Athenian Curiosity

Acts 17:21
       All the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The reason why they were inquisitive concerning Paul’s doctrine, not because it was good, but because it was new. It is a very sorry character which is here given of these people.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): The Jewish doctors, at this time, were much of the same cast in their divinity schools; the usual question asked, when they met one another, was, “what new thing” have you learned in the divinity school today?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): There is nothing more important in the Christian life than the way in which we approach the Bible, and the way in which we read it.

A. P. GIBBS (1890-1967): Many suffer from what might be termed “Athenianitus”—like the people of Athens, they spend their time in nothing else, but either to tell or hear of some new thing. This is a mischievous malady indeed.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): We must not study the Word merely out of curiosity, that we may know what is said there; as men will pry into civil art and discipline; so the Athenians flocked about Paul; so, for novelty’s sake, men may have an affection and a delight in the Word.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Some read it to satisfy their sense of curiosity, as they might any other book of note…Some read it inquisitively, to satisfy curiosity and feed intellectual pride―they specialize on prophecy, the types, numerics, and so on.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): There is an inquiring to satisfy curiosity, which the Lord abhors; as we may gather from Exodus 19:21, where the Lord, being to deliver His will, says to Moses, “Go down, charge this people”―a word of peremptory command―“lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish.” The Lord is not displeased that His people should endeavour to behold, and take Him up aright; but when their end is not good, but to satisfy an itch of curiosity, it displeases Him.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Of course we are to be interested in everything in the Bible, but we are not to be mastered by the mechanics. It is good to be interested in figures, in Biblical numerics for instance; but you can easily spend the whole of your life working at such problems, and thereby forget the true interests of your soul.

THOMAS ADAM (1701-1784): The Scripture is unto us what the star was to the wise men; but if we spend all our time in gazing upon it; observing its motions, and admiring its splendour, without being led to Christ by it, the use of it will be lost to us.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): The Scriptures were written not to gratify our curiosity, but to lead us to God.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Very well; it is obviously important that we should approach this Book in the right manner.

JAMES DURHAM: The great end and design of all endeavours for knowledge, should not be to rest in speculation, but to be furthered in practice…Though we would wish that many had a holy curiosity to know God’s mind toward them.

THOMAS MANTON: For a man to study the Scripture only to satisfy curiosity, only to know what is right and good, and not to follow it with all his heart, is but to make a rod for his own back, and doth but cause his own condemnation to be sore and terrible, Luke 12:47. To be able to dispute for truth, and not lie under the power of it; to avoid heresy, and live in vice, will never bring him to Heaven. It is not them that are able to talk of it, but to walk according to this rule, Galatians 6:16; not to play with it, but to work with it. Knowledge and practise must be joined together; they do never well asunder, but excellently together.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments, Ezra 7:10. The order of things in this verse is very observable; first he endeavours to understand God’s law and word, and that not for curiosity or ostentation, but in order to practise; next, he conscientiously practiseth what he did understand, which made his doctrine much more effectual; and then he earnestly desires and labours to instruct and edify others, that they also might know and do it.

A. W. PINK: God has given the Word to us as a revelation of Himself―of His character, of His government, of His requirements. Our motive in reading it, then, should be to become better acquainted with Him, with His perfections, with His will for us. Our end in perusing His Word should be learn how to please and glorify Him; and that, by our characters being formed under its holy influence, and our conduct regulated in all its details by the rules He has there laid down.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Beware then of becoming a student of the Bible in a wrong sense.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): Let me tremble at God’s Word, and let me, in reading it, keep three purposes in view:
                                      1. To collect facts rather than form opinions.
                                      2. To regulate practise rather than encourage speculation.
                                      3. To aid devotion rather than dispute.

THOMAS MANTON: Our knowledge of it, and delight in it, must be directed to practice.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Another rule to be followed is, in reading the Scripture, continually to direct our attention to investigate and meditate upon things conducive to edification; not to indulge curiosity or the study of things unprofitable.

WILLIAM JAY: The Scripture is given to establish our faith, and comfort our hearts, and sanctify our lives, but not to amuse us and to gratify our curiosity.


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