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STUDIES IN ACTS      Studies in Acts

20. DAMARIS - a woman of distinction

"A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman name Damaris, and a number of others" (Acts 17:34).

Damaris was an Athenian. As a member of the Areopagus (Mars Hill) she was a woman of distinction. The importance of her conversion is to be seen in the context of the Athenian story (Acts 17:16-34).

Consider the person
Athens was the cultural centre of the West since the fourth century B.C. This was the city of great philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. In Paul's time thinkers used to meet in the market place (agora) or Stoa (a portico) to debate points of philosophy. Luke mentions two philosophical schools with whom Paul shared the gospel – the Epicureans and Stoics (Acts 17:18). The Athenian court tried any new religion before it was adopted by the city. Paul was called to account for what they thought were two new gods – Jesus and Anastasis.  They mistook what the apostle meant by the resurrection (Gk. anastasis). A number of men believed the gospel. Damaris, a female member of the council, also believed. Dionysius may have been her husband. A tradition holds that he later pastored the church in Athens.

Study the Scriptures
Paul's witness illustrates the importance of his upbringing and education. He was able, as Acts demonstrates, to converse with anyone about the Lord. In Athens he reasoned with philosophers as he presented the gospel to the city council. His approach in Acts 17:22-31 compares with his teaching in Rom.1:18-23. Damaris represents the success of the gospel. It reaches every class and kind of people. In Acts, Luke selects examples of conversions from different classes, cultures and nations.

Ask questions

1. Corinth was another cultured Greek city. Read 1 Cor.1:18-30. What does this passage suggest about the conversion of Damaris?

2. Do educated people find it difficult to accept the gospel? What kind of Christian is best equipped to share the gospel with them?

3. Damaris became 'a follower' (in a strong sense, a disciple). What kind of opposition could she face as a new Christian in a Greek city state?

Apply some thoughts

1. Consider Paul's witness to the Athenians in the light of 1 Cor.9:16-23. He related to their culture and religion, quoting their philosopher poets, Aratus and Epimenides (Acts 17:28).

2. Pray for Christians and Christian Unions in Colleges and Universities.

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Copyright 2008 Vernon Ralphs

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