This Site Is No Longer Active

Check out RESTITUTIO.org for new blog entries and podcasts. Feel free to browse through our content here, but we are no longer adding new posts.


This is the second half of an article about the Comma Johanneum. To read part one click here.

Greek History

Now that I have recounted some of the Latin history of the Comma, I turn now to set forth the Greek evidence. In the following chart are some relevant Greek editions beginning with the most recent first.

Greek Orthodox New Testament (1904)
ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ Πατήρ, ὁ Λόγος καὶ τὸ Ἅγιον Πνεῦμα, καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσι·καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ, τὸ Πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα, καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν
for there are three who testify in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one; and there are three who testify in earth, the Spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are in agreement.
Stephanus/Received Text (1550)
ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες εν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ πατήρ, ὁ λόγος, καὶ τὸ Ἅγιον Πνεῦμα· καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσιν καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἕν τῇ γῇ, τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσὶν
for there are three who testify in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one and there are three who testify on earth, the spirit and the water and the blood and the three are in agreement.
Erasmus (1522)
ὅτι τρεῖς ἐισιν ὁι μαρτυροῦντες ἑν τῷ ὁυρανῷ, πατὴρ, λόγος, καὶ πνεῦμα ἅγιου, καὶ οὗτοι ὁι τρεῖς ἕν ἐισι. καὶ τρεῖς ἐισιν ὁι μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ, πνεῦμα, καὶ ὕδωρ, καὶ αἷμα, καὶ ὁι τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν ἐισιν.
for there are three who testify in heaven, father, word, and holy spirit, and these three are one. And there are three who testify on earth, spirit, and water, and blood, and these three are in agreement.
Erasmus (1519)
ὅτι τρεῖς ἐισιν ὁι μαρτυροῦντες, τὸ πνεῦμα, καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ, καὶ τὸ ἇιμα, καὶ ὁι τρεῖς ἐις τὸ ἕν ἐισιν.
for there are three who testify, the spirit, and the water, and the blood, and the three are in agreement.
Nestle Aland 27th Edition (1993, reconstruction from earliest mss.)
ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα, καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἕν εἰσιν.
for there are three who testify, the spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are in agreement.

Again a pattern emerges in which the older and better Greek versions do not contain the Comma. However, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which has now deleted the Comma from its official Latin Bible, the Greek Orthodox Church retains the Comma in its official Greek Bible. Furthermore there is an interesting change between Erasmus’ 1519 and 1522 editions. The former did not contain the Comma (nor did his first edition in 1516), but the latter did. In order to understand what happened a little background may be helpful.

Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam was an influential Christian scholar and priest who worked hard to rediscover and restore ancient Greek and Latin texts so they could be printed and distributed. He recognized the immense power and utility of the printing press and took full advantage. He also understood the value of publishing first. A group of Spanish scholars supervised by Cardinal Ximines was working hard to produce the Complutensian Polyglot (a Bible including the original languages along with a Latin translation). They had finished the NT in 1514 but were waiting for papal approval. Not to be beaten, Erasmus rushed his first edition into print handing the printer the Greek manuscript itself with his notes on it. Cleverly he dedicated his Novum Instrumentum to Pope Leo X and thus bypassed the long waiting process for approval.

It is important to remember that Erasmus lived in an age when heresy was taken very seriously. For example, William Tyndale was strangled to death and then burned at the stake in 1536 for translating the Bible into English and Michael Servetus was burned to death with green wood in 1553 in John Calvin’s Geneva for denying the Trinity. Furthermore, Martin Luther, Erasmus’ contemporary, tacked his ninety-five theses to the church door at Wittenberg in 1517, which instigated the beginnings of what became the Protestant Reformation. Erasmus was a man of prudence who admired Luther, even if he thought he had gone too far (especially on the doctrine of free will), but did not throw in his lot with the reformers, preferring rather to remain a Catholic in good standing.

