Internal and External Evidence for 1 John 5:7


There is some information I compiled some time ago on the text of 1 John 5:7 just below this paragraph. I don't exactly remember the sources that the info came from, but I do know that the historical and referenced texts are valid. Most scholars, and even ones in my camp do not believe that 1 John 5:7 belongs in the Bible. However, the evidence below has convinced me that Christians shouldn't be so eager to throw aside the text. I am not convinced and haven't seen any compelling evidence that this text needs deletion. All I have seen are scholars postulating theories with doubtful presuppositions. I personally think that Christians should stay with the texts that have been traditionally preserved over the years through scribal transmission. There is a reason 1 John 5:7 was added, and also the other texts that have been removed from the modern critical Greek texts. I do appreciate the desire of professional textual critics to try and reconstruct an "original text." However, that comes with the presupposition that the original hasn't been preserved through copying (Psalm 12:6-7). I submit that I could be wrong, but I just don't think so. I would rather be safe than sorry. Therefore, I accept the text as inspired.

1 John 5:7 NKJV
 "For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one." 
 
The passage is called the Johannine Comma and is "not" found in the majority of Greek manuscripts. However, the verse is a wonderful testimony to the Trinity and should be preserved in our English versions, not only because of its doctrinal significance but because of the external and internal evidence that testify to its authenticity.

The External Evidence: Although not found in most Greek manuscripts, the Johannine Comma is found in several. It is contained in 629 (fourteenth century), 61 (sixteenth century), 918 (sixteenth century), 2473 (seventeenth century), and 2318 (eighteenth century). It is also in the margins of 221 (tenth century), 635 (eleventh century), 88 (twelveth century), 429 (fourteenth century), and 636 (fifteenth century). There are about five hundred existing manuscripts of 1 John chapter five that do not contain the Comma. It is clear that the reading found in the Textus Receptus is the minority reading with later textual support from the Greek witnesses. Nevertheless, being a minority reading "does not eliminate it as genuine." The Critical Text considers the reading Iesou (of Jesus) to be the genuine reading instead of Iesou Christou (of Jesus Christ) in 1 John 1:7. Yet Iesou is the minority reading with only twenty-four manuscripts supporting it, while four hundred seventy-seven manuscripts support the reading Iesou Christou found in the Textus Receptus. Likewise, in 1 John 2:20 the minority reading pantes (all) has only twelve manuscripts supporting it, while the majority reading is panta (all things) has four hundred ninety-one manuscripts. Still, the Critical Text favors the minority reading over the majority in that passage. This is common place throughout the First Epistle of John, and the New Testament as a whole. Therefore, simply because a reading is in the minority does not eliminate it as being considered original.

While the Greek textual evidence is weak, the Latin textual evidence for the Comma is extremely strong. It is in the vast majority of the Old Latin manuscripts, which outnumber the Greek manuscripts. Although some doubt if the Comma was a part of Jerome's original Vulgate, the evidence suggests that it was. Jerome states:

"In that place particularly where we read about the unity of the Trinity which is placed in the First Epistle of John, in which also the names of three, i.e. of water, of blood, and of spirit, do they place in their edition and omitting the testimony of the Father; and the Word, and the Spirit in which the catholic faith is especially confirmed and the single substance of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is confirmed."

Other church fathers are also known to have quoted the Comma. Although some have questioned if Cyprian (258 AD) knew of the Comma, his citation certainly suggests that he did. He writes:

"The Lord says, 'I and the Father are one' and likewise it is written of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 'And these three are one'."

Also, there is no doubt that Priscillian (385 AD) cites the Comma:

"As John says "and there are three which give testimony on earth, the water, the flesh, the blood, and these three are in one, and there are three which give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one in Christ Jesus."

Likewise, the anti-Arian work compiled by an unknown writer, the Varimadum (380 AD) states:

"And John the Evangelist says, . . . 'And there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one'."

Additionally, Cassian (435 AD), Cassiodorus (580 AD), and a host of other African and Western bishops in subsequent centuries have cited the Comma. Therefore, we see that the reading has massive and ancient textual support apart from the Greek witnesses.

