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In Acts 2:41,we are told that three thousand people became believers in Christ in a single day. It appears that number included men, women, and children since the World English Bible (WEB) says,

Acts 2:41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. There were added that day about three thousand souls.

Later in Acts 4:4, we are told about five thousand believers, and now it is clear that they are counting men only, so the number of people was likely greater. Some claim there were now at least eight thousand believers, others put the total at five thousand. So I look it up in the Bible, and different translations seem to interpret it differently. The King James Version says,

Acts 4:4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

The ESV, NET, and HCSB all have

... the number of the men came to about five thousand.

WEB and EMTV add the word "be", making it

the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

What do the various Greek texts say? Does the Byzantine (Majority) text clearly say five thousand was the total, as the translations based on it suggest, and are the others ambiguous?

  • Great question. I'd be careful with interpreting the word 'men' too narrowly in 4:4 - the Greek term can be used inclusively as in 'people'. – Steve Taylor Nov 16 '16 at 14:58
  • thanks, @SteveTaylor. I was careful not to make that a second question, although the use of "soul" in 2:41 meant I felt I had to mention it. If soul is "nephesh" and men is "anthropos" in all versions this could cast some light on how Luke uses "anthropos". – Bit Chaser Nov 16 '16 at 15:27
  • yes, it seems all versions say same. Its interpretive since it doesnt use the phrase of v41 "were added" so we assume he is adding on to the first count. The number was 5000 in second count. – Michael16 Nov 16 '16 at 16:43
  • Just to mention an odd sentence in WEB, is this wrong? Do not put your trust in princes, each a son of man in whom there is no help (Ps146:3). Is "each" wrong here? it seems a mistake. – Michael16 Nov 16 '16 at 16:46
  • @Michael16 only KJV has 'the' son of man. WEB and ESV have a; NET and HCSB change the phrasing but are consistent with a son of man. This is OT so I don't know what the Hebrew says. If you see a pattern in other places and are unsatisfied after looking at commentaries, that might make a good question. – Bit Chaser Nov 16 '16 at 22:23
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The Textus Receptus version of Acts 2:41 reads:

οι μεν ουν ασμενως αποδεξαμενοι τον λογον αυτου εβαπτισθησαν και προσετεθησαν τη ημερα εκεινη ψυχαι ωσει τρισχιλιαι

οι μεν [those] ουν [therefore who] ασμενως [gladly] αποδεξαμενοι [had welcomed] τον λογον αυτου [his word] εβαπτισθησαν [were baptized] και [and] προσετεθησαν [were added] τη ημερα εκεινη [that day] ψυχαι [souls] ωσει [about] τρισχιλιαι[three thousand]

Acts 4:4 reads:

πολλοι δε των ακουσαντων τον λογον επιστευσαν και εγενηθη ο αριθμος των ανδρων ωσει χιλιαδες πεντε

πολλοι δε [But many] των [of those who] ακουσαντων [had heard] τον λογον [the word] επιστευσαν [believed] και [and] εγενηθη [became] ο αριθμος [the number] των ανδρων [of the men] ωσει [about] χιλιαδες [thousand] πεντε [five].

I consulted the variants indicated in the apparatus of the 11th corrected edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek-English New Testament. There do not seem to be any variants for the words you indicate. The differences in the versions seem to be due to translator license and not due to any textual variation.

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  • If the Greek has 'became', that seems to support the 'came to be' reading. WEB, EMTV and NASB all agree with that, so presumably the total number of (possibly men only) believers was 5000. The other English versions are ambiguous, and I don't know if the Greek could still be ambiguous. So is there any reason to claim that 'there were 8000 believers' at this point, as some do? – Bit Chaser Nov 18 '16 at 4:21
  • As far as I know, andros (4:4) is always used to mean man and not person, whereas psyche (2:41) may include men, women and children - although I am more than happy to be corrected. 8000 = 5000 + 3000, but if ψυχαι could refer to men, women and children, then the number could be larger. I don't think the text tells us exactly how many believers there were - only that by the time of 4:4 they were in the thousands. – user15733 Nov 18 '16 at 16:29

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