 2:1-2). the world: Grk. ho kosmos, world, originally meant an harmonious arrangement and then ornament, decoration, and adornment. To the Athenian philosophers the term meant the sum total of everything in existence here and now, the orderly universe (BAG). Pythagoras (570-495 BC) is credited as the first to use the word in this sense (Thayer).
While kosmos occurs 186 times in the Besekh, it occurs only here in Acts. The LXX of the Tanakh uses kosmos some ten times for words meaning ornaments, jewelry or decorations and five times for Heb. tsaba, of the arrangement of the stars, 'the heavenly hosts,' as the ornament of the heavens (Gen 2:1; Deut 4:19). The meaning of kosmos as the 'orderly universe' is only found in later Greek writings of the LXX (2Macc. 7:23; 8:18; 4Macc. 5:25; Sir. 6:30; 21:21; Wis. 7:17; 9:3; 11:18).
Bible characters affirmed many times that the LORD (Heb. YHVH) made heaven and earth (Ex 20:11; 31:17; 2Kgs 19:15; Ps 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; Neh 9:6; 146:6; Isa 37:16; Jer 32:17). While Paul does not elaborate on the mechanics of the 'making,' God spoke the universe into existence according to biblical revelation (Gen 1:1-31; Ex 20:11; Ps 33:6, 9; Heb 11:3). God did not use elements already in existence. Thus, the orderly universe did not create itself.
The Athenian viewpoint of origins was contrary to biblical revelation. The mechanism for everything that came into being was spontaneous generation, comparable to the modern evolutionist theory of 'punctuated equilibrium.' In the beginning was empty unfathomable space, called Chaos. Personified as a female, Chaos was the primal feature of the universe. Out of Chaos jumped Erebus (darkness), Aether (light), Nyx (night), Hemera (day), Tartarus (the underworld), Eros (procreation) and Gaea (mother earth). Gaea was the mother of everything beautiful in the world. Without a mate, Gaea brought forth three children: Uranus (the starry sky), Ourea (the mountains), and Pontus (the sea). Two poems by Hesiod (8th c. BC), the Theogony and the Works and Days, contain accounts of the origin of the world.
and: Grk. kai, conj. all things: neut. pl. of Grk. ho pas, adj. See verse 7 above. in: Grk. en, prep. it: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The singular form of the pronoun views the kosmos as a unified whole. Paul affirmed that God not only created the space-time-matter universe, but everything with which it is populated, both of inanimate objects and animate objects. None of these things came into existence by chance or some extended self-governed developmental process (evolution). The God of Israel made the heavens and the earth and all that is in them in just six days (Gen 1:1-31; Ex 20:11; 31:17). At the end of the creation week His masterpiece was complete (Gen 2:1-2). For a concise discussion of the theories of origins and the principles of biblical cosmogony see my web article The Truth of Creation.
this One: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, used of God. being: Grk. huparchō, pres. part. (from huparksis, 'under' and arxō, 'begin, go first'), to function or be in a state as determined by circumstance; to be or exist. HELPS notes that the verb properly means already have or be in possession of what exists, especially what pre-exists. While the verb prefaces the second declaration regarding the identity of the Creator, it also hints at the eternal nature of God. The Creator was not Himself created. He has always existed and will continue to exist into eternal future (Deut 32:40; Ps 90:2; Isa 41:4). He is the Everlasting God (Gen 21:33; Isa 40:28).
Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, translating the divine name Adonai (SH-136, 'Lord'), and Heb. words used of male authority, e.g., adôn (SH-113, master, lord; Gen 18:12). In the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), kurios replaces YHVH (SH-3068; 'LORD' in Christian versions). Kurios is not a translation of YHVH as it is for Adonai, but an interpretative substitution that encompassed all that is implied by use of the divine name. YHVH is the Creator of the whole universe (Gen 2:4; Isa 42:5). However, Paul probably meant kurios in the sense of Adonai, the master of the universe. To say that God is the 'Lord' affirms His sovereign control.
of heaven: Grk. ouranos refers to the area above the earth that encompasses three locations: atmosphere of the earth, interstellar space and the transcendent dwelling-place of God (Ps 148:1-4). Paul likely intended 'heaven' as the location of the stars. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. hashamayim (lit. 'the heavens”) (DNTT 2:191). 'Lord of heaven' means that God instituted and controls all the processes that provide order in the physical universe (Heb 1:3). and: Grk. kai. earth: Grk. gē can mean the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the earth in contrast to heaven. The last meaning is intended here. In the LXX gē translates Heb. erets (SH-776), earth or land with the same range of meaning, first in Genesis 1:1.
The expression 'heaven and earth' first used in Genesis 1:1 summarizes the orderly universe. God created the heavens and the earth, and God is the master of His creation (Gen 2:4). Yeshua referred to the Father as the 'Lord of heaven and earth' (Matt 11:25). The title 'Lord of Heaven' first occurs in Daniel 5:23. God is described as being Lord of 'all the earth' several times in the Tanakh (Gen 18:25; Josh 3:11, 13; Ps 97:5; Isa 54:5; Mic 4:13; Zech 4:14; 6:5). The earth is the only planet that God created to sustain life. 'Lord of earth' means that He exercises sovereign control over the affairs of mankind (Isa 46:9-10; Rom 8:28). Being Lord of heaven and earth God holds together all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3).
dwells: Grk. katoikeō, pres., to make a specific locale or area of residence, thus to dwell, reside or live in. not: Grk. ou, adv. in: Grk. en. hand-made: pl. of Grk. cheiropoiētos, adj., done or made with hands, hand-crafted, i.e., made by the skill of man. temples: pl. of Grk. naos, a sanctuary devoted to deity and specifically the location where priests conducted ceremonies. Longenecker notes that the Greek writer Euripides (5th c. BC) asked, "What house built by craftsmen could enclose the form divine within enfolding walls?" (Fragments 968). Paul's audience could agree that the Olympian gods did not actually reside in the temples built in Athens to honor them, but the people supposed the gods sometimes visited these sanctuaries.
