Temple of Hephaestus, Athens

January 31, 2011

Today’s post features the Athens Temple of Hephaestus. Hephaestus was the mythical god of forging and metal working, the god of blacksmiths. Construction on the temple was begun in 449 BC, and was completed 415 BC. It is a Doric style temple, made of Pentelic marble, and is located on the northwest side of the agora.

Athens Temple of Hephaestus. The god of forging. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This temple is said to be the best preserved ancient Greek temple in the world. It would have been prominently overlooking the agora when Paul preached in Athens (Acts 17).

In Birmingham, AL., known in the past as a major steel producer, the Vulcan stands atop Red Mountain (largest cast iron statue in the world). Vulcan is the Roman equivalent to the Greek Hephaestus. The word vulcanize comes from his name.

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At Athens, Gate of Athena Archegetis

January 25, 2011

Situated on the west side of the agora in Athens is the Roman forum Gate of Athena. It was constructed in 11 BC. It has four Doric columns, with a base of Pentelic marble. According to the inscription on the architrave, the gate was dedicated by the Athenians to their patroness Athena Archegetis with funding by Julius Caesar and later Augustus.

Gate of Athena Archegetis in Athens. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

It is amazing to see ancient ruins surrounded by modern buildings, not to mention the vehicles!

 


The True Meaning of Deisidaimonia

January 22, 2011

A reader writes to ask about the meaning of Acts 17:22, “Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious’.” Specifically his question is about the interpretation of “very religious.” The Greek term is deisidaimonesterous. Should the text be rendered as “I perceive that you are worshippers of many demons” rather than “very religious” or “too superstitious” (KJV)? He asks, “What would be your answer to this interpretation?”

1. My first observation would be to look at how various reliable translations render the text. The KJV has “too superstitious.” The ESV, NASB, NKJ, NIV and NET have “very religious.” The CSB and NRSV have “extremely religious.” Always be wary when one suggests a meaning for a biblical term that cannot be found in commonly used, accurate translations.

2. The real discussion among biblical students/scholars about deisidaimonesterous is whether it is best rendered by “superstitious” or “religious,”—not whether it means worshiper of demons. For example, the NET note here observes, “The term deisidaimonesterous is difficult. On the one hand it can have the positive sense of ‘devout,’ but on the other hand it can have the negative sense of ‘superstitious.’ As part of a laudatory introduction (the technical rhetorical term for this introduction was capatatio), the term is probably positive here. It may well be a ‘backhanded’ compliment, playing on the ambiguity.”

3. Paul wants to appeal to the hearts of the Athenians with the Gospel.  How can he best approach them? F.F. Bruce says, “He begins by mentioning that what he has seen in their city has impressed him with the extraordinarily religious nature of the Athenians. . .” (The Book of the Acts, p. 355). In his work, The Greek New Testament, Henry Alford observes, “He wishes to commend their reverential spirit, while he shews its misdirection” (vol. 2, p. 196). In his Greek-English Lexicon, Thayer states that Paul uses the term with “kindly ambiguity” (p.127).

These above statements seem to best fit the context.  Paul states a fact—they were religious—without expressing approval or agreement with the object of their religion. But that served as an opener to go on to show basic truths about the nature of God and His will for man, His creation.

Acropolis at top. Stoa to your left. Paul's preaching in Athens is recorded in Acts 17. View from north. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

 

4. What then is the evidence for the interpretation “worshipers of many demons.”

First, in fairness, there is the literal meaning of the compound word, as seen in W.E. Vine’s work. Deisidaimon is composed of deido, “to fear,” and daimon, “a demon.” On the surface it would seem that it should be translated “one who fears/worships demons.” But that is not how word meanings are established.  Try that with the word “butterfly.”  When you define “butter” and “fly” have you shown what “butterfly” means? Vine goes on to give the best meaning of the word in Acts 17:22, as “more than others respectful of what is divine.” He says, “It also agrees with the meaning found in Greek writers; the context too suggests that the adjective is used in a good sense” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. IV, p. 94). Meaning is established by usage.

Gareth Reese says, “It must be noted in passing that deisidaimon could be rendered “worshipper of many demons,’ an expression exactly suited to a pagan people like the Athenians who lived in fear of evil spirits and who went out of their way to keep from offending the spirits” (Acts, p. 627; thusly rendered in Amplified and Darby).  But one important rule of interpretation is to consider how the same word is used within Scripture. Our word is found in Acts 25:19 (noun form), where Festus explained to King Agrippa that the Jewish leaders, “. . . had some questions against him [Paul] about their own religion [deisidaimon] and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.” Here Reese says, “There are reasons to believe Festus used it [deisidaimon] in a good sense here. It was the regular word by which a Roman would designate his own worship, and not being familiar with any technical Jewish word for worship, would naturally use the same word for their religion as he did for his own. Further, Agrippa professes a certain deference for the Jewish religion. Festus would not speak of the religion of his royal guest [Agrippa] in a derogatory sense” (Acts, p. 866).

