[b-greek] Re: Hairsplitting (Acts 13: 48) Did I miss something?

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Thu Sep 14 2000 - 07:06:33 EDT

At 5:43 PM +0700 9/13/00, Rafael Zabar wrote:
>I recently reviewed Mr. Conrad's comments on this verse. Did I misread
>what he was trying to say?
>That is, where the "Gentiles appointed/ordained to eternal life" and
>therefore as many as "were appointed to eternal life", that is those
>Gentiles in that category, "believed"?
>I pose this question lest I may have misread what he meant! Nothing
>theological here but only a question on what the significance of the words
>used. Frankly, I am also at a loss to describe it with a technical term.
>Partitive, subordination, or what?

Boy, we're reaching way back; that's that two-week long thread on HSAN
TETAGMENOI in Acts 13:48 back in the summer of '99; we had a brief
discussion of that more recently this past summer. As I recall the focus of
the discussion in summer '99 was on the morphology and on the choice of
what is technically a pluperfect tense form.

There is something perilous (potentially) in Rafael/Lemuel's question here
as we don't want to discuss theology and get into a discussion of
predestination here as some might be inclined to do. And frankly, I don't
think there's any need to do that: those who are so inclined can go off and
have their private discussion of what this text implies about providence
and God's ultimate dispensation. Let's not do it here.

Having said that, I would like to defend my phrasing of my understanding of
Acts 13:48.


The construction of the phrase in question: hOSOI HSAN TETAGMENOI EIS ZWHN
AIWNION is the subject, EPISTEUSAN is the verb.

I argued that HSAN TETAGMENOI EIS ZWHN AIWNION should be understood as a
"stative" construction. I did, in the summer of '99, stick with "were
appointed/ordained to eternal life" as a translation that retains something
of the literal sense of the verb TASSW when TETAGMENOI HSAN gets translated
into English. But the more I've thought about it the more inclined I am to
think that in the English of our own time, a better phrasing might be,
"those who were 'in line' for eternal life believed."

Now it occurs to me that we ought to pay more attention to the fact that
HSAN TETAGMENOI is middle or passive (I'd say middle and that might well
involve us in another discussion; some might even want to bring in that old
category of "divine passive" but I'd rather not. When I say we ought to pay
more attention to the fact that this is middle or passive, all I mean is
that the author clearly is not concerned to make a statement about how it
happened that these particular Gentiles were "ordained to eternal life" or
about WHO ordained them to eternal life--he wants to say only that they
were in this state of being "in line" and so believed.

I really don't think anything more is meant by this phrase than we mean by
saying "All those who were prepared for the test passed it with flying
colors." Nothing is said about who prepared the persons in question,
whether they had hit the midnight oil for several nights in a row or
someone had given them half a dozen help sessions to make sure that they
understood all the problems on which they would be examined. What the
phrasing says is nothing more than "those who were ready for the test
passed it" and of course it's also implied that "those who weren't ready
didn't pass it."

I would like to think that matters regarding this verse are that simple and
that there's no need to make this verse the buttress for more than it
actually says.


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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