You are hereThe Greek Word ''Mello'' and its Questionable Usage In Acts 26:22-23

The Greek Word ''Mello'' and its Questionable Usage In Acts 26:22-23

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By Virgil - Posted on 16 August 2004

I have a question concerning the usage of the Greek word mello as found twice in Acts 26:22-23.
It appears to me that the "imminency" or "impending" aspect of this particular Greek word, as easily discerned in the vast majority of its occurrences in the New Testament, is violated in these verses. On the surface it appears in these two verses that the "prophets and Moses" spoke of distant future events as though "imminent" and "impending." Here are the two verses as found in two very literal translations:

ANALYTICAL-LITERAL VERSION

26:22 “Therefore, having obtained help from God, until this day I have stood testifying both to small and to great, saying nothing except what both the Prophets and Moses spoke of [as] BEING ABOUT TO BE [Gr. Mello] taking place,

26:23 that the Christ is subject to suffering, that [being the] first from [the] resurrection of the dead, He is ABOUT TO BE [Gr. Mello] proclaiming light to the [Jewish] people and to the Gentiles.”

CONCORDANT LITERAL NEW TESTAMENT

26:22 “Happening, then, on assistance from God, until this day I stand attesting both to small and to great, saying nothing outside of what both the prophets and Moses speak of IMPENDING [Gr., Mello] occurrences — if it be the suffering Christ —

26:23 if He, the first out of a resurrection of the dead, IS ABOUT TO BE [Gr., Mello] announcing light both to the {Jewish} people and to the nations.”

Before I ask for your answers allow me to make a couple of comments. First, I believe that the latter usage of mello in verse 23 is what the former usage of mello in verse 22 was referring or alluding to.

In other words the first usage of mello in verse 22 is limited to its obvious application in verse 23--i.e., "He IS ABOUT TO BE [Gr., Mello] announcing light both to the {Jewish} people and to the nations."

Hence, mello would in no way be referring to the Passion (verse 22) and Resurrection (verse 23)--both being obviously past--and, therefore, could not be viewed as "about to be" occurring.

Perhaps, from Dr. Luke's perspective (when writing Acts) this event--i.e., "He IS ABOUT TO BE [Gr., Mello] announcing light both to the {Jewish} people and to the nations"--was still in his, and in his audiences', immediate future.

Could Dr. Luke's usage of mello been referring to the collapse of Judaism in the Great Revolt of AD 66-73 and the subsequent full coming of the Kingdom?

Or, are more "imminent" events in view? It seems that the 70th week of Daniel 9's prophecy was wholly about "announcing light...to the {Jewish} people", and that upon its fulfillment, God went about "announcing light...to the {Gentile} nations." I thought the writing of Acts would have post-dated the start of BOTH of these landmark events.

Can anyone shed light upon this apparently contradictory usage of the word mello?

JRP's picture

JHB,

Thanks for pointing out this problem, although I have to say that I'm completely stumped. I not sure if we're looking at this from the wrong perspective... or maybe we need the help of a Greek expert.

But boldness without truth will never make a Christian confessor: and if a man injures himself for the love of error, he is not a martyr but a suicide. William A. Jones

Sam's picture

The Greek, there, is abrupt. However, if 'mello' is a verb that always has the future in view, and the usage in Luke-Acts is consistent that is does, then so does it do that here.

First off, you are correct to note that it is pointing to the FULFILLMENT. Keep in mind that John's Revelation in chapter 21,22 pictures, exactly, that which is found in Isaiah 60.1-ff. We know that 21,22 was FUTURE to Paul in relation to its FULFILLMENT, thus, the "light to the Gentiles" was something on the verge of happening. I translate the verses as such: "...the prophets said of things ABOUT to be, and Moses.." This gives the location of the information that contained the "things about to be" which both the Prophets and Moses had previously spoke of. The verb, genitive plural (mellonton) is Paul's own intepretive words. The prophets and Moses "spoke" of "things" and Paul adds that the things (pertaining to salvation) are now, in Paul's day, "about to be realized." The is perfectly fitting with the Greek text.

What "things" did Moses and the Prophets speak of? They are fourfold: "That the Messiah must suffer;" "that he is the first one out of a resurrection of dead ones;" that "Light is about to be proclaimed to the people;" "(that light is about to be proclaimed "to the nations"). This alludes directly to the Greek of Isaiah 42.6; 49.6. This is what Paul was EXPECTING to occur, and thus, his ministry is seen as a PREPATORY for the coming Revelation 21,22 "light."

Thus, the Greek there, confusing to many scholars who know Greek, but have the wrong framework, do not know what to do with this verse. Paul is expecting the fullness of the "light" to come (Second Coming) and bring Light to the World so that the Nations would walk by that Light when the Glory of the Lord rises above all the nations (Isaiah 60.1-ff). Hope that helps...from a Greek expert (:)

Samuel Frost

JRP's picture

Thanks Sam. I do have a question though. I noticed that in Acts 26:22,23 we find the pres. act. ptcp. and the pres. act. ind. of "mello." Can the present tense in this case refer to action that is "about to come?"

But boldness without truth will never make a Christian confessor: and if a man injures himself for the love of error, he is not a martyr but a suicide. William A. Jones

Sam's picture

JR,

'Mello' is never found in the aorist tense. It is either present or periphrastic with a future "being" verb. Thus, the meaning of the verb itself is future oriented, always. The PAptcp occurs in the first because it follows the verb as a direct object "said of things about to be" and as such, a particple, being a verbal adjective, can perform as a direct object. The second is indicative because it follows a noun "light" and "light" is the subject of the verb "mello." The infinitive follows "mello" (as it usually does). Light is about to be proclaimed, or "to proclaim Light about to be to the peoples." In this case, JEsus, the one raised from the dead, would be the one proclaiming the light, and he is about to be doing that. Either way, your point is whether or not the "present" tense affects the futurity of the meaning, and I would say no. The futurity of "mello" is impregnated in the verb itself, and thus, to stress, I would think, what was about to occur would be best served in the present tense, rather than in the future: "It is presently something that is about to unfold" is meaning.

Samuel

jhb's picture

Thank you JRP and Sam for bringing clarity to this most interesting portion of Scripture. Sam, your exposition of the Greek (with its nuances) as applied to these two verses is greatly appreciated. Again, thank you.

jhb

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