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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

Acts 17

 

 

Verse 1

1.] Here (or rather perhaps at ἐξῆλθον, in the preceding verse) we have the first person again dropped,—implying apparently that the narrator did not accompany Paul and Silas. I should be inclined to think that Timotheus went with them from Philippi,—not, as is usually supposed, joined them at Berœa: see below on Acts 17:10.

διοδεύσαντες] The ὁδός, on which they travelled from Philippi to Thessalonica, was the Via Egnatia, the Macedoman continuation of the Via Appia, and so named from Egnatia (‘Gnatia lymphis iratis exstructa,’ Hor. Sat. i. 5), in the neighbourhood of which the latter meets the Adriatic. It extended from Dyrrha chium in Epirus to the Hebrus in Thrace, a distance of 500 miles. The stages here mentioned are thus particularized in the itineraries: Philippi to Amphipolis, 33 miles: Amphipolis to Apollonia, 30 miles: Apollonia to Thessalonica, 37 miles. See more particulars in C. and H., i. pp. 368 ff.

ἀμφίπολιν] Anciently called ἐννέα ὁδοί, Thucyd. i. 100. Herod. vii. 114, lying in a most important position, at the end of the lake Cercinitis, formed by the Strymon, commanding the only easy pass from the coast of the Strymonic gulf into Macedonia. (‘Amphipoleos, quæ objecta claudit omnes ab oriente sole in Macedoniam aditus,’ Liv. xlv. 30.) In consequence of this, the Athenians colonized the place, calling it Amphipolis, ἐπʼ ἀμφότερα περιῤῥέοντος τοῦ στρυμόνος, Thuc. iv. 102. It was the spot where Brasidas was killed, and for previously failing to succour which Thucydides was exiled: see Thucyd. iv. and v., and Grote’s Hist. of Greece, vol. vi. p. 625 ff., where there is a plan of Amphipolis. After this it was a point of contention between the Athenians and Philip, and subsequently became the capital of Macedonia Prima,—see Livy, xlv. 30, where Paulus Æmilius proclaims, at Amphipolis, the freedom and territorial arrangements of Macedonia. It is now called Emboli.

ἀπολλωνίαν] Its situation is unknown, but was evidently (see the distances above given) inland, not quite half-way from Amphipolis to Thessalonica, where the road crosses from the Strymonic to the Thermaic gulf. Leake saw some ruins at about the right spot, but did not visit them: and Cousinéry mentions seeing, on an opposite hill, the village of Polina. Pliny mentions it (N. H. iv. 10), ‘regio Mygdoniæ subjacens, in qua recedentes a mare Apollonia, Arethusa.’ It must not be confounded with a better known Apollonia near Dyrrhachium, on the western coast, also on the Via Egnatia. See C. and H. i. pp. 376 f.

θεσσαλονίκην] At this time the capital of the province Macedonia, and the residence of the proconsul (Macedonia had been an imperial, but was now a senatorial province). Its former names were Emathia, Halia, and Therma: it received its name of Thessalonica from Cassander, on his rebuilding and embellishing it, in honour of his wife Thessalonica, sister of Alexander the Great. So Strabo, lib. vii. excerpt. 10: who, ib. excerpt. 3, calls it θεσσαλονικεία. It was made a free city after the battle of Philippi: and every thing in this narrative is consistent with the privileges and state of an urbs libera. We read of its δῆμος, Acts 17:5, and its πολιτάρχαι, Acts 17:6; not, as at the Roman colony of Philippi, of ῥαβδοῦχοι (lictors), and στρατηγοί (duumviri), ch. Acts 16:20; Acts 16:35. It has ever been an important and populous city, and still continues such (pop. 70,000), being the second city in European Turkey, under the slightly corrupted name of Saloniki. For a notice of the church there, see Prolegg. to first Ep. to the Thessalonians, § ii.

[ ] συναγ.] The article is in all probability genuine: implying that there was no other synagogue for the towns lately traversed: and shewing the same minute acquaintance with the peculiarities of this district as our narrative has shewn since the arrival at Neapolis.


Verse 2

2. κατὰ τ. εἰωθ.] See marg. reff. in E. V

Paul was most probably suffering still from his ‘shameful treatment’ at Philippi, 1 Thessalonians 2:2

διελέγ. argued, see reff.

ἀπὸ τ. γραφ. is best taken with διελέγ., not with διανοίγων: see reff.


Verse 3

3. ὅτι οὗτος.…] See examples of the change of construction, ch. Acts 1:4; Acts 23:22; Luke 5:14.

The rendering is nearly as E. V., literally, that this is the Christ, namely, Jesus, whom I preach unto you. So Meyer. The ὁ χριστός takes up τὸν χριστόν above, and attaches to ὁ ἰησοῦς the office concerning which this necessity of suffering, &c., was predicated.

Even the particularity of this παθεῖν ( ἀπέθανεν) κ. ἀναστῆναι is reproduced in 1 Thessalonians 4:14.


Verse 4

4. προσεκληρώθ.] were added (as if by lot, that being determined by God, who gave them the Holy Spirit of adoption: ὃς καὶ ἐνεργεῖται ἐν ὑμῖν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν, 1 Thessalonians 2:13) to the great family of which Paul and Silas were members.

The sense is passive, not middle. The word is not uncommon in Philo.

σεβ. ἑλλ.] See reff.

The aptitude of women for the reception of the Gospel several times appears in this book,—see above, ch. Acts 16:13 ff., and below, Acts 17:12; Acts 17:34.


Verse 5

5. προσλαβ.] Having taken to them, as their accomplices, to assist them in the ὀχλοποιῆσαι which follows.

