You are on page 1of 17

Acts 20.28, Whose blood? God's? Or, Christ's?

By Lesriv Spencer || June 23, 2014

There are certain Scriptures in the Bible which are used to promote a certain theology, with its
ensuing controversy. A fact is that some biblical statements can come into question when
translating them into other languages. Whether this is due to the original statement itself being
not contextually clear to our modern culture, or from the fact that there are real textual
uncertainties surrounding certain Scriptures in the biblical canon, these must be dealt with.
Textual uncertainties, is in this case, a main issue with the scripture we are going to discuss at
this time, Acts 20:28, which in turn, has led to many theological debates.

The statement in question is found in the last part of this verse, here underlined. Many versions
read similarly to the New International Version at Acts 20.28: “Keep watch over yourselves and all
the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,
which he bought with his own blood.” Other versions supporting the NIV reading are: An
American Translation (Smith & Goodspeed); Douay-Rheims Version (DRV); English Standard Version (ESV);
GOD’S WORD Translation (GW); Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB); Jerusalem Bible (JB); King James
Version (KJV); New American Standard Bible (NASB); New King James Version (NKJV); New Life Version (NLV);
New Living Translation (NLT); The Living Bible (TLB); and Young's Literal Translation (YLT). That's a good
number of Bible versions. In fact, you could find other versions to add to the list. Not to
mention, you can find a large number of commentaries supporting such reading as well.}
Why is Acts 20:28 interesting? Because Christians love Jesus Christ, and this text (per list above)
presumably talks about God's “blood” being shed. Hence, this text as rendered above (assuming it
is translated correctly) would show that Christ is God, for it was Christ who gave his life in sacrifice
for the world. There is a large company of Christian followers who welcomes the message
communicated by the versions listed above. But that is not the end of the story. This is where it
gets specially interesting. How so?
The text of Acts 20:28 has evidently been tampered with! That's what! Whether the alterations
were intentional or not cannot be determined with certainty. There was a point in history, not
too long after the first century A.D. where the identity of Christ was being confused with that of
God's. A few hundred years after Christ's appearance on earth, the Trinity doctrine took
essentially the form we have today. The historical transmission of manuscripts during that time
reveal serious existing confusion in Scriptures where either God or Christ singly, or both, are
mentioned. Acts 20:28 may have been one victim of this historical anomaly. Since then, there has
been a “tug of war,” so to speak, between those who favor the Trinity doctrine and those who
don't. Each group of believers are confident they are in the right, viewing those on the other side
as being “misguided.” Of the two main groups, as it has been true for centuries, the Trinitarian
supporters are the ones having the upper hand in the scholarly community.
Honesty compels me to present both sides of the issue, and I believe everyone is entitled to hear
both sides of the matter. This is why a variety of translations are listed above. These versions are
very popular with traditionalists, and plenty of information is readily available elsewhere to
promote their views, there is no sense for me to repeat those here. I, however, acknowledge
where they stand, their scholarship, and their popularity.
Notwithstanding, we are still faced with a significant dilemma. There are a good number of
Trinitarian scholars who recognize the textual and theological difficulties they are up against in
Acts 20:28. For instance, scholar A. W. Wainwright presents the issue of the text like this: “If the
reading θεοῦ [theou, “god” in the genitive case] is accepted, does the verse mean that God
purchased the church with his own blood? It is difficult to imagine that the divinity of Christ
should have been stated in such a blunt and misleading fashion.” (The Trinity in the New Testament,
London: S. P. C. K., 1962, p. 74.)

Hence, if you are a trinitarian believer, please don't pull away from this presentation. I ask you
kindly to openly examine the following material. By the way, most of it comes from trinitarian
sources. Various sources are presented: The Greek text itself, other Bible versions, and some
commentaries, which consider the existing difficulties in determining which is likely the original
reading of Acts 20.28. In addition, some international language versions with their approximate
English equivalents are presented as well to give truth-seekers an idea of how the rest of the
world deal with this issue. If history is any indication, there will always be some individuals who
are willing, in a sense, to fanatically go to the extreme of ‘burning someone else at the stake’ just
for having a different opinion. We do not want to go that far. Do we?
As you examine the information below, ask yourself if there is any justifiable reason to single out
a particular translation source of the ones listed below as ‘deceitful’ for the mere fact of being in
the opposite side of the popular conundrum. And what does it say of a person or an
organization who is willing to go so far as to publicize a scathing accusation of only one of the
sources having a variant reading below, while hiding or ignoring the other sources from their
readers displaying the same variant? That said, let us examine the facts.
Textual differences of various Greek Texts:
There are various different readings of Acts 20.28 which appear in the critical apparatus of the
leading Greek Texts being published today. In addition, Bible translations include some of these
variant readings in their notes in their effort to harmonize textual difficulties within biblical
context. We will only consider the two main textual variants shown below underlined:
τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ κυρίου, ἣν περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου.
the ecclesia of the lord, which he acquired through the blood of the own (one)
(Tregelles & Tischendorf Greek New Testaments)

τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ, ἣν περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου.
the ecclesia of the god, which he acquired through the blood of the own (one)
(Wescott & Hort; Nestle, UBS, & SBLGNT Greek Texts)

