Paul S Preaching In Athens Essay, Research Paper
Before Paul went to Athens, he was in Berea preaching God s word. However, there were many furious Jews that were hunting down Paul, so he avoided them and went to Athens, waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him. While Paul was waiting in Athens, he talked to anyone that crossed paths with him.
Athens was known for it s magnificent buildings and many gods, as well as being the center for Greek culture, philosophy, and education. In addition, many philosophers and educated men were always ready to hear something new, and Paul was a good candidate for teaching something new.
In Acts (17:18, 19), Paul was invited to speak at the meeting of Areopagus, which met on a low hill in Athens near the acropolis (Life Application Bible, p.1995). The NIV Study Bible (p. 1683) suggests that Areopagus means hill of Ares (Ares was the Greek god of thunder and war).
The men who invited Paul to speak at the Areopagus were the dominating philosophers in Greek culture. They were called the Epicureans and Stoics. The Epicureans, according to Stephen L. Harris in the New Testament: A Student s Introduction (p. 29), believe that everything is entirely physical or material, and that the soul dies with the body. In addition, the Epicureans believed that seeking happiness or pleasure was the primary goal of life (Life Application Bible, p. 1996). The Epicureans believed that gods might exist, but have no contact with or interest in human beings (Harris, p. 29). The Stoics, however, placed thinking above feeling and tried to live in harmony with nature and reason, restraining from the desire for pleasure (Life Application Bible, p. 1995). Furthermore, the Stoics practiced self-control (Harris, p.28) and were very disciplined (Life Application Bible, p. 1996).
Since Paul was very upset to see all of the idols in Athens, the meeting at the Areopagus was a great opportunity to give his views. More importantly, Paul s audience was eager to hear his new ideas.
Beginning in verse 22, Paul preaches in the meeting of the Areopagus, using a very intriguing technique to gain the audience s attention/respect. Paul was well prepared to speak to the people. In fact, he had the training and knowledge to present his beliefs clearly and persuasively. In addition, Paul knew the Scriptures well because he had spent much of his life thinking and reasoning through them. Paul was a rabbi, taught by the finest scholar of his day, Gamaliel (Life Application Bible, p. 1996). Being equipped with the adequate tools, Paul was ready to present his views.
In my opinion, the address by Paul is a good example of how to communicate the gospel. He began building a case for the one true God (17:22, 23). Then he established common ground by emphasizing what they agreed on about God (17:24-29). Finally, he moved his message to Christ, centering on the resurrection (17:30, 31).
Paul first stated that he could see in every way that they (the Athenians) were very religious. I think that statement caused Paul to gain the respect of the audience because it was a compliment. Paul then said an altar saying TO AN UNKNOWN GOD, caught his attention. The Athenians built this altar for fear of missing blessings or receiving punishment. Paul used the inscription as an entry for his witness to the one true God.
Paul stated in verses 24-29 that God is the Creator (not the creation), and he (Paul) emphasized what they agreed on about God. I found it interesting how Paul explained the one true God to these educated men; although these men were very religious, they did not know God. This could be a reference to Christians today to not assume that even religious people know Jesus or understand the importance of faith in him.
Paul then wrapped things up by saying that God has set a day when the entire human race will be judged, and he raised Jesus from the dead. I think it is very interesting how Paul did not leave his message unfinished. He confronted his listeners with the resurrection of Jesus and its meaning to all people (either blessing or punishment). In addition, the Greeks had no concept of judgement and preferred worshiping many gods instead of just one.
Paul offended many people with the concept of resurrection. I was interested to see that Paul sided with the philosophers, presenting beliefs that were shared among them. Then many disagreed with Paul when he presented the belief of resurrection. However, the disagreement didn t cause Paul to hold back from the truth. I found it brilliant how Paul often changed his approach to fit his audience, but he never changed his basic message.
After the audience heard the phrase raising him from the dead, they did one of two things: Some laughed at him and walked off making jokes; others wanted to hear more. However, Paul left. There were two people among others that were convinced by Paul. One person was Dionysius, which some said that he became bishop of Athens (NIV Study Bible, p. 1683). Also, a woman named Damaris. According to the NIV Study Bible (p. 1683), some have suggested that she must have been a foreign, educated woman to have been present at a public meeting such as the Areopagus. Furthermore, it is suggested that Damaris was a God-fearing Gentile who had heard Paul at the synagogue.
Some probably thought that Paul was not successful at Athens because he presented his beliefs and left (convincing a few people). However, in Paul s mind, one person being convinced was probably a success because there were many people that doubted Paul. In addition, Paul was fortunate enough not to be persecuted (hurt or killed) because he had been through many difficult situations when preaching the gospel.
Overall, it is intriguing to see how Paul attempted to persuade the educated men in Athens. Although there were many open minds in Athens, Paul had to be extremely bold when speaking of the resurrection because many thought resurrection of the dead was absurd. In addition, Paul could ve easily feared being persecuted or rejected by the philosophers. However, he spoke in faith and in boldness, not worrying about the consequences he could possibly suffer.
Since many men were hunting down Paul, he was in great danger of being hurt or killed. But Paul decided to keep going from place to place because he believed the gospel he preached was that important. I was interested to see how Paul waited for Timothy and Silas to join him in Athens, but (at the same time) kept doing what he had been blessed with. Furthermore, Paul left Athens with more believers than what he came with. In my opinion, Paul s preaching in Athens was successful even though many people hated him for believing in the resurrection of the dead.