Acts 17:23

For (gar). Paul gives an illustration of their religiousness from his own experiences in their city. The objects of your worship (ta sebasmata umwn). Late word from sebazomai, to worship. In N T. only here and 2 Thessalonians 2:4 . The use of this word for temples, altars, statues, shows the conciliatory tone in the use of deisidaimonesterou in verse 2 Thessalonians 22 . An altar (bwmon). Old word, only here in the N.T. and the only mention of a heathen altar in the N.T With this inscription (en wi epegegrapto). On which had been written (stood written), past perfect passive indicative of epigrapw, old and common verb for writing on inscriptions (epigraph, Luke 23:38 ). To an Unknown God (AGNOSTO THEO). Dative case, dedicated to. Pausanias (I. 1, 4) says that in Athens there are "altars to gods unknown" (bwmoi qewn agnwstwn). Epimenides in a pestilence advised the sacrifice of a sheep to the befitting god whoever he might be. If an altar was dedicated to the wrong deity, the Athenians feared the anger of the other gods. The only use in the N.T. of agnwsto, old and common adjective (from a privative and gnwsto verbal of ginwskw, to know). Our word agnostic comes from it. Here it has an ambiguous meaning, but Paul uses it though to a stern Christian philosopher it may be the "confession at once of a bastard philosophy and of a bastard religion" (Hort, Hulsean Lectures, p. 64). Paul was quick to use this confession on the part of the Athenians of a higher power than yet known to them. So he gets his theme from this evidence of a deeper religious sense in them and makes a most clever use of it with consummate skill. In ignorance (agnoounte). Present active participle of agnoew, old verb from same root as agnwsto to which Paul refers by using it. This set I forth unto you (touto ego kataggellw umin). He is a kataggeleu (verse Luke 18 ) as they suspected of a God, both old and new, old in that they already worship him, new in that Paul knows who he is. By this master stroke he has brushed to one side any notion of violation of Roman law or suspicion of heresy and claims their endorsement of his new gospel, a shrewd and consummate turn. He has their attention now and proceeds to describe this God left out of their list as the one true and Supreme God. The later MSS. here read on--touton (whom--this one) rather than o--touto (what--this), but the late text is plainly an effort to introduce too soon the personal nature of God which comes out clearly in verse Luke 24 .