The New World Translation here reads;
"Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd to congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own [Son]."
The word "Son" has been added, as the square brackets indicate.
The New American Standard Bible reads here:
"..to shepherd the Church of God which He purchased with His own Blood."
This would mean, that, as it was Jesus who was the one who died upon the "stauros," and whom the scriptures tells us "poured out his blood,"(Mat.26:28; John 6:54; 1 John 1:7)he is here referred to as "God."
In the NWT Reference Edition(1984) p.1580 there is supplied an appendix that gives two other translations that do likewise, that is, translates as the New World Translation. They are:
1903, "with the blood of his own Son" The Holy Bible in Modern Speech, by F.Fenton
1966, "through the death of his own Son" Todays English Version, American Bible Society.
There are more that could be cited, they being:
The Authentic New Testament(Schonfield, 1954)
The New Testament: A New Translation(W.Barclay, 1963)
The Translator's New Testament(1973)
New Revised Standard Version(1989)
Contemporary English Version(1995)
The New World Translation Reference Bible of 1984 appendix 6C also says:
"Grammatically, this passage could be
translated as in the King James Version and Douay Version, with
his own blood. That has been a difficult thought for many.
That is doubtless why ACDSyh (margin) (followed by Moffatts
translation) read the congregation of the Lord,
instead of the congregation of God. When the text
reads that way it furnishes no difficulty for the reading, with
his own blood. However, zBVg read God
(articulate), and the usual translation would be Gods
"The Greek words tou idiou(tou i·diŽou) follow the phrase with the blood. The entire expression could be translated with the blood of his own. A noun in the singular number would be understood after his own, most likely Gods closest relative, his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ. On this point J. H. Moulton in A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol. 1 (Prolegomena), 1930 ed., p. 90, says: Before leaving idios[i'dios]something should be said about the use of o idios[ho i'dios]without a noun expressed. This occurs in Jn 1:11 13:1, Ac 4:23 24:23. In the papyri we find the singular used thus as a term of endearment to near relations . . .. In Expos. VI. iii. 277 I ventured to cite this as a possible encouragement to those (including B. Weiss) who would translate Acts 20:28 the blood of one who was his own.
"Alternately, in The New Testament in the Original Greek, by Westcott and Hort, Vol., 2, London, 1881, pp. 99, 100 of the Appendix, Hort stated: it is by no means impossible that YIOY[hui.ou',"of the Son"]dropped out after TOYTIAOIY[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.
"The New World Translation renders the passage literally, adding Son in brackets after idiou to read: with the blood of his own [Son].-end of appendix
We have a copy of J.N.Darby's translation before us. Darby translates the last part of Acts 20:28 as,
"which he[God]has purchased with the blood of his own." He supplies a footnote that reads:
"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. ..."
What Darby here shows from his referring us to John 15:19 and Acts 4:32 is that "idiou" can be used with out an accompanying noun in the Greek and to indicate that which is 'possessed' by the referent mentioned previously. In Acts 20:28 he believes that "idiou," "own," is a reference to God's own "son" not to God's own "blood."
In agreement with Darby is what is stated in A New Commentary on Holy Scripture(SPCK, London, corrected reprint of March, 1946, page 369):
"In [v]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."-italics theirs.
There are a number of manuscripts that read not "God," but "Lord," so the latter part of Acts 20:28 would then read as from the Revised Standard Version, "to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood." Apparently the manuscript evidence for either is balanced.
We have not personally come across criticism of the New World Translation here at Acts 20:28. One such that we have been informed of has been through Stafford's book wherein he quotes Rhodes "Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah's Witnesses", p.86, who says the NWT translation is "unwarranted."
Another is by a Countess who is quoted by Furuli as saying that the NWT:
"by interpolating 'Son' in brackets, has taken the liberty with the text."-The Jehovah's Witnesses' New Testament, p.60
Even the little of what has been mentioned above belies these charges!
Not only does the other translations cited and quoted from above support the New World Translation here but there are also a number of commentators on the passage before us that might be here quoted.
One such is J.H.Moulton.We have before us his Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol.1, Prologomena, 2nd edition, 1906 which says on p.90:
"Before leaving [idious] something should be said about the use of [ho idios]without a noun expressed.This occurs in Jn 1.11; 13.1; Ac 4.23; 24.23. In the papyri we find the singular used thus as a term of endearment to near relations: eg.[ho deina to idio khairein.] In [The]Expositor,vi.iii.277 I ventured to cite this as a possible encouragement to those(including B.Weiss) who would translate Ac 20.28 "the blood of one who was his own." "
Another is The Acts of the Apostles, The Clarendon Bible, Introduction and Commentary by A.W.F.Blunt which remarks:
"[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 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.-p.232-italics ours.
Joseph A. Fitzmyer informs us:
"...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
The criticisms by the likes of Rhodes and Countess then should be dismissed as altogether "unwarranted," and indeed taking "liberties" themselves for not informing their readers of all the issues involved as Stafford and Furuli do in each of their discussions of Acts 20:28. One has, therefore, to be careful of taking too seriously, without checking up, the statements made in the works by the two critical authors of the New World Translation above.
In conclusion it would be beneficial to quote the conclusions of a scholar, Murray J.Harris, who made an extensive analysis of this text and wrote:
"I have argued that the original text of
Acts 20:28 read [THN EKKLHSIAN TOU THEOU HN PERIEPOIHSATO DIA TOU
AIUATOS 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 [HO IDIOS] construed as a christological title. According to
this view,[HO THEOS] refers to God the Father, not Jesus Christ.
If however, one follows many English versions in construing [IDIOS]
adjectivally ("through his own blood"), [HO THEOS]
could refer to Jesus and the verse could therefore allude to
"the blood of God," although on this construction of [IDIOS]
it is more probable that [THEOS] is God the Father and the
unexpressed subject of [PERIEPOIHSATO] is Jesus. So it
remains unlikely, although not impossible, that Acts 20:28
[HO THEOS] denotes Jesus."
- Jesus as Theos, The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus, 'D. Conclusion', p.141, Baker Book House, Grand rapids, Michigan, 1992.-italics ours
INDEX OF PAGES