He24 was revealed in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,25
seen by angels,
proclaimed among Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
tn Grk “confessedly, admittedly, most certainly.”
tn Grk “great is the mystery of [our] religion,” or “great is the mystery of godliness.” The word “mystery” denotes a secret previously hidden in God, but now revealed and made widely known (cf. Rom 16:25; 1 Cor 2:7; 4:1; Eph 1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 6:19; Col 1:26–27; 4:3). “Religion” (εὐσέβεια, eusebeia) is a word used frequently in the pastorals with a range of meanings: (1) a certain attitude toward God—“devotion, reverence”; (2) the conduct that befits that attitude—“godliness, piety”; and (3) the whole system of belief and approach to God that forms the basis for such attitude and conduct—“religion, creed.” See BDAG 412–13 s.v.; 2 Tim 3:5; 4 Macc 9:6–7, 29–30; 15:1–3; 17:7. So the following creedal statements are illustrations of the great truths that the church is charged with protecting (v. 15).
tc The Byzantine text along with a few other witnesses (אc Ac C2 D2 Ψ [88 pc] 1739 1881 𝔐 vgms) read θεός (theos, “God”) for ὅς (hos, “who”). Most significant among these witnesses is 1739; the second correctors of some of the other mss tend to conform to the medieval standard, the Byzantine text, and add no independent voice to the discussion. A few mss have ὁ θεός (so 88 pc), a reading that is a correction on the anarthrous θεός. On the other side, the masculine relative pronoun ὅς is strongly supported by א* A* C* F G 33 365 pc Did Epiph. Significantly, D* and virtually the entire Latin tradition read the neuter relative pronoun, ὅ (ho, “which”), a reading that indirectly supports ὅς since it could not easily have been generated if θεός had been in the text. Thus, externally, there is no question as to what should be considered original: The Alexandrian and Western traditions are decidedly in favor of ὅς. Internally, the evidence is even stronger. What scribe would change θεός to ὅς intentionally? “Who” is not only a theologically pale reading by comparison; it also is much harder (since the relative pronoun has no obvious antecedent, probably the reason for the neuter pronoun of the Western tradition). Intrinsically, the rest of 3:16, beginning with ὅς, appears to form a six-strophed hymn. As such, it is a text that is seemingly incorporated into the letter without syntactical connection. Hence, not only should we not look for an antecedent for ὅς (as is often done by commentators), but the relative pronoun thus is not too hard a reading (or impossible, as Dean Burgon believed). Once the genre is taken into account, the relative pronoun fits neatly into the author’s style (cf. also Col 1:15; Phil 2:6 for other places in which the relative pronoun begins a hymn, as was often the case in poetry of the day). On the other hand, with θεός written as a nomen sacrum, it would have looked very much like the relative pronoun: Θ̅Σ̅ vs. ΟΣ. Thus, it may have been easy to confuse one for the other. This, of course, does not solve which direction the scribes would go, although given their generally high Christology and the bland and ambiguous relative pronoun, it is doubtful that they would have replaced θεός with ὅς. How then should we account for θεός? It appears that sometime after the 2nd century the θεός reading came into existence, either via confusion with ὅς or as an intentional alteration to magnify Christ and clear up the syntax at the same time. Once it got in, this theologically rich reading was easily able to influence all the rest of the mss it came in contact with (including mss already written, such as א A C D). That this reading did not arise until after the 2nd century is evident from the Western reading, ὅ. The neuter relative pronoun is certainly a “correction” of ὅς, conforming the gender to that of the neuter μυστήριον (mustērion, “mystery”). What is significant in this reading is (1) since virtually all the Western witnesses have either the masculine or neuter relative pronoun, the θεός reading was apparently unknown to them in the 2nd century (when the “Western” text seems to have originated, though its place of origination was most likely in the east); they thus supply strong indirect evidence of ὅς outside of Egypt in the 2nd century; (2) even 2nd century scribes were liable to misunderstand the genre, feeling compelled to alter the masculine relative pronoun because it appeared to them to be too harsh. The evidence, therefore, for ὅς is quite compelling, both externally and internally. As TCGNT 574 notes, “no uncial (in the first hand) earlier than the eighth or ninth century (Ψ) supports θεός; all ancient versions presuppose ὅς or ὅ; and no patristic writer prior to the last third of the fourth century testifies to the reading θεός.” Thus, the cries of certain groups that θεός has to be original must be seen as special pleading in this case. To argue that heretics tampered with the text here is self-defeating, for most of the Western fathers who quoted the verse with the relative pronoun were quite orthodox, strongly affirming the deity of Christ. They would have dearly loved such a reading as θεός. Further, had heretics introduced a variant to θεός, a far more natural choice would have been χριστός (Christos, “Christ”) or κύριος (kurios, “Lord”), since the text is self-evidently about Christ, but it is not self-evidently a proclamation of his deity. (See ExSyn 341–42, for a summary discussion on this issue and additional bibliographic references.)
tn Grk “who.”
sn This passage has been typeset as poetry because many scholars regard this passage as poetic or hymnic. These terms are used broadly to refer to the genre of writing, not to the content. There are two broad criteria for determining if a passage is poetic or hymnic: “(a) stylistic: a certain rhythmical lilt when the passages are read aloud, the presence of parallelismus membrorum (i.e., an arrangement into couplets), the semblance of some metre, and the presence of rhetorical devices such as alliteration, chiasmus, and antithesis; and (b) linguistic: an unusual vocabulary, particularly the presence of theological terms, which is different from the surrounding context” (P. T. O’Brien, Philippians [NIGTC], 188–89). Classifying a passage as hymnic or poetic is important because understanding this genre can provide keys to interpretation. However, not all scholars agree that the above criteria are present in this passage, so the decision to typeset it as poetry should be viewed as a tentative decision about its genre.
tn Or “in spirit.”
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