Acts 2:38 in the NIV

Acts 2:38 in the NIV
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Friday, August 14, 2009 at 2:01pm

In the original version of the NIV (1973), Acts 2:38a was translated thus: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that [eis] your sins may be forgiven.'” Here the Greek word “eis” is given its natural meaning, “so that, in order that, for the purpose of.” In the next edition of the NIV (1978) this was changed without notice: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for [eis] the forgiveness of your sins.'” Here “eis” is translated with the more “neutral” word “for.” This has made me wonder. I have often wondered (in the sense of marveled) that the original translators had the courage to do it right! Then I have often wondered (in the sense of “I wish I knew”) HOW MANY CALLS AND LETTERS the translators and publisher received from the “sola fidei” folks complaining about the original version and demanding a change.

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Acts 2:38 in the NIV — 2 Comments

  1. Then again, εις/eis can mean “with reference to” a prior event, rather than a future aim. Thus, be baptised in reference to having received forgiveness (Ac.2:38). Similarly Mt.3:11, pre-Christian baptism following repentance, not for repentance, and 1 Cor.12:13 of being baptised in one spirit/Spirit with reference to being in one body. I disagree with all NIV editions on this. I guess the NIV simply agreed that here ambiguity was more justified for academic, not financial, concerns.

    • To say that eis in Acts 2:38 simply means the neutral idea of with reference to” does not satisfy the context. Think of the question that precipitated this reply in 2:38: “Brothers, what shall we do?” These Jews were stricken with guilt and were asking what they could do to remove it. The natural understanding of Peter’s reply is this: “Here is what you must do to remove your guilt: repent and be baptized!” The inquirers were not asking about something that had already happened; they were asking about how to achieve a future state. To suggest that Peter is telling them to be baptized “in reference to having received forgiveness” just makes no sense. In Matt. 3:11, when John says, “I am baptizing you with water eis repentance,” it is reasonable to take him to be saying, “I have been appointed by God to engage in this ministry of baptizing you with water, in order to bring about repentance in Israel.” In 1 Cor. 12:13a, your interpretation of being baptized eis one body is not consistent with 1 Cor. 12:13b, “We were all given the one Spirit to drink.” In the latter case the drinking of the Spirit (see John 4:14; 7:37-39) is what brings us into the one body; it is not “a reference to being in one body.”

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