Acts 3:19 “WHEN the times of refreshing SHALL COME from the presence of the Lord.” - Is this an error in the KJB?
Many King James Bible critics tell us that the KJB is wrong in how it has translated Acts 3:19.
In Acts 3:19-21 the Holy Bible reads: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, WHEN the times of refreshing SHALL COME from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”
The King James Bible, and many others as we will soon see, refers to the times of refreshing as something that will come at a later time - that is, when the Lord Jesus Christ returns again and restores all things.
Some of the modern versions like the NKJV, NIV, RSV, ESV and NASB have rendered this verse in such a way as to change the meaning from that found in the King James Bible.
The NKJV says: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, SO THAT times of refreshing MAY COME from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before.”
The meaning of the NKJV and others like the NASB and NIV is that the times of refreshing come now upon their having repented.
One such KJB critic, Barry Hofstetter, writes the following:
“Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, WHEN the times of refreshing SHALL COME from the presence of the Lord...
I know of no other translation that uses "when." For example, this is typical: Acts 3:19 “Therefore, repent, and convert, for the blotting out of your sins, SO THAT times of refreshing may come from the face of the Lord...(LITV, based, I believe, on the TR).
A simple examination of the Greek reveals that the clause begins with the words *hopos an* followed by the verb in the aorist subjunctive. This is nearly always translated as a purpose clause, and never as a temporal clause. In fact, none of the major Greek lexicons which I consulted (Louw & Nida, Arndt & Gingrich, Liddell and Scott) list "when" as a possible translation of *hopos*, and especially not in combination with *an* and the aorist subjunctive, thus confirming my suspicion. The TR and the eclectic text have the identical wording at this point."
Now, does this mean that the KJV guys were wrong at this point? Not conclusively. Several times I have seen zealous Greek students charge the KJV with error when the problem has not been what the translators intended, but that our usage of the English has changed over the centuries. It is possible that the word "when" had a different usage in Elizabethan English that approximated our "so that." I suggest this because the KJV translators were quite competent, and when something like this occurs, one is prejudiced to find another reason for the puzzlement other than a charge of outright error. I have not had time to research this aspect of the problem. However, as it stands, the English communicates to the modern reader something that Luke did not intend, and therefore is functionally an error, even if correct at the time of publication." - N.E. Barry Hofstetter, Adjunct Faculty, The Center for Urban Theological Studies, Philadelphia, PA. [End of Mr. Hofstetter's criticism of the KJB]
Let me respond to the 4 main points of criticism Mr. Hofstetter raises.
1. “I know of no other translation that renders it this way.”
2. “None of the major Greek Lexicons list “when”
3. “Possible that “when” meant “so that” in Elizabethan English.
4. “The KJB communicates an error that Luke did not intend.”
I would first like to point out that I have had many discussions about the inerrancy of the King James Bible with this gentleman, and I know for a fact that he does not believe in a “hold it in your hands, read and believe every word” type of complete, inerrant and 100% true Bible in any language, including “the” Hebrew and “the” Greek on this earth. He simply has no infallible Bible in any language to recommend to anyone.
#1 If he is unaware of any other Bible translation that translates this verse in the same manner as does the King James Bible, then I can only assume he has not done his homework very well.
Not only does the King James Bible correctly read: “that your sins may be blotted out, WHEN the times of refreshing SHALL COME from the presence of the Lord” but so do the following Bible translations: Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587, the Beza New Testament 1599, the Bill Bible 1671, Daniel Mace N.T. 1729, Whiston's New Testament 1745, Thomas Haweis N.T. 1795, The Revised Translation 1815, the Kneeland N.T. 1823, Webster’s 1833 translation, Lamsa’s 1936 translation of the Syriac Peshitta, The Pickering N.T. 1840, the Hussey N.T. 1845, The Morgan N.T. 1848, The Hewett N.T. 1850, The Commonly Received Version 1851, The Kenrick N.T. 1862, The Dillard N.T. 1885, The Word of Yah 1993, The King James 21st Century Version 1994, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, God's First Truth 1999, The Tomson N.T. 2002, The Evidence Bible 2003, New Simplified Bible 2004 - “Repent therefore, and turn around, that your sins may be blotted out, WHEN the times (seasons) of refreshing SHALL COME from the presence of Jehovah.”, Bond Slave Version 2009, the Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 - “that your sins may be blotted out, WHEN the times of refreshing SHALL COME from the presence of Adonay”, Conservative Bible 2011, The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011.
