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08
In the Footsteps of Paul - Anna Bortsova
September 8, 2017

By Anna Bortsova, Toronto Ministry Team

Summer is ending and vacations are over.  Recently, Vladimir and I returned from  a wonderful reunion with my brother and his wife (from Russia) while staying with my husband’s aunt and her family in Greece.   Vladimir’s Greek family hosed us all in her Athens apartment. We were eight adults united by the same DNA, but from different parts of the world.  We stayed together for two weeks in perfect peace and comfort. Praise the Lord!

This was our first visit to Greece.  My knowledge of this land was limited to stories about ancient Greek heroes and CNN reports on the country’s economic crisis.

Athens met us with very hot weather – 40C and higher.  Greeks start the day very early, resting in the cool of their homes at mid-day.  By evening, the stores open, people sit on balconies and porches, talking and having coffee.

Downtown Athens has two tall hills: Lycabettus and the Acropolis.  Lycabettus rises 900 feet above the city. We climbed it by waking a path covered with limestone and marble. The walkway is very slippery, polished by the feet of numerous visitors who have been coming here since antiquity. 

At the top, we found hundreds of other tourists who were chatting and waiting for the sunset. We, too, waited for the darkness to fall.  The view of Athens glowing with thousands of lights was spectacular.  From our vantage point, we could see the Acropolis very clearly.

In Greek, acropolis means upper (acro) city (polis).  On top of the Acropolis are the famous ruins of the temple of Athena (going back to 500BC), the famous Parthenon and other beautiful ruins.

However, I wasn’t too interested in the details of the Acropolis. What I really wanted to see was the Areopagus.  There we saw a huge stone, the Areopagus, which was actually an open space with flat top, accessed by more slippery stone steps.  This location was a busy meeting place in the Apostle Paul’s day and is mentioned in Acts 17:19-34:

Then they took him (Paul) and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?  You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.”  (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

“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 human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject. At that, Paul left the Council.  Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

 

We saw many ruins around the Areopagus – the remains of ancient Greek temples dedicated to Athena, Apollos, Asclepius, Dionysius and others.  These were gods made of marble and who looked like men. It was in this setting two millennia ago, Paul explained to the Athenians that God, the Creator of this universe, is not like the images of creatures made of stone or gold.

We discovered that the Greeks of today like to do the same thing as the Greeks of Paul’s day.  They love to sit and talk over a cup of coffee about the philosophy of life. So, we shared the Gospel with some of the Greeks we met, but most of them laughed at the idea of resurrection.  Has anything changed since Paul shared the Gospel on the Areopagus?  I see only one real difference:  the Lord’s return is nearer than ever before. He will come soon!

Please pray for peace in Jerusalem and for the salvation of Jewish people.  But also pray for the Greeks and the people who walk in darkness and do not know the truth. 

Filed under: Jewish History

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