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ELOW are the readings of 1
John 5:7,8 in the Authorised Version (AV) and the New International
Version (NIV) (1984 edition):
1 John 5:7,8
(AV - the portion in bold
is generally omitted in modern versions)
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.
1 John 5:7,8
7 For there are three that testify:
8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
(Regarding the missing words a footnote states: Late manuscripts of the Vulgate/not found in any Greek manuscript before the sixteenth century.)
This passage in the AV (reflecting the underlying Greek of the
Receptus), of all Holy Scripture, has been subject to the greatest
scorn and ridicule by textual critics, and indeed is viewed with some
misgiving and doubt by many conservative Christians who in other
respects value the AV. It is rare indeed to find someone who will
defend its inclusion in the Word of God.
There are several lines of thought worthy of consideration
mention briefly: these may cause us to look more favourably on this
This verse states more explicitly than anywhere else in
vital and precious doctrine (the Trinity) which is revealed throughout
God's Word. Therefore it agrees with the analogy of Scripture and
teaches nothing discordant to it. The Westminster Divines, who met in
Assembly at the height of the Puritan era, used 1 John 5:7 four times
without any apparent hesitation as their major proof text for the
doctrine of the Trinity. The places are: Westminster
Confession of Faith
II.iii; Larger Catechism,
Q's 6, 9; Shorter Catechism
Q.6. Under L.C. 6 it is the only Scripture proof given to demonstrate
that: "The scriptures make known...the persons in the Godhead."
Many godly men have been more or less willing to affirm the
text as authentic. In his Commentary
Epistle, Calvin, although admitting that the Greek manuscripts are
divided, says the following:
"But because the passage reads better with the clause added and as I see that it is found in the best and most approved copies (codicibus), I also readily embrace it."
Matthew Henry in his renowned Commentary on the
also notes the manuscript controversy; he then has a lengthy section on
rational arguments to support the present text, ending with these
"Here is the most excellent abridgment or breviate of the motives to faith in Christ, of the credentials the Saviour brings with him, and of the evidences of our Christianity, that is to be found, I think, in the book of God, upon which single account, even waiving the doctrine of the divine Trinity, the text is worthy of all acceptation."
Others who have made a defence of the verse include John
Gill, J.C. Philpot and R.L. Dabney.
We can certainly see why the enemy of souls would wish to
this text, among others. It is the case that but few, modern, extant
Greek copies include the disputed words, as Edward Hills pointed out,
but they are present in various ancient Latin manuscripts, Scripture
versions and the writings of some of the Western Church Fathers.
Cyprian of the 3rd century wrote: "...of the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit it is written, And these three are one."
Waldensian literature referred to it. This historic usage of
in the Western Church lay behind its final inclusion in the Greek Text
of Erasmus, the basis for the great translations of the New Testament
which sprang from the Reformation.
It has been pointed out that if the highlighted words are
the text, there are certain grammatical difficulties which result in
the Greek. The nouns spirit, water
in v.8 are in the masculine gender when they are normally neuter; but
if verse 7 is present the terms Father and Word which are masculine
would influence the structure of v.8 and explain this anomaly.
If we are asked, Was this verse in the originals or
"autographs" of the
New Testament, then obviously no-one can answer directly because we
simply do not possess the original manuscripts to consult them. We may
bring forward rational arguments as we have indicated but these do not
amount to a "proof." Some speak as though only a "scientific" proof
will do: they would only accept this verse as genuine Scripture if a
numerical majority of Greek manuscripts was demonstrated to contain the
verse. But our confidence in it as the true Word of God does not
ultimately rest upon such evidence. Rather it must ever rest upon the
truth of the Providential Preservation of Holy Scripture, a truth
taught in the Bible itself. We begin with the presupposition that God
has preserved His Word - because He said that He would: consider the
following verses in the Book of Psalms alone: 12:6,7; 89:1,2;
119:89,160. The promise of God was that He would preserve His Word in
His church - Isaiah 59:21. Therefore we believe that the true text of
Holy Scripture is that which has been passed down through the
generations of God's believing people who have preserved the faith of
the gospel. This authentic text may not at every point be found in a
majority of surviving manuscripts.
Ultimately this resolves into a matter of faith, not proof by
manuscripts. No one individual could possibly study all the historical
evidence in order to make up his own mind. The words of Christ to the
Pharisees in another context seem fitting here: "And he said unto them,
If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be
persuaded, though one rose from the dead." (Luke 16:31).
True faith is always generated from the Scriptures, not from
The most stupendous miracle, and the most compelling evidence,
presented to the sight of man, will not convince him of the truth.
Conversely, a true believer will always cling to God's Word as truth,
even when the evidence presented to his outward senses is to the
contrary (2 Cor. 5:7): consider Abraham sacrificing Isaac (Heb.
The logic of faith runs as follows. God has promised to preserve His Word (indeed words) in His church: Christians have possessed and received 1 John 5:7 as genuine to the present day; therefore we too may with confidence believe this text to be the inspired Word of God.
Dabney, R.L., "The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek,"Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, vol. 1. The Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, USA, 1967.
Hills, E.F, The King James Version Defended. The Christian Research Press, DesMoines, IO, USA, 1984, pp.209-213.
"Why 1 John 5 vs. 7-8 is in the Bible,"Article No. 102. The Trinitarian Bible Society, Tyndale House, Dorset Road, London, SW19 3NN, England, n.d.