What does Acts 17:20 mean?
ESV: For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.”
NIV: You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.'
NASB: For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.'
CSB: Because what you say sounds strange to us, and we want to know what these things mean."
NLT: You are saying some rather strange things, and we want to know what it’s all about.'
KJV: For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
NKJV: For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.”
Verse Commentary:
Paul is in Athens, alone. Jealous Jews from the synagogue in Thessalonica ran him out of Berea, even though the Berean Jews were willing to investigate his teaching about Jesus' fulfillment of the prophecies of the Messiah (Acts 17:10–15). Luke stayed in Philippi (Acts 17:1). Timothy is in Berea—or possibly Thessalonica (Acts 17:14; 1 Thessalonians 3:1–2). It's unclear where Silas is (Acts 17:14; 18:5).

Not being one to sit still, however, Paul has already shared about Jesus in the synagogue in Athens as well as the Agora. It was in the Agora that the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers found him and aggressively invited him to the Areopagus to share his beliefs. They think he's a babbler: someone who picks up bits and pieces of philosophy from the Agora and puts them together like a bird picks up seeds. Even though they don't expect much, they love to hear new, surprising worldviews (Acts 17:16–19, 21).

Paul's position is precarious. One the one hand, it is against Roman law to promote the worship of a foreign god. On the other hand, because of its cultural significance, Rome granted Athens the status of a free city. But on the third hand, the law against foreign deities is older than the Roman Empire. In 399 BC, Socrates had been tried and convicted on this same hill. Xenophon, in Memorabilia, described the charges: he "does evil, for he does not acknowledge the gods whom the state acknowledges, while introducing other, novel divine beings."

In the first century BC, the Roman statesman Cicero had outlined the Roman Empire's assertion of the law in De Legibus, ii. 8: "…let no one have private gods—neither new gods nor strange gods, unless publicly acknowledged, are to be worshipped privately…"

Fortunately, even though the philosophers have brought Paul to the court where the most serious crimes are tried—including, legend says, the trial of murder against Ares—they seem more curious than confrontational (Acts 17:21). They think Paul's wrong, but they don't persecute him.
Verse Context:
Acts 17:16–21 records Paul's interactions with the Greek philosophers in Athens. First, he teaches in the synagogue that Jesus fulfills the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. He takes a similar message to the Agora where the Stoics and Epicureans hear and invite him to the Areopagus. Paul uses their own poets to speak of their mutual Creator God. When Paul mentions the resurrection of the dead, however, they lose interest. They have no problem worshipping so many deities that it requires a monument to ''the unknown god,'' but the idea any god could raise the dead is unthinkable.
Chapter Summary:
Acts 17 describes how Paul's ministry travels down the coast of Greece. In Thessalonica, some Jews and God-fearing Gentiles believe while other Jews start a riot (Acts 17:1–9). The Bereans study the veracity of Paul's statements—until the Thessalonian Jews arrive and threaten to start another riot (Acts 17:10–15). Paul flees to Athens where the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers accept Paul's argument when he uses Greek poets to introduce God as the creator of the world, but lose interest when he mentions the resurrection from the dead (Acts 17:16–34).
Chapter Context:
Acts 17 continues Paul and Silas' travels out of Macedonia and on to Greece. The two have been through modern-day Asia minor where they picked up Timothy in Lystra and Luke in Troas (Acts 16:1–10). They have established a strong church in Philippi but were forced to leave after being falsely imprisoned (Acts 16:11–40). They now skip down the coast to Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens. From here, they will spend a considerable amount of time in Corinth before heading back to Judea and Syrian Antioch (Acts 18:1–22).
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
Accessed 5/28/2024 6:18:25 PM
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