Two ladies knocked at my door. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned several times that Jesus is God. They repeatedly denied that Jesus is God (they believed that He is actually Michael the Archangel). They claimed that I was merely inferring that Jesus is God, that the Bible never actually says that He is.
I responded that the Bible absolutely says that Jesus is God and shared 1 John 5:7 with them:
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." They smiled condescendingly at me and said, "That's a spurious verse. It wasn't in the originals. It was added later." I smiled back because I knew that they would say that.
You see, they had been trained to respond that way because modern Biblical scholars dispute the authenticity of 1 John 5:7. They had been told that the King James translators inserted what has come to be called the Johannine Comma in order to bolster their Trinitarian views.
To understand this, let's look at the whole text of 1 John 5:6-7 in the King James Bible:
(vs 6) This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
(vs 7) For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
(vs 8) And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
Now, let's look at the same passage in several commonly used modern versions. First, the New International Version (NIV):
(vs 6) This is the one who came by water and blood-Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
(vs 7For there are three that testify:
(vs 8) the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
Second, the New American Standard Bible (NASB):
(vs 6) This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
(vs 7) For there are three that testify:
(vs 8) the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
And, third, the English Standard Version (ESV):
(vs 6) This is he who came by water and blood-Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
(vs 7) For there are three that testify:
(vs 8) the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.
As you can see, these versions omit the Johannine Comma, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." However, the NASB and the NIV include these footnotes, which at least alert the reader that there is a disputed reading here:
NASB: "A few late mss add ...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"
NIV: "Late manuscripts of the Vulgate testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8And there are three that testify on earth: the (not found in any Greek manuscript before the fourteenth century)".
The ESB, however, has no footnotes at 1 John 5:7. Consequently, readers of the ESV would be clueless as to the possibility of disputed or missing text.
Knowing that modern versions dispute and omit the Johannine Comma, brings up the question of why the King James translators put it in their translation. Well, the answer is that contrary to the claims of modern Bible scholars, the Johannine Comma has a wealth of evidence attesting to its authenticity. For instance, Tertullian (c.155-c.225) alludes to the Comma at least twice:
"Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent persons, one from the other, which three are one, not one [person], as it is said, 'I and my Father are One.'"
"For if in the mouth of three witnesses every word shall stand: - while, through the benediction, we have the same (three) as witnesses of our faith whom we have as sureties of our salvation too- how much more does the number of the divine names suffice for the assurance of our hope likewise! Moreover, after the pledging both of the attestation of faith and the promise of salvation under three witnesses, there is added, of necessity, mention of the Church; inasmuch as, wherever there are three, (that is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,) there is the Church, which is a body of three."
Cyprian (200-258) quotes the Comma in Treatise 1:6:
"The Lord says, "I and the Father are one; …and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, …And these three are one."
Origen (184-253) alludes to the Comma:
"Behold, the eyes of bondservants in the hands of their lord, as the eyes of a bondwoman in the hands of their lady, so are our eyes towards the Lord our God, until he may pity us; spirit and body are the bondservants of the Lord Father and Son; but the soul is the bondwoman of the lady Holy Spirit. And the Lord our God is three, for the three are one."
Athanasius (c.296-373) directly alludes to the Comma:
"But also, is not that sin-remitting, life-giving and sanctifying washing [baptism], without which, no one shall see the kingdom of heaven, given to the faithful in the Thrice-Blessed Name? In addition to all these, John affirms, 'and these three are one.'"
Priscillian of Avila quotes the Comma in 380 AD:
"As John says, There are three that give testimony in earth: the water, the flesh and the blood; and these three are one and there are three that give testimony in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Spirit; and these three are one in Christ Jesus."
Augustine refers to the Comma on two occasions:
"Therefore God supreme and true, with His Word and Holy Spirit (which three are one), one God omnipotent, creator and maker of every soul and of every body;"
"Three things then we know to have issued from the Body of the Lord when He hung upon the tree: first, the spirit: of which it is written, 'And He bowed the head and gave up the spirit:' then, as His side was pierced by the spear, 'blood and water.' Which three things if we look at as they are in themselves, they are in substance several and distinct, and therefore they are not one. But if we will inquire into the things signified I by these, there not unreasonably comes into our thoughts the Trinity itself, which is the One, Only, True, Supreme God, Father and Son and Holy Ghost, of whom it could most truly be said, 'There are Three Witnesses, and the Three are One:'"
In 484, Eugenius used the Johannine Comma to defend the doctrine of the Trinity against the false teachings of Arianism, which denies both the Deity of Christ and the triune nature of the Godhead:
"…and in order that we may teach until now, more clearly than light, that the Holy Spirit is now one divinity with the Father and the Son. It is proved by the evangelist John, for he says, 'there are three which bear testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one."
Gregory of Nazanzius (c.329-390) said the following in his Fifth theological oration:
"What about John then, when in his Catholic Epistle he says that there are Three that bear witness, the Spirit and the Water and the Blood? Do you think he is talking nonsense?"
Jerome (347-420), who translated the original Latin Vulgate Bible, said this in the prologue to the Canonical Epistles appended to Codex Fuldensis (Translated by T. Caldwell):
"Just as these are properly understood and so translated faithfully by interpreters into Latin without leaving ambiguity for the readers nor [allowing] the variety of genres to conflict, especially in that text where we read the unity of the trinity is placed in the first letter of John, where much error has occurred at the hands of unfaithful translators contrary to the truth of faith, who have kept just the three words water, blood and spirit in this edition omitting mention of Father, Word and Spirit in which especially the catholic faith is strengthened and the unity of substance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is attested."
Considering Jerome's position on the Johannine Comma, it is no wonder that, according to the 19th century textual critic F.H.A. Scrivener, "49 out of 50 [Vulgate] manuscripts testify to this disputed Comma" (F. H. A. Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the New Testament Textual Criticism, 4th Ed., Vol. 2, (New York: George Bell & Sons, 1894), p. 403).
It seems highly unlikely that such a diverse group of writers would reference a passage of Scripture that did not appear in any manuscripts of their day. Instead, much evidence (which we will not get into at this time) actually indicates that the Arians, who denied the Trinity and believed, much like today's Jehovah's Witnesses, that Jesus was not God but a created being, were responsible for removing the Johannine Comma from 1 John 5:6-8 during the fourth and fifth centuries. Consequently, it would appear that later manuscripts and translations that are said to have added the Jonannine Comma actually restored it.
So, with the utmost confidence, I say that if your Bible says "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one" in 1 John 5:7, you can trust it. If it doesn't, you can't. Get yourself a King James Bible that you can trust and read it instead.###