A Study to Help a Young Preacher

By Franklin T. Puckett

September 11, 1966

Mr. Cecil Willis

1835 Brown Street

Akron, Ohio

Dear Cecil:

I have given as much study as time would permit to the textual problem you presented based upon the footnote of the ASV rendition of Acts 12:25. Whether the passage should read “from Jerusalem” or “unto Jerusalem” is a problem arising from manuscript variations with the weight of textual scholarship favoring the former. Here are the witnesses concerning the variant readings.

1. eis lerousalem, plerosantes ten diakonian . . . “to Jerusalem, having fulfilled the ministry . . . .”

Supporting Witnesses:

(1) B’ corn-Vaticanus (IV Cent.)-an alternative reading or a possible correction given by the original scribe.

(2) H-Seidelianus II, a late IX Cent. uncial.

(3) LrCOdeX Regius (Paris) assigned by Tischendorf to the VIII Cent., but Tregelles et, al. assign it to the IX Cent. It has the Alexandrian textual form, but is very nearly related to B.

(4) Aleph-Sinaiticus (IV Cent.)-discovered . by Tischendorf.

(5) k-An XI Cent. cursive from the library of the bishop of Caesarea Philippi at the foot of Lebanon.

(6) 1-Codex Wordsworth-a XIII Cent. cursive.

(7) p-A XIII Cent. cursive by a monk named Theophilus, 1285 A.D.

(8) syr-mg-A marginal note. found in a Syrian version (Philoxenian) made at the instigation of Philoxenus, bishop of Heirapolis, in Phrygia, A.D. 488-508.

(9) AEth-rom-AEthiopic Version, Roman Polyglott Edition.

(10) Chr-ms-A manuscript of Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople (397-407), as quoted by Tischendorf.

(11) Thl-Theophylact, Archbishop of Bulgaria, 1071 A.D. (XI Cent.).

(12) Other witnesses add eis Antiocheian (to Antioch) after Ierousalem (Jerusalem).

(a) E-Codex Basileensis, said to be about the middle of the eighth century (VIII Cent.).

(b) Also the following cursives-a, b, e, and o, all belonging to the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries.

(c) The Peshitta Sryiac and the Sahidic Versions.

In so far as I have been able to learn, these are the “ancient manuscripts” that render the passage “to Jerusalem.” Looking at this array of witnesses, one might think the evidence rather strongly in favor of this rendition, but the testimony is not as weighty as it might seem. Below are the authorities favoring “from.”

2. apo Ierousalem, plerosantes ten diakonian “from Jerusalem, having fulfilled the ministry . . .

Supporting Witnesses:

(1) B*-Vaticanus (IV Cent.), probably by the hand of the original scribe.

(2) D-Codex Bezae (VI Cent.), a sixth century uncial.

(3) (E)-An unnamed, VIII Cent. manuscript, which after ‘apo lerousalem (from Jerusalem) adds eis Antiocheian (to Antioch). (See note 12 under first division.)

(4) b-A XII Cent. cursive.

(5) c-A cursive, probably XII Cent.

(6) o-A cursive assigned to the X or XI Century.

(7) The above reading is also supported by 36, vulg., et. al.

3. ex Ierousalem, plerosantes ten diakonian “from Jerusalem, having fulfilled the ministry . . .”

Supporting Witnesses:

(1) A-Alexandrinus (V Cent.).

(2) 33-an important minuscule.

(3) al-a greater number, also out of other groups.

(4) syr-all or at least the most important Syrian versions including the Peshitta (II Cent.).

(5) rel coptt-the Egyptian versions agree in supporting this reading, as do all of the manuscripts named on the margins.

The Pell Platt edition of the Aethiopic Version (IV Cent.) and the Armenian Version (V Cent.)

(6) et-While these witnesses have been quoted separately, they belong together according to sense.

In so far as I am able to read the signs in Alford’s and Nestle’s Greek Testaments, these are the witnesses to the different readings involved in your question. While “to Jerusalem” has some manuscript support, an examination of the witnesses shows there is no testimony favoring this rendition prior to the Fourth Century. Other than the Sinaitic, an alternative reading in the Vatican, a marginal note in the Philoxenian, a quotation from Chrysostom by Tischendorf, and the Roman Polyglott edition of the AEthiopic, the rest of the witnesses favoring this reading are as late as the Ninth Century, or later. The testimony of the Aethiopic is practically nullified by the fact that the Pell Platt edition of this version uses “from” instead of “to.”

