Paul enters Athens alone after being dropped of at the harbor of Piraeus, a seaport outside of Berea, by members of the Berean church who helped Paul escape to Athens after Jews from Thessalonica came to Berea looking for him. Paul had previously escaped these Jews in Thessalonica by night after the Jews there started a riot, stirred up a mob, stormed the house of a believer named Jason
and forced Jason in front of an assembly with the city leaders. They said, Paul was “saying that
there is another king” besides Caesar. But, even before Paul had arrived in Thessalonica he had
been beaten and imprisoned in Philippi.
Now after being imprisoned and beaten in Philippi, fleeing a mob of Jews in Thessalonica at night
and escaping by ship from Berea, Paul’s lands in the port of the great Greek city of Athens. Paul enters Athens all alone having left his ministry team in Macedonia. Like always Paul, the rabbi
from Jerusalem who had been educated by the legendary Gamilel, went first to the synagogue
of the Jews where he was more than welcomed to speak. In Athens Paul also went down to the market place to engage in some philosophical discussions that were a cultural norm in Athens, just like street performers are in San Francisco or wanna-be-movie-stars wait tables in Hollywood.
While speaking in the marketplace, or the Greek agora that had been the center of democratic assemblies and debate before the rule of Rome had set in, Paul encounters some Greek
philosophers who at first mock him as a “babbler.” The term “babbler” is the spermologos literally means “seek-picker” or “gutter-sparrow” but was used to refer to people who picked up scraps
of food around the market place. This word became Athenian slang for improperly trained
philosophers who picked up pieces of knowledge in the agora like sparrows picked up the
randomly scattered seeds.
But after further investigations by the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, it was decided that this “street performer” was ready for the big show in the Areopagus (literal: “hill of Ares”), or Mars Hill. Before Greece was ruled as a democracy the Areopagus was the ruling council that governed the city. In Paul’s day Rome ruled and the Areopagus was once again a place for the governing
body of the city of Athens to meet and discuss issues. Paul was asked to present his ideas
to the philosophers who met in the Areopagus, a 378-foot high rocky hill that was adjacent
to the Acropolis separated by a ravine.
Paul appealed to the general revelation of God found in creation to bring the philosophers of
Athens to a point of realization that God will judge all mankind by a man who he has raised
from the dead. It appears the philosophers were following Paul’s presentation until he mentioned
the resurrection of the dead. Physical resurrection was contrary to basic Greek philosophy so
some mocked Paul’s concept but others found it an interesting topic to discuss and wanted
to hear more. Some of the philosophers understood Paul’s presentation and believed including Dionysius and woman named Damaris.