Acts 17:11

Acts 17:11

BDAG 3rd edition offers the definition ‘open-minded’ for εὐγενής in Acts 17:11, ουτοι δε ησαν ευγενεστεροι των εν θεσσαλονικη οιτινες εδεξαντο τον λογον μετα πασης προθυμιας το καθ ημεραν ανακρινοντες τας γραφας ει εχοι ταυτα ουτως. It cites Menander, Dyskolos 723 and Josephus Antiquities 12,255 as comparable. The Josephus citation does not appear to hold water; I don’t have access to the original of Menander but in the translation ‘open-minded’ doesn’t seem to fit. Nor does LSJ give ‘open-minded’ as a meaning for εὐγενής. Is this just a contextually-motivated guess on BDAG’s part, or is there proof in the pudding?

Alan Patterson » June 8th, 2013, 11:19 am

You seem pretty close-minded to considering other possible meanings than the one you have closed your mind to. I say that in jest. I used “close-minded” in the opposite sense I believe “open-minded” is intended to convey. Open in the sense of open to the truth, open to correction. We must always remain teachable. However, I am of the opinion that we can arrive at truth in the study of Scripture, so I am not “open-minded” in the sense that anything goes.

Louis L Sorenson » June 8th, 2013, 11:23 am

Here is the passage:
Menander Dyscolos
717 δεῖ γὰρ εἶναι – καὶ παρεῖναι – τὸν ἐπικουρήσοντ’ ἀεί.
ἀλλὰ μὰ τὸν Ἥφαιστον – οὕτω σφόδρα <δι>εφθάρμην ἐγὼ
τοὺς βίους ὁρῶν ἑκάστους τοὺς λογισμούς <θ’> ὃν τρόπον
720 πρὸς τὸ κερδαίνειν ἔχουσιν – οὐδέν’ εὔνουν ὠιόμην
ἕτερον ἑτέρωι τῶν ἁπάντων ἂν γενέσθαι. τοῦτο δὴ
ἐμποδὼν ἦν μοι. μόλις δὲ πεῖραν εἷς δέδωκε νῦν
723 Γοργίας, ἔργον ποήσας ἀνδρὸς εὐγενεστάτου·
τὸν γὰρ οὐκ ἐῶντά <τ’ α>ὐτὸν προσιέναι <καὶ> τῆι θύραι
725 οὐ βοηθήσαντά <τ’ α>ὐτῶι πώποτ’ εἰς οὐδὲν μέρος,
οὐ προσειπόντ’, οὐ λαλήσανθ’ ἡδέως, σέσωχ’ ὅμως.

Stephen Hughes » June 14th, 2013, 5:15 am

timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:Nor does LSJ give ‘open-minded’ as a meaning for εὐγενής.

The complete text of the Menander’s Dyscolus (“The grouchy old man”) was only discovered in 1957, so the sense of “open-minded” not being in the LSJ can not be taken to mean that LSJ do not support (would not have supported) that meaning (nor of course does it mean that they would have either).

timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:in the translation ‘open-minded’ doesn’t seem to fit

For those interested, an English translation of the play by VJ Rosivach can be read here at … skolos.htm
and according to his rendering at least he sticks with the idea of “noble” in the sense of the virtue of being “generous”, “unbegrudging”, “not repaying others as they repaid you”, “doing better than the masses”.  In the text you are looking at εὐγενής seems to have a praise-worthy character, and what is praise-worthy is soemthing to do with their diligence to the Word.

The immediate the verbal context of εὐγενής is ἐδέξαντο τὸν λόγον, and I think what you are considering is whether the meaning of εὐγενής is explicated by μετὰ πάσης προθυμίας “they are (more morally/ethically praise-worthy) [because] they received the Word very eagerly” or the meaning of εὐγενής is explicated by καθ’ ἡμέραν ἀνακρίνοντες τὰς γραφὰς εἰ ἔχοι ταῦτα οὕτως, “(and more than just receiving the word very eagerly, and those blokes actually looked into it to see whether there was anything in the Bible (what we now call the OT) to see if it supported what they were hearing preached to them.” That is to say that they were better because they looked into it.

So in effect there are three options, they recieved the word per se (“they were not hostile to the Word”), they received it very eagerly (more than other people) (“not half-heartedly”), or they studied it to make sure of it (“not just blind/unthinking belief and obedience” or perhaps similar to when we take formal or informal Bible college training courses at some point in our walk as we personally grow into the faith that we were born with). It is clear that BDAG has taken the second option μετὰ πάσης προθυμίας as the explication of εὐγενής. Personally, I favour the third option, that they took the faith that touched their hearts, and they studied it extensively.

Despite it’s size and complexity, in most cases, using BDAG is like joining the dots to form a picture in a children’s book. A person with a good command of grammar, who works through a text and just mechanically take the BDAG meaning and fill in the blanks will arrive at a BDAG-like translation. But, of course, if as in the verse you are considering Acts 17:11, we may question or not want to take the suggested meaning offered by BDAG.

Sometimes when dictionaries refer to or quote other authours, they may just be acting as a concordance rather than a dictionary, so there is no need to assume that the dictionary calling them as witnesses so strongly. Another point about the methodology of taking classical authours as primary evidence is that they are distant in time, and to some degree in morality. That is to say that if you read the New Testament considering all the words about virtue to be derived from philosophical and ethical works, then you will probably read it a little more like a philosophical work than it was intended to be read. BDAG doesn’t often look forward to the next four hundred years as much as it looks back to preceding four hundred years of word usage. So, in using the dictionary, there is an inherent methodological bias that you need to take into consideration when considering the meaning of difficult words or words in difficult passages. As Byzantine studies and patristic studies are not so developed as classical studies are. It is clear that Byzantine, Patristic and Classical studies are of course interrelated disciplines.

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