“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree one” (1 Jn 5:7-8 KJV).
As can be seen in the above verses, this passage clearly and unequivocally declares and describes the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead, and is the only passage in the whole Bible which does so. In making this clear statement of the unity in trinity of the Godhead, it necessarily implies the deity of Jesus. In his gospel, John declares that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). In so doing, he reveals that the Godhead consists of more than one Person.
In this passage, the Johannine Comma (a technical name for it), John gives us further and final revelation, that the Godhead consists of three Divine Persons, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost, and that they are One. Therefore we are able to speak of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; this is a correct statement based on these verses and it makes clear which Divine Person we are speaking of even though it is not stated in this way in scripture. Similarly the word “Trinity” is not mentioned in scripture but it is useful terminology for us to use in accurately stating the doctrine.
Although there are other passages in the New Testament which bible-believing Christians use for their proof that God is triune in nature, they do not state the Trinitarian nature of God unequivocally, and thus leave room for other interpretation. Being the only verse which states the Trinity so clearly, its absence by omission allows a question mark to hover over the doctrine of the Trinity. It is the verse upon which the other Trinitarian verses depend for clear definition of the doctrine. Its presence in the bible ends all argument about it. And every single verse which is presented as proof against Jesus’ divinity, or proof that he had a beginning etc., is dashed to pieces against this immovable rock. As long as 1 John 5:7 is in the bible, the doctrine of the Trinity is impervious to any attack.
But so effective has been the strategy instigated by Satan to remove it from the texts that today hardly a Catholic or Protestant scholar, theologian, priest, or pastor (all supposedly the bible’s friends) believes that the Johannine Comma has a right to be there. And this success was achieved by corrupting the text early in its history. And now, the Johannine Comma is missing from every Greek manuscript except four, all of which are very late, and almost every modern English bible except the Douay Rheims Bible (DRB) and the King James (KJV) and New King James Bibles (NKJV).
Why So Few Early Copies?
One speculative reason on my part that there are so few early copies of a Greek text which has the Johannine Comma is that the verse was removed from all the texts which were closer together geographically at that very early date before having had the chance to be disseminated more widely. This would mean fewer copies to tamper with, these copies being closer together in a conveniently tighter space. John wrote his letters at the time when early heresies such as proto-Gnosticism, Docetism, Cerinthianism, and the Ebionites were starting to appear; in his second letter, he writes, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed” (2 Jn 9-10). So even at this seminal period there were enemies of the Gospel and false teachers, none of whom believed in the deity of the Son; and any of them would have taken the opportunity if it was presented to change the text of scripture.
Protestant Greek scholar F. H. A. Scrivener writes, “It is no less true to fact than paradoxical in sound, that the worst corruptions to which the New Testament has ever been subjected originated within a hundred years after it was composed; and that Irenaeus and the African Fathers, and the whole Western, with a portion of the Syrian Church, used manuscripts far inferior to those employed by Stunica, Erasmus or Stephens thirteen centuries later when moulding the Textus Receptus” (TBS booklet quoting Scrivener, p 8; emphases mine).
Alford, another Protestant, (2016 Kindle edition), says: “The Trinitarian Bible Society of London attributes the blotting out of the verse to Adamantius Origen. The Society points out that Origen had a tremendous influence over the ‘transmission of the Greek text’ in the period in which most ancient copies were written. Origen revised the Greek texts in Egypt and Palestine”.
And fundamentalist Protestant David Daniels writes: “So why then is 1 John 5:7 in the King James Bible, but not in many of the existing Greek manuscripts? To understand the answer, we must look at the history of what happened shortly after the Bible was written.
The Greek and Roman Institutions
During the early growth of the Christian church, ministers (whether saved or not) wrote down doctrines that they said were Christian and Biblical. Starting after the death of the apostles (about 100 AD) many people taught the lie that Jesus was not God the Son and Son of God, or that Jesus became God at His baptism, or the false doctrine that the Holy Spirit was not God or was not eternal.
The growing religion that became known as Roman Catholic, after many debates eventually agreed on the doctrine of the Trinity. So they had no reason to remove 1 John 5:7 from their Bibles, since it supported what they taught.
But the Greek Eastern Orthodox religion was combating a heresy called “Sabellianism” and would have found it easier to combat the heresy by simply removing the troubling passage from their Bibles”.
All these explanations are not contradictory but give genuine reasons, all true and legitimate, for why the verse has struggled to find its way into our bibles – or rather, to remain in our bibles.
But God Still Preserved the Verse
Providentially, however, the fact is that some manuscripts which contain 1 John 5:7 escaped the vandalism of unbelievers because we find the verse in many Latin copies and being referred to or quoted by early Church Fathers. For example, Cyprian (200-268 AD), Bishop of Carthage, in discussing the unity of the Church, uses the divine unity of the Trinity as an example of unity, and quotes from two scripture passages: “The Lord says, ‘I and the Father are one;’ and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, ‘And these three are one’” (Cyprian p. 423). The latter is from 1 John 5:7. For Cyprian to have used these words he clearly had the complete verse in his copy of scripture, and quoted it directly. One obvious inference from this is that the (presumably) Latin manuscript from which he quoted was a copy of an even earlier manuscript. For it to have been copied and reach Cyprian in Africa from where the apostle John wrote it would have taken some time so it is at least possible, even likely, that it originated in the 2nd century from a still earlier Greek manuscript very much closer to the autograph. And Cyprian wrote this at least a hundred years before Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, those “oldest and best” manuscripts, dated 300-325 AD, omitted 1 John 5:7.
