Acts 17


Paul and his company, passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia,

come to Thessalonica, were they preach the Gospel to the Jews,

several of whom believe, 1-4.

Others raise a mob, and bring Jason, who had received the

apostles, before the magistrates, who, having taken bail of

him and his companions, dismiss them, 5-9.

Paul and Silas are sent away by night unto Berea, where they

preach to the Jews, who gladly receive the Gospel, 10-12.

Certain Jews from Thessalonica, hearing that the Bereans had

received the Gospel, come thither and raise up a persecution,


Paul is sent away by the brethren to Athens, where he preaches

to the Jews, 14-17.

He is encountered by the Epicureans and Stoics, who bring him

to the Areopagus, and desire him to give a full explanation of

his doctrine, 18-20.

The character of the Athenians, 21.

Paul preaches to them, and gives a general view of the essential

principles of theology, 22-31.

Some mock, some hesitate, and some believe, and, among the

latter, Dionysias and Damaris, 32-34.


Verse 1. Passed through Amphipolis] This city was the metropolis

of the first division of Macedonia, as made by Paulus AEmilius:

see the note on Ac 16:10. It was builded by Cimon, the Athenian

general, who sent 10,000 Athenians thither as a colony. It stood

in an island in the river Strymon, and had its name of Amphipolis

because included between the two grand branches of that river

where they empty themselves into the sea, the river being on both

sides of the city.

Apollonia] This was another city of Macedonia, between

Amphipolis and Thessalonica. It does not appear that St. Paul

stopped at any of these cities: and they are only mentioned by the

historian as places through which the apostles passed on their way

to Thessalonica. It is very likely that in these cities there were

no Jews; and that might have been the reason why the apostles did

not preach the Gospel there, for we find them almost constantly

beginning with the Jews; and the Hellenist Jews, living among the

Gentiles, became the medium through which the Gospel of Christ was

conveyed to the heathen world.

Thessalonica] This was a celebrated city of Macedonia, situated

on what was called the Thermaic Gulf. According to Stephanus

Byzantinus, it was embellished and enlarged by Philip, king of

Macedon, who called it Thessalonica, the victory of Thessalia, on

account of the victory he obtained there over the Thessalians;

but, prior to this, it was called Thermae. But Strabo, Tzetzes,

and Zonaras, say that it was called Thessalonica, from

Thessalonica, wife of Cassander, and daughter of Philip. It is now

in possession of the Turks, and is called Salonichi, which is a

mere corruption of the original name.

A synagogue of the Jews.] ησυναγωγη, THE synagogue; for the

article here must be considered as emphatic, there probably

being no other synagogue in any other city in Macedonia. The Jews

in different parts had other places of worship called proseuchas.

as we have seen, Ac 16:13. At Thessalonica alone they appear to

have had a synagogue.

Verse 2. As his manner was] He constantly offered salvation

first to the Jews; and for this purpose attended their

Sabbath-days' meetings at their synagogues.

Verse 3. Opening and alleging] παρατιθεμνος, Proving by

citations. His method seems to have been this: 1st. He collected

the scriptures that spoke of the Messiah. 2d. He applied these to

Jesus Christ, showing that in him all these scriptures were

fulfilled, and that he was the Saviour of whom they were in

expectation. He showed also that the Christ, or Messiah, must

needs suffer-that this was predicted, and was an essential mark of

the true Messiah. By proving this point, he corrected their false

notion of a triumphant Messiah, and thus removed the scandal of

the cross.

Verse 4. The devout Greeks] That is, Gentiles who were

proselytes to the Jewish religion, so far as to renounce idolatry,

and live a moral life, but probably had not received circumcision.

Verse 5. The Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto

them] Instead of this sentence, the most correct MSS. and versions

read simply, προσλαβομενοιδεοιιουδαιοι. But the Jews taking,

&c., leaving out the words, ζηλωσαντεςαπειθουντες, which

believed not, moved with envy: these words do not appear to be

genuine; there is the strongest evidence against them, and they

should be omitted.

Certain lewd fellows of the baser sort] This is not a very

intelligible translation. The original is, τωναγοραιωντινας

ανδοαςπονηρους. The word αγοραιοι, which we translate the baser

sort, is by Hesychius explained, οιεναγορααναστρεφομενοι, those

who transact business in courts of justice. The same word is used

by the Jews in Hebrew letters to signify judges; and

agorioth shel goyim, signifies judges of the

Gentiles. These were probably a low kind of lawyers, what we would

call pettifoggers, or attorneys without principle, who gave advice

for a trifle, and fomented disputes and litigations among the

people. The Itala version of the Codex Bezae calls them quosdam

forenses, certain lawyers. As the Jews, from their small number,

could not easily raise up a mob, they cunningly employed those

unprincipled men, who probably had a certain degree of juridical

credit and authority, to denounce the apostles as seditious men;

and this was, very likely, the reason why they employed those in

preference to any others. They were such as always attended

forensic litigations, waiting for a job, and willing to defend any

side of a question for money. They were wicked men of the forensic


Gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar] And,

after having made this sedition and disturbance, charged the whole

on the peaceable and innocent apostles! This is precisely the same

way that persecution against the truth and followers of Christ is

still carried on. Some wicked man in the parish gets a wicked

attorney and a constable to head a mob, which they themselves have

raised; and, having committed a number of outrages, abusing men

and women, haul the minister of Christ to some magistrate who

knows as little of his office as he cares for the Gospel; they

there charge the outrages which themselves have committed on the

preacher and his peaceable hearers; and the peacemaker, appointed

by a good king, according to the wise and excellent regulations of

a sound constitution, forgetting whose minister he is, neither

administers justice nor maintains truth; but, espousing the part

of the mob, assumes, ex officio, the character of a persecutor.

The preacher is imprisoned, his hearers fined for listening to

that Gospel which has not only made them wise unto salvation, but

also peaceable and orderly citizens, and which would have had the

same effect on the unprincipled magistrate, the parish squire, and

the mob, had they heard it with the same reverence and respect.

Had I not witnessed such scenes, and such prostitution of justice,

I could not have described them.

Assaulted the house of Jason] This was the place where the

apostles lodged; and therefore his goods were clear spoil, and his

person fair game. This is a case which frequently occurs where the

Gospel is preached in its spirit and power. And, even in this moat

favoured kingdom, the most scandalous excesses of this kind have

been committed, and a justice of the peace has been found to

sanction the proceedings; and, when an appeal has been made to the

laws, a grand jury has been found capable of throwing out the true


Verse 6. These that have turned the world upside down are come

hither also] The very character our forefathers had for preaching

that Gospel, in every part of the land, by which the nation has

been illuminated, the mob disciplined into regularity and order,

and the kingdom established in the hands of the best of monarchs.

