Textual Corruptions Favoring the Trinitarian Position

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Through the centuries, changes were made to the Greek text that skewed it in favor of the Trinitarian position. Today, Trinitarian scholars recognize these changes, and therefore they are not included in the modern Greek texts produced by the United Bible Society and the Institute for New Testament Research in Germany, which produces the Nestle-Aland text.

It is important for Christians to know something about the history of the modern New Testament. None of the original documents written by the apostles exist, and scholars do not believe that any first copies of the originals exist. What do exist are more than 5000 handwritten manuscripts of the Greek New Testament from the 2nd century onward. Some of these are as small as a piece of a verse, while others are almost the complete New Testament. The modern New Testament is translated from a text that was pieced together from more than 5000 Greek manuscripts that have come down to us, as well as manuscripts in other languages such as Latin.

When the Lord gave the revelation of the New Testament to the various writers—Paul, Peter, Matthew, etc., they either wrote, or dictated to a scribe who wrote, what we would consider “the original text.” This original was copied and sent to churches around the world. It was also translated into the various languages spoken by Christians, primarily Latin, Greek and Aramaic.

Until the invention of movable type and the printing press (around 1450 AD), all copies of the Bible were made by hand. A copy of the entire Bible could take a year to write, paper was expensive, and many people could not read or write, so most copies were made by professional scribes. They usually wrote as someone else dictated, and often to a group of scribes. It is easy to see how errors could arise. The speaker could misread a sentence or the scribe could hear incorrectly. Sometimes the scribes did not take their work seriously enough, and that caused many errors in copying. One of the most notable examples of this was in Miniscule Codex 109. The scribe was copying the genealogy in Luke, and instead of copying the columns of names from top to bottom, he copied them across. Thus, in his copy of the Bible, almost everyone has the wrong father, the start of the human race is not God but Phares, and God ends up as the son of Aram!

Honest mistakes can almost always be easily detected. They are usually in the category of spelling or grammatical errors, or they fit some kind of standard mistake pattern such as skipping a line or copying a line twice, or they are obvious in other ways such as in the above example about the genealogy in Luke. A much more serious problem occurred when scribes deliberately changed the text to make it agree with their theology. Although this is very serious, most Christians are unaware that these changes were made. Most ministers do not mention the subject. They have trouble getting people to believe the Bible at all, and usually do not want to introduce any idea that might cause people to doubt the Scriptures. Another reason for their silence is that few ministers, and even fewer churchgoers, are prepared to do textual research, which requires sifting through the manuscripts and arguments to be able to discern genuine Scripture from errors and forgeries.

Christians need to be aware that of the more than 5000 handwritten Greek manuscripts, no two of them are exactly the same. However, most of the differences are very minor, like spelling and/or punctuation. Other differences, however, are not minor, cannot be easily resolved, and have caused arguments among Christians as to that which is actually Scripture. This is one of the major reasons there are differences between versions such as the New International Version and King James Version.

Scholars today have computers that they use to compare the various texts. Compared to even a hundred years ago, it is now much easier to sort the manuscripts, determine the dates they were produced, and discover where, when and how changes and errors were introduced. As scholars have compared the texts in their efforts to reconstruct the original, a startling pattern has emerged. It is apparent that Trinitarian scribes consistently changed the text to make it more Trinitarian. [1] The evidence shows that these changes were not accidental, but done purposely. This appendix (This article was taken from our book One God & One Lord.) is a sampling of some of the clearer changes that have been made to Greek manuscripts to support the Trinitarian position. Most Trinitarian scholars today have recognized all of the examples given below as errors produced by prejudiced scribes. For that reason, they do not appear in either the Greek text produced by the United Bible Society or the one produced by the Institute for New Testament Research in Germany. Nevertheless, the extent of this list shows very clearly that as the New Testament was transmitted, scribes would change the text to support their theological position.

The impact of these changes cannot be overestimated. Scholars today, doing computer analysis of the more than 5000 Greek texts available to them, recognize these changes to the text. In the earlier centuries of Christianity, however, a variant manuscript could have “won the day” in a debate and further established Trinitarian doctrine, resulting in excommunication, banishment or death for the “heretic” who lost the debate. The changes also illustrate an attitude toward the text that would astound most Christians today. The idea of changing the Word of God to make it say what one wants it to say is appalling to most Christians. Misreading it or misunderstanding it is one thing, but few Christians would actually take a pen and change the text so that it agreed with their teaching. Yet that is what history shows us Trinitarian scribes did.

