The Areopagus, Or Mars’ Hill -- By: Bob Boyd

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 03:1 (Winter 1990)
Article: The Areopagus, Or Mars’ Hill
Author: Bob Boyd

The Areopagus, Or Mars’ Hill

Bob Boyda

Areopagus or Mars’ Hill (knoll in foreground). Acropolis in background.

Athens, Greece, furnishes us with much archaeological data from the ruins of the market place in the low lands of the city to its temples, amphitheaters, and especially the Parthenon and temple ruins of Erechtheum on the Acropolis, all of which date back centuries before Christ.

Adjacent to the Acropolis is a narrow, naked ridge of limestone. It rises some 370 feet above the valley and is separated from the Acropolis by a valley 50 to 60 feet deep. This rock knoll was consecrated to Ares, the god of war. Ares corresponds to the Roman god Mars, hence Mars’ Hill.

When the Apostle Paul arrived in Athens on his second missionary journey, he immediately began to preach the Gospel—the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Among the many groups of philosophers of that day were the Stoics and Epicurians. They would generally sit in an amphitheater all day long, discussing various subjects delving into life, the mind, the future life—continually seeking to learn some new thing. When they heard that Paul preached the resurrection of the dead, which was new to them, they took him to the Areopagus, or Mars’ Hill, to learn of this new teaching.

Why the Areopagus, or Mars’ Hill? There were any number of other places they could have taken Paul—many other more comfortable places to sit and listen rather than on a rock hill.

Mars’ Hill was the “judgment seat” of Athens. In Greek mythology (according to archaeological findings), this was the place where the

Athenian gods and goddesses descended to discuss matters, to make decisions, and to conduct trials requiring verdicts.

According to mythology (Richard Patrick, Greek Mythology. London: Octopus Books.), a most famous trial was that of the god Orestes, charged with the murder of his mother. Orestes sought to bribe other gods to vote for his acquittal. He even tried to “plea-bargain” for a light sentence if found guilty. The vote was a tie, and Athena, the presiding judge, cast the deciding vote. The decision was “not guilty.” Thus Mars’ Hill became the place where decisions were made.

Since the Epicureans and Stoics wanted to make a decision concerning Paul’s “new” teaching about the resurrection of the body (and of Christ), he was taken to the centuries old place of discussion and decision—Mars’ Hill. Paul had a background knowledge of the bribing by Ore...

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