Re: eis aphesin hamartiwn
Fri, 24 May 1996 16:38:46 -0400

James Vellenga wrote to disagree that EIS APHESIN HAMARTIWN has to mean "in
order to obtain the forgiveness of sins" (paralleled with the same
prepositional phrase in Matt.26:28):

>Allow me to demur and to state reasons.
>In English (by way of analogy), the "meaning" of a preposition is
>determined not only by the object of the preposition but also by what
>the prepositional phrase hangs off of. Consider, for example, the
>phrase "for the Patriots" (New England football team):
> Robert Kraft paid X million dollars for (in exchange for) the
> Patriots.
> Tony Eason played quarterback for (on behalf of or under the direction
> of) the Patriots.
> My family cheers for (in favor of) the Patriots.

Of course, the particular usage of a preposition in a sentence does affect
its meaning. However, a Greek preposition like EIS certainly does not have
the wide range of usages that the English preposition FOR does. For example,
while FOR might look backwards (cause) or forwards (aim, purpose), EIS always
looks forwards (except when it doubles for EN describing literal location),
not backwards..

This is true even in Matt.3:11--EIS METANOIAN. While, of course, their
repentance was to have begun prior to their being baptized (Lk.3:7,8), John's
baptism was aimed at promoting their continued repentance, as this baptism
pointed them in faith to Jesus (Acts 19:4). So, again, EIS looks forward
even in this passage.

Mr. Vellenga stated:
>-- In each case (except _possibly_ Acts 2.38) the object of EIS is in
>existence before the act of BAPTIZW.
>-- In most cases, in baptism the baptizee somehow seems to be
>appropriating or recognizing something which already exists. Cf.
>especially Matt 3.11 "I'm really baptizing you EN water EIS repentance."
>So my take is that the grammar permits but does not require EIS in Acts
>2.38 to be interpreted as "in order to obtain", and even if we do so
>interpret it, it doesn't mean that the forgiveness follows or is even
>dependent on the baptism.

While the objects of EIS in Matt.28:19; Acts 8:16; 19:5; Rom.6:3;
Gal.3;27 (namely, the name of Jesus, Christ's death, Christ's body, etc.)
are, of course, already in existence before one is baptized, this does not
mean that he has already appropriated these objects prior to his being
baptized. If we are baptized "into Christ" or "into His death", this implies
we were outside Christ, outside the benefits of His death, before we were
baptized. So, the most obvious meaning of EIS APHESIN HAMARTIWN--"in order
to obtain the forgiveness of sins"--is still in order, as is further
supported by other passages that speak of our appropriating the blood of
Christ at the point of baptism, as an act of faith (Acts 22:16; I Pet.3:21;
John 3:5). Writings of the early Christians consistently support this
conclusion as well.

Good luck with the Patriots, Jim!

Don Partain