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Jesus: The God That Came to Purchase His Church

According to the Hebrew Bible, Jehovah is the only true God that purifies his people from sin:

“‘Don’t you understand? I am the only God; there are no others. I am the one who takes life and gives it again. I punished you with suffering. But now I will heal you, and nothing can stop me! 40 “I make this solemn promise: Just as I live forever, I will take revenge on my hateful enemies. I will sharpen my sword and let it flash like lightning. My arrows will get drunk on enemy blood; my sword will taste the flesh and the blood of the enemy. It will kill prisoners, and cut off the heads of their leaders.’ Tell the heavens to celebrate and all gods to bow down to the Lord, because he will take revenge on those hateful enemies who killed his people. He will forgive the sins of Israel and purify their land.” Deuteronomy 32:39-43 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

Jehovah is also described as the God who purchased a people to be their Shepherd:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3 Authorized King James Version (AV)

“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.” Psalm 80:1 AV

“O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.” Psalm 74:1-2 AV

Astonishingly, the New Testament describes Jesus as the One who purifies from sins and whom the angelic gods are commanded to worship:

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’” Hebrews 1:1-3, 6 ESV

Christ is further identified as the good and great Shepherd who purchased a flock of people to be his very own church, his spiritual Body:

“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 10:9-16 AV

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:21-25 AV

“And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Peter 5:4 AV

“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21 AV

Now compare the following,

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39 AV

“O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:” Psalm 95:6-8 AV

With what the Lord Jesus told the disbelieving Jews:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” John 10:27-33 AV

No wonder the Jews understood that Jesus was making himself out to be God!

This next example is rather remarkable:

“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 AV

Note how the following translations render the foregoing verse:

“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.” New International Version (NIV)

“Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

The majority of the Greek witnesses of this text actually identify Christ as both Lord and Christ:

“Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God (tou Kyriou kai Theou) which he purchased with his own blood.” World English Bible (WEB)

This is similar to Thomas’ confession after seeing the risen Christ:

“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God (ho Kyrios mou kai ho Theos mou).Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” John 20:27-29

Evangelical scholar Robert M. Bowman Jr. explains how the variant readings actually confirm that Jesus is being identified as the God who purchased the church:

  1. Acts 20:28: “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The variant readings (e.g. “the church of the Lord”) show that the original was understood to mean “His own blood,” not “the blood of His own [Son]” (since otherwise no one would have thought to change it). Thus all other renderings are attempts to evade the startling clarity and meaning of this passage. (The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity: An Outline StudyIV. The Son, Jesus Christ, is God.)

Bowman further shows that “his own blood” was how the Church and scholars read it for the first eighteen centuries:

Although most contemporary English versions render the last part of the verse in the same way as the NASB (ESV, NIV, NKJV, HCSB, and others), many scholars and commentators in recent decades have preferred the rendering found in the NRSV (and also in REB). There is no doubt as to the reason for this preference: those who dispute the conventional translation find the language, which expresses the idea of God’s having “blood,” difficult if not impossible to entertain.

A little lesson in grammar is unavoidable in order to understand the problem with the NRSV interpretation. The disputed words usually translated “his own blood” but translated “the blood of his own Son” in the NRSV are tou haimatos tou idiou (word for word, “the blood, the his-own”). The word idiou (“his own”) is an adjective, which normally we would understand as modifying the noun haimatos (“blood”). The word order here, with the adjective following the noun with a second article between them, is perfectly normal and common in Greek. Another example of this construction appears in the very same verse: “the Holy Spirit” (to pneuma to hagion, word for word, “the Spirit, the Holy”). It was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century, that anyone proposed that the words here in question did not mean “his own blood.”

The basis for the alternate translation “the blood of his own Son” is that Greek can use adjectives as if they were nouns (the technical term is substantivally). Many modern scholars argue that tou idiou is such a substantival use of the adjective, and therefore means “of his Own,” comparable to the use of the adjective “the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6) as a kind of term of endearment.

This reinterpretation of the text is grammatically possible and difficult to disprove absolutely, but it is hardly the most natural understanding. As we mentioned, eighteen centuries went by before anyone came up with it. The New Testament nowhere calls Jesus “his Own” (ho idios), nor was this term ever picked up in the early church as a designation for Jesus. The substantival use of ho idios (or any grammatical variation, such as ton idion) is, in fact, rare in the New Testament, and in the singular occurs only once–and even then not in reference to a specific person (John 15:19). On the other hand, ho idios functions as an adjective following the noun–just as in Acts 20:28–in several New Testament texts (John 1:41; 5:43; 7:18; Acts 1:25).

We are inclined to agree with Nigel Turner, a twentieth-century scholar of Greek grammar, who called the alternate translation of Acts 20:28 “a theological expedient, foisting imaginary distinctions into a spontaneous affirmation, and is not the natural way to take the Greek.” As the Catholic scholar Charles DeVine commented sixty years ago, it is nothing more than an attempt “to avoid at all costs the full force of the expression ‘God’s own blood.’” (Bowman & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case For The Deity of Christ [Kregel Publications, 2007], Part 3: Name Above All Names: Jesus Shares the Names of God, Chapter 12. Immanuel: God With Us, pp. 145-146; bold and underline emphasis ours)

And:

  1. The first scholars to propose the alternate translation “the blood of his own” appear to have been J. A. Bengel and F. J. A. Hort; see Harris, Jesus as God, 139; and Charles F. DeVine, “The ‘Blood of God’ in Acts 20:28,” CBQ9 (1947): 405. (Ibid., pp. 330-331)

Hence, Jesus is Jehovah God who came to purchase a people by his blood to be their Shepherd so as to lead them to everlasting pastures:

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Revelation 7:9-17

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