Wycliffe 1395 "Therefore be ye repentant, and be ye converted, that your sins be done away, that WHEN the times of refreshing SHALL COME from the sight of the Lord,..."
Lamsa's 1936 translation of the Syriac Peshitta reads like the KJB with: "Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out WHEN the times of tranquility SHALL COME to you from before the presence of the Lord: And he shall send to you One who has been prepared for you, even Jesus Christ.”
The Spanish Cipriano de Valera 1602 reads just like the King James Bible - “Arrepentíos, pues, y convertíos, para que vuestros pecados sean raídos, CUANDO los tiempos del refrigerio vinieren de la presencia del Señor: Y enviare a Jesu Cristo que os ha sido antes predicado.” = "Repent, therefore, and be converted, so that your sins be blotted out WHEN the times of refreshment come from the presence of the Lord; and He will send Jesus Christ who before was preached unto you."
The Reina Valera 1865 edition also got it right.
#2. Mr. Hofstetter informs us that no major lexicon he consulted, including Liddell and Scott, list “when” as a possible translation of this Greek word “hopos”.
It just so happens that I have right here in my study A Greek-English Lexicon compiled by Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, with a Supplement 1968, Oxford at the Clarendon Press. On page 1243 under the word “hopos” in section #7 Liddell and Scott list hopos when referring to “Time - WHEN or WHENEVER”, and they then give a series of ancient Greek literature wherein the use of “hopos” as meaning “when” is found.
#3. To suggest that in the time of the King James translators the word “when” might possibly have really meant “so that” is absurd at best. Admittedly the English language has changed somewhat over the past 400 years, but there never was a time that “when”, referring to a time in the future, really meant “so that”, meaning “with a view to, or for the purpose of”.
#4 Mr. Hofstetter tells us that the meaning found in the King James Bible (and all the other 35 or so other translations I have listed, that he had never seen)...that the KJB meaning is in error, when actually, IN THE CONTEXT in which it is found, it is the most accurate.
The immediate context of Acts 3 is that if these Jews repent of their sins, then they will find themselves in a state of having been forgiven WHEN God sends Jesus Christ again at His Second Coming. The Lord Jesus Christ is now seated at the right hand of God, and verse 21 clearly tells us regarding this Jesus: “Whom the heaven must receive UNTIL the times of the restitution of all things.”
The Bible Commentators
Bible commentators are like the Bible Babble Buffet we see today. They often do not agree with each other. What one categorically denies, another one confidently affirms. But there are those that completely agree with the sense found in the King James Bible and believe it is right considering the context of the verse.
Matthew Henry comments: "They must believe that times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19), and that they will be the times of the restitution of all things, Acts 3:21. There is a future state, another life after this; those times will come from the presence of the Lord, from his glorious appearance at that day, his coming at the end of time...The presence of the Lord will introduce, [1.] The restitution of all things (Acts 3:21); the new heavens, and the new earth, which will be the product of the dissolution of all things (Revelation 21:1), the renovation of the whole creation, which is that which it grieves after, as its present burden under the sin of man is that which it groans under. Some understand this of a state on this side the end of time; BUT IT IS RATHER TO BE UNDERSTOOD (Caps are mine) of that end of all things which God hath spoken of by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.. With this will come the times of refreshing (Acts 3:19), of consolation to the Lord's people, like a cool shade to those that have borne the burden and heat of the day. All Christians look for a rest that remains for the people of God, after the travails and toils of their present state, and, with the prospect of this, they are borne up under their present sufferings and carried on in their present services. The refreshing that then comes from the presence of the Lord will continue eternally in the presence of the Lord."
"Namely, seasons in which, through the appearance of the Messiah in His kingdom, there shall occur blessed rest and refreshment for the people of God." --Heinrich A. W. Meyer.
John Calvin’s Latin translation and commentary agree with the reading found in the King James Bible. His translation is: “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be forgiven, WHEN THE TIMES OF REFRESHING SHALL COME from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send him that was preached before, Jesus Christ.”