Paul's statement echoes the declaration of Solomon, "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!" (1Kgs 8:27 NASB; cf. Isa 66:1). God cannot be limited to a single structure as a human being. God is omnipresent and His presence fills the whole of heaven and earth (Deut 4:39; Ps 139:7-12; Jer 23:23-24). It is noteworthy that Stephen made this same declaration before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:48), at which Paul was present. We can only wonder if Paul was struck with the irony of his repeating the words of the one he persecuted.
Paul does not deny that the Sh'khinah of God had dwelled in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle of Israel and the temple in Jerusalem prior to Yeshua's death (cf. Ex 40:34-38; Num 14:10; 1Kgs 8:11; Isa 6:1-3; Ezek 43:4-5; 44:4). According to the Talmud the Sh'khinah left the Temple forty years prior to its destruction and God no longer forgave sins based on the Yom Kippur sacrifice (Yoma 39b), which coincides with the death of Yeshua and rending the temple curtain in AD 30 (Luke 23:45). So Paul could mean that God used to dwell in a particular temple but He does no longer.
25 "nor is He served by hands of men, as needing anything, Himself giving to all life and breath and all things;
Source: Genesis 2:7; Psalm 50:10-12; 51:16; Isaiah 1:11; 42:5.
nor: Grk. oude, conj., negative particle that links a negative statement as complementary to a preceding negative; neither, not even, nor. is He served: Grk. therapeuō, aor. pass., may mean (1) to offer helpful service, help out, serve; or (2) the specific service of restoring a person to health. The first meaning applies here. Vincent suggests that the verb alludes to the practice of pagans bringing costly gifts and offerings of food and drink to their idols. by: Grk. hupo, prep. See verse 13 above. hands: pl. of Grk. cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand. of men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind, used here of mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words (adam, ish, and enosh), generally of an adult male, husband or mankind (DNTT 2:564).
as needing: Grk. prosdeomai, pres. mid. part., be in want of, want besides, need in addition. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. anything: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. Bruce notes that the Athenian dramatist Euripides (408-460 BC), made a similar statement in his tragic play Heracles, "A god, if he is a real god, is in need of nothing" (1340). Paul describes the true Creator God as far superior to mankind, being completely self-sufficient (cf. Ps 50:10-12). God has no lack in His being, so that He does not suffer fatigue, hunger or loneliness. God is also not dependent on man's worship or service, nor can He be persuaded by animal sacrifices without repentance (Ps 51:16; Isa 1:11).
Himself: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. giving: Grk. didōmi, pres. part., generally to give something to someone, often with the focus on generosity. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan (SH-5414; Gen 1:29), to give, put or set, with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:41). to all: masc. pl. of Grk. pas, adj. The pronoun is used of animate objects with two specific characteristics. life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive in the physical sense in contrast to being dead; life. In the LXX zōē renders Heb. chay (SH-2416), alive, living with both literal and figurative uses, first in Genesis 1:30. In Scripture only animals and humans are described as 'living' in the literal sense. Plants may grow, but they do not have life.
and: Grk. kai, conj. breath: Grk. pnoē, movement of air, varying in rapidity, here of air inhaled and exhaled in respiration. The noun occurs elsewhere in the Besekh only in Acts 2:2 of the Spirit coming as a rushing wind to fill the disciples. In the LXX pnoē translates Heb. neshamah (SH-5397), breath, first used of the breath of man given by God (Gen 2:7; cf. Job 12:10; Isa 42:5). Breath is the activating principle that brought the first animals and man to the state of being alive and that breath was provided by God. The theory of evolution is fundamentally flawed in its utter failure to explain how breath can occur in a formerly inanimate object.
and: Grk. kai. all things: pl. of Grk. ho pas. The provision of 'all things' includes all that are necessary to sustain life (Ps 107:9; Matt 6:31-32; Php 4:9), but also all the things that bless life with God's goodness (cf. Ps 34:10; Matt 7:11; 1Tim 4:4; Jas 1:17). Paul provides an apt contrast. While God does not need anything from us, He provides everything we need. We are totally dependent on God for our very existence. God is the one who provides sunshine and rain without which there would be no life on this planet (Matt 4:45). Gill notes that God is called El Shaddai (Gen 17:1; 28:3; 35:11), which is generally translated as 'God Almighty.' However, 'God All Sufficient' would be closer to its meaning. Shaddai is derived from shad (breast) and thus conveys the idea of God as the One who nourishes and provides every need.
