[B-Greek] Acts 10:48 (Was B-Greek Question)

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Fri Apr 21 13:01:50 EDT 2006

Weigl egrapsen:
>> Did Peter command Cornelius et al to be baptized, or did he command
>> others
>> to baptize them? How does the greek render it?
CarlConrad APEKRIQH:
>That is, "he gave orders that they be baptized in the name of Jesus
>The Greek text offers NO CLEAR INDICATION of who would be performing
>the baptism, which means that your question can be answered only in
>terms of probabilities.
>The NET translators have this note: "The Greek construction (passive
>infinitive with accusative subject) could be translated either "he
>ordered them to be baptized" or "he ordered that they be baptized,"
>but the implication in English in either case is that Peter was
>giving orders to the Gentiles in Cornelius' house, telling them to
>get baptized. It is much more likely in the context that Peter was
>ordering those Jewish Christians who accompanied him to baptize the
>new Gentile converts. They would doubtless have still had misgivings
>even after witnessing the outpouring of the Spirit and hearing the
>tongues. It took Peter's apostolic authority ("ordered") to convince
>them to perform the baptisms."

This may illustrate one of Carl's points on voice. It also illustrates
that texts need to be read from within the culture or shared framework
of author and audience.

A person should ask how a first century Judean might read the passage.
Baptism/tevila, after all, was a common Jewish practice, for some a
daily practice, for others an occasionally ritual cleansing, and also
practiced with prosolytes. Archaeologically, we have miqvaot (baptism
pools) all over the Land. Not just the massive installations around
the temple, but at Qumran, and next to an olive press at Gamla in the
Golan (showing 1st century halachic practice), and in such Hellenistic
cities as Tsipori, to illustrate the cultural spread.

Culturally, the person "baptising someone else" is functioning as a
witness and a teacher. Contrary to endless debates, they did not dunk
or pour (or sprinkle). The person being baptised went down with their
own motor skills while the teacher was a witness. Now many people on
the list will read Acts 8:35ff as putting Phillip in the water itself,
but that is not a necessary reading if one starts with the cultural
pictures just described. As for the Greek here, the PAQHTIKH
experiencer/passive would be naturally read as MESH middle.

The larger point is that these texts are approaching 2000 years old
and repeated familiarity with a text can create an illusion of
closeness. Regardless of whether one accepts the reading suggested
above, as much as possible these texts should be read as first
century, and from a Jewish cultural world view. And passages like this
remind us of potential differences and gaps.

ERRWSQE on the 9th day of the Omer,
Randall Buth

Randall Buth, PhD
ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
randallbuth at gmail.com

More information about the B-Greek mailing list