This city, now called Thessaloniki was on the coast and on a highway from Italy to the east (Egnation Way). It was a centre of commerce and military base. Paul went into the synagogue to speak to Jews and Jewish proselytes because they had at least some knowledge of God and he preached Christ.
He used the Old Testament scriptures, likely the Greek Septuagint, to show that Christ portrayed in them, had to suffer die and rise again, fulfilling prophecy. He did this because this is the central tenet of the gospel, the only way of salvation and the power of God.
This teaching was contrary to the Jewish idea of a conquering, political, military king-messiah. Some Jews believed and wanting to learn more spent time with Paul and Silas. The numbers suggest more Gentiles than Jews were present and the mention of prominent women suggested the men were busy elsewhere. The unbelieving Jews instigated trouble because they were envious of the influence of the apostles and were undoubtedly moved by Satan to persecute them. They enrolled a mob attempting to find and assault them. It looks as though Jason had given the apostles hospitality but they had left his house before the mob struck. The Jews accused Jason, and by inference the apostles, of instigating a new religion asserting that Jesus was a new king. The rulers took bail money from Jason as security there would be no further trouble.
Fist century synagogue ruin.
The Thessalonians sent Paul and Silas away at night so they could escape persecution just as Christ prescribed in Matthew 10:23, this was wise. Paul went into the synagogue and preached to the Bereans who were more receptive than the Thessalonians, showing deep interest to learn the truth and obey it, like good prepared soil. They checked the scriptures to verify the content of Paul’s message. The word searched, studied and believed brought them to faith (Rom.10:14). There appeared again to be a majority of women here and many upper class. The Jews from Thessalonica, again jealous of the apostles’ influence and perhaps fearing financial loss and detesting the message of Messiah, stirred up trouble. Paul, because persecution was imminent, was taken to Athens but Timothy and Silas stayed to teach and establish the new converts.
Paul was so disturbed (the Greek word used is APOPLEXY meaning a stroke or epileptic fit)because of the idolatry which was robbing God of his rightful glory and worship. Paul disputed with the Jews and proselytes because their worship was idolatrous and false in alleging any other way than Christ and self-righteousness as the way to God. In the public market he disputed with people who were buying and selling. Epicureans were Greeks who were atheists, believers in chance, and who developed into pure hedonists (lovers of pleasure). Stoics were Greeks who believed in a creator who now stood back from creation (deism) and that happiness came in bravely accepting everything that happened to you. Some called Paul a babbler (picker up of scraps) and others of teaching new Gods-Jesus and Anastasis (resurrection).
The Areopagus hill in Athens.
The Areopagus on Mars Hill (Mars being the Greek god of war) was a venerable institution and centre of learning and worship. The Athenians wanted to know what he was speaking about but with only a superficial interest. They were later very dismissive and generally thought the gospel was foolishness (I Cor. 1:23). They were an inquisitive people and religious, perhaps realising that there was another God the creator and wanting to ensure he was not missed out of their pantheon. They were ignorantly worshipping because they had no knowledge of true worship of God through his Son. Paul started with creation, rejecting the notion that God could be represented by anything material (Rom.1). He taught God as self-sufficient, omnipresent, creator and sustainer of all life and who made all men from one and controls all peoples and nations. Paul mentioned in support of his speech, a Greek poet Aratus who belonged to the Macedonian court and who was an astronomer and stoic who wrote the exact same things.His conclusion was that since all things were made by an omnpresent invisible God he cannot be represented by an idol/image. This willful ignorance of the nature of God was culpable (Romans 1) but God refrained from judging it immediately. Because the revelation of Christ has now come God now commands all men to repent and believe. Paul refers to the final judgment because that is when all will give account and be judged, the proof being God’s resurrection of Christ. The Athenians mostly mocked but some showed slight interest and presumably he departed because of their poor response despite one Greek philosopher, a noble woman and some others becoming believers.
Next Study (DV) Saturday February 1st 2020 on Acts 18