Richmond Lattimore, one of the most distinguished living translators of Greek, has in this book completed his rendering of the New Testament in fresh and accurate English for the modern reader. The publication of his translation of The Four Gospels and the Revelation in 1979 was hailed by the New York Times Book Review as "an achievement that places us more deeply in Lattimore's debt than any other in a long diligent career."
The Acts of the Apostles, which he calls "the earliest consecutive story of early Christianity that we have," and the three groups of Letters of the Apostles--those of Saint Paul, the letter to the Hebrews, and the General Letters--are now made available to complete the New Testament in his translation. His aim again has been to provide a simple, literal rendering in which the syntax and order of the Greek dictate the character of the English style.
Lattimore, as an authority on the Greek language in which these texts have come down to us, and as a writer without pretensions as a biblical scholar, allows the words of the apostles and earliest disciples to speak for themselves with accuracy and fidelity to the Greek. The book's design follows the attractive and readable format of The Four Gospels, and avoids the usual apparatus of biblical texts.
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About the Author
Richmond Lattimore, whose renderings of the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer, the odes of Pindar, and the plays of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Aristophanes set new standards for Greek translations, was for many years Professor of Greek at Bryn Mawr. His honors include awards from the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Council of Learned Societies. He died in 1984.
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Acts and Letters of the Apostles
By Richmond Lattimore
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 1982 Richmond Lattimore
All rights reserved.
The Acts of the Apostles
The first book I wrote, O Theophilus, was about all the acts and teachings of Jesus until that day when, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken aloft. It was to these that he showed himself after his ordeal with many proofs that he was alive, and for forty days he would appear to them and tell them about the Kingdom of God. And while he was staying with them he told them not to remove from Jerusalem, but said: Await my father's promise which you have heard of from me; because John baptized with water, but after not many days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. So those who were with him questioned him, saying: Lord, are you restoring the Kingdom of Israel in this time? He said to them: It is not yours to know the times and occasions which the Father has appointed by his own authority; but when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be given power, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judaea and Samaria and as far as the end of the earth. When he had said this and as they watched he was raised aloft and a cloud hid him from their eyes. And as they stared into heaven where he went, behold, two men clothed in white stood near them and said: You men of Galilee, why do you stand there looking toward heaven? This same Jesus who was taken up from you to heaven will come back in the same way that you saw him going to heaven. Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill which is called the Mount of Olives; it is near Jerusalem, a sabbath's walk away. And when they were indoors, they went to the upper story where they were staying. They were Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the zealot and Judas the son of James. All these together were devoting themselves to prayer, along with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
On one of those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers. There was a crowd of about a hundred and twenty persons assembled. And Peter said: Men and brothers, the scripture was bound to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit gave us as prophecy through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who acted as guide for the men who seized Jesus. For he was numbered among us and had his share of this ministry. Judas bought a piece of property with the money he got for his crime, and there he fell on his face and burst open in the middle and all his bowels spilled out of him. This became known to all who live in Jerusalem, so that that property is called in their language Akeldamach, which means the Field of Blood. For it is written in the Book of Psalms: May his dwelling place be desolate, and may there be no one living in it; and again: Let someone else take over his office. Therefore, out of those men who were with us in all the time when the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from his baptism by John until the day when he was taken aloft from us, out of all these men one should join us as witness to his resurrection. Then they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. Then they spoke, praying: Lord, you who know the hearts of all, show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and mission which Judas forsook for his own place. And they gave them the lots, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was added by vote to the eleven apostles.
* * *
Now as the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place; and suddenly there came from the sky a noise like the blowing of a great wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And they saw what was like separate tongues of fire, and one settled on each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in different languages according as the Spirit gave each one the gift of speaking them.
Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem who were devout men from every nation under heaven; and at the sound of these voices the crowd came together, and they were confused, because each one heard them speaking in his own language; and they were full of astonishment and wonder, and said: See, are not all these speakers Galileans? And how is it that each of us hears them speaking in the language he was born to? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya by Cyrene; and the Romans who are here in town, Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs: we all hear them speaking in our own languages of the greatness of God. They were astonished and puzzled and said, one to another: What can this mean? But others scoffed and said: They are drunk on new wine.
