Acts 2:42—Sunday giving or daily living?

 Since as long as I can remember (which isn’t terribly long), I have seen people scramble to Acts 2:42 in order to prove that there is a “worship pattern” beginning in Acts 2–among whom I am chief.  These brothers desperately twist and mar the text. In the end, the verse is so disfigured that it does not resemble a verse, and its form not even a son of verses. What is the alternative? We would better serve the text if we understand “breaking bread and prayers” to function as subcategories to “teaching and fellowship” as Dr. Hicks suggests:

Exegetically, I would suggest that (1) teaching and (2) fellowship are broad categories.  Fellowship, then, is illustrated or partly itemized by (a) breaking bread and (b) prayer. Technically, note that there is no “and” (kai) between “fellowship” and “breaking bread” in the text. The absence of the conjunction probably indicates that breaking bread and prayer are subcategories of “fellowship.” Otherwise we would have a successive “(1) and (2) and (3) and (4)” rather than the “(1) and (2), (a) and (b). (Hicks)

After penitent hearts were immersed, they quickly began to love, sharing their life with one another.  Luke does not curtail Acts 2:42 into worship service, but rather expands it into the communal life of believers. They had, Luke says, “all things common (koina)” and “day by day…they broke bread at home.” (Acts 2:43) [1]  Out of this reality, the believers were devoted to sharing “koinonia.” (Acts 2:42)  Again, “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul and no one claimed private ownership of possessions, but everything they owned was held in common (koina)” (Acts 3:32).  Through intertextual echoes, Luke affirms that the early church fulfills Deuteromonistic welfare:

There will be no poor among you…“If there is a poor person among you, one of your brothers within any of your gates in the land the Lord your God is giving you, you must not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him enough for whatever need he has…Give to him, and don’t have a stingy heart when you give, and because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you do for there will never cease to be poor people in the land; (Deuteronomy 15: 4a, 7-8, 10)

Jesus came proclaiming the year of Jubilee, one of deliverance and justice for the poor (Luke 4:18-19).  Our Messiah echoes Moses, “For you always have the poor with you” (Mark 14:7; Deut 15:10) and Luke’s echo along with Jesus’, form a beautiful choral in an amphitheater, Moses said, “there will be no poor person among you” and Luke confirms, “there was no needy person among them” (Luke 4:34; Deut 15:4). Luke shifts the future promise of Moses into a present reality of the believers, in Jesus Torah is fulfilled. There is more going on here that an itemed-worship proof-text.[2]  Unfortunately, such exegesis has been a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol and has drowned out the beautiful melody of Luke and scripture.

Thus, the koinonia of Acts 2:42 was the sharing of food and resources with one another on a daily basis, which resulted in the church having all things common (koina).  Also, “apostles teaching and prayers” can be contextually viewed as the daily praying and teaching in the Temple (Acts 3:1, 11-26), and daily in house meetings as well (Acts 5:42).  Luke was writing the narrative of scripture.  Just as he re-read the story of Samuel (Luke 1-2), Elijah and Elisha  (Luke 4), as having their full meaning and understanding in Jesus—He through the Spirit puts the church in fulfilled continuity with Israel. There is also discontinuity.  The Mosaic economy hinged on Israel being in the land, yet, the church sold their possessions and land (Acts 2:45; 4:36).  Jesus replaces the land and gives believers the world (Romans 4:13).

 Command or Arrange

 I did not find Jackson’s case, that “diatasso” (to give order) has the force of an obligatory command, persuasive.  (1) Paul himself stated—this is in reference to the collection for the saints—in 2 Corinthians, “I am not saying this as a command…Now I am giving an opinion on this because it is profitable for you” (2 Corinthians 8:8, 10).” When Paul responded to the Corinthians questions, he generally gave them “basic guidelines or principles” and even his own opinion (7:1, 6; 8:1, 8:9; 11:34; 12:1, 14:26-32).  This type of approach fits Paul’s style and is reinforced by his statement in 2 Corinthians 8:8, 10). (2) BDAG, states,  “diatasso” means, “to give (detailed) instructions as to what must be done. 1 Cor 16:1.”  Under the first entry (definition one), it says, to “make arrangements.” The NET Bible translates the verse “With regard to the collection for the saints, please follow the directions that I gave to the churches of Galatia.”  I understand Paul simply to be arranging in an orderly fashion the best way to save up funds.

