Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
-Psalm 138:2, KJV

The Preeminence Of Christ

By Thomas Holland, ©2000, used with permission.
This is an except from Dr. Holland's book, Crowned With Glory.

Some have proclaimed that modern versions or their Greek texts deny the deity of Jesus Christ. Certainly there are some, such as the New World Translation, that seek to diminish Christ's deity. It is also true that some versions are stronger regarding Christ's deity than others. While most translations clearly and strongly proclaim this basic biblical truth, the Traditional Text does present a stronger Christology regarding His deity (Matthew 19:16-17; Romans 14:10, 12; Philippians 2:6; 1Timothy 3:16; 1John 5:7; and Revelation 1:8, 11).

Additionally, other aspects of Christology are more strongly presented in the Traditional Text. For example, in Luke 2:33, 43 the Traditional Text calls the stepfather of Christ by his name and separates him from the person of Mary. We read, "Joseph and his mother marvelled" and "Joseph and his mother knew not of it." However, the Critical Text changes "Joseph" to "father," making the texts read "his father and mother marveled" and "his father and mother knew not of it." Such readings do not in themselves deny the virgin birth of Christ; still the reading found in the Traditional Text upholds this doctrine and removes any possible confusion in this regard.

The same may be said of Christ's redemption. Again, the truth of salvation is found in all Greek texts and English translations. Yet, certain aspects are presented more forcefully in the Traditional Text and the KJV in certain places. We are told that we have redemption "through his blood" in Colossians 1:14. The Critical Text does not contain this phrase at this place, though it does appear in all texts in Ephesians 1:7. This raises two questions. First, why would the phrase be found in Paul's letter to the Ephesians and not in his letter to the Colossians? Second, how is it possible to have redemption without divine payment for that redemption? Clearly the phrase should remain in regard to this doctrine. The Greek manuscripts are evenly divided as to its inclusion or omission. This can be demonstrated with the two editions of the Majority Text. The internal evidence, based on Ephesians 1:7, would argue for its inclusion in that the phrase is used by Paul elsewhere and is consistent with what he would have written. Overall, when we consider other textual sources, the reading must remain because it is biblical and in character with Paul's other writings.

An additional example concerns 1Peter 2:2. We are told in the Traditional Text that as newborn babies in Christ we should "desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby." The Greek phrase found in the Traditional Text reads ina en auto auxethete (that ye may grow). The Critical Text adds eis soterian (to salvation) at the end of the phrase, suggesting that salvation is something we grow to. This is why the NRSV renders the phrase as "that by it you may grow into salvation." Certainly the reading of the Traditional Text omits the confusion and provides a stronger Christology here regarding redemption.

In regard to Christ, Paul reminds us that "in all things he might have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18). If Christ is to have the preeminence in all things, this would include Bible translations. Just as one can use a modern version to prove the deity of Christ, so modern versions proclaim the person of Jesus Christ. Though this may not be in question, divine names are not always as strongly proclaimed in the Critical Text. Instead of phrases such as "Lord Jesus Christ" we might find "Jesus Christ" or "Jesus." In fact, there are about two hundred such examples found in the New Testament where the expanded title is found in the Traditional Text.

Sometimes a simple omission has profound impact. 1John 1:7 is a good illustration of this. The Traditional Text reads, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Modern versions based on the Alexandrian textual line read "Jesus" instead of "Jesus Christ." The difference seems small on the surface, but we must remember that John wrote this epistle to confront the heresy of Gnosticism. The Gnostics taught that Jesus and Christ were two separate entities. Jesus, they said, was born of Joseph and Mary and was physical. At his baptism the Christ, who was spiritual, was said to have entered into him. At this point, according to the Gnostics, Jesus became Jesus Christ. At his crucifixion, the Gnostics claimed that the Christ left, leaving only Jesus to die. At the resurrection, the disciples saw the spirit Christ, but the mortal Jesus remained dead. Once we understand the heresy John was confronting, the differences between the two readings becomes abundantly clear. If John had written "the blood of Jesus" he would have been making a statement that the Gnostics would have been in agreement with. After all, they believed that it was Jesus who shed his blood. But by writing "the blood of Jesus Christ," John was making a direct assault on this Gnostic heresy.

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