The Secret of Piety (or "The Mystery of Godliness")


Clearly the One who was manifested in the flesh, preached among the Gentiles, and received up in glory (after His resurrection) was Jesus. But where, there may be, and has been controversy, is whether the verse says “God was manifested in the flesh” or something else.

Here are what the various translations (which I have on my Online Bible Program) have for the word:

God—Av, Darby, NKJV, EMTV, RWebster, WEB, YLT
Who—Diaglot, Rotherham
Which—Douay, Murdoch
He—ASV, ESV, HCSB, LO, WASB, RSV, Williams

If we were to judge by majority translations, then it may be a tie between “God” and “He.” However, that would be a poor attempt a solution to the problem. It’s all a matter of what the apostle Paul wrote in the original Greek text. But, as we know, that doesn’t exist for ANY part of the New Testament. We have only copies. Unfortunately, none of the extant manuscripts prior to A.D. 300, contains either of Paul’s letters to Timothy.

In all manuscripts that DO contain the verse there are two, and only two variations of the word. One of these variations is “OC,” that is, the two letters omicron and sigma (All early copies of the New Testament writings were written in upper-case Greek letters). The other variation is ΘC with a bar over the two letters (I don’t know how to do this in a post).

Now “OC” is a relative pronoun in Greek, and means “who” or “which,” whereas ΘC with a bar over the two letters, is an abbreviation for ΘΕΟC (theos) which means “God.”

There are many extant manuscripts that contain “OC” (who, which) in the verse, and also many contain ΘC with a bar over the two letters. If we are going to accept the former, we need to use the translation “who” or “which”, and if the latter, we need to use the translation “God.” But “who” is a relative pronoun and if it is correct, then the pronoun doesn’t seem relative to anything. Where is its antecedent? The verse is clearly referring to Jesus who was “received up in glory” when God raised Him from the dead. But if Jesus is the antecedent you have to go way back to chapter 2, verses 5 and 6—and there is a whole lot in between in which Paul gives various instructions to overseers, deacons, and their wives. So the word cannot mean “who.” Well, how about “which” as the Douay and Murdoch translate it? At least the antecedent is obvious. You would have, “the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh.” But does that make any sense? How can the mystery of godliness be manifested in the flesh, and be received up in glory?

Those translations that render the word as “He” are incorrect. The relative pronoun “OC” never means “he.”

As I see it, ΘC with a bar over the two letters, an abbreviation for ΘΕΟC (theos) is correct. But there is no article before the word. So it does not refer to the Father, or the “only true God” as Jesus addressed Him. It may mean “God” in the same sense as it’s second occurrence is used in John 1:1. In that verse, the Word is with “the God” (the only true God), and the word was God generically. When we generate children each of them is “man” generically. Whether the child is a boy or a girl, he or she is man. In the same way, The Father’s only Son is God.

Your child is not bovine or feline, or canine; it is human like its parents. When God generated His only Son, that Son was not bovine, feline, canine, or human. He was divine like His parent. However though God begot Him as His only divine offspring, He appointed Him to BECOME fully human—to be born as a man—to divest Himself of all His divine attributes, and become a true human being:

The only thing that Jesus retained of His pre-existence, was His identity as the Son of God.


Don, do you think that Jesus, as a 2nd temple Jew (by all accounts) remembered HIs eternity with the Father, experiences he may have had before creation, wisdom he may have gained from eternity?


Thanks for the questions, Dave.

First, I’m not sure what you mean by “His eternity.” Do you hold the concept of time as extending infinitely into the past? And that I believe God’s Son always existed in the infinite past? Or do you mean something else? Please explain.

However, as to Jesus remembering His pre-existence, I believe He did. Not as an infant, but possibly He first became aware of who He was, when He was 12 and began to call God “My Father.”

I am not sure that the Son had any experiences before the creation of the Universe. My understanding is that God’s first act was to generate His Son from His very Being, and then immediately He created everything through His Son—His Son being the means by which the Father created all things.

My belief is that time had a beginning, when the Father begot His Son. This first act marked the beginning of time. Nothing happened before that, because there was no “before.”

In case you find that the concept of time having a beginning, difficult to grasp, let me say that I share that difficulty with you. But I find the idea of time having no beginning even more difficult. For what was God doing during that infinite period of time before He begat His Son? Nothing?


If i understand you, Paidon, your view is that before time there was God & He did nothing.

Would you agree that now beyond the universe is God and nothing happening? Or do you believe the universe is endless in its distance?

“…the distance to the edge of the observable universe is about 46 billion light years because the universe is expanding all of the time…”


No. God is in the universe and is active in it. I have never claimed that He was ever “outside” it. You may say, “If He were never outside it, how could He have created it?” That indeed seems to be a difficulty for the human mind to grasp. But I think that is because we cannot conceive of time having had an actual beginning.

I have far greater difficulty conceiving of His existence extending to an infinite past. You don’t seem to appreciate my asking what He was doing for that infinite period? Nothing? If you believe God existed for a time extending infinitely into the past, then please tell us what He might have been doing all that time. And why create everything at the particular time that He did? Why not a trillion years earlier? Or a trillion later?


That all sounds quite reasonable as a possible way the story of God & the universe began.

Thanks for your response.


I don’t have a belief on the subject. I’d put all this into the category of speculation and science fiction.

What God might have been doing in infinity past?

  1. Assuming He is a Triune Being of three persons, He could have been having fellowship with Himself, i.e. amongst the three persons.

  2. Assuming He is a solitary person with a tripartite soul - mind, emotion, & will - like human beings have that He created in His image & likeness, He could have been having fellowship with Himself much like individual human beings do all the time.

  3. Assuming that Scripture does not rule out the possibility of God creating other universes, God could have been creating trillions x trillions x trillions of other universes with all kinds of sentient beings & plots.


Thank you, Origen, for that response. Yes, I suppose if any of those assumptions reflect reality, that might explain what God was doing all that time.

But then if assumptions 1 or 2 is corr But then, wouldn’t He still be doing those things? And if He found occupation with Himself satisfactory, why create anything?

As for assumption 3, I don’t understand “other universes.” Doesn’t the very meaning of the word “Universe” mean “everything that exists”? If so, how can there be other universes?

But perhaps “other galaxies” is meant, and that the creation story is only about the Milky Way Galaxy. So if God were creating galaxies for a infinite amount of time, then that would imply that the Universe itself is infinite in extension, would it not?


Those are good, insightful questions. I don’t know of any satisfactory answers.

Regarding other universes, i haven’t read anything, though an internet search seems to offer a lot of info on the topic: … ories.html … ackground/