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Acts 26:11 New English Translation

I punished[a] them often in all the synagogues[b] and tried to force[c] them to blaspheme. Because I was so furiously enraged[d] at them, I went to persecute[e] them even in foreign cities.

Footnotes
[a] Acts 26:11 tn Grk “and punishing…I tried.” The participle τιμωρῶν (timōrōn) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style. Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.
[b] Acts 26:11 sn See the note on synagogue in 6:9.
[c] Acts 26:11 tn The imperfect verb ἠνάγκαζον (ēnankazon) has been translated as a conative imperfect (so BDAG 60 s.v. ἀναγκάζω 1, which has “ἠνάγκαζον βλασφημεῖν I tried to force them to blaspheme Ac 26:11”).
[d] Acts 26:11 tn Or “was so insanely angry with them.” BDAG 322 s.v. ἐμμαίνομαι states, “to be filled with such anger that one appears to be mad, be enraged…περισσῶς ἐμμαινόμενος αὐτοῖς being furiously enraged at them Ac 26:11”; L&N 88.182 s.v. ἐμμαίνομαι, “to be so furiously angry with someone as to be almost out of one’s mind—‘to be enraged, to be infuriated, to be insanely angry’…‘I was so infuriated with them that I even went to foreign cities to persecute them’ Ac 26:11.”
[e] Acts 26:11 tn Or “I pursued them even as far as foreign cities.”

I understand the perspective of blasphemy as expressed by Jesus against the Pharisees in Matthew 12. However, what is the view of blasphemy held by the Jew Saul in relation to Christians?

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  • Those footnotes don't actually look relevant to the question. Why did you include them?
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 28, 2023 at 2:31
  • I put the notes out of respect. In fact, they have nothing to do with the question. Next time, I'll use an unnotated version of the Bible. Thank you very much.
    – Betho's
    Dec 28, 2023 at 14:03

2 Answers 2

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Here is a very literal translation (BLB) of Acts 26:11 -

And in all the synagogues, punishing them often, I was compelling them to blaspheme. And being exceedingly furious against them, I kept persecuting them even as far as to foreign cities,

The Greek verb used in Acts 26:11 is βλασφημέω (blasphémeó) which means (BDAG)

to speak in a disrespectful way that demeans and denigrates, maligns

  • (a) of humans, eg, Titus 3:2, Rom 3:8, 1 cor 4:13
  • (b) of transcendent beings: (i) of a Roman God, Acts 19:37; (ii) of the Israelite God, Rev 16;11, 21, Matt 9:3, 26:65, Mark 2:7, John 10:36, Acts 26:11, 1 Tim 1:20, 1 Peter 4:4, etc. ...

Thus, Paul is saying in Acts 26:11 that he tried to force Christians to "speak in a disrespectful way that demeans and denigrates, maligns", or "slander revile defame, speak irreverently/impiously/disrespectfully" (BDAG) about God.

That is, Paul tried to make them blaspheme God and thus deny or effectively disavow their faith in God. The text also says that Paul did this by "punishing them", that is, he tried to extract a blasphemy by means of torture.

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  • "disavow their faith in God" would it be denying Jesus as Christ?
    – Betho's
    Dec 26, 2023 at 21:45
  • @Betho's - correct! That is the point.
    – Dottard
    Dec 26, 2023 at 22:05
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This is an interesting question because it is not certain whether Paul is talking about blasphemy as he understood it at the time, or whether he means blasphemy as he understands in in the present.

  • Previous definition. If Paul spoke from his perspective at the time in question, he meant that he tried to get them to blaspheme according to Jewish law, by equating Jesus of Nazareth with God. At the time, he wanted to justify the policy of persecution by portraying Christians in the worst possible light.

  • Current definition. If Paul used the term according to his current understanding, he meant that he compelled Christians to blaspheme by denying their faith in Jesus.

I agree with @Dottard's answer that the latter case (his current definition) is more probable, but I think the context is ambiguous. He may have been trying to force Christians to utter blasphemies under Jewish law.

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