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I was reading through Lee Strobel's The Case for the Real Jesus and came across a passage in the book that indicates the inauthenticity of 1 John 5:7-8 in the King James Version:

1 John 5:7-8 (KJV)
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.

Strobel quotes his interviewee, Wallace as saying that it's "obviously" inauthentic without going into further detail about why it is so (p 49).

Could someone please elaborate the discrepancy here?

I suspect he might be referring to "The Word", but upon reading Systematic Theology: And Introduction to Biblical Doctrine Wayne Grudem gives a case where Jesus is referred to as "The Word" in John 1:1 (p 47).

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Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! I made a few small tweaks to your question, but no worries, overall you asked a great first question. While you wait for some answers, you might check out our faq and Biblical Hermeneutics Meta site that has lots of background about how the site works and why. –  Caleb Nov 8 '12 at 9:53
Thanks for your moderation! –  hdchan Nov 8 '12 at 16:44
I'd like to echo @Caleb's welcome. There's a related, but not identical, question to this one: Why was the Trinity Doctrine, found in 1 John 5:7-8 KJV, kept in the NKJV when it is believed to be inauthentic? –  Jon Ericson Nov 8 '12 at 17:48

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

This is a case where the argument for inauthenticity is quite clear. The Comma Johanneum does not appear in any ancient Greek sources (1 John, like all the other books of the New Testament, was written originally in Greek). The earliest Greek version of 1 John with the Comma Johanneum is from 1516! The extra line was added to some Latin manuscripts sometime between the 3rd and 6th century and was originally written in Latin. It is also not found in any ancient Syriac or Coptic texts, or the traditional texts of the Ethiopian church.

The reason it is sometimes included in modern bibles is that it was in the Vulgate and as a result in many early translations like the King James version. Nonetheless, it is not found even in the oldest texts of the Vulgate!

Unlike some more controversial textual questions, there seems not to be any major disagreement among scholars (including conservative scholars) about the inauthenticity of the Comma Johanneum. You can find a few defenses of authenticity, but it's a decidedly fringe position mostly held by people who are committed to the KJV-only movement.

To refresh on the details, I got most of this information from this article by Daniel Wallace, and a little of it from Wikipedia. But both of these sources agree with what I'd read about this topic elsewhere in the past.

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Welcome to BH.SE, Noah! That's an excellent answer. I would also add that while some people (I'm thinking primarily of Bart Ehrman) argue that the addition of the Comma Johanneum proves that the idea of the Trinity was a late addition to Christianity, the Trinitarian formula can be found elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g., 2 Corinthians 13:14, Matthew 28:19, Galatians 4:6). Thanks for the answer! –  Jon Ericson Nov 8 '12 at 17:44
If the KJV was good enough for Jesus and Paul... ;) Also, @Jon, I assume you meant BH.SE? –  GalacticCowboy Nov 9 '12 at 20:29
@GalacticCowboy: What do you mean? ;-) –  Jon Ericson Nov 9 '12 at 20:32
@GalacticCowboy, the King James Bible (also known as the Authorized Version) was first published in Great Britain in 1611 A.D. Jesus and Paul lived almost 16 centuries earlier, in the 1st century A.D. The KJV could not have been "good enough" for Jesus and Paul because the KJV did not exist at that time, nor did the English language. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Nov 14 '12 at 3:50
I'm pretty sure @GalacticCowboy was making a joke. –  Noah Nov 14 '12 at 9:47

© 2001 by David W. Daniels

Question: Is it true that 1 John 5:7 is not in any Greek manuscript before the 1600s? If it is true, why is it in the King James Bible?

Answer: 1 John 5:7 belongs in the King James Bible and was preserved by faithful Christians. But the passage was removed from many Greek manuscripts, because of the problems it seemed to cause.

It is true that there is a small number of Scriptures that are not the same between the King James Bible and the so-called "Majority" Greek text. There are a number of reasons for this: 1.The so-called "Majority" text was not really based on the majority of texts, but rather a relatively small number of manuscripts. The last person to try to find the differences between the majority of Greek manuscripts, Dr. Von Soden, did not collate more than 400 of the more than 5,000 Greek texts. In other words, what is commonly called the "Majority" Greek text is not a collation of the majority of manuscripts at all. 2.The "Majority" Greek text is also the main Greek text used by the Eastern Orthodox religion. They had a vested interest in changing (or deleting) some texts. More on this in a moment. 3.1 John itself is not in a large number of extant Greek manuscripts.

So why then is 1 John 5:7 in the King James Bible, but not in many of the existing Greek manuscripts? To understand the answer, we must look at the history of what happened shortly after the Bible was written.

