Scripture Query and Answer: Blood of His Own

Acts 20:28  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Q. Would the author of the tract, “The Sufferings of Christ,” be so kind as to give a short explanation of Acts 20:2828Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28) in the Bible Treasury? The writer of this note thinks it would be very advantageous to the public to develop the teaching of that remarkable verse. A. B. C
A. As regards the translation of δια του αιματος του ιδιου, I have not much to say. As to the fear of its touching the divinity of Christ, a person must be very ill grounded in that fundamental truth to have any such feeling. The fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Christ, His being truly God, Jehovah, I AM, is too inseparably a part of the whole texture of Scripture, too plainly stated in Scripture, and still more strongly proved, if possible, by the way it is supposed or assumed and implied in passages where it is no direct subject of revelation. Nothing could be more mischievous than the resting the divinity of the Lord Christ on this passage—a passage tortured by critics, no two of whom hardly can agree upon it. With the exception of Scholz, hardly any noted critic has simply ‘God' in the passage at all. Indeed, as far as I know, Mill is the only one; the principal ones have not ‘God' at all, reading ‘Lord' instead. Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, all read ‘the Church of the Lord’ —Matthaei, 'Lord and God,' which Middleton approves, and Alford and others of more weight than he reject as perfectly untenable. Alford read 'Lord' in his first edition; and saying, that as B. in the Vatican has it by the first hand, the evidence of manuscripts is balanced; but, on internal evidence, he reads Θεου in the second. To me it remains uncertain if it be by the first hand, for the transcript of the MS. is not to be trusted. Wetstein prefers ‘Lord.' The new Codex Sinaiticus reads. But A. C. D. E. and many others read κυριου. Many more, but modern, read Κυριου και Θεου. It would be monstrous to rest a vital doctrine on a text evidently tampered with. Even in Athanasius to Seraphion (i. 522), the printed text has Θεου, but other MSS. Κυριου or χριστου. I suppose we may account Athanasius as a sufficient champion of the true divinity of the blessed Lord. Of all ancient writers, he is known to be the undaunted and suffering defender of this truth against the whole body of Arians, the Emperor and all, and died an exile for this truth. Now, not only in the passage quoted by critics he declares that the blood of God is never used by itself, and that it is Arianism; but the argument of his two books against the Apollinarians, particularly the second book, is based on this. It forms, I may say, the whole point and subject of the second. He denounces as Arian such language as saying, “God suffered,” or speaking of His blood flowing. He treats it as the madness of the Arians. He says that “if it be said that God suffered, δια σαρκος even, then the Father and the Comforter have suffered, for they are all one;” and concludes, “The Word is God, if you look at His immortality (αθανασια) and incorruptibility and immutability; but man, in His nailing to the cross, and the flowing of His blood, and the burial of His body, and descent into Hades, and resurrection from the dead. Thus the Christ is raised from the dead, and, being God, raises the dead.” He says we are to be content to say, Christ has suffered for us in the flesh.' I cannot quote more here: it is, as I have said, the argument of the whole second book. The reader may find a multitude of the Fathers also object to the expression too. They may be found in notes to critical editions. Wetstein gives many of them. At any rate, speaking of the sufferings of God or His blood-shedding is denounced by him, who best knew what Arianism was, and the greatest champion for the blessed truth of Christ's divinity who ever lived, as being Arianism. The Arians and Apollinarians did so speak; because the Arians did not hold that Christ was of one nature with the Father, and the Apollinarians held that Christ had no human intellectual soul, but that the divinity took its place in the Christ. Hence, the former had no difficulty that what was a creature, however elevated, suffered; and the latter must have made God suffer as the mind in Christ, or else He must have ceased to be. Hence, Athanasius opposed them so energetically, and said it was running into Arianism; and hence we can easily see how he rejected an expression such as the one we are considering. Now, I admit it was reasoning, not criticism. If I found it in Scripture, I should certainly not mind Athanasius, but take it as what is called κοινωνια ιδιωματων, dangerous and slippery as that ground is, if it ever be justified as to the natures of the Lord. I read, “the Son of man who is in heaven;” but that, by His person, passes into His divine nature. But I do not believe the natures are so spoken of. They are not to be confounded, any more than the person divided. I do not want to speculate on such subjects. I only say this to express my subjection to Scripture language, if such there be. But it is ridiculous to make a matter of orthodoxy, as a fundamental proof of Christ's divinity, what Athanasius denounces as denying that divinity, and being Arianism.
