4. Gospel expansion into Greece, 16:1-20:38

iv] The mission to Athens


Paul continues his second missionary journey, moving from Philippi to Thessalonica and finally to Athens. In this foremost of Greek cities, Paul proclaims the gospel, first in the local synagogue, then daily in the market place. The local administrators then invite him to speak of his beliefs at the Areopagus. Paul's address to the administrators commences with the subject of the "unknown God" He then moves to God the creator, and finally he speaks of a man whom God has appointed to judge the world. The mention of this man's resurrection prompts an interjection and discussion, along with various responses.


It is appropriate to contextualise the gospel for secular Gentiles.


i] Context: See 15:36-41.


ii] Background: See

iContextualising the gospel, 16:1-15.


iii] Structure: This passage, The mission to Athens, presents as follows:

Setting, v16-17;

The local administrators invite Paul to address them, v18-21;

Paul's Areopagus sermon, v22-31:

Opening statement, v22-23;

The God of mankind, v24-28;

Created by him, v24-25;

Created to know him, v26-28;

"that they would seek him ........"

The human condition of sin, v29;

"we should not think that the divine-being is like gold."

Repent, v30;

The day of judgment is at hand, v31.

The response of the audience, v32-34;

"some people became followers ...."


iv] Interpretation:

Paul's sermon to the Greeks at the Areopagus is an example of a gospel presentation to Gentiles who have little or no understanding of the Bible. Note the following:

• In his introduction, Paul carefully presents a basis for his message by defining the person of God and the state of humanity. He establishes that the centre of our created being is found in our capacity to relate to God, a capacity presently unfulfilled. On this basis he concludes that humanity is lost.

• There is little reference to the person and work of Jesus, with nothing said of his sacrificial death (this may be explained by Paul's presentation being cut short by an interjection).

• The presentation focuses on judgement and this by a "man" (an allusion to Daniel's coming Son of Man???) appointed to judge. The authority of this man under God may be confirmed in his rising from the dead.

• Jesus' fulfilment of Old Testament prophesy is not mentioned. When the gospel is presented to Jews there is always a reference to the fulfilment of prophecy; with Gentiles, it would be inappropriate.

In proclaiming the gospel, Paul contextualises the news concerning God's coming kingdom by expanding the introduction, ignoring the fulfilment of scripture, introducing the required response before stating that the kingdom has come through the resurrection of Christ (the implication of which is judgment, although in another setting it could just as easily be blessing). On this occasion Paul mentions the bad news, not the good news of life in the living one. The gospel sermons in Acts oscillate between the good news and the bad news, but sometimes both get a run. As for the introduction, Paul covers information concerning the existence of God and the present state of humanity. And of particular note, Paul's focuses on the resurrection of Christ, rather than his crucifixion.

So, Luke provides us with a model gospel presentation for Gentiles, one which follows the structure of the models already provided for Jews:

Introduction, v24-28

The time is fulfilled;

The kingdom of God is at hand, v31;

Repent and believe the gospel, v30.


Paul's Areopagus sermon serves well as a model gospel presentation for today:

This is God's world and we belong to God, v24-25.

He made us to know him, and to relate to him, v26-28.

Sadly, most people tend to ignore God; they wish to be independent. This disregard of God, this rebellion against him, may be active, or passive, but it is real, v29.

God does the only thing you would expect him to do, He calls on everyone to stop rebelling and turn back to him, v30.

(The Good News - not in the Areopagus sermon)

If a person does turn back to him, they are awarded general amnesty. They are no longer treated as a rebel, but are given the treatment a loyal person is given - Jesus' resurrection was not just life for himself, but life for everyone who puts their trust in him - life eternal.

(The Bad News)

If a person continues in rebellion and won't turn back, then they must be overthrown in the end. Not because God is angry, but because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and is now master over God's world, v31.


Form: Witherington notes that the sermon follows the rhetorical structure of the time:

exordium, v22-23a;

propositio, v23b;

probatio, v24-29;

peroratio, v30-31.


v] Homiletics: A Gospel Hot-Drop

The slow and inevitable collapse of Western civilisation goes hand in hand with the rejection of its Christian roots. Collapsing boarders, disintegrating law and order, political turmoil, the drift toward autocracy, ....... all signal the end.

[Map] Becoming a Prepper, going off-grid and living a self-sufficient life, is no answer to a doomsday cataclysm of societal disintegration. When we finally run out of food, the hoard will seek out the Preppers, and steel bunker doors won't keep them out of the larder. The solution actually lies with you and me.

God is creator of the universe, such that humans find their being in Him - we are created in the image and likeness of God. He is the sustainer of the universe - we are dependent on Him and He is independent of us. The purpose of God's creating and sustaining role is that we may know Him - enter into a relationship with Him. It is for this purpose that we are created and sustained. Such is the essence of our being and the purpose of our existence.

