While waiting for Timothy and Silas to join him, Paul preached in Athens, first in the synagogue, then in the market place, and then in the open court on Mars Hill. There he made a few converts among the court officials and soon left for the nearby city of Corinth.
It is interesting that Paul did not choose to stay in Athens, that major world-famous city that was even more influential than Rome itself in terms of academic prowess. However, Paul summarized his thoughts on the matter in his first letter to the Corinthians, the city to which he traveled immediately upon leaving Athens. Without pointing directly to the people of Athens, he summed up his experience with “wise men after the flesh:”
1 Cor 1:20-29
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
As Paul preched to the Athenians about the cross and the resurrection of Jesus, some responded with mocking:
Acts 17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked:
That is why few wise men “after the flesh” turn to Jesus—His cross doesn’t make sense to and confounds the carnal mind.