Monday, June 20, 2005

The Hyper-Sacramentalist and Baptism in Acts 2:38

Peter said to them, " Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38).
In some recent blog entries, the anti-baptist hyper-sacramentalist had the following to say regarding my stance on Acts 2:38:

“My critic still has yet to offer a meaningful interpretation of Acts 2:38, which says that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins. (In case he did not notice, his attempt at playing a Greek grammarian with this verse was exposed for the sham that it is in my critique. I teach Greek, and consequently know an amateur linguist when I come across one.)”

“My critic wants you to believe that when Acts 2:38 speaks of baptism “for the remission of sins,” that this does not really mean that baptism is, well, for the remission of sins.”

“My critic still has yet to offer a meaningful exegesis of Acts 2:38 and 22:16, which actually deal with the subject at hand. If there is something wrong with the way I handled these texts, perhaps he would care to demonstrate my errors?”
These comments were offered in response to my prior statements on the exegetical issues involved in Acts 2:38, not least of which is the precise meaning of the word eis (“for [forgiveness of sins]”). Here is what I wrote in my original statement on this:

The word eis can be variously translated in a number of different ways (to, with a view to, for the purpose of, into, etc.) depending on context. It could in this context mean “with a view to your forgiveness” (or “with your forgiveness in mind”). In any case, the passage does not by default support Owen’s contention.
And here is how my critic responded:

Finally, in desperation, some have attempted to argue that the Greek preposition eis should be translated so as to make the forgiveness of sins the basis of water baptism: “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins.” That suggestion, for those who have eyes to see, is about as obvious an example of exegetical sophistry as one could possibly ask for. There is good reason why not one of the standard Bible translations renders eis with the unusual meaning “because of” here–namely, because there is simply no credible linguistic reason to translate the preposition in that manner, apart from a desire to dictate what the Bible must say about the significance of water baptism in keeping with Evangelical dogma. Even the Holman Christian Standard Bible (the Southern Baptist translation) renders eis as “for” in Acts 2:38.
There is no desperation involved, I assure you. It is merely exegetical and theological propriety that is at stake. All one need do is look to BDAG to see that one of the definitions of eis is “with respect to,” and another is “at” or “upon.” In Matt 3:11, John the Baptist states, “As for me, I baptize you with water for [eis] repentance.” Is John saying “I baptize you with water so that you can repent” (my critic’s view)? Or is he saying, “I baptize you with water upon (or on the basis of) your repentance”? (J. Mantey, whom I trust my critic will not call “an amateur linguist,” translates eis here as “because of”). Obviously it is the latter that is in mind here.

In Rom 4:20 Paul say about Abraham, “yet, with respect to (eis) the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith.” Is Paul’s point that Abraham refused to waver in unbelief so that he could gain the promise of God (my critic’s view)? Or because of the promise of God given to him prior to that? In Matt 12:41 Jesus says, “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at (eis) the preaching of Jonah.” If my critic has his way, we should probably translate this passage as “they repented so that Jonah would preach”! Obviously the word eis here means something like “in response to.”

All of these examples fit nicely with Acts 2:38, and particularly the example of Matt 3:11 which addresses the identical subject matter. Acts 2:38 may then be properly rendered as “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of / in response to the forgiveness of your sins.” An expanded translation of this passage might read: "Repent; and having repented let each of you be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus on the basis of the forgiveness of sins you received upon your repentance." There can be absolutely no lexical objection to this rendering. And in spite of what you may read from the hyper-sacramentalist, his view of this passage is simply not some "obvious teaching" of the text. It is "obvious" to him only because he is bent on finding some human work that he can desperately cling to for his own justification, and that he can use to bring the rest of us under bondage to slavery.