Building edifices to house the "unknown God", a secular utopia ignorant of the Creator, and increasingly antagonistic, can only spell our doom. God, out of the store of his mercy, may overlook such stupidity for a time, but that time is coming to an end - the day of judgment is at hand.

Jesus is risen from the dead; he is ascended on high and reigning at the right hand of God. If we choose to ignore God, fail to seek after Him through Jesus, then we will find ourselves eternally lost. Turning to Christ, and putting our trust in him, is the only way of escape - it's the only way Western civilisation can survive.


Image, Underwood Archives

Text - 17:16

Paul's mission to Athens, v16-34. i] Setting, v16-17. Luke conveys the idea that Paul's presence in Athens is not part of his planned itinerary, but now that he is in Athens, he follows his usual custom of visiting the local synagogue in order to present the gospel to its members. It is recorded of the time that the Athenians did love their monuments, and Paul is somewhat parwzuneto, "vexed, provoked, irritated", possibly even "angry" at what he sees. It is the pneuma autou, "spirit of him", that is agitated, ie., it is Paul's own psyche that is emotional, not that of the Holy Spirit.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

ekdexomenou (ekdecomai) gen. pres. part. "while Paul was waiting" - [paul] waiting for [them in athens]. The genitive participle and its genitive subject "Paul", forms a genitive absolute construction, usually treated as temporal, as NIV.

qewrountoV (qewrew) gen. pres. part. "he was greatly distressed" - [the spirit of him within him was being provoked] seeing. The genitive participle forms a genitive absolute construction, probably temporal, "when he noticed that the city was full of idols", Weymouth, but Culy suggests that it may also be causal, "because", so also Kellum

ou\san (eimi) pres. part. "that" - being. The participle introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul observed, cf., Zerwick #268, contra Culy; "he saw that the city was full of idols", ESV.

kateidwlon adj. "full of idols" - full of idols [the city]. Although the text is somewhat awkward, it seems best to treat the adjective as attributive, limiting "city", the direct object of the participle of the verb to-be; "his soul was deeply vexed at the sight of the idol-filled city", Berkeley. Culy suggests that it stands in a double accusative, object-complement construction.


As in v12, the men oun construction introduces a logical connection with the previous verse, possibly inferential here (given that Paul was "provoked", he went on to dialegomai, "dispute, discuss, debate"), leading into a further step in the narrative, de, v18. It is unclear whether this is the first time Paul has participated in the Greek tradition of philosophical Market-place arguments, but he certainly does so in Athens. Most communities provide a forum for public debate. Even today in Sydney, Australia, the Domain park on a Sunday afternoon houses its sprookers, solving all the ills of the world from their portable step-ladders. So, this may not be Paul's first foray into sprooking at the agora, "market-place".

toiV IoudaioiV adj. "Jews" - [therefore on the one hand, he was debating] in = with the jews [and in = with the devout]. The dative, as for the dative "the ones worshipping", is adverbial, expressing association / accompaniment; "At the synagogue, Paul debated with the traditional Jews and their associates." For the "associates" / "the devout" / "God-fearing Greeks", see v4.

kata + acc. "day by day" - [and in the market place] according to [every day]. Distributive use of the preposition, as NIV.

proV + acc. "with" - toward. Here most like expressing association, "toward the company of" = "in company with."

touV paratugcanontaV (paratugcanw) pres. part. "those who happened to be there" - the ones happening to be near. The participle serves as a substantive.


Luke tells us that in the marketplace Paul is euaggelizomai, "communicating important news." Again, Luke summarises this euaggelion, "important news / gospel", in the terms of Jesus' person and his resurrection. Debates develop between Paul and the members of the local philosophical schools, the Epicureans and Stoics (the schools were founded around 300BC by Epicurus and Zeno. Platonists and Peripatetics also had chairs in Athens, although Luke doesn't mention them). As far as the philosophers are concerned, Paul is saying ti a]n qeloi, "what he may wish" = "anything that comes into his head", a spoermologoV, "a scavenger = an ideas-picker", someone who picks up a sliver of the truth without coming to grips with the whole. For others, Paul is peddling xenwn daimoniwn, "foreign divinities", a charge already brought against Paul, cf., 16:21. Interestingly, this charge was also famously levelled against Socrates, and his defence, recorded by Plato, became the standard of philosophical probity.

twn Epikoureiwn (oV) gen. "of Epicurean" - [but/and certain] of the epicureans [and stoic philosophers]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

autw/ dat. pro. "with him" - [were meeting = engaging] in = with him. The dative is expressing association / accompaniment.

tiv "what" - what [this scavenger of ideas may wish]. The interrogative pronoun with the potential optative a]n + opt., serves to introduce a rhetorical question; "What on earth is he trying to say?", Zerwick.

legein (legw) pres. inf. "to say" - [this scavenger of ideas] to say? The infinitive is complementary, completing the verb "to wish, will."

oiJ de "others remarked" - but/and they. Transitional, indicating a change in subject from the first group to a second group commenting on what Paul is saying, so "others said."

einai (eimi) pres. inf. "to be [advocating]" - [it seems] to be = that [he proclaims foreign divinities]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception, expressing what seems to be the case for this other group of critics. Culy, as usual, opts for a complementary classification. Rogers Gk. opts for indirect discourse - he usually classifies perception as discourse. "Others said, 'It would appear that he is a propagandist for foreign divinities.'"

oJti "they said this because" - because [he was preaching jesus and the resurrection]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul's critics were saying these things about him.


