Saturday, 30 April 2016

Acts 17: To the unknown God

St.Paul preaching in Beroia, a comtemporary mosaic from Veria,
photo by Anton Lefterov

Acts 17 traces Paul and Silas' journey to:
  • Thessalonica (verses 1-8) where they are driven out by the Jew;
  •  Beroea (verses 10-14), a set of verses beloved of Jehovah's Witnesses,who use it to claim we should reject tradition  (based on a mistranslated and heavily edited) approach, so worth knowing well; and 
  • Athens (verses 15-34) where he debates the philosophers and makes his famous speech at the Areopagus.
Acts 17:
They continued their journey through Amphipolis and Apollonia, and so reached Thessalonica. Here the Jews had a synagogue, 2 and Paul, as his custom was, paid them a visit there. Over a space of three sabbaths he reasoned with them out of the scriptures, 3 expounding these and bringing proofs from them that the sufferings of Christ and his rising from the dead were fore-ordained; the Christ, he said, is none other than the Jesus whom I am preaching to you. 4 Some of them were convinced, and threw in their lot with Paul and Silas; a great number, too, of those Gentiles who worshipped the true God, and not a few of the leading women. 
Chrysostom (Homily 37): Although he had said, We turn to the Gentiles Acts 13:46, he did not leave these alone: such was the longing affection he had towards them. For hear him saying, Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved Romans 10:1: and, I wished myself accursed from Christ for my brethren. Romans 9:3...

