Acts 17:22-28

22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;

23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:

24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.

25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.

26 And He has made from one blood* every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,

27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

Men of Athens (v.22) — the way many Greek orators began their speeches — Paul was adapting to his audience.

perceive (v.22) — close observation as in verse 16 where it is translated “saw”

religious (v.22) = lit. “fearing the gods” — given to the worship of many deities

considering (v.23) — same word as “perceive” in verse 22, but with a prefix that adds the meaning “again and again”

We have evidence from Pausanias and Philostratus, who both knew Athens at a period a little later than Pauls’ visit, that there were altars there erected “for unknown gods,” so that we may well believe that the one which the apostle saw was not the only one of the kind. They were probably erected in consequence of some visitation or trouble by worshipers who did not know to what deity they should address their invocations. Paul made this inscription the text, so to speak, of his sermon. He used the Athenian worshiper’s confessed ignorance of the name and character of the deity whom he addressed as the point of approach to the souls of his hearers. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, page 378

Who the Unknown God Is — Paul unfolds the truth of God as a Person. He is a personal God and as such He made the world and all things therein. This truth was not owned by the Epicureans or the Stoics. The Epicureans with their atomic theory, that the universe came together by itself, and the Stoics with their cold Pantheism denied this fundamental truth. This bold announcement effectually set aside the philosophical babblings of these wise men, and these few words completely answer the modern Materialists and Pantheists. With the next sentence Paul lays bare the follies of paganism. As Lord of heaven and earth, because He is the Creator, He does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor can He be worshiped with men’s hands as though he needed anythings. In this statement he leaned towards the expressions used by the Epicureans, who declared that the divine nature is self sufficiency and needs nothing from us. But at the same time he rebukes the Stoics by showing that God giveth to all life, and breath and all things. He is the Preserver as well as the Creator. Next Paul shows that God created man and that all nations of men are made by Him of one blood. this was not believed in paganism. Polytheism was closely connected with the conception that the different races came into existence in different ways. The various races therefore had different racial gods. The Greeks had divided the world into two classes, Greeks and Barbarians. That they, the proud Greeks, had sprung from the same stock as the Barbarians must have humbled them greatly. It rebuked their national pride. All the Apostle said to the cultured Greeks, the great philosophers was elementary. The most simple truth about God and the origin of man could not be discovered by the keenest intellect. How all this bears out the divine statement in Romans 1:21-22. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Arno C. Gaebelein, pages 307-308.

“This One, whom you worship as unknown,” said the apostle, “I declare to you.” There is an evident allusion here to their charge in verse 18, for the word “declare” in verse 23 is the same as “set forth” in verse 18. They said: “He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods (Lit. demons or divinities). He now replies: “I set forth the true God (Gr. Theos, God) whom you worship as unknown.” thus he pleads “not guilty” to their charge of introducing “strange divinities.” — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, page 104.

Him I proclaim (v.23) — “Him” as distinguished from other gods; “I” as distinguished from their champions. Both words are emphatic in the Greek. — Stam. page 105

blood (v.26) — not in most manuscripts. The idea probably should be that from one person God made all men.

For we are also his offspring. (v.28) — This is a quotation from the Greek poet Aratus (270 B.C.), a Stoic from Paul’s own Cilicia. Almost identical words occur in the hymn to Zeus of Cleanthes (300 B.C.) which is a sort of Stoic creed. While the apostle takes stanzas thus from Greek writers, he is not to be considered in any way endorsing all the views they held. He merely uses their own confessions of a truth which they only dimly realized in order to lead on his hearers into clearer light. Similar quotations from the Greek classics occur in 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12, showing the apostle’s acquaintance with them. — Walker, page 382.

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