By Charles H. Welch
(1). THE MYSTERY AMONG THE GENTILES
The Mystery that was manifested to the saints through the ministry of the Apostle Paul had been "hid from ages and from generations" . This we saw in our last study. The next theme before us is the manifestation of the riches of the glory of this Mystery among the Gentiles.
Being an Israelite by birth, the Apostle of the Gentiles would realize better than would the Gentiles themselves the riches of grace that were the source of the preaching of the Mystery among them. Apart from the Epistle to the Romans, it is to the epistles of the Mystery that we turn in order to learn about the riches of grace, and riches of glory, yea, the exceeding riches of His grace; and the Apostle connects the manifestation of the Mystery with the making known what is the riches of the glory of this Mystery among the Gentiles.
Left to ourselves, what would be our answer to the question, "What is the riches of the glory of this Mystery among the Gentiles?" We should be wise if we turned at once to what is written. We could say without fear of contradiction, that "redemption through His Blood, even the forgiveness of sins" must be inc1uded, for that is "according to the riches of His grace, wherein Re hath abounded toward us" (Eph. 1:7,8). We should certainly inc1ude the "inheritance in the saints", though we could not speak in detail of what constitutes "the riches of the glory" of this inheritance (Eph. 1:18). Looking forward to "that day" when the inheritance shall be enjoyed, to our amazement we learn that whereas redemption is spoken of as "the riches of His grace," the kindness that Re will show to us in the days to come is of such transcendance that the Apostle speaks of it as "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:7).
With all this the Apostle would naturally be in hearty agreement. In Colossians 1:27 he focuses attention upon one important aspect of present truth that reveals the ground upon which we may entertain such a hope: "Which is Christ in (among) you, the hope of glory". The margin draws attention to the fact that the word "in" should be translated "among", as it is in the earlier phrase of the verse, "among the Gentiles" . The Apostle is not here speaking of the blessed realization of the indwelling Christ, but of the dispensational change that had followed the setting aside of the children of Israel, "the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and they will hear it" (Acts 28 :28). Up till then salvation had been "of the Jews" (John 4:22). The gospel had been intimately associated with the promise made to Abraham (Gal. 3:8). What the Gentiles had heard through Peter had been, "the Word which God sent unto the children of Israel" (Acts 10:36). Even the gospel preached by Paul in Romans was "to the Jew first" (Rom. 1:16), and the Gentile believer was warned not to vaunt himself against Israel, seeing that he was but a "wild olive" grafted in among the natural branches (Rom. 11).
But when we commence the epistle to the Colossians we are conscious of a great change. The hope that was laid up for these believers and which was made known in the truth of the gospel, had been preached to "all the world" (Col. 1:5,6), and "to every creature which is under heaven" (Col. 1:23), and it is in immediate association with this last quotation that Paul goes on to speak of his special ministry and the manifestation of the Mystery. Consequently we come back to Colossians 1:27, and learn that the very fact that Christ is now "among the Gentiles" is proved by the preaching of the gospel to them, irrespective of Israel, the once-appointed channel, now set aside. That, of itself, bespeaks a change of dispensation.
"Christ among you," says the Apostle is "the hope of glory." The hope of Israel, which extended right through to the last chapter of the Acts (Acts 28 :20), is not in view here, but something distinct. This hope is the "one hope of your Calling", "the hope of His calling", "the hope that is laid up for you in heaven"; it is a hope of "glory", and will be consummated when Christ, Who is our life, shall be made manifest, for then, said the Apostle, "Ye shall also be made manifest with Him in glory." (Col. 3:4).
The Mystery receives a present manifestation because Christ is among
the Gentiles, through the preached Word. He
is the hope of glory. The Mystery receives its final manifestion when
the Church of the One Body is manifested with
Him in glory. It is good to keep these two passages, Colossians
1:27 and 3:4 together, and to remember that in both the present anticipation
and the future realization, it is Christ Himself who is both Manifester
(2) THE MYSTERY OF GOD-CHRIST
Our text here has been, and still is, much in dispute. The A.V. reads: "the acknowledgment of the Mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ" (Col. 2:2). The RV. reads: "that they may know the Mystery of God, even Christ". Alford reads: "The thorough knowledge of the Mystery of God", and rejects all the rest. The Companion Bible agrees with the reading of the R.V. Scrivener says: "We would gladly adopt tou Theou Christou (the RV. reading), so powerfully do internal considerations plead in its favour, were it but a little better supported". Hilary, who was born A.D. 300, appears to have read the passage as does the RV.: In agnitionem sacramenti Dei Christi"-"to the recognition of the Mystery of God, Christ". For what it is worth, the Numeric New Testament, by its own peculiar method of testing, also gives this reading as the true one.
