“And These Three Are One”
- A Case For the Authenticity of 1st John 5:7-8
Rooted in Biblical Exegesis
JESSE M. BOYD
WAKE FOREST, NORTH CAROLINA
22 APRIL 1999
Syntactical AnalysisOf significant interest with regard to the Johannine Comma is the issue of syntax. Plainly speaking, if the Comma is omitted, John's word choice seems extremely awkward and unusual with respect to the general rules of the Greek language. The masculine article, numeral, and participle (There are three that bear witness) are made to agree with three neuter nouns (Spirit, water, and blood).
As Robert Dabney argues, "This is an insuperable and very bald grammatical difficulty."
John most definitely would not have made such a connection, for his structure and syntax are altogether simple and understandable. In attempting to excuse this awkward choice of words, Daniel Wallace states "the fact that the author has personified water and blood, turning them into witnesses along with the Spirit, may be enough to account for the masculine gender."
However, the personification of the water and blood does not become evident unless the Comma is present. It is true that the Spirit (pneuma), a neuter word, is sometimes used in connection with masculinity because the author is referring to the Holy Spirit as a person, a member of the Godhead; but inanimate objects are rarely, if at all, "masculinatized" for the purpose of personification.
Besides, Wallace's answer does not explain verse 6.There, Pneuma, as the third person of the Trinity, is not provided as a masculine to personalize the Spirit's witness; it remain neuter. If the disputed verse is allowed to remain, the three neuter nouns agree with the two masculines (Father & Word) and one neuter of verse 7 (Holy Spirit), and, according to the rules of Greek syntax, the masculines among the group control the gender over a neuter connected to them.
Such is termed the "power of attraction" and is common throughout the New Testament and John's writings in particular. As previously noted, Gregory of Nazanzius, an early Greek Church Father, objected to the omission of the Comma for similar syntactical reasons (ca. 385).
From the above structural analysis, a contrast of two groups of three becomes apparent. It is common scriptural usage to present solemn truths or warnings in groups of two, three, or four. Examples of this include Proverbs 30; Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 13 etc.; the visions of the butler and baker in Genesis 40; and the combination of Christ's words in Matthew 12:14.It is in accord with Biblical usage, therefore, to expect that in I John 5, "there are three that bear witness" will be repeated at least twice.
The Comma is also structurally important with reference to verse 9. I John 5:7 describes the witness of God; I John 5:8 describes the witness of men. "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater" (5:9).Without the Comma, 5:9 has no antecedent and consequently, makes no sense.
In the realm of rhetorical criticism, the Johannine Comma seems to conform to the Apostle John's literary style. As far as tone is concerned, "there reigns throughout the Epistle a firm and manly tone, the perfect opposite of all effeminate and sentimental enthusiasm" (e.g. 1:6-10; 2:19; 3:6-10; 4:1-2; etc.).
This tone is likewise prevalent in the Comma which tersely presents the truth of an important doctrine, leaving the reader with no room to question.
John's writings are also characterized by contrasts. According to Tidwell, "the ordinary contrasts cover almost the same words and ideas of the Gospel such as life and death, light and darkness, righteousness and unrighteousness with several others and with the addition of Christ and anti-Christ." The Comma, in particular, feeds the contrast which John creates between Jesus Christ and Antichrist (cf. 2:18-23).Jesus Christ is God (cf. 5:7-8).Antichrist, on the other hand, is the one who denies this fact (cf. 2:22).
One final aspect of John's style that is worthy of consideration with respect to the Comma, is parallelism. I John is filled with both positive and negative parallelism. For example, the Apostle writes in 1:5, "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all," and in 1:9, "Forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I John 5:7-8, the Comma included, also contains parallelism, a synthetic type to be exact. The three heavenly witnesses (Father, Word, and Holy Ghost) and the three earthly witnesses (Spirit, water, and blood) are actually the same three witnesses.
As Oliver Greene argues, "Therefore, since the Trinity - the Father, Word, and the Holy Ghost - bear record in heaven, it is these three who also bear record in earth."
In other words, the promulgation of the three earthly witnesses serves to expand or elaborate on the role of the three heavenly witnesses. The earthly witnesses are sourced in the heavenly witnesses. The "blood" refers to the blood of God (cf. Acts 20:28) while the "water" is a reference to Jesus Christ at his baptism. The "Spirit," of course, is the third member of the Godhead. This particular type of parallelism is very common with John and could conceivably be called a chiasmus in this particular instance.
B. Word <------------------------------Heavenly Witnesses
C. Holy Ghost
B'. Water <------------------------------Earthly Witnesses
If the Comma is omitted, the chiasmic structure falls apart.
Altogether, the Johannine Comma reflects John's rhetorical style. Fuller points out, "The connexion of the passage is altogether in its favor. The phraseology is that of the Apostle John; so that if the words are not his, it must have been the most successful imitation of him that can be imagined."
Tradition AnalysisWith regard to tradition criticism, it is the tradition that the Comma does reflect that is significant. Had a redactor added the passage to argue for the Trinity, he would have almost certainly utilized the common Trinitarian formula as found in Matthew 28:19, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." This formula "became part of a very early tradition in the church."
It was employed in the Didache (7.1-4) as well as Justin's Apology (1.61).The strength of forgery is similarity not uniqueness. Ruckman argues, "What would have possibly been gained by inventing a different formula than the one given in Matthew 28, which every Christian knew by heart?"
