Question and Answer Prompts
Is the context significant for meaning? The context is significant to understand the meaning of Paul’s speech because of Paul’s word choice and persuasive manner of speaking depending on the audience and associated conditions. Thus, referring to the context of the speech on Mars Hill, Paul’s purpose is to teach the Athenians belonging to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophical schools about Jesus and the idea of resurrection in contrast to their worshipping idols (Acts 17:16-21)1.
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Do the characters develop or stay static? Why? The presented characters of Paul and the Athenians develop while Paul speaks because Paul changes his approach to speaking while discussing the role of the Lord and the idea of resurrection; the Athenians develop because they react to Paul’s speech according to their understanding of the Christian ideas and the concept of resurrection. Thus, while hearing about the idea of resurrection, some people sneer, and some people respond to Paul’s speech. As a result, the Athenians presented at the Areopagus change their meaning in a definite way after listening to Paul’s speech, and some Athenians become believers (Acts 17:34).
Are they significant for meaning? How?
The characters of the Athenians, especially of Dionysius the Areopagite and Damaris, are significant for meaning because the actions of these characters support the opinion about the speech’s convincing character and its role for the Athenians who are inclined to worship idols. Dionysius the Areopagite and Damaris become believers, and this fact supports the idea that the other Athenians can also follow Paul’s speech and accept the new teaching (Acts 17:32-34).
Audience and Narrator
Is the audience or narrator significant for meaning? The references to the audience and narrator are significant for meaning because they can be discussed as opposed to each other, and Paul’s task as the speaker or narrator in this passage is not only to teach the Athenians but also to convince them to believe in Lord. The audience consists of the Epicureans and Stoic philosophers who do not know about Lord as the other devout Athenians did not previously, and Paul speaks to teach them based on the concepts which are close to them and their philosophies (the vision of the universe and life) (Acts 17:24-31).
Is the genre significant for meaning? The genre of speech is significant for the meaning of the passage because Paul goes to the midst of the Areopagus to communicate to the Athenians the new teaching about the Lord and the idea of resurrection. The persuasive speech is the most appropriate form to teach the Athenians about the ideals of Christianity. Furthermore, the meaning of the passage is based on Paul’s expectations to receive definite feedback from the Athenians because, in his speech, Paul discusses the weaknesses of the Greeks’ worshipping idols with references to the ideas of the life sense and the creation of the universe and people by Lord.
Where (in what geographic location) is the narrative or event set? Paul performs his speech at the Areopagus which is located on Mars Hill in Athens. The council of Areopagus is located on rocky Mars Hill to gather the Athenians at the court or the marketplace to discuss the most significant points of the social and political life. The location and geographic details of Mars Hill and the Areopagus near Acropolis are known with references to the Greek myths and archeological data.
Is there any foreshadowing of future events (anticipation)? It is possible to speak about the foreshadowing of the future events associated with the idea of resurrection declared by Paul at the Areopagus. Thus, Paul speaks about the day in the future when Lord will judge people, and this day is fixed now, and the resurrection of the dead will take place (Acts 17:24). From this point, the foreshadowing of future events is closely connected with the future resurrection as the basic idea of Christianity.
Key (and/or repeated) phrases/words
What is the word’s meaning in its context in the pericope? While addressing the Athenians, Paul pays attention to their ‘ignorance’, and this idea is repeated through the speech because Paul aims to contrast worshipping Lord to worshipping idols. In this case, the meaning of ‘ignorance’ is in the Athenians’ non-acquaintance of the ideals of Christianity because of their focus on idols. Paul draws the Athenians’ attention to the fact that now God declares to the people to forget the times of ignorance, to repent, and to accept the ideals of Christianity (Acts 17:30).
Can you find a reason for the presence of any key themes you found? How are they significant for the meaning of the pericope? The theme of resurrection can be discussed as the main theme of the pericope which should be present in the text because Paul develops his speech to present the new teaching about the foreign deity, and he claims that Lord declares the necessity repent to experience God’s glory during the Judgement Day, and the idea of resurrection serves to demonstrate God’s will and power. That is why some Athenians begin to sneer while hearing about the resurrection of the dead or become afraid of the perspective (Acts 17:31-32). This theme is significant for the meaning of the pericope because Paul’s speech is developed to teach the Christian ideals and fundamentals, and resurrection is one of the key points to be discussed and followed by the Christians.
