1 Tim 3:15 (NA28):

....ἐκκλησία θεοῦ ζῶντος, στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς ἀληθείας.

This refers to the church of the living God, the pillar and support of truth in GNB. The CEV makes it clear that the church is the foundation:

...the church of the living God is the strong foundation of truth.

GW and KJV imply it is God as the foundation. Quoting KJV:

...the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Isn't this clear that pillar and support are in apposition with the last noun, God? How is this ambiguous? It would seem by Occam's razor that we should take it to mean that God is the foundation of truth, as opposed to the church. What thinks ye?

  • 2
    Hi, I've added a couple of the translations to try to make it clear where this is going. (Feel free to roll back or switch to other translations if it makes your point clearer.) I have to say, though, I don't understand the KJV as requiring pillar to be in apposition with God, given that the latter is couched within a prepositional phrase.
    – Susan
    Sep 30 '14 at 0:19

The Greek is unambiguously referring to the church, not God. The word church (ἐκκλησία) is nominative case; the word God is in the genitive case (modifying the word church). The two words pillar (στῦλος) and ground (ἑδραίωμα ) are also nominative case, showing that they are in apposition to the church, not God. The Greek cases match each other when in an appositional relationship (see Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 48), which helps to sort out many things that might be ambiguous in English (where word order and punctuation tends to be a major clue).

As Susan noted in her comment, the KJV reading does not necessarily read God as the foundation (it could be read that way in English), but can be read that "the church of God" (the whole phrase with prepositional modifier) is the foundation—which still keeps church as the proper subject for the apposition, just clarified that not any church is such, but only "the church of God."

That church (or church of God) is the apposed item in this verse is not to deny that God is the foundation (i.e. in the sense of ultimate grounding) of truth itself, for He is true (Jn 3:33; Rom 3:4; et. al.), and Christ is the manifestation of that (Jn 14:6).

But the verse is saying that the church (specifically its witness of Christ, see 1 Tim 3:16)—for they know the truth (1 Tim 4:3)—is where the truth about God is supported (pillars and foundation picture support). This support is emphasized here because as 1 Timothy continues, it notes there is coming a time when faith will be departed from (1 Tim 4:1-3), but Timothy is to instruct properly (1 Tim 4:6-11), to support truth in the church (and in the world).


The subject of the sentence is ἐκκλήσια, and "of the living God" is its qualifier, and the next part refers not to the qualifier, but to the subject itself, so it is the Church which is "the pillar and ground of Truth". Had it been otherwise, and had the "pillar and ground of Truth" referred to the grammatical qualifier, "living God", then it would have been harmonized in case with the "living God", which stands in genitive (θεοῦ ζῶντος), and thus the entire sentence would read: "ἐκκλησία θεοῦ ζῶντος, στῦλου καὶ ἑδραιώματος τῆς ἀληθείας", but since both στύλος αnd ἐδραίωμα are in nominative, that but means that they explain, qualify the ἐκκλησία, also given in nominative, and not "living God", which is in genitive.


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