Also, Christ is referred to as the "Son of God" numerous times in I John. A true forger would have no doubt utilized "Son" instead of "Word" so as to further disguise his redactional efforts.
Theological AnalysisThe theological significance of the Johannine Comma goes without saying. As noted, it is the only clear affirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity in all of Scripture. Thus, when James White argues that "the reality is that the amount of variation between the two most extremely different manuscripts of the New Testament would not fundamentally alter the message of the Scriptures," he is wrong.
When John Ankerberg concludes that textual differences only apply to 1% of the text, and none of them are doctrinally important, he is incorrect.
The Trinity is a doctrine that sets Christianity apart from all other religions—one God in three persons. It is interesting to note Erickson's argument for the Trinity in his Christian Theology. He begins by stating, "One text which has traditionally been appealed to as documenting the Trinity is I John 5:7 . . .unfortunately, the textual basis is so weak . . . If there is a biblical basis for the Trinity, it must be sought elsewhere."
He then proceeds over the next five pages to exegete and systematize numerous passages that imply this doctrine. He concludes, "Although the doctrine of the Trinity is not expressly stated, the Scripture, particularly the New Testament, contains so many suggestions of the deity and unity of the three persons that we can understand why the church formulated the doctrine, and conclude that they were right in so doing."
It seems rather strange to base a fundamental Christian doctrine upon suggestion. Perhaps this is why so many cults (Jehovah's Witnesses) are able to manipulate the Bible so as to assert that Jesus was not God. After all, the Watchtower Bible of the Jehovah's Witnesses rejects the Comma.
A matter of theological significance that transcends the text of I John 5:7-8 concerns the issue of final authority. Is the Bible we hold in our hands the Word of God or not? If it contains errors, it can only be said that the Scriptures contain the Word of God. This is Neo-orthodoxy. When critical scholars boastfully claim that the Comma is not a legitimate part of Scripture, they are questioning the authority of the Book and disregarding the traditional text that brought about the Reformation. Questioning, when it comes to the text of Scripture, is the starting point of all kinds of apostasy. Is the final authority in the Book, or is it in what man says about the Book?
In other words, should one reject the Comma because man says it doesn't belong, or should it be accepted by faith because it has been preserved in a Bible that God has blessed for 450 years."It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man" (Psalm 118:8).The King James Bible has unquestionably produced more spiritual fruit than all of modern English versions put together. "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20).Whatever may have be wrong with modern English versions, "There is one thing that is certain, they produced an ignorance of the CONTENTS OF THE BIBLE THAT IS ABSOLUTELY APPALLING."
The accusations against I John 5:7-8 that are hurled by modern scholars are typical of attacks that rain down on numerous other places in the text of the Bible ("I know your King James Bible says this, but it really should say this . . .").Such assaults sound too strikingly familiar to Satan's discourse in the Garden of Eden. The "Father of Lies" did not argue with Eve about whether or not there was a God, or whether the doctrine of the Trinity was true, or even whether God's Word was inspired.
No, apostasy began when Satan questioned God's words and placed doubt in Eve's heart. "Eve, I know that God said you would die if you eat the fruit, but he really meant that you would be just like him, a god" (author's paraphrase). Jesus warns in Mark 4:15, "Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts." When doubt is given a beachhead, all other defenses soon fall.
Hasty dismissals of I John 5:7-8 have served to do nothing but cast doubt upon the sovereignly preserved Word of God. According to Moorman, the entire matter boils down to one question: "Has God preserved His word and kept intact His original work of inspiration or has He not? It is a fact that the one common denominator in all the varied errors, deviations, and heresies is that their advocates will first criticize the standard received edition or translation of Scripture."
A heretic has never been able to construct an argument without altering the words of the King James Bible. Interesting?
Any proper approach to the text of Scripture, including I John 5:7-8, must take into account the doctrine of preservation. In Psalm 12:6-7, God promised to preserve His words for every generation. The same God who inspired the original Greek autographs is most certainly powerful enough to preserve them in the copying process as Greek manuscripts multiplied. If this is not true, what would have been the purpose in inspiring the Scriptures if men were just going to mutilate and corrupt them? Preservation does not just extend to the general message of the Bible, but to the very words themselves (cf. Matthew 4:4; 5:18; 24:35).This being true, the perfectly preserved Word of God existed down through the ages and will be in existence until Christ returns.
It is true that not even two out of the five thousand extant Greek manuscripts agree with each other 100% of the time. However, this body of manuscripts most definitely does not represent all of the manuscripts that ever existed. Many have since rotted away. Therefore, in light of God's promise of preservation, it is not illogical to think that manuscripts once existed that completely agreed with the traditional text of the Textus Receptus and consequently, contained the Johannine Comma.
Maybe Erasmus, Luther, Stephanus, Beza, the Elzivir Brothers, and the King James translators did not have such manuscripts, but why couldn't Almighty God have guided them into selecting the right words from the body of manuscripts they did possess? After, all God is in control of His words. Towns writes, "If an all-powerful God cannot control the vehicle of His self-revelation, then His power and nature can be questioned."
A common assertion among conservative evangelicals is that the inspiration of Scripture only applies to the original autographs. This, however, cannot be true in light of God's promise of preservation.