Given the range of negative views expressed toward Paul in the previous verse, the sense of the participle epilabomenoi may mean "they seized him", rather than something like "they escorted him" - Paul may be under arrest. They take him to the Areion pagon, "Ares hill", the God Ares known to the Romans as Mars, so "Mars' hill", a site west of the Acropolis. The NIV takes the view that Paul is not being conveyed to a place as such, but to the city administrators who meet at Mars' hill. The city administrators, given their responsibility for the maintenance of good order, are expected to evaluate the appearance of any new philosophical world-view. Whatever the circumstances, those present seem bent on gaining information, rather than suppressing opinion (a quality of open-mindedness lacking in public discourse today - I fear we may start burning books soon!). Twice Luke uses the verb ginwskw, "to know", to describe what the city administrators are on about; "We would like to know what these teachings mean."

epilabomenoi (epilambanomai) aor. part. "they took" - [and] having taken. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to bring"; "they took him and brought him", ESV.

autou gen. pro. "him" - him [they brought him upon = up to the ares hill]. Genitive of direct object after the epi prefix verb "to take hold of."

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "where they said to him" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, semi-redundant, serving to introduce direct speech; "and asked." Culy suggests adverbial, manner, "saying"; see legonteV 1:6.

gnwnai (ginwskw) aor. inf. "know" - [we are able] to know [what this new teaching]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to be able", usually handled as a question, so "may we be able to know ....?"; "we would like to know .....?" The question contains a separate question, probably indirect, introduced by the interrogative pronoun tivV, "what", nominative predicate of an assumed verb to-be, "this new teaching being spoken by you is what?"; "this new teaching you're presenting, are you able to tell us what it's all about?"

laloumenh (lalew) pres. part. "that you are presenting" - being spoken [by you]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "teaching", as NIV. The preposition uJpo, "by", expresses agency.


Thankfully, the city administrators are open to new ideas (unlike those who condemned Socrates). Like Socrates, Paul is a source of xenizonta, "entertaining = unknown, surprising, unexpected, radical, unusual"; "certain things being radical", so "new ideas." Barrett suggests that Luke is actually drawing a parallel between Socrates and Paul. Socrates debates with the local philosophers in the market place, the agora, is charged for introducing new deities to the people, and is brought before the city administrators, the Areopagus.

gar "-" - for, because [you are bringing into the ears of us]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the council members want Paul to explain himself, "because ......"

xenizonta (xenizw) pres. par. "[some] strange ideas" - [certain things] being unusual = new. The accusative participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the accusative direct object of the verb "to bring", namely tina, "certain things"; "because you present some ideas which are very strange to us."

oun "-" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion.

gnwnai (ginwskw) aor. inf. "to know" - [we will, wish, want = desire] to know. Usually classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to wish"; "we want to know." Of course, the infinitive may be viewed as introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they desire, "we desire that we know"; "it is our reasoned desire that we come to know ...", Wuest.

einai pres. inf. "[this new teaching] is" - [what these things will] to be. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to will, wish", "want to be" = "mean", Zerwick; "we desire to know what these things mean." The clause presents as local idiom in the form of an indirect question introduced by the neuter nominative interrogative pronoun tivna, "what". The neuter plural nominative subject of the clause is tauta, "these things", and as usual, a neuter plural subject takes a singular verb, as here.


"Athenian curiosity was well known (cf., Demosthenes, Philippic 1:10; Tusydides, Hist. 3.38.5) and many people visited Athens, either as students or tourists, to share in the preoccupation of its citizens with talking and and listening to the latest ideas", Peterson D.

epidhmounteV (epidhmew) aor. part. "[foreigners] who lived there" - [but/and all the athenians and the strangers] visiting / being at home. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "strangers"; "foreigners who were visiting / foreign visitors", or "foreigners who lived there."

eiV + acc. "-" - [were spending the time of them] into [nothing different]. The preposition is used here to express purpose, a purpose which is given a negative slant by the use of ouden eJteron, "nothing different"; "spent their time with no other purpose in mind."

h] ..... h] "but .... and" - than [to say a certain = something] and than. The comparative particles form the coordinated apodosis of a comparative clause; "other than speaking about the latest idea, or studying it."

akouein (akouw) pres. inf. "listening to" - to hear. As for "to say", the infinitive "to hear" serves to introduce a nominal phrase; "to listen to something newer" = "listening to something newer."

kainoteron comp. adj. "the latest idea" - [a certain = something] newer. The comparative may well serve here as a superlative, so "the newest idea", as NIV.


