1 John 5:7

 

1 JOHN 5:7

Does Elimination of 1 John 5:7
Deny Christ’s Deity?

“. . . in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. And there are three that testify on earth. . . .” 

“This is the clearest verse on the Trinity in the Bible.  Liberals have removed it from their Satan-inspired translations!  It is an effort to deny the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ!”

This is the charge that is sometimes leveled against contemporary translations of the Bible.  Promoters of the King James Version of the Scriptures often use this accusation when they note that modern translations do not contain 1 John 5:7.  Sometimes the charge is made that “liberals” have removed part of the Word of God and Revelation 22:18-19 is cited to show the seriousness of this offense.

We do appreciate the defense of God’s Word by these KJV adherents.  However, this supposed loyalty to God’s inspired Word is only apparent if we come to recognize that this verse was not part of the inspired text of the apostle John.  In fact, the reverse argument could be made: It may be an “addition” to God’s Word rather than a “subtraction” from God’s Word!

The portion in question reads: “. . . in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. And there are three that testify on earth. . . .”  This reading is commonly called the Comma Johanneum, and it is quite clear that it did not originate from the pen of John.  The MacArthur Study Bible gives this short explanation:

External manuscript evidence . . . is against them being in the original epistle.  They do not appear in any Gr. mss. dated before ca. tenth century A.D.  Only 8 very late Gr. mss. contain the reading, and these contain the passage in what appears to be a translation from a late recension of the Latin Vulgate.  Furthermore, 4 or those 8 mss. contain the passage as a variant reading written in the margin as a later addition to the manuscript.  No Greek or Latin Father, even those involved in Trinitarian controversies, quotes them; no ancient version except the Latin records them (not the Old Latin in its early form or the Vulgate).

Many reliable Bible study reference books give at least some explanation for the removal of this text from the modern translations.  The International Bible Commentary simply says, “Textual criticism has done a service in excising 5:7 of the AV.  The Three Heavenly Witnesses appear in no Greek MS before the 15th century.  The latter part of v. 6 was moved up by the Revisers to make the new v. 7.”  The Net Bible has a short but quite helpful exposition of this issue.  A.T. Robertson, the renowned Greek scholar, gives this explanation:

The rest of the verse is an addition found in older English versions with the underlying Greek Textus Receptus.  This addition to the verse is found in no Greek MS. save two late [i.e., very long after the first century] cursives (manuscript 162 in the Vatican Library of the fifteenth century, and manuscript 34 of the sixteenth century in Trinity College, Dublin).  Jerome did not have it.  Cyprian applies the language of the Trinity and Priscillian has it.  Erasmus did not have it in his first edition, but rashly offered to insert it if a single Greek MS. had it and 34 were produced with the insertion, as if made to order.  The fact and the doctrine of the Trinity do not depend on this spurious addition.  Some Latin scribe caught up Cyprian’s exegesis and wrote it on the margin of his text, and so it got into the Vulgate and finally into the Textus Receptus by the stupidity of Erasmus. (Word Pictures in the New Testament)

We need not resort to using the words supplied by a Catholic scribe in order to prove the deity of Jesus Christ our Lord.  There are a number of inspired texts that do this sufficiently well (cf. John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Titus 2:14; Isaiah 9:6; etc.).

Richard Hollerman

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