...he reasoned with them, opening out of the Scriptures: for so used Christ also to do: as on many occasions we find Him reasoning from the Scriptures, and not on all occasions (urging men) by miracles. Because to this indeed they stood in a posture of hostility, calling them deceivers and jugglers; but he that persuades men by reasons from the Scriptures, is not liable to this imputation. And on many occasions we find (Paul) to have convinced men simply by force of teaching...
5 The Jews were indignant at this, and they found confederates among the riff-raff of the market-place, to make a disturbance and throw the city into an uproar. Then they made a sudden descent on Jason’s house, in the hope of bringing Paul and Silas out into the presence of the people; 6 but, as they could not find them, they dragged Jason  and some of the brethren before the city council, crying out, Here they are, the men who are turning the state upside down; they have come here too; 7 and Jason has given them hospitality. All these folk defy the edicts of Caesar; they say there is another king, one Jesus. 8 Both the crowd and the city council took alarm at hearing this, 9 and they demanded bail from Jason and the others before they would let them go.10 Thereupon the brethren sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea; where, as soon as they arrived, they made their way to the Jewish synagogue. 11 These were of a better breed than the Thessalonians; they welcomed the word with all eagerness, and examined the scriptures, day after day, to find out whether all this was true; 12 so that many of them learned to believe, as certain Greek women of fashion did, and not a few of the men as well. 13 But now some of the Thessalonian Jews, hearing that the word of God had been preached by Paul at Beroea too, came on there, to upset and disturb the minds of the multitude; 14 whereupon the brethren sent Paul away, to continue his journey up to the coast; Silas and Timothy remained there still.
 5 Zelantes autem Judæi, assumentesque de vulgo viros quosdam malos, et turba facta, concitaverunt civitatem: et assistentes domui Jasonis quærebant eos producere in populum. 6 Et cum non invenissent eos, trahebant Jasonem et quosdam fratres ad principes civitatis, clamantes: Quoniam hi qui urbem concitant, et huc venerunt, 7 quos suscepit Jason, et hi omnes contra decreta Cæsaris faciunt, regem alium dicentes esse, Jesum. 8 Concitaverunt autem plebem et principes civitatis audientes hæc. 9 Et accepta satisfactione a Jasone et a ceteris, dimiserunt eos. 10 Fratres vero confestim per noctem dimiserunt Paulum et Silam in Berœam. Qui cum venissent, in synagogam Judæorum introierunt. 11 Hi autem erant nobiliores eorum qui sunt Thessalonicæ, qui susceperunt verbum cum omni aviditate, quotidie scrutantes Scripturas, si hæc ita se haberent. 12 Et multi quidem crediderunt ex eis, et mulierum gentilium honestarum, et viri non pauci. 13 Cum autem cognovissent in Thessalonica Judæi quia et Berœæ prædicatum est a Paulo verbum Dei, venerunt et illuc commoventes, et turbantes multitudinem. 14 Statimque tunc Paulum dimiserunt fratres, ut iret usque ad mare: Silas autem et Timotheus remanserunt ibi.
Chrys: See what zeal the rest of the disciples showed with respect to their leaders: not as it is now with us, who are separated and divided into great and small: some of us exalted, while others are envious: for this is the reason why those are envious, because we are puffed up, because we will not endure to be put upon a par with them.   The reason why there is harmony in the body, is because there is no puffing up: and there is no puffing up, because the members are of necessity made to stand in need of each other, and the head has need of the feet. And God has made this to be the case with us, and, for all that, we will not endure it: although even without this, there ought to be love among us. ...On this account the assembly of the whole Church has more power: and what each cannot do by himself singly, he is able to do when joined with the rest. Therefore most necessary are the prayers offered up, here, for the world, for the Church, from the one end of the earth to the other, for peace, for those who are in adversities.
15 Those who were escorting Paul on his journey saw him as far as Athens, and then left him, with instructions for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him as soon as possible. 16 And while Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his heart was moved within him to find the city so much given over to idolatry, 17 and he reasoned, not only in the synagogue with Jews and worshippers of the true God, but in the market-place, with all he met. 18 He encountered philosophers, Stoics and Epicureans, some of whom asked, What can his drift be, this dabbler? while others said, He would appear to be proclaiming strange gods; because he had preached to them about Jesus and Resurrection. 19 So they took him by the sleeve and led him up to the Areopagus; May we ask, they said, what this new teaching is thou art delivering? 20 Thou dost introduce terms which are strange to our ears; pray let us know what may be the meaning of it. 21 (No townsman of Athens, or stranger visiting it, has time for anything else than saying something new, or hearing it said.) 22 So Paul stood up in full view of the Areopagus, and said, Men of Athens, wherever I look I find you scrupulously religious. 23 Why, in examining your monuments as I passed by them, I found among others an altar which bore the inscription, To the unknown God. And it is this unknown object of your devotion that I am revealing to you. 24 The God who made the world and all that is in it, that God who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples that our hands have made; 25 no human handicraft can do him service, as if he stood in need of anything, he, who gives to all of us life and breath and all we have.
 15 Qui autem deducebant Paulum, perduxerunt eum usque Athenas, et accepto mandato ab eo ad Silam et Timotheum ut quam celeriter venirent ad illum, profecti sunt. 16 Paulus autem cum Athenis eos exspectaret, incitabatur spiritus ejus in ipso, videns idololatriæ deditam civitatem. 17 Disputabat igitur in synagoga cum Judæis et colentibus, et in foro, per omnes dies ad eos qui aderant. 18 Quidam autem epicurei et stoici philosophi disserebant cum eo, et quidam dicebant: Quid vult seminiverbius hic dicere? Alii vero: Novorum dæmoniorum videtur annuntiator esse: quia Jesum et resurrectionem annuntiabat eis. 19 Et apprehensum eum ad Areopagum duxerunt, dicentes: Possumus scire quæ est hæc nova, quæ a te dicitur, doctrina? 20 nova enim quædam infers auribus nostris: volumus ergo scire quidnam velint hæc esse. 21 (Athenienses autem omnes, et advenæ hospites, ad nihil aliud vacabant nisi aut dicere aut audire aliquid novi.)22 Stans autem Paulus in medio Areopagi, ait: Viri Athenienses, per omnia quasi superstitiosiores vos video. 23 Præteriens enim, et videns simulacra vestra, inveni et aram in qua scriptum erat: Ignoto Deo. Quod ergo ignorantes colitis, hoc ego annuntio vobis. 24 Deus, qui fecit mundum, et omnia quæ in eo sunt, hic cæli et terræ cum sit Dominus, non in manufactis templis habitat, 25 nec manibus humanis colitur indigens aliquo, cum ipse det omnibus vitam, et inspirationem, et omnia: 
Chrysostom (Homily 38): God, he says, that made the world. Acts 17:24 He uttered one word, by which he has subverted all the (doctrines) of the philosophers. For the Epicureans affirm all to be fortuitously formed and (by concourse) of atoms, the Stoics held it to be body and fire (ἐ κπύρωσιν). The world and all that is therein. Do you mark the conciseness, and in conciseness, clearness? Mark what were the things that were strange to them: that God made the world! Things which now any of the most ordinary persons know, these the Athenians and the wise men of the Athenians knew not. Seeing He is Lord of heaven and earth: for if He made them, it is clear that He is Lord. Observe what he affirms to be the note of Deity— creation. Which attribute the Son also has.

