Archive for the ‘Johanine Comma’ Category

Responding to Jeff Riddle – Regarding James White and (the real) Turretin

May 12, 2017

Our brother in Christ, Jeff Riddle (JR), has posted some comments regarding James White (JW) and the real Francis Turretin (FT), which because I’m a friend of the former and a fan of the latter, I would like to address:

JR wrote:

1. JW typically confuses the TR and Majority text position with KJV-Onlyism. Furthermore, he criticizes KJV-Onlyism for all the wrong reason.

I note that the problem with KJV-Onlyism is not, as JW argues, that the KJV was translated from 1604-11 and is, therefore, outdated, but that KJV-Onlyism is inconsistent with confessional Christianity’s assertion that the Bible was immediately inspired in the original languages (Hebrew and Greek) and not in an English translation.

a) JW distinguishes amongst a variety of related positions in his book, the King James Only Controversy. So, I don’t think “typically confuses” is very accurate. He does sometimes lump them together, but that’s because they often use similar (flawed) arguments.
b) JW agrees with JR that one reason KJVO is wrong is that the text was inspired in the original languages as distinct from the translations. However, there are also other reasons for opposing the KJVO position. Moreover, not all KJVO folks necessarily say that the KJV/KJB was immediately inspired.

JR wrote:

2. JW wrongly describes Scrivener’s edition of the Greek NT as “not a real Greek NT” since it represents an edition of the TR which underlies the KJV.

Scrivener’s edition is an attempt to (in essence) create a Greek text from the English text, by matching up the corresponding Greek reading that would go with the English reading. In that sense, it’s like a back translation into Greek from another language, and consequently although it is in Greek, it’s not a Greek text in the usual sense.


3. JW rejects the TR and Majority text positions on the basis of the fact that this is not, at present, the position taught “in every major” Reformed seminary” or by “leading scholars.”

JW may mention that point, but it’s not the main reason for rejecting the TR position or any of the Majority text positions.


4. JW asserts that Protestant scholastics, like Francis Turretin, were just “wrong” when they defended the traditional text of the Bible, including texts like the traditional rendering of 1 Corinthians 15:47, the ending of Mark, the pericope adulterae, and the comma Johanneum.

I point out that Turretin likely was not denying the existence of textual variants but affirming that the traditional text was indeed found in all “faithful,” “received,” or “orthodox” copies of the Bible. See my upcoming article in PRJ “John Calvin and Text Criticism.”

He does assert that they were wrong (in specific cases), but he also explains why they were wrong (in those cases where JW thinks they are wrong). Moreover, methodologically, Turretin agrees with JW. For example, Turretin endorses the approach of using the collation of various copies to restore the original readings.


5. JW argues that p75 and Vaticanus (B) were “the text of the early church” and were more reliable than the text which was affirmed in the Reformation era.

There was not one single text that was affirmed in the Reformation era. There were multiple printed editions, and folks like Calvin and Turretin endorsed the use of textual criticism to restore the original text. Hopefully it is also clear that there was not one single text of the early church, either, for the ancient uncials and papyri have differences amongst them. Nevertheless, those ancients texts certainly have the advantage of being older, whatever else one might say about their reliability.


I point out that although the TR was not printed until the Reformation era, it was based on mss. with antiquity equal to that of p75 and B. In addition, the line represented by p75 and B came to an end in the 500s and ceased to be copied, not appearing again till revived in the 1800s.

a) It’s simply not true that the TR was based on manuscripts with antiquity equal to P75 and B.
b) The Alexandrian text type definitely was copied less after Muslims decimated the Christian populations in North Africa and the middle east.
c) But there is at least one Alexandrian text type manuscript from as late as 1044 (minuscule 81). There is also ninth century minuscules (minuscules 33 and 892), which are from the Alexandrian text type. So, the “ceased to be copied” claim is not really true.


JW and other Reformed evangelicals who embrace the modern critical text have a rather difficult problem on their hands. They express admiration for the Protestant fathers (like Turretin—or Calvin, Owen, the framers of the 1689 confession, etc.) then are rather embarrassed to discover that these men defended the traditional text out of conviction and not, as they too often assume, out of ignorance.

Conviction and ignorance aren’t opposites. Knowledge and ignorance are opposites. As mentioned above, Turretin (and other Reformers) methodologically agreed with the use of collation to obtain the original readings. We have more knowledge of the text than they did. Thus, the difference between JW’s position and FT’s position is not so much much because of different convictions, but because of different information.


