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Wednesday, April 2

Was Judas’ “place” or “home” deserted? (Acts 1:20)

In speaking of Judas, Peter quotes Ps 69:25. “‘For,’ said Peter, ‘it is written in the Book of Psalms: “May his place (ἔπαυλις) be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,” and, “May another take his place of leadership (ἐπισκοπήν).”’” (NIV).

A couple interesting problems with this verse.

1. ἔπαυλις is not as generic a word as “place” suggests. BDAG defines it as, “property that serves as a dwelling place whether personally owned or by contract, farm, homestead, residence.” I am not sure why such a generic word as “place” was chosen. ἔπαυλις is more personal in meaning, describing where you live.

HALOT describes טִירָה (Ps 69:25) as an “encampment protected by a stone wall.” Perhaps this explains the use of “place” in Acts 1:20. “Place” works in both New and Old Testament passages, and does illustrate an interesting translation issue. When the OT quotes the NT, whether the LXX or Hebrew, is there a way to chose verbiage that keeps the two together without creating an artificial connection? This is also one of the issues we see in the history of the biblical text; scribes trying to make the NT citations fit the OT (as well as things like getting the Synoptics to agree). My position is that if we can help the lay reader see the connection and we don’t violate the integrity of the text (i.e., force the translation to fit), then this is a good thing. But in the case of Acts 1:20, it removes the personal sense of ἔπαυλις.

2. It also created a false concordance. The English reader might assume that “place” and “place of leadership” were verbally connected, perhaps even a pun. But that type of link does not exist between ἔπαυλις and ἐπισκοπή.

ESV uses “camp,” drawing presumably on טִירָה. The RSV had “habitation” (also KJV), changed to “homestead” in the NRSV. Others have “dwelling” (HCSB),”house” (NET), and “home” (NLT).

My preference would be for “house” to keep the personal nature of what will be deserted, and thereby avoid the false concordance.