Acts 14:12 King James Bible - “ And they called Barnabas, JUPITER; and Paul, MERCURIUS, because he was the chief speaker.”
There are many Bible critics who themselves do not believe that ANY Bible in ANY language IS or ever was the complete, inspired and 100% true words of God. Several of them tell us that the word translated as Jupiter “should be ‘Zeus” and that Mercurius should be ‘Hermes’. But are they right? Not at all, as we shall soon see.
Several modern versions unite to call Barnabas ZEUS and Paul HERMES. Among these are:
NKJV 1982 - “And Barnabas they called ZEUS, and Paul, HERMES, because he was the chief speaker.”
Also reading this way are the RSV, NIV, NASB, NET, the Jehovah Witness New World Translation, the Catholic St. Joseph New American Bible 1979, the Catholic New Jerusalem bible 1985 and the ESV.
The Catholic Connection
The Catholic versions are in their usual disarray. The older Douay Rheims of 1582 and the Douay of 1950 agree with the King James Bible saying: “And they called Barnabas, JUPITER: but Paul, MERCURY: because he was chief speaker.”
But the 1968 Jerusalem bible, the 1970 St. Joseph New American Bible and the 1985 New Jerusalem bible all say: “They addressed Barnabas as ZEUS, and since Paul was the principal speaker they called him HERMES.” New Jerusalem bible 1985.
However the latest Catholic Public Domain Version of 2009 has now gone back to - “And they called Barnabas, ‘JUPITER’ yet truly they called Paul, ‘MERCURY,’ because he was the lead speaker.”
The Jehovah Witness New World Translation reads like the NKJV, NIV, NASB, ESV and the modern Catholic versions. It says: "And they went calling Barnabas ZEUS, but Paul HERMES..."
The King James Bible, and MANY others as we shall soon see, is not in error at all for reading JUPITER and MERCURIUS here. Where were the apostles Paul and Barnabas when this whole event took place?
The immediate context tells us very clearly that they were in the region of Lycaonia and Lycaonia was a Roman province and not Greek. And it was in the speech of Lycaonia that the people began to call Barnabas Jupiter and Paul Mercurius. The language of the Lycaonians would have been the Latin and not the Greek. The inspired Greek text merely translates and records what was said in Latin.
Let’s define the terms and names used here.
Easton’s Bible Dictionary - Jupiter -The principal deity of the ancient Greeks and Romans. He was worshipped by them under various epithets. Barnabas was identified with this god by the Lycaonians (Acts 14:12), because he was of stately and commanding presence, as they supposed Jupiter to be. There was a temple dedicated to this god outside the gates of Lystra (14:13).
Nave's Topical Bible - Jupiter - Equivalent to Zeus, a Greek and Roman deity Acts 14:12,13; 19:35
Nave's Topical Bible -Mercurius - A pagan god; Mercury (to the Romans); Hermes (to the Greeks)) Paul taken for, in Lycaonia Acts 14:11,12
ATS Bible Dictionary - American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859.
Mercury - A fabulous god of the ancient heathen, the messenger of the celestials, and the deity that presided over learning, eloquence, and traffic. The Greeks named him Hermes, interpreter, because they considered him as the interpreter of the will of the gods. Probably it was for this reason that the people of Lystra, having heard Paul preach, and having seen him heal a lame man, would have offered sacrifice to him as to their god Mercury; and to Barnabas as Jupiter, because of his venerable aspect, Acts 14:11-12.
Holman Bible Dictionary
MERCURIUS - KJV translation of the Greek Hermes (Acts 14:12). The Roman god Mercury was identified with the Greek Hermes.