26 "also He made from one blood every nation of mankind to dwell upon all the face of the earth, having determined appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,
Source: Genesis 10–11
also: Grk. te, conj. He made: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 24 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. one: Grk. heis, adj., the cardinal number one. Many versions add 'man' to 'one' even though 'man' is not in the Greek text at this point in the verse. The translation of 'one man,' apparently alluding to Adam (so Gill). Certainly all human beings have descended from Adam, since his body contained the DNA of the entire human race that would descend from him as well as the genetic markers for male and female (cf. Heb 7:9-10). However, if Paul had meant 'one man' he would have said so. Human reproduction requires a man and a woman.
blood: Grk. haima, the fluid that circulates in the principal vascular system of human beings and vertebrate animals, blood. The precious fluid transports nutrients and oxygen to the cells and waste products away from those same cells. In the LXX haima translates Heb. dam (SH-1818), blood of humans or animals with various figurative meanings. See the Textual Note below. The use of haima stresses that the descendants of Adam were not made of dust as he was. Moreover, mankind descended from the first couple God created and put in Gan-Eden, not a mythical transitional creature posited by evolution. Considering the rest of the clause Paul alludes to Noah and his family, since only they survived the global deluge that God sent to destroy life on earth (Gen 7:21-23).
Paul strongly rebutted the Athenian belief regarding origins. The Athenians had a foolish notion that they were self-produced, and were the aboriginals of mankind (Clarke). Lucian of Samosata (c. 125–180 AD), an Assyrian satirist and rhetorician, ridiculed naturalistic tales of mankind's origins.
In Athens, you are informed that Erichthonius [a legendary early ruler of ancient Athens] sprang out of the Earth, and that the first Athenians grew up from the soil like so many cabbages; and this story assumes quite a sober aspect when compared with that of the Sparti, for whom the Thebans claim descent from a dragon's teeth. If you presume to doubt these stories, if you choose to exert your common sense ... you are a fool and a blasphemer, for questioning such palpable truths. Such is the power of lies! (The Liar 3)
Today Bible believers are faced with the same scorn and derision by atheistic advocates of evolution for daring to use their common sense in rejecting the so-called 'evidence' of lengthy ages and transitional forms. Evolution is a lie; it has not been proven by the three axioms of the scientific method. Proof requires that the observable phenomena be testable, that it be repeatable and that it does not contradict other scientific disciplines. In reality no proven fact of science contradicts the Bible.
The mention of 'one blood' swerved into an important truth. All mankind has the same blood as distinguished from the blood of animals. There may be different blood types (A, B, AB, O), but these do not result from distinctions between ethnic groups. However, cultural prejudice based on the Darwinian theory of races had a bad influence on the use of blood for transfusions. During World War II, the blood of people descended from Africans was labeled 'N' for Negro and given only to black soldiers. The Red Cross did not stop segregating blood until 1950. Louisiana banned the segregation of blood only in 1972 (George). For an excellent treatment of this subject see Ken Ham, Carl Wieland & Don Batten, One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism. Master Books, 1999.
every: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 7 above. nation: Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group as defined by language and culture; nation, people. Some versions translate the singular noun as plural. In the LXX ethnos generally renders Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), 'community, nation, people,' first in Genesis 10:5 (BDB 156; DNTT 2:790). From the Jewish viewpoint 'every nation' alludes to the seventy nations based on the listed descendants of Noah in Genesis 10. A few versions translate ethnos as 'race' (MRINT, NTE, PHILLIPS, TPT), which in my view is totally inappropriate given its historical association with Darwinian evolution.
Darwin's distinction between three supposed races (Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid with different bodily and genetic characteristics) has had a devastating impact on culture worldwide. There is only one race, the human race. There is also only one skin pigment (color), which is called melanin. Some people just happen to have more melanin than others. Thus, the politically correct term 'people of color' misses the obvious and perpetuates the evolutionistic myth. See Henry Morris, The Long War Against God (Baker Book House, 1989), Chapter Two, for a definitive review of historical racism resulting from adoption of Darwinian evolution as a guiding philosophy.
of mankind: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos, lit. 'men.' See the previous verse. to dwell: Grk. katoikeō, pres. inf. See verse 24 above. upon: Grk. epi, prep. all: Grk. pas, adj. the face: Grk. prosōpon normally means (1) the front part of the human head; (2) the countenance of someone; or (3) the act of appearing before someone. Here the term expresses the idea of 'surface.' of the earth: Grk. gē. See verse 24 above. The phrase 'face of the earth' is a common Hebrew idiom occurring over 40 times in the Tanakh to express physical position on the earth in contrast to what is above the earth, first in Genesis 4:14. having determined: Grk. horizō, aor. part., establish a boundary or framework through deliberate decision for an event, activity or thing; determine, appoint, ordain. appointed: Grk. prostassō, perf. pass. part., to give an authoritative directive; command, enjoin, order or prescribe.
times: pl. of Grk. kairos, time, which may refer to (1) a definite segment of time; (2) an opportune time; (3) the right time; or (4) a limited period of time. The fourth meaning applies here. In the LXX kairos translates Heb. moed (SH-4150), appointed time or season (Gen 1:14; Lev 23:4); Heb. qets (SH-7093), end, used of a determined time (Gen 6:13); and Heb. eth (SH-6256), time, appointed season, including the climate seasons of the year (Lev 26:4; Deut 11:14; 28:12; Ezra 10:13) (DNTT 3:835). By 'appointed times' Paul likely refers to the period during which nations came into being and contributed to the drama of world history, particularly in relation to the plan of God to bring the promised redeemer. Scripture affirms that God has raised up nations and destroyed nations (cf. Deut 31:3; Job 12:23; Ps 9:17; Isa 10:7; 34:2; Jer 1:10; 30:11; Dan 2:20-21).
and: Grk. kai, conj. the boundaries: pl. of Grk. horothesia (from horion, 'a boundary or limit,' and tithēmi, 'to set'), a setting of boundaries, definite limit. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. In the LXX horion translates Heb. gebul (SH-1366), border, boundary, or territory, first in Genesis 10:19. of their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. habitation: Grk. katoikia, a dwelling, habitation, or settlement. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Paul alludes to the revelation that God scattered the nations over the 'face of the earth' after He imposed the confusion of languages (Gen 10:5, 25; 11:8; Deut 32:7-8). Thus, people groups became identified with specific geographical territories. The mention of boundaries also alludes to the post-deluge condition of the earth in which God set boundaries for the oceans and seas to prevent waters covering the earth again (Ps 104:9; Prov 8:29; Jer 5:22).
