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John 5:7 (KJV)

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

1 John 5:7 (NIV)

For there are three that testify:

1 John 5:7 (ESV)

For there are three that testify:'

On the above verses from 1 John 5:7 I have two questions.

Why is there a discrepancy between the text of the KJV and the texts of the NIV and ESV?

The KJV text is used to substantiate the trinity so what effect will the texts from the NIV and ESV have on that teaching?

  • This question has been answered at least twice on here. – fdb Oct 22 '18 at 12:57
  • Cool must look it up. – user26950 Oct 22 '18 at 22:17
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You ask two questions:

Why is there extra text in the KJV of 1 John 5:7? [title question]

and

The KJV text is used to substantiate the trinity so what effect will the texts from the NIV and ESV have on that teaching?


I believe another answer attempts to address your title question. A common misconception is that the original KJV was translated from the so-called "Textus Receptus". What we call today the Textus Receptus was not actually compiled until 1881 by Frederick Scrivener, who in effect reverse-engineered the KJV to extract the underlying Greek text. The KJV translators probably consulted 7 different Greek texts:

  • Five editions produced by Erasmus between 1516 and 1535
  • A 1550 text edited by Stephanus
  • A 1598 text edited by Beza

All of these came from disparate sources, but none probably dated to earlier than the 11th century. (There is a good discussion of the Textus Receptus here).

The primary Greek source for the NIV, ESV, and many other modern English translations is the eclectic text of Nestle-Aland (28th ed.). The text is called "eclectic" because, like the Textus Receptus, it was not the text that appeared in any one particular Bible. It is essentially a text produced by cutting and pasting from numerous manuscripts. The NA28 leans heavily on two texts that originated from Egypt: the Codex Sinaiticus, which had been preserved in the Eastern Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine's in the Sinai1, and the Codex Vaticanus, which, although preserved in the Vatican, seems to have a similar text type to that of the Sinaiticus ("Alexandrian") and may have been brought to Rome after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Both these texts date to the early to mid-4th century.

Regarding 1 John 5:7-8a, a footnote in The Orthodox New Testament Praxapostolos (a translation of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchal Text cited in another answer) explains:

These words are not found in any early Greek manuscript. Four of the eight existing manuscripts contain the passage in what appears to be a translation from a late recension of the Latin Vulgate. The four miniscules which contain the passage as a variant reading written in the margin as a later addition are as follows: Miniscules 88v.l (16th c.), 221v.l (10th c.), 429v.l. (16th c.), and 636v.l (16th c.). The remaining Miniscules are: 61 (16th c.), 629 (14th c.), 918 (16th c.), 2318 (18th c.)

Down to the thirteenth century, no Greek writer makes mention of this passage. Later it is cited by one Greek author, the 15th century Dominican monk and adherent of Thomas Acquinas, Manuel Calecas. The first to cite this phrase in Latin was the Spanish heresiarch Priscillian (4th c.) , and it appears in a considerable number of Latin manuscripts. It entered the printed versions of the Greek text when it was included as a translation from the Latin in the first printed Greek Bible edition (1514), by the publisher Cardinal Ximenes de Cisneros2. The Greek Lectionaries of the Apostolike Diakonia and Phos include it. The Constantinople Edition [PT], designating the phrase as an addition, has printed it in small type.

It is absent form the manuscripts of all ancient versions (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Arabic, Slavonic), except the Latin. However, it is neither found in the Old Latin, nor quoted by St. Cyprian or Augustine, nor is it in the Vulgate issued by Blessed Jerome.


Regarding the second question,

The KJV text is used to substantiate the trinity so what effect will the texts from the NIV and ESV have on that teaching?

I would submit that theological truths are witnessed by Scripture as a coherent whole and very rarely, if ever, in a single isolated passage. The New Testament contains numerous expressions concerning the Triune God:

Matthew 28:19 (KJV)

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost


2 Corinthians 13:14

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.


John 15:26

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me

One might also consider that the dogma of the Trinity was affirmed by the Church before the closure of the New Testament canon. The Trinity was affirmed in the Creeds of the Nicene and Constantinople Councils (325 and 381, respectively), whereas affirmation of the New Testament canon by a local Church council would not take place until 397 (at Carthage), and by an Ecumenical council until 787.3


1. As a historical footnote, the current librarian of St. Catherine's is an Eastern Orthodox monk/convert from El Paso, Texas

2. Although Cardinal Ximenes printed his version before Erasmus, he was prevented from publishing his text before Erasmus due to delays in approval form the Vatican. Some attribute some of the apparent errors in Erasmus' earlier work to haste in trying to come out with his version before Cardinal Ximenes

3. For example, the early 5th century Codex Alexandrinus, one of the principal Greek texts underlying the NIV and ESV (via NA28), included two Epistles of Clement in the New Testament.

