Tuesday, 18 April 2023
After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. Acts 16:7
In the previous verse, Luke recorded that Paul and his company had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia. However, the Holy Spirit had stopped them from preaching in Asia. With that remembered, it now says, “After they had come to Mysia.”
The meaning is not that they came “into Mysia,” which was a province of Asia minor. Rather, the word kata is used. It signifies “over against.” They had come as far as (over against) Mysia. Mysia was a district in northwest Anatolia that adjoined the Sea of Marmara on the north and the Aegean Sea to the west.
From this point in their journey, it then says that “they tried to go into Bithynia.” Bithynia was a region, a kingdom, and a Roman province also located in the northwest area of Asia Minor. It bordered the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, and the Black Sea. Mysia was to its southwest. The men attempted to go into this region, “but the Spirit did not permit them.”
In the previous commentary, various suggestions of what this meant were given. This does not appear to be an active manifestation of God, such as when the Egyptians were actively hindered from coming near Israel by the pillar of cloud as those fleeing passed through the Red Sea.
Rather, what seems likely is that they simply were unable to successfully travel through this area for some unknown reason. They were hindered in their travels and took it as a sign from God that it was not His intention for them to go into this area yet. Rather, there were other areas He would have them evangelize first. This appears certain from the contents of verse 16:9.
As a side note, some manuscripts say, “the Spirit of Jesus” rather than “the Spirit.” If that is the true original, then it is a unique phrase, found only here in Scripture. If it is not original, it may have come from a margin note that later found its way into those manuscripts. Such a rare phrase is not unheard of. For example, the phrases “the Spirit of Christ,” “the Spirit of His Son,” and “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” are also seen in the New Testament.
The inclusion of the name of Jesus, if a later insertion, may have come about to avoid anyone thinking, “These men were hindered by an evil spirit.” To clarify the matter, a scribe may have made an insertion with the name Jesus which was later assumed to be part of the original. As always, such things should not cause the reader to assume that we have a fallible word. Rather, it should encourage us to contemplate the matter and think about why such things have come about.
Life application: To understand the difficulty of accurately translating a verse from the original to English, or how an insertion for clarity could later be thought of as original, we can take a very simple sentence from the Bible, Genesis 1:1, and make a comparison of a few translations. First, the original says –
b’reshit bara Elohim eth ha’shamayim v’eth ha’arets
a direct translation would be –
“In beginning created Elohim the heavens and the earth.”
Note that the two uses of eth in the Hebrew are not translatable. Rather, the word is an untranslatable mark of the accusative case, being generally used to point out more definitely the object of a verb or preposition.
A few translations of this verse are –
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (KJV)
In the beginning, God created the universe. (ISV)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NIV)
In the beginning God created heaven, and earth. (Douay-Rheims)
In [the] beginning God created the heavens and the earth, (LSV)
In the beginning God (Elohim) created [by forming from nothing] the heavens and the earth. (Amplified)
In the beginning God formed the heavens and the earth. (SLT)
These are but a few of the variations of this verse. Notice how the KJV says “heaven” instead of “heavens.” Later, they will translate the exact same word as “the air” (Genesis 1:26, etc.), “the heavens” (Genesis 2:1, etc.), or some other variant. Being a plural word, their translation is wrong in Genesis 1:1. Further, the word “the” before beginning is not in the Hebrew and should be italicized as is normal with that translation for inserted words.
The word elohim at times means “gods” as in something other than the true God. Thus, the Amplified Bible both translates the word and includes it in parenthesis for clarity. It also explains the meaning of the word bara as an act of creation ex nihilo.
The SLT says “formed” without any explanation. Therefore, one might assume that the matter already existed, and God simply formed the universe from that preexisting matter. But another word, yatsar, is used to describe such a process, such as in the forming of man from the dust.
By looking over the differences in such translations, one can learn quite a bit about what is going on in the minds of the translators. But remember, this is a very simple sentence. Imagine how varied translations can be in longer or more complicated verses! Don’t rush into judging translations until you have studied and thought through what is going on.
The study of Scripture is something that we can and should spend our whole lives pursuing. Be pleased to spend your time wisely and consider what God is telling us in this precious word! Study! Consider! Seek out! There is so much treasure to be found here.
Thank You, O God, for the wonderful word You have given us. And thank You for those who have taken the time to translate it so that we can have a sense of what the original languages are telling us. Help us to consider this word all our days, pondering its secrets and learning from its truths. To Your glory, we pray. Amen.