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Approx 600 B.C. - The Unknown God

The Apostle Paul was supposedly kind of a scrawny stringy sort of man, balding, and inured to many hardships, with a high forehead. Some place or another described him as bow legged.  I'll try to find out where I read all that, but right now I don't remember. He was also said to be a fairly effective speaker, despite his own self deprecations in that area. And he had incredible gifts of the Holy Spirit.  But, give him his due!  He was a man's man and willing to tackle any crowd, face any hardship, undertake any journey to win some people to Jesus. Paul was game. He was a scrapper, rhetorically speaking.

But...if you've ever been a person that fished, have you ever fished at one of those small ponds where the water is clear and the fish have seen about 20,000 lures in their lives, and they just kind of swim a little closer, look it over, then sink on back, unimpressed? Well, imagine going to a country that has a plethora of gods, and where sitting around talking about new things is basically the national pass time.  Imagine trying to excite such a crowd, such a people, about a new God named Jesus. That was what Paul basically faced when he went to Athens, Greece.

But luckily (is it ever luck with God?) he had an inroad. There was a strange little monument in Paul's time, there in Athens, to the 'unknown god', or 'Agnostos Theos' in Greek. Paul addressed this Athenian crowd as folows:  From Acts 17:22 

"You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, "To an unknown god." What therefore you worship unknowingly, I now proclaim to you."

And though they did little but discuss things for sport, he was able, saying this, to get enough of their attention that several people, including a man named Dionysius from the Court of Areopagus (a man with a little influence and credibility apparently), and a woman named Damaris, and a few unnamed others came to believe. Why? Probably because they had wondered about that strange monument all of their lives.....off and on, anyway. What was the story with that monument?

History actually gives an answer.  A man named Diogenes Laertius wrote in about 200 something A.D. that, long before his time, in about 600 B.C., a serious plague had occurred in Greece, in the Athens area, on Mars Hill. Many were dying. But there was a man with spiritual abilities - a man named Epimenides - who was from Crete. And he was able to work miracles of sorts it was then thought.

 

Epimenides of Crete?  It is labeled as an image of him. 

Epimenides gave them the solution to the plague. He said that they must gather a group of sheep - both black and white sheep. Then they must bring them up to the Aereopagus, and release them. Each sheep must be followed, and when each sheep first became tired and lay down to rest, Epimenades told them, that spot must be marked - for each sheep. Then, offerings must be made to the local god at each of those locations, for some god somewhere must be responsible for this plague, and that is how they could find and satisfy that god's anger.

Well, from a Christian stand point I have little to say about the advisability, let alone efficacy of such a strategy, but they followed this advice, and the plague stopped suddenly enough that they attributed it to this advice given by the Cretan. So, a monument was erected.  (Personally, I suspect that God could see ahead quite well to Paul's time, and planted this little nugget for future use.) 

And in Paul's time, the monument still stood. And through that device, Paul, the strong willed, powerful minded, hard driven and resourceful Apostle of Jesus caused some Greeks to consider Jesus, to open their minds and hearts to the possibility that Jesus was more than an interesting discussion topic. And the Holy Spirit came to them, and they were brought to believe in Jesus. They probably in turn told other Greeks, and who knows, ultimately, how many came to know Jesus in the sunny land of Greece because of the shrine to the unknown god? God uses what He uses. And He uses who He uses. And it is always sufficient, because He is God. Mighty is our Maker!

Epimenides is incidentally the source of the famous phrase "Cretans.  All liars!"  This is sometimes called the 'Liar's Paradox', as Epimenides was a Cretan.  Supposedly it came up because Crete is the traditional site of Zeus's grave (site presently unknown) and the Cretans considered Zeus a real personage that had died.  Epimenades was apparently convinced that this couldn't be right, and that Zeus still lived.  So, in defense of his belief, he mentioned that all Cretans were liars.  Yeah, yeah!  Whatever.

  But when the scattered sheep of Jesus - people of many races, languages, and skin colors - were sent wandering they too would travel, become weary of traveling, settle down and build a home...and churches....and from those places where they rested, from those churches, would rise a sacrifice acceptable to the Lord:  the praises of His people.  That makes it quite a lot like the story of the sheep on Mars Hill, in a way. 

 

Hello,

    I personally believe that realizing how many great deeds of God have actually occurred through out history will lead some people to be saved giving their life to Christ.  If you agree, then please, take the time to be a 'missionary', to love your neighbor enough to care about their soul.  Please mention and recommend visiting the Deeds of God website on any social media sites that you belong to.  Tell a favorite account to your friends or family, and tell them where you read it.  To know God is to stand in awe of Him, but too few people know Him today.  Accounts like these are yet another way to come to know Jesus and the Holy Father, and the Spirit of Truth that helps us understand.  Thank you.  Dan Curry

 

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