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Is there any early manuscript that shows a word translatable as "son" in Acts 20:28?

When looking at Acts 20:28 this is how it reads in:

  • New World Translation (NWT)

Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers,+ to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son"

However, other translations, and the most basic sources I can find, read:

  • King James Version (KJV)

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.

(There is no word indicating 'son')

  • Latin Vulgate by Jerome in 382AD

adtendite vobis et universo gregi in quo vos Spiritus Sanctus posuit episcopos regere ecclesiam Dei quam adquisivit sanguine suo.

(There is no word indicating 'son')

  • Greek New Testament

Προσέχετε { οὖν ♦ ἑαυτοῖς καὶ παντὶ τῷ ποιμνίῳ, ἐν ᾧ ὑμᾶς τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ἔθετο ἐπισκόπους, ποιμαίνειν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ {κυρίου καὶ ♦ - } θεοῦ, ἣν περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ { ἰδίου [OWN] αἵματος ♦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου [OWN]}.

(There is no word translatable as 'son'.)

I understand from a Watchtower document that grammatically, this passage could be translated "with his own blood". I also understand that there would be theological reasons for wanting to understand it as refering to Jesus's blood. So it's possible that what started as a clarification or gloss was repeated through history down to the definitive conclusion that the passage is talking about Jesus' blood and not God's.

Nevertheless, my question is not about the legitimacy of reasoning and the plausibility of a given interpretation based on someone's assumptions. My question is, is there any early credible manuscript that shows a word translatable as "son"? Based on what I can see and my limited knowledge of the ancient languages shown above, there isn't. I appreciate your help in providing sources that support your answer.

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2 Answers 2

There is no early credible manuscript that shows a word translatable as "son". My only evidence is circumstantial. If there were an early credible manuscript then the translators of the NWT would have mentioned it in this article: http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1001060098

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There are two important textual variants in Acts 10:28, which shed light on how to translate it. Neither of these variants involves the word "son." Nonetheless, the original Greek is ambiguous and can be reasonably translated either as "his own blood" or "the blood of his own Son."

First let me explain the textual variants (explained here, here, and here). The first is very difficult and it is not clear which is original, but the second is easier to sort out. Both are relevant to this translation issue.

The first issue is whether the word should be θεοῦ (God) or κυρίου (Lord, probably referring to Jesus). Note that since both would have been abbreviated as nomina sacra, the difference between these two is a single letter (ΘΥ or ΚΥ). The manuscript evidence is very unclear on this point, with the oldest and best manuscripts disagreeing. Based on internal evidence, most critical editions use θεοῦ, but at a relatively low confidence level.

The second issue is whether the text reads "τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου" or "τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος." The former of these could be read as either "his own blood" or "the blood of his Own," while the latter can only be understood to mean "his own blood." Here the manuscript evidence is strongly in favor of the first reading.

However, there is still the issue of how to understand "τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου." Metzger writes:

Instead of the usual meaning of διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου, it is possible that the writer of Acts intended his readers to understand the expression to mean “with the blood of his Own.” ... This absolute use of ὁ ἴδιος is found in Greek papyri as a term of endearment referring to near relatives. It is possible, therefore, that “his Own” (ὁ ἴδιος) was a title that early Christians gave to Jesus, comparable to “the Beloved” (ὁ ἀγαπητός);

Experts are not in agreement as to which was intended. But many think based on the rest of Luke's writing that it is more likely that he intended "the blood of his Own." To make this more readable in english "the blood of his own Son" is reasonable. Note that many translations would italicize "Son" here to indicate that the word itself is not in the original, but that clear translation to English necessitates adding it. The NWT is hardly alone on this point, for example the NRSV also goes with "of his own Son" (with a footnote).

Finally, let me note that if the original is κυρίου in reference to Jesus, then one would expect to render the latter phrase as "his own blood." So the textual issue is relevant to the translational issue.

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It may also be worth noting that Hort conjectured that the word Son was in the original, but that it was lost very early and no longer appears in the manuscript record. This is a conjecture, and is not backed up by any manuscript evidence. –  Noah Dec 14 '13 at 18:38
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