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Revisiting Acts 17:26

Yesterday I blogged about the HCSB of Acts 17:26, and in particular the portion that reads something like “made of one ______”. The KJV reads “blood” which is one of the textual variants, while the HCSB says “man” which apparently does not occur in any of the ancient manuscripts.

Since I read these lectionary texts daily for two weeks, today I encountered it in a different version, this time the TNIV, surely not one that could be accused of supporting anything like “male representation”, and it also read “man” in this case.

I’m not at home right now, so just looking at the immediately available Bible versions, I see the following:

  • REB reads “from one stock”
  • NRSV reads “from one ancestor”
  • CEV reads “from one person”
  • ESV reads “from one man”
  • TEV reads “from one human being”
  • God’s Word (GW) reads “from one man”
  • ISV reads “from one man”

I think that’s enough to see that most of the versions break where I would expect, with the exception of the TNIV. I wonder what their justification is here. It seems to me that since a number of ancient scribes appear to have provided options, but none thought of “man” here, it is unlikely that ancient readers would have understood this to refer specifically to the one man as human ancestor.

I’d be interested in comments on the reasoning behind the use of “man” in this verse.

2 comments to Revisiting Acts 17:26

  • Sorry for the late response.

    I suppose the reasoning for adding “man”, if intended in a gender generic sense, is that anthropon “of human beings” is taken as referring in some sense to the whole phrase ex henos pan ethnos “from one every nation”. So I think a reasonable case can be made for this interpretation, as understood by most translators. Actually we have the same issue in verse 25, where it is not clear whether the “all” refers to just humans or to all creatures.

    As for the TNIV reading, perhaps this is simply a mistake. But if this is interpreted to be “one human being”, we have to ask who this one man or woman is. It cannot be Eve because then the pronoun would be feminine. So I suppose it must be Adam, and this may well be the TNIV translators’ understanding, giving good grounds for the TNIV reading.

    But the problem remains that “every nation” came from Eve as much as from Adam, and that makes two people, not one. So I think that is a good reason for abandoning this interpretation. I would follow REB.

  • For Acts 17:26, the New Jerusalem Bible (a truly excellent translation) reads:

    “From one single principle he not only created the whole human race so that they could occupy the entire earth, but he decreed the times and limits of their habitation.”

    Footnote at “principle”:

    “var. ‘of one blood’, ‘of one nation’, ‘of one race’ ”

    Note the *intentionally* vague “principle” (meaning “first thing” *or* even “first person”). It would seem that your analysis is accurate, and that “man” may not be an appropriate translation here.

    Jim