Paul's Evangelistic Approach

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Paul's evangelistic approach


Who could blame European Christians today for feeling like strangers in the strange land? Ours is the world of “post-Christendom,” in which most European cultures have long since given up any pretence of being “Christian,” where our neighbors might well embrace Islam or Hinduism or some pattern of “designer spirituality.” In this world, the persons dwelling around us more than probable believe the phrase “gospel” simply refers to the style of music, and they may have no idea what the “disciple” is, let alone how many of them there were. Evangelical Christians in today's Europe find themselves the marginalised few inside the many-cultured, religiously plural and increasingly postmodern land.(Robert, 3)

Audience and Setting

Although by the first 100 years the university town of Athens had already lost much of its previous glory, for Luke it still symbolises the cultural, intellectual, and religious cheek centre of the Greco-Roman world. When the gospel comes to Athens, it penetrates the very heartland of urban pagan culture. Luke almost absolutely ignores Paul's synagogue ministry in Athens, choosing instead to focus on his meet with the pagan inhabitants of the city.(Barth, 238) Athens is thus the ideal setting for Paul's major missionary speech to the Greeks. Luke describes the context with meticulous detail.(Robert, 3) In particular, verse 16 sets the pitch for what follows. Rather than being impressed by Athenian architecture and learning, Paul is “deeply distressed” over the pervasive idolatry and religious pluralism he observes there. the town rife with pagan images, temples, sanctuaries, and altars provides the backdrop to the entire narrative.(Robert, 3) Paul adapts his evangelistic approach to the situation. Like the Greek philosopher, he goes to the marketplace and publicly debates the intellectuals of Athens on their own turf. (Longenecker,12)

Persuasive Features

The pattern and style of the Areopagus speech are exquisitely adapted to the sophisticated Gentile audience. In contrast to the extensive use of language and quotations from the Greek Bible that we find in Paul's synagogue sermon to Jews in Pisidian Antioch, this discourse reflects the more Hellenised style, which is suited to the occasion and the hearers.7 Luke shows Paul addressing the assembly with rhetorical skill and sensitivity.(Longenecker,12) He stands in their midst like the Greek orator and opens with the conventional pattern of address for the speech in Athens (“Men, Athenians” 17:22), enabling his audience right away to seem at home. The sermon itself is highly rhetorical in its structure. We can observe the next elements: (1) the short introduction (called the exordium), designed to gain the hearing from his listeners; (2) the thesis (called the propositio 23b), stating the desired goal of the discourse—to make the unidentified God renowned to the Athenians; (3) the main verification, in which he argues his case; and (4) the completing exhortation (called the peroratio 30-31), which tries to persuade the audience to take the right course of action; namely, to repent. According to the categories of Greco-Roman rhetoric, the speech has the deliberative purpose; Paul wants to persuade his audience to arrive ...
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