ἀγοραίων] Such men as Aristophanes calls πονηρὸς κἀξ ἀγορᾶς,—Demosthenes, περίτριμμα ἀγορᾶς,—Xenophon, τὸν ἀγοραῖον ὄχλον,—Plutarch, ἀγοραίους καὶ δυναμένους ὄχλον συναγαγεῖν: see many other instances in Wetstein, who mentions the modern ‘canaille’ (canalicolœ). Cicero calls them ‘subrostrani:’ Plautus,‘subbasilicani.’ These may be alluded to in οἱ ἴδιοι συμφυλέται, 1 Thessalonians 2:14. (See note on ἀγοραῖοι, ch. Acts 19:38.)

ἐπιστ., having fallen upon,—beset.

ἰάσονος] With whom (Acts 17:7) Paul and Silas lodged. He appears, perhaps (?), again with Paul at Corinth, Romans 16:21, but did not accompany him into Asia, ch. Acts 20:4.


Verse 6

6. πολιτάρχας] The following inscription, found on an arch at Thessalonica, is given from Boeckh, No. 1967, in C. and H. i. 395: πολειταρχουντων σωσιπατρου του κλεοπατρας και λουκιου ποντιου σεκουνδου πουβλιου φλαουιου σαβεινου δημητριου του φαυστου δημητριου του νικοπολεως ζωιλου του παρμενιωνος του και ΄ενισκου γαιου αγιλληιου ποτειτου.… Here we have this very title applied to the Thessalonian magistrates, shewing the exact accuracy of our narrative; and, curiously enough, we have three of the names which occur here, or in the Epistles, as companions of Paul: viz. Sosipater (of Berœa, ch. Acts 20:4; see Romans 16:21, and note); Secundus (of Thessalonica, ch. Acts 20:4); and Gaius (the Macedonian, note, ch. Acts 19:29).

τὴν οἰκ. ἀναστ.] The words presuppose some rumour of Christianity and its spread having before reached the inhabitants of Thessalonica.


Verse 7

7. οὗτοι πάντες] All these people, i.e. Christians, wherever found. A wider acquaintance is shewn, or at least assumed, with the belief of Christians, than extended merely to Jason and his friends.

ἀπέναντι πράσς.] Not ‘do this in the face of the decrees,’ which would require τοῦτο with πράσς., but as E. V. The δόγματα in this case would be the Julian ‘leges majestatis.’

βασιλέα κ. τ. λ.] This false charge seems to have been founded on Paul’s preaching much at Thessalonica concerning the triumphant παρουσία of Christ. This appears again and again in his two Epistles: see 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; and particularly 2 Thessalonians 2:5, where he refers to his having often told them of these things, viz. the course, and destruction of Antichrist, by whom these Jews might perhaps misrepresent Paul as designating Cæsar.


Verse 9

9. λαβόντες τὸ ἱκανόν] ‘Satisdatione accepta;’ either by sureties, or by a sum of money, or both. They bound over Jason and the rest ( τινας ἀδελφούς, Acts 17:6) to take care that no more trouble was given by these men: in accordance with which security they sent them away; and by night, to avoid the notice of the ὄχλος.


Verse 10

10.] It does not follow, because Timotheus is not mentioned here, that therefore he did not accompany, or at all events follow, Paul and Silas to Berœa. He has never been mentioned since he joined Paul’s company at Lystra. The very intermitted and occasional notices of Paul’s companions in this journey should be a caution against rash hypotheses. The general character of the narrative seems to be, that where Paul, or Paul and Silas, are alone or principally concerned, all mention of the rest is suspended, and sometimes so completely as to make it appear as if they were absent: then, at some turn of events they appear again, having in some cases been really present all the time. I believe Timotheus to have been with them at Thessalonica the first time, because it does not seem probable that Paul would have sent to them one to confirm and exhort them concerning their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:2) who had not known them before, especially as he then had Silas with him. And this is confirmed by both the Epistles to the Thessalonians, which are from Paul, Silvanus, and Timotheus. From these Epistles we learn that, during his residence among them, Paul worked with his own hands (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8) to maintain himself: and from Philippians 4:15-16, that the Philippians sent supplies more than once towards his maintenance. Both these facts, especially the last, seeing that the distance from Philippi was 100 Roman miles, make it very improbable that his stay was so short as from three to four weeks: nor is this implied in the text: much time may have elapsed while the πλῆθος πολύ of Acts 17:4 were joining Paul and Silas. See further in Prolegg. to 1 Thess., Vol. III. § ii. 2 ff.

βέροιαν] According to the Antonine Itinerary 61, according to the Peutinger Table 57 Roman miles (S.W.) from Thessalonica.

Berœa was not far from Pella, in Macedonia Tertia, Liv. xlv. 30, at the foot of Mt. Bermius. It was afterwards called Irenopolis, and now Kara Feria, or Verria, and is a city of the second rank in European Turkey, containing from 15,000 to 20,000 souls. (Winer, Realw. C. and H. i. 399 f.) Wetstein quotes a remarkable illustration from Cicero in Pisonem, c. 26:—‘Thessalonicam omnibus inscientibus noctuque venisti, qui cum concentum plorantium et tempestatem querelarum ferre non posses, in oppidum devium Berœam profugisti.’


Verse 11

11. εὐγενέστεροι] Theophyl. and Œc(82) explain it by ἐπιεικέστεροι, but this is rather its result, than its meaning:—more noble is our best word for it;—of nobler disposition;—stirred up, not to envy, but to enquiry.

ταῦτα] viz. the doctrine of Acts 17:3, which Paul and Silas preached here also.