In conclusion, my judgment is that deisidaimon is best rendered “religion” and deisidaimonesterous as “very religious.” “It was well suited to a general and supremely neutral expression for religion or piety because diamon is used generally for a supernatural power. In the NT it is used in this sense by Festus in Acts 25:19 and the adj. is used by Paul of the Athenians in Ac. 17:22” (Kittel, Vol. 2, p. 20).


Stoa of Attalus at Athens

January 20, 2011

Paul sent word for his traveling companions Silas and Timothy at Beroea to join him “as soon as possible” at Athens (Acts 17:15). Meanwhile, as Paul waited for them, he made effective use of the time. Acts 17:16,17 states,

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.

Note that Paul reasoned in the market place those who happened to be present. The market place, or agora, was the civil center of Athens. This would have included the Stoa (porch), a colonnaded structure on the east side of the market place.  Social, political, legal meetings and religious and philosophical discussions took place there. Paul made use of this setting as an opportunity to teach and reason about the true God, and His will for all men.

Stoa of Attalos and Market Place (Agora) from the Areopagus. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In our photo, taken from the Areopagos (Mars Hill) you can see the Stoa of Attalos at right center.  The ancient agora sprawled to your left. This gives the geographical context to Paul’s discussions in the Athenian marketplace, with “those who happened to be present.”

Attalos II was king of Pergamum 159-138 BC. It was he who first built the Stoa.

Stoa of Attalos. Consisted of two stories. Photo Leon Mauldin.

 

The Stoa was 385 feet in length and consisted of two stories. It housed 21 shops on each floor. Again, this would have been the site for Athenians to meet, walk, and to do business.

Stoa of Attalos at Athens. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Here is a view of the Stoa showing first floor level. Restoration of the Stoa was carried out in 1953-1956 by the American school of Classical Studies with the financial support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

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The Erechtheion in Athens

January 18, 2011

Among the important ruins situated upon the acropolis in Athens is the Erechtheion, a unique sanctuary dedicated to Athena Polias; Poseidon and Erechtheus were worshiped here.

Erechtheion at Athens. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This view shows the Porch of the Kayatids, which used female figures as architectural supports as columns. These figures are a representation of the “Maidens of Karyai,” an ancient town of Peloponnese. The structure dates to the 5th century BC.

Below is a close up view:

Close-up of Porch of the Maidens. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

These maidens are actually replicas. The originals are encased in glass in the museum.

More to come.  Click on image for higher resolution.


The Parthenon in Athens

January 17, 2011

Our previous post referenced the Apostle Paul’s preaching in Athens as recorded in Acts 17:16-34. Up from the Areopagus was the Parthenon. The Parthenon was the temple devoted to the virgin Greek goddess Athena, of Greek mythology, goddess of wisdom and the arts.

The Parthenon in Athens. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

 

This temple was constructed with eight Doric columns in front and rear, and seventeen along each side. Within the Parthenon stood a thirty-four feet high statue of Athena, built by the sculptor Pheidias. It was made of wood with ivory additions and a plating of gold.

The city of Athens was said to be “full of idols,” (Acts 17:16), but it may well be that Paul had in mind especially the nearby Parthenon when he proclaimed,

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.

He went on to say in v. 29,

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

We plan to continue with more of the sites in Athens.

My friend & fellow-worker Ferrell Jenkins is currently directing a tour in Egypt. To keep up with their travels, and see the photos to be posted, see Ferrell’s Travel Blog. Link is provided to your right under Blogroll.

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The Areopagus in Athens

January 14, 2011

On Paul’s 2nd Missionary Journey, he taught the Gospel at Athens, reasoning with those in the synagogues as well as in the market place. Acts 18:18-20 tells us of another teaching opportunity that arose:

Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.  And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak?  “For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.”

The word Areopagus means “Rock of Ares.” Ares is the the Greek god of war. Pagos is “rock.” The word Areopagus is used both with reference to the ruling council of Athens, as well as the place where the council met. Our photo shows the steps leading up to the Areopagus.

Steps leading up the the Areopagus in Athens. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Areopagus is also called “Mars Hill.” Mars was the Roman god of war. Photo below shows a few of my group on the top of the Areopagus. Bob Berry, center, quoted Paul’s sermon preached here (Acts 17).

Areopagus. A few of our 2010 tour group. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Areopagus is composed of marble.  It is worn quite slick in places, so be careful of your footing if you have the occasion to visit.

Areopagus in Athens. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The shot above was taken from near the Parthenon.

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