Acts 17:22 "Too Superstitious or Very Religious"?
Acts 17:22 KJB - "Then Paul stood in the midst of MARS' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things YE ARE TOO SUPERSTITIOUS...whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you."
NKJV: Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;
Leaving aside the fact that "Mars’ hill" is a complete mistranslation, let’s move on to what the Greek says, "too superstitious" or "very religious"? The Greek word deisidaimonesteros simply means "more religious than others," and the NKJV is the more accurate translation.” (End of Reese’s pieces)
In this study we will take a closer look at both the "MARS' hill" and the more important "SUPERSTITIOUS" alleged errors this Bible Rummager thinks he has found and see if he has a clue what he is taking about.
These same men will tell us that the King James Bible got it all wrong here in Acts 17:22 and the word translated as "too superstitious" should really be rendered as "very religious". They explain to us that Paul would not want to offend these people and start off his sermon with a slap in the face. He would be more gentle and compliment them on what they had right - or, so they tell us.
At one of the internet Bible clubs I belong to, a modern version promoter wrote: "The KJV's rendering of deisidaimonesterous as superstitious in Acts 17:22 is just wrong. Superstitious is a negative quality, and St. Paul is clearly not saying anything bad about the Athenians here because he wants them to listen to him. He is not going to win listeners if he from the outset denounces them as superstitious dolts. The modern versions usually render this word as "very religious", and this is clearly better than the KJV rendering, don't you think?" (End of comments)
The above criticism of the King James Bible is typical of the mindset of today's compromising religious critics. They assume the KJB's "superstitious" is wrong and are horrified that a preacher of the gospel would dare find fault with someone else's religion.
They might also find fault with John the Baptist's methods or Peter's or even Jesus' words to a misguided sinner. Perhaps they were not "seeker friendly" enough.
In Luke 3:7-10 we read of John the Baptist when he was just beginning his ministry. "Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O GENERATION OF VIPERS, who hath warned you to flee from the WRATH TO COME? Bring forth fruits worthy of REPENTANCE, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and CAST INTO THE FIRE. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?"
Then there is Peter preaching his first sermon in Acts 2. "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs...Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, YE HAVE TAKEN, AND BY WICKED HANDS HAVE CRUCIFIED AND SLAIN." Acts 2:22,23.
Again in Acts 3 Peter again "slaps them in the face" by telling his audience "the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But YE DENIED THE HOLY ONE AND THE JUST, AND DESIRED A MURDERER TO BE GRANTED UNTO YOU; AND KILLED THE PRINCE OF LIFE, whom God hath raised from the dead."
Then finally, I guess Jesus Christ Himself was unkind in His words to the woman of Samaria when He told her that her religion was false. He says to her: "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews."
Here Christ tells the Samaritan woman that she and her people were wrong in their collective worship and that the only true salvation came from the Old Testament scriptures entrusted to the Jewish people. How inconsiderate of our Lord not to compliment her on the parts of her people's religion they had right, don't you think?
In Luke 8:29 a man possessed of an unclean spirit often brake his bands "and was driven of THE DEVIL into the wilderness." Revelation 16:14 uses this word when it tells us: "they are the spirits of DEVILS working miracles" and again in Revelation 18:2 "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of DEVILS" So the word is literally to fear devils or demons.
Many modern versions have united to translate Paul's sermon in Acts 17:22 as a compliment to their spirituality rather than as a rebuke of their false religion. Among these are the NKJV 1982, NASB 1960-1995, NIV 1984, 2011, RSV, Holman Standard 2003, Common English Bible 2011, NET, ISV and the ESV. The NKJV reads: "I perceive that in all things you are VERY RELIGIOUS".
Here is how some other modern versions translate the passage: The Message - "you take your religion seriously"; Green's "literal" translation - "I see how god-fearing you are"; Holman - "you are extremely religious in every respect.", Young's - "you are over religious".
The Catholic Connection
The Catholic Versions continue to change how they have translated this passage, and most modern Vatican Versions (ESV, NIV, NASB, NET, ISV, Holman Standard) line up with the more modern Catholic Versions.
The 1582 Douay-Rheims read just like the King James Bible with "you are TOO SUPERSTITIOUS", but in 1950 the Catholic Douay followed by the 1968 Jerusalem bible, the 1970 St. Joseph NAB and the 1985 New Jerusalem bible now say: "I perceive you are SCRUPULOUSLY RELIGIOUS."
But just to keep us on our toes, the latest Catholic Public Domain Version (The Sacred Scriptures) of 2009 has come out, and guess what. The go back to reading: "I perceive that in all things you are rather SUPERSTITIOUS."
