More From Dr. Brian Abasciano on Acts 13:48

Brian Abasciano, “on the Translation of Acts 13:48”


Of course, the main translation issue has to do with the translation of tetagmenoi, which the NIV translates (together with esan) as “were appointed”. This is such an important text theologically because it gives the impression that the people referred to believed because God first appointed them to eternal life. Some consider this a slam dunk proof for Calvinism/unconditional election. Indeed, some consider this to be the most powerful text in favor of Calvinism.


Brian Abasciano, James White’s Faulty Treatment of the Greek and Context of Acts 13:48

Brian Abasciano, A Reply to James White Concerning His Faulty Treatment of the Greek and Context of Acts 13:48

Acts 13:48: Two Non-Calvinist Views

Dr. Brian Abasciano’s Follow-up Response to James White on Acts 13:48

Brian Abasciano, “A Reply to James White Concerning His Faulty Treatment of the Greek and Context of Acts 13:48


The pluperfect construction places the disposing prior to the belief of the subjects of the verbs in Acts 13:48, which means that it could have happened any time before they believed. But strikingly, White does not contest this point, which shows a concrete error on his part, but sidesteps it by attacking my suggestion that the people in view could have been disposed to eternal life by various means, including the preaching of the gospel the previous week, and he does so on the basis of Calvinist theology as opposed to exegetical points drawn from the context of Acts 13. Ironically, he accuses me of eisegesis at this very point when his reply is a vivid display of it.

Dr. Brian Abasciano Critiques James White’s Argument That Acts 13:48 Proves Unconditional Election

Brian Abasciano, James White’s Faulty Treatment of the Greek and Context of Acts 13:48


So really, White’s argument is very weak. Sometimes it seems that some are convinced by arguments like these because an author gives concrete reasons and mentions Greek, but that they do not necessarily think through the arguments well enough. In the midst of White talking about the mysterious sounding Greek pluperfect, he says it would have to apply to such and such a point in the narrative, though without any foundation for doing so, and his following naturally believe it. But the argument is not sound.

Related: Acts 13:48: Two Non-Calvinist Views

Acts 13:48: Two Non-Calvinist Views

Below are links to two articles dealing with the claims of Calvinism regarding Acts 13:48.  The first is an excerpt from a larger article by Brian Abasciano on Corporate Election.  In that article Abasciano briefly tackles the Greek and shows how the Calvinist interpretation is not demanded by the Greek and is contrary to the context.  He takes the view that the verb often translated “ordained” is most likely passive and shows why this is not a problem for the Arminian interpretation.

The second link goes to a brief article by Jack Cottrell.  He takes the view that the verb should be translated in the middle voice and gives contextual reasons that make better sense of the text than the Calvinist view.

Both views are reasonable and give solid alternatives to the Calvinist view which holds up this passage as a main prooftext for unconditional election.

Abasciano’s Treatment

Cottrell’s Treatment

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.