"Athens was proverbial for the curiosity of its inhabitants. By the first century, Athenian desire for entertainment also extended to gladiatorial shows, drawing the criticism of several famous moralists." -IVP New Testament Background Commentary, "Acts 17:21".
I am quite fascinated by two things:
- That the people were only interested in new teachings. We live in a post-Christendom culture, where Jesus and talk of the resurrection is passé. But there was a time when talk of Jesus and his resurrection was new. Nevertheless, our culture is much like the Athenians, whereby all we want is something new. New today is talk of tolerance, eastern religions, and flying drones that deliver packages in 30 minutes or less. Paul's teaching was new in one sense, but as he points out later, this was never new to God.
- That the newness extended to entertainment. The gladiatorial games had extended from Rome to Athens, and they loved it. Moralists objected in those times and I can't help but see the parallels to our culture with football and the continuous clamoring for more stuff to consume. This is only speculation, but I am guessing that the increasing demand for new, and new entertainment at that, by the masses aided in the decline and destruction of the two greatest empires of antiquity.
Lastly, by way of brief reflection, Paul is both preaching and teaching Jesus and the resurrection. I guess, to apply to today, we must preach and teach to a post-"new" culture, meaning Jesus and the resurrection is old news to many, but we must be more aware than ever that it is old news in terms of soundbites and faded childhood memories of church and snippets of the bible. Most people today do not know anything about the Jesus of the bible or the resurrection and the haunting thoughts of soundbites and memories keep them from wanting to know. The Athenians, then, should not serve as models for them in how they want to be entertained, but instead in how they want to learn something new. This news must be proclaimed with conviction and taught with utmost clarity, as Paul models for us here, but it should also be received with some form of willingness from people who think they know but have no idea.
So I encourage you, whoever may read this that isn't a Christian and honestly doesn't know much about the bible, to let those who want to teach and preach Jesus and his resurrection to you to do so. Chances are you will learn something you never thought you could know.
By His Grace.