PASSED THROUGH: Sw Luk 8:1: prob including some time
preaching in each city. Also sw Gen 13:7 LXX: Abraham surveying the Land of
AMPHIPOLIS: "Mentioned once in the NT (Acts 17:1). This
city was visited by Paul on his second missionary journey. It was called
Amphipolis ('surrounded city') because the site on which it was located was
enclosed on three sides by the Strymon River which curved around it, the east
side being open. According to Thucydides, a wall protected this E side, and it
was strengthened and enlarged at various times. He mentions that the town was
valuable for 'the timber that afforded for ship building'... The coins of
Amphipolis during Paul's time frequently depict Artemis Tauropolis riding on a
bull, indicating the close contact the area had with Asia, being located only
three miles from the Mediterranean. No archaeological work has been carried on
as yet at Amphipolis (which reaches back to the 1st century AD), though a
Byzantine-period Christian complex has been discovered" (WyE).
APOLLONIA: "Apollonia of Mygonia in Macedonia was one
of the dozen or so towns of this name in the ancient world... There were three
Macedonian towns of this name. The one referred to in Acts 17:1 was situated
south of Lake Bolbe.
"According to Strabo, Cassander took the people from
Apollonia, as well as other surrounding cities, and settled them in Thessalonica
when he built that town for his wife (daughter of Philip of Macedonia) and named
it after her... The apostle Paul passed through Apollonia in his second
missionary journey as he traveled the Egnatian Way from Philippi to
Thessalonica, a distance of c 85 miles. It was c 34 miles from Philippi to
Amphipolis, 21 from Amphipolis to Apollonia , and 30 from Apollonia to
Thessalonica. The whole district of Macedonia was much more fertile and
prosperous than the region around Athens. The economic importance of this area
is not generally recognized, but is quite obvious to the modern traveler.
Adequate rainfall accounts for the lush aspect of this region. Apollonia (modern
Pollina) is still settled by a small handful of people" (WyE).
THESSALONICA: Thessalonica was built on the site of the
ancient town of Therma; its original name was derived from the hot springs
("thermae") which still exist in the region. It became a place of some
importance when rebuilt and renamed by Cassander, a general under Alexander the
Great who claimed Macedonia for his own when the Grecian Empire was broken up at
Alexander's death. (The city was named by Cassander in honor of his wife, the
daughter of Philip of Macedon and sister to Alexander the Great.) Beginning,
then, about 300 BC, Thessalonica rapidly became one of the leading cities of the
region of Macedonia (in northeastern Greece -- the area which also included
Philippi, Amphipolis, Apollonia and Berea).
When, in 167 BC, the Romans took over Macedonia, Thessalonica
became one of the four regional capitals, and later, after a reorganization, the
capital city of the whole province. Thus it was successively a center of Greek
culture and politics, and a Roman administrative center. If we add to this the
inevitable Jewish contingent to be found in commercial centers and seaports, we
have in Thessalonica a very volatile mix of three distinctive, and often
mutually antagonistic, cultures.
In 42 BC, Thessalonica became a "free city", that is, one
where the local inhabitants had their own government and rights of citizenship
(compare the way Paul speaks of his hometown Tarsus -- Acts 21:39; 22:27,28).
The local magistrates were called "politarchs", a title that appears in Acts
17:6,8 and is attested in inscriptions discovered at the site. Luke's every use
of technical terms for various local rulers and dignitaries, and hence his
reputation as a flawless historian, has by now been confirmed from secular
Under the government of Rome the city continued to advance in
prosperity; its prominent location, on the Via Egnatia, or Egnatian highway, was
a primary cause of its commercial success. Cicero wrote of the Thessalonians as
"placed in the lap of the Empire." The Via Egnatia carried traffic across from
the Aegean Sea on the east to the Ionian Sea on the west, where it connected
with sea crossings to Italy and Rome. This may explain, at least on geographical
terms, the words of Paul: "From you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in
Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place" (1Th 1:8).
In Thessalonica many ways met, both literally and culturally.
From this center it was likely, as Paul saw it, that the word of the Lord would
have "free course (ie, 'run' or 'speed on') and be glorified" (2Th
The site of the city also was fine and commanding. It rose
from the harbor like an amphitheater, covering a sloping hill from which one
might look out toward the southwest, over the Thermaic Gulf and toward the
Aegean Sea. On the opposite shore of the gulf, on the horizon rose fabled
Olympus, home of the Greek "gods".
THE CHRIST HAD TO SUFFER: "It was necessary" (Mat
AND NOT A FEW PROMINENT WOMEN: In Thessalonica, a
cosmopolitan city, women enjoyed a relatively great freedom.
