“Of One Blood”—Acts 17:26
by Arnold Kennedy
Acts 17:26 is a verse which some people like to use to support the idea that there is no difference between races.
“And hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation’.” KJV
Three immediate points need to be made.
1. In the majority of Bible manuscript texts, the word “blood” is not there. A look at most parallel Bibles, will give some continuation of this.
2. This verse is an excellent demonstration of how people can try to use one part of a verse to prove their point, but at the same time ignore the rest of the verse which flatly contradicts what they are trying to say. The second part of the verse is stating that God made “boundaries” where differing peoples/races were ordained of God to live separated from one another. People cannot have it both ways.
3. The strange and very unusual thing about this verse is that it contains four words in Greek forms that do not appear elsewhere in the New Testament, and this gives rise to doubts about the whole verse. Some say that the verse does not seem to be original because of this.
These words are: Appointed, Habitation, Bounds, Face of the earth.
There are no other words in other verses to compare scripture with scripture, in order to be authoritative. In the Old Testament the differences between “earth” and “face of the earth” are very important … [e.g. where Cain went out from the face of the earth and became a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth. The “face of the earth” is a limited area of the globe.
One of the problems that arises in a situation like this is that people will not examine what is bring pointed out and they will say something like … “we have always taught it this way and we are not going to change.” Tradition or traditional beliefs and interpretations become entrenched and set rock hard in commentaries. It was such traditions which made the Word of God of none effect [Mark 7:13].
From a Paper by J. O. Adams
Firstly, it has been suggested that the whole verse is doubtful and should be omitted. However, I know of no authority that supports this view. The verse is accepted by: Westcott and Hort, Panin, Bullinger, the Englishmen’s Greek New testament (Stephens’ text and the A.V.), the Revised Version, the Concordant Version, the Douay Version, the Vulgate, the Diaglott, Ferrar Fenton and Moffatt.
However, the word “blood,” Greek ‘haimatos,’ as in the Stephens’ text and the King James Version, is omitted by practically all authorities. Bullinger states, “The texts omit “blood,” and Scofield agrees with, “Blood” is not in the best manuscripts.” Four of the six editions of the Stephens’ text (A.V.) omit the word. It is also omitted by the following: Westcott and Hort, Panin, the Concordant Version, the Diaglott, Douay Version, the Vulgate, Revised Version, the Nestle text & the Revised Standard Version, and by Ferrar Fenton. Moffatt has “from a common origin.”
Clearly then the consensus of opinion among authorities is that the word “blood” should be omitted as not being in the original manuscript. The following is my translation from the Greek text. I have included a full analysis of each word at the end of this study.
“And He made from one every nation of men, that they should dwell upon the whole surface of the earth, determining assigned periods of time, and fixing the boundaries of their habitation.”
It now becomes necessary to introduce an “understood” word to qualify “one” and so indicate what Paul meant when he used this word. Though some do think that “blood” is appropriate, it hardly seems possible that the varied races of men in the nations could have their origin in “one blood.”
The word “nations” is important and should not be overlooked. Indeed I consider it to be the key to understanding the verse. Nations should not be confused with races (genos). In the plural nations is used to signify “the nations as distinct from Israel.”
I suggest that Paul is using “one” to mean “one man”, i.e. one father, or ancestor. Although I frequently disagree with his views, Bullinger supports me in this by stating, “The ‘one’ here means either Adam, or the dust of which he was formed.” (I think we may disregard the last part of his statement).
I have no doubt that Adam was NOT the first “man” on this earth, but that he was the progenitor of the Adamic or “white” race. I think too, that it is from that race that all of the world has developed. (This, of course, includes the nation of Israel). However, he was certainly not the progenitor of all the races on this earth. It would seem that by nature, the pre-Adamic men, being instinctive, and lacking creative or organizing ability, were incapable by themselves of forming nations or civilizations, hence without the influence of the Adamic race, nations as we know them, did not come into existence. It follows that the word “nations” in this verse could only refer to organized groups of men established by Adam’s descendants (irrespective of what other races may be included with them).
Adam then was the “one” from (or “out of”) whom God made “every” nation of men that should dwell upon the whole of the earth’s surface. (Note the Greek preposition ek used here. This denotes “from, out of, of,” etc. As in this verse, it is frequently used to denote origin). As the verse must be read in the context of verses 22-24, here is a translation of them from the Greek. It should be compared with the A.V. or the R.V.
