In the previous articles we have been talking about textual variations and we looked at a particular number of them. In those articles, we looked at how fasting was inserted into verses declaring a need for fasting to deliver some from a devil. We looked at the inserted verses saying an angel “troubled” the water before great healings occurred, and the orphan story of the woman caught in adultery.
In this article we want to look specifically at textual variations that appear to be done to promote the doctrines of either the deity of Christ or the Trinity.
In the last article we did look at Matthew 28:19, and how it is an oddity: the command to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit was never carried out in the New Testament. The other post-resurrection verse where Jesus supposedly talks about baptism, Mark 16:16, appears to have been added. Relative to this article is that if Matthew 28:19 was forged, then it eliminates the only place in the Bible where “in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit” is used. Matthew 28:19 is often presented as part of the verses used to say that while the Bible doesn’t use the word “trinity”, it does teach the logic behind it, and so Matthew 28:19 does have the formula of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Next, we will look at another place that has Trinitarian terminology, one where there is more uniform agreement that the Trinitarian formula was inserted after the original was written.
1 John 5:7
This verse is called the Johannine Comma. It is an insertion that presents the three elements of the Trinity:
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. (1 John 5:7 KJV)
Compare the above verse with the same verses found in the American Standard version:
And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth. (1 John 5:7 ASV)
Do you notice the difference? “the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost” is missing from this later version because it is not found in the majority of texts.
It’s amazing to me that some people appear to be perfectly fine with changing the text. Dr. Thomas Holland says:
“The passage is called the Johannine Comma and is not found in the majority of Greek manuscripts. However, the verse is a wonderful testimony to the Heavenly Trinity and should be maintained in our English versions, not only because of its doctrinal significance but because of the external and internal evidence that testify to its authenticity.”[i]
“… the verse is a wonderful testimony to the Heavenly Trinity and should be maintained in our English versions, not only because of its doctrinal significance…”!? It appears from this statement that Dr Holland thinks that doctrinal correctness is sufficient to change scripture, and thus we should keep the Johannine comment in the text. He does argue that while it is missing in earlier Greek manuscripts it is abundant in later Latin manuscripts and some church fathers. His argument appears to be more on theological grounds than it is on valid textual grounds, although he does argue on textual grounds as well. [ii].
What it looks like is someone who is willing to change the text as long as it conforms to his theology which is what appears to be the case with a lot of the scribal forgeries. My point is that whether it is doctrinally correct or not it is not acceptable to augment the text and present it as the original.
I once went to a service where a preacher who didn’t believe that the baptism of the holy spirit is currently available spoke making numerous comments about baptism. Now most scholars will acknowledge that the baptism of the holy spirit is present in the books of Acts, although there is an argument over which incidents in the Book of Acts were spirit baptisms. This preacher said, “water baptize” instead of “baptize” everywhere he read a form of the word “baptism” in the bible, including records in the Book of Acts. I spoke to him about it afterward and he justified his adding the word “water” to all the forms of baptism in scripture from his theological point of view in spite of the Deuteronical admonition not to add to scripture which is a principle he believes as well as believing that the complete Bible is the inerrant Word of God. This is unacceptable, but scribes did it in the transmission of the bible texts and preachers do it today.
This next verse is a forgery in translation:
The Jews answered him, For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods? (John 10:33-34)
The forgery in translation exists because the word “God” is the same in both verses 33 and 34, but it is capitalized in 33 whereas it is lowercase in verse 34.
It is poor translation to translate it capital “G” in one place and lowercase “g” in the next verse implying that the meaning is different when the meaning is the same because it is the very same word! The implication is that the Jews were accusing Jesus of making himself God when in fact they were accusing him of making himself “a god”.
Even if the Jews were accusing him of making himself God, since when did an accusation by an opponent make something true? Nevertheless, this is a forgery that appears to say that Christ claimed to be the God to them when he didn’t.
1 Timothy 3:16
This verse in the KJV says God (notice the capital G ) was manifest (revealed) in the flesh
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God (Theos in Greek) was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16 KJV)
Another blatant translation is in the CEV version. It says “Christ came as a human”:
Here is the great mystery of our religion: Christ came as a human. The Spirit proved that he pleased God, and he was seen by angels. Christ was preached to the nations. People in this world put their faith in him, and he was taken up to glory. (1 Timothy 3:16 CEV)
The problem is that only the Received Text from which the KJV was compiled has theos in the verse. All the other texts have hos, meaning “which”. There is a huge difference between godliness being revealed in the flesh and God coming in the flesh. Actually, this may have started as an inadvertent error as scribes often used contraction of words in their texts and the contraction for theos looks very similar to hos. Still, printing bibles with this mistranslation borders on it becoming an overt attempt to change scripture to promote a theological viewpoint.
and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form, as a dove, upon him, and a voice came out of heaven, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. (Luke 3:22)
This is a well-known verse, describing part of what happened at Jesus’ baptism. What is significant, however, is that Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, and other early church writers quoted this verse with different wording. For example, Justin wrote:
And when Jesus came to the Jordan, He was considered to be the son of Joseph the carpenter; and He appeared without comeliness, as the Scriptures declared; and He was deemed a carpenter (for He was in the habit of working as a carpenter when among men, making ploughs and yokes; by which He taught the symbols of righteousness and an active life); but then the Holy Ghost, and for man’s sake, as I formerly stated, lighted on Him in the form of a dove, and there came at the same instant from the heavens a voice, which was uttered also by David when he spoke, personating Christ, what the Father would say to Him: ‘Thou art My Son: this day have I begotten Thee;[iii]
“this day have I begotten Thee “ is radically different from “in thee I am well pleased”! The obvious problem with “this day I have begotten you” is that it marks a beginning of Jesus as the Christ. It is indicative of a beginning, that Jesus didn’t have the spirit before this, as opposed to a doctrine that says that Jesus, always being God, became man, always was the Son of God, and thus always had the spirit, and so forth. It was apparently easier to get rid of “today I have begotten you” in spite of the fact that this verse is really a fulfillment of prophecy in Psalms 2:7:
I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee. (Psalms 2:7)
Whether you are a Trinitarian or a Unitarian, changing the text of anything, let alone the books of the Bible, is wrong. It is manipulative and deceptive. If you wrote a letter to someone would you want someone else rewording your message because they thought it was better than your words? How much more important is that if you are a Christian and believe these are the words of the Apostles sent by Christ to deliver his message? Or that they are God’s word sent via his messengers to his people. If you believe Moses as a prophet delivered God’s actual word here is what Moses’ prophetic message from God was concerning changing God’s word:
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)
Unfortunately, the verses in this article are examples where people have changed the message, and that is sad. Thank God that we know about the errors that we do and newer versions are regularly being made to get back to the original message of these books. I pray that we will be able to increase our knowledge as scholars work to get better copies. But most of all I thank God that the basic message of the Savior dying and rising so that we might have a more abundant life now and eternal life with the Lord has survived despite problems with texts, divisive doctrines, and all the ploys of the evil one to work against those that believe.
[iii] Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/, Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew, Chapter LXXXVIII.—Christ has not received the Holy Spirit on account of poverty, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.lxxxviii.html
© copyright 2011-2023 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved. Last edited 11/18/2023