Acts 20:28

Is the NWT’s “the Blood of his Own” the Most Likely Translation?

Robert M. Bowman, Jr. This article originally appeared on the Evangelicals and JWs Discussion Board June 6, 2004 
 I acknowledge that the NWT rendering of Acts 20:28 has its defenders outside the JW religion. Murray Harris, in his well-respected work Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus, defends a similar translation.

The verse says that God purchased the church of God DIA TOU hAIMATOS TOU IDIOU. Some manuscripts have “the church of the Lord” here instead of “the church of God,” but virtually all biblical scholars today agree that the text originally said “the church of God.” A couple of scholars in the past, notably F. J. A. Hort, have argued that the text may have originally said DIA TOU hAIMATOS TOU IDIOU hUIOU, “through the blood of his own Son.” On this view, the word “Son” (hUIOU) accidentally got left out because it looks so much like the last part of “his own” (TOU IDIOU). Again, though, virtually all biblical scholars reject this suggestion, since there is no manuscript support for it.

To get around the reading “which he purchased with his own blood,” some scholars in the past century or so have argued that the clause should be translated, “which he purchased with the blood of his own.” What is at dispute here, in technical terms, is whether to take TOU IDIOU adjectivally (“his own”) or substantivally (“of his own”). The simplest reading in terms of the grammar is the adjectival reading, “through his own blood.” (Greek often places the adjective after the noun in this construction, article-noun-article-adjective, called the second attributive position.) The NWT Reference Bible, in an appendix on Acts 20:28, admits that this would be “the usual translation” (p. 1580). However, Harris and some other scholars favor the substantival reading. On this reading, “his own” is a kind of description or title of Christ. They admit that Christ is nowhere else in the NT called “his own,” but they compare this way of construing the words to other titles of Christ using adjectives, such as “the Righteous One” or “the Beloved.”

The NWT reflects a similar approach; it translates the text, “the blood of his own.” The NWT Reference Bible appendix does not state whether this translation is based on the text-critical view of Hort that “Son” was originally in the text or on the grammatical view that TOU IDIOU is to be construed substantivally. The appendix presents both explanations and leaves it at that.

I don’t find the arguments for these views persuasive. There is zero manuscript evidence to support Hort’s speculation, despite the fact that there are several other textual variants in the manuscripts for this verse. So I think that view may be safely set aside as both unsubstantiated and improbable.

The view that TOU IDIOU is a substantive is at least plausible, but I think it is also unlikely. Against it I would make the following six arguments.

1. The other titles of Christ based on adjectives (e.g., “the Beloved”) all have multiple attestations in the NT and continued to be recognized as Christological titles and used by the early church. This is not the case with the hypothetical title “His Own.” Moreover, in the case of these other titles there is no grammatical ambiguity about their usage as there is here.

2. The smoothest and simplest reading is the adjectival reading, “his own blood.” I don’t know of anyone who disputes this fact. Again, as noted above, the NWT Reference Bible appendix acknowledges that this would be “the usual translation.”

3. It is prejudice against the text speaking of God’s “blood” that drives the substantival reading, as Harris himself candidly states. The NWT Reference Bible appendix makes this clear as well, observing, “That has been a difficult thought for many.” But ultimately this begs the question.

4. The early church clearly did not even entertain the substantival reading. Copyists who were bothered by the text altered “God” to “Lord” (as noted above) or made other changes, attesting to their understanding TOU IDIOU adjectivally. As best I can determine, the substantival reading is only about a hundred years old. This doesn’t make it certainly false, but it does place a heavy burden of proof on the substantival reading.1

5. As Harris himself points out, as quickly as the early second century Ignatius could write about “God’s blood” (Ignatius’s Epistle to the Ephesians, 1:1). Where did Ignatius get such language? Is it best explained as an Ignatian innovation or as reflecting Paul’s words in Acts, originally spoken to the Ephesian Christians (Acts 20:17, 28)? The Ephesian connection gives weight to the latter view.

6. The Bible elsewhere speaks in similar language of Christ’s blood, e.g., “through his blood” (DIA TOU hAIMATOS AUTOU, Eph. 1:7), “through his own blood” (DIA TOU IDIOU hAIMATOS, Heb. 13:12). (Again, the position of TOU IDIOU cannot be said to make any difference in the absence of some evidence for that claim.) Admittedly, the Bible can also use a substantival expression in the final position, as in “through the blood of his cross” (DIA TOU hAIMATOS TOU STAUROU AUTOU, Col. 1:20), but again, here the adjective AUTOU functions adjectivally to mean “Christ’s,” not “the Father’s.”