It appears that the manuscript evidence for both textual variants is about the same. So states
textual critic Bruce M. Metzger in his work, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament:
“The external evidence is singularly balanced between “church of God” and “church of the
Lord...In deciding between the two readings one must take into account internal [biblical]
probabilities.” (Page 425. Second Edition, ©1994, United Bible Societies) Another textual critic wrote in
New Testament Text and Translation Commentary the following: “As such, exegetes and translators
have recognized the viability of both readings...and, while choosing one reading, have usually
shown the alternate in a marginal reading.” (©2008 by Philip W. Comfort, p. 416. Tyndale House
Publishers, Inc.)
Early testimonials:

Irenaeus, St (c. 130-c200):


Closer to the time of Christ, an early Christian writer, Irenaeus, made reference to Acts 20.28 in
Against Heresies around 180-185 A.D. This is how he rendered the text:

“Take heed, therefore, both to yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost [Spirit]
has placed you as bishops, to rule the Church of the Lord, which He has acquired for Himself
through His own blood.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325,
Volume 1, Editor: Schaff, Philip, 1819-1893. Book III, 14.2, Reprint 2001)
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.iv.xv.html

Another early Christian writer (ca. 250-299 A.D.) rendered Acts 20:28 similarly:

“...to the Church of the Lord, ‘which he has purchased with the blood of Christ, the beloved….’” -
The Ante-Nicene Fathers, p. 424, Vol. vii, (“Constitutions of the Holy Apostles,” Book II, sec. VII, On
Assembling in the Church, part LXI), Eerdmans Publishers, 1989 printing).
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07.ix.iii.vii.html

These quotations may suggest what the early manuscripts circulating in their time did say in the
text of Acts 20:28. Although, theoretically, it is possible that there were other manuscripts
circulating with a different reading, it indicates, at least, how some early Christians understood
the expression, “the blood of his own”. These are the earliest known versions of this verse. Note
that these early Christian writers refer to the Church as “the Church of the Lord.”

The Bible often spoke of both God and Christ as “Lord,” but in the New Testament, references to
Jesus Christ as “Lord” are frequent. (Acts 2:36; Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; 1 Timothy
1:2; Titus 1:4; 1 Peter 1:3) Whether one applies the title “Lord” to God or Christ, these references
indicate that early on in the post-Christian era, the understanding about ‘the blood being shed’
was that of the “Lord,” presumably that of the Son of God, not God's. Some early Christian
writers (after the First Century A.D., that is), including Irenaeus, did speak of Jesus as “God,” but not
at the level of understanding that later theologians proclaimed of Christ when the Trinity
doctrine was later established in the Fourth Century of the Common Era. For instance, Irenaeus
concluded regarding the Father, “God holds the supremacy over all things, and thus over Christ.”
(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.28.7)

Bible Translations with the variant Lord, Christ or Messiah in contrast with God from the list
above:

Bible translators are guided by historical, contextual and textual principles at the time of
rendering a scripture with existing uncertainties. Some show a preference for the reading “the
church of the Lord” instead of “the church of God,” as the following list indicate:

“the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood.” (American Standard Version, 1901).
“the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.” (The Holy Bible – From Ancient Manuscripts,
George M. Lamsa, 1957)

“the congregation of the Lord, which he has redeemed with his own blood.” (Living Oracles)
“church of the Lord, which he won for himself by his own blood.” (New English Bible)
“the church of the Meshiha [Messiah] which he hath purchased with his blood.” (Etheridge's Translation
of the Peschito Syriac New Testament)
“the church of the Lord which he has purchased with his own blood.” (Moffatt’s New Testament)
“the church of Jesus Christ, that which he established by his blood” (Disciples New Testament)
“the church of the Lord which he has purchased with his blood” (Laicester Ambrose Sawyer New Testament)
“congregation of the Lord, which He purchased through his own blood” (James L. Tomanek)

“the congregation of the Lord, which he purchased through the blood of the own” (Diaglott)
“the church of the Lord, which he purchased with his own blood” (George R. Noyes New Testament)

“the church of the Lord, which he purchased with his own blood” (American Bible Union New Testament)
“the church of the Lord which He purchased by [shedding] His own blood.” (An Understandable Version)

“of the church of the Lord, which he won for himself by his own blood” (Revised English Bible)

Why is this of any relevance? One reason is that these Bible translators find it easier to describe
the shed blood at the “cross” as that of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not God's. Attention was
perhaps paid as well to the number of ancient manuscripts which also convey this message.
A list of Bible versions which read “church of God” was listed earlier.

Bible translations with the variant reading (with the blood of his own Son), or the like.

Another interesting variant is the inclusion of the word “Son” at the end of the clause in the
interest of clarification. The Greek text does not have “Son” in the statement, however, some
Bible translators believe the word is implied by the Greek expression, such as:

“with the blood of his own Son” (The Holy Bible in Modern Speech, Ferrar Fenton, 1903)

“with the blood of his own [Son]” (The Authentic New Testament, Hugh J. Schonfield, 1955. Brackets his.)

“through the death of his own Son” (Today's English Version, American Bible Society, 1966)

“with the blood of his own Son” (Revised Standard Version, 1971)

“by the death of his own Son” (The Translator's New Testament, 1973)
“which Jesus has bought to be His own with His own blood” (A New Accurate Translation of the Greek New
Testament into simple Everyday American English, Julian G. Anderson, 1984)
“with the blood of his own [Son]” (New World Translation, 1984. Bracket theirs.)

