Some Very Important Comments on Acts 13:48 From An Arminian Perspective

Below is an excerpt from Dr. Brian Abasciano’s recent response to an article written by Dr. Dan Wallace against the corporate view of election.  The excerpt briefly deals with the text of Acts 13:48 which many Calvinists find to be one of the most compelling passages in Scripture in support of unconditional election.  While Dr. Abasciano’s comments are brief and the text of Acts 13:48 is not the focus of his article as a whole, what he has to say concerning the lexical and contextual evidence against the typical Calvinist interpretation is very important:

Dan comments: Fourth, when we look at the broader issue and involve words other than from the ἐκλέγ- — word-group, we see that the concept of God’s initiation and efficacy is very clear. For example, in Acts 13:48 we read that “as many as had been appointed for eternal life believed.” This is a group within the group that heard the message. The passive pluperfect periphrastic ἦσαν τεταγμένοι indicates both that the initiative belonged to someone else and that it had already been accomplished before they believed.

My Reply: Again, corporate election fully embraces the initiation and efficacy of God’s election of his corporate people. See my reply to Luke 6:13/John 6:70 above. However, I would interpret Acts 13:48 much differently than Dan. I do not think it refers to election. A better translation of the passage is, “as many as were set in position for eternal life believed” or “as many as were disposed to eternal life believed.” The word typically translated “appointed” can also be translated “to set in position” and can be used of human disposition/attitude, which fits the context of Acts 13:48 better, as it stands in contrasting parallel to the attitude of the Jews of the same episode who judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, opposing Paul and rejecting the gospel (Acts 13:46). No agent of the action is identified for the passive verb, meaning it could be another agent like God that prepared the subjects for eternal life, or Paul as the preacher of the gospel, or the preaching of the gospel itself, or even the subjects of the passive verb themselves (akin to saying, “as many as were set for the test passed it”),[2] or most likely, a combination of these and other factors. It would be too involved to present an exegesis of this text in this setting; the matter deserves a whole article of its own. But suffice it to say here that Acts 13:48 fails to establish Dan’s point. Moreover, it is worth noting that Friberg’s lexicon lists “as many as had become disposed toward eternal life” as a possible translation.[3] Similarly, distinguished grammarian Max Zerwick indicates “who had been set (in the way)” as a possible translation in Zerwick and Grosvenor’s well known A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. And the most authoritative lexicon for New Testament studies (abbreviated BDAG) does not take the verb in question to mean “appoint,” but construes it under the meaning of “to put in place.”[4] It is not surprising, then, that the distinguished biblical scholar Henry Alford argued for the rendering, “as many as were disposed,” in his well respected 4 volume work, The Greek Testament. (John Piper of all people sings Alford’s praises thus: “When I’m stumped with a . . . grammatical or syntactical or logical flow

in Paul, I go to Henry Alford. Henry Alford mostly answers-he . . . comes closer more consistently than any other human commentator to asking my kinds of questions.”) Alford’s treatment of Acts 13:48 can be found in this volume available online.

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4 Responses

  1. Good to see strong Arminian arguments against the poor exegesis of Acts 13:48.

  2. Now that’s interesting! Accoridng to the specific usage of a Koine phrase, the verse seems to imply determinism or free will! Is “disposed to” eternal life is more contextually accurate, then that’s a genuine free will passage there.

  3. IF* “disposed to” is ….. (typo above).

  4. I listened to a radio debate (from ’08 maybe) between Steve Gregg and James White on this passage. Does anyone know what White was talking about when he said that this verb cannot be translated as “disposing” oneself unless it is a reflexive verb? I understand reflexive verbs from a Spanish standpoint, but I wonder if the fact that this verb is not reflexive would really prevent it from being used as “having been disposed” to eternall life?

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