Here are some of my notes for Sunday, August 3, 2008 based on the Lifeway Explore the Bible curriculum
Reference works cited include:
1) The Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary by F. F. Bruce
2) The Acts of the Apostles: A Social-Rhetorical Commentary by Ben Witherington III
3)The Acts of the Apostles: Anchor Bible Commentary by Joseph Fitzmyer
From ISBE:”Athens ath´enz Ἀθῆναι, Athḗnai In antiquity the celebrated metropolis of Attica, now the capital of Greece. Two long walls, 250 ft. apart, connected the city with the harbor (Peiraeus). In Acts 17 we are told what Paul did during his single sojourn in this famous city. He came up from the sea by the new road (North of the ancient) along which were altars of unknown gods, entered the city from the West, and passed by the Ceramicus (burial-ground), which can be seen to this day, the “Theseum,” the best preserved of all Greek temples, and on to the Agora (Market-Place), just North of the Acropolis, a steep hill, 200 ft. high, in the center of the city. Cimon began and Pericles completed the work of transforming this citadel into a sanctuary for the patron goddess of the city. The magnificent gateway (Propylaea), of which the Athenians were justly proud, was built by Mnesicles (437-432 bc). A monumental bronze statue by Phidias stood on the left, as one emerged on the plateau, and the mighty Parthenon a little further on, to the right. In this temple was the famous gold and ivory statue of Athena. The eastern pediment contained sculptures representing the birth of the goddess (Elgin Marbles, now in the British Museum), the western depicting her contest with Poseidon for supremacy over Attica. This, the most celebrated edifice, architecturally, in all history, was partially destroyed by the Venetians in 1687. Other temples on the Acropolis are the Erechtheum and the “Wingless Victory.” In the city the streets were exceedingly narrow and crooked. The wider avenues were called πλατεῖαι, plateíai, whence English “place,” Spanish “plaza.” The roofs of the houses were flat. In and around the Agora were many porticoes stoaí̌. In the Stoa Poecile (“Painted Portico”), whose walls were covered with historical paintings, Paul met with the successors of Zeno, the Stoics, with whom he disputed daily. In this vicinity also was the Senate Chamber for the Council of Five Hundred, and the Court of the Areopagus, whither Socrates came in 399 bc to face his accusers, and where Paul, five centuries later, preached to the Athenians “the unknown God.” In this neighborhood also were the Tower of the Winds and the water-clock, which must have attracted Paul’s attention, as they attract our attention today.
The apostle disputed in the synagogue with the Jews (Act_17:17), and a slab found at the foot of Mount Hymettus (a range to the East of the city, 3,000 ft. high), with the inscription αὔτη ἡ πύλη τοῦ κυρίου, δίκαιοι εἰσελεύσονται ἐν αὐτῇ (Psa_118:20), was once thought to indicate the site, but is now believed to date from the 3rd or 4th century. Slabs bearing Jewish inscriptions have been found in the city itself.The population of Athens was at least a quarter of a million. The oldest inhabitants were Pelasgians. Cecrops, the first traditional king, came from Egypt in 1556 bc, and by marrying the daughter of Actaeon, obtained the sovereignty. The first king was Erechtheus. Theseus united the twelve communities of Attica and made Athens the capital. After the death of Codrus in 1068 bc, the governing power was entrusted to an archon who held office for life. In 753 bc the term of office was limited to ten years. In 683 bc nine archons were chosen for a term of one year. Draco’s laws, “written in blood,” were made in 620 bc. Solon was chosen αρχον, archon in 594 bc and gave the state a constitution. The tyrant Pisistratus was in control permanently from 541 to 527 bc; his son Hipparchus was assassinated in 514. Clisthenes changed the constitution and introduced the practice of ostracism. In 490 bc the Athenians defeated the Persians at Marathon, and again in 480 bc at Salamis. In 476 bc Aristides organized the great Athenian Confederacy. After his death Conon became the leader of the conservative party; and when the general Cimon was killed, Pericles became the leader of the people. In 431 bc the Peloponnesian War broke out and continued till 404 bc, when Athens succumbed to Sparta. An oligarchical government was set up with Critias and Theramenes at the head. War broke out again but peace was restored by the pact of Antalcidas (387 bc). In the Sacred War (357-355 bc) Athens exhausted her strength. When Philip of Macedon began to interfere in Greek affairs, Athens could neither resolve on war measures (to which the oratory of Demosthenes incited her), nor make terms with Philip. Finally, she joined Thebes in making armed resistance, but in spite of her heroic efforts at Chaeronea, she suffered defeat (338 bc). Philip was murdered in 336 bc, and Alexander the Great became master. After the subjugation of Greece by the Romans, Athens was placed under the supervision of the governor