Also agreeing with the King James Bible reading of JUPITER and MERCURY are the following: Wycliffe 1395 - “And thei clepiden Barnabas Jubiter, and Poul Mercurie, for he was ledere of the word.”, Tyndale 1525 - “And they called Barnabas Iupiter and Paul Mercurius because he was the preacher.”, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible (Cranmer) of 1540 -"And they called Barnabas Iupiter, and Paul Mercurius", Matthew's Bible 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587, the Douay-Rheims bible 1582, The Beza N.T. 1599, the Bill Bible 1671, Mace New Testament 1729, Whiston's Primitive N.T. 1745, John Wesley’s translation 1755, the Worseley N.T. of 1770, Haweis N.T. 1795, the Newcomb N.T. 1796, The Thomson Bible 1808, The Revised Translation 1815, The Thomson N.T. 1816, the Wakefield N.T. 1820, The Kneeland N.T. 1823, Webster’s Bible 1833, the Living Oracles 1835, Longman Version 1841, the Hammond N.T. 1845, Hussey N.T. 1845, the Hewett N.T. 1850, The Commonly Received Version 1851, the Revised Version 1881, the Living Oracles 1835, the Morgan N.T. 1848, the Boothroyd Bible 1853, the Sawyer N.T. 1858, Kenrick N.T. 1862, The Revised N.T. 1862, The American Bible Union N.T. 1865, The Emphatic Diaglott Bible 1865, Anderson N.T. 1865, Noyes Translation 1869, The Alford N.T. 1870, the Smith Bible 1876, The Revised English Bible 1877, the Sharpe Bible 1883, Dillard N.T. 1885, Darby translation 1890, the ASV 1901, Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible 1902, the Godbey N.T. 1902, Worrell N.T. 1904, J.B. Phillips Translation 1962, the New Life Version 1969, the New English Bible 1970, The Living Bible 1971, the Worldwide English New Testament 1998, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, Updated Bible Version 2004, the New Simplified Bible, the Knox Bible 2012, the New Heart English Bible 2008, the English Jubilee Bible of 2010, The Hebrew Names Version 2014 - “They called Bar-Nabba "JUPITER," and Sha'ul "MERCURY," because he was the chief speaker. “
Other English Bibles that also read JUPITER and MERCURY like the King James Bible are The Word of Yah 1993, The 21st Century King James Version 1994, Revised Webster Bible 1995 (Larry Pierce), Worldwide English New Testament 1998 - " They named Barnabas, JUPITER. And they named Paul, MERCURY, because he was the one who talked.", God's First Truth 1999, The Sacred Scriptures Family of Yah 2001, The Worldwide English Bible 2000, The Tomson N.T. 2002, The Evidence Bible 2003, The Resurrection Life New Testament 2005 (Vince Garcia), The Context Group Version 2007, the Bond Slave Version 2009, The New European Version 2010, The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011, the World English Bible 2012.
Foreign Language Bibles
Among foreign language Bible that also have Jupiter and Mercurius are the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras of 1569, the 1997 Spanish La Biblia de las Américas (Lockman Foundation) - “Y llamaban a Bernabé, JUPITER, y a Pablo, MERCURIO, porque éste era el que dirigía la palabra.”, the 2005 Nueva Biblia Latinoamericana de Hoy (Lockman Foundation, same people who publish the NASB), the Spanish Reina Valera of 1960, 1995 and 2011 - “A Bernabé lo llamaron JUPITER, y como Pablo era el que hablaba, a él lo llamaron MERCURIO.”, the French Martin bible of 1744, the French Louis Segond - “Ils appelaient Barnabas JUPITER, et Paul MERCURE”, the French Nouvelle Edition de Genève of 1979, the Italian Diodati of 1649, the New Diodati of 1991, the Italian La Parola de Vita of 1997, and the Italian Riveduta of 2006 - “ E chiamavano Barnaba GIOVE, Paolo MERCURIO”, the Portuguese Almeida Actualizada and the Portuguese O Livro of 2000 - “A Barnabé chamavam JUPITER e a Paulo, MERCURIO, porque era ele o que dirigia a palavra.”,
The Romanian Cornilescu - “Pe Barnaba îl numeau JUPITER, iar pe Pavel MERCUR”, and the Romanian Fidela Bible 2014, the Hungarian Karoli Bible - “És hívják vala Barnabást Jupiternek, Pált pedig Merkúriusnak”, the Dutch StatenVertaling Bible - “En zij noemden Barnabas JUPITER, en Paulus MERCURIUS”, the Danish Bible - “Og de kaldte Barnabas JUPITER, men Paulus MERCURIUS,” the Polish Biblia Gdanska 1881 - “I nazwali Barnabasza Jowiszem, a Paw?a Merkuryjuszem”, the German Luther Bible of 1545 and the Schlachter Bible of 1951 - “Und nannten Barnabas JUPITER und Paulus MERKURIUS”, the Afrikanns Byble of 1953 - “En hulle het vir Bárnabas JUPITER genoem, en vir Paulus MERCURIUS”, the Albanian Bible - “Dhe e quanin Barnabën JUPITER, Palin MERKUR”, the Phillipine Bible Society Translation 1905 - “At tinawag nilang JUPITER, si Bernabe; at MERCURIO, si Pablo”, and the Norwegian Det Norsk Bibelselskap - “Og de kalte Barnabas JUPITER og Paulus MERKUR”.