Lastly, I make reference to my sermon last Sunday on the Trinity based on chapter two, paragraph three of the 1689 confession, noting not only the use of 1 John 5:7 there as a leading prooftext for the Trinity but also how the 1689 Baptist Confession refers to the second person of the Godhead as “the Word or the Son,” making specific and explicit use of the comma Johanneum in the articulation of the Trinity (cf. chapter two, paragraph three in the 1689 with the WCF and the Savoy here). This represents a significant problem for those who affirm the 1689 confession but reject the comma.

John 1:1 teaches that Jesus is the Word, and John 1:34 teaches that Jesus is the Son of God. So, there is no problem. The comma does not use the phrase “Word or the Son,” so that is not an explicit or specific use of the comma. Moreover, while the prooftexts of the confessions include I John 5:7, that’s obviously not the only prooftext provided, and the doctrine of the Trinity does not depend on the authenticity of that text.


The Story of Codex 61 aka Codex Montfortianus

February 11, 2011

The following is taken from “The Story of the Manuscripts,” by George Edmonds Merrill (link to book).

Codex 61, or Montfortianus, derives its name from one of its former possessors, Rev. Thomas Montfort, D. D., of Cambridge. It is now at Trinity College, Dublin. This manuscript is of special interest among the cursives from the part it has played in the discussion of the interpolated verse in the First Epistle of St. John (v. 7), the verse of the ” Three Heavenly Witnesses.” It contains the whole New Testament, written apparently by three or four different hands, and is composed of four hundred and fifty-five paper leaves, only one of which is glazed. This single glazed leaf is the one containing the verse mentioned. A witty Irish prelate, quoted by Scrivener, [Plain Introduction, p. 173, Note.] said of this coincidence :—

We often hear that the text of the Three Heavenly Witnesses is a gloss, and anyone that will go into the College Library may see as much for himself.

When Erasmus published his two earliest editions of the New Testament he did not insert this verse, and was severely blamed for the omission. His defence was that it was not found in the manuscripts used by him, and he pledged himself to insert it in his revisions if any Greek copy could be found containing it. In his third edition he printed the verse (in 1552), saying that he found it in a Codex Britannicus discovered in England. The verse, as printed by Erasmus, is in exact verbal agreement with the text upon this glazed leaf of Montfortianus, and it is wholly agreed that the Codex Britannicus must have been the one now known by this name. The earliest owner of the manuscript whose name we know was Froy, a Franciscan friar, from whom it passed to Thomas Clement; next it was owned by William Chark; then by Montfort; then by Archbishop Usher; from whose hands it came into possession of the college in Dublin. It will be noticed that the name of the third owner was William Chark, and when we come to speak of the next cursive it will be found that he was also at one time the possessor of the Codex No. 69. In 61 the Revelation has been thought to have been copied from 69, when both were in the hands of Chark. Certainly the margins of both copies bear many notes in his handwriting, and it would have been a strong temptation to have had the opportunity of completing 61 by adding the Revelation from so good a source. As it stands, the text of this added Scripture is found to be of higher critical value than any other part of the volume.

By way of appendix, I would like to point the reader to a work that collated this codex. In the introduction, at page 61, the collator suggests that the portion of the manuscript that includes the Johanine Comma is a copy of Codex Lincolniensis, and that the Comma is an unauthorized interpolation to that copy (link to page).

From the Complutensian Polyglot

March 6, 2008

Wesley on 1 John 5:7-8 (The Comma)

April 28, 2007

On the theme of the Johannine Comma, the following is Wesley’s brief take on the subject. I have presented Wesley mostly to show that I have not quoted Calvin above to support the argument by the personal authority of Calvin, but have simply included Calvin’s comments (and Wesley’s and others) to show the historical acceptance of the Comma.

The Authenticity of the Comma Johanneum

by John Wesley

excerpted from his

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

7. What Bengelius has advanced, both concerning the transposition of these two verses, and the authority of the controverted verse, partly in his “Gnomon,” and partly in his “Apparatus Criticus,” will abundantly satisfy any impartial person. For there are three that testify – Literally, testifying, or bearing witness. The participle is put for the noun witnesses, to intimate that the act of testifying, and the effect of it, are continually present. Properly, persons only can testify; and that three are described testifying on earth, as if they were persons, is elegantly subservient to the three persons testifying in heaven. The Spirit – In the word, confirmed by miracles. The water – Of baptism, wherein we are dedicated to the Son, (with the Father and Spirit,) typifying his spotless purity, and the inward purifying of our nature. And the blood – Represented in the Lord’s supper, and applied to the consciences of believer. And these three harmoniously agree in one – In bearing the same testimony, – that Jesus Christ is the divine, the complete, the only saviour of the world.

