March 24, 2008
Yesterday we celebrated Easter with our home church in Ascot, Berkshire, England, and one of our South African sisters read aloud the passage about Paul in Athens. I was amazed, because that afternoon we were on a plane bound for that very city. And here we are.
In Acts 17, Paul notices the city is "full of idols" (hmmm, I'm guessing that would be guys like Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, Artemis, etc.), and goes to "reason with" whoever will listen, in the synagogues AND the marketplace. He "was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection" (which is why we read it on Easter). Later he went to "a meeting of the Areopagus" and told the men of Athens about the One True Living God, and how "He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else" and "he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live" (ex-pats have to love that verse!). It goes on to say that "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.'" The rest of the passage is excellent (click on link above to get the whole thing).
Well, after landing at the Athens airport at 20 minutes past midnight last night, we got a little sleep and dragged ourselves out of bed earlyish to walk Ancient Athens. In a modern sort of way - with cranes and such hanging about.
We climbed up the Acropolis and admired the Theatre of Dionysos (where the likes of Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes and Aeschylus put on their tragedies and comedies),
the ruined Parthenon (from about 450 B.C., a temple for Athena, one of the idols Paul noticed) and
the Erechtheion (the coolest part of which is the caryatids, the ladies holding up the roof, regardless of the fact they are actually replacement cast molds, with the originals in museums elsewhere).
Next, we discovered the nearby outcropping of rock which is the Areopagus itself, where Paul hung out and debated with the Epicurean and Stoic Philosophers about just how un-ridiculous it is that if there really is One God over all who made everything, He would have the power to raise someone from the dead if He felt so inclined. Our family took a few moments to reread the relevant parts of Acts 17, sitting right where Paul was when it happened. Pretty neat. The Areopagus is just a big hunk of rock, worn slippery smooth in parts by all the feet tramping all over it, and rough and sharp in other parts, where the elements keep tearing it up. You will not be surprised, then, to learn that "pagos" is Greek for "big piece of rock." Ares was mythologically supposed to have been tried here for murdering Poseidon's son. So I guess that makes it Ares' big hunk of rock. Interesting, isn't it - God's son was murdered up on a hill, and we ought to be tried for it, but He holds His hands out in mercy instead, asking us genuinely to repent and He'll cancel the debt, because that murder actually was the payment for all our sins.
Clambering down from the Areopagus, we strolled through some lovely wild gardens in the shade of fig, olive, and pine trees, delighting in strewn red poppies and wild pink geraniums. The grass is tall and there are lots of trees resembling redbuds, in full bloom.
The kids were getting a little tired of walking under the fierce sun (even in March it's extremely bright, lovely cool breezes notwithstanding) and being marched through Antiquities by now, so we made our walk brief into the Church of the Holy Apostles, through the ruins of the open air Agora (the marketplace of Athens before the advent of Roman rule) and up to the rather well-preserved Hephaisteion (temple of Hephaestos, the patron-god of metalworkers).
Then we stopped for lunch and discovered that crêpes are quite commonly offered here in Athens (which was a unexpected and welcome piece of knowledge for a mother of crêpe-loving children who used to live in France). The ones we tried had batter that tasted more like ice cream cones, just not crunchy - kind of a fun twist! A bit strange on a savory crêpe with ham, cheese and mushrooms, though.
On the not-insignificant walk back to the hotel, we passed the ruins of the Roman Forum (which was probably the marketplace where Paul spoke to everyone gathered around before being invited up to the Areopagus, because in Roman times it took over from the Greek Agora as the centre of city life) and Hadrian's library (built in 132AD, destroyed in 267AD). David faithfully and skilfully led us back to the hotel. I am so glad he was in charge, because I didn't recognize a thing until we literally walked up the steps to the hotel. Good man.
March 24, 2008 | Permalink
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