Verse 7. These all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar]

Persecutors always strive to affect the lives of the objects of

their hatred, by accusing them of sedition, or plots against the


That there is another king, one Jesus.] How malevolent was this

saying! The apostles proclaimed Jesus as king-that is true; but

never once insinuated that his kingdom was of this world. The

reverse they always maintained.

Verse 8. And they troubled the people and the rulers] It is

evident that there was no disposition in either the people or the

rulers to persecute the apostles. But these wicked Jews, by means

of the unprincipled, wicked lawyers, those lewd fellows of the

baser sort, threw the subject into the form of law, making it a

state question, in which form the rulers were obliged to notice

it; but they showed their unwillingness to proceed in a matter

which they saw proceeded from malice, by letting Jason and his

companions go off on bail.

Verse 9. Taken security] λαβοντεςτοικανον, Having taken what

was sufficient, or satisfactory. Sufficient for the present, to

prove that the apostles were upright, peaceable, and loyal men;

and that Jason and his friends were the like, and would be, at any

time, forthcoming to answer for their conduct. Perhaps this is the

sense of the phrase in the text.

Verse 10. Sent away Paul and Silas by night] Fearing some

farther machinations of the Jews and their associates.

Berea] This was another city of Macedonia, on the same gulf with

Thessalonica; and not far from Pella, the birth place of Alexander

the Great.

Verse 11. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica] ησαν

ευγενεστεροι, Were of a better race, extraction, or birth, than

those at Thessalonica; but the word refers more to their conduct,

as a proof of their better disposition, than to their birth, or

any peculiar lineal nobility. It was a maxim among the Jews, that

"none was of a noble spirit who did not employ himself in the

study of the law." It appears that the Bereans were a better

educated and more polished people than those at Thessalonica; in

consequence far from persecuting: 1. They heard the doctrine of

the Gospel attentively. 2. They received this doctrine with

readiness of mind: when the evidence of its truth appeared to them

sufficiently convincing, they had too much dignity of mind to

refuse their assent, and too much ingenuousness to conceal their

approbation. 3. They searched the Scriptures, i.e. of the Old

Testament, to see whether these thing were so: to see whether the

promises and types corresponded with the alleged fulfilment in

the person, works, and sufferings of Jesus Christ. 4. They

continued in this work; they searched the Scriptures daily,

whether those things were so.

Verse 12. Therefore many of them believed] From the manner in

which they heard, received, and examined the word preached to

them, it was not likely they could be deceived. And, as it was the

truth that was proclaimed to them, it is no wonder that they

apprehended, believed, and embraced it.

Of honourable women which were Greeks] Probably mere heathens

are meant; and these were some of the chief families in the place.

Thus we find that the preaching of Paul at Berea was made the

instrument of converting both Jews and Gentiles.

Verse 13. The Jews of Thessalonica-stirred up the people.] With

what implacable malice did these men persecute the Gospel! And in

the same spirit they continue to the present day, though it is

evidently the sole cause of their wretchedness.

Verse 14. To go as it were to the sea] This passage is generally

understood to mean that the disciples took Paul towards the sea,

as if he had intended to embark, and return to Troas, but with

the real design to go to Athens. But it is more likely that his

conductors, in order to his greater safety, left the public or

more frequented road, and took him coastwise to Athens. Or, by

taking a vessel at that part of the sea nearest to Berea, they

might have coasted it to Athens, which was quite a possible case;

and, as we do not hear of his stopping at any place on his journey

to preach, it is very probable that he went by sea to this city.

Though sleights and feints may be allowable in cases of life and

death, yet there does not appear an absolute necessity for any in

this case. And, as the text does not necessarily point any out, so

we need not have recourse to any. I take it for granted,

therefore, that Paul went by sea to Athens.

Silas and Timotheus abode there still.] The persecution, it

seems, was directed principally against Paul. Lo! he stayeth his

rough wind on the day of his east wind. Silas and Timotheus, holy

men, were left behind to water the seed which Paul had planted.

Verse 15. Brought him unto Athens] This was one of the most

celebrated cities in the world, whether we consider its antiquity,

its learning, its political consequence, or the valour of its

inhabitants. This city, which was the capital of Attica, and the

seat of the Grecian empire was founded by Cecrops, about A.M.

2447, before Christ 1557, and was called by him Cecropia. About

thirteen or fourteen hundred years before Christ, in the reign

either of Erechtheus, or Erichthonius, it was called Athens, from

αθηνη, a name of Minerva, to whom it was dedicated, and who was

always considered the protectress of the city. The whole city at

first was built upon a hill or rock, in the midst of a spacious

plain; but, in process of time, the whole plain was covered with

buildings which were called the lower city; while the ancient was

called Acropolis, or the upper city. In its most flourishing state

this city was not less than one hundred and seventy-eight stadia,

or twenty-two Roman miles in circumference. The buildings of

Athens were the most superb, and best executed, in the world; but

every thing is now in a state of ruin. Mr. Stuart, in his three

folio vols. of the Antiquities of Athens, has given correct

representations of those that remain, with many geographical

notices of much importance. The greatest men that ever lived,

scholars, lawyers, statesmen, and warriors, were Athenians. Its

institutions, laws, and literature, were its own unrivalled boast,

and the envy of the world. The city still exists; the Acropolis in

a state of comparative repair. It is now in the hands of the

Greeks; but the Turks, who held it till lately, have turned the

celebrated Parthenon, or temple of Minerva, into a mosque. The

inhabitants are reckoned at about one thousand. Christianity,

planted here by St. Paul, still subsists; and about two-thirds of

the inhabitants of Athens are Christians, who have several

churches or oratories here, and it is the residence of a Greek

bishop, who is a metropolitan. He who considers the ancient glory

of this city, whether in its heathen or Christian antiquity,

cannot but sigh over its present state.

Verse 16. He saw the city wholly given to idolatry.] κατειδωλον,

Full of idols, as the margin has it, and very properly. Whoever

examines the remains of this city, as represented by Mr. Stuart in

his Antiquities, already referred to, will be satisfied of the

truth of St. Luke's remark: it was full of idols. Bishop Pearce

produces a most apposite quotation from Pausanias, which confirms

the observation: ουκηναλλαχουτοσαυταιδεινειδωλα. There was no

place where so many idols were to be seen. PAUS. in Attic. cap.

xvii. 24.

PETRONIUS, who was contemporary with St. Paul, in his Satyr.

cap. xvii., makes Quartilla say of Athens: Utique nostra regio tam


HOMINEM invenire. Our region is so full of deities that you may

more frequently meet with a god than a man.

