To answer your good question, let’s read Acts 17:16-18, “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.”

According to verses 14-15, Paul was in Athens waiting for Silas and Timotheus (Timothy).  While there, Paul’s spirit was stirred, or provoked, by the idolatry he witnessed in that city.  Verse 17 tells us that Paul disputed with the Jews and devout persons in the synagogue and in the market place.  Paul certainly stood for the truth of God’s Word.  The fact that he disputed with these people does not mean that he was rude or disrespectful towards them.  The Greek word for dispute is ‘dialégomai’ and is translated as ‘reasoned’ (Acts 17:2), ‘preached’ (Acts 20:7), and ‘speaketh’ (Hebrews 12:5).  I can imagine Paul was firm when he spoke, but was gentle in his delivery, reasoning in the same respect as we read in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

However, he was soon approached by philosophers of the Epicureans and Stoicks.  Who were these people who seemed to only want to cause trouble for Paul, accusing him of being a gossip or trifler (babbler)?  He was accused by these people of being someone who was seeking to teach of strange gods because he had spoken to them of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Let’s look at who these people were.

Epicureans –Epicureanism is a system of philosophy founded around 307 BC based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus.  The Epicureans were defined as a well-known school of atheistic materialists, who taught that pleasure was the chief end of human existence. 

Stoicks – The founder of the Stoics was Zeno, who lived around 300 BC. He taught his disciples that a man’s happiness consisted in bringing himself into harmony with the course of the universe. They were trained to bear evils with indifference, and so to be independent of externals. Materialism, pantheism, fatalism, and pride were the leading features of this philosophy.

The Epicureans and the Stoicks represent the two opposite schools of practical philosophy at the time.  Here in Acts 17:18 is the only time these people are mentioned in the Bible.  We read in verse 19, “And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?”  Areopagus is a hill located Northwest of Athens.  It is also known as Mars Hill as it is referred to in verse 22.

Paul’s excellent defense of himself and his teachings can be read in Acts 17:22-30, where he concluded with verse 31, “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”  The result of Paul’s discourse was somewhat slight.  Verse 32 says that “…some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.”  Yet, thankfully, some did believe as we read in verse 34, “Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.”  (CC)  (553.2)