The Backstory To Paul’s Athens Visit

Areopagus, Athens

When the Apostle Paul preached in Athens, he probably had no idea who was in his audience, but when he finished preaching, “…some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite…”  (Acts 17:34).

Dionysius was an important man in Athens.  He was a member of the Areopagus, which was essentially the Athens Supreme Court.

There is a legend concerning this Dionysius, a backstory, that may or may not be true, but as my friend George Grant says, most legend is rooted in some fact. So, here’s how this legend goes.

Years before, as Jesus hung on the cross, paying the price for man’s sins, from noon to 3:00 p.m. “darkness fell over the whole land.” (Luke 23:44).  This phenomenon was not merely local; it was seen in Egypt, in a city named Heliopolis, by a much younger Dionysius, who was there studying astronomy.

Dionysius would later return to Athens where he eventually became a member of the Areopagus.  I suspect when Paul preached in Athens (Acts 17) he mentioned that when Jesus was crucified the whole land became dark in the middle of the day, Dionysius realized it was the same darkness he had witnessed from Heliopolis, connected the dots and became a Christian.  Dionysius would later become bishop of Athens.

When Paul was preaching at Athens he probably had no idea who Dionysius was, or that he’d witnessed the supernatural darkness accompanying Jesus’ crucifixion, or that the Lord had prepared him for that moment in time when Paul preached the gospel, but the Lord knew.

So it is with us.  You never know what the Lord has already done to prepare a person to hear what the Holy Spirit is prompting you to say. GS

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