Verse 17. Disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews] Proving

that Jesus was the Messiah: and with the devout persons, probably

heathens, proselyted to the Jewish religion. And in the market:

I suppose the αγορα here means some such place as our exchange,

where people of business usually met, and where the philosophers

conversed and reasoned. The agora was probably like the Roman

forum, and like places of public resort in all countries, where

people of leisure assembled to converse, hear the news, &c.

Verse 18. Certain philosophers of the Epicureans] These were the

followers of Epicurus, who acknowledged no gods except in name,

and absolutely denied that they exercised any government over the

world or its inhabitants; and that the chief good consisted in the

gratification of the appetites of sense. These points the

Epicureans certainly held; but it is not clear that Epicurus

himself maintained such doctrines.

And of the Stoics] These did not deny the existence of the gods;

but they held that all human affairs were governed by fate. They

did not believe that any good was received from the hands of their

gods; and considered, as Seneca asserts, that any good and wise

man was equal to Jupiter himself. Both these sects agreed in

denying the resurrection of the body; and the former did not

believe in the immortality of the soul.

EPICURUS, the founder of the Epicurean sect, was born at Athens,

about A.M. 3663, before Christ 341.

ZENO, the founder of the Stoic sect, was born in the isle of

Cyprus, about thirty years before Christ. His disciples were

called Stoics from the στοα, a famous portico at Athens, where

they studied. Besides these two sects, there were two others which

were famous at this time; viz. the Academics and the Peripatetics.

The founder of the first was the celebrated PLATO; and the founder

of the second, the no less famous ARISTOTLE. These sects professed

a much purer doctrine than the Epicureans and Stoics; and it does

not appear that they opposed the apostles, nor did they enter into

public disputations with them. Against the doctrines taught by the

Epicureans and Stoics, several parts of St. Paul's discourse, in

the following verses, are directly pointed.

What will this babbler say?] The word σπερμολογος, which we

translate babbler, signifies, literally, a collector of seeds, and

is the "name of a small bird the lives by picking up seeds on the

road." The epithet became applied to persons who collected the

sayings of others, without order or method, and detailed them

among their companions in the same way. The application of the

term to prating, empty, impertinent persons, was natural and easy,

and hence it was considered a term of reproach and contempt, and

was sometimes used to signify the vilest sort of men.

A setter forth of strange gods] ξενωνδαιμονιων, Of strange or

foreign demons. That this was strictly forbidden, both at Rome and

Athens, See Clarke on Ac 16:21.

There was a difference, in the heathen theology, between θεος,

god, and δαιμων, demon: the θεοι, were such as were gods

by nature: the δαιμονια, were men who were deified. This

distinction seems to be in the mind of these philosophers when

they said that the apostles seemed to be setters forth of strange

demons, because they preached unto them Jesus, whom they showed to

be a man, suffering and dying, but afterwards raised to the throne

of God. This would appear to them tantamount with the deification

of heroes, &c., who had been thus honoured for their especial

services to mankind. Horace expresses this in two lines, 2 Epist.

i. 5:-

Romulus, et Liber pater, et cum Castore Pollux,

Post ingentia facta, deorum in templa recepti.

"Romulus, father Bacchus, with Castor and Pollux, for their

eminent services, have been received into the temples of the


Verse 19. They took him, and brought him unto Areopagus] The

Areopagus was a hill not far from the Acropolis, already

described, where the supreme court of justice was held; one of the

most sacred and reputable courts that had ever existed in the

Gentile world. It had its name, αρειοςπαγος, Areopagus, or the

Hill of Mars, or Ares, from the circumstance, according to

poetic fiction, of Mars being tried there, by a court of twelve

gods, for the murder of Halirrhothius, son of Neptune: the

meaning of which is, that Ares, a Thessalian prince, having slain

Halirrhothius, the son of a neighbouring prince, for having

violated his daughter Alcippe, was here tried by twelve judges, by

whom he was honourably acquitted: in the Athenian laws the death

of the ravisher was the regular forfeiture for his crime. The

justice administered in this court was so strict and impartial,

that, it was generally allowed, both the plaintiff and defendant

departed satisfied with the decision. "Innocence, when summoned

before it, appeared without apprehension; and the guilty,

convicted and condemned, retired with out daring to murmur." The

place in which the judges sat was uncovered; and they held their

sittings by night, to the end that nothing might distract their

minds from the great business on which they were to decide; and

that the sight of the accused might not affect them either with

pity or aversion. In reference to this, all pleaders were strictly

forbidden to use any means whatever to excite either pity or

aversion, or to affect the passions; every thing being confined to

simple relation, or statement of facts. When the two parties were

produced before the court, they were placed between the bleeding

members of victims slain on the occasion, and were obliged to take

an oath, accompanied by horrible imprecations on themselves and

families, that they would testify nothing but truth. These parties

called to witness the eumenides, or furies, the punishers of the

perjured in the infernal world; and, to make the greater

impression on the mind of the party swearing, the temple dedicated

to these infernal deities was contiguous to the court, so that

they appeared as if witnessing the oaths and recording the

appeal made to themselves. When the case was fully heard, the

judges gave their decision by throwing down their flint pebbles,

on two boards or tables, one of which was for the condemnation,

the other for the acquittal, of the person in question.

Verse 20. Thou bringest-strange things to our ears] The doctrine

of the apostles was different from any they had ever heard: it was

wholly spiritual and divine; thus it was strange: it was contrary

to their customs and manners; and thus it was strange also. As it

spoke much of the exaltation and glory of Jesus Christ, they

supposed him to be a setter forth of strange gods: and, therefore,

on the authority of the laws, which forbade the introduction of

any new deities, or modes of worship, he was called before the


Verse 21. All the Athenians and strangers which were there] As

Athens was renovated for its wisdom and learning, it became a

place of public resort for philosophers and students from

different parts of the then civilized world. The flux of students

was in consequence great; and these, having much leisure time,

would necessarily be curious to know what was passing in the

world, and would frequently assemble together, in places of public

resort, to meet with strangers just come to the city; and either,

as St. Luke says, to tell or hear some new thing.

"The Athenian writers give the same account of their fellow

citizens. DEMOSTHENES, in his reply to Epist. Philippi, represents

the Athenians as πυνθανομενοικατατηναγορανειτιλεγεται

νεωτερον; inquiring, in the place of public resort, if there are

any NEWS. We find, likewise, that when Thucydides, iii. 38, had

said, μετακαινοτητοςμενλογουαπατασθαιαριστοι, Ye are

excellent in suffering yourselves to be deceived by NOVELTY of

speech, the old scholiast makes this remark upon it, (almost in

the words of St. Luke,) ταυταπροςτουςαθηνοιουςαινιττεται

ουδεντιμελετωνταςπληνλεγειντικαιακουεινκαινον; He here

blames the Athenians, who made it their only business to tell and

hear something that was NEW."-Bp. Pearce. This is a striking

feature of the city of London in the present day. The itch for

news, which generally argues a worldly, shallow, or unsettled

mind, is wonderfully prevalent: even ministers of the Gospel,

negligent of their sacred function, are become in this sense

Athenians; so that the book of God is neither read nor studied

with half the avidity and spirit as a newspaper. These persons,

forgetful not only of their calling, but of the very spirit of the

Gospel, read the account of a battle with the most violent

emotions; and, provided the victory falls to their favourite side,

they exult and triumph in proportion to the number of thousands

that have been slain! It is no wonder if such become political

preachers, and their sermons be no better than husks for swine. To

such the hungry sheep look up, and are not fed. God pity such

miserable Athenians, and direct them to a more suitable


Verse 22. Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill] That is, in the

midst of the judges, who sat in the Areopagus.