He then comments: “When the time of refreshing shall come, you may also enjoy this refreshing; when Christ shall come to judge the world, you may find him a redeemer and not a Judge.... That sins are so forgiven against the day of the last judgment;..First of all, we must note, that he setteth before them the day of judgment, to the end the former exhortation may take the greater effect. For there is nothing which doth more prick us, than when we are taught that we must once give an account. Wherefore the message of the last judgment must sound as a trumpet to cite us to appear before the judgment-seat of God. For then at last being truly awaked, we begin to think of a new life. In like sort, when Paul preached at Athens, God saith, that he doth now will all men to repent; because he hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world, (Acts 17:30-31.) The sum is this, that Christ, who is now unto us a Master, when as he teacheth us by the gospel, is appointed of the Father to be a Judge, and shall come in his due time; and that, therefore, we must obey his doctrine betimes, that we may gather the fruit of our faith then.”
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible discusses both views on how to translate this verse, and in favor of the King James Bible reading he says: “Others have rendered it, in accordance with our translation, “when,” meaning that they might find peace in the day when Christ should return to judgment, which return would be to them a day of rest, though of terror to the wicked. Thus, Calvin, Beza, the Latin Vulgate, Schleusner, etc.”
Justin Edwards’ Commentary totally agrees with the King James Bible translation and notes: - “When the times of refreshing shall come; the connection of these words with the following verses shows that their primary reference must be to that great season of refreshing when Christ shall come again from heaven to judge his enemies, and give rest to his people. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10. Of this, the spiritual refreshments which he now gives through the outpouring of his Spirit are types and earnests. At that great day of refreshing, the sins of all who are found in Christ will be publicly blotted out, and they received with him to glory. By repentance and conversion, through the merits and grace of Christ, sin may be pardoned, and men delivered from its power and punishment. All therefore to whom he is made known, are bound thus to secure these in estimable blessings.”
Far from the King James Bible being in error here in Acts 3:19, it is the more accurate and infallible words of God.
Since I wrote this rebuttal to Mr. Hofstetter's criticism of the King James Bible rendering of Acts 3:19, another Bible believing brother wrote me about another ancient reference to this verse by one of the well known early church writers.
Here is what he sent me: "Yesterday I was reading Tertullian's treatise on the Resurrection of the Flesh, and coincidentally he quotes this verse in there (http://ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-03/anf03-41.htm#P9893_2733674) saying "It is to these same times that Peter in the Acts refers, when he says: Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, WHEN the times of refreshing..." The English translation shows it as having "when" exactly where the KJV does and I would assume they accurately translated his Latin. So, the translation "when" in that verse goes back beyond Jerome (contrary to Hofstetter's view) to at least 209 AD if not earlier. Just thought I'd pass that along, because it stuck out at me when I read it due to this discussion." - Jun Kaddy.
While we're here in Acts chapter Three, let's take a look at some of the textual confusion that exists among the constantly changing modern versions and their underlying fickle texts.
In Acts 3:6 we read: "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth RISE UP AND walk."
The reading of "RISE UP AND" is found in the Majority of all Greek texts, including A and C, the Syriac Peshitta, Harkelian, Old Latin, Boharic and Armenian. The older Nestle-Aland Critical Texts USED TO omit these words and so do the RSV, NASB, NIV and the TNIV, based on Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.
However now the newer Nestle-Aland texts have gone back to including these words and so too the NRSV, ESV, and the Holman Standard. Notice that the old RSV omitted them, but then the revisions of the NRSV and ESV have now included them once again. I guess the NASB and NIV are now out of date. See how "scientific" this whole textual process is?
In Acts 3:11 we read: "And as THE LAME MAN WHICH WAS HEALED held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering."
Here the words "the lame man which was healed" are found in the Majority of all texts, and in Tyndale, Geneva Bible, NKJV, Spanish Reina Valera, and the Modern Greek texts used by the Orthodox churches throughout the whole world. However the Critical Text omits these words and has merely "he" (NASB). But the NIV says: "the beggar" (which is not found in any text) and the TNIV says "the man".
In Acts 3:13 we read: "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus". This is the reading of the Majority of all texts including Vaticanus.
The previous Nestle-Aland critical texts also used to read this way, and so do the NASB, NIV, TNIV, Holman Standard and the RSV. However, recently the Nestle-Aland editors decided to add two more extra "God"s to the verse ( based primarily on Sinaiticus) and now the "updated, scientific" critical text reads: "The God of Abraham, THE GOD OF Isaac, and THE GOD OF Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant (?!?) Jesus."
And so read the ESV, NRSV and the ISV. Notice that the NRSV, ESV changed from the previous RSV, and that not all the other recent bible versions have adopted this new reading.