Internal Evidence: The structure of the Comma is certainly Johannine in style. John is noted for referring to Christ as "the Word." If 1 John 5:7 were an interpretation of verse eight, as some have suggested, than we would expect the verse to use "Son" instead of "Word." However, the verse uses the Greek word logos, which is uniquely in the style of John and provides evidence of its genuineness. Also, we find John drawing parallels between the Trinity and what they testify (1 John 4:13-14). Therefore, it comes as no surprise to find a parallel of witnesses containing groups of three, one heavenly and one earthly.

"The strongest evidence, however, is found in the Greek text itself." Looking at 1 John 5:8, there are three nouns which, in Greek, stand in the neuter (Spirit, water, and blood). However, they are followed by a participle that is masculine. The Greek phrase here is oi marturountes (who bare witness). Those who know the Greek language understand this to be poor grammar if left to stand on its own. Even more noticeably, verse six has the same participle but stands in the neuter (Gk.: to marturoun). Why are three neuter nouns supported with a masculine participle? The answer is found if we include verse seven. There we have two masculine nouns (Father and Son) followed by a neuter noun (Spirit). The verse also has the Greek masculine participle oi marturountes. With this clause introducing verse eight, it is very proper for the participle in verse eight to be masculine, because of the masculine nouns in verse seven. But if verse seven were not there it would become improper Greek grammar.

Even though Gregory of Nazianzus (390 AD) does not testify to the authenticity of the Comma, he makes mention of the flawed grammar resulting from its absence. In his Theological Orientations he writes referring to John:

". . . (he has not been consistent) in the way he has happened upon his terms; for after using Three in the masculine gender he adds three words which are neuter, contrary to the definitions and laws which you and your grammarians have laid down. For what is the difference between putting a masculine Three first, and then adding One and One and One in the neuter, or after a masculine One and One and One to use the Three not in the masculine but in the neuter, which you yourselves disclaim in the case of Deity?"

It is clear that Gregory recognized the inconsistency with Greek grammar if all we have are verses six and eight without verse seven. Other scholars have recognized the same thing. This was the argument of Robert Dabney of Union Theological Seminary in his book, The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek (1891). Bishop Middleton in his book, Doctrine of the Greek Article, argues that verse seven must be a part of the text according to the Greek structure of the passage. Even in the famous commentary by Matthew Henry, there is a note stating that we must have verse seven if we are to have proper Greek in verse eight.

While the external evidence makes the originality of the Comma possible, the internal evidence makes it very probable. When we consider the providential hand of God and His use of the Traditional Text in the Reformation it is clear that the Comma is authentic.

"The first and second editions of Erasmus' Greek text did not contain the Comma." It is generally reported that Erasmus promised to include the Comma in his third edition if a single manuscript containing the Comma could be produced. A Franciscan friar named Froy (or Roy) forged a Greek text containing it by translating the Comma from the Latin into Greek. Erasmus was then presented with this falsified manuscript and, being faithful to his word, reluctantly included the Comma in the 1522 edition.

"However, as has now been admitted by Dr. Bruce Metzger, this story is apocryphal (The Text Of The New Testament, p. 291). Metzger notes that H. J. de Jonge, a respected specialist on Erasmus, has established that there is no evidence of such events occurring. Therefore, opponents of the Comma in light of the historical facts should no longer affirm this report."



