on 1-timothy 3 :16
And, without controversy - Και ὁμολογουμενες· And confessedly, by general consent, it is a thing which no man can or ought to dispute; any phrase of this kind expresses the meaning of the original.
God was manifest in the flesh - If we take in the whole of the 14th, 15th, and 16th verses, we may make a consistent translation in the following manner, and the whole paragraph will stand thus: Hoping to see thee shortly; but should I tarry long, these things I now write unto thee, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God. The mystery of godliness, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, is, without controversy, a great thing. And then he proceeds to show what this mystery of godliness is, which he sums up in the six following particulars:
1. God was manifest in the flesh;
2. Justified in the Spirit;
3. Seen of angels;
4. Preached unto the Gentiles;
5. Believed on in the world;
6. Received up into glory.
Though all this makes a very plain and consistent sense, yet we are perplexed by various readings on the first clause, Θεος εφανερωθη εν σαρκι, God was manifest in the flesh; for instead of Θεος, God, several MSS., versions, and fathers, have ὁς or ὁ, who or which. And this is generally referred to the word mystery; Great is the mystery of godliness, Which was manifest in the flesh.
The insertion of, Θεος for ὁς, or ὁς for Θεος, may be easily accounted for. In ancient times the Greek was all written in capitals, for the common Greek character is comparatively of modern date. In these early times words of frequent recurrence were written contractedly, thus: for πατηρ, πρ; Θεος, θς; Κυριος, κς· Ιησους, ιης, etc. This is very frequent in the oldest MSS., and is continually recurring in the Codex Bexae, and Codex Alexandrinus. If, therefore, the middle stroke of the Θ, in ΘΣ, happened to be faint, or obliterated, and the dash above not very apparent, both of which I have observed in ancient MSS., then ΘΣ, the contraction for Θεος, God, might be mistaken for ΟΣ, which or who; and vice versa. This appears to have been the case in the Codex Alexandrinus, in this passage. To me there is ample reason to believe that the Codex Alexandrinus originally read ΘΣ, God, in this place; but the stroke becoming faint by length of time and injudicious handling, of which the MS. in this place has had a large proportion, some person has supplied the place, most reprehensibly, with a thick black line. This has destroyed the evidence of this MS., as now it can neither be quoted pro or con, though it is very likely that the person who supplied the ink line, did it from a conscientious conviction that ΘΣ was the original reading of this MS. I examined this MS. about thirty years ago, and this was the conviction that rested then on my mind. I have seen the MS. several times since, and have not changed my opinion. The enemies of the Deity of Christ have been at as much pains to destroy the evidence afforded by the common reading in support of this doctrine as if this text were the only one by which it can be supported; they must be aware that John 1:1, and John 1:14, proclaim the same truth; and that in those verses there is no authority to doubt the genuineness of the reading. We read, therefore, God was manifested in the flesh, and I cannot see what good sense can be taken out of, the Gospel was manifested in the flesh; or, the mystery of godliness was manifested in the flesh. After seriously considering this subject in every point of light, I hold with the reading in the commonly received text.
Justified in the Spirit - By the miracles which were wrought by the apostle in and through the name of Jesus; as well as by his resurrection from the dead, through the energy of the Holy Ghost, by which he was proved to be the Son of God with power. Christ was, justified from all the calumnies of the Jews, who crucified him as an impostor. All these miracles, being wrought by the power of God, were a full proof of his innocence; for, had he not been what he professed to be, God would not have borne such a decisive testimony to his Messiahship.
Seen of angels - By αγγελοι here, some understand not those celestial or infernal beings commonly called angels, but apostles and other persons who became messengers, to carry far and wide and attest the truth of his resurrection from the dead. If, however, we take the word seen, in its Jewish acceptation, for made known, we may here retain the term angels in its common acceptation; for it is certain that previously to our Lord's ascension to heaven, these holy beings could have little knowledge of the necessity, reasons, and economy of human salvation; nor of the nature of Christ as God and man. St. Peter informs us that the angels desire to look into these things, 1 Peter 1:12. And St. Paul says the same thing, Ephesians 3:9, Ephesians 3:10, when speaking of the revelation of the Gospel plan of salvation, which he calls the mystery, which From the Beginning of the World had been Hid in God; and which was now published, that unto the Principalities and Powers in heavenly places might be Made Known, by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God. Even those angelic beings have got an accession to their blessedness, by an increase of knowledge in the things which concern Jesus Christ, and the whole scheme of human salvation, through his incarnation, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification.
Preached unto the Gentiles - This was one grand part of the mystery which had been hidden in God, that the Gentiles should be made fellow heirs with the Jews, and be admitted into the kingdom of God. To the Gentiles, therefore, he was proclaimed as having pulled down the middle wall of partition between them and the Jews; that, through him, God had granted unto them repentance unto life; and that they also might have redemption in his blood, the forgiveness of sins.
