Word Study #190 — “Bought” and “Sold”

Another concept that has been blown completely out of proportion in supposedly “Christian” teaching and hymnody is the often parroted but never examined phrase, “bought with Jesus’ blood”.
The phrase occurs only once in the entire New Testament (Ac.20:28).  It refers to the church, and not to individuals, and is itself  a poor translation of a word that appears in only one other, quite different, context (I Tim.3:13) regarding the acquiring of one’s reputation!
Jesus never represented himself as having “bought” – or intended to buy – anyone or anything.  All of the gospel uses of any of the five Greek words traditionally translated “buy” or “bought” refer to simple commerce.
Peter (I Pet.2:1) and Paul (I Cor.6:20, 7:23) refer to the faithful having been “bought”– but neither mentions anything about a medium of exchange, the occasion, nor the need for such a purchase, and they uniformly use plural forms in reference to it (see #142).  Neither do they indicate, or even speculate upon from whom the “purchase” was made  (more of this later).
Actually, these three references, ideologically, would fit better with the study of  redemption/ransom (#61) than they do here.

We are dealing here with five different words.  By far the most frequently used is the simplest: agorazo, used 30 times and always translated “buy”, is obviously related to agora, the marketplace in every city or town.  L/S has only very simple definitions to suggest:  “to buy in a market” or “to frequent (hang-around in) the marketplace.”  The New Testament appearances of agorazo are, for the most part, just as simple.  People go out and buy food, or other items.  It also applies to the activity of the merchants that Jesus drove out of the temple (Mt.21:12, Mk.11:15, Lk.19:45), to the temple rulers buying a field with Judas’ money (Mt.27:7), and the lament of sellers of luxury goods in Rv.18:11 when the economy crashes and nobody buys their wares.  There are only three anomalies, found in the epistles mentioned above,where the clear intent is to establish the Lord’s ownership of his people, and their consequent obligation to honor, obey, and serve him.  There are also three places in the Revelation where, inexplicably, traditional translators changed their rendering to “redeem” (#61) and one of which  (Rv.5:19) is the only other mention of “blood”. These three are also treated entirely in the plural.

Emporeuomai, used only once (Jas.4:13) –  although there are a few uses of related words – seems to be somewhat more business related.  L/S lists “to travel on business, to trade, to be a merchant, to make gain”, but also “to over-reach, to cheat”!   You may recognize the word “emporium” as an English cognate, through its Latin equivalent.

Exagorazo, more correctly translated (4x) as “redeem”, is treated in #61.  The alternative “to buy from” is mentioned in L/S, but it is not used that way in the New Testament.

Ktaomai, rendered “obtain” once (Ac.22:28), “possess” 3x (Lk.18:12, 21:9, I Thes.4:4), “provide” once (Mt.10:9), and “purchase” twice (Ac.1:18, 8:20), relates more to property than to people in L/S summaries, and at least as much to the owning or holding of property as to its acquisition.

Pepoieomai, used only twice (Ac.20:28, I Tim.3:13) is, as noted above, poorly translated. L/S offers “to keep safe or preserve, to keep or save for oneself, to procure, secure, achieve, or lay up.”

Please note that none of these have anything whatever to do with the satisfaction of a debt or any other penalty (see #188). That sort of “payment”, referring exclusively to either borrowed money or taxes, is represented by apodidomi, which is only rarely used of purchase (Ac.5:8 – land; Ac.7:9 – Joseph, into slavery, and Heb.10:16 – Esau’s birthright).

Another element usually overlooked in this discussion is that in order for anything to be bought, it has to be for sale!  Who is the seller?  And who or what is being sold?
Here, we are dealing with three words.
Apodidomi, as noted above, is usually connected with payments other than purchase.  L/S includes “to render what is due, to pay a debt, bribe, or taxes, the yield of land, to concede, allow, exhibit, or display.”  This is seen in its use in Mt.18:25-34, Lk.7:42, 12:51 of debt; in Mt.11:21, Mk.12;17, Lk.20:25, Rom.13:7 of taxes; in Lk. 10:35 for service rendered, and in Mt.21:41 as rent for agricultural land.  None of these refer to anything that Jesus did.

Piprasko, and its earlier form pernemi, (L/S: the sale of slaves, to export captives for sale,to sell for a bribe; much later used also of merchandise;  passive: to be betrayed or ruined), occurs only 9x.  Once it describes the sale of a debtor (Mt.18:25), twice of real estate (Ac.4:34, 5:4), twice of other belongings (Mt. 13:46, Ac.2:45), 3x of perfume (Mt.26:9, Mk.14:5, Jn.12:5), and once (Rom.7:14) of Paul’s lament of being “sold under sin (KJV)” – pempramenos hupo hamartian would be better translated “sold (into slavery) by sin [shortcomings, failures]”. Hupo is often used of agency.  Otherwise, there is no hint of who or what did the selling;  the participle is passive.  Particularly in Romans, Paul tends to “personify” the idea of “sin / failure / shortcoming”.

Poleo, (L/S: to sell or offer for sale, to carry on business or trade, to give up or betray, to farm-out or let-out taxes, offices, or priesthoods) appears 21 times, and applies consistently to ordinary – or underhanded – commerce.

I believe, therefore, that this preponderance of evidence demands that a serious student reconsider the choice of words in the translation of the few isolated instances where, mis-using three different words, the inventors of “doctrine” have contrived “proofs” of Jesus having “bought” individuals as from a slave-market.  (Do you really think he would have patronized a “store” run by his arch-enemy?!!)
It is necessary to recognize instead that the citizens of his Kingdom have been set free to serve the Lord, not by some sort of contrived commercial transaction (worldly or other-worldly), but by the executive order of the King of Kings!
Thanks be to God!

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