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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Acts 17

 

 

Introduction

CHAPTER 17

Acts 17:2. διελέγετο] A B א, min. have διελέξατο (so Lachm.). D E, min. have διελέχθη, which Griesb. has recommended and Born. adopted. Different alterations of the imperf. into the aor. (in conformity with εἰσῆλθε).

Acts 17:4. After σεβομ. Lachm. has καί (A D loti. Vulg. Copt.). Offence was taken at the combination σεβομ. ἑλλήν., and therefore sometimes ἑλλήν. was omitted (min. Theophyl. 1), sometimes καί was inserted.

Acts 17:5. προσλαβ. δὲ οἱ ἰουδ.] So Griesb. But Elz. has ζηλώσαντες δὲ οἱ ἀπειθοῦντες ἰουδαῖοι, καὶ προσλαβ. Lachm.: ζηλώσαντες δὲ οἱ ἰουδ. καὶ προλαβ. which also Rinck prefers. Matthaei: προσλαβ. δὲ οἱ ἰουδ. οἱ ἀπειθ. So Scholz and Tisch. Still other variations in codd. vss. and Fathers (D: οἱ δὲ ἀπειθοῦντες ἰουδαῖοι συστρέψαντες, so Born.). The reading of Lachm. has most external evidence in its favour (A B א, min. Vulg. Copt. Sahid. Syr. utr.), and it is the more to be preferred, since that of Griesb., from which otherwise, on account of its simplicity, the others might have arisen as amplifications in the form of glosses, is only preserved in 142, and consequently is almost entirely destitute of critical warrant; the ἀπειθοῦντες in the Recepta betrays itself as an addition (from Acts 14:2), partly from its being exchanged in several witnesses for ἀπειθήσαντες and partly from the variety of its position (E has it only after πονηρούς).

ἀγαγεῖν] So H, min. Chrys. Theoph. Oec. But D, 104, Copt. Sahid. have ἐξαγαγεῖν (so Born.); A B א, min. Vulg.: προαγαγεῖν (so Lachm.); E: προσαγαγεῖν G, 11 : ἀναγαγεῖν. All of them more definite interpretations.

Acts 17:13. After σαλεύοντες, Lachm. and Born have καὶ ταράσσοντες. So A B D, א, min. and several vss. But σαλ . was easily explained after Acts 17:8 by ταρ. as a gloss, which was then joined by καὶ with the text.

Acts 17:14. ὡς] A B E א, min. have έως, which Lachm. has adopted. But ὡς was not understood, and therefore was sometimes changed into ἕως sometimes omitted (D, min. vss.)

Acts 17:15. After ἤγαγον, Elz. Scholz have αὐτόν, against preponderating testimony. A familiar supplement.

Acts 17:16. θεωροῦντι, Lachm. and Tisch. read θεωροῦντος, which also Griesb. recommended, after A B E, א, min. Fathers. Rightly; the dative is adapted to the αὐτῷ .

Acts 17:18. Instead of αὐτοῖς (which with Lachm., according to witnesses of some moment, is to be placed after εὐηγγελ.) Rinck would prefer αὐτοῦ, according to later codd. and some vss. A result of the erroneous reference of the absolute τὴν ἀνάστασιν to the resurrection of Jesus. The pronoun is entirely wanting in B G א, min. Chrys. So Tisch.; and correctly, both on account of the frequency of the addition, and on account of the variety of the order. In D the whole passage ὅτιεὐηγγελίζετο is wanting, which Born approves.

Acts 17:20. Instead of τί ἄι, A B א, min. vss. have τίνα, and instead of θέλοι : θέλει. Lachm. has adopted both. But TINA was the more easily converted after the preceding τινα into TINA, as ταῦτα follows afterwards. The removal of the ἄν then occasioned the indicative.

Acts 17:21. καὶ ἀχούειν] Lachm. Tisch. Born, read ἀκούειν, which, according to A B D א, Vulg. Sahid. Syr. p. is to be adopted.

Acts 17:23. Instead of ὅν and τοῦτον, A* B D א * loti Vulg. Cant. Or. Jer. have and τοῦτο. So Lachm. Tisch. Born. Rightly; the masculine is an old alteration (Clem. already has it) in accordance with what precedes and follows.

Acts 17:25. ἀνθρωπίνων] Elz. Scholz have ἀνθρώπων, against decisive evidence.

καὶ τὰ πάντα] B G H most min. and some vss. and Fathers have κατὰ πάντα. So Mill, and Matth. An error of transcribers, to whose minds κατὰ πάντα, from Acts 17:22, was still present.

Acts 17:26. αἵματος] is wanting in A B א, min. Copt. Sahid. Aeth. Vulg. Clem. Beda, Lachm. The omission easily took place after ἐνοσ . Had there been a gloss, ἀνθρώπου would most naturally have suggested itself; comp. Romans 5:12 ff.

πᾶν τὸ πρόσωπον] Lachm. Tisch. Born, read παντὸς προσώπου, according to A B D א, min. Clem. But the article is necessary, and in the scriptio continua παντο was easily taken together, and παντος made out of it.

προστεταγμ.] Elz. Born, read προτεταγμ., against decisive testimony. A frequent interchange.

Acts 17:27. κύριον] Griesb. Lachm. read θεόν, according to A B G H א, min. and several vss. and Fathers. So Tisch. and Born. But certainly an interpretation, which was here in particular naturally suggested, as Paul is speaking to Athenians. τὸ θεῖον in D, Clem. Ir. Ambr., inserted from Acts 17:29, is yet more adapted to this standpoint.

χαίτοιγε So א . But B D G H, min. Fathers read καίγε, which Griesb. has recommended, and Lachm. Tisch. Born, have adopted. A E, Clem, read καίτοι. See on Acts 14:17.

Acts 17:30. πᾶσι] A B D** E א, min. Ath. Cyr. and vss. have πάντας . Recommended by Griesb., adopted by Lachm. Born.; and rightly. The dative came in after ἀνθρώποις.

Acts 17:31. διότι] Lachm. Tisch. Born, read καθότι, according to A B D E א, min. and Fathers. Rightly; it was supplanted by the more usual διότι .


Verse 1

Acts 17:1. Amphipolis, an Athenian colony, at that time the capital of Macedonia prima (comp. on Acts 16:12), around which on both sides flowed the Strymon. Apollonia, belonging to the Macedonian province Mygdonia, was situated 30 miles to the south-west. It is not to be confounded with Apollonia in Macedonian Illyria. Thessalonica lay 36 miles to the west of Apollonia—so called either (and this is the most probable opinion) by its rebuilder and embellisher, Cassander, in honour of his wife Thessalonica (Dionys. Hal., Strabo, Zonaras), or earlier by Philip, as a memorial of his subjection of Thessaly (Stephan. Byz., Tzetzes), at an earlier period Therme,—on the Thermaic gulf, the capital of the second district of Macedonia, the seat of the Roman governor, flourishing by its commerce, now the large and populous Saloniki, still inhabited by numerous Jews; see Lünemann on 1 Thess. Introd. § 1.

συναγωγή] Beza held the article to be without significance. The same error occasioned the omission (approved by Buttmann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1860, p. 360) of in A B D א, min. Lachm. But the article marks the synagogue in Thessalonica as the only one in all that neighbourhood. Paul and Silas halted at the seat of the synagogue of the district, according to their principle of attempting their work in the first instance among the Jews.


