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Hebrew or Aramaic Behind Greek Acts


The Greek of the this verse is “in a very confused state” according to Metzger (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament p. 279). In this case we can see an Aramaic text behind the Greek. The oldest Greek manuscripts have ὁ τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν διὰ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου στόματος Δαυεὶδ παιδός σου εἰπών this Greek is a jumble of chaotic words. Literally “The of the our father, by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of David Your servant, said…” The translators do their best with “who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,”. Charles Cutler Torrey reconstructed an underlying Aramaic of:

היא די אבונא לפום רוחא די קודשא דויד עבדך אמר

“That which our father David Your servant, by the command of the Holy Spirit, said…” where the Greek translator had mistaken היא (that) for הוא (he) creating confused Greek. The original Hebrew behind the Aramaic would thus have been:

את אשר אבינו לפי רוח הקודש דוד עבדך אמר


The Greek reads ὑμεῖς ἐπίστασθε ὅτι ἀφ’ ἡμερῶν ἀρχαίων ἐν ὑμῖν ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεὸς διὰ τοῦ στόματός μου ἀκοῦσαι τὰ ἔθνη τὸν λόγον τοῦ εὐαγγελίου καὶ πιστεῦσαι, “you know that from early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe.” There are several problems with the Greek text here. To begin with the phrase ἐν ὑμῖν “among you” seems out of place. The phrase ἀφ’ ἡμερῶν ἀρχαίων “from early days” does not fit here. It certainly cannot refer to a recent event like Acts 10. Finally the Greek verb ἐξελέξατο “choose” is missing an object. The whole statement in the Greek is a terrible mess. The problem is that the Greek translator translated the Hebrew (or an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew) too literally, creating problems with the Greek syntax. The underlying Hebrew may be reconstructed as אתה יודע כי מן ימים העולם בחר אלהים אתך כי ישמעו הגוים על פי דבר הבשורה ואמינו. “You know that from the days of the world, God has chosen you that the Gentiles will hear according to the goodnews and believe.”Here Kefa is referring to the Jewish people as the people chosen to bring the Goodnews to the Gentiles. The Greek translator mistook על פי as “by my mouth ” instead of idiomatically as “according to”. This sheds new light on the whole passage.

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