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.
    – steveowen
    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

1 Answer 1


"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.

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