But Peter stood forth with the eleven and raised his voice and said to them: Men, Jews and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be understood by you and listen to my words. These men are not drunk as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day, but this is what was spoken of by the prophet Joel: And it will come about in the final days, says God, that I will inspire all flesh with my spirit, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams; and in those days I will inspire my slaves and my slave women with something of my spirit, and they will prophesy. And I will present portents in the sky above, and signs upon the earth below, blood and fire and clouds of smoke. The sun will turn to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the day of the Lord, the great and glorious day. And it will come about that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
Men of Israel, listen to these words. There was Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God through powers and portents and the miracles God wrought through him in your presence, as you yourselves know. This man was delivered up by the definite plan and purpose of God, and you nailed him to the cross by the hands of heathen men, and killed him. But God destroyed the pangs of death and resurrected him, because it was not possible for him to be overcome by death. For David says, meaning him: Throughout all I see the Lord close by me, since he is on my right to keep me unshaken. Therefore my heart is gladdened and my tongue rejoices, and my flesh will still live with hope; because you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor make him who is sacred to you look upon destruction. You have made me know the ways of life, and with your countenance will fill me with gladness.
Men and brothers, it is possible to speak confidently about the patriarch David because he did die and was buried and his tomb is with us, down to the present day. He was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him an oath that he would seat upon his throne one sprung from the issue of his loins; and he said with foreknowledge of the resurrection of the Christ that he was not abandoned to Hades, and that his flesh knew no corruption. God resurrected this Jesus; to that we are all witnesses. And raised to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from his father, he inspired this which you see and hear. For David did not go up to heaven; he himself says: The Lord said to my Lord: Sit on my right, so that I may make your enemies a footstool for your feet. Then let every house in Israel know for sure that God made him Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
When they heard it they were stricken to the heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: Men and brothers, what shall we do? Peter said to them: Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; since for you is the promise, and for your children and for all those far away whom the Lord our God summons to him.
And in many more words he charged them and exhorted them, saying: Be saved from this crooked generation. And those who accepted his word were baptized, and something like three thousand souls were brought over on that day. And they held fast to the teaching of the apostles, their life in common, their breaking of bread, and their prayers. And there was fear in every soul, and many portentous things and miracles were wrought by the apostles. And all those who believed had everything in one place and in common, and they sold their property and belongings and shared all as each one might have need; and every day they would attend at the temple together, and break their bread at home, and share their food in cheerfulness and innocence of heart, praising God and in favor with the whole population. And every day the Lord added more who were saved to their number.
* * *
Peter and John went up to the temple at the hour for prayer, the ninth hour; and there was a man being carried there who had been lame from his mother's womb. Every day they would lay him down by the gate of the temple which is called the Beautiful Gate, to beg for charity from the people going into the temple. When this man saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked for charity. Peter, together with John, stared at him and said: Look at us. The man turned toward them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said: I have no silver or gold. But what I do have, I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. And he gripped him by the right hand and pulled him up; and suddenly his feet and his ank1les became strong, and he sprang up and stood and walked, and went into the temple with them, walking and bounding and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and they knew that this was the man who had sat begging by the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
As he clung to Peter and John, all the people, in wonderment, ran up to them at the porch which is called the Porch of Solomon. When Peter saw them he spoke forth to the people, saying: Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this? Or why do you stare at us as if by our own power or piety we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his son Jesus, whom you betrayed and denied before Pilate, when Pilate judged that he should be released; but you denied the holy and righteous man, and demanded that a murderer be given you as your gift; and you killed the author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name gave strength to this man whom you see before your eyes, and the faith, through him, gave this man full health in the sight of you all.
Now I know, brothers, that you acted in ignorance, and so did your leaders; but God thus fulfilled the sufferings of his Christ which he had foretold through the mouths of all the prophets. Repent, therefore, and turn yourselves to wiping out your sins, so that times may come for relief from the face of the Lord and for him to send Jesus, appointed to be your Christ, whom heaven must receive until the time of the restoration of all things, time of which God has spoken from eternity through the mouths of his holy prophets. Moses said: The Lord God will raise up a prophet from among your brothers; as he did me. Listen to everything he says to you.