Below are some historical references where Church Fathers mention1 John 5:7 in their writings, from about 200 AD through the 1500s:
200 AD
Tertullian quoted the verse in his Apology, Against Praxeas
250 AD
Cyprian of Carthage, wrote, "And again, of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost it is written: "And the three are One" in his On The Lapsed, On the Novatians,
350 AD
Priscillian referred to it [Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Academia Litterarum Vindobonensis, vol. xviii, p. 6.]
350 AD
Idacius Clarus referred to it [Patrilogiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina by Migne, vol. 62, col. 359.]
350 AD
Athanasius of Alexandria referred to it in his De Incarnatione
398 AD
Aurelius Augustine used it to defend Trinitarianism in De Trinitate against the heresy of Sabellianism
415 AD
Council of Carthage appealed to 1 John 5:7 when debating the Arian belief (Arians didn't believe in the deity of Jesus Christ)
450-530 AD
Several orthodox African writers quoted the verse when defending the doctrine of the Trinity against the gainsaying of the Vandals. These writers are:
     A) Vigilius Tapensis in "Three Witnesses in Heaven"
     B) Victor Vitensis in his Historia persecutionis [Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Academia Litterarum Vindobonensis, vol. vii, p. 60.]
     C) Fulgentius in "The Three Heavenly Witnesses" [Patrilogiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina by Migne, vol. 65, col. 500.]
500 AD
Cassiodorus cited it [Patrilogiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina by Migne, vol. 70, col. 1373.]
550 AD
Old Latin manuscript readings have it.
550 AD
The "Speculum" has it [The Speculum is a treatise that contains some good Old Latin scriptures.]
750 AD
Wianburgensis referred to it
800 AD
Jerome's Vulgate has it [It was not in Jerome's original Vulgate, but was brought in about 800 AD from good Old Latin manuscripts.]
1000s AD
miniscule 635 has it.
1150 AD
minuscule ms 88 in the margin.
1300s AD
miniscule 629 has it.
157-1400 AD
Waldensian (that is, Vaudois) Bibles have the verse.
1500 AD
ms 61 has the verse

Even Nestle's 26th edition Greek New Testament, based upon the corrupt Alexandrian text, admits that these and other important manuscripts have the verse: 221 v.l.; 2318 Vulgate [Claromontanus]; 629; 61; 88; 429 v.l.; 636 v.l.; 918; l; r.

The Vaudois
Now the "Waldensian," or "Vaudois" Bibles stretch from about 157 to the 1400s AD. The fact is, according to John Calvin's successor Theodore Beza, that the Vaudois received the Scriptures from missionaries of Antioch of Syria in the 120s AD and finished translating it into their Latin language by 157 AD. This Bible was passed down from generation, until the Reformation of the 1500s, when the Protestants translated the Vaudois Bible into French, Italian, etc. This Bible carries heavy weight when finding out what God really said. John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards believed, as most of the Reformers, that the Vaudois were the descendants of the true Christians, and that they preserved the Christian faith for the Bible-believing Christians today.

The evidence of history shows us that the Roman Catholic Church was relentless in its effort to destroy the Vaudois and their Bible. But the Vaudois were successful in preserving God's words to the days of the Reformation. They not only preserved the Scriptures, but they show to what lengths God would go to keep his promise (Psalm 12:6-7)

Comments

  1. Jesus never verified what Paul wrote thus indicating any made up stories can be present in the New Testament.

    None of the Church Father ever quote Matthew 28:19 or 1John5:7 in their early days, however in the 4th century concept of 'three gods in oneness' were added to the original texts of Matthew 28:19 and 1John 5:7 thus showing how twisted were the minds of men inventing lies.

    Early Church Fathers believed that there is only One Father the creator, creating all including God Son and Holy Spirit.

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  2. Mr or Mrs Anonymous:

    The evidence in the blog verifies there was some early evidence of 1 John 5:7. As far as Matthew 28:19, I will have to get back with you on that. What is the source of your information? Are you a modern day Arian? Even if you were right about the texts you mention being fabricated, you need to contend with The Baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3, John 1, and many other texts. Just to site a few: Genesis 1:26 - "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." "Colossians 1:16-17 - 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." "John 8:58 - Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am."

    There are plenty of early sources to defend the trinity prior to the 4th century even if you do not accept the evidence concerning the Traditional text of the New Testament. I do agree with your last statement about there only being one God. The Word of God testifies that He is one in three, and three in one. It is a paradox you see. God doesn't owe us an exhaustive explination. Our knowledge is limited but His is infinite. If we could perfectly understand God, then He would not be God. Isaiah 55:8-10 - "8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:"

    One thing to remember is that the Bible is not exhaustive, but it is sufficient. As far as your rejection of Paul, You have to do some serious historical maneuvering due to the fact that there is not only Biblical evidence, but secular historical evidence as well.







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