The modern-day definition of an academy can be, but is not limited to, a "school or place of learning, or any association formed, for literary, artistic, musical, religious, scientific or military pursuits." The term academy, and from it, academic, is very ancient; it originated from the name given to an olive grove outside Athens where the pagan Greek philosopher Plato (427?-347 B.C) taught. Plato named it the Academy after the Greek hero Academus, or Hecademus, who had owned the land and given it to the citizens of Athens.
By the time of the New Testament, although there were some believers of the True God in the city, and although at least some of the philosophers seemed to realize that the True God existed, Athens had become the world capital for the many schools of God-ignoring philosophy, literature, science, and art (as opposed to God-acknowledging philosophy, literature, science, and art - see The First Scientist).
Paul and the Pagan Philosophers of Athens
When Paul arrived in Athens during his second missionary journey (see Paul's First Missionary Journey, Paul's Second Missionary Journey and Paul's Third Missionary Journey), he found the city full of idols. With much diplomacy and tact, he managed to convince a substantial number of people that their lifeless "gods" were completely worthless, and that there is only one True and Living God.
"Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed."
"Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he argued in the Synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the market place every day with those who chanced to be there. Some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers met him. And some said, "What would this babbler say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities" - because he preached Jesus and the resurrection. And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is which you present? For you bring some strange things to our ears; we wish to know therefore what these things mean." Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new."
"So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 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 as unknown, this I proclaim to you."
"The God Who made the world and everything in it [see The Seven Days Of Creation], being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man [see "My Father's House"], nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And He made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after Him and find Him. Yet He is not far from each one of us, for 'In Him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, 'For we are indeed His offspring.'"
"Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed, and of this He has given assurance to all men by raising Him from the dead."
"Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, "We will hear you again about this." So Paul went out from among them. But some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them." (Acts 17:15-34 RSV)
Fact Finder: How did Paul describe the coming resurrections?