John 3:13 “… even the Son of man which is in heaven.”


John 3:13  KJB (Revised Version 1881, ASV 1901) – “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.” (ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ)

ESV (NIV, NASB, NET, Holman, Jehovah Witness NWT, Catholic New Jerusalem) – “No one has ascended into heaven except him who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”

Do these words of the Lord Jesus Christ belong in the Bible? Remember, HE is the one who said as recorded three times in the gospels (the only verse that is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke) “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

Did He lie about this or tell us the truth? 

In the King James Bible John 3:13 has a testimony from our Lord Jesus Christ explaining Who He is. He says: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.“

This is the only verse I am aware of in all the New Testament where the Lord Jesus Himself (before His resurrection and ascension into heaven) witnesses to the fact of His own omnipresence. Omnipresence – or being in all places at the one and the same time – is an attribute that only belongs to the Godhead.

The Lord Jesus is both on the earth speaking to an individual named Nicodemus about the new birth that is required to enter the kingdom of God, AND He is at the same time “in heaven”.  Only God is omnipresent, – everywhere at the same time – and John 3:13 is another in a long list of verses that have been tampered with in many modern versions.

The evidence for the inclusion of these inspired words in the Holy Bible is simply overwhelming, yet modern versions like the Catholic New Jerusalem bible of 1985, the Jehovah Witness New World Translation (they deny the deity of Christ), and the critical text versions like the RSV, NRSV, ESV, NIV, NASB, NET and Holman versions omit these precious words.

We also see the total inconsistency of what is foolishly called the “science” of textual criticism. Westcott and Hort omitted the words “WHICH IS IN HEAVEN (ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ) from their new Greek text, and so have all the UBS/Nestle-Aland/Vatican critical texts ever since.

Yet not even the previous “critical text” versions like the English Revised Version of 1881 nor the American Standard Version of 1901 omitted these words – “even the Son of man, WHO IS IN HEAVEN.” (ASV 1901)  They both still read just like the King James Bible. 

 A few other “critical text” versions are now coming out which also put the words back into their text, even though the UBS/Nestle-Aland/Vatican critical texts continue to omit these words, such as the new ISV (International Standard Version 2014 and The Voice 2012 – “the Son of man, WHO IS IN HEAVEN.”

The Catholic Connection

The reading of “the Son of man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN” was in the previous Catholic versions like the Douay-Rheims of 1582, the Douay of 1950, the Jerusalem bible of 1968 and even the St. Joseph New American Bible of 1970. 

It wasn’t until the Catholic New Jerusalem bible of 1985 came out that they removed these words from their text.  

The first major English version to omit the words “which is in heaven” was the liberal RSV of 1946 -1973, then followed by the NIV of 1973, 1984, 2011, the NASBs from 1960 to 1995, the ESV 2001-2016, Holman Standard, NET and the Jehovah Witness New World Translation, to name but a few of the modern critical text Vatican Versions.

The words “which is in heaven” are found in the vast Majority of all Greek manuscripts including A, E, F, G, H, K, M, S, U, V, Gamma, Delta, Theta, Pi, Psi, the Old Latin copies of a, aur, b, c, f, ff2, j, l, q, r1. 

It is also the reading of the Syriac Peshitta, Curetonian, Harkelian, some Coptic Boharic copies, the Armenian, Ethiopian, Georgian and Slavonic ancient versions.

Even Tischendorf included these words in his Greek text. It was Westcott and Hort who first removed them, but as we saw, not even the RV or ASV followed Westcott and Hort here but they both left the words “which is in heaven” in their translations.

It was also quoted or referenced by early church witnesses like Hippolytus, Origen, Adamantius, Eustathius, Dionysius, Amphilochius, Epiphanius, Chrysistom, Cyriil, Hesychius, Theodoret, John-Damascus, Hilary, Ambrosiaster, Ambrose, Chromatius, Jerome and Agustine. Many early Christian writers made reference to these words as found in John 3:13 –

“And no man hath ascended up into heaven, except him that descended from heaven, the Son of man, WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.” Tatian (140 AD), Diatessaron

“No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.” Hippolytus, (170-236 AD), Against Noetus

