Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”–because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? “For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)
– Acts 17:16-21
In the minds of Athenian philosophers, Jesus of Nazareth – the Messiah of Israel – was a “strange deity.” It’s hard to blame them for thinking so. They were educated Gentiles, interested in hearing about something if it was novel, unique, or otherwise interesting. In a pagan world filled with gods of every description, Paul’s message about a crucified man residing now as a god in heaven was, to their minds, sufficiently novel as to be worth their intellectual curiosity. So they decided to give Paul a hearing.
By contrast, the prophets of Israel did not philosophize. Nor did they attempt to be clever or trendy. They spoke for the Creator of heaven and earth who was interested in what was moral, not what was intellectual. The apostles of Jesus – like Paul – were proclaiming the utterances of the prophets to be validated in the life, death, and resurrection of an obscure Galilean carpenter. Thus these philosophers had only a superficial interest in Paul’s message. They sought something for their minds but God had sent nourishment for their souls.
Today’s educated masses have more food for the mind than an Athenian philosopher could imagine. The internet can answer almost any question the mind can raise. People’s souls, however, are another matter.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, You have taught us to seek the food which nourishes our souls – that is, Your word. Human education has its place, but Your word is the lifeline we need…(this is where you remain quiet to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)