Thursday, February 29, 2024

Acts 1:23-26: two verbs for 'I call'

Ἰωσὴφ τὸν καλούμενον Βαρσαβᾶν, . . . . . Joseph the one called Barsabas

ὃς ἐπεκλήθη Ἰοῦστος . . . . who was called Justus

Καλούμενον is the masculine singular accusative form of the present middle/passive participle for the verb καλέω, 'I call, I name'.  

It is masculine and singular because it refers to the Ἰωσήφ / Βαρσαβᾶν.

It is accusative because Ἰωσήφ and Βαρσαβᾶν are both accusative (although you can't tell this with the indeclinable Ἰωσήφ), and they are accusative as the direct objects of ἔστησαν, 'they put forward'.

So Ἰωσήφ is called Βαρσαβᾶν.  Why do we also have the form ἐπεκλήθη, followed by Ἰοῦστος?

Monday, February 26, 2024

The rest of Acts 1: verses 23-26

As I mentioned, I thought we should start moving more quickly through Acts, so I am taking the verses in bigger bites.  My plan is to

1  Begin with an idiomatic English translation of the verses in question.

2  Then type out the Greek in phrases, following each phrase by a mostly word-for-word English translation.

3  Add comments on grammar and vocabulary, with emphasis on difficulties in translation.

So off we go -  note that if a post gets too long, I may split it up.

Acts 1:23-26: 

23  So they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias.

24  And they prayed, “You, Lord, know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen

25  to take up this portion and apostleship, which Judas abandoned to go to his own place.”

26  Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

23 Καὶ ἔστησαν δύο, . . . . . and they set up two

Ἰωσὴφ τὸν καλούμενον Βαρσαβᾶν, . . . . . Joseph the one called Barsabas

ὃς ἐπεκλήθη Ἰοῦστος, . . . .  who was called Justus

καὶ Ματθίαν. . . . . and Matthias.

24  Καὶ προσευξάμενοι εἴπον, . . . . And having prayed they said

Σὺ κύριε καρδιογνῶστα πάντων, . . . . "You Lord knower of hearts of all

ἀνάδειξον ὃν ἐξελέξω, . . . . show whom you chose

ἐκ τούτων τῶν δύο ἕνα . . . . out of these of the two one

25  λαβεῖν τὸν κλῆρον . . . . to take the portion

τῆς διακονίας ταύτης . . . .  of the ministry this

καὶ ἀποστολῆς, . . . . and apostleship

ἐξ ἧς παρέβη Ἰούδας, . . . . from which turned aside Judas

πορευθῆναι εἰς τὸν τόπον τὸν ἴδιον. . . . . to go into the place the one his own

26  Καὶ ἔδωκαν κλήρους αὐτῶν, . . . . And they gave lots of them

καὶ ἔπεσεν ὁ κλῆρος ἐπὶ Ματθίαν, . . . . and fell the lot upon Matthias

καὶ συγκατεψηφίσθη . . . . . and he was voted with

μετὰ τῶν ἕνδεκα ἀποστόλων. . . . with the eleven apostles

We'll leave off for now; in the next post - verbs and other grammar and vocabulary of these verses.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Reading the Sinaiticus: βαπτίσματος and μάρτυρα

Here's the snippet of the Codex Sinaiticus we looked at the other day, with the two words βαπτίσματος and μάρτυρα indicated:

Βαπτίσματος runs from the end of the second line through to about half way on the third line.  It has two lunate sigmas.  Remember, there are no spaces between words, or anything (like a hyphen) indicating that a word is continuing over to the next line.

Note the letter that looks like a 'W', two letters to the left of μάρτυρα. This is omega.  The Sinaiticus does not use the modern omega (Ω).

The two rhos in μάρτυρα may be difficult to recognize; they look like a long vertical slash with a very small blip (I don't know the technical term!) at the top right, as below.  The very top stroke of the 'blip' is often very faint:

In the next few posts we will finish the first chapter of Acts.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Reading ancient manuscripts: Acts 1:22 in the Codex Sinaiticus

There are some parts of the Sinaiticus which are in better shape than others; the ink has worn or faded more in some places than others.