Ye are too superstitious.] καταπανταωςδεισιδαιμονεστερους

υμαςθεωρω; I perceive that in all respects ye are greatly

addicted to religious practices; and, as a religious people, you

will candidly hear what I have got to say in behalf of that

worship which I practise and recommend. See farther observations

at the end of the chapter. See Clarke on Ac 17:34

Verse 23. Beheld your devotions] σεβασματα, The objects of your

worship; the different images of their gods which they held in

religious veneration, sacrificial instruments, altars, &c., &c.

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.] αγνωστοθεω. That there was an altar at

Athens thus inscribed, we cannot doubt after such a testimony;

though St. Jerome questions it in part; for he says St. Paul found

the inscription in the plural number, but, because he would not

appear to acknowledge a plurality of gods, he quoted it in the

singular: Verum, quia Paulus non pluribus Diis indigebat

ignotis, sed uno tantum ignoto Deo, singulari verbo usus est.

Epist. ad Magn. This is a most foolish saying: had Paul done so,

how much would such a begging of the question have prejudiced his

defence in the minds of his intelligent judges! OEcumenius

intimates that St. Paul does not give the whole of the inscription

which this famous altar bore; and which he says was the following:

θεοιςασιαςκαιευρωπηςκαιαιβυηςθεωαγνωστωκαιξενω, To the

gods of Asia, and Europe, and Africa: TO THE UNKNOWN and strange

GOD. Several eminent men suppose that this unknown god was the God

of the Jews; and, as his name was considered by the Jews as

ineffable, the θεοςαγνωστος may be considered as the anonymous

god; the god whose name was not known, and must not be

pronounced. That there was such a god acknowledged at Athens we

have full proof. Lucian in his Philopatris, cap. xiii. p. 769,

uses this form of an oath: νητοναγνωστοντονεναθηναις, I swear

by the UNKNOWN GOD at ATHENS. And again, cap. xxix. 180: ημειςδε


ουρανονεκτειναντεςτουτωευχαριστησομενωςκαταξιωθεντες, &c.

We have found out the UNKNOWN god at ATHENS-and worshipped him

with our hands stretched up to heaven; and we will gave thanks

unto him, as being thought worthy to be subject to this power.

Bp. Pearce properly asks, Is it likely that Lucian, speaking thus,

(whether in jest or in earnest,) should not have had some notion

of there being at Athens an altar inscribed to the unknown God?

Philostratus, in vit. Apollon. vi. 3, notices the same thing,

though he appears to refer to several altars thus inscribed: και

ταυτααθηνησιουκαιαγνωστωνθεονβωμοιιδρυνται, And this at

ATHENS, where there are ALTARS even to the UNKNOWN GODS.

Pausanias, in Attic. cap. 1. p. 4, edit. Kuhn., says that at

Athens there are βωμοιθεωντωνονομαζομενωναγνωστων, altars of

gods which are called, The UNKNOWN ones. Minutius Felix says of

the Romans, Aras extruunt etiam ignotis numinibus. "They even

build altars to UNKNOWN DIVINITIES." And Tertullian, contra

Marcion, says, Invenio plane Diis ignotis aras prostitutas: sed

Attica idolatria est. "I find altars allotted to the worship of

unknown gods: but this is an Attic idolatry." Now, though in

these last passages, both gods and altars are spoken of in the

plural number; yet it is reasonable to suppose that, on each, or

upon some one of them, the inscription αγνωστωθεω, To the unknown

god, was actually found. The thing had subsisted long and had got

from Athens to Rome in the days of Tertullian and Minutius Felix.

See Bp. Pearce and Dr. Cudworth, to whose researches this note is

much indebted.

Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship] There is here a fine

paronomasia, or play on the words. The apostle tells them that

(on their system) they were a very religious people-that they had

an altar inscribed, αγνωστωθεω, to the unknown God: him

therefore, says he, whom, αγνουντες, ye unknowingly worship,

I proclaim to you. Assuming it as a truth, that, as the true God

was not known by them, and that there was an altar dedicated to

the unknown god, his God was that god whose nature and operations

he now proceeded to declare. By this fine turn he eluded the force

of that law which made it a capital offense to introduce any new

god into the state, and of the breach of which he was charged,

Ac 17:18; and thus he showed that he was bringing neither

new god nor new worship among them; but only explaining the

worship of one already acknowledged by the state, though not as

yet known.

Verse 24. God that made the world, &c.] Though the Epicureans

held that the world was not made by God, but was the effect of a

fortuitous concourse of atoms, yet this opinion was not popular;

and the Stoics held the contrary: St. Paul assumes, as an

acknowledged truth, that there was a God who made the world and

all things. 2. That this God could not be confined within temples

made with hands, as he was the Lord or governor of heaven and

earth. 3. That, by fair consequence, the gods whom they

worshipped, which were shut up in their temples could not be this

God; and they must be less than the places in which they were

contained. This was a strong, decisive stroke against the whole

system of the Grecian idolatry.

Verse 25. Neither is worshiped with men's hands] This is an

indirect stroke against making of images, and offering of

sacrifices: he is not worshipped with human hands, as if he needed

any thing, or required to be represented under a particular form

or attitude; nor has he required victims for his support; for it

is impossible that he should need any thing who himself gives

being, form, and life, to all creatures.

Giveth-life, and breath, and all things] These words are

elegantly introduced by St. Paul: God gives life, because he is

the fountain of it: he gives breath, the faculty of breathing or

respiration, by which this life is preserved; and though breathing

or respiration, be the act of the animal, yet the πνοην, the

faculty of breathing, and extracting from the atmosphere what

serves as a pabulum of life, is given by the influence of God, and

the continued power thus to respire, and extract that pure oxygen

gas which is so evident a support of animal life, is as much the

continued gift of God as life itself is. But, as much more is

necessary to keep the animal machine in a state of repair, God

gives the ταπαντα, all the other things which are requisite for

this great and important purpose, that the end for which life was

given may be fully answered. St. Paul also teaches that Divine

worship is not enacted and established for GOD, but for the use of

his creatures: he needs nothing that man can give him; for man has

nothing but what he has received from the hand of his Maker.

