Acts 17:19

ESV And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?
NIV Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, 'May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?
NASB And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, 'May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming?
CSB They took him and brought him to the Areopagus, and said, "May we learn about this new teaching you are presenting?
NLT Then they took him to the high council of the city. 'Come and tell us about this new teaching,' they said.
KJV And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?

What does Acts 17:19 mean?

Silas and Timothy are over 140 miles away from Paul, either in Berea or Thessalonica. This puts him in a precarious position. Paul has been breaking Roman law by promoting the worship of Jesus—a deity not authorized by the Roman Empire—in the Agora of Athens. Now, Greek philosophers "take" Paul to the Areopagus to explain what he is teaching.

"Took" is from the Greek root word epilambanomai. It means to take possession of or to seize in a violent way. The Areopagus is a hilltop where philosophers debate, but it's also where city officials hold trials for murder and crimes against public order. Legend says the first trial was against Ares for the murder of Poseidon's son—"Areopagus" is Greek for Ares's Hill; the Roman is Mars's Hill (more commonly, Mars Hill). Another trial, described 500 years before in Xenophon's Memorabilia, was against Socrates for a similar crime as Paul: introducing foreign gods.

Fortunately, the philosophers have no ulterior motive. They think Paul's a "babbler"—someone who takes bits and pieces of different philosophies and combines them in a way that doesn't make sense (Acts 17:18). Specifically, they seem to think he has been teaching about two strange gods named "Healer" and "Resurrection."

Once Paul is allowed to speak, he provides an eloquent argument for the existence of Creator God. He even weaves in the words of classical poets. He moves on to explain this God is calling His creation to repent of their sins or else be judged. God identified the judge by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:20–31).

Ironically, it's the most important part of Paul's message that saves him from the law—not because people think it's true but because they think it's ridiculous. Epicureans and Stoics do not believe in the supernatural. They believe people cease to exist at death because they have no soul or spirit that could return. Consequently, there is no judgment. A handful do continue to listen and accept Jesus' offer of salvation; the rest are convinced Paul is just a harmless babbler (Acts 17:32–34).
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