On the other hand, the reading “from Jerusalem” derived from apo Ierousalern is supported by the Vatican text, together with other important uncials and cursives. Additional testimony favoring this reading is found in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (IV Cent.) and other Latin translations.

The oldest Greek manuscript authority supporting “from Jerusalem” derived from ex Ierousalem (out of, out from Jerusalem), is the Alexandrian (V Cent.). This reading is supported by a greater number of various groups of later manuscripts, all or at least the most important Syrian versions, the Egyptian versions, and the Armenian version. At least some of these versions antedate the oldest Greek manuscripts. The conclusion would have to be reached that the manuscripts of which they were translations must have read ex Ierousalem, and would certainly imply more ancient manuscript testimony than that or Sinaiticus, and more valuable witness than marginal notes and alternative readings, supporting this form of the test. Because of his, most textual critics except Catholics favor this reading.

But whether the original autograph of Luke contained ex or apo, the English in either case would be “from.” Hence, the combined total of witnesses favoring “from” far exceeds and is of greater weight than that which favors “to.” At least this is the way it seems to me, although I would be first to admit that I do not qualify as a competent textual critic.

Dean Afford seeks to explain the variations in reading as follows:

“The variations have apparently arise from a confusion of marginal glosses. eis Antiocheian may have been an explanatory gloss, afterwards substituted for ex Ierousalem: then Antiocheian may have again been corrected to Ierousalem, leaving the eis standing (Afford, The Greek Testament, Vol. II, p. 137).

Whether this is the way the variation and confusion developed, I know not, but at least it is a possible explanation.

A. T. Robertson comments as follows:

“From Jerusalem (ex lerousalem). Probably correct text, though D has apo. Westcott and Hort follow Aleph B in reading eis (to) Jerusalem, an impossible reading contradicted by 11:29 f. and 13:1: ” (Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol. III, p. 176).

I have examined the text in the following Greek Testaments: Stephen’s Greek Testament, Textus Receptus (Elzevir), Alford’s Greek Testament, Cambridge Greek Testament, Nestle’s Greek Testament, and Westcott and Hort Greek Testament. All of these use ex Ierousalem rather than eis Ierousrtlem in their texts, with the exception of Westcott and Hort. Though both Westcott and Hort doubted the correctness of eis in this passage because of its bad sense, yet they included in their text because it is found in what they considered to be the best manuscripts (Sinaiticus and marginal note in Vatican). According to the signs in the Apparatus of, Nestle’s Greek Testament, this reading “did indeed appear to doubtful to them, but they did not wish to give preference to any other reading.” Thus five of the more popular Greek texts stand in opposition to Westcott and Hort, who against their better judgment used eis, a reading which Robertson says is impossible because of the context.

I have also examined the following English translations: English Revised Version, American Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, New English Bible, Challoner-Rheims, Lamsa’s translation of Eastern Text, Amplified New Testament, Authentic New Testament, Living Oracles, Phillips’ Translation, New World, and Twentieth Century in addition to the King James, all of which render Acts 12:25 “from Jerusalem” except The Twentieth Century Translation. There the passage is rendered “to Jerusalem.” Goodspeed translates as follows: “When they had performed their mission to Jerusalem, they went back, taking John who was called Mark with them.” It looks to me like he might be quoted on both sides: Their mission was “to Jerusalem,” but they went back “from Jerusalem” to Antioch. His translation is no more justified than Inman’s argument.

So, in view of the testimony of the manuscripts, versions, Greek texts, translations (English), and the commentators and critics, I am inclined to think you would be building on a very .weak foundation if you tried to argue that the passage should read “to Jerusalem” instead of “from Jerusalem.” It seems to me Inman could get the better of that argument. But such is wholly unnecessary to meet his perversion of the passage. You already have the answer as stated in your letter: “Of course the mere fact they returned from Jerusalem does not prove they only went to Jerusalem.” This is what he must prove in order to make out his case, and this is what the passage does not say! They could have visited every village and hamlet in the entire province of Judea and still have returned to Antioch “from Jerusalem.” His whole argument is based on what the passage does not say, hence, it rests -on nothing but pure assumption. In making such an argument, he is not only guilty of assuming the point to be proved, but he stands guilty of violating the basic rules of interpretation.