The best way to use this appendix is in conjunction with different Bible versions. For even further study, most of the examples below can be found in The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, by Bart Ehrman (New York, Oxford University Press, 1993). Also, they can in large part be verified in the critical apparatus of the United Bible Societies Greek Text UBS 4, or the Nestle-Aland Greek NT. [For further study please see our book “The Bible: You Can Believe It.”]

Matthew 1:18

Matthew records the “beginning” of Jesus Christ. Trinitarians who were uncomfortable with “genesis” (beginning, origin, birth) changed it to “gennesis” (“birth”).

Matthew 24:36
Scribes were uncomfortable with the fact that the text said that Jesus did not know the future, so the phrase “nor the Son” was omitted from “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” That omission is reflected in the KJV, but scholars now recognize it belongs in the text, and the modern Greek text includes it, as do most modern versions.

Mark 1:10
That the spirit came “eis” (“fully to” or “into”) was changed to “epi” (upon). The difference between “into” and “upon” was clear to some early Christians. The spirit coming “into” Christ made it more likely that Christ was “adopted” as God’s Son than if the spirit simply came “upon” him. So the “eis” was changed to “epi.” The Trinity is so firmly established today that even though the Greek texts read “into,” the NIV reads “on.” The Amplified Bible does read “into,” and has a note saying that the Greek text reads that way.

Mark 3:11
“You are the Son of God” was altered by scribes to read “You are God, the Son of God” to help support the Trinitarian position.

Luke 2:26
That Simeon would see “the Lord’s Christ” was changed to read “Christ, namely God.”

Luke 2:33
Copyists changed “Father” to “Joseph” in many manuscripts. They thought this would “clear up” any possible confusion about the father of Jesus.

Luke 2:41
“Parents” was changed by scribes to read “Joseph and Mary,” lest someone become confused about Jesus’ “real” parents.

Luke 2:43
“Parents” was changed to “Joseph and his mother,” or other similar readings. Also, “the boy Jesus” was changed to “the boy, the Lord Jesus,” because if Jesus were God, then he had to be Lord from his birth.

Luke 2:48
“Father and I” was altered to either “we,” or “Joseph and I,” or “your relatives,” etc., lest anyone be confused about the real father of Jesus.

Luke 3:21
Scribes changed “Jesus,” who came to be baptized, to “the Lord,” because of the emphasis that the word “Jesus” placed on his humanity.

Luke 4:22
“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” was omitted entirely, or was changed to “Isn’t this a son of Israel.”

Luke 7:9
Scribes changed “When Jesus heard this” to “When God heard this,” to make Jesus into God.

Luke 8:28
“Jesus, Son of the Most High God” was changed to “Jesus, the Most High God” so that there would be clear “proof” that Christ was God.

Luke 8:40
“Now when Jesus returned” was changed to “when God returned.”

Luke 9:20
“You are the Christ of God” was changed to “You are Christ, God.”

Luke 9:35
Scribes altered the phrase “the one who has been chosen” to “in whom I am well pleased.” This is a subtle change, but it takes the emphasis off the fact that Jesus was chosen by God, which some people recognized does not make sense if Jesus is God.

John 10:33
Scribes added the definite article to the word theos, “god,” in manuscript “p66.” Theos without the article means “god” and is translated as such in verses like John 10:34 and 35; Acts 12:22;28:6. Adding the definite article changes “god” to “God.” Most modern translators ignore the fact that the Greek text reads “god” and not “God,” and thus “God” is what appears in almost every modern version.

John 14:9
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” was modified by scribes to avoid the modalist interpretation that Christ was a form of God and not a member of the “Godhead.” They modified the text by adding the word “also” after the word “Father.” This is a change that supports what has become the modern Trinitarian position against the position now held by Oneness Pentecostals, but the change in the text is recognized by modern scholars and thus was not included in the modern Greek text.

John 19:5 (KJV)
“Behold the man” was either omitted entirely or changed to “Behold a man” to avoid the fact that Jesus was known as a man.

John 19:40
Scribes changed “Jesus’ body” to “God’s body.”

Acts 2:30
“One of his [David’s] descendants” was changed to “of the fruit of his heart,” i.e.like David, to avoid the idea that Jesus had a human descent.