Verse 12

12.] The designation conveyed in ἑλληνίδων is to be supplied before ἀνδρῶν also. So εἰς πᾶσαν πόλιν κ. τόπον, Luke 10:1. See Winer, edn. 6, § 59. 5.


Verse 13

13.] οἱ ἀπὸ τ. θ., as E. V., of Thessalonica. No inference that they came from Thess. can be drawn from this expression: but it is asserted below. See Hebrews 13:24.

ἦλθον κἀκεῖ σαλ.] Not, as E. V., ‘they came thither also, and stirred up.…,’ which destroys the force of the sentence: but they came, and stirred up there also.…: no journey having been related of them before, but a precisely similar act of exciting the people. From the distance, some time must have elapsed before this could take place: and that some time did elapse, we may gather from 1 Thessalonians 2:18, where Paul relates that he made several attempts to revisit the Thessalonians (which could be only during his stay at Berœa, as he left the neighbourhood altogether when he left that town), but was hindered.


Verse 14

14. ὡς ἐπὶ τ. θ.] The various readings seem to have arisen from not understanding ὡς,—which cannot, here or any where else, be redundant (as De Dieu, Raphel, Wolf, Heinrichs, &c.): nor can it well here signify that his going, ‘as if to the sea,’ was only a feint, to deceive his enemies (as Beza, Piscator, Grot., Olsh., Neander, &c.): for, as there is no mention of any land journey, or places passed through on his way to Athens, there can be little doubt that he did really go by sea. But ὡς ἐπὶ τ. θ. I believe simply to indicate the direction in which the Berœan brethren sent him forth [implying probably that all that was known at Berœa of his intended route was, that it was in the direction of the sea]. ὡς is used thus before participles and prepositions, without any assignable reference to its (more usual) subjective reference in such a connexion. Thus Hermann on Soph. Philoct. 58, says ‘cogitationem significat particula ὡς. Sed multo usu factum est, ut aliquandoetiam ibi usurparetur, ubi non opus esset respici id, quod quis in mente haberet.’ We have the same expression in Pausan. ii. 25, καταβάντων δὲ (the walls of Tyrius) ὡς ἐπὶ θάλασσαν, ἐνταῦθα οἱ θάλαμοι τῶν προίτου θυγατέρων εἰσίν,—and Diod. Sic. xiv. 49, κελεύσας κατὰ τάχος λάθρα πλεῖν ὡς ἐπὶ συρακοσίους,—and Polyb. passim in Wetst.,—e.g. καθήκουσαν ( τὴν σελουκείαν) ὡς ἐπὶ θάλασσαν, v. 59,—and with the same signification. Where he embarked for Athens, is not said: probably (C. and H. i. 403) at Dium, near the base of Mt. Olympus, to which two roads from Berœa are marked in the ancient tables.


Verse 15

15. καθιστ.] So Odyss. v. 274, τούς μʼ ἐκέλευσα πύλονδε καταστῆσαι καὶ ἐφέσσαι,—and Arrian, Ind. xxvii. 1, καταστήσειν αὐτοὺς μέχρι καρμανίας.

Who these were is not said.

The course of Timotheus appears to have been, as far as we can follow it from the slight notices given, as follows:—when Paul departed from Berœa, not having been able to revisit Thessalonica as he wished (1 Thessalonians 2:18), he sent Timotheus (from Berœa, not from Athens) to exhort and confirm the Thessalonians, and determined to be left at Athens alone (1 Thessalonians 3:1), Silas meanwhile remaining to carry on the work at Berœa. Paul, on his arrival at Athens, sends (by his conductors, who returned) this message to both, to come to him as soon as possible. They did so, and found him (ch. Acts 18:5) at Corinth. See Prolegg. to 1 Thess., Vol. III.

ἀθηνῶν] See a long and interesting description of the then state of Athens, its buildings, &c., in C. and H. chap. 10 vol. i. pp. 407 ff.; and Lewin, i. pp. 268 ff. It was a free city. Strabo (ix. 1) gives an epitome of its fortunes from the Roman conquest nearly to this time: ῥωμαῖοι δʼ οὖν παραλαβόντες αὐτοὺς δημοκρατουμένους ἐφύλαξαν τὴν αὐτονομίαν αὐτοῖς κ. τὴν ἐλευθερίαν. ἐπιπεσὼν δʼ ὁ ΄ιθριδατικὸς πόλεμος τυράννους αὐτοῖς κατέστησεν οὓς ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐβούλετο, τὸν δʼ ἰσχύσαντα μάλιστα τὸν ἀριστίωνα κ. ταύτην βιασάμενον τὴν πόλιν. ἐκ πολιορκίας ἑλὼν σύλλας ὁ τῶν ῥωμαίων ἠγεμὼν ἐκόλασε· τῇ πόλει δὲ συγγνώμην ἔνειμε, καὶ μέχρι νῦν ἐν ἐλευθερίᾳ τε ἐστὶ κ. τιμῇ παρὰ τοῖς ῥωμαίοις. See also Tacit. Ann. ii. 53.


Verse 16

16. κατείδωλον] This ἅπαξ λεγόμενον is formed after the analogy of κατάμπελος, κάθυδρος, &c. See reff.

The multitude of statues and temples to the gods in Athens is celebrated with honour by classic writers of other nations, and with pride by their own. A long list of passages is given in Wetstein. The strongest perhaps is from Xen. de Repub. Ath(83), who calls Athens ὅλη βωμός, ὅλη θῦμα θεοῖς καὶ ἀνάθημα.


Verse 17

17.] The οὖν (as De W. remarks against Meyer and Schneckenburger) does not necessarily give the consequence of what has been stated in Acts 17:16, but only continues the narration. See above on ch. Acts 11:19.

ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ] Strabo (x. 1) speaking of the Eretrians in Eubœa says that some suppose them to have been named ἀπὸ τῆς ἀθήνῃσιν ἐρετρίας, ἣ νῦν ἐστιν ἀγορά (as distinguished from the Ceramicus, which was the old forum). It was the space before the στοὰ ποικίλη, where the Stoics held their διαλέξεις.


Verse 18

18. ἐπικουρείων] The Epicurean philosophy was antagonistic to the gospel, as holding the atomic theory in opposition to the creation of matter,—the disconnexion of the Divinity from the world and its affairs, in opposition to the idea of a ruling Providence,—and the indissoluble union, and annihilation together, of soul and body, as opposed to the hope of eternal life, and indeed to all spiritual religion whatever. The Epicureans were the materialists of the ancient world. The common idea attached to Epicureanism must be discarded in our estimate of the persons mentioned in our text. The summum bonum of the real Epicureans, far from being a degraded and sensual pleasure, was ἀταοαξία of mind, based upon φρόνησις,—perhaps the best estimate of the highest good formed in the heathen world;—and their ethics were exceedingly strict. But the abuse to which such a doctrine was evidently liable, gave rise to a pseudo-Epicureanism, which has generally passed current for the real, and which amply illustrated the truth, that ‘corruptio optimi est pessima.’ For their chimerical ἀταραξία, Paul offered them τὴν εἰρήνην τὴν ὑπερέχουσαν πάντα νοῦν, Philippians 4:7.

στοϊκῶν] So named from the στοὰ ποικίλη (see above), founded by Zeno(84) of Cittium in the fourth century B.C., but perhaps more properly by Cleanthes and Chrysippus in the third century B.C. Their philosophy, while it approached the truth in holding one supreme Governor of all, compromised it, in allowing of any and all ways of conceiving and worshipping Him (see below, Acts 17:24-25),—and contravened it, in its pantheistic belief that all souls were emanations of Him. In spirit it was directly opposed to the gospel,—holding the independence of man on any being but himself, together with the subjection of God and man alike to the stern laws of an inevitable fate. On the existence of the soul after death their ideas were various: some holding that all souls endure to the conflagration of all things,—others confining this to the souls of good men,—and others believing all souls to be reabsorbed into the Divinity. By these tenets they would obviously be placed in antagonism to the doctrines of a Saviour of the world and the resurrection,—and to placing the summum bonum of man in abundance of that grace which ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ τελεῖται, 2 Corinthians 12:9.

τινες ἔλεγον.… οἱ δέ] These are not to be taken as belonging the one to the Epicureans, the other to the Stoics,—but rather as describing two classes, common perhaps to both schools,—the one of which despised him and his sayings, and the other were disposed to take a more serious view of the matter, and charge him with bringing in new deities.

σπερμολόγος] σπερμολόγος εἶδος ἐστὶν ὀρνέου λωβωμένου τὰ σπέρματα· ἐξ οὗ οἱ ἀθηναῖοι σπερμολόγους ἐκάλουν τοὺς περὶ ἐμπόρια καὶ ἀγορὰς διατρίβοντας, διὰ τὸ ἀναλέγεσθαι τὰ ἐκ τῶν φορτίων ἀποῤῥέοντα, καὶ διαζῇν ἐκ τούτων. Eustath(85) ad Odyss. ε. 490, where Damm observes, σπερμολογεῖν, ‘verbum recentiorum; dicitur ἐπὶ τῶν ἀλαζονευομένων ἀμεθόδως ἐπὶ μαθήμασιν ἐις τινῶν παρακουσμάτων, si quis quid arripuit forte ex disciplinis, eoque se imperite jactat:’ babbler is the very best English word: as both signifying one who talks fluently to no purpose, and hinting also that his talk is not his own.

ξένων δαιμ.] ἀδικεῖ σωκράτης.… καινὰ δαιμόνια εἰσφέρων, was one of the charges on which Athens put to death her wisest son.

δαιμόνια is not plural for singular, as Kuin.: nor merely, though this is somewhat more probable, marks the category, as Meyer: nor can it refer (Chrys., Theophyl., Œcum., Hammond, Heinrichs) to Jesus and the ἀνάστασις, mistaken for a goddess (a sufficient answer to which strange idea is, that ἡ ἀνάστασις is merely a statement in the mouths of others, of the doctrine taught by Paul, which he would hardly ever, if ever, specify by this word,—compare Acts 17:31-32): but alludes (as De Wette) to the true God, the God of the Jews, and Jesus Christ His Son: the Creator of the world (Acts 17:24), and the Man whom He hath appointed to judge it, Acts 17:31.

καταγγελεύς] Compare Acts 17:23, end; which is an express answer to this charge.


Verse 19

19. ἐπιλαβ.] No violence is implied: see reff.

ἐπὶ τὸν ἄρειον πάγον] There is no allusion here to the court of Areiopagus, nor should the words have been so rendered in E. V.—especially as the same ἀρείου πάγου below (Acts 17:22) is translated ‘Mars’ Hill.’ We have in the narrative no trace of any judicial proceeding, but every thing to contradict such a supposition. Paul merely makes his speech, and, having satisfied the curiosity of the multitude who came together on Mars’ Hill, departs unhindered:—they brought him up to the hill of Mars. Wordsworth believes he finds a trace of a judicial proceeding in ἄνδρες ἀθηναῖοι, denoting rather a public apology than a private discussion: and in the conversion of Dionysius the Areopagite. But what words other than those would St. Paul have been likely to use in making a speech to a concourse of Athenians? for no one supposes it to have been a private discussion. And why should not Dionysius have been present? As a convert of note, he would naturally have his title attached.

