Friday, March 30, 2007

Acts 12.25: Did Barnabas and Paul return to Jerusalem?

I wonder if anyone has any wisdom on this variant?
EIS seems to be the best reading and most difficult reading (01 and 03, Maj, some versional support) with the alternatives both offering a smoother reading (EX: P74, 02, 33 1739 etc.; or APO: D E 614 etc.).
But commentators aren't generally very happy reading 'returned to Jerusalem' in a normal way since the logic seems to require a return from Jerusalem (cf. 11.29f).
Hence a load of possible solutions, none of which seem that plausible.


  1. Robinson has an interesting paper on this variant that's available at

  2. Huh. It's funny that you should bring this up. I was just memorizing Acts 12. Seems to me that from is the correct translation. Sorry about the anonymous post. I'm too lazy to log in.

  3. Indeed I do have a paper (read to an ETS regional over ten years ago) defending as expected the dominant and obviously "more difficult" Byzantine variant EIS (some 60% of the MSS, with none of the numerous alternatives having more than around 15% support within the MS base).

    I personally don't think the EIS reading is that problematic, allowing that the relief effort was to commence from Jerusalem,with distribution among the churches in Judea, followed by a return to Jerusalem prior to a subsequent relocation back to Antioch, as per the following chapter.

  4. My suggested solution (not a text critical one), given the flexibility of Greek word order, is to take eis Ierousalem with what follows: Barnabas and Paul returned when they had finished their mission to Jerusalem.

  5. The reading came up already in january 2006, in the comments on a post by Pete Williams on "An Evangelical Bible Society".
    There is actually a wealth of literature on this very problem, for which see Metzger’s Textual Commentary.

  6. Kirk: "given the flexibility of Greek word order, is to take eis Ierousalem with what follows: Barnabas and Paul returned when they had finished their mission to Jerusalem."

    Metzger also suggested this solution in his Textual Commentary. The down side of this option, however, is that Luke nowhere else uses such a grammatical expedient, and in every other case where EIS IEROUSALHM appears (some 45x in Lk-Ac), the meaning is quite straightforward as "(in)to Jerusalem."

  7. If the expression 'from Jerusalem' were the original reading (choose whichever prep you wish), it would be somewhat strange, because we would expect a historian to write 'they returned TO somewhere'. This is because it would be normal for a historian writing in the third person to describe where someone goes to next on their travels.

    Instead, the expression 'returned FROM Jerusalem' would be telling us that the author was describing the travels from his own viewpoint. In other words, the author would be identifying the place where HE was living at the time of the travels. In other words, the author would have been living in Antioch.

  8. I just read Maurice Robinson’s paper (though minus page 7), but was somewhat surprised to find no mention of the article by Pierson Parker (JBL, 1964), which is footnoted right at the end of Metzger’s discussion in his Textual Commentary. Parker’s explanation of how the verse is to be understood with the EIS IEROUSALJM reading seems worth considering.

    Luke’s overriding aim in Acts is to show the progress of the word of God, so having seen the church in Greek-speaking Antioch satisfactorily established in ch 11, he can go on to relate how the Holy Spirit used it in turn as a sending church (ch 13). He is apparently not concerned with filling in details of people's movements that are merely incidental to his main theme, and this is of course what causes the problem.

    The difficulty I feel with Maurice Robinson’s view (that 12.25 mentions a return to Jerusalem after finishing the distribution of alms elsewhere in Judea) is what purpose a mention of that return would serve Luke in his overall narrative. (Even if it is what “logically” would in fact have happened.)

    In line with Luke’s overriding aim, it seems (following P. Parker) more likely especially after 12.24 that by DIAKONIA Luke means the mission to strengthen the church in Antioch than the famine relief in Judea as is commonly supposed. John Mark was, I suggest, an assistant who _had been_ taken along on this mission (SUMPARALABONTES cf 15.37), and who is introduced here as a kind of preview to his role in ch 13.

    I suggest, the whole of 12.25 may be intended in the first place as a record of the return of the team to Jerusalem to report to the mother church that had sent out its leader Barnabas, and secondly as a preview of the team who were about to take the gospel further afield.

    But whether Parker or Robinson (or someone else) is right in the interpretation, it is surely right to retain the EIS IEROUSALJM reading as the best supported and clearly the lectio difficilima. It’s perhaps worth noting that a similar difficulty arises in 15.33, where many copyists made the interpolation that appears in 34 in the TR to explain Silas' unexpected presence at Antioch in 40, and to which D vg-cl made a further addition.