hymn theory

Steven Avery

Pure Bible - June 4, 2014.

This thread has a lot of interesting material.
We will start with the first post, and I will do some editing and updating.

Auxiliary thread:

Facebook - NT Textual Criticism

1 Timothy 3:16 (AV)
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.


Today we are going to quote mostly contras, on the grammar of this verse. (Most of you know the issues, we can review them later if helpful.)


...since the neuter relative pronoun ὅ must have arisen as a scribal correction of ὅς (to bring the relative into concord with μυστήριον) ....

Notice that this is first of all an acknowledgment of the Greek solecism. The lack of any sensible concord for the hanging masculine relative pronoun. And a de facto acknowledgment of a feeble text (ie. not inspired by God) taken in by the hortians.

And the blunder ὅς in the Metzger economy was immediately being corrected by scribes in the 1st and 2nd centuries ... in time for all the versional translations. (Then the ὃ was some how reverting back to ὅς being more common, yet both are ultra-minority in the Greek mss.)

the witnesses that read ὅ (D* itd, g, 61, 86 vg Ambrosiaster Marius Victorinus Hilary Pelagius Augustine) also indirectly presuppose ὅς as the earlier reading.

Boinggg.. that is circular to the hortian assumption that ὅς was 1st-century autographic. If ὅ was Paul's writing (Grotius, Newton, Wetstein and others) then it is invalid, since it is easy to see that being modified either accidentally or purposefully. (e.g. a scribe thinking .. why have "mystery" as what was manifested, that is strange, must be wrong, I'll fix it).

And if θεός or ΘΣ was Paul's writing, then the corruption to ὅ could easily occur directly without passing through ὅς, or collecting $200. Even more so if mss were written with ΘΣ (nomina sacra).


Lest anyone thing that Metzger was original in this thinking, rather than acting as a hortian speech-writer updater (redacting turgid prose to monotonous and repetitive error) .. let's go to:


The New Testament in the Original Greek (1881)
Westcott & Hort

"The Western ὅ is a manifest correction of ὅς , intended to remedy the apparent breach of concord between the relative and τὸ μυστήριον ... the change from ὅς to θεός would be facilitated, if it was not caused, by the removal of an apparent solecism ...."


So W&H actually theorize two distinct changes caused by the solecism. Since they recognized that it is a glaring anomaly.

Thus, the "apparent" breach of concord and the "apparent" solecism must have been quite *apparent * to those who modified the corruption text (in the hort-metzger cabal of textual theory.)

Murray J. Harris and James Keith Elliott (The Greek Text of the Epistles to Timothy and Titus) reference from W & H the "apparent" solecism, and Harris gives it a fair amount of emphasis.

Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (2008)
Murray J. Harris

"Coming after the neuter noun μυστήριον, the masculine relative pronoun 61; is the harder reading and was therefore more prone to scribal correction ('The removal of an apparent solecism," WH 2: appendix 133)... two grammatical difficulties— the lack of concord with μυστήριον and the absence of an explicit antecedent. ... a scribe .. wished to replace a "weak" relative pronoun ὅς that lacked an antecedent with a "strong" substantive (θεός) as the subject of the series of six finite verbs that follow."


The modern geek-o-crats are very happy, under textcrit and seminarian indoctrination, and various perks, to look for excuses for a corrupted and inferior text placed in their hands by the hortians.

Anyway, careful reading shows that Harris is almost painfully aware of the difficulty in the Critical Text solecism. Repeatedly referring to the lack of an antecedent and the difficulty and the harder reading. Harris has a more extensive grammatical background so all this was rather glaring.


Harris at least mentions two interesting resources (i.e he is way beyond the typical Metzger parroting):

Examination of the Various Readings of 1 Tim iii. 16
William Hayes Ward (1835-1916)
Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 22 (1865) p. 1-50
British and Foreign Evangelical Review (1865) p. 386-424

And the excellent five pages by Frederick Field (1801-1885), a reviser who jumped ship on "God was manifest in the flesh" (although he still was in the hortian fog on the heavenly witnesses.)

Notes on the translation of the New Testament: being the Otium Norvicense (pars tertia) (1899)
Frederick Field


Steven Avery

the history of hymn theory and the grammar of the verse

Next posts:

George Vance Smith

There really is no secret that the grammar with the corruption is a solecism.

Even the reviser unitarian (with ebionite leanings) George Vance Smith (1816-1892) ... clearly no supporter of "God was manifest in the flesh" .... wrote that ὅς is "difficult, and hardly admissible" as referring to mystery (the closest antecedent and adopted by many of the scholars working with the corruption.) Then Smith goes to "Christ" as the subject almost by default, despite the fact that this is strained, unnatural and far afield.


Full section:

The Bible and Popular Theology
George Vance Smith
https://books.google.com/books?id=alXXr_T8hGcC&pg=PA320 (1871)
https://books.google.com/books?id=FFo3AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA354 (1891 - minor modification

Leo Tolstoy on the verse without "God was manifest".

Often there is a an attempted defense that the texts are the same. We know that is not true, even more so if the pronoun would be referring to the mystery being manifest. Dozens of folks could be quoted, and we may discuss this more in depth.

Yet, even in the smoothed mistranslated texts, with "He", the text is very different. Here is a very simple and clear example of how the text is essentially lost in Bible apologetics (the Deity of Messiah) if you do not have "God was manifest in the flesh".

"relative pronoun ... In any case this whole verse refers to Christ, and not to God, and the substitution in later texts of the word 'God' for the pronoun cannot serve as a proof of the divinity of Christ." -

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) - Critique of Dogmatic Theology (c. 1884, English ed "The Complete Works of Count Tolstoy,pub 1904)
Now, in the mid-1800s, the new Griesbach idea of going to "who was manifest" was getting some mileage in scholarship circles.

Earlier the principle opposition to "God was manifest" who "which was manifest" from the Latin Vulgate and Wetstein (from Grotius and Newton). While sense-awkward, that does not have the grammatical mismatch.

However, this Griesbach text had the glaring and awkward grammatical problem, so over the 1800s the "hymn theory" developed. At the time of Henry Alford (1810-1871) it was just a vague excuse, possibly a Confession of Faith. And Alford, even while in the morass of the corruption variant, was astute enough to smash the arguments.

The Greek Testament: with various readings [&c.] prolegomena: and a comm. by H. Alford (1865)
Henry Alford

"...it has been often maintained of late, e.g by Mack, Winer, Huther, Wiesenger, Conyb., al., that these sentences, from their parallelism and symmetry, are taken from some hymn or confession of the ancient church. We cannot absolutely say that it may not have been so: but I should on all grounds regard it as very doubtful. I can see no reason why the same person who wrote the rhetorical passages, Rom. viii 38, 39; xi. 33—36; 1 Cor. xiii. 4—7, and numerous others, might not, difference of time and modified mental characteristics being allowed for, have written this also. Once written, it would be sure to gain a place among the choice and treasured savings of the Church, and might easily find its way into liturgical use: but I should be most inclined to think that we have here its first expression. The reason which some of the above Commentators adduce for their belief,— the abrupt insulation of the clauses disjoined from the thought in the context, has no weight with me: I on the other hand feel that so beautiful and majestic a sequence of thoughts springing directly from the context itself, can hardly be a fragment pieced in, but must present the free expansion of the mind of the writer in the treatment of his subject. "

A total wipe-out.

(Note that those who ply these hymn arguments tend to see a very late authorship of the Pastorals, or even the forgery authorship position. This makes time for the hymn to develop and for the forger pretending to be Paul, to put it in the Bible.)

The first English authors I have seen taking, more or less, this errant hymn position:


The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, Volume 2 (1860, 1st edition 1852)
William John Conybeare (1815-1857)
John Saul Howson (1816-1885)

"There can be little doubt that this is a quotation from some Christian hymn or Creed. Such quotations in the Pastoral Epistles (of which there are five introduced by the same expression (Grk) correspond with the late date generally assigned to these Epistles."

Note the late date (unbelieving) presupposition connection aspect.

(Conybeare and Howson keep "God was manifest.." in the text, noting the "divided testimony".)


Similarly, here is good 'ol Charles John Ellicott. (1819-1905), with lots of qualification:

A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, with a revised translation (1861-2nd ed. 1st ed 1856)
Charles John Ellicott

"... not by any means improbable that the words are quoted from some well known hymn, or possibly from some familiar confession of faith. ..."


We will plan on continuing with this rather absurd, unbelieving hymn theory later. Since it is the hook used by the corruption defenders to avoid the grammatical solecism.
Hymn theory (wild conjecture) at the time of the revision.