The word "Scripture" is never used in the Bible to refer to the originals (cf. Acts 8:32; 17:11).Besides, in II Timothy 3:16, when Paul discusses the inspiration of Scripture, he does so in a context in which he says that Timothy had known the Holy Scriptures as a child (cf. 3:15).Paul is not referring to the original autographs of the Old Testament, for they had passed out of existence long before the Apostle was even born. Paul was saying that the Scripture Timothy had read as a child were inspired.They were not the original autographs, but they were inspired in the sense that they had been perfectly preserved by God Almighty.
Some might argue that this interpretation is faulty because it calls for the fusing together of two verses. The "scholar" may see it that way, but the Bible was written for the common man (cf. Psalm 119:99-100).A simple reading (minus grammatical analysis, verb parsings, theological presuppositions, etc.) of this passage clearly shows that Paul is not limiting inspiration to the originals. Such a faulty interpretation is based on theological presupposition.
Towns writes, "The Bible . . . is as perfect as God, and its perfection extends to every word."
Most evangelicals will accept this statement as truth, but such a statement is meaningless if there is not immediate access to these perfect words. Immediate access is available by way of divine preservation. Not only is God's Word perfectly preserved after the Original Autographs, but according to Psalm 119:89; John 12:49-50; 17:8, it precedes them.
The doctrine of inspiration does not only apply to the original autographs nor does it apply exclusively to the original languages of the autographs. IfGod preserved his Word as He promised, then inspiration can apply to translations.When is the last time that Greek and Hebrew was used by God to reach someone with the Gospel? If the original languages were the only source of inspired Scripture, then the ancient Hebrews must have been a extremely ignorant, for the Pentateuch could not have originally been written in Hebrew.
After all, "Moses was learned in all the ways of the Egyptians" (Acts 7:22), and someone had to translate what Moses said in Egyptian to Pharaoh back into Hebrew. Yet, the Jews believed their Hebrew Scriptures were inspired and still do today. Moorman makes a point worthy of consideration: "as so few can read the original languages, God's promise to preserve His Word has no practical relevance if it does not extend to translations. . . If a translation cannot be equated with the actual Word of God, then ultimately this leads to the situation that one must know Hebrew and Greek before they can be saved, or built up in the faith."
Another principle to keep in mind with reference to "questionable passages" (e.g. I John 5:7-8) is that they must be approached with an attitude of faith. As Hebrews 11:6 asserts, "Without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Dean Burgon once wrote, "There exists no reason for supposing that the Divine Agent, who in the first instance thus gave to mankind the Scriptures of Truth, immediately abdicated His office and took no further care of His work; that He abandoned those precious writings."
The whole crux of the matter boils down to faith, plain and simple. Unfortunately, most modern critics (Westcott, Hort, Nestle, Aland, Metzger, the UBS, et. al,) approach the sacred science of textual criticism with presuppositions against inerrancy. They treat the Bible as if it were just another book. Such an attitude cannot be founded upon faith, and consequently, is not pleasing to God.
Much more could be said about the relationship between inspiration and preservation, but the question must come back to the Johannine Comma. In this excursus, the author has shown that a case can be constructed for the genuineness of the text of the three heavenly witnesses. As to how strong a case, the author will leave it up to the reader's individual judgment. The author does not say that his case is all conclusive, but on the other hand, by no means can it be said to be conclusive that the text should not be included.
In the case of the accusation against the King James Bible, the burden of proof, as has been noted several times, LIES WITH THE ACCUSER. The accuser cannot prove his case; therefore, the author accepts the Comma's authenticity by faith., a faith that is backed up with plenty of evidence. God, in His sovereignty, saw to it that the text was preserved in the Bible's of the Reformation and the best-selling book of all time—The Authorized King James Version.
As to why the passage fell out of so many Greek mss, only the Almighty knows. It is at least possible that the text was excised from the Greek tradition by heretics who didn't want to believe that Jesus was God. Nonetheless, it was preserved in the Latin text through the use of the Latin speaking church.
The whole matter can be concluded with a question? Who would be honored more by the presence of the Comma in Holy Scripture—Jesus Christ or the Devil? The answer goes without saying. In the words of Gail Riplinger, "Guesses or God, fear or faith, haughty or humble. These are the perpetual options for the Christian."
Homiletical AnalysisIt is the author's opinion that the Johannine Comma is authentic Holy Scripture. Therefore, it can and should be preached from. Two approaches can be taken—an exegetical and a topical. An exegetical approach might utilize the surrounding context. A possible outline might look something like this:Proposition: In I John 5:4-10, John promulgates two facts about biblical faith.
I. THE FIRST FACT: Biblical faith overcomes the world - 5:4-5
A. The inevitability of overcoming – 5:4
1.Stated – "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world."
2.Elaborated – "and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
B. The identity of the overcomer – 5:5
1.What he does – "Who is he that overcometh the world"
2.What he believes – "but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God."
II. THE SECOND FACT: Biblical faith is sanctioned.
A. Sanctioned by truth – 5:6
B. Sanctioned by three heavenly witnesses (Father, Word, Holy Ghost) – 5:7
C. Sanctioned by three earthly witnesses (Spirit, water, blood) – 5:8
D. A Parenthetical Explanation – 5:9
1.The supremacy of the witness of God – "If we receive the witness of men,
witness of God is greater."
2.The clarification of the witness of God – "for this is the witness of God which he
hath testified of his Son."
E. Sanctioned by the believer's spiritual consciousness – 5:10
1.Stated positively – "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in
2.Stated negatively – "he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he
believeth not the record that God gave of his Son."
