Acts 17:21

ESV Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
NIV (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
NASB (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)
CSB Now all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new.
NLT (It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.)
KJV (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)

What does Acts 17:21 mean?

"Areopagus" is the name of a rock outcropping in Athens and the court that mets there. The court tried serious crimes such as murder and burning down olive trees. The rock is also known as "Mars Hill" because allegedly the first trial held was against Ares for the murder of Poseidon's son. "Areopagus" means "Ares's hill" and Mars is the Roman name for the Greek deity Ares.

The court also tried those charged with serious religious crimes. In 399 BC, Socrates was convicted of teaching his students to disrespect the Athenian gods and worship foreign gods. He was sentenced to death by drinking hemlock. About 350 years later, the Roman statesman Cicero, in De Legibus, ii. 8, wrote that worshiping unapproved gods was not permitted even in private.

Paul has no defense; he is clearly breaking the Roman law. He has already been beaten and imprisoned in Philippi for teaching the worship of Jesus (Acts 16:16–24). When he arrived in Athens, he started in the Jewish synagogue, but he also preached in the city marketplace—the Agora. It was in the Agora that the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers found him and demanded he come to the Areopagus to share his beliefs more formally (Acts 17:16–20).

Paul does not share Socrates' fate for several possible reasons. Socrates was teaching young students about the gods of the Spartans—the Athenians' enemy. Socrates was well known while Paul is a nobody in Greece. Athens had been the capital of the Greek Empire, but that was 200 years prior; now Athens is a free city within the Roman Empire. The Athenian philosophers are curious, but not threatened.

Perhaps most influential of all, the philosophers quickly dismiss Paul as a complete fool (Acts 17:32). Paul teaches that the Creator God raised His representative, Jesus, from the dead. Both Epicureans and Stoics are materialists, believing there is nothing but matter, and therefore no spirit. Epicureans are annihilationists, thinking people cease to exist at death. Stoics believe the soul returns to the unifying law of the cosmos. Either way, both resurrection and final judgment are impossible in their worldviews. But Paul is also very clever. There is an altar inscribed "To an unknown god." Paul merely compares this "god" to the Creator God he worships (Acts 17:23–24).

Some of Paul's audience do believe him (Acts 17:34). Those who don't seem to leave him alone. This is unusual compared to Paul's prior experiences.
What is the Gospel?
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