Acts 20:28.

Q. 2.

[04 1862 126]

Q. Sir, — I have read, with the interest it deserves, the reply of J. N. D. to the question put to him by A. B. C. in your July number.

On the former of the two points discussed in his remarks I have little to say. All who, through grace, believe and know the truth will readily admit that the divinity of Christ rests upon a far broader basis than the testimony of any single text. Most Christians, also, will agree in giving a deferential hearing to Athanasius on any point of Trinitarian doctrine; subject, however (as J. N. D. allows), to the final decision of the word. But, as he admits, 'reasoning is not criticism:' and it may be added (with reference to the second point in question), textual criticism is not syntax.

Accepting, as J. N. D. does, the now usually received reading, Theou, in Acts 20:28, the question as to the words which follow is simply one of constructive usage and propriety. J. N. D. assures himself and his readers that, in rendering dia tou haimatos tou idiou into the English phrase — "by the blood of his own" — he gives a translation incontrovertibly sound; and in support of this view he cites Michaelis, Doederlein, and Meyer. In reply to this, I venture to say that such a rendering is so contrary to usage, as to require some positive authentication by other instances or examples to establish it. Such a construction as that of J. N. D. is not impossible, but it is (as far as I have searched) unknown.

Have either of the Germans above named, or has any other scholar, adduced a single passage from any quarter, classical or otherwise, in support of the proposed version?

The remarks of J. N. D. on the meaning assignable to to idion are scarcely in point. Such a use of the neuter adjective is not very rare in ordinary Greek, especially when expressive of appropriate fondness; but the real question is, Does the Holy Spirit ever thus speak of Christ? I surely think not. J. N. D. makes an incidental reference to Rom. 8:32, in support of what no one can doubt, viz., the appropriative force of idios. I shall lay the same passage before your readers as a ready means of enabling them to estimate the measure of probability which attaches to the proposed version of J. N. D.

Let it be remembered that Paul, who speaks in Acts 20:28, writes in Rom. 8:32. His words in the latter passage are, hos ge tou idiou huiou ouk epheisato, k. t. l. Now, it may be safely affirmed, that, had the apostle omitted the word huiou from this passage, there would not have been the slightest ambiguity in his language. But he adds it, not, as I imagine, to avoid ambiguity, but in order to give truth its fitting emphasis, by expressing that distinctive Name in which the brightness of the divine glory is ever manifested to the eye of faith (Heb. 1:1, 2). To suppose, therefore, that the apostle meant us to understand his words in Acts 20:28 in the sense preferred by J. N. D., is to ascribe to him a needless departure both from the ordinary use of the Greek language, and from his own accustomed mode of speech when speaking of the Son of God, and to represent him as gratuitously adopting an ambiguity of phrase at a time and in circumstances when explicit clearness and precision of speech were more than usually called for. That the apostle so acted is quite beyond my belief.

Considerations of sentiment, and even analogies of doctrine, though of much interest and importance in their place, can hardly be allowed to rule decisively a point of grammar. Until, therefore, some more convincing reasons to the contrary are alleged, I must continue to accept the ordinary translation, "by his own very blood," as the natural and necessary translation of dia tou haim t. id.

I think it right to say also that the moral difficulty stated by J. N. D., toward the close of his remarks, does not by any means affect my own mind. He thinks it 'singularly inapposite to speak of the blood as that which was peculiarly God's own in contrast to all other.' Presently he adds, 'It does seem to me that such a contrasted use of God's blood, as distinguished from all other, is irreverent and somewhat shocking.'

By the mercy of God I am, I believe, as far from Paterpassianism as truth is from error; but I must confess myself unable to sympathize with J. N. D. in the feeling he here expresses. Let us first consider what the real aim of the Spirit was in leading Paul to speak as he does in this remarkable passage. Was it not (in view of the mischievous effects of human wilfulness such as he immediately afterwards predicts) to recall to the minds of his brethren the solemn and ever-blessed truth of the divine mystery, that natural presumption and inconsiderate self-seeking might be warned of the sort of ground on which they sought to tread?

It is but rarely, and always on some special and impressive occasion, that the proper Godhead of the Redeemer is emphatically asserted. Much oftener, as J. N. D. justly remarks, it is assumed or implied in the language of the Spirit. Believing, then, as I do, that Paul's charge to the Ephesian elders was one of these occasions, I see nothing either 'unnatural or objectionable' in the supposition that he sought to impress upon his fellow-workers in the truth, that the Church which God had made His own He had redeemed by blood, and that the price of that rich purchase was 'his very own.'

"God was in Christ." The child of Jewish birth was also the everlasting God. It would be an assertion both gratuitous and at variance with Scripture to affirm that the blood of His mother was all that flowed in Immanuel's veins. He was indeed made of a woman, but he had a Father also, whose divinity pervaded truly but ineffably the entire person of the child. (Col. 2:9.)

I am unwilling to extend this letter, and will close it by an unfeigned expression of sorrow at what appears to be the growing spirit of verbal controversy in the Church of God. That this spirit commonly waxes and wanes inversely to the true power of godliness is but too well known to all who have reflected on the history of man, whether in the present or preceding dispensation.

May our hearts, filled with Christ through faith, be ever the teacher of our lips!

Yours in the hope of His appearing, X.Y.Z.

A. As you have kindly communicated the above criticism, I send you at once the following brief reply.

It seems to me that my critic admits that the translation of Acts 20:28 is grammatical. "It is not," he says, "impossible" — that is, it cannot be denied to be Greek. Only, he asks an instance of the Holy Ghost's thus speaking of Christ. Allow me to turn the question. Can he give me an instance of the Scripture speaking of the blood of God? Is it not far more contrary to the mind and analogy of the word than the special recognition of Christ as God's own? The use of idios in the plural for this appropriating way is incontrovertible. I need hardly cite instances. It is found, too, in the LXX. I have given an example of the singular in "the world would love its own."

I do not follow my critic on the extremely dangerous ground he has thought proper to enter on as to Christ's blessed person — far more dangerous, I humbly think, than verbal criticism. All the rest is argument, in which I do not see any force.

As the translation is not denied to be grammatical, we have made a distinct step in the matter. What is according to the mind of the Holy Ghost in the passage, I am quite content to leave to the judgment of spiritual persons. No doctrine is in any way in question.

Yours in the Lord, J. N. Darby.