“Not any one hath ascended into heaven save He who came down from heaven, the Son of man WHO IS IN HEAVEN.” Novatian (250 AD), Trinity 13

“How, then, does the Lord say, If ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before, and again, No man hath ascended up to heaven but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN?” Theodoret (380 AD), Dialogue 3

“For He saith, No man hath ascended up to Heaven, but the Son of Man, WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.” Chrysostom (347-407 AD), Homily 27, 54

“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.” Augustine (354-430 AD), Anti-Pelagian 1.59, 1.60

The few manuscripts that omit these words are the usual ones like Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which don’t even agree with each other, and a couple of other Egyptian papyri like P66 and P75 which also disagree not only with the majority of texts but with each other as well, even in this single chapter. All of these are Egyptian texts.

Bible translations that include the words “even the Son of man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.” are the following: the Anglo-Saxon Gospels 900 A.D. and 1200 A.D. – “Mannes sunu. se ðe com of heofonum.”, the Wycliffe Bible of 1395 – “And no man stieth in to heuene, but he that cam doun fro heuene, mannys sone THAT IS IN HEAUENE.”, Tyndale 1525, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587 – “that Sonne of man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.”, the Beza N.T. 1599, Mace N.T. 1729, Wesley’s translation of 1755, Living Oracles 1835, The Pickering N.T. 1840, The Calvin Version 1856, Sawyer N.T. 1858, The Revised N.T. 1862, Murdock 1852, Etheridge 1849 and Lamsa’s 1933 translations of the Syriac Peshitta, The Revised New Testament 1862, The Alford N.T. 1870, The Revised English Bible 1877, Darby 1890, Young’s 1898, Godbey N.T. 1902, Weymouth N.T. 1912, The Sinaitic N.T. 1918, New English N.T. 1961, New Life Bible 1969, Amplified Bible 1987, the NKJV 1982, The Word of Yah 1993, Interlinear Greek N.T. 1997 (Larry Pierce), the Lawrie Translation 1998, God’s First Truth 1999, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, The Last Days N.T. 1999, The World English Bible 2000, Sacred Scriptures Family of Yah 2001, the Tomson N.T. 2002, The Apostolic Polyglot Bible 2003, Green’s Interlinear 2005, The Pickering N.T. 2005, The Resurrection Life N.T. 2005, The Online Interlinear 2010 (André de Mol), The Voice 2012, the Jubilee Bible 2010, The New European Version 2010, The Aramaic N.T. 2011, The Far Above All Translation 2011, the Natural Israelite Bible of 2012, The World English Bible 2012, The Interlinear Hebrew-Greek Scriptures 2011 (Mebust), The Hebraic Roots Bible 2012, the Biblos Interlinear Bible 2013, The English Majority Text 2013 (Paul Esposito), The International Standard Version 2014, the Hebrew Names Bible 2014, The Modern Literal N.T. 2014, The Modern English Version 2014, the New Matthew Bible 2017 and The Passion Translation 2017.  

Foreign Language Bibles

Foreign language versions that include the words “which are in heaven” are the Latin Vulgate of 382 A.D. – “et nemo ascendit in caelum nisi qui descendit de caelo Filius hominis QUI EST IN CAELO”, Lamsa’s translation of the Syriac Peshitta – “No man has ascended to heaven, except he who came down from heaven, even the Son of man who is in heaven.”, the  Portuguese A Biblia Sagrada and the Portuguese Almeida Corrigida 2009 – “o Filho do homem, QUE ESTA NO CEU.”, the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569, Cipriano de Valera 1602, the Spanish Reina Valeras of 1909, 1960, 1995 (But the 2011 edition omits them, thanks to Eugene Nida) – “Nadie subió al cielo sino el que descendió del cielo, el Hijo del hombre, QUE ESTA EN EL CIELO.”, and the 1997 La Biblia de las Américas (put out by the Lockman Foundation -NASB), the French Martin 1744, Louis Segond 21 of 2007 and Ostervald of 1996 – “Personne n’est monté au ciel, sinon celui qui est descendu du ciel, le Fils de l’homme QUI EST DANS LE CIEL.”, the Hundarian Károli, the Italian Diodati of 1649 and the Nuova Diodati of 1991 as well as the 2006 Nuova Riveduta – “ Or nessuno è salito in cielo, se non colui che è disceso dal cielo, cioè il Figlio dell’uomo CHE E NEL CIELO.”

