The Areopagus sermon refers to a sermon delivered by Apostle Paul in Athens, at the Areopagus, and described in Acts 17:16-34. 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.
The background 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 is conjectured by some that it may have been illegal to preach a foreign deity in Athens which would have thereby made Paul's sermon a combination of a "guest lecture" and a trial.
The sermon addresses five main issues:
- 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)
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."
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.
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.
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- Theology of the New Testament by Udo Schnelle (Nov 1, 2009) ISBN 0801036046 page 477
- Mercer Commentary on the New Testament by Watson E. Mills 2003 ISBN 0-86554-864-1 pages 1109-1110
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