John 3:13
"which is in heaven"
by Martin A. Shue

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

It is a fact that the many hundreds of modern Bible versions have omitted a large portion of the New Testament that is preserved in the Authorized Version. For centuries Christians have cherished, believed, and even died for these sacred words, but now a strange phenomena is taking place. In earlier times Christians had to defend Godís word against those that would attack it. Most often these attacks came from Atheist or Agnostics that sought to disprove the Bible by casting doubt on it or by trying to prove that the sacred Deposit contained errors, thus proving the Bible to be unreliable. Tragically, this all changed with the onset of modern textual criticism. Today the Bible believer must defend Godís word from "Christian" Ďscholarsí and those that do nothing more than parrot what they have read by the Ďscholarsí. It is a sad day when "Christians" seek to discredit Godís word by attempting to prove error or by casting doubt on portions of the Bible. My how times have changed!

Among the earliest and most predominant textual critics of the Bible where men such as Lachmann, Tregelles, and Tischendorf, . These men, along with a few others, laid the foundation which would soon hold the edifice of Westcott and Hortís false theories. Lachmann, it should be explained, practically originated the practice of recurring exclusively to a few Greek MSS. while choosing to ignore the evidence of the majority. Prebendary Scrivener made the following assessment of Lachmannís text, "Lachmannís text seldom rests on more than four Greek codices, very often on three, not infrequently on two, sometimes on only one (Scrivener, Introduction, pp. 342-344)." Tregelles, although a devoted scholar, continued the irrational thinking and practices of Lachmann. So much so that Dean John Burgon made the following comments,

"But it has only to be stated, that Tregelles effectually persuaded himself that Ďeighty-nine ninetiethsí of our extant manuscripts and other authorities may safely be rejected and lost sight of when we come to amend the text and try to restore it to its primitive purity,---to make it plain that in Textual Criticism he must needs be regarded as an untrustworthy teacher (Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 22)
In the typical Burgon style the Dean makes this observation of Tregelles:
He resorted to a very few out of the entire mass of Ďancient Authoritiesí for the construction of his Text. His proceeding is exactly that of a man, who--in order that he may the better explore a comparatively unknown region--begins by putting out both his eyes; and resolutely refuses the help of the natives to show him the way. Why he rejected the testimony of every Father of the IVth century except Eusebius,--it were unprofitable to enquire (Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 243).
Tischendorf, as you may know, is responsible for rescuing Codex Aleph (Sinaiticus) from the monastery on Mt. Sinai. Due to this "discovery" Tischendorf carried the practices of his predecessors to new heights, which were previously unthinkable to any serious student of Biblical text. After Tischendorf secured possession of the Sinai MS. he altered his Greek Text (8th Edition) in no less than 3,505 places as compared to his 7th Edition--"to the scandal of the science of Comparative Criticism, as well as to his own grave discredit for discernment and consistency (Scrivener, Introduction, p. 470)." Scrivener also noted of Tischendorfís criticism, "the evidence of codex Aleph, supported or even unsupported by one or two other authorities of any description, is sufficient to outweigh any other witnesses,--whether Manuscripts, Versions, or ecclesiastical Writers (Ibid)." It certainly stands that Tischendorfís New Testament text is an "unsatisfactory exhibition of the inspired Text."

Next to pick up the mantle of Lachmann, Tregelles, and Tischendorf were Drs. Westcott and Hort. Much like Tischendorf they relied almost exclusively on two old codices of the IVth century, i.e. Aleph and B (Vaticanus). However, unlike Tischendorf they appealed more to the Vatican MS but the resulting New Testament Text proved to be just as fatal to the inspired Text as Tischendorfís had. John Burgon viewed this preference for B by Drs. Westcott and Hort as a "weak superstition":

I am (to speak plainly) at a loss to understand how any man of sound understanding acquainted with all the facts of the case and accustomed to exact reasoning, can hesitate to regard the unsupported (or the slenderly supported) testimony of one or other of them as simply worthless. The craven homage which the foremost of the three (MS. B) habitually receives at the hands of Drs. Westcott and Hort, I can only describe as a weak superstition. It is something more than unreasonable. It becomes even ridiculous (Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 325)
Ridiculous it is to ignore the overwhelming majority of MSS. in favor of two corrupt Alexandrian MSS.. But that is exactly what Drs. Westcott and Hort did in producing their Greek Text and it is exactly what our modern Ďscholarsí have done. It is this obsession with Aleph and B that brings us to the point of our present article, viz. John 3:13.

Due to this fixation with these old unicals the text of the Nestle/Aland Greek text and the United Bible Society Greek Text omits the Greek phrase--"o wn en tw ouranw" (which is in heaven). Subsequently, the modern versions, which are based on these two Greek texts, are also missing this phrase. A few of these read as follows:

New International Version - No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man.

New Revised Standard Version - No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

New American Standard Version - No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.

Todayís English Version - And no one has ever gone up to heaven except the Son of Man, who came down from heaven."

