The philosophical debate (Acts 17:18)

“Some Epicurean

And Stoic philosophers

Debated with Paul.

Some said.

‘What does this babbler

Want to say?’

Others said.

‘He seems to be a preacher

Of foreign divinities.’

This was because

He was telling the good news

About Jesus

And the resurrection.”

τινὲς δὲ καὶ τῶν Ἐπικουρίων καὶ Στοϊκῶν φιλοσόφων συνέβαλλον αὐτῷ, καί τινες ἔλεγον Τί ἂν θέλοι ὁ σπερμολόγος οὗτος λέγειν; οἱ δέ· Ξένων δαιμονίων δοκεῖ καταγγελεὺς εἶναι· ὅτι τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ τὴν ἀνάστασιν εὐηγγελίζετο.

The author of Acts indicated that some Epicurean (τινὲς δὲ καὶ τῶν Ἐπικουρίων) and Stoic philosophers (καὶ Στοϊκῶν φιλοσόφων) debated or discussed with Paul (συνέβαλλον αὐτῷ).  Some questioned (καί τινες ἔλεγον) what this babbler wanted to say (Τί ἂν θέλοι ὁ σπερμολόγος οὗτος λέγειν)?  Others said (οἱ δέ) that he was a preacher of foreign divinities (Ξένων δαιμονίων δοκεῖ καταγγελεὺς εἶναι).  He was actually telling the good news (εὐηγγελίζετο) about Jesus (ὅτι τὸν Ἰησοῦν) and his resurrection (καὶ τὴν ἀνάστασιν).  Acts was the only Greek biblical writing that used these words, σπερμολόγος, that means a seed picker bird, one who picks up scraps of knowledge, a babbler, or a gossiper, and καταγγελεὺς, that means a proclaimer, a reporter, or an announcer.  This debate about Jesus turned into a philosophical argument with the two leading Greek philosophical schools in the first century CE.  The Epicureans, the disciples of Epicurus (340-271 BCE), believed in the principle of pleasure, since they were hedonists.  This popular philosophy denied the existence of an afterlife, since you should enjoy yourself here and now and not worry about the future.  The Stoics were more disciplined in their life, since nothing would bother them.  People should use their reason to be in accord with nature.  They were more pantheistic and polytheistic in their views.  The Stoa Poikile, on the north side of the ancient agora of Athens, was where Zeno of Citium (334-262 BCE) had taught Stoicism.  They called Paul a babbler, a derogatory name for someone who lacked wisdom and sophistication.  The idea of foreign gods was an accusation that was also made against the philosopher Socrates (470-399 BCE).  Paul’s message was, of course, about the good news of Jesus and his resurrection.  Have you ever talked with philosophers about Jesus?

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