“which he bought with his own blood” (Jerusalem Bible, 1966)


“which he bought with the blood of his own Son” (New Jerusalem Bible, 1985)

“with the blood of his own Son” (New Revised Standard Version, 1989)

“with the death of his own son” (New Century Version, 1991)
“through the blood of his Son” (The Good News Translation, American Bible Society, 1992)

“with the blood of his own Son” (Contemporary English Version, 1995)

“by the blood of his own Son” (21st Century New Testament, 1998)

“at the cost of his own Son’s blood” (Complete Jewish Bible, 1998)

“with the blood of his own [Son]” (New Simplified Bible, 2004. Brackets his.)

“with the blood of his own Son” (The NET Bible, 2005)

“with the blood of his own Son” (Greek and English Interlinear N. T., W. D. Mounce, 2008)

“with the death of his own Son” (Common English Bible, 2011)

“You must be like shepherds to the church of God, which he bought [or obtained] with the death of his
own Son [with the blood of his own (Son); or with his own blood].” (The Expanded Bible, 2011. Brackets,
parenthesis, and italics theirs.)

“through the blood of his own Son” (Lexham English Bible, 2012)

“through the blood of His own Son” (VOICE, 2012)

These translations make it clear that the blood referent in this verse is the blood that was shed
at the time of Jesus Christ's death, the Son of God. Context, is obviously, a deciding factor for this
rendering.

Various international language readings of Acts 20.28:


Similarly to English versions, some international language editions have a preference for the
reading “the church of God” in Acts 20:28. Those are not noted here. However, main variant
readings are indicated below:
Danish:

“ved sin egen (Søns) blod” (Apostlenes Gerninger, Johannes Munck og Sigfred Pedersen, Århus og
(through his own Son's blood) København. 1964)
“Vær hyrder for Herrens menighed, som han købte med sit eget blod” (Bibelen på hverdagsdansk, 2006)
(Be shepherds of the Lord's Congregation, which he purchased with his own blood)

Dutch (Netherlands):

“door het bloed van zijn Eigene” (Nieuwe Vertaling van het Nederlands Bijbelgenootschap, Amsterdam. 1952)
(through the blood of his Own)

“door het bloed van zijn eigen Zoon” (Willibrordvertaling, Katholieke Bijbelstichting, Boxtel. 1975)
(though the blood of his own Son )

“door het bloed van zijn eigen Zoon” (Groot Nieuws Bijbel, Nederlands Bijbelgenootschap, Haarlem. 1983)
(through the blood of his own Son )

“die Hij door het bloed van Zijn eigen Zoon heeft verkregen” (Het Boek, 1988)
(which he purchased with the blood of his own Son )

French:
“pour paître l'Eglise du Seigneur, qu'il s'est acquise par son propre sang” (Traduction de Louis Segond, 1910)
“to graze (feed) the church of [the] Lord which He acquired with His own blood.”
“au prix de son propre sang” (La Sainte Bible, Ecole biblique de Jérusalem, 1955)
(at the cost of his own blood)
“par le sang de son propre fils” (La Sainte Bible, Jérusalem, 1978)
(by the blood of his own son )
“par la mort de son propre Fils” (La Bible, en français courant, 1986)
(by the death of his own Son )
“par le sang de son propre fils.” (La BIBLE, version J. N. Darby, ©1991)
(by the blood of his own son )
German:

“durch das Blut seines eigenen Sohnes” (Lutherbibel, Revised Text, Stuttgart. 1975)
(through the blood of his own Son )

“durch das Blut seines eigenen Sohnes” (Einheitsübersetzung derHeiligen Schrift, Stuttgart, 1980)
(through the blood of his own Son )

“durch das Blut seines eigenen Sohnes” (Die Bibel in heutigem Deutsch, Stuttgart. 1982)
(through the blood of his own Son) -

“durch das Blut seines Sohnes” (Hoffnung für alle, Basel, Giessen, 1983)
(through the blood of his Son)
Italian:
“col sangue del suo unigenito” (La Sacra Bibbia, a cura di B. Mariani, Milan. 1964)
(with the blood of his only-begotten) --
“col sangue del proprio Figlio” (La Sacra Bibbia, a cura di S. Garofalo, Forino. 1966)
(with the blood of his own Son )

“col il sangue del proprio Figlio” (La Bibbia, nuovissima versione dai testi originali, E. Paoline, Rome. 1983)
(with the blood of his own Son )

“con la morte del Figlio suo” (Parola del Signore - La Bibbia in Lingua Corrente, Rome, 1985)
(with the death of his Son )

Norwegian:

“for en menighet som Jesus har vunnet med sitt eget blod” (En Levende Bok, 1978)
(for a congregation Jesus has won with his own blood)

“med blodet av sin egen Sønn” (Ny verden-oversettelsen av De hellige skrifter, 1996)
(with the blood of his own Son)

Portuguese:

“por meio do sangue do seu próprio Filho” (A Bíblia na Linguagem de Hoje, Sociedade Bíblica do Brasil,
(through the blood of his own Son ) Río de Janeiro, RJ. 1973)

“com o sangue do seu próprio Filho” (Traduçāo em Português Moderno, Lisbon. 1978)
(with the blood of his own Son )

“pelo sangue de seu próprio Filho” (A Bíblia de Jerusalém, Edições Paulinas, São Paulo, 1981)
(by the blood of his own son )

Spanish:
τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ, ἣν περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου
“la iglesia de Dios, que adquirió mediante la sangre del propio (Hijo)”
(Nuevo Testamento Interlineal Griego-Español, Francisco Lacueva. Translation his.)

