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MAKING SENSE OF GOD'S ELECTION: a Digest of the Essentials of the Work by Donald R. Shell -

MAKING SENSE OF GOD'S ELECTION: a Digest of the Essentials of the Work by Donald R. Shell
Part II: Examining Scripture On The Will-Related Doctrines
Chapter II: Examining God's Predestination Throughout Scripture
C. The New Testament Greek Word, Tasso
  1. Our view that God's election does not result in justification would lead some to ask how we would handle a verse like Acts 13:48 KJV that says: " . . . as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
  2. We answer this by viewing how the word, tasso is used in Acts 13:48 in the Greek New Testament:
    1. Tasso means to "draw up in order, arrange, assign, order, fix, determine, appoint" with a distinct military tenor, cf., Arndt & Gingrich, Grk.-Engl. Lex. of the N.T., p. 813; Abbott-Smith, A Man. Grk. Lex. of N.T., p. 440; Liddell & Scott, Grk.-Engl. Lex., p. 1759-1760. Some religious papyri texts used it to speak of the enrolling of names in a book of life, F. F. Bruce, Com. on the Book of Acts (NIC), p. 283, ftn. 72.
    2. Most translations take tetagmenoi, the perfect participle of tasso at Acts 13:48 to be in the passive voice to read "were ordained," and the reasons for this rendering at first appear to be great: (1) the military and papyri uses of tasso can readily support such a translation; (2) tetagmenoi is part of a periphrastic (like a "helping verb") construction that may bear a past perfect (pluperfect) force. This force with the passive voice would mean God predestined people to believe. (3) Thus, the King James Version represents these translations to teach that those present whom God had previously predestined unto eternal life believed.
    3. Yet, even assuming the pluperfect force for the periphrastic, this translation is remarkably suspect!
      1. Since tetagmenoi is in the perfect tense, it is spelled the same for both passive and middle voices, so grammatically it could exist in the middle voice, J. Gresham Machan, N.T. Grk. for Beginners, p. 186.
      2. Then, IF tetagmenoi is in the middle voice, Acts 13:48 would read: " . . . as many as had marshaled themselves . . . believed" close to what Richard B. Rackham proposed, cf. Acts of the Apostles, p. 221.
      3. Well, interpreting the periphrastic to bear a pluperfect force and tetagmenoi to be in the middle voice, the context only SUPPORTS the translator in a MASSIVE way (as follows):
        1. Depending on the reading chosen, the Gentiles either heard Paul the first Sabbath or heard about his words from the synagogue's usual attenders (UBS Grk. N.T., p. 469-470). Intrigued by his word of justification by faith apart from the taxing Mosaic Law, nearly the whole town came to hear him the next Sabbath, a week later, having for days (pluperfect force) been marshaling themselves (middle voice) to hear him! Thus, they would be said to have marshaled themselves toward eternal life, the eternal life being the result of their marshaling to hear him at that second Sabbath sermon.
        2. Ryrie notes Acts 13:48 marks the start of Luke's contrast of the negative response of Jews to the Gospel with its acceptance by Gentiles, Ryrie St. Bib., KJV, ftn. This is verified by Paul's use of apotheo (reject) in the middle voice to show this Jewish rejection, the reflexive pronoun, heautous (yourselves) to explain its self-judging effects and strepho (turn) in the middle voice where Paul and Barnabas turn to the Gentiles as a result of this rejection, cf. Acts 13:46 (Ibid., UBS Grk. N.T.; Ibid., The Analy. Grk. Lex., p. 49, 470, 378, 110). Thus, tetagmenoi must be in the middle voice to show Luke's contrasting the Gentile response with the Jewish (middle voice) rejection in line with the repetitive use of the middle voice and reflexive pronoun to describe everyone's function here.
        3. Also, the two "eternal life" expressions found in Acts 13:46 and 13:48 respectively appear only in these two verses in all of Acts, Ibid., Moulton & Geden, 422-423. Since "eternal life" is the blessed result of justification (John 3:16), and since this expression is used exclusively in the book of Acts only in THIS context that starts Luke's gospel response contrasts, as tetagmenoi is linked to one of these expressions, it must be taken in the middle voice to accent a human response in relation to "eternal life" as does its antithesis in apotheo which is linked to the other "eternal life" expression.
