There is a Q regarding the meaning of this verse. This Q is regarding the authenticity of the 'addition' - and what was intended by it. What is meant in John 3:13 by *the son of man who's in Heaven* yet He still says 'He came down from Heaven'?

Most modern translations seem to have the following for John 3:13

No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man

Then the KJ and a few others add, 'who is in heaven' so we get the following longer verse.

No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.

The Alexandrian text omits this addition. Does it have veracity and/or what is the point of the addition?

  • 1
    There is a very complete analysis of such textual variation is UBS4 and UBS5, NA27 and NA28 plus Bruce Metzger's "Textual Commentary on the Greek NT". Let me know if you want me to help with these standard references.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 22:36

2 Answers 2


This is Bruce Metzger's commentary on this text. He was an expert on this subject.

  3:13      ἀνθρώπου {B}

On the one hand, a minority of the Committee preferred the reading ἀνθρώπου ὁ ὤν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, arguing that (1) if the short reading, supported almost exclusively by Egyptian witnesses, were original, there is no discernible motive that would have prompted copyists to add the words ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, resulting in a most difficult saying (the statement in 1:18, not being parallel, would scarcely have prompted the addition); and (2) the diversity of readings implies that the expression ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὁ ὤν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, having been found objectionable or superfluous in the context, was modified either by omitting the participial clause, or by altering it so as to avoid suggesting that the Son of Man was at that moment in heaven. On the other hand, the majority of the Committee, impressed by the quality of the external attestation supporting the shorter reading, regarded the words ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ as an interpretative gloss, reflecting later Christological development. -- Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (pp. 174–175). London; New York: United Bible Societies.


We don't have to find a definite reason for scribal interpolation to conclude a certain phrase is an interpolation. The internal evidence from consistency and common sense point of view is sufficient to conjecture about it. In this case the more authentic family of manuscripts help us to rule this out as fake. We can only speculate on the reason behind it, such as the scribe was drunk or sleepy, or added it from the margin glosses, added by himself as a gloss.

NET Bible notes: John 3:13: “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven — the Son of Man.[30]”

3:13 [30] tc Most witnesses, including a few important ones (A[*] Θ Ψ 050 Ë1,13 Ï latt syc,p,h), have at the end of this verse “the one who is in heaven” (ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, Jo wn en tw ouranw). A few others have variations on this phrase, such as “who was in heaven” (e syc), or “the one who is from heaven” (0141 pc sys). The witnesses normally considered the best, along with several others, lack the phrase in its entirety (Ì66,75 א B L T Ws 083 086 33 1241 pc co). On the one hand, if the reading ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ is authentic it may suggest that while Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus he spoke of himself as in heaven even while he was on earth. If that is the case, one could see why variations from this hard saying arose: “who was in heaven,” “the one who is from heaven,” and omission of the clause. At the same time, such a saying could be interpreted (though with difficulty) as part of the narrator’s comments rather than Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus, alleviating the problem. And if v. 13 was viewed in early times as the evangelist’s statement, “the one who is in heaven” could have crept into the text through a marginal note. Other internal evidence suggests that this saying may be authentic. The adjectival participle, ὁ ὤν, is used in the Fourth Gospel more than any other NT book (though the Apocalypse comes in a close second), and frequently with reference to Jesus (1:18; 6:46; 8:47). It may be looking back to the LXX of Exod 3:14 (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν). Especially since this exact construction is not necessary to communicate the location of the Son of Man, its presence in many witnesses here may suggest authenticity. Further, John uses the singular of οὐρανός (ourano", “heaven”) in all 18 instances of the word in this Gospel, and all but twice with the article (only 1:32 and 6:58 are anarthrous, and even in the latter there is significant testimony to the article). At the same time, the witnesses that lack this clause are very weighty and must not be discounted. Generally speaking, if other factors are equal, the reading of such mss should be preferred. And internally, it could be argued that ὁ ὤν is the most concise way to speak of the Son of Man in heaven at that time (without the participle the point would be more ambiguous). Further, the articular singular οὐρανός is already used twice in this verse, thus sufficiently prompting scribes to add the same in the longer reading. This combination of factors suggests that ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ is not a genuine Johannism. Further intrinsic evidence against the longer reading relates to the evangelist’s purposes: If he intended v. 13 to be his own comments rather than Jesus’ statement, his switch back to Jesus’ words in v. 14 (for the lifting up of the Son of Man is still seen as in the future) seems inexplicable. The reading “who is in heaven” thus seems to be too hard. All things considered, as intriguing as the longer reading is, it seems almost surely to have been a marginal gloss added inadvertently to the text in the process of transmission. For an argument in favor of the longer reading, see David Alan Black, “The Text of John 3:13,” GTJ 6 (1985): 49-66.sn See the note on the title Son of Man in 1:51.

  • There is nothing fake about what is provable and internally consistent to the text of John in general. Saying it is difficult doesn't prove anything, only texts, which in this case you have sided with what the question has already implied, the Alexandrian. Also saying the scribe was drunk or sleepy, is that seriously appropriate speculation for this site?
    – user21676
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 9:11
  • Also I read Beza's TR full commentary on the verse; he doesn't go into it at all, that is, whether it were controversial in terms of its existence(which he normally might), only with how it should be interpreted.
    – user21676
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 9:25
  • @user21676 the text is nonsensical.
    – Michael16
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 9:59

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