'according to houses' distributive not consecutive

by yaddayadda 10 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • yaddayadda

    Ray Franz says that the Greek word translated as 'house to house', (kat' oikon or kat' oikous) in the NWT is in the distributive, which the Society says supports their 'door to door' policy, but that in order for it to support the idea of literally going door to door that this Greek word should be in the consecutive sense. However Franz doesn't offer any supporting research on this.

    It seems to me that a 'distributive' sense could indeed suggest that the disciples would have gone to every house in a town or village, just not necessarily consecutively, ie, methodically in a door-to-door fashion.

    Does anyone know of any further instances in the bible that can validate Franz's point here?

  • Narkissos

    The real problem for the WT interpretation is that the NT never uses kat'oikous or kat'oikon to describe the disciples' mission to the homes of non-disciples.

    Acts 2:46: "Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home (kat'oikous) and ate their food with glad and generous heart." (This clearly refers to Christian homes).

    Acts 5:42: "And every day in the temple and at home (kat'oikon) they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah." (Again a regular meeting place, just as "the temple," is suggested -- Christian homes, or perhaps just one of them -- see below -- are more than likely.)

    Acts 8:3: "But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house (kata tous oikous)." Again, Christian homes.

    Acts 20:20: "I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you (the Ephesus Christian elders) and teaching you publicly and from house to house (kat'oikous)." (Paul activity in the different Christian meeting places is in view).

    Romans 16:5: "Greet also the church in their house (kat'oikon autôn)." Here the reference is to one Christian home.

    1 Corinthians 16:19: " Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house (kat'oikon autôn) greet you warmly in the Lord."

    Colossians 4:15: "Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house (kat'oikon autès).

    Philemon 2: "to the church in your house (kat'oikon sou)."

    Let's add that we have completely different expressions for "going from house to house":

    Luke 10:7 "Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house (ex oikias eis oikian).

    1 Timothy 5:13: "they learn to be idle, gadding about from house to house (perierkhomenai tas oikias). Perierkhomai is also used about the "itinerant Jewish exorcists" (Acts 19:13) or the "wandering" prophets in Hebrews 11:37.

  • Gopher

    Acts 20:20 in the New World translation mentions Paul teaching 'publicly and from house-to-house'. It seems that the two places are set in contrast, so that 'house to house' is not public, but rather is in their homes -- privately!

    The Watchtower "house to house" ministry is a very public spectacle. Their return visits could be seen as more in line with the spirit of Acts 20:20, although they wouldn't even have those if they weren't trolling through the territory consecutively in the first place.

  • peacefulpete

    Excellent point Gopher. It can be argued that the meaning of the world as used by the writer of Acts means 'in public view'. (Acts 16:37, 18:28)

  • yaddayadda

    Narkissos, what translation are you using when quoting those verses? That is an interesting point re who Paul was addressing at Acts 20:20. I've never noticed that before.

    Gopher, yes good point, but one already made by Ray Franz in his book. By the way, I agree with Franz that the Society's case for consecutive door-to-door preaching is flimsy. I'm not trying to defend the Society's view, rather trying to find extra confirmation of Franz's research.

    Thanks for those thoughts, but you havn't touched on my query re the 'distributive' sense for the preposition 'kata' (literally 'according to') that Franz mentions on page 214 of In Search of Christian Freedom. Where does Franz get this point from? Are there examples of the use of a 'consecutive' sense for this preposition that we can use to compare with these instances?

    Franz says:

    "The claim does not hold up under examination and thought. In the first place, distributive is not the same as consecutive. A person can go from 'house to house' by going from a home in one area to a home in another area, just as a doctor making 'house calls' might go from home to home. It does not at all require the idea of consecutive door-to-door visitation."

    The problem I see with this is that 'distribution' still seems to suggest that the disciples made an effort to contact every home in whatever town or village they entered into! Perhaps it most likely wasn't by the method of going from one door to the next door along a street, as Franz makes a strong case for, but nevertheless, would not the sense of 'distributive' imply that they would have tried to call on as many homes as they could have?

    The scenario I get from Luke 10 is that the disciples, upon entering a village, found a friendly home and set up base there for lodging, staying to eat there. Then they would have gone to people's homes to preach, perhaps inviting those ones to come to the house where they lodged to hear more. They would also have preached in the local synagogue or market-place.
  • Narkissos
    what translation are you using when quoting those verses?


    You didn't understand the grammatical meaning of the word "distributive" ("a word, like each or every, that indicates the several individuals of a number taken separately," Chambers). It doesn't describe a method of evangelism -- but the function of a preposition (referring to individual elements forming a given group).

    None of the texts which use kat'oikous, plural, refers to an evangelistic activity to non-believers; the texts which describe such an activity (Luke 10//) do not use this expression. So, whether you finally succeed in getting what "distributive" means, forget about it when you read the latter.