Verse 26. Hath made of one blood] In AB, some others, with the

Coptic, AEthiopic, Vulgate, Itala, Clement, and Bede, the word

αιματος, blood, is omitted. He hath made of one (meaning Adam)

all nations of men; but αιμα, blood, is often used by the best

writers for race, stock, kindred: so Homer, Iliad, vi. ver. 211:


I glory in being of that same race and blood.

So Virgil, AEn. viii. ver. 142, says;

Sic genus amborum scindit se SANGUINE ab uno.

Thus, from one stock, do both our stems divide.

See many examples of this form in Kypke. The Athenians had a

foolish notion that they were self-produced, and were the

aboriginals of mankind. Lucian ridicules this opinion, αθηναιοι


λαχανα. The Athenians say that the first men sprung up in Attica,

like radishes. Luc. Philo-pseud. 3.

To dwell on all the face of the earth] God in his wisdom

produced the whole human race from one man; and, having in his

providence scattered them over the face of the earth, by showing

them that they sprang from one common source, has precluded all

those contentious wars and bloodshed which would necessarily have

taken place among the nations of the world, as each in its folly

might have arrogated to itself a higher and more excellent origin

than another.

And hath determined the times before appointed] Instead of

προτεταγμενουςκαιρους, the times before appointed, ABDE, and

more than forty others, with both the Syriac, all the Arabic, the

Coptic, AEthiopic, MS. Slavonian, Vulgate, and Itala, read

προστεταγμενουςκαιρους, the appointed times. The difference

between the two words is this: προτασσειν signifies to place

before others; but προστασσειν is to command, decree, appoint.

The προστεταγμενοικαιροι, are the constituted or decreed times;

that is, the times appointed by his providence, on which the

several families should go to those countries where his wisdom

designed they should dwell. See Ge 10:5-32; and see

Pearce and Rosenmuller.

And the bounds of their habitations] Every family being

appointed to a particular place, that their posterity might

possess it for the purposes for which infinite wisdom and goodness

gave them their being, and the place of their abode. Every nation

had its lot thus appointed by God, as truly as the Israelites had

the land of Canaan. But the removal of the Jews from their own

land shows that a people may forfeit their original inheritance,

and thus the Canaanites have been supplanted by the Jews; the Jews

by the Saracens; the Saracens by the Turks; the Greeks by the

Romans; the Romans by the Goths and Vandals; and so of others. See

the notes on Ge 11:1-32.

Verse 27. That they should seek the Lord] This is a conclusion

drawn from the preceding statement. God, who is infinitely great

and self-sufficient, has manifested himself as the maker of the

world, the creator, preserver, and governor of men. He has

assigned them their portion, and dispensed to them their

habitations, and the various blessings of his providence, to the

end that they should seek him in all his works.

Feel after him] ψηλαφησειαναυτον, That they might grope after

him, as a person does his way who is blind or blindfolded. The

Gentiles, who had not a revelation, must grope after God, as the

principle of spiritual life, that they might find him to be a

Spirit, and the source of all intellectual happiness; and the

apostle seems to state that none need despair of finding this

fountain of goodness, because he is not far from every one of us.

Verse 28. For in him we live, and move, and have our being] He

is the very source of our existence: the principle of life comes

from him: the principle of motion, also, comes from him; one of

the most difficult things in nature to be properly apprehended;

and a strong proof of the continual presence and energy of the


And have our being] καιεσμεν, And we are: we live in him,

move in him, and are in him. Without him we not only can do

nothing, but without him we are nothing. We are, i.e. we continue

to be, because of his continued, present, all-pervading, and

supporting energy. There is a remarkable saying in Synopsis Sohar,

p. 104. "The holy blessed God never does evil to any man. He only

withdraws his gracious presence from him, and then he necessarily

perisheth." This is philosophical and correct.

As certain also of your own poets] Probably he means not only

Aratus, in whose poem, entitled Phaenomena, the words quoted by

St. Paul are to be found literatim, τουγαρκαιγενοςεσμεν; but

also Cleanthus, in whose Hymn to Jupiter the same words (εκσου

γαργενοςεσμεν) occur. But the sentiment is found in several

others, being very common among the more enlightened philosophers.

By saying your own poets, he does not mean poets born at Athens,

but merely Grecian poets, Aratus and Cleanthus being chief.

We are also his offspring.] τουγαρκαιγενοςεσμεν The

Phaenomena of Aratus, in which these words are found, begins








With Jove we must begin; nor from him rove;

Him always praise, for all is full of Jove!

He fills all places where mankind resort,

The wide-spread sea, with every shelt'ring port.

Jove's presence fills all space, upholds this ball;

All need his aid; his power sustains us all.

For we his offspring are; and he in love

Points out to man his labour from above:

Where signs unerring show when best the soil,

By well-timed culture, shall repay our toil, &c., &c.

Aratus was a Cilician, one of St. Paul's own countrymen, and

with his writings St. Paul was undoubtedly well acquainted, though

he had flourished about 300 years before that time.

Verse 29. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, &c.]

This inference of the apostle was very strong and conclusive; and

his argument runs thus: "If we are the offspring of God, he cannot

be like those images of gold, silver, and stone, which are formed

by the art and device of man; for the parent must resemble his

offspring. Seeing, therefore, that we are living and intelligent

beings, HE from whom we have derived that being must be living and

intelligent. It is necessary, also, that the object of religious

worship should be much more excellent than the worshipper; but a

man is, by innumerable degrees, more excellent than an image

made out of gold, silver, or stone; and yet it would be impious to

worship a man: how much more so to worship these images as

gods! Every man in the Areopagus must have felt the power of this

conclusion; and, taking it for granted that they had felt it, he


Verse 30. The times of this ignorance God winked at] He who has

an indisputable right to demand the worship of all his creatures

has mercifully overlooked those acts of idolatry which have

disgraced the world and debased man; but now, as he has

condescended to give a revelation of himself, he commands, as the

sovereign, all men every where, over every part of his dominions,

to repent, μετανοειν, to change their views, designs, and

practices; because he hath appointed a day in which he will

judge the world in righteousness; and, as justice will then be

done, no sinner, no persevering idolater, shall escape punishment.

The word υπεριδειν, which we translate, to wink at, signifies

simply to look over; and seems to be here used in the sense of

passing by, not particularly noticing it. So God overlooked, or

passed by, the times of heathenish ignorance: as he had not given

them the talent of Divine revelation, so he did not require the

improvement of that talent; but now, as he had given them that

revelation, he would no longer overlook, or pass by, their

ignorance or its fruits.

Verse 31. He hath appointed a day] He has fixed the time in

which he will judge the world, though he has not revealed this

time to man.

