Foreign Gods Identified In Acts 17:18? -- By: K. L. McKay

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 45:2 (NA 1994)
Article: Foreign Gods Identified In Acts 17:18?
Author: K. L. McKay


Foreign Gods Identified In Acts 17:18?

K. L. McKay

The idea that the foreign gods referred to in Acts 17:18 included Anastasis has been widely recognised, at least from the time of Chrysostom (Aland-Nestle ad loc.), and has been incorporated into either the text or margin of some modern translations (e.g., NEB, JB). It appears to depend on the fact that the comment by some of the Athenians that Paul ξένων δαιμονίων δοκεῖ καταγγελεὺς εἶναι is followed by Luke’s explanation ὅτι τὸν Ἰησοῦς καὶ τὴν ἀνάστασις εὐηγγελίζετο (which, incidentally, is absent from the text of D). The plurality of the deities and the reference to a foreign name accompanied by an abstract noun that might in that setting have been treated as a deity appear to have made it a plausible idea.

Nevertheless it does not seem to be supported by the wider context. In the summary of Paul’s speech before the Areopagus Luke makes no use of the abstract noun, but refers to God revealing himself and calling men to repentance through a man whom he raised from the dead (17:30, 31), after which he immediately (v. 32) recounts the Athenians’ reaction to hearing of ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν. Are we to assume that Paul, with all his consciousness of the tendency of his polytheistic audience to assume the influence of deities in all kinds of circumstances, would have introduced the idea of resurrection, either in this speech or in his preceding conversations, by means of the abstract noun ἀνάστασις? On the other hand, once the idea that Jesus had risen has been presented it is natural enough for the historian to use the abstract noun as a summary of the climax of the conversation or speech.

Even when writing to Christians about the resurrection Paul only occasionally uses ἀνάστασις, and then mostly as a summary of what he has already written by means of a verb, as in Romans 6:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 15:12. Moreover in Acts and the Pauline epistles (and to a certain extent elsewhere in the New Testament) ἀνάστασις

is almost always either accompanied by (ἐκ) νεκρῶν or by a specific possessive genitiv...

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