The Greek text of 1 Tim. 3:16 according to the Textus Receptus of Robert Estienne reads:

Textus Receptus, 1550, 1 Tim. 3:16

Notably, it begins with the word Θεὸς. The King James Version (1769) translates this into English as:

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. KJV, 1769

However, some other English translations offer a different translation. For example, the NASB:

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory. NASB

What is the reason for the difference in translations? What is the implication if the King James Version yields the correct translation?

up vote 5 down vote accepted

There are three different versions of this particular verse in the manuscripts.

The majority of manuscripts, as well as the Greek text that is used in the New Testament Greek churches today, read:

Θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί,
ἐδικαιώθη ἐν Πνεύματι,
ὤφθη  γγέλοις,
ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν,
ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ,
νελήφθη ἐν δόξῃ.

God was revealed in the flesh,
vindicated in [the] spirit, seen by angels,
preached among the nations,
believed on in the world,
and received up in glory.
(EOB:NT)

In the Sinaiticus (4th c.), Alexandrinus (5th c.), Ephraimi (5th c.), Augiensis (9th c.), and Boernerianus (9th c.) codices, the relative pronoun ὅς takes the place of Θεὸς. The NASB editors and (presumably) others have chosen this particular reading over the majority reading.

In his Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd ed.), Bruce Metzger explains the presence of Θεὸς in some manuscripts as being due to either transcription error or deliberately for stylistic reasons:

Thus, no uncial (in the first hand) earlier than the eighth or ninth century (Ψ) [Athous Lavrensis] supports θεός; all ancient versions presuppose ὅς or ὅ; and no patristic writer prior to the last third of the fourth century testifies to the reading θεός. The reading θεός arose either (a) accidentally, through the misreading of OΣ [the pronoun] as ΘΣ [abbreviation for θεός], or (b) deliberately, either to supply a substantive for the following six verbs, or, with less probability, to provide greater dogmatic precision.

p. 574

Among the Greek Church Fathers who cited this particular passage are Gregory of Nyssa (335-394 AD), John Chyrsostom (347-407 AD). The oldest Codex which Metzger cites is the Sinaiticus, which scholars date to between 330 and 360 AD. Thus, it is arguable which of the witnesses is more historical.

In any case, I do not think it is terribly significant whether the passage indicates ὅς or θεός. The above cited writings of the Church Fathers (as well as others, such as Theodoret of Cyrus), show that regardless of what some texts may have indicated, they clearly understood the passage to refer to God. Gregory of Nyssa writes, for example, in Book IV of Against Eunomius:

How then was it that “God [θεός] was manifested in the flesh”? “By birth,” of course you will say. But what sort of birth do you speak of? Surely it is clear that you speak of that from the virginity, and that “that which was conceived in her was of the Holy Ghost...”

John Chrysostom writes:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God [θεός] was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit.

Here he speaks of the Dispensation in our behalf. Tell me not of the bells, nor of the holy of holies, nor of the high priest. The Church is the pillar of the world. Consider this mystery, and you may be struck with awe: for it is indeed a great mystery, and a mystery of godliness, and that without controversy or question, for it is beyond all doubt. Since in his directions to the Priests he had required nothing like what is found in Leviticus he refers the whole matter to Another, saying, God was manifest in the flesh. The Creator was seen incarnate.

Homily XI on First Timothy
(Greek version is here, p. 553, about 2/3 down the 2nd column)

I would translate the WH Greek of 1 Timothy 3:16 this way:

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When Paul writes "he was made manifest in the flesh", he is declaring that Jesus preexisted his manifestation in the flesh. What/who do readers suppose Paul thought him to be?

There is no mystery concerning who Paul thought Jesus was:

12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
-- Colossians 1:12-17

There really isn't any wiggle room in this definition to suggest that before Jesus was made manifest in the flesh, that he and the Father weren't one and the same. When Paul says, "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible ...", if the Father and the Son are not one and the same, what is left for the Father to have made? One might say that the Father made the Son, but then the Son did not make all things, which Paul says he did, and which John also affirms when he says "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:3)

There is no way one can make Paul's words say anything other than what Jesus said himself, "I and my Father are one." (John 10:30). Paul's logic is inescapable. Whether Θεὸς was an addition in the Majority text or an omission in the Minority texts, according to Paul, God was made manifest in the flesh, and the name of that manifestation was Jesus.

1 Timothy 3:16

In his book " TRUTH IN TRANSLATION Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament" Jason David BeDuhn an associate professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University, Analizes ten major English translations (including KJV) of the Greek scriptures , and writes that the only two correct renderings are by, NRSV and NW , and states "There is no reason to think that the" Holy Spirit" is involved in this passage. Was Christ justified in or by the Holy Spirit? The parallel that is drawn is "in flesh" rules out such a reading "

NRSV " He was revealed in flesh, vindicated[b] in spirit,[c] seen by angels,proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world taken up in glory."

