reasoned: Paul did not simply tell them the good news. He explained it and presented proof from the Scriptures, that is, from the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. He did more than read the Scriptures; he reasoned from them, and he adapted his reasoning to his audience. The Greek verb di·a·leʹgo·mai has been defined as “to engage in an interchange of speech; to converse; to discuss.” It denotes interacting with people. This Greek word is also used at Ac 17:17; 18:4, 19; 19:8, 9; 20:7, 9.
proving by references: The Greek word literally means “to put alongside (place beside).” This may imply that Paul carefully compared the Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures with the events of Jesus’ life, showing how Jesus had fulfilled those prophecies.
the city rulers: Lit., “politarchs,” meaning “rulers of the citizens.” This Greek term (po·li·tarʹkhes) is not found in classical Greek literature. Yet, inscriptions bearing this title, some dating to the first century B.C.E., were uncovered in the Thessalonica area as well as elsewhere in the province of Macedonia. These findings confirm the Acts account and the reliability of Luke as a historian.
carefully examining: Or “thoroughly studying.” The Greek term a·na·kriʹno has been defined as “to sift; to divide up; to separate.” It is sometimes used in the sense of conducting a judicial hearing. (Lu 23:14; Ac 4:9; 28:18; 1Co 4:3) Therefore, in this context, it conveys the idea of doing careful and exact research as in a legal process. The examination done by the Jews in Beroea was therefore not superficial; they probed carefully to confirm that what Paul and Silas were teaching from the Scriptures about Jesus as the long-promised Messiah was true.
the marketplace: Located NW of the Acropolis, Athens’ marketplace (Greek, a·go·raʹ) covered 5 ha (12 ac) or so. The marketplace was much more than a location for buying and selling. It was the center of the city’s economic, political, and cultural life. Athenians enjoyed meeting at this center of public life to engage in intellectual discussions.
the Epicurean . . . philosophers: Followers of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.E.), they taught that experiencing pleasure was the ultimate goal in life. The Epicureans believed in the existence of gods but thought that the gods had no interest in humans and would neither reward nor punish them, so prayer or sacrifice was useless. The Epicureans’ thinking and actions were devoid of moral principle. They urged moderation, however, on the grounds that it would prevent the negative consequences of overindulgence. And they believed that knowledge should be sought only to rid a person of religious fears and superstition. Neither the Epicureans nor the Stoics believed in a resurrection.—See study note on the Stoic philosophers in this verse.
the Stoic philosophers: A Greek school of philosophers who believed that happiness consists of living in accord with reason and nature. In their estimation, the truly wise man was indifferent to pain or pleasure. The Stoics believed that all things were part of an impersonal deity and that the human soul emanated from such a source. Some Stoics held that the soul would eventually be destroyed along with the universe. Other Stoics believed that the soul would ultimately be reabsorbed by this deity. Neither the Stoics nor the Epicureans believed in a resurrection.—See study note on the Epicurean . . . philosophers in this verse.
chatterer: Lit., “seed picker.” The Greek word used here, sper·mo·loʹgos, was applied to a bird that picks up seeds. Figuratively, it was used in a derogatory sense of a person who picks up scraps by begging or stealing or of an unqualified, unsophisticated person who repeats scraps of knowledge, an idle babbler. In effect, those learned men were saying that Paul was ignorantly chattering about things he did not really understand.
the Areopagus: Or “Hill of Ares.” Ares was the Greek god of war. Located NW of the Acropolis, the Areopagus was the traditional meeting place of the chief council of Athens. The term “Areopagus” may refer to the actual hill or to the council. (Ac 17:34) Therefore, some scholars feel that Paul was brought to this hill or nearby to be questioned, while other scholars believe that he was taken to a meeting of the council held elsewhere, perhaps at the agora. Because Ares corresponds to the Roman god Mars, some translations refer to this place as “Mars’ Hill.”
staying: Or “visiting.” The Greek word used here, e·pi·de·meʹo, has been defined “to stay in a place as a stranger or visitor.”
To an Unknown God: The Greek words A·gnoʹstoi the·oiʹ were part of an inscription on an altar in Athens. The Athenians expressed their fear of deities by building many temples and altars, even making altars to abstract deities, such as Fame, Modesty, Energy, Persuasion, and Pity. Perhaps fearing that they might omit a god and thereby incur that god’s disfavor, they dedicated an altar “to an Unknown God.” By means of such an altar, the people admitted the existence of a God about whom they knew nothing. Paul skillfully used the presence of this altar as a basis for his preaching to introduce his audience to the God—the true God—who until then was unknown to them.
the world: The Greek word koʹsmos is closely linked with mankind in secular Greek literature and particularly in the Bible. (See study note on Joh 1:10.) In secular Greek writings, however, the term was also used to refer to the universe and to creation in general. It is possible that Paul, who was trying to establish common ground with his Greek audience, here used the term in that sense.
handmade temples: Or “temples made by human hands.” The Greek word khei·ro·poiʹe·tos is also used at Ac 7:48 and Heb 9:11, 24, where it is rendered “made with hands.” Unlike the Greek goddess Athena or the other deities whose glory depended on temples, shrines, and altars made by humans, the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth cannot be contained in physical temples. (1Ki 8:27) The true God is grander than any idols found in man-made temples. (Isa 40:18-26) Paul may have made this comment because he saw the many temples, shrines, and sanctuaries devoted to various deities.
we have life and move and exist: Some suggest that this statement reflects a Greek rhetorical style called tricolon, which uses three parallel words to express a thought. Philosophers Plato, Sophocles, and Aristotle used this technique. Others suggest that this was an allusion to a poem by Epimenides, a Cretan poet of the sixth century B.C.E.
some of your own poets: Paul apparently quoted the expression “for we are also his children” from the poem Phaenomena, by the Stoic poet Aratus, and similar words are found in other Greek writings, including Hymn to Zeus, by the Stoic writer Cleanthes. Paul may have quoted Greek poets because educated speakers were expected to offer classical quotations among their proofs.
the inhabited earth: Here the Greek word for “inhabited earth” (oi·kou·meʹne) is used in a broad sense and refers to the earth as the dwelling place of mankind. (Lu 4:5; Ro 10:18; Re 12:9; 16:14) In the first century, this term was also used in reference to the vast Roman Empire, where the Jews had been dispersed.—Ac 24:5.
guarantee: Or “proof.” Lit., “faith.” The Greek word piʹstis, most often rendered “faith,” is apparently used in this context to convey the idea of a proof that gives reason for complete confidence in something promised.
who was a judge of the court of the Areopagus: Or “an Areopagite,” that is, a member of the council or court of the Areopagus.—See study note on Ac 17:19.