Acts 10:37
“The baptism that John preached” was changed to “after the preaching of John” to disassociate the anointing of Jesus (v. 38) with his baptism. It was at his baptism that the spirit came on Jesus and he was “anointed” (and thus became “Messiah” or “Christ”). Most Trinitarians are uncomfortable with Jesus not becoming the Christ until his baptism, so some scribes simply disassociated the two events by removing the baptism from the verse.

Acts 13:33
“By raising up Jesus” was changed to “by raising up Jesus Christ.” This change to the text avoided the “problem” that Jesus was not thought by some to be the Christ until his resurrection.

Acts 20:28
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” This verse has been represented in many ways in different Greek texts, making it obvious that scribes were changing the text. The challenge to modern scholars is to try to discover the original reading among all the variant readings. The major variant readings are:

1. “The church of God which He purchased with the blood of His own (Son).”
2. “The church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
3. “The church of the Lord which He purchased with His own blood.”
4. “The church of the Lord and God which He purchased with His own blood.”

There is no reference anywhere in the Bible to “the blood of God.” This reading, already suspect on textual grounds, thus becomes suspect on logical grounds also. The scholars who author the United Bible Society Greek Text, as well as those who author the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, all agree that “tou haimatos tou idiou” (reading #1 above) is original. As the Trinitarian debate raged, it would have been quite easy for a scribe to change “tou haimatos tou idiou” (the blood of his own) to “tou idiou haimatos” (his own blood, #2 above) by moving a word and omitting the article “tou.” However, the textual evidence indicates that once the reading, “His own blood” was created, other scribes were uncomfortable with the idea of God having blood, and thus “God” was changed to “Lord” (# 3 above). This reading makes sense, but the textual evidence is clear that this was a later change and not original. Then, scribes copying the verse had another problem: some of the texts they were to copy from read “God” and some of them read “Lord,” so rather than choosing one or the other, “the Lord and God” was created (reading #4) as a conflation of #2 and #3.

It is interesting that although the Greek text from which the NIV was translated read as #1 above, the translators nevertheless translated it as if the Greek read as #2, strongly supporting their Trinitarian position. Nevertheless, in the notes at the bottom of the NIV Study Bible, the commentators admit that the phrase refers to the blood of God’s Son, and not God Himself. They write, “‘his own blood.’ Lit. ‘the blood of His own [one], a term of endearment (such as ‘his own dear one,’ referring to His own Son).’”

1 Corinthians 5:7

The original text read “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” In some texts, scribes added the words “for us” at the end of the phrase to avoid the implication that Jesus’ own sins might be included.

1 Corinthians 15:45
“The first man, Adam” was changed by scribes to read, “the first, Adam” to get rid of the word “man,” since by grammatical implication Christ would then have to be a man also.

1 Corinthians 15:47
“The second man from heaven” was changed in various ways: “the second man, the Lord from heaven” or “the second, the Lord from heaven” or “the second man is spiritual,” etc. The variety of ways this verse has come down to us today shows that it was not just one or two scribes changing the text but rather a number of unscrupulous scribes who thought their theological position was more important than the authority of the Word of God. Any verse stating that Jesus was a man was “a thorn in the side” of the developing Trinitarian position, and attempts were made to expunge these from the text. Thankfully, through modern scholarship, the original reading is agreed upon by scholars.

Galatians 2:20
“By faith in the Son of God” was changed in several ways, such as: “in God, Christ,” or “in God, the Son.”

Ephesians 3:9
“God who created all things” was changed to “God who created all things through Jesus Christ.”

Colossians 2:2
This verse, although not usually considered a Trinitarian verse, is occasionally used to show that the mystery of God is Christ (i.e., that Christ is God and Man, thus a mystery).

Colossians 2:2 (KJV)
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.

Colossians 2:2 (NIV)
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.

This verse was a subject of hot debate, and there is ample evidence that scribes changed the text to fit their theology. The Greek texts reflect some fourteen variations, which are listed in The Text of the New Testament, by Bruce Metzger. It is interesting, however, that in almost all of them the possibility that Christ could be God is eliminated. The KJVrepresents a good example of that. It is now widely conceded that the original was probably “tou musteriou tou theou Christou,” but how to translate that phrase is debated. It can be translated the way the NIV is. It can also be translated “the mystery of the Christ of God,” and this is the most probable translation. It is difficult to make “Christ” into the mystery of God. Remember that, in Greek, the word “musterion” does not mean “mystery” in the sense of something that cannot be fully understood. The meaning of “musterion” is actually “secret.” Thus, although Trinitarian theology speaks of the “mystery” of Christ in the sense that how the Godhead exists or how the two natures co-exist in Christ is a mystery, that is not at all what this verse is saying. Furthermore, “Christ” cannot be considered a “secret,” because he is the great subject of the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation. A quick study of the other uses of “musterion” in the Bible will show that once a “secret” is revealed, it can be understood. But the “Trinity” and the “two natures” cannot be understood at all.

