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Acts 17:17-21

Context
17:17 So he was addressing 1  the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles 2  in the synagogue, 3  and in the marketplace every day 4  those who happened to be there. 17:18 Also some of the Epicurean 5  and Stoic 6  philosophers were conversing 7  with him, and some were asking, 8  “What does this foolish babbler 9  want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods.” 10  (They said this because he was proclaiming the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) 11  17:19 So they took Paul and 12  brought him to the Areopagus, 13  saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are proclaiming? 17:20 For you are bringing some surprising things 14  to our ears, so we want to know what they 15  mean.” 17:21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there used to spend their time 16  in nothing else than telling 17  or listening to something new.) 18 

1 tn Although the word διελέξατο (dielexato; from διαλέγομαι, dialegomai) is frequently translated “reasoned,” “disputed,” or “argued,” this sense comes from its classical meaning where it was used of philosophical disputation, including the Socratic method of questions and answers. However, there does not seem to be contextual evidence for this kind of debate in Acts 17:17. As G. Schrenk (TDNT 2:94-95) points out, “What is at issue is the address which any qualified member of a synagogue might give.” Other examples of this may be found in the NT in Matt 4:23 and Mark 1:21.

2 tn Or “and the devout,” but this is practically a technical term for the category called God-fearers, Gentiles who worshiped the God of Israel and in many cases kept the Mosaic law, but did not take the final step of circumcision necessary to become a proselyte to Judaism. See further K. G. Kuhn, TDNT 6:732-34, 743-44, and the note on the phrase “God-fearing Greeks” in 17:4.

3 sn See the note on synagogue in 6:9.

4 tn BDAG 437 s.v. ἡμέρα 2.c has “every day” for this phrase in this verse.

5 sn An Epicurean was a follower of the philosophy of Epicurus, who founded a school in Athens about 300 b.c. Although the Epicureans saw the aim of life as pleasure, they were not strictly hedonists, because they defined pleasure as the absence of pain. Along with this, they desired the avoidance of trouble and freedom from annoyances. They saw organized religion as evil, especially the belief that the gods punished evildoers in an afterlife. In keeping with this, they were unable to accept Paul’s teaching about the resurrection.

6 sn A Stoic was a follower of the philosophy founded by Zeno (342-270 b.c.), a Phoenician who came to Athens and modified the philosophical system of the Cynics he found there. The Stoics rejected the Epicurean ideal of pleasure, stressing virtue instead. The Stoics emphasized responsibility for voluntary actions and believed risks were worth taking, but thought the actual attainment of virtue was difficult. They also believed in providence.

7 tn BDAG 956 s.v. συμβάλλω 1 has “converse, confer” here.

8 tn Grk “saying.”

9 tn Or “ignorant show-off.” The traditional English translation of σπερμολόγος (spermologo") is given in L&N 33.381 as “foolish babbler.” However, an alternate view is presented in L&N 27.19, “(a figurative extension of meaning of a term based on the practice of birds in picking up seeds) one who acquires bits and pieces of relatively extraneous information and proceeds to pass them off with pretense and show – ‘ignorant show-off, charlatan.’” A similar view is given in BDAG 937 s.v. σπερμολόγος: “in pejorative imagery of persons whose communication lacks sophistication and seems to pick up scraps of information here and there scrapmonger, scavenger…Engl. synonyms include ‘gossip’, ‘babbler’, chatterer’; but these terms miss the imagery of unsystematic gathering.”

10 tn The meaning of this phrase is not clear. Literally it reads “strange deities” (see BDAG 210 s.v. δαιμόνιον 1). The note of not being customary is important. In the ancient world what was new was suspicious. The plural δαιμονίων (daimoniwn, “deities”) shows the audience grappling with Paul’s teaching that God was working through Jesus.

11 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.

12 tn Grk “him”; the referent (Paul) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

13 tn Or “to the council of the Areopagus.” See also the term in v. 22.

sn The Areopagus has been traditionally understood as reference to a rocky hill near the Acropolis in Athens, although this place may well have been located in the marketplace at the foot of the hill (L&N 93.412; BDAG 129 s.v. ῎Αρειος πάγος). This term does not refer so much to the place, however, as to the advisory council of Athens known as the Areopagus, which dealt with ethical, cultural, and religious matters, including the supervision of education and controlling the many visiting lecturers. Thus it could be translated the council of the Areopagus. See also the term in v. 22.

14 tn BDAG 684 s.v. ξενίζω 2 translates the substantival participle ξενίζοντα (xenizonta) as “astonishing things Ac 17:20.”

15 tn Grk “these things”; but since the referent (“surprising things”) is so close, the repetition of “these things” sounds redundant in English, so the pronoun “they” was substituted in the translation.

16 tn The imperfect verb ηὐκαίρουν (hukairoun) has been translated as a customary or habitual imperfect.

17 tn BDAG 406-7 s.v. εὐκαιρέω has “used to spend their time in nothing else than telling Ac 17:21.”

18 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. The reference to newness may be pejorative.



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