A topical approach to I John 5:7-8 might focus upon the nature of the Trinity. A possible outline could resemble the following.
Proposition: In I John 5:7-8, the Apostle explicates the triune nature of God from two
I. THE FIRST PERSPECTIVE: A Heavenly Perspective – 5:7
A. Delineated – "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word,
and the Holy Ghost."
1.The first person of the Trinity – "Father"
2.The second person of the Trinity – "Word"
3.The third person of the Trinity – "Holy Ghost"
B. Described – "and these three are one"
II. THE SECOND PERSPECTIVE: An Earthly Perspective – 5:8
A. Delineated – "And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the
water, and the blood."
1.The third person of the Trinity – "Spirit"
2.The second person of the Trinity—Jesus at his baptism—"water"
3.The first person of the Trinity—the blood of God shed on the cross—"blood"
B. Described – "and these three agree in one"
THE JOHANNINE COMMA—EARLY EVIDENCE FOR AND AGAINST
Total examined extant Greek manuscripts = 5,000 +
Total examined extant Greek manuscripts that contain I John 5 = 498
Total examined extant Greek manuscripts hostile to I John 5:7-8 = 492
Historical Breakdown of Hostile Evidence
2/498 – 4th century (a, B) = 0.4% of hostile evidence
2/498 – 5th century (A, 048) = 0.4% of hostile evidence
1/498 – 6th century (0296) = 0.2% of hostile evidence
0/498 – 7th century = 0.0% of hostile evidence
1/498 – 8th century (Y+) = 0.2% of hostile evidence
8/498 – 9th century (K, L, P, 049, 1424+, 1841+, 1862, 1895) = 1.6% of hostile evidence
484/498 – post 9th century = 97.2% of hostile evidence
30 mss. – 10th century
80 mss. – 11th century
79 mss. – 12th century
98 mss. – 13th century
119 mss. – 14th century
55 mss. – 15th century
15 mss. –16th century
6 mss. – 17th century
1 mss. – 18th century
Historical Breakdown of Favorable Evidence
A.D. (ca.) 200 – Tertullian
250 – Cyprian
318 – Athanasius
350 – Idacius Clarus
380 – Priscillian
385 – Gregory of Nazanzius
390 – Jerome
450 – Contra Varimadum
450 – Latin mss. m
485 – Council of Carthage
485 – Victor of Vitensis
500 – Latin mss. r
527 – Fulgentius
570 – Cassiodorus
636 – Isidore of Seville
650 – Codex Pal Legionensus
700 – Jaqub of Edessa
735 – mss. used by Venerable Bede
850 – Codex Ulmensis
*In addition to the aforementioned favorable evidence, the Comma can be traced back through the Waldensian Church to the translation of the Old Italic in the 2nd century. Moreover, in the 7th century, at least 12 Old Latin mss contain the passage; at least 21 in the 8th century, and at least 189 in the 9th century. Over 6,000 Old Latin manuscripts remained unexamined to this day. It is also probable that the Comma was found in the Old Syriac tradition as far back as its translation. The Armenian and Slavonic versions bear witness to the Comma in several copies, and the German versions prior to Luther bear consistent testimony to it.
RESULT: The Johannine Comma enjoys at least 19 pieces of concrete favorable evidence
predating the ninth century; hostile witnesses, on the other hand, can only claim 14 Greek manuscripts and an argument from silence with regard to the patristic evidence. The external evidence is not as one-sided as critical scholars would have us to believe. In fact, critical scholars accept other readings on far less evidence (e.g. Matthew 11:19; II Corinthians 5:3; James 4:14). Or, consider Mark 16:9-20. Scholars rejects this passage as an emendation based upon 3 Greek mss. One of those witnesses, Vaticanus, is actually favorable to the reading because it exhibits a vacant space where the eleven verses should be.
THE JOHANNINE COMMA AND THE SEVEN NOTES OF TRUTH
Having refuted the customary arguments against the Johannine Comma, it becomes appropriate to evaluate the textual evidence. This is best done perhaps by applying Dean Burgon's "Seven Notes of Truth." Burgon, a contemporary of Westcott and Hort, believed that the science of textual criticism should be approached with an attitude of faith, for the Bible is an inspired Book; it should not be treated and evaluated like any other book. "The Bible is different because it is divine." Therefore, Burgon set forth seven tests of truth that he believed would best help a person evaluate the evidence for any given passage. Concerning these tests, he comments:
. . . although no doubt it is conceivable that any one of the seven might possibly in itself suffice to establish almost any reading practically this is never the case. And why? Because we never meet with any one of these Tests in the fullest possible measure. No test ever attains to perfection, or indeed can attain. An approximation to the Test is all that can be expected, or even desired. And sometimes we are obliged to put up with a very slight approximation indeed. Their strength lies in their cooperation.
For this cause, the author shall apply the "Seven Notes" to the Johannine Comma on a pass or fail basis. By their cooperation, it will be seen that a case can be constructed for the inclusion of this important passage within the text of Holy Scripture.
The Test of Antiquity
"The more ancient testimony is probably the better testimony." A word of caution, however, is in order. The "oldest is best" philosophy is sound only on the surface, for there is much more to judging the age of a reading than simply determining the age of any given manuscript. After all, the oldest reading is not necessarily found in the oldest manuscript.