Accepting then the RV. as the more accurate, let us proceed in our study, keeping in mind that the special feature of our search is not only to ascertain what the Mystery of God is, but how it is manifested. The Mystery of Colossians 2:2 is not the Mystery of Ephesians 3:3, which speaks of the Church, nor of Ephesians 3:4, which speaks of Christ, but it is the mystery "of God", the manifestation of which is Christ. Alford draws attention to a most important correction in the translation of Colossians 2:3. The A.V. reads: "In Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge". Alford's reading is: "In which (mystery) are all the secret treasures of wisdom and knowledge". He says: "The rendering which I have adopted is that of Meyer, and I am persuaded on consideration that it is not only the only logical but the only grammatical one also".
There are eleven occurrences of apokruphos which is used Consistently as an adjective, and never as a verb. For example, in the passage: "He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver" (Dan. 11:43), the LXX uses the word apokruphois for "treasures", evidently with the idea that treasures would be hidden by reason of their value.
Again, in Daniel 2:22 the same word is used of "secret things", and it is interesting to observe that in chapter 2:19 the word "secret" is the word musterion or "mystery". In Isaiah 45:3, "the hidden riches of secret places", is, in the LXX, apokruphous aoratous, "secret, unseen". The context speaks of treasures, using the same word as is so translated in Colossians 2:3. Psalm 27:5 provides a good illustration of the use of the verb and the adjective: "He shall hide me (krupto) in His pavilion; in the secret (apokruphos) of His tabernacle". In 1 Maccabees 1:23 we have a parallel with Colossians 2:3 which cannot be ignored: "He took the hidden treasures which he found" (tous thesaurous tous apokruphous). Therefore instead of reading as in the A.V., we must read: "In Whom are all the secret treasures of wisdom and knowledge" . These treasures are priceless. They include "all riches of the full assurance of understanding". They involve the "knowledge of the Mystery of God" which is manifested only to those who know Christ in the light of the revelation of the Mystery. Often men talk of God as though it were a simple matter to comprehend Him. They argue about His person as though He were subject to the same laws and limitations as themselves. To such philosophers and expositors God might well say, as He said to the wicked in Psalm 50:21: "thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself."
Yet God is spirit, and, apart from revelation, what do we know of that realm of being? Even angels, who are spirits, take upon themselves the forms of men before man can perceive them. The Saviour declared, in the days of His early ministry concerning the Father, "Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape" (John 5:37). God Himself must ever remain a mystery, indeed the greatest of all mysteries, unless He manifests Himself in such a way that His creatures can apprehend and understand. In general, our knowledge of the outside world is derived through the medium of the senses of sight, hearing and touch, supplemented by taste and smell. In that other sphere where the answer to the Mystery of God is Christ, we can understand what may be known of God only by the manifestation of it in His Person.
The works of His hands reveal "His eternal power and Godhead" so that the nations of the earth are without excuse (Rom. 1:19-23). Yet that is but a step, for it is only in the face of Jesus Christ that we see the glory of God. He came to "declare" the invisible God; He came and said, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father". He was looked upon, and handled, and the conclusion of those thus privileged is written: the confession of Thomas, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28), the record of John, "This is the true God, and eternal life" (1 John 1:2; 5:20). Whatever glimpses we may have obtained through other aspects of truth, we must all agree that, "In Him are all the secret treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3). When one's completeness is found to be in Him, in Whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily, the folly of turning aside to vain, deceitful philosophy or of being shackled by tradition, or loaded with ceremonial ordinances, is apparent.
The Mystery of God is Christ. That Mystery has been manifested. We thank
God that we have seen not only the "eternal power and Godhead" that is
witnessed to by creation, but we have seen in Him and by Him "The Father,
and it sufficeth us". One further passage dealing with the manifestation
of the Mystery of God must be examined, and that is 1 Timothy 3:16, and
we propose to examine this passage under the following headings:
(3) GOD WAS MANIFESTED IN THE FLESH
To write a set of studies on the subject of "The Mystery Manifested" and to omit 1 Timothy 3: 16 would be remiss in the extreme, yet, if the subject is to be dealt with at all, the problem of compressing what is essential to be said into a limited space, is somewhat perplexing. While, as we have said, our problem is partly due to limitations of space, it is also due to the fact that not all our readers will easily follow the subject, and that in dealing with Greek manuscripts we need photographs and the use of Greek type. Acknowledging these limitations we nevertheless make the attempt in the hope that great grace may more than compensate for a little Greek. We propose, therefore, an examination of 1 Timothy 3:16 under the following headings:
There are two passages in the R.V. in which the hand of the Modernist
is evident. They are 1 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Timothy 3: 16. In the first
there is an attack upon the deity of Christ, and in the second there is
an attack upon the inspiration of the Scriptures of Truth. We know not
when the storm will break, but we are persuaded that the enemy of Truth
has singled out these two truths for special attack, and while time and
opportunity remain, we desire, as unto the Lord, to make it plain where
we stand on the vital issues involved. For the moment we concentrate our
attention upon 1Timothy 3:16.
