Comma Johanneum

The Comma Johanneum, also called the Johannine Comma or the Heavenly Witnesses, is a comma (a short clause) found in some manuscripts of the First Epistle of John[1] at 5:7–8. The scholarly consensus is that that passage is a Latin corruption that entered the Greek manuscript tradition in some subsequent copies.[1] The Comma and the question of its authenticity have particular bearing on the development of the theological doctrine of the Trinity, which is central to most mainstream Christian denominations.


The text of the Comma, distinguished from the surrounding text in italics, reads:

King James Version:
7For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
8And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

Douay-Rheims Version:
7And there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one.
8And there are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three are one.

Latin Vulgate:
7Quoniam tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in cælo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus: et hi tres unum sunt.
8Et tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in terra: spiritus, et aqua, et sanguis: et hi tres unum sunt.

Greek New Testament:
7οτι τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τω ουρανω ο πατηρ ο λογος και το αγιον πνευμα και ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισιν
8και τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τη γη το πνευμα και το υδωρ και το αιμα και οι τρεις εις το εν εισιν.

Bibles that include or omit Comma

In 1516, Desiderius Erasmus published the first modern Greek critical text, Novum Instrumentum omne. He subsequently produced four more editions. The first two lacked the Comma, which was first included in the 1522 edition of his Greek New Testament. It subsequently appeared in every later edition of the Greek New Testament that came to be called Textus Receptus. Thus the Comma is found in the most widely used translations of the New Testament before 1881, when the English Revised Version was published without the Comma; but, from the early 18th century onwards, several individual translators omitted it. Versions from this period which contain it include the Geneva Bible, the King James Version (KJV),[lower-alpha 1] Young's and both the Rheims New Testament and the Ronald Knox translations which are Roman Catholic.

Newer critical editions of the Greek text omit the Comma as not part of the original, and modern Bible translations based on them such as the New International Version (NIV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the English Standard Version (ESV), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) either omit the Comma entirely, or place it in a footnote.[2] In the Roman Catholic tradition, the Latin Nova Vulgata (New Vulgate), published in 1979 following the Second Vatican Council, based on the Critical Text and approved for liturgical use, omits the Comma.[3] Nor does the New American Bible include it.

The Comma is retained in recent translations based on the Textus Receptus such as the New King James.[lower-alpha 2]


Further information: Trinity of the Church Fathers
Excerpt from Codex Sinaiticus including 1 John 5:7–9. It lacks the Comma Johanneum. The purple-coloured text says: "There are three witness bearers, the Spirit and the water and the blood".

Omission theories (verse authentic)

Those who believe the Johannine Comma is authentic attribute authorship to the apostle John. They have diverse theories as to why the Comma dropped out of the Greek manuscript line and why most of the evidence is in Latin manuscripts and church writings. Often these proposed textual histories include scribal error as the initial cause of the early variant. In 1699 Louis Ellies Dupin discussed the possibility:

"...that those two verses beginning with the same words, it was easy for the copiers to omit one by negligence, nothing being more usual than when the same word is in two periods that follow one another, for the copier to pass from the word of the first period to that which follows in the second."[4]

The commentary of Puritan scholar Matthew Henry added the difficulty and unlikelihood that a deliberate addition could be inserted into the text-line:

"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, that could hope to escape detection and shame, and profane too, that durst venture to make an addition to a supposed sacred book."[5][lower-alpha 3]

Anthony Kohlmann asked and answered the question, "what reason can you assign for so notable an omission in some old manuscripts?" Kohlmann pointed to homoeoteleuton and doctrinal motivations and included an analogy to another verse which some attempted to excise.[7]

Also those asserting authenticity of the Comma often claim that heretics doctored all of the extant early Greek manuscripts and removed doctrinally offensive passages. Such claims have been made by Donald A. Waite, Thomas Strouse, Thomas Holland, Frederick Nolan, and Robert L. Dabney.

Addition theories (verse spurious)

Those who believe the Johannine Comma is inauthentic view the text as either an accidental intrusion, which could be a margin commentary note that a later scribe mistakenly considered to be the original text,[8] or as a deliberate insertion or forgery.

Hugo Grotius contended that the verse had been added into the Johannine text by the Arians.[9] About the Grotius view, Richard Simon wrote "...all this is only founded on conjectures: and seeing every one does reason according to his prejudices, some will have the Arians to be the authors of that addition, and others do attribute the same to the Catholicks."[10] Luther's pastor, John Bugenhagen, like Grotius, wrote of a conjectured Arian origin.

Isaac Newton took a similar approach as Erasmus, looking to Jerome as the principal figure in placing the Comma in the Bible.[lower-alpha 4] Newton also thought that the Athanasius Disputation with Arius (Ps-Athanasius) "had been deeply influential on the subsequent attitude to the authenticity of the passage."[11] Newton's comment that from Matthew 28:19 "they tried at first to derive the Trinity" implies that for the conjectured interpolation, "the Trinity" was the motive.

Richard Simon believed the verse began in a Greek scholium, while Herbert Marsh posited the origin as a Latin scholium.[12] Simon conjectured that the Athanasius exposition at Nicea was the catalyst for the Greek scholium which brought forth the text.[lower-alpha 5]

Richard Porson was a major figure in the opposition to the authenticity of the verse. His theory of spurious origin involved Tertullian and Cyprian, and also the interpretation by Augustine which led to a marginal note. And, in the Porson theory, that marginal note was in the Bible text used by the author of the Confession of Faith at the Council of Carthage of 484 AD.[lower-alpha 6] Porson also considered the Vulgate Prologue as spurious, a forgery not written by Jerome, and this Prologue was responsible for the entrance into the Vulgate. "...Latin copies had this verse in the eighth century. It is then that we suppose it to have crawled into notice on the strength of Pseudo-Jerome's recommendation."[13]

Johann Jakob Griesbach wrote his Diatribe in Locum 1 Joann V. 7, 8 in 1806, as an Appendix to his Critical Edition of the New Testament. In the Diatribe, Griesbach "expresses his conviction that the seventh verse rests upon the authority of Vigilius Tapsensis."[14]

The 1808 Improved Version, with Thomas Belsham contributing, followed Griesbach on the idea of Tapsensis authority, combined with enhancing the forgery intimations of Gibbon. Thus came the theory that the verse was a forgery by Virgilius Tapsensis. This emphasis on Tapsensis (Thapsus) was echoed by Unitarians of the 19th century, including Theophilus Lindsey, Abner Kneeland, and John Wilson.

John Oxlee, in his journal debate with Frederick Nolan, accused the African Prelates Vigilius Tapensis and Fulgentius Ruspensis of thrusting the verse into the Latin manuscripts.[15]

William Orme, in the Monthly Review, 1825, conjectured Augustine as the source. "it is probable that the verse originated in the interpretation of St. Augustine. It seems to have existed for some time on the margins of the Latin copies, in a kind of intermediate state, as something better than a mere dictum of Augustine, and yet not absolutely Scripture itself. By degrees it was received into the text, where it appears in by far the greater number of Latin manuscripts now in our hands."[16][lower-alpha 7]

Scrivener allowed for the authenticity of the Cyprian citation as a reference to the verse being in Cyprian's Bible.[lower-alpha 8] To allow for this, Scrivener's theory of the source and timing of an interpolation cannot be late, and his scenario did not give estimated dates or any names responsible any more than the Arian removal theory proposed by Nolan, Forster, and others. "the disputed words... were originally brought into Latin copies in Africa from the margin, where they had been placed as a pious and orthodox gloss on v. 8: that from the Latin they crept into two or three late Greek codices, and thence into the printed Greek text, a place to which they had no rightful claim."[17]

Joseph Barber Lightfoot, who similarly worked on the Revision, included Origen as part of the origin. "not in the first instance a deliberate forgery, but a comparatively innocent gloss... the spirit and the water and the blood—a gloss which is given substantially by S. Augustine and was indicated before by Origen and Cyprian, and which first thrust itself into the text in some Latin MSS"[18]

Brooke Foss Westcott had a theory of verse origin and development which said of the Augustine reference in the City of God – "Augustine supplies the word 'Verbum' which is required to 'complete the gloss'". Even in 1892, in the third edition of The epistles of St John: the Greek text, with notes and essays, when Westcott acknowledged the newly discovered Liber Apologeticus Priscillian reference with verbum, the Augustine Verbum/gloss assertion remained in his book. And the assertion "there is no evidence that it was found in the text of St John before the latter part of the 5th century" also remained, alongside "The gloss which had thus become an established interpretation of St John's words is first quoted as part of the Epistle in a tract of Priscillian (c. 385)".

Joseph Pohle, after asking "how did the text of the three heavenly Witnesses find its way into the Vulgate? All explanations that have been advanced so far are pure guesswork." concludes "the Comma Ioanneum was perhaps found in copies of the Latin Bible current in Africa as early as the third century", and then considered Cassiodorus as responsible for inserting the verse into the Vulgate.[lower-alpha 9] Pohle, like Scrivener, allows that the Cyprian citation may well indicate that the verse was in his Bible.[lower-alpha 10]

In the early 20th century Karl Künstle helped to popularize a theory that Priscillian of Ávila (c. 350–385) was the author of the Comma.[lower-alpha 11] The theory held that "Priscillian interpolated ... in the first epistle of John so as to justify in this way his unitarian theories. The text was then retouched in order to appear orthodox, and in this shape found its way into several Spanish documents."[19] This idea of a Priscillian origin for the Comma had a brief scholarship flourish and then quickly lost support in textual circles. The Priscillian citation had been recently published in 1889 by Georg Schepps.[lower-alpha 12]

Alan England Brooke, while theorizing that "the growth of that gloss can be traced back at least as early as Cyprian"[20] also placed the Theodulfian recension of the Vulgate, after 800 AD, as a prime point whereby the verse first gained traction into the Latin text-lines. "It is through the Theodulfian Recension of the Vulgate that the gloss first gained anything like wide acceptance".[21]

Adolf Harnack in Zur Textkritik und Christologie der Schriften des Johannes "argues that the comma johanneum is the post-augustinian revision of an old addition to the text".[22]

Raymond Brown expresses a theory of verse development in which the writings of Tertullian and Cyprian (the sections that proponents consider Comma allusions) represented the "thought process" involved, that gave rise to the Comma. The words of the Comma "appear among Latin writers in North Africa and Spain in the third century as a dogmatic reflection on and expansion of the 'three that testify': 'the Spirit' is the Father [Jn 4:24]; 'the blood' is the Son; 'the water' is the Spirit (Jn 7:38–39)."[23]

Walter Thiele allows for a Greek origin of the Comma, before Cyprian. Raymond Brown summarizes: "Thiele, Beobachtungen 64–68, argues that the I John additions may have a Greek basis, for sometimes a plausible early chain can be constructed thus: Cyprian, Pseudo-Cyprian, Augustine, Pseudo-Augustine, Spanish Vulgate (especially Isidore of Seville and Theodolfus)."[24]

Church historian Jaroslav Pelikan expresses the common scholarly view that the words (apparently) crept into the Latin text of the New Testament during the Early Middle Ages, "[possibly] as one of those medieval glosses but were then written into the text itself by a careless copyist. Erasmus omitted them from his first edition; but when a storm of protest arose because the omission seemed to threaten the doctrine of the Trinity, he put them back in the third and later editions, whence they also came into the Textus Receptus, 'the received text'."[25][lower-alpha 13]

Most New Testament scholars today believe that the Comma was inserted into the Old Latin text based on a gloss to that text, with the original gloss dating to the 3rd or 4th century, as expressed with some qualifications by Bruce Metzger.[26] The summary of Daniel Wallace is short, beginning in the 300s AD with an unspecified homily: "The reading seems to have arisen in a fourth century Latin homily in which the text was allegorized to refer to members of the Trinity. From there, it made its way into copies of the Latin Vulgate, the text used by the Roman Catholic Church."[27][lower-alpha 14]


Most opponents of the Comma as inauthentic view the verse as having arisen by a sequence of events involving scribal difficulties and error. Often this is a staged understanding, beginning with an interpretation placed as a margin commentary. The margin note is later erroneously brought into the text by a scribe who mistakenly thought the margin note indicated a superior alternate reading or correction. Those types of proposed scenarios are based on the limitations inherent in laborious hand-copying and do not have to impugn motives.

By contrast, the accusations of deliberate textual tampering and forgery for doctrinal purposes are based on scribes making deliberate changes away from the original text. A number of writers have theories of direct forgery as the motive for the insertion of the Comma into the text. Some of these theories were developed after the 1883 Priscillian discovery[lower-alpha 12] and fingered Priscillian as the culprit.

Voltaire wrote that the verse was inserted at the time of Constantine. "Lactantius... It was about this time that, among the very violent disputes on the Trinity, this famous verse was inserted in the First Epistle of St. John: "There are three that bear witness in earth—the word or spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three are one."[lower-alpha 15]

The accusation against the verse by Edward Gibbon in 1781, while stating "the Scriptures themselves were profaned by their rash and sacrilegious hands" stops short of a direct accusation of forgery by also discussing marginal notes and allegorical interpretation. In response to Gibbon, George Travis noted the lack of forgery accusations before the Reformation-era debate.[lower-alpha 16]

In 1813, Unitarian Thomas Belsham accused the verse of being an "impious forgery... spurious and fictitious".[lower-alpha 17] In Calm Inquiry in 1817, Belsham had the verse as a "palpable forgery"[29] and his student, Unitarian minister Israel Worsley, for more emphasis wrote of "a gross and a palpable forgery".[30][lower-alpha 18]

For the next decades, the forgery accusation was generally made outside the context of textual analysis, usually by Unitarians and freethinkers such as Robert Taylor,[31] author of the Manifesto of the Christian Evidence Society. Everard Bierer took this approach: "This bold interpolation shows conclusively what Trinitarian fanaticism in the Dark Ages would do, and leaves us to imagine what renderings it probably gave to many other texts, and especially somewhat obscure ones on the same subject."[32]

In 1888, Philip Schaff, church historian who worked on the American committee of the Revision, brought the accusation to the mainstream, "Erasmus... omitted in his Greek Testament the forgery of the three witnesses".[33]

Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah's witnesses, in 1899 made his accusation specific and the forgery late: "the spurious words were no doubt interpolated by some over-zealous monk, who felt sure of the (Trinity) doctrine himself, and thought that the holy spirit had blundered in not stating the matter in the Scriptures: his intention, no doubt, was to help God and the truth out of a difficulty by perpetrating a fraud."[34]

Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare, a textual scholar, wrote in 1910 a section specifically about "famous orthodox corruptions", including "The text of the three witnesses a doctrinal forgery".[lower-alpha 19]

Preserved Smith in 1920 called the verse "a Latin forgery of the fourth century, possibly due to Priscillian".[35]

Gordon Campbell, in Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611–2011 asserts that the Comma is "a medieval forgery inserted into Bibles to support a trinitarian doctrine that had been erected on a disconcertingly thin biblical base.".[36][37]

The popularity of the modern "orthodox corruption" view of Bart Ehrman has increased the forgery claims, especially on the Internet. Ehrman calls the Comma "the most obvious instance of a theologically motivated corruption in the entire manuscript tradition of the New Testament. Nonetheless, in my judgment, the comma's appearance in the tradition can scarcely be dated prior to the trinitarian controversies that arose after the period under examination."[38] Ehrman posits his other corruptions as around the 2nd century, so Ehrman is considering the Comma as exceptional and placing the "appearance" of the Comma in the 300s or 400s, close to Priscillian's verse usage and citation as from John.

Doctrinal issues

Theories of both authenticity and spuriousness often interweave doctrinal and Christological concerns as part of their analysis of 'Origins', how the verse developed and was either dropped or added to Bible lines.

John Guyse gave a summary in the Practical Expositor that was a type of model for many of the later doctrinal expositions by those defending authenticity from a Trinitarian perspective.

"the Trinitarians therefore had less occasion to interpolate this verse, than the Antitrinitarians had to take it out of the sacred canon, if any, on either side, can be supposed to be so very wicked as to make such an attempt ; and it is much more likely that (Guyse describes homoeoteleuton or other omission) than that any should be so daring as designedly to add it to the text". [lower-alpha 20]

Often those who oppose authenticity take the position that the Comma was included in the Textus Receptus (TR) compiled by Erasmus of Rotterdam because of its doctrinal importance in supporting Trinitarianism. The passage is often viewed as an explicit reference to the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with notable exceptions.[lower-alpha 21]

The issue of whether Trinitarian doctrine is supported by, and dependent on, the heavenly witnesses is an ongoing dispute. Theophilus Lindsay, a Unitarian who opposed the authenticity of the verse, wrote:

"passage of scripture ... the only one which can be brought for any shew or semblance of proof of a Trinity in Unity, of three persons being one God, is 1 John v. 7."[39]

And some defenders of authenticity place doctrinal Christology issues as only auxiliary or secondary, considering the primary issue to be the integrity of scripture. Nathaniel Ellsworth Cornwall wrote:

The genuineness of I. John, v. 7, then, is here maintained, not to secure a proof-text of the doctrine of the Trinity, but to preserve the integrity of Holy Scripture. As a proof-text it would be less important than many others if it were wholly unquestioned. But as a part of Holy Scripture it is to be defended with all diligence ... it is rather the integrity of Holy Scripture than the doctrine of the Trinity that is involved in the question of the genuineness of I. John, v. 7 ...[40]



Sangallensis 63, Comma at the bottom

Both Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27) and the United Bible Societies (UBS4) provide three variants. The numbers here follow UBS4, which rates its preference for the first variant as { A }, meaning "virtually certain" to reflect the original text. The second variant is a longer Greek version found in only four manuscripts, the margins of three others and in some minority variant readings of lectionaries. All of the hundreds of other Greek manuscripts that contain 1 John support the first variant. The third variant is found only in Latin, in one class of Vulgate manuscripts and three patristic works. The other two Vulgate traditions omit the Comma, as do more than a dozen major Church Fathers who quote the verses. The Latin variant is considered a trinitarian gloss,[41] explaining or paralleled by the second Greek variant.