The folio (page) containing Acts 1:22 is not too bad.  Here is a screenshot of Acts 1:22 from the Codex Sinaiticus site.  I have changed the brightness and contrast slightly to make it a bit more readable:

The first word of Acts 1:22 is ἀρξάμενος, which you can see starting about two-thirds of the way through the top line.  The last three letters of ἀρξάμενος carry over to the second line - NOC.  The 'C' is a lunate sigma.

Try to find these words: 

(1)  βαπτίσματος 

(2)  μάρτυρα

Remember that all-caps manuscripts typically do not include accent marks.  I'll repost the snippet with the locations tomorrow.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Acts 1:21-22: the infinitive which completes δεῖ, and difficulties of word order

21  δεῖ οὖν τῶν συνελθόντων ἡμῖν ἀνδρῶν 

ἐν παντὶ χρόνῳ ᾧ εἰσῆλθεν καὶ ἐξῆλθεν 

ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς ὁ Κύριος Ἰησοῦς,

22  ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τοῦ βαπτίσματος Ἰωάννου 

ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ἧς ἀνελήμφθη ἀφ’ ἡμῶν, 

μάρτυρα τῆς ἀναστάσεως αὐτοῦ σὺν ἡμῖν 

γενέσθαι ἕνα τούτων.


Here's a very short diagram of the initial bones of verse 21:

That's all there is.  'It is necessary' - to do something.

The 'something' is specified by the completing infinitive γενέσθαι, the aorist middle (deponent) infinitive of γίνομαι, 'I become'.  Broadly translated, δεῖ . . . γενέσθαι means something like 'it is necessary (for someone or something) to become'.

But become what?  And who is doing the becoming?

The subject of γενέσθαι is ἕνα, meaning 'one' (person).  Ἕνα is the masculine singular accusative form for the number 'one'; accusative because it is the subject of an infinitive.

Ἕνα is modified by 'τούτων' ('of these') and - looking back to the beginning of verse 21 - 'τῶν συνελθόντων ἡμῖν ἀνδρῶν' - ('of the men who accompanied us').

So Peter is saying that 'one of the men who has been accompanying us', needs 'to become' - what?

Since γίνομαι is a linking verb, the trick is to look for another form in the masculine singular accusative; and we find 'μάρτυρα', 'a witness'.

In a simplified diagram:

So one of the men - who had accompanied Jesus from the time of his baptism by John - needs to become a witness to Jesus's resurrection.

Some English translations do attempt to follow the Greek word order as much as possible.  Here, for example, is the King James:
21  Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

22  Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
Other translations make a change from 'one person becoming' to 'the group choosing', as in the NIV:
21  Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us - 
Which one might think of as close enough to the same thing; but remember that the verb 'choose' is nowhere to be found in the Greek.


Friday, February 09, 2024

Acts 1:21-22: a bit more quickly

I thought we should start moving a bit faster through Acts; otherwise, I may not be around long enough to see it through to the end!  Here are the two next verses, Acts 1:21 and 1:22.  We'll emphasize verbs and difficult phrasings. 

Below each line in Greek I've given a mostly word-for-word translation, which means that the English is often awkward, to say the least.  As it happens, the Greek in these two verses is particularly difficult to understand from such a translation.


21  δεῖ οὖν τῶν συνελθόντων ἡμῖν ἀνδρῶν 

it is necessary so of the having accompanied to us men 

 ἐν παντὶ χρόνῳ ᾧ εἰσῆλθεν καὶ ἐξῆλθεν 

Monday, February 05, 2024

The Lord's Prayer, read in Greek

This is the traditional Lord's Prayer which is read in many Greek Orthodox churches.  The Greek is koine, taken from Matthew 6:9-13:

Lord's prayer

I am reading the prayer using a modern Greek accent; note that I am a non-native speaker.

Here are the words, taken from Matthew:

9b Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου·

10 ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου· γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ της γῆς·

11 τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον·

12 καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν, ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν·

13 καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν, ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.