Also containing the words “the Son of Man WHICH IS IN HEAVEN” are the Norwegian Det Norsk Bibelselskap, Luthers’s German Bible of 1545 and the 2000 Schlachter Bible – “dem Sohn des Menschen, der im Himmel ist.”, the Romanian Cornilescu Bible and the 2006 Noua Traducere În Limba Român – “ Fiul omului, care este în cer.”, the Russian Synodal Version and the Victor Zhuromsky Bible, the Arabic Smith & Van Dyke Bible, the Africaans Bible, the Tagalog Ang Salita ng Diyos 1998 -“Maliban sa Anak ng Tao na nasa langit.”,

the Modern Greek Bible and the Modern Hebrew Bible –

the Modern Greek Bible and the Greek text used by the Greek Orthodox churches all over the world – “καὶ οὐδεὶς ἀναβέβηκεν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εἰ μὴ ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς, ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ.

and the Modern Hebrew Bible – “ואיש לא עלה השמימה בלתי אם אשר ירד מן השמים בן האדם אשר הוא בשמים׃”

Notes from the internet  – Refuting the Bible Agnostics

After posting this study on John 3:13 a bible agnostic asked me: “Was Jesus’ body in heaven then Will?”

To whom I answered: “Jesus, as God, was in a body on the earth and in heaven as a spirit. He is God. Same thing when God came down in a body and spoke with Abraham. Did God then cease to be in heaven during those hours? See Genesis chapter 18.”

You can also consult many commentaries on this verse.

John Gill comments on John 3:13 – “even the son of man which is in heaven” – at the same time he was then on earth: not that he was in heaven in his human nature, and as he was the son of man; but in his divine nature, as he was the Son of God. 

Adam Clarke explains in his commentary – “Lest a wrong meaning should be taken from the foregoing expression, and it should be imagined that, in order to manifest himself upon earth he must necessarily leave heaven; our blessed Lord qualifies it by adding, the Son of man who is in heaven; pointing out, by this, the ubiquity or omnipresence of his nature: a character essentially belonging to God; for no being can possibly exist in more places than one at a time, but HE who fills the heavens and the earth.”

Barne’s Notes on the New Testament says: “Which is in heaven. This is a very remarkable expression. Jesus, the Son of man, was then bodily on earth conversing with Nicodemus; yet he declares that he is at the same time in heaven. This can be understood only as referring to the fact that he had two natures–that his divine nature was in heaven, and his human nature on earth.” 

Matthew Henry comments on this verse saying: “We have here an intimation of Christ’s two distinct natures in one person: his divine nature, in which he came down from heaven; his human nature, in which he is the Son of man; and that union of those two, in that while he is the Son of man yet he is in heaven…That he is in heaven. Now at this time, when he is talking with Nicodemus on earth, yet, as God, he is in heaven. The Son of man, as such, was not in heaven till his ascension; but he that was the Son of man was now, by his divine nature, every where present, and particularly in heaven.”

John Calvin remarks: “as it very frequently happens, on account of the unity of the Person of Christ, that what properly belongs to one nature is applied to another, we ought not to seek any other solution. Christ, therefore, who is in heaven, hath clothed himself with our flesh, that, by stretching out his brotherly hand to us, he may raise us to heaven along with him.”

Matthew Poole’s commentary on the Bible – “who is in heaven, by virtue of the personal union of the two natures in the Redeemer; as we read. Acts 20:28the church, which he hath purchased with his own blood. By reason of the personal union of the two natures in Christ, though the properties of each nature remain distinct, yet the properties of each nature are sometimes attributed to the whole person.”John Wesley comments: “Who is in heaven – Therefore he is omnipresent; else he could not be in heaven and on earth at once. This is a plain instance of what is usually termed the communication of properties between the Divine and human nature; whereby what is proper to the Divine nature is spoken concerning the human, and what is proper to the human is, as here, spoken of the Divine.”  The King James Bible is right, as always. Don’t settle for an inferior substitute.

Return to articles  –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s