THE RIGHT HAND IN ACTS 3:7

Daniel L. Christiansen dlc at multnomah.edu
Tue Aug 7 12:36:33 EDT 2001



"Maurice A. O'Sullivan" wrote:

> At 17:38 06/08/01, B. Ward Powers wrote:
>
> >To what extent can other issues, other background factors, other passages,
> >throw any light on our verse?
>
> But John 18:10 surely illustrates that Peter was left-handed?
>    >> Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's
> slave, and cut off his right ear. <<
>
> I have a vivid memory of the late Raymond Brown asking someone in the front
> row to stand up, hold a ruler in his right hand and attempt to cut of
> Raymond's right ear -- almost impossible to do, as the rest of us could see.

Actually, with a cross-hand slice, the right ear would be the one in danger, from a
right-handed swordsman.  It's only a difficulty, if you assume a direct downward
cut.

> So, if Peter _were_ left-handed, wouldn't it be natural for him to take the
> man by the right hand?

Not that I can see.  The most natural manner of taking someone by the hand to help
him up, is to clasp palms: right hand to right hand, or left hand to left (remember,
they are facing each other).

> It seems to me that, given the ancient -- and persisting right down to our
> own days =- prejudices about left-handed people, it is easy to see why the
> tradition(s) should make such a point about Peter being left-handed.

Which (at least to my mind) brings us to the important issue: it seems that we are
reading far too much speculation about whose hand is which grasping what, into the
grammar, here.  I am all in favor of historical study as a background to a proper
understanding of the text; I am a great believer in the value of paradosis, as it
generally contains at least a modicum of truth; and I understand the value of
integrating various passages of the text; however, none of these approaches is going
to make the  reference of Acts 3:7's THS DEXIAS CEIROS any clearer grammatically.

Of course, I suppose we could ignore the question of whose hand this is, and opt for
the force of the genitive being most important to the writer, here.  This was a
"right hand kind" of action Peter is performing.  It is one of fellowship, of
blessing, of help in time of need.  In this view (which I am not really arguing for)
it wouldn't matter so much whose hand is in view, or even whether the right hand
were truly used, but only that the attitude was "right-handed."

What may (or may not?) help determine the reference is a look at the case used in
the passage.  Off the top of my head, I would expect the dative case, if it were
Peter's hand being spoken of, since that is the means he is using; the genitive case
may be used here, in order to denote the object of the participle PIASAS, thus
denoting the crippled man's hand.  Now, I don't have the opportunity to look into
this, right now, but maybe someone can see whether PIAZW generally takes a genitive
object or not?

Daniel
--
Daniel L. Christiansen
Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary
Professor of Biblical Languages, Portland Bible College
(503) 445-5295





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