Verses 2-4

Acts 17:2-4. κατὰ δὲ τὸ εἰωθ. τῷ π.] Comp. Luke 4:16. The construction is by way of attraction ( κατὰ δὲ τ. εἰωθ. αὐτῷ εἰσῆλθεν παῦλος), with anticipation of the subject; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 116 [E. T. 133],

διελέγετο αὐτοῖς] he carried on colloquies with them. Thus frequently in and after Plato, with the dative or πρός (Mark 9:34; Acts 17:17), in which combinations it is never the simple facere verba ad aliquem (in opposition to de Wette), not even in Acts 18:19, Acts 20:7, nor even in Hebrews 12:5, where the paternal παράκλησις speaks with the children. Comp. Delitzsch in loc. p. 612. The form of dialogue (Luke 2:46 f.) was not unsuitable even in the synagogue; Jesus Himself thus taught in the synagogue, John 6:25-59; Matthew 12:9 ff.; Luke 4:16 ff.

ἀπὸ τῶν γραφ.] starting from the Scriptures, deriving his doctrinal propositions from them. Comp. Acts 28:23; Winer, p. 349 [E. T. 465]. Is ἀπὸ τῶν γραφ. to be connected with διελ. αὐτοῖς (so Vulg., Luther, and many others, Winer and de Wette) or with διανοίγων κ. τ. λ. (Pricaeus, Grotius, Elsner, Morus, Rosenmüller, Valckenaer, Kuinoel, Ewald)? The latter is, on account of the greater emphasis which thus falls on ἀπὸ τ. γρ., to be preferred.

διανοίγ-g0-. κ-g0-. παρατιθ-g0-.] Upon what Paul laid down as doctrine (thetically) he previously gave information (by analytical development: διανοίγ., Luke 24:32). Bengel well remarks: “Duo gradus, ut si quis nucleum fracto cortice et recludat et exemtum ponat in medio.”

ὅτι τὸν χριστὸν ἔδει (Luke 24:26) κ. τ. λ. is related to καὶ ὅτι οὗτος κ. τ. λ., as a general proposition of the history of salvation to its concrete realization and manifestation. The latter is to be taken thus: and that this Messiah (no other than He who had to suffer and rise again) Jesus is, whom I preach to you. Accordingly, ἰησοῦς ὃν . κατ. ὑμ. is the subject, and οὗτος χριστός the predicate. By this arrangement the chief stress falls on ἰησοῖς κ. τ. λ., and in the predicate οὗτος (which, according to the preceding, represents the only true Scriptural Messiah) has the emphasis, which is further brought out by the interposition of ἐστί between οὗτος and χριστός.

ἐγώ] emphatic: I for my part. As to the oratio variata, see on Acts 1:4.

προσεκληρ.] is not to be taken as middle (comp. Ephesians 1:11), but as passive: they were assigned (by God) to them (as belonging to them, as μαθηταί). Only here in the N.T.; but see Plut. Mor. p. 738 D Lucian. Amor. 3; Loesner, p. 209 f.

τινεςπολὺ πλῆθος] The proselytes were more free from prejudice than the native Jews.


Verse 5-6

Acts 17:5-6. ζηλώσαντες (see the critical remarks): filled with zeal, and having taken to themselves, namely, as abettors towards producing the intended rising of the people.

ἀγοραῖοι] are market-loungers, idlers, a rabble which, without regular business-avocations, frequents the public places, subrostrani, subbasilicani. See Herod. ii. 141; Plat. Prot. 347 C, and Ast in loc. The distinction which old grammarians make between ἀγοραῖος and ἀγόραιος appears to be groundless from the conflicting character of their statements themselves (Suidas: the former is ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ ἀναστρεφόμενος ἄνθρωπος, the latter ἡμέρα ἐν ἀγορὰ τελεῖται, whereas Ammonius says: the former denotes τὸν ἐν ἀγορᾷ τιμώμενον, the latter τὸν πονηρὸν τὸν ἐν ἀγορᾷ τεθραμμένον); see Göttling, Accentl. p. 297. Comp. Stephanus, Thes. I. p. 430, ed. Paris.

Whether Jason is an originally Hellenic name, or only a Hellenic transformation of the Jewish Jesus, as according to Joseph. Antt. xii. 5. 1 was certainly the case with the high priest in 2 Maccabees 1:7; 2 Maccabees 4:7 ff., remains entirely undecided from our want of knowledge as to the man himself. It was his house before which they suddenly appeared ( ἐπιστάντες, comp. on Luke 2:9), because this was known to them as the place where Paul and Silas were lodged. These two, however, were absent, either accidentally, or designedly after receiving information.

τὸν ἰάσονα κ. τινας ἀδελφ.] as accomplices, and Jason also as such, and at the same time as the responsible host of the insurgents.

πολιτάρχας] like τοὺς ἄρχοντας, Acts 16:19. Designation of the judicial personages acting as magistrates of the city. Boeckh. Inscript. II. p. 53, No. 1967. πολίταρχος is found in Aeneas Tacticus 26; elsewhere in classic Greek, πολίαρχος. Pind. Nem. vii. 123; Eur. Rhes. 381; Dio Cass. xl. 46.

οἱ τὴν οἰκουμ. ἀναστατ.] who have made the world rebellious! The exaggerative character of the passionate accusation, especially after what had already taken place amidst public excitement at Philippi, is a sufficient reason to set aside the opinion that the accusation bears the colouring of a later time (Baur, Zeller); comp. Acts 24:5.

ἀναστατόω, excito (Acts 21:38; Galatians 5:12), belongs to Alexandrian Greek. Sturz, de Dial. Al. p. 146. Comp. ἀναστάτωσις, Poll. iii. 91.


Verse 7

Acts 17:7. ὑποδέδεκται] not secretly, which Erasmus finds in ὑπό, but as in Luke 10:38; Luke 19:6.

As formerly in the case of Jesus the Messianic name was made to serve as a basis for the charge of high treason, so here with the confessors of Jesus ( οὗτοι πάντες) as the Messiah. Comp. Acts 19:12. Perhaps (see 1 and 2 Thess.) the doctrine of the Parousia of the risen (Acts 17:3) Jesus had furnished a special handle for this accusation.

οὗτοι πάντες] “Eos qui fugerant, et quiaderant notant,” Bengel.

ἀπέναντι τῶν δογμάτ. καίσ.] in direct opposition to the edicts of the emperor, which interdicted high treason and guarded the majesty of the Caesar. On ἀπέναντι, comp. Sirach 36:13; Sirach 37:4.

βασιλ. λέγ. ἕτερον εἶναι] βασιλ. in the wider sense, which includes also the imperial dignity, John 19:15; 1 Peter 2:12; Herodian, i. 6. 14.


Verse 8-9

Acts 17:8-9. ἐτάραξαν] This was alarm at revolutionary outrage and Roman vengeance. Comp. Matthew 2:3.

