17:23 TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. There were other contemporary reports that have come down to us of such an altar in first-century Greece. There is also a good possibility that it had been built to commemorate an ancient deliverance of Athens from military peril or pestilence as a result of prayer to a greater God than any of their usual deities. It has also been shown that many other animistic and polytheistic cultures do retain a dim remembrance of a “high God,” greater and more powerful than any of the spirits or gods with which they are concerned day-to-day.
17:23 ignorantly worship. Compare Christ’s admonition to the Samaritan woman at the well: “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Some of the Samaritans, as well as some Greeks and animists, seem to desire intuitively to worship the true God, but do so in ignorance, not having access to the revealed Word of God. In response to such sincere searching after God, Jesus brought the full knowledge of salvation to the Samaritans, Peter to the Roman Cornelius, Paul to the Athenian Greeks, and missionaries to many animistic tribes.