With “Lord or “the church of the Lord” (Con “Señor,” o “la iglesia del Señor”):

“para apacentar la iglesia del Señor, la cual ganó por su sangre” (Reina-Valera, 1909)
(to shepherd the church of the Lord...)
“para apacentar la iglesia del Señor, la cual él ganó por su propia sangre” (Reina-Valera 1960)
(to shepherd the church of the Lord which he won with his own blood)

“la iglesia del Señor que se adquirió por la sangre propia.” (El Nuevo Testamento de nuestro Señor Jesucristo,
(the Church of the Lord...) Pablo Besson. 1981)

“para pastorear la iglesia del Señor, la cual adquirió para sí mediante su propia sangre” (Reina Valera
(to shepherd the Church of Christ...) Actualizada, 1989)

“para apacentar la Iglesia del Cristo, la cual Él compró con su sangre” (Biblia Peshitta en Español, 2006)
(to shepherd the Church of Christ...)
“que el Señor adquirió con el sacrificio de su propia vida” (Biblia Traducción Interconfesional, 2008)
(which the Lord acquired...)
“con la sangre del [Hijo] suyo” (Traducción del Nuevo Mundo de las Escrituras Griegas Cristianas, Brooklyn, 1963)
(with the blood of his own Son)
“con la sangre de su Hijo” (Nueva Biblia Española, L. A. Schökel y J. Mateos, Madrid. 1975)
(with the blood of his Son )
“que adquirió por la sangre de su [Hijo]” (Sagrada Biblia, F. Cantera - M. Iglesias, Madrid. 1979)
(that he acquired by the blood of his Son )
“con la sangre de su propio Hijo” (Biblia de América, 1994)
(with the blood of his own Son )
“con la sangre de su propio hijo” (Nueva Biblia de Jerusalén – Latinoamericana. 2001)
(with the blood of his own son )
“con la sangre de su propio Hijo” (Sagrada Biblia, Versión Oficial de la Conferencia Episcopal Española,
(with the blood of his own Son ) Madrid. 2011)

Swedish:

“med sin sons blod” (Bibel 2000, Svenska Bibelsällskapet, Uppsala. 2000)
(with his son's blood)

Again, just like many English versions have done, international Bible editions find it
prudent to render it as “the church of the Lord,” or to add “Son” to the final clause.

____________________________________

Bible Translation's Comments reveal the textual challenges before them:

Equally interesting are explanatory or clarifying comments which distinguished


scholars have put in writing in regards to Acts 20.28:

Today's New International Version (Footnote to Acts 20:28): “his own blood. Lit. ‘the blood of his
own one,’ a term of endearment (such as ‘his own dear one,’ referring to his own Son).”
New Living Translation (Alternative reading): “Or with the blood of his own (Son.)”
Easy to Read Version: “Or ‘the blood of his own Son’” (Footnote, 2010)
Alfred Marshall: “This = his own blood or the blood of his own [?Son]” (Footnote: The Zondervan
Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Brackets his.)

Darby Translation (Darby's English Translation rendered the last clause like this: “which he has
purchased with the blood of his own.” However, a French online version of Darby reads instead:
“laquelle il a acquise par le sang de son propre fils.” [Translation: “which he acquired by the blood of his
own son.” Version DARBY Copyright (c) 1991 Bible et Publications Chretiennes, Valence FRANCE])

Darby: “I am fully satisfied that this is the right translation of ver. 28. To make it a question of the
divinity of Christ (which I hold to be of the foundation of Christianity) is absurd. It has been
questioned whether ‘of his own’ can be used thus absolutely in the singular. But we have it in
John 15.19, and in the neuter singular for material things, Acts 4.32....” (Footnote of Acts 20:28, The
Holy Scriptures, A New Translation from the Original Languages, Bible translator J. N. Darby, 4th Edition,
Reprint 1988)

Lexham English Bible (Footnote for “Son” at Acts 20:28): “Or “through his own blood”; the Greek
construction can be taken either way, with “Son” implied if the meaning is “through the blood of
his own.”
The NET Bible (Footnote for “Son” at Acts 20:28):
“Or ‘with his own blood’; Grk ‘with the blood of his own.’ The genitive construction could be taken
in two ways: (1) as an attributive genitive (second attributive position) meaning ‘his own blood’; or
(2) as a possessive genitive, ‘with the blood of his own.’ In this case the referent is the Son, and
the referent has been specified in the translation for clarity. See further C. F. DeVine, ‘The Blood of
God,’ CBQ 9 (1947): 381–408.

” That he obtained with the blood of his own Son. This is one of only two explicit statements in
Luke-Acts highlighting the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death (the other is in Luke 22:19).”
Weymouth New Testament in Modern Speech: “The Church of God .. with His own blood] V[aria]
L[ectio]. ‘the Lord's Church’ &c.; and it has been plausibly suggested that ‘Son’ (in the Greek) has
been omitted in error from the end of the verse–‘with the blood of His own Son.’” An earlier
edition of this NT explained: “But if the original text was ‘the blood of his own Son,’ in the Greek
the last two syllables of ‘own’ [i· di'ou] are all but identical with the following two syllables of ‘son’
[hui·ou'], and these latter may, by a familiar source of corruption, have been accidentally
omitted.” (Dr. Richard Francis Weymouth)
____________________________

Commentators speak out:

Believer's Bible Commentary: “Which [God] purchased with his own blood. This latter expression
has been the cause of considerable discussion and disagreement among Bible scholars. The
difficulty is that God is here pictured as shedding His blood, where as God is Spirit. It was the
Lord Jesus who shed His blood, and although Jesus is God, yet nowhere else does the Bible
speak of God bleeding or dying. […] Perhaps J. N. Darby comes closest to the correct sense of the
passage in his New Translation: ‘The assembly of God which He has purchased with the blood of
His own.’ Here God is the One who purchased the church, but He did it with the blood of His own
Son, the blessed Lord Jesus.” (William MacDonald, 1995)
The Bible Knowledge Commentary: “His own blood. Nowhere does the Bible speak of the blood
of God the Father. The Greek here can read ‘by the blood of His own,’ that is, His own Son.” (John
F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, 1983)

The New Bible Commentary: “Which he obtained with his own blood. Or ‘... with the blood of His
own One’, ‘...of His Well-beloved.’” (Edited by D. Guthrie & J. A. Motyer, Eerdmans)
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains: “...Be shepherds of
the church of God, which he acquired by means of his own Son's death.” (Louw & Nida, Vol. 1, p. 565)
Nelson's Compact Bible Commentary: “with His own blood: It was the blood of the Son of God
that was shed for the sins of the church.” (Earl Radmacher, Ron Allen & H. Wayne House)
A New Commentary on Holy Scripture:

“In [verse] 28 the subject of ‘purchased’ is more naturally God not Christ. But the phrase ‘the
blood of God’ is incredible in St. Paul. Some have conjectured that the word ‘Son’ has fallen out.
Otherwise it is best to translate blood that is His own.” (Charles Gore, Henry Leighton Goudge, Alfred
Guillaume. Italics theirs. SPCK, London, corrected reprint of March, 1946, p. 369)

Raymond E. Brown, S.S.: “We are by no means certain that this verse calls Jesus God...” (Jesus:
God and Man: Modern Biblical Reflections, p. 12)

“Perhaps theos refers to the Father and idios to the Son, thus, ‘the church of (The Father) which
He obtained with the blood of His own ‘Son.’” (Does the New Testament call Jesus God? TS 26.4, 1965,
553)

Carl W. Conrad (Department of Classics/Washington University): “One look at the text makes it
evident that this is not really an easy problem to resolve. Clearly it involves theological issues,
since, unless I seriously misunderstand traditional trinitarian doctrine (which may well be the
case), even if Jesus is said to be identical with God the Father, the persons are differentiated and
it seems strange to say that God acquired the church through his own blood rather than
through the blood of his son. But of course one might want to argue that ‘the church of God’
here really means ‘the church of Jesus Christ.’ In any case the phrasing seems strange, and I
would like to ask the question whether the meaning of DIA TOU hAIMATOS TOU IDIOU [through the
blood of his own] can be resolved intelligibly WITHOUT taking theological implications into
consideration. [...] The reading DIA TOU hAIMATOS TOU IDIOU [through the blood of his own] seems
for idiomatic reasons to be better understood as ‘God obtained ... through the blood of His own
(son).’” (http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek - Mar 29, 1999)

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown:


“To feed the church of God–or, "the Church of the Lord.” Which of these two readings of the text
is the true one, is a question which has divided the best critics. The evidence of MSS. [manuscripts]
preponderates in favor of ‘THE LORD’; some of the most ancient Versions, though not all, so read;
and Athanasius, the great champion of the supreme Divinity of Christ early in the fourth century,
says the expression ‘Church of God’ is unknown to the Scriptures. Which reading, then, does the
internal evidence favor? As ‘Church of God’ occurs nine times elsewhere in Paul's writings, and
‘Church of the Lord’ nowhere, the probability, it is said, is that he used his wonted phraseology
here also. But if he did, it is extremely difficult to see how so many early transcribers should
have altered it into the quite unusual phrase, ‘Church of the Lord’; whereas, if the apostle did use
this latter expression, and the historian wrote it so accordingly, it it easy to see how transcribers
might, from being so accustomed to the usual phrase, write it ‘Church of God.’ On the whole,
therefore, we accept the second reading as most probably the true one. But see what follows.
” which he hath purchased--‘made His own,’ ‘acquired.’
” with his own blood--‘His own’ is emphatic: ‘That glorified Lord who from the right hand of
power in the heavens is gathering and ruling the Church, and by His Spirit, through human
agency, hath set you over it, cannot be indifferent to its welfare in your hands, seeing He hath
given for it His own most precious blood, thus making it His own by the dearest of all ties.’ The
transcendent sacredness of the Church of Christ is thus made to rest on the dignity of its Lord
and the consequent preciousness of that blood which He shed for it. And as the sacrificial
atoning character of Christ's death is here plainly expressed, so His supreme dignity is implied as
clearly by the second reading as it is expressed by the first. What a motive to pastoral fidelity is
here furnished!” (Commentary on the Whole Bible: Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown. First
printing of revised edition, 1961. Zondervan)