λαβόντες τὸ ἱκανόν] Comp. Mark 15:15, where τὸ ἱκανὸν ποιεῖν τινι is to satisfy one, so that he can demand nothing more. Therefore: after they had received satisfaction, so that for the present they might desist from further claims against the persons of the accused, satisdatione accepta. Comp. Grotius. But whether this satisfaction took place by furnishing sureties or by lodging a deposit of money, remains undecided; certainly its object was a guarantee that no attempt against the Roman majesty should prevail or should occur. This is evident from the relation in which λαβόντες τὸ ἱκανόν necessarily stands with the point of complaint (Acts 17:7), and with the disquietude ( ἐτάραξαν) excited thereby. Therefore the opinions are to be rejected, that λαβ. τ. ἱκ. refers to security that Paul and Silas would appear in case of need before the court (Grotius, Raphel), or that they would be no longer sheltered (Michaelis, Heinrichs, comp. Ewald), or that they should immediately depart (Heumann, Kuinoel). Moreover, it is erroneous, with Luther and Camerarius, to suppose that by τὸ ἱκανόν is meant a satisfactory vindication. Luke would certainly have brought out this more definitely; and λαβόντες denotes an actual receipt of the satisfaction ( τὸ ἱκανόν), as the context suggests nothing else.

Observe, too, how here (it is otherwise in Acts 16:20) the politarchs did not prosecute the matter further, but cut it short with the furnished guarantee, which was at least politically the most prudent course.


Verses 10-12

Acts 17:10-12. διὰ τ. νυκτ.] As in Acts 16:9.

Beroea, a city in the third district of Macedonia, Liv. xvi. 30, to the south-west of Thessalonica. See Forbiger, Geogr. III. p. 1061. Now Verria.

ἀπῄεσαν] ἄπειμι, so frequent in Greek writers, only here in the N.T. Comp. 4 Maccabees 7:8; 2 Maccabees 12:1. They separated, after their arrival, from their companions, and went away to the synagogue.

εὐγενέστεροι] of a nobler character; Plat. Def. p. 413 B, Polit. p. 310 A Soph. Aj. 475; 4 Maccabees 6:5; 4 Maccabees 9:27. Theophyl. after Chrys.: ἐπιεικέστεροι. An arbitrary limitation; tolerance is comprehended in the general nobleness of disposition.

τῶν ἐν θεσσαλ.] than the Jews in Thessalonica.

τὸ καθʼ ἡμέραν] daily. Comp. Luke 11:3; Luke 19:47; Bernhardy, p. 329.

ἀνακρίνοντες τὰς γρ.] searching the Scriptures (John 5:39), namely, to prove: εἰ ἔχοι ταῦτα (which Paul and Silas stated) οὕτως (as they taught). “Character verae religionis, quod se dijudicari patitur,” Bengel.

εὐσχημ.] see on Acts 13:50.

The Hellenic women and men are to be considered partly as proselytes of the gate who had heard the preaching of Christ in the synagogue, and partly as actual Gentiles who were gained in private conversations. Comp. on Acts 11:20.

ἐλληνίδων] construed with γυναικῶν, but also to be referred to ἀνδρῶν. See Matthaei, § 441.

That the church of Beroea soon withered again, is quite as arbitrarily assumed by Baumgarten, as that it was the only one founded by Paul to which no letter of the apostle has come down to us. How many churches may Paul have founded of which we know nothing whatever!


Verses 13-15

Acts 17:13-15. κἀκεῖ] is to be connected, not with ἦλθον (so that then the usual attraction would take place; see on Matthew 2:22), but with σαλεύοντες for not the coming, but the σαλεύειν, had formerly taken place elsewhere.

Acts 17:14. Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away (from the city), that he might journey ὡς ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν. Neither here nor elsewhere is ὡς redundant, but it indicates the definitely conceived purpose of the direction, which he had to take toward the sea (the Thermaic gulf). See Winer, p. 573 f. [E. T. 771]; Hermann, ad Philoct. 56; Ellendt, lex Soph. II. p. 1004. Others (Beza, Piscator, Grotius, Er. Schmid, Bengel, Olshausen, Neander, Lange) render it: as if toward the sea; so that, in order to escape the snares, they took the road toward the sea only apparently, and then turned to the land-route. But in that case Luke, if he wished to be understood, would not have failed to add a remark counter to the mere semblance of the πορ. ἐπὶ τ. θάλ., especially as in what follows nothing necessarily points to a Journey by land to Athens.(61)

τιμόθ.] Where Timothy, supposing him to have remained behind at Philippi (see on Acts 16:40), again fell in with Paul and Silas, is uncertain.

ἐκεί] in Beroea.

Acts 17:15. καθιστάναι to bring to the spot; then, to transport, to escort one.(62) Horn. Od. xiii. 274: τούς μʼ ἐκέλευσα πύλονσε (thus also by ship) καταστῆσαι. Thuc. iv:78, vi:103. 3; Xen. Anal. iv. 8. 8.

ἵνα ὡς τάχιστα κ. τ. λ.] See Acts 18:5, according to which, however, they only joined Paul at Corinth. But this, as regards Timothy, is an incorrect statement, as is clearly evident from 1 Thessalonians 3:1,—a point which is to be acknowledged, and not to be smoothed over by harmonistic combinations (such as Otto, Pastoralbr. p. 61 f., makes) which do not tally with any of the two statements. See Lüinemann on 1 Thessalonians 3:1. According to Baumgarten, Luke has only mentioned the presence of the two companions again with Paul (Acts 18:5) when their co-operation could again take an effective part in the diffusion of the Gospel But it is not their being together, but their coming together, that is narrated in Acts 18:5.


Verse 16

Acts 17:16. παρωξύνετο] was irritated (1 Corinthians 13:5; Dem. 514. 10 : ὠργίσθη καὶ παρωξύνθη) at the high degree of heathen darkness and perversity (Romans 1:21 ff.) which prevailed at Athens.

τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ] comp. John 11:33; John 11:38.

The genitive θεωροῦντος, mentally attached to αὐτοῦ (see the critical remarks): because he saw.

κατείδωλον] fall of images, of idols, not preserved elsewhere in Greek, but formed according to usual analogies ( κατάμπελος, κατάδενδρος, κατάχρυσος, κατάλιθος, al.).

Athens, the centre of Hellenic worship and art, united zeal for both in a pre-eminent degree, and was—especially at that period of political decay, when outward ritual and show in the sphere of religion and superstition flourished among the people alongside of the philosophical self-sufficiency of the higher scholastic wisdom among people of culture—full of temples and altars, of priests and other persons connected with worship, who had to minister at an innumerable number of pompous festivals. See Paus. i. 24. 3; Strabo, x. p. 472; Liv. xlv. 27; Xen. Rep. Ath. iii. 2; and Wetstein in loc.


Verse 17

Acts 17:17. οὖν] namely, impelled by that indignation to counteract this heathen confusion. He had intended only to wait for his companions at Athens, but “insigni et extraordinario zelo stimulatus rem gerit miles Christi,” Bengel. And this zeal caused him, in order to pave the way for Christianity in opposition to the heathenism here so particularly powerful, to enter into controversial discussions (see on Acts 17:2) with Jews and Gentiles at the same time (not first with the Jews, and, on being rejected by them, afterwards with Gentiles).

ἐν τῇ ἁγορᾷ] favours the view that, as usual in Greek cities, there was only one market at Athens (Forchhammer, Forbiger, and others). If there were two markets (so Otfried Müller and others), still the celebrated ἀγορά κατʼ ἐξοχήν is to be understood(63), not far from the Pnyx, the Acropolis, and the Areopagus, bounded by the στοὰ ποικίλη on the west, by the Stoa Basileios and the Stoa Eleutherios on the south, rich in noble statues, the central seat of commercial, forensic, and philosophic intercourse, as well as of the busy idleness of the loungers.


