Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dan Wallace on Tetagmenoi

I was looking through, and I found a very interesting article by biblical scholar Dr. Daniel B. Wallace on the verb τεταγμενοι in Acts 13:48, which is translated in English as appointed or ordained. He points out that the verb is a strong support for divine sovereignty in salvation. Here is what Dr. Wallace has to say about the verb:

Acts 13:48 is indeed a strong verse on God's sovereign choice of those who would be saved. The verb TETAGMENOI does not occur in Acts 20:13, but the aorist form of it does occur in Acts 29:23. There, the middle voice is indeed used and is translated like an active verb. However, the aorist has a distinct middle form that is different from the passive form. The perfect tense, found in Acts 13:48, does not. Context, lexeme, and usage are key. In 1 Cor 16:15, an active voice verb is used. So, neither of these texts offers a real parallel to Acts 13:48. The problem with taking the verb in Acts 13:48 as a middle is that it would have to be a direct middle (the idea would be 'they appointed themselves'), which is nonsense in this context and is extremely rare of a usage overall. I know of no linguistic ground for overturning the traditional translation here. (link)


  1. He is ignoring the context of verse 46 which shows the Jews had the free will choice to reject responding to the word of God preached to them and to repent. The voice is definitely MIDDLE not passive.

  2. @Anonymous:
    Verse 46 does indicate a choice was made in response to the preaching of the word, but it says nothing at all about free-will.

  3. It is my understanding that when used in the middle voice it would be translated agreed.. "As many as agreed with eternal life believed." That would definitely parallel with verse 46.

  4. I never heard of such an interpretation before. Mind if I ask where you got it from?

  5. I am afraid the comment is inaccurate. One problem here is the translation of the Greek into Latin which renders "erant præordinati". This is still ambiguous since the perfect passive would be the complex form involving the BE verb but so would the use of the participle as a stative description. Also, the word choice of 'præordinare' implies a lot more than 'tasso:'.

    A second problem is the bizarre insistence that the middle would have to be translated as "appointed themselves" which is them deemed to be nonsense. Reflexive readings are but ONE subtype of the middle voice. Here, instead, it is right to read it as a state 'to be in order', as the participle in this case "to be set for eternal life" (without ANY indication of an external agent).

    If you wanted to emphasise an agent, then you would probably use the aorist.

  6. First a minor correction. Since there is no chapter 29 in Acts, I think the intended reference above to to Acts 28.

    Second, it is a common mistake to believe that this verse as translated refutes the Arminian position, since Arminians also believe that the elect are predestined to eternal life. I am not saying the author is making this an argument against Arminianism, only that many do. It is however potentially (if the translation is correct) an argument against the non-Arminian "class election" view.