Re: Acts 19:2

David Moore (
Tue, 12 Mar 1996 23:37:06 -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!

The aorist participle can be translated as referring to action
prior to the main verb or by action coincident with it. A close study of
instances of the aorist participle in context throughout the New Testament
shows, however, that its use to express coincident action is mainly in
several well defined constructions.

The most-often-found construction in which the action of the
aorist participle expresses coincident action is the Hebraistic APOKRIQEIS
EIPEN ("answered and said") and similar constructions, all of which
express the continuation of dialogue. These are really a case apart,
since they render the Hebrew WY`N W'MR (e.g. Gen. 18:27 MT; cf. LXX) with
wooden literalism and should not influence our exegesis of passages that
do not contain this same expression.

If we set aside the "answered and said" constructions as mentioned
above, there are few remaining instances where an aorist participle can be
construed as expressing action coincident with the main verb, but in these
latter, it is most often the case that the participle defines what is
meant by the main verb. See, for instance, Heb. 7:27, "This He did once
for all time, offering himself up;" Mat. 27:4 "I sinned in betraying
innocent blood;" Acts 10:33, "You have done well in coming here."
Nevertheless, if one were strongly committed to the idea that Paul was
talking about the selfsame experience in referring to *receiving* the Holy
Spirit and *believing* in Acts 19:2, you might say that the aorist
participle here is also defining what is meant by the main verb. So
finally we are drawn to the context to resolve the dilemma presented by
grammatical considerations in reference to this verse.

What Paul has meant by "receive the Holy Spirit" (Acts 19:2) is
apparently illustrated by the charismatic signs reported in v. 6. When
these manifestations are taken in the light of both the rest of the book
of Acts and of Luke's general attitude toward the charismatic operation of
the Holy Spirit, it seems clear that PISTEUSANTES in 19:2 expresses action
anterior to the main verb.

A book that deals at length, and quite well, with both the
theological, and the exegetical dimensions relating to this matter is
Roger Stronstad, _The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke_, (Peabody, Ma.:
Hendrickson, 1984). From the opposing perspective, and prior to
Stronstad, see James D. G. Dunn, _Baptism in the Holy Spirit_
(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970).

All the best,

David L. Moore Southeastern Spanish District
Miami, Florida of the Assemblies of God Department of Education