Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Silence of the Lamb and the Proclamation of the Church


Here is my rough translation of Acts 8:26-40

26 Ἄγγελος δὲ κυρίου ἐλάλησεν πρὸς Φίλιππον λέγων, Ἀνάστηθι καὶ πορεύου κατὰ μεσημβρίαν ἐπὶ τὴν ὁδὸν τὴν καταβαίνουσαν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ εἰς Γάζαν: αὕτη ἐστὶν ἔρημος.
Yet an angel of a lord spoke to Philip saying, “Rise and take yourself toward the south to the road going up from Jerusalem into Gaza;” this is desert. [or ‘desolate’]
ἐλάλησεν: AAI 3s, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak  2a) to use the tongue or the faculty of speech
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Ἀνάστηθι: AAImpv 2s, ἀνίστημι, 1) to cause to rise up, raise up  1a) raise up from laying down  1b) to raise up from the dead  1c) to raise up, cause to be born, to cause to appear, bring forward  2) to rise, stand up
πορεύου: PMImpv 2s, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer  1a) to pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on  one's journey
καταβαίνουσαν: PAPart asf, καταβαίνω, 1) to go down, come down, descend  1a) the place from which one has come down from  1b) to come down  1b1) as from the temple at Jerusalem, from the city of Jerusalem
ἐστὶν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present

27 καὶ ἀναστὰς ἐπορεύθη: καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ Αἰθίοψ εὐνοῦχος δυνάστης Κανδάκης βασιλίσσης Αἰθιόπων, ὃς ἦν ἐπὶ πάσης τῆς γάζης αὐτῆς, ὃς ἐληλύθει προσκυνήσων εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ,
And having risen he went; and behold a man Ethiopian eunuch official of Candace Queen of Ethiopia, who was over all of her treasury, who had come to worship in Jerusalem, 
ἀναστὰς: AAPart nsm, ἀνίστημι, 1) to cause to rise up, raise up  1a) raise up from laying down  1b) to raise up from the dead  1c) to raise up, cause to be born, to cause to appear, bring forward  2) to rise, stand up
ἐπορεύθη: API 3s, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer  1a) to pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on  one's journey
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἐληλύθει: PluAI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
προσκυνήσων: FAPart nsm, προσκυνέω, 1) to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence  2) among the Orientals, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and  touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound  reverence
The phrase “a man Ethiopian eunuch official” is a string of nominative masculine singular nouns, which, together make up the subject of this sentence. Many translations make this “a man of Ethiopia,” but it is literally a bit more awkward. The main verb “was reading” (ἀνεγίνωσκεν) comes in the next verse, after four participial phrases about him. I’ve translated each participle as “who was …” or “who is …” for emphasis. 

28 ἦν τε [or δὲ] ὑποστρέφων καὶ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τοῦ ἅρματος αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀνεγίνωσκεν τὸν προφήτην Ἠσαΐαν.
[and] who was both returning and who is sitting in his chariot and was reading the prophet Isaiah. 
ὑποστρέφων: PAPart nsm, ὑποστρέφω, 1) to turn back  1a) to turn about  2) to return
καθήμενος: PMPart nsm, κάθημαι, 1) to sit down, seat one's self  2) to sit, be seated, of a place occupied  2a) to have a fixed abode, to dwell
ἀνεγίνωσκεν: IAI 3s, ἀναγινώσκω, 1) to distinguish between, to recognise, to know accurately,  to acknowledge  2) to read
There are some discrepancies among the early texts whether the second word here is a δὲ or a τε – a very simple mistake for a copyist to make. No big deal, as far as I can tell. The δὲ is more comfortable. 

