From: H. Alan Brehm (email@example.com)
Date: Mon Feb 05 1996 - 19:42:12 EST
Since I just recently taught an elective on the Johannine Letters at
Southwestern and revised my notes, I thought I would copy and paste them here
for the list.
The King James Version of 1 Jn. 5:7-8 reads, "Because there are three that
testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are
one. And there are three that testify on earth, the Spirit and the water and
the blood, and these three are one." This is one of the best-known problems of
textual criticism, the process of comparing and evaluating all available
evidence regarding the text New Testament (Greek manuscripts; versions in other
ancient languages; citations by Church Fathers) in order to determine the
original text in so far as it is possible for us.
The "threefold witness in heaven" apparently originated from the impulse to
interpret the "threefold witness" of Spirit, water, and blood allegorically as a
reference to the Trinity (beginning in the Third Century with Tertullian,
Cyprian, and Augustine). The "Johannine Comma" appears first in the writings of
Priscillian (died ca. A. D. 385), and from there was incorporated into late
manuscripts of the Old Latin version and the Vulgate. Erasmus rejected it
because he did not find it in his Greek manuscripts, and swore that he would
include it if he found one. Subsequently one was "produced", and other Greek
mss. dated in the 15th and 16th centuries contain the text, but all of them
display the influence of the Vulgate (it appears first in OL mss. around A. D.
600; before A. D. 1500 it is absent from all copies of Syriac, Coptic, Armenian,
Ethiopic, Arabic, and Slavonic versions!). It is the earliest Greek manuscript
to contain what had become a traditional rendition in the Vulgate. Through the
reprinting of Erasmus' Greek NT (later called the Textus Receptus because it was
reprinted as the "standard" edition) on the one hand and the influence of the
Vulgate (the official Bible of the RCC) on the other, the verse became a part of
the textual tradition of the English Bible. The vast majority of textual
critics today (spanning the entire theological spectrum from "conservative" to
"liberal") agree that this text presents no serious claim to belong to the
original text of 1 John (cf. Metzger, Textual Commentary, ad loc.; R. E. Brown,
Epistles of John, 775-87).
H. Alan Brehm
Ass't. Prof. of NT
Southwestern Bapt. Theol. Sem.
P. O. Box 22000
Fort Worth, TX 76122
817-923-1921 ext. 6800
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