A Grammar of New Testament Greek (J. H. Moulton): “Before leaving ἴδιος [i′di·os] something
should be said about the use of ὁ ἴδιος [ho i′di·os] without a noun expressed. This occurs in Jn 111;
131, Ac 423; 2423. In the papyri we find the singular used thus as a term of endearment to near
relations: e.g. ὁ δεῖνα τῷ ἰδίῷ χαίρειν [So-and-so to his own (friend), greeting]…In Expos. VI. iii. 277 I
ventured to cite this as a possible encouragement to those (including B. Weiss) who would
translate Acts 2028 ‘the blood of one who was his own.’” (Vol. 1, Prolegomena, 1930 ed., p. 90.)
The New Testament in the Original Greek (Hort stated): “It is by no means impossible that ΥΙΟΥ
[hui·ou′, “of the Son”] dropped out after ΤΟΥΙΔΙΟΥ [tou i·di′ou, “of his own”] at some very early
transcription affecting all existing documents. Its insertion leaves the whole passage free from
difficulty of any kind.” (Westcott and Hort, Vol., 2, London, 1881, pp. 99, 100 of the Appendix.)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament: “Instead of the usual meaning of διὰ τοῦ
αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου [‘through the blood of the own’], it is possible that the writer of Acts intended his
readers to understand the expression to mean ‘with the blood of his Own.’ (It is not necessary to
suppose, with Hort, that υἱοῦ [son] may have dropped out after τοῦ ἰδίου [of the own], though
palaeographically such an omission would have been easy.) This absolute use of ὁ ἴδιος [the own] is
found in Greek papyri as a term of endearment referring to near relatives. It is possible,
therefore, that ‘his Own’ (ὁ ἴδιος) was a title that early Christians gave to Jesus, comparable to ‘the
Beloved’ (ὁ ἀγαπητός); compare Ro 8.32, where Paul refers to God ‘who did not spare τοῦ ἰδίου υἱοῦ
[of the (his) own son]’ in a context that clearly alludes to Gn 22.16, where the Septuagint has τοῦ
ἀγαπητοῦ υἱοῦ [of the beloved son].” (Metzger 1994, p. 426)

A. W. F. Blunt: “[Acts 20:]28. ...The language here seems to mean that God purchased the Church
with his own blood, which is certainly a strange and startling phrase; and in many MSS
[manuscripts] we find ‘the Lord’ instead of ‘God’. But the Greek (DIA TOU hAMATOS TOU IDIOU) may
mean ‘by the blood which is His own’ i.e. that of His Son; and hUIOS (‘Son’) may even have fallen
out after IDIOU.” (The Acts of the Apostles, The Clarendon Bible, Introduction and Commentary, page 232.
1922)

Joseph A. Fitzmyer: “...The obvious meaning of the [Greek] phrase creates a difficulty with the
antecedent of the preferred reading, ‘God.’ Hence some commentators (e.g. Bruce, Knapp, Pesch,
Weiser) have preferred to understand this phrase to mean, ‘with the blood of his Own,’ i.e., his
own Son. Such an absolute use of ho idios is found in Greek papyri as a term of endearment for
relatives. Perhaps, then, it might be used here for Jesus, somewhat like Rom. 8.32 or 1 Tim 5:8.”
(The Anchor Bible, The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary,
Doubleday 1997, page 680)
Murray J. Harris: “I have argued that the original text of Acts 20:28 read τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ,
ἣν περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου [ten ekklesian tou theou, hen periepoiesato dia tou haimatos
tou idiou] and that the most appropriate translation of these words is ‘the church of God which he
bought with the blood of his own one’ or ‘the church of God which he bought with the blood of
his own Son’ (N[ew]J[erusalem]B[ible]), with ὁ ἴδιος [ho idios] construed as a christological title.
According to this view, ὁ θεὸς [ho theos] refers to God the Father, not Jesus Christ. If however,
one follows many English versions in construing ἴδιος [idios] adjectivally (“through his own blood”),
ὁ θεὸς [ho theos] could refer to Jesus and the verse could therefore allude to “the blood of God,”
although on this construction of ἴδιος [idios] it is more probable that θεὸς [theos] is God the Father
and the unexpressed subject of περιεποιήσατο [periepoiesato] is Jesus. So it remains unlikely,
although not impossible, that Acts 20:28 ὁ θεὸς [ho theos] denotes Jesus. (Jesus as Theos, The New
Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus, ‘Conclusion’, p. 141, Baker Book House, Grand rapids,
Michigan, 1992.)

New Testament Text and Translation Commentary:

“The textual evidence allows for several different renderings, as follows:

” 1. ‘take care of the church of God’


a. ‘which he [God] purchased with his own blood’
b. ‘which he’ [God] purchased with the blood of his own Son’
” 2. ‘take care of the church of the Lord’
a. ‘which he [the Lord] purchased with his own blood’
b. ‘which he [the Lord] purchased with the blood of his own Son’

[…] In the end, both readings are communicating the same essential message: The elders are to
take care of the church as shepherds caring for their sheep because the church is God's
possession, purchased by the blood of Jesus, God's Son.” (Philip W. Comfort, pp. 416-417)

Thomas L. Constable: “A better translation of the last part of this verse would be, ‘He [God the
Father] purchased with the blood of His own [Son].’ (cf. Rom. 3:25; 5:9; Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Col. 1:20).” (Dr.
Constable's Notes on Acts, 2014 Edition)

