Acts 12:25 - The Devil is in the Details

In Acts 12:25 we read: “And Barnabas and Saul returned FROM (ex) Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.”

This is the reading found in a multitude of Greek manuscripts and Bible versions including P74, Alexandrinus, the Textus Receptus, the Modern Greek N.T., the Vulgate 425, Wycliffe 1395, the Geneva Bible 1599, the Italian Diodati 1649, Riveduta 1927, French Martin 1744, Louis Segond 1910, Ostervald 1996, the Spanish Reina Valera 1602 - 1995, the Revised Version 1881, ASV 1901, Weymouth, Lamsa’s translation of the Syriac 1933, Douay 1950, Darby, Young’s, the NKJV 1982, NASB 1963-1995, RSV 1952, ESV 2003, The Message, Bible in Basic English, New English Bible, the NIV 1984, and the TNIV 2005.

Clearly the whole context tells us that Barnabas and Paul had already gone TO Jerusalem and had now returned FROM Jerusalem. In Acts 11:29-30 we read: “Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of BARNABAS AND SAUL.”

Then in 13:1 we again pick up with both Saul (Paul) and Barnabas already at Antioch, and not in Jerusalem. “Now there were at Antioch certain prophets and teachers: as Barnabas....and Saul.”

However the corrupt manuscripts of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus tell us in Acts 12:25 that both Barnabas and Saul (Paul) now returned TO Jerusalem, even though they had already been there as recorded in Acts 11:29-30, and were now in Antioch as found in Acts 13:1.

The total fickleness and inconsistency of the modern Critical text is seen in that Westcott and Hort originally went with the erroneous reading of “returned TO Jerusalem” (eis), but then the Nestle text 4th edition 1934 and the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece 1962 both read “returned FROM Jerusalem (ex). But wait; it gets worse. Now the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum 27th edition and the UBS 4th edition have once again rejected the previous Nestle critical text and have gone back to the reading originally adopted by Westcott and Hort. The UBS 4th edition once again says: “returned TO (eis) Jerusalem.”

Versions that contain this erroneous reading - “returned TO Jerusalem” - and thus contradict the whole context of Acts 11 through 13 are Tyndale 1525 - one of many reasons why Tyndale was not the perfect English Bible - see http://www.geocities.com/brandplucked/TynTRoKJB.html , Coverdale 1535, Bishops’ bible 1568, and in modern times Rotherham’s Emphasized bible 1902, the Catholic St. Joseph New American Bible 1970, the NRSV 1989, Holman Christian Standard Version 2003, the ISV (International Standard Version 2003), and Daniel Wallace’s NET version. Notice that the RSV 1952 and the ESV 2001 both read “FROM Jerusalem” but the NRSV 1989 read “TO Jerusalem”. These three are revisions of each other. Can’t seem to make up their minds, can they?

Daniel Wallace’s NET version follows the obviously corrupt reading found in Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, and then has one of the goofiest footnotes found in the annals of modern “scholarship”.

He translates the verse as: “So Barnabas and Saul returned TO (85) Jerusalem when they had completed their mission, bringing along with them John Mark.”

He then footnotes: “(85) There are a number of variants at this point in the text: (eis, “to”) in Sinaiticus, Vaticanus sams syhmg; (apo, “from”) in D E 36 323 453 614 1175 al; (ex, “from”) in Ì74 A 33 945 1739 al (ex Ierousalhm ei" Antioceian, “from Jerusalem to Antioch”) in {a few later manuscripts and part of the Itala}. A decision on this problem is very difficult, but for several reasons eis (to) can be preferred. It is the most difficult reading by far in light of the context, since Paul and Barnabas were going to Jerusalem in 11:30. It is found in better witnesses, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus being very strong evidence. The other readings, ex (from) and apo (from), are different from eis (to) yet bear essentially the same meaning as each other; this seems to suggest that scribes had problems with eis (to) and tried to choose an acceptable revision. If eis (to) is the earliest reading, apo (from) may be a clarification of ex (from), and ex (from) could have arisen through confusion of letters. Or ex and apo could both have independently arisen from eis as a more acceptable preposition. Despite such arguments, however, the case for eis (to) is not airtight: either ex or apo could be preferred on other lines of reasoning. The reading ex (from) enjoys the earliest support, and eis (to) could have arisen through the same confusion of letters mentioned above. The immediate and wider context seems to mitigate against eis (to) as the original reading: The aorist participle ( “when they had completed”) seems to signal the end of the mission to Jerusalem with the famine relief, so it would make sense in the context for the team to be coming FROM Jerusalem (to Antioch) rather than TO Jerusalem, and 13:1 certainly presents the scene at Antioch... Thus, the idea of spatial separation from Jerusalem is strongly implied by the context. This problem is so difficult that some scholars resort to conjectural emendation to determine the original reading. All in all, the reading EIS (to) should be preferred as original, recognizing that there is a good measure of uncertainty with this solution.” - Daniel Wallace

It would be difficult indeed to find a more convoluted, contradictory and mind-numbing example of “scholarspeak” than the one just given to us by a man like Daniel Wallace.

In spite of the fact that he admits the reading of ex (from Jerusalem) is the oldest reading, and that “the immediate and wider context seems to mitigate against eis (to) as the original reading”, and “the idea of spatial separation FROM Jerusalem is strongly implied by the context”, yet the good doctor concludes with this amazing statement: “All in all, the reading EIS (to) should be preferred as original, recognizing that there is a good measure of uncertainty with this solution.”

And what is his main argument in favor of this contradictory reading? Well, here is what he says: “A decision on this problem is very difficult, but for several reasons eis (to) can be preferred. It is the most difficult reading by far in light of the context, since Paul and Barnabas were going to Jerusalem in 11:30.”

In other words, the very fact that this contextual blunder is “the most difficult reading by far in light of the context” (i.e. it doesn’t make sense) is the very reason he thinks it “can be preferred”!!! When will it dawn on people that the so called “oldest and best manuscripts” of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are a confused and corrupt mess, and the modern version scholars who promote them have simply lost their marbles?

Will Kinney