iii] Paul's Areopagus gospel presentation, v22-31: a) Paul engages his audience by stating an obvious fact, namely, that the Athenians are a religious people who are concerned about knowing God and who willingly admit that they don't know everything about Him, v22-23.

staqeiV (iJsthmi) aor. pas. part. "[Paul] then stood up" - [but/and paul] having stood. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to say"; "So Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and said", Moffatt.

en + dat."in [the meeting]" - in [the middle]. Locative, expressing space, usually with the sense of placed in the middle of something, so "the centre of the Areopagus." It can also mean "in front of / before an audience", Zerwick, which may well be the sense here.

tou Areiou Pagou gen. "of the Areopagus" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive; "middle of ..."

wJV "that" - [and said, men, athenians, i see] how. The particle here possibly serves a recitative function, similar to that of oJti, although at the same time with a slight modal edge, expressing the manner of their religiosity, "how very religious you are. " As such it introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul perceives of the Athenians; "I perceive that / how, in every way, you are very religious." On the other hand, the dependent statement may be formed by an assumed infinitive verb to-be, "I observe you to be very religious" = "I observe that you are very religious"; the accusative uJmaV, "you", would serve as the subject of the assumed infinitive. If this is the case, then wJV serves only to intensify the comparative adjective "very religious."

kata + acc. "in [every way]" - according to [everything]. The preposition is probably adverbial here, reference / respect; "with respect to [everything] = in every respect, altogether."

deisidaimonesterouV (deisidaimwn) comp. adj. "very religious" - very religious [you are]. Comparative of the adjective "religious". The sense can be either superstitious, or pious. The Athenians were known for their piety and so "pious / religious" is surly the intention here, as NIV; "you tend to be a very religious people", Barclay.


Records indicate that the Athenians did indeed erect monuments to unknown gods - it's always wise to cover all bases! Paul is happy to provide information about the One who is unknown to the Athenians. "Turning ignorance about spirituality and God into knowledge is Paul's goal", Bock, so Barrett.

gar "for" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul thinks the Athenians are religious.

diercomenoV (diercomai) pres. part. "as I walked around" - traveling around, passing through [and observing closely the objects of worship of you]. The participle, as with "observing closely", is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV; "While I was strolling through your city", Cassirer. Bruce suggests "idols / images" for "objects of worship."

en + dat. "with [this inscription]" - [i found and = also / even an altar] on [which had been inscribed]. Local, expressing space.

agnwstw/ qew/ dat. "to an unknown god" - to unknown god. Dative of interest, advantage.

oun "therefore" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion.

o} neut. pro. "what" - what [you worship]. The relative pronoun serves to introduce a headless relative clause. The neuter person is used to define the hearers "belief in an impersonal divine essence", Bruce. "What you worship in your ignorance", Moffatt.

agnoounteV (agnoew) pres. part. "as something unknown" - not knowing. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner in which their worship was performed, ie., "in ignorance." "It is this God whom you are worshipping in ignorance that I am here to proclaim to you", Phillips.

umin dat. pro. "to you" - [this i proclaim] to you. Dative of indirect object.


b) The God of mankind, v24-28. The first point: the true God is creator of all things, Lord (omnipotent), independent and sustainer (he gives life), v24-25. Paul first defines God in Old Testament terms. He is the creator of the universe and the Lord of heaven and earth. Such a God cannot be contained in any human structure, nor represented by any human craft. Sophisticated Greeks would agree that the divine nature cannot be contained in even the most magnificent of buildings. Neither is God dependent on his creatures; he does not need us. In fact, we are dependent on God, for he supplies our every need.

oJ poihsaV (poiew) aor. part. "who made [the world]" - [god] the one having made [the world]. The participle is probably best treated as adjectival, serving to introduce an attributive modifier of "God"; "The God who made the world and everything in it." The idea of God as creator was held by other religions and philosophies, eg., the Epicureans.

ta "[everything in it]" - [and all] the things [in it]. If we treat the adjective panta, "all", as a substantive, "everything", then the article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "in it" into an attributive modifier, "everything (which is) in it."

ou|toV "-" - this one. Resumptive; "this God."

uJparcwn (uJparcw) pres. part. "is [the Lord]" - being [lord]. The participle is adverbial, probably causal, "this God, because he is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in ..." "Lord" may not be a title here, but rather may serve to define the function of the God who exists and who has created all things, namely that he is master of every domain and so cannot be controlled or confined by that which he has created.

ouranou kai ghV "of heaven and earth" - of heaven and earth. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / subordination, so "Lord over heaven and earth."

ceiropoihtoiV dat. adj. "built by hands" - [does not dwell in] made by human hands [temples]. Dative after the local preposition en. This God "cannot be contained in (nor reflected in) handmade shrines", Bock.