of Macedonia, but was granted local independence in recognition of her great history. As the seat of Greek art and science, Athens played an important role even under Roman sway – she became the university city of the Roman world, and from her radiated spiritual light and intellectual energy to Tarsus, Antioch and Alexandria. Philo, the Jew, declares that the Athenians were Ἑλλήνων ὀξυδερκέστατοι διάνοιαν (“keenest in intellect”) and adds that Athens was to Greece what the pupil is to the eye, or reason to the soul. Although the city had lost her real independence, the people retained their old characteristics: they were still interested in art, literature and philosophy. Paul may possibly have attended theater of Dionysus (under the Southeast cliff of the Acropolis) and witnessed a play of the Greek poets, such as Euripides or Menander. Many gifts were received from foreign monarchs by Athens. Attalus I of Pergamum endowed the Academy, Eumenes added a splendid Stoa to theater and Antiochus Epiphanes began the Olympeium (15 columns of which are still standing), the massive sub-basement of which had been constructed by Pisistratus. Athens became a favorite residence for foreign writers who cultivated history, geography and literature. Horace, Brutus and Cassius sojourned in the city for some time. Josephus declares that the Athenians were the most god-fearing of the Greeks (εὐσεβεστάτους τῶν Ἑλλήνων). Compare Livy xlv.27.
From ATS Bible Dictionary: “ATHENS: The city of Minerva, the chief city of Attica in Greece, situated on the Saronic Gulf, forty-six miles east of Corinth, and about five miles from the coast. The city was in a plain extending to the sea on the southwest, where it had three ports, the passage to which was defended by long and broad walls. Several rocky hills rose in the plain, the largest of which was the citadel, or Acropolis. Around this the city was built, most of the buildings spreading towards the sea. The summit of the hill was nearly level, about eight hundred feet long and four hundred wide. The only way to the Acropolis was through the Propylea, a magnificent gateway on the western side, adorned with two temples decorated with the finest pieces of sculpture and painting. These splendid portals crowned an ascent by marble steps to the summit of the hill, on which were erected the temples of the guardian divinities of Athens. On the left was the temple of Pallas Athene, (Minerva,) regarded as the protectress of the city. Under the same roof was the temple of Neptune. In the area, on a high pedestal, stood a bronze statue of Minerva seventy feet high. On the right arose the Parthenon, the glory of Athens, the noblest triumph of Grecian architecture. From whatever quarter the traveller arrived, the first thing he saw was the Parthenon rearing its lofty head above the city and the citadel. Its ruins, still sublime in decay, are the first object that attracts the eye of a stranger. It was of the Doric order of architecture, built of beautiful white marble, and was about one hundred feet wide, two hundred and twenty-six feet deep, and seventy feet high. There was a double portico of columns at the two fronts, and a single row along each side. There was an architrave, or frieze, along the exterior of the nave, beautifully sculptured, with the representation of a procession in honor of Minerva. Within the temple was a statue of Minerva, by Phidias, celebrated for its exquisite beauty. It was make of gold and ivory, and was nearly forty feet high. The goddess was represented erect, covered with her aegis, holding in one had a lance, and in the other a figure of victory. At the foot of the Acropolis, on one side was the Odeum, or music hall, and the theatre of Bacchus: on the other side was the Prytaneum, where the chief magistrates and most meritorious citizens were entertained at a table furnished at the public expense. A small valley lay between the Acropolis and the hill on which the Areopagus held its session; it also separated the Areopagus from the Pnyx, a small rocky hill on which the general assemblies of the people were held. Here the spot is yet pointed out from which the eminent orators addressed the people. It is cut in the natural rock. In this vicinity also was the agora, or marketplace, Ac 17:17, an open square surrounded by beautiful structures; while on every side altars, shrines, and temples were seen, some of them exceedingly magnificent. This beautiful city was also celebrated for the military talents and the learning, eloquence, and politeness of its inhabitants. It was the very flower of ancient civilization; its schools of philosophy were the most illustrious in the world, and its painters, sculptors, and architects have never been surpassed. Yet no city was so “wholly given to idolatry.” The apostle Paul visited it about the year A. D. 52, and though alone among its proud philosophers, preached Jesus and the resurrection to them with fidelity and success, Ac 17:15- 34.”Acts 17:16
waiting for them- Silas and Timothy, who were in Berea, which Paul had left to escape Jewish outrage.
