Acts 10:44-48 - Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing?

Updated: Apr 15

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While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.


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This is the mandatory reading from the Acts of the Apostles for the sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B, according to the lectionary of the Episcopal Church. It will be the first reading presented, to be followed by Psalm 98, where David sang, “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.” That will precede a reading from First John, where was written: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child.” All will bring the Gospel reading from John, where Jesus said, “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.”


This reading ends the tenth chapter in Acts, where verse 34 – 43 were read on Easter Sunday. All of chapter ten deals with Peter being called by God to go to Caesarea and meet with a Roman centurion named Cornelius and his Gentile followers. Simply meeting in the same place as Gentiles was forbidden by Jewish laws and mores. Thus, that is the setting in this reading, where Yahweh has spoken through Peter to Gentiles.


The first word of this reading is translated as “While.” The Greek word written is “Eti,” which is capitalized, meaning a divine essence elevates this adverb to a greater importance. The word itself, in the lower case, means “(a) of time: still, yet, even now, (b) of degree: even, further, more, in addition.” The capitalization means the prior verses, which began with Yahweh speaking through Peter, these verse now speak of a time when Yahweh was “Still” speaking, being a “Further” state of that presentation of the Word.


The segment of verse 44 that shows above as “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word” needs to be recognized as a syntactical paraphrase that combines two capitalized words, so “Holy Spirit” becomes read as one entity. It is indeed two, as the two capitalized words denote. The order of presentation in the Greek has been changed to suit the preconceptions of English speaking readers, so "Holy Spirit" was not written.


The “Holy Spirit” is read by Christians as one entity; and, it is used commonly as “Jesus Christ” being one name, to the point that “Christ” seems to be the last name of “Jesus.” It is not a last name.


The Greek written in Acts states: “epepesen to Pneuma to Hagion epi pantas tous akouontas ton logon.” That literally says, “lit upon that Spirit that Set apart by God on the basis of all comprehending those this divine utterance.”


Seeing that translation makes it possible to see the “Spirit” as that flowing through Peter from Yahweh, where the source makes the "Spirit" known to be divine, without any need to add that it is “Holy.” Thus, it was this flow of “Spirit” being received by “listeners” that made them become “Set apart by God” [“Hagion”], as “all comprehending those this divine utterance.”


Without seeing the two capitalized words as having separate divine meanings, seeing just the “Holy Spirit” becomes one falling short. It leaves weak imaginations to struggle to understand what that means. The truth written says: The listeners were made Holy.


Verse 45 is then shown to begin with these words: “The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded.” In reality, the verse begins with the word “kai” [lower case], followed by the Greek segment of words [ending with a comma mark]: “exestēsan hoi ek peritomēs pistoi,” which says that segment of words is important to understand, before adding any more words to that.


The Greek literally translates to say, “were amazed those out from circumcision believers.” That has absolutely nothing to say about Gentiles. The “kai” says it is important to see how the flow of the “Spirit” from Peter had an “amazing” effect on those who said they “believed” in Yahweh. Because they were born and circumcised as Jews, Yahweh was their exclusive God. The importance of this segment of words is this: even the Jews who came with Peter were transformed ["amazed, astounded"], which means they had not been transformed before going with Peter to meet with Gentiles.


By seeing that there was nothing of value by having been circumcised, as no true faith can be generated by the physical trimming of a male baby’s foreskin, the importance is realizing that the Jews Peter took with him to Caesarea had yet to be filled by Yahweh’s “Spirit,” even though they were of the same religion. That importance is then followed by Luke writing, “as many as [circumcised believers] had come them with Peter , seeing that kai upon them Gentiles this gift of that Set apart by God of this Spirit having been bestowed liberally.” In that, the presence of “kai” is ignored as a marker of importance, which needs these words be closely inspected.


The comma mark that separates a segment of words that focuses on Jews being Spiritually filled, due to the words Yahweh spoke through Peter, that was witnessed by Cornelius and his Gentile companions [“seeing that,” from “hoti” defined as “introducing a causal clause expressing a reason: because, seeing that”]. While the Jews were becoming elated, the “kai” says importantly “upon them Gentiles this gift of that Set apart by God [“Hagion”] of this Spirit [from “tou Pneumatos”].” The Greek word “ekcheo,” the root of “ekkechytai,” says Yahweh “poured out (liquid or solid); shed, or bestowed liberally” His “Spirit.” There was plenty for all who sought to serve Yahweh.


Verse 45 ends in a period mark, meaning verse 46 is no longer limited to focus on Gentiles. It becomes a fresh new statement about all who were present, Jews and Gentiles. From that perspective, Luke wrote [NRSV], “for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God.” This is another segment of words that needs straightening, so the translation becomes more powerful.


The Greek text states: “ēkouon gar autōn lalountōn glōssais kai megalynontōn ton Theon.” Literally this says, “they were listening indeed themselves of speaking languages kai magnifying that of God.”


The NRSV translation gives one the impression that one group [the Jews] were amazed by watching the other group [the Gentile], “listening” to them “speaking in tongues.” This becomes one of those nebulous concepts that people say they believe, but no one knows what it is they believe. What does “speaking in tongues" mean?”


The reality of what is stated in all [both groups – Jews and Gentiles] were “listening,” where the Greek word “ēkouon” [from “akouó”] says all “were hearing, were listening, were comprehending from hearing,” such that the meaning one must realize is this: Yahweh spoke through Peter and the words that came forth “were understood.”


When this then leads to Luke writing, “indeed themselves,” the Greek word “autōn” needs to be read as a statement of plural “selves,” where “selves” are “souls.” Thus, what Peter was saying, coming from Yahweh, was connecting “indeed” with the “souls of all” there.