(3) The Macedonians “begged” Paul to take their resources. This, at least to me, implies that Paul discouraged their giving, which again shows the free nature of the gift.  Context determines word meaning and contextually, the Corinthian’s are not writing Paul to figure out—not how to drop money in a treasury—but how to go about helping the saints in Jerusalem.  Paul effectively says, “Now you wrote me asking how to raise funds for the poor saints in Judea, here is how I arranged for the Galatian churches to do it.” (4) Finally, Paul could have easily said, “as I command all the churches even so you do” but he limits it to the churches of Galatia—showing again the temporal and non-universal scope of this mission.

Jackson asserts, “Though Paul addressed problems unique to certain churches, the principles he laid down were binding universally (1:2, 11:16; 14:34).” (Jackson 2011)  This claim is a bit misleading.  For example, Corinthians 4:17 is about Paul’s “behavior” “imitate me as I imitate the Messiah” (4:16), for that reason he is sending Timothy to remind the Corinthians of his ways (behavior) as he teaches everywhere in every church (4:17). The expression “in every church/in all the churches” deflects the Corinthians desire to distinguish themselves from all the other congregations.

Paul reminds them frequently that there are other saints who calls on the name of the Lord, who follow the custom of the veil, who do not abuse women’s liberty in our meetings (1:2, 11:16; 14:34). There can be no dissemination of loyalties to different church leaders or elevation of status based on having special miraculous gifts; Corinth finds a common lot with every other church.  Yet, we find this expression that linked Corinth with all the other churches absent from his advice in 1 Corinthians 16:1, and in its place an expression that links them with prominently Gentile churches.

In The Treasury or At Home

 Most striking to me is Jackson’s claim that “the author ignores considerable scholarship, both in and out of the New Testament church.” Yet Jackson suggests that “by himself (par eauto)” should be understood as neuter (by itself) and consequently modifying a treasury of sorts.  But this claim ignores scholarship. Jackson correctly states that “peri de” (now concerning) was a formulaic way for Paul to begin addressing the Corinthian’s questions (Corinthians 7:1; 8:1; 12:1, etc.).  Yet, oddly, he begs the questions, and asserts that they must have been writing him about the treasury (conveniently assuming what he is tasked to prove).

Is the scholarship of top-drawer Greek lexicographers and grammarians “misguided interpretations.” Lexicographers and grammarians are supposed to be objective with the data.   The evidence is before us; will we let it into the courtroom?

· “The prepositional phrase ‘par eauto’; that is, ‘in his home” (389, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament).

· Lay by him in store . . . By himself, in his home. Treasuring it.” (Robertson’s Word Pictures)

· Put by himself treasuring. Put by at home.” (Vincent’s Word Studies in the NT”)

· On every first (day) of the week let each of you by himself (= at home) lay up, making a store (of it), whatever he may be prospered in.” “par heauto – thesaurizon, ‘making a treasure,’ describes each householder till at the end the accumulated store should be paid over.” (W. R. Nicoll)

· par heauto–“with one’s self, at home, 1 Co. 16:2.” (H. K. Moulton)

· Concerning the reflexive pronoun ‘heauto:’ “reflexive pronoun of the 3rd person. It is used 1. Of the 3rd pers. Sing. And plur., to denote that the agent and the person acted on are the same; …Of the phrases into which this pronoun enters we notice the following: …par heauto, by him i.e., at his home, 1 Cor. 16:2 (Xen. Mem. 3, 13, 3).” (J. H. Thayer)

