16 “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” (Acts 17:16-21)
Athens, Greece was the intellectual and cultural epicenter of the first-century world. Paul would have been comfortable in this setting. He grew up in the educational center of Tarsus. The leading Jewish thinkers and scholars in Jerusalem had taught him as a young student. Although Athens was no longer the political and commercial center since Rome conquered it in 146 B.C., it remained in Paul’s day the center of art, literature and Greek philosophy.
The Tyndale Bible Commentary explains that, “Athens began its rise to glory in the sixth century bc, first under the leadership of Solon (d. 559 bc), who established democratic forms of government, and later under Pericles (d. 429 bc), when the magnificent buildings of the Acropolis took form. In this golden age, Athens became the center of philosophy, art, architecture, and drama.”
“By the time Paul brought the Christian message to Athens (Acts 17:15–34), the city had only a portion of its former glory and prestige. Roman emperors continued to extend patronage by providing for new buildings and the restoration of the Agora (marketplace). Athens continued to be the home of the most prominent university in the Greek world. Both Epicurean and Stoic philosophy had worthy representatives in the city.”
However, Paul’s spirit (mind, emotions and will) was provoked within him as he travelled in the city. He was angered, irritated and distressed. Why? Paul saw that Athens was full of idols. The city was dominated with images to false gods. While Luke does not say exactly how many idols there were in the city, they dominated the city’s landscape.
It seems that our own country and cities today are also full of images to idols. Everywhere you look there are pictures and other depictions of people, places and things that are portrayed as worthy of honor, praise and/or worship. What examples come to your mind?
More to come at hiswortoday.org. Have a blessed day as you serve, honor and worship the one, true God of the Bible. May each of us adhere to the command found in I John 5:21: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
Soli deo Gloria!