Erasmus believed it was more honest and pious to correct erroneous manuscript readings in an effort to restore the original reading than to merely preserve tradition. Jerry H. Bentley writes, “He complained commonly and bitterly about the audacity of the scribes who took it upon themselves to improve upon the texts they were copying.”14 As a result of his quest to print the best and most reliable Greek NT, Erasmus set to correcting and noting instances of corruption as he detected them. “He insisted,” says Joseph M. Levine, “that an accurate reconstruction of the text was required, even if the results should prove inconvenient for the theologian.”15 In 1514, even before his first NT was completed, his friend Martin van Dorp tried to persuade him to abandon the project. Charles G. Nauert writes, “He [Dorp] feared that such a publication inevitably challenged the authority of the church, which had based its teaching on the traditional Vulgate text for a thousand years.”16 Erasmus replied:

Why do Jerome and Augustine and Ambrose so often cite a different text from the one we use? Why does Jerome find fault with many things, and correct them explicitly, which corrections are still found in our text? What will you do when there is so much agreement, when the Greek copies are different and Jerome cites the same text as theirs, when the very oldest Latin copies concur, and the sense itself runs much better? Do you intend to overlook all this and follow your own copy, though it was perhaps corrupted by a scribe?17

Dorp did not persuade Erasmus who published his first edition of the Greek NT in 1516. He started to come under attack for breaking with tradition as ensconced in the Vulgate, just as Dorp had predicted. Much of the criticism leveled against Erasmus focused on his failure to include the Comma.18 Furthermore, his second edition (1519) was a parallel NT with the Greek on the left page and his own Latin translation on the right. Many more people could read Latin than Greek and so this second edition’s lack of the Latin Comma presented a glaring challenge to the standard Vulgate of his day.

Over time more voices joined in the criticism of Erasmus for making the best proof -text for the doctrine of the Trinity suddenly disappear. Ironically, Erasmus was a believer in the Trinity, and was not at all mounting an attack against the dogma. Nauert notes Erasmus’ true intention was to tell “theologians that in their defense of Trinitarian orthodoxy, they could not cite this helpful text, because it did not exist.”19 Bentley notes that because he was “accused of harboring Arian views, Erasmus agreed to include the formula in future editions if a Greek manuscript could be found which presented it.”20 Taking him up on his word, Erasmus’ opponents had no trouble procuring such a manuscript, all it took was an ink pot, a quill, and a scribe. Before long codex Montfortianus came into the world and was readily foisted upon Erasmus as “proof” that the Comma was in at least one Greek manuscript after all. Erasmus capitulated and included the Comma in his 1522 edition, “but he did so only under protest.”21 He wrote, “From this manuscript I have substituted what was missing in the rest, lest I give any occasion for slandering me.”22 Levine points out, “Erasmus’ fear of calumny was justified; Lee had accused him directly of Arianism in this matter and elsewhere in his annotations (and, needless to say, the charge was dangerous).”23 Even so, Erasmus’ decision had long lasting consequences. For his Greek text later came to form the basis of Robert Estienne’s (Stephanus) text, which, in turn, was used by the translators of the English version authorized by King James in 1611. Furthermore, Luther, who also worked from Erasmus’Greek, followed a similar pattern, omitting the Comma in his 1522 and 1530 editions and then including it in 1545.

