Question: Why was Nicean Trinitarian introduced at all?

Table of Contents

Question: What does 1 John 5:7-8 have to do with Trinitariansim?

These verses are considered to have been added to the Bible text

1 John 5:7-8 reads:

7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

These verses are considered to have been added to the Bible text. Said one conservative reference work:

...the acceptance of this verse [i.e. the Johannine comma: 1 John 5:7-8] as genuine breaks almost every major canon of textual [criticism][1]

The early Christians never referred to these verses in their writings

Historian Paul Johnson notes:

Altogether there are about 4,700 relevant manuscripts, and at least 100,000 quotations or allusions in the early fathers . . .Thus, the Trinitarian texts in the first Epistle of John, which make explicit what other texts merely hint at, originally read simply: 'There are three which bear witness, the spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are one.' This was altered in the fourth century to read: 'There are three which bear witness on earth, the spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are one in Christ Jesus; and there are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Spirit, and these three are one.'[2]

So, the early Christians never referred to these verses in their writings. The verse in the early Greek manuscripts simply says:

There are three which bear witness, the spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are one.

But, in the 4th century, the verse had words added to it to support the ‘new’ orthodox doctrine of the Trinity:

There are three which bear witness on earth, the spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are one in Christ Jesus; and there are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Spirit, and these three are one.

Why is 1 John 5:7–8 still in the Bible, then?

The writer Erasmus noted the problem with these verses in the 1500s, and did not include the addition change in his Greek New Testament:

On the basis of the manuscript evidence available to him, Erasmus had eliminated the passage [1 John 5:7] from his first edition of the Greek New Testament in 1516, but had restored it in later editions, responding to a storm of protest and to further textual evidence that was produced—quite literally produced--in support of the text. Luther's translation of the New Testament into German, being based on the 1516 edition of Erasmus, did not contain the passage. Although the weight of textual evidence against it was seemingly overwhelming, the proof it supplied for the Trinity made an attack on its authenticity seemed to be an attack on the dogma [thus orthodoxy sought to wrongly restore the Johannine Comma].[3]

This author explains that people were outraged that the verse was taken out. Erasmus replied that he would include it if they could show him a single Greek manuscript that contained it. Scholars believe that a forgery was produced, and (good to his word) Erasmus included the change in his next editions. People cared more about what their dogma, creeds, and councils had taught than what the word of God actually said. The above author continues:

The most pertinacious and conservative in various communions were still holding out for the authenticity of the "Johannine Comma" in 1 John 5:7, despite all the textual and patristic evidence [evidence from the Early Christian Fathers before Nicea] against it, but there was an all but unanimous consensus among textual critics that it represented a later interpolation.[4]

Many Bible translations today omit this part of the text, since it is not considered to be authentic

  • New American Bible:So there are three that testify, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and the three are of one accord.[5]
  • New American Standard Bible:For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.[6]
  • New Revised Standard Version: There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree.[7]

Notes

  1. Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago, Moody Press, 1968), 370.
  2. Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (New York: Touchstone, 1976), 26–27. ISBN 684815036.
  3. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Volume 4 : Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700) (University Of Chicago Press, 1985), 4:346, comments in bracket A1. ISBN 0226653773.
  4. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Volume 5 : Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (since 1700) (University Of Chicago Press, 1991), 193. ISBN 0226653803.
  5. Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, The New American Bible (World Bible Publishers, Iowa Falls, 1991), 1363.
  6. New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation), 1 John 5:7–8.
  7. New Revised Standard Version (Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, 1995), 1 John 5:7–8.