Re: NT Textual Variants and Church Fathers

From: Bart Ehrman (
Date: Wed Jun 19 1996 - 22:30:56 EDT

   If you're interested just in this variant in particular, I
have dealt with it at length (including the Patristic evidence and the
accusations of textual tampering) in my article: "1 John 4:3 and the
Orthodox Corruption of Scripture," _Zeitschrift fuer die neutestamentliche
Wissenschaft_ 79 (1988) 221-43. My arguments there are recapitulated
(OK, shamelessly repeated) and lots of comparable textual variants are
examined in my book, _The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture_ (Oxford,

-- Bart D. Ehrman

On Wed, 19 Jun 1996, Eric Weiss wrote:

> I found the following in a file on the Internet by a non-Trinitarian
> denomination. (I have no knowledge about whether their comments about
> alteration by "Trinitarians" is valid.)
> MY QUESTION IS: Are there Greek New Testaments which list all such
> radical textual variants as cited by the church fathers? Neither UBS-GNT(4)
> nor Nestle-Aland(26) list this "reading" from Irenaeus. Do UBS/N-A omit it
> because there's no valid support for Irenaeus' statement or Socrates the
> Historian's assertion?
> > 1 John 4:2-3 ...By this you know the Spirit of God:
> > every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come
> > in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not
> > confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of
> > antichrist... (RSV)
> >
> > The sense of this text has been altered. The Modalists, who later
> > gave way to their descendants the Trinitarians, attempted to
> > assert that Christ did not properly die and that some of him
> > remained in the heavens as God. This was the heresy that faced
> > John and to which he refers. This text was altered at a very
> > early date by the Modalists and Trinitarians because it
> > identified them with the doctrine of Antichrist. The correct
> > ancient text can be identified from Irenaeus (Ch. 16:8,
> > Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, fn. p.443).
> >
> > Hereby know ye the spirit of God: Every spirit that
> > confesseth Jesus Christ came in the flesh is of God;
> > and every spirit which separates Jesus Christ is not of
> > God but is of Antichrist.
> >
> > Socrates the Historian says (VII, 32, p. 381) that the passage
> > had been corrupted by those who wished to separate the humanity
> > of Jesus Christ from his divinity. Thus the spirits that attempt
> > to assert that Christ was a being, part of which did not die on
> > the cross and was thus not totally dependent upon the Father for
> > his resurrection and eternal life, is of Antichrist.

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