Right. There is zero historical data supporting this idea, even in the later writings of some ECW that mention Christian hymns.

Next, let's look at how this developed at the time of the revision.

First, not only Alcott, but the unitarian George Vance Smith (who helped show the glaring grammatical problem when discussing the competing interpretations) also acknowledge the lack of substance of the hymn theory. Although the points of Alford were stronger (Smith was the type of pseudo-believer who could allow a late date of composition, the end of the first century, see p. 4 on the Bible and Popular Theology.. note that this would have Paul writing letters to the church over a 50-year span) .. Smith still found the hymn theory a bit fanciful.


The Bible and Popular Theology (1871)
George Vance Smith

The whole of the verse, from " "Who" to the end, may, he conjectures, be a quotation from some ancient hymn or confession of faith. This supposition is interesting, and would account for the somewhat abrupt and difficult character of the passage as it stands. But it is without evidence, except only the fact that the six clauses may be arranged sticbometrically. This may be pure accident, as in the case of Coloss. iii. 19, in the English Version, where we have a good hexameter verse.


Again, though, go back to Alford for a far more astute simple rejection of the concept, by supporting the simplicity of direct Pauline authorship.

Nonetheless, this was the cornerstone of the Hort attempt. Remember, they gave Metzger the idea of talking about "the removal of an apparent solecism" as a scribal theory, meaning that the solecism is in their corrupt text. Now on the hymn:


The New Testament in the Original Greek (1881)
Westcott and Hort

The form of the six clauses suggests that these clauses were a quotation from an early Christian hymn ; and, if so, the proper and original antecedent would doubtless have been found in the preceding context which is not quoted.


Thus by using a wild supposition with no historical evidence, you can allow for the missing antecedent!


And on p. 320 Hort helps you see the real reason for the hymn "supposition" was the "difficulties":

"... the example of Eph. v 14, which seems to be taken from a Christian source, has emboldened us to give a metrical form to the latter part of 1 Tim. iii 16, the difficulties of which are certainly somewhat lightened by the supposition that it is part of a hymn."


Not surprisingly, John William Burgon recognized the vapidness of all this no evidence supposition-conjecture-speculation.

First he discusses the convoluted attempt of Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1831-1875) which you can see here or from Burgon:

An account of the printed text of the Greek New Testament (1854)
Samuel Prideaux Tregelles

(I'll plan on adding this above in the section on the earlier refs.) Tregelles put the words in as a quotation, so we have from Burgon:


Revision Revision (1883)
John William Burgon

"for which you are without warrant of any kind, and which you have no right to do. Westcott and Hort (the 'chartered libertines') are even more licentious. Acting on their own suggestion that these clauses are 'a quotation from an early Christian hymn' they proceed to print the conclusion of 1 Tim. iii. 16 stichometrically, as if it were a six-line stanza."


So Burgon joins Alford in showing the weakness of basing the grammar and the translation on the super-weak and conjectural hymn theory.

Then Burgon switches to responding to Ellicott on the grammatical issues, including the absurd grammar in the Revision ("he who was manifested") .. which arose because they tried to use the corruption reasonably literally.
Edward Freer Hills on the hymn theory

Perhaps more than any other group of naturalistic scholars the form-critics are apt to go to extremes, especially in their attempts to bypass the Apostles and discover the origin of Christianity in the "Christian community." Contrary to the Book of Acts and the unanimous testimony of ancient ecclesiastical writers, they represent the Apostles as receiving instruction from the Christian community rather than founding the Christian community upon their doctrine. This is particularly the case with the Apostle Paul. Although Paul solemnly certified that the gospel which he preached was "not after man" nor "received of man" (Gal. 1:11-12), the Form-critics do not hesitate to contradict him and derive his doctrine from the Christian community. They maintain, for example, that some of Paul's most important doctrinal statements concerning the Person and work of Christ (Rom. 1:3-4; 4:25; Eph. 2:14-16, Phil. 2:6-11, Col. 1:15-20, 1 Tim. 3:16) were quotations from certain Christological hymns which had been composed by the Christian community. (88) In these passages therefore, according to the Form-critics, Paul was not teaching the Christian community anything but merely rehearsing to the community what he had learned from it. But who were these unknown hymn makers of the Christian community who were able to mold the thinking of the Apostle Paul? How could these profound theological geniuses have remained anonymous?

(88) New Testament Christological Hymns, by Jack T. Sanders, Cambridge
Press, 1971.

"Pauline Theology in the Letter to the Colossians," by E. Lohse, NTS, vol. 15 (1969), pp. 211-220.

"The Problem of Pre-existence in Philippians 2:6-11," by Charles H. Talbert, JBL, vol. 86, (1967), pp. 141-153.


Hills makes an important point. The hymn theories, in general, have additional unbelieving origins. They are weak in general, 1 Timothy 3:16 was one of the add-ons as the theory was expanded (Moffat took it to greater absurdity) and the theory itself is based on unbelieving paradigms such as late dating of the Epistles, the centrality of the community in developing the Epistles rather than Paul's teaching and revelation. And Paul in a sense plagiarizing his most salient, primary doctrinal teachings... from hymns ... around 60 ADl. None of this makes any sense.

Galatians 1:11-12
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The key points are simple. Paul did not reference this as any sort of material from elsewhere and .. there is not even a hint of evidence that this was a Christian hymn even hundreds or a thousand years later. And that is despite a rich literature about hymns.

For 1 Timothy 3:16 the hymn theory became very important as a shield for the critical text unto the modern versions to hide the grammatical problem.

We can say that sections of Paul's writings have a poetic character and lyrical potential. That is part of New Testament majesty and beauty and excellence.

Simple enough.


Scott Jones some years back referenced Hills and added a number of solid additional thoughts.

False Citations
1 Timothy 3:16 Examined
Scott Jones
https://web.archive.org/web/2013070...al Criticism/Scott Jones/false_citations.html

Good analysis, a little heavy on polemics, see one caveat below.


Here are two references for a pre-1800 hymn theory.

Scott Jones
As far as I can discover it was Griesbach who first invented this THEORY - and THEORY is ALL it is - no doubt in an effort to try to justify the grammatical absurdity

Encyclopedia Brittanica 1911
... there are in St Paul's epistles several passages (Eph. V. 14; I Tim. iii. 16; I Tim. vi. 15, 16; 2 Tim. ii. 11,12) which have so much of the form and character of later Oriental hymnody as to have been supposed by Michaelis and others to be extracts from original hymns of the Apostolic age.

However, I tend to doubt whether Michaelis or Griesbach ever clearly referenced a hymn theory for the verse 1 Timothy 3:16, not even in one of the "fragments" forms.


References for hymn theory in the 1800s, often Ephesisans 5:14 is the central issue.


Michaelis is said here to have some interest in Ephesians 5:14 and hymn theory.

Are the Words Eph v. 14 to be regarded as a quotation from the Old Testament Scriptures? (1851)


Davidson is discussion Ephesians 5:14 as well, the "he saith" having caused more consideration:

Ephesians 5:14
Wherefore he saith,
Awake thou that sleepest,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ shall give thee light.

Sacred Hermeneutics (1843)
Samuel Davidson


College lectures on christian antiquities and the ritual of the English church (1845)
William Bates

Discussion of Grotius and Michaelis. 1 Timothy 3:16 is mentioned, with that tricky word fragments, in the curious reference to 1 Tim. iii. 1-16.


The Old Testament in the New. A Contribution to Biblical Criticism and Interpretation (1868)
David MacCalman Turpie

"Eph. v. 14 ... Others, as Doepke, after Theodoret and Heumann, think it was borrowed from a Chrislian Hymn, used in the Church in apostolic days, and Michaelis, Storr and Flatt follow this view. But this is mere conjecture; and Olshausen aptly remarks ... "
The paper by Robert H. Gundry is good to show you the wide variety of differing theories and wasted time when a errant idea is followed.

The Form, Meaning and Background of the Hymn Quoted in 1 Timothy 3:16 (1970)
Robert H. Gundry

You can see that this paper is virtually worthless for scholarship about the hymn theory.

Henry Alford is mentioned on the first page, and yet his strong and clear opposition to the theory is not mentioned. "common consent" is claimed, except for those who bypass or rebut the nonsense.

This paper actually adds some good thoughts. (Putting aside the normal scholarship equivocation, rather than simply affirming the pure word of God.)

I'll simply place in the url for now, the hymn info is mainly p. 14 to the conclusion, p. 18.