29 εἶπεν δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα τῷ Φιλίππῳ, Πρόσελθε καὶ κολλήθητι τῷ ἅρματι τούτῳ.
And the spirit said to Philip, “Approach and be joined to this chariot.”
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Πρόσελθε: AAImpv 2s, προσέρχομαι, 1) to come to, approach  2) draw near to  3) to assent to
κολλήθητι: APImpv 2s, 1) join one's self to glue together. In NT middle or passive aorist, to adhere, cleave to; to become one's servant or follower.
Notice that the one directing Philip here, called ‘an angel of [the] lord’ in v.26 is now ‘the spirit’.  I suppose one could argue that these are tag team directors, but more likely this language reflects a mind of pre-Trinitarian fluidity in the church’s language about “the [or often “a”] spirit of the lord.” Even the phrase that is typically translated “the Holy Spirit” is just as easily (and probably more accurately) translated “the/a spirit of holiness.” The Greek text does not have it capitalized and often has an indefinite, rather than a definite article. This is true even in Acts, which has a lot of emphasis on the directive and empowering role of this spirit. 

30 προσδραμὼν δὲ ὁ Φίλιππος ἤκουσεν αὐτοῦ ἀναγινώσκοντος Ἠσαΐαν τὸν προφήτην, καὶ εἶπεν, αρά γε γινώσκεις ἃ ἀναγινώσκεις;
And Philip having run near was hearing him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you even know what you are reading?” 
προσδραμὼν: AAPart nsm, προστρέχω, 1) to run to
ἤκουσεν: AAI 3s, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf  2) to hear  2b) to attend to, consider what is or has been said
ἀναγινώσκοντος: PAPart gsm ἀναγινώσκω, 1) to distinguish between, to recognise, to know accurately,  to acknowledge  2) to read
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
αρά: Interrogative particle, marking an inferential question to which a negative answer is expected: Lk. xviii. 8; with γε rendering it more pointed, ἆρά γε [G T ἆράγε]:
γινώσκεις: PAI 2s, γινώσκω, 1) to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel  1a) to become known
ἀναγινώσκεις: ἀναγινώσκω, 1) to distinguish between, to recognise, to know accurately,  to acknowledge  2) to read
Lexicons point out that the interrogative αρά implies the expectation of a negative response. It is intensified by adding the γε. Hence, I phrased Philip’s question strongly.

31 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Πῶς γὰρ ἂν δυναίμην ἐὰν μή τις ὁδηγήσει με; παρεκάλεσέν τε τὸν Φίλιππον ἀναβάντα καθίσαι σὺν αὐτῷ.
Yet he said, “How am I able, unless someone would guide me? And he invited Philip having come up to sit with him. 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
δυναίμην: PMO 1s, δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power whether by virtue of one's own ability and  resources, or of a state of mind, or through favourable  circumstances, or by permission of law or custom  2) to be able to do something  3) to be capable, strong and powerful
ὁδηγήσει: FAI 3s, ὁδηγέω, 1) to be a guide, lead on one's way, to guide  2) to be a guide or a teacher  2a) to give guidance to
παρεκάλεσέν: AAI 3s, παρακαλέω, 1) to call to one's side, call for, summon  2) to address, speak to, (call to, call upon), which may be done in  the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc
ἀναβάντα: AAPart asm, ἀναβαίνω, 1) ascend  1a) to go up  1b) to rise, mount, be borne up, spring up
καθίσαι: AAImpv 2s, καθίζω, 1) to make to sit down  1a) to set, appoint, to confer a kingdom on one  2) intransitively
The Ethiopian’s question raises an important issue regarding interpretation, which I will address below. For now, it is an interesting contrast between the Ethiopian’s position of power and his need for a “guide.” When he invites Philip in, it could be more of a summons than an invitation (with the same authoritarian voice used to order the chariot to stop in v.38), but the official’s language toward Philip seems much more respectful throughout. Luke likes to include stories where others show deference to the Apostles. 

32 ἡ δὲ περιοχὴ τῆς γραφῆς ἣν ἀνεγίνωσκεν ἦν αὕτη: Ὡς πρόβατον ἐπὶ σφαγὴν ἤχθη, καὶ ὡς ἀμνὸς ἐναντίον τοῦ κείραντος αὐτὸν ἄφωνος, οὕτως οὐκ ἀνοίγει τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ.
And the portion of the writing which he was reading was this: “As a sheep to slaughter he was led, and silent as a lamb facing his shearer, thus he is not opening his mouth. 
ἀνεγίνωσκεν: IAI 3s, ἀναγινώσκω, 1) to distinguish between, to recognise, to know accurately,  to acknowledge  2) to read
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἤχθη: API 3s, ἄγω, 1) to lead, take with one  1a) to lead by laying hold of, and this way to bring to the  point of destination: of an animal
ἀνοίγει: PAI 3s, ἀνοίγω, 1) to open
I’m not sure why the αὐτὸν (him) following “shearer” is in the accusative and not the genitive case. I can’t see how it makes sense unless we translate it as a genitive, “his.” 
The phrase “opening his mouth” reappears below. 