The following note is borrowed from Mr. Humphry’s Commentary:—‘It might be expected that on the hill of Mars the mind of the stranger would be impressed with the magnificence of the religion which he sought to overthrow. The temple of the Eumenides was immediately below him: opposite, at the distance of 200 yards, was the Acropolis, which, being entirely occupied with statues and temples, was, to use the phrase of an ancient writer (Aristides), ἀντʼ ἀναθήματος, as one great offering to the gods. The Persians encamped on the Areiopagus when they besieged the Acropolis (Herod. viii. 52): from the same place the Apostle makes his first public attack on Paganism, of which the Acropolis was the stronghold. Xerxes in his fanaticism burnt the temples of Greece (Æschyl. Pers.: Cic. de Leg. ii. 10). Christianity advanced more meekly and surely: and though the immediate effect of the Apostle’s sermon was not great, the Parthenon in time became a Christian church (Leake, Athens, p. 277). Athens ceased to be a κατείδωλος πόλις,—and the repugnance of the Greeks to images became so great, as to be a principal cause of the schism between the churches of the east and west in the eighth century.’

The hill of Mars was so called according to Paus. i. 28. 5, ὅτι πρῶτος ἄρης ἐνταῦθα ἐκρίθη. It was on the west of the Acropolis. The Areiopagus, the highest criminal court of Athens, held its sittings there. To give any account of it is beside the purpose, there being no allusion to it in the text. Full particulars may be found sub voce in Smith’s Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Antt.

δυνάμ. γνῶν.] A courteous method of address (not ironical, as Kuin. and Stier).


Verse 21

21.] A remark of the narrator (as I believe, Paul himself, see Prolegg. to Acts, § ii. 14) as a comment on the καινή and ξενίζοντα of the verse before.

εὐκαιρῶ, vaco, Gloss. Vet. It is not a classic Attic word: εὐκαιρεῖν οὐδεὶς εἴρηκε τῶν παλαιῶν, ἕλληνες δέ, Mœris. “ σχολὴν ἄγω,” καὶεὖ σχολῆς ἔχω,” οὐσχολάζω·” τὸ δὲεὐκαιρεῖνπάντη ἀδόκιμον, Thom. Mag.

On this character of the Athenians, compare that given of them, Thucyd. iii. 38, μετὰ καινότητος μὲν λόγου ἀπατᾶσθαι ἄριστοι, where the scholiast evidently has our text in his mind; ταῦτα πρὸς τοὺς ἀθηναίους αἰνίττεται, οὐδέν τι μελετῶντας πλὴν λέγειν τι καὶ ἀκούειν καινόν:—Demosth. (Philippic. i. p. 43), ἢ βούλεσθε, εἰπέ μοι, περϊιόντες αὑτῶν πυθέσθαι κατὰ τὴν ἀγορὰν λέγεταί τι καινόν; γένοιτο γὰρ ἄν τι καινότερον ἢ ΄ακεδὼν ἀνὴρ κ. τ. λ. (so also in Philipp. Epist. pp. 156, 157.) The comparative, καινότερον, is used as here by Theophr. in giving the character of a loquacious person: οἷος ἐρωτῆσαι ἔχεις περὶ τοῦδε εἰπεῖν καινόν; καὶ ἐπιβαλὼν ἐρωτᾷν ΄ὴ λέγεταί τι καινότερον; It implies, as we should say, the very last news.


Verse 22

22.] The Commentators vie with each other in admiration of this truly wonderful speech of the great Apostle. Chrysostom: τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ εἰρημένον τῷ ἀποστόλῳ, ἐγενόμην τοῖς ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος, ἵνα κερδήσω ἀνόμους· ἀθηναίοις γὰρ δημηγορῶν, οὐκ ἀπὸ προφητῶν οὐδὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου διελέχθη, ἀλλʼ ἁπὸ βωμοῦ τὴν παραίνεσιν ἐποιήσατο· ἀπὸ τῶν οἰκείων αὐτοὺς ἐχειρώσατο δογμάτων· διὸ οὐκ εἶπενἄνομος,” ἀλλʼ “ ὡς ἄνομος.” ‘The oration of Paul before this assembly is a living proof of his apostolic wisdom and eloquence: we see here how he, according to his own words, could become a Gentile to the Gentiles, to win the Gentiles to the Gospel,’ Neander, Pfl. u. L., p. 317. And Stier very properly remarks (Reden der Apostel, ii. 131), ‘It was given to the Apostle in this hour, what he should speak; this is plainly to be seen in the following discourse, which we might weary ourselves with praising and admiring in various ways; but far better than all so-called praise from our poor tongues is the humble recognition, that the Holy Ghost, the spirit of Jesus, has here spoken by the Apostle, and therefore it is that we have in his discourse a masterpiece of apostolic wisdom.’ The same Commentator gives the substance of the speech thus: ‘He who is (by your own involuntary confession) unknown to you Athenians (religious though you are),—and yet (again, by your own confession) able to be known,—the all-sufficing Creator of the world, Preserver of all creatures, and Governor of mankind,—now commandeth all men (by me His minister) to repent, that they may know Him, and to believe in the Man whom He hath raised from the dead, that they may stand in the judgment, which He hath committed to Him.’

ἄνδρες ἀθ.] The regular and dignified appellation familiar to them as used by all their orators,—of whose works Paul could hardly be altogether ignorant.

κατὰ π., in every point of view: see reff.

