Who Wrote Acts 17:28 And Why?

If you have friends who will not celebrate Christmas or Easter because they believe these holidays have pagan origins, then this is going to be a shocker for them…

“For in him we live and move and have our being”…–Acts 17:28

This is a favorite and cherished scripture passage for many. I’ll bet that many of you have memorized it. Many of us sing this verse in our worship services. It vividly describes our life in Christ.

Do you know who originally wrote this verse? If you think that Paul was the original author of this quote, then you are in for a surprise. If you think that this verse was originally used in relation to our Lord, then you are in for an even bigger surprise!

Here’s the passage in context:

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[c]29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.

Now, you probably saw that Paul quoted the Greek poets saying, “We are his offspring”. BUT WAIT! When Paul said, “As some of your own poets have said”, he wasn’t just referring to the quote that followed…Paul was also referring to the quote that he had just spoken!!!

WHAT??? That’s right. “For in him we live and move and have our being” was a popular line from a Greek poem written around 600-700 B.C. by Epimenides. Click here at biblegateway.com to see for yourself. Paul knew exactly what he was doing. He was using the pop culture of his day to relate the message of Christ. But this wasn’t just any quote. It was a quote that was used specifically in worship unto the Greek God Zeus. Let me restate that. ORIGINALLY, this was a written pagan quote used for the purpose of worshiping the idol of Zeus. The poem it came from is called “Cretica”by Epimendes . In the poem, Minos addresses Zeus thus:

They fashioned a tomb for you, holy and high one,
Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies.
But you are not dead: you live and abide forever,
For in you we live and move and have our being.

Again, this verse had a pagan origin and was used to worship Zeus. Paul took a verse that he knew was originally and thoroughly pagan and he “christianized” it. Do I have a problem with this being “christianized? Not at all. Now, let me interrupt to say that I’ve deduced from some comments in the past, that people don’t actually read the whole post that I’ve written, so I’ll say it again…Not at all.

If you refuse to celebrate certain holidays because they had Pagan origins, then using that same logic, you must take your scissors and cut this passage out of every bible in your house! It too has a pagan origin! Since it was originally used in pagan worship then it must have demonic attachments! Oh shiver me timbers! The Demons have crawled out from under every rock and have made their way into the pages! Throw it out now along with those Sears & Roebuck artificial Christmas trees that you forgot were in your attic! While you are at it, you might as well cut out some of the Psalms too. If you thought that the Psalmist didn’t borrow poetry from earlier pagan cultures, then you are in for a rude awakening.

Here’s my advice to you: God takes the pagan things of this world and can work it for His purpose. God is not the creator of pagan worship, or evil (see: Would Our God Create Lucifer Knowing He Becomes Satan?); but He can turn things around and use them. Like Joseph said in Genesis, “What you meant for evil, God turned for good”. For all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Can some seemingly pagan things be “christianized”? Ask Paul…Can you eat meat sacrificied to idols?  (As long as it doesn’t bother your conscience). If Paul can take a verse that was originally written for pagan worship and use it for God’s glory, then we shouldn’t have any problems taking a pagan-oriented holiday and turn it for the glory of God. Paul didn’t need to reconstruct the sentence and we don’t need to throw out the Christmas trees or Easter eggs. We can use them to tell the Gospel story.

Paul’s audience knew that this was a quote used in worship to Zeus. Up until that moment, it had never been used for any other purpose than to worship Zeus. With that in mind, so what if Egyptians and Druids once worshiped evergreens and brought them inside? Does it make me a pagan to bring a tree in my house during the Christmas season?  I’m not worshiping the tree. It makes me think of Christ and His gift of eternal life. Did it make Paul a pagan to quote verses used to worship Zeus?

Here’s another point: We all need to be careful not to be too harsh and critical towards those who use things that once were related to the enemy. Are you listening? Ouch! I can hear the late Sister Patterson saying to me, “Brother Dan I’m gonna slap you for preaching the truth and stepping on my toes!” Well sister, that one hurt my toes too! Think about what Paul actually did and compare it to today: Paul using pagan verses to preach the Gospel then, would be like your preacher doing what today??? Would you be critical of the preacher’s methods? What may be sin for you, may not be sin for him. We are often resistant to change, and it is hard for us to adopt things that once seemed evil. We still have to test things, but we may find that the only evil is our own stiff attitude. Like poems, songs, Christmas trees, and Easter Eggs these “other things” may not be evil in themselves at all. I’m glad that Paul “christianized” what was once used for idolatry. I was once an infidel that was changed by Christ. Are you? I now have a new life, I am a new being in Him. “For in him we live and move and have our being”

related article: Menander and Paul

About defrostingwindows

Husband, Father, Salesman, Veteran, Real Identity: Child of God
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20 Responses to Who Wrote Acts 17:28 And Why?

  1. conniebee says:

    LOVE would say that we never insist that someone go against their conscience regarding their food, celebrations, etc. Arguing with someone who feels that they should abstain from certain things (food, holidays, etc) doesn’t show love. I think most Christians go through this “abstinence from” phase in their journey to honor God. Those of us who have passed through this into freedom in Christ need to respect this and understand it, but never argue without love.
    Your post is wonderful in explaining further this freedom. (You’re obviously not arguing against anything, but “reasoning together”. ) Did ya’ think I was criticizing in the above paragraph? NOT.

    God has taught me so much about abstaining and not abstaining. Also he has taught me a lot about when to judge and not judge. I wish I had 60 MORE years on this earth to learn so much more. I feel like I’m still in first grade sometimes.

    Thank you for bringing this up. There is so much left to learn, isn’t there? I hope we all continue to “reason together” with our precious Lord and with each other.