  • It might help to note that in the disputes about the Trinity, not one Father I know of quoted to or felt the need to resort to this dubious verse. – Sola Gratia Oct 22 '18 at 13:55
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The difference between the KJV/NKJV text and almost all other Bibles results from a difference in in the underlying Greek text that involves an inclusion called the "Comma Johanneum". The KJV/NKJV text is known as the "Textus Receptus" while most other Bibles use another text known as NA28 (= Nestle-Arland edition 28) or UBS5 (Exactly the same as United Bible Society edition 5).

Before proceeding further, these are not the only Greek NT texts - others (with their ardent defenders) include, Majority Text, Byzantine Text, Wescott-Hort, NIV, SBL (Society for Biblical Languages), OCT = PT (Orthodox Churches Text or Patriarchal Text of 1904), etc. In every one of these collated Greek texts, not one includes the "Comma Johanneum (except for OCT = PT which says that it should not be there but includes it anyway by order of some patriarch).

The reason for most editions omitting he Comma Johanneum is simple - it is absent from almost all manuscripts on which they are based. Here is an exhaustive list of all Greek manuscripts which contain 1 John 5 and whether they contain this "comma":

01 (4th) omit; 03 (4th) omit; 02 (5th) omit; 048 (5th) omit; 024 (6th) omit; 044 (800) omit; 018 (9th) omit; 020 (9th) omit; 33 (9th) omit; 2464 (9th) omit; 1739 (10th) omit; 81 (1044) omit; 2138 (1072) omit; 323 (11th) omit; 436 (11th) omit; 945 (11th) omit; 1175 (11th) omit; 1243 (11th) omit; 1846 (11th) omit; 2298 (11th) omit; 2344 (11th) omit; 1241 (12th) omit; 1505 (12th) omit; 1611 (12th) omit; 1735 (1200) omit; 1852 (13th) omit; 1292 (13th) omit; 1067 (14th) omit; 1409 (14th) omit; 1881 (14th) omit; 322 (15th) omit.

There are a few late, undated (and thus unreliable MSS for this and other reasons) which include the comma: 61 include; 88 include; 221 include; 429 include; 629 include; 636 include; 918 include; 2318 include. All these MSS were probably produced some time in the 15th century.

So where did the comma come from since it is absent from almost all MSS? It appears to have been an insertion in the independent Latin MSS (ie, the Vulgate) from about 800 AD. Before this, all MSS, both Greek and Latin do not include it.

So, what effect does this have on the doctrine of the Trinity - absolutely nothing because the modern doctrine of the Trinity does not use, quote or depend on this reference at all. The doctrine of the Trinity depends upon the eternal divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But that is a question for another discussion.

  • "... except for OCT = PT which says that it should not be there but includes it anyway by order of some patriarch ..." - What is your source for this (i.e. "but includes it anyway by order of some patriarch")? – user33515 Oct 21 '18 at 23:21
  • Bruce Metzger discusses this starting out: > 5:7–8 μαρτυροῦντες, 8 τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα {A} After μαρτυροῦντες the Textus Receptus adds the following: ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ Πατήρ, ὁ Λόγος, καὶ τὸ Ἅγιον Πνεῦμα· καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἔν εἰσι. (8) καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ. That these words are spurious and have no right to stand in the New Testament is certain in the light of the following considerations.... Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition (p. 647). – Perry Webb Oct 21 '18 at 23:26
  • @PerryWebb - yes, I am aware of the issues surrounding the inclusion or exclusion of the text. I am interested in the statement that the Patriarchal Text itself "says it should not be there but includes it anyway by order of some patriarch." I have annotated translations of the Patriarchal Text into English and have looked at the Greek version available on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and can find no statement to the effect that the editors were somehow compelled by "some patriarch" it include the text. I am wondering whether this is a supposition or a statement of fact. – user33515 Oct 21 '18 at 23:32
  • Metzger's lengthy discussion only lists absence in Greek fathers: >(2) 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). Its first appearance in Greek is in a Greek version of the (Latin) Acts of the Lateran Council in 1215. Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (p. 648). London; New York: United Bible Societies. – Perry Webb Oct 22 '18 at 8:54
  • Thanks Perry - I did not want to go on too long and thought even the above was too long. The only defenders of the "comma" are the KJV only enthusiasts who are now mercifully few. – user25930 Oct 22 '18 at 9:54
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Peake's Commentary maintains, "No respectable Greek [manuscript] contains it. Appearing first in a late 4th century Latin text, it entered the Vulgate and finally the NT of Erasmus [and eventually the KJV]". Nuerous Bible commentaries agree; most modern translations omit the passage. 1 John 5:6-8 should read: "This is He Who came by water and blood--Jesus the Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that bears witness because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that bear witness on the earth: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three witness unto the one truth." An excellent, easy to read and understand article on textual criticism can be found at https://afaithfulversion.org/commentary-comprise/

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