Re: Acts 17:27

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Jun 11 1999 - 07:32:33 EDT

This IS interesting indeed. Obviously I know nothing more about Codex Bezae
other than the recurrent snippets Clay throws out and comments by Edward
Hobbs and others about the extraordinarily idiosyncratic Greek of its text
of Acts. May I ask: is it a retranslation into Greek from the Latin?

At 1:51 PM -0700 6/10/99, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
>I have run into a few difficulties in Acts 17:27-28 with regard to
>rendering gender in Codex Bezae (D).
>Acts 17:27-28a D reads
>My first problem is TO QEION ESTIN. Ropes, Barrett, Fitzmyer all seem to
>throw out ESTIN. But a translation of D (?author?) renders this: "that
>which is divine." If Barrett is correct and ESTIN is an attempt to
>follow the latin of D, the perhaps ESTIN should just be ignored. In
>that case TO QEION ESTIN could be rendered "the deity" but that only
>solves the first problem.

At 1:59 PM -0700 6/10/99, clayton stirling bartholomew added:
>One obvious thing I failed to mention is that translating the neuter TO
>QEION ESTIN and the following AUTO as neuter in English is not a given
>by any means. I didn't mean to imply that every time you see AUTO you
>need to render it IT. This would be a rather wooden headed approch to
>things. What I am really trying to find out more than anything is what
>can be made of TO QEION ESTIN?

I guess "that which is divine" or "what is divine" is OK for TO QEION, but
ESTIN can't be included in that case (it would have to be hO\ QEION ESTIN).
I suspect that the other commentators are right to reject ESTIN, but
there's one unlikely possibility: that ESTIN is for PARESTIN or EXESTIN ( =
"it is especially possible <for every nation> to seek the divine"); I don't
really believe that's right, because I think we'd have )/ESTIN (accented on
first syllable) and placed at the beginning of the clause if it were to
have that sense. Without the ESTIN, we do at least have an intelligible
sequence, assuming that the ZHTEIN does follow here as it does in UBS4/NA27
upon the EPOIHSEN of verse 16: "especially has made [them] seek the divine

>After TO QEION ESTIN the following AUTO and ON are both neuter. This
>raises the question in my mind: how impersonal is this TO QEION ESTIN?
>And what do we do when we reach the first part of verse 28? Do we return
>to a personal (him/her) or do we translate AUTWi as IT?
>If we read the context the neuter TO QEION ESTIN seems out of place, but
>the agreement of AUTO and ON indicate that it was not just a slip but
>intentional. So how should I handle the change from HIM (17:26) to IT
>(17:27) and then back to HIM in verse 28?

Yes, AUTO and ON are definitely accommodated to the neuter TO QEION, and in
my opinion (FWIW) the AUTWi is neuter rather than masculine, as it appears
to me that these neuters are accommodated to the context of Aratus, whose
Zeus is here spoken of as an impersonal Stoic LOGOS or rational principle
immanent in all things and functioning as a causal force (to be sure, I
think that AUTWi is masculine in Aratus' original text because it refers
back to nominal forms of ZEUS in preceding lines (gen. DIOS/acc. DIA), but
it looks to me like this person behind the text of D means by using TO
QEION to speak of God as an impersonal rational principle, accommodating
the Pauline sermon to the implications of Aratus' poem here cited. So I'd
make it "especially has made [them] seek the divine, if perchance they
might palpably discern or discover it, inasmuch too as it is not far away
from each one of us."

The text you cite from D for the second clause of 17 is interesting for the
forms of the aorist optative found in them:


UBS4/NA27 have YHLAFHSEIEN and hEUROIEN, the proper Attic aorist optative 3
pl; on the other hand D's YHLAFHSAISAN shows the all-purpose 3d pl.
secondary ending -SAN attached to a first-aorist optative stem, whereas the
classical ending would have given YHLAFHSAIEN; the same all-purpose 3d pl.
secondary ending -SAN also shows up attached to a second aorist stem in
hEUROISAN. I've never seen this elsewhere, although it is intelligible and
undoubtedly does reflect the fluctuation of morphology of the later Koine:
it is what we were calling, a few weeks ago, "bad" but intelligible Greek.

Interesting too is the form of the verse cited from Aratus:


Noteworthy is KEINOUMEQA for KINOUMEQA ("we move"): the EI is an
alternative spelling of the sound of Iota in this instance, I assume--one
sees in papyrus letters the interchangeability of vowels and diphthongs
that have all shifted by the late Koine Itacism into an indistinguishable
"EE" sound. The same thing may possibly account for the first-hand AUTHi
(pron "AFTEE"?), since by this point AUTH, AUTOI, AUTHi would all be
pronounced alike and the sort of confusion between masc. and fem. forms is
not so surprising, particularly if this scribe is not (as appears to be the
case?) particularly competent in "school" Greek. But at any rate the error
was corrected by a second hand and the appropriate M/N form AUTWi written
over the AUTHi. And as I've said, I'd guess that the AUTWi ought to be
understood in THIS context as neuter, even if it was masculine in the
original text of Aratus.

I hope this may be helpful; I confess that I have found it more interesting
as an illustration of linguistic history --the fluctuation of grammatical
forms and also of understanding of the text being transcribed--and
apparently being transcribed as understood rather than simply transcribed
as it was evident in the original being copied.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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