Translation commentary on Acts 28:2

The natives (Jerusalem Bible “the inhabitants”) renders a term which refers primarily to people who speak a language other than Greek; to render as “barbarous people” (King James Version) or “rough islanders” (New English Bible) is to press the meaning of the word too far. The equivalent in some languages is “the tribe of people who lived there.”

Friendly comes from the same root as the word rendered kind in 27.3. In some languages friendly may be rendered as “they welcomed us,” while in other languages the closest equivalent is “they helped us.”

In order to present what is a more logical and chronological order for the English reader, the remainder of this verse has been inverted from the Greek order. The kind of fire referred to here is a wood fire built out in the open. The two references to us in this verse are very vague. Did Luke have in mind all of the persons from the ship or, more specifically, merely the Christian group? It seems almost impossible to imagine that two hundred and seventy-six people could have gathered around a fire, and it is quite likely that Luke is now limiting his interests to the attitude of the islanders toward Paul and his companions.

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Acts 1:15

A few days later (literally “in those days”) is merely a way of designating a vague and indefinite period of time (see 2.18; 9.37), and is used by Luke here and in two other places (6.1; 11.27) to indicate either a transition in, or the beginning of, a new story.

By the addition of there was a meeting the Good News Translation makes explicit for its readers the situation in which Peter stood up to speak: it was a meeting of the believers (see New English Bible “before the assembled brotherhood”). Believers translates the word “brothers,” which is used here in the specific sense of “those who belong to the Christian fellowship.” “Brothers” was a term frequently used both in Jewish and in non-Jewish sources to indicate members of a particular religious community.

In place of an impersonal type of noun expression, for example, a meeting of the believers, many languages employ a verb expression, such as “the believers met together.”

About one hundred and twenty in all is generally understood to be a parenthetical statement given by Luke, and so is set off by commas in the Good News Translation. About one hundred and twenty literally translates the expression “the crowd of names was about one hundred and twenty,” but “names” is used in this context as the equivalent of “persons.” Although the Greek phrase translated in all may also be used as a designation of place, meaning “at the same place” (see 2.1 in one place), in the present context it appears to have the meaning “in all” or “together,” a usage which is supported by the papyri.

Most languages have very little difficulty in specifying “one hundred and twenty,” whether the system is based on tens or twenties. Where languages do not have such high numbers (this is true of some so-called primitive languages), one can use a more general term “many” or “a crowd of.”

In some languages a term for speaking requires the personal goal to be specified, in which case one can say “Peter stood up and spoke to the people there” or “… to those people.”

Where, as in some languages, a double verbal expression is required for the introduction of direct discourse, one can say “he spoke to the believers; he said, ….”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Acts 2:24

In Greek this verse is a relative clause, without an adversative conjunction or particle. However, the rendering but God raised him is fully justified since there is a very definite contrast between the men who killed Jesus (v. 23) and God who raised him from the dead (v. 24).

The implied causative in raised him from the dead may need to be semantically recast as “caused him to rise from the dead” or “caused him to live again.”

He set him free from the pains of death in the Greek is a subordinate clause dependent upon the main verb raised, and prior in time to the action of the main verb. Pains of death is a phrase which comes from the Greek text of the Old Testament and which literally means “birth pangs of death”; so the meaning of the phrase is that of “bringing the pangs to an end” or “doing away with the pain.” The Hebrew text has “bonds of death,” but Luke quotes the Greek, and it is this text which must be translated.

The phrase “birth pangs of death” (compare the Greek) is an extremely difficult expression to translate. Some scholars have insisted that the interpretation of “birth pains” implies that death is suffering these birth pains. “God released him from death, which as it were was suffering birth pains” (that is, in the sense of restoring such a person to life again). It may be necessary to introduce some such expression as “as it were” or “like” in order to indicate that this is a strictly figurative expression and that birth pains are not normally attributable to such an event as death. One should, however, be cautioned against reading too much into the meaning of “birth pains.” Some scholars interpret “birth pains” as being the subject or agent of the act of dying or death, and they translate as “from the pain that death was causing” or possibly “from the anguish that he was suffering in dying.”

A special difficulty exists in languages in which there is no noun for “death,” and therefore no way in which death can be regarded as doing anything, either “having pain” or holding him prisoner (as in the last clause of this verse). When there is no such noun for “death” the closest equivalent is “the place where the dead are,” since in some languages this may be regarded as being capable of such “pain.” It is interesting to note that just such a change did take place in the textual tradition, for “Hades” as the place of the dead was substituted in some manuscripts for “death.”

The expression it was impossible that … can be restructured simply as “death could not keep him a prisoner” or “death could not cause him to remain a prisoner.” This figurative sense of prisoner may, however, need to be made more specific, for example, “he could not be kept a prisoner of death” or even “a prisoner in the place of the dead,” for those languages in which “death” has to be related more specifically to some location.