While one hundred per cent certainty may be unattainable on this question, I think the evidence heavily favors the translation “his own blood.”

Now, I would be very interested in serious responses to the above arguments. And to help anyone who is contemplating mustering such a response, I will provide some guidelines on how *not* to answer it.

(1) Don’t appeal to the fact that there are scholars out there who disagree with me. I know that. If you find answers to the above arguments from those scholars, by all means share them. But counting scholarly noses is not the way to pursue truth.

(2) Don’t argue that other views are possible. I know that, too. I’m not interested merely in cataloging all of the possible views of the meaning of the text. I want to know which one has the most going for it, based on the available exegetical evidence.

(3) Don’t appeal to other texts that you think contradict my understanding of Acts 20:28. I know about those texts, too. The reverse can also be said: Acts 20:28 appears to contradict your understanding of those other texts. That won’t get us anywhere. And if you’re right about those other texts, some answer to these six arguments concerning Acts 20:28 ought to be found. 


1.  Robert Hommel’s note:  The reading “his own blood” also find support in the two early translations from the Greek: the Sahidic Coptic and the Peshitta.

John 1:18 – What Does Μονογενὴς Mean?

The major English versions of the New Testament are inconsistent in their renderings of the Greek term μονογενὴς – and they are remarkably inconsistent in their rendering of the term in John 1:18b.  In the past 25 years the inconsistency has become downright silly.  The following examples –shown here without their footnotes – display the inconsistency with which this verse is treated:            

● New American Standard Bible 1977:  “the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”   

● NASB Update 1995:  “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”  

● New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 1989:  “It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”   

● Good News Translation 1992 (Robert Bratcher):  “The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” 

●  Christian Standard Bible (CSB) 2017:  “The one and only Sonwho is himself God and is at the Father’s side – He has revealed Him.”

● The Message 2002:  “This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.”             

● English Standard Version (ESV) 2016:  “the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”             

● New International Version (NIV) 1984 (no longer in print):  “but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”             

● New International Version (NIV) 2011:  “but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”              

● New Living Translation (NLT):  “But the unique one, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart.  He has revealed God to us.”  

● New English Translation (NET) 2005:  “The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known.”               

● New American Bible (NAB Revised) 2010:  “The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.”                                        

All of these recent translations and paraphrases, except for the New American Standard Bible, have something other than “only-begotten” in their English text to represent μονογενὴς. 

The NIV’s English translation of John 1:18 is particularly atrocious:  the base-text of the NIV is supposed to be the Nestle-Aland compilation, which, depending on the edition, reads either ὁ μονογενὴς θεός or μονογενὴς θεός – neither of which unfolds to mean “The one and only Son, who is himself God.”   If one were to attempt to translate the NIV’s English text of John 1:18 into Greek, one would end up with a made-up thing, a reading that does not exist in any Greek manuscript.  Similarly, the rendering in the ESV presents a puzzle to readers:  how is it that “the only God“ reveals the Father?  Do we not all acknowledge that the Father is God?            

Translators do not seem eager to use the expression, “only-begotten God.”  The main arguments against interpreting μονογενὴς as “only-begotten” were presented by Dale Moody in 1953 in the Journal of Biblical Literature, and they were collected and re-expressed by Richard N. Longenecker in The One and Only Son, an article which appeared as the eleventh chapter of the 1991 book, The Making of the NIV, edited by Kenneth L. Barker.             

However, most of the significant points offered by Moody and Barker have been tested and found wanting by researcher Michael Marlowe, whose detailed essay on the subject is online at the website.  Marlowe also provides an essay by Harmann Martin Friedrich Buchsel on the meaning of μονογενὴς.

Longenecker was repeatedly careless, and his flawed research led to a flawed conclusion.  At one point, as he discussed the use of μονογενὴς in the Septuagint, Longenecker stated that in Genesis 22:2, 6, and 12, “μονογενὴς is used of Isaac” – but the Septuagint does not read μονογενὴς in those three verses.  It is true that μονογενὴς is used to describe Isaac in Hebrews 11:17, even though Abraham had another son, Ishmael.  However, this may be accounted for by the author’s intention to draw a parallel between the near-sacrifice of Abraham’s son Isaac, and the sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus.  Strict literal accuracy should not be insisted upon when an author is sketching a typological parallel and says plainly (as Hebrews 11:19 conveys) that he is speaking figuratively.           

The translators of the recently published Evangelical Heritage Version(EHV) do not seem to have been persuaded by the claims of Moody, Longenecker, and Wallace; this is how they rendered John 1:18:  “No one has even seen God.  The only-begotten Son, who is close to the Father’s side, has made him known.”                

I invite those who believe that μονογενὴς only means “one-of-a-kind” to sift through Greek compositions of the era in which koine Greek was used, and see how many times μονογενὴς describes inanimate man-made objects such as unique statues, unique houses, one-of-a-kind pictures, etc. – that is, things that are created rather than begotten – and then explain why there is no semantic implication of begotten-ness in the term μονογενὴς.  They may also want to read Dr. Denny Burk’s insightful critique of renderings of μονογενὴς that do not treat the term equitably and Dr. Charles Lee Irons’ 2016 essay Let’s Go Back to Only BegottenSpencer Stewart’s thoughts on the subject, and Dr. Wayne Grudem’s thoughts on an overlapping subject.            

The traditional rendering “only begotten” is entirely appropriate.  (It is not “misleading,” as a false note in the NET claims.)  The eternal Word is unique because the Word is eternally only-begotten.  Instead of merely conveying that Jesus, the incarnate Word, is in a class by himself, English translators should return to the meaning of the term as it was expounded by the theological giants of the early church.  In the meantime one can only wince at the confusing renderings of John 1:18 (some of which are indistinguishable from conjectural emendations that conflate the rival variants) which defective analysis has facilitated.           

Besides the question about what the term μονογενὴς means, there is another question to consider in John 1:18:  does the original text refer to the only-begotten God, or to the only-begotten Son?  That question shall be explored here in detail, God willing, in the near future.

John 1:18 – Sinaiticus: The Devil in the Details

The following is taken from James E. Snapp’s post: John 1:18 – Sinaiticus: The Devil in the Details.

 In the two previous posts, I examined (a) the meaning of the term μονογενὴς, concluding that “only begotten” is an entirely proper rendering, and (b) some early patristic and versional evidence for rival forms of John 1:18, especially the contest between “only begotten Son” and “only begotten God.”  Although a simple count of manuscripts overwhelmingly favors “only begotten Son,” (1,630 versus 7) the patristic evidence indicates that in the early centuries of the church, things were not so lopsided.  My findings generally align with the observation made by Paul McReynolds:  ““There are eleven writers, with thirty-nine citations, who support μονογενὴς θεός,” and “There are 20+ Fathers, with 40+ citations, who support the ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός reading.”  In addition, McReynolds listed 14 Latin authors, with 41 citations, who support υἱός; only Hilary of Poitiers is listed as conceivable (but highly unlikely) Latin support for θεός,            

Today, I want to pause the general discussion orbiting the textual contest in John 1:18 in order to focus on the contents and character of the text in Codex Sinaiticus, one of the manuscripts that favor μονογενὴς θεός (without ὁ). 

Although Sinaiticus is usually considered to be a flagship manuscript of the Alexandrian Text, in John 1:1-8:38, its text is not Alexandrian; it is Western.  This was shown by Gordon Fee (in Codex Sinaiticus in the Gospel of John: A Contribution to Methodology in Establishing Textual Relationships, in New Testament Studies 15, 1968-69).  This elicits a question:  if  ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός is the Western reading of John 1:18 – as Hort emphatically asserted – then why is something else (μονογενὴς θεός) found in Sinaiticus?  (Here is the relevant quote from Hort:  “It comes out with perfect clearness that υἱός is one of the numerous Ante-nicene readings of a ‘Western’ type (in the technical not the strictly geographical sense of the word).”)  Finding θεός in John 1:18 in the Western portion of À is a bit like finding a lemon growing on an orange tree.             

The answer has something to do with the background of Codex Sinaiticus – but before we investigate that, let’s take a look at some anomalous readings of À in John 1.  Based on data accumulated by Reuben Swanson, here are some of À’s unusual readings:           

 v. 4 – εστιν instead of ην              

v. 6 – ην after θεου            

v. 17 – non-inclusion of Χριστου            

v. 18 – non-inclusion of ο ων before εις τον κολπον            

v. 19 – does not include και ωμολογησεν            

v. 20 – non-inclusion of αυτον            

v. 20 – includes παλιν            

v. 21 – reads επηρωτησαν            

v. 21 – non-inclusion of και before λεγει            

v. 21 – non-inclusion of ὁ before προφητης             

v. 28 – reads ποταμου after Ιορδανου            

v. 32 – reads ως περιστεραν καταβαινον εκ του ουρανου και μενον after πνευμα            

v. 34 – reads εκλεκτος του Θεου instead of υιος του Θεου                                 

Sinaiticus very often has no Greek allies in the first chapter of John.  Why?  Partly because Codex D is not extant for John 1:16-3:26, but there is more to it than that.  I deduce that the text of John 1 in Sinaiticus is not merely Western; the copyist used a Western exemplar but freely drifted from its text.  Although in theory this could occur almost anywhere in the text’s ancestry, it seems likely that this array of readings originated as À’s text of John 1:1-8:38 was transcribed.  Sinaiticus’ copyist was obligated by a lacuna in his main exemplar to resort to a secondary exemplar, but he did not trust the secondary exemplar and felt free to take some liberties with its contents.               

What is the basis for this deduction?  What would make a scribe reluctant to trust an exemplar, even a secondary one?             

Enter Heracleon.  Heracleon was a Valentinian Gnostic writer in the second century, generally regarded as one who taught in Italy, possibly in the city of Rome.  Bart Ehrman has presented some data that suggests a special relationship between the text of Sinaiticus in John 1:1-8:38 and the text used by Heracleon (see the essays Heracleon, Origen, and the Text of the Fourth Gospel and Heracleon and the ‘Western’ Textual Tradition, chapters 14 and 15 of Studies in the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, Vol. 33 of New Testament Tools & Studies, 2006). À* agrees with several readings in the text of Heracleon, as cited by Origen.  One particularly impressive example involves the text of John 1:21:  Heracleon claimed (according to Origen) that John had denied being a prophet (instead of denying that he was the prophet); this indicates that Heracleon’s text of John 1:21 lacked the article ὁ before προφήτης – and this is the extremely rare reading of À*.  We see in John 1:21 in À* the same kind of unusual reading – the omission of an article – that we also see in 1:18.  Another reading in À that corresponds to a reading which can plausibly be deduced to have been in the text used by Heracleon is the presence of εστιν (“is”) in John 1:4 instead of ην (“was”). 

Now take a close look at how Origen cites John 1:18 in his Commentary on John, Book Six, paragraph 2:  as Origen contests Heracleon’s view that John 1:18 is a statement from John the author of the Gospel – Origen considered it a statement by John the Baptist – Origen cites the text with “only begotten God” withoutthe article.  A little later, Origen cites John 1:18 again, this time without any noun after “only begotten” – that is, as Origen cites most of 1:18 in two segments, the first segment is “No one has seen God at any time,” and the second segment is, “The only-begotten who is in the bosom of the Father.” You may recall from the previous post that this was probably the reading of the Diatessaron.              

This form of the text – without either “Son” or “God” after μονογενὴς – is probably the form that Heracleon used, and the form that the scribe of À encountered in his exemplar, but rejected.  (In Book 6, paragraph 7, Origen appears to use John 1:18 in a way that refers to simply “the Only Begotten.” probably using Heracleon’s text, but his quotation with “only begotten God” is more prominent.)             

In conclusion:  a comparison between the text of Heracleon (as represented by Origen) to the text of John 1:1-8:38 in À indicates that Sinaiticus’ text of John 1:1-8:38 was influenced by an exemplar which frequently agreed with the text of Heracleon.            

If the scribe of À recognized that his secondary exemplar was a manuscript used by Heracleon, the scribe would very probably consider it right to harbor suspicions about its accuracy, and to filter its unusual readings via comparisons to the quotations embedded in Origen’s commentary.

Now let’s consider the circumstances in which Codex Sinaiticus was made, as fully as they can be deduced.  Researchers such as J. Rendel Harris and T. C. Skeat have made a strong case, based on the accumulation of small pieces of evidence, that À was made in Caesarea.  (Skeat proposed that Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were both among the 50 codices prepared by Eusebius of Caesarea for emperor Constantine; however his theory is rather complicated and requires a “Goldilocks” scenario to account for the differences between Vaticanus and Sinaiticus – and it simply does not account for the many differences between the text used by Eusebius and the contents of B and À, or for major differences between B and À, such as their differing forms of Tobit, and the inclusion in À of the books of Barnabas and Hermas, and the inept treatment of the Eusebian Canons and Sections in À.)             

