Vol. 30 New Series November, 1968 No. 6
THE GREEK PREPOSITION

Part 2
The preposition eis, into, has the primary meaning of coming from outside to, or into, something; and with the former usage, pausing there or remaining there for a while at least. It occurs very frequently. In Matthew 2 alone it occurs ten times, each of which has the former sense, although in the last (v. 23) idiom in English compels in. Yet in a paraphrase one could express the idea thus: "he settles himself into a City called Nazareth."

Where the context forbids actual entry into, but implies a very close approach, we may render eis by to. Here is where the C.L.N.T. solves the problem well by indicating the preposition by the symbol "io." As an example of the use of to Green instances John 20:1, 3, 4, where eis is used, yet v. 5 particularly specifies that the other disciple did not enter the tomb. Sometimes, even, the approach is only directional, as "look at the birds" (Matt. 6:26), and Luke 6:20 and Rev. 10:5. Here eis has a kind of indefinite sense; as, indeed, at has in English idiom in the first of them.

In Luke 12:10 we seem to be almost forced to use the word against for eis, though the more concordant at is again permissible and perhaps even best. Other apparently anomalous examples are Matt. 8:4; 10:18; 26:2 (here possibly "into being crucified") Acts 2:25; Rom. 12:16; 2. Cor. 12:1. A useful line of research might be to examine each of the hundreds of occurrences of this preposition and compile and classify all these anomalies. One such is Matt. 19:6 and similar passages, where eis takes the idea of equivalence. Here we can read: "and the two will become equivalent to one flesh" (Mark 10:18; 1. Cor. 6:16; Eph. 5:31 from Gen. 2:24). The same idea is found in other contexts, e.g. "A stone which the builders reject, this one has become equivalent to head of corner (Matt. 21:42. So too Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17, from Ps. 118:22). Another idiomatic example is in Luke 3:5: "and the crooked will be (made) into straight, and the roughs into smooth ways," with only the interpolation of the word "made." This English usage of into matches well with the Greek here. Similarly with Luke 13:19: "and it grows, and came to be, into (a) great tree." And John 16:20, literally, "but the sorrow of yours will come to be into joy." The idea of equivalence in eis appears again in Acts 7:21: "and rears him herself, as equivalent to (a) son." Also Acts 19:27: "Now not only is there danger that this our part may be coming into ill repute, but also that the sanctuary of the great goddess Artemis may be accounted equivalent to nothing"; or "as nothing," as here English idiom allows.

A.T. raised this point on p. 26 of his privately circulated typewritten paper: "A Critical Examination of the C.V. of the book of 'Acts,' so called," p. 26. He cites Acts 7:21 and 2. Cor. 6:18 as above, and Heb. 11:8: "to enjoy as an inheritance." So he comes to ask whether we might render in Acts 7:53 by: "Who got the Law as prescriptions of messengers, and do not guard it" (or maintain it).

The examples I was following were listed, but not discussed, by Green, who does not appear to me to have considered all of them with sufficient care; for his next, Acts 13:22 is hardly a case of equivalence. Read: "And, deposing him, to them He rouses David into kingship," or "into royalty." The departure here from strict concordance results from the fact that the English word "king" does not exactly represent the Greek. Equivalence, however, appears four times in another (Rom. 11:9); but here I would not wish to alter the reading in the CLNT, which displays very clearly the existence of "into" in the Greek text. Yet in 1. Cor. 14:22 I would prefer "equivalent to (a) sign" rather than "for (a) sign." In 1. Cor. 15:45 the idea of equivalence appears in both occurrences of eis and creates a problem of interpretation rather than of translation, although it hardly seems right to suppress the eis altogether. Would it not be better to take a bold line and read, very literally: "The first man, Adam, came to be equivalent, to soul living, the last Adam equivalent to Spirit making alive." After all, we hardly need to be told that Adam in Gen. 2:7 was alive! Surely the point is that here is meant soulish life for all his progeny? Similarly, the point here about the last Adam is that He, and He alone, is the source of spiritual life; so that, in this connection, when we consider the former we are considering soulish life alone, whereas with the latter our minds ought to have steadily in view the spiritual life He has brought.