It turns out that Erasmus was right; the Comma is present in no Greek manuscript before the 10th century. Furthermore, in this tenth century manuscript it was written in the marginal by the hand of a fifteenth or sixteenth century scribe. The first manuscript to contain the Comma in its actual text is codex Ottobonianus from between the 14th and 15th centuries. This codex is a parallel Bible with the Latin and Greek on opposite pages. As we have already seen the Comma enjoyed great popularity in late medieval Latin manuscripts, so it is not hard to imagine what happened. As with Erasmus’ parallel Bible, any inconsistencies between the Latin and Greek became apparent when Ottobonianus was penned. Thus, the scribe(s) chose to back translate the Latin of the Comma into Greek so as to preserve conformity (a fact that can be confirmed by observing the absence of the definite article between Father, Word, and Holy Spirit). Metzger writes “The passage is absent from every known Greek manuscript except eight, and these contain the passage in what appears to be a translation from a late recension of the Latin Vulgate.”24 Below is the data in tabular form:

Greek Manuscripts Containing the Comma in Their Main Text
# name date notes
629 codex Ottobonianus at the Vatican 14th/15th c. Latin/Greek parallel Bible with the Comma back translated from Latin
61 codex Montfortianus at Dublin 16th c. Erasmus was given this ms. so that he would include the Comma in his 3rd ed.
918 manuscript at the Escorial in Spain 16th c.
2318 manuscript at Bucharest in Rumania 18th c. likely influenced by the Clementine Vulgate
Greek Manuscripts Containing the Comma in the Margin
# name original date date of marginal note
221v.r. ms. in Bodleian Library, Oxford 10th c. 15th/16th c.
88v.r. codex Regius of Naples 14th c. 16th c.
429v.r. manuscript at Wolfenbüttel 14th/15th c. 16th c.
636v.r. manuscript at Naples 16th c. 16th c.

It is a curious thing that apart from codex Ottobonianus (629) all of the Greek manuscripts containing the Comma originate or were added to in the 16th century. Considering the difficult time Erasmus had, and the controversy that surrounded his refusal to concoct and add the Comma to his Greek/Latin Bible (in the first two editions), one can easily imagine why there would be a sudden interest in the 16th century to discover or produce Greek manuscripts containing the Comma. Before the advent of the printing press, scholars like Erasmus would not have been of such concern because books were too expensive for most and were not widely distributed. However, once Gutenberg christened his invention by printing the first Bible, the most read and purchased book was sure to be reprinted in a thousand ways. Now, the lack of the Comma was no longer confined to a few Greek manuscripts tucked away in a few far flung monasteries, only readable by a few specialists. A serious threat loomed on the horizon for the Roman Catholic Church’s most important doctrine; such a matter had to be handled. What other solution was there except inserting it into the old manuscripts (in the margin) and producing new ones with the forgery right in the text?

Moreover, in addition to the dearth of witnesses among the Greek manuscripts, the Greek Fathers, in fact, never quoted 1 John 5.7-8 with the Comma. Such an omission is particularly remarkable since many of them like Athanasius, the Cappadocians, and Cyril wrote about the Trinity voluminously and staunchly defended the dogma against the “heretics.” It is simply incredible to imagine that Nicene apologists who embroiled themselves in controversy lasting well over a century, never once took advantage of the best Trinitarian text to make their point. Metzger writes, “The passage is quoted by none of the Greek Fathers, who, had they known it, would most certainly have employed it in the Trinitarian controversies (Sabellian and Arian).”25


Today, the Comma Johanneum persists in only the KJV, the NKJV, and a smattering of other outdated translations. Mainstream Bibles like the NASB, NIV, ESV, HCSB, NAB, NET, NRSV, RSV, NJB, etc. have eliminated the forgery. In other words, Catholics and Protestants both admit that the Comma should not be considered as legitimate Scripture! But then this brings us to a rather paradoxical conclusion. If the most Trinitarian verse in the Bible was a counterfeit, does that not indicate that someone, somewhere along the line, thought the Scriptures needed help teaching the cherished dogma? Even if we accept Metzger’s more benign theory for the origin of the Comma, we are still left with the simple fact that every single Greek manuscript testified to its falsity until the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when marginal notes were added to four old manuscripts and new ones were churned out to validate the erroneous Latin reading. (This is besides the fact that early Latin manuscripts likewise omitted the text in both the Old Latin and Jerome’s Vulgate.) When I consider the audacity and hubris involved in fabricating and forcibly inserting a counterfeit verse into Scripture, I cannot help but ask why? If the Bible already clearly taught the Trinity, why would anyone go through the effort to tamper with it? To me, such an act is plain indication that the Bible does not teach the Trinity well at all.