δεισιδαιμονεστέρους] carrying your religious reverence very far: an instance of which follows, in that they, not content with worshipping named and known gods, worshipped even an unknown one. Blame is neither expressed, nor even implied: but their exceeding veneration for religion laid hold of as a fact, on which Paul, with exquisite skill, engrafts his proof that he is introducing no new gods, but enlightening them with regard to an object of worship on which they were confessedly in the dark. So Chrysost.: δεις., τουτέστιν εὐλαβεστέρους.… ὥσπερ ἐγκωμιάζειν αὐτοὺς δοκεῖ, οὐδὲν βαρὺ λέγων.

To understand this word as E. V. ‘too superstitious’ (‘superstitiosiores,’ Vulg., so Luther, Calov., Wolf), is to miss the fine and delicate tact of the speech, by which he at once parries the charge against him, and in doing so introduces the great Truth which he came to preach.

The word itself has both senses: δεισιδαίμων, ὁ εὐσεβής, Hesych(86):— ἐν τῷ τοιούτῳ (in battle) γὰρ δὴ οἱ δεισιδαίμονες ἧττον τοὺς ἀνθρώπους φοβοῦνται, Xen. Cyrop. iii. 3. 58: and on the other hand, Theophrast. Char. 16, explains δεισιδαιμονία by δειλία πρὸς τὸ δαιμόνιον: and Pollux, εὐσεβής, θεῶν ἐπιμελής, ὁ δὲ ὑπερτιμῶν, δεισιδαίμων καὶ δεισίθεος.

The character thus given of the Athenians is confirmed by Greek writers: thus, Pausan. i. 24. 3, ἀθηναίοις περισσότερόν τι ἢ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐς τὰ θεῖά ἐστι σπονδῆς. See other instances in Wetstein. Josephus, c. Apion. ii. 11, calls them εὐσεβεστάτους τῶν ἑλλήνων.


Verse 23

23.] ἀναθ., looking over, ‘reconnoitring.’

σεβάσμ.] not, as E. V., ‘devotions:’ but objects of religious worship, temples, altars, statues, &c.: see reff.

καί] over and above the many altars to your own and foreign deities. πολλὰ γὰρ τῶν ξενικῶν ἱερῶν παρεδέξαντο, … καὶ δὴ καὶ τὰ θρᾲκια καὶ τὰ φρύγια, Strabo, x. p. 472.

ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ] To an (not, the) unknown God.

That this was the veritable inscription on the altars (not as Jerome on Titus 1:12, vol. vii. p. 707, ‘Inscriptio aræ non ita erat ut Paulus asseruit: ignoto Deo: sed ita: Diis Asiæ et Europæ et Africæ, Diis ignotis et peregrinis. Verum quia Paulus non pluribus Diis ignotis indigebat sed uno tantum ignoto Deo, singulari verbo usus est’), the words ᾧ ἐπεγέγραπτο, on which had been inscribed, are decisive. Meyer well remarks, that the historical fact would be abundantly established from this passage, being Paul’s testimony of what he himself had seen,—and spoken to the Athenian people. But we have our narrative confirmed by the following: Paus. i. 1. 4, ἐνταῦθαι καὶ βωμοὶ θεῶν τε ὀνομαζομένων ἀγνώστων, καὶ ἡρώων καὶ παίδων τῶν θήσεως καὶ φαλήρου:—Philostratus, Vita Apollon. vi. 3, σωφρονέστερον τὸ περὶ πάντων θεῶν εὖ λέγειν, καὶ ταῦτα ἀθήνῃσιν, οὗ καὶ ἀγνώστων δαιμόνων βωμοὶ ἵδρυνται. On which Winer well says, that it by no means follows that each altar had the inscription in the plural, θεοῖς ἀγνώστοις, but more naturally that the plural has been used to suit βωμοί, and that the inscription on each was as here. The commonly cited passage of (Pseudo-) Lucian, Philopatr. 9, and 29, νὴ τὸν ἄγνωστον ἐν ἀθήναις, is no testimony, the dialogue being spurious, and the reference to our text evident. The origin of such altars has been variously explained: Diog. Laert. (vita Epimenid.) says, that Epimenides, on occasion of a plague, advised the Athenians to let go white and black sheep from the Areiopagus, and on the spots where they lay down to erect altars τῷ προσήκοντι θεῷ: ὅθεν, he adds, ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐστιν εὑρεῖν κατὰ τοὺς δήμους τῶν ἀθηναίων βωμοὺς ἀνωνύμους. Eichhorn conjectures that they may have been ancient altars erected before the use of writing, and thus inscribed in after-times. But I should rather suppose that the above anecdote furnishes the key to the practice: that on the occurrence of any remarkable calamity or deliverance not assignable to the conventionally-received agency of any of the recognized deities, an unknown God was reverenced as their author. That the God of the Jews was meant (as supposed by Calov., Wolf, al.) is very improbable.

‘Quod ignotis Diis altare erexerant, signum erat nihil ipsos tenere certi: habebant quidem ingentem Deorum turbam … sed dum illis permiscent ignotos Deos, hoc ipso fatentur nihil de vera Divinitate se habere compertum … Inde apparet inquietudo, quod se nondum defunctos fatentur, ubi popularibus Diis litarunt,’ &c. Calvin.