In Acts 3:18 we read: "But those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all HIS prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled." This again is the Majority reading and that of Tyndale, Geneva, NKJV, Spanish, but based on Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, versions like the NASB, NIV, ESV change the location of the word "HIS" and say: "God before has shown by the mouth of all the prophets (omit "His") that HIS Christ would suffer..." (adds "His" before 'Christ' instead of 'prophets').
In Acts 3:20 we read: "And he shall send Jesus Christ which BEFORE WAS PREACHED unto you." This is the reading found in many Greek texts (Stephanus, Beza, Elziever, Scrivener) as well as the Latin Vulgate 425 A.D., the Coptic Boharic, Tyndale, Coverdale, Bishops' Bible, Geneva Bible, Young's, NKJV, Green's interlinear, Third Millennium Bible, the Spanish Reina Valera, and the Modern Greek text used throughout the Greek Orthodox churches today.
However the Nestle-Aland text, without any notes indicating there is another Greek reading, along with the NASB, NIV, ESV, and Holman says: "that he may send the Christ APPOINTED for you, Jesus." (ESV)
In Acts 3:22 we read: "FOR Moses truly said UNTO THE FATHERS, A prophet shall the Lord YOUR God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you."
In this verse the reading of "FOR....UNTO THE FATHERS" is the reading of the majority of all texts including D, and that of Tyndale, Geneva, NKJV, Young's, Spanish Reina Valera, and the Modern Greek New Testament of the Orthodox churches today.
But versions like the NASB, NIV, ESV and Holman all omit these words, primarily because of the so called " oldest and best manuscripts" of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. YET, even in this same verse the word "YOUR God" is found in the majority and Sinaiticus correction, A, D and in the present "updated" Nestle-Aland critical text. Vaticanus, on the other hand, omits this word "YOUR" (as did the previous Nestle-Aland texts) and so do the NASB, RSV and ESV. HOWEVER, now the versions that have gone back to including the words "YOUR God" are the NRSV, NIV, TNIV and the Holman Standard. The only thing consistent about the modern versions is their inconsistency.
In Acts 3:25 we read: "Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with OUR fathers..." OUR fathers is the majority reading as well as Sinaiticus original, C, D, the Syriac Peshitta, Old Latin, and Coptic. So too read Tyndale, Geneva, NKJV, Young's, Spanish Reina Valera and the Modern Greek N.T.
However, Vaticanus reads "YOUR fathers" and so do the NASB, NIV, ESV and Holman.
Finally when we get to Acts 3:26 we read: "Unto you first God, having raised up his Son JESUS, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of YOU from his iniquities."
In this verse the word JESUS is in the Majority of all texts including Alexandrinus, and in Tyndale, Geneva, NKJV, Spanish Reina Valera, Italian Diodati, German Luther, Young's, and the Modern Greek N.T. of the Orthodox churches.
But based primarily on Sinaiticus and Vaticanus versions like the NASB, NIV, ESV and Holman Standard all omit the word JESUS. But why follow the Vaticanus reading in part but not in the other part? Instead of "every one of YOU from his iniquities" Vaticanus actually reads in this verse: "in turning away every one OF THEM from his iniquities". Remember, this is one of "the oldest and best" manuscripts upon which most modern versions are based.
What we have seen in this brief textual study is that the modern versions continue to disagree with each other; the Nestle-Aland critical texts continue to change every few years because they have no settled text, and the "oldest and best manuscripts" are continually in disagreement even with each other.
No wonder most Christians today do not believe that any Bible in any language is now the complete, inerrant and 100% true words of God.
Acts 7:20 KJB - "In which time Moses was born, and was EXCEEDING FAIR, and nourished up in his father's house three months."
NKJV (ESV, NASB, NET) - "At this time Moses was born, and was WELL PLEASING TO GOD, and he was brought up in his father's house for three months."
I am continually amazed at the barrage of silly arguments raised against the authority and accuracy of the King James Bible. As for those who raise objections to the text of the King James Bible, I have yet to find one of them who actually has any Bible version they defend as being the pure, preserved, infallible words of God. Instead, "every man does that which is right in his own eyes" and they become their own final authority with a mystical bible that exists only in their own minds.
Such an example of ignorantly trying to "correct" the KJB is found in Acts 7:20.