_____________________________

What basis is there to add “Son” in the passage as many translators have done?
Consider several New Testament examples where the word ἴδιος = í·di·os (“own”) is used where the
idea that is attached to it is not explicitly stated but is indeed implied and expected to be
understood by the reader. Quotations are from the literal 21st Century New Testament – Left
column. You can compare these with other literal translations, such as Douay-Rheims Bible or
Paul R. McReynolds Interlinear. Notice how other translations deal with í·di·os (“own”):
John 1:11, “He came into his own, and his own did not receive him.”
GW: “He went to his own people, and his own people didn’t accept him.”
John 13:1, “Having loved his own [“disciples,” NLT], those in the world, he loved them to the end.”
VOICE: “From beginning to end, Jesus’ days were marked by His love for His people.”
John 19:26,27, “Jesus therefore, having seen the mother and the disciple whom he was loving,
having stood by is saying to the mother: Woman, see thy son. Afterward he is saying to the
disciple: See thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her into his own.”
NET: “... From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.”
The Message: “... From that moment the disciple accepted her as his own mother.”
1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone is not providing for his own and especially for his household, he
has disowned the faith and he is of an unbeliever, worse.”
NIV: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household,
has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Acts 4:23, “But having being released they came to their own and they reported as many as the
chief priests and elders said.”
NIV: “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the
chief priests and the elders had said to them.”
Acts 21:6, “We bid farewell to one another and stepped into the boat, but those returned to
their own.”
NIV: “After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.”
Acts 24:23, “Having arranged with the centurion to watch him, to have also a relaxation and to
forbid no-one of his own to be serving him.”
NIV: “He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and
permit his friends to take care of his needs.”
Acts 20:28, “The congregation of God which he acquired for himself through the blood of his
own.”
Mounce Interlinear: “The church of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.”
In all the above examples, one is expected to infer what the speaker or writer is talking about
since the object in question is not stated. It is only implied by the context. The literal translations
above from the 21st Century NT imply an idea that is not explicitly mentioned in the original Greek
text but is most certainly implied. Hence, we can see quite clearly that the word “son” was indeed
implied at Acts 20:28. It was common in biblical Greek to use the word “own” in this respect and
leave the reader to understand what is implied but not stated. It is evident that there is nothing
unusual about first century Greek writers using the word ἴδιος (“own”) without an accompanying
noun, and that a concept was simply implied and expected to be understood by the reader.
Conclusion:
All these variant readings and interpretations point to one thing: No one today can be absolutely
certain what Luke specifically wrote at Acts 20:28. What is a Christian to do when he encounters
textual discrepancies in Scripture? Well, textual problems cannot be completely ignored, but
they can be reconciled with Scripture to the extent that it is possible. In the end, greater weight
should ultimately be placed on what the Bible actually teaches in deciding which likely is the true
reading. Yes, what does the Bible say overall on the subject? Whose “blood” at Acts 20:28 was it?
Was it the blood of God that was to be shed, or was it the Son's blood? Let's examine a few
scriptures (New King James Version):

Matthew 26:28 (Jesus in the Last Supper): “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed
for many for the remission of sins.”

Luke 22:20, “Likewise He [Jesus] also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new
covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

John 19:18,34, “Where they crucified Him [Jesus], and two others with Him, one on either side,
and Jesus in the center.” “But one of the soldiers pierced His [Jesus'] side with a spear, and
immediately blood and water came out.”

Hebrews 13:20, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that
great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.”

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever
believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

1 John 4:9, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only
begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. ”

1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one
another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Hebrews 9:14, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered
Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

1 Peter 1:19, “But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without
spot.”

Revelation 1:5, “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the
ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own
blood.”

Revelation 5:9, “And they [the heavenly creatures] sang a new song, saying: ‘You [the Lamb] are
worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to
God by Your blood [with your blood you purchased men for God, NIV] Out of every tribe and tongue
and people and nation.’”

Revelation 7:14, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their
robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb [Jesus Christ].”
Thus, the most pertinent question to ask after considering the available facts, is this: Which of
the proposed readings of Acts 20:28 agrees with the Scriptures above which clearly show that
the blood being shed was Christ's blood, not God's? While on earth, Jesus Christ repeatedly
stated before others that God was “in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32, etc.) This makes sense as we are
told that “God sent his Son” to earth, not that he himself would do so. Christ added that “God is a
Spirit” without flesh and bones, therefore has no blood. (John 4:24, KJV; Luke 24:39) Hence, it was
Jesus the One who died on the “cross” and ‘poured out his blood for many for the forgiveness of
sins.’ (Matthew 26:28, NIV; John 6:54; 1 John 1:7) Some manuscripts speak of “the Church of the Lord”
at Acts 20:28 (ASV), but according to one interpretation, the “Lord” here may simply refer to the
one who shed his blood for the church. In fact, it is the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:36) who washed
the members of the Church with his own blood. (Revelation 1:5)
Robert M. Bowman Jr., a countercult author asserts that, “It is prejudice against the text
speaking of God's ‘blood’ that drives the substantival reading [“of his own,” as a title, implying that it
was the blood of God's own Son]....” (http://www.forananswer.org) However, the Scriptures quoted
above clearly show that the One who poured his blood at the time of death was from no other
than Jesus Christ. God cannot die. It is not “prejudice,” but straight biblical statements which
indicate so. Other trinitarian scholars are in disagreement here with Bowman's view.
Considering the facts, how could anyone feel justified being dogmatic about Acts 20.28 with its
various uncertainties, and worse, engage in extremely critical statements of those holding a
different view? Could anyone in their right mind use this text of Acts 20.28 as “proof” that Christ
is God as some insist on doing? (Robert Countess and Ron Rhodes are two names that come up in
favor of supporting the orthodox translations of Acts 20.28 in their drive to bolster the deity of Jesus
Christ, who also declare that adding “Son” to the text is “unwarranted,” or something similar.) But as
indicated, Scriptures are clear overall that the blood which was poured to wash the sins of
Christian followers was the blood from no other than the Founder of Christianity himself, Jesus
Christ. Nowhere else does Scripture say that is was God's blood. So Acts 20.28 should
accordingly be translated in harmony with other Scriptures, not the other way around.
J. N. Darby (a Trinitarian): “Nothing could be more mischievous than the resting the divinity of the
Lord Christ on this passage [Acts 20.28] - a passage tortured by critics, no two of whom hardly
can agree upon it. […] For my own part I am perfectly satisfied that ‘by the blood of His own’ -
that is, what was more than our words of ‘near’ and ‘dear’ can possibly convey, it was God's own
dear and beloved Son - is the true translation.” (STEM Publishing: Acts 20:28 <34004E> 105)
In sum: “This passage cannot be adduced as convincing evidence that Jesus was called God
in New Testament times.”
(So stated Arthur W. Wainwright in the “The Confession ‘Jesus is God’ in the New Testament,” p. 294, SJT 10
March 1957: 274-99. – The Trinity in the New Testament. London: SPCK, 1962. A. W. Wainwright is Professor of
New Testament Emeritus at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He was born in Leeds, England,
and educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and Wesley House, Cambridge.)

