David Biven on Acts 21:20

David Biven of Jerusalem Perspective shares a quick video regarding traditional translations of Acts 21:20:

And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law… Acts 21:20 (ESV)

οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες ἐδόξαζον τὸν Θεόν, εἶπάν τε αὐτῷ Θεωρεῖς, ἀδελφέ, πόσαι μυριάδες εἰσὶν ἐν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις τῶν πεπιστευκότων, καὶ πάντες ζηλωταὶ τοῦ νόμου ὑπάρχουσιν… (W&H) 1Wescott and Hort 1881

Note the Greek word μυριάδες (myriades) is here translated “thousands”, but in other places it is translated as “tens of thousands”. Examples include Acts 19:19:

And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. Acts 19:19 (ESV)

ἱκανοὶ δὲ τῶν τὰ περίεργα πραξάντων συνενέγκαντες τὰς βίβλους κατέκαιον ἐνώπιον πάντων· καὶ συνεψήφισαν τὰς τιμὰς αὐτῶν καὶ εὗρον ἀργυρίου μυριάδας πέντε. (W&H)

… and also Revelation 9:16:

The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. Revelation 9:16 (ESV)

καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς τῶν στρατευμάτων τοῦ ἱππικοῦ δὶς μυριάδες μυριάδων· ἤκουσα τὸν ἀριθμὸν αὐτῶν (W&H)

Why would translators choose “thousands” to describe the number of believing Jews in Acts 21, but translate it “tens of thousands” in other places? Does it not fit our traditional narrative of the passage? Do we question the validity of a report that says “tens of thousands” of Jews came to believe in Jesus in the earliest days of the messianic community?

References   [ + ]

1. Wescott and Hort 1881

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