Purchased by the Blood of God

22 Apr

Does God have blood? The Scriptures say the “life… is in the blood” (Leveticus 17:11). The actual quotation is the “life **of the flesh** is in the blood”, but Jesus tells us that God is Spirit (John 4:24), implying that God is not flesh. So, if this is an accurate conclusion, how should we understand Paul’s words – “Take 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 – emphasis mine)?

This is a difficult reading, and many scholars reject it, preferring either “the church of the Lord” etc. or changing the last phrase to “the blood of his own Son.” Either of these changes would point to Jesus, the man, and would no longer be a difficult reading. However, most scholars at other times, when evaluating a portion of the text, tell us that the most difficult reading is to be preferred, simply because it is the least likely to have been the work of a copyist trying to harmonize the text.

Looking at the manuscripts we are told that they are about evenly divided between “church of God” and “church of the Lord”, but while it is not difficult to understand why a copyist might change the word, God, into the word, Lord, in order to harmonize the phrase with what follows: “which he has purchased with his own blood” – it is very difficult to understand why a copyist would change “the church of the Lord” into the “church of God”, considering there is no other text in the New Testament that accounts for God shedding his blood for any reason. So, the “church of God” should be the preferred reading, according to the scholars’ own rules of interpretation.

How, then, should we to understand **God** shedding his blood to purchase the church? Some scholarly critics presume that over the years the word “son” was dropped from the phrase: “with the blood of his own.” According to this presumption, God would have purchased the church with his Son’s blood! Moreover, it has been pointed out that the Greek word idios (G2398) which is translated own can be a term of endearment equivalent to the Hebrew yachid, meaning “only” and the Greek agapetos meaning “beloved”.[1]

While this satisfies most scholars on both sides of the argument, I have to wonder about the implication of God purchasing anything at the expense of another. The problem is there is no precedent for God purchasing anything with his own blood anywhere in the Bible. However, this particular problem goes away if God (John 1:1) became flesh (John 1:14). To be honest, I can be satisfied with the rendering most scholars prefer—“with the blood of his own Son,” (the word son being added to the translation for clarity purposes as it pertains to a piece of literature) except for the implication that God purchased something at the expense of another.

If we say we in America (or any other free nation) have purchased our freedom with the life’s blood of our sons and daughters, it implies we have that right—to spend the life’s blood of others to purchase something we desire. Is there any integrity in such a purchase (cp. Psalm 106:38)? However, if we say that our sons and daughters spent their own life’s blood to purchase freedom for us, there is no problem with the integrity of the purchase. The life was voluntarily offered for the benefit of another. A fireman may give up his own life to save a child in a burning building, and there is nothing wrong with understanding the integrity of the purchase. Could we say with equal integrity that the father of the fireman purchased the child in the burning building with the life of his own son? Perhaps I am missing something in the nuance of the translation of Acts 20:28 (I don’t know), but I don’t believe the preferred scholarly understanding is a proper way of looking at this verse.

Finally, if the Father purchases the church with the blood of his own (Son), it implies that the Father and the Son are two different entities. If we, as Christians, believe in one God and that Jesus and the Father are One (God – cp. John 10:30), then in the truest sense it is God in the person of Jesus, that is, the Word was God and the Word (who is God) was made flesh (cp. John 1:1, 14), who purchased the church with his own blood. While this may not set too well with the theology of many, I believe it is the only rendering that keeps the integrity of the text.

[1] See F.F. Bruce The Book of Acts page 416, note 59.

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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Gospel, Paul's 3rd missionary journey


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