Saturday, July 2, 2022

A Widely Circulated Error About the Greek "to meet".

  by James C. Morris –

One of the most precious promises in the Bible is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, where we read:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

This well known event has come to be commonly called “the rapture.”

For about ninety years now, many widely recognized experts have been claiming that the Greek word which is translated to meet this passage does not simply mean to meet, as this phrase is commonly used. That Greek word is απαντησις, apantesis in our alphabet, word number 529 in Strong’s Greek Dictionary, which occurs in this verse in its form απαντησιν, apantesin in our alphabet. These people claim that, in the Greek language, this was a technical word referring specifically to an ancient Greek custom in which a formal reception was given to a visiting dignitary. In this custom, the locals went a short distance out of their city to meet a visiting dignitary and escort him back into the city. From this they reason that this passage does not teach that the Lord will come to get us and to take us back to heaven, but only that that the Lord will pick us up on the way down as He descends in power and glory to judge the wicked.

This idea comes from a paper published in 1930 by a German theologian named Erik Peterson. In that paper he quoted a number of examples from ancient Greek literature in which this word was used in describing formal receptions of a dignitary. The opponents of the doctrine of a rapture before “the great tribulatuion” immediately seized upon this with great elation, concluding that it was positive proof that the rapture would not take place until after “the great tribulation.” But their elation was premature.

For, as Dispensationalists had rejected this as a wrested interpretation of scripture, in the early 1990s, Michael R. Cosby, of Sioux Falls College, set out to positively prove it was correct. To prove it, he did an exhaustive search of all the uses of any form of the Greek word apantesis in a huge data base of ancient Greek literature, which by then had been stored in computers. But to his horror, the proof that he found was exactly the opposite of what he had hoped to find. Being an honest researcher, he published his findings in a paper titled "Hellenistic Formal Receptions and Paul's Use of APANTHSIS in 1 Thessalonians 4:17," which he published in the “Bulletin for Biblical Research” 4 (1994) 15-34. In this paper he reported his distress upoon finding that apantesis simply means to meet. So a systematic study of the usage of this Greek word in a large body of ancient Greek literature proved this claim to be completely incorrect.

But we do not have to rely upon his conclusions. For the “Concordance to the Septuagint,” by Hatch and Redpath, lists sixty-eight places where some form of apantesis was used in that translation of the Old Testament into Greek, which is believed to date from about 250 B.C. And two versions of that ancient Greek document are easily available for anyone to personally inspect, because they are available online at no cost.

We remember that in ancient times, the only way to reproduce a book was to copy it out by hand. And such hand made copies always contain an occasional error here and there. So no two copies of the same ancient document are ever completely identical. But the two main ancient copies of the Septuagint re the Codex Vaticanus, which is found online at:

And the Codex Alexandrinus, which is found online at:

Neither of these two websites indicates which version of the Septuagint it used. But the differences between the various versions listed by Hatch and Redpath in their concordance made it possiblle to identify which one each of them was based upon.

Of the sixty-eight places where the Septuagint uses some form of apantesis, twenty-five of them contain exactly the form of apantesis which is translated “to meet” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, and are found in both of these two websites. So anyone can easily check each of these twenty-five places and see for themselves that the information presented below is indeed correct. In each of these places, simple inspection will show that the Greek word απαντησιν, that is, apantesin in our alphabet, was clearly used in both of these two ancient versions.

The online version of the Codex Vaticanus includes a parallel English translation which was made in 1851 by Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton, with some of the English modernized. And that is the English text given below for each case presented here. And the online version of the Codex Alexanrinus includes an interlinear English translation of each individual Greek word

The study presented below clearly demonstrates that the Greek word apantesin most assuredly does not have the technical meaning alleged for it, but simply means “to meet,” as we commonly use this phrase. For only two of these twenty-five places could even possibly have had the technical meaning which its root form, apantesis is alleged to always have.

 Of the twenty-five places where this Greek word was used in both of these online versions of the Septuagint:


1. Apantesin was used in the following two places to describe meeting someone, not to honor him, but to heap scorn upon his head:

And David returned to bless his house. And Melchol the daughter of Saul came out to meet (apantesin) David and saluted him, and said, How was the king of Israel glorified to-day, who was to-day uncovered in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the dancers wantonly uncovers himself!” (Kings 2 [Samuel 2] 6:20 LXX)

And, behold, [there is] with thee Semei the son of Gera, a Benjamite of Baurim: and he cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went into the camp; and he came down to Jordan to meet (apantesin) me, and I swore to him by the Lord, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword.” (Kings 3 [Kings 1] 2:8 LXX)


2. Apantesin was used in the following five places to describe a hostile meeting, as for battle:

And it came to pass in those days that the Philistines gathered themselves together against Israel to war; and Israel went out to meet (apantesin) them and encamped at Abenezer, and the Philistines encamped in Aphec.” (Kings 1 [Samuel 1] 4:1 LXX)

And when Saul saw David going out to meet (apantesin) the Philistine, he said to Abenner the captain of the host. Whose son is this youth? and Abenner said, As thy soul lives, king, I know not.” (Kings 1 [Samuel 1] 17:55 LXX)

And the Philistines heard that David was anointed king over all Israel: and all the Philistines went up to seek David; and David heard [it], and went out to meet (apantesin) them.” (Chronicles 1 14:8 LXX)

It is not for you to fight: understand these things, and see the deliverance of the Lord with you, Juda and Jerusalem: fear not, neither be afraid to go forth to-morrow to meet (apantesin) them; and the Lord shall be with you.” (Chronicles 2 20:17 LXX)

