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?


4 Answers 4


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.

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)

  • Your quote of John Chrysostom is very significant, if it is not entirely decisive then what is? Chrysostom says "deus" and early examiners of the Codex Alexandricus say it said Theos but the horizontal lines were admittedly becoming more difficult to see, partly because the original writer of the Codex wrote all the horizontal lines throughout the whole codex faintly. Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 9:39
  • Hope you don't mind, but I've pilched your comments re John Chrysostom and added to mine - too good to say only once. Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 18:51

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.


  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. 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)

  1. 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”

  1. 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"

  1. 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:

  1. 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".

  1. 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.


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 , but: I think you are not sufficiently familiar with the wriggles of the JW Watchtower. I and the Father are one - "yes, one in purpose". In John's gospel ch 1 Jesus is "a god", not "God". In Colossians all things were made by the Father through the Son. In early New World Translations, in Col. it does not read "All things were made by him" but "All (other) things were made through him" (because the Father could not have made Jesus through Jesus if Jesus did not yet exist). Later versions of the NWT have removed the brackets "All other things were made through him". Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 18:23
  • @AndrewShanks Thanks, Andrew. Astounding!
    – enegue
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 19:04

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.


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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    Commented Jan 21 at 18:37