«Who Was Manifested In The Flesh?A Consideration Of Internal Evidence In Support Of A Variant In 1 Tim 3:16A», (2003).
Stephen W. Frary

At the moment, the nonsense of the contra "who was manifest" hymn theory is best responded to by working with Alford, Burgon, Hills, Scott Jones and Frary. This could be combined into a good short article, with lots of potential for value-added.

While objectively this is pummelling a phantom nothing theory, it is significant because when the grammatical issue is raised, you can expect the hymn excuse to come forth to try to deflect the problem.
Peter on NT Textual Criticism goes to native Greek fluent friend

Incidentally, note the following discussion, this is all about the grammar of 1 Timothy 3:16:


Peter Streitenberger

"... I did a test and let one "neutral" native Greek Speaker with expertise in ancient Greek read the Version of the critical text "he who is manifested" - and he stumbled immediately - that's not correct Greek and definetly a mistake of someone, he stated. ... "


Note my additional note that if the Greek copyists also knew the grammar was horrid with ὅς, as did this Greek speaker, that would explain why they would use the mss with θεός or ΘΣ in preference over the few with the corruption. Common sense. And thus, about 99% of the Greek mss have the pure Bible reading. The corruption could not hold.

However, once the corruption settled into the versional lines by some early missteps, they would not be easily corrected, as the grammar there is acceptable.
Daniel Wallace is interesting in dancing around this problem in the text. Let's allow his mistaken idea (remember, he is not Greek fluent) that the text is ok with the "who" corruption, linking the ὅς with the mystery, despite the gender mismatch.

"Such an expression is abhorrent alike to Grammar and to Logic, is intolerable, in Greek as in English." - Burgon

And thus attempting to counter Burgon (and many others not referenced by Wallace) who have emphasized the huge grammatical problem (actually the problem is a combination of grammar and sense):

Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (2005)
Daniel Wallace

".. the syntactical argument that "'mystery' (μυστήριον) being a neuter noun, cannot be followed by the masculine pronoun ( ὅς)" is entirely without weight."

Yet, you look at the charlatan's NETBible:

"And we all agree, our religion contains amazing revelation: He was revealed in the flesh"

Wallace simply trashes the very grammatical "fix" he (mistakenly) claimed.

Note though (in Greek Grammar..) that he does acknowledge that his Greek text does lack the "explicit reference" to the "deity of Christ"
James White praises Burgon analysis

The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? (1995)
James Robert White
1 Timothy 3:16 - p. 261

There is much to be said in defending the KJV rendering of 1 Timothy 3:16 as "God was manifest in the flesh." In fact, I prefer this reading and feel it has sufficient support in the Greek manuscripts. I also can agree with the majority of the comments made on the topic long ago by Dean Burgon. ** (p. 261)

** See Dean John William Burgon, Proof of the Genuineness of God Manifested in the Flesh in various editions of his works.

Now, personally, I prefer the reading "God," and can argue for it on textual grounds. - James White - (1996)


Revision Revised p. 424-501
God was manifested in the flesh
Shown to be the True Reading of 1 Timothy III.16
A Dissertation
John William Burgon


In the spirit of Inconsistency and confusion that buffets critical text supporters attacking the pure Bible, the only text that James White actually does defend is the text that he considers a corruption!
Johann August Ernestii

Here is a little note by the learned Johann August Ernesti (1707-1781). This was his discussion of textual principles, his defense of the pure Bible text is in Specimen castigationum Wetstenii, possibly untranslated from the Latin. Ernesti and Baumgarten were two German
Principles of Biblical interpretation, Volume 2 (1848, originally 1761 Latin)
Johann August Ernesti

"... still more is the goodness of a reading marked by its accordance with the design of the author, the scope of the whole passage, and the general analogy of doctrine and revealed truth. Thus, in 1 Tim. iii. 16, we say that θεός is the preferable reading, not because it affords an argument for the divinity of Christ, but because it alone agrees with the context, and is grammatically the most correct."
Kevin Deegan
Didn't Some one like Jerome (cant remember who exactly) claim many ancient scribes did not even understand the greek they copied?

Steven Avery .
The comment from Jerome is interesting, it seems to be about people translating his words. This is the one that I see :

Vigilantius and his Times (1844)
William Stephen Gilly

"I have so much to do, and am so beset with pilgrims, that I am not always able to read over what I have written. Therefore, when you find any paradox in my letters, or anything inaccurately expressed, attribute it to your own misapprehensions, or to the errors and carelessness of my amanuenses, who sometimes inscribe what I did not indite, or they did not understand, and while they attempt to correct other people's errors, exhibit their own."


Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri (2008)
James Ronald Royse

... Jerome's complaints concerning copies of his writings (Letter 71.5, cited by Jack Finegan. Encountering New Testament Manuscripts (Grand Rapids: Peril mans, 1974] 55, as well as by Metzger and Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament, 260 n. 13), which contain errors "imperitiae notariorum librariorumque incuriae, qui scribunt non quod inveniunt, sed quod intelligunt; et dum alienos errores emendare nituntur, ostendur suos" (Migne, Patrologia Latina 22:671)." (Migne, Patrologia Lalina 22:671).

Epistle 71.5 is the letter to Lucinus Boeticus


Augustine has a well-known comment about the abundance of Italic (Old Latin) translations.

Tertullian I think discusses the discipline of a particular scribe who added to the text.

It would be good to see if such quotes and references are combined in one study.
Pat, I would prefer to have any discussion of the textual evidences, such as the approximately 1% of Greek mss that support ος being more or less relevant than the 99% of Greek mss that support "God was manifest..." on another thread.

Same is true
on the complex debate on the reading in a couple of mss. Same is true on the ECW.

I've tried to focus this one very specifically on the grammar issues, and related topics like the hymn theory.

1 Timothy 3:16 (AV)
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.

"There is scarcely another passage in which all the mysteries of our redemption are explained so magnificently or so clearly."
Theodore Beza, specifically referencing the text with word God.

Now, some of what we have dealt with on this thread:


a) hortian-style textual writers who acknowledge the solecism in their text, either directly or indirectly

Samuel Prideaux Tregelles
Westcott and Hort
George Vance Smith
Alfred Plummer
Bruce Metzger
Murray Harris


b) hortian textual writers who are blatantly inconsistent

Daniel Wallace (on the grammatical problem)
James White (on authenticity)


c) Greek fluent scholars aghast as the solecism

See Peter Streitenberger posts on NT Textual Criticism. This is an area deserving further study.


d) hymn theory - early qualified consideration

William John Conybeare & John Saul Howson
Charles John Ellicott

Once Hort weighed in, the parrots would be a-chiriping.


e) form criticism brought forth (general, not just Timothy) hymn theory
See refs in:

Edward Freer Hills
Stephen Frary
Larry Helyar (refs are in the Colossian verse discussion)


e) hymn theory - countered and refuted

John William Burgon
Edward Freer Hills
Stephen Frary
Scott Jones

All except Frary highlight strongly the hymn theory as a diversion shill to hide the faux grammar.


f) general references

Some refs for early general hymn conjectures

Ernesti - early writing in favor of pure Bible grammar
(See John Berriman, to be added as one of the earliest)

This in general can use a separate historical review. e.g. where are Maurice Robinson and Jonathan Borland?. Where are TR-AV defenders other than Scott Jones?

Leo Tolstoy
(follows in tradition of Grotius, Newton, Wetstein)


Next, we can go back to the earliest writing on the grammar problem, especially looking at Berriman and Henderson.


Here is a general resource I compiled last year.

[TC-Alternate-list] 1 Timothy 3:16 - God was manifest in the flesh - God, who, which, he who, he - grammatical question
Steven Avery - February, 2013

12 Scholars Significant to the Grammatical Concern on 1 Timothy 3:16

Many of these gentlemen were top linguists.

Isaac Newton (1643-1727)
John Berriman (1691-1768)
Siegmund Jakob Baumgarten (1706-1757) - Latin
Johann August Ernesti (1707-1781) - Latin (main section)
Christian Frederick Matthaei (1744-1811) - Latin - n/a online?
John Jones (1766-1827)
Frederick Nolan (17841864)
Samuel Thomas Bloomfield (1790-1829)
Joseph John Gurney (1788-1847)
Ebenezer Henderson (1784-1858)
John William Burgon (1813-1888)
Frederick Field (1801-1885)

The grammatical discussion has become interesting over at CARM. This has been a research project that I wanted to do for about 3 years :).

First, understand that we have a 3-prong discussion.

1) Pure Bible .. friendly conferencing

2) NT Textual Criticism - Facebook, hosted by James Snapp

Lots of good stuff there.

3) CARM - where I have my fan club. It also has the nice RTF that is easier to read. (However, posts can vanish in a year or two.)

