1 Timothy 3:16 – Mystery of Devotion

Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion, Who was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory. — 1 Timothy 3:16, New American Bible.

There is a footnote given for the word “Who”, which reads:

Who: the reference is to Christ, who is himself “the mystery of our devotion.” Some predominantly Western manuscripts read “which,” harmonizing the gender of the pronoun with that of the Greek word for mystery; many later (eighth/ninth century on), predominantly Byzantine manuscripts read “God,” possibly for theological reasons. — found on page 325 of The New Testament of the New American Bible (Saint Joseph Edition), Catholic Book Publishing Company (New York), copyright 1986 by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, DC.

While many trinitarians, at least for this verse, prefer the later manuscript reading of “God”, this reading is the hardest to fit the context of describing “mystery of devotion”, the Christian’s devotion to God. Many have misread, misuunderstood or misrpresented the “mystery of godliness” in 1 Timothy 3:16 as saying or meaning “mystery of the Godhead”, and with that thought in mind, claim that this is speaking of the mystery of the alleged “Godhead” which is alleged to consist of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In reality, the topic is the mystery of devotion, the secret of the Christian’s devotion to God, which certainly can be expressed in the work that Jesus did and is still doing.

Jesus was taken up in glory; this was after he had been made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18), when he was no longer in the days of his flesh. (Hebrews 5:7) It was the only true God [Supreme Being], the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who sent Jesus (Exodus 3:14,15; Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Isaiah 61:1; John 17:1,3; Acts 3:13-26) who also exalted Jesus to a position higher than anyone excluding the Most High Himself. (John 17:1,3; Acts 2:33; 5:31; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:3,17-23; Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 1:4; 1 Peter 3:22) Jesus did not exalt himself. In that exalted position he now acts as the priest, advocate, legal counselor before the only true God, for those who believe in him. — Hebrews 1:3; 2:17; 4:14,15; 5:5-10; 6:20; 7:3-26; 8:1,4; 9:11; 10:21; 1 John 2:21.

Likewise, in Jesus, in the words of Jesus, and the work that Jesus did while he was in the days of his flesh (Hebrews 5:7), one can certainly say that God was manifested in the flesh of Jesus. This does not mean that we need to imagine and assume that Jesus is the Supreme Being, or that Jesus is a person of the Supreme Being.

         
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