  1. No Comma. μαρτυροῦντες, τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα. [... witnessing, the spirit and the water and the blood.] Select evidence: Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Vaticanus, and other codices; Uncial 048, 049, 056, 0142; the text of Minuscules 33, 81, 88, 104, and other minuscules; the Byzantine majority text; the majority of Lectionaries, in particular the menologion of Lectionary 598; the Vulgate (John Wordsworth and Henry Julian White edition and the Stuttgart), Syriac, Coptic (both Sahidic and Bohairic), and other translations; Clement of Alexandria (died 215), Origen (died 254), and other quotations in the Church Fathers.
  2. The Comma in Greek. All non-lectionary evidence cited: Minuscules Codex Montfortianus (Minuscule 61 Gregory-Aland, c. 1520), 629 (Codex Ottobonianus, 14th/15th century), 918 (16th century), 2318 (18th century).
  3. The Comma at the margins of Greek at the margins of minuscules 88 (Codex Regis, 11th century with margins added at the 16th century), 221 (10th century with margins added at the 15th/16th century), 429 (14th century with margins added at the 16th century), 636 (16th century); some minority variant readings in lectionaries.
  4. The Comma in Latin. testimonium dicunt [or dant] in terra, spiritus [or: spiritus et] aqua et sanguis, et hi tres unum sunt in Christo Iesu. 8 et tres sunt, qui testimonium dicunt in caelo, pater verbum et spiritus. [... giving evidence on earth, spirit, water and blood, and these three are one in Christ Jesus. 8 And the three, which give evidence in heaven, are father word and spirit.] All evidence from Fathers cited: Clementine edition of Vulgate translation; Pseudo-Augustine's Speculum Peccatoris (V), also (these three with some variation) Cyprian, Ps-Cyprian, & Priscillian (died 385) Liber Apologeticus. And Contra-Varimadum, and Ps-Vigilius, Fulgentius of Ruspe (died 527) Responsio contra Arianos, Cassiodorus Complexiones in Ioannis Epist. ad Parthos.

The gradual appearance of the comma in the manuscript evidence is represented in the following tables:

Latin manuscripts
Date Name Place Other information
7th century Codex Legionensis Leon Cathedral Spanish
7th century Frisingensia Fragmenta   Spanish
9th century Codex Cavensis   Spanish
9th century Codex Ulmensis   Spanish
927 AD Codex Complutensis I   Spanish
10th century Codex Toletanus   Spanish
8th–9th century Codex Theodulphianus Paris (BnF) Franco-Spanish
8th–9th century Codex Sangallensis 907 St. Gallen Franco-Spanish
9th–10th century Codex Sangallensis 63 St. Gallen marginal gloss
Greek manuscripts
Date Manuscript No. Name Place Other information
c. 1520 61 Codex Montfortianus Dublin Original.
Reads "Holy Spirit" instead of simply "Spirit".
Articles are missing before the "three witnesses" (spirit, water, blood).
14th–15th century 629 Codex Ottobonianus Vatican Original.
Latin text along the Greek text,
revised to conform to the Latin.
The Comma was translated and copied back into the Greek from the Latin.
16th century 918   Escorial
18th century 2318   Bucharest Original.
Thought to be influenced
by the Vulgata Clementina.
18th century 2473   Athens Original.
11th century 88 Codex Regis Naples Marginal gloss: 16th century
11th century 177 BSB Cod. graec. 211 Munich Marginal gloss: late 16th century
10th century 221   Oxford Marginal gloss: 15th or 16th century
14th century 429 Codex Wolfenbüttel Wolfenbüttel
Marginal gloss: 16th century
16th century 636   Naples Marginal gloss: 16th century


The Comma is not in the two oldest pure Vulgate manuscripts, Fuldensis and Amiatinus, although it is referenced in the Prologue of Fuldensis. Overall, it is estimated that over 95% of the thousands of Vulgate MSS. contain the verse. The Vulgate was developed from Vetus Latina manuscripts, updated by Jerome utilizing the Greek fountainhead.

The earliest extant Latin manuscripts (m q l) supporting the Comma are dated from the 5th to 7th century. The Freisinger fragment[lower-alpha 22] and the Codex Legionensis (7th century), besides the younger Codex Speculum, New Testament quotations extant in an 8th- or 9th-century manuscript.[42]

The Comma does not appear in the older Greek manuscripts. Nestle-Aland is aware of eight Greek manuscripts that contain the comma.[43] The date of the addition is late, probably dating to the time of Erasmus.[44] In one manuscript, back-translated into Greek from the Vulgate, the phrase "and these three are one" is not present.[45]

No Syriac manuscripts include the Comma, and its presence in some printed Syriac Bibles is due to back-translation from the Latin Vulgate. Coptic manuscripts and those from Ethiopian churches also do not include the verse, although these churches similarly have accepted the Comma into their modern print editions. UBS-4 indicates arm-mss in support of the verse, and also arm-mss against, indicating that some but not all Armenian manuscripts include the Comma.

Absence in early authors

The following early church writers are those whose utter silence on the Comma has been given special note by opponents of authenticity; Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Treatise on Rebaptism, Jerome, Augustine, Leo, also Origen, Cyprian and Athanasius.

Greek and Latin silences

There are many Greek and Latin writers, also Syriac, who can be referenced as not showing awareness of the Comma. Adam Clarke, in his 1823 work Observations on the Three Heavenly Witnesses, compiled a Greek and Latin list of those he considered to be silent on the verse. The writers require individual examination, and the significance of the verse evidence from silence by church writers varies. In Principles of Textual Criticism, 1848, pp. 503–507 John Scott Porter wrote similarly, with information about the specific writings of the omitters. [lower-alpha 23]

Clement of Alexandria

The comma is absent from an extant fragment of Clement of Alexandria (c. 200), through Cassiodorus (6th century), with homily style verse references from 1 John, including verse 1 John 5:6 and 1 John 5:8 without verse 7, the heavenly witnesses.

"He says, "This is He who came by water and blood;" and again,- For there are three that bear witness, the spirit, which is life, and the water, which is regeneration and faith, and the blood, which is knowledge; "and these three are one. For in the Saviour are those saving virtues, and life itself exists in His own Son."[46][lower-alpha 24]

Another reference that is studied is from Clement's Prophetic Extracts:

"Every promise is valid before two or three witnesses, before the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; before whom, as witnesses and helpers, what are called the commandments ought to be kept."[47]

is seen by some[48] as allusion evidence that Clement was familiar with the verse.


Tertullian, in Against Praxeas (c. 210), supports a Trinitarian view by quoting John 10:30:

So the close series of the Father in the Son and the Son in the Paraclete makes three who cohere, the one attached to the other: And these three are one substance, not one person, (qui tres unum sunt, non unus) in the sense in which it was said, 'I and the Father are one' in respect of unity of substance, not of singularity of number.[49]

Tertullian's use of tres unum sunt has been seen by many commentators as supporting authenticity, a textual connection to 1 John 5:7. "It appears to me very clear that Tertullian is quoting I. John v. 7. in the passage now under consideration."[50] While many other commentators have argued against any Comma evidence here, most emphatically John Kaye's, "far from containing an allusion to 1 Jo. v. 7, it furnishes most decisive proof that he knew nothing of the verse".[51] Proponents of authenticity emphasize the corroborative nature of examining the evidences of the time as one unit, including the Cyprian quotes and the Old Latin mss. "... the testimony of these early fathers must stand and fall together; as St. Cyprian obviously follows his master Tertullian."[52] Daniel McCarthy, also referencing the views of Wetstein and Nicholas Wiseman, offers an exegesis that the three heavenly witnesses are implied by context.[53] Georg Strecker comments cautiously "An initial echo of the Comma Johanneum occurs as early as Tertullian Adv. Pax. 25.1 (CChr 2.1195; written ca. 215). In his commentary on John 16:14 he writes that the Father, Son, and Paraclete are one (unum), but not one person (unus). However, this passage cannot be regarded as a certain attestation of the Comma Johanneum."[54]

References from Tertullian in De Pudicitia 21:16 (On Modesty):

"The Church, in the peculiar and the most excellent sense, is the Holy Ghost, in which the Three are One, and therefore the whole union of those who agree in this belief (viz. that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one), is named the Church, after its founder and sanctifier (the Holy Ghost)."[55]

and De Baptismo:

Now if every word of God is to be established by three witnesses... For where there are the three, namely the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, there is the Church which is a body of the three.[56]

have also been presented as verse allusions.[57]

Treatise on Rebaptism

The Treatise on Rebaptism, placed as a 3rd-century writing and transmitted with Cyprian's works, has two sections that directly refer to the earthly witnesses, and thus has been used against authenticity by Nathaniel Lardner, Alfred Plummer and others. However, because of the context being water baptism and the precise wording being "et itsi tres unum sunt", the Matthew Henry Commentary uses this as evidence for Cyprian speaking of the heavenly witnesses in Unity of the Church. And Arthur Cleveland Coxe and Nathaniel Cornwall consider the evidence as suggestively positive. Westcott and Hort also are positive. After approaching the Tertullian and Cyprian references negatively, "morally certain that they would have quoted these words had they known them" Westcott writes about the Rebaptism Treatise:

the evidence of Cent. III is not exclusively negative, for the treatise on Rebaptism contemporary with Cyp. quotes the whole passage simply thus (15: cf. 19), 'quia tres testimonium perhibent, spiritus et aqua et sanguis, et isti tres unum sunt.'[58]


The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1910 asserts that Jerome "does not seem to know the text".[42]

Marcus Celedensis

Coming down to us with the writings of Jerome we have the statement of faith attributed to Marcus Celedensis, friend and correspondent to Jerome, presented to Cyrillus:

To us there is one Father, and his only Son [who is] very [or true] God, and one Holy Spirit, [who is] very God, and these three are one ; – one divinity, and power, and kingdom. And they are three persons, not two nor one.[59][lower-alpha 25]
Phoebadius of Agen

Similarly, Jerome wrote of Phoebadius of Agen in his Lives of Illustrious Men. "Phoebadius, bishop of Agen, in Gaul, published a book Against the Arians. There are said to be other works by him, which I have not yet read. He is still living, infirm with age."[60] William Hales looks at Phoebadius: "Phoebadius, A. D. 359, in his controversy with the Arians, Cap, xiv. writes,"

The Lord says, I will ask of my Father, and He will give you another advocate." (John xiv. 16) Thus, the Spirit is another from the Son as the Son is another from the Father ; so, the third person is in the Spirit, as the second, is in the Son. All, however, are one God, because the three are one, (tres unum sunt.)

"Here, 1 John v. 7, is evidently connected, as a scriptural argument, with John xiv. 16."[61]
Griesbach argued that Phoebadius was only making an allusion to Tertullian[62] and his unusual explanation was commented on by Reithmayer.[63][lower-alpha 26]


Augustine of Hippo has been said to be completely silent on the matter, which has been taken as evidence that the comma did not exist as part of the epistle's text in his time.[64] This argumentum ex silentio has been contested by other scholars, including Fickermann and Metzger.[lower-alpha 27] In addition, some Augustine references have been seen as verse allusions.[lower-alpha 28]

The City of God section, from Book V, Chapter 11:

Therefore God supreme and true, with His Word and Holy Spirit (which three are one), one God omnipotent...[66]

has often been referenced as based upon the scripture verse of the heavenly witnesses.[67] George Strecker acknowledges the City of God reference: "Except for a brief remark in De civitate Dei (5.11; CChr 47.141), where he says of Father, Word, and Spirit that the three are one. Augustine († 430) does not cite the Comma Johanneum. But it is certain on the basis of the work Contra Maximum 2.22.3 (PL 42.794-95) that he interpreted 1 John 5:7–8 in trinitarian terms."[54]
Similarly, Homily 10 on the first Epistle of John has been asserted as an allusion to the verse:

And what meaneth "Christ is the end"? Because Christ is God, and "the end of the commandment is charity." and "Charity is God:" because Father and Son and Holy Ghost are One.[68][lower-alpha 29]

Contra Maximinum has received attention especially for these two sections, especially the allegorical interpretation.

I would not have thee mistake that place in the epistle of John the apostle where he saith, "There are three witnesses: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three are one." Lest haply thou say that the Spirit and the water and the blood are diverse substances, and yet it is said, "the three are one:" for this cause I have admonished thee, that thou mistake not the matter. For these are mystical expressions, in which the point always to be considered is, not what the actual things are, but what they denote as signs: since they are signs of things, and what they are in their essence is one thing, what they are in their signification another. If then we understand the things signified, we do find these things to be of one substance...
But if we will inquire into the things signified 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:" there has been an ongoing dialog about context and sense. Contra Maximinum (2.22.3; PL 42.794-95)

John Scott Porter writes "Augustine, in his book against Maximin the Arian, turns every stone to find arguments from the Scriptures to prove that tho Spirit is God, and that the Three Persons are the same in substance, but does not adduce this text; nay, clearly shows that he knew nothing of it, for he repeatedly employs the 8th verse, and says, that by the Spirit, the Blood, and the Water—the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, arc signified (see Contr. Maxim, cap. xxii.)"[69]

Thomas Joseph Lamy offers a different view based on the context and Augustine's purpose.[70] Similarly Thomas Burgess.[71] And Norbert Fickermann's reference and scholarship supports the idea that Augustine may have deliberately bypassed a direct quote of the heavenly witnesses.

Leo the Great

In the Tome of Leo, written to Archbishop Flavian of Constantinople, read at the Council of Chalcedon on 10 October 451 AD,[72] and published in Greek, Leo the Great's usage of 1 John 5 has him moving in discourse from verse 6 to verse 8:

"... This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith"; and: "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? 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. For there are three that bear witness, the spirit, the water, and the blood; and the three are one." That is, the Spirit of sanctification, and the blood of redemption, and the water of baptism; which three things are one, and remain undivided ...[73]

This epistle from Leo was considered by Richard Porson to be the "strongest proof" of verse inauthenticity "... the strongest proof that this verse is spurious may be drawn from the Epistle of Leo the Great to Flavianus upon the Incarnation."[74] and went along with Porson's assertion that the verse was slow to enter into the Latin lines. Porson asserted that the verse "remained a rude, unformed mass, and was not completely licked into shape till the end of the tenth century."[75] In response, Thomas Burgess points out that the context of Leo's argument would not call for the 7th verse. And that the verse was referenced in a fully formed manner centuries earlier than Porson's claim, at the time of Fulgentius and the Council of Carthage.[76] And Burgess pointed out that there were multiple confirmations that the verse was in the Latin Bibles of Leo's day. Burgess argued, ironically, that the fact that Leo could move from verse 6 to 8 for argument context is, in the bigger picture, favorable to authenticity. "Leo's omission of the Verse is not only counterbalanced by its actual existence in contemporary copies, but the passage of his Letter is, in some material respects, favourable to the authenticity of the Verse, by its contradiction to some assertions confidently urged against the Verse by its opponents, and essential to their theory against it."[77] Today, with the discovery of additional Old Latin evidences in the 19th century, the discourse of Leo is rarely referenced as a significant evidence against verse authenticity.

Early Church Writer evidences

Cyprian of Carthage

Unity of the Church

The 3rd-century Church father Cyprian (c. 200–58), in writing on the Unity of the Church, Treatise I section 6 quoted John 10:30 and another scriptural spot:

"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.'"[78]

The Catholic Encyclopedia concludes "Cyprian... seems undoubtedly to have had it in mind...".[79] Against this view, Daniel B. Wallace writes that since Cyprian does not quote the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit "this in the least does not afford proof that he knew of such wording".[lower-alpha 30] And the fact that Cyprian did not quote the "exact wording... indicates that a Trinitarian interpretation was superimposed on the text by Cyprian".[80] In his position against Cyprian knowing of the Comma, Wallace is in agreement with the earlier critical edition of the New Testament (NA26 and UBS3) which considered Cyprian a witness against the Comma.[lower-alpha 31]

The Cyprian citation, dating to more than a century before any extant Epistle of John manuscripts and before the Arian controversies that are often considered pivotal in verse addition/omission debate, remains a central focus of Comma research and textual apologetics. The Scrivener view is often discussed.[lower-alpha 8] Westcott and Hort assert: "Tert and Cyp use language which renders it morally certain that they would have quoted these words had they known them; Cyp going so far as to assume a reference to the Trinity in the conclusion of v. 8"[81][lower-alpha 32]

In the 20th century, Lutheran scholar Francis Pieper wrote in Christian Dogmatics emphasizing the antiquity and significance of the reference.[lower-alpha 33] Frequently commentators have seen Cyprian as having the verse in his Latin Bible, even if not directly supporting and commenting on verse authenticity.[lower-alpha 34] And some writers have seen the denial of the verse in the Bible of Cyprian as worthy of special note and humor.[lower-alpha 35]

Ad Jubaianum (Epistle 73)

The second, lesser reference from Cyprian that has been involved in the verse debate is from Ad Jubaianum 23.12. Cyprian while discussing baptism writes:

If he obtained the remission of sins, he was sanctified, and if he was sanctified, he was made the temple of God. But of what God? I ask. The Creator?, Impossible; he did not believe in him. Christ? But he could not be made Christ's temple, for he denied the deity of Christ. The Holy Spirit? Since the Three are One, what pleasure could the Holy Spirit take in the enemy of the Father and the Son?[lower-alpha 36]

Knittel emphasizes that Cyprian would be familiar with the Bible in Greek as well as Latin. "Cyprian understood Greek. He read Homer, Plato, Hermes Trismegiatus and Hippocrates... he translated into Latin the Greek epistle written to him by Firmilianus...".[82] UBS-4 has its entry for text inclusion as (Cyprian).


