(From the RDB Files)
As this is translated in the KJV it makes Paul say that Jesus is God “manifest in the flesh.”
Although the KJV translates 1 Tim. 3:16 with “God” as above, nearly all other translations today use a word which refers, not to God, but to Jesus: “he” (NIV; RSV; NRSV; JB; NJB; REB; NAB [‘70]; AT; GNB; CBW; and Beck’s translation), “he who” (ASV; NASB; NEB; MLB; BBE; Phillips; and Moffatt), “who,” or “which.” Even the equally old Douay version has “which was manifested in the flesh.” All the very best modern NT texts by trinitarian scholars (including Westcott and Hort, Nestle, and the text by the United Bible Societies) have the NT Greek word ὃς (“who”) here instead of θεὸς (“God”).Why do the very best trinitarian scholars support this NON-trinitarian translation of 1 Tim. 3:16?
Noted Bible scholar Dr. Frederick C. Grant writes:
“A capital example [of NT manuscript changes] is found in 1 Timothy 3:16, where ‘OS’ (OC or ὃς, ‘who’) was later taken for theta sigma with a bar above, which stood for theos (θεὸς, ‘god’). Since the new reading suited …. the orthodox doctrine of the church [trinitarian, at this later date], it got into many of the later manuscripts .....” – p. 656, Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 3, 1957 ed. (This same statement by Dr. Grant was still to be found in the latest Encyclopedia Americana that I examined – the 1990 ed., pp.696-698, vol. 3.)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by the United Bible Societies (1971 ed.) tells why the trinitarian UBS Committee chose ὃς [‘who’ or ‘he who’] as the original reading in their NT text for this verse:
“it is supported by the earliest and best uncials.” And, “Thus, no uncial (in the first hand [by the ORIGINAL writer]) earlier than the eighth or ninth century supports θεὸς [“God”]; all ancient versions presuppose ὃς [or OC, “who” - masc.] or ὅ [“which” - neut.]; and no patristic writer prior to the last third of the fourth century [370 A.D.] testifies to the reading θεὸς. The reading θεὸς arose either (a) accidentally, through the misreading of OC as ΘC, or (b) deliberately....” - p. 641.
In actuality it appears to be a combination of both (with the emphasis on the latter). You see, the word ὃς was written in the most ancient manuscripts as OC (“C” being a common form for the ancient Greek letter “S” at that time). Most often at this time the word for God (θεὸς) was written in abbreviated form as ΘC. However, to show that it was an abbreviated form a straight line, or bar, was always drawn above ΘC. So no copyist should have mistaken ὃς (or OC) for ΘC, in spite of their similarities, simply because of the prominent bar which appeared over the one and not over the other.
What may have happened was discovered by John J. Wetstein in 1714. As he was carefully examining one of the oldest NT manuscripts then known (the Alexandrine Manuscript in London) he noticed at 1 Tim. 3:16 that the word originally written there was OC but that a horizontal stroke from one of the words written on the other side of the manuscript showed through very faintly in the middle of the O. This still would not qualify as an abbreviation for θεὸς, of course, but Wetstein discovered that some person at a much later date and in a different style from the original writer had deliberately added a bar above the original word! Anyone copying from this manuscript after it had been deliberately changed would be likely to incorporate the counterfeit ΘC [with bar above it] into his new copy (especially since it reflected his own trinitarian views)!
Of course, since Wetstein’s day many more ancient NT manuscripts have been discovered and none of them before the eighth century A.D. have been found with ΘC (“God”) at this verse!
Trinitarian scholar Murray J. Harris also concludes: “The strength of the external evidence favoring OC [‘who’], along with considerations of transcriptional and intrinsic probability, have prompted textual critics virtually unanimously to regard OC as the original text, a judgment reflected in NA(26) [Nestle-Aland text] and UBS (1,2,3) [United Bible Societies text] (with a ‘B’ rating) [also the Westcott and Hort text]. Accordingly, 1 Tim 3:16 is not an instance of the Christological [‘Jesus is God’] use of θεὸς.” - Jesus as God, p. 268, Baker Book House, 1992.
And very trinitarian (Southern Baptist) NT Greek scholar A. T. Robertson wrote about this scripture:
“The textual variant θεὸς [‘god’] in the place of ὃς [‘who’ or ‘he who’] has been adamantly defended by some scholars, particularly those of the ‘majority text’ school. Not only is such a reading poorly attested, but the syntactical argument that ‘mystery’ (μυστήριον) being a neuter noun, cannot be followed by the masculine pronoun (ὃς) is entirely without weight. As attractive theologically [for trinitarians, of course] as the reading θεὸς may be, it is spurious. To reject it is not to deny the deity of Christ, of course; it is just to deny any explicit reference in this text.” [italicized emphasis is by Wallace]. - pp. 341-342, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Zondervan, 1996.
The correct rendering of 1 Tim. 3:16, then, is: “He who was revealed in the flesh ….” - NASB. Cf. ASV; RSV; NRSV; NAB; JB; NJB; NIV; NEB; REB; ESV; Douay-Rheims; TEV; CEV; BBE; NLV; God’s Word; New Century Version; Holman NT; ISV NT; Lexham English Bible; The Message; Weymouth; Moffatt; etc.
Even if we were to insist that those later manuscripts that used theos were, somehow, correct, we would have to recognize that it is the anarthrous (without the definite article) theos which we find. This is rarely, if ever, the form used for the only true God (when the known exceptions are taken into account - see MARTIN study paper). Instead, it either points to the probability that it is a corrupted OC (which of course would not have the article in the first place), or, less probable, but still possible, that Christ is being called “a god” - see the BOWGOD and DEF studies.