The Johannine Comma

It is written:

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

Most Bible translations omit this verse of Scripture (or at the very least put it into brackets with the footnote claiming that this passage of Scripture is not part of the original text).

However, many are not aware of the following facts.

First, the evidence from the manuscripts, the early versions, and the church fathers provides powerful corroboration of the genuineness of 1 John 1:7.

One author has well written:

“There are nine Greek manuscripts that testify on behalf of the Trinitarian passage. Although there are only nine manuscripts that bear witness to the disputed passage, these nevertheless are definite witnesses on behalf of the Comma. This fact cannot be skirted. These manuscripts are catalogued for us: 61, 88, 221, 629, 429, 635, 636, 918, and 2381….However, the above numbers are overinflated. We only have in our possession about five hundred Greek manuscripts of the epistle of 1 John. Furthermore, some of these manuscripts are but mere fragments. Also, some of these manuscripts do not even have this portion of Scripture in question. So the numbers they throw out are exaggerated to the extreme….As for the church fathers, there is one they cannot ignore. This is Cyprian. Cyprian lived in the middle of the third century. He lived a hundred years before the earliest extant manuscript we have in our possession. Cyprian quotes 1 John 5:7 in his first treatises on the unity of the church. This letter written was a universal letter written to the churches. All of this implies that the Comma was well accepted throughout Christendom. He wrote, “The Lord says, ‘I and the Father are one;’ and again it is written; ‘the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,’ ‘and these three are one.[24]…“As for translations, it is in the Peshitto that is the most revered Bible of Syria. Of late, there are those who propose that the New Testament was first written in Syrian and later translated into the Greek. Whether this is true or not, the fact remains that the Peshitto is a very early witness to the Comma. However, the writer is of the persuasion that the New Testament was first penned in Greek and very soon thereafter, it was translated into Latin and Syrian. But besides these disagreements, the Peshitto is a very early witness of the Comma. This one translation of the Scriptures alone is a very powerful witness to the validity of the Comma. Then there are the Slavic Bibles. These too have the Comma in their translations of the Scriptures. This is not to mention the Russian Bible, which also has the Comma. How did the Comma enter into these translations if it were not in the Greek Bible? After all, these translations were translated from the Greek manuscripts. Another witness summoned on behalf of the Comma is the Celtic Bible. The history of the Celtics is very interesting indeed. In 2 Timothy 4:21, we are introduced to three people who were in Rome with Paul before he was executed by Nero. These named are Pudens, Linus, and Claudia. Pudens married Claudia. It is believed that they were converted under the apostle Paul’s preaching while in Rome. They are said to have been from Wales and from families of nobility. Other Roman soldiers who also were Welshmen were converted at this time as well. Together these saints are said to have taken the Gospel to their people in Wales. We learn from Tertullian that in AD 130, he sent two ministers to Britain to assist them in the work. Their names of these two men are Faganus and Damianus.[35] Thus the Celtic Translation is a very strong witness dating back to the time of the apostle Paul.” (C.H. Pappas Thm, In Defense of the Authenticity Of 1 John 5:7 by C. H. Pappas ThM, 1, 2, 12, 15-16 (Kindle Edition); Bloomington, Indiana; Crossbooks)

Second, consider that there is witness to 1 John 5:7 that goes back to the time of 1 John 5:7. An antagonist of Christianity, Lucian, directly references the Johannine Comma.

Writing of these facts, Bill Cooper informs us:

“We have seen that there is a list of early writers who all attest, directly or indirectly, to the genuineness of the verse 1 John 5: 7. The list begins with Theophilus of Antioch who wrote in the latter half of the 2nd century, and goes all the way up to the Council of Arles and beyond which sat at the beginning of the 4th century (see n. 12 below)….“What is needed to settle the matter is an independent witness to the early presence of 1 John 5: 7; one who was patently not a Christian; preferably someone who was an actively anti-Christian pagan writer (making him a hostile witness); someone who pre-dates even the earliest of the Christian apologists (namely Theophilus of Antioch in this case); and whose writing directly refers to or even quotes from 1 John 5: 7-and, moreover, just to make things really difficult, one whose hostile testimony was produced within just fifty years of the close of the Eyewitness Period during which John wrote his first epistle. Produce such a witness as that–one who fulfils every one of these thoroughly unreasonable criteria–and we will surely and truly believe that 1 John 5: 7 was no late interpolation, but an integral component of the first epistle of John from the very beginning. Do that and the argument will surely be settled. Now, that is what we may call a tall order, a very tall order indeed-and a most unreasonable one at that. Where can we possibly hope to find such a writer-one who is pagan and a hostile witness to Christianity, who wrote demonstrably within just fifty years of John, and who quotes from or directly alludes to 1 John 5: 7? It is a tall order indeed, and seems impossible to meet. Providentially, however, it is one that is met on every point by the anti-Christian satirist Lucian of Samosata, whose too-little-publicised satire, Philopatros, has survived to the present day. It is a most intriguing document. Firstly, there is its date. Mainly for the fact that it mentions a punitive expedition into Persia by the Romans, there are two emperors under which the Philopatros could have been written. The first is Trajan who was emperor from AD 98-117; and the second is Marcus Antoninus, who reigned from 161-180. Expeditions into Persia took place under both emperors, so which one was it? Critics generally plump for the latter of the two simply because this removes the witness further from the scene. But interestingly, the dialogue of the Philopatros undoes the notion by mentioning the taking by the Romans of the Persian city of Susa–the Shushan of the Book of Esther–which occurred under Trajan in the year 116. Marcus Antoninus’ incursion into Persia was to descend into farce before it had even begun, with nothing taken by Rome at all apart from a very bloody nose. Thus it is the taking of Susa under Trajan which dates the Philopatros, giving it an earliest possible year of writing of AD 116, within just 46 years of the close of the Eyewitness Period during which John wrote his first epistle. 19 And then there is its intriguing title, Philopatros. It is Greek for ‘love of the Father,’ and is powerfully reminiscent of John’s repeated allusions to the love of the Father which appear in his first epistle (throughout but particularly in 1John 2: 15; & 3: 1). Clearly, and on this ground alone, we may conclude that Lucian of Samosata was familiar with the first epistle of John, very familiar indeed. But there’s more–much more. Remarkably, and out of all the verses of the New Testament that he could have parodied, Lucian satirises for us our disputed verse, 1 John 5: 7. He puts his own satirical slant on it, to be sure, but he has clearly taken 1 John 5: 7 and made it the focus of his parody. Even after he has done his work, the close resemblance between the contents of what Lucian has written and 1 John 5: 7 is truly remarkable, and leaves no room whatever for any notion of coincidence or happenstance. One wonders why the critics never mention it. 20 But let’s see how Lucian deals with the verse. 1 John 5: 7 has: “For there are Three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these Three are One.” (King James Version) Satirising the verse, Lucian has: “The mighty god that rules on high, Immortal dwelling in the sky, the son of the father, spirit proceeding from the father, three in one and one in three. Think him your Zeus, consider him your god.” 21 Interesting, isn’t it? Lucian’s satire (by which he meant to mock the Word of God) contains not just Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but he even tells us that these Three are One, exactly as John does in the 7th verse of his first epistle’s 5th chapter, though in parody, thus unwittingly–I should say Providentially-vindicating the Word of God in one of its most controverted statements. Why, he even uses the neuter gender for ‘three’, as does John, a usage which Porson and so many of his ilk have needlessly and foolishly choked upon. Lucian could not have copied his material from any early 1 John 5: 7 apologist, for the earliest of those (Theophilus of Antioch) did not appear on the scene for another fifty years, and the verse was not to be publicly challenged by the Arian heresy for a further 300 years; which leaves only one possible source for his satire, namely John’s first epistle. How else could he have made use not only its content and unique turns of phrase, but also its grammar? Could a better witness than this be had from anywhere in the ancient world? Dating as it does from within just fifty years of the Eyewitness Period–long before our earliest Christian apologist for this verse-and coming as it does from the hand of a decidedly hostile witness, is it possible to ask for more? We may not think so. This is a truly excellent testimony to the authenticity, and indeed the antiquity of 1 John 5: 7–a source of evidence which our critics strangely forget to tell us about. Curious, isn’t it? Philopatros has been available to them since 1506, yet they would rather have us believe that 1 John 5: 7 is a spurious interpolation and no true part of the New Testament, not having appeared for several centuries after the New Testament period. Yet this astounding and unsuspected source of evidence meets all of the unreasonable evidential demands that are made upon it and is, in every sense, as plain as day. I shall leave the reader to guess why it has gone unmentioned all these years. 22”. (Bill Cooper, The Authenticity of the New Testament Part 2: Acts, the Epistles and Revelation, 1423-1485 (Kindle Edition))

Even if 1 John 1:7 were not accepted as genuine, we can see that the doctrine of the Trinity is found throughout the entire Word of God (cf. Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 48:16; Matthew 28:19-20; John 1:1-5; 14:16-17).

Nevertheless, it is amazing that there is so much textual support for this text of Scripture, even from an enemy of the faith that was contemporary with the Apostle John himself!

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

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