My wife and I were discussing the meaning of Acts 17:24-28. In other translations, it appears that God determines the epochs during which men will rise and the areas of the earth that are inhabitable. There are some who believe that the NIV translation about "the exact times and places" where men should live (e.g., I would be born in Athens in March, 1973 and drive a black Honda) is the proper spirit of the verse. -- Will Bacon (Athens, Georgia)

The NIV has mistranslated the Greek of Acts 17 in a Calvinist direction. (I.e., God foreordains everything.) Of course the problem with this is that he would then be de facto predestining others to live in places and during times without access to the gospel. (What strict Calvinists call "double predestination.") This violates the scriptural doctrines of calling and election. (For more on this, see the discussion of Calvinism in Shining Like Stars.)

A much better translation of this passage is the rendering of the HCSB: "From one man he has made every nation of men to live all over the earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live."

The general point of the passage is that God has made an earth that supports human life. By virtue of God's having made the earth "planet-friendly," it is possible for us to devote ourselves to finding the truth--to reaching out for our Father. It certainly does not mean that God forced us to rent a certain apartment or be invited to church by a particular person--although this is not to deny God's providence, response to prayer, or involvement in our lives.

A parallel passage is Psalm 74:17: "It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter."

At any rate, Acts 17 refers to the habitable portions of the globe, not to the street address of your house or apartment.

UPDATE: Good news! The latest version of the NIV has corrected the error. It now reads:

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

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