Here is a translation.  It is word-for-word as much as possible, and thus awkward and non-idiomatic English:

9b  Father of us, he who is in the heavens, let it be holy the name of you

10  let it come the kingdom of you - let it become the will of you, as in heaven also on the earth -

11 the bread of us the necessary give to us today

12 and forgive to us the debts of us, as also we forgave the debtors of us -

13 and not you should bring us in to trial, but save us from the evil one.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Acts 1:20: A hapax legomenon, and the etymology of the English words 'Episcopal', and 'Bible'

So far we have focused on the verbs in Acts 1:20.  We'll take a look now at a few of the nouns.

Γέγραπται γὰρ ἐν βίβλῳ Ψαλμῶν, Γενηθήτω ἡ ἔπαυλις αὐτοῦ ἔρημος, καὶ μὴ ἔστω ὁ κατοικῶν ἐν αὐτῇ· καί, Tὴν ἐπισκοπὴν αὐτοῦ λαβέτω / λάβοι ἕτερος.

“For it is written in the book of Psalms: ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, ‘May another take his position.’ 


1  ἡ ἔπαυλις, 'habitation, farm, estate', is the hapax legomenon.  

2  ἡ ἐπισκοπήν, 'an overseeing', 'inspection'.  Derived from the preposition ἐπί ('on, upon') and the verb σκοπέω ('I look at, look over, consider').  Latin has episcopus for 'bishop', which is related to the Greek ὁ ἐπίσκοπος, 'overseer'.  From bishop, then, we get the episcopate, and the Episcopal Church.  

3  ἡ βίβλος:  The English 'bible' is, of course, related to this word.  In ancient and New Testament Greek, however, it means 'book' or 'scroll'.  

The derivation is via the papyrus plant, which provided paper for early scrolls and books: one of the ancient names for papyrus is ἡ βύβλος; the other is πάπυρος.  The word 'πάπυρος' is found in the Septuagint, although not in the New Testament.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Acts 1:20: Third-person imperatives

In English we commonly use imperatives in the second person, and there is no distinction between a 2-S and a 2-P imperative.  Thus,

Come here!

Watch out for that car!

could be applied to either one or several people.  In addition, English imperatives have no special morphology.  I.e., 'drink' can equally serve as an indicative 

I / We/ You/ They/ drink milk with tea.

or an imperative.

Drink your milk!

English can tell a third person to do something

        Let them eat cake.  

        May God have mercy on your soul.

but a helping word ('let', 'may') is required, and I would argue that third-person

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Acts 1:20; when is a perfect a present?

Γέγραπται γὰρ ἐν βίβλῳ Ψαλμῶν, Γενηθήτω ἡ ἔπαυλις αὐτοῦ ἔρημος, καὶ μὴ ἔστω ὁ κατοικῶν ἐν αὐτῇ· καί, Tὴν ἐπισκοπὴν αὐτοῦ λαβέτω / λάβοι ἕτερος.

“For it is written in the book of Psalms: ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, ‘May another take his position.’

There are several phrases in this verse which are conventionally introduced with a capital letter, indicating direct speech.  Who is speaking?  Presumably (1) Peter, from Acts 1:15.  A few English translations include his name ('Peter said . . . ') to make this clear, but it isn't in the Greek.

But also (2) the Psalmist, who is being quoted by Peter in the phrases beginning 'Γενηθήτω . . . ', and 'Τὴν ἐπισκοπὴν . . . '.

Γέγραπται - parsed as 3-S, perfect middle/passive indicative, γράφω, 'I write' - is used about 65 times in the New Testament.  It is the most common form of this

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Acts 1:1, read in Greek

This is a bit of a trial run.  I am reading Acts 1:1 in a modern Greek accent. Click below for the link.  The recording was done with Audacity.

Acts 1:1 

Friday, January 12, 2024

Acts 1:19, continued: what is the subject of κληθῆναι?

 Here's the verse again:

καὶ γνωστὸν ἐγένετο πᾶσιν τοῖς κατοικοῦσιν Ἱερουσαλήμ, ὥστε κληθῆναι τὸ χωρίον ἐκεῖνο τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ αὐτῶν Ἀκελδαμά, τοῦτ’ ἔστιν, χωρίον αἵματος―

and known it became to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that that field was called in their own dialect 'Akeldama', which is, field of blood -  

Let's start with the one non-Greek proper noun, spelled either Ἀκελδαμά or Ἀκελδαμάχ, or those spellings with the rough breathing instead of the smooth.  