For example, although Codex Vaticanus (ca. 4th century) is far older than the few Greek mss that do contain the Comma, the passage is quoted by Cyprian, as noted, in the third century. In that respect, the reading of Comma is actually older than the oldest Greek manuscript which attests to I John 5.
When considering this test, one must not forget that the worst corruption to which the New Testament has perhaps ever been subjected originated within a hundred years or so after the originals were penned. According to Scrivener, the African Church corrupted the New Testament as far back as A.D. 150. Moreover, an ancient Western (Rome) Church Father by the name of Caius (2nd century) once wrote:
For this reason is it they have boldly laid their hands upon the divine Scriptures, alleging that they have corrected them. And that I do not state this against them falsely, any one who pleases may ascertain. For if any one should choose to collect and compare all their copies together, he would find many discrepancies among them . . . their disciples were very zealous in inserting the corrections, as they call them, i.e., the corruptions made by each of them . . . For one may compare those which were formerly prepared by them with those which have been afterwards corrupted with a special object, and many discrepancies will be found. And as to the great audacity implied in this offence, it is not likely that even they themselves can be ignorant of that.
For either they do not believe that the divine Scriptures were dictated by the Holy Spirit, and are thus infidels; or they think themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and what are they then but demoniacs [emphasis is mine]? Nor can they deny that the crime is theirs, when the copies have been written with their own hand; nor did they receive such copies of the Scriptures from those by whom they were first instructed in the faith and they cannot produce copies from which these were transcribed.
The point of drawing attention to this fact is that it is not the oldest document for which one must search, but the oldest reading. Does the Johannine Comma represent an early reading? Tertullian and Cyprian cite the passage in the third century; it is utilized at the Council of Carthage in 485; and it can be traced back through the Old Latin of the Waldensian Church (The Old Itala was translated in the second century). In addition to this, one must consider that all extant Greek papyrii are silent to the issue. However, Tertullian, Cyprian, the African Bishops at Carthage, and the Waldenses had to get the reading from somewhere. Therefore, the Comma passes the test of antiquity.
The Test of Consent of Witnesses
By this, Burgon means number. Unfortunately, most modern textual critics argue that manuscripts should be weighed rather than counted. Burgon asserted that this maxim "may be said to embody much fundamental fallacy." The traditional text of the Textus Receptus, for the most part, is based upon the readings of the majority of manuscripts. However, these manuscripts are generally late (8th-11th centuries) and consequently discarded by modern critics such as the UBS editors. The question that such critics refuse to ask is where did this great number of manuscripts come from? They must have been copies of earlier uncials and/or papyri that were perhaps lost or destroyed.
If ten students were asked to copy a paragraph off the chalkboard, and nine of the ten copies agreed, which best represents the true text? Logic is in favor of the nine copies as opposed to the one disparate copy. The same holds true for New Testament manuscripts. Logic is in favor of the great majority of witnesses. As convincing as this argument is, it must not be utilized as the sole test of truth, for there are several passages in the Textus Receptus that are not found in the great majority of witnesses (e.g. I John 5:7-8).
Therefore, as James Borland argues, "Number must be considered as an important factor, but only as one of the tests of truth." Nonetheless, the Comma enjoys at least 19 witnesses prior to the ninth century and numerous witnesses thereafter. Granted, the number is a minority. Were there only two or three witnesses, the Comma could legitimately be said to have failed this test. However, 19 witnesses prior to the 9th century does not bespeak failure. I John 5:7-8 passes the test of consent of witnesses.
The Test of Variety
"The greater the variety of witnesses there are, the less chance there is for collusion or deceit to spring from the few." This, of course, can apply to both geographical location and kinds of witnesses. Burgon argues that this is the strongest ally that any reading can have. The Johannine Comma definitely has variety on its side, despite a weak attestation in extant Greek manuscripts. It is found in eight Greek manuscripts, the Old Latin, the Old Syriac, various Waldensian Bibles, numerous German manuscripts, and a few Armenian and Slavonic copies.
Moreover, it enjoys early patristic evidence (i.e. Cyprian, Tertullian, Council of Carthage, Cassiodorus, et. al.). These witnesses represent a wide geographical spread—North Africa, Italy, Asia Minor; Syria; the Caucasus; Russia; Germany; and even England (i.e. the work of Venerable Bede in the 8th century). The Comma passes the test of variety.
The Test of Continuity
A fourth test of truth considers the continuity or unbroken testimony of witnesses in favor of a particular reading. As Burgon argued, "this principle is often illustrated in the independent yet consentient testimony of the whole body of the cursives and the later uncials," not the so-called "oldest and best" readings of the modern Greek editions. For the most part, the readings contained in the Textus Receptus have continuity on their side. I John 5:7-8, for example, appears consistently throughout history from A.D. 200 to A.D. 1500 just prior to Erasmus' compiling of the first printed Greek edition. On that basis, the Comma again passes the test.
The Test of Respectability of Witnesses
Another test of truth involves weight or respectability. In other words, "if a manuscript proves itself to be erroneous on a frequent basis by a number of acceptable standards, then it loses its respectability." It is safe to say that both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not satisfy this category, for their differences from the majority of manuscripts as well as from each other are horrific. Therefore, they should be overlooked. Maybe modern critics should take a lesson from Erasmus when he was approached with readings from Vaticanus; he rejected them. With specific regard to the Comma, witnesses such as Tertullian, Cyprian, Athanasius, orthodox African writers, the Vulgate, and the Waldensian Bibles certainly stand out as respectable witnesses. Again, the text passes.