A number of early standard 4th-5th century MSS present the first phrase 'Also God made from one' without any descriptor of 'one' (Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, the Vulgate) (GNT 486). Yet many Bible versions add 'man' (AMP, CSB, CJB, DLNT, ERV, EHV, ESV, GW, ICB, ISV, LEB, TLB, MRINT, NOG, NASB, NET, NIRV, NIV, NLT, REV, TPT, WE). A few versions opt for a gender neutral addition of 'ancestor,' 'human being' and 'person.' Only a few versions do not modify 'one' (AMPC, DRA, NABRE, RV, TLV). The wording of 'one man' in modern versions is interpretation, not translation. The majority of the UBS translation committee preferred the shorter text, but since Paul summarizes the history of national generation he would have meant 'one family,' not 'one man.'
The Western text with the support of a wide range of early versions and patristic witnesses, adds 'blood' (Grk haima) to 'one.' This reading passed into the Textus Receptus and lies behind the translation of versions based on the TR and Majority Text (Metzger 404). The earliest MS with this verse, Irenaeus (AD 202), has 'blood' and the Syriac (2nd/3rd C.) also has 'blood.' Many versions have 'one blood' (BBE, BRG, HNV, JUB, KJV, LAMSA, LITV, MEV, MW, NKJV, NLV, NMB, NKJV, RGT, WB, WEB, YLT).
27 "to seek God, if perhaps indeed they might touch Him and might find Him, and indeed He is not far from each of us;
Source: Deuteronomy 4:7, 29; Psalm 34:18; 145:18; Isaiah 46:13; Jeremiah 23:23.
to seek: Grk. zēteō, pres. inf. See verse 5 above. The infinitive expresses a purpose. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 13 above. With the definite article Paul means the only God in existence. The appointing of times and establishing boundaries was an act of grace by God in order that people would seek to know and please Him. The Creator-God has always wanted relationship with mankind. This purpose is illustrated by the provision of one hundred twenty years given to mankind for repentance before the judgment of the global deluge (Gen 6:3). During that time Noah built an ark and preached righteousness (2Pet 2:5), but mankind rejected God's mercy.
if: Grk. ei, conj. See verse 11 above. perhaps: Grk. ara, conj., a marker of inference based on a preceding matter; then, so. Combined with ei, the construction could mean 'in the hope that' (Danker), reflecting uncertainty of the outcome. indeed: Grk. ge, an emphatic particle with focus on the preceding words; assuredly, at least, indeed. they might touch: Grk. psēlaphaō, aor. opt., make contact with movement of the hand in exploratory fashion; feel, touch. The verb denotes personally investigating in order to discover (HELPS). The optative mood denotes strong contingency or possibility without a definite anticipation of realization, but sees what is conceivable. Him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; used of God. and: Grk. kai, conj. might find: Grk. heuriskō, aor. opt. See verse 6 above. Him: Grk. autos.
Gill suggests that the verbs of 'touching' and 'finding' allude to contemplation of God's existence visible in the works of creation and providence. The evidence of God's love and care is before our eyes. Idolatry had muddled the thinking of people, but Paul appeals to his audience to apply their minds and recognize the truth. Paul may have had in mind the prophecy of Moses in which he spoke of a time in the future when Israel would be dispersed from the Land and fall into idolatry, but promised that if Israel sought ADONAI, "you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul" (Deut 4:29 NASB). Before his death David told his son Solomon, "If you seek Him, He will let you find Him" (1Chr 28:9 NASB). God repeated the promise to rebellious Israel, "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer 29:13 NASB).
and: Grk. kai. indeed: Grk. ge. He is: Grk. huparchō, pres. See verse 24 above. In other words, 'God is existing.' not: Grk. ou, adv. far: Grk. makran, adv., at a distance, far off. from: Grk. apo, prep. each: Grk. hekastos, adj., in reference to an individual person or thing; each, every, every one. of us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The Epicureans believed the gods were very far away and not really interested in mankind. Paul alludes to the biblical revelation that not only is God omnipresent in the universe, but He is also near so that people might call on Him (Deut 4:7; Ps 34:18; 145:18; Jer 23:23). God is especially present on the earth providing 'light' to people and drawing them to Himself (cf. John 1:9).
28 "for by Him we live and move and be, as even some of the poets among you have spoken, 'For of Him we are also offspring.'
Source: Deuteronomy 32:39.
for: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 20 above. by: Grk. en, prep. See verse 11 above. The preposition is used here to denote instrumentality, i.e., cause and origin, rather than position. The great majority of versions have 'in.' Him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Paul uses the pronoun of the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent Creator-God of Israel. A few versions recognize the instrumental nature of the first phrase with the translation 'For by His power' or 'because of Him,' or words to that effect (CEV, EXB, GW, ICB, ISV, NOG). we live: Grk. zaō, pres., 1p-pl., be in the state of being physically alive; living. Life only comes from life, and life came originally from God. These words also express the biblical affirmation of dependence on God for continued life (Deut 32:39; 1Sam 2:6; Job 5:18; Neh 9:6).
and: Grk. kai, conj. move: Grk. kineō, pres. mid., 1p-pl., be in motion, move, move around. The verb denotes the physical ability of locomotion that distinguishes animals and humans from plants (cf. Gen 1:21; 7:21; 8:19; 9:3). Moreover, humans can choose to use the ability of locomotion to change the place of their habitation. and: Grk. kai. be: Grk. eimi, pres., 1p-pl. The verb is used to denote self-existent life. Every human is uniquely conscious of his or her own existence. Commentators and Bible versions are divided over whether this statement is Paul's own declaration or the quotation of a philosopher, Epimenides of Crete (6th c. BC).
Quotation: Bruce, Ellicott, Longenecker, Marshall, Morris, and Stern. Bible versions that mark the clause as a quotation include CJB, EHV, ESV, EXB, GNB, MEV, MRINT, MW, NABRE, NCV, NIRV, NIV, NRSV, RSV, TLV, and WEB.
Paul's Affirmation: Barnes, Clarke, Gill, Liberman, Meyer, Poole, and Wright. The remaining Bible versions treat the first clause as Paul's declaration (AMP, AMPC, ASV, BBE, CEB, CEV, CSB, DRA, ERV, GW, ISV, JUB, KJV, LEB, LITV, TLB, MSG, NOG, NEB, NASB, NJB, NKJV, NLT, NLV, NTE, RV, TPT, WE, YLT).
The claim of a quotation rests on the fourth line of a quatrain in a poem, Cretica, attributed to Epimenides (7th or 6th c. BC), which defends the immortality of Zeus (Bruce).
They fashioned a tomb for you,
holy and high one,
However, the quotation only appears in a Syriac Bible commentary by Isodad, Bishop of Hdatta (9th c. AD). Gilbert points out that there is no extant original text with this supposed quotation as there is for the quotation Paul actually provides (234). Moreover, the syntax of the verse is against taking the first clause as a quotation. When Paul quotes a source he normally makes a particular reference to it. Taking the clause as Paul's own declaration is also justified considering it serves to clarify how God is not far from each one of us. Paul was quite capable of having an original thought.
as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 13 above. The adverb is used here to introduce a comparison. even: Grk. kai. some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 4 above. of the poets: pl. of Grk. ho poiētēs, a maker or composer of an artistic work, poet. among: Grk. kata, prep., lit. 'according to.' you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The plural pronoun could denote Athenians generally or the philosophers of Athens. have spoken: Grk. ereō, perf., inform through utterance, here denoting speech completed. This clause introduces the quotation that follows. Paul cites no poet by name, and he may not have known the identity of the original sources.
For: Grk. gar. of Him: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. we are: Grk. eimi, pres., 1p-pl. also: Grk. kai. offspring: Grk. genos refers to a line of descent from an original ancestor; descendant, family, offspring. Some versions translate the noun as 'children' (AMP, CJB, CEV, EXB, GW, NASB, NCV, NIRV). In the LXX genos translates Heb. min (SH-4327), kind, species, a taxonomic term used of plants and animals (Gen 1:11, 21), and Heb. am (SH-5971), people (Gen 11:6). Commentators credit Aratus of Cilicia (315-245 BC), Phaenomena 5, and Cleanthes of Assos (331-233 BC), Hymn to Zeus 4, with this quotation. Both of these poets were adherents of Stoicism.
The fact that Paul referred to a proverbial saying of pagan poets does not prove he had any formal education in their literature. He only quotes what was common knowledge in the culture (Polhill 10). Quoting a commonly known saying was not intended to suggest that God is to be thought of in terms of the Zeus of Greek polytheism or Stoic pantheism. Longenecker notes that Paul refers to the poets as a means of establishing common ground in order to show that men considered to be authorities in their culture had to some extent corroborated his message. The borrowed saying indicates that in spite of spiritual ignorance some glimmer of the true nature of God still existed in the pagan mind.
29 "Therefore being offspring of God, we ought not to think the Divine Being to be like gold or silver or stone, a sculpted thing of art and imagination of man.
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 12 above. being: Grk. huparchō, pres. part. See verse 24 above. Paul changes the verb from eimi in the quoted saying to huparchō, perhaps to emphasize 'existing as.' offspring: Grk. genos. See the previous verse. of God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 13 above. With the definite article the noun would essentially mean 'the God whom I proclaim.' The translation 'children of God' found in some versions can be misleading. Paul does not use the reference genos tou theou in the same sense as tekna theou (children of God) is used by Yeshua (John 1:12; 11:52). The 'children of God' are those who have received Yeshua as Messiah and Savior (Rom 8:16, 21; 9:8; Php 2:15; 1Jn 3:1-2, 10; 5:2). In this sermon Paul uses 'offspring of God' in a generic sense of mankind created by God in His image (Gen 1:26-27), but this status of itself is no guarantee of salvation. Repentance is necessary to become a child of God.
we ought: Grk. opheilō, pres., to be under a prescribed obligation, to have a duty or to owe someone. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 4 above. to think: Grk. nomizō, pres. inf., may mean (1) to practice what is customary; or (2) to determine on the basis of ordinary reasoning. The second meaning is intended here. the Divine Being: Grk. ho theios (from theos), adj. used here as a noun, manifesting the characteristics of God's nature; Divine Being, Deity. The term ties God's essence to His self-manifestation, permitting all people to know Him by observing His attributes (HELPS). The KJV has 'Godhead,' a distinctly theological term of Christianity.
