on Acts 17 :21
All the Athenians and strangers which were there - As Athens was renowned for its wisdom and learning, it became a place of public resort for philosophers and students from different parts of the then civilized world. The flux of students was in consequence great; and these, having much leisure time, would necessarily be curious to know what was passing in the world, and would frequently assemble together, in places of public resort, to meet with strangers just come to the city; and either, as St. Luke says, to tell or hear some new thing.
"The Athenian writers give the same account of their fellow citizens. Demosthenes, in his reply to Epist. Philippi, represents the Athenians as πυνθανομενοι κατα την αγοραν, ει τι λεγεται νεωτερον; inquiring, in the place of public resort, if there are any News. We find, likewise, that when Thucydides, iii. 38, had said, μετα καινοτητος μεν λογου απατασθαι αριϚοι, Ye are excellent in suffering yourselves to be deceived by Novelty of speech, the old scholiast makes this remark upon it, (almost in the words of St. Luke), ταυτα προς τους. Αθηναιους αινιττεται, ουδεν τι μελετωντας, πλην λεγειν τι και ακουειν καινον; He here blames the Athenians, who made it their only business to tell and hear something that was New." - Bp. Pearce. This is a striking feature of the city of London in the present day. The itch for news, which generally argues a worldly, shallow, or unsettled mind, is wonderfully prevalent: even ministers of the Gospel, negligent of their sacred function, are become in this sense Athenians; so that the book of God is neither read nor studied with half the avidity and spirit as a newspaper. These persons, forgetful not only of their calling, but of the very spirit of the Gospel, read the account of a battle with the most violent emotions; and, provided the victory falls to their favourite side, they exult and triumph in proportion to the number of thousands that have been slain! It is no wonder if such become political preachers, and their sermons be no better than husks for swine. To such the hungry sheep look up, and are not fed. God pity such miserable Athenians, and direct them to a more suitable employment!
on Acts 17 :21
For all the Athenians - This was their general character.
And strangers which were there - Athens was greatly distinguished for the celebrity of its schools of philosophy. It was at that time at the head of the literary world. Its arts and its learning were celebrated in all lands. It is known, therefore, that it was the favorite resort of people of other nations, who came there to become acquainted with its institutions and to listen to its sages.
Spent their time in nothing else - The learned and subtle Athenians gave themselves much to speculation, and employed themselves in examining the various new systems of philosophy that were proposed. Strangers and foreigners who were there, having much leisure, would also give themselves to the same inquiries.
But either to tell or to hear some new thing - Greek: "something newer" - καινότερον kainoteron. The latest news; or the latest subject of inquiry proposed. This is well known to have been the character of the people of Athens at all times. "Many of the ancient writers I bear witness to the garrulity, and curiosity, and intemperate desire of novelty among the Athenians, by which they inquired respecting all things, even those in which they had no interest, whether of a public or private nature (Kuinoel). Thus, Thucydides (3, 38) says of them, "You excel in suffering yourselves to be deceived with novelty of speech." On which the old scholiast makes this remark, almost in the words of Luke: "He (Thucydides) here blames the Athenians, who care for nothing else but to tell or to hear something new." Thus, Aelian (5, 13) says of the Athenians that they are versatile in novelties. Thus, Demosthenes represents the Athenians "as inquiring in the place of public resort if there were any news" - τι νεώτερον ti neōteron Meurslus has shown, also, that there were more than 300 public places in Athens of public resort, where the principal youth and reputable citizens were accustomed to meet for the purpose of conversation and inquiry.
on Acts 17 :21
17:21 And the strangers sojourning there - And catching the distemper of them. Some new thing - The Greek word signifies some newer thing. New things quickly grew cheap, and they wanted those that were newer still.