Edward Dalcour & Acts 2.38 (III)

*Below we offer the third installment of our tetralogy toward Edward Dalcour’s criticisms of Oneness Pentecostal’s obedience to the plain language of Acts 2.38.  As before, we have simply copied Mr. Dalcour’s article in *bold black – with our rebuttals immediately following in *blue (as here).  Corroboration of Dalcour’s original article can be viewed HERE.

(Dalcour):  But keep in mind there is at least four different interpretations of Acts 2:38.  Mantey believed that a salvation by grace would be violated if a causal eis were not evident in such passages as Acts 2:38.

*This is a direct confession from Dalcour that Mantey’s theology dictated his grammatical assertions—not vice versa!  Of course, Oneness believers have always known this about most (albeit not all) Trinitarian exegetes.

*In his mammoth work (referenced in our previous post) Acts, An Exegetical Commentary, Vol. 1-4, footnote #1233—while discussing the purpose of baptism in Acts 2.38—Dr. Craig Keener affirms:

E.g., McIntyre, “Baptism and Forgiveness” (some of whose other points are stronger), cites the rule of concord to separate baptism and forgiveness in Acts 2:38, but Camp, “Reexamining Concord,” responds that ἕκαστος can serve as a plural pronoun.  Grammar alone will not easily decide the theological point here.  That εἰς in 2:38 may mean “for the purpose of” (cf., e.g., Dana and Mantey, Grammar, 104, §111.i) is far likelier than Mantey’s theologically determined “because of” (see Wallace, Grammar, 369–71, following Marcus, “Eis”; idem, “Elusive eis,” 44; against Mantey, “Causal Use of eis”; “Eis Again”).  Moule, Idiom Book, 70, has “with a view to, or resulting in.”

*Indeed, as most exegetes affirm, Acts 2.38 reflects the culmination and fulfillment of Peter’s eschatological quote from Joel (cf. Joel 2.32; Acts 2.21).  Simply, the end time outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit reaches its zenith in 2.38.  In sharp contrast to Dalcour’s claims above, Keener continues:

For Luke, however, baptism is not dissociated from repentance but constitutes an act of repentance; under normal circumstances, one does not separate the two (Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; 19:4)…preaching repentance in Jesus’s name (ἐίὶ τῷ ὀνόματι, 24:47) is concretely expressed by summoning the repentant to baptism in Jesus’s name (ἐίὶ τῷ ὀνόματι, Acts 2:38), and baptism figuratively “washes away sins” (22:16)…the “primitive” Jerusalem church used baptism in Jesus’s name for converts to its sect, in the process likely affirming Jesus’s lordship.  (Keener; Acts; Ibid.)

(Dalcour):  This way of handling the text is also concurred by one of the world’s premium and most quoted NT Greek grammarians A. T. Robertson:

My view is decidedly against the idea that Peter, Paul, or any one in the NT taught baptism as essential to the remission of sins or the means of securing such remission.  So I understand Peter to be urging baptism on each of them who had already turned (repented) and for it to be done in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of sins which they had already received” (Word Pictures, 3:35-36).

*Note above Robertson’s concessions of “My view” and “So I understand.”  Once again we have another Trinitarian scholar interpreting the inspired grammar through the lenses of his theological commitments.  Will Dalcour equally allow Oneness believers to quote one another like this in buttressing their theological conclusions?  Me-thinks not!

*More importantly, Dalcour here lives up to his solid reputation for partial quotations (cf. his partial quote of scholar Murray Harris in his debate with Steven Ritchie).  Dalcour practices such source abuse at virtually every page of his book—and he’s back at it above with this quote from Dr. A.T. Robertson!  Here’s what Dalcour omits from “one of the world’s premium NT Greek grammarians:”

One will decide the use here according as he believes that baptism is essential to the remission of sins or not (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume III, The Acts of the Apostles [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1930], pp. 35-36).

*Amazingly (albeit not surprisingly), this sentence appears immediately above Dalcour’s selected (partial) quotation!  Mind-boggling.

*Incidentally, since Dalcour often makes an issue over the various prepositions used in the phrase “in the name of Jesus” in the baptismal accounts (ἐπὶ, ἐν, εἰς)—and while he is quoting Robertson here—perhaps Dalcour will accept Robertson here also (esp. since it appears on the same page!):

No distinction is to be insisted on between ei to onoma and en twi onomati with baptizw since ei and en are really the same word in origin.