14 Jerry H. Bentley, “Erasmus, Jean Le Clerc, and the Principle of the Harder Reading” in the Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 3 (Autumn 1978), The University of Chicago Press, p. 313.

15 Joseph M. Levine, “Erasmus and the Problem of the Johanine Comma” in the Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 58, no. 4 (October 1997), University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 582.

16 Charles G. Nauert, “Humanism as Method: Roots of Conflict with the Scholastics” in The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 29, no. 2 (Summer 1998), The Sixteenth Century Journal, p. 434.

17 Erasmus to Dorp, c. May, 1515, CWE, no. 337, III, 111-39, quoted from Levine, p. 583-4.

18 Another example was his addition of the words “nor the son” in Matthew 24.36, which he later also withdrew.

19 Nauert, p. 436.

20 Bentley, p. 315.

21 ibid.

22 LB IX, 275 B-C, quoted in Levine, p. 588.

23 ibid., 589.

24 Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed., 5th printing (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2002), p. 647.

25 ibid., p. 648.

11 Responses to “The Story Behind 1 John 5.7 (part two)”

  1. on 15 Jun 2011 at 4:41 pmGeorge

    Thank you for all your hard work.1 John 5;7 * Lamsa; And the Spirit testifies that that very Spirit is the truth.
    And there are three to bear witness ,the Spirit and the water and the blood;and these three are one.I am not sure if this helps and I know Lamsa had (has) some P.I. just put it there for your enjoyment!Love gw

  2. on 28 Jun 2011 at 8:13 amXavier

    Don’t know if anyone has cited this commentary from the NET Bible Online before, but it is well worth it…

    Before τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα (to pneuma kai to {udwr kai to |aima), the Textus Receptus (TR) reads ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ πατήρ, ὁ λόγος, καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα, καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσι. 5:8 καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ (“in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 5:8 And there are three that testify on earth”). This reading, the infamous Comma Johanneum, has been known in the English-speaking world through the King James translation. However, the evidence – both external and internal – is decidedly against its authenticity. For a detailed discussion, see TCGNT 647-49.

    Our discussion will briefly address the external evidence. This longer reading is found only in nine late mss, four of which have the words in a marginal note. Most of these mss (221 2318 [18th century] {2473 [dated 1634]} and [with minor variations] 61 88 429 629 636 918) originate from the 16th century; the earliest ms, codex 221 (10th century) includes the reading in a marginal note, added sometime after the original composition.

    The oldest ms with the Comma in its text is from the 14th century (629), but the wording here departs from all the other mss in several places. The next oldest mss on behalf of the Comma, 88 (12th century) 429 (14th) 636 (15th), also have the reading only as a marginal note (v.l.).

    The remaining mss are from the 16th to 18th centuries. Thus, there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek ms until the 14th century (629), and that ms deviates from all others in its wording; the wording that matches what is found in the TR was apparently composed after Erasmus’ Greek NT was published in 1516. Indeed, the Comma appears in no Greek witness of any kind (either ms, patristic, or Greek translation of some other version) until a.d. 1215 (in a Greek translation of the Acts of the Lateran Council, a work originally written in Latin). This is all the more significant since many a Greek Father would have loved such a reading, for it so succinctly affirms the doctrine of the Trinity.