A Second Challenge To Steven Avery (1 Timothy 3:16)

You will likely find a lot of the posting rant-tiring. I let it go by, the issues are too important.

If you don't skim the whole thread, I suggest these posts as complementary to our discussion here.

This first one has sort of been covered on the two Facebook forums.

six analogy verses from Maurice Robinson defending minority corruption grammatically
Post #23

the "he who" grammatical train wreck - Wallace contra Robinson
Post #29

Post #29 is largely new. Follow it with post #30. (short).
Gordon Fee - CT text is "ungrammatical" - ergo hymn theory
One irony here is that the cornfuseniks are often more willing to acknowledge the grammatical absurdity of their text than would be expected.
Especially in contexts that are not directly defending the textus corruptus. And partly because of the dynamic of the hymn nonsense.
Here is Gordon Donald Fee (b. 1934)
To what End Exegesis?: Essays Textual, Exegetical, and Theological
Philippians 2:5-11: Hymn or Exalted Pauline Prose? (2001, originally 1992)
Gordon D. Fee
1 Tim. 3:16.... the connection of the ὅς to the rest of the sentence is ungrammatical, thus suggesting that it belonged to an original hymn (and should be translated with a "soft" antecedent, "he who").
Read carefully! :)
In an unguarded moment, the truth comes out. Not only is the CT ungrammatical, the reason for thinking it is a hymn is a result of recognizing that their text is ungrammatical!
(Modern version circularity at work.)
And in 1980, reprinted in 1993, the charlatan is defending the corruption in order to attack Burgon and Pickering
Studies in the Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism
Gordon D. Fee
"The Theory and Method of New Testament Textual Criticism"
p. 205-207 - Conclusion - A Test Case
... and Fee does not even mention the grammar!
Fee slips in the hymn theory .... "appears to be citing a hymn" and then assumes this "appears" as true in making his argument that there could not be doctrinal tampering corruption.
"Therefore, the allegation that a change from "God" to "he who" was done by theological tampering is simply not true."
ie. Fee flunks Logic 101 .... (whether or not there was doctrinal tampering involved.)
Then Fee gives a brazen and transparent lie:
Gordon Fee
The text "he who" clearly refers to Christ, and all the christological import is there in the original."
Even folks like Wallace admit otherwise, saying in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics that the CT Greek text 1 Timothy lacks the "explicit reference" to the "deity of Christ". (p. 342)
Here is a bit from Wilbur Pickering, who the charlatan was trying to attack.

Pickering is one of the few solid writers on the verse in recent years.


"The collocation "the mystery . . . who" is even more pathologic in Greek than it is in English ... grammatically aberrant reading"

So Fee and Pickering at least agree that the CT text is ungrammatical :).


The Identity of the New Testament Text II - Ch. 5
The History of the Text
"Or to take a specific case, in 1 Tim. 3:16 some 600 Greek MSS (besides the Lectionaries) read "God" while only seven read something else. Of those seven, three have private readings and four agree in reading "who."[43] So we have to judge between 99% and 0.6%, "God" versus "who." It is hard to imagine any possible set of circumstances in the transmissional history sufficient to produce the cataclysmic overthrow in statistical probability required by the claim that "who" is the original reading.

... .(textual analysis)

... The collocation "the mystery . . . who" is even more pathologic in Greek than it is in English. It was thus inevitable, once such a reading came into existence and became known, that remedial action would be attempted. "the mystery . . . which," is generally regarded as an attempt to make the difficult reading intelligible.

(textual on "which")
(ECW summary section)

As for the grammatically aberrant reading, "who," aside from the MSS already cited, the earliest version that clearly supports it is the gothic (fourth century). To get a clear Greek Patristic witness to this reading pretty well requires the sequence musthrion oj efanerwqh since after any reference to Christ, Savior, Son of God, etc. in the prior context the use of a relative clause is predictable. Burgon affirmed that he was aware of no such testimony (and his knowledge of the subject has probably never been equaled) (Ibid., p. 483).

..... The reading "who" is admittedly the most difficult, so much so that to apply the "harder reading" canon in the face of an easy transcriptional explanation [the accidental omission of the two lines] for the difficult reading seems unreasonable.

As Burgon so well put it:

I trust we are at least agreed that the maxim "proclivi lectioni praestat ardua," does not enunciate so foolish a proposition as that in choosing between two or more conflicting readings, we are to prefer that one which has the feeblest external attestation,—provided it be but in itself almost unintelligible? (Revision Revised, p. 497).
Moule - unattached to any antecedent

Charles Francis Digby Moule (1908-2007)
Now that they have the crutch of the hymn theory, and have deluded each other in the hortian fog that the theory has any substance, the NT scholars will occasionally speak the truth about the grammar.


Birth of the New Testament (1st edition 1962)
C. F. D. Moule
http://www.katapi.org.uk/BirthOfNT/Ch2.html (2013)

"1 Tim.iii.16 ... notoriously difficult to squeeze these six lines at all convincingly into conformity with any logical pattern... however it may be analysed or arranged, it remains highly probable that this really is a very early Christian hymn: the very fact that it starts abruptly with a relative pronoun unattached (apparently) to any antecedent suggests a quotation from something that the reader already knew and would recognize"

http://books.google.com/books?id=ipWvAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA34 (2000)
the very fact that, in the Greek, it starts abruptly with a relative pronoun unattached (apparently) to any antecedent suggests a quotation from something that the reader already knew and would recognize; the succession of aorist indicative passives makes a monotonous rhyme; a


So again, the "evidence" for the hymn theory is largely the corruption itself being ungrammatical. Circularity, the jewel.
the thread should be dedicated to the grammatical issue, to which the hymn is related. Textual ms evidence and ECW are generally elsewhere.

Alford is one of the very strong writers debunking the hymn concept. Burgon, Scott Jones, Stephen Frary and others all help in this regard.

However, in terms of textual perspective, Alford was often an early opponent of the pure Bible (in between Griesbach and the Hortian apostasy). Thus Alford gives a fairly normal spin against "God was manifest in the thread." His grammatical "out" was a form of constructio ad sensum.
Patrick Fairbairn rejects hymn theory nonsense
A bit above I referenced Henry Alford, a contra who had the insight to reject the hymn theory.
Patrick Fairbairn (1805-1874)

similarly had this insight. Fairbairn is especially known for his writing on NT-OT typology and was also crystal clear about this deficient theory (even while offering another weak theory to try to allow ὅς, ironically even while rejecting other common CT modern version corruption tries, including ὅς == "he who".)


Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (1874)
Patrick Fairbairn

Ellicott does well in rejecting other modes of explanation; such as considering it at once as demonstrative and relative, "He who," or making it equivalent to ecce est qui. But I see no reason for supposing, with him, Huther, and others, that the passage introduced by the relative is part of an ancient hymn or confession adopted by the apostle. The natural supposition, I agree with Alford in thinking, would appear rather to lie the other way. It was more likely that such a passage — a passage so singularly profound and pregnant in meaning—should have been first penned by the apostle, and then possibly passed into some kind of hymnal or liturgical use (though of this we have no certain information), than that, from having been so used, it should have been caught up by the apostle, and woven into his discourse. Its parallelistic struicture is no argument against this ; for in other parts of the apostle's writings we find him, in his fervent utterances, falling into the same kind of parallelism —Rom. viii. 38, 39, xi. 33-36; 1 Cor. xv. 55-57.


Hymn theory is a type of robbery by modern theorists of the glory and majesty and excellence of the apostolic writings.
The writers who have had a clear head about hymn (confession, liturgy, poem, etc) fragment theory include:
Henry Alford
Patrick Fairbairn
John William Burgon
Edward Freer Hills
Scott Jones
Stephen Frary
Wilbur Pickering

Gordon Fee is important because of his bluntly saying that the grammatical problem led to the hymn acceptance.

Stephen Frary gives references that are helpful in showing the weakness of hymn theory in general. Similarly Alan C. Mitchell writing on Hebrews. The ones above specifically focus on 1 Timothy 3:16. This is a whole study/research project that is needed. :)
New ... two posts on CARM about the bogus hymn theory, from the thread "A Second Challenge To Steven Avery (1 Timothy 3:16)".

the bogus hymn theory - one refuge today of 1 Timothy 3:16 solecism dancers
Steven Avery - 6-25-2014

John F. Balchin - hymn theory stylistic support disassembled - Christology sources
Steven Avery - 6-26-2014

"We have no actual parallel anywhere in ancient literature, Christian, Jewish or pagan, which justifies our using the description of ‘hymn’ for the passage as it stands, or for any of its scholarly redactions" - Balchin on the Colossians section, which applies to our Timothy section.
Kevin Deegan
As for the actual evidence the massive preponderance has changed very little since Burgon cited it thus:

Evidence for THEOS ("God") N.T. Greek Manuscripts
(Lectionaries & Copies) = 289
Ancient N.T. Versions = 3
Greek Church Fathers = c. 20

Evidence for HO ("which") N.T. Greek Manuscripts = 1
Ancient N.T. Versions = 5
Greek Church Fathers = 2


over 300 mss read "God was manifest"
Only 8 say something else!
5 say "WHO", 3 have private interpretations.
The single word who is then translated as he who.