Because it was Peter doing the “speaking,” it was the “Spirit” of Yahweh that was “speaking” to the souls of all. It was not anyone other than Peter making vocal noises, but rather the abilities of all to understand what was said, so all were “speaking” the same language.


The Greek word “glōssais” is translated as “tongues,” but such a translation should only be applied anatomically – relative to physical “tongues.” This means the accusative plural is only relative to “languages,” which means whatever “languages” the people present were fluent in “speaking,” they all heard the truth spoken in that "language." What each heard was then relative to the truth that has the translation indicating the people present spoke multiple “languages” [Aramaic, Latin, Hebrew, whatever]. As it was Yahweh “speaking” His divine “language,” His Word was known by all.


Peter's dialogue is not recorded, but it could be he was reciting [without a scroll to read] divine Scripture. What would have amazed the Jews present is they understood Hebrew, but the looks on the faces of the Gentiles said they too were understanding what Peter said. Still, the more amazing thing to the Jews [that would have also affected the Gentiles] is Peter was explaining the text he recited, in ways that they had never heard explained before. That became spiritually uplifting; and, that is the truth about “speaking in tongues.”


To make this point, Luke wrote the word “kai” in the middle of that statement, which placed importance that is directly relative to “speaking in tongues,” where the NRSV translation says “extolling God.” That, again, makes the reader be led to hearing a room full of people all talking at once, when nothing has changed since Luke told us Peter was “Still” speaking from Yahweh. Thus, the truth of what Luke wrote is “magnifying that of God,” where what Peter spoke had greater impact on those listening. They were hearing within their souls that which was “that of God.”


The NRSV then has Peter change from speaking the Word of Yahweh, to saying, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” In reality, verse 46 includes a period mark that ends the prior statement, but then adds, “Tote apekrithē Petros,” before beginning verse 47.


The capitalization of “Tote,” means divine essence must be read into the word that means “Then, At that time.” This is a divine statement that until “Then” everything spoken was Yahweh, through Peter’s mouth. Thus, from realizing “apekrithē” is an indication of someone else “taking up the conversation,” we see that “Peter” becomes identified as the one “Then” speaking.


Verse 47 then shows Peter asking, “Can anyone withhold the water,” where the actual Greek states, “If not this water is able to withhold.” In that, physical “water” can only be read in terms of a comparison, such that the statement is about rain falling, which cannot be expected to be selective as to who or what it falls upon. When the rains come, everything and everyone exposed to the rain will get wet. That becomes metaphor and not a literal statement about water being poured out.


Water must always be seen as an element that symbolizes the emotional state of being; so, Peter was moved to realize spiritually that everyone [Jews and Gentiles alike] had been affected by the outpouring of Yahweh’s Word.


The translation by the NRSV that indicates “just as we have” is not actually stated. A comma mark ends the statement about the affect of Yahweh’s “language” on all souls present, as being akin to a heavy downpour of rain [“water”]. From that, everyone who had not previously been filled with Yahweh’s “Spirit” had then become “submerged,” like being dunked [“baptized”].


With that observation made by “Peter Then joining the conversation," the Greek following a comma says, “hōs kai hēmeis,” which translates as “just as kai we.” This says all who were newly filled [Jews and Gentiles] were “baptized” in the same “Spirit,” “just as” Peter and those who came with him that had been so filled. The word “kai” then becomes a marker of importance saying all [Jews and Gentiles filled “just as”] had become “we,” as a one word statement of unity. All were to be seen as one group, alike as resurrections of Jesus. All were alike as those “Anointed ones” [“Christ”] of Yahweh. Therefore, all were true Christians.


Verse 48, which is translated by the NRSV as stating: “So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ,” is misleading. As the third person makes one assume “he” is Peter, implying that Peter had some special power that could baptize anyone “in the name of Jesus Christ.” The third person becomes best understood as being Yahweh, whose Word flowed through Peter and baptized like rain falling upon everyone there. The only source of baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ” is and can only be Yahweh. Thus, verse 48 needs to be closely inspected.


Luke wrote: “prosetaxen de autous en tō onomati Iēsou Christou baptisthēnai.” This literally translates to say, “he ordered now them in then name Jesus of Christ to be baptized.” Because of the first word’s lack of capitalization, one can comfortably say that Peter is the one speaking, even making a directive that all should recognize the truth of that experience. His “command, order, or instruction” is not that anyone “should be baptized,” but a statement that all were indeed “baptized” by Yahweh. All had become reborn as His Son, “in the name Jesus.” All had become possessed by Yahweh, thereby “of Anointment,” which was their “baptism.” Nothing needed to be done further, as God’s work through His Apostle Peter had been done.


Verse 48 then ends with the “we” Gentiles offering the Jews to stay with them for a few days. In this statement, the aspect of “days” becomes metaphor for being “in the light of Christ,” where the presence of the “Spirit” gave them all the promise of eternal life [“days”], removing them from the darkness of mortal existences. Therefore them “asking to remain” becomes a prayer of thanks that offered their souls to be led by Yahweh in ways to serve Him forever.


As the mandatory reading from the Acts of the Apostles during the sixth Sunday of Easter, it needs to be seen that the acts of Yahweh’s servant are to make Yahweh’s “Spirit” available to others who are seekers. Cornelius was a seeker, who had family and soldiers who also sought the Lord. Peter had been raised as one circumcised [a Jew] to live separate from Gentiles. Yahweh had come to him in dream [a vision] and told Peter to go wherever He sent him. Peter complied with that divine instruction and became a “Messenger” of Yahweh. All Peter had to do was meet with seekers and then let God speak through him. Yahweh did the baptizing.