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Επιλαβομενος in Acts 9:27

I thought I’d point out something that I found cool when translating Acts 9:26-31 recently. In v. 27 most translations go with something like:

But Barnabas took Saul, brought him to the apostles, and related to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.  [NET, italics added]

However, I translated it as:

Barnabas now was grasping him, brought him to the apostles and he himself told them how on the road he saw the Lord, and that He spoke to him, and how in Damascus he himself spoke fearlessly in the name of Jesus.  [italics added]

So the issue is how should one translate επιλαβομενος in this situation. In the NET it is translated as “took,” however I chose to translate it as “was grasping.” To get to my translation, I first looked to see what options I had from BDAG and then compared that to other places where Luke has used this word in a similar manner (italics added to show the translation of επιλαβομενος):

But they remained silent. So Jesus took hold of the man, healed him, and sent him away.  [Luke 14:4 NET]

But when her owners saw their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.  [Acts 16:19 NET]

So they all seized Sosthenes, the president of the synagogue, and began to beat him in front of the judgment seat. Yet none of these things were of any concern to Gallio.  [Acts 18:17 NET]

In these other Lukan passages it seems that there is some amount of force or even violence included with επιλαβομενος. It doesn’t simply mean “took,” but rather “seized,” or “grasped.”

BarnabasThat being the case elsewhere in Lukan material, I believe that in Acts 9:27, it should be translated as “Barnabas now was grasping him” rather than “Barnabas took him.” It adds a sense of urgency (or, at times, even violence). Perhaps Barnabas was tired of putting up with the other disciples not believing that Paul was truly one of them. It seems as if Barnabas literally pulled Paul into the place where the apostles were gathered. Maybe Paul was hesitant to go himself, so Barnabas pulled him that way and told the Apostles about Paul’s conversion. In any case, it is not that Barnabas simply led Paul to them. He grasped Paul and brought him to the apostles.



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