In Acts 20 Paul is saying his farewell to the elders of Ephesus. He is bringing to their memory the manner, in which he had spent all that time with them - in humility (Acts 20:19).

Then he says:

Acts 20:26 (KJV)
Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men

Why on earth did Paul need to mention this? Was there a possibility that during his ministry he might've killed someone? Was it not clear that Paul didn't kill anyone and didn't even intend to kill anyone?

  • Was it possible reference to former life of saul, thus since converting has lived a just life
    – user3824
    Jan 23, 2013 at 7:32
  • Why would he then need to tell the elders from Ephesus about it at the very last time meeting them? They knew it all too well that Paul hadn't killed anyone since his conversion. It just doesn't make any sense mentioning that to them.
    – brilliant
    Jan 23, 2013 at 7:40
  • Interesting, I just ran into this when answering another question: apparently Pope Pelagius I did this as well, but (seemingly?) in reference to the death of the prior pope, Pope Vigilius.
    – Alypius
    Mar 18, 2013 at 1:21

1 Answer 1


In the NLT, it's quite straightforward:

Acts 20:26 (NLT)

26 I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault,

I was actually amused by the "it's not my fault" part; reminds me of a child. :P

Anyway, other more-literal translations give variations of the following:

Acts 20:26 (NIV)

26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you.

Okay, we can see where the "it's not my fault" part comes from; "innocent".

With more context, the meaning becomes clearer.

Acts 20:25-27 (NIV)

 25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.

Jews would have recognized the reference to (at least) Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 33:8 (NIV)

8 When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.

Thus, Paul was saying that because he had been preaching God's word to everyone, he couldn't be held accountable for failing to warn someone about their sins and its consequences.

  • 2
    I've really grown to like how the NLT can help in understanding the original meaning behind a verse. I still like to hold it up against literal translations (as you did) and interlinear bibles, though.
    – a_hardin
    Sep 13, 2011 at 15:24
  • Yup, don't knock the NLT or The Message. Plenty of effort by the translators went into the dynamic equivalence, especially by Peterson.
    – Footwasher
    Dec 9, 2012 at 5:57
  • 1
    The Ezekiel reference was spot on. God's apostles and messengers have a great responsibility on their shoulders. They have to answer to God if they neglect their divinely-appointed mission.
    – user900
    Jan 23, 2013 at 8:27
  • I would take NLT > Message though. I feel like most of the time when you encounter a gospel blessing in the Bible, the Message renders it as something you do or some action you take, rather than what you receive. Jan 24, 2013 at 5:11
  • I agree that this is a metaphor that must have been understood by the people of his day (perhaps originating with Ezekiel). This language also appears in the Book of Mormon in Jacob 1:19, 2 Nephi 9:44, Mosiah 2:27. Those who are called to preach will be held accountable for their diligence. Jul 13, 2015 at 17:41

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