The Berean Expositor
Volume 48 - Page 103 of 181
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3: 16.
pp. 221 - 225
In our last study which concluded with  I Tim. 3: 15,  we pointed out the
impossibility of rendering the verse, `the pillar and ground of the truth and confessedly
great is the mystery of godliness' which has been put forward to avoid giving the church
the position of `foundation', and not Christ and the Word of God. Let us look closer at
this verse. Stulos means a pillar, prop or support. Hedraioma (ground A.V.) can be
translated `bulwark' (Moulton and Milligan's Vocabulary of the Greek Testament).
Peter, James and John likened to `pillars' in Gal. 2: 9, but this did not oust Christ from
His position as the primary Foundation.
We must note that the definite article is not used before either of these nouns, so the
sense of the verse is that the church was a support and bulwark of the truth (amongst
others). A building needs more than one pillar and the truth of God has more than one
`stay' to support it. Obviously there could be no pillar for the truth in the darkened pagan
world. Surely in the groups of God's people who had been lately enlightened into the
teaching of the Mystery the Truth was resident, as they shone as lights in the world of
darkness, their corporate witness being a support and bulwark for the truth made known
through Paul's ministry.
The fact that the churches declined from this cannot alter the fact that Christ intended
the members of His Body to be a bulwark and guard for the truth committed to them, as
these Pastorals epistles clearly teach. Once this is seen the difficulties of verse 15 vanish.
But our problems are not over for another one faces us in the next verse:
"And without controversy great is the Mystery (Secret) of godliness; He Who 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" (I Tim. 3: 16, R.V.).
The A.V., based on the Received Text, reads "God was manifest in the flesh". Into
the vexed question of what is the correct text here we cannot enter because this touches
the very specialized knowledge of textual criticism. Let it be said straight away that few
have the deep knowledge of N.T. Greek and long experience in handling the various
classes of manuscripts which form the basis for all translations and this is necessary for
any sound judgment on this matter. We are sometimes amazed at the dogmatism shown
by some who truthfully are no more than amateurs in this respect and we deplore some of
the wild and partisan statements that have been made regarding the Received Text. All
who desire to be `bulwarks' for the truth should shun this sort of thing.
The reader may be acquainted with the arguments concerning the original reading of
the phrase under consideration in the Alexandrian manuscript in the British Museum.
Since it came to England 250 years ago the writing has faded considerably and it is so
frayed that it is practically impossible to decide whether it reads Theos contracted (God)