        4. Besides, Paul's use of the verbs apotheo and strepho in Acts 13:46 borrow from Stephen's great and very pivotal sermon in the book of Acts (cf. Bible Know. Com., N.T., p. 369). Paul then uses them in a way that supports our seeing tetagmenoi to be in the middle voice (as follows): (a) both apotheo and strepho appear in Acts only in Acts 13:46 and in Stephen's great Acts 7 sermon, Ibid., p. 103, 907. (b) Paul thus used them in Acts 13:46 to picture two weighty comparisons: ((a)) Paul claimed the Pisidian Antioch Jews had rejected (apotheo) the Gospel like Stephen had twice told of ancient Israel's rejection (apotheo) of the godly Moses in Acts 7:27, 39. ((b)) Paul also said he turned (strepho) from the Jews to the Gentiles like Stephen had once claimed God turned (strepho) from Israel's faithless wilderness generation in Acts 7:42 (Ibid., UBS Grk. N.T.). Since Stephen's sermon plays such an important role in the views of both Paul and Luke, such historically potent, negative connotations used by Stephen with these respective verbs must have impacted Paul's and Luke's views of apotheo and strepho when they were used together in such a context. That in turn would have motivated Luke to select an equally strong but contrasting and positive expression to depict the Gentile reception of the truth. Then, as Paul also used both apotheo and strepho in the middle voice in Acts 13:46, the strong, military sense of tetagmenoi in Acts 13:48 likewise written in the middle voice would have met Luke's theological and literary needs precisely!
      4. On the other hand, to interpret tetagmenoi in Acts 13:48 in the passive voice creates some deep conflicts between this verse and the rest of Luke's context and even New Testament writings:
        1. First, (a) Luke introduced his Acts 13:48 periphrastic with the correlative pronoun, hosoi ("as many as") that in Acts 13:48 would mean, "all who," Blass-Debrunner, A Grk. Gram. of the N.T., p. 159; Ibid., UBS Grk. N.T. (b) Were tetagmenoi then to be understood in the passive voice, Luke would be saying exactly those who were then present who also then believed would ever do so as only they were predestined to believe! (c) Well, to credit so comprehensively this Gospel response to God's predestination right where Luke starts his study in Gospel response contrasts would shift his focus from these contrasts to the predestination that affected them. Yet, nowhere else in his Gospel response contrasts in all of Acts does Luke even hint that God's predestination affects them, nor how so (cf. Acts 14:1-6, 7-19; 17:1-9, 10-14; 18:1-6, 7-17; 19:8-10; 20:2-3; 21:27-22:24; 24:1-27; 25:1-12; 26:1-32; 28:1-10, 17-28)! (d) It thus seems very unlikely that Luke would want us to view tetagmenoi in the passive voice to see God's predestination in this particular Acts 13:48 context!
        2. Second, the correlative pronoun, hosoi used with tetagmenoi in the passive voice would produce a strain against Luke's stated intent to make his reader, Theophilus certain about Christian beliefs, cf. Luke 1:1-3, 4 with Acts 1:1 (as follows): (a) In the passive voice, the participle, tetagmenoi would make Luke claim unparalleled insight into God's predestination: he alone among mortals in Bible history would have thus known of the eternal destiny of everyone in a mass of a multiethnic, multi-gender and multi-religious population gathered in a particular location at a given time! (b) For Luke then to insert this great insight on divine predestination by a phrase at Acts 13:48 into this critical, watershed context on Gospel response contrasts, thereby upstaging all his many future Gospel response contrasts, and not then explain this insertion in any way would leave his less-informed reader, Theophilus speculating about God's predestination! (c) If we add to this the fact that Luke's Acts 7-9 record of God's great patience in converting the rebellious Saul of Tarsus was such a sharp contrast to the abrupt eternal condemnation that would thus be leveled at the Pisidian Antioch Jews (Acts 13:46-48), Luke's relative brevity on the predestination that would thus be involved in Acts 13 would further confuse his reader, Theophilus. (d) We do not seek to delve immoderately into the depths of God's predestination in honor of the warning against doing so by John Calvin himself (Institutes, Book III, ch. XXI, 1-7). Yet, we must assert that for Luke to introduce the subject of divine predestination in Acts 13:48, revealing human insight into it that was unparalleled in Bible history only to fail to explain himself in any way in light of his stated purpose to settle his reader, a man who was (at best) relatively new to the faith, and that regarding Christian beliefs would have rubbed intolerably against Luke's own stated intent to do just the opposite, cf. Luke 1:1-3, 4: Acts 1:1. (e) In support, we cite Henry Alford (1852), a self-professed Calvinist and resident scholar at Cambridge who wrote about this verse's context as follows (though more recent archaeological finds would have modified his view for the meaning of tasso): "We know that it is God who worketh in us the will to believe, and that the preparation of the heart is of Him: but to find in this text pre-ordination to life asserted is to force both the word and the context to a meaning which they do not contain." [The Greek Testament, vol. 2, Acts, Romans & Corinthians, p. 140].
    4. Thus, we hold that tetagmenoi in Acts 13:48 is to be interpreted in the middle voice to describe a human act where people marshaled themselves over a several-day period of time in order to meet at the synagogue to hear Paul preach again about justification by faith apart from the Law, and thus believe in Christ and receive eternal life. We do NOT then hold that Acts 13:48 teaches a divine predestination unto faith in the Gospel; rather, the major translations ERR as they have been deeply impacted by the ERRANT major election presupposition that predestination RESULTS in JUSTIFICATION!
    5. Thus, in keeping with our inductive study where we determined the major views on divine election to be errant through their scheduling election to result in justification, we find Acts 13:48 shows men believed with no hint of a divine predestination to that end.