Arguing at Areopagus 072012
When Paul stood in front of the Areopagus, it would be like someone today standing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress all at once to argue about the nature of God. One might take any position, as long as one was not foolish.
The word Areopagus means and designates ‘Mars Hill’, and was dedicated to the god Mars. It stood northwest of the Acropolis in Athens.
What is interesting to me is that Paul’s arguments about the nature of God present a concept of God that is very modern—maybe more modern and mature than the Santa Clause, grandfather or some other conceptions of God we all run into every day. To what degree do we have to rely on a concept, a mere idea of God to be a believer, a disciple?
Pray for peace
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1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
3he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
17Gather up your bundle from the ground, O you who live under siege! 18For thus says the Lord: I am going to sling out the inhabitants of the land at this time, and I will bring distress on them, so that they shall feel it. 19Woe is me because of my hurt! My wound is severe. But I said, “Truly this is my punishment, and I must bear it.” 20My tent is destroyed, and all my cords are broken; my children have gone from me, and they are no more; there is no one to spread my tent again, and to set up my curtains. 21For the shepherds are stupid, and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered. 22Hear, a noise! Listen, it is coming— a great commotion from the land of the north to make the cities of Judah a desolation, a lair of jackals. 23I know, O Lord, that the way of human beings is not in their control, that mortals as they walk cannot direct their steps. 24Correct me, O Lord, but in just measure; not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing. 25Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not know you, and on the peoples that do not call on your name; for they have devoured Jacob; they have devoured him and consumed him, and have laid waste his habitation.
16While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.” (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) 19So they took him and brought him to the Areopagus and asked him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.” 21Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.
22Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ 29Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.