    The reading seems to have arisen in a 4th century Latin homily in which the text was allegorized to refer to members of the Trinity. From there, it made its way into copies of the Latin Vulgate, the text used by the Roman Catholic Church. The Trinitarian formula (known as the Comma Johanneum) made its way into the third edition of Erasmus’ Greek NT (1522) because of pressure from the Catholic Church. After his first edition appeared, there arose such a furor over the absence of the Comma that Erasmus needed to defend himself. He argued that he did not put in the Comma because he found no Greek mss that included it. Once one was produced (codex 61, written in ca. 1520), Erasmus apparently felt obliged to include the reading. He became aware of this ms sometime between May of 1520 and September of 1521. In his annotations to his third edition he does not protest the rendering now in his text, as though it were made to order; but he does defend himself from the charge of indolence, noting that he had taken care to find whatever mss he could for the production of his text.

    In the final analysis, Erasmus probably altered the text because of politico-theologico-economic concerns: He did not want his reputation ruined, nor his Novum Instrumentum to go unsold.

    Modern advocates of the TR and KJV generally argue for the inclusion of the Comma Johanneum on the basis of heretical motivation by scribes who did not include it. But these same scribes elsewhere include thoroughly orthodox readings – even in places where the TR/Byzantine mss lack them. Further, these advocates argue theologically from the position of divine preservation: Since this verse is in the TR, it must be original. (Of course, this approach is circular, presupposing as it does that the TR = the original text.)

    In reality, the issue is history, not heresy: How can one argue that the Comma Johanneum goes back to the original text yet does not appear until the 14th century in any Greek mss (and that form is significantly different from what is printed in the TR; the wording of the TR is not found in any Greek mss until the 16th century)? Such a stance does not do justice to the gospel: Faith must be rooted in history.

    Significantly, the German translation of Luther was based on Erasmus’ second edition (1519) and lacked the Comma. But the KJV translators, basing their work principally on Theodore Beza’s 10th edition of the Greek NT (1598), a work which itself was fundamentally based on Erasmus’ third and later editions (and Stephanus’ editions), popularized the Comma for the English-speaking world. Thus, the Comma Johanneum has been a battleground for English-speaking Christians more than for others.

  3. on 16 Aug 2011 at 3:13 pmMatt13weedhacker

    Hi again.

    Yes I agree the Capodiacans would have forcibly ramed it down their opponents throats – IF – it existed.

    But it didn’t.

    Well done.

    Keep exposing any TRI{3}nitarian forgery you can.

  4. on 17 Aug 2011 at 10:52 pmSteven Avery

    Hi Folks,

    There are a number of problems with the writing above. Some of emphasis, some of omission. The question of Greek writers needs to be examined carefully, especially in regard to Contra Arium and the Synopis Scripturae Sacrae.

    However, for now let us take this important quote, that is a big part of the theory of a late Latin (many Latin evidences are omitted, but we can get to that later, a few of the omissions were mentioned en passant on page 1):


    “(This is besides the fact that early Latin manuscripts likewise omitted the text in both the Old Latin and Jerome’s Vulgate.)”


    The Vulgate I discussed a bit on page one, where even the very earliest manuscript, Codex Fuldensis, has the discussion of the removal of the verse by unfaithful translators in the Prologue. A section very clear. And this Prologue was written in Jerome’s personal style consistent with his Bible understandings.

    Overall a fascinating situation since the manuscript does not have the verse in the 1 John text. Essentially verifying the charge that there was a tendency for removal. Potential reasons are complex, as Edward Freer Hills and others point out .. one possibility is that the verse was discomfiting as too “Sabellian” and if some manuscripts had it and some did not, a scribe might easily opt for exclusion with doctrinal preference being a factor. There are other possible theories about the discordance of the text and the Prologue in Fuldensis, but the simple confirming-consistent theory is the most Ockhamish by far.

    As I point out briefly on page one, the Council of Carthage evidence of the multiple highlighted references in the statement of faith of hundreds of bishops, delivered in circumstances that required textual caution, in 484 AD, is an evidence that by itself decimates late Latin theories. There is no simply no conceivable vector of transmission from a late tack-on (e.g. the now-discredited Priscillian origin theory, sort of implied in the page 1 reference to one manuscript) to the Council of Carthage. Common sense and reason must insist that the verse was common in the Latin Bible going back a long way to be used by so many bishops in such a fashion.

