Acts 13:48: Arminian? Calvinistic?

The meaning of Acts 13:48 got on the way with Elshaddai’s Luke slips in Predestination, and was followed by Bryan’s Acts 13:48 – Appointed or Disposed? Well, I just want to quote a few noteworthy commentators on Acts 13:48, from both the Arminian and Calvinistic camp.

An Arminian take on Acts 13:48: I. Howard Marshall, professor emeritus of NT exegesis at the University of Aberdeen, says:

The phrase [were ordained to eternal life] indicates that not all the Gentiles in the town believed the gospel. It could be taken in the sense that God had predestined certain of them to believe. But it could also refer to those who had already put their trust in God in accordance with the Old Testament revelation of his grace and were enrolled in his people, or perhaps it means that the Gentiles believed in virtue of the fact that God’s plan of salvation included them. (Acts, p. 231, emphasis added)

Notice that while professor Marshall admits a Reformed understanding of the verse, he leans more to the “disposed to eternal life” understanding of the perfect passive τεταγμένοι and therefore treating it not as a perfect passive but as a perfect middle.

Now here’s a Calvinist take on Acts 13:48: Darrell L. Bock, research professor of NT studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, adds:

Here it [τεταγμένοι] refers to God’s sovereign work over salvation, where God has assigned those who come to eternal life. The passive voice indicates that God does the assigning. It is as strong a passage on God’s sovereignty as anywhere in Luke-Acts and has OT and Jewish roots. (Acts, p. 465, emphasis added)

Notice that professor Bock treats the perfect passive τεταγμένοι as passive and not middle with the idea of “disposed to.”

So we’re right back where we started, unless…

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11 Responses to Acts 13:48: Arminian? Calvinistic?

  1. Bryan says:

    The question I have about I. Howard Marshall’s interpretation is essentially this.

    With his interpretation, we can paraphrase the verse by saying:
    “And as many as had already put their trust in God believed.”

    But isn’t that essentially the same thing? It seems to me that trust in not only a necessary requirement of faith, but the sufficient requirement- that is, without trust there is no salvation. It seems that Luke is adding something to explain, not placing the two in apposition. Also, I would add that it isn’t the phrase “were ordained to eternal life” that indicates that not all believe, but the modifying “As many as” that suggests such.

    In the end, it seems that his explanation falls through. I highly enjoy and respect Marshall, but I have to disagree on this point.

  2. tc robinson says:

    As you know, Marshall is a staunch Arminian, and it seems as if his theology has somehow skewed his understanding of what Luke really is saying.

    Yes, in the Greek text “hosoi,” “All” (TNIV), is modified by the perfect passive. There’s no getting around that fact.

  3. matthew r malcolm says:

    hmm yep I’m with Bock here… Marshall’s ideas seem more forced.

  4. John says:

    Is Arminianism and Calvinism an either/or belief? If you don’t subscribe to one position are you by default put in the other camp? Is there an ‘in between’ position? I realize that a great many people, who are a lot smarter than I, have put an immense amout of thought and prayer into both of these systems of theology. And I will also admit that I have changed my views of doctrines over the years. These changes, however, were brought about by reading of scripture, not just blindly following somone else’s argument. Although I may be accused of being a ‘fence sitter’, I can see true doctrine in both systems, just as I see truth in dispensationalism and covenant theology. Am I of Paul or Apollos? I hope neither. I am a slave of Christ. My beliefs are summed up in both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. We can disagree over the rest. God is sovereign, and anyone wanting to make Him in their own image won’t get very far. I for one am glad that God does not require me to be a PhD lvele theologian to be a follower of Christ.

  5. tc robinson says:

    @Matthew, Bock’s position is based on a natural reading of the text. Marshall gets into hermeneutic gymnastics.

    @John, thanks for stoppingy by. In the history of the debate, it has been the Pelagian position vs. the Augustianian position,and then there was a Semi-Pelagain bent.

    Then the Arminian position vs. the Calvinistic position.

    The issue is really about to what extent is man involved in his salvation. That’s the bottomline.

