By David A. Padfield
Many attempts have been made by Baptist preachers to negate the force of Acts 2:38. One of the most common is their insistence that since the words “repent” and “be baptized” are different in both person and number in the original text, the Phrase “for the remission of sins”,.cannot refer to both of these verbs.
During recent discussions with a Baptist preacher, I took the time to write to several prominent Greek scholars to find their opinion on the language of Acts 2:38. The question sent to them was as follows:
“Is it grammatically possible that the phrase ‘eis aphesin humartion,’ ‘for the forgiveness of sins,’ as used in Acts 2:38, expresses the force of both verbs, ‘repent ye and be baptized each one of you,’ even though these verbs differ in both person and number?”
The following men responded to my letters; I have given their qualifications along with their response.
Bruce M. Metzger was the editor of the Textual Commentary on The Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Societies. He is currently teaching at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey.
“In reply to your recent inquiry may I say that, in my view, the phrase ‘eis aphesin hamartion’ in Acts 2:38 applies in sense to both of the preceding verbs.”
F.W. Gingrich is a professor of New Testament Greek at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania. Gingrich, along with William F. Arndt, Published A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature in 1957.
“The difference in person and number of ‘repent’ and ‘be baptized’ is caused by the fact that ‘repent’ is a direct address in the second person plural, while ‘be baptized’ is governed by the subject ‘every one of you,’ and so in third person singular. ‘Every one of you’ is, of course, a collective noun.”
Arthur L. Farstad was the chairman of the New King James Executive Review Committee and general editor of the NKJV New Testament. The NKJV was translated by over 120 Greek Scholars, many of these men teach in Baptist schools and colleges.
“Since the expression ‘eis aphesin hamartion’ is a prepositional phrase with no verbal endings or singular or plural endings I certainly agree that grammatically it can go with both repentance and baptism. In fact, I would think that it does go with both of them. Exactly what is the interpretation of it is another question.”
John R. Werner is the International Consultant in Translation to the Wycliffe Bible Translators. He was also a consultant to Friberg and Friberg with the Analytical Greek New Testament. From 1962 to 1972 he was Professor of Greek at Trinity Christian College.
“Whenever two verbs are connected by UP ‘and’ and then followed by a modifier (such as a prepositional phrase, as in Acts 2:38), it is grammatically possible that modifier modifies either both the verbs, or only the latter one. This is because there is no punctuation in the manuscripts, so we don’t know whether the author intended to pause between the first verb and the ‘and’.
“It does not matter that, here is Acts 2:38, one of the verbs is secondperson plural (“y’all”) and the other is third person singular (“is to”). They are both imperative, and the fact that they are joined by UP ‘and’ is sufficient evidence that the author may have regarded them as a single unit to which his modifier applied.”
The Translator’s Handbook On The Acts Of The Apostles, Published by the United Bib e Societies, so provides some valuable information.
“So that your sins will be forgiven (literally ‘into a forgiveness of your sins’) in the Greek may express either purpose or result; but the large majority of translators understand it as indicating purpose. The phrase modifies both main verbs: turn away from your sins and be baptized.”
If you need copies of the original quotations cited above, please write to me at the above address.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 3, p. 82
February 2, 1984