By that man whom he hath ordained] He has also appointed the

judge, by whom the inhabitants of the earth are to be tried.

Whereof he hath given assurance] πιστινπαρασχωνπασιν, Having

given to all this indubitable proof, that Jesus Christ shall judge

the world, by raising him from the dead. The sense of the argument

is this: "Jesus Christ, whom we preach as the Saviour of men, has

repeatedly told his followers that he would judge the world; and

has described to us, at large, the whole of the proceedings of

that awful time, Mt 25:31, &c.; Joh 5:25. Though he was put to

death by the Jews, and thus he became a victim for sin, yet God

raised him from the dead. By raising him from the dead, God has

set his seal to the doctrines he has taught: one of these

doctrines is, that he shall judge the world; his resurrection,

established by the most incontrovertible evidence, is therefore a

proof, an incontestable proof, that he shall judge the world,

according to his own declaration."

Verse 32. When they heard of the resurrection, &c.] Paul

undoubtedly had not finished his discourse: it is likely that he

was about to have proclaimed salvation through Christ crucified;

but, on hearing of the resurrection of the body, the assembly

instantly broke up; the Epicureans mocking, εχλευαζον, began to

laugh; and the Stoics saying they would take another opportunity

to hear him on that subject. And thus the assembly became

dissolved before the apostle had time to finish his discourse, or

to draw all the conclusions he had designed from the premises he

had laid down. St. Stephen's discourse was interrupted in a

similar manner. See Ac 7:54, and the note there.

Verse 33. So Paul departed from among them.] He could not be

convicted of having done any thing contrary to the law; and, when

the assembly broke up, he was permitted to go about his own


Verse 34. Certain men clave unto him] Became affectionately

united to him, and believed the doctrines he had preached.

Dionysius the Areopagite] There can be no doubt that this man

was one of the judges of this great court, but whether the

president or otherwise we cannot tell. Humanly speaking, his

conversion must have been an acquisition of considerable

importance to the Christian religion; for no person was a judge in

the Areopagus who had not borne the office of archon, or chief

governor of the city; and none bore the office of judge in this

court who was not of the highest reputation among the people for

his intelligence and exemplary conduct. In some of the popish

writers we find a vast deal of groundless conjecture concerning

Dionysius, who, they say, was first bishop of Athens, and raised

to that dignity by Paul himself; that he was a martyr for the

truth; that Damaris was his wife, &c., &c., concerning which the

judicious Calmet says, Tout cela est de peu d' autorite. "All this

has little foundation."

1. IN addition to what has been said in the notes on this

subject, I may add, the original word δεισιδαιμονεστερος, from

δειδω, I fear, and δαιμων, a demon, signifies, "greatly

addicted to the worship of the invisible powers;" for, as the word

δαιμων signifies either a good or evil spirit, and δειδω, I

fear, signifies not only to fear in general, but also to pay

religious reverence, the word must be here taken in its best

sense; and so undoubtedly St. Paul intended it should; and so,

doubtless, his audience understood him; for it would have been

very imprudent to have charged them with superstition, which must

have been extremely irritating, in the very commencement of a

discourse in which he was to defend himself, and prove the truth

of the Christian religion. He stated a fact, acknowledged by the

best Greek writers; and he reasoned from that fact. The fact was

that the Athenians were the most religious people in Greece, or,

in other words, the most idolatrous: that there were in that city

more altars, temples, sacrifices, and religious services, than in

any other place. And independently of the authorities which may be

quoted in support of this assertion, we may at once perceive the

probability of it from the consideration that Athens was the grand

university of Greece: that here philosophy and every thing

relating to the worship of the gods was taught; and that religious

services to the deities must be abundant. Look at our own

universities of Oxford and Cambridge; here are more prayers,

more religious acts and services, than in any other places in the

nation, and very properly so. These were founded to be seminaries

of learning and religion; and their very statutes suppose religion

to be essential to learning; and their founders were in general

religious characters, and endowed them for religious purposes.

These, therefore, are not superstitious services; for, as

superstition signifies "unnecessary fears or scruples in

religion; observance of unnecessary and uncommanded rites or

practices,"-JOHNSON, it cannot be said of those services which are

founded on the positive command of God, for the more effectual

help to religious feelings, or as a preventive of immoral

practices. I consider the Athenians, therefore, acting in

conformity to their own laws and religious institutions; and Paul

grants that they were much addicted to religious performances:

this he pays as a compliment, and then takes occasion to show that

their religion was defective: they had not a right object of

devotion; they did not know the true God; the true God was to them

the unknown God; and this an altar in their own city acknowledged.

He therefore began to declare that glorious Being to them whom

they ignorantly worshipped. As they were greatly addicted to

religious services, and acknowledged that there was a Being to

them unknown, and to whom they thought it necessary to erect an

altar, they must, consistently with their character as a religious

people, and with their own concession in the erection of this

altar, hear quietly, patiently, and candidly, a discourse on that

God whose being they acknowledged, but whose nature they did not

know. Thus St. Paul, by acknowledging their religious disposition,

and seizing the fact of the altar being inscribed to the unknown

God, assumed a right which not a philosopher, orator, or judge in

the Areopagus could dispute, of bringing the whole subject of

Christianity before them, as he was now brought to his trial, and

put on his defense. The whole of this fine advantage, this grand

stroke of rhetorical prudence, is lost from the whole account, by

our translation, ye are in all things too superstitious, thus

causing the defendant to commence his discourse with a charge

which would have roused the indignation of the Greeks, and

precluded the possibility of their hearing any thing he had to say

in defense of his conduct.

2. That the original word, on the right interpretation of which

I have laid so much stress, is taken in a good sense, and

signifies religious worship and reverence, I shall show by several

proofs; some of which may be seen in Mr. Parkhurst, under the word

δεισιδαιμονια, which Suidas explains by ευλαβειαπεριτοθειον,

reverence towards the Deity. And Hesychius, by φοβοθεια, the

fear of God. "In this good sense it is often used by Diodorus

Siculus. Herodotus says of Orpheus, he led men, εις

δεισιδαιμονιαν, to be religious; and exhorted them, επιτο

ευσεβειν, to piety; where it is manifest that δεισιδαιμονια must

mean religion, and not superstition. But, what is more to the

present purpose, the word is used by Josephus, not only where a

heathen calls the pagan religion δεισιδαιμονιας, (Antiq. lib. xix.

cap. 5. s. 3,) or where the Jewish religion is spoken of by this

name, in several edicts that were made in its favour by the

Romans, (as in Antiq. lib. xiv. cap. 10, s. 13, 14, 16, 18, 19,)

but also where the historian is expressing his own thoughts in his

own words: thus, of King Manasseh, after his repentance and

restoration, he says, εσπουδαζενπασηπεριαυτονθεοντη

δεισιδαιδαιμονιαχρησθαι, he endeavoured to behave in the MOST

RELIGIOUS manner towards God. Antiq. lib. x. cap. 3, s. 2. And,

speaking of a riot that happened among the Jews on occasion of a

Roman soldier's burning the book of the law, he observes that the

Jews were drawn together on this occasion, τηδεισιδαιμονια, by

their religion, as if it had been by an engine; οργανωτινι.-De

Bell. lib. ii. cap. 12, s. 2." It would be easy to multiply

examples of this use of the word; but the reader may refer, if

necessary, to Wetstein, Pearce, and others.