Verse 18

Acts 17:18. That it was Epicureans and Stoics who fell into conflict with him ( συνέβαλλον, comp. Luke 14:31), and not Academics and Peripatetics, is to be explained—apart from the greater popularity of the two former, and from the circumstance that they were in this later period the most numerous at Athens—from the greater contrast of their philosophic tenets with the doctrines of Christianity. The one had their principle of pleasure, and the other their pride of virtue! and both repudiated faith in the Divine Providence. Comp. Hermann, Culturgesch. d. Gr. u. Röm. I. p. 237 f.

The opinion of these philosophers was twofold. Some, with vain scholastic conceit, pronounced Paul’s discourses, which lacked the matter and form of Hellenic philosophy, to be idle talk, undeserving of attention, and would have nothing further to do with him. Others were at least curious about this new matter, considered the singular stranger as an announcer of strange divinities, and took him with them, in order to hear more from him and to allow their fellow-citizens to hear him, to the Areopagus, etc.

τί ἂν θέλοιλέγειν] if, namely, his speaking is to have a meaning. See on Acts 2:12.

σπερμολόγος] originally the rook (Aristoph. Av. 232, 579). Then in a twofold figurative meaning: (1) from the manner in which that bird feeds, a parasite; and (2) from its chattering voice, a babbler (Dem. 269. 19; Athen. viii. p. 344 C). So here, as the speaking of Paul gave occasion to this contemptuous designation. See also Dissen, ad Dem. de cor. p. 297.

δαιμονίων] divinities, quite generally. The plural is indefinite, and denotes the category (see on Matthew 2:20). According to de Wette, it is Jesus the Risen One and the living God that are meant in contrast to the Greek gods,—an element, however, which, according to the subjoined remark of Luke, appears as imported. The judgment of the philosophers, very similar to the charge previously brought against Socrates (Xen. Mem. i. 1. 1), but not framed possibly in imitation of it (in opposition to Zeller), was founded on their belief that Jesus, whom Paul preached and even set forth as a raiser of the dead, must be assumed, doubtless, to be a foreign divinity, whose announcer ( καταγγελεύς, not elsewhere preserved) Paul desired to be. Hence Luke adds the explanatory statement: ὅτι τὸν ἰησοῦν κ. τ. ἀνάστ. εὐηγγ. Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Alexander Moras, Selden, Hammond, Spencer, Heinrichs, Baur,(64) Lange, and Baumgarten, strangely imagine that the philosophers meant the ἀνάστασις as a goddess announced by Paul Comp. also Ewald, p. 494 f. But if Luke had aimed at this by his explanatory remark, he must have indicated it more precisely, especially as it is in itself improbable that the philosophers could, even in mere irony, derive from the words of the apostle a goddess ἀνάστασις, for Paul doubtless announced who would raise the dead. Olearius referred τ. ἀνάστ. not to the general resurrection of the dead, but to the resurrection of Jesus; so also Bengel. But Luke, in that case, in order not to be misunderstood, must have added αὐτοῦ, which (see the critical remarks) he has not done.


Verse 19-20

Acts 17:19-20. ἐπιγαβόμενοι] Grotius aptly says: “manu leniter prehensum.” Comp. Acts 9:27, Acts 23:19. Adroitly confiding politeness. Acts 17:21 proves that a violent seizure and carrying away to judicial examination is not indicated, as Adami (see in Wolf) and others imagined, but that the object in view was simply to satisfy the curiosity of the people flocking to the Areopagus. And this is evinced by the whole proceedings, which show no trace of a judicial process, ending as they did partly with ridicule and partly with polite dismissal (Acts 17:31), after which Paul departed unhindered. Besides, the Athenians were very indulgent to the introduction of foreign, particularly Oriental, worships (Strabo, x. p. 474; Philostr. Vit. Apollon. vi. 7; Hermann, gottesd. Alterth. § 12), provided only there was not conjoined with it rejection of the native gods, such as Socrates was formerly accused of. To this the assertion of Josephus, c. Revelation 2, is to be limited: νόμῳ δʼ ἦν τοῦτο παρʼ αὐτοῖς κεκωλυμένον καὶ τιμωρία κατὰ τῶν ξένον εἰσαγόντων θεὸν ὥριστο θάνατος,—which, perhaps, is merely a generalization from the history of Socrates. And certainly Paul, as the wisdom of his speech (Acts 17:22 ff.) attests, prudently withheld a direct condemnatory judgment of the Athenian gods. Notwithstanding, Baur and Zeller have again insisted on a judicial process in the Areopagus—alleging that the legend of Dionysius the Areopagite, as the first bishop of Athens (Eus. iv. 23), had given rise to the whole history; that there was a wish to procure for Paul an opportunity, as solemn as possible, for the exposition of his teaching, an arena analogous to the Sanhedrim (Zeller), etc.

Concerning the ἆρειος πάγος, collis Martins, so called ὅτι πρῶτος ἆρης ἐνταῦθα ἐκρίθη (Paus. i. 28. 5), the seat of the supreme judicature of Athens, situated to the west of the Acropolis, and concerning the institution and authority of that tribunal, see Meursius, de Areop. Lugd. Bat. 1624; Böckh, de Areop. Berol. 1826; Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 105. 108. On the present locality, see Robinson, I. p. 11 f.; Forbiger, Geogr. III. p. 937 ff.

δυνάμεθα γνῶναι κ. τ. λ.] invitation in the form of a courteous question, by way of securing the contemplated enjoyment.

τίς καινὴ κ. τ. λ] what (as respects its more precise contents) this new doctrine (namely), that which is being announced by you. In the repetition of the article (Stallb. ad Plat. Rep. p. 407 B) there is here implied a pert, ironical emphasis.

ξενίζοντα] startling. ξενίζω οὐ μόνον τὸ ξένον ὑποδέχομαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐκπλήττω. Thom. Mag. Comp. Polyb. iii. 114. 4 : ξενίζουσα πρόσοψις κ. καταπληκτική, Diod. Sic. xii. 53; 2 Maccabees 9:6; 3 Maccabees 7:3.

εἰσφέρεις] namely, whilst you are here, hence the present.

τί ἂν θέλοι ταῦτα εἶναι] see on Acts 17:18; Acts 2:12, and Tittmann, Synon. N.T. p. 129 f. The plural ταῦτα indicates the individual points, after the collective character of which τί inquires. Krüger, § lxi. 8. 2; Stallbaum, ad Plat. Gorg. p. 508 C, Euthyphr. p. 15 A.


Verse 21

Acts 17:21. A remark of Luke added for the elucidation of Acts 17:19-20. But Athenians ( ἀθηναῖοι, without the article: Athenian people) collectively ( πάντες, see Fritzsche, ad Marc. p. 12; Kühner, § 685, note 2), and the strangers resident there, had leisure for nothing else than, etc. εὐκαιρεῖν, vacare alicui rei, belongs to the later Greek. Sturz, de Dial. Al. p. 169; Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 125. The imperfect does not exclude the continuance of the state of things in the present, but interweaves it with the history, so that it is transferred into the same time with the latter; see on John 11:18, and Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. i. 4. 9. Comp. also the pluperfect ἐπεγέγραπτο, Acts 17:23. According to Ewald, Luke actually means an earlier period, when it had still been so in Athens, “before it was plundered by Nero.” But then we should at least have expected an indication of this in the text by τότε or πάλαι, even apart from the fact that such a characteristic of a city is not so quickly lost.