troubled/stirred- parozenuto- “irritated”, “enraged”, perhaps “stirred to action” (Bruce)
full of idols- kataidolon, properly formed Greek word, not elsewhere found in Greek literature, considered perhaps a Christian invention. (Bruce) There were many statues in the Acropolis, and many herms, pillars in the city decorated with a head of Hermes and a phallus (Witherington).
in the synagogue- Paul following his standard operating procedure of going to the local synagogue first.
those who worshipped God/devout persons- Godfearers attending the synagaogue.
in the marketplace- N. of the Acropolis, the agora, itself filled with the herms mentioned above.
Epicureans: Epicurus (341-270 BC) came to Athens in 306, bought a house with a garden, and set up a philosophical school as he had earlier in his career in smaller cities. His followers lived a materialist, spartan life on his property, separating themselves from public affairs. Though nowadays “epicurean” describes a food lover, the original Epicureans idea of living for pleasure was defined by the idea that the greatest pleasure was lack of pain, a sort of tranquil life free from passions or fears. The gods, according to Epicurus, live outside the mortal sphere, and are unconcerned about it in their tranquility.
Stoicism: From the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Stoics and Stoic Philosophy: The Stoic School was founded in 322 B.C. by Zeno of Cittium and existed until the closing of the Athenian schools (A.D. 429), (it took the name from the Stoa poikile, the painted hall or colonnade in which the lectures were held.) Its history may be divided into three parts: (1) Ancient Stoicism; (2) Middle Stoicism; (3) New Stoicism.(1) Ancient Stoicism (322-204)Zeno of Cittium (b. 366; d. in 280) was the disciple of Crates the Cynic and the academicians Stilpo, Xenocrates, and Polemon. After his death (264), Cleanthes of Assium (b. 331; d. 232) became head of the school; Chrysippus of Soli (b. 280), succeeded and was scholarch until 204. These philosophers, all of Oriental origin, lived in Athens where Zeno played a part in politics and were in communication with the principal men of their day. The Stoic doctrine, of which Zeno laid the foundations, was developed by Chrysippus in 705 treatises, of which only some fragments have been preserved. In addition to the principles accepted by all thinkers of their age (the perception of the true, if it exists, can only be immediate; the wise man is self-sufficient; the political constitution is indifferent), derived from the Sophists and the Cynics, they base the entire moral attitude of the wise man conformity to oneself and nature, indifference to external things on a comprehensive concept of nature, in part derived from Heraclitus, but inspired by an entirely new spirit. It is a belief in a universal nature that is at one and the same time Fate infallibly regulating the course of events (eimarmene, logos); Zeus, or providence, the eternal principle of finality adapting all other things to the needs of rational beings; the law determining the natural rules that govern the society of men and of the gods; the artistic fire, the expression of the active force which produced the world one, perfect, and complete from the beginning, with which it will be reunited through the universal conflagration, following a regular and ever recurring cycle. The popular gods are different forms of this force, described allegorically in myths. This view of nature is the basis for the optimism of the Stoic moral system; confidence in the instinctive faculties, which, in the absence of a perfect knowledge of the world, ought to guide man’s actions; and again, the infallible wisdom of the sage, which Chrysippus tries to establish by a dialectic derived from Aristotle and the Cynics. But this optimism requires them to solve the following problems: the origin of the passions and the vices; the conciliation of fate and liberty; the origin of evil in the world. On the last two subjects they propounded, all the arguments that were advanced later up to the time of Leibniz. (2)Middle Stoicism (second and first centuries B.C.)Stoicism during this period was no longer a Greek school; it had penetrated into the Roman world