The Areopagus was an ancient and highly respected council of philosophers in Athens. The name came from the hill in Athens where the council originally met (commonly known as Mars Hill), though in New Testament times the council met in the commercial area of the town itself. The council consisted of philosophers from the two main schools of Greek philosophy, the Epicureans and the Stoics (see EPICUREANS; STOICS). Athens was a famous centre of learning where people publicly discussed philosophy, religion and politics (Acts 17:21).
The Areopagus was responsible for the orderly conduct of all public lecturing in Athens. When some of its members heard Paul preaching in the public places of the city, they invited him to give the Areopagus an account of his religion. From what they had heard, they thought he was announcing two new gods, whose names were Jesus’ and Resurrection’ (Acts 17:16-20). Paul explained to the Areopagus the nature of the God they did not know. This God was the creator and controller of the universe, and the judge of all people everywhere.
The death and resurrection of Jesus made forgiveness of sins available to all, but it also guaranteed judgment for those who refused to repent (Acts 17:22-31). Paul won the attention of the council with an explanation of the gospel that contained specific points relating to Epicurean and Stoic beliefs; but on the whole both groups rejected his teaching about the resurrection. There were a few, however, who believed (Acts 17:32-34)