This post is somewhat inspired by Acts Lesson 35 on Paul’s Passing Thoughts, which made me want to share my thoughts on this verse.
Andrew mentions that the word “believed” is normally put at the end of the translations, but it comes earlier in the Greek texts. This is something I noticed before, that this clause kind of hangs suspiciously at the end of Acts 13:48.
ακουοντα δε τα εθνη εχαιρεν και εδοξαζον τον λογον του κυριου και επιστευσαν
But hearing this the Gentiles began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and believed.
οσοι ησαν τεταγμενοι εις ζωην αιωνιον
(as many as had been appointed to eternal life)
The second clause is entirely extraneous to the sentence. Its a parenthetical, and could easily be a scribal gloss that was taken into the text.
Andrew mentioned that Tyndale had the word order right.
Darby also leaves the word order right:
“And [those of] the nations, hearing it, rejoiced, and glorified the word of the Lord, and believed, as many as were ordained to eternal life.”
So does Young’s Literal translation:
“And the nations hearing were glad, and were glorifying the word of the Lord, and did believe — as many as were appointed to life age-during;”
I would notice one more thing on the word τεταγμενοι (“appointed” in the NASB). If you look up the word in Liddell and Scott you find in the 3rd definition, part 4:
4.in Mid., also, generally, to agree upon, settle, Plat.
“in Mid.” in middle voice, something being done by one to oneself (the middle voice and passive don’t differ in form in Greek, so God doing it to someone vs them doing it to themselves, the word looks the same)
“as many as agreed to eternal life” or “as many as settled on eternal life”
Another definition in there is
Mid. to take a payment on oneself, i. e. agree to pay it
“as many as agreed to render the necessary obedience for eternal life”
In the first definition, we find this:
Mid. to fall in, form in order of battle
“as many as fell into rank for eternal life”
The key here is whether you take this to be in Passive or Middle voice. And in Greek, they both look exactly the same. Passive would be something God does to them, but Middle is something they’re doing to themselves. So any time in the New Testament you see what looks like a passive, there is always a possibility its a Middle, because they look exactly the same in Greek. So YOU have to decide whether to read it as a Passive or Middle voice.
Even though you could make it work per any of the above, I personally just feel in my gut its a scribal gloss taken into the text, because there’s just no legitimate reason for the clause (οσοι ησαν τεταγμενοι εις ζωην αιωνιον) to be there…..or is there?
I suppose that you can take τεταγμενοι here as opposed to verse 46 where Paul tells the Jews: “since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” In contrast to this, the acceptance of the Gentiles (“as many as agreed to eternal life”) can be taken to mean, basically, as many as counted themselves worthy of eternal life.
Yes, that seems the best interpretation.
Since Acts was probably not originally written in Greek anyway, and is probably a translation from some other language into Greek (from Aramaic? from Latin?) the difficulty in seeing that verse 48 is counterposed against verse 46 is the fault of the translator into Greek using a weird phrase to represent what undoubtedly could have been more easily represented by just saying “as many as counted themselves worthy of eternal life.” This is why they say translators are traitors.
[This is ground I’ve covered before, but maybe I was slightly more scholarly this time around. See the old post from January 2014: Behold my thinking on Acts 13:48 evolve before your very eyes if you dare. Actually, I didn’t do too bad. I even mentioned verse 48 being juxtaposed against verse 46 back then. And there I acknowledge that the suggestion about the Middle voice here originally came to me from someone named Gary. I don’t remember who that is now, but I acknowledge my debt to him. Actually, my unscholarlyness over there may be a plus. Its kind of comedic, which drives the point home really well.]