Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The name of the church

They claim that the church should have an official name, and that it should be Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ), and they cite a number of biblical passages to try to prove their point.
According to Apostle Paul, the Church is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the head of the Church, His body. As such it is but proper to name this body or Church after its head, Christ. Thus the body of Christ is properly called Church of Christ.
(God's Message Magazine International Edition, Jan.
1997, pp. 16-18)
If the church is officially called by a certain name, you would expect that it be expressly used a number of times by the early christians themselves. However, the problem is that not once is Church of Christ mentioned in the bible. They will usually point you to these two verses: Romans 16:16 and Acts 20:28.

Let's take a few moments to look:

Romans 16:16
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

Acts 20:28
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.

Wait… did you see any Church of Christ? None, because there isn’t any.

For Acts 20:28, their argument is that since God does not have blood (they do not believe in the divinity of Christ), then the verse must be wrong. This is clearly a case of disregarding evidence in favor of opinion.

To their credit, there is some variety in the ancient greek texts of the reading in Acts 20:28. Apart from “εκκλησιαν του θεου” (church of God), some manuscripts say “εκκλησιαν του κυριου” (church of the Lord), some even have “εκκλησιαν του κυριου και θεου” (church of the Lord and God). However, absolutely no extant greek manuscript have “church of Christ.” Zero. All respected biblical scholars agree that the Acts was originally written in greek.

So they lead you to an obscure translation by George Lamsa:

“…to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.”
And they quote Lamsa’s defense of his translation:

Jewish Christians could not have used the term God, because in their eyes God is spirit, and spirit has no flesh and blood It was Jesus of Nazareth who shed his blood on the cross for us, and not God. (New Testament Commentary, pp.

Again, this is opinion against evidence. George Lamsa is a professed Nestorian, whose beliefs expressly distinguishes the divine person of Christ from the human form, therefore dissociates God from any physical form. Christ is two persons, a human Jesus, and a divine son of God, separate entities.

George Lamsa’s version was translated from Syriac texts known as the Peshitta. They’re a rather ancient group of manuscripts dated as old as the 3rd century. Among the Peshitta bible in existence today, there are two variants. One is the Nestorian Peshitta, and the other is the Jacobite Peshitta. They are so called because of the Syrian church sects who have propagated them. One group are the Nestorians whose Christology I have briefly discussed previously. The other group are the Jacobite Monophysites, whose contrasting belief is that Christ only has divine nature, denying his humanity.

(note, for the syriac texts below to appear correctly, you can download the fonts here: http://dukhrana.com/fonts.php)
These diametrically opposing views resulted in different readings of the Acts. The Nestorian Peshitta has “ܠܥܕܬܗ ܕܡܫܝܚܐ” (church of Christ *Meshiha*) while the Jacobite Peshitta has “ܠܥܺܕ݈݁ܬ݁ܶܗ ܕ݁ܰܐܠܳܗܳܐ” (church of God). And although the Peshitta text type is reputed to go far back as the 3rd century, the oldest manuscript containing the particular verse in the Acts is dated as late as 10th century.

One INC I was in a debate with sometime ago countered my assertion that no ancient greek manuscript extant today contain the reading “church of Christ.” He claimed that ALL ancient Aramaic (Syriac) manuscripts have “church of Christ” in Acts 20:28, and that since Aramaic was the spoken language of Jesus, then it must be the correct reading. That was not such a hard challenge because all I had to do was present evidence of even just one manuscript that says otherwise. Thanks to google, I got these facts:
In "Novi Testamenti Versiones Syriacae (published in 1789)," Jacob Gregory Christian Adler references 14 Manuscripts ranging from 548 to 1500 AD. Of those 14 included in the study, 4 included the Acts of the Apostles. Of the 4, one is certain to have a reading of "Church of God." (this particular manuscript is dated 1041 AD). Another manuscript (very ancient) at the Bodleian Library at Oxford (marked Dawk. 23) contain the reading "Church of God."
(The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel: And Other Critical Essays by Ezra Abbot)