Telic EIS in Acts 2:38--Distinction IS Noticeable

From: Danny Andre' Dixon (
Date: Sun Mar 19 2000 - 10:47:04 EST

Dear Jason:<P>
Thanks for responding to my post.<P>
You ask:<P>
[What "possible distinctions of purpose or result"? If one takes <I>EIS</I>
as intentional, the meaning seems clear: God purposed that the repentant
individuals would receive sin remission and Spirit indwelling through
baptism. Whether the individuals fully understood the matter does not lead
to a distinctive usage of the Greek preposition.]<P>
I now respond:<P>
I grant that the end <I>result</I> is the same if one takes <I>eis</I> as
intentional and applies that intention to God. If one is looking at it, not
from the divine perspective but from the human point of view, there is a
very significant difference that has <I>impact</I> as far as the theological
conclusions one might draw on the basis of the lexicography. If in fact
Peter is saying that there is to be a particular state of mind regarding
baptism in the penitant believer who has acknowledged that Jesus is Lord
(Acts 2:37), then one could say that Peter is ordering/commanding the
hearers to be baptized <I>with the thought in mind</I> that he is submitting
to baptism "for the purpose of" remission of his sins.<P>
There are some denominational beliefs that argue just that point: i.e. if
one is not baptized while thinking that he is doing it to be saved from his
sins (cf. Luke 1:77 with Acts 2:38), then one's baptism is without efficacy.
I grant that in arguing that both ideas are telic I am still saying that
forgiveness follows the immersion. <I>However,</I> I would also maintain
that the distinction is significant enough to create a dichotomy between
what many would accuse those with the purposive conception of the passage as
"works salvation," (i.e. one is doing the baptism <I>in order to get</I>
I also grant at the outset that from the common evangelical point of view,
this seems to be pointless dribble. At least one point of my post is to draw
the distinction of usage in the minds of those who read the passage and
conclude that, from <I>their perspective</I>, if one is mistaken about what
occurs at baptism based on what may be concluded by telic-as-result
understanding of <I>eis</I>. Some in Christendom, I believe, are mistaken
when they judge the rest of Christendom for believing that baptism has
nothing to do with <aphesin ton harmartion.</I><P>
The possibility of this distinction for the preposition <I>eis,</I> while
seemingly frivolous generally, is revolutionary in some circles: it allows
them to have a good conscience about the implication that the borders of the
kingdom of God are broader than they, heretofore, had been willing to admit.
I do not believe that those of the perspective I speak of are trying to be
exclusivistic in their perspective of others. A correct understanding of the
Greek, or at least an acknowledgment of the possibilities for <I>eis</I> in
a verse that is, to them, stellar and foundational (for reasons flawed or
otherwise) has this result: lexicography and grammar proves to be more than
a dry and academic exercise; indeed it plays its part in drawing closer all
those who are brothers and sisters in a common kingdom of God.<P>
Surely we didn't study Greek just to be academics. To be sure, it is not
necessary to use an academic forum to chase theological rabbits. Our craft,
I would argue, we pursue with our theological hats carefully hung on a peg
just inside the study door. But while we are purposing not to put that hat
on while going through the rigors of our study and are seeking to avoid
making avoidable theological conclusions, I maintain that we do what we do
to serve those who might want to put on those hats. Thsi is my purpose in
this and the previous post. Some may disagree as to my success in so doing.
At the very least, such considerations give purpose to the study of Greek
beyond the sometimes prideful position we sometimes pridefully maintain
because we can read little squiggles and diacritical marks that evade the
untrained layman.<P>
I wrote:<P>
<<Result as the Meaning of the Greek Preposition eis. The use of eis to
represent result has been the translation in other passages, e.g. Romans
10:10: ". . . for with the heart man believes, resulting in (<I>eis</I>)
righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in (<I>eis</I>)
salvation" (<I>New American Standard Bible</I>). In Acts 2:38, if we take
the incidental rather than the intentional approach, Peter did not command
the hearers to be baptized while understanding that it is done "in order to
receive" the forgiveness of sins. That they might receive it might well be
the incidental result. Whether they were to have preknowledge and intention
to receive it would not be a part of Peter's explanation.>> <P>
