Now we will pay careful attention to the words Luke records for us here. But before we start, ask yourself the question where did the words of the speech come from. Luke wasn’t there to record them, besides that he didn’t have a recorder. We know that he had left them with the last mention of “we” heading to Philippi. So Luke was not with Paul in Athens. It is also conjecture as to whether the others had joined him by the time he was standing in the middle of Areopagus. Mostly likely not. It is more likely that Paul was on his own without the team there. Besides even if they had made it to Athens at this time (and it was unlikely) they would not likely have accompanied him before the Areopagus. So who told Luke what to write when it came to recording for us the words of Paul’s speech?
So Paul standing before the council,
addressed them as follows
“Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way,
Paul says he has observed or noticed [theoreo], paid attention to what he has seen in his walk around Athens, the Agora and more, that Athenians are very religious in all matters relating to the gods. The literal term is in “all matters relating to the fear of the gods”. He was clearly not talking to the members of the Areopagus about their religious practices but more the things he had observed about all Athenians around the city. The likeliest scenario is Paul referred to their desire to talk about religious things all day long in the Agora and the fact that there are idols and idol offerings all over the city. Paul uses the word [deisidaimonesterous] not as some suggest “too superstitious” but in the sense “more than others, you Athenians are respectful of the divine”. The comparative is intense but not carrying the sense of “too” but “very”. Paul is not meaning that the Athenians are over the top when it comes to religion, but more giving respect to all the gods. His underlying meaning was that they must have been open to inquiry about truth when it relates to the gods. Then he singles out the fact that he saw an altar or shrine to an unknown god.
“For example as I (Paul) was walking around, I saw your many shrines to the gods, and one even “To an Unknown God”.
for as I was walking along
I saw your many shrines
And one of your altars had this inscription on it:
To an Unknown God.’
The verb for seeing this altar to the unknown god has changed from [theoreo] to [anatheoreo]. The first verb has the sense of seeing or observing; the second verb is indication of an investigative look, a close examination when he (Paul) came across the altar to the unknown god. This altar bore an inscription which was [epegrapheto] inscribed in the Greek perfect tense or English pluperfect tense. The sense is quite likely to refer to an ancient inscription on a decaying altar which has long been forgotten.
The term [Agnosto Theo] is indicative of the Athenians attention to cover all the bases when it comes to the gods. That is they don’t want to leave any gods out, but rather ensure they have all the bases covered. They wanted to make sure there was not a possibility they had left out a god they should be paying homage to. The word of the inscription is interesting. It is not “to some Unknown God” but rather to a certain unknown god, of whom the Athenians know nothing of his name, power and actions or characteristics. The Athenians had multiple gods categorized and labelled as to who they were and what their name and power consisted of. Seemingly they knew their other deities by name and nature but not this one. Paul then picks up on the significance of this and tells these leaders of the Areopagus that he can tell them about this god who was both known and unknown. It was illegal to teach foreign gods to the Athenians. But Paul has seized on the evidence that although they had an altar to this God, the altar was not being cared for and observed. He was not about to teach them religio illicita but rather religio licita. He would tell them about the God they haven’t yet come to know. This is in contrast to the people’s reference to him being a babbler – one who talks about deities in ignorance. Paul has switched positions on them and told them he can tell them about the God they worship but don’t know.
– – – – This God
whom you worship
is the one I’m telling you about.
Apathy is the acceptance of the unacceptable. Reject apathy. Embrace integrity.Anon
To run from God is not only disobedient; it’s ultimately self-destructive.Anon
Jesus is the cosmic glue that holds the universe and all reality together.Ian Vail
Logos (Word) is the power / aspect of the universe that holds everything together in harmony and unity.Heraclitus
Logos represents the order behind all that is unpredictable.Anon