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Study of Acts 13:48
By Gary F. Zeolla
This article is continued from Study of Acts 13:48 - Part One.
Seeing how a word is used elsewhere in Scripture can help to "pin down" the meaning of the word. Now one has to be careful here: a word can have more than one meaning (think of the English word "trunk" for instance). However, it is also true that consistency in translation is important.
Moreover, a person has a tendency to use a word in a similar way. So in a concordance study, one should first see how the word is used elsewhere in the same Biblical book, then elsewhere by the same author, and finally, elsewhere in the Bible as a whole. If one translation "fits" in most every occurrence of the word, then clear contextual reasons need to be shown for using an unique translation in a particular verse.
Besides Acts 13:48, the word tasso occurs in the following verses: Matt 28:16; Luke 7:8; Acts 15:2; 22:10; 28:23; Rom 13:1; 1Cor 16:15.
These verses will be quoted from the New King James Version (NKJV). The word(s) translating a from of tasso are capitalized:
[Matt 28:16] Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus HAD APPOINTED for them.
[Luke 7:8] "For I also am a man PLACED under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."
[Ac 15:2] Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they DETERMINED THAT Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
[Ac 22:10] "So I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which ARE APPOINTED for you to do.'
[Ac 28:23] So when they HAD APPOINTED him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.
[Rom 13:1] Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist ARE APPOINTED by God.
[1Cor 16:15] I urge you, brethren--you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they HAVE DEVOTED themselves to the ministry of the saints--
So in the NKJV, in the seven other verses in which tasso appears, it is translated as "appointed" four times. Most importantly, it is so translated two of the three times it appears in Acts. Moreover, in the three verses in which it is not so translated, two of the times "appointed" would fit.
For instance, the other verse in Acts could read "they appointed Paul and Barnabas" and the verse would still make sense. And the same could be said about the one verse in another book by the same author. Luke 7:8, could begin, "For I also am a man appointed under authority."
Only in 1Corinthians 16:15 would "appointed" be somewhat out of place, "they have appointed themselves." Although, such a rendering could be possible.
But what about "dispose?" It is not used in any of these verses in the NKJV. Moreover, it would be very awkward to use it in most of them. For instance, one could hardly render Luke 7:8, "For I also am a man disposed under authority." The same could be said for the other verses in Acts. So it would not seem like Luke was in the habit of using tasso to mean "disposed."
The only verse where it might make sense would be the last, "they disposed themselves." But "devoted" fits the context much better and "appointed" just as well. Moreover, this book was written by Paul not Luke.
So overall, the concordance evidence strongly favors "appoint" as being the basic meaning of the word, especially in the writings of Luke. The rendering of "disposed" simply does not fit in any of Luke's writings and only once, possibly, in Paul's.
It should also be noted, there is really no lexical or concordance support for the renderings of "destined" or "pre-destined." None of the lexicons mentioned these words and they wouldnt "fit" in any of the other verses in which tasso appears. These renderings are probably trying to make the Calvinistic implications of this verse even stronger. But, as will been seen shortly, it is really unnecessary to do so.
As for "marked out by God" used in the Bible in Basic English (BBE), this rendering probably came about due to the nature of the BBE. It is a Bible designed for those whom English is a second language. The vocabulary of it is limited to 1,000 words. And "appoint" is not one of these 1,000 words so "marked out" was used instead. And the reason for "by God" will be explained in the next section.
Next, a study needs to made of the specific grammatical form of tasso in Acts 13:48. In the various versions cited in Part One, two basic forms of translation were seen "were appointed" and "had been appointed." The reason for this difference is due to a somewhat awkward wording of the text.
In this verse, tasso is a perfect tense, passive voice, participle. But it is preceded by "to be" in the imperfect tense. So a literal rendering of the phrase would be "were, having been appointed."13
To simply this, some versions simply use the "were" and then the meaning of tasso. Others try to retain the perfect tense sense of tasso by using "had been" and ignoring the verb "to be" altogether. However, all versions retain the passive voice of tasso by using a form of "to be" ("were" or "been") with the past tense "appointed."
Since all translations retain the passive voice from tasso this writer believes it is most appropriate to retain the perfect tense from it also. So "had been appointed" is the most grammatical correct translation. But however it is translated, there are important implications both to tasso being in the perfect tense and the passive voice.
First, the perfect tense in Greek indicates an action that occurred in the past that has continuing results to, at least, the "present" (the "present" being the time of the events that are being recorded).