  6. Peter Kirk says:

    This stupid Blogger system just swallowed my comment. See instead my comment on ElShaddai’s far superior WordPress blog, and the one I am about to write instead of trying to write more here.

  7. tc robinson says:

    Peter, I share your frustration. I’ve been tempted to leave, but I’ve got too much invested in this blog.

  8. ElShaddai Edwards says:

    TC – if only you knew how blindingly simple it was to export all of your Blogger posts and comments to WordPress.com … I could have you switched over in a heartbeat.

    Peter wrote: ElShaddai’s far superior WordPress blog […]

    Hah! I will take that as a comment about WordPress vs Blogger, and not our actual blogs – TC runs circles around me in terms of valuable content!

  9. tc robinson says:

    Are you for real? Well, help a brother on this one.

  10. Nathan Stitt says:

    When I get home from class this afternoon I can try to catch you on chat.

  11. The Greek word used in Acts 13:48 is τεταγμένοι, and it is a perfect middle/passive (the ending could mean it is middle voice or passive voice) participle. The fact that this is in the perfect tense is very important. In English, we have nothing to compare to the perfect tense in Greek. The perfect tense in Greek means the verb happened in the past and has present day implications. For example, when Jesus says, “It is written,” He is using the perfect tense. Jesus is saying, “It was written in the past, and it is still important today” in essence. Well, the word τεταγμένοι is a perfect middle/passive (you almost always assume it’s passive then because the middle voice is so rare in the NT) participle, which means the ordaining had taken place in the past and had present day implications in Acts 13:48. That completely destroys the argument of Howard Marshall. Luke is arguing that God had ordained these people to be saved, and we know that because the perfect tense indicates past action. I cannot ordain myself to salvation in the past. Only God can do that. This is why Greek professors always say, “A little Greek is a dangerous thing.” If you’re going to use Greek, you better have studied the grammar and syntax of the language thoroughly, which you apparently have not in light of how you mispronounced τεταγμένοι.

    You know your translation is bad when only an obscure, paraphrastic, liberal translation supports your view. You know who else messed with Acts 13:48? The Jehovah’s Witnesses. What you are saying is that no one translated this verse correctly for centuries in the English Bible. Are you saying we suddenly now have the truth. because of of Howard Marshall and thank God He finally got someone to realize all this time that it was the people who ordained themselves, not Him? I don’t think so. You know someone is falling into a cultic mentality when they are willing to literally change what the Bible says in order to fit their paradigm.

    Also, you referenced 1 Corinthians 16:15 as proof that τεταγμένοι can mean “appoint themselves.” The only problem is that the word in 1 Corinthians 16:15 is not τεταγμένοι, but rather is ἔταξαν, which means simply “appointed” because it is an aorist, indicative, active, third person, plural verb. The aorist simply means it happened with no regard tot he duration of the verb. Indicative means it is a statement. Active means the subject did it. The reason “themselves” is added is because the word ἑαυτούς follows τεταγμένοι, and guess what ἑαυτούς means. “Themselves.” Guess what word is not in Acts 13:48. ἑαυτούς. This is why no one should be allowed to be a pastor without knowing how to read Hebrew and especially Greek given its nuances that affect theology. Also, it’s not Marshall’s fault when he observed that Ephesians 2:10 says we SHOULD walk in the good works and makes it sound like it’s a possibility. I understand the point he’s trying to make, but again, he doesn’t understand Greek. Before the word περιπατήσωμεν (translated “we should walk”), there is a very important word called ἵνα. When ἵνα is followed by a subjunctive, it is called a “ἵνα clause.” ἵνα clauses are not possibilities. They are certainties. For some reason, the Greek language uses the subjunctive (denotes possibility usually) after ἵνα in order to show what someone’s purpose is. People who hate Calvinism have tried to do the same thing with John 6:39 where Jesus says, “that I should lose none of them.” They’ll say it’s possible for Jesus to lose some of those the Father has given Him because the word should is in there, but the fact of the matter is, when ἵνα is present before the subjunctive verb, the clause is going to come true.

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