You replied:<P>
[Why posit this artificial dichotomy for baptism? One could reference
practically any passage in which a teaching was "clearly" presented and
infer that some of the receiving individuals did not fully grasp the divine
intentions. The teaching, nevertheless, enunciates the divine perspective in
the hope that the mortal will comprehend. One would expect that the
originator of the message intended the neophyte to be taught accordingly,
realizing that at times man's weakness precludes full initial cognizance
(e.g., Paul: I Cor. 3:1ff; Hebrew writer: 6:1ff; Peter: II Pet. 1:12ff;
3:16). In this case Peter taught that baptism effected remission and would
have expected his hearers to so infer.]<P>
I now respond:<P>
There is still a difference, based on the preposition, between what hearers
are <I>commanded to infer</I> and what they, based on the lack of an
explicit command <I>"would have been expected . . . to so infer."</I> The
significance of the difference obtains in what students of the language feel
forced by God to conclude about others "of faith" if there is a command as
opposed to such a conclusion if, absent an order, the "torque is loosened"
as regards how one could feel about those who such Bible students--misguided
or legalistically challenged, I would not doubt--could in good conscience
<I>proslambanesthe me eis diakriseis dialogismon</I> (Romans 14:1).<P>
I wrote:<P>
<<Furthermore, consider that the Ephesian converts' conception of repentance
was certainly deficient in Acts 19:18, when individuals who had already
become believers--such is the force of the Greek perfect active participle
<I>pepisteukoton</I>--and are instructed to repent even beyond that which
they had done in earlier coming to the faith.>> <P>
You replied:<P>
[Again I'm having trouble following your logic. In what sense did the
converts exhibit "deficient" understanding of soteriological repentance,
AUTWN,</I> and similarly burning their <I>BIBLOUS</I> of sorcery? Where are
they "instructed to repent even beyond..." and who gave such instruction?
The public renunciations merely evidenced genuine faith on the part of the
I now reply:<P>
They demonstrated a lack of understanding of <I>metanoia</I>, not when they
confessed and disclosed their practices, but in their response <I>before</I>
this response. Essentially, <I>metanoia</I> means a change of heart
<I>and</I> lifestyle. It is not just "change of mind" as an elementary
etymological consideration of the word would lead one to conclude, rather it
is, for all practical purposes, <I>conversion</I> (See the discussion by J.
Behm, "<I>metanoeo</I> and <I>metanoia</I> in the New Testament," in
<I>Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,</I> IV:999-1006. Also note
Nigel Turner: "Indeed, ‘repentance' expressed by <I>metanoo</I> words . . .
is already becoming a specialized technical term for man's turning from sin,
in Biblical Greek" in "Repentance," <I>Christian Words,</I> [1981], p.
They are said to be <I>pepisteukoton</I>--literally "those who had become
believers [and stood as believers]" (i.e. they were now Christians) Note
that F.F. Bruce calls for one to "note the force of the perfect" tense in
his <I>The Acts of the Apostles</I> [1951], p. 359. Also see the <I>Revised
Standard Version</I> at Acts 19:18.)
It is these who, although deficient in their understanding at the time of
their initial soteriological understanding, make <I>further</I> overtures of
faith by their confessions, revelations, and burnings. The deficiency of
their understanding was not held against them.They simply repent further, so
to speak, based on their increased understanding about their sorcery, given
the pneumatic powers they were observing in Paul's exorcising powers<P>
It would probably be profitable to consider the specific arguments posed by
Marcus and Mantey in the 1951-52 <I>Journal of Biblical Literature</I>
exchange of articles that influenced, for the first time, Arndt's,
Gingrich's and Danker's noncommittal language in acknowledgment of arguments
for and against a "causal use" of <I>eis</I> in <I>A Greek-English
Lexicon</I> (1979), p. 230. One should note that they list Matthew 26:28--to
be compared with Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; and Acts 2:38 which tout similar
language--in a definite use of the preposition "to denote purpose <I>in
order to, to . . . . for the forgiveness of sins, so that sins might be
forgiven</I>" (Ibid., p. 229).<P>
The point is that the telic understanding of <I>eis</I> by <I>some</I> in a
passage like Acts 2:38 is in fact distinct <I>and significant</I>,
demanding, for them, certain theological inferences, which are, regardless
of one's conviction, more properly considered off-list.

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