The Hundredfold Reward for Martyrs and Ascetics: De centesima, sexagesimal tricesima[83] speaks of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as "three witnesses" and was passed down with the Cyprian corpus. This was only first published in 1914 and thus does not show up in the historical debate. UBS-4 includes this in the apparatus as (Ps-Cyprian).[lower-alpha 37]

Origen and Athanasius

Those who see Cyprian as negative evidence assert that other church writers, such as Athanasius of Alexandria and Origen,[lower-alpha 38] never quoted or referred to the passage, which they would have done if the verse was in the Bibles of that era. The contrasting position is that there are in fact such references, and that "evidences from silence" arguments, looking at the extant early church writer material, should not be given much weight as reflecting absence in the manuscripts—with the exception of verse-by-verse homilies, which were uncommon in the Ante-Nicene era.

Origen's scholium on Psalm 123:2

In the scholium on Psalm 123 attributed to Origen is the commentary:

"spirit and body are servants to masters,
Father and Son, and the soul is handmaid to a mistress, the Holy Ghost;
and the Lord our God is the three (persons),
for the three are one".

This has been considered by many commentators, including the translation source Nathaniel Ellsworth Cornwall, as an allusion to verse 7.[84] Ellsworth especially noted the Richard Porson comment in response to the evidence of the Psalm commentary: "The critical chemistry which could extract the doctrine of the Trinity from this place must have been exquisitely refining".[85] Fabricius wrote about the Origen wording "ad locum 1 Joh v. 7 alludi ab origene non-est dubitandum".[86]

Athanasius and Arius at the Council of Nicea

Traditionally, Athanasius was considered to lend support to the authenticity of the verse, one reason being the Disputation with Arius at the Council of Nicea which circulated with the works of Athanasius, where is found:

"Likewise is not the remission of sins procured by that quickening and sanctifying ablution, without which no man shall see the kingdom of heaven, an ablution given to the faithful in the thrice-blessed name. And besides all these, John says, And the three are one."[87]

Today, many scholars consider this a later work Pseudo-Athanasius, perhaps by Maximus the Confessor. Charles Forster in New Plea argues for the writing as stylistically Athanasius. [lower-alpha 39] While the author and date are debated, this is a Greek reference directly related to the doctrinal Trinitarian-Arian controversies, and one that purports to be an account of Nicea when those doctrinal battles were raging. The reference was given in UBS-3 as supporting verse inclusion, yet was removed from UBS-4 for reasons unknown.

The Synopsis of Scripture, often ascribed to Athanasius, has also been referenced as indicating awareness of the Comma.

Priscillian of Avila

The earliest quotation which some scholars consider a direct reference to the heavenly witnesses from the First Epistle of John is from the Spaniard Priscillian c. 380. As the Latin is presented by a secondary source, it reads:

tria sunt quae testimonium dicunt in terra aqua caro et sanguis et haec tria in unum sunt, et tria sunt quae testimonium dicent in caelo pater uerbum et spiritus et haiec tria unum sunt in Christo Iesu.[88]

The secondary source for the Latin includes only 1 comma of punctuation (apparently unspecified as in the original or inserted by the modern editor). And this Latin has no indication as to where the quotation of 1 John ends in Priscillian nor where Priscillian starts making comments on it (if he does).

As given rendered in English, the statement reads:

As John says and there are three which give testimony on earth the water the flesh the blood and these three are in one and there are three which give testimony in heaven the Father the Word and the Spirit and these three are one in Christ Jesus [capitals speculative; punctuation deleted from English translation as probably little or no punctuation in original][lower-alpha 40]

Theodor Zahn calls this "the earliest quotation of the passage which is certain and which can be definitely dated (circa 380)",[89] a view expressed by Westcott, Brooke, Metzger and others.[lower-alpha 41]

And Georg Strecker adds context: "The oldest undoubted instance is in Priscillian Liber apologeticus I.4 (CSEL 18.6). Priscillian was probably a Sabellianist or Modalist, whose principal interest would have in the closing statement about the heavenly witnesses ("and these three, the Father, the Word, the Holy Spirit, are one"). Here he found his theological opinions confirmed: that the three persons of the Trinity are only modes or manners of appearance of the one God. This observation caused some interpreters to suppose that Priscillian himself created the Comma Johanneum. However, there are signs of the Comma Johanneum, although no certain attestations, even before Priscillian...".[54] In the early 1900s the Karl Künstle theory of Priscillian origination and interpolation was popular: "The verse is an interpolation, first quoted and perhaps introduced by Priscillian (a.d. 380) as a pious fraud to convince doubters of the doctrine of the Trinity."[lower-alpha 42]

Expositio Fidei

Another complementary early reference is an exposition of faith published in 1883 by Carl Paul Caspari from the Ambrosian manuscript, which also contains the Muratorian (canon) fragment.

pater est Ingenitus, filius uero sine Initio genitus a patre est, spiritus autem sanctus processit a patre et accipit de filio, Sicut euangelista testatur quia scriptum est, 'Tres sunt qui dicunt testimonium in caelo pater uerbum et spiritus: ' et haec tria unum sunt in Christo lesu. Non tamen dixit ' Unus est in Christo lesu.'

Edgar Simmons Buchanan,[90] points out that the reading "in Christo Iesu" is textually valuable, referencing 1 John 5:7.

The authorship is uncertain, however it is often placed around the same period as Priscillian. Karl Künstle saw the writing as anti-Priscillianist, which would have competing doctrinal positions utilizing the verse. Alan England Brooke[91] notes the similarities of the Expositio with the Priscillian form, and the Priscillian form with the Leon Palimpsest. Theodor Zahn[92] refers to the Expositio as "possibly contemporaneous" to Priscilian, "apparently taken from the proselyte Isaac (alias Ambrosiaster)".

John Chapman looked closely at these materials and the section in Liber Apologeticus around the Priscillian faith statement "Pater Deus, Filius, Deus, et Spiritus sanctus Deus ; haec unum sunt in Christo Iesu". Chapman saw an indication that Priscillian found himself bound to defend the Comma by citing from the "Unity of the Church" Cyprian section.[lower-alpha 43]

Council of Carthage, 484

"The Comma ....was invoked at Carthage in 484 when the Catholic (anti-Arian) bishops of North Africa confessed their faith before Huneric the Vandal (Victor de Vita, Historia persecutionis Africanae Prov 2.82 [3.11]; CSEL, 7, 60)"[93] The Confession of faith representing the hundreds of orthodox Bishops[94] included the following section, emphasizing the heavenly witnesses to teach luce clarius (clearer than the light):

And so, no occasion for uncertainty is left. It is clear that the Holy Spirit is also God and the author of his own will, he who is most clearly shown to be at work in all things and to bestow the gifts of the divine dispensation according to the judgment of his own will, because where it is proclaimed that he distributes graces where he wills, servile condition cannot exist, for servitude is to be understood in what is created, but power and freedom in the Trinity. And so that we may teach the Holy Spirit to be of one divinity with the Father and the Son still more clearly than the light, here is proof from the testimony of John the evangelist. For he says: There are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.' Surely he does not say 'three separated by a difference in quality' or 'divided by grades which differentiate, so that there is a great distance between them?' No, he says that the 'three are one.' But so that the single divinity which the Holy Spirit has with the Father and the Son might be demonstrated still more in the creation of all things, you have in the book of Job the Holy Spirit as a creator: 'It is the divine Spirit ...[95][lower-alpha 44]
De Trinitate and Contra Varimadum

There are additional heavenly witnesses references that are considered to be from the same period as the Council of Carthage, including references that have been attributed to Vigilius Tapsensis who attended the Council. Raymond Brown gives one summary: the century following Priscillian, the chief appearance of the Comma is in tractates defending the Trinity. In PL 62 227–334 there is a work De Trinitate consisting of twelve books... In Books 1 and 10 (PL 62, 243D, 246B, 297B) the Comma is cited three times. Another work on the Trinity consisting of three books Contra Varimadum ... North African origin ca. 450 seems probable. The Comma is cited in 1.5 (CC 90, 20–21).[96]

One of the references in De Trinitate, from Book V.

"But the Holy Ghost abides in the Father, and in the Son [Filio] and in himself; as the Evangelist St. John so absolutely testifies in his Epistle : And the three are one. But how, ye heretics, are the three ONE, if their substance he divided or cut asunder? Or how are they one, if they be placed one before another? Or how are the three one. if the Divinity be different in each? How are they one, if there reside not in them the united eternal plenitude of the Godhead?[97]

These references are in the UBS apparatus as Ps-Vigilius.
The Contra Varimadum reference:

John the Evangelist, in his Epistle to the Parthians (i.e. his 1st Epistle), says there are three who afford testimony on earth, the Water, the Blood, and the Flesh, and these three are in us; and there are three who afford testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one.[lower-alpha 45]

This is in the UBS apparatus as Varimadum.
Ebrard, in referencing this quote, comments, "We see that he had before him the passage in his New Testament in its corrupt form (aqua, sanguis et caro, et tres in nobis sunt) ; but also, that the gloss was already in the text, and not merely in a single copy, but that it was so widely diffused and acknowledged in the West as to be appealed to by him bona fide in his contest with his Arian opponents."[98]

Fulgentius of Ruspe

In the 6th century, Fulgentius of Ruspe, like Cyprian a father of the North African Church, skilled in Greek as well as his native Latin, used the verse in the doctrinal battles of the day.

Contra Arianos

From Responsio contra Arianos "Reply against the Arians" Migne (Ad 10; CC 91A, 797).

In the Father, therefore, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we acknowledge unity of substance, but dare not confound the persons. For St. John the apostle, testifieth saying, There are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one.

Then Fulgentius discusses the earlier reference by Cyprian, and the interweaving of the two Johannine verses, John 10:30 and 1 John 5:7.

Which also the blessed martyr Cyprian, in his epistle de unitate Ecclesiae (Unity of the Church), confesseth, saying, Who so breaketh the peace of Christ, and concord, acteth against Christ: whoso gathereth elsewhere beside the Church, scattereth. And that he might shew, that the Church of the one God is one, he inserted these testimonies, immediately from the scriptures; The Lord said, I and the Father are one.. And again, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it is written, and these three are one[99]
Contra Fabianum

Another heavenly witnesses reference from Fulgentius is in Contra Fabianum Fragmenta Migne (Frag. 21.4: CC 01A,797)

The blessed Apostle, St. John evidently says ;
And the three are one ;
which was said of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
as I have before shewn, when you demanded of me for a reason.'[100]
De Trinitate ad Felicem

Also from Fulgentius in De Trinitate ad Felicem:

See, in short you have it that the Father is one, the Son another, and the Holy Spirit another, in Person, each is other, but in nature they are not other. In this regard He says: "The Father and I, we are one." He teaches us that one refers to Their nature, and we are to Their persons. In like manner it is said: "There are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit; and these three are one."[lower-alpha 46]

Today these references are generally accepted as probative to the verse being in the Bible of Fulgentius.[lower-alpha 47]

Adversus Pintam Episcopum Arianum

A reference in De Fide Catholica adversus Pintam episcopum Arianum that is a Testimonia de Trinitate:

in epistola Johannis, tres sunt in coelo, qui testimonium reddunt,
Pater , Verbum, et Spiritus: et hi tres unum sunt[101]

has been assigned away from Fulgentius to a "Catholic controvertist of the same age".[102]

Vulgate Prologue to the Canonical Epistles

Many Vulgate manuscripts, including the Codex Fuldensis, the earliest extant Vulgate manuscript, contain the Prologue to the Canonical Epistles. The Prologue reads as a first-person account from Jerome written to Eustochium, to whom Jerome dedicated his commentary on the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel. The internal evidence of the authorship is contested, with claims since the 17th century, after the heavenly witnesses verse debate began, that a forger pretended to be Jerome.

This translation is by Thomas Caldwell of Marquette University, as explained on the blog of Kent Brandenburg. Also available online is the Codex Fuldensis Latin.

Prologue to the Canonical Epistles
The order of the seven Epistles which are called canonical is not the same among the Greeks who follow the correct faith and the one found in the Latin codices, where Peter, being the first among the apostles, also has his two epistles first. But just as we have corrected the evangelists into their proper order, so with God's help have we done with these. The first is one of James, then two of Peter, three of John and one of Jude.
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.
In the other epistles to what extent our edition varies from others I leave to the prudence of the reader. But you, virgin of Christ, Eustocium, when you ask me urgently about the truth of scripture you expose my old age to being gnawed at by the teeth of envious ones who accuse me of being a falsifier and corruptor of the scriptures. But in such work I neither fear the envy of my critics nor deny the truth of scripture to those who seek it.

This Prologue, its historical accuracy and textual significance, has been a major point in the Comma debate since its start at the times of Erasmus.[lower-alpha 48] And its authenticity and authorship became an issue in the late 17th century, when a new theory came forth that the Prologue was spurious. This theory claimed that the Prologue was not created until hundreds of years after Jerome, by an unknown writer pretending to be Jerome "the preface has been commonly rejected by critics, and looked upon as an impudent forgery of the ninth century."[103][lower-alpha 49] Westcott is among those who have contended that the actual purpose of the theorized forgery was specifically to bring the verse into the Latin Vulgate text line; it "seems to have been written with this express purpose".[104] And Raymond Brown implies verse acceptance as the motive for the Vulgate Prologue: "Jerome's authority was such that this statement, spuriously attributed to him, helped to win acceptance for the Comma.".[105] Metzger makes no reference of the Prologue, even while referencing the absence of the verse in the Johannine epistle of Fuldensis in order to assert that Jerome's original edition did not have the verse. "The passage ... is not found the Vulgate as issued by Jerome (codex Fuldensis [copied a.d. 541-46] and codex Amiatinus [copied before a.d. 716])".[106]

Major figures in the early dialogue from about 1650–1725 were John Selden, Christopher Sandius, John Fell, Richard Simon, Isaac Newton, Jean Leclerc, Jean Martianay and Augustin Calmet. The discovery in the Bible scholarship community in the latter 19th century that the Prologue was in the well-respected Codex Fuldensis[107] (while the Codex lacked the Comma in the text, an unusual discordance) contradicted many earlier forgery chronology scenarios.[lower-alpha 50]

Summaries of Latin evidences 400–550 AD

Raymond Brown and Georg Strecker are two modern scholars available in English who reference the series of evidences above, at least briefly, and who point out that the verse references were not referenced by Greek church writers in Christological and Trinitarian controversies. Strecker writes:

Thus, although there is no clear attestation of the Comma Johanneum in the time before Priscillian, after him the addition is cited more frequently, most often in order to adduce a proof for the Trinity contrary to Priscillian's own ideas. As examples one may cite the twelve books De Trinitate and three books Contra Varimadum. Their authors and time of composition are unknown, but a date in the fifth century is probable. In addition one should mention the Historia persecutionis by Victor, the bishop of Vita in North Africa (ca. 485), as well as the Responsio contra Arianos by Fulgentius (10; CChr 91.93); and finally a prologue to the Catholic Letters from the period 550.[54]


Cassiodorus wrote Bible commentaries, and was familiar with Old Latin and Vulgate manuscripts,[lower-alpha 9] seeking out sacred manuscripts. Cassiodorus was also skilled in Greek. In Complexiones in Epistolis Apostolorum, first published in 1721 by Scipio Maffei, in the commentary section on 1 John, from the Cassiodorus corpus, is written:

On earth three mysteries bear witness,
the water, the blood, and the spirit,
which were fulfilled, we read, in the passion of the Lord.
In heaven, are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
and these three are one God.[lower-alpha 51]

Thomas Joseph Lamy describes the Cassiodorus section [lower-alpha 52] and references that Tischendorf saw this as Cassiodorus having the text in his Bible. However, earlier "Porson endeavoured to show that Cassiodorius had, in his copy, no more than the 8th verse, to which he added the gloss of Eucherius, with whose writings he was acquainted."[108]

Westcott in Notes on Selected Readings, 1882 p. 105 says that Cassiodorus paraphrased the verse. However, in The Epistles of St. John, 1886, p. 204 Westcott writes "...the language of Cassiodorus (c. 550) seems to me to show that he did not find the gloss in his text of St John, though he accepted it as a true interpretation of the apostle's words.", following Porson and Turton (as indicated in the 1883 edition).[lower-alpha 53]

Isidore of Seville

In the early 7th century, the Testimonia Divinae Scripturae et Patrum is often attributed to Isidore of Seville:

De Distinctions personarum, Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.
In Epistola Joannis. Quoniam tres sunt qui testimonium dant in terra Spiritus, aqua, et sanguis; et tres unum sunt in Christo Jesu; et tres sunt qui testimonium dicunt in coelo, Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus, et tres unum sunt.[109]

Arthur-Marie Le Hir asserts that evidences like Isidore and the Ambrose Ansbert Commentary on Revelation show early circulation of the Vulgate with the verse and thus also should be considered in the issues of Jerome's original Vulgate text and the authenticity of the Vulgate Prologue.[110] Cassiodorus has also been indicated as reflecting the Vulgate text, rather than simply the Vetus Latina.[lower-alpha 54]

Commentary on Revelation

Ambrose Ansbert refers to the scripture verse in his Revelation commentary:

Although the expression of faithful witness found therein, refers directly to Jesus Christ alone, --- yet it equally characterises the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; according to these words of St. John. There are three which bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.[111]

"Ambrose Ansbert, in the middle of the eighth century, wrote a comment upon the Apocalypse, in which this verse is applied, in explaining the 5th verse of the first chapter of the Revelation".[112]

Medieval evidence

Fourth Lateran Council

In the Middle Ages a Trinitarian doctrinal debate arose around the position of Joachim of Florence (1135–1202) which was different from the more traditional view of Peter Lombard (c. 1100–1160). When the 4th Lateran Council was held in 1215 at Rome, with hundreds of Bishops attending, the understanding of the heavenly witnesses was a primary point in siding with Lombard, against the writing of Joachim.