Believed on in the world - Was received by mankind as the promised Messiah, the Anointed of God, and the only Savior of fallen man. This is a most striking part of the mystery of godliness, that one who was crucified as a malefactor, and whose kingdom is not of this world, and whose doctrines are opposed to all the sinful propensities of the human heart, should, wherever his Gospel is preached, be acknowledged as the only Savior of sinners, and the Judge of quick and dead! But some would restrict the meaning to the Jews, whose economy is often denominated עולם הזה olam hazzeh, this world, and which words both our Lord and the apostles often use in the same sense. Notwithstanding their prejudices, many even of the Jews believed on him; and a great company of the priests themselves, who were his crucifiers, became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:7. This was an additional proof of Christ's innocence.
on 1-timothy 3 :16
And, without controversy - Undeniably, certainly. The object of the apostle is to say that the truth which he was about to state admitted of no dispute.
Great is the mystery - On the meaning of the word "mystery," see the notes on 1 Corinthians 2:7. The word means that which had been hidden or concealed. The meaning here is not that the proposition which he affirms was mysterious in the sense that it was unintelligible, or impossible to be understood; but that the doctrine respecting the incarnation and the work of the Messiah, which had been so long "kept hidden" from the world, was a subject of the deepest importance. This passage, therefore, should not be used to prove that there is anything unintelligible, or anything that surpasses human comprehension, in that doctrine, whatever may be the truth on that point; but that the doctrine which he now proceeds to state, and which had been so long concealed from mankind, was of the utmost consequence.
Of godliness - The word "godliness" means, properly, piety, reverence, or religiousness. It is used here, however, for the gospel scheme, to wit, that which the apostle proceeds to state. This "mystery," which had "been hidden from ages and from generations, and which was now manifest" Colossians 1:26, was the great doctrine on which depended "religion" everywhere, or was that which constituted the Christian scheme.
God - Probably there is no passage in the New Testament which has excited so much discussion among critics as this, and none in reference to which it is so difficult to determine the true reading. It is the only one, it is believed, in which the microscope has been employed to determine the lines of the letters used in a manuscript; and, after all that has been done to ascertain the exact truth in regard to it, still the question remains undecided. It is not the object of these notes to enter into the examination of questions of this nature. A full investigation may be found in Wetstein. The question which has excited so much controversy is, whether the original Greek word was Θεὸς Theos, "God," or whether it was ὅς hos, "who," or ὁ ho, "which." The controversy has turned, to a considerable degree, on the reading in the "Codex Alexandrinus;" and a remark or two on the method in which the manuscripts in the New Testament were written, will show the true nature of the controversy.
Greek manuscripts were formerly written entirely in capital letters, and without breaks or intervals between the words, and without accents; see a full description of the methods of writing the New Testament, in an article by Prof. Stuart in Dr. Robinson's Biblotheca Sacra, No. 2, pp. 254ff The small, cursive Greek letters which are now used, were not commonly employed in transcribing the New Testament, if at all, until the ninth or tenth centuries. It was a common thing to abridge or contract words in the manuscript. Thus, πρ would be used for πατερ pater, "father;" κς for κυριος kurios, "Lord;" Θς for Θεος Theos, "God," etc. The words thus contracted were designated by a faint line or dash over them. In this place, therefore, if the original uncials (capitals) were ΘC, standing for Θεὸς Theos, "God," and the line in the Θ, and the faint line over it, were obliterated from any cause, it would easily be mistaken for OC - ὅς hos - "who."
To ascertain which of these is the true reading, has been the great question; and it is with reference to this that the microscope has been resorted to in the examination of the Alexandrian manuscript. It is now generally admitted that the faint line "over" the word has been added by some later hand, though not improbably by one who found that the line was nearly obliterated, and who meant merely to restore it. Whether the letter O was originally written with a line within it, making the reading "God," it is now said to be impossible to determine, in consequence of the manuscript at this place having become so much worn by frequent examination. The Vulgate and the Syriac read it: "who," or "which." The Vulgate is, "Great is the sacrament of piety which was manifested in the flesh." The Syriac, "Great is the mystery of godliness, that he was manifested in the flesh." The "probability" in regard to the correct reading here, as it seems to me, is, that the word, as originally written, was Θεός Theos - "God." At the same time, however, the evidence is not so clear that it can be properly used in an argument. But the passage is not "necessary" to prove the doctrine which is affirmed, on the supposition that that is the correct reading. The same truth is abundantly taught elsewhere; compare Matthew 1:23; John 1:14.
Was manifest - Margin, "Manifested." The meaning is, "appeared" in the flesh.