NW ( New World Translation) "He was made manifest in flesh, was declared righteous in spirit, appeared to angels, was preached about among nations, was believed upon in the world, was received up in glory."

The word "Θεοs" does not appear in either WHNU or the Nestle Aland critical edition of the Greek Testament on which most English translations are based. Noted below. (NA) καὶ ὁμολογουμένως μέγα ἐστὶν τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον· ὃς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί,ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι, ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις, ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν, ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ, ἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξῃ. (WHNU) και ομολογουμενως μεγα εστιν το της ευσεβειας μυστηριον ος εφανερωθη εν σαρκι εδικαιωθη εν πνευματι ωφθη αγγελοις εκηρυχθη εν εθνεσιν επιστευθη εν κοσμω ανελημφθη εν δοξη There are many different translations and no two are alike, I have noticed it and so have you, and your alarmed. The KJV was based on The Textus Receptus by Erasmus and not based on the ancient Greek Manuscripts . At the time the KJV was written,knowledge of the Greek Koine was very limited, further older manuscripts have been found which made it necessary to revise the bibles. Bias and beliefs of the translators also is a reason for the differences.

BELOW IS AN EXPLANATION OF THE VERSE 1 TIMOTHY 3:16 BASED ON SCRIPTURES. So what does it mean " vindicated in spirit" and " manifest in the flesh"mean? And what are the benefits to mankind?.

*MANIFEST IN THE FLESH Jesus, who was “the Word” of God, “out of heaven,” divested himself of spirit nature and “became flesh.” ( 1Cor. 15:47; Phil. 2:5-8; John 1:14; ) That in being born as a human he was no spirit and that he did not merely assume a fleshly body, as angels had done in the past (Ge 18:1-3; 19:1; Jos 5:13-15), is attested to by the apostle John, who says that one is antichrist who denies that Jesus Christ came “in the flesh.” (1John 4:2, 3) In order to provide the ransom for mankind and thereby to help those who would be his associates in the heavenly calling, the Word became flesh, being born all human, no incarnation. The Bible tells us this: “Since the ‘young children’ are sharers of blood and flesh, he also similarly partook of the same things.” (Heb. 2:14-16) His earthly sojourn was spoken of as “the days of his flesh.” (Heb 5:7) “The bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world,” Jesus said. He went on to state that those hoping to remain in union with him must ‘eat his flesh and drink his blood.’ Not appreciating the spiritual, symbolic significance of his words, some construed the statement as cannibalistic and were shocked.—Joh 6:50-60.

VINDICATED IN SPIRIT God’s Son. God’s “only-begotten son,” the Word, was a spirit person like his Father, hence “existing in God’s form” (Php 2:5-8), but later “became flesh,” residing among mankind as the man Jesus. (John 1, 14) Completing his earthly course, he was “put to death in the flesh, but [was] made alive in the spirit.” ( 1 Tim 3:16, 1Pe 3:18) His Father resurrected him, granted his Son’s request to be glorified alongside the Father with the glory he had had in his prehuman state (Joh 17:4, 5), and God made him “a life-giving spirit.” (1Co 15:45) The Son thus became again invisible to human sight, dwelling “in unapproachable light, whom not one of men has seen or can see.”—1Ti 6:14-16.

DECLARED RIGHTEOUS AND RAISED AS A SPIRIT BEING IN HEAVENS Adam was created by God as a man-flesh and was righteous, but he failed, he did not set a perfect example of godly devotion. Jesus was conceived by holy spirit born of a woman was also a man-flesh. (John 1:14New International Version (NIV)" The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." Jesus was righteous to the end and so He was resurrected as a spirit being in heavens.Thus, Jesus was “a corresponding ransom,” not for the redemption of the one sinner, Adam, but for the redemption of all mankind descended from Adam.

BENEFITS OF JESUS RESURRECTED AS A SPIRIT BEING IN HEAVEN.

DEATH WILL BE NO MORE: Given the keys of Death and Hades:(Rev. 1:18 (NKJV) " I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death." And which he will cast into the (symboplic ) lake of fire( REV20:14) to be consumed that is to exist no more , meaning the second death. RAISE THE DEAD : Granted powers to judge and raise the dead (John 5:21-30) John in verse 26 writes, (NKJV) "For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself." John 5:28-29 REDEEMER OF MANKIND: Romans 5:12-19, 7:14-25 MAN MEDIATOR: (NIV) 1 Tim. 2:5-6 " For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time."

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