· —Concerning para and heautou it says, “reflexive pronoun of the 3rd pers., …of himself, herself, itself, …’par heauto, at one’s home.” (Liddell and Scott)

· In his article on ‘para’ with the dative of location Riesenfeld says “cf. 1 C.16:2: par heauto, ‘at home.'” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT))

· Concerning the preposition ‘para:’ “2. [with the dative it means] at or by the side of, beside, near, with, …1 Cor. 16:2.” (Bauer, Ardnt, Gingrich and Danker (BAGD, BDAG)

· With himself, meaning at home” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Spiros Zodhiates)

Church historian, Robert Banks, affirms the individual, free, home storing of funds over against the temple tax:

…All marks it off from the legal and cultic character of the Temple tax.  There are differences between the two collections.  One is voluntary, the other compulsory.  One is gathered at homes, the other at a central collection point.  One is paid to those within the Jerusalem community for charitable disbursement, the other to the Temple authorities. (P. 168 Banks “Paul’s Idea of Community”)

If Paul desired the Corinthians to give into a treasury we might expect, βάλεtw χαλκὸν εἰς τὸ γαζοφυλάκιον/thesauron, or ἕκαστος ὑμῶν παρ’ ἑαυτῷ τιθέτω εἰς τὸn thesauron τὸ γαζοφυλάκιον, if Paul meant to say “put money in the treasury box.” But there is no indication that there were treasuries in people’s houses. Paul says, “ἕκαστος ὑμῶν παρ’ ἑαυτῷ τιθέτω θησαυρίζων,” each of you set aside (where) by himself, not by itself, and this was an idiomatic way of saying “at home.” θησαυρίζων (save up, store up) functions  verbally; the money they are setting aside (notice not giving or putting in) weekly is to be saved up, keeping with each persons on income. In short, I do not see the slightest hint of a treasury here—nor have I found any reputable Greek scholars to support such. McGarvey, Mcknight, and Mccord were simply mistaken.  To understand thesaurizon as treasury is a glaring anachronism.[3] I find it intriguing that on the one hand Jackson argues that the verse should be translated “cast into the treasury”—a misguided interpretation not a translation—but on the other hand endorses Everett Fergusons assumption that “par eauto” means “in ones own judgment”—thus not referring to a treasury but to a person.  Classical Greek scholar Carl Conrad disagrees that “par eauto” should be understood metaphorically:

 …the essential meaning of PARA is “in front of” or “in face of” or “in the presence of”; I think it’s not altogether implausible to take PAR’ hEAUTWi in the sense of “according to one’s own judgment,” BUT–TIQHMI is commonly used in the sense of “make a monetary deposit” and PARA + dative is a natural configuration for the person with whom money is deposited. The fact that the participle QHSAURIZWN is used with it (and I think the two ARE used together (“he should set aside continually as he builds up a fund”), it does seem to me that the natural sense of the text is that PAR’ hEAUTWi indicates the individual is to keep his own funds with himself as he builds up to a sizable contribution. (Conrad)

Understanding “par eauto” to mean “at home” is a sound scholarly conclusion and we would do well not to wave a dismissive hand at the data.

 That No Collections Be Made When I Come

Pay close attention to what Paul said. Who is doing the gathering and what does that even mean? Gatherings (logeiai) refer back to the collection (tes logeias) and their saving of money. Paul does not seem to be concerned with having to collect funds personally. Rather he is more concerned with their having to be collections (on their part) after he arrived. In other words, Paul wants them to be saving up incrementally so that they will have sufficient money gathered for the saints in Jerusalem by the time he gets there, as opposed to waiting until the last minute to collect these funds. Ever try writing a paper the day before? The fact that Paul wanted collections to be made (setting aside money at home) but did not want collections to be made after he came, suggests that the collection would have stopped after Paul got there.

