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Bible Commentaries

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Acts 17



Verse 1

Thessalonica; a large city of Macedonia.--Where was a synagogue, &c. Few places so remote from Jerusalem had a synagogue for the Jews.

Verse 3

Must needs; that is, according to the Jewish Scriptures.--Whom I preach unto you; the word I referring to Paul.

Verse 4

Consorted with; united with.

Verse 5

Jason; at whose house the apostles were entertained as guests.

Verse 9

Taken security; made a satisfactory arrangement, in some way, for insuring the termination of the difficulty.

Verse 11

Whether those things were so, that is, whether, according to the predictions of the Scriptures, the Messiah was to suffer death, and then be restored to life again, as Paul contended. (Acts 17:3.)

Verse 17

Disputed; argued.--Market; the forum; a place of great public resort, in which assemblies of various kinds were often held.

Verse 18

Epicureans and--Stoics; two prominent sects of philosophers. The doctrine of the Epicureans was, that the true end and aim of life was enjoyment, and that the test and the essence of philosophy was to carry human happiness to the highest point, and to give it the most permanent and uninterrupted character; the rules of virtue were inculcated as the best means to this end. The philosophers of this class saw no evidence of any future state, or of the existence of any divine being to whom they were accountable. Their theory, therefore, was, that every man should aim to secure for himself and for others the highest degree of rational and substantial pleasure in the present state, and all possible exemption from pain. The Stoics, on the other hand, believed in the existence of God, and in a future state, and in the moral accountability of man; and they held up an ideal of virtue, which they maintained was the highest good, and should be the end and aim of human efforts, without regard to the pain or the pleasure which might attend the pursuit. While, therefore, the Epicureans taught men to value enjoyment, and to seek for it through all the safe avenues by which it might be attained, the Stoics inculcated indifference and insensibility to sensations of pain and pleasure, and supreme devotedness to the principles of a stern and inflexible virtue. The terms Epicurean and Stoic have gradually acquired, in modern times, opprobrious significations; and the ordinary representations of the two systems, made to set off, by contrast, the superiority of Christianity, are caricatures, which convey no just idea of the intent and meaning of their originals. They were both right, and both wrong; for Christianity shows us that virtue and happiness, one and indivisible, constitute the highest and only good, and the proper end and aim of being.

Verse 19

Areopagus; or Mars-hill, as it is called below; a public part of the city,--the seat of an august tribunal, called also the Areopagus. Whether Paul was taken before this court as a party accused, or only invited to address an assembly in or near the edifice, is uncertain.

Verse 21

Strangers which were there. Athens was a city celebrated throughout the world for its wealth, its refinement, and its high intellectual character. It was consequently a place of great resort.

Verse 22

Too superstitious; meaning very superstitious, that is, very religiously disposed. That the expression is to be understood in a good sense, meaning deeply interested in what relates to the spiritual world, and to the divine character, the following verses plainly show.

Verse 23

Whom therefore, &c. The method which Paul adopted in instructing these pagans was, to elevate and correct their own vague and erroneous conceptions of the Divinity,--not to attack and denounce them. It is worthy of very serious consideration, how far an in what cases this example, ought to be followed, in respect to the instruction of pagan nations, at the present day.

Verse 25

As though he needed any thing. In his sacrifices to the gods, the heathen worshipper imagined that he was supplying their wants.

Verse 28

Modern scholars have found an expression like the one quoted here in several of the Greek poets then known and read at Athens.

Verse 34

The Areopagite; a member of the council of Areopagus.


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Acts 17:4". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

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