    I always enjoy your posts. They “get me ta’ thinking”. The Lord bless you and keep you and your wonderful wife and children.

    • defrostingwindows says:

      I really listened to your comment and made some small edits. You are so right. We do not want anyone to sin against their conscience. Freedom for some can be a stumbling block for others. I thank you for your input. Something very interesting has come from reading your comment. My mind is taking off in a lot of directions. Here is one direction: Paul didn’t just quote from this poem once…He quoted from another line in another book of the bible. I wonder if maybe it may have caused some Greeks to think that their poems were “inspired” since Paul quoted from them twice. Quoting directly from pagan poetry and declaring it as truth about our God was a bold, bold move. Would that be comparable to quoting from the Satanic Bible, “Rosemary’s Baby”, the Bhagavad Gita, and ascribing that line as truth about our God? I don’t know. I wonder if Paul knew that when he quoted from written Idol poetry that the line would become written scripture?. I sincerely doubt it. My mind is taking off in other directions as well…I may be able to find answers for those questions…Hmmmm. Thanks again for your comment. It was very constructive!

  2. conniebee says:

    Okay, now I’m thinking too, even more. Quoting the Bible is always good, unless you are using it for poor, misleading teaching. I think of Joseph Campbell and his philosophy about the “Father and son myth”. (You can look it up because it’s too long to explain here.) It bothered me for a while until I realized that Campbell noticed the “myth” but never understood that it was unrealized truth. The father/son story is so popular in history and various cultures because it is TRUE in our humanity and people in their hearts know it’s true. The “myth” RINGS TRUE. Campbell didn’t take the truth far enough. He tried to discredit the God/Jesus/Holy Spirit story because it was repeated in so many cultures over time that our Biblical story seemed to him like just another example.

    This might be one way to use pagan ideas as a stepping stone to explaining the gospel. Isn’t reasoning together fun?

    • defrostingwindows says:

      Fascinating. “The myth rings true”. That is exactly what happened in this text. You are right about reasoning together as being fun…and it serves a purpose. I think I may be writing some more about Acts 17:28 this coming week. Thanks for causing me to go further!

  3. Pingback: Acts 17: 38 Sheep In Wolve’s Clothing | Defrosting Windows

  4. Great post and excellent points! You offered some things I’d never considered regarding those who oppose Christmas and Easter because of their pagan origins. Here’s another Pauline pagan quote they can also cut out of their Bibles. It’s found in I Corinthians 15:33 — “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Paul got this quote from the famous Greek poet and dramatist, Menander.

    • defrostingwindows says:

      Thanks! I am continually amazed by all of this.

    • Takashi says:

      Well, Paul didn’t think that all words were evil because they were said by Pagans… of course! That was good advice and it didn’t disagree with scripture and the Corinthian Christians would have been familiar with it. I’m sure ministers use pop cultural phrases and idioms in their sermons as people know what they mean.

  5. I don’t fully understand what you talk (because my lack of english skills) but I can find some point.

    Yes, I agree with your opinion of “Christmas trees, and Easter Eggs these “other things” may not be evil in themselves at all”

    Rom 14 : 14 (KJV) – I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

    1Co 10 : 30 (NIV) – If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

    But this is very difficult because Bible also says,

    1Co 10 : 19 – 10 : 22 (NIV)
    Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?
    No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.
    You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.

    I agree your opinion of “but we may find that the only evil is our own stiff attitude”

    But these days, there are so many media that imply evil spirits.

    Subtly and quietly we are changing a lot.

    It is hard to protect our mindset.

  6. Doris Danith says:

    Glad I stumbled across this. Very enlightening. God bless.

  7. Great article! Was preparing a wedding sermon on Acts 17:28 and stumbled upon your post. Definitely got a few great insights here!

  8. David M. says:

    First of all, neither Christmas nor Easter is pagan in origin. John Chrysostom, 4th C. patriarch of Constantinople, tells us plainly that Christ was born on Kislev 25 curing Hannukah which corresponded that year to Dec. 25th. Easter/Ostern is the name used only in Germanic nations, other nations call it Pascha, Pasch, Pasquale, Pascuas etc., all from the Hebrew for Passover, Pesach. People who refuse to celebrate these days because of “fake news” that they are pagan are committing the sin of scrupulosity and are, just annoying.

  9. Katie says:

    Thank you Dan for sharing this insight… I teach Holy Yoga and I am in awe of the Lord’s power to redeem and bring His goodness through things that the enemy meant for our harm. Truly, in Him (the only true God!) we live and MOVE and have our being. -katie

  10. Donna Long says:

    Amen…..very good point……adds balance. While Paul quoted their Greek poets, he didn’t worship their Greek idols or celebrate their Greek pagan holidays….he made note of them for the purpose of opening a door into their acceptance of a higher Truth.

  11. Noah Helsee says:

    Thanks so much for this. I wondered who wrote the quotes as I was reading Acts today. Your information was super helpful to my personal study.

  12. I was wanting to use this verse for some copy I was writing for my website and stumbled on your blog post. Dang! I usually dig into Scripture, context, etc., and never saw this before!!! Just “assumed” it came from Paul and didn’t pay much attention to what was after the ; after being. We live in a world of sound bites and I believe that we treat Bible verses like sound bites too without researching more. Busted! I did the same thing. Thanks for sharing this and also talking about Christmas trees and Easter eggs. I admire such deep, careful thought. : ) This made me think of a book I just picked up called Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill. If you haven’t read it, I think you will find it quite thought provoking. The premise is that Napoleon Hill interviews the devil. Keep up the great writing! Thank you for this insight.

  13. Rose says:

    I am glad I tumbled on your blog post. I always thought it was Apostle Paul you said that. Your post is very enlightening and points me in a different direction regarding my bible study methods. God bless you

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