|Noah Webster's Dictionary|
(a.) Not known; not apprehended.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
un-non', (agnostos theos): In Acts 17:23 (St. Paul's speech in Athens) the American Standard Revised Version reads: "I found also an altar with this inscription, To AN UNKNOWN GOD. What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you." the King James Version and the English Revised Version margin translate "to the Unknown God," owing to the fact that in Greek certain words, of which theos is one, may drop the article when it is to be understood. In the present case the use of the article. is probably right (compare Acts 17:24). In addition, the King James Version reads "whom" and "him" in place of "what" and "this." The difference here is due to a variation in the Greek manuscripts, most of which support the King James Version. But internal probability is against the King James Version's reading, as it would have been very easy for a scribe to change neuters (referring to the divine power) into masculines after "God," but not vice versa. Hence, modern editors (except yon Soden's margin) have adopted the reading in the Revised Version (British and American).
Paul in Athens, "as he beheld the city full of idols," felt that God was truly unknown there. Hence the altar with the inscription struck him as particularly significant. Some Athenians, at any rate, felt the religious inadequacy of all known deities and were appealing to the God who they felt must exist, although they knew nothing definite about Him. No better starting-point for an address could be wished. What the inscription actually meant, however, is another question. Nothing is known about it. Altars dedicated "to unknown gods" (in the plural) seem to have been fairly common (Jerome on Titus 1:12; Pausanias, i.1, 4; Philaster, Vita Apoll., vi.3), and Blase (Commentary ad loc.) has even suggested that the words in Acts were originally in the plural. But this would spoil the whole point of the speech, and the absence of references to a single inscription among thousands that existed can cause no surprise. Those inscriptions in the plural seem to have been meant in the sense "to the other deities that may exist in addition to those already known," but an inscription in the sing. could not have this meaning. Perhaps a votive inscription is meant, where the worshipper did not know which god to thank for some benefit received. That a slur on all the other Athenian objects of worship was intended is, however, most improbable, but Paul could not of course be expected to know the technical meaning of such inscriptions.
Buston Scott Easton
GOD, THE UNKNOWN
See UNKNOWN GOD.
Unknown (15 Occurrences)
Acts 17:23 For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription:'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I announce to you. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
1 Corinthians 14:2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. (KJV WEY WBS YLT)
1 Corinthians 14:4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. (KJV WEY WBS YLT)
1 Corinthians 14:13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. (KJV WBS YLT)
1 Corinthians 14:14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. (KJV WEY WBS YLT)
1 Corinthians 14:19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. (KJV WEY WBS YLT)
1 Corinthians 14:21 In the Law it stands written, "'By men of unknown tongues and by the lips of an unknown nation will I speak to this People, but even then they will not listen to Me', says the Lord." (WEY)
1 Corinthians 14:27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. (KJV WEY WBS YLT)
2 Corinthians 6:9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and not killed; (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Galatians 1:22 I was still unknown by face to the assemblies of Judea which were in Christ, (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and all passionate feeling, all anger and loud insulting language, be unknown among you--and also every kind of malice. (WEY)
Genesis 41:31 and the plenty will not be known in the land by reason of that famine which follows; for it will be very grievous. (See NAS RSV)
Deuteronomy 28:36 Yahweh will bring you, and your king whom you shall set over you, to a nation that you have not known, you nor your fathers; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone. (See NIV)
Isaiah 48:6 All this has come to your ears and you have seen it; will you not give witness to it? I am now making clear new things, even secret things, of which you had no knowledge. (See NIV)
Daniel 11:38 But in his place shall he honor the god of fortresses; and a god whom his fathers didn't know shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. (See NIV)