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Acts 3:10

When they recognized him involves a Greek verb tense which describes a process of gradual recognition on the part of the people in the temple. Recognized, particularly in this type of context, may be rendered in some languages as “came to know,” “saw who he was,” or “saw and knew he was the beggar.”

The phrase temple’s “Beautiful Gate” may be rendered in some languages as the “Beautiful Doorway to the house of God.”

No real distinction between the two Greek words translated surprise and amazement can be made. In many languages surprise and amazement are expressed by idiomatic phrases, for example, “they no longer sat with intelligence in their hearts,” “they no longer could think,” “their minds had been grabbed,” or “their mouths were shut.”

The relation between the amazement and what had caused it may need to be expressed as a relation of cause and effect, for example, “they were amazed because of what had happened to the lame man,” or, as in some languages, “what had happened to the lame man caused them to be amazed.”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Acts 4:17

Since the contents of verse 17 contrast abruptly with the contents of verse 16, a conjunction such as but, “on the other hand,” or “on the contrary” may be useful.

In a number of languages the purpose of an activity always follows that event. In such cases, it would mean that the first clause in verse 17 (in the Good News Translation) must be placed at the end of the verse.

In many languages one cannot speak of a matter spreading. Rather, can must say “in order that more people will not hear about it.”

The equivalent of a hortatory such as let us warn is in many languages an obligatory mode, for example, “we must warn” or “it is necessary that we warn.” There is, of course, nothing permissive in the use of the form let in English.

The last part of verse 17 must frequently be expressed as direct discourse, “we must warn them, You must never again speak to anyone using the name of Jesus.” (See also 4.21.)

In the name of Jesus is literally “upon (the basis of) this name.” The name referred to is that of Jesus, and the Greek preposition “upon (the basis of)” is equivalent in meaning to “in.”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Acts 5:15

As a result of what the apostles were doing translates one Greek word meaning “so that.” However, it is most likely that verses 12b-14 are to be understood as a parenthetical statement, and that “so that” in this verse refers back to the first part of verse 12. A number of commentators understand the connection in this fashion and some translators have made this relationship explicit (see Jerusalem Bible, An American Translation*, Moffatt). On the other hand, there are some who think that the result clause should be connected with the description of the high regard in which the Christians were held (as mentioned in v. 13).

In some languages the transitional clause (the first clause in the Good News Translation rendering) can be rendered as “because of all that was happening” or “because of the miracles which the apostles were doing” (making the reference specifically to v. 12a).

If there is any distinction made between the words beds and mats, it is that the second of these terms refers to a poor man’s bed or mattress. Luke does not state explicitly that the people over whom Peter’s shadow passed were healed, but he writes in such a fashion as to make this clearly implicit in the text. Nor does he make clear who carried out the sick persons, though it is thought by a number of commentators that the non-Christian community is intended.

If the agent of carried out must be specified, then one can employ a phrase such as “the people there” or even “many people,” with the resulting active rendering “the people there carried members of their family who were sick out in the streets….” It is to be assumed that those who carried people out in the streets would be at least members of the same household.

The expression his shadow might fall on some of them can be rendered in some languages as “his shadow might touch some of them” or “his shadow might pass over them.”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Acts 6:5

As in verse 2, the whole group refers to the entire church community. Another reflection of Luke’s Semitic style lies behind the translation of the whole group was pleased with the apostles’ proposal, which is literally “the word was pleasing before all the group.” The phrase the apostles’ proposal may be simply “what the apostles said.”

They chose refers to the whole congregation (see v. 3). Of the seven men chosen, only two are mentioned further in Acts: Stephen (other than Chapter 7, see 8.2; 11.19; 22.20) and Philip (Chapter 8; 21.8). The Philip mentioned here should not be confused with Philip the apostle. The Antioch from which Nicolaus came was probably Antioch in Syria. On the phrase, a Gentile … who had been converted to Judaism, see 2.11.

It is important in introducing the phrase a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit that this not be related to Stephen in such a way as to suggest that the other men were not in this same category. It is only that for Stephen this expression is an emphatic qualifier. In some languages this portion of verse 5 is translated as “they chose Stephen. He was a man who believed firmly, and the Holy Spirit possessed him; they also chose Philip, Prochorus, ….”

As indicated, the phrase full of faith must frequently be restructured as “believe strongly,” “believe very much,” or “even believe without any doubting.” The expression had been converted to in this type of context may be rendered as “had become” or, as in some languages, “had made himself into a Jew” or “had come to be just like a Jew.”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Acts 7:22

In Exodus 4.10 Moses indicates that he was not a capable speaker (in fact, he stuttered!), but later Jewish tradition made him out to be a powerful speaker; and the phrase a great man in words is most naturally taken to mean “one who has a great ability to speak.” Some, however, interpret this phrase as being a reference to the importance of what he said, that is, “a great man in what he said and in what he did.”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .