Acts 10:34-35 – Formal or Frank?

Daniel & Tonya have written a post on Acts 10:34-35 (Comparing Acts 10.34-35), looking at the Greek & a few other translations along with their own. What jumped out at me as the phrase Ἀνοίξας δὲ Πέτρος τὸ στόμα and their discussion of it. They write:

1. Some translations try to hammer out this more formal speech introduction (”opening the mouth”), most do not. Why is it that the NET Bible can have awful translations and fantastic notes?

Now I’m not necessarily against the idea that the phrase is a formal one, but I am somewhat skeptical. I looked through a few commentaries, did a few searches across texts, looked at the context, and I really think that this is an idiom and less than a formal introduction to a speech.


Well, for one, I’m always skeptical of this sort of thing because foreign sounding phrases always sound formal  in English. I’m not saying that this is the case here. I’m just saying that’s always my initial gut reaction. So I dug through the lexicons. Louw & Nida say that it a formal Semitic idiom. Perhaps.

But BDAG and LSJ are interesting here.

BDAG cites the verse in question in its definition 5, but in definition 7, we’re given this little tid-bit:

to be candid, be open, intr. (s. 6 beg. for grammatical ref.; s. also 5a) τὸ στόμα ἡμῶν ἀνέῳγεν πρὸς ὑμᾶς our mouth is open toward you, i.e. I have spoken freely and openly 2 Cor 6:11 (cp. Ezk 16:63; 29:21 and ἄνοιξις).

Incidentally, its important to note that the 5a referenced in definition 7 is exactly the place where our reference to Acts 10:34 appears. This caught my attention.

So then, I turned to LSJ. Not much there. But more helpful was LSJ’s entry for ἄνοιξις.

ἄνοιξις, εως, ἡ, opening, πυλῶν Th.4.67, 68; πόρων Thphr.Od.13; χειλῶν Plu.2.738c, cf. PMag.Lond.46.274 (iv a.d.): pl., Porph.Antr.27; ἄ. τοῦ στόματος, Hebraism for παρρησία, LxxEz.29.21, 2Ep.Cor.6.11, Ep.Eph.6.19, etc.

And now my Greek studying friends, what does παρρησία means?

If you said, outspokenness or frankness, then you’re on the right track.

And that is why I do not think that Ἀνοίξας δὲ Πέτρος τὸ στόμα is a formal expression.

Besides, I think it fits the context, what Peter says in the following verses wasn’t planned or at least not completely. I’m sure Peter had a planned message or speech, but what Cornelius told him about the events of the previous several days changed things. And that’s why he says ἐπʼ ἀληθείας, which I think makes more sense as an adverbial usage (cf. BDAG ἐπί, definition 5).