However, the word "believed" in this verse is in the aorist (simple past) tense. The aorist is used simply because Luke was writing at a later date. But if the "appointment" also occurred at the same time, then Luke would have also used the aorist for it. But he did not. He use the perfect.
The implications are this, the "appointment" to believe came BEFORE the hearers actually believed. So one cannot say this verse means, "those who believed were appointed to eternal life" making the "appointment" coming after "believing." Luke meant what he said, those who previously had been appointed were the ones who then believed.
Second, the passive voice means the subject is not the cause of the action. That would be the active voice. Moreover, the passive does not mean the subject caused or did the action in their own interest. That would be the middle voice in Greek. So one cannot say those who believed appointed themselves.
What the passive voice means is the subject is the recipient of the action. The cause of the action is someone or something other than the subject. Moreover, in Greek, there is what is known as the "divine passive." This means that God is the one causing the action even if God is not specifically mentioned in the text.
In this context, there is no human who could have "appointed" people to believe. Paul and Barnabas are proclaiming the Gospel but they are not the ones deciding who would believe. So a divine passive would be most logical in this text. What this means is, it is God who "appointed" people to believe.
It is for this reason, the Bible in Basic English, cited above, renders the text, "those marked out by God." The words "by God" do not occur in the text but they are implied by the divine passive.
Putting the above two grammatical points together, sometime prior to when the people "believed" God had already "appointed" them to eternal life.
Moreover, even if (despite the versions, lexical, and concordance data presented above) one still insists on translating tasso as "disposed" in this verse, it must still be asked, when and who "disposed" the ones who believed?
Given the perfect tense, they were "disposed" before they believed. And given the passive voice, they did not "dispose" themselves. It would still be true that it was God who, prior to their believing, gave them the "disposition" or "inclination" to believe.14
Personal "Journey" and Implications
When I first ascribed to Calvinist theology it was not due to reading any Calvinist books. At the time I was aware of Calvinist teachings and I had recently left a very Arminian, Charismatic church to attend a Baptist church.
While in the charismatic church I had read Calvin's Institutes (which, by the way, is the best theology I ever read). But at the time I simply rejected out of hand the sections on predestination. I asked one of the pastors at the church about it and he just laughed it off.
However, a couple of years later I was reading the Bible and Acts 13:48 jumped out at me. I was taking Greek at Denver Seminary at the time; so I did a study on the verse like what is presented above. I simply could not evade the clear predestination implications of the verse.
Those implications follow logically from the data presented above. First, the most basic meaning of the word tasso is "appoint." Second, this "appointment" came prior to the time the people believed. Third, they did not "appoint" themselves, they "had been appointed" and the logical One who appointed them was God.
So, those who believed were those whom God had previously appointed to eternal life. It was not their own "belief" or anything else about them that was the basis of their receiving eternal life; it was Gods previous appointment.
Moreover, it is "as many as" God appointed that believed. So this leads to the questions, "What about those who did not believe?" "WHY did they not believe?"
Now if the ones who believed were those whom God had appointed to eternal life, then it logically follows that those who did not believed were those whom God had NOT appointed to eternal life. It was this logical syllogism that I simply could find no way around. Some were appointed to eternal life and some were not appointed to eternal life.
So the ultimate reason why one person believes and another doesnt, according to this verse, is Gods appointment, not any human action or belief. I then began to follow the cross-references in my NKJV: Compact Reference Bible and found verse after verse that supported this reasoning. It was only after much struggle and Bible study that I became convinced that the Calvinist view was Biblical and thus had to accept it.
It was only after that acceptance that I read R.C. Sproul's book Chosen by God. What I appreciated most about it was that he related how he went through a similar struggle as I had before accepting predestination.
I have since read other Calvinist books and yes, Arminian books and commentaries. And reading both sides simply confirmed what I already found to be true. For instance, I have never read an Arminian explanation of Acts 13:48 that explained the verse in a satisfactory manner from an Arminian viewpoint. The above data is simply too overwhelming to try to avoid with attempts like translating tasso as "disposed" rather than "appointed."
Now I should mention, a common method Arminians try to use to evade verses such as Acts 13:48 is to say God's predestination is based on His foreknowledge of who would believe and who wouldn't. But if that is what Luke meant by "had been appointed" in this verse, then it would mean, "as many as God had foreknown would believe, believed." Such redundancy really doesn't make much sense. And why bring up the idea of "appointed" at all? Why not just write, "and many believed?"
