Terms and Philosophies

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)

Acts 17:16-21

Defining terms is often necessary to have a productive conversation. I remember a long time ago when I was in Kansas, a friend of mine was describing a teacher as being “laid back.” I did not think that “laid back” was a good character trait for a junior high teacher. I was thinking that “military minded” was more of an appropriate character trait for that age group. My definition of “laid back” leaned toward careless, lazy and easy going. However, my friend’s definition (and apparently the school board’s) was calm, temperate and mild mannered. Two totally different takes on the terms: one described slothfulness and the other described meekness (strength under control).

We come to this passage and I feel the need to define the terms. I did have to study this in college, but who remembers the long description that is to be reproduced for a test? I certainly didn’t. So here is my attempt of easier definitions…

Epicureanism – founded by Epicurus in 307 B.C. It is characterized by a goal of freedom from fear and from physical pain through a moderate and simple lifestyle. (If you ever have to relocate, you understand how people can worship this philosophy.) Happiness through simplicity.

Stoicism – founded by Zeno of Citium in 300 B.C. The goal is inner calm and freedom from suffering through self-control of emotions transforming the being into a logical, reasonable person. I bet he created this idea because of some highly emotional woman in his life.

Areopagus – otherwise known as Mars’ Hill. A rock outcropping (I’m thinking like Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado) that served as an outdoor court.
Athenian – an elevated political society for that time in which every citizen has a right to vote on issues, even on the issue of whether to declare war.

So there are my easier-to-remember definitions, I doubt I’ll remember them in a couple of years and I’ll have to look them up. Anyway, Paul finds himself in Athens and he is immediately grieved over the idolatry of the city. Athens was considered the city of philosophers and religion and was the home of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, some of the most famous philosophers in history. He does his thing and goes to the synagogue and preaches to the Jews. The Epicureans and Stoics find his teaching strange and bring him to Mar’s Hill wanting to hear his take on the world; apparently, that was what the city thrived on, listening to new philosophies. They call him a “babbler” which is defined as “seed-picker.”

Paul’s interaction with these philosophy loving people is a great example to us on how to witness to a free-thinker. We will find later how he uses a home-town example to explain Christ. How brilliant and how Spirit-filled of him! Yesterday I found myself in a spiritual conversation with a friend who is a free thinker in many ways. While he was sharing with me his life-story (and I’m not kidding by life-story) I was praying and asking the Holy Spirit to fill me and give me the appropriate words to say…and guess what? He did! I knew that I couldn’t win an argument with him, but I wanted to say exactly what the Lord would have me say. Did I mention he was Jewish? We left each other with a future dinner invite with our spouses (praise the Lord my husband is way smarter than me) once the quarantine is lifted.

We might be quarantined, but we still can witness. God will bring them to us! Praise the Lord! Ask the Lord to use you and pray for His wisdom and words when He gives you opportunity.


Written by Kaye Dee Richards. Kaye Dee lives with her husband Colin in Morrison, CO. They have 4 children, Joshua, Amelia, Victoria, and Julia.
To contact Kaye Dee, leave a comment, message us on Facebook or email comments@thebeautifulspirit.org.

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