From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Jan 07 1997 - 10:14:14 EST

At 8:14 AM -0600 1/7/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>I've been staring at this sentence for quite a while now, hoping that it
>would register a definite pattern on my synapses:
>Acts 6:9 (GNT) anesthsan de tines twn ek ths sunagwghs ths legomenhs
>Libertinwn kai Kurhnaiwn kai Alexandrewn kai twn apo Kilikias kai Asias
>suzhtountes tw Stefanw
>My problem, of course, is with the phrase "ek ths sunagwghs ths legomenhs
>Libertinwn kai Kurhnaiwn kai Alexandrewn kai twn apo Kilikias kai Asias",
>and the translations vary widely here. Should I read this as:
>1. a synagogue called the synagogue of the Freedmen, plus others from the
>cities mentioned? - (ek ths sunagwghs ths legomenhs Libertinwn) (kai
>Kurhnaiwn) (kai Alexandrewn) (kai twn apo Kilikias kai Asias)
>2. a synagogue which served both those who are called The Freedmen and other
>Jews who come from the cities mentioned? - ek (ths sunagwghs (ths legomenhs
>Libertinwn kai Kurhnaiwn kai Alexandrewn kai twn apo Kilikias kai Asias) )
>3. (Luther) a school called "the school of the Libertines, the Cyrenes, and
>the Alexandrians", plus others from Cilicia and Asia? - (ek ths sunagwghs
>ths legomenhs Libertinwn kai Kurhnaiwn kai Alexandrewn) (kai twn apo
>Kilikias kai Asias)
>4. (NASB) a synogogue called the Freedmen which included both Cyrenes and
>Alexandrians, plus others from Cilicia and Asia? - I can't quite get it to
>parse this way, but maybe someone can help me here...

It IS a rather awkward sentence, less clear than one normally expects from
Luke, but I would reject #1 and #2 and opt for #3 (perhaps #4 really is the
same?) and understand the construction thus: we have two TWN-groups of
partitives dependent upon TINES--the first is from the congregation of
Freedmen from both Cyrene and Alexandria (understanding the KAI ... KAI as
"both ... and" since KURHNAIWN and ALEXANDREWN would seem to have to be
adjectives qualifying LIBERTINWN)--these are Diaspora Jews from
Greek-speaking African cities--the second is a group of Diaspora Jews from
the Roman provinces of Cilicia and Asia.

Another alternative is to take that second TWN not as a second partitive
dependent upon the early TINES but rather as an ADDITIONAL attributive
qualifier of LIBERTINWN, in which case we get: "some people from the
so-called Synagogue of Freedmen--from Cyrene and Alexandria and also those
(freedmen) from Cilicia and Asia." That is to say, it is a congregation
consisting of ex-slaves from the Jewish Diaspora of Greek-speaking north
Africa and Asia Minor.

Thinking back over the possibilities, I'm not sure that #3 is really any
more probable than #4; I think both are grammatically possible; the more I
think about it, however, the more I lean to #4--that it's a Freedmen's
congregation drawn from the Jewish Diaspora both south and north of

Curious: we often talk about how much more precise and determinate Greek
sentences are but this one is quite ambiguous, admitting of at least two
and perhaps still more possible constructions. It's an interesting passage
for illustrating the IMPRECISION that is possible in a Greek sentence.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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