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Acts 11:15-18

Context
11:15 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on 1  them just as he did 2  on us at the beginning. 3  11:16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, 4  as he used to say, 5  ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 6  11:17 Therefore if God 7  gave them the same gift 8  as he also gave us after believing 9  in the Lord Jesus Christ, 10  who was I to hinder 11  God?” 11:18 When they heard this, 12  they ceased their objections 13  and praised 14  God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance 15  that leads to life even to the Gentiles.” 16 

1 tn Or “came down on.”

2 tn The words “he did” are not in the Greek text but are implied. They form an ellipsis which must be supplied for the modern English reader. Some modern translations supply “it” rather than “he” because the gender of πνεῦμα (pneuma) in Greek is neuter, but there are sufficient NT contexts that use masculine pronouns to refer to the Spirit to justify the use of a masculine pronoun here in the translation.

3 sn At the beginning is an allusion to Acts 2 and Pentecost. The beginning is a way to refer to the start of the period of the realization of Jesus’ promise in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8. Peter was arguing that God gave Gentiles the same benefits he gave the Jews at the start of their mission.

4 sn The word of the Lord is a technical expression in OT literature, often referring to a divine prophetic utterance (e.g., Gen 15:1, Isa 1:10, Jonah 1:1). In the NT it occurs 15 times: 3 times as ῥῆμα τοῦ κυρίου (rJhma tou kuriou; here and in Luke 22:61, 1 Pet 1:25) and 12 times as λόγος τοῦ κυρίου (logo" tou kuriou; Acts 8:25; 13:44, 48, 49; 15:35, 36; 16:32; 19:10, 20; 1 Thess 1:8, 4:15; 2 Thess 3:1). As in the OT, this phrase focuses on the prophetic nature and divine origin of what has been said.

5 tn The imperfect verb ἔλεγεν (elegen) is taken as a customary imperfect.

6 sn John…Spirit. This remark repeats Acts 1:5.

7 tc Codex Bezae (D) and {a few other Western witnesses} here lack ὁ θεός (Jo qeo", “God”), perhaps because these scribes considered the Holy Spirit to be the gift of Christ rather than the gift of God; thus leaving the subject implicit would naturally draw the reader back to v. 16 to see the Lord Jesus as the bestower of the Spirit.

8 sn That is, the same gift of the Holy Spirit.

9 tn Or “gave us when we believed”; or “gave us after we believed”; or “gave us who believed”; or “gave them when they believed the same gift as he also gave us.” The aorist dative plural participle πιστεύσασιν (pisteusasin) can be understood in several different ways: (1) It could modify ἡμῖν (Jhmin, “us”) or αὐτοῖς (autois, “them”). Proximity (it immediately follows ἡμῖν) would suggest that it belongs with ἡμῖν, so the last option (“gave them when they believed the same gift he also gave us”) is less likely. (2) The participle could be either adverbial or adjectival, modifying ἡμῖν. This decision is primarily a contextual one. The point Peter made is not whether or not the Gentiles believed, since both groups (“us” and “they”) had believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The point was whether or not the Gentiles received the Spirit when they believed, just as Jewish Christians had received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost when they believed. Translated as an adjectival participle, πιστεύσασιν only affirms the fact of belief, however, and raises somewhat of a theological problem if one realizes, “Would God have given the Gentiles the Spirit if they had not believed?” (In other words, belief in itself is a theological prerequisite for receiving the Spirit. As such, in the case of the Gentiles, it is assumed.) Thus in context it makes more sense to understand the participle πιστεύσασιν as adverbial, related to the time of belief in connection with the giving of the Spirit. (3) The participle πιστεύσασιν as a temporal participle can refer to action antecedent to the action of the main verb ἔδωκεν (edwken) or contemporaneous with it. Logically, at least, the gift of the Spirit followed belief in the case of the original Christians, who had believed before the day of Pentecost. In the case of Cornelius and his household, belief and the reception of the Spirit were virtually simultaneous. One can argue that Peter is “summarizing” the experience of Jewish Christians, and therefore the actions of belief and reception of the Spirit, while historically separate, have been “telescoped” into one (“gave them the same gift as he gave us when we believed”), but to be technically accurate the participle πιστεύσασιν should be translated “gave them the same gift as he also gave us after we believed.” A number of these problems can be avoided, however, by using a translation in English that maintains some of the ambiguity of the Greek original. Thus “if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing” is used, where the phrase “after believing” can refer either to “them” or to “us,” or both.

10 tn Or “Messiah”; both “Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew and Aramaic) mean “one who has been anointed.”

11 tn Or “prevent,” “forbid” (BDAG 580 s.v. κωλύω 1.a). Peter’s point is that he will not stand in the way of God.

12 tn Grk “these things.”

13 tn Or “became silent,” but this would create an apparent contradiction with the subsequent action of praising God. The point, in context, is that they ceased objecting to what Peter had done.

14 tn Or “glorified.”

15 sn Here the summary phrase for responding to the gospel is the repentance that leads to life. Note how the presence of life is tied to the presence of the Spirit (cf. John 4:7-42; 7:37-39).

16 sn In the Greek text the phrase even to the Gentiles is in an emphatic position.



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