Alford (2016, Kindle edition) identifies the witnesses to the Johannine Comma: “[early Baptist scholar] John Gill says that Fulgentius cites the verse in 510 AD. Jerome cited the verse in his epistle to Eustochium (450 AD) and wanted to know why it was excluded from some texts. Athanasius quotes it in 350 AD. Cyprian quoted it in 250 AD. Tertullian quotes it around 200 AD. The AV translators had Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza witnessing to the verse and they also had four Waldensian Bibles, which contained the verse. Other witnesses are Manuscript 61 (1500 AD0, Miniscule 88 (1150 AD), Wianburgensis (750 AD), Old Latin (200 AD), Tatian (180 AD), and Old Syriac (170 AD)”.
I’ve highlighted the dates in above paragraph which are earlier than Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (except for Athanasius who is contemporary with them), which are claimed by modern bible advocates to be the oldest manuscripts and therefore the best. But if age is the criterion for authenticity and to be included in the bible, then the above witnesses highlighted should most certainly be in our bibles today.
And Daniels gives an even more detailed list of the textual witnesses to 1 John 5:7.
- 200 AD – Tertullian wrote ‘which three are one’ based on the verse in his Against Praxeas, chapter 25
- 250 AD – Cyprian of Carthage, wrote, “And again, ‘Of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost it written: ‘And the three are one’” in his On the Lapsed, On the Novatians…
- 350 AD – Priscillian referred to it [Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Academia Litterarum Vindobonensis, vol xviii, p. 6]
- 350 AD – Idacius Clarus referred to it [Patrilogiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina by Migne, vol 62, col 359]
- 350 AD – Athanasius referred to it in his De Incarnatione
- 398 AD – Aurelius Augustine it to defend Trinitarianism in De Trinitate against the heresy of Sabellianism
- 415 AD – Council of Carthage appealed to 1 John 5:7 when debating the Arian belief (Arians didn’t believe in the deity of Jesus Christ)
- 450-530 – Several orthodox African writers quoted the verse when defending the doctrine of the Trinity against the gainsaying of the Vandals. These writers are (A) Vigilius Tapensis in ‘Three Witnesses in Heaven’; (B) Victor Vitensis in his Historia Persecutionis [Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Academia Litterarum Vindobonensis, vol vii, p. 60] [Fulgentius in ‘The Three Heavenly Witnesses’ [Patrilogiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina by Migne, vol 65, col 500]
Daniels supplies ten more witnesses to the verse, ranging from 500 AD to 1500 AD, including Waldensian (i.e. Vaudois) bibles which date from between 157 AD to 1400 AD. But I haven’t included them here because my intention is only to show that there are several witness predating Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, the supposed “oldest bibles”. And therefore I John 5:7 SHOULD BE in our bibles today. There are many verses in the text of our New Testaments which are less credentialed than this verse.
Furthermore, Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, the official Bible of the Catholic Church, was completed in 405 AD but Jerome continued revisions to it for several years. It may be argued by those who favour the critical texts Sinaiticus and Vaticanus that they are older than the Vulgate by up to a century, but Jerome uses as the basis for his translation ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the 2nd and 3rd centuries which have since perished and thus no longer accessible to modern scholars. It is Jerome’s Latin Vulgate upon which the Douay Rheims Bible is based, thus the DRB contains the Johannine Comma of 1 John 5:7.
So, despite the absence of the Johannine Comma in the modern bible versions, and despite that their Greek text is claimed to be older, the KJV and DRB Greek texts predate even Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.
Another consideration is that John used the term “The Word” for the second Person of the Trinity, namely Jesus, rather than the more commonly used term “The Son”; a strong indication of the genuineness of 1 John 5:7. Only John calls Jesus “The Word” i.e. here, in his first epistle; in his gospel (Jn 1:1, 14); and in his “Apocalypse” (Rev 19:13). But centuries before these passages, the Book of Wisdom in the Old Testament apocrypha describes a being called the “almighty word”. During the night when the firstborn of Egypt were all killed in the Ten Plagues, we find this passage: “For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne, as a fierce conqueror into the midst of the land of destruction, With a sharp sword carrying thy unfeigned commandment, and he stood and filled all things with death, and standing on the earth reached even to heaven….” (Wisdom 18:14-16 DRB).
Not only does this indicate the genuineness of the Johannine Comma, it also supports the authorship of the Fourth Gospel, the letter(s) attributed to John the apostle rather than the so-called John the elder or some other John, and the Revelation, to be John the apostle.
Alford, G. N. “The Authority of the Holy Bible”, Word of Truth Publications, 2016, Kindle edition
Cyprian of Carthage, 200 AD- 268 AD, “Ante-Nicene Fathers: On the Unity of the Church”, Vol. 5, p. 423 (see also note 5), publ. Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts
Unless otherwise stated, all bible references are from Douay Rheims Bible, published by Baronius Press, London, 2010.