*Keener remarks, “Luke’s particular expression varies: is one baptized ἐίί Jesus’s name (as here), εἰς his name (8:16; 19:5), or ἐν his name (10:48)?  But εἰς and ἐν tended to merge in Koine, so that (in contrast to classical Greek) εἰς with the accusative no longer necessarily implied movement.  Luke was probably unconcerned with the preposition; “what mattered was the name (see 3:6, 16; 8:12).

(Dalcour):  There is also another grammatical aspect to be considered.  There is a shift from second person plural to third person singular and back to second person plural.

*As we demonstrate below, this age-old evasion tactic does absolutely nothing to lessen the fatal blow of Acts 2.38 to Trinitarian (esp. Reform) soteriology.  Below, Mr. Dalcour largely parrot’s Cal Beisner’s polemic against Oneness believers.

*Dr. Daniel Segraves has gently laid most of these assertions in their coffin where they rightly belong HERE, HERE, and see also an interesting article by Jason Dulle HERE.  

(Dalcour):  Notice below:

2.  The verb “repent” (metanoēsate) is second person plural and is in the active voice.

3.  And “be baptized” (baptisthētō) is third person singular and is in the passive voice.

4.  The Greek pronoun translated “your” (humōn) is in a second person plural.

*What Trinitarian apologists overlook with this attempted dodge is that Peter addressed the entirety of his saving instructions to “them” (2.38a)—the third person plural pronoun αὐτούς.  That is, the Apostle Peter’s mandates for salvation were directed to the whole listening audience—not merely a “single” person.  Of course, this is demonstrated in the fact that three thousand obeyed these saving instructions and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (that’s a little more than a “single” listener!).

*If Dalcour (again, borrowing from Beisner) emphasizes the third person singular of the imperative mood (cf. aorist tense import) verb translated “be baptized” (βαπτισθήτω)—equal exegetical scales will render the same attention to the third person plural pronoun αὐτούς to whom the third person singular verb “be baptized” was addressed!

*Exegetically, a significant variant appears with the second person plural pronoun ὑμῶν (“your”) that Dalcour marshals in his (cf. Beisner) list above.  Dr. Segraves notes:

The Textus Receptus (Received Text), upon which the King James Version and the New King James Version are based, does not include the second “your” (humon), nor does the Majority Text.  The critical text followed by most modern English translations does include the second “your” in the phrase “for the remission of your sins.”  This is interesting, for the critical text usually prefers the shorter reading.  In this case, the longer reading is adopted by the critical text on the view that the shorter reading (without the second “your”) is “conformation to the solemn formula of the Gospels, not an original shorter reading” (see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament [Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, Corrected Edition, 1975], 301).

*(See the critical apparatus for NA28:  των αμαρτιων [+ημων C] C 1175¦txt א‎ A B 81 t w vg.)

(Dalcour):  Therefore, the grammatical connection is: “repent” (active plural) with “your” (active plural) as in “for the remission of your [humōn] sins” and not “be baptized” (passive singular) with “for the remission of your sins.”

*Contrary to the volumes of linguists above—Dalcour presumes he sees something here that they all apparently missed!  The Greek verb rendered “be baptized” appears in the passive voice simply because the subject is passive—contra active (e.g., repentance)—in the act of water baptism.

*The reason the verb βαπτισθήτω (“be baptized”) is singular is because the grammatical subject is the masculine singular ἕκαστος, translated “each.”  Since this is a nominative singular third person reference it throws the verb of which it’s the subject into the 3rd person singular.  It’s simple grammatical concord.

*The first ὑμῶν (“of you”) modifies ἕκαστος as a partitive genitive, lit., “each one of you.”  It’s simply a stronger way of stating the imperative (command).  Instead of the simple βαπτίσθητε, “be baptized,” the Apostle Peter particularizes the subject and emphasizes the “you” individually.  In this way, baptism in Jesus name uniquely personalized the experience to each convert.  In sum, Dalcour’s point is—well, pointless!

*Further, as intimated above, does Dalcour seriously (mis)interpret the singular number to mean that only a single person obeyed Peter’s instructions at Pentecost?  If so, how does he square his misapplication of the singular number with the fact that, “those (masculine plural οἱ) who received his word were baptized (3rd person plural, ἐβαπτίσθησαν), and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2.41)?  Has Dalcour never heard of the “collective singular” in Greek?  Apparently not!  

(Dalcour):  Moreover, the same wording “for the remission of your sins” is used in reference to John’s baptism (cf. Luke 3:3; Mark 1:4) and that baptism did not save, it was a preparatory baptism and of the coming Messiah and a call to repentance, as we will deal with below.

