Written By Angelique Geeringh
Damaris is only mentioned once by Luke, but the fact that she is mentioned at all encourages us to take a closer look at this woman. We read about her in Acts 17:16-34. When Paul arrived in Athens, he started talking and teaching about the Gospel to the members of various philosophical schools of thought. After some time, he was invited to speak to the council at the Areopagus (on Mars hill). The Areopagus was a court where intellectuals and other cultural elites would meet to critique new ideas.
As a result of Paul’s speech, several people at the meeting came to faith in Jesus, including Damaris, a woman notable enough for Luke to mention by name. In a strict sense, Damaris would not have been an Areopagite because women were generally not allowed to participate. The primary exception was for hetaerae, essentially courtesans or mistresses, well-educated women who provided companionship and intellectual stimulation for prominent men. Damaris may well have been such hetaerae before her conversion. Dionysius is also mentioned by name, and some scholars suggest she may have been in a relationship with him.
When we look at Damaris and at Lydia, we see that even in a society where women were not held in high regard, these two ladies had managed to create their own space in the social circles of the day. It is interesting to think about the fact that the Gospel of Jesus and the Good News was not only preached to the poorer people but also discussed and debated in the places where the intellectuals would share ideas and opinions. Paul mentioned the ‘unknown god’, and his speech is a beautiful model of how to communicate the Gospel to those that have no background in the Bible. Just as Paul did, may we shine our light for Jesus wherever we are and also be the reflection of Christ to all we come into contact with.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)
‘Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings.’