Who was in charge of the scriptorium in Caesarea in the mid-300s?  Jerome informs us (in Lives of Illustrious Men and elsewhere) that at Caesarea in the mid-300’s, bishop Acacius, followed by bishop Euzoius – both of whom subscribed to Arianism – improved the library’s holdings by transferring to parchment various texts which were in danger of being damaged or lost, having been written on papyrus.             

Although Jerome does not explicitly state that Biblical texts on papyrus were among the materials that Acacius and Euzoius transferred onto parchment, it seems reasonable to think that Biblical texts would be prioritized in such a project.  And if Acacius oversaw the production of Sinaiticus at Caesarea, this would account for (a) his access to the text of John used by Heracleon – reckoning that Origen must have taken a copy of Heracleon’s work to Caesarea, inasmuch as he cited it in his Commentary on John – and (b) his willingness to replace readings in his exemplar with readings that he could recollect or harvest from the writings of Origen, and (c) the generally Alexandrian character of the text of À in the rest of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, echoing Egyptian exemplars either taken to Caesarea by Origen in the 200s, or acquired later in the 200s.                 

(Among the small points supportive of the theory that Acacius oversaw the production of Codex Sinaiticus, one that should not be overlooked is the size of the writing in the codex; it is the ancient equivalent of a giant-print Bible, a format that would be especially useful to Acacius, who, Jerome reports, had only one eye.)                  

The implication of all this is that although John 1:1-8:38 is essentially Western, it also contains non-Western readings where the copyist abandoned his exemplar.  The reading μονογενὴς θεός is one such non-Western reading.  Rather than show that μονογενὴς θεός was ever a Western reading, À shows its scribe’s willingness to abandon his secondary exemplar – likely an exemplar associated with Heracleon.                

In conclusion, À’s reading μονογενὴς θεός, although found in the Western section of À, is unlikely to be representative of À’s Western exemplar, and is more likely a reading introduced by the scribe of À on the basis of his personal familiarity with the reading θεός after μονογενὴς as it is found in Origen’s Commentary on John.     

Eusebius on the Meaning of Jesus’ Name

Noted fourth century church historian Eusebius has a section explaining the meaning and significance of Jesus’ Hebrew name, which I cite at length.


That the Name of Jesus was also honoured among the Ancient Friends of God.

MOSES was also the first to use the Name Jesus, when he changed the name of his successor and altered it to Jesus. For it is written: “These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, and Moses called Nauses, the son of Nave, Jesus, and sent them.” And notice how the prophet, who was deeply versed in the significance of |217 names, and had gone to the roots of the philosophy of the changed names of the inspired men in his record, and the reasons why their names were changed, introduces Abraham as receiving as a reward of virtue from God a complete change of name from that of his father, the meaning of which it is now the time to explain at length. And so, also, in naming Sara Sarra, and Isaac called before his birth “the laugh,” and Jacob given as a reward of his struggle the name of Israel, and in exhibiting in many other cases connected with the power and significance of names superhuman insight in his inspired wisdom and knowledge, when no one of those before him had ever used the name Jesus, he first of all, impelled by the Holy Spirit, gives the name of Jesus to him whom he is about to constitute the successor of his rule over the people, changing the other name he had used before. He did not consider the name of his forefather given him when he was born sufficient (for his parents called him Nauses). But being the prophet of God he changed the name received by birth, and called the man Jesus at the bidding of the Holy Spirit; that he might lead the whole people after his own death, (with the knowledge that) when the law laid down by Moses some day should be changed and have an end, and should pass away like Moses himself, that no one else but Jesus the Christ of God would lead that other polity, which would be better than the former. And so Moses, the most wonderful of all the prophets, understanding by the Holy Spirit both the names of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, honoured the choicest of all his rulers by bestowing them as kingly crowns, naming worthily the two leaders and rulers of the people the high priest and his own successor, Christ and Jesus, calling Aaron Christ, and Nauses Jesus, as his successor after his death. In this manner, then, the writings of Moses himself are adorned with the names of our Saviour Jesus Christ. |218 

From Exodus.

How Jesus, the Successor of Moses, called the Angel, and about to be the Leader of the People, is said to bear the Name of Christ.

“20. And behold, I send my angel before thy face, that he may keep thee in the way, that he may bring thee into the land which I have prepared for thee. Take heed to thyself and hearken unto him and disobey him not; for he will not give way to thee, for my name is upon him.”