Adam Clarke comments on Acts 14:12 - “They called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius - The heathens supposed that Jupiter and Mercury were the gods who most frequently assumed the human form; and Jupiter was accustomed to take Mercury with him on such expeditions. Jupiter was the supreme god of the heathens; and Mercury was by them considered the god of eloquence. And the ancient fable, from which I have quoted so largely above, represents Jupiter and Mercury coming to this very region, where they were entertained by Lycaon, from whom the Lycaonians derived their name. “
Barnes Notes on the New Testament tells us: “And they called Barnabas, Jupiter. Jupiter was represented as the most powerful of all the gods of the ancients. ... There is the most abundant proof that he was worshipped in the region of Lycaonia, and throughout Asia Minor. There was, besides, a fable among the inhabitants of Lycaonia that Jupiter and Mercury had once visited that place, and had been received by Philemon. The whole fable is related by Ovid, (Metam. 8, 611)
John Gill comments on Acts 14:12 - “And they called Barnabas Jupiter…The supreme God; it may be because that Barnabas was the oldest man, of the tallest stature, and largest bulk, and made the best figure; whereas Paul was younger, of a low stature, and mean appearance: and Paul Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker; Mercury was the god of eloquence, and the messenger of the gods, and the interpreter of their will F18; Paul being chiefly concerned in preaching and speaking to the people, they called him by the name of this God.”
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comment: “they called Barnabas, Jupiter--the father of the gods, from his commanding mien and Paul, Mercurius--the god of eloquence and the messenger and attendant of Jupiter, in the heathen mythology.”
Matthew Henry comments: “And Paul they called Mercury, who was the messenger of the gods, that was sent on their errands; for Paul, though he had not the appearance that Barnabas had, was the chief speaker, and had a greater command of language, and perhaps appeared to have something mercurial in his temper and genius. Jupiter used to take Mercury along with him, they said, and, if he make a visit to their city, they will suppose he does so now. “
J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts - “But when two gods appeared together, the one who acts as chief speaker could be no other than Mercury, the god of Eloquence, and the constant attendant of Jupiter in his terrestrial visits. The remark of Luke that Paul was called Mercury "because he was the chief speaker," shows that he was familiar with Greek mythology.”
The People’s New Testament - “"The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men." In the speech of Lycaonia. Paul had preached in Greek, which was understood over all the East, but the native dialect of the Lycaonians was different, and in that they confer together. Called Barnabas, Jupiter. The chief of the gods in the Greek and Roman Pantheon. Barnabas was no doubt a more stately man than Paul, who says that his own "bodily presence was weak and speech contemptible," and there was also a reason why they thought Paul, Mercurius. Mercury was the "interpreter of the gods." His Greek name, Hermes, is the origin of our word Hermeneutics. Paul, eloquent, persuasive, active, was thought to represent the part of Mercury. Then the priest of Jupiter. There was a temple of Jupiter before the gates of the city, with the usual priest, and carried away by their idea, they prepared to offer sacrifices to the gods whom they supposed to have visited them.”
Dr. Larry Bednar of KJV Textual Technology remarks: "It's said that the Latin terms Jupiter applied to Barnabus and Mercurius applied to Paul by citizens of Lystra in Acts 14:12 of the KJV are erroneous in that they don't truly translate the Greek, and supposedly the Greek names Zeus and Hermes are correct. But those who say this don't seem to realize that in the Greek text, Greek names would be assigned to these false gods, whatever the actual names were in the native language of Lycaonia spoken by these citizens (14:11). No one knows what names were actually used, but the inerrant Greek would be fully equivalent, making it readily possible to derive an English equivalent. Clearly, in an English translation, the names utilized would reflect English culture, and English is far more kindred to the Latin than it is to the Greek. Thus Latin-based names like Jupiter & Mercurius are the ones likely to apply in the KJV, and more likely to be understood by English readers. Indeed Lystra was a city in the Roman empire at this time in history, so the Latin names are the only logical choices. Some theorize that the local language was Greek, but there is no basis for this. "
The King James Bible is always right. Accept no substitutes.
All of grace, believing the Book,
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