An investigation of the usage of en oligo shows that it was never used in the sense of "almost." soil from the peoples, mostly of their own blood, who have given up.
The phrase occurs first in the Hymn to Hermes, 240, and here it is evidently an abbreviated expression for the Homeric oligo eni choro (M 423). Compare K 161, P 394. But it was used for both time and place, with the substantive expressed or understood (Thuc. i.93.1; iii.66.3; iv.26.3; iv.55.3; ii.84.3; ii.86.5; iv.96.3; v.112; vii.67.3; vii.87.1; Pind. Pyth. viii.131; Eur. Suppl. 1126; Hel. 771; Isoc. iv.83; Dem. lviii.60; iii.18). These uses persist from Homer far down into the post-classical literature (Plut. Per. 159 F; Coriol. 217 F; Mar. 427 A; Crass. 547 C; Polyb. x.18; Appian, Mithrad. 330; Themistius xi.143 C; Eustath. II.B, p.339.18). In the
Consequently, en oligo, in the New Testament, means "a little," and is equivalent to oligos which occurs in
Compare Herod. v.93; Plato Protag. 329 D; Aesch. Persian. 542; Soph. Phil. 534; Eur. H.F. 1408; I.T. 542; Cycl. 68; Ion 1432, Ar. Lys. 605, tou dei; ti potheis; Agrippa is asking, "What do you want, Paul? What are you trying to do? Make me a Christian?" The implication in Paul’s reply is that he is very desirous indeed of making him a Christian. And this interpretation harmonizes with the scene. The apostle’s business at this juncture is not to convert heathen to Christianity; for he is in chains before Agrippa, Berenice, Festus and prominent men of Caesarea, meta polles phantasias (
All the manuscripts, except Sinaiticus, have peitheis (Alexandrinus PEITHE). Several read genesthai (instead of poiesai). Wetstenius (Amsterdam 1752) and Knapp (Halle 1829) follow these manuscripts. So most of the old translates: Coverdale (1535), "Thou persuadest me in a parte to become a Christen"; Biblia Sacra (Paris 1745) "In modico suades me C. fieri"; a Latin MS, 14th century, now in Lane Semitic., Cincinnati; Rosenmueller’s Scholia (1829), "Parum abest quin mihi persuadeas ut fiam"; Stier und Theile’s Polyglotten Bibel (1849), Tregelles (1857- 1879, with Jerome’s version); Edouard Reuss, Histoire apostolique (Paris 1876), "Tu vas me persuader bientot de devenir Chretien." The translation of Queen Elizabeth’s Bible is "Somewhat thou bryngeste me in minde for to become Chryste." Wycliffe renders "In litil thing thou councelist me for to be maad a Christen man." Erasmus takes en oligo in the sense of "a little."
Calvin’s rendering, "Thou writ make me a Christian in a moment," has been adopted in various countries (Wetstenius, Kuinoel, Neander, de Wette, Lange, Robinson, Hackett, Conybeare). The older scholars generally hold to "almost" (Valla, Luther, Beza, Grotius, Castalio, Du Veil, Bengel, Stier). Some interpret the phrase "with little labor" (Oecumenius, Olshausen, Baumgarten, Meyer, Lechler). Neander maintains that if we adopt the readings en megalo in Paul’s answer, Agrippa’s words must be explained "with a few reasons" ("which will not cost you much trouble"). Meyer-Wendt (Kritisch-exegetisches Handbuch uber die Apostelgeschichte) translates "mit Weregem imnerredest du mich Christ zu werden." Meyer himself conceives the words to have been spoken sarcastically. Se Classical Review, XXII, 238-41.