*Actually, the passages mentioned by Dalcour above referring to John’s baptism are not syntactically parallel (an argument Dalcour makes regarding John 10.30 in cf. Revelation 21.22).  The prepositional phrase in Acts 2.38 is εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν.  In the passages above the prepositional phrase is εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν.  There is no articular noun in either Luke 3.3 or Mark 1.4 in the Greek text as there is in Acts 2.38.  While the meaning does not hinge either way on the anarthrous or articular noun rendered “sins”—still, this once again demonstrates Mr. Dalcour’s typically shoddy exegesis.

*Moreover, Dalcour actually makes our very point above.  Indeed, it is mind-boggling how someone can actually appeal to the very verses that show baptism is “for forgiveness of sins” only to deny what the very text before his eyes states!  If sins are remitted or forgiven at water baptism in the preparatory stage of the kingdom of God – how much more in its fulfillment?  There is no reason to convolute the plain biblical testimony: sins are forgiven at repentance and water baptism—period.

(Dalcour):  An additional view, however, is that baptism represents both the spiritual reality and the ritual which is an acceptable view that works well in the scope of the context.

*Here Dalcour borrows from Dr. Daniel Wallace in his groundbreaking work Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics.  We would whole-heartedly agree with this assertion.  We cannot segregate the internal prompting of faith from the external outworking of the same.

(Dalcour):  Notwithstanding the different shades of interpretation, which in fact do not contradict, but only enhance—they are all in accord with good exegesis.

*Agreed—although below Dalcour abandons “good exegesis!”

(Dalcour):  Contrary to the UPCI position, which violates not only the theology in Acts (e.g., 10:43) but also the entire theology of the NT (e.g., John 6:47; Rom. 4:4ff.; Gal. 2:16).

*Actually, as shown elsewhere on this blog (see below), it is Dalcour who repeatedly violates biblical soteriology and theology – and he is back at it here!  Overhead Dalcour appeals to Acts 10.43, John 6.47, Romans 4.4 and Galatians 2.16.  Let’s examine the context of each reference below.  First, Acts 10 (referenced above) concludes with:

…the gift of the Holy Spirit has been poured out even upon the Gentiles.  For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and magnifying God.  (v. 46)

Then Peter answered, “Is anyone able to withhold the water to baptize these who have received the Holy Spirit, just as we also have?”  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  (vv. 47-48)

*Significantly, this is where the church in Rome (that Dalcour appeals to above) was planted—with the Roman centurion named Cornelius (cf., Acts 10.1; NLT).  So that when we get to Paul’s letter to Rome, he is addressing those who have already been water and Spirit baptized in Jesus’ name from Acts 10 (cf. Romans 6.1-4, 8.9-11).  Note also that the law of prepositions demands an oral invocation of the name referenced, viz., Jesus Christ.

*John was a tongue talker who baptized in Jesus’ name (cf. Acts 1.13; Acts 8.14-16).  Further, John is clear that one must be born again “out of” water and the Holy Spirit (John 3.3-5).  Similarly, Galatians 3.27 (which see) is clear that the entire church in Galatia was already water and Spirit baptized.  Hence, in the final analysis either or both the senders and recipients of these letters were water baptized in Jesus’ name and had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in other tongues.  

(Dalcour):  Lastly, in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, foremost Greek scholar Daniel Wallace provides insightful comments regarding the four main interpretations of Acts 2:38:

*Note:  For the sake of clarity the following portion of Dalcour’s article is copied from Wallace’s work—hence Dr. Wallace is the speaker below.

Causal εἰς [eis, “for”] in Acts 2:38?  An interesting discussion over the force of εἰς took place several years ago, especially in relation to Acts 2:38.  The text reads as follows:

Πέτρος δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς Μετανοήσατε, φησίν καὶ βαπτισθήτω ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν. . . . (“And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized—each one of you—at the name of Jesus Christ because of/for/unto the forgiveness of your sins…”).

*I would just point out that no reputable translation has adopted Dr. Wallace’s rendering of Acts 2.38 above (e.g., see HERE).  Indeed, the Greek prepositional phrase translated “in the name of Jesus Christ” is literally ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.  I do understand that when ἐπὶ governs a dative case noun (such as here) “at” is a perfectly fine rendering.  I just find it unnecessary to exchange the normative transcription of “upon” or “in” for the awkward and wooden “at.”

On the one hand, J. R. Mantey argued that εἰς could be used causally in various passages in the NT, among them Matt 3:11 and Acts 2:38.  It seems that Mantey believed that a salvation by grace would be violated if a causal εἰς was not evident in such passages as Acts 2:38.

