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What’s a Kandake? (Acts 8:27) — Mondays with Mounce 233
In Acts 8:27 (NIV), Luke writes that Philip “started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (Κανδάκης) (which means “queen of the Ethiopians” [βασιλίσσης Αἰθιόπων]).
“Kandake” is a lot harder to translate than first meets the eye. First of all, what does it mean? The NASB and ESV read, “a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians” (similar is the HCSB and NET). What does “Candace” sound like to you? Sounds like a personal name to me. If the qualifying “queen of the Ethiopians” were not there, it might sound like a place, but with the qualifying “queen of the Ethiopians” it can’t be a place.
But listen to the subtle difference the word “the” makes in the NRSV: “a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.” Same also with the NLT: “a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia.” One almost glosses over the “the,” but it really makes it different, doesn’t it?
The NIV adds another thought: “an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means ‘queen of the Ethiopians’).” Where does the “which means” come from?
BDAG to the rescue. Κανδάκη is the “title of the queen of Ethiopia.” It is not a personal name or a place, but a title much like “Pharaoh.” The little word “the” is critical in getting the translation right. This is a great illustration of the fact that you can’t translate ὁ merely on the basis of its presence or absence.
Secondly, where does “which means” come from? The answer is seen in why βασιλίσσης genitive? It is in apposition to Κανδάκης. If the NIV had simply put a comma after Κανδάκη, it would have run the risk of creating the same misconception as does the NASB and ESV. But with both “the” and “which means,” the translators are correctly translating Κανδάκη as a title and not as a name or a place.
William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.
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