Calvin on 1 John 5:7-8 (The Comma)

April 28, 2007
In keeping with my series on the historical view of the Johannine Comma, here are the thoughts of John Calvin on the subject, even though Calvin is neither particularly favorable to the position that I favor, nor particularly dogmatic. It should be noted that apparently the Jerome document that Calvin is referencing is actually pseudo-Jerome, in light of further historical research.
The Authenticity of the Comma Johanneum
by John Calvin (1509-1564)
excerpted from his
Commentary on the Catholic Epistles

7. There are three than bear record in heaven The whole of this verse has been by some omitted. Jerome thinks that this has happened through design rather than through mistake, and that indeed only on the part of the Latins. But as even the Greek copies do not agree, I dare not assert any thing on the subject. Since, however, the passage flows better when this clause is added, and as I see that it is found in the best and most approved copies, I am inclined to receive it as the true reading.

And the meaning would be, that God, in order to confirm most abundantly our faith in Christ, testifies in three ways that we ought to acquiesce in him. For as our faith acknowledges three persons in the one divine essence, so it is called in so really ways to Christ that it may rest on him.

When he says, These three are one, he refers not to essence, but on the contrary to consent; as though he had said that the Father and his eternal Word and Spirit harmoniously testify the same thing respecting Christ. Hence some copies have εἰς ἓν, “for one.” But though you read ἓν εἰσιν, as in other copies, yet there is no doubt but that the Father, the Word and the Spirit are said to be one, in the same sense in which afterwards the blood and the water and the Spirit are said to agree in one.

But as the Spirit, who is one witness, is mentioned twice, it seems to be an unnecessary repetition. To this I reply, that since he testifies of Christ in various ways, a twofold testimony is fitly ascribed to him. For the Father, together with his eternal Wisdom and Spirit, declares Jesus to be the Christ as it were authoritatively, then, in this ease, the sole majesty of the deity is to be considered by us. But as the Spirit, dwelling in our hearts, is an earnest, a pledge, and a seal, to confirm that decree, so he thus again speaks on earth by his grace.

But inasmuch as all do not receive this reading, I will therefore so expound what follows, as though the Apostle referred to the witnesses only on the earth.

Matthew Henry on 1 John 5:7-8 (The Comma)

April 28, 2007
Continuing in my series on the traditional view (contrasted with the modern view) of the text we have accepted as authenticate, the following is Matthew Henry’s take on the issue. Note that Matthew Henry does not seem particularly to care how many or how old the Greek noses are that can be counted.
The Authenticity of the Comma Johanneum
Matthew Henry
Excerpted from his
Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary
We are stopped in our course by the contest there is about the genuineness of v. 7. It is alleged that many old Greek manuscripts have it not. We shall not here enter into the controversy. It should seem that the critics are not agreed what manuscripts have it and what not; nor do they sufficiently inform us of the integrity and value of the manuscripts they peruse. Some may be so faulty, as I have an old printed Greek Testament so full of errata, that one would think no critic would establish a various lection thereupon. But let the judicious collators of copies manage that business. There are some rational surmises that seem to support the present text and reading. As,

(1.) If we admit v. 8, in the room of v. 7, it looks too like a tautology and repetition of what was included in v. 6, This is he that came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and blood; and it is the Spirit that beareth witness. For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, the water, and the blood. This does not assign near so noble an introduction of these three witnesses as our present reading does.

(2.) It is observed that many copies read that distinctive clause, upon the earth: There are three that bear record upon the earth. Now this bears a visible opposition to some witness or witnesses elsewhere, and therefore we are told, by the adversaries of the text, that this clause must be supposed to be omitted in most books that want v. 7. But it should for the same reason be so in all. Take we v. 6, This is he that came by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. It would not now naturally and properly be added, For there are three that bear record on earth, unless we should suppose that the apostle would tell us that all the witnesses are such as are on earth, when yet he would assure us that one is infallibly true, or even truth itself.

(3.) It is observed that there is a variety of reading even in the Greek text, as in v. 7. Some copies read hen eisi—are one; others (at least the Complutensian) eis to hen eisin—are to one, or agree in one; and in v. 8 (in that part that it is supposed should be admitted), instead of the common en te ge—in earth, the Complutensian reads epi tes ges—upon earth, which seems to show that that edition depended upon some Greek authority, and not merely, as some would have us believe, upon the authority either of the vulgar Latin or of Thomas Aquinas, though his testimony may be added thereto.

