Propylaea of Athens

January 23, 2015

The Propylaea (entrance before the gate) still stands as the access to the Acropolis today. This monumental entrance gate was commissioned by the great statesman and builder of the Acropolis, Pericles. Construction was begun in 437 B.C.

Propylaea leading to Athens Acropolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Propylaea leading to Athens Acropolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Fant and Reddish have this information:

The Propylaea (“before the gate”) visible today is the fourth of such structures to be built at this site; earlier ones were destroyed in various wars. The road from the agora below, the Panathenaic Way, led up to this point. A flight of marble steps ascends to the hall of the Propylaea. One step is of gray Eleusinian marble; the others are of white Pentelic marble. The monumental pedestal (25 feet tall) on the left of the steps originally was designed for a statue with a chariot and four horses to honor King Eumenes II of Pergamum for his contribution of the Stoa of Eumenes. Later it was reinscribed with a dedication to Marcus Agrippa in honor of the odeion he contributed to the agora. Designed by the architect Mnesicles and begun upon the completion of the Parthenon (437 B.C.E.), the Propylaea consisted of a central section with five doorways, originally fitted with wooden doors, and projecting wings on either side. The wing on the left side, the north wing, was known as the Pinakotheke, or art gallery, because of the magnificent collection of paintings inside. In 150 C.E. Pausanius named a number of the paintings he could recognize, including some by Polygnatus of Homer (5th century B.C.E.). The room was used for official banquets by dignitaries who reclined on couches in the Greek fashion. The wing on the right side, the south wing, could not match the other in design because of the Temple of Athena Nike and other buildings that impinged upon it. This wing was never completed due to the start of the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C.E.). (A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey).

We are looking forward to seeing Athens again in a couple of months.

Click image for larger view.


Resource: Trials from Classical Athens

December 5, 2011

The Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World includes Trials From Classical Athens. The 2nd edition is to be available as of Dec. 11, according to Amazon.

The setting for the trials in classical Athens is the Areopagus. The cases in this book came before the Athenian courts in the period of classical Athenian democracy, late fifth and fourth century BC.

Bible students know that the Areopagus is also mentioned in Acts 17 in connection with Paul’s opportunity to preach to  the Athenians, including the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (Acts 17:22f.).

I’m looking forward to reading this resource, authored by Christopher Carey, professor of Greek at University College, London, UK.

Front cover, Trials from Classical Athens. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

From the back cover:

The ancient Athenian legal system is both excitingly familiar and disturbingly alien to the modern reader. It functions within a democracy which shares many of our core values but operates in a disconcertingly different way. Trials from Classical Athens assembles a number of surviving speeches written for trials in Athenian courts, dealing with themes which range from murder and assault, through slander and sexual misconduct to property and trade disputes and minor actions for damage. The texts illuminate key aspects both of Athenian social and political life and the functioning of the Athenian legal system.

This new and revised volume adds to the existing selection of key forensic speeches with three new translations accompanied by lucid explanatory notes. The introduction is augmented with a section on Athenian democracy to make the book more accessible to those unfamiliar with the Athenian political system. To aid accessibility further a new glossary is included as well as illustrations for the first time.

Providing a unique and guided introduction to the Athenian legal system and explaining how the system reveals the values and social life of Classical Athens, Trials from Classical Athens remains a fundamental resource for students of Ancient Greek history and anyone interested in the law, social history and oratory of the Ancient Greek world.

I granted permission to the publishers usage of my photo for the front cover. It depicts the steps up the Areopagus from the back side.

Leon’s Message Board has a post on the Areopagus here, which includes the above photo.

Ferrel Jenkins has a current post which shows the Areopagus from this same side but further back. See here.

I noticed on Amazon’s site that Dr. Carey’s book sells for $35.39 in paperback and $111.52 in hardback.

(Click on images for larger view).


Theater of Dionysus, Athens

February 8, 2011

Greetings from Tampa, where we are currently attending the Florida College lectures. This year’s theme is, “Trembling at My Word,” God’s Power for Restoration. It is great to see so many friends, many of whom we’ve known for so long now, and to be able to sing, study, pray and visit together.

Another site we wish to share from ancient Athens is the theater of Dionysus, a major open-air theater and one of the oldest to be preserved. The theater was used in festivals in honor of the wine god Dionysus (same as Greek Bacchus).

Theater of Dionysus in Athens Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This theater was built in the 6th century BC, then rebuilt in the 4th century BC. It seated between 14,000 and 17,000 occupants.

Dionysus the wine god. Athens Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This statue of the wine god Dionysus was discovered at Eleusina, located 18 km northwest of the city center of Athens.

This puts me in mind of 1 John 5:21: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”


Temple of Zeus, Athens

February 1, 2011

The Temple of Zeus in Athens is located southeast of the Acropolis.

Temple of Zeus in Athens. Photo by Leon Mauldin

Wikipedia has the following general info:

The temple of Olympian Zeus . . . is a colossal ruined temple in the centre of the Greek capital Athens that was dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC during the rule of the Athenian tyrants, who envisaged building the greatest temple in the ancient world, but it was not completed until the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD some 638 years after the project had begun. During the Roman periods it was renowned as the largest temple in Greece and housed one of the largest cult statues in the ancient world.

Originally there were 104 Corinthian columns. Today 15 of those remain standing. A 16th column can be seen lying on the ground.

In the early 1800s a stylite made his dwelling on the top of one of the columns. The Greek word for column is stylos; the stylites were ascetics who spent long periods (sometimes years) on the tops of columns.

In the NT book of Acts, when Paul was preaching at Lystra, he healed a lame man. The pagan residents thought the gods had come down in human form. “They began to call Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of the temple of Zeus, located just outside the city, brought bulls and garlands to the city gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifices to them” (Acts 14:12-13). Paul and Barnabas were just barely able to persuade them not to do so.