"Just as at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, the Jews who did not
believe the gospel were incensed at the Gentiles' response to Paul's preaching
and with his direct approach to them. So they stirred up a riot. Their plan was
to bring Paul and Silas before 'the assembly of citizens' and 'the politarchs'
on a charge of disturbing the Pax Romana by preaching a 'religio illicita'
[illegal religion] and by advocating another king in opposition to Caesar"
Vv 5-9 explain 1Th 2:18: "Satan stopped us."
SOME BAD CHARACTERS FROM THE MARKETPLACE: "Agoraios":
"the market folks, who sat and sold things in the market, and were generally of
the meaner and vulgar sort, as the word may signify; or who stood idle in the
market place, squandering away their time in an idle manner, not caring to work,
and so were fit persons, and who could easily be gathered together, for such
service as the unbelieving Jews employed them in; or they were a sort of
officers and servants, that attended courts of judicature, and cited persons
thither, and assisted in the business done there, and who were commonly men of
profligate and abandoned lives" (Gill).
...But when they could not find the missionaries at Jason's
house -- evidently because Jason and some others who believed their message had
hidden them away -- they dragged Jason and some other Christian brothers before
CITY OFFICIALS: "Politarches": This Greek word is only
found here and in v 8. However, archaeological finds at Thessalonica show that
this is precisely the word that was used to describe the rulers in
JASON: Gr for Joshua; probably a Diaspora Jew who
became one of Paul's first converts at Thessalonica.
CAUSED TROUBLE: "Anastatoo": to sigh deeply: cp Act
21:38; Gal 5:12. To disturb, trouble, upset, or even cause a
Lit, "who have turned the world upside down" (AV). That
unusual phrase may have been used with reference to what had been heard about
happenings at Philippi -- two men shut up, then a violent earthquake bringing
city buildings to the ground. Or did those Jews mean that their world was being
turned upside down by a message which proclaimed that Jews were no longer a
nation of special religious privilege? The grace of God was now offered freely
to Gentiles also. (They may have heard Paul using such Scriptures as Eze 21:27
and Isa 29:16,17 with reference to the rejection of Jewry.)
BEREA: "A city of southern Macedonia in the district of
Emathia. The region about Berea was watered by the Haliacmon. A few miles to the
se this river left the Olympian range and flowed into the Thermaic Gulf. Berea
was c 50 miles sw of Thessalonica, the chief metropolis of Macedonia at this
time; 30 miles south of Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great; and c 20
miles west of the Thermaic Gulf. Leake... describes the town as beautifully
situated and states that its modern name is Verria. In NT times it was evidently
a prosperous city with a Jewish colony.
"Paul and Silas found their way to Berea when pressure forced
them out of Thessalonica (Acts 17:10). They had hoped to return to Thessalonica,
but since this was not permitted (1Th 2:18), they made their way to Athens,
where Timothy later met them. Apparently Paul and Silas had a rather brief stay
in Berea, but it cannot be exactly determined how many days they were there.
Ramsay, however, conjectures that Paul and Silas stayed in Berea some months
(PTRC 234). The Jews in Berea were more open minded than those in Thessalonica,
listening eagerly to Paul's message and studying the Scriptures to see if what
he said was really true (Acts 17:11).
"Finally, Paul and Silas were forced to leave Berea due to
rabble-rousers who stirred up the people against these apostles (Acts 17:13-14).
Acts 20:4 mentions that Sopater, one of Paul's close friends and fellow
travelers, was from Berea" (WyE).
A wonderful example (cp Prov 25:2; Joh 5:39). "Test
everything" (1Th 5:21). They exemplified: (1) open minds; (2) recognition of
need; (3) searching minds; (4) daily application; and (5) enthusiasm.
Timothy was evidently summoned by Paul from Philippi (Act
WHILE PAUL WAS WAITING FOR THEM: Poss ill health has
forced a cessation of activity.
GREATLY DISTRESSED: "Roused to anger" (Vine).
There seems to have been no response from the synagogue in
Athens, not even persecution. This suggests the enervating influence of worldly
wisdom and decadence, prevailing in Athens.
