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4-9 MAY 2001




[Updated: 19.04.2001]



Hellenic Republic
Ellinikì Dimokratìa


Acts 17, 15-34.  Athens was known for its temples honoring many deities.  Philosophy flourished in the city.  During his Second Missionary Journey (Acts 15, 36 - 18, 23), which started and finished in Antiochia (Syria), lasted from 49 to 52, St. Paul brought the Gospel to the public places of Athens, the intellectual metropolis of hellenism.  His preaching met with mixed results.  Some were curious, others were skeptical.


Atene - Agora

Agora: marketplace of Athens.  The building on the right is the Stoa of Attalus.

Acts 17, 16-18 says that St. Paul spoke in the agora or marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.  Some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (the two prevailing philosophical systems) debated with him:

"(...) in Athens (...) his whole soul was revolted at the sight of a city given over to idolatry.  In the synagogue he debated with the Jews and the godfearing, and in the marketplace he debated every day with anyone whom he met.  Even a few Epicurean and Stoic philosophers argued with him.  Some said, 'What can this parrot mean?'  And, because he was preaching about Jesus and Resurrection, others said, ' He seems to be a propagandist for some outlandish gods".

Athens - Areopagus

Areopagus: the hill of Ares, a hill at Athens, at the south of the Agora, where the Athenian supreme council held its sessions; hence, the council itself.

Acts 17, 19-34 tells about the sermon of St. Paul the Apostle at the Areopagus, the only sample of his preaching to gentiles, in which he combats paganism by the use of secular wisdom.  The text may be understood in two ways: either the philosophers lead St. Paul "on to (the hill of the) Areopagus", away from the city center for easier listening, or (preferably) they lead him "before (the council of) the Areopagus".  After a solemn introduction, St. Paul develops his proclamation of the true God by opposition to gentile conceptions.  The speech ends with a call to repentance in the perspective of judgment.  Both parts of the speech are aimed against idolatry:

"They got him to accompany them to the Areopagus, where they said to him, 'Can we know what this new doctrine is that you are teaching?  Some of the things you say seemed startling to us and we would like to find out what they mean'.  The one amusement the Athenians and the foreigners living there seem to have is to discuss and listen to the latest ideas.
So Paul stood before the whole council of the Areopagus and made his speech: 'Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because, as I strolled around looking at your sacred monuments, I noticed among other things an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God.  In fact, the unknown God you revere is the one I proclaim to you.
Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of  Heaven and Earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands.  Nor is he in need of anything, that should be served by human hands; on the contrary, it is he who gives everything - including life and breath - to everyone.  From one simple principle he not only created the whole human race so that they could occupy the entire earth, but he decreed the times and limits of their habitation.  And he did this so that they might seek the deity and, by feeling their way towards him, succeed in finding him; and indeed he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said:
We are all his children.
Since we are the children of God, we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by a man.
But now, overlooking the times of ignorance, God is telling everyone everywhere that they must repent, because he has fixed a day when the whole world will be judged in uprightness by a man he has appointed.  And God has publicly proved this by raising him from the dead'.
At this mention of rising from the dead, some of them burst out laughing; others said, 'We would like to hear you talk about this another time'.  After that Paul left them, but there were some who attached themselves to him and became believers, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman called Damaris and others besides".


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