Textual Criticism Essay

Textual Criticism:

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The Book of Acts was written during the time or before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The book was written originally in Greek language called “koine” the common dialect spoken by Greek and Gentile in commercial trade thru-out the Roman Empire. The first English translation of Tyndale and King James Version was corrected upon the discovery of so many scroll in Egypt and Dead Sea scroll which supported and completed the grammar available to the error made by Tyndale and King James Version.

Example of this in Acts chapter 17:16. The KJV says “was stirred”, in RSV was provoked, and in NIV “was greatly distressed”.  In the last word of the verse 16, the KJV said “wholly given to idolatry”. The RSV have better position “fall of idols” which it applies to the city, not to the inhabitants.

In verse 18, we have new terms used such as Epicureans and Stoic, who are they?  The Epicureans are disciples of Epicurus, which is an atheist.  According to them, the soul was material and annihilated at death.  Pleasure was their chief good and they were given to gross sensualism.

While the Stoic was derived from “stoa”, a porch, Zeno, the founder of stoic sect, held his school in the “stoa Paecile” or painted porch, so called because it is adorned with pictures by the best masters.  They are called Pantheist, meaning, God was the soul of the world or the world was God.  Everything was governed by fate, to which God himself was subject.  They denied the universal immortality of the soul; some supposing that it was swallowed up in deity.  That immortality was restricted to wise and good, virtue was its own reward and vice its own punishment.  A pleasure was no good and pains no evil.  In the verse, the word babbler is a bird which picks up seeds in the street and markets hence, one who picks up retail scraps of news.

In verse 19, the word “Areopagus” was the hill of Mars, which is the seat of ancient and venerable Athenians court which was decided the most solemn question connected of religion.

In verse 23, “To an unknown God” (NIV), the Athenians here believe that there are gods which are unknown to them.  And to avoid the anger of any unacknowledged god who might be unknown to them, they have erected an altar to this god with power that might exist as yet unrevealed to them.  Under these circumstances, an allusion to one of these altars, it is where St. Paul connects his proclamation.

Literary Criticism:

In the Gospel of Luke chapter 1:1-4, here St. Luke mentions the name of Theophilus and informed him that he wrote a book.  In the Acts 1:1 “In my former book Theophilus I wrote about all that Jesus began to teach”.  This gives us information that the writer of the book of Acts was also St. Luke.  The book of Acts is a continuation of St. Luke Gospel by tracing the story of the Christian movement from the resurrection of Jesus until to the time when the apostle Paul was in Rome.  The progress of the book is just mainly geographical in nature.  From Jerusalem, the word spread to Sameria (Chapter 1 – 8:5), then to the sea coast (Chapter 8:40), to Damascus (Chapter 9 – 10), to Antioch and Cyprus (Chapter 11 – 19), to Asia Minor (13:13), to Europe (Chapter 16:11) and finally to Rome (Chapter 28:16).

The book in short, either on his travel diary or incorporated with someone else, is the first book of church history.

Form Critism:

The passage of Acts, chapter 16:17-34, was part of the events of Paul’s journey.  St. Paul by this time was in Europe.  He was in Athens.  In the famous Greek City, Socrates and other philosophers spent their time in Areopagus, an open park near the market place.  It is a hall of disputation, debate and argument of many philosophers in those days where St. Paul was invited by the Athenians.  In his speeches, his gentleness and calmness to reasons brings the Athenians to listen.  His speeches which is typically apologetic, presents the historical revelation of God.

Context Exegesis:

In Acts Chapter 17:16-34, St. Paul use the method of persuasion.  In preparing a debate or any argumentative speech, one uses either the logical method or the psychological or usually both.  The first appears to reason, the second to the emotions.  But here St. Paul uses the logical method.  In verses 22 – 23, it says “Men of Athens!  I see that in every way you are very religious.  For us I walked around and looked carefully at your object of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription, to an unknown God.  Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you…”

The sociologist find their research in all geographical location of man on earth whether African Asians, Europeans or Latin America.  Man by nature is religious.  For they have religion in every community, they find this issue as a common ground to speak of Christian religions.  Athenians are religious, so men in any races are also religious.  On the other hand Christian knows their God they worship, but the Athenians worship a god that they never know.  This brought to St Paul to unveil or reveal and proclaim the unknown God.

St. Paul said in verse 24, 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 hands, (verse 25).  And he is not served by human hands as if they needed anything, because he himself give all men life and breath and everything else.

St. Paul sued an exposition from unfamiliar to familiar nature and characteristic of God.  He reveals that love is self sufficient of his need, God is a creator, eternal, not subject of time, civilization and space.  Lord is not subject of past, present or future.  But he control history, time, civilization, and heaven as well as  heavenly bodies.  This form of statement which is from general to particular falls under deductive reasoning.  God is a creator and possess all power, sustainer of life.