EPICUREAN: "The Epicureans taught that the supreme good
is pleasure or happiness (Gr 'hedone': cp Engl 'hedonist'); but it is the
pleasure of the mind and the entire life, not the indulgence of momentary whims
and instincts. Consequences of all actions should be considered before indulging
in the activity. Epicurus was not a sensualist as is often charged. He denied
providence, miracles, prophecy, and immortality, though modern writers claim he
was not an atheist. Epicurus repudiated astrology and taught that religion was
superstition; that to be happy one must be delivered from the fear of the gods"
STOIC: "The name was derived from stoa (porch) at
Athens where Zeno lectured. The most influential philosophy of the Hellenistic
period, it embraced elements of the Socratic, Aristotelian, and Cynic schools,
Essentially it was a rational pantheism though with rare approximations to
monotheism. In Stoicism God was not a personal Being but a spiritual force or
soul-power immanent in men and things. He was given many names -- Logos or
Reason, Nature, Providence, divine Spirit et al. His substance was the whole
world and the heavens. An elaborate pantheon was developed to agree with God's
total immanence. The highest good was to follow reason or virtue, suppress the
emotions, and conduct oneself according to what nature wills. In the end there
was reabsorption into the world Soul, but no individual immortality"
BABBLER: Gr "spermologos". Primarily an adjective, it
came to be used as a noun sig a crow, or some other bird, picking up seeds
(sperma, "a seed," lego, "to collect"). Then it seems to have been used of a man
accustomed to hang about the streets and markets, picking up scraps which fall
from loads; hence a parasite, who lives at the expense of others, a hanger on.
Metaphorically it became used of a man who picks up scraps of information and
retails them secondhand, a plagiarist, or of those who make a show, in
unscientific style, of knowledge obtained from misunderstanding lectures. Ramsay
points out that there does not seem to be any instance of the classical use of
the word as a "babbler" or a mere talker. He finds in the word a piece of
Athenian slang, applied to one who was outside any literary circle, an ignorant
"A word originally used of birds picking up grain, then of
scrap collectors searching for junk, then extended to those who snapped up ideas
of others and peddled them as their own without understanding them, and finally
to any ne'er-do-well" (EBC). Vincent has "seed-picker." Findlay has
FOREIGN GODS: Gr "xenon daimonion". The Greeks thought
that Jesus and the resurrection ("Anastasis") were two human spirits which Paul
ADVOCATING FOREIGN GODS: "A preacher of foreign
divinities" (RSV). The Greeks reserved the word "god" ("theos") for members of
the original pantheon. Other, lesser "gods" were called "demons"!
AREOPAGUS: "Philosophers of Athens brought Paul to the
Areopagus to hear an explanation of his teachings. Areopagus (Acts 17:19) is the
equivalent of Mars Hill (Acts 17:22), for Mars was the Roman name for the god of
war and Ares the Gr name. Actually Areopagus could signify a 377-foot hill in
Athens nw of the acropolis, or the name of the venerable council which
traditionally had met on the hill. By Paul's day the council did sometimes meet
in the marketplace, or 'agora', but the Gr (of Acts 17:19) prob should be
translated 'up to' and seems to signify that this meeting took place on the
hill. Acts 17:19 prob ref to the hill and Acts 17:22 to the council (' in the
midst of Mars hill' is an impossible rendering of the Gr)" (WyE).
The philosopher's corner in Athens was like a great
"supermarket" of the "gods"!
// Isa 45: Yahweh versus the false "gods"!
Vv 22,23: The KJV of Paul's speech to the Athenians has some
rather misleading translations: Paul did not really insult his audience by
calling them "too superstitious" (KJV); instead, he won a sympathetic hearing by
remarking that they were "very religious". Furthermore, the word translated
"devotions" does not mean religious services; rather "sebasma" signifies "object
of worship". Nor should it be supposed that Paul was so rude as to say, "Whom
you IGNORANTLY worship" (v 23, KJV); instead, the RSV rightly has: "Whom ye
worship as UNKNOWN".
VERY RELIGIOUS: Gr "deisis" (to fear) and Gr
"daimonion" (demon). Paul makes no reference to a personal devil, but to their
belief in deified departed human spirits.
ALTAR: "Thusiasterion" is that on which one offers a
thusia, a sacrifice or offering. Accordingly, it may describe either the altar
of burnt offering or the altar of incense. But in this, the only place where the
NT refers to a pagan altar, a different word, "bomos" (that to which one
ascends), is employed. The LXX is not consistent in this distinction.
TO AN UNKNOWN GOD: "Later the second-century geographer
Pausanias (Description of Greece 1.1.4) and the third-century philosopher
Philostratus (Life of Apollonius Tyana 6.3.5) were to speak of altars to unknown
gods at Athens, by which they meant either altars to unknown deities generally
or altars to individual unknown gods. But while there is insufficient evidence
for us to know the number of such altars at Athens or what their dedicatory
inscriptions were, it is not surprising that Paul came across such an altar in
walking about the city. Paul used the words of the inscription to introduce his
call to repentance" (EBC).