καινότερον] The comparative delineates more strongly and vividly. The novelty-loving (Thuc. iii. 38. 4) and talkative (Wetstein and Valckenaer in loc.) Athenians wished always to be saying or hearing something newer than the previous news. See Winer, p. 228 [E. T. 305]. Comp. Plat. Phaed. p. 115 B Dem. 43. 7; 160. 2.


Verse 22

Acts 17:22. σταθεὶς ἐν μέσῳ] denotes intrepidity.

The wisdom with which Paul here could become a Gentile to the Gentiles, has been at all times justly praised. There is to be noted also, along with this, the elegance and adroitness, combined with all simplicity, in the expression and progress of thought; the speech is, as respects its contents and form, full of sacred Attic art, a vividly original product of the free apostolic spirit.

κατὰ πάντα] in all respects. Comp. Colossians 3:20; Colossians 3:22.

δεισιδαιμονεστέρους] A comparison with the other Greeks, in preference over whom Athens had the praise of religiousness (see Valckenaer, Schol. p. 551): ἀθηναίοις περισσότερόν τι τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐς τὰ θεῖά ἐστι σπουδῆς, Pausan. in Attic. 24. Comp. Soph. O. C. 260; Thuc. ii. 40 f.; Eur. Her. 177. 330; Joseph. c. Ap. i. 12. δεισιδαίμων means divinity-fearing, but may, as the fear of God may be the source of either, denote as well real piety (Xen. Gyr. iii. 3. 58, Agesil. 11. 8) as superstition (Theophr. Char. 16; Diod. Sic. i. 62; Lucian. Alex. 9; Plutarch, and others). Paul therefore, without violating the truth, prudently leaves the religious tendency of his hearers undetermined, and names only its source—the fear of God. Chrysostom well remarks: προοδοποιεῖ τῷ λόγῳ· διὰ τοῦτο εἶπε δεισιδαιμονεστέρους ὑμᾶς θεωρῷ. See on this word, Hermann, gottesd. Alterth. § 8. 6. Mistaking this fine choice of the expression, the Vulgate, Erasmus, Luther, Castalio, Calovius, Suicer, Wolf, and others explained it: superstitiosiores. ὡς: I perceive you as more god-fearing, so that you appear as such. See Bernhardy, p. 333.

ὑμᾶς θεωρῶ] “Magna perspicacia et parrhesia; unus Paulus contra Athenas,” Bengel.


Verse 23

Acts 17:23. διερχόμ.] belongs jointly to τὰ σεβάσμ. ὑμ.

ἀναθεώρ. τὰ σεβ. ὑμ.] attentively contemplating (Hebrews 13:7; Diod. Sic. xii. 15; Plut. Aem. P. 1; Lucian, Vit. auct. 2; comp. ἀναθεώρησις, Cicero, ad Att. ix. 19, xiv. 15 f.) the objects of your worship, temples, altars, images (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Wisdom of Solomon 14:20; Wisdom of Solomon 15:7; Hist. Drag. 27; Dion. Hal. Ant. i. 30, v. 1; Suicer, Thes. II. p. 942).

ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ] That there actually stood at Athens at least one altar with the inscription: “to an unknown god,” would appear historically certain from this passage itself, even though other proofs were wanting, since Paul appeals to his own observation, and that, too, in the presence of the Athenians themselves. But there are corroborating external proofs: (1) Pausan. i. 1. 4 (comp. v. 14. 6) says: in Athens there were βωμοὶ θεῶν τε ὀνομαζομένων ἀγνώστων καὶ ἡρώων; and (2) Philostr. Vit. Apollon. vi. 2 : σωφρονέστερον περὶ πάντων θεῶν εὖ λέγειν, καὶ ταῦτα ἀθήνῃσιν, οὗ καὶ ἀγνώστων θεῶν βωμοὶ ἵδρυνται. From both passages it is evident that at Athens there were several altars, each of which bore the votive inscription: ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ.(65) The explanation of the origin of such altars is less certain. Yet Diog. Laert. Epim. 3 gives a trace of it, when it is related that Epimenides put an end to a plague in Athens by eausing black and white sheep, which he had let loose on the Areopagus, to be sacrificed on the spots where they lay down τῷ προσήκοντι θεῷ, i.e. to the god concerned (yet not known by name), namely, who was the author of the plague; and that therefore one may find at Athens βωμοὺς ἀνωνύμους, i.e. altars without the designation of a god by name (not as Kuinoel, following Olearius, thinks, without any inscription). From this particular instance the general view may be derived, that on important occasions, when the reference to a god known by name was wanting, as in public calamities of which no definite goal could be assigned as the author, in order to honour or propitiate the god concerned ( τὸν προσήκοντα) by sacrifice, without lighting on a, wrong one altars were erected which were destined and designated ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ. Without any historical foundation, Eichhorn, Bibl. III. p. 413 f. (with whom Niemeyer, Interpret. orat. Paul. Act. xvii. 22 ff., Hal. 1805, agreed), supposed that such altars proceeded from the time when the art of writing was not yet known or in use; and that at a later period, when it was not known to what god these altars belonged, they were marked with that inscription in order not to offend any god. Against this may be urged the great probability that the destination of such altars would be preserved in men’s knowledge by oral tradition. Entirely peculiar is the remark of Jerome on Titus 1:12 : “Inscriptio arae non ita erat, ut Paulus asseruit: ignoto Deo, sed ita: Diis Asiae et Europae et Africae, Diis ignotis et peregrinis.(66) Verum quia Paulus non pluribus Diis ignotis indigebat, sed uno tantum ignoto Deo, singulari verbo usus est,” etc. But there is no historical trace of such an altar-inscription; and, had it been in existence, Paul could not have meant it, because we cannot suppose that, at the very commencement of his discourse, he would have made a statement before the Athenians deviating so much from the reality and only containing an abstract inference from it. The ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ could not but have its literal accuracy and form the whole inscription; otherwise Paul would only have promoted the suspicion of σπερμολογία. We need not inquire to what definite god the Athenians pointed by their ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ. In truth, they meant no definite god, because, in the case which occasioned the altar, they knew none such. The view (see in Wolf) that the God of the Jews—the obscure knowledge of whom had come from the Jews to Egypt, and thence to the Greeks—is meant, is an empty dogmatic invention. Baur, p. 202, ed. 2, with whom Zeller agrees, maintains that the inscription in the singular is unhistorical; that only the plural, ἄγνωστοι θεοί, could have been written; and that only a writer at a distance, who “had to fear no contradiction on the spot,” could have ventured on such an intentional alteration. But the very hint given to us by Diogenes Laertius as to the origin of such altars is decisive against this notion, as well as the correct remark of Grotius: “Cum Pausanias ait aras Athenis fuisse θεῶν ἀγνώστων, hoc vult, multas fuisse aras tali inscriptione: θεῷ ἀγνώστῳ, quamquam potuere et aliae esse pluraliter inscriptae, aliae singulariter.” Besides, it may be noted that Paul, had he read ἀγνώστοις θεοῖς on the altar, might have used this plural expression for his purpose as suitably as the singular, since he, in fact, continues with the generic neuter τοῦτο.

On the Greek altars without temples, see Hermann, gottesd. Alterth. § 17.