“With my Name, who teach you these things,” says the Lord Himself, is he inscribed, who is to lead the people into the land of promise. And if He was Jesus and none other, it is plain how He says that His name is set on Him. Nor is it strange that he calls him Angel, since it is said of John also, who was but a man: “Behold, I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.”

From Zechariah.

That Jesus, the Son of Josedek the High Priest, was a Figure and Type of Our Saviour. Who turned to God the Slavery that of Old ruled the Souls of Men

[Passages quoted, Zech. iii. i—6, 9; vi. 9-13.]

In this passage too the prophet-high-priest called Jesus presents, I think, a very clear picture and plain symbol of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, being honoured by bearing His Name, and made the leader of the return of the people from the Babylonian captivity. Since, also, our Saviour Jesus Christ is said by the Prophet Isaiah to have been sent to preach liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to comfort all that mourn, and to give to all that mourn in Zion glory for dust, the ointment of gladness. You have, therefore, her two great High Priests, first the Christ in Moses, and second the Jesus of whom I am speaking, both bearing in themselves the signs of the truth concerning our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

But Aaron, the “Christ” in Moses’ writings, having freed the people from slavery in Egypt, and led them in |219 freedom and with all carefulness in their journey from Egypt, seems to present a picture of the real Lord, Who has redeemed us, who are of all nations, from Egyptian idolatry; while the Jesus in the prophet, the High Priest who was at the head of the return from Babylon to Jerusalem, also presents a figure of Jesus our Saviour, Whom we have as a great High Priest, that has passed through the heavens, through Whom also we ourselves, redeemed as it were in this present life from Babylon, that is from confusion and slavery, are taught to hasten to the heavenly city, the true Jerusalem.

Jesus too, since he bore in himself the image of the true, was naturally clad in filthy garments, and the devil is said to stand at his right hand and to oppose him, since also Jesus, truly our Saviour and Lord, descending into our state of slavery took away our sins, and washed away the stains of humanity, and underwent the shame of the Passion, through His love for us. Wherefore, Isaiah says:

“He bears our sins, and is pained for us, and we thought him to be in labour, and smitten, and afflicted: He was wounded for our sins, and weakened for our iniquities.”

And John the Baptist also, seeing the Lord, said: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins, of the world.” Paul also, writing in the same way about Him, says: “Him that knew no sin made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” and “Christ has ransomed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” All these things the inspired prophet referred to when he said, “And Jesus was clad in filthy garments.” But He put them from Him by His Ascension into the heavens, and the return from our condition of slavery to His own glory, and He is crowned with the diadem of His Father’s Divinity, and is girt with the bright robe of His Father’s light, and is glorified with the divine Mitre, and the other high priestly adornments. Nor is it difficult to explain the part about the devil, who even now is opposed to the teaching of Christ, and to His Church established throughout the whole world, and has ever been opposed to our Saviour, and marched |220 against Him before, when He came to save us from our slavery to himself. He tempted Him also the first time, and the second time again, when by the Passion he arranged a plot against Him. But in all battles He triumphed over the devil, and all the unseen enemies and foes led by him, and made us who were slaves His own people, and built of us, as of living stones, the house of God, and the state of holiness, so that He exactly agrees with the oracle, which says:

“Behold a man, whose name is the Branch. And he shall spring up from below, and shall build the house of the Lord. And he shall receive virtue, and shall sit and rule upon his throne.”

Note, therefore, with care, in what manner in speaking mystically of the Jesus of days of old, who bears the image of the true, he says: “Behold a man, whose name is the Branch.” And a little later, it is said to Jesus himself then present, as if concerning some one else who was the Branch: “Hear, Jesus, the High Priest, thou and thy neighbour, for the men are diviners. Behold, I bring my servant the Branch.”

If, then, the speech related to some one yet to come, who was more truly called the Branch than he that bore the name then, he must have been only an image of him that was yet to come, as he is not only called Jesus in figure, but the Branch as well, if this was said to him when present: “Behold a man, whose name is the Branch.” He was, therefore, naturally because he was the image thought worthy of the name of the Saviour, as well as of the Branch: for the name of Jesus translated into Creek means “Salvation of God.” For in Hebrew “Isoua” is “salvation,” and the son of Nave is called by the Hebrews Joshua, Joshua being “Salvation of Jah,” that is, Salvation of God.