and had become, under the influence of Scipio’s friend, Panaetius (185-112), who lived in Rome, and of Posidonius, (135-40) who transferred the school to Rhodes, the quasi-official philosophy of Roman imperialism. Its doctrines were considerably modified, becoming less dogmatic in consequence of the criticism of the new Academician, Carneades (215-129). In Stoic morality, Panaetius develops the idea of humanity. Posidonius at once a savant, historian, geographer, mathematician, astronomer and a mystic who commenting on Plato’s works, revives his theories on the nature and destiny of the soul. (3)New Stoicism (to A.D. 429)The new Stoicism is more ethical and didactic. Science is no longer the knowledge of nature, but a kind of theological summa of moral and religious sentiments. Very little has been preserved of the short popular treatises and discourses, wherein a vivid style introduced under the influence of the Cynic diatribe, the philosopher endeavored to render his ethical principles practical. The letters of Seneca (2-68 ) to Lucilius, the conversations of Musonius (time of Nero), and of Epictetus (age of Domitian), the fragments of Hierodcles (time of Hadrian), the members of Marcus Aurelius (d. 180), give but an incomplete idea. Stoicism, which generally disappeared as the official School, was the most important of the Hellenistic elements in the semi-oriental religions of vanishing paganism.”
pseudo-intellectual/babbler: “spermologos”, seed picker, like a bird feeding. Later referred to a person buying scraps from the market, and then later to someone who gathered scraps of knowledge, a dilettante. It’s definitely meant as an insult. (Bruce)
foreign deities/strange gods- Josephus in Against Apion 2.37.266-7 says spreading foreign gods was a crime in Athens punishable by death. Socrates was so condemned, and Protagoras and Anaxogoras also faced the same charge. (Fitzmyer)
Jesus and the resurrection- This probably doesn’t convey the sense the Athenians had of Paul’s message. Iesous (Greek Jesus) might easily be confused with Ieso “healer”, and resurrection (anastasis) with anastateria, sacrifices offered on recovery from illness, a feminine word that might be taken to be a name. Thus the Athenians might have thought Paul preaching the Healer and the Resurrection, a male god and his female consort. This is an ancient theory that goes back to John Chrysostom(347-407 AD) Physical resurrection was not a prevalent idea among the Greeks at the time.(Bruce, Fitzmyer)
took him- epilambano: generally considered to mean “brought” or lead” in a neutral sense, but Witherington points out that the narrative in Acts typically has Paul hauled up before courts, so this may be better translated as “dragged”, “carried”, as in made Paul go by force.(Witherington)
Areopagus- From ATS Bible Dictionary: “AREOPAGUS: The hill of Mars, the seat of the ancient and venerable supreme court of Athens, called the Areopagites, Ac 17:19-34. It was composed entirely of ex-archons, of grave and blameless character, and their wise and just decisions made it famous far beyond the bounds of Greece. Their numbers and authority varied greatly from age to age. They held their sessions by night. They took cognizance of murders, impieties, and immoralities; punished vices of all kinds, idleness included; rewarded or assisted the virtuous; and were peculiarly attentive to blasphemies against the gods, and to the performance of the sacred mysteries. The case of Paul, therefore, would naturally come before them, for he sought to subvert their whole system of idolatry, and establish Christianity in its place. The Bible narrative, however, rather describes an informal popular movement. Having heard Paul discoursing from day to day in the market place, the philosophic and inquisitive Athenians took him one day up into the adjacent hill, for a more full and quiet exposition of his doctrine. The stone seats of the Areopagus lay open to the sky; in the court stood Epicureans, Stoics, etc.; around them spread the city, full of idolaters and their temples; and little south-east rose the steep height of the Acropolis, on whose level summit were crowded more and richer idolatrous structures than on any other equal space in the world.”