Years ago I was invited to debate the Bible Version issue on the radio. I wish I knew then what I know now, but in any event, one young man called in to say that the King James Bible was wrong when it said Moses was EXCEEDING fair in Acts 7:20. He said it should read as do the NKJV, NASB: "At this time Moses was born, and was well pleasing TO GOD, and he was brought up in his father's house for three months." - (the NKJV), or "was lovely in the sight OF GOD" - (NASB).
Other versions that read like the NKJV, and NASB are Tyndale, the Geneva Bible, the RSV, NRSV, ESV, ISV, Young's, the Holman Christian Standard, Dan Wallace's NET version.
However there are also many bible translations that read like the King James Bible with "he was EXCEEDING FAIR.", with no mention of God at all in the text.
Among these are The Bill Bible 1671, John Wesley’s translation 1755 - "was EXCEEDINGLY beautiful", Mace’s New Testament 1729, The Newcome N.T. 1796 - "he was VERY beautiful", The Thomson Bible 1808 - "who was EXCEEDING beautiful", The Improved N.T. 1809, the Kneeland N.T. 1823, Webster's 1833 translation, Living Oracles 1835, The Pickering N.T. 1840, the Longman Version 1841, The Hussey N.T. 1845, The Commonly Received Version 1851, The Boothroyd Bible 1853 - "and was VERY beautiful", The Kenrick N.T. 1862 - "and was VERY FAIR", The Revised N.T. 1862, The Anderson N.T. 1865, Noyes Translation 1869, The Revised English Version 1877 - :he was EXCEEDING comely", the Revised Version 1881, The Dillard N.T. 1885 - "he was EXCEEDING FAIR", Darby 1890 - "was EXCEEDINGLY LOVELY", The New Dispensation N.T. 1897, the American Standard Version 1901 - "and was EXCEEDING FAIR", The Modern English N.T. 1909 - "He was REALLY beautiful", Weymouth 1912 The Clarke N.T. 1913, the 20th Century New Testament 1904, The Corrected English N.T. 1905, Goodspeed 1943 - “He was a WONDERFULLY BEAUTIFUL CHILD", the Bible in Basic English 1961, J.B. Phillips Translation 1962 - "He was a child OF REMARKABLE BEAUTY", New American Bible 1970, Good News Translation 1992 - "Moses was born, A VERY BEAUTIFUL CHILD", The Word of Yah 1993, the KJV 21st Century version 1994, The Revised Webster Bible 1995, The Third Millennium Bible 1998, the Contemporary English Version 1995, God's Word 1995 - "he was a VERY BEAUTIFUL CHILD", Worldwide English N.T. 1998, the New International Reader’s Version 1998, The World English Bible 2000 - "At that time Moses was born, and was EXCEEDINGLY HANDSOME.", the Easy to Read Version 2001, Sacred Scriptures Family of Yah 2001 - "EXCEEDINGLY FAIR", The Message of 2002, The Understandable N.T. 2002 - "He was a VERY HANDSOME CHILD", The Evidence Bible 2003, the Updated Bible Version 2004, The Resurrection Life New Testament 2005 - “In this time Moses, an EXCEEDINGLY HANDSOME child, was born”, the New Century Version of 2005, The Positive Infinity N.T. 2005 - "he was AN EXCEEDINGLY BEAUTIFUL child",The Easy To Read Version 2006 - "He was a VERY BEAUTIFUL child", The Context Group Version 2007 - “At which season Moses was born, and was EXCEEDING FAIR.", The New European Version 2010 - "and was EXCEEDING FAIR", Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 - "he was EXCEEDING FAIR", Far Above All Translation 2011 - "he was EXTREMELY GOOD LOOKING", Names of God Bible 2011 - "and he was A VERY BEAUTIFUL CHILD.", the Hebrew Names Version 2014, The Translators Bible 2014 - "He was a VERY BEAUTIFUL child.", The International Children's Bible 2015 - He was A FINE child."
Foreign language Bibles
Foreign language Bibles that read like the KJB are the Portuguese Easy to Read Version 1999 and Portuguese Ferreira de Almeida 2009 - “e era mui formoso” = "he was VERY BEAUTIFUL", Spanish Biblia en Lenguaje Sencillo 2000,- “Era un niño muy hermoso”, Dios Habla Hoy 1996 - "Fue un niño extraordinariamente hermoso", Spanish La Palabra de Dios Para Todos 2012 - “En esa época nació Moisés, que era un niño muy hermoso.” = "he was A VERY BEAUTIFUL CHILD", the French Martin bible 1744 - “qui fut divinement beau”, the French La Bible de Geneve 1669 - “qui fut excellemment beau” = "he was VERY BEAUTIFUL", the Chamorro Bible 1908 - “ya sumenbonito”, the Italian Riveduta 1927 - “ed era divinamente bello”, and the Italian La Parola e Vita 1997 - “un bambino straordinariamente bello”, the Chinese Union Traditional Bible.
