Islamic Archives

Home » Bible » The Fabrication of Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7)

The Fabrication of Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7)

Start here

1 John 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. (KJV)

 

(The only EXPLICIT verse spelling out the Trinitarian formula.)

Taken from :  Theodore H. Mann, “Textual problems in the KJV New Testament”, in: Journal of Biblical Studies 1 (January–March 2001).

When Erasmus compiled his Greek New Testament for Johann Froben in 1515, he neglected to include the above passage. A firestorm of protest erupted, led by a man called Stunica, who had been one of the editors of the Complutensian Polyglot. Latin versions had included it and it was widely accepted as part of the approved New Testament text.

Erasmus responded that he left the passage out because it did not appear in any of the Greek manuscripts available to him, but that he would include it in future editions of his Greek New Testament if a Greek manuscript could be found which contained it.


In time, a manuscript was located, or rather produced. As it turned out, it  had been written in Oxford by a Franciscan friar named Froy (perhaps a few others were involved as well), who had back-translated the material from the Latin Vulgate. Erasmus kept his word, however, and included the Comma Johanneum, as it came to be called, in his third edition, but with a note stating that he doubted its authenticity.

Erasmus was, of course, eventually proved right. Out of the thousands of extant Greek New Testament manuscripts, this passage appears in only eight (listed below). As you examine the list, note that the earliest appearance of this reading is a later addition to a 10th-century manuscript (how much later, one wonders), and then only as a variant reading (meaning that it was offered as an alternative reading to the one appearing in the main body of the text). Also note that all of the other seven sources are dated in the same century in which Erasmus lived (16th), or later (18th). Furthermore, four out of the eight (b, c, d and e) are hand-written additions, added to the margins of the documents, and are not part of the texts themselves. To my knowledge, none of the early church Fathers mention it; it appears in none of the early versions. It does not even appear in the Vulgate until around the year 800.

It was, I understand, added to a Latin translation by a friar in the early Middle Ages. It then began to appear, here and there, in other Latin versions, finally becoming incorporated into the body of the biblical text itself, becoming part of the Vulgate, and ultimately finding its way into the English, where it was accepted.

Clearly, this passage was never written by the apostle John.

Manuscripts Containing the Comma Johanneum:

a. #61: Codex Montfortianus, dating from the early 16th century. . This is the manuscript shown to Erasmus to force him to include the Comma Johanneum in his GNT.
b. #88: A variant reading in a 16th-century hand, added to the 14th-century codex Regius of Naples.
c. #221: A variant reading added to a 10th-century manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.
d. #429: A variant reading added to a 16th-century manuscript at Wolfenbuttel.
e. #636: A variant reading added to a 16th-century manuscript at Naples.
f. #918: A 16th-century manuscript at the Escorial, Spain.
g. #2318: An 18th-century manuscript, influenced by the Clementine Vulgate, at Bucharest, Rumania.
h. #629: 16th Century. Much of this was back-translated from the Vulgate, including a partial quote of the Comma Johanneum. (The phrase, “… and these three are one” is missing.)

Advertisements

4 Comments

  1. Tester says:

    https://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/booklets/is-god-a-trinity/a-spurious-reference-to-the-trinity-added-in-1-john-5-7

    “The textual evidence is against 1 John 5:7,” explains Dr. Neil Lightfoot, a New Testament professor. “Of all the Greek manuscripts, only two contain it. These two manuscripts are of very late dates, one from the fourteenth or fifteenth century and the other from the sixteenth century. Two other manuscripts have this verse written in the margin. All four manuscripts show that this verse was apparently translated from a late form of the Latin Vulgate” ( How We Got the Bible, 2003, pp. 100-101).

    The Expositor’s Bible Commentary also dismisses the King James and New King James Versions’ additions in 1 John 5:7-8 as “obviously a late gloss with no merit” (Glenn Barker, Vol. 12, 1981, p. 353).

    Peake’s Commentary on the Bible is very incisive in its comments as well: “The famous interpolation after ‘three witnesses’ is not printed in RSV and rightly [so] .  .  . No respectable Greek [manuscript] contains it. Appearing first in a late 4th century Latin text, it entered the Vulgate [the 5th-century Latin version, which became the common medieval translation] and finally NT [New Testament] of Erasmus [who produced newly collated Greek texts and a new Latin version in the 16th century]” (p. 1038).

    The Big Book of Bible Difficulties tells us: “This verse has virtually no support among the early Greek manuscripts . . . Its appearance in late Greek manuscripts is based on the fact that Erasmus was placed under ecclesiastical pressure to include it in his Greek NT of 1522, having omitted it in his two earlier editions of 1516 and 1519 because he could not find any Greek manuscripts which contained it” (Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, 2008, pp. 540-541).