For, he says, Christ's faithful are not one in the sense of a single reality which is common to all. They are one only in this sense, that they form one church through the unity of the catholic faith, and finally one kingdom through a union of indissoluble charity. Thus we read in the canonical letter of John : For there are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father and the Word and the holy Spirit, and these three are one; and he immediately adds, And the three that bear witness on earth are the spirit, water and blood, and the three are one, according to some manuscripts.[113]

The Council thus printed the verse in both Latin and Greek, and this may have contributed to later scholarship references in Greek to the verse. The reference to "some manuscripts" showed an acknowledgment of textual issues, yet this likely related to "and the three are one" in verse eight, not the heavenly witnesses in verse seven.[114] The manuscript issue for the final phrase in verse eight and the commentary by Thomas Aquinas were an influence upon the text and note of the Complutensian Polyglot.

Latin commentaries

In this period, the greater portion of Bible commentary was written in Latin. The references in this era are extensive and wide-ranging. Some of the better-known writers who utilized the Comma as scripture, in addition to Peter Lombard and Joachim of Fiore, include Gerbert of Aurillac (Pope Sylvester), Peter Abelard, Bernard of Clairvaux, Duns Scotus, Roger of Wendover (historian, including the Lateran Council), Thomas Aquinas (many verse uses, including one which has Origen relating to "the three that give witness in heaven"), William of Ockham (of razor fame), Nicholas of Lyra and the commentary of the Glossa Ordinaria.

Greek commentaries

Emanual Calecas in the 14th and Joseph Bryennius (c. 1350–1430) in the 15th century reference the Comma in their Greek writings.

The Orthodox accepted the Comma as Johannine scripture notwithstanding its absence in the Greek manuscripts line. The Orthodox Confession of Faith, published in Greek in 1643 by the multilingual scholar Peter Mogila specifically references the Comma. "Accordingly the Evangelist teacheth (1 John v. 7.) There are three that bear Record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost and these three are one ..."[115]

Armenia – Synod of Sis

The Epistle of Gregory, the Bishop of Sis, to Haitho c. 1270 utilized 1 John 5:7 in the context of the use of water in the mass. The Synod of Sis of 1307 expressly cited the verse, and deepened the relationship with Rome.

Commentators generally see the Armenian text from the 13th century on as having been modified by the interaction with the Latin church and Bible, including the addition of the Comma in some mss.

Manuscripts and special notations

There are a number of special manuscript notations and entries relating to 1 John 5:7. Vulgate scholar Samuel Berger reports on MS 13174 in the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris that shows the scribe listing four distinct textual variations of the heavenly witnesses. Three are understood by the scribe to have textual lineages of Athanasius, Augustine and Fulgentius.[116] The Franciscan Correctorium gives a note about there being manuscripts with the verses transposed.[117] The Regensburg ms. referenced by Fickermann discusses the positions of Jerome and Augustine. The Glossa Ordinaria discusses the Vulgate Prologue in the Preface, in addition to its commentary section on the verse. John J. Contrini in Haimo of Auxerre, Abbot of Sasceium (Cessy-les-Bois), and a New Sermon on I John v. 4–10 discusses a 9th-century manuscript and the Leiden sermon.

Erasmus and the Textus Receptus

Desiderius Erasmus in 1523.

The central figure in the 16th-century history of the Comma Johanneum is the humanist Erasmus,[118] and his efforts leading to the publication of the Greek New Testament. The Comma was omitted in the first edition in 1516, the Novum Instrumentum omne : diligenter ab Erasmo Roterodamo recognitum & emendatum and the second edition of 1519. The verse is placed in the third edition, published in 1522, and those of 1527 and 1535.

Ratio Seu Methodus and Paraphrase

Erasmus included the Comma, with commentary, in his paraphrase edition, first published in 1520.[lower-alpha 55] And in "Ratio seu Methodus compendio perveniendi ad veram theologiam", first published in 1518, Erasmus included the Comma in the interpretation of John 12 and 13. Erasmian scholar John Jack Bateman, discussing the Paraphrase and the Ratio verae theologiae, says of these uses of the Comma that "Erasmus attributes some authority to it despite any doubts he had about its transmission in the Greek text."[119]

This photograph shows Greek text of 1 John 5:3–10[lower-alpha 56] which is missing the Comma Johanneum. This text was published in 1524.


The New Testament of Erasmus provoked critical responses that focused on a number of verses, including his text and translation decisions on Romans 9:5, John 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:17, Titus 2:13 and Philippians 2:6. The absence of the Comma from the first two editions received a sharp response from churchmen and scholars, and was discussed and defended by Erasmus in the correspondence with Edward Lee and Lopez de Zúñiga (Stunica), and Erasmus is also known to have referenced the verse in correspondence with Antoine Brugnard in 1518.[lower-alpha 57] The first two Erasmus editions only had a small note about the verse. The major Erasmus writing regarding Comma issues was in the Annotationes to the third edition of 1522, expanded in the fourth edition of 1527 and then given a small addition in the fifth edition of 1535.

The Erasmus Promise

Erasmus is said to have replied to his critics that the Comma did not occur in any of the Greek manuscripts he could find, but that he would add it to future editions if it appeared in a single Greek manuscript.[45] Such a manuscript was subsequently produced, some say concocted, by a Franciscan, and Erasmus, true to his word, added the Comma to his 1522 edition, but with a lengthy footnote setting out his suspicion that the manuscript had been prepared expressly to confute him. This Erasmus change was accepted into the Received Text editions, the chief source for the King James Version, thereby fixing the Comma firmly in the English-language scriptures for centuries.[45]

Although the story of Erasmus' promise has been accepted as fact by scholars, repeated by even so eminent an authority as Bruce M. Metzger, Metzger later, on p. 291 (n. 2) of the (new) 3rd edition of The Text of the New Testament, writes: "What is said on p. 101 above about Erasmus' promise to include the Comma Johanneum if one Greek manuscript were found that contained it, and his subsequent suspicion that MS. 61 was written expressly to force him to do so, needs to be corrected in the light of the research of H.J. de Jonge, a specialist in Erasmian studies who finds no explicit evidence that supports this frequently made assertion.[120] In A History of the Debate over 1 John 5:7,8 , Michael Maynard records that H.J. de Jonge, the Dean of the Faculty of Theology at Rijksuniversiteit (Leiden, Netherlands), a specialist in Erasmian studies, refuted the myth of a promise in 1980, stating that Metzger's view on Erasmus' promise "has no foundation in Erasmus' work. Consequently it is highly improbable that he included the difficult passage because he considered himself bound by any such promise." In a letter of 13 June 1995, to Maynard, de Jonge wrote:

Dear Mr. Maynard,                                                                 Leiden, 13 June 1995
I have checked again Erasmus' words quoted by Erika Rummel and her comments on them in her book Erasmus' Annotations. This is what Erasmus writes in his Liber tertius quo respondet... Ed. Lei: Erasmus first records that Lee had reproached him with neglect of the MSS. of 1 John because Er. (according to Lee) had consulted only one MS. Erasmus replies that he had certainly not used only one ms., but many copies, first in England, then in Brabant, and finally at Basle. He cannot accept, therefore, Lee's reproach of negligence and impiety.
'Is it negligence and impiety, if I did not consult manuscripts which were simply not within my reach? I have at least assembled whatever I could assemble. Let Lee produce a Greek MS. which contains what my edition does not contain and let him show that that manuscript was within my reach. Only then can he reproach me with negligence in sacred matters.'
From this passage you can see that Erasmus does not challenge Lee to produce a manuscript etc. What Erasmus argues is that Lee may only reproach Erasmus with negligence of MSS if he demonstrates that Erasmus could have consulted any MS. in which the Comma johanneum figured. Erasmus does not at all ask for a MS. containing the Comma johanneum. He denies Lee the right to call him negligent and impious if the latter does not prove that Erasmus neglected a manuscript to which he had access.
In short, Rummel's interpretation is simply wrong. The passage she quotes has nothing to do with a challenge. Also, she cuts the quotation short, so that the real sense of the passage becomes unrecognizable. She is absolutely not justified in speaking of a challenge in this case or in the case of any other passage on the subject.[121]

Textus Receptus

The term Textus Receptus commonly refers to one of Erasmus's later editions or one of the works derived from them. The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, a Protestant reference published in 1914, offers a quote on the TR from Ezra Abbot (1819–84), who worked with Philip Schaff on the American Revision committee translating from the Westcott-Hort text:

The textus receptus, slavishly followed, with slight diversities, in hundreds of editions, and substantially represented in all the principal modern Protestant translations prior to the nineteenth century, thus resolves itself essentially into that of the last edition of Erasmus, framed from a few modern and inferior manuscripts and the Complutensian Polyglot, in the infancy of Biblical criticism. In more than twenty places its reading is supported by the authority of no known Greek manuscript.[122]

From a position of defending the Textus Receptus, Edward Freer Hills would consider this quote from Ezra Abbot as the "The Naturalistic, Critical View of the Textus Receptus" and summarized his overall understanding:

We believe that the formation of the Textus Receptus was guided by the special providence of God. There were three ways in which the editors of the Textus Receptus Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza, and the Elzevirs, were providentially guided. In the first place, they were guided by the manuscripts which God in His providence had made available to them. In the second place, they were guided by the providential circumstances in which they found themselves. Then in the third place, and most of all, they were guided by the common faith.[123]

History of modern study

Verse debate, 1500 to today

Comma in Codex Ottobonianus (629 Gregory-Aland)
Hē Kainē Diathēkē 1859, with Griesbach's text of the New Testament. The English note is from the 1859 editor, with reasons for omitting the Comma Johanneum.

"...the authenticity of this passage has been controverted, from the beginning of the 16th century, down to the present day... no passage in the Bible has ever occasioned a dispute so violent and so general in the Church. Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Socinians, in short all Religious Sects whatever, who appeal to the New Testament as authority, have taken part in the contest."[124]

The history of the Comma in the centuries following the development of the Textus Receptus in the 16th century has been one of initial general acceptance as scripture, to a period of spirited debate, and then to the general modern scholarship rejection, with continued studies and limited exceptions.

Through the early 1800s (Charles Butler analysis)

In 1807 Charles Butler[125] described the dispute to that point as consisting of three distinct phases.

Phase 1, Erasmus and the Reformation

The 1st phase began with the disputes and correspondence involving Erasmus with Edward Lee followed by Jacobus Stunica. And about the 16th-century controversies, Thomas Burgess summarized "In the sixteenth century its chief opponents were Socinus, Blandrata, and the Fratres Poloni; its defenders, Ley, Beza, Bellarmine, and Sixtus Senensis."[126] In the 17th century John Selden in Latin and Francis Cheynell and Henry Hammond were English writers with studies on the verse, Johann Gerhard and Abraham Calovius from the German Lutherans, writing in Latin.

Phase 2, Simon, Newton, Millm and Bengel

The 2nd dispute stage begins with Sandius, the Arian around 1670. Francis Turretin published De Tribus Testibus Coelestibus in 1674 and the verse was a central focus of the writings of Symon Patrick. In 1689 the attack on authenticity by Richard Simon was published in English, in his Critical History of the Text of the New Testament. Many responded directly to the views of Simon, including Thomas Smith,[127] Friedrich Kettner,[lower-alpha 58] James Benigne Bossuet,[128] Johann Majus, Thomas Ittigius, Abraham Taylor[129] and the published sermons of Edmund Calamy. There was the famous verse defenses by John Mill and later by Johann Bengel. Also in this era was the David Martin and Thomas Emlyn debate. There were attacks on authenticity by Richard Bentley and Samuel Clarke and William Whiston and defense of authenticity by John Guyse in the Practical Expositor. There were writings by numerous additional scholars, including publication in London of Isaac Newton's Two Letters in 1754, which he had written to John Locke in 1690. The mariner's compass poem of Bengel was given in a slightly modified form by John Wesley.[lower-alpha 59]

Phase 3, Travis and Porson debate
Travis and Porson debate

The third stage of the controversy begins with the quote from Edward Gibbon in 1776:

Even the Scriptures themselves were profaned by their rash and sacrilegious hands. The memorable text, which asserts the unity of the three who bear witness in heaven, is condemned by the universal silence of the orthodox fathers, ancient versions, and authentic manuscripts. It was first alleged by the Catholic bishops whom Hunneric summoned to the conference of Carthage. An allegorical interpretation, in the form, perhaps, of a marginal note, invaded the text of the Latin Bibles, which were renewed and corrected in a dark period of ten centuries.[lower-alpha 60]

It is followed by the response of George Travis that led to the Porson–Travis debate. In the 1794 3rd edition of Letters to Edward Gibbon, Travis included a 42-part appendix with source references. Another event coincided with the inauguration of this stage of the debate: "a great stirring in sacred science was certainly going on. Griesbach's first edition of the New Testament (1775–7) marks the commencement of a new era."[130] The Griesbach GNT provided an alternative to the Received Text editions to assist as scholarship textual legitimacy for opponents of the verse.

Early 19th century scholarship

Butler also mentions Michaelis and Herbert Marsh, along with Adam Clarke, leading up to the time of his publication. Griesbach included his Diatribe[131] with his Greek New Testament which omitted the verse. Frederick Nolan, John Oxlee, William Hales, Thomas Burgess,[lower-alpha 61] Thomas Turton, William Brownlee and John Jones were among the major contributors in the third stage in the early 19th century. Also Franz Anton Knittel was translated into English by William Evanson and William Aldis Wright wrote a forty-page Appendix that was added to his translation of Biblical Hermeneutics by Georg Friedrich Seiler. The principal language of the debate switched from the earlier Latin preponderance, to more English, and some German.

Modern debate

The next period, from approximately 1835 to 1990, was comparatively quiet, yet still vibrant.

19th century

Some highlights from this era are the Nicholas Wiseman Old Latin and Speculum scholarship, the defense of the verse by the Germans Sander, Besser and Mayer, the Charles Forster New Plea book which revisited Richard Porson's arguments, and the earlier work by his friend Arthur-Marie Le Hir,[132] Discoveries included the Priscillian reference and Exposito Fidei. Also Old Latin manuscripts including La Cava, and the moving up of the date of the Vulgate Prologue due to its being found in Codex Fuldensis. Ezra Abbot wrote on 1 John V.7 and Luther's German Bible and Scrivener's analysis came forth in Six Lectures and Plain Introduction. In the 1881 Revision came the full removal of the verse.[lower-alpha 62] Daniel McCarthy noted the change in position among the textual scholars,[lower-alpha 63] and in French there was the sharp Roman Catholic debate in the 1880s involving Pierre Rambouillet, Auguste-François Maunoury, Jean Michel Alfred Vacant, Elie Philippe and Paulin Martin.[133] In Germany Wilhelm Kölling defended authenticity, and in Ireland Charles Vincent Dolman wrote about the Revision and the Comma in the Dublin Review, noting that "the heavenly witnesses have departed".[134]

20th century

The 20th century saw the scholarship of Alan England Brooke and Joseph Pohle, the RCC controversy following the 1897 Papal declaration as to whether the verse could be challenged by Catholic scholars, the Karl Künstle Priscillian-origin theory, the detailed scholarship of Augustus Bludau in many papers, the Eduard Riggenbach book, and the Franz Pieper and Edward Hills defenses. There were specialty papers by Anton Baumstark (Syriac reference), Norbert Fickermann (Augustine), Claude Jenkins (Bede), Mateo del Alamo, Teófilo Ayuso Marazuela, Franz Posset (Luther) and Rykle Borger (Peshitta). Verse dismissals, such as that given by Bruce Metzger, became popular.[lower-alpha 64] There was the fine technical scholarship of Raymond Brown. And the continuing publication and studies of the Erasmus correspondence, writings and Annotations, some with English translation. From Germany came Walter Thiele's Old Latin studies and sympathy for the Comma being in the Bible of Cyprian, and the research by Henk de Jonge on Erasmus and the Received Text and the Comma.

