[b-greek] Re: EIS in Acts 2:39

From: Iver Larsen (iver_larsen@sil.org)
Date: Wed Mar 06 2002 - 03:31:11 EST

> I think you may have misread what I was intending to say. Yes, I agree,
> translators must use different words in different contexts and
> for different
> reasons. I was trying to HIGHLIGHT the differences here in Acts 2:38 and
> contrast it with verse 39 to draw out the different meaning of
> verse 39, but
> I guess I didn't do such a good job at that. In verse 38, EIS could be
> translated, "to," "for," "into," "unto" or more loosely, "in
> order that" and
> still make sense given its object; but in verse 39 only "to"
> "for" or "unto"
> seem to fit as a translation. It would be awkward to say, "For
> the promise
> is to you and to your children and INTO all them that are a far off;" that
> flavor of EIS does not seem to apply to its object here; hence, it is more
> dative oriented as opposed to more results oriented (as in verse
> 38). Does that make more sense?

Kevin, it is good to probe the different nuances of a word, and you are
doing great. Usually a word has a basic, general meaning. Within that basic,
general idea it will have more narrow senses in different contexts. Try to
think of the meaning of a word as a big circle with many different senses or
nuances inside. The word interacts with the other words it co-occurs with
and it is this interaction that calls for a more specific sense in this
particular environment. For these specific senses we would often have to
choose different words in translation in different contexts. Do not expect
that all the words used in *all* different contexts to translate a word can
be used and make sense in *any given* context. Usually, only one of the
nuances is in focus in one particular context.
To take EIS as an example, the basic general meaning is movement towards
something. So, I would say the general meaning is "up to" or "to". In most
cases it does not have the specific sense "into" unless there is a word for
"enter" or similar words that make it clear that in this context it is not
only up to but also into. It is like in English "go to the house". The word
"to" does not specify whether you enter or not.

In 2:38 we have two imperatives followed by EIS AFESIN TWN hAMARTIWN. Since
AFESIN is a noun with a verbal idea behind it, EIS leads up to an event. So
it is the verbal noun that indicates the sense of consequence, result or
purpose. Which one of these three specific senses is relevant, depends on
the other words in the context.

In 2:39 we have a promise that applies to (with dative indicating the
1) hUMIN - you people listening
2) TOIS TEKNOIS hUMWN - your descendants
3) PASIN TOIS EIS MAKRAN (TOPON/CRONON?) - all the (people) (who are) up to
a far away (place/time?)

Luke could have said PASAN TOIS MAKRAN (or EN MAKRAN) to denote the people
being far away as in Eph 2:17. By using EIS he intends to convey an
inclusiveness: you here, your descendants, and everyone else as far to the
end of the world and the age as there are people living.

That aspect cannot be expressed in English with a preposition before the
words "far away". That is why one has to go to an idiomatic or meaning-based
translation to get the meaning expressed more clearly. A literal translation
like RSV, NRSV, NIV, NASB etc. won't do the trick. They are (more or less)
faithful to the grammar, but often skew or lose the intended meaning.
The Contemporary English Version says: "This promise is for you and your
children. It is for everyone ... no matter where they live."
Notice how this translation has freely restructured the third inclusive part
to bring the meaning across. Sorry for moving into translation philosophy.
My trade betrays me.

Best wishes,
Iver Larsen
SIL Translation consultant

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