Paul’s Rhetoric at Mars Hill

Verses 16 and 17 of the passage that the speaker here is the Apostle Paul. He had been caught in this rhetoric with some Jews and devout persons whose background the Bible is silent and provides no elaboration [Verse 17]. According to Verse 18, there were also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. While the Jews follow Judaism as their religion and uphold belief in a coming Messiah, their religion traditionally emphasizes ethical conduct and the treatment of others as one would for one’s self.
Jewish law is based on the Torah, which essentially s the Five Books of Moses. On the contrary, the Epicureans were rivaled by the Stoics. The Stoics upheld a philosophy that life was about living in harmony with Nature. They encouraged self- control and saw courage as a means of monopolizing harmful emotions. Again, while the Jewish religion has thrived over the years, the Epicurean and Stoic philosophies faded out around the Third Century. It was wealth these deleting religious and philosophical backgrounds that the Apostle Paul had to address his audiences.
Theirs was both a religious and heathen culture which one could identify more as a Gentile environment that knew nothing about the new faith the Apostle was trying to portray. Hence, his attempt to present what he believed in was met with hostility. To them it was a new teaching that they considered strange ideas as stated in Verse 18. It is obvious that, although a heathen society, it was equally religious as would be found in every human society. They knew about gods. In Verse 18, it is reported that, some of the people confronting the Apostle said that he seemed to be advocating foreign gods.

Paul was definitely aware of their false religious beliefs. He capitalized on this when he addressed them. For when he was brought before the Reappears he told the people of Athens that he could see that they were very religious. He mentioned in Verses 23, 24 that as he walked around and looked carefully at their objects of worship, he even found an altar with the inscription. That to the Apostle meant that they were not ignorant of the very things they worshipped. Cleverly, he informed them that it was exactly what he was going to proclaim to them.
Having opened up like this, it was apparent that the Apostle caught their attention and then charged on with his presentation of the Gospel. Essentially, the Apostle wanted to let them know that there was no hope of salvation for them In the gods In whom they had chosen to put their trust. Those were Just false gods that had no power to deliver them. In the end, the Apostle’s persuasion became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysus, a member of the Reappears, also a woman named Dammars, and a number of others.

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