Recent scholarship to the 21st century

The last 20 years have seen a popular revival of interest in the historic verse controversies and the textual debate. Factors include the growth of interest in the Received Text and the Authorized Version (including the King James Version Only movement) and the questioning of Critical Text theories, the 1995 book by Michael Maynard documenting the historical debate on 1 John 5:7, and the internet ability to spur research and discussion with participatory interaction. In this period, King James Bible defenders and opponents wrote a number of papers on the Johannine Comma, usually published in evangelical literature and on the internet. In textual criticism scholarship circles, the book by Klaus Wachtel Der byzantinische Text der katholischen Briefe: Eine Untersuchung zur Entstehung der Koine des Neuen Testaments, 1995 contains a section with detailed studies on the Comma. Similarly, Der einzig wahre Bibeltext?, published in 2006 by K. Martin Heide. Special interest has been given to the studies of the Codex Vaticanus umlauts by Philip Barton Payne and Paul Canart, senior paleographer at the Vatican Library.[lower-alpha 65] The Erasmus studies have continued, including research on the Valladolid inquiry by Peter G. Bietenholz and Lu Ann Homza. Jan Krans has written on conjectural emendation and other textual topics, looking closely at the Received Text work of Erasmus and Beza. And some elements of the recent scholarship commentary have been especially dismissive and negative.[lower-alpha 66]

John Calvin

"There are three that bear record in heaven"
...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.[135]

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton (1643–1727), best known today for his many contributions to mathematics and physics, also wrote extensively on Biblical matters. In a 1690 treatise entitled An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture, he summed up the history of the comma and his own belief that it was introduced, intentionally or by accident, into a Latin text during the 4th or 5th century, a time when he believed the Church to be rife with corruption:[136]

In all the vehement universal and lasting controversy about the Trinity in Jerome's time and both before and long enough after it, this text of the 'three in heaven' was never once thought of. It is now in everybody's mouth and accounted the main text for the business and would assuredly have been so too with them, had it been in their books.[137][lower-alpha 67]

Arguments against authenticity from 1808 "improved version"

In the 1808 New Testament in an improved version, upon the basis of Archbishop Newcome's new translation, which did not contain the Comma Johanneum, the editors explained their reasons for rejecting the Textus Receptus for the verse as follows: "1. This text concerning the heavenly witnesses is not contained in any Greek manuscript which was written earlier than the fifteenth century. 2. Nor in any Latin manuscript earlier than the ninth century.[lower-alpha 68] 3. It is not found in any of the ancient versions. 4. It is not cited by any of the Greek ecclesiastical writers, though to prove the doctrine of the Trinity they have cited the words both before and after this text 5. It is not cited by any of the early Latin fathers, even when the subjects upon which they treat would naturally have led them to appeal to its authority. 6. It is first cited by Virgilius Tapsensis, a Latin writer of no credit, in the latter end of the fifth century, and by him it is suspected to have been forged.[lower-alpha 69] 7. It has been omitted as spurious in many editions of the New Testament since the Reformation:—in the two first of Erasmus, in those of Aldus, Colinaus, Zwinglius, and lately of Griesbach. 8. It was omitted by Luther in his German version.[lower-alpha 70] In the old English Bibles of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth, it was printed in small types, or included in brackets: but between the years 1566 and 1580 it began to be printed as it now stands; by whose authority, is not known."[138]

Grammatical analysis

In 1 John 5:7–8 in the Received Text, the following words appear (the words in bold print are the words of the Johannine Comma).

(Received Text) 1 John 5:7 … οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ὁ πατὴρ ὁ λόγος καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα … 8 … οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα …

5:7 ... THE-ONES bearing-witness in the heaven (THE Father, THE Word and THE Holy Spirit) ... 8 ... THE-ONES bearing-witness on the earth (THE Spirit and THE water and THE blood) ...

In 1 John 5:7–8 in the Critical Text and Majority Text, the following words appear.

(Critical Text and Majority Text) 1 John 5:7 … οἱ μαρτυροῦντες 8 τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα …

5:7 ... THE-ONES bearing-witness 8 (THE Spirit and THE water and THE blood) ...

According to Johann Bengel,[139] Eugenius Bulgaris,[140] John Oxlee[141] and Daniel Wallace,[142] each article-participle phrase (οἱ μαρτυροῦντες) in 1 John 5:7–8 functions as a substantive and agrees with the natural gender (masculine) of the idea being expressed (persons), to which three subsequent appositional (added for clarification) articular (preceded by an article) nouns (ὁ πατὴρ ὁ λόγος καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα / τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα) are added.

According to Frederick Nolan,[143] Robert Dabney[144] and Edward Hills,[145] each article-participle phrase (οἱ μαρτυροῦντες) in 1 John 5:7–8 functions as an adjective that modifies the three subsequent articular nouns (ὁ πατὴρ ὁ λόγος καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα / τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα) and therefore must agree with the grammatical gender (masculine / neuter) of the first subsequent articular noun (πατὴρ / πνεῦμα).

Titus 2:13 is an example of how an article-adjective (or article-participle) phrase looks when it functions as an adjective that modifies multiple subsequent nouns.

(Received Text) Titus 2:13 … τὴν μακαρίαν ἐλπίδα καὶ ἐπιφάνειαν …

2:13 ... THE blessed hope and appearance ...

Matthew 23:23 is an example of how an article-adjective (or article-participle) phrase looks when it functions as a substantive to which multiple subsequent appositional articular nouns are added.

(Received Text) Matthew 23:23 … τὰ βαρύτερα τοῦ νόμου τὴν κρίσιν καὶ τὸν ἔλεον καὶ τὴν πίστιν …

23:23 ... THE-THINGS weightier of-the Law (THE judgment and THE mercy and THE faith) ...

According to Bengel, Bulgaris, Oxlee and Wallace, 1 John 5:7–8 is like Matthew 23:23, not like Titus 2:13.

According to Nolan, Dabney and Hills, 1 John 5:7–8 is like Titus 2:13, not like Matthew 23:23.

Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent in 1546 defined the Biblical canon as "the entire books with all their parts, as these have been wont to be read in the Catholic Church and are contained in the old Latin Vulgate." "On the Catholic side, the Comma appeared in both the Sixtine (1590) and the Clementine (1592) editions of the Vulgate, the latter of which became the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church."[105] Although the revised Vulgate contained the Comma, the earliest known copies did not, leaving the status of the Comma Johanneum unclear.[42] On 13 January 1897, during a period of reaction in the Church, the Holy Office decreed that Catholic theologians could not "with safety" deny or call into doubt the Comma's authenticity. Pope Leo XIII approved this decision two days later, though his approval was not in forma specifica[42]—that is, Leo XIII did not invest his full papal authority in the matter, leaving the decree with the ordinary authority possessed by the Holy Office. Three decades later, on 2 June 1927, Pope Pius XI decreed that the Comma Johanneum was open to dispute.[lower-alpha 71]

Defenders of authenticity


In more recent years, the Comma has become relevant to the King-James-Only Movement, a largely Protestant development most prevalent within the fundamentalist and Independent Baptist branch of the Baptist churches. Many proponents view the Comma as an important Trinitarian text.[146] The defense of the verse by Edward Freer Hills in 1956 as part of his defense of the Textus Receptus The King James Version Defended The Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7) was unusual due to Hills' textual criticism scholarship credentials.

Received text and preservation

In addition, defenders of the verse as Johannine scripture include many who highly regard the writers coming out of the Puritan movement and the Reformation era, such as Francis Turretin, Matthew Henry and John Gill. These men had defended the verse as scripture in their Latin, Greek Received Text, English and vernacular Bibles. William Alleyn Evanson, writing the Preface to Knittel's New Criticisms pp. xxx–xxxiii expresses the stance that preservation should not be sacrificed on even one verse. Thomas Turton (as Clemens Anglicanus) wrote Remarks upon Mr. Evanson's preface and William Orme summarizes his counter-arguments to Evanson Memoir of the controversy, pp. 178–80.

