Acts 17:16

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city.

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 The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind.
15 Those escorting Paul went with him all the way to Athens; then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him.
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city.
17 He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there.
18 He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. When he told them about Jesus and his resurrection, they said, “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up?” Others said, “He seems to be preaching about some foreign gods.”
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