Church of Christ in Acts 20:28

"Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed your overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood." - Acts 20:28 (Lamsa version)

There are those who criticize the Church of Christ for its use of the Lamsa version when quoting Acts 20:28. Critics say that the phrase "church of Christ" as written in the Lamsa version is incorrect and that the correct one is "church of God". Furthermore, they claim that there are no existing manuscripts that can be used to support the rendition "church of Christ" and that Lamsa is the only version which contains "church of Christ".

Other English Versions

These critics are misinformed because Lamsa is not the only version containing the phrase "church of Christ". Below are some other English versions containing similar renderings.

Etheridge Translation:
"Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to the whole flock over which the Spirit of Holiness hath constituted you the bishops; to pasture the church of the Meshiha [Christ] which he hath purchased with his blood."

Disciples New Testament:
"Therefore, take care of yourselves, and of all the congregation in which you have been appointed through the holy Spirit as bishops, to shepherd the church of Jesus Christ, that which he established by his blood."

Early Manuscripts

Regarding manuscripts supporting the rendering "church of Christ", there are in fact existing ones. The English translation of the verse in Syriac Manuscripts such as MS Syriac 4 (12th century), MS Syriac 325 (12th Century), MS Syriac 27 (16th century), and the Novum Testamentum Syriace (17th century) read "Church of Christ."

Ezra Abbot, a New Testament Textual Criticism scholar, listed some of the earlier manuscripts containing the reading "church of Christ".

Manuscripts for the reading "church of Christ"

Admittedly, there are more manuscripts supporting other variant readings and that those manuscripts are even written in Greek. However, no rule of reasoning compels us to conclude with certainty that one particular reading is correct based on its quantity alone. We must remember that the greek manuscripts we have are not the originals but are just copies which can also contain transcription errors.

Ancient Versions

Also, there are evidence that the Syriac texts we currently have, whether they are transcriptions or translations, are better than some Greek texts, so we should not in any way disregard the value of the Syriac texts. Syriac is an Aramaic dialect into which most of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament were first translated. Consulting Syriac manuscripts can help settle controversies in the Greek manuscripts.

Aside from Syriac manuscripts, the phrase "Church of Christ" can also be found in Acts 20:28 in Peshitta Aramaic Text which when translated into English, reads: "Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to the whole flock over which the Spirit of Holiness hath constituted you the bishops; to pasture the church of Christ which he hath purchased with his blood."

Peshitta Acts 20:28
Peshitta Acts 20:28

Early "church fathers"

In addition to the ancient versions, we also have witnesses in the quotations of the early "church fathers". Among these are those of Athanasius, Theodoret, Pseudo-Athanasius, and Pseudo-Fulgentius.

Internal Evidence

Most importantly, we can turn to internal scripture evidence to see whether the rendition "church of Christ" is correct or not. Apostle Paul says, "These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Cor. 2:13, King James Version).

Spiritual things will not contradict with other spiritual things when they are compared with one another. In no way will they manifest disagreement, but only harmony and unity. They go together perfectly well-at all times. With this apostolic method of teaching, nothing is added to or taken away from the Word. Consequently, when one Bible verse seems to clash in meaning with another verse, the former or the latter is either mistranslated or misinterpreted.

Based on scriptural evidence, we can conclude that "church of Christ" is the more accurate rendition because the latter part of the verse states, "which he purchased with his own blood". The rendering "church of God" would mean that it is God who died and shed blood on the cross. This would contradict other bible verses that teach God is immortal (1 Timothy 1:17) and that God is a spirit (John 4:24), has no flesh and bones (Lk. 24:36-39), and therefore has no blood. It is the Lord Jesus Christ's blood, which washed the members of the Church of their sins (I Pt. 1:18-19; Rev. 1:5).


[1] The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel and other Critical Essays, Ezra Abbot

[2] Khabouris Codex




Hi renjun_0232!

Thanks for submitting your comments but unfortunately they are not related to the article so they won't be published. I may write an article in the future about the topics you raised in your comments so please visit this site regularly.

It's not a comment actually but a question. Why most Bible versions of Acts 20:28 have Church of God renditions instead of Church of Christ? When came first, Church of God or Church of Christ?

Please email me your reply. Thanks

Arthur, allow me to reply here instead of using email.

Perhaps the reason is that most English versions base their translations on Greek manuscripts, ignoring or placing lesser value to other manuscripts and the internal evidence. However, based on existing manuscripts (Greek and otherwise) and on the internal evidence, it is highly unlikely that God is said to have purchased the Church with his own blood. In other words, it is highly unlikely that the Greek corresponding to "Church of God which he purchased with his own blood" came first.

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