See Lesson, Unknown God. Possibly, an oblique ref to Yahweh,
the God of Israel, whose name would not typically be spoken at all by devout
God supplies all things for His creation: Psa 104:24-30;
145:15,16. He is absolutely supreme: Acts 14:15; Isa 66:1,2; Eze 18:4; Job 41:1;
Heb 3:4; Dan 4:17; Psa 83:18; Mic 4:13; Eph 4:6; Rev 4:11; Jer 27:5; Psa 22:28.
God is a glorious spirit being: John 4:24. All life is in His hands: Eccl 12:7;
AND DOES NOT LIVE IN TEMPLES BUILT WITH HANDS: Prob
while saying this, Paul pointed to the majestic Parthenon, which towered above
AND HE IS NOT SERVED BY HUMAN HANDS: "Served" is Gr
"therapeuo": to wait upon menially -- as the "priests" cleaned and polished the
images of their "gods"!
FROM ONE MAN HE MADE EVERY NATION: "Contrary to the
Athenians' boast that they had originated from the soil of their Attic homeland
and therefore were not like other men, Paul affirms the oneness of mankind in
their creation by the one God and their descent from a common ancestor" (EBC).
Lit, Paul is saying that all nations are the descendants of Adam, and Noah (Gen
9:20; 11:8). But, spiritually, he is saying all men may be created "from one
blood [the shed blood of Christ!]", and thus made one (new) creation, no matter
to which nation they belong!
THE TIMES SET FOR THEM: God rules (Dan 4:17; Heb 11:2).
He has set times (Psa 102:13), until... (Luk 21:24): ie, a predetermined end to
THE EXACT PLACES WHERE THEY SHOULD LIVE: "The bounds of
their habitation" (AV). "From these the maritime peoples spread out into their
territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language"
(Gen 10:5). "When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he
divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the
number of the sons of Israel" (Deu 32:8).
REACH OUT: "Pselaphao": to manipulate, ie, verify by
contact; to grope, as a blind man! Figuratively, to search for.
FOR IN HIM WE LIVE AND MOVE AND HAVE OUR BEING: From a
quatrain attributed to the Cretan poet Epimenides (c 600 BC), which appeared
first in his poem Cretica and is put on the lips of Minos, Zeus' son, in honor
of his father: "They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one -- the
Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies! But thou art not dead; thou
livest and abidest for ever, for in thee we live and move and have our
WE ARE HIS OFFSPRING: From the Cilician poet Aratus (c
315-240 BC): "It is with Zeus that every one of us in every way has to do, for
we are also his offspring" -- which is also found in Cleanthes' (331-233 BC)
earlier Hymn to Zeus. "By such maxims, Paul is not suggesting that God is to be
thought of in terms of the Zeus of Greek polytheism or Stoic pantheism. He is
rather arguing that the poets his hearers recognized as authorities have to some
extent corroborated his message. In his search for a measure of common ground
with his hearers, he is, so to speak, disinfecting and rebaptizing the poets'
words for his own purposes. Quoting Greek poets in support of his teaching
sharpened his message. But despite its form, Paul's address was thoroughly
biblical and Christian in its content" (EBC).
To whom was Aratus the Cilician poet referring? See Lesson,
"O Lord God in heaven above, merciful and gracious Father,
what can we render to Thee for Thy goodness? Thou hast appointed a day in which
Thou wilt judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ! Blessed be Thy holy
name. We shall all be judged before his tribunal and not man's. Then the hidden
things of men shall be brought to light, and their secret thoughts shall be
unveiled, to their justification or reproof! Thou God seest us all, for all
hearts are open before Thee! If Thou beholdest any thing in me displeasing in
Thy sight, let me fall into Thy hands, and not into the hands of those who
thirst for my destruction! Grant me patience to endure their unrighteousness,
and by fidelity and perseverance to overcome the iniquity of their doings; and
may the word of the truth concerning the hope of the glorious gospel of Jesus be
established in these countries; and may those who now oppose it, in ignorance
and unbelief, find mercy of Thee, repenting of their waywardness, and purifying
their hearts by faith, that they may be accepted when the Lord comes! 'Forgive
them, for they know not what they do'; and may we all at length find an abundant
entrance into the kingdom of the future age, to the glory of the great
Immanuel's name! Amen! Amen!" (Prayer of JT, quoted in Prot 175,176).
DIONYSIUS, A MEMBER OF THE AREOPAGUS: Or simply "the
Areopagite" in AV. As "the Areopagite" he was a prominent citizen, being one of
the 12 judges forming the highest council. Allegedly eminent in Athens for
literary ability (SB 14:175). His name is the same as the pagan god of wine and