Is there any grammatical justification for translating εἰς as causal, i.e, "because of" anywhere in either scripture or in any classial use of the first century?
Daniel B Wallace in his grammar 'Beyond the Basics' page 369, lists eight uses of εις with the accusative :
Spatial (into, toward, in) Temporal (for, throughout) Purpose (for, in order to, to) Result (so that, with the result that) Reference/Respect (with respect to, with reference to) Advantage (for) Disadvantage (against) In place of εν (with its various nuances).
Wallace then devotes no less than a page and a half (most unusually in this book) to the examination of the single use of a single word, namely εις in Acts 2:38.
I will not copy unnecessarily : suffice to say that Wallace states :
Marcus ably demonstrated that the linguistic evidence for a causal εις fell short of proof.
Wallace then lists several interpretations of the passage but expresses no personal preference himself.
It is surprising to me that Wallace does not mention 'unto' in regard to εις.
Out of about 1,500 times that εις is listed in Young's Analytical concordance, it is translated by the KJV translators :
into 571 ; to 282 ; unto 208 ; in 131.
I would suggest that 'into' is physically spatial and that 'unto' is a matter of expressing a 'spatial' concept in regard to a spiritual process. I suggest that both words convey 'toward' but in a slightly different way, conceptually.
I suggest that 'into' is more physical and 'unto' is more metaphorical. They have a spectrum of meaning and that spectrum overlaps, certainly, but outside of the overlap is what I am focusing on.
It would involve many pages to study, properly, the usage of εις in regard to baptism, covering John's baptism of repentance 'unto' remission of sins.
But that fact, that John's baptism was not a 'result' of remission - but rather a process in the pursuit of remission - is singularly important.
This study is very broad indeed. It takes in baptism and the entering into the Body of Christ. It covers the matter of who may be accepted - only those with a very deep and profound assurance of their own personal salvation ? Or also those with uncertain hearts whose faith is not strong ?
The calling, baptising, sanctifying, edifying, warning, exhorting and teaching of those within the body of Christ is a spiritual progression.
I suggest that 'unto' is well worth considering as the best choice for εις in Acts 2:38.
According to BDAG, εἰς (eis) has nine basic meanings. They attribute meaning #4 to Acts 2:38 - "marker of goals involving active/abstract/suitability aspects, into to".
BDAG then further classifies their meaning #4 of εἰς (eis) into seven sub-categories of which "f" is relevant here: "to denote purpose, in order to, to … for forgivingness of sins, so that sins might be forgiven", eg, Matt 26:28, cp. Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, Acts 2:38 … ".
Thus, I can understand that if εἰς (eis) means (at least in Acts 2:38) "in order that", or, "for the purpose of", then an awkward but misleading translation is "because of"; however, this gives the impression that the forgiveness of sins is the cause and not the goal of repentance.
Most versions simply (and succinctly) translate εἰς (eis) as "for". The exceptions I found were:
- God's word: "so that"
- ERV: "unto"
- Weymouth: "with a view to"
- YLT: "to" (Young is often a bit awkward.)
The argument of the so-called “causal εἰς” has gained a great deal of attention among some circles. The idea of the “causal εἰς” seems to have originated with Professor J.R. Mantey in 1951. Mantey later attempted to defend this proposition before an audience of his peers but was profoundly shot down. Not one of the arguments he presented held any merit. Needless to say, he fell far short of defending his proposition of a “causal εἰς.”
The idea that εἰς could be translated as 'because’ is in error on so many levels grammatically speaking, that I do not really know precisely where to start.
- I suppose the first thing that needs to be understood is the simple definition of the word εἰς.
BADG offers a rather comprehensive lexical study of the uses of 'eis' in the N.T.
a. Of place – into, toward, to
b. Of time – up to which, continues, at which time.
c. Of degree – completely, fully, absolutely
d. Of goal – to indicate purpose.
e. Of reference to person or thing – for, to, with respect to, or with reference to.
f. Other uses – at, in the face of.
g. In Pregnant construction – to bring safely into.
Εἰς is also used at times where ἐν would be expected – above,
εἰς, a preposition governing the accusative, and denoting entrance into, or direction and limit: into, to, toward, for, among.
I recommend reviewing Strong’s to see all the many nuances of the word.
- Grammatically, eis is a preposition while 'because’ is an adverb. It is never permissible to substitute an adverb for a preposition, nor is it ever permissible to substitute a preposition for an adverb.
‘Because’ functions as a subordinate conjunction to connect two independent clauses where the subordinate clause explains the other. Here is a simple example: “Joe went to town.” “He needed supplies.” When we use 'because' to connect these two independent clauses what he have is, “Joe went to town because he needed supplies.”
In Acts 2:38, "For the forgiveness of sins," is not an independent clause; It is prepositional phrase explaining the words "be baptized." As an adverb, ‘because’ can only modify verbs, adjectives, and clauses; It NEVER modifies nouns and pronouns. Since ‘remission’ and ‘sin’ are both nouns, and there is no verb, adjective, or clause in “for the remission of sins,” ‘because of’ simply cannot be used. A clause requires a subject and a verb for both coordinate clauses and subordinate clauses. A subordinate clause cannot stand alone. It is a simple matter of following the rules of Grammar in both languages.