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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

1 Timothy 3:16 - God in the Flesh?

1 Timothy 3:16


There is nothing here about a trinity, or anything about three persons. One has to assume such an idea and then read that idea into what is said. Evidently one has to assume that "God," as it reads in the KJV and many other translations, means the second person of the trinity; it is further assumed and read into the statement that "God" therefore means that Jesus was "God in the flesh," or something of this nature.

1 Timothy 3:16 - And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. -- American Standard.

Nothing in this rendering says that Jesus "is" God in the flesh. Paul is talking about the mystery of godliness (piety), devotion to God. This great mystery is described in the phrases following. While this godly devotion is a great mystery to world, it is revealed in the human life, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. As it reads in the American Standard, and several other translations, this mystery of godliness is "he who" was revealed, manifested, or appeared in the flesh (of Jesus). Jesus was indeed the exemplar of this godliness, this devotion to God, especially since he was the first human to have completely and fully obeyed God.

1 Timothy 3:16 - Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. -- New International Version.

This version speaks of Jesus as appearing in a body. It still, however, does not say that Jesus *is* God in the flesh. Of course, Jesus, having a body specially prepared by God (Hebrews 10:5), and thus not being condemned to sin and death as are all who are dying in Adam (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22), and having learned of his God and Father, and with the help of God's holy spirit, Jesus was indeed the exemplar of godliness (devotion to God). This, of course, does not mean that Jesus is his God to whom he held this godliness.

1 Timothy 2:15 - Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ appeared in the flesh and was shown to be righteous by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and was announced to the nations. He was believed on in the world and was taken up into heaven. -- New Living Translation.

This rendering also does not say that Jesus *is* God in the flesh. While this rendering is not very literal in translation, the thought is given that Christ appeared in the flesh. The "great mystery of godliness" is changed to "the great mystery our faith." Jesus was shown to be righteous (he absolutely never sinned!). What an example of godliness (devotion to God). Of course, nothing here means that Jesus is his God, or that he was his God Himself in the flesh.

1 Timothy 3:16 - Truly great is this divine mystery of righteousness: it is revealed in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory. -- Lamsa Translation.

This translation also does not say that "Jesus is God manifest in the flesh. This rendering would place the "mystery of godliness" as an "it" that is revealed in the flesh. Of course, the way that righteousness was revealed in the flesh was by means of Jesus. It was Jesus, by means of righteousness, his devotedness to his God, who brought life and incorruption to light.

1 Timothy 3:16 - And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. -- King James Version.

Again, we do not find any expression that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh, but this translation does say that "God was manifest in the flesh." Of course, through Jesus, God was indeed made manifest in the flesh of the one sent by the only true God, since Jesus declared his God, spoke the words of his God, and did the works of his God who had sent him. (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; John 14:10,24; 17:3) This does not mean that Jesus is his God. "The mystery of godliness" -- of devotion to God -- would be the entire expression following. This godliness was that God was indeed made manifest, revealed, in the flesh of Jesus. This godliness in Jesus was justified by means of the spirit, seen of angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world and received up into glory. Jesus' godliness, his devotion to God, was with him while he was in the flesh, and remains with him after being received up into glory. Jesus, of course, since his flesh was never sinful to begin with, did not need to be justified from sin, but Jesus did maintain the justified condition by means of God's holy spirit -- never failling short of the glory of God, unlike Adam, and all condemned in Adam. The angels themselves had a keen interest in Jesus' devotion to God, which is still a "mystery" to the world. The devotion of Jesus to his God was preached to the heathen, and many in the world did believe in him. Jesus continued this devotion even after having died in the flesh, sacrificing his terrestrial body and received into the glory of a celestial body.

Of course, the reason for different words used in translation is because of the variant readings of manuscripts. I do not wish to get into a fruitless, and often endless, argument of which variant is correct. As shown above, regardless of the differences in the manuscripts, none of them say that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh. Trinitarians, as well as some others, prefer the way it reads in the KJV since they would find it easier to add their doctrines to this, and read their doctrines into what is said. The best rendering that I can see that actually fits the context is "he who" rendering. From the standpoint of complete harmony with the rest of the scriptures, what I can say about the latter (KJV) translation of 1 Timothy 3:16 is that God was manifested in the flesh of Jesus, since Jesus was fully devoted to God, the human expression of godliness (piety) while Jesus was in the days of his flesh. This does not mean that Jesus was or is his God, who was being manifested through Jesus.

For further study, see:
http://reslight.net/forum/index.php?topic=86.msg145
http://godandson.reslight.net/1tim3-16.html



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