Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7-8)

     The Textus Receptus includes a series of words at 1 John 5:7b-8a not found in any other Greek text, sometimes referred to as the Comma Johanneum or the “Trinitarian Witness.” The additional words are the following: en tō ouranō, ho Patēr, ho Logos, kai to Hagion Pneuma; kai houtoi hoi treis hen eisi. kai treis eisin hoi marturountes. The KJV renders these words (also included in the RAV and NKJV) as follows: “… 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 Textus Receptus was essentially based on the third edition of the Greek text of Erasmus (early 16th century), which itself was based on merely a half dozen late Greek manuscripts.1 While the Comma Johanneum was included in the Latin Vulgate, it appeared in no Greek manuscripts available to Erasmus and was thus omitted from his first two editions. In the face of criticism Erasmus promised that if a single Greek manuscript could be found that contained the disputed passage, he would include it in his next edition. A 16th-century manuscript was then produced that contained the words in question,2 so Erasmus kept his promise and inserted the passage in the third edition of his Greek text (1522).
     Among the multiplied thousands of extant Greek manuscripts, the Comma Johanneum occurs in only eight very late ones (12th-16th centuries), though in half of these it appears as a variant reading in the margin. The passage is never quoted among the patristic writers (even in the trinitarian debates) and is absent from all ancient versions except the later Latin versions.
     Guy N. Woods comments: “There is, therefore, not the slightest ground for assuming that these words were a part of the original composition of the apostle John, or entitled to a place in the sacred text; nor is there any loss whatsoever in yielding them up as spurious, since nothing is taught in them not abundantly taught elsewhere in the New Testament” (Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude 326). On the theology of this text taught elsewhere in scripture, see The Triune Godhead.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 See The Text of the NT Part 1 and Part 2.
     2 The codex MS (61) “gives every appearance of having been produced expressly for the purpose of confuting Erasmus …. [and] had probably been written in Oxford about 1520 by a Franciscan friar named Froy (or Roy), who took the disputed words from the Latin Vulgate” (B. M. Metzger, The Text of the NT 88, 146).

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