From ISBE: “Areopagus ar-ē̇-op´a-gus (Ἄρειος πάγος, Áreios págos; Act_17:19, Act_17:22. Mars’ Hill, Act_17:22 the King James Version): A sort of spur jutting out from the western end of the Acropolis and separated from it by a very short saddle. Traces of old steps cut in the rock are still to be seen. Underneath are deep grottoes, once the home of the Eumenides (Furies). On the flat surface of the summit are signs still visible of a smoothing of the stone for seats. Directly below to the North was the old Athenian agora, or market-place. To the East, on the descent from the Acropolis, could be seen in antiquity a small semicircular platform – the orchestra – from which rose the precipitous rock of the citadel. Here the booksellers kept their stalls; here the work of Anaxagoras could be bought for a drachma; from here his physical philosophy was disseminated, then, through Euripides, the poetic associate of Socrates and the sophists, leavened the drama, and finally reached the people of Athens. Then came the Stoics and Epicureans who taught philosophy and religion as a system, not as a faith, and spent their time in searching out some new thing in creed and dogma and opinion. Five centuries earlier Socrates was brought to this very Areopagus to face the charges of his accusers. To this same spot the apostle Paul came almost five hundred years after 399 bc, when the Attic martyr was executed, with the same earnestness, the same deep-rooted convictions, and with even greater ardor, to meet the philosophers of fashion. The Athenian guides will show you the exact place where the apostle stood, and in what direction he faced when he addressed his audience. No city has ever seen such a forest of statues as studded the market-place, the streets and the sides and summit of the Acropolis of Athens. A large part of this wealth of art was in full view of the speaker, and the apostle naturally made this extraordinary display of votive statues and offerings the starting-point of his address. He finds the Athenians extremely religious. He had found an altar to a god unknown. Then he develops theme of the great and only God, not from the Hebrew, but from the Greek, the Stoic point of view. His audiences consisted, on the one hand, of the advocates of prudence as the means, and pleasure as the end (the Epicureans); on the other, of the advocates of duty, of living in harmony with the intelligence which rules the world for good. He frankly expresses his sympathy with the nobler principles of the Stoic doctrine. But neither Stoic nor Epicurean could believe the declarations of the apostle: the latter believed death to be the end of all things, the former thought that the soul at death was absorbed again into that from which it sprang. Both understood Paul as proclaiming to them in Jesus and Anástasis (“resurrection”) some new deities. When they finally ascertained that Jesus was ordained by God to judge the world, and that Anastasis was merely the resurrection of the dead, they were disappointed. Some scoffed, others departed, doubtless with the feeling that they had already given audience too long to such a fanatic.The Areopagus, or Hill of Ares, was the ancient seat of the court of the same name, the establishment of which leads us far back into the mythical period long before the dawn of history. This court exercised the right of capital punishment. In 594 bc the jurisdiction in criminal cases was given to the archons who had discharged the duties of their office well and honorably, consequently to the noblest, richest and most distinguished citizens of Athens. The Areopagus saw that the laws in force were observed and executed by the properly constituted authorities; it could bring officials to trial for their acts while in office, even raise objections to all resolutions of the Council and of the General Assembly, if the court perceived a danger to the state, or subversion of the constitution.