οὖν ἀγνοοῦντες εὐσεβεῖτε, τοῦτο κ. τ. λ.] (see the critical remarks) what ye therefore (according to this inscription), without knowing it, worship, that (this very object of your worship) do I ( ἐγώ with a self-conscious emphasis) make known unto you. Paul rightly inferred from the inscription that the Athenians, besides the gods (Zeus, Athene, etc.) known to them, recognised something divine as existing and to be worshipped, which was different from these (however, after the manner of heathenism, they might conceive of it in various concrete forms). And justly also, as the God preached by him was another than those known heathen gods (Romans 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 8:4 ff; 1 Corinthians 10:20), he might now say that this divinity, which served them in an unknown manner as the object of worship, was that which he announced to them, in order that it might now become to them γνωστὸς θεός. Of course, they could not yet take up this expression in the sense of the apostle himself, but could only think of some divine being according to their usual heathen conception (comp. Laufs in the Stud. und Krit. 1850, p. 584 f.); but, most suitably to the purpose he had in view, reserving the more exact information for the further course of his address, he now engaged the religious interest of his hearers in his own public announcement of it, and thereby excited that interest the more, as by this ingeniously improvised connection he exhibited himself quite differently from what those might have expected who deemed him a καταγγελεὺς ξένων δαιμονίων, Acts 17:18. Chrysostom aptly remarks in this respect: ὅρα πῶς δείκνυσι προειληφότας αὐτόν· οὐδὲν ξένον, φησὶν, οὐδὲν καινὸν εἰσφέρω.

Observe, also, the conciliatory selection of εὐσεβεῖτε, which expresses pious worship. εὐσεβεῖτε, with the accusative of the object (1 Timothy 5:4; 4 Maccabees 5:23; 4 Maccabees 11:5), is in classical writers, though rare, yet certainly vouched for (in opposition to Valckenaer, Porson, Seidler, Ellendt). See Hermann, ad Soph. Ant. 727. Compare also the Greek ἀσεβεῖν τι or τινα.


Verse 24-25

Acts 17:24-25. Comp. Acts 7:48; Psalms 50:10 ff.; also the similar expressions from profane writers in Grotius and Wetstein, Kypke, II. 89, and the passages cited from Porphyr. by Ullmann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1872, p. 388; likewise Philo, leg. alleg. II. p. 1087.

θεραπεύεται] is served (by offerings, etc.), namely, as regards the actual objective state of the case.

προσδεόμ. τινός] as one, who needed anything in addition,(67) i.e. to what He Himself is and has. Erasmus, Paraphr.: “cum … nullius boni desideret accessionem.” Comp. 2 Maccabees 14:35, and Grimm in loc., p. 199. See on this meaning of the verb especially, Dem. xiv. 22; Plat. Phil. p. 20 E and on the distinction of προσδεῖσθαί τινος and τι, Stallb. ad Plat. Rep. p. 342 A.

αὐτὸς διδοὺς κ. τ. λ.] a confirmatory definition to οὐδὲτινός: seeing that He Himself gives, etc.

πᾶσι] to all men, which is evident from the relation of αὐτὸςπάντα to the preceding οὐδὲτινός.

ζωὴν κ. πνοήν] The former denotes life in itself, the latter the continuance of life, which is conditioned by breathing. ἔμπνους ἔτʼ εἰμὶ κ. πνοὰς θερμὰς πνέω, Eur. Herc. f. 1092. The dying man φρίσσει πνοάς (Pind. Nem. x. 140) ἐκπνεῖ. Erasmus correctly remarks the jucundus concentus of the two words. Comp. Lobeck, Paral. p. 58; Winer, p. 591 [E.T. 793]. Others assume a hendiadys, which, as regards analysis (life, and indeed breath) and form (namely, that the second substantive is subordinate, and must be converted into the adjective), Calvin has correctly apprehended: vitam animalem. But how tame and enfeebling!

καὶ τὰ πάντα] and (generally) all things, namely, which they use.

Chrysostom has already remarked how far this very first point of the discourse (Acts 17:24-25) transcends not only heathenism in general, but also the philosophies of heathenism, which could not rise to the idea of an absolute Creator. Observe the threefold contents of the speech: Theology, Acts 17:24 f; Anthropology, Acts 17:26-29; Christology, Acts 17:30 f.


Verses 24-29

Acts 17:24-29. Paul now makes that unknown divinity known in concreto, and in such a manner that his description at the same time exposes the nullity of the polytheism deifying the powers of nature, with which he contrasts the divine affinity of man. Comp. Romans 1:18 ff.


Verse 26-27

Acts 17:26-27. “The single origin of men and their adjusted diffusion upon the earth was also His work, in order that they should seek and find Him who is near to all.”

ἐποίσεκατοικεῖν] He has made that, from (proceeding from) one blood, every nation of men should dwell upon all the face of the earth (comp. Genesis 11:8). Castalio, Calvin, Beza, and others: “fecitque ex uno sanguine omne genus hominum, ut inhabitaret” (after ἀνθρ. a comma). Against this is the circumstance that ὁρίσας κ. τ. λ. contains the modal definition, not to the making (to the producing) of the nations, but to the making-them-to-dwell, as is evident from τῆς κατοικίας αὐτῶν; so that this interpretation is not according to the context.

ἐξ ἑνὸς αἵματος] See, respecting αἷμα as the seat of life propagating itself by generation, on John 1:13. Paul, by this remark, that all men through one heavenly Father have also one earthly father, does not specially oppose, as Stolz, Kuinoel, and others, following older interpreters, assume, the belief of the Athenians that they were αὐτόχθονες (see Wetstein in loc.); the whole discourse is elevated above so special a polemic bearing. But he speaks in the way of general and necessary contrast to the polytheistic nature-religions, which derived the different nations from different origins in their myths. Quite irrelevant is what Olshausen suggests as the design of Paul, that he wished to represent the contempt in which the Jews were held among the Greeks as absurd.

ἐπὶ πᾶν τὸ πρόσωπ. τ. γῆς] refers to the idea of the totality of the nations dwelling on the earth, which is contained in πᾶν ἔθνος (every nation).

ὁρίσας] Aorist participle contemporaneous with ἐποίησε, specifying how God proceeded in that ἐποίησε κ. τ. λ: inasmuch as He has fixed the appointed periods and the definite boundaries of their (the nations’) dwelling. τῆς κατοικ. αὐτ. belongs to both—to προστετ. καιρ., and to τὰς ὁροθ. God has determined the dwelling ( κατοικία, Polyb. v. 78. 5; Strabo, v. p. 246) of the nations, according both to its duration in time and to its extension in space. Both, subject to change, run their course in a development divinely ordered. Comp. Job 12:23. Others take προστετ. καιρ. independently of τ. κατοικ. αὐτ. (so Baumgarten); but thereby the former expression presents itself in perplexing indefiniteness. The sense of the epochs of the world set forth by Daniel (Baumgarten) must have been more precisely indicated than by the simple καιρούς. Lachmann has separated προστεταγμ. into πρὸς τεταγμένους unnecessarily, contrary to all versions and Fathers, also contrary to the reading προτεταγμ. in D* Iren. interpr.

ὁροθεσία is not elsewhere preserved, but τὸ ὁροθέσιον; see Bornemann.


Verse 27

Acts 17:27. The divine purpose in this guidance of the nations is attached by means of the telic infinitive (Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 224 [E. T. 261]): in order that they should seek the Lord, i.e. direct their endeavours to the knowledge of God, if perhaps they might feel Him (who is so palpably near) and find Him. Olshausen thinks that in ζητεῖν is implied the previous apostasy of mankind from God. But the seeking does not necessarily suppose a having lost; and since the text does not touch on an earlier fellowship of man with God (although that is in itself correct), the hearers, at least, could not infer that conclusion from the simple ζητεῖν. The great thought of the passage is simply: God the Author, the Governor, and the End of the world’s history: from God, through God, to God.

