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  • PARALLEL BIBLE - Acts 17:23


    CHAPTERS: Acts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28     

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    King James Bible - Acts 17:23

    For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

    World English Bible

    For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I announce to you.

    Douay-Rheims - Acts 17:23

    For passing by, and seeing your idols, I found an altar also, on which was written: To the unknown God. What therefore you worship, without knowing it, that I preach to you:

    Webster's Bible Translation

    For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I to you.

    Greek Textus Receptus


    διερχομενος
    1330 5740 V-PNP-NSM γαρ 1063 CONJ και 2532 CONJ αναθεωρων 333 5723 V-PAP-NSM τα 3588 T-APN σεβασματα 4574 N-APN υμων 5216 P-2GP ευρον 2147 5627 V-2AAI-1S και 2532 CONJ βωμον 1041 N-ASM εν 1722 PREP ω 3739 R-DSM επεγεγραπτο 1924 5718 V-LPI-3S αγνωστω 57 A-DSM θεω 2316 N-DSM ον 3739 R-ASM ουν 3767 CONJ αγνοουντες 50 5723 V-PAP-NPM ευσεβειτε 2151 5719 V-PAI-2P τουτον 5126 D-ASM εγω 1473 P-1NS καταγγελλω 2605 5719 V-PAI-1S υμιν 5213 P-2DP

    Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge

    VERSE (23) -
    Ro 1:23-25 1Co 8:5 2Th 2:4

    SEV Biblia, Chapter 17:23

    porque pasando y mirando vuestros santuarios, hall tambin un altar en el cual estaba esta inscripcin: AL DIOS NO CONOCIDO. Aquel pues, que vosotros honris sin conocerle, a ste os anuncio yo.

    Clarke's Bible Commentary - Acts 17:23

    Verse 23. Beheld your
    devotions] sebasmata, 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.] agnwsto qew. 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 defense 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: qeoiv asiav kai eurwphv kai aibuhv, qew agnwstw kai xenw, 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 hwhy was considered by the Jews as ineffable, the qeov agnwstov 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: nh ton agnwston ton en aqhnaiv, I swear by the UNKNOWN GOD at ATHENS. And again, cap. xxix. 1lx20: hmeiv de ton en aqhnaiv agnwston efeurontev kai proskunhsantev, ceirav eiv ouranon ekteinantev, toutw eucaristhsomen wv kataxiwqentev, &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: kai tauta aqhnhsi, ou kai agnwstwn qeon bwmoi idruntai, 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 bwmoi qewn twn onomazomenwn agnwstwn, 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 agnwstw qew, 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, agnwstw qew, to the unknown God: him therefore, says he, whom, agnountev, 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, ver. 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.


    John Gill's Bible Commentary

    Ver. 23. For as I passed by , etc.] Or through; that is, through the city of Athens: and beheld your devotions ; not so much their acts of worship and religion, as the gods which they worshipped; in which sense this word is used in ( 2 Thessalonians 2:4) and the altars which were erected to them, and the temples in which they were worshipped; and so the Syriac and Arabic versions render it, the houses, and places of your worship; and the Ethiopic version, your images, or deities, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD .

    Pausanias speaks in the plural number of altars of gods, that were named unknown, at Athens; and so says Apollonius Tyanaeus to Timasion it is wisest to speak well of all the gods, especially at Athens, where there are altars to unknown gods: it may be, there were altars that had the inscription in the plural number; and there was one which Paul took particular notice of, in the singular number; or the above writers may speak of altars to unknown gods, because there might be many altars with this inscription: the whole of the inscription, according to Theophylact, was this; to the gods of Asia, Europe, and Lybia (or Africa), to the unknown and strange god; though Jerom makes this to be in the plural number: certain it is, that Lucian swears by the unknown god that was at Athens, and says, we finding the unknown god at Athens, and worshipping with hands stretched out towards heaven, gave thanks unto him: the reason why they erected an altar with such an inscription might be, for fear when they took in the gods of other nations, there might be some one which they knew not; wherefore, to omit none, they erect an altar to him; and which proves what the apostle says, that they were more religious and superstitious than others: or it may be they might have a regard to the God of the Jews, whose name Jehovah with them was not to be pronounced, and who, by the Gentiles, was called Deus incertus f884 ; and here, in the Syriac version, it is rendered, the hidden God, as the God of Israel is called, ( Isaiah 45:15) and that he is here designed seems manifest from what follows, whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you ; which could not be said by him of any other deity. God is an unknown God to those who have only the light of nature to guide them; for though it may be known by it that there is a God, and that there is but one, and somewhat of him may be discerned thereby; yet the nature of his essence, and the perfections of his nature, and the unity of his being, are very little, and not truly and commonly understood, and the persons in the Godhead not at all, and still less God in Christ, whom to know is life eternal: hence the Gentiles are described as such who know not God; wherefore, if he is worshipped by them at all, it must be ignorantly: and that they are ignorant worshippers of him, appears by worshipping others more than him, and besides him, or him in others, and these idols of gold, silver, brass, wood, and stone; and by their indecencies and inhumanity used in the performance of their worship: wherefore a revelation became necessary, by which men might be acquainted with the nature of the divine Being, and the true manner of worshipping him; in which a declaration is made of the nature and perfections of God, and of the persons in the Godhead, the object of worship; of the counsels, purposes, and decrees of God; of his covenant transactions with his Son respecting the salvation of his chosen people; of his love, grace, and mercy, displayed in the mission and gift of Christ to be the Saviour and Redeemer of them; of the glory of his attributes in their salvation; and of his whole mind and will, both with respect to doctrine and practice; and which every faithful minister of the Gospel, as the Apostle Paul, shuns not, according to his ability, truly and fully to declare.


    Matthew Henry Commentary

    Verses 22-31 - Here we have a sermon to heathens, who worshipped false gods, and wer without the true God in the world; and to them the scope of the discourse was different from what the apostle preached to the Jews. I the latter case, his business was to lead his hearers by prophecies an miracles to the knowledge of the Redeemer, and faith in him; in the former, it was to lead them, by the common works of providence, to know the Creator, and worship Him. The apostle spoke of an altar he ha seen, with the inscription, "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD." This fact is state by many writers. After multiplying their idols to the utmost, some a Athens thought there was another god of whom they had no knowledge. An are there not many now called Christians, who are zealous in their devotions, yet the great object of their worship is to them an unknow God? Observe what glorious things Paul here says of that God whom he served, and would have them to serve. The Lord had long borne with idolatry, but the times of this ignorance were now ending, and by his servants he now commanded all men every where to repent of their idolatry. Each sect of the learned men would feel themselves powerfull affected by the apostle's discourse, which tended to show the emptines or falsity of their doctrines.


    Greek Textus Receptus


    διερχομενος
    1330 5740 V-PNP-NSM γαρ 1063 CONJ και 2532 CONJ αναθεωρων 333 5723 V-PAP-NSM τα 3588 T-APN σεβασματα 4574 N-APN υμων 5216 P-2GP ευρον 2147 5627 V-2AAI-1S και 2532 CONJ βωμον 1041 N-ASM εν 1722 PREP ω 3739 R-DSM επεγεγραπτο 1924 5718 V-LPI-3S αγνωστω 57 A-DSM θεω 2316 N-DSM ον 3739 R-ASM ουν 3767 CONJ αγνοουντες 50 5723 V-PAP-NPM ευσεβειτε 2151 5719 V-PAI-2P τουτον 5126 D-ASM εγω 1473 P-1NS καταγγελλω 2605 5719 V-PAI-1S υμιν 5213 P-2DP

    Vincent's NT Word Studies

    23. As I passed by (dierco.menov). More strictly, "passing through (dia)" your city, or your
    streets.

    Beheld (anaqewrwn). Only here and Heb. xiii. 7. Rev:, much better, observed. The compound verb denotes a very attentive consideration (ajna, up and down, throughout).

    Devotions (sebasmata). Wrong. It means the objects of their worship - temples, altars, statues, etc.

    An altar (bwmon). Only here in New Testament, and the only case in which a heathen altar is alluded to. In all other cases qusiasthrion is used, signifying an altar of the true God. The Septuagint translators commonly observe this distinction, being, in this respect, more particular than the Hebrew scriptures themselves, which sometimes interchange the word for the heathen altar and that for God's altar. See, especially, Joshua 22., where the altar reared by the Transjordanic tribes is called, bwmov, as being no true altar of God (vv. 10, 11, 16, 19, 23, 26, 34); and the legitimate altar, qusiasthrion (vv. 19, 28, 29).

