Thursday, July 14, 2005
There’s No Shame in Being Agrammatoi
This 1999 article in New Testament Studies takes a thorough look at the Greek words agrammatoi and idiotai, which are used to describe the Sanhedrin’s perception of Paul and John in Acts 4. Thomas Kraus argues that the strong negative connotation of the English derivatives “ungrammatical” and “idiots” should be left out of our reading of Acts 4:13. Instead, “agrammatoi” (lacking education) and “idiotai” (lacking expertise) are neutral descriptions of the lack of specialized knowledge on the part of Paul and John, which makes their testimony all the more remarkable.
I was impressed that modern translations seemed to have aptly softened the KJV’s translation of “unlearned and ignorant”:
13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14But
13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.
13They couldn’t take their eyes off them—Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education.
Citation: THOMAS J. KRAUS . ‘UNEDUCATED’, ‘IGNORANT’, OR EVEN ‘ILLITERATE’? ASPECTS AND BACKGROUND FOR AN UNDERSTANDING OF AoPAMMATOI (AND IjIzTAI) IN ACTS 4.13. New Testament Studies, Volume 45, Number 3 (July 1999), pp. 434-449,