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"THE JOHANNINE COMMA"
(1 JOHN 5:7-8)
IS IT INSPIRED SCRIPTURE?

by John Henry
September 5, 1999

Updated October 8, 2013

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CONTENTS

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

THE EVIDENCES IN FAVOR OF 1 JOHN 5:7

THE MANUSCRIPTS EVIDENCE

HISTORICAL EVIDENCE

THE GREEK GRAMMATICAL EVIDENCE

THE THEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE

EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE FOR THE COMMA

CONCLUSION

REFERENCES


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PREFACE

This paper stems from research that I did to prepare for debate on the validity of the Received Greek Text from which the KJV was translated. The case in point here is 1 John 5:7. Many say there is little evidence for it's inclusion in the Bible.

Here is the text that we are talking about. The words in capitol letters are not found in most modern translations. First John 5:6-8:

6 …And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
7 For there are three that bear record IN HEAVEN, THE FATHER, THE WORD, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT: AND THESE THREE ARE ONE.
8 AND THERE ARE THREE THAT BEAR WITNESS IN EARTH, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. (KJV)

My Debater:

As far as the 1 John 5:7-8 reading in the KVJ, they say that Erasmus omitted this reading from his first 2 editions of his Greek NT (1516, 1519) and was challenged for this omission. He replied that he would include it in his next edition if anyone could produce even one Greek manuscript that included that reading. One 16th century Greek minuscule…manuscript of the Franciscan friar, Froy or Roy, was found so he inserted it into his 1522 edition. The KJ translators followed the text of Erasmus.

This book [General Introduction to the Bible by Norman Geisler and William Nix] says the earliest reading of the KJV reading of this text [1 John 5:7] is in a fourth century Latin treatise attributed to either the Spanish heretic Priscillian or his follower Bishop Instantius.

INTRODUCTION

First John 5:7 is called the "The Johannine Comma".

I do not know much about Priscillian except that he was the very first to receive the death penalty for heresy from a "Christian" Emperor. "The undisputed citations of the Johannine comma occur in the writing of two 4th-century Spanish bishops, [Idacius Clarus, and] Priscillian, who in 385 was beheaded by the Emperor Maximus….on the charge of sorcery and heresy." (Hills) However, there are others that quoted the Comma earlier than that as we will see. There is empirical evidence as to the existence of the Johannine Comma prior to that date.

"The Comma did not appear in the first two editions of Erasmus' Receptus but was added to his third. Some have stated that Erasmus added the Comma reluctantly. Erasmus had been criticized for his earlier editions which did not contain the passage. Metzger writes, 'In an unguarded moment Erasmus promised that he would insert the Comman Johanneum, as it is called, in future editions if a single Greek manuscript could be found that contained the passage. At length such a copy was found--or was made to order!' (Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament, p 101.) This statement, however, is in question. Others have shown that Erasmus did not add the verse aversely, but was in fact searching for a Greek text which supported what was already in the Old Latin texts. (Donald L. Brake indicates this in his thesis presented to Dallas Theological Seminary and reprinted in the book Counterfeit Or Genuine, edited by Dr. David Otis Fuller..., p 205. This is further verified by both Dr. Fuller and by Dr. Edward F. Hills in his book The King James Version Defended, p 209)." (MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE, lessons given by Dr. Thomas Holland)

"While it is argued that the Comma is not in the oldest Greek manuscripts, it should also be remembered that none of the papyri manuscripts contain 1 John chapter 5 (except for P74 of the seventh century, which only contains verses 3-4, 9-10, and 17). Of the eleven uncial manuscripts which contain 1 John (and omit the Comma), seven come from the ninth and tenth centuries. The remaining four come from the fourth and fifth centuries. This information tells us that the majority of Greek manuscripts, which do not contain the Comma, likewise are of later dates. Further, we note that there is evidence for the Comma (in Latin) long before the fourth century. The external evidence, therefore, is not as weak as some would have us believe." (Holland)

THE EVIDENCES IN FAVOR OF 1 JOHN 5:7

Is this TR/KJV reading a valid Bible passage or not? There are at least four evidences that convince us of the validity of 1 John 5:7-8:
THE MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE
THE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE
THE GREEK GRAMMATICAL EVIDENCE
THE THEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE
Let us examine the evidences and put it to a fair test to verify the validity of the so called Comman Johanneum:

THE MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE

OLD LATIN MANUSCRIPTS EVIDENCE: The "three heavenly Witnesses" is contained in practically all of the extant Latin Vulgate MSS. Although not included in Jerome's original edition, around the year 800 it was taken into the text of the Vulgate from the Old Latin MSS. (Hills, Jones) This historic usage of the text in the Western Church lay behind its final inclusion in the Greek Text of Erasmus. Here is 1 John 5:7-8 in Latin: "Quoniam tres sunt, gui testimonium dant in coelo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus sanctus: et hi tres unum sunt. Et tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in terra: Spiritus, et aqua, et sanguis: et hi tres unum sunt."

1) Included in the 2nd century Old Latin Bible.

2) Old Latin MS r has the verse (AD 550).

3) Old Latin MS l has the verse.

4) Latin Vulgate from AD 800 on.

GREEK MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE: There are at least 10 confirmed Greek MSS that contain the Comma.

1) 61 (late 15th century) (Aland's Text, 3rd edition, p. 824)

2) 629 (14th century) (Aland's, 3rd ed., p. 824)

3) 918 (Aland's; 3rd ed., p. 824)

4) 221 (Listed by Dr. D.A. Waite; Aland's, 3rd ed., p. 824)

5) 2318 (Listed by Dr. D.A. Waite; Aland's, 3rd ed., p. 824)

6) 634 (Listed as confirmed by Dr. D.A. Waite)

7) 636, margin (Aland's, 3rd ed., p. 824)

8) 88, margin, Codex Ravianus, 12th century (Aland's, 3rd ed., p. 824)

9) 429, margin (Aland's, 3rd ed., p. 824)

10) Omega 110 (Listed as confirmed by Dr. D.A. Waite)

11) 635, margin (Holland)

12) Codex Wizanburgensis (8th century) (Cloud)

13) Dr. Waite lists 10 other Greek MSS that are unconfirmed as yet.

GREEK LECTIONARIES (These contained extracts of the New Testanent):

1) Lectionary 60

2) Lectionary 173

WRITINGS AND CITATIONS BY CHURCH FATHERS AND OTHERS:

1) AD 170 - Old Syriac Version (G.A. Riplinger, p. 381)

2) AD 200 - Tertullian quotes the verse (Gill, "An exposition of the NT", Vol 2, pp. 907-8)

3) AD 250 - Cyprian, who writes, "And again concerning the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit it is written: 'and the Three are One'" (Vienna, vol. iii, p. 215)

4) AD 385 - Priscillian cites the verse (Vienna, vol. xviii, p. 6)

5) AD 350 - Idacius Clarus cites the verse (MPL, vol. 62, col. 359)

6) AD 350 - Athanasius cites the verse (Gill)

7) AD 380 - Varimadum

8) AD 435 - Cassian

9) AD 427 - The Speculum, MS m, a treatise containing an Old Latin texts arranged by topic.

10) Sixth century - Ps-Athanasius

11) Eighth century - Ansbert

12) AD 750 - Wianburgensis cites the verse

13) 1200-1400 - Waldensian Bibles have the verse

HISTORICAL EVIDENCE

1) The Waldenses (AD 120 on) of Northern Italy who protected the Old Latin or Italic Bible (AD 157) with their lives. These had the earliest of connections with the church in Asia Minor and Syria, and could easily verify their translation with the Received Text of those churches. (Which Bible, pp. 194-215) The "Comma" is in their Bibles. After an honest study of the history of the Waldenses it cannot be denied that they were the people of God. Their Apostolic connection, their doctrinal beliefs, their evangelization of Europe, and their stand for the Truth in the face of the greatest of persecution are all traits and proof that they were the true church of God in those dark days. They earnestly contended for the Faith, including 1 John 1:9. They translated the Word from their Latin Bibles into Gallic, Flimish, German, and other languages. (Armitage)

2) Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria (d. 336 AD) and pupil of Lucian of Antioch, denied the deity and eternality of Christ Jesus. The Greek or Eastern Church was completely given over to that heresy from the reign of Constantine to that of Theodosius the Elder, a span of at least forty years (c.340-381, to the convening of the fourth Council of Byzantium). Conversely, the Western Church remained uncorrupted by the Arian heresy during this period.…[W]ith the Arians in control of the Greek Church for the forty or so year span, Eusebius was able to suppress this passage in the edition that he revised which had the effect of removing the verse from the Greek texts. Thus the disputed verse was originally suppressed, not gradually introduced into the Latin translation. (Nolan, An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, pgs. 28-29, 293-306, 561)

3) Several orthodox African writers (AD 450-530) quote the verse when defending the doctrine of the Trinity against the gainsaying of the Vandals. After the Vandals over-ran the African provinces, their King (Hunnerich) summoned the bishops of the African Church and the adjacent isles to deliberate on the doctrine bound within the disputed passage. Between three to four hundred prelates attended the Council at Carthage while Eugenius, as bishop of that See, drew up the Confession of the orthodox in which the contested 7th verse is expressly quoted. That the entire African Church assembled in council should have concurred in quoting a verse which was not contained in the original text is altogether inconceivable. Such loudly proclaims that the 7th verse was part of its text from the beginning. These writers are:
A) Vigilius of Tapensis (AD 490) (MPL, vol. 62, col. 243)
B) Victor Vitensis (Vienna, vol. vii, p. 60)
C) Fulgentius (died 533)of Ruspe in N. Africa (MPL, vol. 65, col. 500)
D) Cassiodorus of Italy (AD 480-570).
E) Eugenius, Bishop of Carthage, in a confession of faith (AD 484).

THE GREEK GRAMMATICAL EVIDENCE

It has been pointed out that if the [capitalized words below] are removed from the text, there are certain grammatical difficulties which result in the Greek. The nouns spirit, water and blood in v. 8 are in the masculine gender when they are normally neuter; but if v. 7 is present the terms Father and Word which are masculine would influence the structure of v. 8 and explain this anomaly. (Traditional Text Society) Dr. Frederick Nolan is quick to point out that the verse as preserved in the Latin manuscripts is consistent and full whereas the Greek is internally defective grammatically (Nolan, An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, pp. 259-261, 294) Now let us listen to a few scholars that know the Greek grammatical problem well.

Textus Receptus reading of 1 John 5:7-8 (KJV). The omitted words are capitalized:

"For there are three that bear witness IN HEAVEN, THE FATHER, THE WORD, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT: AND THESE THREE ARE ONE. AND THERE ARE THREE THAT BEAR WITNESS IN EARTH, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."

1) EDWARD HILLS: "[T]he omission of the Johannine comma involves a grammatical difficulty. The words spirit, water, and blood are neuter in gender, but in 1 John 5:8 they are treated as masculine. If the Johannine comma is rejected, it is hard to explain this irregularity. It is usually said that in 1 John 5:8 the spirit, the water, and the blood are personalized and that this is the reason for the adoption of the masculine gender. But it is hard to see how such personalization would involve the change from the neuter to the masculine. For in verse 6 the word Spirit plainly refers to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity. Surely in this verse the word Spirit is "personalized," and yet the neuter gender is used. Therefore since personalization did not bring about a change of gender in verse 6, it cannot fairly be pleaded as the reason for such a change in verse 8. If, however, the Johannine comma is retained, a reason for placing the neuter nouns spirit, water, and blood in the masculine gender becomes readily apparent. It was due to the influence of the nouns Father and Word, which are masculine. Thus the hypothesis that the Johannine comma is an interpolation is full of difficulties.

2) FLOYD JONES: The Greek language has "gender" in its noun endings (as do many other languages). Neuter nouns normally require neuter articles (the word "the" as in "the blood" is the article). But the article in verse 8 of the shortened reading as found in the Greek that is the foundation of the new versions…is masculine. Thus the new translations read "the Spirit (neuter), the water (neuter), and the blood (neuter): and these three (masculine!! - from the Greek article "hoi") are in one." Consequently three neuter subjects are being treated as masculine (see below where the omitted portion is capitalized). If the "Comma" is rejected it is impossible to adequately explain this irregularity. In addition, without the "Comma" verse 7 has a masculine antecedent; three neuter subjects (nouns in vs.8) do not take a masculine antecedent. Viewing the complete passage it becomes apparent how this rule of grammer is violated when the words are omitted. I John 5:6-8:

"... And it is the Spirit (Neuter) that beareth witness (Neuter), because the Spirit (Neuter) is truth. For there are three (Masculine) that bear record (Masculine) IN HEAVEN, THE FATHER (Masculine), THE WORD (Masculine), AND THE HOLY SPIRIT (Neuter): AND THESE THREE (Masculine) ARE ONE (Masculine). AND THERE ARE THREE (Masculine) THAT BEAR WITNESS IN EARTH, the Spirit (Neuter), and the water (Neuter), and the blood (Neuter): and these three (Masculine) agree in one.

3) THOMAS HOLLAND: The phrase in verse 8, to pneuma, kai to udor, kai to aima (the Spirit, and the water, and the blood), are all neuter nouns. They are, however, contiguous with the phrase, oi marturountes (who bare witness) which stands in the masculine (as does the Greek word for three, treis). The proper grammatical explanation for this, mixing the neuter and the masculine, is that the parallel is introduced in verse 7. There we find the phrase, o Pater, o Logos, kai to Agion Pneuma (the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost) which are masculine nouns (with the exception of the Holy Ghost, which stands in the neuter). The would allow for the masculine oi marturountes since the clause contains two masculine nouns. If, on the other hand, the masculine nouns of verse 7 are removed we are at a loss as to why the masculine is used in verse 8. Therefore, the inclusion of the Comma is not only proper theology, it is proper Greek.

THE THEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE

1) The Trinitarian formula, Father, Word, and Holy Ghost" is unique not only for John but for all NT writers. The usual formula, "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost " would have been assuredly used by a forger. Why does it exhibit the singular combination not seen anywhere else in scripture by the use of "Word" instead of "Son"? It is quite unlikely that he would abandon the time-honored formula and invent an entirely new one. The fact is that the use of "Word" is consistent with the apostle John's style.

2) The number of times that John uses the Name that signifies the Lord's eternal pre-existents is 7, the number of perfection if 1 John 5:7 is included:

John 1:1: "In the beginning was 1) the Word, and 2) the Word was with God, and 3) the Word was God.

John 1:14: "And 4) the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."

1 John 1:1: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of 5) the Word of life."

1 John 5:7: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, 6) the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one."

Revelation 19:13 "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called 7) The Word of God."

3) It is a common scriptural usage to present solemn truths or warnings in groups of three or four (cf. Prov 30, Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 13 etc.), the visions of the butler and baker in Genesis 40, the combination of the words of Christ in Matthew 12:40 (cf. Gen 15:5; Isa 55:10-11; ). It is in accord with Biblical usage, therefore, to expect that in 1 John 5, the formula "there are three that bear witness" will be repeated at least twice (cf. Matt 6:10).

4) The text of 1 John 5:7 is most Christ-honoring. It shows His Deity and Unity in the Godhead. The Lord Jesus Himself said we would know the truth from the witness and guidance of the Spirit who would show us Christ's Deity and glorify Him:

John 16:13-15: "Howbeit when he, THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, is come, he WILL GUIDE YOU INTO ALL TRUTH: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. HE SHALL GLORIFY ME: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. ALL THINGS THAT THE FATHER HATH ARE MINE: therefore said I, that HE SHALL TAKE OF MINE, AND SHALL SHOW IT UNTO YOU."

1 John 5:6-11: "…And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son."

5) Providential protection of the reading by God: Our confidence in Word of God must ultimately rest upon the truth of the Providential Preservation of Holy Scripture, a truth taught in the Bible itself. We begin with the presupposition that God has preserved His Word; because He said that He would: consider the following verses in the Book of Psalms alone: 12:6, 7; 89:1, 2; 119:89, 160. The promise of God was that He would preserve His Word in His church - Isaiah 59:21. Therefore, we believe that the true text of Holy Scripture is that which has been passed down through the generations of God's believing people who have preserved the faith of the gospel. This authentic text may not at every point be found in a majority of surviving manuscripts.