The Areopagus also protected the worship of the gods, the sanctuaries and sacred festivals, and the olive trees of Athens; and it supervised the religious sentiments of the people, the moral conduct of the citizens, as well as the education of the youth. Without waiting for a formal accusation the Areopagus could summon any citizen to court, examine, convict and punish him. Under unusual circumstances full powers could be granted by the people to this body for the conduct of various affairs of state; when the safety of the city was menaced, the court acted even without waiting for full power to be conferred upon it. The tenure of office was for life, and the number of members without restriction. The court sat at night at the end of each month and for three nights in succession. The place of meeting was a simple house, built of clay, which was still to be seen in the time of Vitruvius. The Areopagus, hallowed by the sacred traditions of the past, a dignified and august body, was independent of and uninfluenced by the wavering discordant multitude, and was not affected by the ever-changing public opinion. Conservative almost to a fault, it did the state good service by holding in check the too rash and radical younger spirits. When the democratic party came to power, after Cimon’s banishment, one of its first acts was to limit the powers of the Areopagus. By the law of Ephialtes in 460 the court lost practically all jurisdiction. The supervision of the government was transferred to the nomophulakes (law-guardians). At the end of the Peloponnesian war, however, in 403 its old rights were restored. The court remained in existence down to the time of the emperors. From Act_17:19, Act_17:22 we learn that it existed in the time of Claudius. One of its members was converted to the Christian faith (Act_17:34). It was probably abolished by Vespasian.”
Thus there seems to be two points in dispute here:
1) Is the reference to Areopagus “Ares’ hill” to the hill as a meeting place for discussion, or to the court that met there; and
2) If the court is in view, was Paul on trial formally, or was this a sort of preliminary hearing, to determine the necessity of trial?
The commentaries lean toward the reference being to the court, but the occasion being more a preliminary hearing. This is confirmed to many by the neutral, polite question addressed to Paul in 19b.
strange things- xenizonta, the same word used of Socrates’ teaching at the beginning of his trial, which lead to his execution. Thus the situation is not entirely safe for Paul, however informal the situation.
Luke characterises the Athenians as people constantly searching out the newest news and ideas, the latest fad. This reminds one of people nowadays forever watching CNN or constantly scanning the Internet for the latest.
stood in the middle of the Areopagus: Again, is this the middle of the hill, or in the center of the court, which likely met in a building and not in the ancient outdoor court on the hill? The majority opinion these days seems to be in the middle of the assembled court, but image of Paul proclaiming on that hill is etched in our artistic and literary memory.
extremely religious/too superstitious: deisidaimonesterous. Here Paul is using the ambiguity of this word as seen in the different translations of the HCSB and KJV to serve his purposes. A clever orator, Paul is letting his hearers take their own view as to what he is saying here. He may be being complimentary, but like most courts then and now, flattery can set the judges against you as too easy a tactic. He may be deriding the Athenians’ religion, full of idols and the need to placate any god who might be lurking out there whether the Athenians knew the god or not. Almost certainly, Paul is trying to impress the court with his speaking ability by using this double meaning word. (Witherington)
objects of worship/devotions- sebasmata, an inclusive word for statues, shrines, sanctuaries, temples, and altars.
altar- bomon, only used here in the NT. All other altars are thusisasterion. The difference is presumably that it is a pagan altar. (Bruce)
unknown god- Highly debated inscription. Scholarly investigation seems to point to numerous solitary altar dedicated to multiple unknown gods in Athens. Still, it is not impossible that altars dedicated to a single god or unknown god existed, as shown by these scenarios:
1) old, damaged altars without an inscription that were repaired might be rededicated to “a god” or “an unknown god”. (Bruce)
2) Godfearers might have dedicated altars to the Jewish God, whose name is not spoken, thus “the unknown god” or “the unnamed god”. (Witherington)
3) a new altar might be erected to a foreign god but called unknown because Greeks feared misnaming a god incurred its wrath.(Witherington)
worship in ignorance, I proclaim: Paul here strikes the right chord with the Athenians by:
1) saying they are pious, they worship this god
2) acknowledging their belief that ignorant, misinformed worship might anger a god.(Witherington)
God as creator of universe: common ground between Jewish belief and Greek philosophy.