Therefore, the bible correcting scholars insist that Paul was quoting, an INCOMPLETE SENTENCE, having a subject without a predicate AND even that, has been left DANGLING!

So here we have over 300 WITNESSES FOR
while there are only 8 against.
The witnesses against, can not even agree with each other!

Jesus Christ endured many a false witness, so too His word.
Mark 14:56 For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.

PROF. CHARLES HODGE -- Re. "God" in I Tim. 3:16: "For God, we find the great body of the cursive manuscripts, and almost all of the Greek fathers, and the internal evidence is decidedly in favour of the common text."

Evidence for HOS ("who") N.T. Greek Manuscripts = 6
Ancient N.T. Versions = 1
Greek Church Fathers = 0x
[Dean John W. Burgon, Revision Revised, pp. 486-496].
Brian on 1 Timothy 3:16 grammar

Back around 2001 and 2002, a gentleman named brian (realbrian and brianrw and therealbrianw) contributed many fine posts on the BVDB forum. Often on the heavenly witnesses.

And I actually asked in the intervening years if anyone could identify the gentleman and if he was still active on the net.

Today, a pleasant surprise. Brian contributed a post on the 1 Timothy 3:16 thread (where they were attacking my posts however their censorship policy would prevent my giving any response :) ). And, Brian's post is generally spot-on, and adds to the discussion, and I will bring it all over here.


1 Timothy 3:16
Being honest about the grammar of ὅς in 1 Timothy 3:16
brianrw - August 19, 2014

I think what we all need to remember that it is incredibly tempting and easy to hide theological and grammatical difficulties in translation, and advance justification for it whether it is worthy or not. (ex., Romans 9:5 and Titus 2:13 in the NWT; Zechariah 12:10 in Jewish bibles)

I say these things because if 1 Timothy 3:16 with ὅς were so grammatically correct and simple for the Greek speaking world over the centuries, we wouldn't expect to find ameliorations such as Ὃ in its place, we would expect that it would have been widely enough circulated in the manuscript tradition to survive more than just a few Greek copies. We also would expect the argument for ὅς as opposed to Θεὸς wouldn’t need to gain strength by overturning centuries of eyewitness testimonies regarding certain ancient mss to tip the scales in its favor. Perhaps we would also expect to find a consensus within the scholarly community over the last couple centuries as to just how the passage is to be translated, and many more solid examples from other scriptures in support of the grammar as it stands; we would not expect to have to resort to an “early Christian hymn fragment” theory, for which there is no tangible evidence, to justify the difficult construction.

But instead we find the opposite. The passage with ὅς has few supporters in the mss tradition and virtually none in the Greek patristic tradition (and none in the versions except perhaps the Ethiopic). Its difficulty is also evidenced by the lack of consensus as to the translation over the last century or two. (Brandpluckt himself even advances two mutually exclusive solutions for the passage in this same thread!). In the end, it is considered acceptable to ameliorate the passage in translation by employing "Christ was" (noun, not a relative), "He who was" (personal pronoun, not a relative), and "He was" (personal pronoun, not a relative) so long as the text does not contain the word "God". Now, commonly, when we see such a thing we ought to view it with suspicion, not greet it with acceptance. Even "who was" has to be discarded due to improper grammatical connections as well as the Greek equivalent to a colon in mss such as A and C. The difficulty is also evidenced by the weakness of the passages improperly used to defend the difficult construction: John 16:13 (the pronoun does have an antecedent, "Comforter" in v. 7), and Colossians 1:27 where ὅς refers back to ὅ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης…, not τοῦ μυστηρίου. And also now in this forum, 1 John 1:1, is just as weak a defense.

In 1 John 1:1, Ὃ ἦν ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς...περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς means, "What was from the beginning...concerning the word of life". A "headless" relative means there's no antecedent; "without antecedent" only means that there is nothing preceding the pronoun, not that there is no referent. When Culy speaks of these as being placed "in apposition", he means they all have the same referent: they are all things concerning the word of life. This is not an uncommon construction throughout the New Testament, but there’s a reason why it should not be advanced in defense of ὅς in 1 Timothy 3:16: Ὃ or ὅς can be used as demonstrative pronouns ("this," "that," "what", "which", or even "one who/he who" as in "whoever" in general) or relative ("who", "which" in a specific sense); but "he" or "he who," *specifically*, is outside its scope. Since ὅς in 1 Timothy 3:16 would have neither antecedent nor referent, it would refer to nothing specifically, and would generally be floating free of grammatical connection. So then it would bear the force of "whoever was manifest in the flesh," which would be all of us. Hence the colon and the "early Christian hymn" theory.

I hope this is helpful.



There are a couple of points that I see differently, and/or would request clarification and discussion. As an example:

" ὅς ... "he who," *specifically*, is outside its scope "

this may be an overstatement, for the cases where ὅς has a clear personal referent can be translated in this way. However, it is 100% accurate for the 1 Timothy 3:16 text.


Especially cogent is how Brian describes the mutually contradictory contra theories, their floating around looking for an explanation for the hanging relative pronoun.


Brian on the grammatical problem in the critical text .. round 2

There was a little defensive response to Brian, claiming that the poster was not trying to really explain the confusion and contradictory approaches of the CT defenders. Only that they thought that the Maurice Robinson hand-wave on the grammar problem was fine. It was not, Maurice Robinson was simply in error. And I did write to him about it, and looked over many historical and technical aspects, including a Greek review with a gentleman who is normally close to Maurice on textual issues. And I can say that Maurice Robinson erred on this one with 100% certainty. There is in fact a major grammatical problem in the Critical Text of 1 Timothy 3:16. And that problem, for Bible believers, should be pretty much a wipe-out of the CT attempt (pure Bible grammatical defense nicely combined with the 99% of Greek mss, the doctrinal lucidity and majesty and clarity, the Christological emphasis, is simply a nice bonus :). )

Now to

"...what I have observed while reading commentaries on the passage that were written spanning the last three centuries. Many say it is correct according to NT usage; yet there seems no agreement as to just what "correct" is (distant antecedent? the mystery? Christ? God? Hymn theory?). And most of those who claim it is "correct" use grammatical arguments that are refuted by others on both sides. It seems that "grammatically correct" in this verse means anything that makes some intelligible sense out of the reading so long as the reading is not "God was manifest".

To this I say a hearty amen. Brian really gets it. And you can add to the list ideas like the gospel or the church of the living God and constructio ad sensum as even more whooooss.

Generally though the fallback position has been hymn theory, a poorly veiled excuse for allowing decrepit anti-grammar. Since the real text, in this theory, was in the truncated ethereal illusory hymn! You don't get much dumber than that, it is a turnip-truck theory. And that is being a bit unkind to turnips.


Brian continued with a more general overview.:
"It's unnerving enough to find poor textual decisions being made resulting in nonsensical readings from variants which are more easily explained away as simple scribal mistakes in a few MSS, rather than scribal ameliorations in the many. But when we must devise new grammatical rules to force such difficult variants to be grammatically correct, I believe our hearts are too hard and our eyes are too blind to see clearly what we are doing to the scriptures we are supposed to be following."

Amen. Brian has always been a clear writer with good thinking about the Bible. And it is an interesting point. So many of the contras really do not proclaim the CT. Yet they find themselves taking terrible positions on variants like 1 Timothy 3:16 because their guiding textual theory is that the AV can not be simply pure and true, not even on the one verse! So they run into any brick wall they can find.

(Remember the James White dance, he even had to try to renounce his own preference affirming of the pure Bible text here. The contra corp might have taken away some of his 2nd lieutenant stripes.)


Brian contra smackdown

Two more posts.

It's fun to watch some one who knows their stuff. There is a lot there pointing out the specifics of the Maurice Robinson error on the grammar of 1 Timothy 3:16 (Robinson claiming the grammar of the CT it is fine and dandy even while not scripture).

