1 Tim. 3:16 and Dean Burgon Refuted as a Basis for the Trinity

These are articles I wrote in 2013 which speak directly to Eric Phelps and his constituency who maintain that 1 Tim. 3:16 and Dean Burgon’s defense of the the Trinitarian variation of it, prove the Trinity. I told Eric this stuff but he keeps using the same arguments I refuted years ago:

Triunists often point to 1 Tim 3:16 as the clincher in a Theology Proper debate. Their argument is founded on a weak foundation.

First, the θεός reading is unique content from deprecated manuscripts in the Majority text family.


Even the Romanist version does not contain this reading:


Erasmus even rejected it as spurious:


Erasmus, the Growth of a Mind by James D. Tracy Page 161.

Daniel B. Wallace on the θεός reading in 1 Tim 3:16:

“The textual variant θεός in the place of ὅς has been adamantly defended by some scholars, particularly those of the ‘majority text’ school. Not only is such a reading poorly attested [Footnote: …Not one firsthand of any Greek witnesses prior to the the 8th century read θεός…-DS] but the syntactical argument that ‘mystery’ being a neuter noun, cannot be followed by the masculine pronoun (ὅς) is entirely without weight. As attractive theologically as the reading θεός may be, it is spurious. To reject it is not to deny the deity of Christ, of course; it is just to deny any explicit reference in this text.”

Page 341-342


Vincent’s Word Studies

“God ( Θεος )

But the correct reading is ος who. The antecedent of this relative is not mystery, as if Christ were styled “the mystery,” but the relative refers to Christ as an antecedent; and the abruptness of its introduction may be explained by the fact that it and the words which follow were probably taken from an ancient credal hymn. In the earlier Christian ages it was not unusual to employ verse or rhythm for theological teaching or statement. The heretics propounded their peculiar doctrines in psalms. Clement of Alexandria wrote a hymn in honor of Christ for the use of catechumens, and Arius embodied his heresy in his Thalia which was sung in the streets and taverns of Alexandria. The Muratorian Canon was probably composed in verse. In the last quarter of the fourth century, there are two metrical lists of Scripture by Amphilochius and Gregory Nazianzen.”


Even if the Theos reading were correct, there is no numeric qualification to it and thus we could fairly place this in the Elohim category. Clarke pointed out that if the Theos reading was correct this passage is simply saying the same thing as John 1:1-3.

Burgon argues,

“S. Paul certainly wrote μέγα ἐστὶ τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον; Θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί, (“Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh”) But it requires to be explained at the outset, that the holy Name when abbreviated (which it always was), thus,—ΘΣ (“God”)”

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/36722/36722-h/36722-h.html (99)

You see reader, Burgon knows that the wording in the text is not Θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί. The Θεὸς reading is an inference from an assumed contracted form: ΘΣ.


Burgon states,

“An archetypal copy in which one or both of these slight strokes had vanished from the word ΘΣ (“God”), gave rise to the reading ΟΣ (“who”),—of which nonsensical substitute, traces survive in only two349 manuscripts,—א and 17: not, for certain, in one single ancient Father,—no, nor for certain in one single ancient Version.”

This is the exact opposite thing stated by Sir Issac Newton, in Opera quae exstant omnia, Volume 5,

“What the Latins have done to this text, the Greeks have done to that of St. Paul (Timothy 3.16). For by changing o’ into ΘC, the abbreviation of Θεός, they now read ‘Great is the mystery of godliness: GOD manifested in the flesh.’ Whereas all the churches for the first four or five hundred years, and the authors of all the ancient versions, Jerome, as well as the rest, read, ‘Great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh.’ ”

Page 531


Jerome’s late 4th Century Latin Vulgate states,

“et manifeste magnum est pietatis sacramentum quod manifestatum est in carne iustificatum est in spiritu apparuit angelis praedicatum est gentibus creditum est in mundo adsumptum est in gloria

And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory.”


Bruce M. Metzger , The Text of the New Testament, page 187,

“In i Tim. iii. 16 the earlier manuscripts read OC (‘he who’) while many of the later manuscripts read ΘC (the usual contraction for Θεός, ‘God’). The letters gamma, pi, and tau (F, II, T) were liable to be confused, particularly if the cross-bar on the first and last letters were carelessly drawn, or if the right leg of the pi were too short.”

Samuel Clarke, Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity

“It has been great controversy among learned men, whether [Θεός] or [ὅς] or [o’] be the true reading in this place.”

Page 88


Conspiracy sauce for the goose can be for the gander. Buzzard states,

“Another example of a text which was altered is 1 Timothy 3:16. This verse reads in the KJV: “God was manifested in the flesh .” Modern versions have corrected the word “God” to “He who.” The alteration of an original “He who” (in Greek Oj) was very sneakily accomplished when some scribes changed the O (omicron) into a q (theta) giving qj (theta sigma). The reading THS was an abbreviated form of the Greek word theos, God. All that had to be done was to draw a little line across the middle of the O to produce the Greek letter theta (q). Then the text was made to sound Trinitarian and to support the Incarnation: “God was manifested in the flesh.” “He who” (O j) was made to read “God” (qj).”

Anthony Buzzard, Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian: A call to return to the creed of Jesus, page 257

Now the issue of how this reading relates to the quotations of the early Church Fathers is controversial as well. Some claim that the writings of the Church Fathers have been edited.

In these quotations the Theos reading does not appear,

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book XI

9…Let us postpone for a moment the exposition of this passage in the Gospel, and ask them first whether they have forgotten the preaching of the Apostle, who said, Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, received up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:16


John Cassian, On the Incarnation, Book VII, C 17,

“For Scripture says that that which was born of Mary is of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 1:20 Who also filled with righteousness (justitia) that which was created: for it says ‘He appeared in the flesh, was justified in the Spirit.’ 1 Timothy 3:16″


Tertullian does not use this passage in his Against Praxeas, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0317.htm

In these quotations the Theos reading does appear,

Gregory of Nyssa Against Eunomius, Book II, 1,

“but that we might be convinced that God has truly been manifested in the flesh, and believe that to be the only true mystery of godliness 1 Timothy 3:16,”


John Chrysostom, Homily 15 on the Gospel of John,

“And wonder not that Paul says in another place, God was manifested in the Flesh 1 Timothy 3:16; because the manifestation took place by means of the flesh, not according to (His) Essence. ”


Regardless of the controversies, I think I have proved that the variant reading is definitely not a product of the “the unwearied industry of 150 years” before Burgon wrote in the 1880s. I don’t care to chase this rabbit any further.

And as a postscript to the followers of Eric Phelps, your whole idea that the New testament was written in Greek is the basis of the liberal position so just know I know who the real neo-orthodox are, and it is most definitely you. The religion you people practice bears absolutely no resemblance to the one found in the Bible but is a product of Rabbinic Noahide Theology and white anti-semitism.


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