by Wayne Price

Surely our English language must give foreigners fits when they try to learn it. The above title serves as a good example of English words that though spelled the same way, they have different meanings.

The English word certain is defined as “definite, sure, indisputable, confident, and positive.” Though signifying “established beyond doubt and indisputable,” yet another meaning of the term is indefiniteness, “not specified or identified.” The latter meaning is one we briefly want to address as it relates to the inspired text written by Luke in the book of Acts.

The Greek words translated as “certain” are tisti. Though also used as interrogatives, it is their use as indefinite pronouns upon which we focus in this article. The latter pronoun in the singular is rendered as “anyone, someone, or (certain) one.” The second word ti, which is neuter, is often translated as “thing.”

The word tis used this way is found 452 times in the New Testament, with Luke using it 191 times (77 times in Luke, and 114 in Acts). Typical are a “certain womancertain day, a certain disciple, and certain water, etc.).

In Acts 17:28, Luke records that Paul told the Athenians: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” He uses the same word in verse 34. In both instances, the word is used to show indefiniteness, that is, instead of naming names, Paul merely uses the term as a pronoun, showing indefiniteness, but also stressing the idea of a limited number. Another good rendering of the word would be “some.”

But there is an even more important point to be made in regard to this indefinite pronoun in verse 28. The word is plural, “certain ones” not singular “a certain one.” Why is that important? The Living Bible (a paraphrase) reads this way: “For in him we live and move and are! As one of your own poets says it, ‘We are the sons of God.’” They make the plural word (in Greek) to be a singular pronoun in their paraphrase. Had Paul intended to make it singular, he would have used the singular word tis, but instead he uses the nominative plural tines.

We learn that, in fact, there were two of their Greek poets who made this statement, Aratus and Cleanthes (between the years 220 – 300 B.C.). Paul was referring to more than one when he used the word tines, and it should translated as plural. This is important because it is related to the integrity and inspiration of the scriptures. You see, every part of the Bible is inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16), and that applies not only to the thought, but also to the exact words selected by the Holy Spirit from the vocabulary of the apostle or prophet as they spoke by inspiration (2 Pet. 1:21-22; 1 Cor. 2:13).

But the Bible is inspired not only in word, but even to the degree of whether or not a word is singular or plural. This is the very argument Paul makes in Galatians 3:16. He writes that the promise made to Abraham (in Genesis 12) was referring to one person, and that person was Jesus Christ. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” Paul argues that when God said SEED, He meant SEED, not SEEDS! God was prophesying the coming of the Christ, and that is why he used the singular number! That the word “seed” is singular is the very foundation of Paul’s argument. That illustrates the degree to which the Bible is inspired – to whether or not a word is singular or plural.

 Other passages could be used to show the same amazing inspiration of the Scriptures, but here (in Acts 17:28) is yet another example one can use to illustrate such inspiration. When the Living Bible said “As one of your own poets says…,” they were paraphrasing again, causing them to miss the marvel of just how inspired the Bible really is. Paul knew that at least two of their Greek poets made this statement, which is why he used the plural word CERTAIN ONES, not “one” as the Living Bible put it. So here, rather unexpectedly, we find another attestation to the inspiration of the Bible, the word of God.

We join Job and Paul in declaring how great our God is, and His ways past finding out (Job 9:10; Romans 11:33).