The Word 'Fortunate' Attributed to the Apostle Paul by the ESV - Acts 26:2

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Greetings Pilgrims, beloved of the Lord,

In Acts 26:2 of the ESV translation, the word 'fortunate' is attributed to the Apostle Paul. For those of you that know the original language I ask, Is that a good translation? Personally, I avoid using the word altogether because of its implications.

Acts 26:2 ESV​
“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews,

Below is the first definition of fortunate as shown in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Pronunciation:
Forms:
Also Middle English fortunat, Middle English fortenat.
Frequency (in current use): Show frequency band information
Etymology: < Latin fortūnātus, < fortūnāre (see fortune v.).

1. a. Favoured by fortune; possessed of or receiving good fortune; lucky, prosperous. Said of persons; also, of an enterprise, event, etc. Const. to and infinitive.

Should we use this and similar words? Or, should we avoid them?

Similar expressions:
it just wasn't in the cards.​
I got a lucky break.​
that is a good omen.​
it just happened by chance.
Etc.​
@iainduguid

Thanks
 
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C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
This is interesting and I had not really taken note of this. I see your point in regards to the word ‘fortunate’ and its implications; we think of fortune and luck. A secularist’s attempt to explain the providence of God.
The NASB renders it the same, the KJV uses ‘happy’. This seems to be more in keeping with the greek as far as I can tell. ‘blessed, happy’.
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
It's tricky to know, in our own conversation, what word to use. "Lucky" should always be excluded. I've noticed that "fortunate", however, is sometimes used by those who reject the use of lucky (I use it myself at times). Perhaps because it is closer in meaning to "providential", which would be the safest word to use but sometimes would sit uncomfortably in a sentence (it wouldn't make sense for Paul to have said "I think myself providential").
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
The Greek word there is μακάριος, which we normally render “blessed.” This is the word used in the Beatitudes.

The rendering of “fortunate,” it seems to me, is just fine. Μακάριος does not seem to be an exclusively religious word. In a secular context, it refers to being lucky, happy, the object of good fortune or circumstances. Paul’s context before pagan King Agrippa would have meant the word was understood as “fortunate.”
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
It's tricky to know, in our own conversation, what word to use. "Lucky" should always be excluded. I've noticed that "fortunate", however, is sometimes used by those who reject the use of lucky (I use it myself at times). Perhaps because it is closer in meaning to "providential", which would be the safest word to use but sometimes would sit uncomfortably in a sentence (it wouldn't make sense for Paul to have said "I think myself providential").

Excellent thoughts, Alexander,

I agree that the word fortunate does not have the same connotation as the word lucky. I think that fortunate means mainly something good has happened without a solid reference to chance or luck. It was the translation I was questioning. I'm hoping for somebody to explain what the word translated as fortunate means and if there might be a better word without any connotation to the foolishness of this world.

Another one of my pet peeves is the phrase "Mother Earth" to explain weather and the like. What an awful thing to attribute a thunderstorm to. While the Bible says, a lightning strike always hits its mark.

Job 36:30‭-‬32 ESV​
Behold, he scatters his lightning about him and covers the roots of the sea. For by these he judges peoples; he gives food in abundance. He covers his hands with the lightning and commands it to strike the mark.
 

C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
Absolutely! Well, again, its another manifestation of the secularist’s attempt to explain the sovereign workings of the Lord God. But it also reflects their desire to create new gods that govern creation. Its paganism
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
In translation, deciding what connotations the English word will have to English readers is about as important as figuring out the original meaning of the Greek word. In this case, although "fortunate" might have origins that hint at fortune telling or suggest random chance, it seems to me that the word now has a broad enough range of meaning that it often connotes being blessed with any happy circumstances, including those the speaker believes have come from God's hand. It sounds fine to me.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
In this case, although "fortunate" might have origins that hint at fortune telling or suggest random chance, it seems to me that the word now has a broad enough range of meaning that it often connotes being blessed with any happy circumstances, including those the speaker believes have come from God's hand. It sounds fine to me.
Hi Jack,

I am relying on the primary definition given by the Oxford English Dictionary on the word's current usage. They don't usually get it wrong. Check out the original post for the meaning they can consider the primary as it is used today. I wasn't considering the word's etymology, for, in that case, we could not even pronounce the days of the week.

And, I completely agree with you that the origin of the word does not dictate its current usage. I also lean toward your view of its current meaning. But then there is the OED… :)

Thanks,

Ed
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Hi Jack,

I am relying on the primary definition given by the Oxford English Dictionary on the word's current usage. They don't usually get it wrong. Check out the original post for the meaning they can consider the primary as it is used today. I wasn't considering the word's etymology, for, in that case, we could not even pronounce the days of the week.

And, I completely agree with you that the origin of the word does not dictate its current usage. I also lean toward your view of its current meaning. But then there is the OED… :)

Thanks,

Ed
I used to suggest to Christian authors that they avoid fortunate, on the premise that some readers would object that it denies God's providence. But I've eased up on that, as I've repeatedly noticed that usage is broader. Many people speak of God blessing them with good fortune, for example. So I've become convinced that for most English speakers today, at least in the US, to be fortunate most often means something good has happened that you can't take credit for—which is broad enough to allow for it being from God.

However, there must still be other readers, like you, for whom the word feels wrong, and maybe I should go back to recommending Christian writers avoid it. Arrgh! Words can be tricky business.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
It's tricky to know, in our own conversation, what word to use. "Lucky" should always be excluded. I've noticed that "fortunate", however, is sometimes used by those who reject the use of lucky (I use it myself at times). Perhaps because it is closer in meaning to "providential", which would be the safest word to use but sometimes would sit uncomfortably in a sentence (it wouldn't make sense for Paul to have said "I think myself providential").
Or head to Vegas to try your providence?
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Greetings,

Everyone should keep in mind that I posted this in the "Translations and Manuscripts" forum. My primary purpose was to get some input on the question, "Is this a good translation of the original word?" I wasn't asking if you like the word fortunate [μακάριος].

In the ESV, the word is translated as follows:
Happy (happier) 1 time.​
Fortunate 1 time​
Blessed 48 times​
 

hLuke

Puritan Board Freshman
Here are a few more resources to add to OP and Taylor's entries
The greek word is:
μακάριος, (makarios), it means: happy, to be envied
Souter, A. (1917). A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (p. 150). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
This same word appears 50 times throughout the NT.

The ESV translates it into 'blessed' 48/50 times:

Screen Shot 2021-10-06 at 12.15.51 pm.png

The 'fortunate' ESV rendering is found only in this passage (Acts 26.2)-- 1/50 times this word is translated as such:
Screen Shot 2021-10-06 at 12.16.02 pm.png
Acts 26.2 (ESV)

The other time this word is translated differently in the ESV is 1 Cor 7.40:
Screen Shot 2021-10-06 at 12.16.13 pm.png
1 Cor 7.40 (ESV)

Here is a chart demonstrating the word rendering throughout the ESV:

Screen Shot 2021-10-06 at 12.06.35 pm.png
The KJV maintains what appears to be a consistent rendering:
2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:

The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ac 26:2). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Other translation (or paraphrase) renderings of this word:
"I am glad for this chance..." (CEV)
"I think it is a blessing..." (ICB)
"I am very blessed..." (NCV)
"I consider myself highly favoured..." (TPT)

Source: Logos Bible Software

I figured @Ed Walsh you mentioned the 50 NT, ESV entries of the word. I copied graphs for interest sake.
Hope this helps
 
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iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
The problem with "happy" is that in modern speech it almost always says something about a person's positive emotional state. Historically, it meant something much more objective about someone's situation (which is why the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness doesn't mean what many people think it does). makarios, and the Hebrew word behind it, ashre, express this objective evaluation of enviable circumstances. "To be envied" gets the point but is clunky; "Blessed" adds the divine element that is usually there in the Biblical context, so fits quite well, though it is not something people normally say these days (and in the OT can be confused with the quite different "Blessed", baruk).

"I am fortunate" might very well be how we would express the idea; "I am happy" probably miscommunicates to a contemporary audience; and does anyone ever say "I consider myself highly favored..."?
 

PointyHaired Calvinist

Puritan Board Sophomore
Not a fan of luck myself, but I don’t have a problem with “fortunate” here (“happy” doesn’t seem to fit). I’m not a “pot providence” guy either.

I do however get a kick out of Tyndale’s rendition of Genesis 39:2: "And the Lorde was with Joseph, and he was a luckie fellow."
 

Morgan

Puritan Board Freshman
hLuke, did you do the charts and visual representations yourself? I have not seen that and I find them effective in helping me understand the usage. Don't mean to drift this off topic.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
hLuke, did you do the charts and visual representations yourself? I have not seen that and I find them effective in helping me understand the usage. Don't mean to drift this off topic.
It looks like he did them in Logos Bible Software, which is quite easy.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
I've found most instances where "fortunately" is used, "thankfully" is a good substitute (not speaking to the Greek in the text at hand, but the latter conversation in this thread). And I see no problems with thankful, as to me this expresses thankfulness to God in the situation, while being something that rolls off the tongue too.
 
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