Here are three more general extracts about the CT and modern version (not) "God was manifest in the flesh" conundrum:

"So ὃς is left to their imagination, and that is precisely why there’s so many varying opinions of how it should be treated. It’s anarchic by nature, and we have to wonder if that’s a direction the Spirit is leading us, or if it is the consequence of those who, serving their own interests, are by good words and fair speeches deceiving the hearts of the simple."

Romans 16:18
For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.


1 Timothy 3:16
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.

"It’s a marvel, to me at least, that Paul would so grandly state how great this mystery was, so that it is without any controversy whatsoever, then having his reader’s attention to explain this great mystery with dramatic pause, proceeds to write perhaps the most ambiguous and controversial grammatical statement in all the New Testament. The one who was manifested did what? Or did he mean that the one who was manifested was this great mystery of godliness? Is it that “Christ” was manifest in the flesh? All men are manifest in the flesh and seen of angels. How would it be a marvel that He was seen, except that the angels should behold that which is unseen? That is, God? Then why would he not say "God"? ... (historical description) ... And when they began to gain momentum but were set back because they could not make sense of the verse with “who,” they invented a hymn, for which they had no evidence. Is any of this worthy of alarm?"

And one specific historico/grammatical note.

"As for the distant antecedent, that argument is largely discounted because the thought is made anew with "And without controversy," as well as the fact that Paul may as well in that case have just written God, because even with the distant antecedent theory the grammar is weird. It was one of the original proposals and was met with much resistance. The only thing that worked in the end was the hymn theory, and that's how it's been for a long time."


two more posts from Brian, with a bumbling contra in between, with rather amazing "logic".

Feel free to take any point for discussion here. I will say that overall my position is virtually 100% in agreement with that of Brian, and that based largely on a good dollup of historical study. Although there have been a couple of places where I would tweak points, there are also many places where Brian has done the best job of anyone to date laying out the issues.

(Note: It is hard to compare with men like Berriman, Henderson and Burgon, because in those days some of the issues were a bit different, plus they were putting out full monographs. So let's take my compliment as .. best job of anyone since Burgon, and utilizing the former studies as the starting point to deal with the modern contra.)

... writers of the first three centuries (Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus of Rome, etc.) make statements clearly influenced by “God was manifest in the flesh”? And when Gregory of Nyssa in the fourth century explicitly states that “All who preach the word, pronounce the wonder of the mystery to be in this: that ‘God was manifest in the flesh,’ that ‘the Word was made flesh’”". And even when, as he proclaims, we find that it was quoted by almost all the well-known authors in Christian history during that time: Apollinaris of Laodicea, Didymus of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great of Caesarea, Diodorus of Tarsus, John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret of Cyrus, et al? Because that is what is done.
.... Is it right to claim Origen reads "who" (qui) in this place, when the place offered reads "inasmuch as" (quia), which is not part of the quotation at all ("...inasmuch as He-'was-manifest in the flesh'")? And when in the quotation he is speaking of "the Word” being manifest in the flesh? Because that is what is done.

These are not small details. These facts, when corrected, remove the strongest points used against the reading "God was manifest in the flesh".


While I knew the Origen point, this is the first time I have seen it expressed clearly and properly. (Granted, I should go back and check Burgon.)

And there is a brother with whom there is a planned collaboration on the ECW witnesses. Stay tuned.


bumbling contra

"They are the very definition of small details. "

Clearly clueless on the historical controversy, one of the two most significant debates, doctrinally and textually, in the whole Bible. And clueless ont he current usage by unitarians and ebionites and arians for the corruption.

Clueless also how this is used to bring doubt about the pure Bible, yet another hortian bumble, and to oppose the excellence and purity and majesty of the word of God.

"Look, there are four possiblities here... So right out of the starting gate, your chances of being correct are only 1 in 4. "

This is the mother of all logic fails!

Imagine being on a path that has seven forks. Six go all around the mulberry bush. One takes you to the destination. You have taken it 100 times before and it is direct. Plus it has a clear sign and map attached.

The contra would say you have only a 1 in 7 chance of the path actually working :). This is the type of logic used contra the pure Bible.


Brian (continues, 2nd post extracts)

καὶ ὁμολογουμένως μέγα ἐστὶν τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον· Θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί

καὶ ὁμολογουμένως μέγα ἐστὶν τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον· ὃς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί

The hard pause is like our colon or semi-colon. Truthfully the only ancient manuscript that reads ὃς unequivocally is Sinaiticus, and it doesn’t contain the pause. The hard pause comes from codices A and C, which (as noted in my previous post) read “God”, and is taken from them. The modern reading to my knowledge, as put together above with the hard pause, doesn’t really exist in any ancient manuscript. However, it is easier to support the hymn theory with it.

The KJV uses a noun, “God”, so no antecedent is needed: "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, etc." is perfect grammar in both Greek and English, without any controversy in translation whatsoever. The modern would be, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: who was manifest in the flesh, etc.” And since it is ambiguous in Greek, and very bad English, there is still debate over the translation.


One of the CARM posters, student of Daniel Wallace, whom I do not quote on CARM and do not make any direct responses, had actually wasted bandwidth boldly :) asking me a dozen times why "God" did not have the antecedent problem of "who". I was laughing every time he postured with that question, because it was so dumb. And If he wants the answer read above, which applies in Greek and English:

"The KJV uses a noun, “God”, so no antecedent is needed: "

As for the hard pause, very fine exposition.


More from Brian, I suggest you read the post:

"Look at the New World translation. They keep “who” and never bat an eye. To them, it doesn’t, and never has, and never will proclaim the Deity of Christ. Because in the Greek, it really doesn’t. "

Amen. Read that carefully. 100% true.

Brian knows the history. And the same goes for every arian and low christology (unitarian, ebionite, adoptionist) group and their versions.


An interesting side-point is that the bogus Granville Sharp rule, a true embarrassment, was attempted to be pushed largely to compensate for the "loss" of "God was manifest in the flesh". Error begot error.



Next, the contra went to Richard A. Young for an attempt to smooth out or justify the critical text solecism. Which is post #23 which you can see on the thread and is here:
1 Timothy 3:16
Young's Intermediate New Testament Greek Grammar

Young tried to make a case similar to that of Maurice Robinson that the grammar is fine (or fine enough, per Young) by giving supposed analogy verses. This general attempt is old hat from the 1800s discussions, easily disassembled by Frederick Nolan, Ebenezer Henderson and John William Burgon.

Young's trick is to limit himself to the grammatical mismatch - mish-a-mosh - and he does not deal with the lack of a referent or an object in 1 Timothy 3:16. Much less yet the confused ambiguity in what is supposed to be "without controversy".

Here are the two verses and the Brian responses and my add-ons.


Brian - post #24

Philemon 1:10
I beseech thee for my son Onesimus,
whom I have begotten in my bonds:|

In Παρακαλῶ σε περὶ τοῦ ἐμοῦ τέκνου, ὃν ἐγέννησα ἐν τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου, Ὀνήσιμον, the neuter pronoun refers back grammatically to τοῦ ἐμοῦ τέκνου in the accusative in anticipation of Ὀνήσιμον and has all the elements necessary for good grammar ("I beseech you concerning my son whom I have begotten in my chains, Onesimos"). The grammatical structure is completely dissimilar to 1 Timothy 3:16 which has neither antecedent nor referent. And, neither is there any object.

This I have never seen given as an analogy attempt. In fact. τέκνου (son) is neuter, and the son is the masculine individual Onesimus, making it one of the real true constructio ad sensums (which are often over-stretched, as when such claims are made for "mystery".)

The antecedent is 100% clear, the grammatical structure is sure, and there is nothing difficult with the grammar at all, and no analogy to 1 Timothy 3:16.

In Timothy, even if you allowed the ultra-dubious stretch of a constructio ad sensum to mystery (a mystery is not a person, and interpretations of the mystery include e.g the gospel, the reader would be totally confused having to read ahead to try to make any forced sense at all) the grammar still falls apart.


Revelation 13:14
And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.

the beast, which
τῷ θηρίῳ ὃ

One ultra-minority corruption in the Critical Text is used to defend another ultra-minority corruption! Amazing.

And even if you stretch and allow the corrupt text to be ok by constructio ad sensum (very dubious) there would be no analogy because the referent is clear, the "who" would have to refer to the beast, and the grammatical structure is otherwise sound.

Brian kept it clear and simple:
"areas of textual variation (Revelation 13:14 in the majority of Greek manuscripts as well as Aleph, reads θηρίῳ ὃ with both neuter...)"


Brian also dealt again with the hard stop, which is fine in the pure Bible text yet another problem with the relative pronoun.