See also

Other disputed New Testament passages


  1. The Cambridge Paragraph Bible of the authorized English version, published in 1873, and edited by noted textual scholar F.H.A. Scrivener, one of the translators of the English Revised Version, set the Comma in italics to reflect its disputed authenticity. Few later Authorized Version editions retained this formatting. The AV-1611 page and almost all AV editions use a normal font.
  2. For fuller details of this group see King James Versions and derivatives.
  3. John Hey gives a similar genuine or spurious, expunged or admitted argument.[6]
  4. "Jerome, for the same end, inserted the Trinity in express words into his version" p. 185 "And the first upon record that inserted it, is Jerome... he altered the public reading" An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture The Recorder, 1803, Vol 2, pp. 192–94 full text pp. 184–253, written by Newton c. 1690. Newton adds "till at length, when the ignorant ages came on, it began by degrees to creep into the Latin copies out of Jerome's version." p. 197 which he places very late. "Afterwards the Latines noted his variations in the margins of their books; and thence it began at length to creep into the text in transcribing, and that chiefly in the twelfth and following centuries, when disputing was revived by the schoolmen." p. 192 "it was inserted into the vulgar Latin out of Jerome's version" p. 207. Nonetheless, Newton does go earlier than Jerome at the same time for origins, saying of the Tertullian reference in "Against Praxeas" VI. "So then this interpretation seems to have been invented by the Montanists for giving countenance to their Trinity. For Tertullian was a Montanist when he wrote this; and it is most likely that so corrupt and forced an interpretation had its rise among a sect of men accustomed to make bold with the Scriptures. Cyprian being used to it in his master's writings". Newton called the words of Tertullian and Cyprian an "interpretation so corrupt and stained". Apparently he saw a vector from their interpretation to a Jerome addition to scripture.
  5. Simon's conjecture: "The same thing hapned to those who caused to print St. Athanasius's Works, with a Table of the passages of Holy Scripture, which are quoted therein (apparently a reference to the Synopsis of Scripture). They have set down at large there, the seventh verse of the first chapter of the first epistle of St. John, as if that holy man had quoted that place after that manner... (Simon references the Disputation against Arius at Nicea)... I make no question but that this explication of St. Athanasius was the occasion that some Greek scoliates placed in the margin of their copies the formentioned note, which afterwards was put in the text. And that is more probable than what Erasmus thought concerning this matter, who was of opinion, that the Greek copies, which make mention of the witness of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, were more correct than the Latin copies. A critical history of the text of the New Testament, 1689, p. 10. The Newton dissertation was written shortly after the Simon Critical History was published in English.
  6. "As to the introduction of the spurious words into the text, Porson supposes that Tertullian, in imitation of the phrase, I and my Father are one, had said of the three Persons of the Trinity, which Three are One; that Cyprian, adopting this application of the words from Tertullian, said boldly, of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, it is written, And these Three are One; that in the course of two centuries, when this interpretation had been expressly maintained by Augustin and others, a marginal note of this sort, Sicut tres sunt qui testimonium dant in Caelo, Pater, &c., crept into the text of a few copies; that such a copy was used by the author of the Confession which Victor, the historian of the Council convened by Hunneric, has preserved ; and that such another was used by the historian of the books de Trinitate." The life of Richard Porson, M. A.: professor of Greek in the University of Cambridge from 1792 to 1808 by John Selby Watson Charles Forster responded that the mystical interpretation of the earthly witnesses arose through Augustine, and that Clement of Alexandria shows us the interpretation of verse 8 at the time of Cyprian. New Plea, Charles Forster, footnote pp. 52–55.
  7. That this was written by Orme can be seen by his reference in Memoir of the Controversy, 1830, where he refers to "the present writer...". Also the "learned Critic" and "learned reviewer", who had "triumphantly met" the arguments.
  8. 1 2 Scrivener, while opposing verse authenticity, wrote in Plain Introduction in 1861 "it is surely safer and more candid to admit that Cyprian read v. 7 in his copies, than to resort to the explanation of Facundus, that the holy Bishop was merely putting on v. 8 a spiritual meaning". And then Scrivener placed mystical interpretation as the root of Comma formation "although we must acknowledge that it was in this way v. 7 obtained a place, first in the margin, then in the text of the Latin copies...mystical interpretation". In the 1883 edition Scrivener wrote "It is hard to believe that 1 John v. 7, 8 was not cited by Cyprian". Thus, Scrivener would be taking the position of a mystical interpretation by scribes unknown, working through the margin and later adding to the text, all before Cyprian. "they were originally brought into Latin copies in Africa from the margin, where they had been placed as a pious and orthodox gloss on ver. 8" p.654. Under this possible scenario the Comma "was known and received in some places, as early as the second or third century" (p. 652 1883-ed) which, in the Scrivener textual economy, would be analogous to Acts 8:37. Acts 8:37 has undisputed early citations by Irenaeus and Cyprian and yet is considered by Scrivener and most modern theorists as inauthentic. Despite allowing an early textual formation for the Unity of the Church citation, Scrivener quoted approvingly negative views of the Tertullian and Cyprian Jubaianum references. Scrivener also quoted Tischendorf about the weightiness of the Cyprian referencing gravissimus est Cyprianus de eccles. unitate 5.
  9. 1 2 Joseph Pohle in the The Divine Trinity: A Dogmatic Treatise accuses Cassiodorus of inserting the Comma into the Vulgate from early manuscripts. "The defense can also claim the authority of Cassiodorus, who, about the middle of the sixth century, with many ancient manuscripts at his elbow, revised the entire Vulgate of St. Jerome, especially the Apostolic Epistles, and deliberately inserted I John V, 7, which St. Jerome had left out." Divine Trinity, 1911 p. 38-39
  10. Although Pohle calls the Council of Carthage the "main argument" for authenticity, about Cyprian he notes "It is, as Tischendorf has rightly observed, by far the weightiest proof for the Comma Ioanneum. But it does not prove decisively that St. Cyprian used a New Testament text which contained the "Comma"; and if it did, it would by no means follow that the verse was written by St. John." William Laurence Sullivan argues contra the position of Elie Philippe in La Science Catholique, 1889, p. 238 that the Cyprian citation is "perhaps even peremptory" (conclusive, decisive). Sullivan asserts that if Cyprian's New Testament contained the Comma, the "probable inference would simply be that the interpolation is older than we thought." And that anyway, "this passage of the great African doctor does not suffice to prove that I John v-7 existed in his day." New York Review, The Three Heavenly Witnesses p. 182, 1907.
  11. Earlier than the Künstle paper, Abbott Ambrose Amelli "unearthed ancient documents by means of which he believes he has succeeded in tracing the interpolation to a Priscillianist and therefore heretical source ; but before he is permitted to publish his results he has to await the pleasure of the Roman Inquisition." Austin West, Abbe Loisy and the Roman Biblical Commission, Contemporary Review, p. 504, 1902 Vol 81. Similarly Charles Briggs wrote that Abbe Martin and Dom Amelli had "more or less guessed and propounded,— that the 'Comma' was composed in Spain, in 390 a.d., by the Heresiarch Priscillian, to propagate his Pan-Christian Heresy; and that this gloss, slightly retouched, then found its way, in part rapidly, into the Latin New Testament." Charles Augustus Briggs and Friedrich von Hügel, The Papal Commission and the Pentateuch, p. 60, 1906. An example of the warm reception this theory of direct interpolation by Priscillian initially received is Caspar René Gregory, who wrote it "appears to have been put into the New Testament by Priscillian" Biblical World, The Greek Text in 1611, p. 260, 1911. William Laurence Sullivan opined that while "the Comma fits into the Trinitarian heresy of Priscillian", he was "notoriously clever at expressing subtle heresy in apparently Catholic phraseology" and "is about to gain another title to an unfortunate immortality as the inventor of the text of the three heavenly Witnesses." New York Review, The Three Heavenly Witnesses p. 182, 1907. One problem with Priscillian interpolation theories was that they make Priscillian guilty of a transparent forgery. Biblical Latin specialist John Chapman reacted sharply to the Priscillian interpolation idea "I do not at all agree with him (Künstle) that Priscillian actually interpolated the passage himself. He could hardly in that case have been so foolish as to quote it in his apology knowing that it would be declared apocryphal. He must have found it in his Bible..." Notes on the early history of the Vulgate Gospels, p. 163 1908.
  12. 1 2 Before the 1883 publication of Liber Apologetics Priscillian was only known through the writings of his opponents. In 1905 Karl Künstle published Das Comma Ioanneum:auf seine herkunft untersucht a book that proposed that "the insertion of the comma into the text of the Epistle is due to Priscillian himself", as summarized by Alan England Brooke. Brooke references four difficulties with the Künstle theory cited in the 1909 paper by Ernest Babut., The International critical commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Alan England Brooke, 1912, p. 160. The Priscillian origin theory does show up in net articles today.
  13. Since all scholars agree that the verse was in the Bible of Priscillian in the 4th century, references to 'medieval' for origin are anachronistic. e.g. In the Anchor Bible, Epistle of John(1982) p. 782, Raymond Brown writes that "The Vandal movements in the fifth century brought North Africa and Spain into close relationship, and the evidence listed above shows clearly that the Comma was known in those two regions between 380 and 550". This date contradicts the idea of a medieval gloss origin.
  14. In another paper, Daniel Wallace gives this explanation: "The passage made its way into our Bibles through political pressure, appearing for the first time in 1522, even though scholars then knew as they do now that it was not authentic. The early church did not know of this text..."[28]
  15. Voltaire, A Philosophical Dictionary: from the French, Volume 6'', 1824 edition, p. 290. Voltaire mixed up the two verses, as noted by John Hey in his Lectures in Divinity, Vol 2, 1st ed in 1797, Appendix, "Concerning the Genuineness of 1 John v 7" p 281.
  16. "throughout the vast series of one thousand and four hundred years, which intervened between the days of Praxeas, and the age of Erasmus, not a single author whether Patripassian, Cerinthian, Ebionite, Arian, Macedonian, or Sabellian, whether of the Greek or Latin, whether of the Eastern, or Western church— whether in Asia, Africa or Europe, hath ever taxed the various quotations of this verse, which have been set forth in the preceding pages, with interpolation or forgery. Such silence speaks, most emphatically speaks, in favor of the verse, now in dispute." George Travis, Letters to Edward Gibbon, 1785, pp. 319–20 The value of this opposing "evidence from silence" became a part of the verse debate, Richard Porson responding in his letters Letters to Mr. Archdeacon Travis, 1790, p 372
  17. Thomas Belsham: "every man of learning and inquiry knows, that the famous text 1 John v. 7. "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one," is an impious forgery: and to them it appears to be little less than blasphemy, to retain this forgery in a book which is represented to be inspired... Unitarians, therefore, are... discarding what they discover and conscientiously believe to be spurious and fictitious, that they conceive that they are by this conduct expressing the greatest possible veneration for them, and the unspeakable value which they set upon the pure, unadulterated Word of God." An address to the inquirers after Christian truth, 1813, pp. 4–5. Edward Nares replied to the Belsham claim "it is very rudely called 'an impious forgery,' which it has certainly never been proved to be." Remarks on the Version of the NT edited by the Unitarians, 1814, p. 248. Earlier, in 1804, the editor of the works of Ebionite Joseph Priestley, John Towill Rutt, called the verse a "pious fraud", Works, Vol 14, 1804, p. 34 although the wording of Priestley himself had been measured and not of that accusatory nature. The 1808 'Improved Version' had the equivocal "Virgilius Tapsensis... by him it is suspected to have been forged.", an accusation discarded when the Priscillian citation was discovered.
  18. In the latter 1800s, notable was Robert Blackley Drummond, biographer of Erasmus. Drummond referred to a "notable forgery" in Erasmus, his Life and Character, p. 318, 1873. And his The text concerning the Three Heavenly Witnesses: An interpolation was published by the British and Foreign Unitarian Association in 1862. Drummond also wrote in the Theological Review, including comments on the New Plea by Charles Forster. The editor of the Theological Review was Charles Beard, son of John Relly Beard. John in the 1870 Theological Review listed ten Unitarian New Testaments, all without the verse, and used the phrase "manifest forgery".
  19. F C. Conybeare, History of New Testament Criticism, 1910, pp. 91–98. (title in Table of Contents). The section on the heavenly witnesses was followed by his accusation that "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" in Matthew 28:19 had similarly been "revised and interpolated by orthodox copyists" and that "we can trace their perversions of the text... expose the fraud." Conybeare also took textual positions that were related to his unusual position on the virgin birth.
  20. Guyse, with acknowledgement to John Mill and the Matthew Henry Commentary of John Reynolds, also expresses some of the internal and stylistic arguments from the perspective of authenticity defense: "If we drop this verse, and join the 8th to the 6th, it looks too like a tautology, and the beauty and propriety of the connection is lost, as may appear to any that attentively read the 6th and 8th verses together., leaving out the 7th; and they do not give us near so noble an introduction of the witnesses, as our present reading doth; no make the visible opposition to some witnesses elsewhere, as is manifestly suggested in the words, And there are three that bear witness in earth, ver 8. But all stands in a natural and elegant order, if we take in the 7th verse, which is very agreeable, and almost peculiar to the style and sentiments of our apostle, who, of all others, delights in these titles, the Father and the Word, and who is the only sacred writer that records our Lord's words, in which he speaks of the Spirit's testifying of him, and glorifying him by receiving of his things and shewing them to his disciples and says, I and my father are one. (John x. 30. xv. 26 and xvi.14)."
  21. Exceptions to this common understanding include Johannes Bugenhagen (1485–1558), Pastor and student of Martin Luther, who called the verse an "Arian blasphemy", see Franz Posset. Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) in his NT Annotations considered the verse an Arian addition Neque vero Arianis ablatas voces quasdam, sed potius additas. And John Jones (Ben David) was a non-Trinitarian who defended the verse in the Monthly Review (1826). Others have considered the historical inclusion/omission debate to be far more nuanced as well. Edward Freer Hills (1912–1981) in the King James Version Defended Ch. 8, 1956 hypothesized that the verse may have been allowed to drop from the Greek line by Trinitarians who saw the verse as favorable to Sabellianism. See also Frederick Nolan (1784–1864) in Ch 6 of An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate 1815. Nolan offers an explanation with similarities to the later Hills conjecture, including: "the orthodox were so far from having any inducement to appeal to this text, that they had every reason to avoid an allusion to it, as it apparently favored the tenets of their opponents ... Sabellianism ... absolutely derives support from the text of the heavenly witnesses".Inquiry, p.536-538 And "the preference shewn by the orthodox to the text of the earthly witnesses, over that of the heavenly, needs no palliation from the circumstance of the one text being unquestioned, and the other of doubtful authority, in the age when those points were debated." Inquiry p.551 Nolan thus claimed that "the negative argument adduced against 1 John v. 7. derives its entire strength from an inattention to the true state of that controversy, and the period for which it prevailed." Inquiry p.543 Thomas Turton, opposing verse authenticity, used this Nolan argument against the position of supporter Thomas Burgess, A Vindication of the Literary Character 1827, p. 257. And Henry Thomas Armstrong (1836–1898) in Chapter 4 of The three witnesses, the disputed text in st. John p. 29-37 (1883) offers an analysis of why orthodox Trinitarians could see the verse as unhelpful in doctrinal discussions, concluding that "to have arrayed the verse in the lines of their defence would have been simply a blunder in advocacy" (p. 37). The early usage by the non-Trinitarian Priscillian is also discordant to the common understanding, and led to the Karl Künstle theory that the verse was an non-Trinitarian Unionite interpolation.
  22. 'r' in the UBS-4 also 'it-q' and Beuron 64 are apparatus names today. These fragments were formerly known as Fragmenta Monacensia, as in the Handbook to the textual criticism of the New Testament, by Frederic George Kenyon, 1901, p. 178.
  23. An example from Porter, referencing the 1707 analysis of John Mill: "Mill is equally explicit with regard to many of the Fathers of the ancient Latin Church; for example, he admits that the following knew nothing of the three Heavenly Witnesses; the Author of the Treatise on the Baptism of Heretics, usually printed with the works of Cyprian; Novatian, in his book upon the Trinity; Hilary, who in his Twelve Books upon the Trinity, and other treatises against the Arians, accumulates together a great many quotations out of the sacred books, often less suitable to his purpose, but keeps a deep silence upon this text; Lucifer of Cagliari, in his book against Intercourse with Heretics; Phoeobadius in his book against the Arians; Ambrose, in his manifold writings against Arianism, in which he quotes the 6th and 8th verses at full length, but omits the 7th altogether; Jerome, who in his acknowledged works, never makes any mention of this clause. It is indeed insinuated that this passage was to be found in all the Greek MSS. though absent from all the Latin ones, in a Prologue to the Catholic Epistles, which pretends to have been written by Jerome; but Mill, Bengel, and others confess this prologue to be a forgery. Faustinus takes no notice of the text in his work upon the Trinity against the Arians; Augustine, in his book against Maximin the Arian, turns every stone to find arguments from the Scriptures to prove that the Spirit is God, ... Eucherius of Lyons, in his Questions on the New Testament, repeats the same mystical explanation; Facundus of Hermiana, gives a similar gloss, and says the passage was so understood by Cyprian; Leo the Great, Junilius, Cerealis, and Bede, pass the 7th verse unmentioned.
  24. . Charles Forster in A new plea for the authenticity of the text of the three heavenly witnesses p 54-55 (1867) notes that the quote of verse 6 is partial, bypassing phrases in verse 6 as well as verse 7. And that Clement's "words et iterum clearly mark the interpolation of other topics and intervening text, between the two quotations." Et iterum is "and again" in the English translation.
  25. Travis references Jerome as writing approvingly of the confession. George Travis, Letters to Edward Gibbon, 1785 p. 108. The Latin is "Nobis unus Pater, et unus Filius ejus, verus Deus, et unus Spiritus Sanctus, verus Deus; et hi tres unum sunt; una divimtas, et potentia, et regnum. Sunt autem tres Personae, non-duae, non-una" Marc Celed. Exposit. Fid. ad Cyril apud Hieronymi Opera, tom. ix. p. 73g. Frederick Nolan, An inquiry into the integrity of the Greek Vulgate, 1815, p. 291.
  26. In dismissing Phoebadius in this fashion, Griesbach was following Porson, whose explanation began, "Phoebadius plainly imitates Tertullian...and therefore, is not a distinct evidence", Letters to Archdeacon Travis, 1790, p. 247.
  27. "The silence of Augustine, contrary to prevailing opinion, cannot be cited as evidence against the genuineness of the Comma. He may indeed have known it" Annotated bibliography of the textual criticism of the New Testament p. 113 Bruce Manning Metzger, 1955. Metzger was citing S. Augustinus gegen das Comma Johanneum? by Norbert Fickermann, 1934, who considers evidence from a 12th-century Regensburg manuscript that Augustine specifically avoided referencing the verse directly. The manuscript note contrasts the inclusion position of Jerome in the Vulgate Prologue with the preference for removal by Augustine. This confirms that there was awareness of the Greek and Latin ms. distinction and that some scribes preferred omission. Raymond Brown writes: "Fickermann points to a hitherto unpublished eleventh-century text which says that Jerome considered the Comma to be a genuine part of 1 John—clearly a memory of the Pseudo-Jerome Prologue mentioned above. But the text goes on to make this claim: 'St. Augustine, on the basis of apostolic thought and on the authority of the Greek text, ordered it to be left out.'"[65]
  28. Augustine scholar Edmund Hill says about a reference in The Trinity – Book IX that "this allusion of Augustine's suggests that it had already found its way into his text".
  29. George Travis summarized of Augustinian passages: The striking reiteration, in these passages, of the same expressions, Unum sunt—Hi tres unum sunt—Unum sunt, and Hi tres qui unum sunt seems to bespeak their derivation from the verse...Letters to Edward Gibbon, 1794, p. 46
  30. While mentioning the usage of Son instead of Word as a possible argument against Cyprian awareness of the Comma, Raymond Brown points out that Son "is an occasional variant in the text of the Comma" and gives the example of Fulgentius referencing "Son" in Contra Fabrianum and "Word" in Reponsio Contra Arianos, Epistles of John p. 784, 1982.
  31. This can be seen in The Greek New Testament(1966) UBS p. 824 by Kurt Aland. In 1983 the UBS Preface p.x announced plans for a "thorough revision of the textual apparatus, with special emphasis upon evidence from the ancient versions, the Diatessaron, and the Church Fathers." The latest edition of UBS4 updated many early church writer references and now has Cyprian for Comma inclusion. This citation is in parenthesis, which is given the meaning that while a citation of a Father supports a reading, still it "deviates from it in minor details" UBS4, p. 36.
  32. Bruce Metzger, who is used as the main source by many writers in recent decades, ignores the references entirely: "the passage ... is not found (a) in the Old Latin in its early form (Tertullian Cyprian Augustine)", A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 717, 1971, and later editions. James White references Metzger and writes about the possibility that "Cyprian .. could just as well be interpreting the three witnesses of 1 John 5:6 as a Trinitarian reference" A Bit More on the Comma 3/16/2006(White means 5:8). White is conceptually similar to the earlier Raymond Brown section: "There is a good chance that Cyprian's second citation, like the first (Ad Jubianum), is Johannine and comes from the OL text of I John 5:8, which says, "And these three are one," in reference to the Spirit, the water, and the blood. His application of it to the divine trinitarian figures need not represent a knowledge of the Comma, but rather a continuance of the reflections of Tertullian combined with a general patristic tendency to invoke any scriptural group of three as symbolic of or applicable to the Trinity. In other words, Cyprian may exemplify the thought process that gave rise to the Comma." In a footnote Brown acknowledges "It has been argued seriously by Thiele and others that Cyprian knew the Comma". Epistles of John p. 784, 1982.
  33. Two Francis Pieper extracts: "In our opinion the decision as to the authenticity or the spuriousness of these words depends on the understanding of certain words of Cyprian (p. 340)... Cyprian is quoting John 10:30. And he immediately adds: ‘Et iterum de Patre et Filio et Spiritu Sancto scriptum est: "Et tres unum sunt"’ ("and again it is written of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost: 'And the Three are One’") Now, those who assert that Cyprian is here not quoting the words 1 John 5:7, are obliged to show that the words of Cyprian: ‘Et tres unum sunt’ applied to the three Persons of the Trinity, are found elsewhere in the Scriptures than 1 John 5. Griesbach counters that Cyprian is here not quoting from Scripture, but giving his own allegorical interpretation of the three witnesses on earth. "The Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one." That will hardly do. Cyprian states distinctly that he is quoting Bible passages, not only in the words: ‘I and the Father are one,’ but also in the words: ‘And again it is written of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.’ These are, in our opinion, the objective facts." p.341 (1950 English edition). Similarly, Elie Philippe wrote "Le témoignage de saint Cyprien est précieux, peut-être même péremptoire dans la question." (The testimony of St. Cyprian is precious, perhaps even peremptory to the question.) La Science Catholique, 1889, p. 238.
  34. .Henry Donald Maurice Spence, in Plumptre's Bible Educator wrote ".. there is little doubt that Cyprian, before the middle of the third century, knew of the passage and quoted it as the genuine words of St. John." James Bennett, in The Theology of the Early Christian Church: Exhibited in Quotations from the Writers of the First Three Centuries, with Reflections 41, p.136, 1841, wrote "the disputed text in John's First Epistle, v. 7, is quoted ... Jerome seems to have been falsely charged with introducing the disputed words, without authority, into the Vulgate; for Cyprian had read them in a Latin version, long before." Bennett also sees the "probability is strengthened" that the Tertullian reference is from his Bible. And Bennett rejects the Griesbach "allegorised the eighth verse" attempt "for they (Tertullian and Cyprian) here argue, as from express testimonies of Scripture, without any hint of that allegorical interpretation which, it must be confessed, the later writers abundantly employ". And the most emphatic position is taken by the modern Cyprian scholar, Ezio Gallicet of the University of Turin, in this book on Cyprian's Unity of the Church, La Chiesa: Sui cristiani caduti nella persecuzione ; L'unità della Chiesa cattolica p. 206, 1997. Gallicet, after referencing the usual claims of an interpolation from Caspar René Gregory and Rudolf Bultmann, wrote: "Dal modo in cui Cipriano cita, non sembra che si possano avanzare dubbi: egli conosceva il « comma giovanneo ». (Colloquially .. "there is no doubt about it, the Comma Johanneum was in Cyprian's Bible".)
  35. Arthur Cleveland Coxe, annotating Cyprian in the early church writings edition, wrote of the positions denying Cyprian referring the Bible verse in Unity of the Church, as the "usual explainings away" Ante-Nicene Fathers p.418, 1886. And Nathaniel Ellis Cornwall referred to the logic behind attempts to deny Cyprian's usage of the verse (Cornwall looks closely at Porson, Lange and Tischendorf) as "astonishing feats of sophistical fencing". The Genuineness of I John v. 7 p. 638, 1874.
  36. Stanley Lawrence Greenslade, Early Latin Theology: Selections from Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, and Jerome 1956, p. 164. The Latin is "si peccatorum remissam consecutus est, et sanctificatus est, et templum Dei factus est: quaero, cujus Dei? Si creatoris, non potuit, qui in eum non credidit: si Christi, non hujus potest sieri templum, qui negat Deum Christum : si Spiritus Sancti, cum tres unum sunt, quomodo Spiritus Sanctus placatus esse ei potest, qui aut Patris aut Filii inimicus est?"
  37. The use of parentheses is described as "these witnesses attest the readings in question, but that they also exhibit certain negligible variations which do not need to be described in detail." Kurt Aland, The Text of the New Testament, 1995, p. 243.
  38. Origen, discussing water baptism in his commentary on the Gospel of John, references only verse 8 the earthly witnesses: "And it agrees with this that the disciple John speaks in his epistle of the spirit, and the water, and the blood, as being one."
  39. In modern times, scholars on early church writings outside the textual battles are more likely to see the work as from Athanasius, or an actual account of an Athanasius-Arius debate. Examples are John Williams Proudfit Remarks on the history, structure, and theories of the Apostles' Creed 1852, p.58 and George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, 1882, p. 272
  40. Liber Apologetics given in Maynard p. 39 "The quote as given by A. E. (Alan England) Brooke from (Georg) Schepps, Vienna Corpus, xviii. The Latin is 'Sicut Ioannes ait: Tria sunt quae testimonium dicunt in terra: aqua caro et sanguis; et haec tria in unum sunt et tria sunt quae testimonium dicunt in caelo: pater, verbum et spiritus; et haec tria unum sunt in Christo Iesu.'"
  41. Westcott comments "The gloss which had thus become an established interpretation of St John's words is first quoted as part of the Epistle in a tract of Priscillian (c 385)" The Epistles of St. John p. 203, 1892. Alan England Brooke "The earliest certain instance of the gloss being quoted as part of the actual text of the Epistle is in the Liber Apologeticus (? a.d. 380) of Priscillian" The Epistles of St. John, p.158, 1912. And Bruce Metzger "The earliest instance of the passage being quoted as a part of the actual text of the Epistle is in a fourth century Latin treatise entitled Liber Apologeticus". Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p.717, 1971. Similar to these are William Sullivan, John Pohle, John Seldon Whale, F. F. Bruce, Ian Howard Marshall and others.
  42. Preserved Smith Erasmus, A Study Of His Life, Ideals And Place In History, p.165, 1st ed. 1923. However, Priscillian is generally considered as non-Trinitarian. The Künstle idea was more nuanced. William Edie summarizes "To Priscillian, therefore, in all probability, must be attributed the origin of the gloss in this its original and heretical form. Afterwards it was brought into harmony with the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity by the omission of the words in Christo Jesu and the Substitution of tres for tria." The Review of Theology and Philosophy The Comma Joanneum p.169, 1906. The accusation of a Trinitarian heresy by Priscillian was not in the charges that led to the execution of Priscillian and six followers; we see this in the later 5th-century writings.
  43. "It seems plain that the passage of St, Cyprian was lying open before the Priscillianist author of the Creed (Priscillian himself?) because he was accustomed to appeal to it in the same way. In Priscillian's day St. Cyprian had a unique position as the one great Western Doctor." John Chapman, Notes on the Early History of the Vulgate Gospels, 1908, p.264
  44. Frederick Nolan summarizes the history and gives his view of the significance: "Between three and four hundred prelates attended the Council, which met at Carthage; and Eugenius, as bishop of that see, drew up the Confession of the orthodox, in which the contested verse is expressly quoted. That a whole church should thus concur in quoting a verse which was not contained in the received text, is wholly inconceivable: and admitting that 1 Joh v. 7 was then generally received, its universal prevalence in that text is only to be accounted for by supposing it to have existed in it from the beginning." Inquiry, 1815, p. 296. Bruce Metzger, in the commentary that accompanies the UBS GNT, bypassed the context of the Council and the Confession of Faith, "In the fifth century the gloss was quoted by Latin Fathers in North Africa and Italy as part of the text of the Epistle" A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 1971, p.717 and 2nd ed. 1993, and 2002 p.648.
  45. John Scott Porter, Principles of Textual Criticism, 1848, p.509 Latin: Et Joannes evangelista ait; In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud Deurn et Deus erat verbum. Item ad Parthos ; Tres sunt, inquit, qui testimonium perhibent in terra, aqua sanguis el caro, et tres in nobis sunt. Et tres sunt qui testimonium perhibent in caelo. Pater, Verbum, et spiritus, et hi tres unum sunt. McCarthy, Daniel The Epistles and Gospels of the Sundays, 1866, p. 518. The full book is at Patrologiae cursus completus: Series latina Vol 62:359, 1800. Nathaniel Ellis Cornwall explains how Idacius Clarus, of the 4th century and an opponent of Priscillian, is internally accredited as the original author Genuineness Proved by Neglected Witnesses 1877, p. 515. The work was originally published in 1528 by Sichard as Idacius Clarus Hispanus, Otto Bardenhewer, Patrology, the Lives and Works of the Fathers, p. 429, 1908.
  46. Fulgentius continues "Let Sabellius hear we are, let him hear three', and let him believe that there are three Persons. Let him not blaspheme in his sacrilegious heart by saying that the Father is the same in Himself as the Son is the same in Himself and as the Holy Spirit is the same in Himself, as if in some way He could beget Himself, or in some way proceed from Himself. Even in created natures it is never able to be found that something is able to beget itself. Let also Arius hear one; and let him not say that the Son is of a different nature, if one cannot be said of that, the nature of which is different. William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, 1970 Volume 3. pp. 291–292.
  47. In the historic debate, Thomas Emlyn, George Benson, Richard Porson, Samuel Lee and John Oxlee denied these references as demonstrating the verse as in the Bible of Fulgentius, by a set of differing rationales. Henry Thomas Armfield reviews debate theories and history and offered his conclusion "Surely it is quite clear from the writings of Fulgentius, both that he had himself seen the verse in the copies of the New Testament; and that those with whom he argues had not the objection to offer that the verse was not then extant in St. John's Epistle." Armfield, The Three Witnesses, the Disputed Text, 1883, p.171. Armfield also reviews the Facundus and Fulgentius comparison in depth. Facundus and Fulgentius were often compared in their Cyprian references, with Facundus quoted in support of Cyprian being involved in a mystical interpretation.
  48. At the time of the correspondence of Erasmus with Lee and Stunica, the Vulgate Prologue was the single principle early church writing evidence discussed. Evidences like Cyprian's Unity of the Church and the Council of Carthage were either unavailable or omitted in the dialog. Erasmus accepted this Prologue as from Jerome, and accused Jerome of falsifying the scripture.
  49. When the theory was originally promulgated the earliest extant Vulgate with the Prologue was dated to no earlier than the 800s. Raymond Brown indicates modern attributions for the conjectured Prologue authorship as "Vincent of Lerini (d. 450) and to Peregrinus (Künstle, Ayuso Marazuela), the fifth-century Spanish editor of the Vg." The Epistles of John pp.782–783, 1982.
  50. Fuldensis could be accurately dated as very close to 546 AD, much closer to the lifetime of Jerome 347–420. Fuldensis was a manuscript copied under the ecclesiastical leadership of Victor of Capua. In Nov. 1897, Thomas Joseph Lamy in the American Ecclesiastical Review, The Decision of the Holy Office on the Comma Johanneum , reviewed on pp. 72–74 the Vulgate Prologue. Lamy emphasized how Codex Fuldensis strengthened the case for Jerome's authorship of the Prologue. Even before the Fuldensis discovery, Antoine Eugène Genoud in the Sainte Bible commentary described the reasons given for claiming a forgery as frivoles (i.e. frivolous). Sainte Bible en latin et en français, Volume 5, 1839, pp.681–682.
  51. The Latin is "Cui rei testificantur in terra tria mysteria: aqua, sanguis et spiritus, quae in passione Domini leguntur impleta: in coelo autem Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus sanctus; et hi tres unus est Deus" – Patrilogiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina by Migne, vol. 70, col. 1373. HTML version at Cassiodorus Complexiones in Epistulas apostolorum English text based on Porson and Maynard p.46.
  52. Lamy says that in going through 1 John 5 Cassiodorus "mystically interprets water, blood and spirit as three symbols concerning the Passion of Christ. To those three earthly symbols in terra, he opposes the three heavenly witnesses in coelo the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one God. Evidently we have here verse 7. Cassiodorus does not cite it textually, but he gives the sense of it. He puts it in opposition to verse 8, for he contrasts in coelo with in terra. The last words: Et hi tres unus est Deus can be referred only to verse 7, since Cassiodorus refers tria unum sunt of verse 8, to the Passion of Our Saviour... Maffei's conclusion is therefore justified when he says : Verse 7 was read not only in Africa, but in the most ancient and the most accurate Codices of the Roman Church, since Cassiodorus recommended to the monks to seek, above all else, the correct copies and to compare them with the Greek."
  53. Shortly after the Maffei publication, in 1722, George Wade wrote of the significance of the Cassiodorus scholarship and reference: "And what have the Arians to say to this ? Is this a forged Piece of Cassiodorius ? No. Did he read it only in some corrupted copies of his own Age. The Character of the man will let us suspect this. How pressing is he with those of his Monastery to make use of the very best M.S. and such as had been carefully collated with, and corrected by the Greek Text.; nay not only so, but that, in all doubtful places, they should be govern'd by the Authority of two or three ancient copies...... let us never hear more of this verse, being intruded into the version of St. Jerom. Tis evident from innumerable places of these Commentaries, that St. Jerom's was not the Translation he made Use of, but one a great deal older; and yet it no less evidently appears, that this Passage was found in it. A short inquiry into the doctrine of the Trinity, as it is laid down in Holy Scripture, p. 86, 1722. George Wade also looked closely at the question as to whether this was actually Cassiodorus using the Greek writing of Clement of Alexandria, from 200 AD, as indicated by the "learned Dupin".
  54. Some see Testimonia Divinae Scripturae as earlier than Isidore. "Most learned critics believe to be more ancient than St. Isidore". John MacEvilly An Exposition of the Epistles of St. Paul, 1875, p.424, M'Carthy: "The question of authorship is not, however, important in our controversy, provided the antiquity of the document be admitted"
  55. "For the Spirit too is truth just as the Father and the Son are. The truth of all three is one, just as the nature of all three is one, just as the nature of all three is one. For there are three in heaven who furnish testimony to Christ: the Father, the Word, and the Spirit. The Father, who not once but twice sent forth his voice from the sky and publicly testified that this was his uniquely beloved Son in whom he found no offence; the Word, who, by performing so many miracles and by dying and rising again, showed that he was the true Christ, both God and human alike, the reconciler of God and humankind; the holy Spirit, who descended on his head at baptism and after the resurrection glided down upon the disciples. The agreement of these three is absolute. The Father is the author, the Son the messenger, the Spirit the inspirer. There are likewise three things on earth which attest Christ: the human spirit which he laid down on the cross, the water, and the blood which flowed from his side in death. And these three witnesses are in agreement. They testify that he was a man. The first three declare him to be God." (p. 174) Collected Works of Erasmus – Paraphrase on the First Epistle of John Translator John J Bateman
  56. The text shown in this photograph is part of 1 John chapter 5, from mid-verse 3 to mid-verse 10.
  57. Stunica, one of the Complutensian editors, published in 1520 Annotationes Iacobi Lopidis Stunicae contra Erasmum Roterodamum in defensionem tralationis Noui Testamenti, which included half of a page on the heavenly witnesses. Later Erasmus correspondence on the verse included a letter to William Farel in 1524 in which Erasmus noted the lack of Greek manuscript support and the verse not being used in the Arian controversies. In 1531 Erasmus corresponded with Alberto Pio, a critic of Erasmus.
  58. Kettner referred to the heavenly witnesses as "the most precious of Biblical pearls, the fairest flower of the New Testament, the compendium by way of analogy of faith in the Trinity." Conybeare, History of New Testament Criticism, 1910, p. 71. In 1697 Kettner wrote Insignis ac celeberrimi de SS. trinitate loci, qui I. Joh. V, 7. extat, divina autoritas sensus et usus dissertatione theol. demonstratus and in 1713 Vindiciae novae dicti vexatissimi de tribus in coelo testibus, 1 Joh. V, 7 and Historia dicti Johannei de Sanctissima Trinitate, I Joh. cap. V vers. 7
  59. And, indeed, what the sun is in the world,
    what the heart is in a man,
    what the needle is in the mariner's compass,
    this verse is in the epistle.".