    “early Latin manuscripts likewise omitted the text in both the Old Latin”

    This is a critical error, and I am quite curious from where this information came. The Old Latin manuscripts extant are dated from about 600 AD to 1000 AD and are considered to reflect a text from antiquity. (Later the Vulgate Latin text predominated more fully.) These manuscripts strongly favor the inclusion of the verse. The count can vary, because of a few factors like defining an Old Latin manuscript, the numbers are something like 7 to 1. Very strongly supportive of the verse. And this corroborates strongly other evidences like Carthage and Cyprian and many other references and allusions back to antiquity

    Steven Avery.

  5. on 18 Aug 2011 at 8:07 amXavier

    Steve Avery

    So what’s your point? That the text should be deemed authentic?

  6. on 18 Aug 2011 at 11:33 amSteven Avery

    Hi Folks,

    Definitely, Xavier, 1 John 5:7 is authentic scripture. Not because the verse is Trinitarian, Sabellian, or Arian or other (it has been given many different doctrinal interpretations) simply because John wrote the verse in the 1st century and it fits the sense and context of 1 John 5 beautifully.

    And, although the verse dropped out of the Greek lines over time, the Latin lines representation has always been exceedingly strong, and this was understood by the learned men who worked on the Reformation Bible (the Received Text). The tussle of Erasmus was understandable, when Erasmus placed a verse in the Greek New Testament, he preferred if there was direct Greek support. Thus the back and forth with Lee and Stunica over issues like the Vulgate Prologue reference (where Eramus essentially accuses Jerome !). Ironically, powerful evidences were not known or referenced in that discussion, and Erasmus gave great weight to early writer references. e.g. The Carthage writing was unknown, Cyprian was not referenced. Later, Stephanus and Beza had no difficulty at all, and this was before the Vulgate edition mentioned as “official” (the Received Text was more authoritative than the Vulgate).

    Also, in general, theories of interpolations that take over a text line are very, very difficult. Even modern scholars are beginning to realize that the normative corruption is dropping of text, sometimes homoeoteleuten, sometimes simple fatigue or distraction. Whether accidental or even deliberate (or a combo of both) such text is not seen by the next proof-reader or copyist, or the church in the neighboring city. When the manuscript is read after a drop — “no one told me about her, she’s not there” – and the omission can easily be copoied. However on additions, they glare right out to the next reader, they require a conscious effort, and they could even cost scribes their position when noted (as Tertullian referenced). Thus any claim of a major addition that takes over a textline (any language) starts with a requirement to deliver substantial evidence, sine it is prima facie highly unlikely. Despite some twistings of evidences from Porson to Metzger to those who draw from those wells, the evidence is the other way. Latin antiquity is solidly established and (please read Charles Forster to understand this) Greek understanding of the words as scripture in the earliest days is also clear.

    Overall, I am a firm believer that the Bible must form our doctrine, not vica versa, we do not try to choose the Bible by what we think is comfortable to us doctrinally. And we do have the pure Bible through the Reformation experts, sharp faith-consisten men with superb studies and labours, who worked unto the pure Geneva Bible and then came the excellent AV. We err if we try to form the Bible to match our doctrine, and look for the arguments that are in our comfort zone.

    Please understand, the incredible debate of 1700-1825 that couched this verse textual discussion in “orthodoxy” terms is fascinating, yet frequently a bit misplaced.

    The basic issue is far simpler … the identity and integrity and purity and consistency and surety of the word of God.

    Steven Avery

  7. on 18 Aug 2011 at 2:02 pmXavier

    Steven Avery

    Definitely, Xavier, 1 John 5:7 is authentic scripture. Not because the verse is Trinitarian, Sabellian, or Arian or other (it has been given many different doctrinal interpretations) simply because John wrote the verse in the 1st…

    How about because most of Christendome and your general, unbiased historian/scholar have found that it is a corruption to the text?

    The history of the comma in the centuries following the Textus Receptus has been one of initial acceptance followed by near-total rejection. This history is summed up in the Introduction to the 1808 New Testament in an improved version, upon the basis of Archbishop Newcome’s new translation, which did not contain the Comma Johanneum, where the editors explained their reasons for rejecting the Textus Receptus as follows:

    “1. This text concerning the heavenly witnesses is not contained in any Greek manuscript which was written earlier than the fifteenth century.

    2. Nor in any Latin manuscript earlier than the ninth century.

    3. It is not found in any of the ancient versions.

    4. It is not cited by any of the Greek ecclesiastical writers, though to prove the doctrine of the Trinity they have cited the words both before and after this text

    5. It is not cited by any of the early Latin fathers, even when the subjects upon which they treat would naturally have led them to appeal to its authority.

    6. It is first cited by Virgilius Tapsensis, a Latin writer of no credit, in the latter end of the fifth century, and by him it is suspected to have been forged.

    7. It has been omitted as spurious in many editions of the New Testament since the Reformation:—in the two first of Erasmus, in those of Aldus, Colinaus, Zwinglius, and lately of Griesbach.

    8. It was omitted by Luther in his German version. In the old English Bibles of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth, it was printed in small types, or included in brackets: but between the years 1566 and 1580 it began to be printed as it now stands; by whose authority, is not known.”

    …The Roman Catholic Church was slower to reject the comma… On 13 January 1897, during a period of reaction in the Church, the Holy Office decreed that Catholic theologians could not “with safety” deny or call into doubt the Comma’s authenticity. Pope Leo XIII approved this decision two days later, though his approval was not in forma specifica—that is, Leo XIII did not invest his full papal authority in the matter, leaving the decree with the ordinary authority possessed by the Holy Office.

    Three decades later, on 2 June 1927, the more liberal Pope Pius XI decreed that the Comma Johanneum was open to dispute.Wikipedia, Comma Johanneum

    The fact that this corruption was exposed by a Catholic scholar should cause anyone to pause…especially what he had to say regarding the doctrine which he was supposed to uphold:

    Is it not possible to have fellowship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, without being able to explain philosophically the distinction between the Father and the Son, or between the Holy Spirit and both the other persons; or the difference between the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit?

    If I believe the tradition of the Church, that there are three of one substance, what need of laborious disputation? If I do not believe, no earthly reasoning will convince me…

    You will not be condemned for not knowing whether the Spirit which proceeds from the Father and the Son consists in one principle or in two; but you will not escape destruction unless you make it your endeavor to posses the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, meekness, faith, modesty, continence, chastity…

    The sum of our religion is peace and concord; which cannot easily be maintained unless we define but very few points, and in the greater number leave every one free to form his own judgment. Erasmus.

  8. on 18 Aug 2011 at 5:51 pmSteven Avery

    Hi Folks,

    “general, unbiased historian/scholar have found that it is a corruption to the text?”

    Please see if the “general, unbiased historian/scholar” is even aware of the evidences given above and if they deal with them sensibly and properly. Or do they handwave because .. it’s the thing to do. Herd mentality. Find out how much they know, you can easily see they almost all write poorly today, omitting lots of evidences and skewing their presentations.

    Have they studied Cyprian as have the scholars like Pieper mentioned in the Tim Dunkin paper? Do they speak cogently about the hundreds of bishops with the statement of faith specifically emphasizing the heavenly witnesses verse at the Council of Carthage of 484 AD ? Do they understand the import of the Codex Fuldensis find for the Vulgate Prologue as explaining the actual history ? And are they simply speaking incorrectly about the Old Latin and other evidences, as we saw above ?

    If they are confused (or deceiving) on the basic factual issues, their conclusions will simply be GIGO.

