Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 20: It Is Christ Himself, Part 1: 1 Timothy 3:16

In this discussion on 1 Timothy 3:16, Pope John Paul II labels this section: It Is Christ Himself

20. It is profoundly significant that when Paul presents this mysterium pietatis he simply transcribes, without making a grammatical link with what he has just written,* three lines of a Christological hymn which-in the opinion of authoritative scholars- has used in the Greek-speaking Christian communities.

A side note of a bit of Bible study:

[The text presents a certain difficulty, since the relative pronoun which opens the literal translation does not agree with the neuter mysterion. Some late manuscripts have adjusted the text in order to correct the grammar. But it was Paul’s intention merely to put next to what he had written a venerable text which for him was fully explanatory.]

Let’s get back to the text. Scholars look at the lyricism and suggest it was a song or a fragment of the musical repertoire of at least one Christian community. It is certainly a creed. That doesn’t negate the possibility Christians sang it. If they did, it served two functions at early liturgical gatherings.

In the words of that hymn, full of theological content and rich in noble beauty, those first-century believers professed their faith in the mystery of Christ, whereby:

  • He was made manifest in the reality of human flesh and was constituted by the Holy Spirit as the Just One who offers himself for the unjust.

  • He appeared to the angels, having been made greater than them, and he was preached to the nations as the bearer of salvation.

  • He was believed in, in the world, as the one sent by the Father, and by the same Father assumed into heaven as Lord.

And the note on this brief exposition:

(The early Christian community expresses its faith in the crucified and glorified Christ, whom the angels adore and who is the Lord. But the striking element of this message remains the phrase “manifested in the flesh”: that the eternal Son of God became (human) is the “great mystery.)

What does this have to do with reconciliation? Mainly the expression of faith in the Incarnation, that Jesus came to Earth in human form to be with us, person to person. His continuation in his form as a first century Jew isn’t necessary. We have the complete Paschal Mystery, and the promise that his ministry of calling sinners, of walking and conversing with them, and forgiving them will continue through all time.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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