Is it reasonable to think that the 3 witnesses mentioned in 1 John 5:8, Spirit, Water, and Blood, refer back to the crucifixion? Specifically John 19:34-35 (NASB),

34But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.

I realize that many sections of the scriptures often have multiple references and often multiple meanings. What ties these two sections together for me is the reference to bearing witness.

  • it's reasonable, but it depends on the inference/connection you wish to make. It reflects on his birth too. Maybe furnish more of your thinking here to narrow it down a bit.
    – Steve
    Jul 29, 2020 at 12:41
  • For one thing, I was thinking about the centurions who said (in Matthew 27) that this was truly the son of God. I know that the section in Matthew mentioned an earthquake, but it also mentioned "other things that were happening". It just kind of rang true to me that this was evidence about Christ for witnesses of the events. Jul 29, 2020 at 12:49
  • I meant John 19:34-35 - typo. Although through verse 37 is also good. Thanks! Jul 29, 2020 at 14:52
  • It is indeed reasonable to think that the spirit, water, and blood of 1 John 5:8 refer back to the crucifixion, but it is not reasonable to think they refer solely to it.
    – Lucian
    Jul 29, 2020 at 19:25
  • I have added the text of the quote for convenience. If you prefer a different version, please edit your post.
    – enegue
    Jul 30, 2020 at 1:16

5 Answers 5


"Spirit", "Water", and "Blood" only ever occur together in 1 John 5:6-8. The idiom is explicitly explained in that passage (including V5, BSB):

5 Who then overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ—not by water alone, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies to this, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three are in agreement.

While these three words, spirit, water & blood do not occur elsewhere together, pais of them do occur as follows:

Blood & Water

These two most frequently together and always connected with ritual sacrifice, wounds or murder: Matt 27:24; John 19:34 (Jesus crucifixion); Ps 79:3; Lev 14:51, 52; Deut 12:16, 15:23; Ex 7:21; Eze 16:9, Heb 9:19, etc

Water & Spirit

Again, these two are often connected and frequently indicate that water was used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit and/or baptism: Acts 1:5, 8:39, 10:47, 11:16; Matt 3:16; John 1:33, 3:5; Mark 1:8, 10; Neh 9:20; Isa 44:3; Gen 1:2; etc.

Spirit & Blood

This pair occurs together but the connection is much less close. They usually occur in places discussing Jesus' sacrifice: Luke 22:44; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Cor 11:27; Acts 20:28; Heb 10:29; Isa 4:4, 31:3; Gen 6:3, etc.

Thus, the three words do not occur together anywhere except in 1 John 5 as stated above. Therefore, 1 John 5:6-8 is no more a literary allusion to John 19:34, 35, than to any other of the single pairs of references listed above.

However, as stated above, the passage in 1 John 5:5-8 explains itself. The reference to "water and blood" is clearly an allusion to John 19:34 when the soldier pierced Jesus' side. The reference to the Spirit testifying to the truth is also an allusion to John 4:23, 34, 14:16, 17, 15:26, 16:13, 15; Acts 7:51, 28:25; Rom 9:1; Eph 1:13; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 2:20, 4:3, 6, etc.

The passage of 1 John 5:6-8 is a passage similar to John's other writings where he calls on various witnesses to establish the truth by the Spirit of truth and the events of the Cross, namely the water and the blood.

  • Also note that some commentators believe that the blood and water referred to here represent the physical birth of Jesus (blood and amniotic fluid). The Spirit appeared when Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:16). The Word being made flesh was rejected by the gnostics of that time. For example, see spiritofthescripture.com/….
    – Dieter
    Oct 4 at 1:01
  • @Dieter - agreed, but that is a theological interpretation that is extra-biblical.
    – Dottard
    Oct 4 at 1:04
  • It's theological only because John has written a polemic against several common heresies of his time. The hermeneutical context of the book, chapter, and of this passage emphatically asserts that Jesus came to us in the flesh: "This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ." The key word that John used here is "came" and he uses a graphic but accurate description of childbirth. The blood and water from his death is significant in that it shows that Jesus wasn't just "mostly dead." It seems to me that symbolism was the opposite of what John wanted to show in I John.
    – Dieter
    Oct 4 at 1:52

In 1 John 5:8, is the reference to spirit, water, and blood an allusion to Jesus' crucifixion?

In order to answer this question appropriately, we probably need to take from v 6 thru to and including v 12 (and then we include God's own witness bearing aspect regarding His Son), although some bibles, the KJV in particular, include an extra verse, with trinitarian implications, and identify it as the 7th verse, but this is not evident in the majority of original manuscripts (only in some, but these are primarily Latin manuscripts but excluding, at least the original text of, Jerome's "Latin Vulgate", see Wikipedia.) and is known as the "Johannine comma", although not really a comma as such. So in the interests of completeness, I include narrative on this controversial verse, particularly here as there is a "bounty" involved.

