Wednesday 27 July 2022

Bible Book:

'It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.' (v. 20)

Acts 17:15-34 Wednesday 27 July 2022

Psalm 17:1-8


In Thessalonica, Paul made the argument that the Messiah (‘Christ’) needed to suffer. The group which riot against him know Rome cannot tolerate pretenders to kingship while the empire is unstable, so they home in on this aspect of what was expected of the Messiah (the prophet, priest and king sent by God to save his people Israel) to stir up trouble. Paul escapes to Beroea with Silas and Timothy, then leaves them behind when he is the focus of trouble again from the same Thessalonians.

The Athenians call Paul a scavenger bird. They mean he is someone who speaks in clichés, picking up and dropping ideas he hears to back a cause which seems to challenge anyone in power. In Athenian culture, some worshipped one or more of many distant gods, some of which might be unknown, while others preferred the ancient philosophical ways they’d grown up with. It is assumed by these Athenians that Jesus and the resurrection (Anastasis) are two different gods (one male, one female) rather than the resurrection being a historic event that happened to Jesus. They challenge Paul to flesh out his case at the very centre of philosophical debate – the Areopagus (an open-air forum in Athens). Can he present a reasoned argument which holds together, as philosophers such as Aristotle, Socrates and Plato were able to do?

The final step of Paul's argument seems impossible to the Athenians; people do not rise from the dead other than in myths and legends – it is as if he were telling them a fairy story. The prospect of anyone rising from death in real life seemed ridiculous.

To Ponder:           

  • In what ways do you or others engaged in Christian mission today use the language and outlook of a local culture to explain the Christian faith? In what ways is this ‘scavenging’ helpful, and how might it be confusing where cultures differ?
  • To what extent is the resurrection a stumbling block for faith in today’s society? What happens where the subject is avoided in the context of mission?


God of all that exists, help me to hear or notice and understand twice as much as I seek to explain, and to invite you into all my communication with others, so that what may seem dead might be raised to life anew in you.

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