Acts 17:16

Paul in Athens

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was troubled within him when he saw that the city was full of idols.

Acts 17:16 Meaning and Commentary

Acts 17:16

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens.
&c.] That is, for Silas and Timotheus:

his spirit was stirred in him;
not only his soul was troubled and his heart was grieved, but he was exasperated and provoked to the last degree: he was in a paroxysm; his heart was hot within him; he had a burning fire in his bones, and was weary with forbearing, and could not stay; his zeal wanted vent, and he gave it:

when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry;
or "full of idols", as the Syriac and Arabic versions render it. So Cicero says F24 that Athens was full of temples; and Xenophon F25 observes that they had double the feasts of other people; and Pausanias F26 affirms, that the Athenians far exceeded others in the worship of the gods, and care about religion; and he relates, that they had an altar for Mercy, another for Shame, another for Fame, and another for Desire, and expressed more religion to the gods than others did: they had an altar dedicated to twelve gods F1; and because they would be sure of all, they erected one to an unknown god; in short, they had so many of them, that one F2 jestingly said to them, our country is so full of deities, that one may more easily find a god than a man: so that with all their learning and wisdom they knew not God, ( 1 Corinthians 1:21 ) .


F24 De responsis Aruspicum.
F25 De Athen. Polit.
F26 Attica, p. 29, 42.
F1 Thucydides Bell. Peloponness. l. 6.
F2 Petronius.

Acts 17:16 In-Context

14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul away to go to the sea, but Silas and Timothy stayed on there.
15 Those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible, they departed.
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was troubled within him when he saw that the city was full of idols.
17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with those who worshiped God, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.
18 Then also, some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers argued with him. Some said, "What is this pseudo-intellectual trying to say?" Others replied, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign deities"-because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.
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