33 Ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει [αὐτοῦ] ἡ κρίσις αὐτοῦ ἤρθη: τὴν γενεὰν αὐτοῦ τίς διηγήσεται; ὅτι αἴρεται ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ.
In the [his] humiliation his judgment was taken away; Who shall describe his generation? Because his life was taken from the earth. 
ἤρθη: API 3s, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up  1a) to raise from the ground, take up: stones  1b) to raise upwards, elevate, lift up: the hand
διηγήσεται: FMI 3s, διηγέομαι, 1) to lead or carry a narration through to the end  2) set forth, recount, relate in full, describe
αἴρεται: PPI 3s, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up  1a) to raise from the ground, take up: stones  1b) to raise upwards, elevate, lift up: the hand
This is a quote from Isaiah 53:7-8. Here it is in the LXX:
7. καὶ αὐτὸς διὰ τὸ κεκακῶσθαι οὐκ ἀνοίγει τὸ στόμα ὡς πρόβατον ἐπὶ σφαγὴν ἤχθη καὶ ὡς ἀμνὸς ἐναντίον τοῦ κείροντος αὐτὸν ἄφωνος οὕτως οὐκ ἀνοίγει τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ 
8. ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει ἡ κρίσις αὐτοῦ ἤρθη τὴν γενεὰν αὐτοῦ τίς διηγήσεται ὅτι αἴρεται ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνομιῶν τοῦ λαοῦ μου ἤχθη εἰς θάνατον
The quote is exact, except for the “his” [αὐτοῦ] that was added in some variant texts. 
The NIV translates the phrase “Who shall describe his generation?” as “Who can speak of his descendants?” That seems like a very suggestive translation, describing the lack of justice for one whose life is wrongly taken away from him, therefore he has no lineage to speak of. 

34 Ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ εὐνοῦχος τῷ Φιλίππῳ εἶπεν, Δέομαί σου, περὶ τίνος ὁ προφήτης λέγει τοῦτο; περὶ ἑαυτοῦ ἢ περὶ ἑτέρου τινός;
And having answered the eunuch said to Philip, “I ask you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself or about another person?” 
Ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer  2) to begin to speak, but always where something has preceded  (either said or done) to which the remarks refer
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Δέομαί: PMI 1s, δέομαι, 1) to want, lack  2) to desire, long for  3) to ask, beg  3a) the thing asked for  3b) to pray, make supplications
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
The phrase “having answered …” refers to v.31, I think. 
Here we see the point at which the Ethiopian needs a guide. More below. 

35 ἀνοίξας δὲ ὁ Φίλιππος τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τῆς γραφῆς ταύτης εὐηγγελίσατο αὐτῷ τὸν Ἰησοῦν.
Yet Philip opening his mouth and beginning from these writings brought good Jesus news to him. 
ἀνοίξας: AAPart nsm, ἀνοίγω, 1) to open
ἀρξάμενος: AMPart nsm, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule
εὐηγγελίσατο: AMI 3s, εὐαγγελίζω, 1) to bring good news, to announce glad tidings  1a) used in the OT of any kind of good news  1a1) of the joyful tidings of God's kindness, in particular,  of the Messianic blessings
The phrase, “opening his mouth” (ἀνοίξας … τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ) is the reversal of the “not opening his mouth”(οὐκ ἀνοίγει τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ) in v.32. 
Philip opens his mouth to evangelize, which means, to announce good news. The ‘announcing’ and explanation of the Scriptures go hand in hand here. 
I translate “εὐηγγελίσατο … τὸν Ἰησοῦν” as “brought good Jesus news to him” because “Jesus” is in the accusative case and the verb has an object implied in it (good news). So, it is not accurately “good news about Jesus.” I don’t know how else to capture it except as “brought good Jesus news.”

