Paul at the Areopagus – Acts 17:22ff

Notice the “benches” carved out of the Granite. Historians tell us the outside benches on the edge of the Areopagus provided the seating to listen to “non-Areopagus” members like Paul. The Epicureans and Stoics (Acts 17:18) had the privilege of addressing the Areopagus in an indoor structure built behind the carved steps.

So, imagine the listeners seated where the girl in the photo is relaxing and enjoying the view of the Acropolis. The next photo shows what they saw.

Please excuse my selfie, but this is the exact view the Areopagus members had as they listened to Paul in his address recorded in Acts 17. Pay careful attention. This is one of the instances where the scenery and the resulting photos from that location, illustrate and enhance the message.

Take a break from this blog. Read Acts 17 in light of the pictures and the historic setting.

Did you grasp the emphasis? Let me help, so I make sure you catch Paul’s facts.

Paul proclaimed in Acts 17:24, “the God who made the world and everything in it (continuing) to be Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands as though He needed anything...”

Ok, now the history lesson. Remember we are not talking about the time of the ancient Greeks. The Roman Empire had conquered Greece but they identified the acropolis and Parthenon with its temple of Athena as a self-evident holy place. Thus, they did not destroy the Parthenon or Acropolis – and this made the Greeks very proud. They had this exceptionally constructed holy temple, filled with cultic servants (a kind way of referring to the temple helpers and famous “others”). In addition to the human servants – and so that Athena would never be unattended – there where 390 “kurioi,” (life-sized human figures of the finest artwork) attending Athena day and night!

With the Acopolis in full view over his shoulder while standing on the external “bema” – speakers platform; and with the famous Parthenon rising above the Acropolis wall, and with its hundreds of day and night attendants, the Apostle declares, “the God who made the world and everything in it (continuing) to be Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands as though He needed anything...”!

But, he isn’t finished! Paul goes on to say, v29, “we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” — And the eyes of all listeners would rise to behold 40 foot tall, gold covered, Athena Promachos standing just to the left of the tree in the photo!

And there is the point! The Apostle Paul confronts their religious worldview directly. As we might say, “he calls them out!” Then, to not leave them hopeless, Paul points his listeners to heed God’s command to repent, v30. Here, Paul invokes the only hope for sparing the judgment of God. “For The Creator God has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man (not a temple or an image) whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead, v 31.

Brothers and Sisters, God is not worshipped through religious forms, no matter how historic and nostalgic they may be. God is worshipped through the righteousness of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. The Apostle by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit promises assurance through faith in the resurrected Christ.

And … some mocked, some said they would listen again, but others believed, among whom are Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and and others — others of that day, and ours. Oh the mercy of God, by the acoustics of faith, we too know Jesus and the assurance God granted by raising Him from the dead and giving hope in Christ Jesus.

*for reference see the following illustrations:

“The Acropolis at Athens,” Leo von Klenze, 1846


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