Areopagus sermon

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Saint Paul delivering the Areopagus Sermon in Athens, by Raphael, 1515.
Engraved plaque containing Apostle Paul's sermon, at the Areopagus, Athens, Greece.

The Areopagus sermon refers to a sermon delivered by Apostle Paul in Athens, at the Areopagus, and described in Acts 17:16-34.[1][2] The Areopagus sermon is the most dramatic and fullest speech of the missionary career of Saint Paul and followed a shorter address in Lystra Acts 14:15-17.[3]

History[edit]

The frontground to the sermon is that Paul was distressed to see Athens full of idols and so went to the synagogue and the marketplace to preach about the resurrection of Jesus. Some Greeks took him to a meeting at the Areopagus, the high court in Athens, to explain himself. The Areopagus literally meant the rock of Ares in the city and was a center of temples, cultural facilities, and a high court. It was illegal to preach a foreign deity in Athens, so Paul's sermon was in fact a combination of a "guest lecture" and a trial.[4]

The sermon addresses five main issues:[3]

  • Introduction: Discussion of the ignorance of pagan worship. (23-24)
  • The one Creator God being the object of worship. (25-26)
  • God's relationship to humanity. (26-27)
  • Idols of gold, silver and stone as objects of false worship. (28-29)
  • Conclusion: Time to end the ignorance. (30-31)

This sermon illustrates the beginnings of the attempts to explain the nature of Christ and an early step on the path that led to the development of Christology.[1]

Paul begins his address by emphasizing the need to know God, rather than worshiping the unknown:

"As I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you."

Paul then explained concepts such as the resurrection of the dead and salvation, in effect a prelude to the future discussions of Christology.

According to the Acts of the Apostles, after the sermon, a number of people became followers of Paul. These included a woman named Damaris, and Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus. This latter has at times been suggested as Dionysius the Areopagite, but that may be a historical confusion.[4]

In the 20th century, Pope John Paul II likened the modern media to the New Areopagus, where Christian ideas needed to be explained and defended anew, against disbelief and the idols of gold and silver.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Christianity: an introduction by Alister E. McGrath pages 2006 ISBN 1-4051-0901-7, pp. 137-141
  2. ^ Theology of the New Testament by Udo Schnelle (Nov 1, 2009) ISBN 0801036046 page 477
  3. ^ a b Mercer Commentary on the New Testament by Watson E. Mills 2003 ISBN 0-86554-864-1 pages 1109-1110
  4. ^ a b Paul: A Brief History by Robert Paul Seesengood 2010 ISBN 1-4051-7890-6 page 120
  5. ^ Consuming religion: Christian faith and practice in a consumer culture by Vincent J. Miller 2005 ISBN 0-8264-1749-3 page 99