And he dealt again the huge significance of the corruption to the islamists, and all sorts of aberrant beliefs like the JWs that do not want to recognize that Jesus Christ is:

"God manifest in the flesh".



Brian gives a neat 5-point summary.
(4) was omitted, so I will correct that:
1 Timothy 3:16
from a naturalistic standpoint...
brianrw - August 30, 2014

From a naturalistic standpoint, the original reading being Θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί makes the most sense. The nomina sacra (ΘC with a macron over it) is often found in ancient codices where the text has been found to be worn or faded, and can be demonstrated on numerous occasions in areas not surrounded by controversy to be mistakenly written as OC or to have either the diameter of the Theta or the macron fade away and become unobservable. The reverse, however, is by far less likely and not really plausible at all.

That this is most likely to have occurred here is evidenced by these things:

1. 98% of all Greek codices extent in this place read "God". About 2% read "who", and even less (1 MS) read "which". From a naturalistic standpoint, "God" is far more likely to be miswritten as "who" than for "who" to be miswritten as "God". These things suggests "who" and "which" are later corruptions that failed to gain a significant foothold in the MS tradition.

2. Two of the oldest texts (A and C) actually are faded away in this place, and though historic testimony records the original reading was "God," later critics after the text faded began using them in favor of "who". This demonstrates one of the naturalistic explanations for how "God" can be mistakenly read as "who".

3. Two uncials (the Greek and Latin diglots F and G), representing the Western text from which many ancient versions were translated, and which are listed as witnessing "who", actually read OC with the macron still present over them, which occurs only in those manuscripts where "God" has been miscopied. This demonstrates the second of the naturalistic explanations for how "God" can be mistakenly read as "who." It also gives evidence to why the Latins contain a relative ("which"), because the interlinear Latin translation is contained in each manuscript along with the Greek and reads quod.

4. "God" is handed down in the Greek MS tradition without controversy. The Greek writers likewise, from the earliest quotation of the verse in the third century (and even earlier for those who clearly reference it) are virtually unanimous in reading "God was manifest in the flesh". The reading "who" is not found unambiguously in the quotation of any Greek Patristic source. If it were the original reading, surely it would have survived somewhere.

5. Lastly is the internal evidence. "God was manifest in the flesh" is without controversy perfect grammar, and "who" is at its very best ambiguous, and has been the matter of much controversy over the last three centuries, if we concede it to be proper at all. Alone, one might say the weight of internal evidence is not convincing enough. However, when combined with points 1 through 4, the internal evidence further supports the case that the error moved in the direction from "God" (original) to "who" (error), and not vice versa.


Fine all around. The Greek ms % numbers are actually a bit more favorable than given.

And I had to check up the Codex Ephraemi (C) situation to make sure this was accurate.

And I would omit the "if we concede it to be proper at all" .. after all, the contras themselves, in their rare lucid day, acknowledge that the CT is ungrammatical.

For fairness I would include the simple fact that the versionals do not support "God was manifest..". That is the only significant contra evidence.

(1), (4), and (5) are more than sufficient to demonstrate authenticity.
(2) and (3) are icing .

The weight of the internal evidence, even simply the fact that what is "without controversy" should be crystal clear rather than a mindfield of confusion and fabrication like the hymn theory, with the definite solecism in the CT text, does not have to be tempered in any way. It would be the decisive factor even without the 98-99% Greek ultra-majority. Paul did not write the CT mess-text.


And the one hackneyed counter argument, lectio difficilior has no application, because :

Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique (1973)
West,. Martin Litchfield

When we choose the 'more difficult' reading, however, we must be sure that it is in itself a plausible reading. The principle should not be used in support of dubious syntax, or phrasing that it would not have been natural for the author to use. There is an important difference between a more difficult reading and a more unlikely reading. p. 51

The cluelessness of the contras on the BVDB forum to the grammatical problem in 1 Timothy 3:16 is truly amazing. As they clutch at any wisp of a straw in the wind.
Here is the latest attempt
1 Timothy 3:16

Contra on 23, 28,29 .. brianrw on 24

involving trying to make an analogy between 1 Timothy 3:16 in the CT, literally...:

1 Timothy 3:16
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
who was manifest in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit....

and Philemon 1:10:

Philemon 1:10
I beseech thee for my son Onesimus,
whom I have begotten in my bonds:

The only tiny point in Philemon is that "whom" is masculine while son "teknon" is neuter. Onesimus in the Greek is at the end of the sentence, so it is natural to connect whom with the previous word teknon as the antecedent. So why is there the masculine relative pronoun ὁν? This is simple, as one writer put it:

"The pronoun is masculine since Paul’s “child” is Onesimus who is male."

Which is about as simple, even trivial, a constructio ad sensum as is possible to have, and is even pointed out in the thread by Richard A. Young at #23:

"Relative pronouns normally agree with their antecedent in gender and number. There are exceptions. For example, they may agree with the natural gender of the antecedent rather than the grammatical gender, as in Philemon 10 (τέκνου ὅν) and Revelation 13:14 (θηρίῳ ὅς), where both nouns are neuter but the relative pronouns are masculine." - Richard A. Young, Intermediate New Testament Greek: a Linguistic and Exegetical Approach, 1994, p. 76.

Young gave them the errant idea that 1 Timothy 3:16 is simply, then, a constructio ad sensum as well. Sort of a modern hand-wave of the Timothy grammatical problem.
In response everything that Brian said in post #24 was accurate:

" In Παρακαλῶ σε περὶ τοῦ ἐμοῦ τέκνου, ὃν ἐγέννησα ἐν τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου, Ὀνήσιμον, the masculine pronoun refers to Ὀνήσιμον and has all the elements necessary for good grammar ("I beseech you concerning my son whom I have begotten in my chains, Onesimos"). The grammatical structure is completely dissimilar to 1 Timothy 3:16 which has neither antecedent nor referent. And, neither is there any object."

He simply did not bother to discuss the constructio ad sensum aspect, which had been given by Young.

3 of the humongous points of difference, ignored by Young, and the BVDB cornfusenisk are:

1) a mystery is not a masculine person, like a son.

The reader would have no natural way to make the connection. He may look for a remote antecedent (Christ, God) or a not too remote matching antecedent (oikos == house or church... of the living God) or simply say .. "fergetttabout it .. who knows". Or like another awkward attempt, by Erasmus, the reader might see the gospel there as the mystery. Reading ahead five phrases and then back-masculinizing mystery would be virtually impossible, and a most unique and improbable constructio ad sensum.

And there are on analogies of what you might call a "2-level" constructio, based on inputting into a mystery or an idea or some intangible word, a tangible human person.

2) 1 Timothy 3:16 is recognized even by modern grammarians as having "no real antecedent:" - Daniel Wallace and "ungrammatical" - Gordon Fee. That is why they moved to hymn theory.

3) even if you rigged mystery as the antecedent -- note that this contradicts many of the contras who give other antecedents - the sentence still remains ungrammatical, losing its structure and symmetry (protasis & apodosis, see e.g. Wiesinger, Frederick Field and others) and, more simply, lacking an object.

Thus the "constructio ad sensum" attempt is generally not even attempted today, and usually the bogus "hymn theory" is put in place instead. In that theory, the true original writing, unknown, is outside the NT and Paul simply winged an ungrammatical structure into the NT.


As for Maurice Robinson suppossedly saying the same thing as Young, he actually only said that he saw no grammatical problem, giving other deficient analogies. He did not say how he would resolve any of these problems, or what is the antecedent, or if it was, in his view, a constructio ad sensum. Nor did he give a proposed translation to come up with an object. Robinson felt wrongly that it was sufficient to simply point out that there are cases where ὅς is translated "he who" and leave it at that. (And even there, he included examples where ὅς had the meaning "whosoever.) His attempt is essentially irrelevant.


Returning to those who really looked at the grammar, Johann Wiesinger (1818-1908) wanted to defend the corruption, so even in 1851, after explaining the grammatical problem he ended up with:

"The merely relative designation of the subject by ὅς may then be most
naturally explained by supposing that the apostle makes use of
words taken from another source in order to represent the mystery
of godliness, words which perhaps be found in a hymn (or in a
formula of confession), in which he could take it for granted that
the subject was known." - Biblical Commentary on St. Paul's Epistles, p. 439

For Frederick Field (1801-1885) who may be overall the single best exposition on the grammar of 1 Timothy 3:16, even to pointing out the circular reasoning of one contra attempt, simply read:

Notes on the translation of the New Testament: being the Otium Norvicense (1899)
Frederick Field


Writers today do not realize that the really sharp writers of the 1800s, and not just John William Burgon, were unflummoxed by the Hortian nonsense.