The name derives from Aramaic, which was a Syrian dialect.  (Or as I understand it; check Wikipedia for an extensive discussion of this group of languages.)  If the

Friday, January 05, 2024

Acts 1:19, continued: Why is the NT word for 'Jerusalem' sometimes feminine singular and sometimes neuter plural?

Let's begin with our conclusion: it's just one of those language things.

Various koine Greek sites have included discussions on this point (see, for example, here and here; there are others).  What seems to be clear is that yes, there are two forms of the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word for Jerusalem.

One is always feminine, singular, and indeclinable, i.e., as found in Acts 1:19, and spelled Ἱερουσαλήμ (note the rough breathing).

The second is always neuter, plural, and declined according to grammatical function.  In Mark 3:22, for example, we see the genitive plural form after the preposition ἀπό:

καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς οἱ ἀπὸ Ἱεροσολύμων καταβάντες ἔλεγον

and the scribes (the ones) who had come down from Jerusalem were saying

The two forms are found in very approximately equal numbers in the New Testament.  There is discussion about possible nuances of meaning between the two, but I do not see a clear consensus.

Why would there be a feminine form for Jerusalem?  In Hebrew (as I understand it, and let the reader beware) cities are feminine; that is, their names are considered feminine proper nouns.  And in Greek, the word for 'city' itself is feminine: ἡ πόλη.

What about the neuter plural form?  For this, all I can say is that ancient Greek did have a number of plural-named cities, notably Athens - αἱ Ἀθῆνα - and Thebes - αἱ Θῆβαι.  However, these plurals are feminine.

It may very well be a tendency from Hebrew, but on that I am able to say no more.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Acts 1:19; the adjective πᾶς, πᾶσα, πᾶν

To review what has just happened;  Judas has obtained or purchased a field, and has died there, in an apparently harrowing manner.

καὶ γνωστὸν ἐγένετο πᾶσιν τοῖς κατοικοῦσιν Ἱερουσαλήμ, ὥστε κληθῆναι τὸ χωρίον ἐκεῖνο τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ αὐτῶν Ἀκελδαμά, τοῦτ’ ἔστιν, χωρίον αἵματος―

and known it became to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that that field was called in their own dialect 'Akeldama', which is, field of blood -  

The first phrase is

καὶ γνωστὸν ἐγένετο πᾶσιν τοῖς κατοικοῦσιν Ἱερουσαλήμ

The verb form ἐγένετο is parsed as 3-S, aorist middle indicative, of γίνομαι, 'I become, happen'.  Here the subject must be understood as referring to an event in the previous verse, i.e., 'the thing that happened, Judas's death'.

So Judas's death became known - to whom?  The 'to' leads to a dative, and in this case it is plural: to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Note the somewhat irregular, third-declension conjugation of the adjective πᾶς, πᾶσα, πᾶν, 'all, every, whole':

                                     Masculine         Feminine         Neuter 


    Nom.                         πᾶς                     πᾶσα                 πᾶν 

    Gen.                           πάντος              πάσης                πάντος 

    Dat.                            παντί                 πάσῃ                  παντί

    Acc.                            πάντα               πᾶσαν                πᾶν  


    Nom.                         πάντες               πᾶσαι                πάντα 

    Gen.                           πάντων             πασῶν               πάντων 

    Dat.                            πᾶσι(ν)              πάσαις               πᾶσι(ν)

    Acc.                            πάντας              πάσας                πάντα 

Remember that 

(1) all neuter nominative forms are identical to the corresponding (singular or plural) form,

(2) the masculine singular accusative form is identical to the neuter plural nominative/accusative form, and

(3) the masculine and neuter forms are identical in the genitive and dative, both singular and plural.

Ἱερουσαλήμ is understood to be in the genitive case here ('the inhabitants of Jerusalem'), although this word is indeclinable.  We'll look at the two Greek versions of the city name in the next post, followed by a discussion of the remainder of the verse.