τοῦτο] The ὅν and τοῦτον of the rec. have probably been alterations from reverential motives. The neuters give surely the deeper, and the more appropriate sense. For Paul does not identify the true God with the dedication of, or worship at, the altar mentioned: but speaks of the Divinity ( τὸ θεῖον) of whom they, by this inscription, confessed themselves ignorant. (It may however be a warning of the uncertainty of à priori internal evidence for readings, that De Wette and Meyer suppose the masculines to have been altered to produce this very sense, and to avoid the inference that Paul identified the unknown God with the Creator.) But even a more serious objection lies against the masculines. The sentiment would thus be in direct contradiction to the assertion of Paul himself, 1 Corinthians 10:20, ἃ θύουσιν, δαιμονίοις καὶ οὐ θεῷ θύουσιν. Compare also our Lord’s words, John 4:22, ὑμεῖς προσκυνεῖτε ὃ οὐκ οἴδατε.

In εὐσεβεῖτε, we have another confirmation of the sense above insisted on for δεισιδαιμονεστέρους. He wishes to commend their reverential spirit, while he shews its misdirection. An important lesson for all who have controversies with Paganism and Romanism.

καταγγ.] (See above, καταγγελεύς, Acts 17:18.) I am declaring,—making manifest, to you. ὑμεῖς με προελάβετε, φησίν · ἔφθασε ὑμῶν ἡ θεραπεία τὸ ἐμὸν κήρυγμα. Chrys.


Verse 24

24.] ‘No wonder, that the devil, in order to diffuse idolatry, has blotted out among all heathen nations the recognition of Creation. The true doctrine of Creation is the proper refutation of all idolatry.’ Roos. Einl. in die bibl. Geschicht., cited by Stier, Red. der Apost. ii. 140, who remarks, ‘Only on the firm foundation of the Old Testament doctrine of Creation can we rightly build the New Testament doctrine of redemption: and only he, who scripturally believes and apprehends by faith the earliest words of Revelation, concerning a Creator of all things, can also apprehend, know, and scripturally worship, THE MAN, in whom God’s word, down to its latest canonical Revelation, gathers together all things.’

οὐκ ἐν χειρ.] A remarkable reminiscence of the dying speech of Stephen: see ch. Acts 7:48.

Mr. Humphry notices the similarity, but difference in its conclusion, of the argument attributed to Xerxes in Cicero, Leg. ii. 10: ‘Xerxes inflammasse templa Græciæ dicitur, quod parietibus includerent deos, quibus omnia deberent esse patentia et libera, quorumque hic mundus omnis templum esset et domus.’

Where Paul stood, he might see the celebrated colossal statue of Athena Polias, known by the Athenians as ἡ θεά, standing and keeping guard with spear and shield in the enclosure of the Acropolis.


Verse 25

25.] θεραπεύεται, is (really and truly) served.

So θεὸς οὐ μυκτηρίζεται, Galatians 6:7.

προσδ.] ἐνδεῖσθαι μέν ἐστι τὸ παντελῶς μὴ ἔχειν · προσδεῖσθαι δὲ τὸ ἔχειν μὲν μέρος, ἔτι δὲ δεῖσθαι πρὸς τὸ τέλειον. Ulpian (in Wetst.).

As the assertion of Creation contradicted the Epicurean error, so this laid hold of that portion of truth, which, however disguised, that school had apprehended: ‘Omnis enim per se divûm natura necesse est | Immortali ævo summa cum pace fruatur. |.… | Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nihil indiga nostri,’ Lucret. i. 57. There is a verse in 2 Maccabees 14:35, remarkable, as compared with the thoughts and words of Paul here: σύ, κύριε, τῶν ὅλων ἀπροσδεὴς ὑπάρχων, εὐδοκήσας ναὸν τῆς σῆς κατασκηνώσεως ἐν ἡμῖν γενέσθαι.

τινός] neuter, as referring to the temples and statues offered by the Athenians.

ζωὴν κ. πνοήν] He is the Preserver, as well as the Creator, of all; and all things come to us from Him. Compare, on τὰ πάντα, David’s words, 1 Chronicles 29:14, σὰ τὰ πάντα, καὶ ἐκ τῶν σῶν δεδώκαμέν σοι.


Verse 26

26.] ἐξ ἑνὸς [ αἵμ.] was said, be it remembered, to a people who gave themselves out for αὐτόχθονες: but we must not imagine that to refute this was the object of the words: they aim far higher than this, and controvert the whole genius of polytheism, which attributed to the various nations differing mythical origins, and separate guardian gods. It is remarkable, that though of all people the Jews were the most distinguished in their covenant state from other nations of the earth, yet to them only was given the revelation of the true history of mankind, as all created of one blood: a doctrine kept as it were in store for the gospel to proclaim.

Not, ‘hath made of one blood,’ &c., as E. V., but caused every nation of men (sprung) of one [blood] to dwell, &c. See Matthew 5:32; Mark 7:37.

παντὸς προσώπου] The omission of the art. may be accounted for by the words following ἐπί (see Middleton, vi. 1): or, perhaps, by the parallelism of πᾶν ἔθνος, παντὸς προσώπου: or perhaps, as πὰς οἶκος ἰσραήλ, ch. Acts 2:36, because πρόσωπον τῆς γῆς is regarded as one appellative. See note on πᾶσα οἰκοδομή, Ephesians 2:21.

καιρ.… ὁροθ.] He who was before (Acts 17:24) the Creator, then (Acts 17:25) the Preserver, is now the Governor of all men: prescribing to each nation its space to dwell in, and its time of endurance.

προστετ., not προτ., appointed, ‘ordered by Him.’


Verse 27

27.] ζητεῖν does not depend on ἐποίησεν, but gives the intent of the above-mentioned providential arrangement: that they might seek God. τὸν κύριον (as rec. and two uncial MSS. have) has probably been a careless mistake of a transcriber: τὶ τὸ θεῖόμ ἐστιν, which appears to have been the reading of (87), is one of its own strange glosses.