doesn’t live in shrines: more common ground between 1 Kings 8:27, Is 57:15 and sayings of Epicurus and Stoic founder Zeno.(Fitzmyer)
not served, as if He needs: Ps. 50:9-12, Amos 5:12-23, again matching Greek philosophers’ ideas of God.(Fitzmyer)
gives life, breath, and all things: Gen 2:7, Is 45:2 in common with Epicurean ideas. Life , zoe, was almost a name for Zeus, so it could be Paul is making a dig at traditional Greek religion here. (Witherington, Fitzmyer)
from one He has made every nation: One is ambiguous, and has been added to in ancient manuscripts, with Greek for “blood” , to refer back to Adam, rather than leave “nation” implied. Classic Athenian legend had the city’s first inhabitants spring from the ground.(Bruce, Witherington)
appointed times: is this saying God made the seasons, or controls human history, or even each man’s fate?
boundaries: Again ambiguous. Is this the habitable parts of the earth, or the borders of the nations?
seek: Is this Greek imagery for finding what is true, or OT imagery for trusting and obeying God, as in Deu 4:29, 2 Sam 21:1, Hos 5:15.(Witherington)
reach out/feel after: seems to be imagery of groping for something in the dark.(Bruce)
live, move, and exist: Possibly taken from Epimenides of Crete from the sixth century BC.
your own poets: standard quotation marker in Greek.
we also are his offspring: From poem by Aratus, Stoic philosopher of Cilicia (Paul’s home province) born about 310 BC.
The argument is thus, from the lesser to the greater: If we are greater than the minerals used to make images, or images themselves, how much greater must be the divinity which made us?
overlooked/winked at: The KJV is unfortunate, for the sense is not that God indulged man’s ignorance and sin, but rather that the time for judgement waited for a set time, which Paul declares in v.31 is come.
all men repent: Repent for the kingdom is at hand is Jesus’ earliest proclamation in His ministry. The church has learned in the course of Acts that this message is for all people, not just the Jews. Note also that God does not ask or beg or plead for repentance here; he commands it.
Ps 9:8, 96:13, 98:9, Amos 5:18, Is 2:12, Act_10:42; Mat_25:31-46; Joh_5:22-23; Rom_2:5, Rom_2:16, Rom_14:9-10; 1Co_4:5; 2Co_5:10; 2Ti_4:1; 2Pe_3:7; Jud_1:14-15 Acts 17:32
ridiculed/ mocked: It was long held in Greek thought that “dead was dead”, though the soul was immortal. The Jews, on the other hand had some notion of resurrection since Dan 12:2.(Fitzmyer)
we will hear you…again: so Paul was not condemned or forbidden to speak, but as v. 33 shows, allowed to go free.
From ISBE: “Dionysius dī-ō̇-nish´i-us (Διονύσιος, Dionúsios, surnamed “the Areopagite”): One of the few Athenians converted by Paul (Act_17:34). We know nothing further about him (see AREOPAGUS). According to one account he was the first bishop of the church at Athens; according to another he suffered martyrdom in that city under Domitian. We are even told that he migrated to Rome and was sent to Paris, where he was beheaded on Montmartre (Mount of the Martyr). The patron saint of France is Denys; compare the French “Denys d’Halicarnasse” (Dionysius of Halicarnassus). The mystical writings which were circulated in the Middle Ages and are still extant, are pronounced by the best authorities to be forgeries, and date from a period not earlier than the 5th century.
Damaris dam´a-ris (Δάμαρις, Dámaris, possibly a corruption of δάμαλις, dámalis, “a heifer”): The name of a female Christian of Athens, converted by Paul’s preaching (Act_17:34). The fact that she is mentioned in this passage together with Dionysius the Areopagite has led some, most probably in error, to regard her as his wife. The singling out of her name with that of Dionysius may indicate some personal or social distinction. Compare Act_17:12.
Luke shows Paul was not totally unsuccessful in Athens, naming the two most socially prominent converts of the city. “Areopagite” makes Dionysus one of the judges on the Athenian high court, and a leading citizen of the city. Damaris likewise is likely a woman of noble background and considerable wealth.”