“Then Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said, ‘Men, Athenians, I see that in all things ye are very religious, for passing through and looking at your objects of worship, I even found an altar on which was engraved “to an unknown God.” What therefore ye are worshipping without knowing, this I am proclaiming to you. The God who made the word (or “order”—kosmos) and all things in it; the One who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made by hand. Nor is He served by human hands as being in need of anything, for He gives to all, life and breath and all things.'”
Paul was addressing Greeks, and knew that these people were from the outcast tribes of Israel—his “brethren.”
“And He made from one (man?) every nation of men that they should dwell upon the whole surface of the earth, determining assigned periods of time and the fixing of the boundaries of their habitation, for them to seek God, that hopefully (or “perhaps”) they should search blindly, and discover Him. Yet indeed He is not far from each one of us.”
God was not revealed to all nations. They could only grope (or “search blindly”) for Him and perhaps find Him by inquiry or investigation. Now notice Paul’s change in the pronoun from the third person to the first person. All nations could only “grope blindly,” but to “us” (the Judeans and the Greeks), God was not far away.
“For in Him we are living and moving indeed some of the writers (or “poets”) among you have said; because we are indeed His offspring.”
Notice the reason why He is “not far from each of us.” This is “because we are indeed His offspring.”
“Therefore, being God’s offspring, we ought not to suppose the Deity to be like gold, or silver or stone, engraved by man’s skill and invention. Truly then, God, overlooking the times of ignorance, now declares to the men, that all of them, everywhere, are to repent” (i.e. “undergo a change in frame of mind and feeling”).
God is “overlooking the times of ignorance”, i.e. the time when the Israel people were divorced from Him. Now the men of Israel must repent. These statements, and those in verse 31, are only applicable to the people of Israel.
“Because He has set a day in which He is going to judge the inhabitants of the earth in righteousness by a man whom He hath ordained; (whereof) he hath given assurance unto all (men), in that he hath raised him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, ‘We will hear thee again of this (matter).'”
The Greek word here for ‘mocked’ is the same as that used in Acts 2:13, and its implication is the same. The scoffers were not of Israel.
“But some men, joining him (or “being on his side”), believed. Among these were both Dionysius, the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.”
The following are a few of the passages which appear to support my views on this:
Gen. 2:15. Prior to the formation of Adam, we are informed that: “There was not a man for cultivating the ground.” By implication—up to this time, although “mankind” had been created (chapter 1), there was no one capable of cultivating the soil. Pre-Adamic man was a hunter, not an agriculturist.
Gen 3:20. Eve was so named because she was, “the mother of all living.” Yet Eve was certainly not the mother of the coloured races of mankind. So too, Adam could be regarded as the father of “all living”—but only of the race that came from him—not of the pre-Adamic races.
Gen. 4:13. When Cain was expelled from the land of Eden, he complained that others might kill him. The Lord God admitted that this was a possibility and set a mark on Cain to protect him. This implies that there were people other than Adam’s descendants on earth.
Gen. 4:17. Where did Cain get his wife? Though not conclusive, there is no record that she was a daughter of Adam. It is therefore logical to assume that she was a pre-Adamite. He also built a city. Surely not just for himself and his wife! A large number of men would be required for this. It is possible, but most unlikely that the city was built by Adam’s descendants. It is far more probable that Cain “established” a city by organizing and superintending pre-Adamic men to do the work. Scofield’s note to verses 16-22 is interesting:
“The first civilization, the one which perished in the judgment of the flood, was Cainite in origin, character and destiny. Every element of material civilization is mentioned in verses 16-22, city and pastoral life, and the development of arts and manufacture.”
It is also interesting that Cain named his son Enoch, which means “teacher” or “initiator.” The city was named after his son.
Gen. 10:20. “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations in the earth were divided after the flood.” The descendants of Noah were divided to form the nations of the earth. These, of course, were all of the Adamic race.
Gen. 9:19. “These are the three sons of Noah and from them the whole earth was overspread.”
Deut. 32:8. “When the Most High gave to nations (goyim) their possessions (or “inheritance”), when He separated the sons of Adam. He set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.”
Notice that “peoples” is plural. It is to Adam’s sons (descendants) that God sets national boundaries. This agrees with the view that the primitive races did not, indeed were unable to, establish organized communities (or “nations”). This likewise agrees with my remarks on Gen. 2:5 and 4:16.