Church History

 Not all church history weighs in Jackson’s favor.  For example, in 180 AD, Iraenaeus said, “Instead of the Law commanding the giving of tithes He taught us to share our possessions with the poor.”  In AD 197, Tertullian said, “On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation—but only if it is his pleasure and only if he is able.  For there is no compulsion; all is voluntary.” An obligatory-weekly-collection-worship-act does not appear to be as etched in stone as Jackson would have us believe.

 Conclusion

 I appreciate Jackson’s commitment to scholarship, but when men rush to defend “long cherished beliefs” scholarship can take a turn for the worst—anachronisms and outdated sources.  I remain unconvinced at his explanations and noticed an overall absence of attention to the narrative (the time line and sequence of events) and the cementing of Jew plus Gentile relations (See Joyce) My hope is that we can begin to reexamine “long cherished beliefs,” and renounce them if they are incorrect,  and with integrity embrace truth.

Addendum

Wayne Jackson added an addendum to his article, explaining why he disregards lexical data that understands “par eauto” as “at home.” He suggested that “If the apostle had intended to enjoin a private contribution “at home,” he certainly was capable of expressing that matter clearly.” But again, this attempt does little to overthrow the tide of scholarship, as the brilliant Greek scholar Gordon Fee states:

(literally) ‘each one by himself’. Some have argued that ‘by himself’ means ‘let each one take to himself what he means to give’;in other words, each is to bring to the assembly what he or she has determined ‘privately’ to give. But there is very little linguistic warrant for such a suggestion, not to mention that the participle translated ‘saving it up’ implies that ‘each person’ is to store up what is set aside until the designated time. The phrase ‘by himself’ almost certainly means ‘at home’.

Furthermore, his quote from Thayer is misleading, idiomatic expressions require some level of personal interpretation but this go for lexical glosses in general.  Jackson has accused Greek Scholars of being subjective interpreters while supporting the translation “cast into treasury,” which is not only an interpretation but has little linguistic force behind it.  It can be shown relatively simply, that “eautos” is an idiomatic expression that means “home” and is consistently translated in the New Testament.

For example, both Luke 24:12 and John 20:10, refer to individuals going “pros eauton” (some mss have autos, Lit. toward himself–the accusative is used rather than the dative), and translators understand this to mean “home.” Greeks also used the Greek word “idios” (own) to refer to ones “own home” as well (see John 16:32, 19:27, and Acts 21:6).  Robertson says, “To all intents and purposes it is interchangable in sense with “eautous.” (Robertson 691).  This is no different than American’s desiring their own place or something to call their own.

Outside of the New Testament, Xenophon has, “On yet another who complained that the drinking water at home (par eauto) was warm: “Consequently,” he said, “when you want warm water to wash in, you will have it at hand.” (Xen 3. 13. 3) Are these misguided interpretations? Finally,  I believe I offered a more plausible interpretation of “that there be no collections when I come” (See above). To conclude, I see nothing evincing in Jackson’s addendum, and have shown  “literal translation[s] that legitimately rendered [eautos] ‘at home’.” I would hope that Jackson would display the same integrity (academically) that he is expecting of others.

End notes


[1] It simply will not do to suggest that the article before the items mentioned in Acts 2:42 are monadic (meaning one of a kind)—in order to wedge Acts 2:42 from what follows. Could we not consider that the articles are kataphoric, referencing the daily breaking of bread from house to house, and kingdom life?
[2] There is simply no way for Jackson or others to prove that all sharing was done on Sunday—or that they gave their proceeds to the Apostles on Sunday.  The text overwhelming supports the idea of a daily sharing of food, time, lodging, and joy.
[3] I would like to clarify here.  I am not stating that churches cannot have bank accounts or treasuries.  All I am stating is that is not what 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 teaches.  Let’s not misuse verses to support our opinions.  If its an opinion, just say that it is.

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