Lectionary Year A
May 5, 2002
Acts 17:22-31

Step IV: Context

A. Primitive Christianity

(JFC) The earliest Christians needed such statements as Paul makes in this public oration. They must surely have appreciated his noting and criticizing and expanding on the Athenians' shallowness of what they probably called faith. Primitive believers might also have valued the few elements in the data of the Christian faith he chose to mention in this context. Paul's citing the Athenians' piety as well as their poets might have discouraged some of them to do similarly to others' exercises in religiosity. Do you suppose Paul intended to be so ecumenical that early in Christianity's history? In Romans 1:16-23, Paul criticizes any who satisfy themselves with claiming to know God without grasping the true data of the Christian faith he is there expressing. Also, in Luke 24:47, Jesus tells the disciples to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sin "to all nations beginning from Jerusalem." It was a message worthy of total receiving and accepting throughout the then known world, evidently, to them then and there.

B. Old Testament and Judaism

(JFC) As Paul states in verse 24 in Acts 17, God created the world and all that is in it. So, too, did the Old Testament appreciate God as the Creator, par excellence; see, especially, Genesis 1 and 2, of course, and Isaiah 40:21ff and 28, 42:5, among many others. And, God is both recognized as Creator and praised for Creating all that exists in several Psalms, like 19, 33, 75 and, perhaps most notably, 104. Moses believed searching for God could find Him, Deuteronomy 4:29 and that God divided the nations on the earth, as Acts 17:26 says Paul believed. Psalm 145:18 and Jeremiah 23:23 claim God is near to all, as Paul states in Acts 17:27. Then, from the time of Jesus, give or take a century or so either before or after, the romantic Joseph and Aseneth (see Genesis 41:45) prays (in 12:1) to the "Lord, God of the ages, who created all (things) and gave life (to them), who gave breath of life to your whole creation, and brought the invisible (things) out into the light, . . ." Seems like the saying in this week's pericope's 25th verse might have influences on each other or one another. Next, in 6:8, Aseneth confesses that she has spoken wickedly in ignorance, which the footnotes (in Charlesworth's The O T Pseudepigrapha) explain, "(agnoia) separates Aseneth's wickedness from outright sin; it does not absolve her of responsibility but lets her hope for forgiveness." Is that process what Paul suggests in verse 30 of our text?

C. Hellenistic World

(JFC) These philosophers could surely accept anyone's making a public appearance in the Aeropagus and might even listen to same and/or read with interest what he said. Then, too, they could applaud anyone who sought to enlighten the audience, re: one God. Furthermore, they might well have joined any team seeking to alleviate human ignorance.

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