Right after that, Jews came from Pisidian Antioch, and persuaded those same residents of Lystra to stone Paul and drag him out of the city! (Acts 14:19).

Click on image for higher resolution.


Temple of Hephaestus, Athens

January 31, 2011

Today’s post features the Athens Temple of Hephaestus. Hephaestus was the mythical god of forging and metal working, the god of blacksmiths. Construction on the temple was begun in 449 BC, and was completed 415 BC. It is a Doric style temple, made of Pentelic marble, and is located on the northwest side of the agora.

Athens Temple of Hephaestus. The god of forging. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This temple is said to be the best preserved ancient Greek temple in the world. It would have been prominently overlooking the agora when Paul preached in Athens (Acts 17).

In Birmingham, AL., known in the past as a major steel producer, the Vulcan stands atop Red Mountain (largest cast iron statue in the world). Vulcan is the Roman equivalent to the Greek Hephaestus. The word vulcanize comes from his name.

Click on image for high resolution.


At Athens, Gate of Athena Archegetis

January 25, 2011

Situated on the west side of the agora in Athens is the Roman forum Gate of Athena. It was constructed in 11 BC. It has four Doric columns, with a base of Pentelic marble. According to the inscription on the architrave, the gate was dedicated by the Athenians to their patroness Athena Archegetis with funding by Julius Caesar and later Augustus.

Gate of Athena Archegetis in Athens. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

It is amazing to see ancient ruins surrounded by modern buildings, not to mention the vehicles!

 


The True Meaning of Deisidaimonia

January 22, 2011

A reader writes to ask about the meaning of Acts 17:22, “Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious’.” Specifically his question is about the interpretation of “very religious.” The Greek term is deisidaimonesterous. Should the text be rendered as “I perceive that you are worshippers of many demons” rather than “very religious” or “too superstitious” (KJV)? He asks, “What would be your answer to this interpretation?”

1. My first observation would be to look at how various reliable translations render the text. The KJV has “too superstitious.” The ESV, NASB, NKJ, NIV and NET have “very religious.” The CSB and NRSV have “extremely religious.” Always be wary when one suggests a meaning for a biblical term that cannot be found in commonly used, accurate translations.

2. The real discussion among biblical students/scholars about deisidaimonesterous is whether it is best rendered by “superstitious” or “religious,”—not whether it means worshiper of demons. For example, the NET note here observes, “The term deisidaimonesterous is difficult. On the one hand it can have the positive sense of ‘devout,’ but on the other hand it can have the negative sense of ‘superstitious.’ As part of a laudatory introduction (the technical rhetorical term for this introduction was capatatio), the term is probably positive here. It may well be a ‘backhanded’ compliment, playing on the ambiguity.”

3. Paul wants to appeal to the hearts of the Athenians with the Gospel.  How can he best approach them? F.F. Bruce says, “He begins by mentioning that what he has seen in their city has impressed him with the extraordinarily religious nature of the Athenians. . .” (The Book of the Acts, p. 355). In his work, The Greek New Testament, Henry Alford observes, “He wishes to commend their reverential spirit, while he shews its misdirection” (vol. 2, p. 196). In his Greek-English Lexicon, Thayer states that Paul uses the term with “kindly ambiguity” (p.127).

These above statements seem to best fit the context.  Paul states a fact—they were religious—without expressing approval or agreement with the object of their religion. But that served as an opener to go on to show basic truths about the nature of God and His will for man, His creation.

Acropolis at top. Stoa to your left. Paul's preaching in Athens is recorded in Acts 17. View from north. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

 

4. What then is the evidence for the interpretation “worshipers of many demons.”

First, in fairness, there is the literal meaning of the compound word, as seen in W.E. Vine’s work. Deisidaimon is composed of deido, “to fear,” and daimon, “a demon.” On the surface it would seem that it should be translated “one who fears/worships demons.” But that is not how word meanings are established.  Try that with the word “butterfly.”  When you define “butter” and “fly” have you shown what “butterfly” means? Vine goes on to give the best meaning of the word in Acts 17:22, as “more than others respectful of what is divine.” He says, “It also agrees with the meaning found in Greek writers; the context too suggests that the adjective is used in a good sense” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. IV, p. 94). Meaning is established by usage.

Gareth Reese says, “It must be noted in passing that deisidaimon could be rendered “worshipper of many demons,’ an expression exactly suited to a pagan people like the Athenians who lived in fear of evil spirits and who went out of their way to keep from offending the spirits” (Acts, p. 627; thusly rendered in Amplified and Darby).  But one important rule of interpretation is to consider how the same word is used within Scripture. Our word is found in Acts 25:19 (noun form), where Festus explained to King Agrippa that the Jewish leaders, “. . . had some questions against him [Paul] about their own religion [deisidaimon] and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.” Here Reese says, “There are reasons to believe Festus used it [deisidaimon] in a good sense here. It was the regular word by which a Roman would designate his own worship, and not being familiar with any technical Jewish word for worship, would naturally use the same word for their religion as he did for his own. Further, Agrippa professes a certain deference for the Jewish religion. Festus would not speak of the religion of his royal guest [Agrippa] in a derogatory sense” (Acts, p. 866).

In conclusion, my judgment is that deisidaimon is best rendered “religion” and deisidaimonesterous as “very religious.” “It was well suited to a general and supremely neutral expression for religion or piety because diamon is used generally for a supernatural power. In the NT it is used in this sense by Festus in Acts 25:19 and the adj. is used by Paul of the Athenians in Ac. 17:22” (Kittel, Vol. 2, p. 20).