The question that will help solve the translation problem is: “Is there a ‘secret’ in the New Testament that could be considered the ‘secret of the Christ of God?’” The answer to that question is a definite “Yes.” The word “musterion” is used to refer to the Age of Grace in which we live. Ephesians 3:2 and 3 reads, “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery [musterion, “secret”] made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.”

Thus when Colossians mentions “the secret of the Christ of God,” it makes perfect sense to see this as a reference to the Grace Administration, which was a secret hidden before the foundation of the world but revealed to Paul by Christ. For scriptural documentation on this point, see Ephesians 3:2-9; Colossians 1:27; Galatians 1:11 and 12.

1 Timothy 3:16 (NASB)

“Who” was changed to “God.” This change was very obvious in the texts and is openly admitted by Trinitarian scholars. The change produced a very powerful Trinitarian argument, because the altered text reads, “God was manifested in the flesh,” instead of “[Jesus] who was manifested in the flesh,” which is the correct and recognized reading.

Titus 3:6
“Jesus Christ our Savior” was changed to “Jesus Christ our God.”

Hebrews 1:3
Scribes altered the phrase “purification for sins” to “purification for our sins” to avoid the parallel between Christ and the Levitical priests who provided purification for their own sins as well as those of the people.

Hebrews 2:18
Although the verse reads, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted,” the words “when he was tempted” were omitted by some scribes. As the theology that Jesus was God developed, so did the doctrine that Jesus was not able to sin. Thus a reference to him being tempted became a problem, and omitting the phrase in the text was a simple solution.

Hebrews 13:20
“Our Lord Jesus” was changed to “Our God Jesus.”

1 Peter 4:1
“Christ suffered” was changed to “Christ suffered for us.” As the doctrine of the Trinity developed, it became more and more important for Trinitarians to show his perfection and godhood in life. Thus the words “for us” were added by scribes, lest someone think that somehow his suffering might have benefited him in some way.

1 John 3:23
The text reads “that we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another.” In some texts, the scribes omitted “Son” so that the text would read “believe in his [i.e., God’s] name, Jesus Christ,” thus equating Jesus with God.

1 John 5:7 and 8
This text was markedly changed to reflect the Trinitarian position. Reading the KJV and the NIV shows the differences:

1 John 5:7 and 8 (KJV)
(7)
“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
(8) And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

1 John 5:7 and 8 (NIV)
(7)
“For there are three that testify:
(8) the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”

The phrase, “the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one,” was added by Trinitarians. The NIV, a very Trinitarian Bible, omits the phrase, and the NIV Study Bible has this note about the verse: “The addition is not found in any Greek manuscript or NT translation prior to the 16th century.”

Anyone who studies the Reformation carefully knows that in the 1500’s there was a tremendous unitarian revival, and the Trinitarian position was being challenged. A response to that challenge was to add a Trinitarian phrase in 1 John. Thankfully, modern Trinitarian scholars recognize that addition, and newer versions omit the phrase. Nevertheless, the fact that Trinitarian scholars were so willing to add to the Word of God to win their debate should cause us to examine other “clearly” Trinitarian verses very carefully.

Jude 5

“The Lord delivered his people out of Egypt” was changed to “Jesus delivered” in a few manuscripts to make Jesus exist in the Old Testament

Conclusion

It is important to repeat again that all the above changes have been discovered and excluded from the newest versions of the Greek New Testament and from almost all modern versions. Christians owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who work to computerize the texts to make them easy to work with and compare. Gratitude is also owed to the honest scholars who work the texts and draw their conclusions from the textual evidence rather than from tradition. These men and women could “fudge” their data to cloak the Trinitarian changes to the text and thus, in some cases, further their own theology. But the modern versions of the Greek New Testament attest to their honesty in trying to restore the original text. We have cited them throughout this book (NIVNASBNRSVetc.).


Endnote:

1. We recognize that in the early centuries there were many competing belief systems, and scribes from most of them seem to have altered texts in favor of their own beliefs. However, this appendix is focusing on Trinitarian issues, so that is what is emphasized. Back to top