    (John Wesley, with appreciation to Bengelius, Explanatory Notes, 1754)
  60. The footnotes included "In 1689, the papist Simon strove to be free; in 1707, the protestant Mill wished to be a slave; in 1751, the Arminian Wetstein used the liberty of his times, and of his sect." The history of the decline and fall of the Roman empire
  61. In 1822 Thomas Burgess published Adnotationes Millii which compiled in one spot writings on the verse sections by John Mill, Wetstein, Bengel, John Selden, Matthaei, John Fell and others.
  62. Denounced by evangelist Thomas DeWitt Talmage in a speech covered in the New York Times "Taking up the Bible he turned to the fifth chapter of John, but passed it with the remark, 'I will not read that, for it has been abolished or made doubtful by the new revision.'The Revision Denounced; Strong Language from the Rev. Mr. Talmage, New York Times, June 6, 1881]. See also Peter Johannes Thuesen, In Discordance with the Scriptures: American Protestant Battles Over Translating the Bible 2002, p. 54.
  63. Daniel McCarthy: ...the first to expunge v. 7. altogether (J. D. Michaelis gives that honor to an 'Anonymous Englishman' who published the N. T, Greek and English, London, 1729, with a text revised on the principles of 'common sense'), but his rash example was followed unhappily by the three ablest critics of our own day, Scholz, a Catholic Prof, in Bonn, Lachmann, and Tischendorf; and approved by Wegscheid, Michaelis, Davidson, Horne, Alford, Tregelles, &c; so that it may be truly said the current of Protestant opinion in England and Germany is now as strong against, as it was for the genuineness of the controverted words even within this century. The change is unaccountable when we bear in mind that the evidence for the verse, both negative and positive, has been increasing every day, whilst the arguments against its authenticity were brought out as fully by Erasmus as by any modern critic. The Epistles and Gospels of the Sundays, 1866, p. 512. The Anonymous Englishman is Daniel Mace.
  64. Oft-repeated is "that these words are spurious and have no right to stand in the New Testament is certain..." from Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 1971, p. 716.
  65. Summarized with pictures on the web site KJV Today Umlaut in Codex Vaticanus, although the conclusion "an early scribe of Vaticanus at least knew of a significant textual variant here" is only one theory. Discussions have continued on the Evangelical Textual Criticism web site, the Yahoogroups textualcriticism forum and helpful is the web page of Wieland Willker, Codex Vaticanus Graece 1209, B/03 The Umlauts.
  66. David Charles Parker, while lauding the 1881 Westcott and Hort "purified text", writes of "the ridiculous business of the Johannine Comma" Textual Criticism and Theology, 2009, p. 324. Parker writes of "the presence in a few manuscripts, most of them Latin". The actual number is many thousands of manuscripts. Daniel Wallace comments that the verse "infected the history of the English Bible in a huge way", referring to a "rabid path". The Comma Johanneum in an Overlooked Manuscript, July 2, 2010 James White, even while engaging in discussions on the Puritanboard forums, wrote "I draw the line with the Comma. Anyone who defends the insertion of the Comma is, to me, outside the realm of meaningful scholarship, unless, I guess, they likewise support the radical reworking of the entire text of the New Testament along consistent lines... plainly uninspired insertion." The Comma Johanneum Again 4 March 2006, also 16 March 2006. In an earlier day, Eberhard Nestle wrote that "The fact that it is still defended even from the Protestant side is interesting only from a pathological point of view." Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the Greek New Testament, 1901, p. 327, translation by William Edie 1899 German of the German pathologisches.
  67. Newton accused Jerome as being the likely source of the heavenly witnesses, asserting that Jerome "inserted the Trinity in express words into his version... the first upon record that inserted it, is Jerome: if the preface to the canonical epistles, which goes under his name, be his. ...he altered the public reading". Nonetheless, Newton did acknowledge many other references in the time of the doctrinal battles, including "Eugenius bishop of Carthage, in the seventh year of Hunneric king of the Vandals, anno Christi 484, in the summary of his faith exhibited to the king... Fulgentius, another African bishop, disputing against the same Vandals, cited it again, and backed it with the fore-mentioned place of Cyprian... It occurs also frequently in Vigilius Tapsensis, another African bishop, contemporary to Fulgentius... the feigned disputation of Athanasius with Arius at Nice." The pre-Jerome Priscillian reference was unknown at the time. And Newton's handling of Cyprian is complex, as he accepted the Cyprian text linguistically, but rejected it textually only on the perceived lack of additional supporting evidences: "These places of Cyprian being, in my opinion, genuine, seem so apposite to prove the testimony of the Three in heaven, that I should never have suspected a mistake in it, could I but have reconciled it with the ignorance I meet with of this reading in the next age." As to the Newton historical summary quote above, George Travis addressed this in Letters to Edward Gibbon (1785) p. 264.
  68. The Freisinger Fragments, dated from the 5th to 7th centuries, were published in 1876 by Zeigler and were not known at the time of this list of negative evidences in 1808. Similarly, the 7th-century dating of Codex Legionensis was not assigned until the 20th century.
  69. The Priscillian citation was discovered and published in the latter 1800s, fully refuting this unusual conjecture of Virgilius Tapsensis forgery. And leading to new, albeit short-lived, theories of Priscillian as the verse author, as described in the article.
  70. In a commentary on the Epistle in later years, Luther relates to the heavenly witnesses as scripture: "This is the testimony in heaven, which is afforded by three witnesses—is in heaven, and remaineth in heaven. This order is to be carefully noted; namely, that the witness who is last among the witnesses in heaven, is first among the witnesses on earth, and very properly... (John) appeals to a twofold testimony :the one is in heaven, the other on earth... this divine testimony is twofold. It is given partly in heaven, partly on earth: that given in heaven has three witnesses, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: the other, given on earth, has also three witnesses; namely, the spirit, the water, and the blood." Knittel pp. 93–95
  71. "The declaration adds that there was no intention of stopping investigation of the passage by Catholic scholars who act in a moderate and temperate way and tend to think the verse not genuine; provided, however, that such scholars promise to accept the judgment of the Church which is by Christ's appointment the sole guardian and custodian of Holy Scripture (Enchiridion Bibttcum. Documenta Ecdesiastica Sacrum Scripturam Spectantia, Romae, apud Librarian! Vaticanam 1927, pp. 46–47)". Explanation given in Under Orders The Autobiography of William Laurence Sullivan, p. 186, 1945. Sullivan had written an article in 1906 opposing authenticity in the New York Review.