“RULE FOURTEEN-No important teaching or practice is to be based upon doubtful or ambiguous Scriptures” (Kendrick, Rules of Bible Study, p. 90). While the evidence favors “from” over “to,” the variations in the manuscripts certainly casts a shadow of doubt over any reading that one would accept. Furthermore, there is a degree of ambiguity in the passage as it relates to Inman’s argument. The phrase may not limit the visit of the messengers to Jerusalem. It is possible that they went elsewhere. Surely Inman will admit this. If so, he convicts himself of violating this rule of interpretation, for he founds both the teaching and practice of the sponsoring church upon a “doubtful, ambiguous” phrase. If it is possible for them to have gone anywhere else than Jerusalem before they returned, his whole argument falls flat for lack of support.

Furthermore, in order to make out his case for the sponsoring church, he must have the brethren scattered throughout the province of Judea, but he must limit the elders to the city of Jerusalem. In developing his argument,’ he violates another basic rule of interpretation.

“RULE FOUR. Common usage, which can only be ascertained by testimony, must always decide the meaning of any word which has but one signication; but when words lave, according to testimony, (1.e. the Dictionary), more meanings them one, whether Ited or figurative, the scope, the context, or parallel passages must decide the meaning: for If common wage, the design of the writer, the context, sad parallel passages fall, there can be no certainty in the Interpretation of language” (Alexander Campbell, The Christian System. 1835, p. 16).

“AXIOM I. Every word in a given passage has, in that place, one fixed meaning, and no more.”

“AXIOM II. Whatever be the true sense of a word under my given set of circumstances, It will in all cases retain that sense under the same circumstances” (J. S. Lamer, The Organon Of Sclipture, 1866, pp. 281, 262).

There can be no certainty at all in respect to the interpretation of any passage, unless a kind of necessity compel us to affix a particular sense to a word, which sense, as I have said before, must be ONE, and unless there are special reasons for a topical meaning, it must be the literal sense” (Eraesti, p. 10).

“A word can have but one fixed meaning in the connection is which it occurs. This may seem so evident as to require no special mention. But experience teaches us that is not superfluous to call attention to it. The desire to seem original and profound, and to surprise the common people by fanciful expositions of which they have never heard, sometimes tempts interpreters to lose sight of this simple canon of interpretation. It frequently happens that all the significations which a word in the abstract has, are ascribed to it in whatever connection it may occur. Such a mode of procedure must be condemned as being purely arbitrary” (L. Berkhof, Principles Of Biblical interpretation, 1950, p. 75).

These quotations range from the Eighteenth Century to the middle of the Twentieth Century setting forth one of the “rules of interpretation, deduced from extensive and well-digested premises; fully sustained, too, by the leading translators and most distinguished critics and commentators” of the last two centuries (Cf. The Introduction to The Christian System). Inman violates this rule in his treatment of Acts 11:29.

The only thing locating either the brethren or the elders is the locative phrase (en to loudaia) “in Judea.” Whatever that phrase means with reference to either of these terms, it will mean with reference to both of them. Since it is used but once to locate both the “brethren” and the “elders,” it would be inconsistent and illogical for it to be defined provincially as it locates the one, and congregationally as it locates the other. The relief was sent to the brethren and it was delivered to the elders. Now, what elders? Manifestly the elders where the brethren were. But where were the brethren? “In Judea!” Where were the elders? Same place! Whatever “in Judea’ means as it locates the brethren, it must mean as it locates the elders, or a double meaning must be attributed to the same words in the same instance of their usage, thereby violating this long-established hermeneutical rule.

If “the-dwelling in Judea-brethren” are the brethren throughout the whole province, why would not “thedwelling in Judea-elders” be the elders throughout the province? Or if “the-dwelling in Judea-elders” are limited to Jerusalem, why would not “the-dwelling in Judea-brethren” likewise be limited to Jerusalem? It would be strange indeed if the phrase means one thing as it modifies the first,noun and something else as it qualifies the second. If this phrase can be handled in such an arbitrary manner, there can be no certainty of the meaning of words, and each interpreter (?) is privileged to arbitrarily define his terms as he desires. This kind of thinking will lead to the conclusion that all truth is subjective rather than objective, as is claimed by certain philosophical systems. The only reason for such deceitful handling of the word of God is, as Berkhof says, “the desire to seem original and profound, and to surprise the’ common people by fanciful expositions of which they have never heard,” and, I might add, to justify some unscriptural practice that is not taught in the word of God.