For the Prophets everywhere affirm this, that to create is God's prerogative. Not as those affirm that another is Maker but not Lord, assuming that matter is uncreated. Here now he covertly affirms and establishes his own, while he overthrows their doctrine.

Dwells not in temples made with hands. For He does indeed dwell in temples, yet not in such, but in man's soul. He overthrows the corporeal worship. What then? Did He not dwell in the temple at Jerusalem? No indeed: but He wrought therein...How then was He worshipped by men's hands among the Jews? Not by hands, but by the understanding.
26 It is he who has made, of one single stock, all the nations that were to dwell over the whole face of the earth. And he has given to each the cycles it was to pass through and the fixed limits of its habitation,27 leaving them to search for God; would they somehow grope their way towards him? Would they find him? And yet, after all, he is not far from any one of us; 28 it is in him that we live, and move, and have our being; thus, some of your own poets have told us, For indeed, we are his children. 29 Why then, if we are the children of God, we must not imagine that the divine nature can be represented in gold, or silver, or stone, carved by man’s art and thought. 30 God has shut his eyes to these passing follies of ours; now, he calls upon all men, everywhere, to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day when he will pronounce just judgement on the whole world. And the man whom he has appointed for that end he has accredited to all of us, by raising him up from the dead.
Chrys: These words were spoken indeed to the Athenians: but it were seasonable that one should say to us also, that all men everywhere must repent, because he has appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world. See how he brings Him in as Judge also: Him, both provident for the world, and merciful and forgiving and powerful and wise, and, in a word possessing all the attributes of a Creator.

St John's suggestion on how to prepare ourselves for the Second Coming:

...How then, how shall we love Him?...One way I seem to myself to have discovered, a very great and admirable way. Namely, after acknowledging to Him our general obligations—what none shall be able to express (I mean), what has been done for each of us in his own person, of these also let us bethink ourselves, because these are of great force: let each one of us reckon them up with himself, and make diligent search, and as it were in a book let him have the benefits of God written down; for instance, if at any time having fallen into dangers he has escaped the hands of his enemies; if ever having gone out on a journey at an untimely hour, he has escaped danger; if ever, having had an encounter with wicked men, he has got the better of them; or if ever, having fallen into sickness, he has recovered when all had given him over: for this avails much for attaching us to God.

For if that Mordecai, when the services done by him were brought to the king's remembrance, found them to be so available, that he in return rose to that height of splendor Esther 6:2-11: much more we, if we call to mind, and make diligent enquiry of these two points, what sins we have committed against God, and what good He has done to us, shall thus both be thankful, and give Him freely all that is ours. But no one gives a thought to any of these things: but just as regarding our sins we say that we are sinners, while we do not enquire into them specifically, so with regard to God's benefits (we say), that God has done us good, and do not specifically enquire, where, and in how great number and at what time.

But from this time forth let us be very exact in our reckoning. For if any one can recall even those things which happened long ago, let him reckon up all accurately, as one who will find a great treasure.

This is also profitable to us in keeping us from despair. For when we see that he has often protected us, we shall not despair, nor suppose that we are cast off: but we shall take it as a strong pledge of His care for us, when we bethink us how, though we have sinned, we are not punished, but even enjoy protection from Him.
32 When resurrection from the dead was mentioned, some mocked, while others said, We must hear more from thee about this. 33 So Paul went away from among them. 34 But there were men who attached themselves to him and learned to believe, among them Dionysius the Areopagite; and so did a woman called Damaris, and others with them.

No comments:

Post a Comment