  1. 1 2 Metzger, Bruce. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament UBS (1971) p. 716f
  2. NIV, NASB, ESV, NRSV translations.
  3. Nova Vulgata, Epistula I Ioannis. The Nova Vulgata has not been translated into English.
  4. Du Pin, Luis Ellis, A compleat history of the canon and writers of the books of the Old and New Testament, p. 79.
  5. Reynolds, John (1803), "1 John", Matthew Henry Commentary, 5, Exposition of All the Books, pp. 644–45. The Commentary emphasized internal arguments for authenticity; completed after Henry died, as explained on Puritanboard.
  6. Hey, John (1796), Lectures in Divinity, pp. 289–90.
  7. Kohlmann, Anthony (1821), Unitarianism philosophically and theologically examined, p. 173, There are several ways of accounting for that omission and among others, it may be said, 1st, that this omission happened by the neglect of some ignorant copyists, who, after having written the first words of the 7th verse 'there are three, that give testimony,' by a mistake of the eyes, skipped over the remaining part of the text, and passed on to the immediately following text, where the same words recur; for such mistakes often take place in transcribing, especially when the two verses and the two periods begin and end with the same words. Another reason of this omission is given by the author of the prologue to the seven Catholic epistles... (Vulgate Prologue section translation)... By these words he not obscurely alludes to the Marcionites or Arians, who designedly erased this verse from all the copies they could get into their hands; for they well understood that by that one testimony their cause was undone. With a like perfidy, St. Ambrose, (lib. iii de spiritu sancto cap. 10.) reproaches the Arians, who had expunged these words from the Scriptures: Because God is a Spirit, 'Which passage, says the holy doctor addressing the Arians, you so well know to be understood of the Holy Ghost, that you have erased it from the copies of your scriptures, and would to God! you had only expunged it from yours and not also from those of the church.
  8. Marshall, Ian Howard (1978), The Epistles of John, p. 78, The addition appears to rest on allegorical exegesis of the three witnesses in the text; it was probably written in the margin of a Latin MS and then found its way into the text; later still the order of the two sets of witnesses was inverted and the text was translated back into Greek and was included in a few Greek MSS..
  9. Armfield, Henry (1883), The Three Witnesses, the Disputed Text in St. John, p. 36, it was the opinion of Grotius that, so far from being apposite to the argument of the Greek Fathers, the text was introduced by the Arians, so that from the analogy of the adjoining verse they might argue that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were one only in consent and not in essence..
  10. Richard Simon, A critical history of the text of the New Testament, 1689 p. 123.
  11. Rob Iliffe, Friendly Criticism: Richard Simon, John Locke, Isaac Newton and the Johannine Comma 2006, p. 143 in Scripture and Scholarship
  12. William Craig Brownlee, On the Authenticity of 1 John v.7 Christian Advocate 1825, p. 167
  13. Richard Porson, Letters to Travis, 1829, p. 61.
  14. Thomas Turton, A Vindication of the Literary Character of Richard Porson, 1824, p.124. Griesbach: "Igitur comma controversum septimum praecipue, ne dicam unice, nititur testimonio, fide et auctoritate Vigilii Tapsensis, et librorum huic attributurum auctori, ante quem nemo clare id excitavit."
  15. John Oxlee, On the Heavenly Witnesses, Christian Remembrancer 1822, p. 135
  16. John Selby Watson The life of Richard Porson 1861, p. 73
  17. Scrivener, Plain Introduction, pp. 461–62, 1861.
  18. Joseph Barber Lightfoot, On a Fresh Revision of the English New Testament, p. 25, 1871.
  19. Léon Labauche, God and man; lectures on dogmatic theology, 1916 p. 43.
  20. Alan England Brooke, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, p. 198, 1912
  21. Alan England Brooke, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, p. 163, 1912
  22. The Harvard theological review, Volume 15, 1922, p. 159
  23. Raymond Brown, The Gospel and Epistles of John: A Concise Commentary p. 120, 1988.
  24. Raymond Brown, Epistles of John, p. 130, 1982.
  25. Jaroslav Pelikan, Whose Bible Is It? A Short History of the Scriptures, Penguin Books Ltd, 2005, p. 15
  26. Bruce Metzger writes: "Apparently the gloss arose when the original passage was understood to symbolize the Trinity (through the mention of three witnesses: the Spirit, the water, and the blood), an interpretation that may have been written first as a marginal note that afterwards found its way into the text." A Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament (2002/1971), p. 648.
  27. The Textual Problem in 1 John 5:7–8
  28. Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why Christian Research Journal, 2006, vol 29, #3.
  29. A calm inquiry into the Scripture doctrine concerning the person of Christ, p. 333, 1817.
  30. Israel Worsley, An enquiry into the origin of Christmas-Day, 1820, p.66. The British Review reviewed the controversy and spoke of such phrases as "tokens of intellectual weakness... culpable imbecility of mind". The Unitarian Controversy, 1821, p. 165.
  31. Robert Taylor: "admitted on all hands to be forgeries ... Acts xx. 28.—1 Timothy iii. 10.—1 John v. 7.—These are admitted to be of the utmost importance, bearing on the most essential doctrines, yet are wilful and wicked interpolations.." The diegesis: being a discovery of the origin, evidences, and early history of Christianity, p.421, 1829. See also Syntagma of the Evidences, p.44, 1828
  32. Everard Bierrer, The Evolution of Religions, p. 290, 1906.
  33. Philip Schaff. History of the Christian Church. A.D. 1–311., 1888, p. 412.
  34. Charles Taze Russell The Fact and Philophy of the Atonement, 1899, p. 61.
  35. Preserved Smith, The age of the reformation, 1920, p. 564
  36. Gordon Campbell and Thomas N. Corns, John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought, 2008, p. 378.
  37. God: A Literary and Pictorial History, 2003.
  38. Bart Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 1996, p. 45.
  39. Vindiciiœ Priestleianœ, p. 227, 1788.
  40. Nathaniel Ellsworth Cornwall, American Church Review, Vol 29 pp. 509–528 The genuineness of I. John, v. 7 proved by neglected witnesses, 1877, from pp.511, 523.
  41. John Painter, Daniel J. Harrington. 1, 2, and 3 John
  42. 1 2 3 4 Catholic Encyclopedia Vol 8 of 15, Epistles of St John, Walter Drum, 1910 pp. 435–438, Chief Editor Charles George Herbermann. Online HTML for this section of the Catholic Encyclopedia at "Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York".
  43. NA26: mss 61, 629, 918, 2318, besides in mss. 88, 221, 429, 636 as later additions.
  44. Catholic Encyclopedia: "in only four rather recent cursives — one of the fifteenth and three of the sixteenth century. No Greek epistolary manuscript contains the passage."
  45. 1 2 3 Mann, Theodore H. (January–March 2001). "Translation Problems in the KJV New Testament". Journal of Biblical Studies. 1 (1). ISSN 1534-3057. Archived from the original on 1 November 2010. Retrieved 2011-09-15.
  46. "Fragments of Clemens Alexandrius", translated by Rev. William Wilson, section 3.
  47. Eclogae propheticae 13.1Ben David, Monthly Review, 1826 p. 277)
  48. Bengel, John Gill, Ben David and Thomas Burgess
  49. Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives,, Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, John P. Galvin, 2011, p. 159, the Latin is "Ita connexus Patris in Filio, et Filii in Paracleto, tres efficit cohaerentes alterum ex altero: qui tres unum sunt, non unus quomodo dictum est, Ego et Pater unum sumus"
  50. Arthur Cleveland Coxe, Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian 1903, p.631 English on p. 621, left column, bottom.
  51. John Kaye, The Ecclesiastical History of the Second and Third Centuries, Illustrated from the Writings of Tertullian 1826. p. 550.
  52. Nolan, Inquiry, p. 297 Although Nolan does study the Praxeas citation in some depth independently.
  53. Daniel McCarthy, Epistles and Gospels of the Sunday, 1866, p.514.
  54. 1 2 3 4 Georg Strecker, The Johannine Letters (Hermeneia); Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996. ‘Excursus: The Textual Tradition of the "Comma Johanneum"’.
  55. August Neander, The History of the Christian Religion and the Church During the Three First Centuries, Volume 2, 1841, p. 184. Latin, Item de pudic. 21. Et ecclesia proprie et principaliter ipse est spiritus, in quo est trinitas unius divinitatis Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus. Tischendorf apparatus
  56. Documents in Early Christian Thought, editors Maurice Wiles and Mark Santer, 1977, p.178, Latin Bibliotheca Patrum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum Selecta 1839.
  57. Burgess, Tracts on the Divinity of Christ, 1820, pp.333–334. Irish Ecclesiastical Review, Traces of the Text of the Three Heavenly Witnesses, 1869 p. 274
  58. Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek Note on Selected Readings, 1 John v 7,8, 1882, p104.
  59. Horne, critical study 1933, p. 451
  60. Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, translated by Ernest Cushing Richardson, footnote: "Bishop 353, died about 392".
  61. William Hales, Inspector, Antijacobin Review, Sabellian Controversy, Letter XII 1816, p. 590. Latin " Denique Dominus: Petam, inquit, a Patre meo et alium advocatum dabit vobis [...] Sic alius a Filio Spiritus, sicut a Patre Filius. Sic tertia in Spiritu, ut in Filio secunda persona: unus tamen Deus omnia, tres unum sunt. Phoebadius, Liber Contra Arianos
  62. Griesbach, Diatribe, p. 700,
  63. Introduction historique et critique aux libres de Nouveau Testament 1861, p.564.
  64. Catholic Encyclopedia: "The silence of the great and voluminous Augustine and the variation in form of the text in the African Church are admitted facts that militate against the canonicity of the three witnesses."
  65. Epistles of John, 1982, p. 785.
  66. The City of God, Volume 1, trans. by Marcus Dods 1888 p. 197, Latin: Deus itaque summus et verum cum Verbo suo et Spiritu sancto, quae tria unum sunt, Deus unus omnipotens
  67. e.g. Franz Anton Knittel, Thomas Burgess, Arthur-Marie Le Hir, Francis Patrick Kenrick, Charles Forster and Pierre Rambouillet
  68. Homilies, 1849, p. 1224. Latin: et quid est: finis christus? quia christus deus, et finis praecepti caritas, et deus caritas quia et pater et filius et spiritus sanctus unum sunt.
  69. Principles of Textual Criticism, p. 506, 1820.
  70. Thomas Joseph Lamy The Decision of the Holy Office on the "Comma Joanneum" pp.449–483 American ecclesiastical review, 1897.
  71. Thomas Burgess, A vindication of I John, V. 7, p.46, 1821.
  72. The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, Vol 3, The Second Session, pp. 22–23, 2005, Richard Price, editor
  73. Edward Rochie Hardy Christology of the Later Fathers 1954, p. 368
  74. Richard Porson, Letters to Archdeacon Travis 1790 p.378
  75. Letters to Archdeacon Travis 1790 p. 401
  76. Thomas Burgess, An introduction to the controversy on the disputed verse of st. John, 1835, p. xxvi
  77. Thomas Burgess, An introduction to the controversy on the disputed verse of st. John, 1835, p. xxxi
  78. Robert Ernest Wallis, translator, The writings of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, Volume 1 1868, p. 382
  79. Et iterum de Patre et Filio et Spiritu Sancto scriptum est—Et hi tres unum sunt. Cyprian, De Unitate Ecclesiæ (On the Unity of the Church) IV. "Epistles of Saint John", Catholic Encyclopedia.
  80. Daniel B. Wallace, "The Comma Johanneum and Cyprian".
  81. Westcott and Hort The New Testament in the Original Greek, p. 104, 1881.
  82. Franz Anton Knittel New Criticisms on the Celebrated Text 1785 p. 34
  83. Philip Sellew, Critica Et Philologica, 2001, p. 94
  84. The Church Review p. 625-641, 1874., The Genuineness of I John v. 7, Scholium on pp.634–635
  85. Richard Porson, Letters to Mr. Archdeacon Travis, p.234, 1790.
  86. Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti, p.544 first published in 1703.
  87. English translation by Richard Porson, also given in Charles Forster's New Plea. Greek text, Disputation Contra Arium
  88. Kaiserl.[lichen] Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien; Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (1866) Vol XVIII, p. 6.
  89. Introduction to the New Testament, Vol. 3, 1909.
  90. The Codex Muratorianus, Journal of Theological Studies, 1907 pp.537–545
  91. Alan England Brooke, A critical and exegetical commentary on the Johannine epistles, 1912, pp.158–159
  92. Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, Vol 3, 1909, p. 372
  93. Raymond Brown, The Epistles of John, the Anchor Yale Bible Commentary, 1982 p. 782.
  94. about four hundred bishops of Africa and Mauritania, together with others from Corsica and Sardinia, met in Carthage" Thomas Joseph Lamy, American Ecclesiastical Review, 1 John v 7, 1897 p.464
  95. John Moorhead, Victor of Vita: history of the Vandal persecution 1992, p. 56, Latin at Histoire de la Persécution des Vandales par Victor, évêque de Vita, dans la Byzacène
  96. Raymond Brown, Anchor Bible, Epistles of John pp. 782–783.
  97. Travis, Letters to Edward Gibbon, 1794, pp. 41–42. Latin at De Trinitate Book V, p. 274 In total, Travis notes five times in the books that John is referenced in the context of the wording of 1 John 5:7, twice in Book One, and once each in Books 5, 7, and 10.
  98. Biblical commentary on the Epistles of St John, 1850, p.326, "In Continuation of the Work of Olshausen ... translated (from the German) by W. B. Pope".
  99. "William Hales, Antijacobin Review, Sabellian Controversy, Letter XII, 1816 p. 595
  100. Thomas Burgess, Letter to the Reverend Thomas Beynon 1829, p.649. The Latin is "Beatus vero Joannes Apostolus evidenter ait, Et tres unum sunt, quod de Patre, et Filio et Spiritu Sancto, dictum, sicut superius, cum rationem flagitares, ostendimus."
  101. Migne
  102. Alban Butler, The lives of the fathers, martyrs, and other principal saints, Volume 1(1846) and is referenced by Karl Künstle as Pseudo-Fulgentius.
  103. Charles Vincent Dolman, Dublin Review Recent Evidences in Support of 1 John v.7., p. 428, 1887.
  104. Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John, p. 205, 1905.
  105. 1 2 Raymond Brown, Anchor Bible, Epistle of John Appendix IV: The Johannine Comma pp. 776–87 (1982)
  106. A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 717, 1971.
  107. Codex Fuldensis. Novum Testamentum Latine, interprete Hieronymo, ex MS edited by Ernst Constantin Ranke, 1868.
  108. William Wright, Biblical hermeneutics, 1835, p.640.
  109. Daniel M'Carthy The Epistles and Gospels of the Sundays 1866, p. 521. (Patrolog. Lat. ed. Migne), Tom. lxxxiii. p. 1203).
  110. Arthur-Marie Le Hir, Les Trois Témoins Célestes Études bibliques, 1869 pp.1–72
  111. Robert Jack, Remarks on the Authenticity of 1 John v. 7 c. 1834 ...sicut scriptum est : Tres sunt qui testimonium dicunt de caelo, Pater et Verbum, et Spiritus sanctus, et hi tres unum sunt, in primo huius opens libro aperte docuimus. Ambrose Ansbert, Ambrosij Ansberti ... Apocalypsim libri decem
  112. David Harrower, A Defence of the Trinitarian System, 1822 pp.43–44
  113. Fourth Lateran Council – 1215 A.D.
  114. As explained by Thomas Joseph Lamy, American Ecclesiastical Review, The Decision of the Holy Office, 1897, pp. 478–479.
  115. The orthodox confession of the catholic and apostolic Eastern-Church, p.16, 1762. Greek and Latin in Schaff The Creeds of Christendom p. 275, 1877
  116. Samuel Berger, Histoire de la Vulgate pendant les premiers siècles du moyen âge, 1893 pp. 103–105
  117. Johann Leonhard Hug Introduction to the New Testament, p. 475, 1827.
  118. Grantley McDonald, "Raising the Ghost of Arius: Erasmus, the Johannine comma and Religious Difference in Early Modern Europe", PhD Dissertation, Universiteit Leiden, 2011. Grantley McDonald, "Erasmus and the Johannine Comma (1 John 5.7-8)," The Bible Translator 67 (2016): 42-55
  119. John Jack Bateman (1931–2011), editor. Opera omnia : recognita ed adnotatione critica instructa notisque illustrata, 1997, p. 252.
  120. "Erasmus and the Comma Johanneum", Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, lvi: 381–9, 1980.
  121. Henk de Jonge, letter received by and cited from Michael Maynard with permission to be quoted from de Jonge, A History of the Debate over 1 John 5:7,8, 1995, p. 383 (insert added to 382-page-book distribution, after printing, not in all copies, also published by David Cloud online). The earlier 1980 Henk de Jonge paper is online: Erasmus and the Comma Johanneum, 1980.
  122. "History of the Printed Text", in: New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. II: Basilica – Chambers, p. 106 ff.
  123. Edward Freer Hills, The Textus Receptus and the King James Bible, Chapter Eight, 1956
  124. Franz Anton Knittel New criticisms 1829, p. 1
  125. Charles Butler Horae Biblicae, 1807 p. 257
  126. Thomas Burgess A Letter to Mr. Thomas Beynon 1829, p. xii.
  127. Thomas Smith, Integritas loci 1 Jo. V, 7, 1690.
  128. Bossuet, Instructions sur la version du N. T. [de R. Simon] impr. à Trevoux, 1703, pp. 185–90. Bossuet also wrote in favor of the verse in correspondence with Newton's mathematical rival Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Butler and Orme include Bossuet material.
  129. Abraham Taylor, The True Scripture doctrine of the holy and ever-blessed Trinity, stated and defended, in opposition to the Arian scheme, pp. 31–58, 1727. On p. 32 Taylor lists 17 recent writings on the verse, against authenticity were by Simon, Jean le Clerc, Samuel Clarke and Emlyn.
  130. John William Burgon, Lives of Twelve Good Men, Volume 1 Martin Joseph Routh, the Learned Divine, p. 37, 1788.
  131. Griesbach, Diatribe
  132. Arthur-Marie Le Hir. Les Trois Témoins Célestes Études bibliques, 1869, pp. 1–89.
  133. Adam Hamilton, Dublin Review, 1890, The Abbé Martin and 1 John v. 7, 1890 (pp. 182–91), puts the debate into English, Hamilton supporting authenticity, Martin the principal opponent.
  134. The Revision of the New Testament Dublin Review, 1981, pp. 140–43.
  135. John Calvin, Commentaries on the catholic epistles, tr. and ed. by John Owen, 1855, p. 258.
  136. Newton Project, Newton's Views on the Corruptions of Scripture and the Church.
  137. Two Notable Corruptions p. 17.
  138. New Testament in an improved version, upon the basis of Archbishop Newcome's new translation, 1808, London, p. 563.
  139. Johann Bengel (1687–1752), Page 145 in volume 5 of the 1873 English translation of the 1759 second edition of his 1742 book, The Gnomon of the New Testament.
  140. Eugenius Bulgaris (1716–1806), a letter that Eugenius wrote in 1780
  141. John Oxlee (1779–1854), pages 136, 138, 260 in the 1822 (volume 4) edition of the Christian Remembrancer journal
  142. Daniel Wallace (1952–), footnote 44 (you may have to reload page 332 in order to view it) on page 332 in his 1996 book, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics.
  143. Frederick Nolan (1784–1864), pages 257, 260 565 in his 1815 book, An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate
  144. Robert Dabney (1820–98), page 221 in his 1871 article, The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek, which originally appears on pages 191–234 in the 1871 (volume 22) edition of the Southern Presbyterian Review journal, and which also appears on pages 350–390 of Dabney's 1890 book, Discussions Theological and Evangelical (pages 377–378 in the 1890 book corresponding to page 221 in the 1871 article)
  145. Edward Hills (1912–81), page 169 in his 1956 book, The King James Version Defended
  146. James H. Sightler The King James Bible is Inspired (2011) "The modern versions... omit or cast doubt on I John 5:7. the most important Trinitarian verse in the Bible and the one verse most often attacked in history"

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