to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. like: Grk. homoios, adj., like, similar to, resembling, of equal rank. gold: Grk. chrusos, the precious metal known as gold. or: Grk. ē, conj. silver: Grk. arguros, the precious metal known as silver. or: Grk. ē. stone: Grk. lithos, a generic word for stone of various types. a sculpted thing: Grk. charagma, the product of an engraving process, whether a stamp or imprinted mark, or a thing carved or sculpted to represent a god. The term is used here of a pagan image. of art: Grk. technē, skillful activity engaged in as a profession, here with the focus on a component of skill: art, artistic expression. and: Grk. kai, conj. imagination: Grk. enthumēsis, inner passion, reflection or thought. The term refers to emotion driving the reasoning process (HELPS). of man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 25 above.
Paul appeals to the Athenian philosophers to use their intellect to evaluate the accuracy of man-made images to represent the reality of God. If we are God's offspring, then what does that say about the nature of God? The images slander the true nature of God and dishonor Him. Paul's declaration echoes the mocking polemic of Isaiah against image worship (40:18-20; 44:9-20; 46:5-7; cf. Ps 115:1-8). Paul's cautionary appeal should be taken to heart by modern believers regarding works of art that attempt to portray the likeness of Yeshua.
30 "Indeed therefore God having overlooked the times of ignorance, now commands all men everywhere to repent,
Indeed: Grk. mén, ptcl. See verse 12 above. therefore: Grk. oun, conj. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 13 above. having overlooked: Grk. hupereidon, aor. part., to overlook, take no notice of, not attend to. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. the times: pl. of Grk. chronos may mean (1) a span or period of time, or (2) a point or definite moment in time. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX chronos occurs about 100 times and primarily translates Heb. yom, 'day, days' (DNTT 3:841). of ignorance: Grk. agnoia (from agnoeō, not to know), may refer to (1) the state of being uninformed, which may be manifested as a lack of awareness; or (2) a disregard of what is morally appropriate. The first meaning is intended here, although the second meaning can also have application.
In the LXX agnoia is used mostly for Heb. asham (SH-817), guilt, offence, or error arising unintentionally and which required a guilt offering (Gen 26:10; 2Chr 28:13; Ezek 40:39; 42:13; 44:29; 46:20), but also Heb. shegagah (SH-7684), sin of error or inadvertence (Lev 5:18; 22:14; Eccl 5:6) (DNTT 2:406). Ironically, in Greek culture ignorance was considered the root of all evil. The 'times of ignorance' properly commenced with the Babel apostasy instigated by Nimrod (Ninus in ancient literature), the great-grandson of Noah who founded an empire centered in Shinar (Gen 10:8-10; 11:1-4), the same area as Sumer and later identified in Scripture as Babylonia.
It was Nimrod with his wife Semiramus who founded pagan religion with a pantheon of many deities that would be transported to other lands and cultures in the dispersion that followed the confusion of languages. Paul summarizes the history of rebellion in his Roman letter (Rom 1:18-27). For a definitive study of this early history of idolatrous rebellion see Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons (Loizeaux Brothers, 1959); Henry Morris, The Genesis Record, Chapter 10 (Baker Book House, 1976); and Henry Morris, The Long War Against God, Chapter Five (Baker Book House, 1989).
Paul essentially repeats the message of God's grace that he gave in Lystra (Acts 14:16). Overlooking the pagan ways of the nations does not imply approval or indifference, but rather patience for their sins of ignorance (cf. Eph 4:17-18; 2Pet 3:9). God chose to withhold destructive interventionist judgment as He had performed in the global deluge. The rainbow covenant suspended God's final judgment of the earth (Gen 8:21; 9:11). Such a commitment did not restrict God from exacting retribution for deliberate disobedience of the Noachide covenant, such as idolatry at the Tower of Babel and perversion in Sodom.
now: Grk. nun, adv., marker of time in the present; now or just now. commands: Grk. parangellō, pres., to give authoritative direction; command, direct, order. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 7 above. 'All' does not leave any out. men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 25 above. everywhere: Grk. pantachou, adv., in any and every direction, everywhere. to repent: Grk. metanoeō, pres. inf., to have a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior, generally translated as 'repent.' In the LXX metanoeō almost always renders Heb. nacham (SH-5162), to be sorry, change one's mind or repent, sometimes used of God (Jer 4:28; 18:8; Amos 7:3, 6; Jon 3:9, 10; 4:2; Zech 8:14) and other times of humans (Jer 8:6, 10; 31:19; Joel 2:13, 14).
In Greek culture metanoeō did not fully convey the intent of the biblical concept. In the Tanakh repentance is best represented by the word shuv (SH-7725), bring back to mind, to return, turn back, turn around. When used for repentance shuv means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to God’s will as expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909, e.g., 1Kgs 8:33, 35, 48; 2Chr 7:14; Isa 30:15; 59:20; Ezek 18:21; Hos 6:1; Jon 3:8). In the LXX metanoeō is used one time to render Heb. shuv: "Remember this, and show yourselves men; bring again [Heb. shuv] to mind, you transgressors" (Isa 46:8 BR).