36 ὡς δὲ ἐπορεύοντο κατὰ τὴν ὁδόν, ἦλθον ἐπί τι ὕδωρ, καί φησιν ὁ εὐνοῦχος, Ἰδοὺ ὕδωρ: τί κωλύει με βαπτισθῆναι;
Yet as they were going along the way, they came to some water, and the eunuch called, “Here is water; what prevents me from being baptized?” 
ἐπορεύοντο: IMI 3p, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer  1a) to pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on  one's journey
ἦλθον: AAI 3p, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
φησιν: PAI 3s, φημί, 1) to make known one's thoughts, to declare   2) to say
κωλύει: PAI 3s, κωλύω, 1) to hinder, prevent forbid  2) to withhold a thing from anyone  3) to deny or refuse one a thing
What is left unsaid in this story is why the Ethiopian would assume that baptism is a proper act for one to receive after hearing the good Jesus news. Perhaps Philip’s explanation covered John’s ministry as the forerunner and his message of “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). 

37 καὶ
And 
This is not intended to be “the shortest verse in the Bible.” It is a disputed text. Somewhere along the line a copyist wanted to make this a proper text by giving the Ethiopian a “profession of faith” and giving Philip an “answer” to the Ethiopian’s question. So, the verse was added: And Philip said, `If thou dost believe out of all the heart, it is lawful;' and he answering said, `I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God;' 
This addition reminds me of the story in Bart Ehrman’s book, Misquoting Jesus, where one copyist was being annoyed by the obvious editorial changes of previous copyists and wrote in the margin, “Fool and knave, quit trying to fix the text!” 
I get the feeling that the spirit-led serendipity and spontaneity of this text was just too much for a later scribe, who had to make it more decent and in order. 

38 ἐκέλευσεν στῆναι τὸ ἅρμα, καὶ κατέβησαν ἀμφότεροι εἰς τὸ ὕδωρ ὅ τε Φίλιππος καὶ ὁ εὐνοῦχος, καὶ ἐβάπτισεν αὐτόν.
he commanded to stop the chariot, and they both went down into the water both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 
ἐκέλευσεν: AAI 3s, κελεύω, 1) to command, to order
στῆναι: AAInf, ἵστημι,v  \{his'-tay-mee}
1) to cause or make to stand, …  2a1) to stop, stand still, to stand immovable, stand firm
κατέβησαν: AAI 3p, καταβαίνω, 1) to go down, come down, descend  1a) the place from which one has come down from
ἐβάπτισεν: AAI 3s, βαπτίζω, 1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)  2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean  with water, to wash one's self, bathe
Now we see the Ethiopian acting like an official of the Queen. At the same time, he continues to show deference by being instructed and now baptized by Philip. 

39 ὅτε δὲ ἀνέβησαν ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος, πνεῦμα κυρίου ἥρπασεν τὸν Φίλιππον, καὶ οὐκ εἶδεν αὐτὸν οὐκέτι ὁ εὐνοῦχος: ἐπορεύετο γὰρ τὴν ὁδὸν αὐτοῦ χαίρων.
Yet when they came up out of the water, a spirit of a lord snatched away Philip, and the eunuch did not see him any more; for he went on his road rejoicing. 
ἀνέβησαν: AAI 3p, ἀναβαίνω, 1) ascend  1a) to go up  1b) to rise, mount, be borne up, spring up
ἥρπασεν: AAI 3s, ἁρπάζω, 1) to seize, carry off by force  2) to seize on, claim for one's self eagerly  3) to snatch out or away
εἶδεν: AAI 3s, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
ἐπορεύετο: IMI 3s, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer  1a) to pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on  one's journey
The verb, ἁρπάζω, means to be snatched away. In the Latin Vulgate is rapuit, which has the same root at the verb in I Thessalonians 4:17 (rapiemur). That is where the word “rapture” in Left Behind Theology comes from. Following that logic, Philip was “raptured,” I guess. But, then he ended up in Azotus, so perhaps it was only a partial “rapture.” 

