Howbeit, certain men clave unto him, and believed,.... There were some who were ordained to eternal life, to whom the Gospel came in power, and they received the love of the truth, and their hearts and affections were knit unto the apostle; and they followed him, and kept to him, and privately conversed with him, and believed his doctrine, and in Jesus Christ, whom he preached unto them; to these the Gospel was the savour of life unto life, when to the scoffers and mockers it was the savour of death unto death: and this is the fruit and effect of the Gospel ministry, wherever it comes:
among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite; a judge in the court of Areopagus: how many judges that court consisted of, is not certain, nor whether there was one who was superior to the rest; if there was such an one, Dionysius seems to have been he, since he is called the Areopagite. The business of this court was not only to try causes of murder, which seems to have been the original business of it; but by these judges the rights of the city were preserved and defended, war was proclaimed, and all law suits adjusted and decided; and they made it their business to look after idle and slothful persons, and inquire how they livedF6Alexander ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 3. c. 13. & l. 4. c. 11. : they always heard and judged causes in the night, in the dark, because they would only know facts, and not persons, lest they should be influenced by their afflictions, and be led wrongF7Alexander ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 3. c. 5. ; they were very famous in other nations for their wisdom and skill, and for their gravity and strict justice. Dolabella, proconsul of Asia, having a woman brought before him for poisoning her husband and son, which she confessed, and gave reasons for doing it, referred the matter to a council, who refused to pass sentence; upon which he sent the case to Athens, to the Areopagites, as to judges "more grave" and "more experienced"F8A Gellii noctes Attica, l. 12. c. 7. : and hence these words of Julian the emperorF9Orat. 2. p. 112. ,
"let an Areopagite be judge, and we will not be afraid of the judgment.'
This Dionysius the Areopagite is said, by another Dionysius, bishop of the Corinthians, a very ancient writerF11Apud Euseb. Hist. Eccl. l. 3. c. 4. & l. 4. c. 23. , to be the first bishop of the Athenians, which is more likely than that he should be a bishop in France. It is reported of him, that being at Heliopolis in Egypt, along with Apollophanes, a philosopher, at the time of Christ's sufferings, he should say concerning the unusual eclipse that then was, that "a God unknown, and clothed with flesh, suffered", on whose account the whole world was darkened; or, as, others affirm, he said, "either the God of nature suffers, or the frame of the world will be dissolved": it is also related of him that when he was converted by the apostle at Athens, he went to Clemens, bishop of Rome, and was sent by him with others into the west, to preach the Gospel; some of which went to Spain, and others to France, and that he steered his course to Paris, and there, with Rusticus and Eleutherius his "colleagues", suffered martyrdomF12Magdeburg. Hist. Eccles. cent. 1. l. 2. c. 10. p. 491. . The books ascribed unto him concerning the divine names, and ecclesiastical hierarchy, are spurious things, stuffed with foolish, absurd, and impious notions, and seem to have been written in the "fifth" century.
And a woman named Damaris; some of the ancients, and also some modern writers, take this woman to be the wife of Dionysius; but had she been his wife, she would have been doubtless called so; however, by the particular mention of her name, she seems to have been a person of some note and figure: the name is a diminutive from δαμαρ, Damar, which signifies a wife.
And others with them; with these two, as the Arabic version renders it; that is, with Dionysius and Damaris. These laid the foundation of a Gospel church at Athens. Dionysius, as before observed, was the first bishop, or pastor of it; it is also said that Narcissus, one of the seventy disciples, was bishop of this place; See Gill on Luke 10:1. In the "second" century Publius was bishop of the church at Athens, who suffered martyrdom for Christ in the time of Hadrian; and was succeeded by QuadratusF13Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 4. c. 23. , who was famous for a writing he presented to the said emperor, in favour of the churches in common, and the success of it, about the year 128; at the same time, Aristides, a famous philosopher and Christian, flourished in the church at Athens, who wrote an apology for the Christian religion; and also Jovius, a presbyter and martyr, and a disciple of Dionysius; likewise Athenagoras, a man of great learning and piety, who wrote also an apology for the Christians, and a treatise concerning the resurrection of the dead, which are still extant; the former was written to the emperors Antoninus and Commodus: in the "third" century mention is made of the church at Athens; and OrigenF14Contra Cels. l. 3. p. 128. speaks very honourably of it, as meek and quiet, and desirous of approving itself to God. In the "fourth" century it appears that there were Christians there, since Maximus the emperor stirred up wicked men to molest and distress them; and there was a Christian school there, in which Bazil and Gregory Nazianzen were brought up. In the "fifth" century there was a church in this place; and in the "sixth", a Christian school, in which Boethius Patricius learned the liberal arts; and in the "seventh" century mention is made of a bishop of Athens, who was in the sixth council at ConstantinopleF15Magdeburg. Hist. Eccles. cent. 2. c. 2. p. 4, 17. & c. 10. p. 151, 152, 153. cent. 3. c. 2. p. 3. cent. 4. c. 7. p. 287. & c. 10. p. 539. cent. 5. c. 2. p. 6. cent. 6. c. 7. p. 205. cent. 7. c. 2. p. 5. : thus far this church state is to be traced.