The NIV 2011 and the TNIV, and The New International Reader's Version 2014 are a bit unusual in that they say Moses "was NO ORDINARY CHILD", but like the KJB, they do not contain the words "of God" in their translation.
Conservative Bible 2011 says: “Moses was born and was VERY VIRTUOUS. His father raised him for 3 months."
There is a simple and thoroughly biblical explanation as to why the KJB and many others translated this phrase as "exceeding fair" instead of "lovely to God". The Greek reads the same here in all texts (και ην αστειος τω θεω ) so it is not a textual but rather a translational issue.
Some of the meanings of the word "God" or Elohim in Hebrew and God or Theos in Greek are "mighty, very great, exceeding, or judges". ALL bible versions at times translate Elohim as "great, mighty, or exceeding". The NIV, for example, shows the word Elohim as translated in the following manner: "God, angels, godly, idols, majestic, sacred, MIGHTY, GREAT, and VERY." The NASB also lists "God, mighty, great, judges, and rulers."
Notice how the so called Greek Septuagint version renders these verses from the Old Testament, and how they employ the word "God, or Theos".
Jonah 3:3 "Now Nineveh was and EXCEEDING great city of three days' journey" - h de nineuh hn polis megalh tw thew.
Genesis 23:6 "Hear us, my lord: thou art a MIGHTY prince among us" - basileus para theou ei su en hmin
Genesis 30:8 "And Rachel said, With GREAT wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed." - kai eipen rachl sunelabeto moi o theos
Exodus 9:28 "Intreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more MIGHTY thunderings and hail" -fwnas theou kai calazan
1 Samuel 14:15 "and the earth quaked: so it was a very GREAT trembling"- egenhqh ekstasis para kuriou
John Gill comments: "this phrase, "fair to God," may be only an Hebraism, just as Niniveh is said to be a city "great to God," i.e. exceeding great, Jonah 3:3, it being usual with the Jews to join the word God to an adjective, to express the superlative degree; and so it is rightly rendered here, "exceeding fair".
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible gives the perfect explanation, saying: “Was exceeding fair - Greek: “was fair to God”; properly rendered, “was very handsome.” The word “God” in the Greek here in accordance with the Hebrew usage, by which anything that is “very handsome, lofty, or grand” is thus designated. Thus, Psalm 36:7, “mountains of God,” mean lofty mountains; Psalm 80:11, “cedars of God,” mean lofty, beautiful cedars. Thus, Nineveh is called “a great city to God” (Jonah 3:3 Greek), meaning a very great city. The expression here simply means that Moses was “very fair,” or handsome. Compare Hebrews 11:23, where he is called “a proper child”; that is, a “handsome child.” It would seem from this that Moses was preserved by his mother on account of his “beauty”; and this is hinted at in Exodus 2:2.”
Expositor’s Greek Testament on Acts 7:20 - “ἀστεῖος τῷ θεῷ: if we render the expression as in A.V. and R.V., “exceeding fair,” the dative τῷ θεῷ is used as an equivalent of the Hebrew expression employed almost in a superlative sense, לֵאלהִים, Jonah 3:3. πόλις μεγ. τῷ θεῷ. = “Nineveh was an EXCEEDING GREAT city.”
Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament - “The expression in the Greek original, ἀ στεῖος τῷ θεῷ, rendered exceeding fair, is a very strong superlative, and is known in classical Greek. We read also of Nineveh in the LXX., a city ‘great unto God,’ an exceeding great city,’ Jonah 3:2.”
The King James Bible is NOT incorrect in Acts 7:20 by saying Moses was "exceeding fair". In fact, it makes more sense and is consistent with what we are told in Exodus 2:2. "And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months."
That he was a goodly child simply means that Moses was a beautiful baby, and that is exactly what we are told again in Acts 7:20.
To say, as the NKJV, ESV and NASB do, that this little baby boy of only a few weeks old was "well pleasing to God" when all he could do was cry, wiggle, eat and poop his diapers is to attribute a spiritual life to him that babies simply do not have.
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