THE TESTIMONY OF THE STRUCTURE
It is possible to give so much "proof" that the untrained mind may be
bewildered rather than convinced. To avoid this, we first drawattention
to the essential feature of the structure of the epistle.
These are the great focal points of the epistle around which the remainder of the structure is grouped. Many of our readers will be satisfied with the above; but in a matter of this character, where evidence is essential and where we must allow no advantage to the adversary, we must assume nothing but prove each point. We have, therefore, no option but to set out the structure of the whole epistle, although our appeal will be to the outline given above.
Instead of working out the members B
and B we have placed the corresponding
subjects in the same order in each section so that the parallel thoughts
may be obvious without going minutely into detail. For example, "the shipwreck"
of 1:19 and "the drowning" of 6:9 are an interesting parallel. It will
be sufficient for our purpose if the simple outline given below is seen
to be in line with the epistle as a whole and that both these important
sections B and B
are associated with a warning against heterodox teaching. The true doctrine
is found in 1 Timothy 3:16, Section E, while the contrary, the doctrine
of demons, is found in the greater apostasy of 1 Timothy4:1-7, Section
E. We can now confidently say that
the structure of the epistle emphasizes the Mystery of godliness, in 1:17
and 6:15,16 where God is said to be invisible and unseen, and also points
to 3:16 where it is stated that God has been manifested in the flesh and
"seen" . Here, therefore, we might pause and say, when the Word became
flesh and dwelt among us, He manifested the invisible God and revealed
the Father. In Him the mystery of God and of godliness find their exegesis.
A 1: 1,2 Salutatlon
A 6:21 Salutatlon.
(4) THE MEANING OF 1 TIMOTHY
We now pass from the testimony of the structure to the text itself. Chapter three is largely devoted to the qualifications of bishops and deacons, and the Apostle states that he has so written that Timothy may know how to behave himself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God. A question now arises from the last clause of verse 15. Is the church "the pillar and ground of the truth"? If we use the word "church" in its most spiritual meaning, we shall find no basis in Scripture for such an important doctrine. The case before us, however, is most certainly not "the Church" but "a church," a church wherein there are bishops and deacons; in other words, a local assembly, and surely it is beyond all argument that the truth does not rest upon any such church as its pillar and ground. The reader will observe that in the structure, 3: 15 is divided between D and E, and that the latter part of verse 15 belongs to verse 16. There is no definite article before the word "pillar", and a consistent translation is as follows. Having finished what he had to say about the officers of the church and Timothy's behaviour, he turns to the great subject of the mystery of godliness with the words:
Here the teaching is that whatever or Whoever the Mystery of godliness shall prove to be, it or He, is the pillar and ground of truth. The Mystery of godliness is then explained as "God manifest in the flesh" and He, we know, is the sure and tried Foundation.
We now come to the question of the true reading of 1Timothy 3:16. The A.V. reads "God", the R.V. reads "He Who", and some versions read "Which". As it is not possible for us to depart from our practice, and use Greek type, we have prepared the following explanation to which the reader, unacquainted with the Greek or with the ancient manuscripts, is asked to refer as we proceed. Anyone who has examined an ancient Greek manuscript will have noticed the large number of abbreviations that are employed. For instance, the Greek word for God, Theos, is always contracted to THS.
Now this contraction is only distinguishable from the relative pronoun HOS by two horizontal strokes, which, in manuscripts of early date, it was often the practice to trace so faintly that they can now be scarcely discerned. Of this, any one may be convinced by inspecting the two pages of Codex A which are exposed to view at the British Museum. An archetype copy, in which one or both of these slight strokes had vanished from the contraction THS, gave rise to the reading HOS, "who", of which substituted word traces survive in only two manuscripts, Aleph and 17; not, for certain, in one single ancient Father, no, not for certain in one single ancient version. So transparent, in fact, is the absurdity of writing to musterion hos ("the mystery who"), that copyists promptly substituted ho ("which"), thus furnishing another illustration of the well-known property which a fabricated reading has of, sooner or later, begetting offspring in its own likeness. Happily, to this second mistake the sole surviving witness is the Codex Claromontanus of the sixth century (D): the only Patristic evidence in its favour being Gelasius of Cyzicus (whose date is A.D. 476): and the unknown author of a homily in the appendix to Chrysostom. Over this latter reading, however, we need not linger, seeing that ho, "which", does not find a single patron at the present day.