It follows that wherever the Salvation of God is named in the Greek versions, you are to understand that nothing but Jesus is meant. Having now brought to this point what I had to say concerning the Name of our Saviour, I will take up the argument from another starting-point, and pass on to the more important prophetic proofs about Him. Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica, Book 4

Here’s another rendering of the Greek of Eusebius’ section on the meaning of the name Joshua:

“… For, indeed, Isoua among the Hebrews means, salvation, but they pronounce Iesous as Iosoue. But Iosoue means, ‘IAO [is] salvation’; this means, God [is] salvation.” 

And here are a few references from some of the early church fathers in respect to the use and meaning of the divine name:

3. If, however, any object that, in the Hebrew language, diverse expressions [to represent God] occur in the Scriptures, such as Sabaoth, Eloë, Adonai, and all other such terms, striving to prove from these that there are different powers and gods, let them learn that all expressions of this kind are but announcements and appellations of one and the same Being. For the term Eloë in the Jewish language denotes God, while Elōeim and Eleōuth in the Hebrew language signify that which contains all. As to the appellation Adonai, sometimes it denotes what is nameable and admirable; but at other times, when the letter Daleth in it is doubled, and the word receives an initial guttural sound — thus Addonai — [it signifies], One who bounds and separates the land from the water, so that the water should not subsequently submerge the land. In like manner also, Sabaoth, when it is spelled by a Greek Omega in the last syllable [Sabaōth], denotes  voluntary agent; but when it is spelled with a Greek Omicron — as, for instance, Sabaŏth — it expresses  the first heaven. In the same way, too, the word Jaōth, when the last syllable is made long and aspirated, denotes  a predetermined measure; but when it is written shortly by the Greek letter Omicron, namely Jaŏth, it signifies  one who puts evils to flight. All the other expressions likewise bring out the title of one and the same Being; as, for example, The Lord of Powers, The Father of all, God Almighty, The Most High, The Creator, The Maker, and such like. These are not the names and titles of a succession of different beings, but of one and the same, by means of which the one God and Father is revealed, He who contains all things, and grants to all the boon of existence. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book II, Chapter 35; bold and underline emphasis mine)

Again, there is the veil of the entrance into the holy of holies. Four pillars there are, the sign of the sacred tetrad of the ancient covenants. Further, the mystic name of four letters which was affixed to those alone to whom the adytum was accessible, is called Jave (Iaou), which is interpreted, Who is and shall be. The name of God, too, among the Greeks contains four letters. (Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, Book V, Chapter 6. The Mystic Meaning of the Tabernacle and Its Furniture; bold and underline emphasis mine)

The supposed great learning of Celsus, which is composed, however, rather of curious trifles and silly talk than anything else, has made us touch upon these topics, from a wish to show to every one who peruses his treatise and our reply, that we have no lack of information on those subjects, from which he takes occasion to calumniate the Christians, who neither are acquainted with, nor concern themselves about, such matters. For we, too, desired both to learn and set forth these things, in order that sorcerers might not, under pretext of knowing more than we, delude those who are easily carried away by the glitter of names. And I could have given many more illustrations to show that we are acquainted with the opinions of these deluders, and that we disown them, as being alien to ours, and impious, and not in harmony with the doctrines of true Christians, of which we are ready to make confession even to the death. It must be noticed, too, that those who have drawn up this array of fictions, have, from neither understanding magic, nor discriminating the meaning of holy Scripture, thrown everything into confusion; seeing that they have borrowed from magic the names of Ialdabaoth, and Astaphæus, and Horæus, and from the Hebrew Scriptures him who is termed in Hebrew Iao or Jah, and Sabaoth, and Adonæus, and Eloæus. Now the names taken from the Scriptures are names of one and the same God; which, not being understood by the enemies of God, as even themselves acknowledge, led to their imagining that Iao was a different God, and Sabaoth another, and Adonæus, whom the Scriptures term Adonai, a third besides, and that Eloæus, whom the prophets name in Hebrew Eloi, was also different  (Origen, Against Celsus, BOOK VI, Chapter 32; bold and underline emphasis mine)

“The name of the Lord in Hebrew language contains four letters, Yod He Waw He; it is the proper name of God and can be pronounced as Yaho (legi potest IAHO).” (Jerome’s commentary on Psalm 8, as found in G.J. Thierry, “The Pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton,” Oudtestamentische Studiën, [E. J. Brill, Leiden 1948), d. 5, p. 34; bold emphasis mine)