    To the unknown God (agnwstw Qew). The article is wanting. Render, as Rev., to an unknown God. The origin of these altars, of which there were several in Athens, is a matter of conjecture. Hackett's remarks on this point are sensible, and are born out by the following words: "whom therefore," etc. "The most rational explanation is unquestionably that of those who suppose these altars to have had their origin in the felling of uncertainty, inherent, after all, in the minds of the heathen, whether their acknowledgment of the superior posers was sufficiently full and comprehensive; in their distinct consciousness of the limitation and imperfection of their religious views, and their consequent desire to avoid the anger of any still unacknowledged God who might be unknown to them. That no deity might punish them for neglecting his worship, or remain to all the gods named or known among them, but, distrustful still lest they might not comprehend fully the extent of their subjection and dependence, they erected them also to any other God or power that might exist, although as yet unrevealed to them.... Under these circumstances an allusion to one of these altars by the apostle would be equivalent to his saying to the Athenians thus: 'You are correct in acknowledging a divine existence beyond any which the ordinary rites of your worship recognize; there is such an existence. You are correct in confessing that this Being is unknown to you; you have no just conceptions of his nature and perfections.'" Ignorantly (agnoountev). Rather, unconsciously: not knowing. There is a kind of play on the words unknown, knowing not. Ignorantly conveys more rebuke than Paul intended.

    Declare I (kataggellw). Compare kataggeleuv, setter-forth., in verse

    18. Here, again, there is a play upon the words. Paul takes up their noun, setter-forth, and gives it back to them as a verb. "You say I am a setter-forth of strange gods: I now set forth unto you (Rev.) the true God."


    Robertson's NT Word Studies

    17:23 {For} (gar). Paul gives an illustration of their religiousness from his own experiences in their city. {The objects of your worship} (ta sebasmata humwn). Late word from sebazomai, to worship. In N T. only here and #2Th 2:4. The use of this word for temples, altars, statues, shows the conciliatory tone in the use of deisidaimonesterous in verse #22. {An altar} (bwmon). Old word, only here in the N.T. and the only mention of a heathen altar in the N.T {With this inscription} (en hwi epegegrapto). On which had been written (stood written), past perfect passive indicative of epigrafw, old and common verb for writing on inscriptions (epigrafe, #Lu 23:38). {To an Unknown God} (agnosto qeo). Dative case, dedicated to. Pausanias (I. 1, 4) says that in Athens there are "altars to gods unknown" (bwmoi qewn agnwstwn). Epimenides in a pestilence advised the sacrifice of a sheep to the befitting god whoever he might be. If an altar was dedicated to the wrong deity, the Athenians feared the anger of the other gods. The only use in the N.T. of agnwstos, old and common adjective (from a privative and gnwstos verbal of ginwskw, to know). Our word agnostic comes from it. Here it has an ambiguous meaning, but Paul uses it though to a stern Christian philosopher it may be the "confession at once of a bastard philosophy and of a bastard religion" (Hort, _Hulsean Lectures_, p. 64). Paul was quick to use this confession on the part of the Athenians of a higher power than yet known to them. So he gets his theme from this evidence of a deeper religious sense in them and makes a most clever use of it with consummate skill. {In ignorance} (agnoountes). Present active participle of agnoew, old verb from same root as agnwstos to which Paul refers by using it. { this set I forth unto you} (touto ego kataggellw humin). He is a kataggeleus (verse #18) as they suspected of a God, both old and new, old in that they already worship him, new in that Paul knows who he is. By this master stroke he has brushed to one side any notion of violation of Roman law or suspicion of heresy and claims their endorsement of his new gospel, a shrewd and consummate turn. He has their attention now and proceeds to describe this God left out of their list as the one true and Supreme God. The later MSS. here read hon--touton (whom-- this one) rather than ho--touto (what-- this ), but the late text is plainly an effort to introduce too soon the personal nature of God which comes out clearly in verse #24.


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