Re: Acts 19:2

Stephen C Carlson (
Tue, 12 Mar 1996 11:57:11 -0500 (EST)

Sherry Kull wrote:
>I promised my beginning Greek students that I'd ask you b-greekers for your
>input on the usage of PISTEUSANTES in Acts 19:2. The verse asks: EI PNEUMA
>hAGION ELABETE PISTEUSANTES? Our textbook suggested that it could
>legitimately mean action prior to the action of the main verb or attendant
>circumstance, with neither grammar nor immediate context strongly pointing
>one way or the other. What do you think? With the diversity of theological
>positions represented by b-greek, I can't wait for your responses!

I've looked at this issue some time ago -- and I'm sure others may
correct me -- but I am under the impression that the meaning is quite
vague here. Although the normal "rule" is that an aorist participle
means action prior to the main verb, that does not often apply when the
main verb is in the aorist as ELABETE is. So, it may be either.

It may be difficult to avoid theological issues with this verse as it
is a proof text for those (mainly Pentecostals and charismatics in my
perception) who view "receiving the Holy Spirit" to be a distinct (but
not necessarily separate) event from (water) baptism.

This verse also shows up in criticisms of the KJV's translation ("since
ye believed"). Part of the criticism is somewhat misplaced because one
of the meanings of "since" in the 17th century was indeed "when." Also,
"since" has an atemporal meaning, "in view of the fact that," so "since"
is no more precise than the Greek.

Stephen Carlson

Stephen C. Carlson, George Mason University School of Law, Patent Track, 4LE              : Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs     : chant the words.  -- Shujing 2.35