3. That the Athenians were reputed, in this respect, a devout

people, the following quotations may prove. Pausanias, in Attic.

cap. xvii. p. 39, edit. Kuhn., says that the Athenians were not

only more humane, αλλακαιεςθεουςευσεβειν, but more devout

towards the gods; and again he says, δηλατεεναργωςοσοιςπλεον

τιετερωνευσεβειαςμετεστιν, it appears plainly how much they

exceed others in the worship of the gods; and, in cap. xxiv. p.

56, he says, αθηνιοιςπερισσοτεροντιητοιςαλλοιςεςταθεια

εστισπουδης, that the Athenians are abundantly more solicitous

about Divine matters than others. And Josephus seals this

testimony by the assertion, contr. Apion, ii. 10: αθηναιους

ευσεβεστατουςτωνελληνωνπαντεςλεγουσι; Every body says that

the Athenians are the most religious people of all the Greeks.-See

Bp. Pearce. From all these authorities it is palpable that St.

Paul must have used the term in the sense for which I have


4. In the preceding notes, I have taken for granted that Paul

was brought to the Areopagus to be tried on the charge of setting

forth strange gods. Bp. Warburton denies that he was brought

before the Areopagus on any charge whatever; and that he was taken

there that the judges might hear him explain his doctrine, and not

to defend himself against a charge which he does not once notice

in the whole of his discourse. But there is one circumstance that

the bishop has not noticed, viz. that St. Paul was not permitted

to finish his discourse, and therefore could not come to those

particular parts of the charge brought against him which the

bishop thinks he must have taken up most pointedly, had he been

accused, and brought there to make his defense. The truth is, we

have little more than the apostle's exordium, as he was evidently

interrupted in the prosecution of his defense. As to the

supposition that he was brought by philosophers to the Areopagus,

that they might the better hear him explain his doctrine, it

appears to have little ground; for they might have heard him to as

great advantage in any other place: nor does it appear that this

court was ever used, except for the solemn purposes of justice.

But the question, whether Paul was brought to the Areopagus that

he might be tried by the judges of that court, Bishop Pearce

answers with his usual judgment and discrimination. He observes:

1. "We are told that one effect of his preaching was, that he

converted Dionysius the Areopagite, Ac 17:34; and this seems to

show that he, who was a judge of that court, was present, and, if

so, probably other judges were present also. 2. If they who

brought Paul to Areopagus wanted only to satisfy their curiosity,

they had an opportunity of doing that in the market, mentioned

Ac 17:17. Why then did they remove him to another place? 3.

When it is said that they brought Paul to Areopagus, it is said

that they took him, επιλαβομενοιαυτοι, or rather, they laid hold

on him, as the Greek word is translated, Lu 23:26; 20:20, 26, and

as it ought to have been here, in Ac 21:30, 33, and especially in

this latter verse. 4. It is observable that Paul, in his whole

discourse at the Areopagus, did not make the least attempt to move

the passions of his audience, as he did when speaking to Felix,

Ac 24:25, and to Agrippa, Ac 26:29; but he used

plain and grave reasonings to convince his hearers of the

soundness of his doctrine.

"Now, we are told by Quinctilian, in Inst. Orat. ii. 16, that

Athenis actor movere affectus vetabatur: the actor was forbidden

to endeavour to excite the passions. And again, in vi. 1, that

Athenis affectus movere etiam per praeconem prohibebatur orator:

among the Athenians, the orator was prohibited by the public crier

to move the passions of his auditory. And this is confirmed by

Philostratus in procem. lib. i. de Vit. Sophist.; and by

Athenaeus, in Deipnosoph. xiii. 6. If, therefore, it was

strictly forbidden at Athens to move the affections of the courts

of justice, especially in that of the Areopagus, we see a good

reason why Paul made no attempt in that way; and, at the same

time, we learn how improperly the painters have done all they

could, when they represent Paul speaking at Athens, endeavouring

both by his looks and gestures to raise those several passions in

his hearers which their faces are meant to express."

I have only to add here, that, though St. Paul did not endeavour

to excite any passions in his address at the Areopagus, yet each

sect of the philosophers would feel themselves powerfully affected

by every thing in his discourse which tended to show the emptiness

or falsity of their doctrines; and, though he attempted to move no

passions, yet, from these considerations, their passions would be

strongly moved. And this is the idea which the inimitable Raphael

took up in his celebrated cartoon on this subject, and which his

best copier, Mr. Thomas Holloway, has not only engraved to the

life, but has also described in language only inferior to the

cartoon itself; and, as it affords no mean comment on the

preceding discourse, my readers will be pleased to find it here.

By the cartoons of Raphael, we are to understand certain

Scripture pieces painted by Raphael d'Urbino, and now preserved in

the palace at Hampton court. They are allowed to be the chefs

d'oeuvre in their kind. They have been often engraved, but never

so as to give an adequate representation of the matchless

originals, till Mr. Thomas Holloway, who has completely seized the

spirit of the artist, undertook this most laborious work, in which

he has been wholly engaged for several years; and in which he has,

for some time past, associated with himself Messrs. Slann and

Webb, two excellent artists, who had formerly been his own

pupils. The cartoon to which I have referred has been some time

finished, and delivered to the subscribers; and with it that

elegant description, from which the following is a copious


"The eye no sooner glances on this celebrated cartoon than it is

immediately struck with the commanding attitude of the speaker,

and the various emotions excited in his hearers.

"The interest which the first appearance of St. Paul at Athens

had occasioned, was not calculated to subside on a sudden; his

doctrines were too new, and his zeal too ardent. From the

multitude it ascended to the philosophers. The Epicureans and

Stoics particularly assailed him. Antecedently to the scene

described in the picture, among the various characters already

encountered by the apostle, many undoubtedly, in their

speculations upon Divine subjects, had often imagined a sublimer

religion than that commonly acknowledged: such, therefore, would

make it their business to hear him again. Others, to whom truth

was of less value than the idle amusement of vain disquisition,

felt no other motive than curiosity. By far the greater part,

however, obstinately bigoted to their particular tenets, and

abhorring innovation, regarded him as impious, or a mere babbler:

these also wished to hear him again, but with no other than the

insidious view, that, by a more regular and explicit profession of

his doctrines, he might expose his own absurdities, or render

himself obnoxious to the state. The drapery accords with the

majesty of the figure; and the light is so managed, especially on

the arms and hands, as greatly to assist the energy of the action.

