Daily Word

Paul appalled | Acts 17:16-21

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 (ESV) 中文


The second missionary journey is what Paul and Silas (plus Luke and Timothy) are on. After visiting a few of the churches from the first journey, God directed them to new territory in Macedonia, modern-day Europe. God blessed their work with converts – including a jailer who guarded them (and his household). In Thessalonica and Berea, the replay button is pressed and they’re kicked out of town.

Paul appalled

Now Paul is in Athens by himself – having left Silas and Timothy in Berea to wrap things up. It’s quite a hike from Berea. Verse 15 tells us some from Berea escorted him all the way – probably by boat. “The city had reached its prime 500 years before Paul visited it, in the time of Pericles (461-429 B.C.). During that era the events of the Book of Nehemiah transpired (c. 445-420 B.C.) and the post-exilic prophets (Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) ministered.” (Finegan quoted in planobiblechapel.org) Paul was appalled by the amount of idolatry he saw there.

Paul reasoned

Paul, true to form, heads to the synagogue and reasons with the Jews and God-fearing Greeks. What seems to be new this time is that he also headed to the markets and reasoned with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. We’ll see in the next passage that Paul was very astute in how he reasoned with them. Some thought he was just babbling, maybe as if crazy. Others were interested, if only intellectually, in what new teaching he had.

News junkies

These Athenians were known for many gods. They were also known as news junkies. Athenians lived for new information – even making it their daily life.  They brought Paul to the Areopagus to hear him more fully. This was a location (in Roman society called Mars Hill) but also a council of city elders – likely to vet his teaching to see if it was true – or possibly poisonous to society.


  • Paul was certainly a go-getter. He never stopped. He knew the desperate state all mankind was in and that he had the good news answer. Do we have this kind of passion, this burden for souls? When we walk down the street or talk with a non-saved friend, do we see their soul and pray, and open our mouths to share the truth?
  • In an effort to witness, Paul educated himself on the religions and philosophies of the people around him. Not just Jews, like him, but the gentile Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.
Mars Hill, Athens. Image from livingpassages.com *

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