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).


3 Answers 3


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! Nov 8, 2012 at 17:44
  • If the KJV was good enough for Jesus and Paul... ;) Also, @Jon, I assume you meant BH.SE? Nov 9, 2012 at 20:29
  • @GalacticCowboy: What do you mean? ;-) Nov 9, 2012 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.
    – user862
    Nov 14, 2012 at 3:50
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    I'm pretty sure @GalacticCowboy was making a joke.
    – Noah
    Nov 14, 2012 at 9:47

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.


Interesting is the position of textual critics against the Johannine Comma. Most find a minority reading from one or two 4th century manuscripts sufficient. Why not accept the early Latin manuscript evidence and its overwhelming majority of manuscript copies that support the text? It should also be noted that most Greek extant manuscripts containing the verses 7 and 8 of 1 John are actually considered late manuscripts (dated from 9th century or later). What should weigh heavily here is that when the Johannine Comma is removed, the text clearly has a Greek grammatical error which has been noticed very early on in Church history (Gregory of Nazianzus 4th century). It is difficult to argue that someone fabricated the comma after the fact as it naturally flows within the context of the text both before and after, and it most naturally resolves the grammatical error. In addition, the Johannine Comma is cohesive with John's writings and his underlying theme on the divinity of Jesus Christ - the Word of God . Again, early evidence specifically supports this text by specifically addressing the fact that this scripture was under attack. Jerome's Preface to the Canonical Epistles states: "The order of the seven Epistles which are called canonical is not the same among the Greeks who follow the correct faith and the one found in the Latin codices, where Peter, being the first among the apostles, also has his two epistles first. But just as we have corrected the evangelists into their proper order, so with God's help have we done with these. The first is one of James, then two of Peter, three of John and one of Jude. Just as these are properly understood and so translated faithfully by interpreters into Latin without leaving ambiguity for the readers nor [allowing] the variety of genres to conflict, especially in that text where we read the unity of the trinity is placed in the first letter of John, where much error has occurred at the hands of unfaithful translators contrary to the truth of faith, who have kept just the three words water, blood and spirit in this edition omitting mention of Father, Word and Spirit in which especially the catholic faith is strengthened and the unity of substance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is attested." This alone should silence the critics by confirming the reason as to why the text is missing in many manuscripts. Of course if you do not accept this evidence< then you will fail to accept the early evidence of fathers referencing this scripture which uniquely contains the text that these three are one" In ~200AD Tertullian wrote "these three are one" in his "Apology, Against Praxeas", chapter 25. His reference to it is clear in apologetic "Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent Persons, who are yet distinct One from Another. These Three are one essence, not one Person, as it is said, 'I and my Father are One,'". Note, some critical thinkers are now reconsidering the stats quo. In 1983 the UBS Preface p.x announced plans for a "thorough revision of the textual apparatus, with special emphasis upon evidence from the ancient versions, the Diatessaron, and the Church Fathers". The latest edition of UBS4 updated many early church writer references and now has Cyprian for Comma inclusion. ~248AD Thascius Cyprian bishop of Carthage in his "On The Lapsed, On the Novatians" wrote: On the Unity of the Universal Church, Treatise (1:6): "He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathereth elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says, 'I and the Father are one;' and again, it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 'And these three are one.'" Critics that claim the Joannine Comma is a late emendation must address the reality of the very early evidence that supports it and the rational claim as to its removal and the obvious identifiable issue that is created when it is missing.

  • welcome - some paragraphs would be nice. Of course, ''I and the Father are one' has nothing to do with trinitarian dogma. Are you inferring it has? Are you arguing FOR its authenticity?
    – Steve
    Mar 12 at 5:55

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