The Test of the Evidence of the Entire Passage
This test is concerned with the behavior of a certain witness in the immediate vicinity of the problem being considered. In other words, if a manuscript can be shown to be faulty in several instances in the context of a particular reading, then it is logical that "mistakes have a tendency to repeat themselves in the same or other shapes." With regard to the Comma, all of the above state witnesses exhibit unsullied integrity in the first few verses of I John 5.
The Test of Internal Considerations
This final test of truth focuses upon internal evidence, particularly of a grammatical and scientific nature. "If a particular reading is grammatically, geographically, scientifically, and historically impossible, then it must not be accepted if other readings do not present such problems." For example, the UBS4 accepts a variant reading in Luke 23:45 that is a scientific impossibility. Each of the synoptic Gospels contains the phrase "skotoV egeneto" (there was darkness) (cf. Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44). However, Luke adds an additional phrase regarding the sun.
The Textus Receptus reads "kai eskotisqh o hlioV" (and the sun was darkened) while the UBS4 reads "tou hliou eklipontoV" (The sun was eclipsed). Like the UBS's faulty readings in Matthew 1:7,10, this reading implies an error in Luke's original autograph: "A solar eclipse is impossible astronomically during the full moon of the Passover when sun and moon are 180 degrees apart in relation to the earth." Luke, being an astute physician, would not have made such a blundering mistake. This reading fails the test of reasonableness because it is scientifically impossible. Therefore, it needs to be added to the long list of corrupt readings found in the UBS4 that should be discarded.
The Johannine Comma, on the other hand, has much on its side in the area of internal considerations. It not only fits the structure, style, and immediate context of I John, but its omission presents a bald grammatical difficulty—three neuter nouns governed by a masculine participle. Let the Comma stand, and "the power of attraction" goes into effect. The Comma thus passes the seventh and final test.
A NOTE ON BAPTIST HERITAGE AND THE RECEIVED TEXT
The inseparable relationship that exists between the inspiration and preservation of Holy Scripture has been an important issue particularly in Baptist heritage. For example, the London Confession of 1644, a creed of the English Baptists reads:
The Rule of this Knowledge, Faith, and Obedience, concerning the worship and service of God, and all other Christian duties, is not mans inventions, opinions, devices, laws, constitutions, or traditions unwritten whatsoever, but only the word of God contained in the Canonical Scriptures . . . In this written Word God hath plainly revealed whatsoever he hath though needful for us to know . . .
It was clear to the English Baptists that God had plainly revealed to them His words in the Holy Scriptures which had been inspired and passed down through the ages as the absolute "Rule of Faith." Only through perfect preservation could this possibly have been true.
In 1833, the American Baptists drew up the New Hampshire Confession. Concerning the Scriptures, it reads,
We believe [that] the Holy bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter . . . and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true centre of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.
This could only be true if God's words had been inspired and perfectly preserved.
For Baptists to deny the perfect providential preservation of the Holy Scriptures is to defy their Baptist heritage as well as the general consensus of the Christian Church for most of history prior to the modern era. Unfortunately, this has occurred all to often as Baptist schools and seminaries are rejecting the doctrine of preservation in favor of naturalistic textual criticism. Michael Maynard, while speaking of Baptist scholars such as A.T. Robertson, J.A. Broadus, J.P. Boyce and D.A. Carson, all of whom regarded the Received Text as an inferior Greek text, argues that they "betrayed their Baptist heritage when they adopted the textual theories of the Anglican scholar F.J.A. Hort, the Presbyterian B.B. Warfield, and the Lutheran K. Tischendorf."
With regard to the Johannine Comma, Baptist views in favor of the passage have long been in print. John Gill (1748) and Andrew Fuller (1815), two Baptist scholars, argued for the authenticity of the Comma long before A.T. Robertson came along. When Robertson, however, did show up on the scene, he was completely oblivious to the views of his Baptist predecessors; he did not even acknowledge them in his works on textual criticism. All in all, Baptist heritage and the Johannine Comma goes all the way back to the Swiss Reformation, the Anabaptists, the Waldensians et. al. All of these groups have their place in the lineage of modern-day Baptists, and all of them held to the Received Text of Scripture which included I John 5:7-8 as it stands in an Authorized King James Bible. Therefore, to deny the authenticity of the Johannine Comma is in a sense to deny Baptist heritage.