ψηγαφεὕροιεν] Paul keeps consistently to his figure. The seeker who comes on his object touches and grasps it, and has now in reality found it. Hence the meaning without figure is: if perchance they might become conscious of God and of their relation to Him, and might appropriate this consciousness as a spiritual possession. Thus they would have understood the guidance of the nations as a revelation of God, and have complied with its holy design in their own case.(68) The problematic expression ( εἰ ἄραγε, if they at least accordingly; see Klotz, ad Devar. pp. 178, 192) is in accordance both with the nature of the case (Bengel: “via patet; Deus inveniri potest, sed hominem non cogit”), and with the historical want of success (see Romans 1:18 ff., and comp. Baumg. p. 550 ff.); for the heathen world was blinded, to which also ψηλαφ. points—a word which, since the time of Homer, is very frequently used of groping in the dark or in blindness (Od. ix. 416; Job 5:14); comp. here especially, Plato, Phaed. p. 99 B.

καίτοιγε κ. τ. λ.] although certainly He (Acts 14:17; John 4:2) does not at all require to be first sought and found, as He is not far (for see Acts 17:28) from every one of us. Comp. Jeremiah 23:23. This addition makes palpably evident the greatness of the blindness, which nevertheless took place.


Verse 28

Acts 17:28. Reason assigned ( γάρ) for οὐ μακρ. ἀπὸ ἑνὸς κ. τ. λ., for in Him we live, we move, and we exist. Paul views God under the point of view of His immanence as the element in which we live, etc.; and man in such intimate connection with God, that he is constantly surrounded by the Godhead and embraced in its essential influence, but, apart from the Godhead, could neither live, nor move, nor exist. Comp. Dio Chrys. vol. I. p. 384, ed. Reiske: ἅτε οὐ μακρὰν οὐδʼ ἔξω τοῦ θείου διῳκισμένοι, ἀλλʼ ἐν αὐτῷ μέσῳ πεφυκότες κ. τ. λ. This explanation is required by the relation of the words to the preceding, according to which they are designed to prove the nearness of God; therefore ἐν αὐτῷ must necessarily contain the local reference—the idea of the divine περιχώρησις (which Chrysostom illustrates by the example of the air surrounding us on all sides). Therefore the rendering per eum (Beza, Grotius, Heinrichs, Kuinoel), or, as de Wette more correctly expresses it, “resting on Him as the foundation” (comp. already Chrysostom: οὐκ εἶπε· διʼ αὐτοῦ, ἀλλʼ ἐγγύτερον ἦν, ἐν αὐτῷ), which would yield no connection in the way of proof with the οὐ μακρὰν εἶναι of the Godhead, is to be abandoned. In opposition to the pantheistic view, see already Calvin. It is sufficient to urge against it—although it was also asserted by Spinoza and others—on the one hand, that the transcendence of God is already decidedly attested in Acts 17:24-26, and on the other, that the ἐν αὐτῷ ζῶμεν κ. τ. λ. is said solely of men, and that indeed in so far as they stand in essential connection with God by divine descent (see the following), in which case the doctrine of the reality of evil (comp. Olshausen) excludes a spiritual pantheism.

ζῶμεν κ. κινούμεθα κ. ἐσμέν] a climax: out of God we should have no life, not even movement (which yet inanimate creatures, plants, waters, etc. have), nay, not even any existence (we should not have been at all). Heinrichs and others take a superficial view when they consider all three to be synonymous. Storr (Opusc. III. p. 95), on the other hand, arbitrarily puts too much into ζῶμεν: vivimus beate ac hilare; and Olshausen (after Kuinoel), too much into ἐσμέν: the true being, the life of the spirit. It is here solely physical life and being that is meant; the moral life-fellowship with God, which is that of the regenerate, is remote from the context.

τινες τῶν καθʼ ὑμᾶς ποιητ.] Namely, Aratus (of Soli in Cilicia, in the third century B.C.), Phaenom. 5, and Cleanthes (of Assos in Mysia, a disciple of Zeno), Hymn. in Jov. 5. For other analogous passages, see Wetstein.

The acquaintance of the apostle with the Greek poets is to be considered as only of a dilettante sort(69) (see Introduction to the Epistle to the Romans, § 1); his school-training was entirely Jewish, but he was here obliged to abstain from O.T. quotations.

τῶν καθʼ ὑμᾶς ποιητ.] Of the poets pertaining to you, i.e. your poets. See Bernhardy, p. 241.

τοῦ γὰρ καὶ γένος ἐσμέν] The first half of a hexameter, verbatim from Aratus l.c.; therefore γὰρ καί is not to be considered in logical connection with the speech of the apostle, but as, independently of the latter, a component part of the poetical passage, which he could not have omitted without destroying the verse. Nam hujus progenies quoque sumus: this Paul adduces as a parallel ( ὡς καί τινεςεἰρήκασι) confirming to his hearers his own assertion, ἐν αὐτῷ ζῶμενἐσμέν. As the offspring of God, we men stand in such homogeneity to God, and thus in such necessary and essential connection with God, that we cannot have life, etc. without Him, but only in Him. So absolutely dependent is our life, etc. on Him.

τοῦ] Here, according to poetical usage since the time of Homer, in the sense of τούτου. See Kühner, § 480, 5; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 198. Paul has idealized the reference of the τοῦ to Zeus in Aratus.

In the passage of Cleanthes, which was also in the apostle’s mind, it is said: ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν, where γένος is the accusative of more precise definition, and means, not kindred, as with Aratus, but origin.


Verse 29

Acts 17:29. Since, then, we (according to this poetical saying) are offspring of God, so must our self-consciousness, kindred to God, tell us that the Godhead has not resemblance to gold, etc. We cannot suppose a resemblance of the Godhead to such materials, graven by human art, without denying ourselves as the progenies of God.(70) Therefore we ought not ( οὐκ ὀφείλομεν). What a delicate and penetrating attack on heathen worship! That Paul with the reproach, which in οὐκ ὀφείλομεν κ. τ. λ. is expressed with wise mildness (Bengel: “clemens locutio, praesertim in prima persona plurali”), does no injustice to heathenism, whose thinkers had certainly in great measure risen above anthropomorphism, but hits the prevailing popular opinion ( πρὸς τοὺς πολλοὺς λόγος ἦν αὐτῷ, Chrysostom), may be seen in Baumgarten, p. 566 ff.

γένος] placed first and separated from τ. θεοῦ, as the chief point of the argument. For, if we are proles Dei, and accordingly homogeneous with God, it is a preposterous error at variance with our duty to think, with respect to things which are entirely heterogeneous to us, as gold, silver, and stone, that the Godhead has resemblance with them.

χαράγματι τέχν. κ. ἐνθυμ. ἀνθρώπου] a graven image which is produced by art and deliberation of a man (for the artist made it according to the measure of his artistic meditation and reflection): an apposition to χρυσῷ κ. τ. λ., not in the ablative (Bengel).