*As has been noted by many, Dr. Mantey allowed his theological presuppositions to interfere with his exegesis—as do many contemporary Trinitarian apologists.

On the other hand, Ralph Marcus questioned Mantey’s non-biblical examples of a causal εἰς so that in his second of two rejoinders he concluded (after a blow-by-blow refutation):  “It is quite possible that εἷς is used causally in these NT passages but the examples of causal εἰς cited from non-biblical Greek contribute absolutely nothing to making this possibility a probability.”

If, therefore, Professor Mantey is right in his interpretation of various NT passages on baptism and repentance and the remission of sins, he is right for reasons that are non-linguistic.  Marcus ably demonstrated that the linguistic evidence for a causal εἷς fell short of proof.

 *This is the general consensus of NT linguists as demonstrated above.

If a causal εἷς is not in view, what are we to make of Acts 2:38?

*This is where theological commitments begin to take over from Trinitarians.  What we are to make of Acts 2.38 is precisely what it makes of itself!  When taken holistically, biblical salvation consists of faith, repentance from sin, water and Spirit baptism in the name of Jesus Christ and walking in a resurrected life of a new existence in Christ (i.e., love and holiness).  There is simply no other recognized salvation if the scriptures are allowed to speak uninterrupted—as in this passage.

There are at least four other interpretations of Acts 2:38.  1) The baptism referred to here is physical only, and εἰς has the meaning of for or unto.  Such a view, if this is all there is to it, suggests that salvation is based on works.

*No one I know confesses that the “physical” water apart from inward-working faith constitutes salvation.  This is a straw man argument.

The basic problem of this view is that it runs squarely in the face of the theology of Acts, namely:  (a) repentance precedes baptism (cf. Acts 3:19; 26:20), and (b) salvation is entirely a gift of God, not procured via water baptism (Acts 10:43 [cf. v 47]; 13:38-39, 48; 15:11; 16:30-31; 20:21; 26:18).

*I would turn this assertion completely upside down:  The view that salvation in Acts is achieved through repentance alone runs polar opposite of the actual data itself.  The Jews in chapter 2, the eunuch and Samaritans in chapter 8, the gentiles in chapter 10 (cf. 11.14), Lydia and her house, the Philippian jailer in chapter 16, the disciples of John the Baptist in chapter 19, the Apostle Paul in chapter 22—all met a uniform new birth experience of water and Spirit baptism in Jesus’ name!

*Further, although we certainly agree that salvation is a gift of God—does this mean that a person does not have to believe in Jesus nor repent (since Dr. Wallace has appealed to repentance in Acts above) to be saved?  As mentioned above, the same book of Acts specifically identifies repentance as “works” (ἔργα πράσσοντας; Acts 26.20), yet never labels water baptism as the same.  If we can ignore the command to be baptized in Jesus name consistency demands that we can equally disregard faith in Christ, repentance from sin, etc.   

2) The baptism referred to here is spiritual only.  Although such a view fits well with the theology of Acts, it does not fit well with the obvious meaning of “baptism” in Acts—especially in this text (cf. 2:41).

*Agreed. Significantly, the initial converts to the church were water and Spirit baptized in Jesus’ name.  Clearly there is not one plan of salvation in church history and another design in these “last days” (Acts 2.17).  This is particularly evident when one considers that the Apostle Peter applied Acts 2.38 to Joel’s eschatological prophecy of “in the last days” (which obviously still applies).  That is, the way the first person got in the NT church is the same manner that the last person will enjoy entrance into the NT church.  The “last day” of the Christian initiation experience will be just like the first day!

3) The text should be repunctuated in light of the shift from second person plural to third person singular back to second person plural again.  If so, it would read as follows:  “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized at the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. . . .”

*And yet no reputable translation—combining hundreds of NT Greek linguists—has adopted such a rendering (see HERE).  As a Greek professor once admonished me, “Anytime you espouse a translation of any given text that no one else has selected – you are likely mistranslating the passage due to a doctrinal bias.”  Such is the case with Trinitarians such as Dalcour, et al.

If this is the correct understanding, then εἰς is subordinate to Μετανοήσατε alone, rather than to βαπτισθήτω.

*As our sentence diagram below demonstrates, the prepositional phrase εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν (lit., “for forgiveness of the sins your”) is directly subordinate to βαπτισθήτω (“be baptized”) which has the prepositional phrase ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (“upon the name of Jesus Christ”) immediately supporting this verb (“be baptized”).  This is simply the most straightforward and normative exegesis of this passage.  

Acts 2.38

*We will continue our series on Edward Dalcour & Acts 2.38 in our next installment.  Thank you for reading!

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