The Amplified Bible speaks out of both sides of its mouth and gives us the double-speak confused reading of - “I perceive in every way that YOU ARE MOST RELIGIOUS OR VERY REVERENT TO DEMONS."
How’s that for nailing things down!
The Renewed Covenant New Testament 2011 shows the unbelievable confusion on how to translated this verse. It actually says:
“all of you are SERIOUSLY IDOLATROUS AND VERY RELIGIOUS, SUPERSTITIOUS AND FEARFUL OF DEITIES AND DIVINITIES."
Some older translations show the relationship of demons here: Rotherham's Emphasized bible 1902 has "HOW REVERENT OF DEMONS YOU ARE." The Emphatic Diaglott of 1865 translates the phrase as "WORSHIPPERS OF DEMONS." The Living Oracles of 1835 has "you are ADDICTED TO THE WORSHIP OF DEMONS" and the Etheridge Translation of 1849 reads: "you exceed in THE WORSHIP OF DEMONS."
Other versions have readings that basically match the sense of the King James Bible, or even make it more of an insult to their false religion. Darby's 1890 translation says: "I see YOU ARE GIVEN UP TO DEMON WORSHIP"
Lamsa's translation 1933 of the Syriac Peshitta says: "you are extravagant in THE WORSHIP OF IDOLS"; both Murdock's translation 1851 and Etheridge's 1849 translation of the Sryiac Peshitta have "you exceed in WORSHIP OF DEMONS".
Likewise the Sawyer New Testament of 1858 said: "I perceive that in all things you are extremely devoted to THE WORSHIP OF DEMONS."
Wycliffe 1395 translated this as : "I see YOU ARE VAIN WORSHIPPERS."
The Thomas Haweis New Testament 1795 has: “ye are too much DEVOTED TO THE WORSHIP OF DAEMONS.”
The Thompson Bible 1808 and the Revised Translation of 1815 both have - "Ye are EXCEEDINGLY ADDICTED TO THE WORSHIP OF DEMONS."
The Anderson New Testament 1864 reads: "I perceive that in all respects YOUR REVERENCE FOR DEMONS excels that of other men."
The Aramaic Bible in Plain English of 2010 - "Athenians, I see that in all things you excel in THE WORSHIP OF DAEMONS."
The King James Bible is not at all alone in correctly translating this word as "too superstitious". Even today in modern Greek, the word deisidaimonesteros (δεισιδαιμονεστέρους) means "SUPERSTITIOUS" and does NOT mean "religious".
I have Divry's Modern English-Greek and Greek-English desk dictionary 1974 here in my study. If you look up the word superstitious on page 330 you get precisely this same Greek word as its definition; and the reverse is also true.
If you look up the Greek word deisidaimonesteros (δεισιδαιμονεστέρους) on page 468 you find "SUPERSTITIOUS" given as the ONLY definition.
Even Daniel Wallace's NET version footnotes: "The term deisidaimonesterou" is difficult. On the one hand it can have the positive sense of “devout,” but on the other hand it can have the negative sense of “superstitious” (BDAG 216 s.v.)."
The Greek Lexicons tell us the same things. Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon 1887, page 153 says deisidaimonesteros means- 1. fearing the gods: in good sense, pious, religious. 2. In bad sense, SUPERSTITIOUS.
Thayer's Greek-English lexicon does too. It can mean either "reverencing the gods, religious" or in the bad sense "SUPERSTITIOUS".
But in the Greek language today it has only one meaning and that is "SUPERSTITIOUS".
Here is an online Greek-English dictionary anybody can use. Go to the site. On the left paste in the Greek word deisidaimonas. See what comes up. SUPERSTITIOUS! Then try it the other way around. On the right hand type in superstitious to see how they say this in Greek. Guess what. It’s this same Greek word deisidaimonas!
And here is another online Modern Greek Dictionary.
Type in "superstitious" and see what comes up. It's δεισιδαίμων. The same word used in Acts 17:22 and correctly translated in the King James Bible as "superstitious". Then type in the word "religious" to see how to say it in Greek. It's θρησκευτικός, like the word found in the book of James - "if any man be religious". The KJB is right.
In the New Testament Greek there is a different word used for "religion" and "religious" as found in Acts 26:5 "after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee", and in James 1:26, 27 "If any man among you seem to be religious...pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this.."
The word used in these places and translated as religious or religion is threskeia and is totally different from the Greek word deisidaimonesteros.