Literally, this God oude .... qerapeuetai, "is not healed [by human hands]." The use of the verb here reflects "the Epicurean doctrine that God needs nothing from men", Bruce, so rather than "healed", the sense is "cared for", God needs no service from us; "He doesn't need help from anyone", CEV. Paul is positing an idea with which many in his audience would agree, namely that God "not only created all things in the beginning, but continues to give all the things men need for their human existence", Barrett.

uJpo + gen. "by [human hands]" - [nor] by, from, through [human hands is god healed = served]. Here expressing agency, rather than means; "by".

prosdemonoV (prosdeomai) pres. pas. part. "[as if] he needed" - being in need]. The participle is adverbial, possibly concessive, "as though", as NIV etc., or causal, "nor is it because of his lacking anything that he allows men to serve him", Cassirer.

tinoV gen. pro. "anything" - of certain. Genitive of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to be in need of."

autoV pro. "he himself" - he. Emphatic, as NIV. "It is he", Cassirer.

didouV (didwmi) pres. part. "because [he himself] gives" - giving. The participle may be adverbial, causal, as NIV, but it seems more likely that it is adjectival, attributive, introducing an attributive modifier of the subject pronoun "He"; "it is he who gives life and breath and all things to all men", Moffatt.

pasi dat. adj. "everyone" - to all [life and breath and the all]. Dative of indirect object. The ta panta, "the all" = "everything", amounts to everything necessary for human life.


The second point: humanity is created to know God, v26-28. So, God sustains humanity, and this for our pleasure. The Greeks tended to see themselves racially superior to the barbarians, but Paul makes the point that all humanity descends from one common God-designed ancestor. The earth is created as a home for this common humanity, with defined areas for each extended family (nation). "The times set for them" may mean appointed seasons, or historical epochs. Each tribe receives its annual provision, its moment in history. The ultimate purpose of this unique design and the extensive provision of resources, is that humanity might know God - "feel after him and find him." Paul holds that nature images God's presence, therefore, those who fail to honour him, seek after him and find him, are without excuse, cf., Rom.1:20f. We are designed to know God, and for those who would seek him, he is not far away. Paul goes on to illustrate his point (ie., that humans find their centre of being in God) by quoting from a poem (possibly two; the opening statement may be a quote from Epimenides the Cretan) by Aratus the Cilician. Even the Greek poets understood where to find the centre of their being. So, humanity is divinely created, of one entity / flesh, and this with two divine intentions:

• The enjoyment of life - humanity is located in a God-designed environment - an ordered time/space continuum designed for the welfare of humanity;

• A relationship with God - humanity is created in the "image of God", able to know / relate to him, and find fulfilment in a relationship with him.

te "-" - and. Transitional, serving here as a sequential indicator.

ex "from" - [he made] from [one man]. The preposition expresses source / origin. The reference is obviously to Adam, affirming the oneness of mankind, although Paul's point is "intended to show that all people have their roots in the Creator God", Bock.

anqrwpwn (oV) gen. "[all the nations]" - [every nation] of men. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "nation"; "human society."

katoikein (katoikew) pres. inf. "that they should inhabit" - to dwell, inhabit, settle. The infinitive may form a final clause expressing purpose, or possibly better hypothetical result; "so that it (the whole human race) should occupy the entire earth", Cassirer. Better classified as introducing an object clause / dependent statement of cause, expressing what God acted to do, in which case the accusative "all nations" would serve as the accusative subject of the infinitive, rather than the direct object of the verb "to make"; "He determined (caused) ....... that every nation may live on the earth." An appositional infinitival construction is found in v28, zhtein, "that they should seek ....." Barrett suggests that it is epexegetic, presumably specifying the "nations of men", namely "dwellers upon all the earth."

epi + gen. "[the whole earth]" - upon [all the face of the earth]. Spatial.

oJrisaV (oJrizw) aor. part. "he determined / he marked out" - having set out, marked out. Culy suggests that we have here a parenthetical participial construction standing between the two object clauses, "that they should inhabit" and "that they should seek", best treated as temporal. The use of the aorist implies that the business of setting the boundaries of life was not necessarily after the actual creation of the earth. Rather than introducing a parenthetical statement, it may just be best to treat the participle as attendant on the verb "to do, make"; "He created ...... and set out for them their appointed times and the limits of their settlements."

prostetagmenouV (prostassw) perf. mid. part. "[the times] set [for them] / [their] appointed [times in history]" - having determined, set, allotted. Although anarthrous, the participle is probably adjectival, attributive, limiting "times, seasons"; "allotted periods", ESV.

kairouV (oV) "the times" - seasons. A vague term. It can be seasons / years, referring to God's care of humanity, or epochs of history, referring to God's ordering of the nations. Probably epochs is best here. "Fixing their allotted periods", Moffatt. Of course, Paul is seeking to establish the sovereignty of God; "God has determined the specific times for men and the exact place where they should live so that mankind should seek him and find him", Longenecker.

