‘From one man every nation’

Everything we know about St Paul’s sermon on the Areopagus is known to us from the Acts of the Apostles, as no writer of the time paid much attention to the event (just as no one recounted Jesus’s presence in Palestine). According to St Luke, some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers brought Paul, the «spermologos» [idle babbler], to the Areopagus to hear what he had to say. Paul made sure to flatter the Athenians, calling them «very religious in all respects.» His speech was permeated with an exceptionally unifying and ecumenical spirit, stressing that «God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth… For we also are His children.» In order to corroborate his sermon, he recited a line from Cleanthes, a Greek philosopher. It is not obvious that with his speech in Athens Paul became the «progenitor and spiritual father of Europe» as Archbishop Christodoulos said on the Pnyx. In any case, both Christodoulos and Pope John Paul II (who, speaking about Paul and the European Convention, made an appeal to Europe to be remindful of its past) acted divisively rather than in order to unite; politically rather than religiously. Their demand for including a reference to Christianity in the European Constitution may sound reasonable, but leaves big chunks of European history aside. The character of Europe has not been molded by Christians alone, but also by Jews and Muslim Arabs. It has also been molded by many popular uprisings, many of which were profoundly anti-religious. Christianity has not always been a benign force, unless we omit the Holy Inquisition, cases of church authoritarianism, and even silence on the Holocaust by some. And what is the main trend of Christianity: toward the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, or the Protestant? Once again, we are anxious about been called Christians, not about living as such.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.