Jewish translators of the LXX generally used epistrephō (SG-1994) or strephō (SG-4762), to translate shuv as repentance. These Greek verbs mean to turn, turn around, turn back or be transformed (DNTT 1:354). However, Paul's use of metanoeō is obviously meant to express the force of shuv (DNTT 1:357). The use of metanoeō may reflect a desire to emphasize the beginning point of change with a decision of the will.
31 "because He set a day in which He is about to judge the inhabited world in righteousness by a man whom He appointed, having furnished proof to all, having resurrected him from death.
because: Grk. kathoti, adv., may mean (1) insofar as, according to; or (2) inasmuch as, because. The second meaning applies here. He set: Grk. histēmi, aor. See verse 22 above. Most versions have 'appointed.' The verb emphasizes an objective and firm decision to schedule. a day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 11 above. in: Grk. en, prep. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. He is about: Grk. mellō, pres., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to, be going to. From God's point of view prophesied events are always imminent. to judge: Grk. krinō, pres. inf., judge or decide and may mean (1) make a selection between options; (2) subject to scrutiny and evaluation of behavior; or (3) draw a conclusion or come to a decision. The third meaning applies here. In the LXX krinō is used to translate three Hebrew words: din, rib and shaphat, generally in a legal context (DNTT 2:363).the inhabited world: Grk
the inhabited world: Grk. ho oikoumenē (from oikeō, to inhabit or dwell), the world as an inhabited area, often with focus on its inhabitants. In the earliest classical Greek literature the term was used of the world inhabited by Greeks in contrast to those lands inhabited by barbarians, but later literature included the lands of barbarians. In the Roman period the term meant the lands under Roman rule, because whatever lay outside was of no account. In the LXX oikoumenē occurs 40 times and translates primarily Heb. tebel (SH-8398), 'world,' as an inhabited place, mostly in Psalms (e.g., 9:8; 67:4; 96:13; 98:9) and Isaiah (10:14; 24:1), particularly in relation to Babylon (13:5; 14:17, 26) and Assyria (37:18) (DNTT 1:518).
Yeshua repeatedly warned that a day of judgment is coming (Matt 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:36; cf. Rom 2:16; 2Tim 4:8), which will occur on the last day of the present age (John 12:48). Paul's pronouncement of a final divine judgment of mankind was no doubt shocking to the Athenians and the reality of God condemning people to eternal separation from Him is still shocking. Even many professing Christians find the truth unacceptable and have devised an alternative reality, comparable to a parallel universe, in which God is only love who will accept all people into fellowship with Him without expecting them to change their behavior.
in: Grk. en. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē, a state that is in accord with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior, uprightness, righteousness, justice. In the LXX dikaiosunē is used for a dozen different terms, normally Heb. tzedaqah (SH-6666), with the same meaning (DNTT 3:354). The noun is often used to describe the character of God (Ps 5:8; 35:24; Isa 5:16; 42:21; Jer 9:24) (DNTT 3:354). Judgment will take place by an objective standard, not sentimentality. by: Grk. en. a man: Grk. anēr. See verse 5 above. whom: Grk. hos. He appointed: Grk. horizō, aor., establish a boundary or framework through deliberate decision for an event, activity or thing; determine, appoint, ordain. The judgment will be conducted by Yeshua himself (Matt 25:31-32; John 5:22; 2Cor 5:10).
having furnished: Grk. parechō, aor. part., to cause something to be present for the other, to bring about or to furnish. proof: Grk. pistis (from peithō, 'to persuade, be persuaded'), incorporates two primary facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). In Classical Greek writings the noun also referred to a guarantee, pledge, proof, or warranty to certify truth or faithfulness (LSJ), which apparently is Paul's meaning in this context. In the LXX pistis translates Heb. emun (SH-529), faithfulness, trusting (Deut 32:20), and Heb. emunah, firmness, steadfastness, or fidelity (SH-530; BDB 53), mainly of men's faithfulness (e.g., 1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4). Bible versions are generally divided in translating the noun as 'assurance' and 'proof.'
to all: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 7 above. In a literal sense 'all' refers to the 500 plus individuals who saw Yeshua (1Cor 15:6), but the adjective may be extended to the world, especially those willing to believe. having resurrected: Grk. anistēmi, aor. part. See verse 3 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. from: Grk. ek, prep. death: Grk. nekros. See verse 3 above. So, for Gentiles with no knowledge of Scripture or Judaism, the good news is that the Creator has offered His love and grace. Nevertheless, the Creator is a God of judgment and a day of accountability is coming.
Response to Paul's Sermon, 17:32-34
32 Now having heard of a resurrection of the dead, some indeed began to mock, but others said, "We will hear you about this again."
Now: Grk. de, conj. having heard of: Grk. akouō, pl. aor. part. See verse 8 above. a resurrection: Grk. anastasis. See verse 18 above. of the dead: pl. of Grk. nekros. See verse 3 above. Luke then divides Paul's audience into two groups according to their response to the message of biblical truth. some: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. indeed: Grk. mén, ptcl. See verse 12 above. began to mock: Grk. chleuazō, impf., to engage in derisive disdain; jeer, mock, scoff. The sad truth is that the majority of the world rejects biblical truth. It was much easier for the Athenians to believe in reincarnation than resurrection. but: Grk. de. others: pl. of Grk. ho. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 7 above.