The next is 2. Cor. 6:18, where the evident meaning is: "And I shall be to you equivalent to Father." Here "as Father" seems to convey the idea well, and the same applies to "sons and daughters." In 2. Cor. 8:14 read likewise: "your superabundance is equivalent to their want" or "as their want," and vice versa. To Heb. 1:5 the same applies as to 2. Cor. 6:18. In James 5:3: "into testimony," that is, "equivalent to testimony."

Now we come to three very important phrases in which this usage of equivalence for eis becomes of the utmost significance.

The first is Rom. 2:26, literally: "shall not the circumcision of him be accounted equivalent to circumcision?" The next occurs in five passages: Rom. 4:3, 5, 9, 22; Gal. 3:6: "it is accounted to him equivalent to righteousness," "his faith is accounted equivalent to righteousness"; "to Abraham the faith is accounted equivalent to righteousness"; "wherefore also to him it is accounted equivalent to righteousness"; "it is accounted to him equivalent to righteousness." Anyone who may perhaps think this is rather far-fetched would do well to reflect on what "it is accounted to him into righteousness" means and implies. Surely it is that such faith is so potent that it is able to penetrate actually into righteousness, so that God is able to reckon it as if it actually were righteousness? Surely, that is how the matter would have presented itself to any of the Greeks who originally read these passages?

When he comes to the third, Acts 13:42, Green goes astray. He reads: "for the next sabbath" or alternatively "during the intervening week"—with one word wrongly rendered either way for metaxu does not mean next but intervening or meantime, and sabbaton does not mean week. So the literal rendering must be "into the intervening sabbath." We should therefore read: "Now, at their moving out, they entreated them, into the intervening sabbath, that these declarations might be talked to them."

In a few places there is a special construction (Constructio praegnans) where words have to be supplied to make plain the sense. In Mark 13:16: "And he (who has gone) into the field, let him not turn back into the (things) behind to pick up his cloak." The parallel passage, Matt. 24:18, however, reads simply "who is in the field." Similarly Acts 8:40: "Now Philip was found (gone) into Azotus." Acts 21:13, "but also (to go) into Jerusalem to die." Heb. 11:9, "by faith he sojourns (having gone) into (a) land of the promise."

One apparently anomalous instance of eis followed by a Genitive is pointed out by Green in Acts 2:27, eis hadou. Here is an ellipsis, and we should therefore read: "into (a) habitation of (the) unseen."

The rendering unto should be avoided as far as possible, as it has sometimes to be used for achri and mechri, which are adverbs with prepositional force. The former, achri, when used or time, means until. It marks events or sometimes a pause (Luke 4:13; Acts 13:11). Dr. Bullinger defines them as follows:

This seems very neat and satisfactory, but perusal of the various occurrences suggests some reservations. For achri it is certainly true in the first occurrence, Matt. 24:38, where there was no further duration on earth for those concerned. In Luke 1:20 what happened until the day was all that mattered, and so with other occurrences. In some places achri is used spatially, as in Acts 11:5: "and it came as far as me"; 13:6: "as far as Paphos"; 20:4: "as far as Asia"; also Acts 22:22; 28:15; 2. Cor. 10:13, 14; Heb. 4:12; Rev. 14:20; 18:5.

The word mechri is not so frequently used. The first occurrence is Matt. 11:23. Here the emphasis is on "this day," the fact of remaining is not so important. Next, Matt. 13:30, where the growing carries on quietly until (mechri) the culminating point, the harvest. The same importance of the terminal point is seen in Matt. 28:15; Mark 13:30; Luke 16:16; Acts 10:30; 20:7; Rom.5:14; Eph. 4:13; Phil. 2:8, 30 (Here we might perhaps read, "he draws near (even) unto death"); 1. Tim. 6:14; 2. Tim. 2:9 (perhaps. "(even) unto bonds"); Heb. 3:6, 14; 9:10; 12:4. There remains Rom. 15:19 where mechri is used spatially, and we might here render: "and around (even) as far as Illyricum"; the point being that he managed to get actually as far as that point.

To sum-up: with mechri the emphasis is primarily on the terminal point; with achri on what happens up to that point.

R.B.W. Last updated 17.8.2007