thV katoikiaV (a) gen. "[the boundaries] of [their] lands" - [and the fixed boundaries] of the occupancy, settlements, habitations [of them]. The genitive is adjectival, probably idiomatic / local; "the boundaries within which they were to live", Barclay.


zhtein (zhtew) pres. inf. "God did this so that they would seek [him]" - to seek [god]. The infinitive stands in apposition to the infinitive katoikew, "to dwell", probably as an object clause / dependent statement, identifying a second element to what God acted to do, namely, he designed mankind to dwell ......... and to seek after him. Often treated adverbially, usually final, expressing purpose, as NIV. "Physical existence and the enjoyment of the earth's bounty was not the final purpose in creating human beings", Peterson Gk. God's act of creation also had as its intention "that people might seek for God, perhaps even grope for him, and eventually find him (thus know him)", Fitzmyer.

ei ara ge + opt. "-" - if then indeed / perhaps. Both Culy and Kellum classify this construction as introducing a conditional clause, 4th class, incomplete, where the condition has a remote possibility of coming true in the future; "if, as may possibly be the case, ..... then ........" This conditional clause is always incomplete in the NT, as here. The ara ge serves to emphasise the uncertainty of the incomplete condition; "with the hope that they might grope after him in the shadows of their ignorance, and find him", Barclay. Another way of handling the construction is to treat it as serving to introduce an indirect question; "God created us to enjoy his creation ......... and to know him (seek after him). Perhaps we will choose to do just that (grope after him and find him)."

yhlafhseian (yhlafaw) aor. opt. "reach out for" - they might feel after, grope after [him and find him]. The idea is of "groping after God in the darkness when the light of His full revelation is not available" Bruce. Paul seems to be speaking of "the instinctive searching of the human mind and heart for God in the traces that God has left in the creation and disposition of humanity in the world and on this earth", Fitzmyer.

kai ge "though" - and yet / indeed. Bruce suggests that the construction is concessive here, and it is often treated that way in translations, as NIV. Culy suggests it is primarily emphatic; "grope after him and find him, who, indeed (and let me emphasise the fact), is not far from any of us."

uJparconta (uJparcw) pres. part. "though he is" - being / existing. The participle is usually treated as adverbial, concessive, as NIV; "though indeed he is close to each one of us", Moffatt). Culy makes the point that given that it is accusative, it can't be adverbial. He argues that it is adjectival, attributive, limiting the assumed object of the verb "to find", namely "him / God"; "to find him who indeed is not far from any one of us."

apo + gen. "from" - [not far] from. Expressing separation; "away from."

hJmwn gen. pro. "of us" - [each one] of us. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.


It is unclear whether there are two quotes or one. The opening clause may just be a statement; "And indeed, it is in him that we live and move and have our being, some of your own poets having expressed this in the words, 'We also are descended from him'", Cassirer.

gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why God intended us to dwell (find fulfilment in a wondrous world) and to seek (find a fulfilling relationship with him), "because" ....... "we are his offspring."

en "in" - in [him]. Probably in the sense of "in relationship with him / united to him", but an instrumental sense, "by him", should not be discounted. This union achieves three results, possibly formed as a tricolon, a unit of three philosophical truths. Fitzmyer, drawing on the work of H. Hommel, suggests that "live" = physical life; "have our being" = the spiritual-intellectual life; and "move" = the transfer of human life, intellect and spirituality to the cosmic level. The descriptives make the simple point that "people exist by God's creation and sustenance, so that God is not far off", Bock.

kinoumeqa (kinew) pres. pas. "move" - [we live and] move [and are]. "Move in Him", but it could also mean, "moved by Him." God is our life and shapes our life, now and in eternity.

wJV kai "as" - also as, even as. Comparative, serving to introduce a comparative example.

kaq uJmaV "your own" - [some of the poets] among you. This construction "is a little more than equivalent to a possessive pronoun", Barrett, so "your own poets" as NIV. "You cannot deny it for we have it on the authority of your own poets", Barrett.

twn .... poihtwn (hV ou) gen. "poets" - the doer = the ones producing literature [have said]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. "Poets", as NIV.

gar "for" - for. Here as a stitching device, serving to introduce the quote, so best left untranslated, as TNIV.

tou gen. "We" - of the / him. Barrett, Zerwick, ... suggest a possible demonstrative pronoun, "him", the genitive "of him" being ablative, expressing source, so lit. "from him we are also descended / related." Culy suggests that the article is intended to serve as a personal pronoun, since an article is rarely used for a demonstrative pronoun, while the genitive simply indicates possession. Paul is making the simple point that "all human beings are members of God's family", Peterson, Gk., ie., Paul, via Aratus, is identifying the "shared relationship all people have to God", Bock - our being created in God's image. Of course, unlike Aratus and his many Greek colleagues, Paul does not view this relationship with God in pantheistic terms.

kai "-" - and = also [we are offspring]. Adjunctive, "we are also his offspring / we too are his offspring / we are his offspring as well", but also possibly emphatic, "we are indeed his offspring", ESV.


c) Paul now identifies the human condition of sinfulness, v29. Given that humanity is created in the image and likeness of God, it is absurd to assume that God is made of inanimate materials. The trouble is, this is exactly how humanity often sees the divine - we pursue the creature rather than the creator.

oun "therefore" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion.

uJparconteV (uJarcw) pres. part. "since we are" - being [family, race, kind, offspring]. The participial is adverbial, causal; "because we are."

tou qeou (oV) gen. "God's [offspring]" - of god. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or better, relational, but possible idiomatic, source.

nomizein (nomizw) "[we should not] think" - [we ought not] to think. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "we ought."

einai (eimi) pres. act. inf. "that" - to be. The infinitive serves to introduce a dependent statement of perception expressing what humanity should not think; "that a formed image with gold, or silver or wood, of/by human skill and intellect, is like the divine." The logic of Paul's point is that by sculpting the divine, having first admitted the divine origin of the creation, humanity stands guilty of idolatry and therefore in need of divine mercy - of repentance leading to forgiveness.

to qeion adj. "the divine being" - the divine being. The adjective serves as a substantive, accusative subject of the infinitive; "An idiomatic touch", Bruce, Gk.

crusw/ (oV) dat. "is like gold" - [like] gold [or silver or stone]. The three elements are probably instrumental datives, of material; "a formed image (caragmati - an object crafted to resemble something) with gold, silver, or stone."

tecnhV (h) gen. "by [man's] design [and skill]" - [an image] of skill [and thought of man]. The genitive "man" is obviously adjectival, possessive, but "design" and "skill" are also genitives. Barrett thinks they are subjective genitives, "an object carved by man's art and imagination." On the other hand, they could be attributive, limiting the image by description, or even adverbial, instrumental, expressing means, as NIV, so Kellum, "an image formed by a person's skill and imagination."


d) Paul now presents the "repent and believe" element of the gospel, v30. Given the logic of the argument so far, God demands our response, namely that we repent. God may delay his action against such ignorance, but the inevitable day of judgment is now upon the human race and there is but one way to escape the terrible coming day and that is to repent - turn to the living God for mercy.

men oun "-" - so. Transitional construction, see 17:12; "Now, ...."

uJperidwn (uJperoraw) aor. part. "overlooked" - [god] having overlooked. The participle is adverbial, introducing a concessive clause, "although God overlooked our ignorance in the past." Expressing something that is not attended to; punishment that is not followed through or only dealt with lightly. God could well have dealt harshly with the human race, but he stayed his hand - for the moment! "Forgave all this", CEV, is far too strong. God did not forgive the ignorant behaviour of the human race in worshipping the creation rather than the creator, he simply chose not to judge the matter there and then. God stayed his hand of judgment, a judgment that would have annihilated the human race. But now, the time has come for that judgment, and the only way of escaping it is repentance. "God has shut his eyes to the folly of these times when men knew no better", Barclay.

thV agnoiaV (a) gen. "such ignorance" - [the times] of ignorance. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "the times"; "the folly of those times when men knew no better", Barclay.

nun "but now" - now. Certainly an adversative sense seems best, as NIV. "But now [the kingdom of God is at hand] so ...."

toiV anqrwpoiV (oV) dat. "[he commands all] people [everywhere]" - [proclaims] to [all] men [everywhere]. Dative of indirect object.

metanoein (metanoew) pres. inf. "to repent" - to repent. The infinitive introduces a dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing what God commands. This key word does not mean "to feel sorry", but rather "to turn about", "to change direction." In New Testament use it often means to turnaround and follow Christ. We might use a phrase like "turn to Christ", although these Greeks have no knowledge of the person of Jesus. "But now he says that everyone everywhere must turn to him", CEV.


e) The gospel presentation ends with a punch-line - the day of judgment is at hand, v31. It is often said the reaction of his audience cuts his speech short, but this is probably not the case. His finale is purely Biblical, although as with the rest of his speech, he presents Biblical truth within a secular context. Greek thought had no room for an eschatological judgement, but Paul declares that there is one coming, and this at the hands of "the man" whom God has appointed - Daniel's Son of Man, Dan.7:13. The authentication of the coming day at this man's hand is found in his resurrection from the dead. So indeed, "repent."

kaqoti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause. Repentance is called for "because he has fixed a day on which his righteous judgment will come upon the world", Barclay.

esthsen (iJsthmi) aor. "he has set [a day]" - he set [a day]. This verb takes many meanings, but here obviously in the sense of "to select / choose."

en + dat. "when" - in [which]. Temporal use of the preposition, as NIV.

krinein (krinw) pres. inf. "[he will] judge" - [he is about] to judge. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is about", although some texts omit en hJ/ mellei which prompts Bruce, 1951, to classify the infinitive "to judge" as epexegetic, so "God has appointed a day for judging", Barrett.

thn oikoumenhn (h) "the world" - the world. Of course, for Paul this means "the living and the dead", but wisely he doesn't go there with his secular audience.

en + dat. "with [justice]" - in [righteousness]. Probably here forming an adverbial phrase expressing manner, "with righteousness", ie., the divine judgment undertaken by this "man" will be done "justly".

en + dat. "by [the man]" - in = by [a man]. Here the preposition is probably instrumental identifying the agent of judgment, "by/through a man", as NIV. For Paul, this man is obviously oJ uiJoV tou anqrwpou "the Son of Man", Daniel's "man" who receives from the Father divine authority to judge, Dan.7:13.

w|/ dat. rel. pro. "- [he has appointed]" - whom [he determined, appointed]. This relative pronoun is dative, rather than accusative, by attraction to its antecedent, Zerwick #16.

parascwn (parecw) aor. part. "he has given" - having provided, presented, furnished. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb esthsen, "he appointed"; "he has set a day ...... and has given proof ...."

pistin (iV ewV) "proof" - faith / proof [to all]. Here with paracw giving the technical sense of "[having provided] a proof, assurance, evidence, guarantee", cf., BAGD 662, 626#1b; "show or grant proof", as NIV. This is the only time such a meaning for the word is evident in the NT. In Greek philosophical circles such a meaning is evident, eg., Aristotle, Plato, which may support Paul's use here. Barrett is not impressed with this approach. The divine purpose behind the resurrection is not primarily an "attestation / confirmation" of the authority given this "man" ("the Son of Man"), since the resurrection serves as the inevitable consequence of his righteousness and thus for the believer in him, the ground for our justification - he lives and in him we live also. None-the-less, the resurrection does, as a by-product, attest the divine authority of this "man". "The resurrection was a universal demonstration and proof of God's call to Jesus to be Judge", Bock. "He has set a day on which he is going to judge the world with justice through this man whom he has appointed and whom he has endorsed before all by raising him from the dead", Fitzmyer.

anasthsaV (anisthmi) aor. part. "by raising [him]" - having raised [him]. The participle is adverbial, best taken as instrumental, expressing means, as NIV.

ek + gen. "from [the dead]" - from [the dead]. Expressing separation, "away from." In the sense of removed from / taken out of the grave, the domain of the dead.


iv] The audience responds both negatively and positively to Paul's message, v31-33. "The resurrection of the dead was no more believable [for Paul's Greek audience] than it is for many in our so-called scientific age. The very idea made some of his audience sneer. Yet, if the resurrection of Jesus took place, it challenges human scepticism about the possibility of encountering God and being judged by him", Peterson D.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "when they heard" - [but/and] having heard. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV, although, as is often the case, with a touch of cause - the mocking was a consequence of hearing about the resurrection of the dead.

anastasin (iV ewV) acc. "about the resurrection" - resurrection. The NIV takes the accusative as adverbial, reference / respect.

nekrwn adj. "of the dead" - of dead. The adjective serves as a substantive, "the dead". The genitive is adjectival, usually treated as verbal, objective; "the resurrection of the (enacted upon those who are) dead".

oiJ men ...... oiJ de "some of them ....... but others ....." - they on the one hand ..... but they on the other. A comparative / contrastive construction, here with oiJ indicating the subject of the action, usually taken as "certain ones" = "some mocked, but others said."

sou gen. pro. "[we want to hear] you" - [we will hear] you. Genitive of direct object after the verb "to hear."

peri + gen. "on" - about [this and = also again]. Here expressing reference / respect. "You must tell us more on this subject matter on some other occasion", Cassirer.


As Johnson notes, the rather inconclusive ending supports the view that Paul has faced "a casual enquiry rather than a formal trial."

ou{twV adv. "at that" - thus. This modal adverb may refer to what precedes or what follows, but here most like what follows. It can function as a demonstrative, either "how, in this way", or expressing degree, "[he is] so [great]", but it is likely that here it functions as a transitional absolute, "thus / without further ado"; "With the discussion having ended, Paul left the room."

autwn gen. pro. "-" - [paul went out from the midst] of them. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.


The gospel continues its outward spread, but Luke certainly doesn't guild the lily; the mission faces a hard slog with only limited numbers deciding to kollaw, "align", with Paul and commit themselves to Jesus. Luke identifies two Athenians. One is presumably a member of the governing Council, a person of high social standing. The other is a woman, presumably also of high social status. With these two believers there is a small contingent of others who have committed their lives to Jesus.

kollhqenteV (kollaw) aor. pas. part. "became followers" - [but/and certain men] having been joined to. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to join to."

autw/ dat. pro. "of Paul" - to him [believed]. Dative of direct object after the verb "to join to."

kai .... kai "also" - [in = among whom] and [dionysus the areopagite] and [a women]. Coordinating construction, "both ..... and ...."

onomati (a atoV) dat. "named" - by name [damaris and others]. The dative is adverbial, reference / respect, "with respect to her name, Damaris."

sun + dat. "-" - with [them]. Expressing association / accompaniment.


Acts Introduction

Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]