Are the historical elements significant for meaning? The mentioning of such historical elements, places, and persons as the Areopagus, the Athenians (philosophers), and the concentration of the Athenians on idols is significant for revealing the meaning of the pericope because the references to idols are supported with the idea about the polytheistic worldview of the Greeks and the Athenians idolatrous religiosity can be discussed as the reason to teach them about the foreign deity and the principles of Christianity.
Who is in the “in” group and who is in the “out” group? Why? What makes them “in” or “out”? The Athenians who are present at the Areopagus are the representatives of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophical schools, and they reject the idea of the Divine Nature as it is discussed by the Christians. That is why those Athenians who are inclined to criticize Paul’s argument are the representatives of the “in” group when Dionysius the Areopagite and Damaris who choose to follow Paul’s teaching are the representatives of the “out” group because of rejecting the vision shared by the majority.
Intertextuality and/or Synoptic Parallel(s)
Is there a synoptic parallel? Is it significant for meaning? The text of the discussed pericope alludes to such passages as John 4:22 and Isaiah 42:5 while stating the role of one God in creating the world. These references are significant for meaning to repeat the idea of one God responsible for the universe’s creation (Acts 17:24-26).
List any parallel elements you found in your outline. The passage can be divided into several parts which have the determined introductory parts necessary to introduce the idea which will be discussed further in the passage.
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Exegetical Paper Literature Review
Acts 17:22-34 is Paul’s sermon spoke to the representatives of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophical schools in Athens in which Paul intends to present the new teaching to the Athenians as the true alternative to their polytheistic worldview because of their observed ignorance. According to Elwell, Paul’s approach to presenting the ideas about the Divine Nature and God’s role in creating the world is rather effective to persuade the Athenians because Paul uses the concepts close to the philosophers such as the notions of the life, sense of life, and the universe laws2.
However, there are several opinions on the success of Paul’s speech in persuading the Athenians to accept the new religious norms and to forget the years of ignorance while referring to the ideas of repenting and resurrection. Buttrick states that the philosophers from Athens did not react actively to the words spoken by Paul because he criticized the idolatrous religiosity of the Greeks openly, as a result, the negative reaction of the Athenians can be discussed as to their intention to protect their religious principles and visions3. Furthermore, the mentioned facts that the Athenians refer to hearing Paul’s again instead of sharing the declared ideas and that only two Athenians decide to share the Christian ideals support the opinion that the Athenians misinterpreted and misunderstood Paul’s argument although they wanted to hear about the foreign deity and the new teaching4. It is also possible to assume that the Athenians’ reaction is caused by their desire to learn about the new teaching and criticize it, following the norms of the philosophical schools5.
Paul successfully identifies the audience among which the sophisticated Athenians are present, and he develops his argument to respond to the Athenians’ demand for learning about foreign deity. While stating that God is one, and He created the whole world, and everyone can reach Him everywhere without making idols, Paul refers to the words of the Greek poets on the topic of being God’s children. This approach helps Paul develop an efficient argument about the inappropriateness of creating images or idols to worship one God. That is why, the following discussion of the theme of resurrection seems to be logical, and as a result, the depiction of resurrection strikes the Athenians because they understand the principles discussed by Paul, but these sophisticated people continue to share the ideals of the polytheistic religion6. Thus, the researchers are inclined to discuss Paul’s reference to the resurrection as the most controversial point of the speech because, at this stage, the audience experiences difficulties in interpreting Paul’s words while referring to their religious background and norms of the polytheistic world view.
Buttrick, George Arthur. The Interpreter’s Bible: the Holy Scriptures in the King James and Revised Standard Versions with General Articles and Introduction, Exegesis, Exposition for Each Book of the Bible. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1954.
Coogan, Michael. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Elwell, Walter. Baker Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006.
Morgan, Campbell. The Acts of the Apostles. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1965.
Mounce, William. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.
- Michael Coogan, The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
- Walter Elwell, Baker Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006), 911-913.
- George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1954), 233-236.
- Campbell Morgan, The Acts of the Apostles (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1965), 325-326.
- William Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 1273-1274.
- Ibid., 1274.