May 21 – 6 Easter
Paul in Athens
Background: The Acts of the Apostles is the second portion of Luke’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry and details the formation and growth of Christianity. Within the book of Acts there are three sections with a theme: the spread of the gospel in and around Jerusalem, the spread of the gospel outside Jerusalem but in Israel, and the spread of the gospel outside Israel. Today’s passage falls in the latter portion: the westward expansion of the gospel
Theme: This passage is part of the third stop on Paul’s mission to the Aegean. Previously Paul has preached in Philippi and Thessalonica. Paul has been led by the Holy Spirit to the center of Greek culture – Athens. Paul’s mission is to spread the gospel of Jesus to any who will listen and Paul’s style is one that tries to convert not by coercion but by using the existing societal and cultural structure to point to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Questions to Ponder:
* Please read Acts 17:22-31 and Acts 17:1-21 for context.
* Briefly describe the setting of this passage. What has happened leading up to this passage? Where does this passage take place?
* What was the function of the Areopagus? Why might Luke have Paul speaking there?
* To whom might Paul be speaking in this passage?
* What do you think Paul’s tone is in this passage: sarcasm, compassion, ridicule, or something else?
* Do you think the Athenians might believe that God lived in a temple “made by human hands” or is there some other hidden meaning in his argument?
* Paul quotes two sources or authors in this passage in verse 28. Who were the two sources and what was the significance of those two writers/orators?
* What timeline do you think Paul envisions when he makes the claim in verses 30 and 31?
* To whom might Luke be alluding in this passage about Paul? Why might Luke mirror another, non-Christian image in this sacred text?
* What do you think Paul is emphasizing about the Athenians in this passage?
* What theological claim is Paul making about God and Jesus? How might his claim be in contrast to Jewish (and Greek) tradition?
* How, or why, might this passage be more important in our day than in Paul’s day?
* How might this passage be used in a conversation about “I’m spiritual not religious”?
* What is the connection of this passage, Luke and Paul speaking to the non-believers in Greece and our mission to spread the gospel to the world?
* What challenge does this passage present to us in our context?