(4.) The seventh verse is very agreeable to the style and the theology of our apostle; as, [1.] He delights in the title the Father, whether he indicates thereby God only, or a divine person distinguished from the Son. I and the Father are one. And Yet I am not alone; because the Father is with me. I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Grace be with you, and peace from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, 2 John 3. Then, [2.] The name the Word is known to be almost (if not quite) peculiar to this apostle. Had the text been devised by another, it had been more easy and obvious, from the form of baptism, and the common language of the church, to have used the name Son instead of that of the Word. As it is observed that Tertullian and Cyprian use that name, even when they refer to this verse; or it is made an objection against their referring to this verse, because they speak of the Son, not the Word; and yet Cyprian’s expression seems to be very clear by the citation of Facundus himself. Quod Johannis apostoli testimonium beatus Cyprianus, Carthaginensis antistes et martyr, in epistolâ sive libro, quem de Trinitate scripsit, de Patre, Filio, et Spiritu sancto dictum intelligit; ait enim, Dicit Dominus, Ego et Pater unum sumus; et iterum de Patre, Filio, et Spiritu sancto scriptum est, Et hi tres unum sunt.—Blessed Cyprian, the Carthaginian bishop and martyr, in the epistle or book he wrote concerning the Trinity, considered the testimony of the apostle John as relating to the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit; for he says, the Lord says, I and the Father are one; and again, of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit it is written, And these three are one. Now it is nowhere written that these are one, but in v. 7. It is probable than that St. Cyprian, either depending on his memory, or rather intending things more than words, persons more than names, or calling persons by their names more usual in the church (both in popular and polemic discourses), called the second by the name of the Son rather than of the Word. If any man can admit Facundus’s fancy, that Cyprian meant that the Spirit, the water, and the blood, were indeed the Father, Word, and Spirit, that John said were one, he may enjoy his opinion to himself. For, First, He must suppose that Cyprian not only changed all the names, but the apostle’s order too. For the blood (the Son), which Cyprian puts second, the apostle puts last. And, Secondly, He must suppose that Cyprian thought that by the blood which issued out of the side of the Son the apostle intended the Son himself, who might as well have been denoted by the water,—that by the water, which also issued from the side of the Son, the apostle intended the person of the Holy Ghost,—that by the Spirit, which in v. 6 is said to be truth, and in the gospel is called the Spirit of truth, the apostle meant the person of the Father, though he is nowhere else so called when joined with the Son and the Holy Ghost. We require good proof that the Carthaginian father could so understand the apostle. He who so understands him must believe too that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are said to be three witnesses on earth. Thirdly, Facundus acknowledges that Cyprian says that of his three it is written, Et hi tres unum sunt—and these three are one. Now these are the words, not of v. 8, but of v. 7. They are not used concerning the three on earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; but the three in heaven, the Father, and the Word, and the Holy Ghost. So we are told that the author of the book De baptismo hæreticorum, allowed to be contemporary with Cyprian, cites John’s words, agreeably to the Greek manuscripts and the ancient versions, thus: Ait enim Johannes de Domino nostro in epistolâ nos docens, Hic es qui venit per aquam et sanguinem, Jesus Christus, non in aquâ tantùm, sed in aquâ et sanguine; et Spiritus est qui testimonium perhibet, quia Spiritus est veritas; quia tres testimonium perhibent, Spiritus et aqua et sanguis, et isti tres in unum sunt—For John, in his epistle, says concerning our Lord, This is he, Jesus Christ, who came by water and blood, not in water only, but in water and blood; and it is the Spirit that bears witness, because the Spirit is truth; for there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one. If all the Greek manuscripts and ancient versions say concerning the Spirit, the water, and the blood, that in unum sunt—they agree in one, then it was not of them that Cyprian spoke, whatever variety there might be in the copies in his time, when he said it is written, unum sunt—they are one. And therefore Cyprian’s words seem still to be a firm testimony to v. 7, and an intimation likewise that a forger of the text would have scarcely so exactly hit upon the apostolical name for the second witness in heaven, the Word. Then, [3.] As only this apostle records the history of the water and blood flowing out of the Savior’s side, so it is he only, or he principally, who registers to us the Savior’s promise and prediction of the Holy Spirit’s coming to glorify him, and to testify of him, and to convince the world of its own unbelief and of his righteousness, as in his gospel, ch. xiv. 16, 17, 26; xv. 26; xvi. 7-15. It is most suitable then to the diction and to the gospel of this apostle thus to mention the Holy Ghost as a witness for Jesus Christ. Then,