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Michael Maynard in A History of the Debate Over 1 John 5:7-8. Tempe, AZ: Comma
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Footnotes:The author recognizes that much of the evidence presented is based upon internal considerations which are subjective by their very nature.What one may see as support for a given reading, another might view as an indictment against that very same reading.Nevertheless, the fact that support can be gleaned for the Comma from internal evidence shows that the issue is not a foregone conclusion.The internal evidence, which greatly supports the passage, serves to supplement what critics term a weak attestation in the realm of external evidence.A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1933),6: 199.Josiah Tidwell, John and His Five Books(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1937),90-92.John Ebrard, Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John (Edinburg: T&T Clark, 1860),5.The fact that this allusion was made less than two centuries after the completion of the New Testament serves as convincing external evidence for the authenticity of the Johannine Comma.The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Church Fathers Down to A.D.325(New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926), 5:423.Robertson,6:200.David Puckett, Class Notes—General Church History I (Wake Forest, NC: Southeastern Seminary, 1998),10.Proponents of Gnosticism claimed to possess a superior knowledge (gnwsiV) and so were called Gnostics (Gnwstikoi).I John 2:3, 5; 3:16, 19, 24; 4:2, 6, 13; 5:2.Robertson,6:201Ibid.Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1 (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1984), 167.D. A. Hayes, John and His Writings(New York: The Methodist Book Concern, 1917),161.John Ebrard, Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John(Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1860),3.Henry Vedder, The Johannine Writings and the Johannine Problem (Philadelphia, PA: Griffith and Rowland Press),99.Ibid.,101.Ernest Scott, The Literature of the New Testament(New York: Columbia University Press, 1963),260.Vedder, 103-132Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament(Stuttgart, Germany: United Bible Societies, 1994),649.Robert Dabney, The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek(Edinburgh: Banner of Trust, 1967),306.In the Greek, the phrase reads, "oi treiV eiV to en eisin" which literally translates "and these three agree to that (aforesaid) One."Dabney,307The spelling of the word "Saviour" as retained in the Authorized Version is preferred by the author.The modern English translations remove the "u" from this title.As a result, a seven-letter word (7= the number of God) becomes a six-letter word (6=the number of man).Dabney,307Because the foundation of all accusations against I John 5:7-8 rests upon textual evidence and the interpretation of that evidence, this analysis will be more lengthy and complex than the others.Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce Metzger (4th Edition), The Greek New Testament (Germany: United Bible Societies, 1994).Ibid.,819; Metzger, Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament,647-648.Ibid.Robertson,6:241.Metzger, Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament,647.Oftentimes, the marginal readings are hastily dismissed.However, what are they doing in the margins?It makes more sense that someone would put them there because they recognized the passage to be missing.The reading of the Comma found in Codex Britannicus is given byOrlando T. Dobbin in The Codex Monfortianus: A Collation (London: Bagster, 1854) on page 10.His source is Erasmus' Apologia ad Jacobum Stunicam (1522), reprinted in the Basle edition (1540) of Erasmus' works, pp. 238-296.Codex Britannicus reads: "7oti treiV eisin oi marturounteV en tw ouranw o pathr o logoV kai to pna 8kai outoi oi treiV en eisi, kai treiV eisin oi marturounteV en th gh to pna, to udwr, kai to aima kai oi treiV eiV to en eisi ei thn marturian twn anwn lambanomen."The underlined phrase is not found in Codex Monfortianus, so the two manuscripts cannot be the same.Furthermore, Erasmus could not have gotten the Comma from the Monfort Codex.William Combs, "Erasmus and the Textus Receptus," in Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 1 (Spring 1996), 49.Michael Maynard, A History of the Debate Over 1 John 5:7-8(Tempe, AZ: Comma Publications, 1995),76.Desiderius Erasmus,Liber tertius quo respondet reliquis annotationibus Ed. Lei (LB IX 199-284) [May, 1520]. Translated by Henk J. de Jonge in "Erasmus and the Comma Johanneum" (Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 56 , 381-389).Henk J. de Jonge, Personal Letter Addressed to Michael Maynard (June 13, 1995).The reading of the Comma found in the Monfort Codex could not have come from the Compultensian Polygot.Although this edition was first printed in 1514, Cardinal Ximenes did not get permission from Pope Leo X to publish the work until 1520.It was not until 1522 that this edition actually began to circulate and eventually come into Erasmus' hands.Erasmus first included the Comma in his third edition which did not appear until 1522.The reading of the Comma as found in the Codex Monfort does not match Erasmus' reading in his third edition in several places.For example, the last clause (and these three agree in one) is not in the Monfort, but included in Erasmus' third edition.Furthermore, the six articles are omitted and agoin and pneuma are transposed.Erasmus included the articles and did not swap agion pneuma.Peter Ruckman, "James White's Seven Errors in the King James Bible--Errors 6 & 7,"Bible Believer's Bulletin (March 1996),3.Adam Clarke, The New Testament: A Commentary and Critical Notes (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, n.d.), 6: 928-929.Charles Forster, A New Plea for the Authenticity of the Text of the Three Heavenly Witnesses, (Cambridge: Deighton Bell and Co., 1867), 126.The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978),7: 323-324.Maynard,41.A more thorough discussion of the syntactical problem that arises if the Comma is omitted can be found under the Syntactical Analysis.Metzger, Textual Commentary to the Greek New Testament,648.Victor of Vitensis, Historia persecutionis Africanae Prov, 2.82 [3.11]; CSEL 7, 60.Translated by Michael Maynard in A History of the Debate Over 1 John 5:7-8(Tempe, AZ: Comma Publications, 1995), 43.Charles Butler, "To Rev. Herbert Marsh," in Horae Biblicae (London: W. Clarke and Sons, 1817), 403-406.Metzger, Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament,648.F.H.A. Scrivener,A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, 4th Edition(London: G. Bell, 1984 [rep]), 403.Maynard,15-16.For a specific identification of these five Syriac editions, one should consult page 51* of the UBS4.Jaqub of Edessa, On the Holy (Eucharistic) Mysteries, translated by R.E. Brown in The Anchor Bible; Epistles of John (New York: Doubleday and Co., 1982),778.Maynard,96.Tremellius' words were provided and translated by Rykle Borger into German in "Das Comma Johanneum in der Peschitta," in Novum Testamentum XXXIX, 3 (1987) 280-284.Michael Maynard, in turn, translated Borger's German into English (A History of the Debate Over 1 John 5:7-8 , 95).Maynard,96.Ruckman, "James White's Seven Errors in the King James Bible--Errors 6 & 7,"3.Maynard,334-339Tertullian, Against Praxeas, II-- Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971),3: 598.John Gill,An Exposition on the Old and New Testament(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980 [rep.]),907-908.R.E. Brown, The Anchor Bible; Epistles of John (New York: Doubleday and Co., 1982),782.Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translation of the Writings of the Church Fathers down to A.D. 325 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926),5:423.Bruce Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament Text; Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977),285.Maynard,62.Metzger, Early Versions, 304.Maynard,62.J. K. Elliot, "Old Latin MSS in NT Editions," in A Survey of Manuscripts Used in Editions of the Greek New Testament(New York: E. J. Brill, 1987),280.Maynard,62.Jack Moorman, Early Manuscripts and the Authorized Version.(Collingswood, NJ: Bible for Today, n.d.),29.Gail Riplinger, Which Bible is God's Word (Ararat, VA: AV Publications, 1995),53.Benjamin Wilkinson, "Our Authorized Bible Vindicated," in Which Bible?Ed. by David Otis Fuller (Grand Rapids, MI: Grand Rapids International Publications, 1975),212.Ibid.,210.Ibid.Ibid.,211.Ibid. [emphasis mine].Ibid.Frederick Nolan, Integrity of the Greek Vulgate (n.p., 1815), xvii-xviii.For a complete listing of Old Latin manuscripts which contain the Comma, one should consult Michael Maynard's A History of the Debate Over 1 John 5:7-8 (332-348).Riplinger, New Age Bible Versions,482.Maynard,343-348.Metzger, Textual Commentary of the New Testament, 648.Jerome, The Canonical Epistles.Translated by Michael Maynard in A History of the Debate Over 1 John 5:7-8(Tempe, AZ: Comma Publications, 1995),41.Scrivener,650.Maynard,343.Besides what has been mentioned in this brief textual analysis, there is a lot more evidence for the authenticity of I John 5:7-8 as retained in the Textus Receptus of the AV 1611 King James Bible.For more information, one should consult Michael Maynard's astounding work, A History of the Debate Over 1 John 5:7-8.Aland and Aland, The Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 281.Stewart Custer made such claim in The Truth About the King James Version Controversy.(Greenville, SC: BJU University Press, 1981).He, however, argued that only 2 manuscripts contained the Comma out of 5000.Similar claims have been made in the classrooms of many colleges and universities across the country.There are only 14 Greek manuscripts hostile to the Johannine Comma that predate the ninth century.They are as follows: a, A, B, Y, K, L, P, 048, 049, 0296, 1424, 1841, 1862, 1895.Maynard lists these in A History of the Debate Over 1 John 5:7-8 (pp. 333-335).Maynard,286 [emphasis mine].Ibid.Robertson,5:4.oi treiV marturounteVpneuma, udwr, aimaDabney,306.Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996),332.Pater, LogoV92Agion PneumaThe Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 7: 233-234.Ebrard,41.Oliver Greene, The Epistles of John(Greenville, SC: The Gospel Hour, 1966),191."Letter IX" in The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller(Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 1: 708-709.Millard Erickson,Christian Theology(Grand Rapids, MI:Baker Book House,1983),329.Peter Ruckman, I John 5:7, Why We Retain It In The Authorized Version(Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore, n.d.),4.James White, The King James Only Controversy(Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers,1995),40.John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on the King James Only Debate (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1996),8.Erickson,327.Ibid.[emphasis mine].Peter Ruckman, Biblical Scholarship(Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1988),105.Jack Moorman, "Principles of Bible Preservation,"O Timothy Magazine(Vol. 9, Issue 8, 1992),2.Elmer Towns, Theology for Today , 2nd Edition (Lynchburg, VA: University Press, 1994),49.Some might criticize this perspective, claiming that inspiration cannot be equated with preservation.However, the two are inseparable.Preservation reflects inspiration.In other words, the words contained in the Received Text are inspired in the sense that they are preserved.The "scholar" might go on to argue that no copies are perfect, so they cannot be inspired.Therefore, it is concluded that God's words are preserved in manuscript copies only as far as these copies agree with the original manuscripts.Such an argument is nonsense.When is the last time that anyone saw the original manuscripts?They passed out of existence almost 1900 years ago.Such a viewpoint essentially says that we cannot know God's very words because we do not have the inspired originals with which to compare manuscript copies to.This clearly goes against God's promise in Psalm 12:6-7 and downplays the absolute authority of Scripture.Towns,49.Of course, inspiration can only apply to translations that represent the pure line of Scripture. Modern versions represent a corrupt line of Scripture that was born in Egypt (a), moved to Rome (B), and eventually came to England (RSV) and America (ASV, NASV, NIV, NEB, LB, etc.). The pure line of text, on the other hand, originated in Antioch, is represented by the Old Latin, Old Syriac, German Bibles, the Textus Receptus, and the AV 1611 King James Bible.Moorman, Principles of Biblical Preservation,4.John Burgon, "The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels" in Unholy Hands On The Bible, Vol. 1, Including the Complete Works of John W. Burgon, Dean of Chichester, Ed. by Jay P. Green (Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Trust Fund, 1990),A-7.Riplinger, New Age Bible Versions, 511.