1 JOHN 5:7
[including a look at 'a missing verse'!]

From time to time criticism of the NWT at 1 John 5:7,8 will be seen. Usually by those who advocate the use of the KJV over and against many modern Bible translations. The New World Translation is not unique in omitting words that can be found in the King James Version at this place. For the benefit of those who do not know why this is, the following quotations may be enlightening. We will begin though with a brief exchange between someone who is apparently critical toward the NWT and a scholar who is not biased toward any translation including the NWT. It concerns a 'missing' verse in the NWT-Revelation 1:11. In the Kings James Version this text reads:

"[Rev.1.v.10]I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.
I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia;......" KJV.

What is been highlighted in the above quote from the KJV is 'missing' in the NWT.

One such critical question recently posted[April 2000]on a BB that can be viewed by all who visit it and concerns this 'missing' verse in the NWT, with our explanatory additions in square brackets and we have omitted nothing relevant, by elipsis, from the post, read:

"Can you[Prof J. BeDuhn who had made a previous post]or any NWT reader explain a missing portion of a verse. ............. if you look at all other translations & then you look at the NWT, you'll find something unusual regarding REV 1: 1 1. Maybe because of the descriptions & titles given just before this verse & the fact that it links the prior 10 verses? "

If John did actually write the above "I am Alpha and Omega" in Rev. 1:11 then this would indisputably mean that this one was the "son of man," Jesus Christ, for v. 12 indentifies the speaker as this one. Hence, Rev.1:11 would be clear evidence that Jesus Christ was the "Alpha and Omega" which is what Jehovah God calls himself at Rev.1:8. So, in fact, Jesus Christ must be Jehovah God!

In reponse Professor BeDuhn replied:

"You say that the NWT differs from ALL other translations in Rev. 1:11, but that's simply not true. In fact the NIV, NASB, NRSV, and NAB, just to name four, agree with the NWT in this verse. So why do you find it necessary to state a falsehood to criticize the NWT? This is pretty typical of the exaggeration of the NWT's difference from other translations that I hear all the time."-italics ours

Why have we italicised the Professors words?
Too often criticisms of this type are to be found on the www and to an unwary, ill-informed reader will present what may be evidence that the New World Translation cannot be 'trusted'. We hope you, the reader of the above, will be careful before accepting any criticism of the NWT without doing further research in the matter yourselves. That is all we ask.

The Professor went on to say regarding Rev.1:11 NWT/KJV:

"The problem, as you no doubt know, is that the KJV follows the textus receptus, which is a late, derivative, corrupted form of the Greek New Testament. In the last four hundred years, we have gained access to much earlier, much better Greek manuscripts which are closer to the what the original authors wrote, and have not had passages added to them by later scribes, as the textus receptus manuscripts have. That's why modern translations omit the spurious verses of the textus receptus, because they are not attested in the earlier manuscripts. And that's why the first portion of Rev. 1:11 found in the KJV does not appear in modern Bible translations, including the NWT, which adheres to one of the high quality critical editions of New Testament manuscripts now available, that were not available to the KJV translators. So, as beautiful and as influential as the KJV is, it is simply obsolete as a reliable English Bible, because of the exponential increase in our access to the original Greek New Testament, and the significant advance in our understanding of the Greek language itself, since the time of the KJV."

What about 1 John 5:7 as can be read in the KJV? Please note the following:

"JOHANNINE COMMA (also known as the 'Three Witnesses'). An interpolation in the text of 1 John 5.7 f.,viz. The words in italics in the following passage from the AV: 'For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these Three are One. And there are three that bear witness in earth the Spirit, and the Water and the Blood, and these three agree in one'. They occur only in MSS (almost exclusively Latin) of a late date, are omitted in the RV, and are certainly not part of the original text of the Epistle. The origin of the interpolation is obscure. Traces of a mystical interpretation of the phrase about the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood, applying it to the Trinity, are to be found in Cyprian and Augustine; but the earliest evidence for the insertion of a gloss in the text of the Epistle comes from a MS. of Priscillianist provenance discovered by G. Schepss at Wurzburg 1885. Later the insertion is found in African authors. It would thus seem to have originated in N. Africa or Spain and to have found its way into the Latin Bibles used in those districts (both Old Latin and Vulgate), possibly under the stress of Arian persecution. It is absent from St. Jerome's original text of the Vulgate."
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Edited by F.L.Cross, Oxford University Press, reprint of 1963.

