EIS, "For the Forgiveness" or "Because
Jack P. Lewis
Prior to Jesus' public ministry, John the Baptist had preached a baptism of repentance
for remission of sins (eis aphesin hamartion; Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3). Those people who
rejected John's baptism rejected for themselves the counsel of God (Luke 7:29, 30). Its
purpose is identical with the purposes suggested for Jesus' death (Matthew 26:28) and for
the baptism of Pentecost (Acts 2:38).
Jesus died (shed His blood) in order that people could have remission of sins (eis
aphesin hamartion; Matthew 26:28). Without the shedding of blood, there is no
remission (Hebrews 9:22). No one could argue that Jesus died because sins had already been
forgiven. He purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). With His blood He
purchased a people for His own possession (Titus 2:14). He died for our sins (huper ton
hamartion; I Corinthians 15:3).
Jesus, after the resurrection, informed His disciples that it was written that the
Christ should suffer and be raised on the third day and that repentance and the remission
of sins (eis aphesis hamartion) be preached in His name unto all the nations (Luke
24:47). Would anyone want to argue that repentance is to be done because sins have already
In each of these verses, the phrase is the same as that in Acts 2:38--eis aphesin
hamartion. If one case means "because of," then all should mean that.
Acts 2:38 was rendered into Latin by Jerome as in remissio peccatorium vestorum,
and it came into English with John Wycliffe in 1380 reading "in to remission."
With Tyndale (1525) it came to be "for the remission" and remained that way
through all the English translations (Great Bible, Geneva Bible, Bishops' Bible, Rheims
and King James). The RV/ASV (1881/1901) rendered the verse "unto remission": but
the RSV then continued "for" in the phrase "for the forgiveness."
The New Testaments surveyed in twenty-six translations have some variety (Curtis
Vaughn, The New Testament from 26 Translations (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967), 444.):
"that you may have your sins forgiven" (Williams), "into the
remission" (Rotherham), "unto remission" (American Bible Union), "for
the forgiveness" (Twentieth Century New Testament), "in order to have your sins
forgiven" (Goodspeed), and "so that you can have" (Phillips). Other
renderings include Knox: "to have your sins forgiven"; Centenary Translation:
"for remission," and Schonfield: "for the forgiveness." Not a one of
them has any suggestion of "because of"-- that is that eis is to be understood
as starting what has already taken place.
The translations of the last half of the twentieth century are not different: NASV:
"for the forgiveness." TEV: "so that your sins may be forgiven."
Lamsa: "for the forgiveness." NKJV: "for the remission." NIV:
"for the forgiveness." NAB: "for the forgiveness." Cassirer: "so
that your sins may be forgiven you." REB: "then your sins will be
forgiven," and NRSV: "so that your sins may be forgiven." These renderings
represent the best understanding of the most capable contemporary scholarship -- Catholic,
Evangelical, and Protestant. In fact it is doubtful that any English translation can be
turned up which understood the verse in any other way.
A.T. Robertson said,
But in Matthew 28:19, baptizontes eis to onoma,
and Romans 6:3f. eis Christon and eis ton thanaton,
the notion of sphere is the true one. The same thing
may be true of baptisthento eis aphesis ton hamartion
Acts 2:38), where only the context and the tenor of
N.T. teaching can determine whether "into," "unto," or
merely "in" or "on" ("upon") is the right translation,
a task for the interpreter, not for the grammarian.
(A.T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament
in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville:
Broadman Press, 1934), 592).
The Greek lexicon shows that among the multiple uses of eis with the accusative case is
the expression of purpose. Nets are let down "for a catch" (Luke 5:4; eis
agran), and there is "for this reason" (eis touto; Mark 1:38; John
18:37; Acts 9:21; etc.). Along with these are listed all the occurrences of eis aphesin
hamartion considered earlier in this paper (Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of
the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, tr. and ed. W.F. Arndt, R.W.
Gingrich, and F.W. Danker (2nd ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 229).
Moule lists Acts 2:38 in the cases where eis has the sense of "with a view to"
or "resulting in."(C.F.D. Moule, An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek
(Cambridge: University Press, 1959), 70). Turner lists the verse as an example of
"purposive eis"!!! (J.H. Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol.,
3 Syntax by Nigel Turner (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1963), 266).
Coming at the same question from another viewpoint, the promise of the commission in
Mark is "He that believes and is baptized will be saved" (sosthesetai;
Mark 16:16). The verb is future tense. Salvation is plainly placed after
baptism. The structure is parallel to that of Acts 2:38 where the obedient are promised
the gift of the Holy Spirit. Again the tense is future (lempsesthe). Should one
expect the Holy Spirit prior to doing the things specified as prerequisites? Every
conversion narrated in the book of Acts ends with the baptism of the individual. They are
not treated as though saved and then later baptized.
The death to sin is connected by Paul with baptism. One is buried with Christ in
baptism into His death and then raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).
Newness of life here after baptism, not before it. One comes into contact with Christ's
death at baptism.
Yet again in Peter's declaration that baptism, the like figure to the flood, "now
saves you" (1Peter 3:21). Hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience, but bodies
are washed in pure water (Hebrews 10:22).