According to Acts 17:14-16, Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea while Paul was escorted to Athens. Paul instructed his escorts to have Silas and Timothy join him in Athens, but there is no mention of their doing so. On the other hand, in 1 Thessalonians 3:1, 2, we learn that Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica from Athens. So Timothy, at least, seems to have joined him there for a short time.
When speaking to Jews in Acts 17:2, 3, Paul begins with the theme of the Messiah in the Old Testament. When speaking to the pagan philosophers of Athens (Acts 17:16-34), where does he begin? What can we learn from these different approaches?
Paul does not simply enter Athens, march up to the Areopagus (known also as Mars Hill), and engage the philosophers there. He begins by spending some time walking around and making his own observations. He also engages the Jews of Athens and some of the Greeks in the synagogue there. Besides evangelizing to them in his customary way (see Acts 17:2, 3), he also would have been learning about the dominant culture in the city. The first step in any missionary effort is to listen and learn about the faith and world views of the people you are trying to reach.
Paul also spent time in the marketplace of Athens (which was below and within sight of the Areopagus, or Mars Hill), reasoning with anyone willing to talk with him. In the process he provoked the curiosity of some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, who invited him to address them in the traditional place for such discussions.
He began his address to the intellectuals of Athens with observations about their city and religions. His theological beginning point was creation, a topic in which both he and they were interested. In contrast with his approach to the synagogue, he did not argue his case from Scripture but from writings with which they would have been familiar (Acts 17:27, 28 both echoes and quotes Greek writers). But when he stepped into territory that went beyond the boundaries of where they were intellectually comfortable, the philosophers seemed to have abruptly ended the discussion. A few individuals, however, continued to talk with Paul and became believers.
How well do we understand the worldviews and religious beliefs of those around us? Why is it important for us to have at least some knowledge of these things as we seek to witness?