Sunday, June 17, 2007

What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem?

As my good friend and colleague, John Mark Reynolds, is fond of saying, "It's a suburb!"

Read this thoughtful piece by Dr. Reynolds in Scriptorium Daily:

I stood today with fifty students on Mars Hill. There the apostle Paul delivered the answer to Delphi. He did what Plato could not do and defeated the Power of that Hideous Strength in his day.
Paul then Athens at the time of Paul was a city that in many ways lived in the past. It had ceased to have much economic importance. The school of Alexandria surpassed it in many ways. Still, however, the great Parthenon towered over the center of the city on the great rock of the Acropolis covered with the wonderful friezes that now are the prizes of world-class museums. If it dazzles the eye still with its beauty in its nearly ruined state, imagine how it must have appeared to Paul when it was still in one piece. Though looted many times, pagan benefactors who honored the classical period had also filled Athens with temples, theaters, and art work to honor the intellectual gifts of Greece to Rome. The marketplace was still there and if it was less busy than before one could still remember that here Socrates had begun philosophy. The type of Athenian porches (stoa) that had given their name to the Stoic school could still be enjoyed to beat the heat. The Academy still carried on its mission, even if it had little to do with the actual teachings of Plato, a short walk away and on the walk one could remember the teachings of Aristotle. In between the great Acropolis and the marketplace stood a small hill which the ancient Athenians called the Areopagus. It had served from deepest antiquity as an Athenian court. On the hill of the Areopagus, the archons, the members of the court, met and even under the democracy they retained some power especially over murder and sacrilege cases. By the time of Paul, it was a favorite meeting place for intellectuals where the judgments were more over ideas than men. So Saint Paul would have walked through the marketplace where philosophy was born to the hill where religious judgments had traditionally been made in the shadow of the greatest temple of the religion of Homer and of Delphi. Athens was still symbolically one the great centers of ancient paganism and as a symbol had no equal for it contained great icons of both pagan religion and pagan philosophy. The Areopagus, Mar’s Hill to the Romans, stood right in the center of the life of Athens.

Read the rest here

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