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areopagus Summary and Overview

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areopagus in Easton's Bible Dictionary

the Latin form of the Greek word rendered "Mars' hill." But it denotes also the council or court of justice which met in the open air on the hill. It was a rocky height to the west of the Acropolis at Athens, on the south-east summit of which the council was held which was constituted by Solon, and consisted of nine archons or chief magistrates who were then in office, and the ex-archons of blameless life. On this hill of Mars (Gr. Ares) Paul delivered his memorable address to the "men of Athens" (Acts 17:22-31).

areopagus in Smith's Bible Dictionary


areopagus in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

AREOP'AGUS (hill of Mars), a rocky hill near the centre of the ancient city of Athens, and west of the Acropolis, from which it is divided by a valley. It had its name from the tradition that Mars (Ares), the god of war, was tried here by the other gods on the charge of murder. It was celebrated as the place where the great court of justice, the most ancient and venerable of the Athenian courts, was held, and where Paul made his address to the Athenians. Acts 17:19-34. Near by were the temple of Mars, the Parthenon, the colossal statue of Minerva, and beneath the hill were the caves of the Furies. There are 16 stone steps now to be seen, cut into the rock and leading to its summit, and above the steps there is a bench of stones excavated in the rock, forming three sides of a quadrangle and facing the south. Here the Areopagites sat as judges, in the open air, and from here Paul made known to the Athenians the "unknown God" and converted one of the judges, Dionysius, who is said to have been the first bishop of Athens and the writer of books on mystical Platonic theology and philosophy.

areopagus in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

("Mars' Hill".) A rocky eminence in Athens, separated from the W. of the Acropolis by a raised valley, above which it rises sixty feet. Mythology made it the scene of the god Mars' trim before the gods, at Poseidon's accusation, for murdering the son of the latter, Halirrhotius. The most venerable of all the Athenian courts, consisting of all exarchons of blameless life. It was the Upper Council, to distinguish it from the five hundred, who met in the valley below. It met on the S.E. top of the rock. Sixteen stone steps in the rock still exist, leading from below to Mars' hill, and directly above is a bench of stones cut in the rock facing S., and forming three sides of a quadrangle. Here the judges sat, in criminal and religious cases, in the open air. The accuser and accused had two rude blocks, still to be seen, one on the E., the other on the W. side, assigned them. Paul, "daily disputing" in the market (agora), which lay between the Areopagus, the Acropolis, the Pnyx (the place of political assemblies), and the Museum, attracted the notice of "certain philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoics." They brought him up from below, probably by the steps already described, and, seated on the benches, heard from him the memorable address, so happily adapted in its uncompromising faithfulness, as well as scholarlike allusions, to the learned auditory, recorded in Acts 17. Paul's intense earnestness strikingly contrasts with their frivolous dilettantism. With the temple of Mars near, the Parthenon of Minerva facing him, and the sanctuary of the Eumenides just below him, the beautiful temple of Theseus, the national hero (still remaining) in view, what divine power he needed to nerve him to declare, "God that made the world ... dwelleth not in temples made with hands"; and again in the midst of the exquisitely chiseled statues in front, crowning the Acropolis, Minerva in bronze as the armed champion of Athens, and on every side a succession of lesser images, to reason, "Forasmuch as we are the offspring of God" (which he confirms by quoting his fellow countryman Aratus' poem, 'We are His offspring'), we ought not to think that the Godhead is like gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art or man's device." Yet he does not begin by attacking their national worship, but draws them gently away from their ignorant worship of the Deity under many idols to the one true God, "Whom ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you." In opposition to the Greek boast of a distinct origin from that of the barbarians; he says, "God hath made of one blood all nations to dwell on all the face of the earth"; and ends with announcing the coming judgment by the Lord Jesus.