Friday, February 3, 2017

Did Paul Assume The Authority of Scripture In Acts 17?

Paul's speech to the Athenians in Acts 17 is one of the most well-known passages in the New Testament, and for some, in the entire Bible.  Acts 17 is so popular that apologist David Wood named his ministry Acts 17 Apologetics.  However, some people twist Paul's speech in Acts 17 to fit their talking points and agendas.  For example, in his article Why Andy Stanley Is Right About The Foundation of Christianity And How To Defend It, the heretical apologist Frank Turek said the following:

"It is true that Jesus did quote Scripture with folks who already accepted the authority of the Old Testament. But when He spoke to unbelievers (the woman at the well, the rich young ruler, Pilate, and the thief on the cross), Jesus wasn’t firing Bible verses at them while assuming the authority of Scripture. Likewise, Paul didn’t assume the authority of Scripture or quote from it when speaking to the Athenians (Acts 17), but attempted to find common ground with them, even quoting their own poets and recognizing their 'unknown God' beliefs, in order to connect them with the true God and the truth of the Resurrection."

Notice what Frank Turek said about Paul's speech in Acts 17; he's claiming that not only did Paul not directly quote from scripture in his speech, but he didn't even assume the authority of scripture in his speech.

I don't deny that Paul quoting their poets and acknowledging their "unknown god" idol was Paul's attempt to find common ground with them; he was probably trying to show them that he wasn't some ignorant fool off the street who didn't know anything about their beliefs.  But to say that Paul didn't assume the authority of scripture in his speech is sheer lunacy, and I'm going to show you today why it's sheer lunacy.

Paul's Speech In Acts 17

Here is Paul's entire speech in Acts 17:

Acts 17:22-31:   "Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: 'People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  "For in him we live and move and have our being."  As some of your own poets have said, "We are his offspring."

Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.  In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.  For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.'"

Now that we've got Paul's entire speech here, let's take a closer look at what he's saying in verses 24-31.

Breaking Down Paul's Speech

In verse 24, Paul is making references to Isaiah, Deuteronomy, and 1 Kings:

Isaiah 42:5:  "This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it..."

Isaiah 66:1-2:  "This is what the Lord says: 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.  Where is the house you will build for me?  Where will my resting place be?  Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?' declares the Lord."

Deuteronomy 10:14:  "To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it."

1 Kings 8:27:  "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!"

In verse 25, Paul makes a reference to the Psalms:

Psalm 50:9-12:  "I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.  If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it."

In verse 26, Paul refers to Deuteronomy and Job:

Deuteronomy 32:7-9:  "Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past.  Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.  When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.  For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance."

Job 12:23:  "He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them."

In verse 27, Paul refers to Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Jeremiah:

Deuteronomy 4:7:  "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?"

Isaiah 55:6:  "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near."

Jeremiah 23:23-24:  "'Am I only a God nearby,' declares the Lord, 'and not a God far away?  Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?' declares the Lord'Do not I fill heaven and earth?' declares the Lord."

In verse 28, Paul refers to Deuteronomy, Job, and Daniel:

Deuteronomy 30:19-20:  "This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

Job 12:10:  "In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind."

Daniel 5:22-24:  "But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this.  Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.  Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription."

In verse 29, Paul refers to Isaiah:

Isaiah 40:18-20:  "With whom, then, will you compare God?  To what image will you liken him?  As for an idol, a metalworker casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it.  A person too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot; they look for a skilled worker to set up an idol that will not topple."

In verse 31, Paul makes multiple references to the Psalms:

Psalm 9:7-8:  "The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment.  He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity."

Psalm 96:13:  "Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness."

Psalm 98:9:  "let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.  He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity."


As we can see, just about everything Paul said in his speech in Acts 17 makes multiple references to scores of passages and verses in the Old Testament.  That's odd.  I seem to remember Frank Turek saying that Paul did not assume the authority of scripture. 

While it is certainly true that Paul wasn't giving direct quotes from the Old Testament in his speech, that fact that just about everything he says makes multiple references to scores of passages and verses in the Old Testament shows that Paul absolutely WAS assuming the authority of the scriptures when he was talking to the Athenians in Acts 17; he simply paraphrased the scriptures into words that the Athenians could understand. 

Is Frank Turek even aware of all the Old Testament references that Paul makes in his Acts 17 speech?  If he is aware, then how on Earth does Turek justify saying that Paul did not assume the authority of scripture?  How does making multiple references to scores of Old Testament passages not qualify as assuming the authority of the scriptures?

If you've been following the blog for a while, you know that I've written two blog posts about Frank Turek (Does Denying Young Earth Creationism Make Someone A Heretic? and Frank Turek Slides Further Into Apostasy) as well as a video blog about his arguments against Young Earth Creationism; Frank Turek was even the primary subject of my December 4, 2016 podcast on Old Earth Creationism with Jay Hall.  In that podcast, I pointed out that there were a lot of things wrong with Frank Turek's article that I quoted at the beginning of this post.  Frank Turek's claim that Paul did not assume the authority of scripture in his speech in Acts 17 was one of those things. 

If the heresies that Frank Turek has committed in video and writing wasn't enough of a reason to stop following and endorsing him, I hope his false claim about Acts 17 gives you an additional reason.

If you would like to see me respond to Marie Wood's interpretation of Paul's speech in Acts 17, be sure to check out the following video:

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