"The painter has proceeded, from the warmth of full conviction,

through various gradations, to the extremes of malignant

prejudice, and invincible bigotry.

"In the foreground, on the right, is Dionysius, who is recorded

to have embraced the new religion. With the utmost fervour in his

countenance, and with a kind of sympathetic action and unconscious

eagerness, he advances a step nearer. His eye is fixed on the

apostle: he longs to tell him his conversion, already perhaps

preceded by conviction wrought in his mind by the reasonings of

the sacred teacher on previous occasions, in the synagogue, and in

the forum or marketplace. He appears not only touched with the

doctrine he receives, but expresses an evident attachment to his

instructer: he would become his host and protector.

"This figure is altogether admirable. The gracefulness of the

drapery and of the hair; the masculine beauty of the features; the

perspective drawing of the arms; the life and sentiment of the

hands, the right one especially, are inimitable.

"Behind is Damaris, mentioned with him as a fellow believer.

This is the only female in the composition; but the painter has

fully availed himself of the character, in assisting his principle

of contrast; an excellence found in all the works of Raphael. Her

discreet distance, her modest deportment, her pious and diffident

eye, discovering a degree of awe, the decorum and arrangement of

her train, all interest the mind in her favour.

"Next to these, but at come distance, is a Stoic. The first

survey of this figure conveys the nature of his peculiar

philosophy-dignity and austerity. Raphael has well understood what

he meant in this instance to illustrate. His head is sunk in his

breast; his arms are mechanically folded; his eyes, almost shut,

glance towards the ground: he is absorbed in reflection. In spite

of his stoicism, discomposure and perplexity invade his soul,

mixed with a degree of haughty mortification.

"Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed that 'the same idea is

continued through the whole figure, even to the drapery, which is

so closely muffled about him that even his hands are not seen;'

and that, 'by this happy correspondence between the expression of

the countenance and the disposition of the parts, the figure

appears to think from head to foot.'

"Behind the Stoic are two young men, well contrasted in

expression: anger in the elder, and in the other, youthful pride,

half abashed, are finely discriminated.

"Beyond, in the same continued half circle with the Stoic, is

perhaps exhibited the most astonishing contrast ever imagined;

that of inexorable sternness, and complete placidity.

"Of the two figures, the first is denominated a Cynic, who,

disappointed in his expectation of the ridiculous appearance which

he conceived the apostle, when confronted, would make among them,

abandons his mind to rage. His formidable forehead concentrates

its whole expression: with a fixed frown and threatening eye, he

surveys the object of his indignation. He alone would engage to

confute him, or punish his temerity. His eager impatience and

irritation are not discovered in his features only; he raises his

heel from the ground, and leans with a firmer pressure on his

crutch, which seems to bend beneath him.

"Pass from him to the more polished Epicurean. This figure

exhibits perfect repose of body and mind: no passions agitate the

one; no action discomposes the other. His hands, judiciously

concealed beneath beautiful drapery, shows there can be no

possible motion or employment for them. His feet seem to sleep

upon the ground. His countenance, which is highly pleasing, and

full of natural gentleness, expresses only a smile of pity at the

fancied errors of the apostle, mingled with delight derived from

his eloquence. He waits, with an inclined head, in passive and

serene expectation. If a shrewd intelligence is discovered in his

eyes, it is too gentle to disturb the general expression of


"Behind are two other young men: the first discovers a degree of

superciliousness with his vexation; his companion is more

disgusted, and more morose.

"These, and the two young figures previously described, are not

introduced merely to fill up the group; they may be intended as

pupils to the philosophers before them, though by some considered

as young Romans, who have introduced themselves from ennui or


"Beyond is a character in whose mind the force of truth and

eloquence appears to have produced conviction; but pride, vanity,

or self-interest, impel him to dissemble. His finger, placed upon

the upper lip, shows that he has imposed silence upon himself.

"In the centre is seated a group from the academy. The skill of

Raphael in this instance is eminent. These figures are not only

thrown into shade, to prevent their interference with the

principal figure; but, from their posture, they contribute to its

elevation, and at the same time vary the line of the standing


"It seems as if the old philosopher in profile, on the left, had

offered some observations on the apostle's address; and that he

was eagerly listening to the reply of his sage friend, in whose

features we behold more of the spirit of mild philosophy. The

action of his fingers denotes his habit of reasoning, and

regularity of argument. The middle figure behind appears to be

watching the effect which his remarks would produce.

"The action of the young man, pointing to the apostle,

characterizes the keen susceptibility and impetuosity of his age.

His countenance expresses disgust, approaching to horror. The

other young man turns his head round, as though complaining of

unreasonable interruption. The drapery of both the front figures

in this group is finely drawn: the opening action of the knees in

the one is beautifully followed and described by the folds; in the

other, the compression, in consequence of the bent attitude, is

equally executed; the turn of the head gives grace and variety to

the figure.

"The head introduced beyond, and rather apart, is intended to

break the two answering lines of the dark contour of the apostle's

drapery, and the building in the background.

"In the group placed behind the apostle, the mind is astonished

at the new character of composition. The finest light imaginable

is thrown upon the sitting figure; and, as necessary, a mass of

shade is cast upon the two others.

"It is difficult to ascertain what or whom Raphael meant by that

corpulent and haughty personage wearing the cap. His expression,

however, is evident: malice and vexation are depicted in his

countenance; his stride, and the action of his hand, are

characteristic of his temperament.

"The figure standing behind is supposed to be a magician. His

dark hair and beard, which seem to have been neglected, and the

keen mysterious gaze of his eye, certainly exhibit a mind addicted

to unusual studies. Under him, the only remaining figure is one

who listens with malignant attention, as though intending to

report every thing. He has the aspect of a spy. His eye is full of

danger to the apostle; and he crouches below that he may not be

disturbed by communication.

"If this figure be considered with reference to Dionysius, it

may be remarked that Raphael has not only contrasted his

characters, but even the two ends of his picture. By this means

the greatest possible force is given to the subject. At the first

survey, the subordinate contrasts may escape the eye, but these

greater oppositions must have their effect.

"When, from this detailed display of the cartoon, the eye again

glances over the whole subject, including the dignity of the

architecture; the propriety of the statue of Mars, which faces his

temple; the happy management of the landscape, with the two

conversation figures; the result must be an acknowledgment that in

this one effort of art is combined all that is great in drawing,

in expression, and in composition." Holloway's description of

Raphael's Cartoon of Paul preaching at Athens.

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