    Theology professors Anthony and Richard Hanson, in their book Reasonable Belief: A Survey of the Christian Faith, explain the unwarranted addition to the text this way: “It was added by some enterprising person or persons in the ancient Church who felt that the New Testament was sadly deficient in direct witness to the kind of doctrine of the Trinity which he favoured and who determined to remedy that defect … It is a waste of time to attempt to read Trinitarian doctrine directly off the pages of the New Testament” (1980, p. 171).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tester says:

    Note the words of The New Bible Commentary: Revised, “Notice that AV [the Authorized Version] includes additional material at this point. But the words are clearly a gloss [an added note] and are rightly excluded by RSV [the Revised Standard Version] even from its margins.” — (1970, p. 1269)

    Dr. Neil Lightfoot, a New Testament professor says the textual evidence is against 1 John 5:7. “Of all the Greek manuscripts, only two contain it. These two manuscripts are of very late dates, one from the fourteenth or fifteenth century and the other from the sixteenth century. Two other manuscripts have this verse written in the margin. All four manuscripts show that this verse was apparently translated from a late form of the Latin Vulgate.” — (How We Got the Bible, 2003, pp. 100, 101)

    The Expositor’s Bible Commentary also dismisses the King James and New King James Versions’ additions as “obviously a late gloss with no merit.” — (Glenn Barker, Vol. 12, 1981, p. 353)

    The famous Edward Gibbon explains the reason for the discardal of this verse from the Bible with the following words:
    “Of all the manuscripts now extant, above fourscore in number, some of which are more than 1200 years old, the orthodox copies of the Vatican, of the Complutensian editors, of Robert Stephens are becoming invisible; and the two manuscripts of Dublin and Berlin are unworthy to form an exception…In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the Bibles were corrected by LanFrank, Archbishop of Canterbury, and by Nicholas, a cardinal and librarian of the Roman church, secundum Ortodoxam fidem. Notwithstanding these corrections, the passage is still wanting in twenty-five Latin manuscripts, the oldest and fairest; two qualities seldom united, except in manuscripts….The three witnesses have been established in our Greek Testaments by the prudence of Erasmus; the honest bigotry of the Complutensian editors; the typographical fraud, or error, of Robert Stephens in the placing of a crotchet and the deliberate falsehood, or strange misapprehension, of Theodore Beza.” — (Decline and fall of the Roman Empire, IV, Gibbon, p. 418)

    Gibbon was defended in his findings by his contemporary, the brilliant British scholar Richard Porson who also proceeded to publish conclusive proof that 1 John 5:7 was first added by the Church in 400 A.D. Regarding Porson’s evidence, Gibbon later said, “His structures are founded in argument, enriched with learning, and enlivened with wit, and his adversary neither deserves nor finds any quarter at his hands. The evidence of the three heavenly witnesses would now be rejected in any court of justice; but prejudice is blind, authority is deaf, and our vulgar Bibles will ever be polluted by this spurious text.”

    Peake’s Commentary on the Bible is very incisive as well, “The famous interpolation after ‘three witnesses’ is not printed in RSV and rightly [so] . . . No respectable Greek [manuscript] contains it. Appearing first in a late 4th century Latin text, it entered the Vulgate [the 5th-century Latin version, which became the common medieval translation] and finally NT [New Testament] of Erasmus [who produced newly collated Greek texts and a new Latin version in the 16th century].” — (p. 1038)

    The Big Book of Bible Difficulties tells us, “This verse has virtually no support among the early Greek manuscripts . . . Its appearance in late Greek manuscripts is based on the fact that Erasmus was placed under ecclesiastical pressure to include it in his Greek NT of 1522, having omitted it in his two earlier editions of 1516 and 1519 because he could not find any Greek manuscripts which contained it.” — (Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, 2008, pp. 540, 541)

    Theology professors Anthony and Richard Hanson, in their book Reasonable Belief: A Survey of the Christian Faith, explain the unwarranted addition to the text this way, “It was added by some enterprising person or persons in the ancient Church who felt that the New Testament was sadly deficient in direct witness to the kind of doctrine of the Trinity which he favoured and who determined to remedy that defect . . . It is a waste of time to attempt to read Trinitarian doctrine directly off the pages of the New Testament.” — (1980, p. 171)

    Thomas Nelson and Sons Catholic Commentary, 1951, page 1186 explains, “It is now generally held that this passage, called the Gomma Johanneum, is a gloss that crept into the text of the Old Latin and Vulgate at an early date, but found its way into the Greek text only in the 15th and 16th centuries.”

    A Commentary by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown says, “The only Greek manuscripts in any form which support the words, “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one; and there are three that bear witness in earth,” are the Montfortianus of Dublin, copied evidently from the modern Latin Vulgate; the Ravianus, copied from the Complutensian Polyglot; a manuscript at Naples, with the words added in the Margin by a recent hand; Ottobonianus, 298, of the fifteenth century, the Greek of which is a mere translation of the accompanying Latin. All the old versions omit the words. The oldest manuscripts of the Vulgate omit them: the earliest Vulgate manuscript which has them being Wizanburgensis, 99, of the eighth century. … Vigilius, at the end of the fifth century, is the first who quotes the disputed words as in the text; but no Greek manuscript earlier than the fifteenth is extant with them. The term “Trinity” occurs first in the third century in Tertullian.”

    “Erasmus omitted the passage from the first printed Greek Testament of 1516, but undertook to introduce the words if a Greek manuscript containing them could be produced. He was faced with a late manuscript which did in fact contain the passage, and against his judgment kept his promise. So, by way of Erasmus’ 1522 edition the interpolation invaded the text of the Greek New Testament. The action of the RV in cutting out the spurious words was tardy justice. We should treasure every word of the inspired record, but we want no invasion of that record by the addition of men, however sound the theology expressed.” — (F. M. Blaiklock, Commentary on the New Testament, p. 246)

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: