Today’s reading: Acts 17:16-34
Paul’s preaching to the philosophers of Athens is unique and interesting. It shows that there is not just one way to preach the gospel and that the evangelist who knows his audience and tailors his message (without compromising the truth of course) is wise.
Paul arrives in Athens and seeing all the pagan temples sets about preaching. As usual, he goes to the Jews of the city but in Athens, he goes to the many gentiles who gather in the markets, etc. The Greeks, with their great tradition of philosophy, quickly here of him and bring him to the Areopagus, where a council of elders and philosophers met to discuss the ideas of the day. They asked Paul to explain what he is teaching.
Paul immediately makes his message relevant to his audience. Rather than starting from the Jewish scriptures, he starts from Athenian tradition. He points out to them that they have an altar to “an unknown God”. Paul relates this unknown God to God the Father and describes his as the one true God who, “made the world and everything in it.” Such a God has no need for shrines and statues made by human hands. Paul even shows how Greek philosophers have touched on this idea in the past. Quoting Epimenides who said, “In him we live and move and have our being”.
Paul concludes his explanation by teaching the allowed the ignorance of the past but now God calls all men to repentance through the resurrection of Jesus. The reaction of the Greeks is mixed. Some mock the idea of resurrection, some want to hear more and some become followers.
What’s key here is to see how, by starting with what Greek thinking and tradition had in common with Christianity, Paul was able to bring them quickly to an understanding of the Gospel. This is a guide for us our sharing of the Gospel with others.
Tomorrow: Acts 18