Bible Greek

Sights and Sounds of Acts

There are some cool words and expressions in Acts 21:3 that I want to point out.

ἀναφάναντες δὲ τὴν Κύπρον καὶ καταλιπόντες αὐτὴν εὐώνυμον ἐπλέομεν εἰς Συρίαν καὶ κατήλθομεν εἰς Τύρον· ἐκεῖσε γὰρ τὸ πλοῖον ἦν ἀποφορτιζόμενον τὸν γόμον.

First, ἀναφαίνω, which BDAG glosses …

light up, cause to appear … τὴν Κύπρον we came within sight of Cyprus, i.e. we sighted it Ac 21:3 (B-D-F §309,1; Rob. 817), prob. a nautical t.t.

They didn’t stop in Cyprus, but they “lit it up.” The word choice really impacts how I visualize the scene. Because of ἀναφαίω, I imagine the light of the ship shining on the dark coast of Cyprus. That sort of nuance might not really be implied. It could just be an idiom for “came in sight of,” but nevertheless that’s how I imagine it.

Following the link trail in BDAG is interesting, too. BDF §309 has a spectacular gloss for ἀναφάναντες: “we made it visible to ourselves.” 🙂

Robertson §817, unsurprisingly, comments insightfully on the “aorist passive” variant ἀναφανέντες, highlighting its true middle/passive nature:

The correct text (W. H.) in Ac. 21:3 is ἀναφάναντες τὴν Κύπρον (active), not ἀναφανέντες (passive). But still some MSS. do have this transitive second aorist passive participle. If one keeps in mind the origin of this aorist passive form (from the active), he may be the less surprised to find it also transitive like the active. Already in Homer this was true.

ἐυώνυμον affects how I visualize the scene, too. I love finding words and phrases like this in the NT. How often do you learn how to say “on the left” in scripture? This particular expression only shows up here and in Revelation 10:2.

Finally, there is γόμος, cargo, from γέμω, to be full — another cool word. He notes that in Tyre the ship cargo was unloaded. Why include that detail? I’m sure there’s an explanation that contributes to someone’s theory on the genre of Acts. To me, the significance is simply that such a comment highlights the ordinary drudgery of trips like this. The journey Luke describes was a gritty one.