Friday, March 24, 2023

On trial—again!

Though modern interpreters have long considered the scene in Athens to be a placid philosopher’s dialogue, the ancients would have read it differently. In antiquity it was known not only that Athens grew its own philosophers but also that it could try and kill them. Socrates was the best remembered, but he was not the only thinker who met his doom in Greece’s most famous city. In fact, Paul’s appearance before the court of the Areopagus is a trial. Luke’s Paul is enough of a rhetor to combine a skillful avoidance of the capital charge—bringing in strange deities, as did Socrates—with a comprehensive critique of pagan “piety” as “superstitious” idolatry. Turning to the God who is now newly known in Athens would in fact expose the city as a place “full of idols” rather than of wisdom (Acts 17:16-34).—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 136–37

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