Now letís examine the grounds on which they have to remove these precious words of our Lordís. As already indicated this phrase ("which is in heaven") is wanting in the Alexandrian MSS. Aleph (Sinaiticus) and B (Vaticanus). It is also omitted from three other Unicals, viz. L, T and W. Further, it is omitted by Papyrus 66 (P66) and Papyrus 75 (P75). It is also not found in the Sahidic version, some Bohairic copies (Egyptian) and the Diatessaron. The Early Church Fathers that are against the reading of the KJB consist of Eusebius, Proclus, Ephraim Syrus and Marius. This is the sum total of the evidence for removing the phrase "which is in heaven" from the Greek texts as well as the modern versions. To proceed, however.

We now turn our attention to, what I am sure you will agree to be, the overwhelming evidence in support of retaining this reading in John 3:13. We start with the reading as found in the Traditional Received Text and the King James Bible. The King James Bible reads as follows: "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." The support for retaining the phrase is as follows: 1) It is found in EVERY extant Unical, with the exceptions being only those listed above, viz. Aleph, B, L, T and W. 2) It is found in EVERY Cursive MS. except manuscript 33. 3) All the Latin versions and all of the Syrian versions attest to its authenticity. It should be noted that these versions were extant more than one hundred years BEFORE Aleph and B were written. 4) It is also supported by the Coptic, Ethiopic, Georgian and the Armenian versions (400 A.D. - 900 A.D.). 5) Dean Burgon lists no less than 38 Early Church Fathers (see Endnotes for list) which quote this place with the phrase intact. 6) Further, it is acknowledged as authentic by Lachmann, Tregelles and Tischendorf, Westcott and Hortís predecessors.

A few of the Early Church Fathers that quoted this verse and recognized it as flowing from Johnís pen are as follows:

Hippolytus writes:

And it is not simply that I say this, but He Himself attests it who came down from heaven; for He speaketh thus: "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." (Hippolytus (A.D. 170 - 236), Against the Heresy of one Noetus, iv)
Novatian writes:
For He it is who "as a bridegroom goeth forth from his bridechamber; He exulted as a giant to run his way. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and His return unto the ends of it." Because, even to the highest, "not any one hath ascended into heaven save He who came down from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven." (Novatian (A.D. 210 - 280), Concerning the Trinity, XIII)
Augustin writes:
To ascend, therefore, they would be wholly unable, since "no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." (Augustin (A.D. 354 - 430), A Treatise on Forgiveness of Sins and Infant Baptism, 2:60)

Considering the staggering amount of evidence for retaining the phrase "which is in heaven" one must wonder why Westcott/Hort, Nestle/Aland, the UBS and the many hundred modern versions have little problem in expelling this phrase from Godís word. It is certain that our early English translators were fully persuaded that this phrase belonged in Godís word. A few of them read as follows:

Wiclif (Wycliffe) 1380 - and no man stieth in to heuene, but he that cam doun from heuene: mannes sone that is in heuene,

Tyndale 1534 - And no man ascendeth vp to heaven, but he that came doune from heaven, that is to saye, the sonne of man which is in heaven.

Geneva 1557 - For no man ascendeth vp to heauen, but the Sonne of man which is in heauen.

Without doubt the evidence clearly points to the fact that "which is in heaven" is an authentic part of John 3:13. It is supported by the manuscripts, the early versions and it receives undisputed attestation by the Early Church Fathers. It is pure deception and corruption on the part of the modern versions to remove this wonderful phrase from Godís Holy word. There is simply no justification for its removal from the gospel of John. Even James White, who is certainly no friend to the King James Bible, makes the following comment concerning this phrase in John 3:13, "One may well prefer the reading of the Majority Text at this point. The external attestation for the reading is impressive, as cited by UBS 4th, without including patristic sources. The patristic material favors the inclusion of the phrase, though there are important witnesses against it (James White, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations, p. 260)." Notice Mr. White says, "may well prefer", it is not a matter of "preferring" anything but rather what is unmistakably part of Godís preserved word. As Dean John Burgon said regarding this passage of Scripture and those that would seek to pervert it,

Shame,---yes, shame on the learning which comes abroad only to perplex the weak, and to unsettle the doubting, and to mislead the blind! Shame,---yes, shame on that two-thirds majority of well-intentioned but most incompetent men, who,...occupied themselves instead with falsifying the inspired Greek Text in countless places, and branding with suspicion some of the most precious utterances of the Spirit! Shame,---yes, shame upon them! (Burgon, Revision Revised, p. 135)



End Notes:

The list of Early Church Fathers are as follows:

2nd Century: Hippolytus

3rd Century: Dionysius of Alexandria (c), Novatian, Origen, Eustathius, Ambrose

4th Century: Aphraates the Persian, Athanasius, Augustine, Basil the Great, Chrysostom, Didymus, Epiphanius, Hilary, Jerome, Lucifer, Theodorus Heracl.

5th Century: Cyril of Alexandria, Marius Mecator, Nonnus, Paulus, Bishop of Emesa, Vigilius, Theodoret, Theodorus Mops, Victorinus (possibly 4th cent.), Cassian, Zeno, Maximus Taur., Capreolus

6th Century: Severus

8th Century: Amphilochus, Cosmas, John Damascene., Basilius Cil.

Also, 4 other ancient Greek writers.


Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
Amos 8:11