"ye are TOO SUPERSTITIOUS"
Not only does the King James Bible correctly say "ye are too SUPERSTITIOUS" in Acts 17:22 but so also do Tyndale 1525, Miles Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549, the Great Bible 1540 - "I perceaue that in all thinges ye are TO SUPERSTICYOUS.", the Bishop's Bible 1568, the Douay-Rheims version of 1582, the Geneva Bible 1599, the Beza N.T. 1599, The Bill Bible 1671, Whiston's Primitive New Testament 1745, The Clarke N.T. 1795, the Revised Version of 1881, Webster's 1833 translation, The Longman Version 1841, The Hussey N.T. 1845, The Morgan N.T. 1848, The Hewett N.T. 1850, The Davidson N.T. 1876, The Sharpe Bible 1883, The Modern Reader's Bible 1907, The Clarke N.T. 1913, the KJV 21st Century 1994, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, God's First Truth 1999, Tomson New Testament 2002, The Resurrection Life N.T. 2005 - "you are WAY TOO SUPERSTITIOUS", The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, The Christogenea New Testament 2009 - "you are MOST SUPERSTITIOUS", Bond Slave Version 2009, the English Jubilee Bible of 2010, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Conservative Bible 2011 - “you are far TOO SUPERSTITIOUS about everything." and The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011.
The Julia Smith Translation 1855 says: "I see that in all things ye have a superstitious fear of divinity."
Foreign Language Bibles
Foreign language Bibles that also have "superstitious" and not "religious" are - the Latin Vulgate of 382 A.D. - "per omnia quasi superstitiosiores vos video", Luther's German Bible 1545 - "Ihr Männer von Athen, ich sehe euch, daß ihr in allen Stücken allzu abergläubisch seid.", the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569, the Cirpriano de Valera Bible of 1602 - "Varones Atenienses, en todas las cosas veo que sois demasiado SUPERTSTICIOSOS", the Spanish Reina Valera of 1858 and 1909 (supersticiosos - but the 1960, 1995 R.V. changed to "muy religiosos"), the 2010 Spanish Reina Valera Gomez bible - "en todo veo que sois MUY SUPERSTICIOSOS", the Portuguese de Almeida of 1681 and the Portuguese A Biblia Sagrada em Portugués - "em tudo vos vejo um tanto SUPERSTICIOSOS", and the 2009 Romanian Fidela Bible - " că în toate lucrurile voi sunteţi prea SUPERTSTITIOSI."
Also reading "too superstitious" the Ukranian N.T. - "Атиняне, по всьому виджу, що ви вельми побожні." = "you are VERY SUPERSTITIOUS", the Modernized German Bible - "Ihr Männer von Athen, ich sehe euch, daß ihr in allen Stücken allzu abergläubisch seid." = "you are TOO SUPERSTITIOUS IN ALL THINGS.", the Czech BKR Bible - "Muži Aténští, vidím vás býti všelijak příliš nábožné lidi." = "you are TOO SUPERSTITIOUS",
John Calvin agrees with the King James Bible reading and translated this Greek word as "superstitious" and comments: "Paul layeth SUPERSTITION to the charge of the men of Athens, because they worship their gods all at a very venture."
The Pulpit Commentary notes on Acts 17:22 - "There is a difference of opinion among commentators whether these words imply praise or blame. Chrysostom, followed by many others, takes it as said in the way of encomium, and understands the word δεισιδαιμονεστέρους as equivalent to εὐλαβεστέρους, very religious, more than commonly religious. And so Bishop Jacobson ('Speaker's Commentary'), who observes that the substantive δεισδαιμονία is used five times by Josephus, and always in the sense of "religion," or "piety."
On the other hand, the Vulgate (superstitiosiores), the English Versions, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, etc., take the word in its most common classical sense of "superstitious;" and it weighs for something towards determining St. Luke's use of the word that Plutarch uses δεισιδαιμονία always in a bad sense, of superstition, as in his life of Alexander and elsewhere, and in his tract 'De Superstitione' (Δεισιδαιμονία)...He could not mean to praise them for that δεισιδαιμονία which it was the whole object of his sermon to condemn."
Matthew Henry states as his first intrepretation - "I perceive that in all things you are TOO SUPERSTITIOUS. The crime he charges upon them is giving that glory to others which is due to God only, that THEY FEARED AND WORSHIPPED DEMONS, spirits that they supposed inhabited the images to which they directed their worship. "It is time for you to be told that there is but one God who are multiplying deities above any of your neighbours, and mingle your idolatries with all your affairs. You are in all things TOO SUPERSTITIOUS — deisidaimonesteroi, you easily admit every thing that comes under a show of religion, but it is that which corrupts it more and more; I bring you that which will reform it."