In the quote that open this article from The Full Life Study Bible, it states that the rendering of "were disposed" - " agrees completely with the affirmations of 1 Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11; 2 Peter 3:9." It then adds, "Furthermore, according to Paul no person is unconditionally appointed to eternal life (see Romans 11:20-22)."
Two quick points will be mention in this regard. First off, the translation of one verse should not hinge on how a translator interprets another verse. For that matter, the translation of any verse should not depend on the translator agreeing with the implications of the translation. Lexical and concordance data should determine a translation, not ones theology.
Second, whether the rendering of "were disposed" does in fact "agree completely with the other verses cited would depend on the interpretation of those verses. An in-depth discussion of these verses will have to await another time. However, the first three verses mentioned are addressed briefly in my Scripture Study, Arminian Arguments.
Also, Sproul discuses 2Peter 3:9 in the book mentioned above. And 1Timothy 2:4 and 2Peter 3:9 are addressed in detail in the book No Place For Sovereignty, by R.K. McGregor Wright, reviewed on this Web site.
That said, it is important to "compare Scripture with Scripture." A theological position should not be based on one verse. That is why I said above that I began to follow the cross-references in my reference Bible. After much study, I came across hundreds of verses supporting various aspects of Calvinism, including unconditional election. Such verses are listed in my Scripture Studies The Five Points of Calvinism and The Sovereignty of God found in my Scripture Workbook.
For all the reasons cited in this two-part article, the "best rendering" of tetagmenoi in Acts 13:48 most definitely is NOT "were disposed." Given the very slim support for such a rendering, I would say the only reason a translator would use "were disposed" would be due to a pre-conceived Arminian bias.
If I was translating this verse I would render it as "had been appointed." And in fact, that is how I render it in my translation, the Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT). Moreover, as a result of this study, and for constancy sake, in the ALT I have rendered tasso as "appoint" in every verse in which it occurs. For those places where an alternate translation might fit the context better, such is given in brackets.
And finally, in regards to The Full Life Study Bible, as mentioned in the introduction to this two-part article, I have not seen it. But, given the inaccuracy of its comments on this important verse, my first impressions of it are not favorable, to say the least.
1 For full biographical details on Bible versions cited, see Bible Versions List. Most of the verses were copied from: BibleWorks™ for Windows™ Copyright © 1992-1999 BibleWorks, L.C.C. Big Fork, MT: Hermeneutika. Programmed by Michael S. Bushell and Michael D. Tan.
Verses from the NKJV copied from: Lardian PalmBible. Copyright © 1998 by Craig Rairdin. All rights reserved. Portions Copyright © 1998 by Jeff Wheeler. All rights reserved.
2 New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1989.
3 Websters Talking Dictionary/ Thesaurus. Licensed property of Parsons Technology, Inc. v. 1.0b. Software Copyright 1996 by Exceller Software Corp. Based on Random House Websters College Dictionary. Copyright 1995 by Random House, Inc.
4 Joseph H. Thayer. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon. As found on BibleWorks™ for Windows™.
5 Liddell-Scott Greek English Lexicon (Abridged). Public Domain. As found on BibleWorks™ for Windows™.
6 Walter Baur. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. 2nd ed. Transl. and rev. by William Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich and Fredrick W. Danker (Chicago: University of London Press, 1979), pp. 805,6.
7Rogers. Fritz Rienecker. New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament. Trans. and ed. by Cleon Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1980, p. 295.
8 Barclay M. Newman, Jr. A Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Copyright © 1971 by United Bible Societies and 1993 by Deutsche Biblelgesellschaft (German Bible Society), Sttugart. As found on BibleWorks™ for Windows™.
9 Johannes Louw and Eugene Nida, eds. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Second edition. Copyright © 1998. As found on BibleWorks™ for Windows™.
10 Timothy and Barbara Friberg. Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Copyright © 1994. As found on BibleWorks™ for Windows™.
11 Wesley J. Perschbacher. New Analytical Greek Lexicon. Peabody, MS: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990, p. 402.
12 In the extended lexical quotations, the only things left out, as indicated by the ellipses, are Greek words and the names of ancient extra-Biblical authors cited. Also, all abbreviations have been spelled out.
13 There is no aorist (simple past) for the verb "to be." So the imperfect is used for the aorist.
14 For detailed discussions on the translation of Greek tenses, voices, and participles, see parts one, two, and four, respectively, of the eight-part Grammatical Renderings section in the Companion Volume to the ALT.
Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light
Study of Acts 13:48. Copyright © 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian).
The above article was posted on this website May 2, 1999.
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