An Ironic Twist:
But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported, “The jail was securely locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!” When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end. Then someone arrived with startling news: “The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!” The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them.Acts 5:22-26
The Captain of the Guard and the leading priests were perplexed [διαπορέω – di-aporeō] meaning to be thoroughly non-plussed, to be greatly perplexed, to have no way out (no explanation), to be at a loss to explain what happened or what will happen. The verb is a compound where the prefix ‘di‘ intensifies the meaning of the main verb [aporeo]. These men (the Captain of the Guard and the High Priests and Council) are at a loss to explain what has happened. It just doesn’t make sense. They have no answers or explanations for what has happened. But the leading question is what exactly were they perplexed about?
Notice the words “wondering where it would end”. This is a curious construction. Here is the original Greek portion of the sentence. Suffice to say it is complicated:
The grammatical construction could have a past focus
– related to what happened at the jail the night before, linked to how the Apostles escaped.
It could have a present focus
- for that particular moment for which action the leaders ought to take.
Or it could have a future focus
- as to how this is all going to work out; what is going to happen now?
How the translations handle it:
- (GNB) they wondered what had happened to the apostles.
- (GW) they were puzzled about what could have happened.
- (ISV) they were utterly at a loss as to what would have happened to them.
Under this scenario the focus is on what happened to the apostles that they were able to be free from a locked and guarded jail?
- (CEV) but they did not know what to think about it.
- (ERV) They were confused and wondered what it all meant.
- (LEB) they were greatly perplexed concerning them, as towhat this might be.
- (LITV) were in doubt concerning them, what this might be.
- (MKJV) they were bewildered about them, what this might be.
- (MSG) puzzled. “What’s going on here anyway?”
The focus on each of these translations has been put on the Capt of the Guard and the Priests and what they wereto do about it.
- (AMP) perplexed and thoroughly at a loss about them, wondering into what this might grow.
- (ASV) they were much perplexed concerning them whereunto this would grow.
- (BBE) greatly troubled about what might be the end of this business.
- (EMTV) they were greatly perplexed about them, as to what this might come to be.
- (ESV) they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to.
- (JUB) they were perplexed regarding what this would come to.
- (KJV) they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.
- (NASB) they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this.
- (NLT) they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end.
- (RV) they were much perplexed concerning them whereunto this would grow.
- (TLV) they were perplexed about them, wondering where this would lead.
- (WEBA) they were very perplexed about them and what might become of this.
- (YLT) they were doubting concerning them to what this would come;
The focus in these translations is future; where this is all going to lead.
I think you can see from the breakdown I gave you of the Greek sentence (or portion of the sentence) that the Greek construction has a number of unclear parts to it.
- The verb is tricky. It could be read as an aorist optative where the action is solely focused on what has happened to enable the Apostles to get out of prison.
- The object of the verb is also unclear. What is it they were puzzled about? Well, it is clear that they were perplexed about “them” [αὐτῶν].
- it could be them as people – meaning the apostles – in which case it’s how they got out of a locked jail. Or it could be them, the leaders and Guards and what they are going to do.
- Or it could be neuter, in which case the focus is these things (an inanimate object) or a circumstance – i.e. what has happenedor this problem or matter at hand.
- Likewise, the interrogative pronoun τί could be who (a person) or which or what.
- The ἂν could be the subjunctive particle which creates the link to the significance of subjunctive mood – what would happen, what might happen.
- Or it could be the contraction of ἐάν which throws the emphasis on the uncertainty or indefinite nature of all that is happening.
It is little wonder that we have so much variation in the translations at this point, when the original statement in Greek contains so many variations and alternatives. No wonder there is a confusion at the translation level. Sorry, the Greek text does nothing to clear the problem up. It is the reason for the wide variation. A number of you readers have contacted me in one way or another to let me know what you think the answer is.
- future tense
- what happened to the apostles
- what the leaders ought to do now
- what will happen next
Your opinions cover the field in equal groupings. So what did Luke mean when he wrote it? I know you are waiting for Ian to make the final statement and sum it all up for you.
Sorry, this is one of those times that I won’t be doing that. Being able to read Greek and Hebrew at times doesn’t help and merely clouds something that before consulting the Greek or Hebrew was clear. But after pondering about it myself and thinking about Luke’s nature as a doctor, I wonder whether he wrote this statement as he did in order to leave all of the options open. He could have changed the Greek text to clarify many of the issues and make the sentence clear but he didn’t, and in so doing he has left us with a heap of options. I suspect he did that deliberately.
When you really think about it, all those options are very real choices. The first reaction of the leaders would have been to ponder how on earth the apostles got out of a locked jail. It was impossible yet it happened and furthermore, they camped themselves on the front doorstep of the Temple. How dare they! Secondly, how on earth do the leaders react to that news, which must have been their challenge. They had warned the apostles severely over and over and still they get out of jail easily and go straight back to the Temple. What audacity! Lastly, what on earth is going to happen next? Where is this going to lead?
It seems whatever the leaders did to these apostles didn’t work. They had a major problem. Anything connected to Jesus was becoming a problem. The very name they have commanded them not to use, the apostles insist on using and they claim He is the reason all this is happening! Confusion on every level. Notice in the verse something I haven’t dealt with yet, we are told, “The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them.” We can gather from that what the reaction of the people was, which also made the Captain of the Temple Guard more circumspect about how he handled this matter. Indeed, who knows what would happen next. As I quoted in the last Gem, “Sometimes we should forget about understanding and just appreciate the irony.” In this case I think it’s deliberate, which is why I called this segment An Ironic Twist.
Your potential to change comes not when circumstances change, but when your attitude toward them changes.Ian Vail
Before you contemplate the criticism, you have to consider the source.Anon
Be thankful for the difficult times, during those times you grow the most.Anon
It just undoes the devil when he throws his very best at you and you just trust God and remain peaceful.Joyce Meyer