We will hear: Grk. akouō, fut. mid. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. about: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; in behalf of, about, concerning. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. again: Grk. palin, adv., with focus on a repetitive occurrence; once more, again. The statement of the second group does not reflect saving faith, but a willingness to consider having faith. The second group was interested into learning more about the propositions Paul asserted about God and particularly the prophecy of a future judgment by a man appointed by God. For the second group of Athenians the light of God had broken into their darkness and created a spiritual hunger.
33 So Paul went out from their midst.
So: Grk. houtōs, adv. See verse 11 above. Paul: See verse 2 above. went out: Grk. exerchomai, aor., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. The verb is appropriate for departing Ares Hill. from: Grk. ek, prep. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. midst: Grk. mesos, adj. See verse 22 above. Paul didn't exactly shake the dust from his feet (Matt 10:14), but he saw no point in continuing to cast pearls (Matt 7:6) to indifferent and mocking people that rejected his message. Paul had fulfilled his prophetic responsibility (cf. Ezek 3:19).
34 But some men having joined him, believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
But: Grk. de, conj. some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 5 above. having joined: Grk. kollaō, aor. pass. part., may mean to (1) adhere to, stick to, attach to; or (2) join closely with, or keep company with. The second meaning applies here. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. believed: Grk. pisteuō, aor. See verse 12 above. among: Grk. en, prep. whom: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. also: Grk. kai, conj. were Dionysius: Grk. Dionusios, an Athenian, probably derived from Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry. The name occurs only here in the Besekh. the Areopagite: Grk. Areopagitēs, a member of the Council of the Areopagus, an Areopagite. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. The conversion of an Athenian magistrate is significant.
The constitution of the Court of the Areopagus required its members to have filled a high magisterial function, and to be above sixty (Ellicott). Gill says that the work of this court was not only to hear cases of murder, its original purpose, but to by this panel the rights of the city were preserved and defended, war was proclaimed, and all lawsuits adjudicated and decided; and looked after idle and slothful persons, and inquire how they lived. The Areopagus always heard and judged causes in the night, in the dark, because they would only know facts, and not persons, lest they should be influenced by their afflictions, and be led wrong. The Areopagus was famous in other nations for wisdom and skill, and for strict justice. According to a tradition Dionysius became overseer of the congregation in Athens (Eusebius, Church History, Book III, 4.11).
and: Grk. kai. a woman: Grk. gunē. See verse 4 above. named: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. Damaris: Grk. Damaris, an Athenian woman. The name occurs only here in the Besekh. The church father Chrysostom (AD 347-407) makes her the wife of Dionysius (On the Priesthood 4:7). Most commentators, early and modern, reject the suggestion out of hand since Paul does not say "wife of him," but it would not be impossible. The term gunē can certainly refer to a married woman and Chrysostom may have had access to church records no longer extant. Other commentators debate whether a woman would have been in the crowd, but Ares Hill was a public venue and there would have been a crowd of bystanders listening to what they considered interesting (Bruce).
and: Grk. kai. others: pl. of Grk. heteros, adj. See verse 7 above. with: Grk. sun, prep. used to denote association or close identification. them: pl. of Grk. autos. The final clause indicates others in the crowd that thought Paul made a lot of sense and believed. We may note that there is no mention of immersions in Athens, but Paul's practice was to leave this matter to others (cf. 1Cor 1:17; 2:2).
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barnes: Albert Barnes (1798-1870), Notes on the Whole Bible (1834). Baker Book House, 1949. Online.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts. Rev. ed. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1988. (New International Commentary on the New Testament)
Clarke: Adam Clarke (1762–1832), Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. Online.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols., ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Ellicott: Charles John Ellicott (1819–1905), Commentary for English Readers (1878). Online.
Gilbert: Gary Gilbert, Annotations on "The Acts of the Apostles," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
George: Rose George, "The Intersection of Race and Blood," New York Times, May 14, 2019. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
HBD: Trent C. Butler, ed., Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991. Online.
ISBE: James Orr, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1939. Website HTML, 2011. Online.
Liberman: Joel Liberman, The Acts of the Emissaries: Practical Sermons on the Spirit-filled Birth & Explosive Growth of Messianic Judaism. Tree of Life, Inc., 2014.
Longenecker: Richard D. Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles, Vol. 9, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (1889). rev. by Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online
Marshall: I. Howard Marshall, Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. InterVarsity Press, 1980.
Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Meyer: Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer (1800-1873), Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (1859). 21 vols. T&T Clark, 1880. Online.
Morris: Henry M. Morris (1918-2006), Defenders Study Bible. World Publishing Co., 1995. [KJV with explanatory notes by Dr. Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, CA.]
Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Yeshua and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
MW-Notes: Daniel Gruber, The Messianic Writings. Elijah Publishing, 2011. Annotations by the author.
NASBEC: New American Standard Bible Exhaustive Concordance, Updated Edition. Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998.
NIBD: Herbert Lockyer, ed., Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Nicoll: W. Robertson Nicoll (1851–1923), The Expositor's Greek Testament (1897), 5 vols. Online.
OCB: The Oxford Companion to the Bible. ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford University Press, 1993.
Polhill: John B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters. B & H Academic, 1999.
Poole: Matthew Poole (1624–1679), A Commentary on the Holy Bible. Hendrickson Publishers, 1985. Online.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vol. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Skarsaune: Oskar Skarsaune, In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity. InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Tarn & Griffith: Sir William Tarn and G.T. Griffith, Hellenistic Civilization. 3rd Edition. Edward Arnold Publishers, Ltd., 1952.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
Vincent: Marvin R. Vincent (1834-1922), The Word Studies in the New Testament. 4 vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1886. Online.
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