In verse 26, “From one man, he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth and be determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”

In other word, it was HIM who creates man and from one Adam, the nations sprung.  It is HIM who controls their history.

In verse 27, “God did this so that men would seek him and find him though he is not far from each one of us”, in other word, wisdom search for God.  Like St. Augustine, in his book, City of God, – “My soul is restless until I found rest in thee”.  Human wisdom is searching God too.  Without mistake St. Paul think that for so many gods the Athenians served or worship.  They are not satisfied as they erect an alter to an unknown God, that someday this God will be revealed to them.  St. Paul makes another common grouped to base his proclamation to believers and not to unbelievers.  That God can be known to both of them, and this is the Christian God thru Jesus Christ.

In verse 28 “For in him we live and move and have our being as some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring”.  We find here the favorite and strong theme of  St. Paul in this typical message which were found among his letters or epistle.  In Philippians 1:21, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.  In Galatians 2:20…I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  In Roman 8:9, “You however are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the spirit, if the spirit of God lives in you.  And if anyone does not have the spirit of Christ, then he does not belong to Christ”.  The identity of a real Christian lives in the spirit of Christ, in a Christ like attitude.  In our times Christ has no hands but the Christian hands, Christ has no eyes but the Christian eyes, Christ has no feet but the Christian feet.  That on how St. Paul understand the Christ spirit is moving and dwell in a Christian body that move and live of our times too.  It is not us who convert the unbeliever but Christ himself that live in us.

On the other hand, the Athenian is also so conscious that they are the offspring of God’s manifestation.  Here again St. Paul find another common ground to claim that we are God’s offspring.

In verses 30-31, “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 all men by raising him from the dead.

In this verse, St. Paul is familiar in his historical framework and plan of God.  He states this view in his letter to the Roman chapter 1:18 – 2:16.  In Ephesians chapter 1:10, “to be put into effect when the times will have reach their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head even Christ.

St. Paul reveal God’s clock when and how God operate his plan to mankind.

In verse 32, “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”.

We are not surprise in the stories’ conclusion, in the correct burst because we know the disciples of Stoic and Epicureans cannot accept the word resurrection nor they can disprove St. Paul’s claim thru Jesus resurrection.

In verse 33 – 34, at that, Paul left the council.  A few men become followers of Paul and believed.


Today, a Christian Evangelist must know the incident happening in Athens when St. Paul met them in Areupagus.  The record of the Book of Acts chapter 17:16-34, is one of the best source and example of apologetic speeches.  The flow of St. Paul is pleasing and gentle speeches toward the unbelievers.  In St. Paul speeches in Areupagus closely resembles to our classification of apologetical methods, namely classical method, evidential method, except cumulative  case method, presuppositional method, and reformed epistlemology method which cannot be locate among the verses.

The most intellectual approach traditionally acknowledge logical is classical.  It is where inductive and deductive reasoning can be found.  This can be known when the speaker locate a common ground and expand the concepts.  St. Paul remarked that Athenians are religious and as well as Christians were religious too.  In verse 27, men seek and find him, as well as the Athenians searching the revelation of unknown God.  So is the Christian , they find the God that Athenians is searching.  From unknown God, St. Paul reveal to them that this God, is the Lord of heaven and earth.

Another method we can locate is evidential method.  St. Paul use history as the venue.  All human history is the theater of self-disclosure and nature too is his handiwork.  God acts particularly within the career of a comparative obscure people in an order to initiate a historical drama that has changed human perspectives and has altered the course of human affairs.  The New Testament scripture is Christian witness to its encounter with God thru Jesus Christ, the son of God.

In verse 30-31, is a sweeping summary of evidential method, when St. Paul continues his speeches.  He was accumulating reason after reasons.  Though the writer of the Book of Acts which records only the incident, briefly I can believe and presume that St. Paul speeches is long and the deliberation took many hours.  I am curious that in verse 32, others burst into the crowd rejecting his words and ideas.  Probably these are the disciples of Epicureans and Stoic.  Others are delighted that they want to hear again the subject.  In verse 34, a number of Athenians believe in him.  I believe there are other things he discussed about Jesus of Nazareth and the church.  These hearer who believe gathered his reason in large quantity that their heart was pressured to open and receive.

In our modern days, St. Paul methodology still effective.  But it depends on situation.  The condition of the mind of the hearer, the cultural background of the hearer, the academic level of the hearer or intellectual.  Yet in general and basic approach in evangelism, it is classical and evidential.  Though we cannot deny that in the cumulative case method and presuppositional, are useful to a particular people.  And even the reformed epistlemology is also useful as investigative.  The scholar use cumulaltive case, the presuppositional as well as reformed epistlemology.  But to layman, as well as to the masses, classical and evidential method is preferred.

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