As an example of how the hortian fog and the paralysis of exegesis has moved forward to our day, see Quinn & Wacker, who, struggling with the corruption with the absurd hymn theory, fall back on "Hort said it":

The First and Second Letters to Timothy (2000)

"In any case, F J. A. Hort's defense of hos as the more difficult reading and the one which explains the rest of the variants has won the day in textual criticism." p. 295

As Ernest Cadman Colwell (1901-1974) said:

Studies in Methodology of the Textual Criticism of the NT (orig. 1947)

"The dead hand of Fenton John Anthony Hort lies heavy upon us"

"Hort has put genealogical blinders on our eyes that keep us
from recognizing the major role played by scribal corruption." p. 106


True then, true today, however not for pure Bible believers and defenders. :)

Psalm 119:140
Thy word is very pure:
therefore thy servant loveth it.


Steven Avery
Moule, Fee, Wallace & Harrris acknowledge the CT text is ungrammatical

There should be no surprise that occasionally a modern Greek New Testament writer tries to handwave the grammatical solecism in the CT of 1 Timothy 3:16. After all, they are stuck with the corruption text, Hort said so, and it is supposed to be the word of God. So they will make various dodges and excuses. Vaguely try to make one point and ignore others.

(In terms of motivation, the exception of Maurice Robinson is notable. He simply erred on a technical level, as described above, and the contras are happy to use his error as a major part of their presentation.)

And there should be no surprise that clueless writers, like most of those other than Brian on the current BVDB thread, would seek out any writers who masks the difficulty. And quote them, even if they obviously do not address the issues.

For context, here are a few quotes from modern writers who (often in a context where they were more honest and unguarded) acknowledged the ungrammatical nature of the CT text.

This was all documented on a CARM thread, and hopefully will shortly be part of a special 1 Timothy 3:16 web page writing. I am only giving in this post a few quotes from recent years.

From earlier years, above there is Frederick Field, earlier William R. WIlliams and John William Burgon are excellent. And a moderately long paper could be done on the grammatical discussions in the 19th century, when the thinking on these issues was quite a bit sharper than most all writings today.


Birth of the New Testament (2000)
Charles Francis Digby Moule

it remains likely that I Tim. iii. 16 is, at any rate, a hymn, and from an early period: the very fact that, in the Greek, it starts abruptly with a relative pronoun unattached (apparently) to any antecedent suggests a quotation from something that the reader already knew and would recognize ...


To what End Exegesis?: Essays Textual, Exegetical, and Theological (2001)
Gordon Donald Fee

1 Tim. 3:16. ... the connection of the ὅς to the rest of the sentence is ungrammatical, thus suggesting that it belonged to an original hymn (and should be translated with a "soft" antecedent, "he who").

Fee (perhaps in an unguarded moment, since the paper was on another verse) spoke truthfully.
a) the Critical Text is ungrammatical
b) ergo, the hymn theory became the popular alternative among CT aficionados
Gordon Fee even ventures forth bluntly to say that the suggestion for the hymn theory ... is the CT solecism (i.e. ungrammatical).
The hymn/confession/poem fragment theory allows the antecedent to reside ethereally in the unknown hymn. Quite convenient .

Daniel Wallace

τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον ὅς
["the mystery of godliness, who . . .]). p. 115

"...1 Tim 3:16 most likely has an entirely different (SA: than constructio ad sensum) reason for the masculine relative pronoun—namely, because it is probably an embedded hymn fragment, there is no real antecedent." Greek Grammar and the Personality of the Holy Spirit, 2003, p. 116


Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (2008)
Murray J. Harris

"Coming after the neuter noun μυστήριον, the masculine relative pronoun ὅς is the harder reading and was therefore more prone to scribal correction ('The removal of an apparent solecism," WH 2: appendix 133)... (p. 267)

two grammatical difficulties— the lack of concord with μυστήριον and the absence of an explicit antecedent ... a "weak" relative pronoun ὅς that lacked an antecedent ..." (p. 268)


The issue is simple and clear. Any honest contra (oxymoron alert) would at least acknowledge the difficulty, even if they still struggled with one of the many alternate attempts to defend the corruption.

Steven Avery.

Steven Avery

Earl Smith on the three variants and the grammar of 1 Timothy 3:16

Guest note:

Earl Smith - Comment section

1 Timothy 3:16
In this text, there are at least two variants cited by different manuscript sources which contrast with the majority reading of “θεος”: “ος” and “ο”.

1. In the case of the first, “ος”, it is a masculine singular pronoun which, in the New Testament, almost always refers to an antecedent in the context. There is only one major category of the use of this pronoun form which can stand alone in the context and refer forward, not backward: when it is used in a subjunctival construction with the particle “αν”. For example, in Mark 8:38, Jesus begins to say, “whoever is ashamed of me…” (“ος γαρ αν επαισχύνθη με”). And there are many other examples of the same kind of use. In this case, the pronoun refers forward independently of any previous context and is for all intent and purposes an indefinite full noun referent. It needs and has no antecedent. This is not the case regarding the use in 1 Timothy 3:16. There, “ος” must have an antecedent.

Now, pronouns, in Greek or English, modify their antecedent in gender and number, but not necessarily in case. In this instance, it is masculine singular and must refer to a masculine singular antecedent if it is indeed to fit grammatically in the context. And the only, or nearest, masculine singular antecedent in the context is back in verse 15: the word “θεου”, the word “God” in genitive case. Yet even though it is in a different case as the pronoun which refers back to it, it is still the only one in context that the pronoun could refer to. The words for “mystery”, “godliness” and “church” are neutral, feminine and feminine in respective genders. So even if “ος” were the correct reading, the teaching of the passage would still be that “God” was manifest in the flesh.

SA note: this is extremely difficult, because in verse 15, God is not used as a subject.
1 Timothy 3:15
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God,
which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

However, reading some of the scholars in NT textual criticism of the past century, and hearing various contemporary preachers expound on this text, they all seem to think that verse 16 introduces an early Christian hymn. Now, I’m all for hymns in the church: psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, as Paul bids us to sing to each other. But I ask myself why they might think that this is a hymn without conclusive proof, and I believe the answer is that they cannot quite account for the suddenness of the reference within the context when “ος” appears to come out of nowhere. And so, by saying that Paul was referring to a hymn, they can create the sense that “ος” would already have an independent context of referral known by writer and reader and so is acceptable though abruptly “plunked down” in the context. Their interpretation in this way seems to give “ος” a life of its own from which we can then extrapolate to “Christ” as the ultimate referent. But we see grammatically that the reading of “ος” could not be so independent, for the word “Christ” is not in the context.

2. Now, the other variant is “o”, the neutral pronominal referent, which is the reading explicit in the Vulgate. Grammatically speaking, this variant does fit the context much better than “ος”, for the simple reason that “το μυστεριον” is the immediate neutral referent in the context: the mystery of godliness which…

However, this variant does not seem to be the correct one on account of the fact that the verbs that follow in verse 16 all describe things that happened to a person : “…was manifest in the flesh, justified in spirit, seen of angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, received up into glory..” These actions all describe what happened to Jesus Christ, not a neutral-gender “mystery”. So this would, for me, in addition to the external manuscript evidence, eliminate it as a viable variant.

No, the only word that fits the context both grammatically and theologically is also the word with the best manuscript attestation (98.5%) : “θεος”, a full-referent noun that can stand on its own in the context, is not abruptly thrown into it, refers forward to personal actions that He underwent, and clearly, without controversy, explains who these things happened to, and as such, to exactly WHO the God-Man really is: the Lord Jesus Christ.

SA note- 98.5% of the Greek mss. - maybe higher with one ms. especially contested.

One other thing people don’t understand is this: many manuscript variants that show passages out of order may have been the result of transcription, not from a written manuscript but from memory by those being persecuted and by the burning of manuscripts; so they would have simply written down from memory all that they could as fast as they could to pass it on. And what then if the Lord used editors to try to put some order to it? What of it? Can we honestly say that their work was not inspired or God-driven, God-guided? Should we then ignore such work today by those who claim to be guided by God to make His word clear to others?

Textual critics fall into the trap of pursuing the so-called “original text” up high mountains and across far seas, instead of honoring the Word they have in their midst. But His Word in hand is better than pipe dreams in bushes.

“The Word is nigh thee, in thy heart and in thy mouth; that is, the word of faith which we preach;
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,
and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead,
that shalt be saved”

(Rom 10:9-10).
Very well expressed!

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