If it be claimed that the brethren were members of the churches in Judea and scattered throughout the province, but the elders were the elders of the church in Jerusalem, and that these elders of one church were made the overseers of a program of relief for the brethren in all the churches-and this is what must be established to be of any value to Inman and his cohorts-, then, it follows that such can only be established by one of the following methods of reasoning:

1. By contending that “in Judea” has different meanings in its relation to “the brethren” and to “the elders,” thereby setting aside the long established rule that words can have but one fixed meaning in the same instance of their use. This makes understanding the word of God a mere matter of arbitrary subjectivity and destroys the very foundation of both the Reformation and Restoration Movements. Incidentally, never again can Inman, or any of the liberals, argue that “for” in Acts 2:38 cannot mean both “in order to” and “because of” in the same instance of its use, for the same principle that will allow them to give double meanings to “in Judea” will allow the sectarians to give double meanings to “for.” I wonder if they are ready for the consequence they will reap for their folly.

2. Or by allowing that men are privileged to insert explanatory (?) interpolations into the text of the New Testament, for they must in the development of their argument insert an additions) limiting phrase in the case of the elders, and make the passage read the dwelling in Jerusalem in Judea-elders to separate and distinguish the elders from the dwelling in Judea brethren. Though our liberal brethren might not literally write this additional limiting phrase for the elders into the text as Luther wrote “only” beside “faith” in Romans 3, nevertheless, in their reasoning they must do so in order to make the distinction between the elders and the brethren necessary to their argument. But if additions can be made, subtractions will be allowable, and the gospel being perverted ceases to be the gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). This kind of attitude and treatment is diametrically opposed to the claim of sufficiency and reliability for the sacred Scriptures. It will inevitably lead to modernism and infidelity.

3. Or by arguing that there were brethren throughout the province of Judea making up a multiplicity of churches, but there were no elders outside of Jerusalem, which would make not only possible but necessary the conclusion that the Jerusalem elders received the funds from Antioch and had the oversight of a general program of relief for all the brethren and churches of Judea. Such an argument is completely arbitrary and without one iota of Scriptural support. But if such an argument is allowable, the diocesan form of church function is established.

I know of no other process or method by which Inman’s argument (?) can be vindicated. The first will lead to sectarian confusion and perversion. The second will result in modernism and infidelity. The third will develop into hierarchical ecclesiasticism. Possibly a mixture of all three results will characterize the apostasy of which Inman is an advocate.

Cecil, instead of getting into an argument over whether “to Jerusalem” is preferable to “from Jerusalem,” I would merely point out that his whole argument is founded upon a reading that has been disputed. Manuscript authorities vary and textual critics sometimes disagree as to what the true reading should be. Hard pressed must be those who will build an argument, doctrine, and practice on such a questionable foundation.

Then I would press him on the following points: (1) he assumes the point to be proved, hence, begs the question. The passage does not say what he wants it to say. (2) He violates the rules of interpretation and the laws of logic. Inman likes to think of himself as a logician and scholar-sort of puncture his vanity and pride. (3) The consequences of his argument will destroy the plea for primitive New Testament Christianity and can only result in apostasy. I believe the audience will follow you and see the force of what you say, if you follow this line; but I am of the opinion you will soon lose your audience if you get involved in technical argument over which variant reading has the best manuscript support. They won’t know what you are talking about, but those who love the truth will be right with you when you are appealing for strict adherence not only to what the text says, but also for respect for what it doesn’t say.

I don’t know whether all of this will be of any benefit to you or not, but if it is, I shall be glad. I am sorry I couldn’t get this to you any sooner, but as you already know, I am a slow writer and at the present time I have a pretty heavy load that demands a lot of my time. I hope it isn’t too late.

Olin tells me you are moving to Marion. Perhaps you already know that I am moving to Florence, Alabama, around the first of the year. I have had to cancel all of my meetings this year since Dad has been with me, except the one at Blytheville. I drove back and forth to it.

I wish for you complete victory in your defense of the truth with Inman. I wish I could attend the debate. Let me hear from you at anytime. I have tried to call you twice since receiving your letter, but failed to find you at home.


Franklin T. Puckett

Truth Magazine XIX: 15, pp. 233-236
February 20, 1975