The Geneva Study Bible - The idolaters themselves provide most strong and forcible arguments against their own SUPERSTITION."
John Trapp (an English Puritan) Complete Commentary - "Ver. 22. You are TOO SUPERSTITIOUS - You are fearers of evil spirits; so one renders it; and Paul elsewhere tells the Corinthians that what they sacrificed to idols they sacrificed to devils, 1 Corinthians 10:20."
Notes from the Internet -
After posting this article at our Facebook forum called King James Bible Debate, a brother and fellow Bible believer made an excellent comment saying: "The only time religion or religious is used in the Bible it refers to Judaism and Christianity, both of which believe in The Lord God. The Jews are missing Jesus Christ as saviour. All other religions are based on superstition. Modern bibles are changed to make you think other 'religions' are in some way attempting to worship that same God. It's part of the ecumenical theme in modern Bibles."
Part Two - What about "Mars' hill"? Is this a mistake in the King James Bible?
I have only run into a couple of guys who claimed the King James Bible is wrong for translating this Greek word as "Mars' hill", but it is worth addressing. The King James Bible is its own dictionary and commentary. No other Bible is believed by anybody to be the complete and infallible words of God, and this is simply due to the fact that NO other Bible IS the infallible words of God.
In Acts 17:22 we read: "Then Paul stood in the midst of MARS' HILL, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious."
NKJV - "Then Paul stood in the midst of AREOPAGUS and said, Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious."
What this Bible critic overlooks is that the King James Bible also uses the word Areopagus in verse 19 of this same chapter - "And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?" How many people know what Areopagus MEANS? Not many, to be sure. So, the King James Bible translators simply TRANSLATED (as opposed to giving us another transliteration, and correctly translated the two words Ares and pagus and made it Mars' hill. Why? Because that is precisely what it means!
Ares was the Greek god of war, and the more commonly known Mars was the Roman god of war, and pagus simply means "hill". If you consult the Greek lexicons they all tell you this. Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon 1887, Seventeenth edition, tells us on page 100 that Areios pagos means "hill of Ares, Mars' Hill", over against the Acropolis at Athens on the west side. Here was held the highest judicial court." The also tell us that the Greek word areios means "warlike, MARtial. (Caps are mine).
Likewise Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament tells us on page 72 that the Greek word areopagus means "Mars' Hill" so called, because as the story went, Mars, having slain Halirrhothius, son of Neptune, for the attempted violation of his daughter Alcipe, was tried for the murder here before the twelve gods as judges."
And the Greek Lexicon by Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, in like manner, tells us on page 104 that the Greek words Areios pagos means "the Areopagus or Hill of Ares, the Greek god of war = Roman Mars, hence the older Mars' Hill."
I also have in my possession a secular Divry's Greek-English Dictionary 1974. If you look up the word Mars the way to say this in Greek today is Ares; and if you go to the Greek into English section and look up the Greek word Ares it simple says: "Mars, Ares."
Not only does the King James Bible correctly translate the Greek word areio pagus as "Mars' hill" but so too do the following Bible translations: Tyndale 1525, the Great Bible 1540 - "in the myddes of Marce strete...I perceaue that in all thinges ye are to supersticyous.", Matthew's Bible 1549, the Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587 - "Then Paul stoode in the mids of Mars streete, and sayde, Yee men of Athens, I perceiue that in all things yee are too superstitious." Worrell's N.T. 1904 - "the midst of Mars Hill", Webster's translation 1833, Noyes N.T. 1869, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible 1902 - "Paul taking his stand in the midst of the Hill of Mars, said",the Montgomery N.T. - "in the center of Mars Hill", the Bible in Basic English 1969 - "Paul got to his feet on Mars' Hill", the Amplified Bible 1987 - "the Areopagus [Mars Hill meeting place]", the New Life Bible 1969 - "Then Paul stood up on Mars' Hill", the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, the American Bible Union New Testament - "in the midst of Mars' Hill", Anderson N.T. - "in the midst of Mars hill" and the Common English Bible 2011 (a critical text edition)- "in the middle of the council on Mars Hill".
John Calvin also translated the verse this way - "And, standing in the midst of Mars' Street, he saith, Men of Athens, I see you in all things, as it were, more superstitious."
The King James Bible is correct, as always. God has preserved His words and He has done so in the greatest Bible ever printed and used to reach millions of precious souls for whom Christ died. Don't let the Bible critics steal your Holy Bible from you.
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