From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

( Acts 17:22, δεισιδαιμονεστέρους, Revised Version‘somewhat superstitious,’ marg.[Note: margin.]‘somewhat religious’)

The Greek word, derived from δείδειν, ‘to fear’ and δαίμων, ‘demon,’ was originally used in a good sense (Xenophon, Cyrop. III. iii. 58; Aristotle, Pol. V. xi. 25; Polybius, VI. lvi. 7) but underwent a change of meaning. It is used in a bad sense, for instance, by later writers, as Josephus (Ant. XV. viii. 2; Plutarch, de Superstit. 10). The authorities are divided as to the sense in which St. Paul used it, the majority at the present day being in favour of the rendering ‘religious’; so Knowling, Ramsay, Verrall, Farrar, T. K. Abbott, Page, Rackham, Trench, Blass, Renan, Weiss, Holtzmann, Weizsäcker, and many others.

In favour of this view it is stated that St. Paul was hardly likely to have offended the audience at the opening of his apology. The prevailing practice of commencing a speech in an ingratiating tone is followed by him at Caesarea. ‘It was not St. Paul’s habit to affront and by affronting to alienate his hearers, least of all at the outset of a discourse intended to win them to the truth’ (R. C. Trench, Synonyms of the NT8, London, 1876, p. 172). Further, the usual Greek word for ‘piety’ was εὐσεβεία, and he uses the cognate verb εὐσεβεῖτε in the next verse. Once more, δεισιδαιμονία is used of the Jewish religion in  Acts 25:19, and must there have been intended in a good sense.

On the other hand, the philosophers, to whom St. Paul was addressing himself, at least in part, must have understood the word as meaning ‘superstitious,’ and they would have heartily concurred in such an epithet. A doubtful passage in the Characters of Theophrastus (xvi.) gives a picture of the δεισιδαίμων as one who had frequent recourse to soothsayers and was a strong believer in omens; while the Stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius (Meditat. i. 3) expresses his thankfulness that he takes after his mother in the matter of devotion (θεοσεβής), and that his father escaped the fate of a δεισιδαίμων (ib. i. 16). Nestle has pointed out (Expository Timesxi. [1899-1900] 378) that the ominous word ‘demon’ could never have conveyed anything but a bad sense to a Jew, which is borne out by Josephus’ use of the word. The force of the comparative may be ‘too,’ ‘very,’ ‘rather,’ or ‘somewhat.’ We can certainly agree that St. Paul would never have commenced a speech with a studied insult, but he was a man who said what he thought, and the word was most applicable to the popular religion of the day. It is unlikely that he meant to convey the idea of reproof, but he certainly meant ‘superstitious.’ The philosophers would understand as much and would agree with him, while the populace would be merely interested and wait for an explanation, since for them the word did not contain the note of contempt that it held for the philosophers. Here are some of the renderings: Ramsay, ‘more than others respectful of what is divine’; Renan, ‘le plus religieux’; Holtzmann, ‘Gottesfürchtige’; Zöckler and Weiss agree with the latter; Nestle and Moffatt, ‘rather superstitions’; Chase, ‘very superstitious.’

Literature.-Besides the commentaries of those mentioned, see F. Field, Notes on the Translation of the NT, Cambridge, 1899; T. K. Abbott, in CQR[Note: QR Church Quarterly Review.]xxix. [1890] 284; F. H. Chase, Credibility of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, London, 1902; Expository Timesxviii. [1906-07] 485 f.

F. W. Worsley.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [2]

1: Δεισιδαιμονία (Strong'S #1175 — Noun Feminine — deisidaimon — dice-ee-dahee-mon-ee'-ah )

"reverent to the deity" (deido, "to fear;" daimon, "a demon," or "pagan god"), occurs in  Acts 17:22 in the comparative degree, rendered "somewhat superstitious," RV (AV, "too superstitious"), a meaning which the word sometimes has; others, according to its comparative form, advocate the meaning "more religious (than others)," "quite religious" (cp. the noun in   Acts 25:19 ). This is supported by Ramsay, who renders it "more than others respectful of what is divine;" so Deissmann in Light from the Ancient East, and others. It also agrees with the meaning found in Greek writers; the context too suggests that the adjective is used in a good sense; perhaps, after all, with kindly ambiguity (Grimm-Thayer). An ancient epitaph has it in the sense of "reverent" (Moulton and Milligan).

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): ( a.) Evincing superstition; overscrupulous and rigid in religious observances; addicted to superstition; full of idle fancies and scruples in regard to religion.

(2): ( a.) Overexact; scrupulous beyond need.

(3): ( a.) Of or pertaining to superstition; proceeding from, or manifesting, superstition; as, superstitious rites; superstitious observances.

King James Dictionary [4]

SUPERSTI'TIOUS, a. L. superstitiosus.

1. Over scrupulous and rigid in religious observances addicted to superstition full of idle fancies and scruples in regard to religion as superstitious people. 2. Proceeding from superstition manifesting superstition as superstitious rites superstitious observances. 3. Over exact scrupulous beyond need.

Superstitious use, in law, the use of land for a religious purpose, or by a religious corporation.

Holman Bible Dictionary [5]

 Acts 17:22 Acts 25:19