τὸ θεῖον] the divine nature, divinum numen (Herod. iii. 108, i. 32; Plat. Phaedr. p. 242 C, al.). The general expression fitly corresponds to the discourse on heathenism, as the real object of the latter. Observe also the striking juxtaposition of ἀνθρώπου and τὸ θεῖον; for χαράγμ. τέχν. κ. ἐνθ. ἀνθρ. serves to make the οὐκ ὀφείλομεν νομίζειν still more palpably felt: inasmuch as metal and stone serve only for the materials of human art and artistic thoughts, but far above human artistic subjectivity, which wishes to represent the divine nature in these materials, must the Godhead be exalted, which is not similar to the human image, but widely different from it. Comp. Wisdom of Solomon 15:15 ff.


Verse 30-31

Acts 17:30-31. It is evident from Acts 17:29 that heathenism is based on ignorance. Therefore Paul, proceeding to the Christological portion of his discourse, now continues with μὲν οὖν: the times, therefore, of ignorance (for such they are, according to Acts 17:29) God having overlooked, makes known at present to all men everywhere to repent.

ὑπεριδών] without noting them with a view to punishment or other interference. Comp. Dion. Hal. v. 32. Opposite of ἐφορᾶν. See also on Romans 3:25; Acts 14:16. The idea of contempt (Vulg.: despiciens), although otherwise linguistically suitable, which Castalio, de Dieu, Gataker, Calovius, Seb. Schmid, and others find in the expression, partly even with the observation: “indignatione et odio temporum … correptus” (Wolf), is at variance with the cautiousness and moderation of the whole speech.

πᾶσι πανταχοῦ] a popular hyperbolical expression; yet not incorrect, as the universal announcement was certainly in course of development. Comp. Colossians 1:23. On the juxtaposition of πᾶσι παντ., see Lobeck, Paralip. p. 56 f.

καθότι (see the critical remarks): in accordance with the fact that He has appointed a day. It denotes the important consideration, by which God was induced τανῦν παραγγέλλειν κ. τ. λ. Comp. Acts 2:24.

ἐν δικαιοσ.] in righteousness (so that this is the determining moral element, in which the κρίνειν is to take place), i.e. δικαίως (1 Peter 2:23). Paul means the Messianic judgment, and that as not remotely impending.

ἐν ἀνδρι] i.e. in the person of a man, who will be God’s representative.

ὥρισε κ. τ. λ.] a well-known attraction: whom He ordained (namely, for holding the judgment), having afforded faith (in Him as a judge) to all, by the fact that He raised Him from the dead. The πίστιν παρέχειν (see Wetstein and Kypke in loc.) is the operation of God on men, by which He affords to them faith,—an operation which He brought to bear on them historically, by His having conspicuously placed before them in the resurrection of Jesus His credentials as the appointed judge. The resurrection of Jesus is indeed the divine σημεῖον (comp. John 2:18 f.), and consequently the foundation of knowledge and conviction, divinely given as a sure handle of faith to all men, as regards what the Lord in His nature and destination was and is; and therefore the thought is not to be regarded as “not sufficiently ideal” (de Wette) for Paul; comp. on Acts 2:36, Acts 4:27, Acts 10:38, Acts 13:33. The ὁρίζειν is not, as in Acts 10:42, the appointment which took place in the counsel of God, but that which was accomplished in time and fact as regards the faith of men, as in Romans 1:4. Moreover, the πίστιν παρέχειν, which on the part of God took place by the resurrection of Jesus, does not exclude the human self-determination to accept and appropriate this divine παρέχειν; comp. on Romans 2:4. πίστιν παρέχειν may be rendered, with Beza and others (see especially Raphel, Polyb. in loc.), according to likewise correct Greek usage: to give assurance by His resurrection, but this commends itself the less, because in that case the important element of faith remains without express mention, although it corresponds very suitably to the παραγγέλλει μετανοεῖν, Acts 17:30. The conception and mode of expression, to afford faith, is similar to μετάνοιαν διδόναι, Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, yet the latter is already more than παρέχειν (potestatem facere, ansam praebere credendi).


Verse 32

Acts 17:32. As yet Paul has not once named Jesus, but has only endeavoured to gather up the most earnest interest of his hearers for this the great final aim of his discourse; now his speech is broken off by the mockery of some, and by a courteous relegation to silence on the part of others.

ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν] a resurrection of dead persons, as Paul had just asserted such a case. The plural denotes the category; comp. on Romans 1:4. To take it of the general rising of the dead at the day of judgment, is quite at variance with the context. That, moreover, the οἱ μέν were all Epicureans, and the οἱ δέ Stoics, as Grotius, Wolf, and Rosenmüller supposed, cannot be proved. Calvin, Grotius, Wolf, Rosenmüller, Alford, and others hold ἀκουσόμεθά σου παλ. περὶ τούτου as meant in earnest. But would not Paul, if he had so understood it, have remained longer in Athens? See Acts 18:1.

The repellent result, which the mention of the resurrection of Jesus brought about, is by Baur (comp. Zeller) supposed to be only a product of the author, who had wished to exhibit very distinctly the repulsive nature of the doctrine of the resurrection for educated Gentiles; he thinks that the whole speech is only an effect fictitiously introduced by the author, and that the whole narrative of the appearance at Athens is to be called in question—“a counterpart to the appearance of Stephen at Jerusalem, contrived with a view to a harmless issue instead of a tragical termination,” Zeller. But with all the delicacy and prudence, which Paul here, in this ἑλλάδος ἑλλάς (Thucyd. epigr., see Jacobs, Anthol. I. p. 102), had to exercise and knew how to do so, he could not and durst not be silent on the resurrection of Jesus, that foundation of apostolic preaching; he could not but, after he had done all he could to win the Athenians, now bring the matter to the issue, what effect the testimony to the Risen One would have. If the speech had not this testimony, criticism would the more easily and with more plausibility be able to infer a fictitious product of the narrator; and it would hardly have neglected to do so.


Verse 33-34

Acts 17:33-34. οὕτως] i.e. with such a result.

κολληθέντες αὐτῷ] having more closely attached themselves to him. Comp. Acts 5:13, Acts 9:26.

ἀρεοπαγ.] the assessor of the court of Areopagus. This is to be considered as the well-known distinctive designation (hence the article) of this Dionysius in the apostolic church. Nothing further is known with certainty of him. The account of Dionysius of Corinth in Eus. H. E. iii. 4, iv. 23, comp. Constitt. ap. vii. 46. 2, that he became bishop of Athens, where he is said to have suffered martyrdom (Niceph. iii. 11), is unsupported. The writings called after him ( περὶ τῆς οὐρανίας ἱεραρχίας κ. τ. λ.), belonging to the later Neoplatonism, have been shown to be spurious. According to Baur, it was only from the ecclesiastical tradition that the Areopagite came into the Book of Acts, and so brought with him the fiction of the whole scene on the Areopagus.

δάμαρις] wholly unknown, erroneously held by Chrysostom to be the wife of Dionysius (which is just what Luke does not express by the mere γυνή). Grotius conjectures δάμαλις (juvenca), which name was usual among the Greeks. But even with the well-known interchange of λ and ρ (Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 179), we must assent to the judgment of Calovius: “Quis nescit nomina varia esse, ac plurima inter se vicina non tamen eadem.” As a man’s name we find δαμαρίων in Boeckh, Inscr. 2393, and δαμάρης, 1241, also δαμάρετος in Pausan. v. 5. 1; and as a woman’s name, δαμαρέτη, in Diod. xi. 26.

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Acts 17:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/acts-17.html. 1832.

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