And Ismael went out to meet (apantesin) them; [and] they went on and wept: and he said to them, Come in to Godolias. And it came to pass, when they had entered into the midst of the city, [that] he slew them [and cast them] into a pit. ” (Jeremiah 41 [or 48]:6-7 LXX) - order of chapters different in different Codexes)


3. Apantesin was used in the following two places to describe meeting to apologize in order to prevent a battle:

And David said to Abigaia, Blessed [be] the Lord God of Israel, who sent thee this very day to meet (apantesin) me:” (Kings 1 [Samuel 1] 25:32 LXX)

But surely as the Lord God of Israel lives, who hindered me this day from doing thee harm, if thou hadst not hasted and come to meet (apantesin) me, then I said, There shall [surely] not be left to Nabal till the morning one male.” (Kings 1 [Samuel 1] 25:34 LXX)

4. Apantesin was used in the following place to describe meeting a fleeing king to bring him supplies:

And David passed on a little way from Ros; and, behold, Siba the servant of Memphibosthe [came] to meet (apantesin) him; and he had a couple of asses laden, and upon them two hundred loaves, and a hundred [bunches of] raisins, and a hundred [cakes of] dates, and bottle of wine.” (Kings 2 [Samuel 2] 16:1 LXX)


5. Apantesin was used in the following seven places to describe messengers meeting people:

And Samuel rose early and went to meet (apantesin) Israel in the morning, and it was told Saul, saying, Samuel has come to Carmel, and he has raised up help for himself: and he turned his chariot, and came down to Galgala to Saul; and, behold, he was offering up a whole-burnt-offering to the Lord, the chief of the spoils which he brought out of Amalec.” (Kings 1 [Samuel 1] 15:12 LXX)

And they brought David word concerning the men; and he sent to meet (apantesin) them, for the men were greatly dishonoured: and the king said, Remain in Jericho till your beards have grown, and [then] ye shall return.” (Kings 2 [Samuel 2] 10:5 LXX)

And there came men to report to David concerning the men: and he sent to meet (apantesin) them, for they were greatly disgraced: and the king said, Dwell in Jericho until your beards have grown, and return.” (Chronicles 1 19:5 LXX)

and he went out to meet (apantesin) Asa, and all Juda and Benjamin, and said, Hear me, Asa, and all Juda and Benjamin. The Lord [is] with you, while ye are with him; and if ye seek him out, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.” (Chronicles 2 15:2 LXX)

And there went out to meet (apantesin) him Jeu the prophet the son of Anani, and said to him, King Josaphat, doest thou help a sinner, or act friendly towards one hated of the Lord? Therefore has wrath come upon thee from the Lord.” (Chronicles 2 19:2 LXX)

And there was there a prophet of the Lord, his name [was] Oded: and he went out to meet (apantesin) the host that were coming to Samaria, and said to them, Behold, the wrath of the Lord God of your fathers [is] upon Juda, and he has delivered them into your hands, and ye have slain them in wrath, and it has reached even to heaven.” (Chronicles 2 28:9 LXX)

One shall rush, running to meet (apantesin) another runner, and one shall go with tidings to meet another with tidings, to bring tidings to the king of Babylon, that his city is taken.” (Jeremiah 51 [or 28]:31 LXX) - order of chapters different in different Codexes

6. Apantesin was used in the following place to describe a surprise meeting.

And the men of Baethsamys were reaping the wheat harvest in the valley; and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark of the Lord, and rejoiced to meet (apantesin) it.” (Kings 1 [Samuel 1] 6:13 LXX)

7. Apantesin was used in the following five places in the general sense of “to meet,” as we commonly use this phrase.

And it came to pass when he had finished offering the whole-burnt-offering, that Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to meet (apantesin) him, [and] to bless him.” (Kings 1 [Samuel 1] 13:10 LXX)

And David comes to the two hundred men who were left behind that they should not follow after David, and he had caused them to remain by the brook of Bosor; and they came forth to meet (apantesin) David, and to meet (apantesin) his people with him: and David drew near to the people, and they asked him how he did.” (Kings 1 [Samuel 1] 30:21 LXX)

And David came as far as Ros, where he worshipped God: and behold, Chusi the chief friend of David came out to meet (apantesin) him, having rent his garment, and earth [was] upon his head.” (Kings 2 [Samuel 2] 15:32 LXX)

And Memphibosthe the son of Saul’s son went down to meet (apantesin) the king, and had not dressed his feet, nor pared his nails, nor shaved himself, neither had he washed his garments, from the day that the king departed, until the day when he arrived in peace.” (Kings 2 [Samuel 2] 19:24 LXX)

And it came to pass when he went into Jerusalem to meet (apantesin) the king, that the king said to him, Why didst thou not go with me, Memphibosthe?” (Kings 2 [Samuel 2] 19:25 LXX)

8. And finally, of the twenty-five places where apantesin was found in the Canonical books in both of these two versions of the Septuagint that are easily available for inspection, only the following two could realistically be interpreted to have the technical meaning which it is alleged to always have.

And the king returned, and came as far as Jordan. And the men of Juda came to Galgala on their way to meet (apantesin) the king, to cause the king to pass over Jordan.” (Kings 2 [Samuel 2] 19:15 LXX)

And Semei the son of Gera, the Benjamite, of Baurim, hasted and went down with the men of Juda to meet (apantesin) king David.” (Kings 2 [Samuel 2] 19:16 LXX)

So, in conclusion, although the Greek word apantesis, or its form apantesin, was indeed sometimes used in regard to formal receptions of a dignitary, that usage is actually found in less than ten percent of the many places where this word occurs in ancient Greek literature. And thus, this argument against the doctrine of a rapture before “the great tribulation,” though widely used in many modern seminaries, is completely incorrect.

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