Re: questions about Acts

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Mar 22 1997 - 07:42:59 EST

At 7:11 PM -0600 3/20/97, Lynn A Kauppi wrote:
>I would appreciate discussion and comments regarding three questions
>about Luke's Greek in Acts, especially by classicists and linguists:
>1. I believe that the verb APOPHTHEGGOMAI (Acts 2:4, 2:14, and 26:25) is
>consistently undertranslated. I have done a preliminary TLG search and
>found that the verb is generally used either to indicate the
>pronouncement of philosophical maxims or is used of oracular
>pronouncement. Is it not necessary to reflect both of these concepts when
>translating these three verses in Acts?

I think that Paul Zellmer has commented on this nicely. I know I have seen
the word used as you indicate in classical texts, but I'd want to run a
contemporary usage in similar contexts in the TLG before feeling any
confidence about Luke's usage here.

>2. Does Luke's use of particles reflect classical usage? E.g., at Acts
>14:11 the Nestle-Aland text uses TE while the Western and majority texts
>use DE. I argue in favor of retaining TE as TE consequential which better
>fits the context than DE. To me, this appears to show that Luke tended
>towards classical usage with particles. Also, is there any reason,
>besides similarity in sound, that scribes would substitute DE for TE?

Are there other such uses of TE in Luke/Acts--ones that would have to be
understood as consequential rather than as coordinating? I checked the
latest LSJ for this yesterday and found that use of TE with the relative
pronouns is particularly common in Herodotus and Thucydides; it is true
that Luke on some occasions (most notably in the proem of the gospel) is
deliberately imitating Thucydides and historians in general. The problem
here is that the hOI followed by this particular TE is not a relative
pronoun but an article, so it's not so easy to put this in the category of
classical usage. I had hoped someone else might have commented on this by
this time (so that I wouldn't have to hazard an uneducated guess!), but I'd
have to say that this TE looks strange to me and that a DE would seem more
natural to me. Of course that's very likely the reason why some copyists
have altered it, for it seems well-enough attested in the MS tradition. I
have neither read nor carried out for myself any extensive study of Lucan
style, but I'm sure it has been studied. Have you checked the F.F. Bruce
commentary on Acts on this one? My impression (no more than that--an
impression based on reading frequently without doing an awful lot of
reflecting) is that Luke writes good clear narrative Greek (with what seem
to me to be some strange consructions at times), that he intended to
emulate the practice of classical and Hellenistic historians, but he
appears to emulate the better narrative style of the LXX with its recurrent
distinctive EGENETO DE ... KAI constructions that are really alien to
ordinary Greek prose of any period. That's a conjectural view, not by any
means a studied opinion. Another one: that the TE in 14:11 is just a
conjunction and not a continuation of any classical usage (which is really
more common with hOS te, hWS-TE and especially hOIOS te).

>3. Is it necessary to translate LOGOS TOU THEOU in Acts 12:24 as "word of
>God"? This seems almost a persistent use of "modern Christian jargon"
>than a good translation. In the context of Acts 12, is not "message and
>revelation of God" a better translation?

Here too I think Paul's answer was right on target: you need to distinguish
clearly between translation and interpretive paraphrase. Certainly "word of
God" is a literal translation, whether or not it happens to conform to
"modern Christian jargon" (most of which, I'd say, tends to depend upon
classical versions of Biblical texts rather than the other way around).

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

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