John William Burgon wrote “The Revision Revised” (1881) to which anyone would have to refer sooner or later to decide if there was any merit in Sir Isaac Newton’s assertions concerning 1 Timothy 3:16.
The following are a few testimonies which, though they do not all directly lay claim to originate from 1 Timothy 3:16, yet surely that is their ultimate origin. I leave it to you to decide that for yourselves.
- Ignatius of Antioch (~35 AD – 107 AD)
Every law of wickedness vanished away; the darkness of ignorance was dispersed; and tyrannical authority was destroyed, God being manifested as a man, and man displaying power as God. But neither was the former a mere imagination, nor did the second imply a bare humanity; but the one was absolutely true, and the other an economical arrangement.
-- Ignatius To The Ephesians: Chapter 19 - Three Celebrated Mysteries
- The “Epistle of Barnabas”, written sometime between 70 and 132 AD
From section 6:14,
for He Himself was to be manifested in the flesh and to dwell in us.
From section 12:10,
Behold again it is Jesus, not a son of man, but the Son of God, and He was revealed in the flesh in a figure. Since then men will say that Christ is the son of David, David himself prophesieth being afraid and understanding the error of sinners; The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on My right hand until I set thine enemies for a footstool under Thy feet.
-- Epistle of Barnabas
- Hippolytus (170 AD - 235 AD)
Let us believe then, dear brethren, according to the tradition of the apostles, that God the Word came down from heaven, (and entered) into the holy Virgin Mary, in order that, taking the flesh from her, and assuming also a human, by which I mean a rational soul, and becoming thus all that man is with the exception of sin, He might save fallen man, and confer immortality on men who believe in His name. In all, therefore, the word of truth is demonstrated to us, to wit, that the Father is One, whose word is present (with Him), by whom He made all things; whom also, as we have said above, the Father sent forth in later times for the salvation of men. This (Word) was preached by the law and the prophets as destined to come into the world. And even as He was preached then, in the same manner also did He come and manifest Himself, being by the Virgin and the Holy Spirit made a new man; for in that He had the heavenly (nature) of the Father, as the Word and the earthly (nature), as taking to Himself the flesh from the old Adam by the medium of the Virgin, He now, coming forth into the world, was manifested as God in a body, coming forth too as a perfect man. For it was not in mere appearance or by conversion, but in truth, that He became man.
-- Against Noetus, Section 17
- The Apostolical Constitutions (produced 375 AD - 380 AD)
Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord (God the Lord, who was manifested to us in the flesh).
-- Apostolical Constitutions (PDF Download): Book 7, Chapter 26 (page 146 of 211)
- Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea (329 AD - 379 AD).
You write that there are men among you who are trying to destroy the saving incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and, so far as they can, are overthrowing the grace of the great mystery unrevealed from everlasting, but manifested in His own times, when the Lord, when He had gone through all things pertaining to the cure of the human race, bestowed on all of us the boon of His own sojourn among us. For He helped His own creation, first through the patriarchs, whose lives were set forth as examples and rules to all willing to follow the footsteps of the saints, and with zeal like theirs to reach the perfection of good works. Next for succour He gave the Law, ordaining it by angels in the hand of Moses; then the prophets, foretelling the salvation to come; judges, kings, and righteous men, doing great works, with a mighty hand. After all these in the last days He was Himself manifested in the flesh, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Galatians 4:4-5.
-- Epistle 261 “To the Sozopolitans”
- John Chrysostom (347-407 AD) writes:
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God [θεός] was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit.
Homily XI on First Timothy
(Greek version is here, p. 553, about 2/3 down the 2nd column) where we read:-
"θεός εφανερώθη έν σαρκί" - God was manifested in the flesh;
and where we can read his Latin translation of the original Greek (page 554, half way down right hand column):-
16. Et manifeste magnum est pietatis sacramentum: Deus manifestatus est in carne, justificatus est in spiritu
which, in same word order, reads
"16. And manifestly great is piety [a] mystery: God manifested is in flesh, justified is in spirit"
- Cyril of Alexandria - Patriarch of Alexandria 412 AD – 444 AD, makes it clear what was his version of 1 Timothy 3:16 which reads “God was manifest in the flesh” (p 1332 in Greek and p 1331 in Latin, second line (and middle 4 words) of page 1332 GoogleUserContent.
To access the relevant page of the PDF go to berenddeboer.net and click on 1 Timothy 3:16 section, then click on Cyril of Alexandria, and then click on pdf. Be warned, though, the file is large and could take a while to download, depending on your broadband speed. Berend de Boer gives an accurate picture of the relevant line on his web page, showing Theos, "God was manifest in the flesh".
The all important word here is “Theos”, God.
Having just found Berend DeBoer's Webpage, there is no need to add further to my list of testimonies.