  • greendawn

    As far as I can remember there is nothing in the early Christian literature stating they went from door to door to preach to the pagans and Jews. It is the FDS once more twisting the scriptures to suit themselves.

    That "kat'oikon" could well mean in private that is a valid meaning, Paul taught first publicly and then went to the houses of those that had shown interest to teach them further in private, on a more intimate level.

  • peacefulpete

    greendawn, as narkissos pointed out in his opening comment, both the wider context and the writers choice of words indicate that the houses in the story were not those of potential converts but meeting places for Christian gatherings.

  • TheListener

    Here's what I've seen:


    w61 8/15 p. 503 "From House to House" ***

    In the Greek text the word "houses" (oikous) follows the Greek preposition katá and is in the accusative case, plural. On the use of this preposition katá with the accusative case the book A Greek Grammar for Schools and Colleges, by Hadley and Allen, says on page 256, under katá: "with accusative . . . in distributive expressions: katá phyla by clans, each clan by itself, katà dyo by twos, two by two, kath’ hemeran day by day."

    Says the book A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, by Dana and Mantey, D.D., on page 107, under the heading Katá: "(3) With the accusative case: Along, at, according to. Luke 10:4, . . . ‘Salute no one along the road.’ Also in the distributive sense: Acts 2:46 kat’ oikon, from house to house: Luke 2:41 kat’ etos, from year to year; 1 Cor. 14:27, katà dyo, by twos. See also Luke 8:1; 13:32."

    Quoting from still another Greek authority, that of Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek Testament, by Samuel G. Green, D.D. (Revision of 1912 edition), on pages 248, 249, under katá, it says: "ß. With the Accusative. . . . 4. Of place or time, distributively, from one to another. Mark xiii.8: seismoì katà tópous, earthquakes in diverse places. Luke viii.1: diódeue katà pólin, he was journeying from city to city. So kat’ étos year by year, Luke ii.41; kat’ oíkon, at different houses, Acts ii.46, v. 42; katà pan sábbaton, every Sabbath, Acts xv.21;" and so forth.

    To quote just one more authority, there is also the book A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, translated, revised and enlarged, by Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D.; on page 327, under the heading Katá, it says: "II. With the accusative: . . . 3. it denotes reference, relation, proportion, of various sorts: a. Distributively, indicating a succession of things following one another, a. in reference to place katà polin, in every city, (city by city, from city to city), Luke 8:1, 4; Acts 15:21; 20:23; Titus 1:5," and followed by a number of other references. Other grammars could doubtless be referred to to substantiate the distributive use of the Greek preposition katá with the accusative case as found in Acts 20:20.


    w91 8/1 p. 24 "From House to House" ***

    German scholar Hans Bruns justifies his translation, "from house to house," at Acts 5:42, saying: "According to the original text, it seems as if they went from house to house." Yes, kat´ oi´kon, the original expression in this text, is not used in an adverbial sense ("at home") but in a distributive sense, literally meaning "according to house." (The plural form, kat´ oi´kous, meaning "according to houses," is found at Acts 20:20.) Other scholars, such as Heinz Schürmann, substantiate the distributive translation of these expressions. Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider, publishers of an exegetical dictionary to the New Testament, say that this expression can be rendered "house after house." A number of English reference works explain this verse similarly.

    New World Translation Footnote:


    Rbi8 Acts 5:42 ***

    Lit., "according to house." Gr., kat´ oi´kon. Here ka·ta´ is used with the accusative sing. in the distributive sense. R. C. H. Lenski, in his work The Interpretation of The Acts of the Apostles, Minneapolis (1961), made the following comment on Ac 5:42: "Never for a moment did the apostles cease their blessed work. ‘Every day’ they continued, and this openly ‘in the Temple’ where the Sanhedrin and the Temple police could see and hear them, and, of course, also ?at’ ? ? ???, which is distributive, ‘from house to house,’ and not merely adverbial, ‘at home.’ "

  • Narkissos
    In the Greek text the word "houses" (oikous) follows the Greek preposition katá and is in the accusative case, plural. On the use of this preposition katá with the accusative case the book A Greek Grammar for Schools and Colleges, by Hadley and Allen, says on page 256, under katá: "with accusative . . . in distributive expressions: katá phyla by clans, each clan by itself, katà dyo by twos, two by two, kath’ hemeran day by day."

    Notice that the first two examples are obvious cases of a non-consecutive distributive -- the last one only being factually consecutive because it introduces a time unit.

    About the singular, it is worth noting that no reference is made to the fixed expression "the church in somebody's house" (hè ekklèsia hè [ousè] kat'oikon tinos), which is clearly not distributive.

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