In 1 Timothy 2:5 – 7 we are confronted with an extremely important difference.
To add or remove the words “in Christ” is not something to be taken lightly. It indeed changes the statement into an oath or visa versa! Any oath, especially in the name of Christ, is serious business. James warns that we should rather not swear at all. (James 5:12: “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your yes be yes and your no be no, that you may not fall under condemnation.”) Hebrews also handles the matter with great seriousness. (Hebrews 6:13 – 16) What Jesus said concerning the matter of swearing, is recorded in Matthews 5:33 – 36 and also 23:16 – 22. Though the gospel of Matthew had not yet been written when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, the matter of swearing would have been known to Paul, a former teacher of the Law. Paul would also have known where Jesus stood concerning this matter. That is why this difference should be handled by the utmost sincerity. Did Paul say: “I am telling the truth, I am not lying… a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.” or did he confess it with an oath: “I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.”? This is no trivial matter indeed!
We have three criteria to find an objective answer.
- External criteria.
First we examine the manuscripts containing this verse as is found in the King James Version: 1 Tim. 2:5 – 7: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. “
This version is supported by the Sinaiticus (350), Coisilianus (550), Moscuensis (900), 12 Minuscules (later than 900 A.D.) and a Byzantine lectionary (1050). Also the following Antique Translations: 1 Old Latin (850), Gothic (350) and Armenian (450). Two Church Fathers also quote the verse this way.
There is even a version stating: “… whereto I am ordained as preacher and apostle – I speak the truth, so says Christ, I do not lie …”
Modern translations like the New International Version are mostly without “in Christ”.
1 Tim. 2:7: “And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle – I am telling the truth, I am not lying – and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.”
This version is supported by the Alexandrinus (450), Bezae (500), Atous Laurae (800), Boernerianus (850), Porphyrianus (850) and 8 Minuscules (later than 900 A.D.) The following Antique Translations also support this reading: Sahidic (250), Bohairic (350), 10 Old Latin Translations (450 – 1100), the Vulgate (450), 2 Syriac (450 and 650) and the Ethiopic (550) Four Church Fathers also quote this version.
The wide geographical distribution of the antique translations as well as the oldest manuscripts point to the version without “in Christ” being widely in use. Objectively seen, the version without “in Christ” has a greater possibility to render the original autograph.
- Internal criteria.
Subsequently we try to reconstruct how the variation could have originated. That can give an indication of which would be the original and which the variation.
Would anybody remove an important distinctive like “in Christ” from his copy on purpose? There is no cause for such a removal. It certainly does not harm any theological or grammatical aspect. Therefore removing this distinctive is unimaginable.
That leaves us with the challenge to determine whether these words might have been added to the text. The logical possibility is that some scribe had these words in his mind and by mistake added them to the text. But from where would these words come?
In Romans 9:1 we find a similarly sentence. “I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit – “ And then Paul continues with a most astounding statement: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.”
It is indeed a possibility that a scribe could have remembered these words and unintentionally added them.
Adding “in Christ” from Romans 9 is a possibility, but removing them, is unthinkable.
Therefore the original would rather have been the version without “in Christ”.
- Intrinsic criteria.
Our last criterion is to look at the context. What would be the purpose or effect of these words in a sentence like this?
As I have explained above, the words “in Christ” change what might have been an ordinary statement that Paul had been chosen to be an apostle to the heathen, into an oath. Did Paul swear to have been chosen? But why an oath? How likely is it that Paul would have sworn to it? How common is it that Paul would swear to a statement like this?
In the Pauline letters I find four cases where Paul would have liked to confirm a statement with an oath.
2 Corinthians 11:10: “As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine.”
2 Corinthians 11:31: “The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. “
Galatians 1:20: “I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.”
In all three these cases Paul uses grammatical constructions that could not be understood as an oath.
The fourth case where Paul might have wanted to confirm a statement as an oath, is Romans 9:1: “I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit –“. Here we find a grammatical construction that indeed strongly directs to an oath.
It is clear that Paul not easily confirms a statement as an oath.
The statement in 1 Timothy 2:7 that we study at the moment gives all indication of an ordinary statement, namely that Paul had been appointed as teacher to the heathens. He does not lie about it, but there is no reason why he needed to confirm it by oath, calling Christ in as his witness! But the grammar in this sentence makes it easy to change the statement into an oath by inserting the words “in Christ”
One should honestly ask whether there is a difference in context or depth between the statements of Romans 9 and 1 Timothy 2.
In Romans 9 we do have a statement of radical, far reaching consequences. This is a statement that calls for an oath! Paul says that he would be willing to give up his life and be deserted from Christ, if only it could benefit the salvation of his fellow brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Now this is a statement that could be questioned. This is a statement that he would like to confirm with an oath. This is something with such far reaching consequences that Paul would in fact have confirmed with an oath!
In Romans 9 “in Christ” makes perfect sense and has an important function. It differs completely from the matter handled in 1 Timothy 2.
The seriousness with which Paul deals with his relationship with Christ, gives a strong indication that he would not lightly swear in matter that is not of utmost importance. That makes it almost unthinkable that Paul at the onset, would confirm with an oath that he had been appointed apostle for the heathens. It is just an ordinary statement and not near the depth of many other statements where Paul also didn’t confirm with an oath. It differs intensely from the statement in Romans 9:2 – 3 “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.”
Looking at the context, it is unthinkable that the oath – variation could have been the original.
According to the intrinsic criteria it is clear that the version with the words “in Christ” would rather be the variation on the original.
Our study reveals that all three objective criteria favour the version without the oath as being the original autograph.
As a matter of fact, Paul could have called upon Jesus in an oath that he would lie down his life for the sake of the salvation of his fellow Jews, but just to confirm that he had been appointed as apostle to the heathens, is unthinkable. That would make the use of an oath much too light for someone like Paul who in absolute seriousness spread the gospel!
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