About fourteen years ago, my son Derek graduated from high school, and I told him that for his graduation present I would take him anywhere in the world for two weeks. I gave his sister Kelly the same deal two years earlier and she chose Ireland. Derek decided on Greece.
At first I was impressed with the sophistication of his choice. Later I realized that what he really wanted to do was to head to a Greek island and hang out on the nude beaches.
So I struck a deal with him. We’d spend a week on Mykonos. But the first week we’d be on the mainland visiting archaeological sites. He was keen to do that too, and so we did.
I had been to Greece once before and had seen a lot of the main touristy sites. But we went back to them, starting in Athens. Athens is one of my favorite places in the world. I love the food, the atmosphere, the people, and especially the archaeological ruins.
Two of the most famous ancient sites in the city are the Acropolis (where the Parthenon, and other amazing structures, stands) and the Agora, the old marketplace filled with temples and stoa and other buildings. Between the two you can find yet another place, known from the New Testament as the Areopagus (also called Mars Hill).
The Areopagus is most famous in Christian lore as the spot where the Apostle Paul found himself in Acts 17, speaking to a group of Greek philosophers, both Stoics and Epicureans. The place itself is a barren, rocky outcrop that is fairly flat on top, to the Northwest of the Acropolis and downhill from it. There is (and was) nothing on it – no buildings of any kind. In fact there really isn’t much room for any building. It’s just a rugged but reasonably flat rock. Looking up from there you can see the acropolis; looking down in the other direction you can see the agora.
Both the acropolis and the agora contain magnificent, fantastic buildings. The Parthenon is arguably the best known and most glorious structure to have survived for us from antiquity. The agora is where there was such vibrant and important political and social activity. Both were replete with architecturally marvelous structures, amazing statuary, the great glories of ancient Greek civilization. On the Areopagus, on the other hand, there was nothing. It was a rock. Where intellectuals got together and talked. And where Paul first brought his gospel to Athens.
That day when I was on the Areopagus with Derek, I remember…
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