And every soul which does not listen to that prophet shall be eradicated from the people. And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors, have predicted these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham: And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. It was for you first that God raised up his son and sent him to you to bless you by turning each one of you away from his wickedness.
* * *
As they were speaking to the people, the high priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees were upon them, angry because they were teaching the people and announcing in the name of Jesus the resurrection from the dead; and they laid hands on them and put them in prison until the next day, since it was now evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of these men came to about five thousand.
And it happened that on the next morning the chief men and the elders and the scribes assembled in Jerusalem; and also Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander and all who were of the high priest's family; and they stood them in their midst and questioned them, saying: By what power and in what name have you done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: Chief men of the people and elders, if, in the matter of helping a sick man, we are being asked today by whom he has been saved, let it be known to you all and to all the people of Israel that it was in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; it is through him that this man stands before you, a healthy man. He is the stone that was despised by you, the builders, which has come to be at the head of the corner. And salvation is not in anyone else, for there is no other name given to men under heaven by which we must be saved.
And seeing the boldness of Peter and John, and realizing that they were plain, unlettered men, they marveled, and they knew that they had been with Jesus, and when they saw the man standing with them, healed, they had nothing to say in reply. So they told them to leave the council, and they consulted together, saying: What shall we do with these men? Since a proved miracle has been done by them which is plain to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it; but to keep this from being spread about further among the people, let us order them under threat to say no more to anyone in this name. Then they called them back in and ordered them absolutely not to speak and not to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them: Judge whether it is right before God to listen to you rather than to God; since we are not able to keep from speaking of what we have seen and heard. They threatened them and let them go without finding any way to punish them, because of the people, since all were glorifying God over what had happened; for the man whom this miracle of healing had befallen was over forty years old.
When they were let go they went back to their own people and reported to them what the high priests and the elders had said. When they heard, of one accord they raised their voices to God and said: Lord, you who made the sky and the earth and the sea and all things that are in them, you said through the Holy Spirit by the mouth of David, our father and your servant: Why were the nations enraged and the peoples full of vain designs? The kings of the earth came on, and their leaders were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ. For in truth in this city there were gathered against your holy son Jesus, whom you anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate with the nations and peoples of Israel, to do what your hand and your will had foreordained to be done. And now, Lord, take note of their threats and grant to your slaves that they may speak your word with freedom, through your stretching out your hand to make healing and miracles and portents take place through the name of your holy son Jesus. And when they prayed, the place in which they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with freedom.
There was one heart and one spirit in the whole body of the believers, nor did any one of them call any of his possessions his own, but they had everything in common. And with great force the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and there was great good will among them all. Nor was anyone among them in need, for all those who happened to own lands or houses would sell them and bring in the proceeds of what had been sold and lay them at the feet of the apostles; and they were distributed, to each one as he had need. And there was Joseph, surnamed by the apostles Barnabas, which means, translated, Son of Consolation, a Levite and a Cyprian by birth, who owned an estate. He sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the feet of the apostles.
* * *
But a certain man, Ananias by name, whose wife was Sapphira, sold some property but, with the connivance of his wife, withheld some of the proceeds and brought only a part and laid it at the feet of the apostles. But Peter said to Ananias: Why was it that Satan put it into your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and withhold some of the proceeds from the property? If you had let it remain, would it not have remained yours and, even when sold, still been at your disposal? Why did you let this deed be put in your heart? You lied, not to men but to God. When Ananias heard these words he fell down and died; and great fear came upon all those who heard. Then the younger men rose up and covered him and carried him out and buried him. There was an interval of about three hours and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her: Tell me, was this the amount for which you sold the property? She said: Yes, this amount. Peter said to her: Why did you both agree to make trial of the Spirit of the Lord? See! The feet of those who buried your husband are at the door; and they will carry you out. And immediately she fell at his feet and died; and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon the whole congregation and on all who heard about these things.
Excerpted from Acts and Letters of the Apostles by Richmond Lattimore. Copyright © 1982 Richmond Lattimore. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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Table of Contents
The Acts of the Apostles,
The Letters of Saint Paul Romans,
The Letter to the Hebrews,
The General Letters James,
Books by Richmond Lattimore,