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Acts 11:16-17

Context
11:16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, 1  as he used to say, 2  ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 3  11:17 Therefore if God 4  gave them the same gift 5  as he also gave us after believing 6  in the Lord Jesus Christ, 7  who was I to hinder 8  God?”

1 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.

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

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

4 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.

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

6 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.

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

8 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.



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