    Now I could say a lot more, but I noticed my short post on page 1 is back in moderation, so I want to see if this goes through before spending time in a careful response here.

    If Sean would rather not discuss this in detail here, I can understand. It is not an easy issue to defend the modern “consensus” position on this verse.

    Hopefully this post and the short one on pg 1 with the Tim Dunkin references on Cyprian will go through. And we do have a certain amount of discussion on the TC-Alternate Yahoogroups list, and some other forums. Those interested can continue there, if Sean wants to end the discussion and research here.

    Steven Avery

    RCC scholars have been on both sides of the issue. Richard Simon was one of the original attackers, Nicholas Wiseman was an important defender.

    The evangelicals who defended the verse before and after 1808 are long and distinguished.


  9. on 18 Aug 2011 at 6:08 pmSteven Avery

    Hi Folks,

    My apologies for the two lines at bottom, they were other aspects I planned to go into, but I decided to wait and see about the moderation issue. We do not have reediting so I will continue here.

    The basic point is that both RCC and “Protestant” scholars have been on both sides on the verse. The Reformation scholarship was generally very favorable, until a certain type of confused modernism came to play.

    And as I tried to explain above, the doctrinal issues are more complex than pablum American Christian analysis. An example: John Bugenhagen, the pastor of Martin Luther, actually denounced the verse as an “Arian blasphemy”. Many writers have conjectured that some types of Trinitarians were discomfited in the historic debate by “and these three are one”. The doctrinal battleground of the heavenly witnesses is far more interesting when you take off the glasses.

    And in fact there has been a vibrant and strong defense of the verse continually. With a little lull in the period from Charles Forster (1860s) and Henry Armfield (1880s) to Edward Hills (1950s). The Michael Maynard book changed the playing field by showing the vibrancy and significance and issues of the historical debate. And the Internet made it easy to see what Metzger, White and Wallace were hiding.

    Generally, the modern writers are lemmings on the verse, rarely doing any original research and thought. Men like Pieper are ignored. Metzger is considered the textual authority and he often simply took from others like Porson and did a reword. Among the opposers of the verse as scripture I have only seen the late Raymond Brown make an effort to be fair in evidences. Writers like James White and Daniel Wallace are more of a joke on these historical-textual issues than to be taken seriously. The grammatical and internal issues are also rather fascinating and worth research and study. Even the John Wesley sermon and poem is quite neat.

    With the internet it is not hard to come up to speed, and the verse issues and debate are a fascinating study.

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

    Steven Avery

  10. on 18 Aug 2011 at 7:29 pmXavier

    Steve Avery

    DId you even read what I posted?

  11. on 19 Aug 2011 at 12:13 amSteven Avery

    Hi Xavier

    Yes I have read it, that is one of the earlier “no, no” listings on the heavenly witnesses, that were copied by the writers later, changing a little bit here and there. Thomas Belsham in 1808 was likely the principle author and he was drawing from Porson and Michaelis.

    If there are parts there you think are especially significant and you want me to discuss, that is fine. Let me give you one simple example that I discussed before, beyond the incredible omissions in the presenation.

    “Nor in any Latin manuscript earlier than the ninth century”

    Yet actually the majority of Latin manuscripts dated earlier than the ninth century have the heavenly witnesses verse. And one of the few (about 4) that do not have the verse has the Prologue explaining how the verse was omitted by unfaithful translators ! (And this is the earliest manuscript.)

    So what am I supposed to do with such “evidences”.



    Sitting on the dock of page 1 (in the mod queue)

    On the fascinating Cyprian citation question, may I suggest a careful read of Tim Dunkin’s section that begins with the words:

    “The next witness for the Comma is Cyprian… ”

    A Defense of the Johannine Comma
    Setting the Record Straight on I John 5:7-8

    This is a few paragraphs, and can really help widen the understanding. Even more so if what you have read is basically Metzger-Wallace 🙂 .

    Steven Avery


Leave a Reply