Finally, from the article "False Citations in NA/UBS 1 Timothy 3:16 Examined by Scott Jones" at Textus-Receptus.com:
- Sacred names, known generally by their Latin terminology as NOMINA SACRA, were abbreviated in manuscripts to conserve space, or as tokens of respect. When a sacred name was abbreviated, a light horizontal stroke was placed above the letters to signify the abbreviation. Thus, the term for God - θEOΣ - was shortened by omitting the two inner letters and by affixing a horizontal line above the two remaining letters. The abbreviation would thus appear in the manuscripts as OΣ (technically, the final sigma looked very much like our capital C, but I will forego that nomenclature here to avoid confusion).
Well, it just so happens that by removing the horizontal line ABOVE the abbreviation and by removing the small horizontal line WITHIN the Theta (the first letter of the word) another legitimate Greek word that looks like this - OΣ - is produced.
This word by itself - OΣ (without the horizontal lines above and within), is the masculine relative pronoun for "who" in the Greek language. In other words, if the horizontal lines are present, every reader would recognize that the word was a NOMINA SACRA signifying the word "Theos," which means "God." If the two horizontal lines are absent, every reader would understand that the word simply meant "who."
This, then, is the whole crux of the matter concerning 1 Timothy 3:16, for a scant handful of manuscripts are missing the horizontal lines, thus APPEARING to form the word "who" instead of "Theos." This scant handful of manuscripts missing the horizontal lines are in opposition to WELL OVER THREE HUNDRED MANUSCRIPTS THAT CONTAIN the horizontal lines, and which therefore testify unmistakably to Theos, or "God".
- The original custodians of Codex A (Codex Alexandrinus) all testified that the lines in and above the Theta were visible from the year 1626 (when Codex A was given to the British by Cyril of Lucar) even up until the time of Scrivener, as Scrivener stated that he examined the manuscript 20 times in as many years and that he always maintained the original hand was THEOS, but that the lines had all but disappeared. Of course, the lines in and above the Theta in Codex A are habitually written so faintly that they are barely discernible to begin with, as testified by those who have actually examined Codex A, which is further proof of THEOS in 1 Timothy 3:16. As it stands now, 1 Tim 3:16 in Codex A has been thumbed so many times that it is completely worn and thus any type of examination today would be worthless.
However, we have overwhelming historical evidence to prove that Codex A read THEOS in the original hand. Patrick Young, the first custodian of Codex A after the British were given possession, maintained that the reading was clearly THEOS in the original hand. Huish, who collated Codex A, asserted that THEOS was clearly the reading in 1 Tim 3:16 in the original hand, and he communicated this to Brian Walton prior to Walton’s fifth edition of his Polyglot in 1657. Bishop Pearson examined Codex A in the same time period and testified that THEOS was unmistakable. Bishop Fell in 1675 also maintained that THEOS in the original hand was the unmistakable reading as well.
Mill, who was at work on the Text of the NT from 1677 to 1707, expressly declares that he saw the remains of THEOS in 1 Tim 3:16 in Codex A. Bentley, who had himself in 1716 collated the MS with the utmost accuracy, knew nothing of any other reading. In 1718 Wotton stated, “There can be no doubt that this manuscript always exhibited THEOS.”
In the early to mid 18th century both Wetstein and Berriman expressly maintained that Codex A read THEOS in 1 Tim 3:16 in the original hand. Berriman went so far as to note that the lines were light and fading, and that if at any time in the future they should be worn away completely, that everyone should know that they were nevertheless original. Berriman also noted that someone had recently attempted to darken the lines by tracing over them, but that the retrace did not fully extend to the full length of the original line, so that the original line could still be seen.
Bengel testified in 1734 that the reading of 1 Tim 3:16 in Codex A in the original hand was THEOS. Woide declared in 1765 that he examined A and the reading was undoubtedly THEOS in the original hand, and furthermore, that the very same lines 20 years later had almost disappeared.
To quote John Burgon --
“The fact remains for all that, that the original reading of A [Codex Alexandrinus] is attested so amply, that no sincere lover of Truth can ever hereafter pretend to doubt it... it is too late by 150 years to contend on the negative side of the question... The plain fact concerning Codex A is this - That at 1 Tim. iii. 16, two delicate horizontal strokes in THEOS which were thoroughly patent in 1628, which could be seen plainly down to 1737, and which were discernible by an expert (Dr. Woide) so late as A.D. 1765, have for the last hundred years entirely disappeared, which is precisely what Berriman in 1741 predicted would be the case.” Revision Revised, 432-436”
"What are the implications if the King James Version yields the correct translation?"
This is a good question of the OP. Seeing that in several places in the Bible Jesus is already spoken of as "God" we could be excused for thinking this extra verse is not necessary. In reply, we must remember the Lord thought it was necessary else it would not be there.
But perhaps the biggest implication is that we should have some suspicion of those modern translations which do not use "God" in 1 Timothy 3:16. If they can choose a defective translation of 1 Tim 3:16 with so much contrary evidence then perhaps we should not choose them as our first Bible of private devotional use or of preaching/teaching.