6) Remember Origen and those that he influenced, like Eusebeus, did not believe in the Trinity or the Deity of Jesus Christ. They cut I John 5:7 out of the Bible early on in Christian history because he hated the Doctrine of the Trinity. But what man cuts out God can put back in. They pulled a King Jehoiakim (Read Jeremiah 36):
* God gave His Word to Jeremiah (v. 1)
* Jeremiah dictated it to Baruch who wrote it down (v. 4)
* Jehoiakim heard the Word, didn't like and burned it (v. 21, 23)
* God had the same thing rewritten again (v. 27, 28).
The same thing has happened with I John 5:7. The Greek speaking Arians didn't like it so he cut it out of the Greek Bible, but God put it back.

EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE FOR THE COMMA

After examining 1) the Latin and Greek manuscript evidence, 2) the citations and documentation by the church fathers and others, 3) the grammatical evidence and 4) the doctrinal evidence we should be able to come to a logical conclusion. Let's put the evidence to the "Tests of Truth for New Testament Criticism".

1) Antiquity: We have the testiomon of the Old Latin Version as early as AD 157, Tertullian around AD 200, Cyprian around AD 250, and on the Greek side Codex Wizanburgensis from the 8th century, and 88 from the twelfth century. The Comma passes this test.

2) Consent of Witnesses: There is consent Latin witness throughout history, as well as several Greek witnesses. Pass.

3) Variety of Evidence: There are various witnesses (i.e. MSS, versions, Fathers, lectionaries, etc.) from a virity of locations (N. Africa, Italy, Asia) which qualifies the Comma.

4) Respectability of Witnesses, or Weight: Tertullian, the Waldenses, Cyprian, and the orthodox African writers are all credible. Pass.

5) Continuity, or Unbroken Tradition: The reading appears consistently throughout history from AD 150 to 1500. Pass.

6) Credibility of Opposing Evidence: The manuscripts, circumstances and many of the people of the opposing side are suspicious or not credible altogether. 1 John 5:7 passes again.

7) Internal Considerations, or Reasonableness: The elementary Greek grammar is deficient without 1 John 5:7, and fundamental Bible doctrines suffer without it. The so called Comma passes again!

CONCLUSION

"Finally, it cannot be overly stressed that the successive editors of the TR could have omitted the passage from their editions. The fact that Stephens, Beza, and the Elzevirs retained the Pericope, despite the reluctance of Erasmus to include it, is not without significance. The learned Lutheran text critic J.A. Bengel ("Gnomon", published in 1742) also convincingly defended its inclusion as did Hills in this century. The hard fact is that, by the providence of God, the Johannie comma obtained and retained a place in the Textus Receptus. We emphatically declare that the most extreme caution should be exercised in questioning its right to that place." (Jones) "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set." (Proverbs 22:28)

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REFERENCES FOR ABOVE WORK

http://www.mindspring.com/~kjb1611/html/holland.htm
http://jesus-is-lord.com/kjvdefen.htm
http://homepage.netspaceonline.com/~amigatec/which/toc.html
http://homepage.netspaceonline.com/~amigatec/chapel/1john5_7.html
http://biz.ukonline.co.uk/trinitarian.bible.society/contents.htm






RECOMMENDED SITES ON THE SUBJECT

Compare these verses:
http://biz.ukonline.co.uk/trinitarian.bible.society/articles/tk.htm
http://www.aloha.net/~bstaggs/kjb.html

Scientist, Henry M. Morris, and the KJV:
http://www.icr.org/bible/kjv.htm

MSS Charts:
Reliable Texts: http://www.hutch.com.au/~rlister/bible/bibtb2.gif

Corrupted Texts:
http://www.hutch.com.au/~rlister/bible/bibtb1.gif

Sites on the KJV issue:
http://www.hutch.com.au/~rlister/bible.htm
http://www.mindspring.com/~kjb1611/html/holland.htm
http://jesus-is-lord.com/kjvdefen.htm

First John 5:7:
http://jesus-is-lord.com/1john57.htm
http://homepage.netspaceonline.com/~amigatec/which/appendix-B.html

Acts 12:4 - Easter:
http://www.hutch.com.au/~rlister/wh/wh.htmpp
http://www.aloha.net/~bstaggs/kjb.html

Westcott and Hort:
http://jesus-is-lord.com/hort.htm
http://www.hutch.com.au/~rlister/wh/wh.htmpp