Oh, To Be a Babbler
sermon Paul preached at Athens in Acts 17 is one of
the greatest presentations of God’s Word ever
recorded. Paul had been rushed away from Berea and was
waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him. This time
waiting was time well spent. While Paul was waiting
his spirit was stirred within him as he sees the rampant
idolatry. He responds immediately and goes to the synagogue
to reason with the Jews and to the marketplace to reach
When Paul spoke, he preached Jesus and the resurrection.
This was revolutionary. They had heard about most every
god and goddess, and they even had idols erected to
them. This preaching of Jesus and the resurrection was
something totally new. The intellectuals in Athens called
Paul a “babbler” and then brought him to
Mars Hill to learn more of what he had to say.
Calling Paul a "babbler," as the KJV
states, sounds like a term of derision that showed lack
of respect for Paul. However, if he had been derided
in the marketplace why would he be brought to Mars Hill
for further discourse? A proper understanding of the
Greek word translated "babbler” sheds a much
different light on the situation.
The Greek word for babbler is "spermalogos."
"Spermalogos" literally means a “seed-picker”
and was used of birds, which spend their time picking
up seeds. It was applied to men who traveled and picked
up scraps of information from others. Rather than being
maligned, Paul was seen as one who could make a significant
contribution to their understanding. The Areopagus of
Athens was much like our Federal Supreme Court; the
most important issues were brought there for discussion
Paul was seen as traveler who picked up "seeds
of wisdom" along the way. Verse 21, is a parenthesis
to explain why Paul was brought there. It seems that
the Athenians and the strangers that passed through
enjoyed nothing more than to tell, or to hear some new
thing. They had no newspapers, TV, radio, or internet,
but they got the "news" from what they were
able to "pick up" in the market place! The
intellectuals of Athens heard Paul preach about "Jesus"
of whom they are not familiar. When Paul reached the
Areopagus at the top of the hill, he saw a perfect opportunity
to introduce Jesus to the intellectuals of Athens.
Knowing the law that he could introduce no new
god, Paul referred to the alter with the inscription
"TO THE UNKNOWN GOD." The Athenians had erected
this alter in case they had missed a god that they didn't
know about. Using this as his springboard he expounded
Jesus and the resurrection. God opened a door of utterance,
and Paul takes this perfect opportunity to tell them
about the one true God, the God unknown to them. So,
in the Greek, we have a completely different picture,
and find that the Athenian intellectuals had great respect
for Paul, and excitedly invited him up to the Areopagus
to hear the "seeds of wisdom" that he had
picked up in his travels!
Of course the preaching of the resurrection caused
quite a stir. The three responses he received to his
preaching are the same three we will have today.
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead,
some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again
of this matter.
33 So Paul departed from among them.
34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and
believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite,
and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
will mock, and some will put us off, saying, “I’ll
hear you again on this matter.” But, there will
be others who will cleave unto us and find in the resurrection
the newness of life that Jesus Christ came to make available.
Oh, that we may make the same inroads into our culture
that Paul made in his. If we will be about our business
of preaching Jesus and the resurrection, who knows what
doors God may open to us to speak at our service clubs,
PTA meetings, civic groups, school assemblies, etc.
Oh, to be a babbler and pass on the seeds of wisdom
regarding Jesus and the resurrection.