Randy and I were blessed to visit Greece recently. I've always wanted to visit the country of my ancestors but I had never made a plan - so finally Randy did! While I had high expectations for the whole trip, I had no idea what an impact one particular site would have on me.
We visited the Acropolis, of course. One must see the Acropolis when visiting Athens! I've studied that historically important temple-scape through documentaries and history books but it was way bigger and more impressive than those resources conveyed.
We listened to a tour guide, we wandered in awe, we read signs, we watched restoration work, we marveled at piles and piles of chunks of buildings (some numbered and organized, some piled and waiting to get organized) - a huge three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.
Our next destination was the Areopagus; a marble outcropping, about 2-3 stories high, right at the foot of the massive stairs leading down from the Acropolis. Solid rosy-tinged, white-veined marble. At the base of it was a large, simple brass sign. It was in Greek - which, of course (sadly), I can't read. So I asked a nearby young man if he could translate it for us. He smiled warmly. I asked: "Is it Acts 17?!" He became a little choked up and said it was. He proceeded to read it reverently: "Men of Athens..."
We then climbed to the top - slipping and sliding a bit on the smooth marble of what had been known as Mars Hill. There were many other tourists - taking photos, enjoying the view of Athens, pausing for a rest. I stood there a bit overcome - turning around - taking it all in - imagining Paul standing on that huge rock proclaiming the Unknown God as KNOWN.
And then it hit me - Paul was within shouting distance of the Acropolis - of all of those temples with idols of gold, silver, and stone - likely even the huge gold statue of Athena (one of the wonders of the ancient world) was still there at that time. And Paul, being Paul, was probably shouting - his voice reverberating off those marble hills and buildings.
Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
'In him we live and move and have our being';
as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.
Paul proclaimed to the Greeks that the living God was knowable right in the shadow of the high temples to their gods and goddesses. His voice still rings to anyone who will hear! God is NOT the Unknown. We can know Him. None of those Greek idols remain - all of those temples are empty and will one day be in ruins in spite of the painstaking, ongoing restoration. But the KNOWN God is within us: in Him we can live and move and have our being.
Just a few photos of the many we took at the Acropolis:
The Areopagus (Mars Hill):