Theos is the reading of all the uncial copies extant but two, and of all the cursives but one. The universal consent of the Lectionaries proves that Theos has been read in all the assemblies of the faithful since the fourth or fifth century of our era. At what earlier period of her existence is it then supposed that the Church availed herself of the privilege to substitute Theos for hos or ho, whether in error or in fraud? Nothing short of a conspiracy, to which every region of the Eastern Church must have been a party, would account for the phenomenon. We inquire for the testimony of the Fathers; and we discover that (1) Gregory of Nyssa quoted Theos no less than twenty-two times. That Theos is also recognized by (2) his namesake of Nazianzus in two places; as well as by (3) Didymus of Alexandria; and (4) by pseudo-Dionysius of Alexandria. It is also recognized (5) by Diodorus of Tarsus, and (6) Chrysostom quotes 1 Timothy 3:16 in conformity with the Received Text at least three times. In addition there are twelve others, bringing the number up to eighteen.
We are indebted to Dean Burgon for these facts and would strongly recommend all who have any doubt as to the true reading to consult the masterly investigation contained in the Dean's book, The Revision Revised.
Some may suppose that whether we read the A.V., "God was manifest", or the R.V., "He Who was manifest", it comes to much the same thing, and question the necessity of the foregoing investigation. To such we would explain that thereasons for our concern are:
(5) THE ALEXANDRIAN MANUSCRIPT
A great deal of controversy has gathered around the Alexandrian manuscript which is to be seen in the British Museum. Since this came to England 250 years ago the writing has faded considerably and we are not therefore to find our warrant for substituting hos for Theos by what can be seen today, but by what competent observers saw at the time of arrival of the manuscript.
That Patrick Young, the first custodian and collator of the Codex (1628-52) read Theos is certain. Young communicated the various readings of A to Abp. Ussher; and the latter, prior to 1653, communicated them to Hammond, who clearly knew nothing of hos. It is plain that Theos was the reading seen by Huish, when he sent his collation of the Codex (made, according to Bentley, with great exactness) to Brian Walton, who published the fifth volume of his Polyglott in 1657. Bp. Pearson who was very curious in such matters, says, "we find not hos in any copy", a sufficient proof how he read the place in 1659. Bp. Fell, who published an edition of the N.T. in 1675, certainly considered Theos the reading of Codex A. Mill, who was at work on the text of the N.T. from 1677 to 1707, expressly declares that he saw the remains of Theos in this place. Bentley who had himself (1716) collated the MS. with the utmost accuracy, knew nothing of any other reading. Emphatic testimony on the subject is borne by Wotton in 1718. "There can be no doubt (he says) that this MS. always exhibited Theos. Of this, anyone may easily convince himself who will be at pains to examine the place with attention" (Dean Burgon).
Two years earlier (we have it on the testimony of Mr. John Creyk, of St. John's College, Cambridge) "the old line in the letter theta was plainly to be seen". It was "much about the same time" also (viz., about 1716), that Westein acknowledged to the Rev. John Kippax, "who took it down in writing from his own mouth-that though the middle stroke of the theta has been evidently retouched, yet the fine stroke which was originally in the body of the theta is discoverable at each end of the fuller stroke of the corrector". And Berriman himself (who delivered a course of lectures on the true reading of 1 Timothy 3:16 in 1737-8), attests emphatically that he had seen it also. "If therefore" (he adds), "at any time hereafter the old line should become altogether undiscoverable there will never be just cause to doubt but that the genuine, and original reading of the MS. was THEOS; and that the new strokes, added at the top and in the middle by the corrector were not designed to corrupt or falsify but to preserve and perpetuate the true reading, which was in danger of being lost by the decay of time" (Dean Burgon).
To this testimony must now be added that of modern photography. The camera has not only revealed the faded bar that proves that Theos is the true reading, it has also restored other faded parts of letters about which no controversy has arisen, but which might have become the basis of argument had the words been vital.
After reviewing the testimony of the different cursive copies of the epistles of Paul that are known, Dean Burgon says:
Such is the testimony of antiquity. This we must sum up, for the benefit of those who may not have cared to wade through the evidence.
The reading of 1 Timothy 3: 16, "God was manifest in the flesh" is witnessed by 289 manuscripts, by three versions and by upwards of twenty Greek Fathers. The relative pronoun hos should agree with its antecedent, yet musterion is neuter. Bloomfield in his Synoplica says, "hos ephanerothe is not Greek". We would conclude with the ca1culated affirmation of our belief that the original reading of 1 Timothy 3:16 is, "GOD was manifest in the :flesh" and like Thomas of old, we bow in His Presence and say, "My Lord, and my God".