εἰ ἄρα] if by any chance, denoting a contingency apparently not very likely to happen, see Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 440.

ψηλαφήσειαν] Originally an Æolic form, but frequent in Attic Greek, for ψηλαφήσαιεν, sec Luke 6:11. On the word itself, compare Aristoph. (Pax, 691): προτοῦ μὲν οὖν | ἐψηλαφῶμεν ἐν σκότῳ τὰ πράγματα, | νυνὶ δʼ ἅπαντα πρὸς λύχνον βουλεύσομεν. These lines, as Mr. Humphry observes, ‘seem at once to illustrate the figurative use of the verb, and to express the condition of man prior and subsequent to revelation.’

καί γε.…] ‘Not that HE is distant from us, but that we are ignorant of Him.’ See Romans 10:6; Romans 10:8; Jeremiah 23:23-24. καί γε, ‘et quidem:’ see Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 398 f.


Verse 28

28.] There is no justification for the pantheist in this.

It is properly said only of the race of men, as being His offspring, bound to Him: proceeding from, and upheld by, and therefore living, moving, and being in Him:—but even in a wider sense His Being, though a separate objective Personality, involves and contains that of His creatures. See Ephesians 1:10, where the same is said of Christ. ἐν αὐτῷ must not be taken for ‘by Him;’ the subsequent citation would in that case be irrelevant.

ζῶμ. κιν. ἐσμ.] ‘A climax: out of God we should have no Life, nor even movement (which some things without life have, plants, water, &c.), nay, not any existence at all (we should not have been).’ Meyer. Storr’s explanation of ζῶμεν by ‘vivimus beate ac hilare,’ and Kuinoel and Olshausen’s of ἐσμέν by ‘real being,’ i.e. ‘the spiritual life,’ are evidently beside the purpose; the intent being to shew the absolute dependence for every thing of man on God,—and thence the absurdity of supposing the Godhead like to the works of his (man’s) hands.

τοῦ γὰρ κ. γ. ἐσμ.] Aratus, in the opening lines of the Phænomena.… πάντη δὲ διὸς κεχρήμεθα πάντες · τοῦ γὰρ καὶ γένος ἐσμέν. Kleanthes also, Hymn. in Jov. 5, has ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν. Aratus was a native of Tarsus, about 270 B.C., and wrote astronomical poems, of which two, the φαινόμενα and διοσημεία, remain. Kleanthes was born at Assos, in Troas, about 300 B.C. The Apostle, by the plural, seems to have both poets in his mind.

The τοῦ refers to Zeus in both cases, the admission being taken as a portion of truth regarding the Supreme God, which even heathen poets confessed. The καί has no connexion here, but is (see above) part of the verse in Aratus.


Verse 30

30. ὑπεριδών] In this word lie treasures of mercy for those who lived in the times of ignorance. God overlooked them [the rendering of the E. V. bears the same meaning, but is to our ears in these days objectionable]: i.e. corrected not this ignorance itself as a sin, but the abuses even of this, by which the heathen sunk into deeper degradation. The same argument is treated more at length in Romans 12. The πᾶσι of the rec. and ἵνα πάντες of D1 have both been corrections occasioned by the apparent difficulty of τοῖς ἀνθρώποις πάντας. The genuine reading gives the emphatic πάντας πανταχοῦ, following on the foregoing assertion of Acts 17:25-26, its proper place.


Verse 31

31. καθότι] See var. read. and reff.:—used by Luke and him only: ‘seeing that,’ inasmuch as.

ἐν δικαιος.] δικαιος. is the character of the judgment,—the element, of which it shall consist.

ἐν ἀνδρί] Not, ‘in (by) a man,’ but by (i.e. in the person of) the man: the art. is omitted after the preposition: see Midd. vi. 1. The ἐν is not instrumental, properly speaking, here or any where else. Its judicial use is only a particular case of its usage of investiture or elementary condition: in the judge the judgment consists, is constituted; he is its vehicle and expression. See ref. 1 Cor. and note for examples of this use.

πίστ. κ. τ. λ. ‘Quia res erat vix credibilis, argumentum adfert eximium.’ Grotius.


Verse 32

32. ἀνάστ. νεκρ.] Perhaps here, ‘when they heard of a resurrection of dead men,’ viz. of that of Christ, νεκρῶν being generic. But the same words are used in ref. 1 Cor. πῶς λέγουσιν ἐν ὑμῖν τινες ὅτι ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν; so that I would rather take them here to mean that they inferred the general possibility of the resurrection of the dead, as a tenet of Paul’s, from the one case which he mentioned.

οἱ.… οἱ δέ] We must not allot these two parties as some have done, the former to the Epicureans, the latter to the Stoics: the description is general.

The words ἀκουσόμεθα.… need not be taken as ironical. The hearing not having taken place is no proof that it was not intended at the time: and the distinction between these and the mockers seems to imply that they were in earnest.


Verse 33

33. οὕτως] ‘In this state of the popular mind:’ (with an expectation of being heard again?) [The “so” of the E. V. does not give this forcibly enough, but looks like a mere particle of transition.]


Verse 34

34. διονύσιος ὁ ἀρ.] Nothing more is known of him. Euseb. H. E. iii. 4; iv. 23, relates that he was bishop of Athens, and Niceph. iii. 11, that he died a martyr. The writings which go by his name are undoubtedly spurious.

γυνή] Not, as Chrys., de Sacerd. iv. 7, vol. i. p. 412, seems to infer from the form of the expression,— ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ μετὰ τῆς γυναικός, the wife of Dionysius: this would have been ἡ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ.

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Acts 17:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/acts-17.html. 1863-1878.

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