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).


2 Answers 2


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.

  • 3
    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.

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