40 Φίλιππος δὲ εὑρέθη εἰς Ἄζωτον, καὶ διερχόμενος εὐηγγελίζετο τὰς πόλεις πάσας ἕως τοῦ ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς Καισάρειαν.
Yet Philip found himself in Azotus, and passing through he was bringing good news to all the cities until his coming into Caesarea. 
εὑρέθη: API 3s, εὑρίσκω, 1) to come upon, hit upon, to meet with  1a) after searching, to find a thing sought  1b) without previous search, to find (by chance)
διερχόμενος: PMPart nsm, διέρχομαι, 1) to go through, pass through  1a) to go, walk, journey, pass through a place
εὐηγγελίζετο: IMI 3s, εὐαγγελίζω, 1) to bring good news, to announce glad tidings  1a) used in the OT of any kind of good news  1a1) of the joyful tidings of God's kindness, in particular,  of the Messianic blessings
ἐλθεῖν: AAInf, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning
Again the phrase “bring good news” (εὐηγγελίζετο) is what Philip does. 

There are four different types of interpretive issues on hand with this text, as I see it. 
1. TEXTUAL issues have to do with the emendations, etc. that have taken place along the way with variant readings. I follow the rule that less complex is probably more original, which is why I am leaving out v. 37, except for the “and.” I find this to be a significant textual variant, because without acknowledging it, the story seems to require a public and proper confession of faith as a part of baptism. By noting it, we can sense the development of baptismal formulas taking place within church history, but not necessarily as early as the book of Acts. (An emendation like the “his” of v.33 seems to have been added later but seems of little importance to me.) 


2. EXEGETICAL issues have to do with parsing verbs and declining nouns. There are a couple of occasions where we encounter an accusative case where a genitive case might be more natural to English speakers. I’m guessing that there are idioms and other linguistic reasons for these occasions, so it is more a matter of my ignorance than something significant going on with them. 


3. HERMENEUTICAL issues have to do with discerning what the significance of the story is. It includes noticing that the story begins with the direction of “an angel of the lord” and then proceeds with the direction of “the spirit.” As my comment above indicates, that might give us a sense of the fluidity of the early church’s pneumatology, prior to the development of strict Trinitarian formulas. 


It would also include the judgment of the NIV to translate a phrase in v.33 as “Who can speak of his descendants?” Again, I think this is a very good judgment call, for several reasons. It picks up on the injustice of the sheep having his life taken from him. It reflects the Hebrew Bible’s emphasis on one’s progeny as a sign of blessing and dignity. It also raises the Ethiopian’s question of who the text is describing. Isaiah’s progeny was an issue in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah 7:14, for example, which says “This shall be a sign to you: A Young woman shall conceive and bear a child and you shall call his name Immanuel,” might be speaking of Isaiah’s wife and coming child. Certainly in the next chapter (8:18), Isaiah speaks of his children and their significant names: "Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion." The two children are Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz and Shear-Jashub. 


My point is that when Isaiah 53 speaks of the suffering one whose unjust death leaves no descendents (per the NIV translation), it really could raise the question of whether it is about Isaiah or about someone else. 


4. HOMILETICAL issues have to do with how we might preach this text. It’s too early in the week for me to speak to those issues in depth. 

REFLECTION: I really like the contrast between the sheep, which does not open its mouth in silence, and Philip, who opens his mouth in evangelizing. This is the question that I will carry with me along the labyrinth on our church yard and throughout the week: Is it the church’s role to imitate the suffering servant, whose suffering takes place in silence like a lamb? Or, it is the church’s role to proclaim the suffering servant, to open our mouths and speak about the lamb’s who was silent? At this moment, these seem like very different reactions to the crucifixion. 
I also like the emphasis on the role of "guides" when it comes to reading Scripture. Since the Enlightenment (especially the Scottish Common Sense movement), I think most Westerners believe that if it is printed on the page, then we can read it, understand it, interpret it, and even judge it as nonsensical if we can't make anything out about it. The very idea that we would say, "How can I understand what I read unless someone guides me?" seems ludicrous to us - especially when it comes to the Bible! After all, we like to imagine, the Scriptures were written plainly and need no interpretation.
Luke doesn't agree. That's worth thinking about. 


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