This came up in staff Bible study time yesterday, as we looked at Acts 3. There's plenty that's interesting about Acts 3, including the last verse—when is Peter referring to? Jesus' earthly ministry, his resurrection appearances or his coming through the apostolic preaching? But one thing that caused some confusion for us was verse 20:

and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.

Not only our Nepali staff member who speaks English as a second language, but even our native speakers were confused. What does the 'even Jesus' clause MEAN? It doesn't mean flat and smooth, or divisible by 2… but it doesn't work as an adverb of emphasis, because what verb is it qualifying? 

I said I thought it was the more rare meaning of 'even' that translates as something like 'namely' or 'that is'—an epexegetical 'even', you could say. So the verse can be translated something like:

and that he may send the Messiah who has been appointed for you—namely, Jesus.

Immediatley one of our staff said: “So is THAT what is going on in Ephesians 1:10?

to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Big Aha Moment follows. So this verse isn't a parallel text to 1Cor 15:28, saying that all things, including Christ, will be brought together under one head. After all, the rest of Ephesiasn emphasises that Christ is the Head. No the one head is Christ—'namely, Christ'.

I knew this was a rare and clumsy, but I didn't realise quite how rare. Most online dictionaries don't even mention this definition at all! And the Oxford English Dictionary lists it as 'archaic':

(under “even” adv 8a) says: Prefixed to a subject, object, or predicate, or to the expression of a qualifying circumstance, to emphasize its identity. Obs. exc. arch. Also in 16–17th c. (hence still arch. after Bible use) serving to introduce an epexegesis; = ‘namely’, ‘that is to say’.

So what's an archaic use of 'even' doing in the New International Version? Thankfully the NIV11 has removed the 'even' in Ephesians 1:10… but oddly kept it in Acts 3?! It's even stranger, because this clusmy use of 'even' doesn't even reflect any word in the Greek of either passage:

So they didn't even need to find a more common adverb like 'namely'. They could have just used a comma! It's not like Galataisn 6:10 which possible has a (rare in Greek) epexegetical 'kai', which the NIV84 uses the archaic 'even':

Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. (see interlinear here)

Although interestingly the NIV11 swaps out the 'even' here for an em-dash. So peculiar. Anyway, the moral to the story is: if in doubt: check the Greek. If you don't know Greek, check the Greek interlinear, or just check the Holman and ESV.

ABOUT XIAN REFLECTIONS

Xian Reflections is written by Mikey Lynch.

Mikey graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Arts in 2002. In 2000 he became one of the founding leaders of Crossroads Presbyterian Church where he was the lead pastor for 7 years from 2003.

Mikey now works as the Campus Director of the University Fellowship of Christians, University of Tasmania, Hobart. Mikey is the chairman of The Vision 100 Network (Tasmania) and a founding director of Geneva Push (national) – both church planting networks. He is also a chaplain at Jane Franklin Hall and the chairman of New Front Door: the Church IT Guild.

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