(5.) It was far more easy for a transcriber, by turning away his eye, or by the obscurity of the copy, it being obliterated or defaced on the top or bottom of a page, or worn away in such materials as the ancients had to write upon, to lose and omit the passage, than for an interpolator to devise and insert it. He must be very bold and impudent who could hope to escape detection and shame; and profane too, who durst venture to make an addition to a supposed sacred book. And,

(6.) It can scarcely be supposed that, when the apostle is representing the Christian’s faith in overcoming the world, and the foundation it relies upon in adhering to Jesus Christ, and the various testimony that was attended him, especially when we consider that he meant to infer, as he does (v. 9), If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this (which he had rehearsed before) is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. Now in the three witnesses on earth there is neither all the witness of God, nor indeed any witness who is truly and immediately God. The antitrinitarian opposers of the text will deny that either the Spirit, or the water, or the blood, is God himself; but, upon our present reading, here is a noble enumeration of the several witnesses and testimonies supporting the truth of the Lord Jesus and the divinity of his institution. Here is the most excellent abridgment or breviate of the motives to faith in Christ, of the credentials the Savior 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.

John Gill on 1 John 5:7-8 (The comma.)

April 26, 2007
Consistent with my position that I do not want anyone to accept what I say because I say it, I sometimes find it to be of value to provide the thoughts of other Christian men on subjects on which modern times have, to a degree, reversed the Reformed position.
The Authenticity of the Comma Johanneum
John Gill
Excerpted from his
Exposition of the Whole Bible (1746-48)

The genuineness of this text has been called in question by some, because it is wanting in the Syriac version, as it also is in the Arabic and Ethiopic versions; and because the old Latin interpreter has it not; and it is not to be found in many Greek manuscripts; nor cited by many of the ancient fathers, even by such who wrote against the Arians, when it might have been of great service to them: to all which it may be replied, that

As to the Syriac version, which is the most ancient, and of the greatest consequence, it is but a version, and a defective one. The history of the adulterous woman in the eighth of John, the second epistle of Peter, the second and third epistles of John, the epistle of Jude, and the book of the Revelations, were formerly wanting in it, till restored from Bishop Usher’s copy by De Dieu and Dr. Pocock, and who also, from an eastern copy, has supplied this version with this text.

As to the old Latin interpreter, it is certain it is to be seen in many Latin manuscripts of an early date, and stands in the Vulgate Latin edition of the London Polyglot Bible: and the Latin translation, which bears the name of Jerom[e], has it, and who, in an epistle of his to Eustochium, prefixed to his translation of these canonical epistles, complains of the omission of it by unfaithful interpreters.

And as to its being wanting in some Greek manuscripts, as the Alexandrian, and others, it need only be said, that it is to be found in many others; it is in an old British copy, and in the Complutensian edition, the compilers of which made use of various copies; and out of sixteen ancient copies of Robert Stephens’s, nine of them had it: and as to its not being cited by some of the ancient fathers, this can be no sufficient proof of the spuriousness of it, since it might be in the original copy, though not in the copies used by them, through the carelessness or unfaithfulness of transcribers; or it might be in their copies, and yet not cited by them, they having Scriptures enough without it, to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ.

And yet, after all, certain it is, that it is cited by many of them; by Fulgentius FN1, in the beginning of the “sixth” century, against the Arians, without any scruple or hesitation; and Jerom[e], as before observed, has it in his translation made in the latter end of the “fourth” century; and it is cited by Athanasius FN2 about the year 350; and before him by Cyprian FN3, in the middle, of the “third” century, about the year 250; and is referred to by Tertullian FN4 about, the year 200; and which was within a “hundred” years, or little more, of the writing of the epistle; which may be enough to satisfy anyone of the genuineness of this passage; and besides, there never was any dispute about it till Erasmus left it out in the first edition of his translation of the New Testament; and yet he himself, upon the credit of the old British copy before mentioned, put it into another edition of his translation.


(1) Respons. contr. Arian. obj. 10. & de Trinitate, c. 4.
(2) Contr. Arium, p. 109.
(3) De Unitate Eccles. p. 255. & in Ep. 73. ad Jubajan, p. 184.
(4) Contr. Praxeam, c. 25.

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