1 John 5:7 in the KJV reads as follows:-

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

The "Johannine comma" is a textual variant in regards to 1 John 5:7-8. The word comma simply means "short clause," and Johannine means "pertaining to John." Without the "comma," 1 John 5:7-8 reads,

"For there are three witness bearers, the spirit, and the water and the blood, and the three are in agreement." NWT

Faith in Jesus Christ as the savior of mankind , through his "Ransom Sacrifice", is what's at stake for earthly man here. What is not at stake is mankind's belief in a triune God. Consequently, I am of the opinion that the KJV's verse's authenticity, to remain, is questionable. What we would seem to have here is a possible case of -trinitarian leaning - translators bias, taking advantage of the 3 in 1 (in agreement) concept, in order to convey their trinitarian dogma.

If we take verses 5 through 8, apart from the "extended version" of verse 7, who and what are we talking about after all. We are talking about Jesus Christ, with regard to the "who". With regard to the "what", we are talking about Jesus' (in agreement) witness bearers, the three:- noun-nominative neuter singulars, i.e. the spirit and the water and the blood. Consequently, we have the truth (spirit); the baptism (water); and the blood (ransom sacrifice), period. All the earthly attributes, with regard to the Son of Man. Attributes, for earthly man to consider and understand, as having been manifested out/by way of, the Son of God, through faith in - all that is encompassed by - the "Ransom Sacrifice".

Having said this, although the "blood" is a definitive reference to the "Ransom Sacrifice", I don't necessarily see the "spirit" and the "water", as portrayed in 1 John 5:8, as being also an allusion to Jesus' crucifixion, as per John 19:34-35.

  • Useful answer and a helpful discussion of the "comma", +1. I am also of the view that the water here is a reference to baptism. Oct 22 at 14:30
  • @HoldToTheRod - Thanks, and thank you for the water confirmation. Oct 22 at 15:49

John 19:34 informs us that it is the apostle John who bears witness – or testifies – to the events he saw at Calvary when a soldier pierced Jesus’ side with a spear and blood and water came out.

There is evidence from Scripture that Jesus experienced hypovolemic shock as a result of being flogged. As Jesus carried His own cross to Golgotha (John 19:17), He collapsed, and a man named Simon was forced to either carry the cross or help Jesus carry the cross the rest of the way to the hill (Matthew 27:32–33; Mark 15:21–22; Luke 23:26). This collapse indicates Jesus had low blood pressure. Another indicator that Jesus suffered from hypovolemic shock was that He declared He was thirsty as He hung on the cross (John 19:28), indicating His body’s desire to replenish fluids.

Prior to death, the sustained rapid heartbeat caused by hypovolemic shock also causes fluid to gather in the sack around the heart and around the lungs. This gathering of fluid in the membrane around the heart is called pericardial effusion, and the fluid gathering around the lungs is called pleural effusion. This explains why, after Jesus died and a Roman soldier thrust a spear through Jesus’ side, piercing both the lungs and the heart, blood and water came from His side just as John recorded in his Gospel (John 19:34). Why did blood and water come out of Jesus’ side when He was pierced?

John was physically present at the crucifixion of our Lord and Saviour. He witnessed these events and bore testimony to the facts.

1 John 5:8 can’t be read in isolation. We need to look at verses 6 to 12 to grasp the link between the Spirit who testifies (or bears witness) and the water and blood:

1 John 5:6: This is the one who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept human testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

The second section, in verses 6 through 12, focuses on Jesus as God's Son. He came by water and blood, likely a reference to His baptism and crucifixion (1 John 5:6). The Spirit also agrees with the testimony of Jesus as God's Son (1 John 5:7–8). Whoever believes has this testimony within them (1 John 5:10). This witness proves that, through Christ, we have everlasting life. Even as early as John wrote this letter, Christians were facing discouragement from false teachers over their salvation. [Emphasis mine] What does 1 John chapter 5 mean?

The Bible speaks of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, and the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth. All three bear witness (or testify) to the truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, the Son of God.

The four Gospels testify to the earthly ministry and character of Jesus. John the Baptist testified to the truth regarding Jesus (John 5:33). Jesus points to this line of evidence Himself: “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me” (John 5:36-37). Jesus rebuked the teachers of the law who did not recognise Jesus as the promised Messiah: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39–40).

The witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus include God the Father and the Word of God, the two highest forms of authority possible.

