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)
After their initial remarks about Paul’s preaching and teaching, the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers took him and brought him to the Areopagus. They stated, “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.”
The Areopagus was located on a hill northwest of the Acropolis in Athens overlooking the marketplace (Acts 17:19). “Areopagus” also refers to the Athenian council or court that met there. The irregular limestone outcropping was also known as Mars Hill, Mars being the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Ares.
The Tyndale Bible Dictionary explains that, “Paul was taken to the Areopagus after he had been reasoning with Jews and God-fearing Gentiles in the Athenian synagogue and marketplace (agora) for several days (Acts 17:16–21). Some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers involved in those discussions brought Paul before the council but evidently not for an official arraignment. Trials were held at the Areopagus; there, some five centuries earlier, Socrates had faced those who accused him of deprecating the Greek gods.”
It appears that Paul went before the council. The council met in order to supervise the city’s education, morals and religion and also to make sure that any new teachings did not pose a threat to the state. Therefore, Paul was compelled to present the Gospel so that the council might pass judgment upon it.
However, the people were also curious. Luke’s comment bears this out when he wrote, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:24).
As we will see, the overall tone of Paul’s address to the council does not suggest judicial proceedings. He spoke as an intelligent Christian who was able to converse with the intellectual Athenians on their own intellectual level (Acts 17:22–31).
More to come.
Soli deo Gloria!