The Greek and Roman Institutions

During the early growth of the Christian church, ministers (whether saved or not) wrote down doctrines that they said were Christian and Biblical. Starting after the death of the apostles (about 100 AD) many people taught the lie that Jesus was not God the Son and Son of God, or that Jesus became God at His baptism, or the false doctrine that the Holy Spirit was not God or was not eternal.

The growing religion that became known as Roman Catholic, after many debates eventually agreed on the doctrine of the Trinity. So they had no reason to remove 1 John 5:7 from their Bibles, since it supported what they taught.

But the Greek Eastern Orthodox religion was combating a heresy called "Sabellianism," and would have found it easier to combat the heresy by simply removing the troubling passage from their Bibles.

A Trail of Evidence

But during this same time, we find mention of 1 John 5:7, from about 200 AD through the 1500s. Here is a useful timeline of references to this verse:

200 AD

Tertullian wrote "which three are one" based on the verse in his Against Praxeas, chapter 25.

250 AD

Cyprian of Carthage, wrote, "And again, of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost it is written: "And the three are One" in his On The Lapsed, On the Novatians, (see note for Old Latin)

350 AD

Priscillian referred to it [Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Academia Litterarum Vindobonensis, vol. xviii, p. 6.]

350 AD

Idacius Clarus referred to it [Patrilogiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina by Migne, vol. 62, col. 359.]

350 AD

Athanasius referred to it in his De Incarnatione

398 AD

Aurelius Augustine used it to defend Trinitarianism in De Trinitate against the heresy of Sabellianism

415 AD

Council of Carthage appealed to 1 John 5:7 when debating the Arian belief (Arians didn't believe in the deity of Jesus Christ)

450-530 AD

Several orthodox African writers quoted the verse when defending the doctrine of the Trinity against the gainsaying of the Vandals. These writers are: A) Vigilius Tapensis in "Three Witnesses in Heaven" B) Victor Vitensis in his Historia persecutionis [Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Academia Litterarum Vindobonensis, vol. vii, p. 60.] C) Fulgentius in "The Three Heavenly Witnesses" [Patrilogiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina by Migne, vol. 65, col. 500.]

500 AD

Cassiodorus cited it [Patrilogiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina by Migne, vol. 70, col. 1373.]

550 AD

Old Latin ms r has it

550 AD

The "Speculum" has it [The Speculum is a treatise that contains some good Old Latin scriptures.]

750 AD

Wianburgensis referred to it

800 AD

Jerome's Vulgate has it [It was not in Jerome's original Vulgate, but was brought in about 800 AD from good Old Latin manuscripts.]

1000s AD

miniscule 635 has it

1150 AD

minuscule ms 88 in the margin

1300s AD

miniscule 629 has it

157-1400 AD

Waldensian (that is, Vaudois) Bibles have the verse

1500 AD

ms 61 has the verse

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

The Vaudois

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

Who Has the Most to Gain? Who Has the Most to Lose?

The evidence of history shows us that the Roman Catholic religion was relentless in its effort to destroy the Vaudois and their Bible. It took them until the 1650s to finish their hateful attacks. But the Vaudois were successful in preserving God's words to the days of the Reformation.

Now we have to ask ourselves a question: Who had the most to gain by adding to or taking away from the Bible? Did the Vaudois, who were being killed for having their Bibles, have anything to gain by adding to or taking from the words of God? Compromise is what the Roman religion wanted! Had the Vaudois just followed the popes, their lives would have been much easier. But they counted the cost. This was not politics; it was their life and soul. They above all people would not want to change a single letter of the words they received from Antioch of Syria. And they paid for this with their lives.

What about the "scholars" at Alexandria, Egypt? We already know about them. They could not even make their few 45 manuscripts agree. How could we believe they preserved God's words?

The Reformation itself owes a lot to these Christians in the French Alps. They not only preserved the Scriptures, but they show to what lengths God would go to keep his promise (Psalm 12:6-7).

And that's only part of the story about the preservation of God's words.

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Arguments against the authenticity of the so-called "Johannine Comma" are based mainly on manuscript evidence, but, while that can be indicative, it isn't decisive since hand-written manuscripts are subject to numerous problems that can readily lead to loss of a genuine reading in many, or even most, copies. Thus the fact that only 10 (or less) relatively-late manuscripts contain it, with half of these having it only in the margins, may only reflect the historical controversy surrounding belief in the Trinity, and the "Johannine Comma" is the only scripture passage directly teaching the doctrine of the Trinity. A manuscript history troubled by this controversy would be no surprise, and retention of the Comma in a few later manuscripts, accompanied by periodic efforts to restore it by placing it in the margin, may really reflect a latter stage of an historical effort to restore known truth. The decisive way to decide upon authenticity is a through study of the internal evidence, and readers who wish to do so can log on to, KJVTextualTechnology.com - essay 4a. Doubtless, many who follow modern scholarship will disagree with the observations, but readers would do well to examine the evidence for themselves before forming an opinion.

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