/ Nathan Eshelman

God Was Manifest in the Flesh?

Have you ever read your Bible and noticed that one version claims that "God" was manifest in the flesh and another version claims that "he" was manifest in the flesh?  Which is it? Does it matter? These textual variants can be confusing to us as Bible readers.

"God was manifest in the flesh"
"He was manifested in the flesh"

Critics of "God was manifest in the flesh" cite what is called the Codex Alexandrinus, a late 5th century biblical manuscript written in all capitals (called uncials) as the starting point of Θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί (God was manifest in the flesh).

Some teachers are fond of saying that a later pen stroke changed the biblical manuscript to read "God" instead of "who." They cite an obvious pen stroke and claim that others followed in changing "who" to "God."  The Alexandrinus manuscript has clearly been touched up to read "God" more clearly, and that was admitted by the manuscript's owners throughout the 17th and 18th century. The old owners claimed it was because one stroke was getting lighter with age, so they touched it up. Today you can see the touch up yourself in the British Museum as the manuscript is on display.

So did Christians somehow attempt to strengthen the text's reading to say "God" instead of "who" as a way to promote the deity of Jesus Christ? Modern textual critics will say, "Yes, of course!" What a shame.

There are several problems with this theory, the first and most obvious of which is the ethical violation of changing the Bible to suit your ideas--even if your ideas are correct.

The second problem with the "who" theory is that Gregory of Nyssa, c.335-394/5 quotes "God manifest in the flesh" 22 times in his writings. Gregory is fourth century and the manuscript in question is fifth century!  He and earlier writers--going back as far as the second century--quote I Timothy 3:16 as "God manifest in the flesh" years and years before the Alexandrinus controversy could have even existed.

As Christians let's continue this strong proclamation: God was manifest in the flesh! The Westminster Confession of Faith proclaims that "two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhood and the manhood, were inseparately joined together in one person... Very God, and very man, yet one Christ." I Timothy 3:16 is cited to undescore this truth: God was manifest in the flesh!

Do not hesitate to proclaim this truth--a truth the Holy Spirit moved the Apostle Paul to record: God was manifest in the flesh.

Nathan Eshelman

Nathan Eshelman

Pastor in Orlando, studied at Puritan Reformed Theological & Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminaries. One of the chambermen on the podcast The Jerusalem Chamber. Married to Lydia with 5 children.

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