Coincidentally, this morning I read from 1 Peter 1:3-12, which makes reference to the Holy Spirit who revealed to the prophets of old the things that were to happen in the future with regard to our salvation by virtue of the sufferings of Christ:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look."

What links John 19:34 with 1 John 5:8 is the witness of the apostle John’s testimony in Scripture, along with the Old Testament prophesies, up to and including the Revelation of Christ Jesus, given by God through Jesus to his servant John. Everything points to what God, in the person of Christ Jesus, has done to save us from sin.


“Is it reasonable to think that the 3 witnesses mentioned in 1 John 5:8, Spirit, Water, and Blood, refer back to the crucifixion? Specifically John 19:34-35.” I would agree. The clear reference to both blood and water in relation to Jesus is unique to these passages and links them together in a way that is hard to overlook. In John 19 the testimony is that of John, and the words “so that you also might believe” underscore the importance of his testimony.

John 19:34-35 BLB

34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and blood and water came out immediately. 35 And the one having seen has borne witness, and his testimony is true. And He knows that he is speaking truth, so that you also might believe.

But the significance of what is recorded in Jn 19:34 is not made clear. The import of what John witnessed in John 19 is better understood, I believe, in light of what is written in 1 John 5, according to which the blood and water constitute the testimony of the Spirit regarding the person of Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:6-8

6 This is the One having come by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and by blood. And the Spirit is the One testifying, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three bearing testimony: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood—and these are three in one.

In John 19 we have a human witness and his human testimony. In 1 John 5 we are to understand that the blood and the water, seen and recorded in John 19, constitute God’s testimony regarding His son.

1 John 5:9-11

9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. For this is the testimony of God that He has testified concerning His Son. 10 The one believing in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one not believing God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has testified concerning His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

To me the statement that this is the testimony of God regarding his son is most extraordinary. It follows that the testimony itself is also extraordinary. But what does it mean that “God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (v11)? I reconceptualize this question by asking: What does it mean to say we believe Jesus to be the son of God?

In the context where Jesus’ identity as the son of God is the topic of focus, I have come to my own conclusions about what the testimony in question entails. The blood, representing Jesus’ suffering and death, is understood to be symbolic of his humanity (cf Heb 2:14); the water, representing Jesus’ holiness and purity (cf Heb 7:26), his divinity (see also Benson’s commentary on 1 Jn 5:6). While this is not all that they represent, the water and the blood continue to stand in testimony to these two aspects of Jesus’ life and to the truth that both are essential to our salvation.


All such similarities or cross-references are purely subjective interpretations. The person making subjective allusions or expositions are solely responsible for them, hence it is not possible to judge them on the modern objective basis. The metaphorical meaning of the water coming from his wound is reasonable, but there is no connection between this verse with the mention of John as the witness of events, with the testimony of "Spirit, water and blood" in 1 John 5:8. The occurrence of a common word cannot be used to draw a parallel between two different texts.

I don't agree with the scientific speculations that this piercing on the rib/side was actually on the heart (located in the centre of the chest) which emitted some watery chemical produced due to prolonged agony.

Cambridge commentary states on Jn 19:34,

We can scarcely be wrong in supposing that the blood and water are symbolical. The order confirms this. Blood symbolizes the work of redemption which had just been completed by His death; and water symbolizes the ‘birth from above,’ with its cleansing from sin, which was the result of His death, and is the means by which we appropriate it. Thus the two great Sacraments are represented.

  • Does the Cambridge reference mention any medical evidence that contradicts the first-hand testimony (!) that Jesus was pierced in the side (from below) while on the cross resulting in water and blood flowing from the spear wound? It seems that John 19:34, "But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water" should be conclusive evidence that this observation was physical and not symbolic. It's very likely that Roman soldiers were trained in actually killing people, and knew by experience where a man's heart is located.
    – Dieter
    Oct 4 at 0:53
  • It's not necessary that it's physical, anything can be symbolic.
    – Michael16
    Oct 4 at 2:44
  • I'm pretty sure that the spear in Jesus' side didn't feel symbolic, nor was Jesus statement to Thomas about him touching the wound in his side . . . "Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.'" - John 20:27 ESV
    – Dieter
    Oct 4 at 16:56
  • You're right., the spearing doesn't seem to be symbolic. My answer said the water from his side could be symbolic, which is conjectured by modern men as some watery thing from the heart.
    – Michael16
    Oct 5 at 4:51
  • Ok. And regarding conjecture, you might consider searching sources on the medical aspects of crucifixion. Look for terms such as hypovolemic shock and pericardial effusion.
    – Dieter
    Oct 5 at 7:01

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