___________________________________________________________

Other subjects by the same author (For Spanish, see below):


Exodus 2:25: http://www.scribd.com/doc/38676458/Exodus-2-25-And-God-took-notice-Does-God-care-about-us
Matthew 5:3, ‘the poor in spirit’: https://www.scribd.com/document/35085619/Matthew-5-3-Blessed-are-the-poor-in-spirit
John 1:1, http://www.scribd.com/doc/34916458/The-correct-translation-of-John-1-1
John 1:1, Briefer text, with additional samples: http://www.scribd.com/doc/50330864/John-1-1-List-of-Alternate-Readings
John 1:14 (“grace”): http://www.scribd.com/doc/35002730/John-1-14-Jesus-full-of-grace
John 8:58: http://www.scribd.com/doc/35318309/The-correct-translation-of-John-8-58-List-of-alternate-readings-to-I-am
John 17:3: http://www.scribd.com/doc/57772552/John-17-3-%E2%80%98Taking-in-knowledge-of-%E2%80%99-God-and-Jesus
Acts 20:28, https://www.scribd.com/doc/231244155/Acts-20-28-Whose-blood-God-s-Or-Christ-s
Colossians 1:16, “all other things”: http://www.scribd.com/doc/209607822/Colossians-1-16-Is-the-translation-all-other-things-appropriate
1 Timothy 3:16, http://www.scribd.com/doc/76927834/Was-God-manifested-in-the-flesh-1-Timothy-3-16
Hebrews 1:6,8, https://www.scribd.com/doc/252268649/Does-Hebrews-1-6-8-prove-Jesus-is-God
Do the NW translators know Greek? http://www.scribd.com/doc/48234022/Did-the-New-World-Translation-Committee-Know-Greek
Translation Differences in selected verses: http://www.scribd.com/doc/59484457/Translation-Differences-Questions-and-Answers
Was Jesus Created First? https://www.scribd.com/document/378080373/Was-Jesus-Created-First

Otros temas – en español – por el mismo autor:


Juan 1:1, ¿“un dios”?: http://www.scribd.com/doc/35899788/Traduccion-correcta-de-Juan-1-1-Lista-de-lecturas-alternativas
Juan 1:1, Listado de lecturas suplentes: https://www.scribd.com/document/358556923/Lista-de-lecturas-suplentes-a-la-tradicional-de-Juan-1-1
Juan 8:58, “yo soy”: http://www.scribd.com/doc/36126649/La-traduccion-correcta-de-Juan-8-58-Lista-de-lecturas-alternas-a-yo-soy
Juan 17:3, ‘adquirir conocimiento’: http://www.scribd.com/doc/74629981/Juan-17-3-%E2%80%98Adquiriendo-conocimiento%E2%80%99-de-Dios-y-Jesucristo
Colosenses 1:16, “todas las otras cosas”: http://www.scribd.com/doc/209601066/Colosenses-1-16-%C2%BFEs-la-traduccion-
%E2%80%9Ctodas-las-otras-cosas%E2%80%9D-apropiada
1 Timoteo 3:16: http://www.scribd.com/doc/77336247/%C2%BFFue-Dios-manifestado-en-carne-1-Timoteo-3-16
¿Enseña Hebreos 1:6,8 que Jesús es Dios?: https://www.scribd.com/doc/255738165/Ensena-Hebreos-1-6-8-que-Jesucristo-es-Dios
¿Acaso tiene sentido la Trinidad? http://www.scribd.com/doc/173779117/%C2%BFAcaso-tiene-sentido-la-Trinidad
¿Conocen los traductores de la TNM griego? http://www.scribd.com/doc/51623596/%C2%BFSabia-griego-el-Comite-de-la-Traduccion-del-Nuevo-Mundo

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Final Note: This document was written using the free and open LibreOffice Writer, using Noto Sans Font,
Size 11 – originally in the .odt (Open Document Text) format. To submit comments, suggestions or
corrections: lesriv000@gmail.com
____________________________________________________