Now for my own part I believe—have always thought—the reading the Church of God to be right. If δια του ιδιου αιματος was the reading in this place, then the Church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood would be the only right translation; and so the English translators read it. But I confess I agree with Athanasius that such language is not according to Scripture analogy and its expression of the truth. It is not a question of the divinity of the Lord, one way or the other, but of the fitness of speaking of the blood of God. I do not think such an expression Scriptural. I do not accept the title even of the Mother of God. Ι believe it revolts just and divinely-given thoughts in the mind, and turns away from the true, eternal divinity of the blessed Lord. He who was God had a mother, and He who was God shed his blood; but I do not think Scripture speaks of God's shedding His blood. I think it revolts the mind as wrong, unseemly—I will say profane. I know what a person means and I bear with it, because I delight in his holding the true, essential deity of the Lord. But I agreed with Athanasius, when I had never read him, when I examined the passage in this view, in thinking such expressions contrary to the analogy of the faith. As regards the translation of δια του αιματος του ιδιου by the blood of His own, that it is Greek is I judge beyond controversy, in spite of the confident pretensions of some, and the slighting remarks of others, In John 15:1919If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15:19), we have this usage, which anyone may find in a dictionary. “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own” —το ιδιον εφιλει. It is an unquestionable Greek usage. Of course it can be translated, by His own blood.' The question is, which is right. To ιδιον is that which is specially near and identified with anyone, as our word, “own.” Hence it is said, “He spared not His own Son.” God has purchased the Church with that which was His own, nearest and dearest to Himself; a thought as apt and beautiful as possible here. Of that there can be no question. The singular seems to me more intimate than the plural, but I could not here give any proof that I am right. At all events, no expression would be more appropriate, hardly any, it seems to me, so strong. God purchased the Church with that which was most near to Himself, and most dear to Himself. This seems to me a most forcible expression, peculiarly expressive in the circumstances. More so, it seems to me, than that which would have expressed the relationship of the blessed Lord to His Father, whatever the essential importance of that may be in its place. The force of the sentence is in the word ιδιον, which is to me a deeply touching expression.
Since I translated the passage, I have found the first biblical scholars, dead and living, discussing this translation without the smallest idea of its not being sound Greek. Doederlein proposed it. Michaelis suggests this rendering. Meyer says the text was changed from του αιματος του ιδιου to του ιδιου αιματος because the latter, which is admitted not to be the true reading, obliged men to translate it, the blood of God;' allowing this, that with the true reading it is not necessary to do so. The only other translation is the one I have given. I am thoroughly satisfied that all the tampering with the text, which for so short a passage is almost unexampled, arose from not simply taking it as I have done. For my own part I think that του αιματος του ιδιου applied to God is unnatural and objectionable. This use of ιδιος after a substantive is rare in the New Testament, just because it has a contrasting and emphatic force. When it is used with αιμα elsewhere, it is put before. Heb. 9:12; 13:1212Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Hebrews 9:12)
12Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. (Hebrews 13:12)
. When tame is put after, it is contrast or special emphasis. Of Christ it is said (Mark 15:2020And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him. (Mark 15:20)), they took the purple off him and put on him his own clothes—τα ιματια τα ιδια. Judas went εις τον τοπον ιδιον—his own place, not mooning that which was naturally his, but as could be said really of no other man, one appropriate to himself. Any man may go εις τον ιδιον τοπον, but εισ τον τοπον τον ιδιον raises the question, why is it so peculiarly his own? It is to that place which was peculiarly his own. So He spared not His own Son του ιδιου υιου, not του υιου του ιδιου. 2 Tim. 4:33For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (2 Timothy 4:3); their own lusts τας επιθυμιας τας ιδιας, their own proper lusts in contrast with God's will, which they ought to have done. When it is simply the fact it is (James 1:1414But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (James 1:14)) ν. τ. ιδιας επιθυμιας. I have given all the cases, I believe, in the New Testament of this emphatic use. It is the general force of an adjective so placed after with an article. Now I confess this seems to me to make it singularly inapposite to be applied to the blood of God, that blood which was peculiarly God's own in contrast with all other. I would not fail in reverence in speaking on such things, but it does seem to me that such a contrasted use of God's blood as distinguished from all other is irreverent and somewhat shocking. The question is not on the divinity of the Lord, I repeat. Athanasius even charges such kind of language with being Arian. It is whether we are authorized (again I dread irreverence, but it is not mine, but theirs who would insist on it) to speak of God's own blood as God, for that would be the proper force of it.
Of the genitive ιδιου after a noun there is no example in Scripture. For my own part I am perfectly satisfied that by the blood of His own—i.e., 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. J. N. D.