In the flesh - In human nature; see this explained in the notes on Romans 1:3. The expression here looks as though the true reading of the much-disputed word was "God." It could not have been, it would seem evident, ὁ ho, "which," referring to "mystery;" for how could a mystery "be manifested in the flesh?" Nor could it it be ὅς hos, "who," unless that should refer to one who was more than a man; for how absurd would it be to say that "a man was manifested, or appeared in the flesh!" How else could a man appear? The phrase here means that God appeared in human form, or with human nature; and this is declared to be the "great" truth so long concealed from human view, but now revealed as constituting the fundamental doctrine of the gospel. The expressions which follow in this verse refer to God "as" thus manifested in the flesh; to the Saviour as he appeared on earth, regarded as a divine and human being. It was the fact that he thus appeared and sustained this character, which made the things which are immediately specified so remarkable, and so worthy of attention.
Justified in the Spirit - That is, the incarnate person above referred to; the Redeemer, regarded as God and man. The word "Spirit," here, it is evident, refers to the Holy Spirit, because:
(1) it is not possible to attach any intelligible idea to the phrase, "he was justified by his own spirit, or soul;"
(2) as the Holy Spirit performed so important a part in the work of Christ, it is natural to suppose there would be some allusion here to him; and,
(3) as the "angels" are mentioned here as having been with him, and as the Holy Spirit is often mentioned in connection with him, it is natural to suppose that there would be some allusion to Him here. The word "justified," here, is not used in the sense in which it is when applied to Christians, but in its more common signification. It means to "vindicate," and the sense is, that he was shown to be the Son of God by the agency of the Holy Spirit; he was thus vindicated from the charges alleged against him. The Holy Spirit furnished the evidence that he was the Son of God, or "justified" his claims. Thus he descended on him at his baptism, Matthew 3:16; he was sent to convince the world of sin because it did not believe on him, John 16:8-9; the Saviour cast out devils by him, Matthew 12:28; the Spirit was given to him without measure, John 3:34, and the Spirit was sent down in accordance with his promise, to convert the hearts of people; Acts 2:33. All the manifestations of God to him; all the power of working miracles by his agency; all the influences imparted to the man Christ Jesus, endowing him with such wisdom as man never had before, may be regarded as an attestation of the Holy Spirit to the divine mission of the Lord Jesus, and of course as a vindication from all the charges against him. In like manner, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and his agency in the conversion of every sinner, prove the same thing, and furnish the grand argument in vindication of the Redeemer that he was sent from God. To this the apostle refers as a part of the glorious truth of the Christian scheme now revealed - the "mystery of religion;" as a portion of the amazing records, the memory of which the church was to preserve as connected with the redemption of the world.
Seen of angels - They were attendants on his ministry, and came to him in times of distress, peril, and want; compare Luke 2:9-13; Luke 22:43; Luke 24:4; Hebrews 1:6; Matthew 4:11. They felt an interest in him and his work, and they gladly came to him in his sorrows and troubles. The design of the apostle is to give an impressive view of the grandeur and glory of that work which attracted the attention of the heavenly hosts, and which drew them from the skies that they might proclaim his advent, sustain him in his temptations, witness his crucifixion, and watch over him in the tomb. The work of Christ, though despised by people, excited the deepest interest in heaven; compare notes on 1 Peter 1:12.
Preached unto the Gentiles - This is placed by the apostle among the "great" things which constituted the "mystery" of religion. The meaning is, that it was a glorious truth that salvation might be, and should be, proclaimed to all mankind, and that this was a part of the important truths made known in the gospel. Elsewhere this is called, by way of eminence, "the mystery of the gospel;" that is, the grand truth which had not been known until the coming of the Saviour; see the Ephesians 6:19 note; Colossians 1:26-27; Colossians 4:3 notes. Before his coming, a wall of partition had divided the Jewish and Gentile world. The Jews regarded the rest of mankind as excluded from the covenant mercies of God, and it was one of the principal stumblingblocks in their way, in regard to the gospel, that it proclaimed that all the race was on a level, that that middle wall of partition was broken down, and that salvation might now be published to all people; compare Acts 22:21; Ephesians 2:14-15; Romans 3:22; Romans 10:11-20.
on 1-timothy 3 :16
3:16 The mystery of godliness - Afterwards specified in six articles, which sum up the whole economy of Christ upon earth. Is the pillar and ground - The foundation and support of all the truth taught in his church. God was manifest in the flesh - In the form of a servant, the fashion of a man, for three and thirty years. Justified by the Spirit - Publicly declared to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead. Seen - Chiefly after his resurrection. By angels - Both good and bad. Preached among the gentiles - This elegantly follows. The angels were the least, the gentiles the farthest, removed from him; and the foundation both of this preaching and of their faith was laid before his assumption. Was believed on in the world - Opposed to heaven, into which he was taken up. The first point is, He was manifested in the flesh; the last, He was taken up into glory.