"The Comma Joanneum, 5:7-8 of the Vg. is missing in all Gk MSS except four later MSS and in the Oriental versions. It is quoted by no Church father before Priscillian(380). There is no doubt that it is a gloss on the preceding lines, probably added in Africa or the Iberian peninsula."-John L. McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible, The Bruce Publishing Company, 1965, p.445.

"[v]8. The famous interpolation after 'three witnesses' is not printed even in RSVn, and rightly. It cites the heavenly testimony of the Father, the logos, and the Holy Spirit, but is never used in the early trinitarian controversies. No repectable Greek MS contians it. Appearing first in a late 4th cent. Latin text, it entered the Vulgate and finally the NT of Erasmus."
Peake's Commentary on the Bible, edtors M.Black and H.H.Rowley, reprint of 1964, p.1038

"[1 John]5:7; This verse has not been found in Greek in any manuscript in or out of the New Testament earlier than the thirteenth century. It does not appear in any Greek manuscript of I John before the fifteenth century, when one cursive has it; one from the sixteenth also contains the reading. These are the only Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in which it has ever been found. But it occurs in no ancient Greek manuscript of Greek Christian writers or any of the oriental versions. its chief support is in two Old Latin manuscripts of the sixth and eighth centuries and in some manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate, but not the oldest ones. Erasmus did not include it in his first edition to the New Testament in Greek (1516) nor in his second (1519). When criticized for the omission, he rashly said that if anyone could show him a Greek manuscript containing the passage he would insert it, and the sixteenth century Codex Mantifortianus containing it was brought to his attention. He felt obliged to include the reading in his third edition (1525). From Tyndale the verse found its way into the King James Version. It is universally discredited by Greek scholars and editors of the Greek text of the New Testament."-Edgar J. Goodspeed, The Goodspeed Parallel New Testament, p. 557.

"We need not hesitate to declare our conviction that the disputed words were not written by St. John: that 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: 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." F.H.A.Scrivener -A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament 1883 third ed., p. 654.

"But a special omission[in the Revised Version of 1881]was 1 John 5 : 7, as it appears in the A.V.-"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." in the R.V. these words are not found; what does appear there as verse 7 of 1 John 5 is the sentence which the A.V. gives as the second part of verse 6: "And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth' (R.V., "the truth"). Then the R.V. goes on with verse 8: "For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one." The words omitted in the R.V. were no part of the original Greek text, nor yet of the Latin Vulgate in its earliest form. They first appear in the writings of a Spanish Christian leader named Priscillian, who was executed for heresy in A.D.385. Later they made their way into copies of the Latin text of the Bible. When Erasmus prepared his printed edition of the Greek Testament, he rightly left those words out, but was attacked for this by people who felt that the passage was a valuable proof-text for the doctrine of the Trinity. He replied (rather 'incautiously) that if he could be shown any Greek manuscript which contained the words, he would include them in his next edition. Unfortunately, a Greek manuscript not more than some twenty years old was produced in which the words appeared: they had been translated into Greek from Latin. Of course, the fact that the only Greek manuscript exhibiting the words belonged to the sixteenth century was in itself an argument against their authenticity, but Erasmus had given his promise, and so in his 1522 edition he included the passage. (To-day one or two other very late Greek manuscripts are known to contain the passage; all others ornit it.)
The omission of the "three heavenly Witnesses" alarmed many Christian readers of the R[evised]V[ersion], who felt that the doctrine of the Trinity was being undermined by the removal of the text. But they need not have worried: for one thing, the Christian faith is not well served when attempts are made to defend it by weak arguments, and in any case the doctrine of the Trinity is much more securely based throughout the New Testament than on one text of more than doubtful genuineness."
F.F.Bruce, History of the Bible in English, 3rd edition, , pp.141,142. Italics ours

[Editor's note: Regarding Bruce's remarks italicised above: Those who criticise the NWT at 1 John 5:7,8 because of believing that this passage supports the Trinity would do well to heed his advice. However, the editors of this website strongly disagree with his belief in the doctrine of the Trinity, so we would ourselves remark that the Trinity cannot be found in any verse or passage of the 'New Testament,' and certainly it is not "securely based throughout the New Testament.." We would like to know of any verse/passage where the Trinity is explained, articulated or even mooted! We know of none ourselves. Indeed, when Bruce writes that the Trinity is "securely based throughout the New Testament" he is admitting that not one writer of the New Testament books writes upon this doctrine as such, but that the doctrine has to be found by an overall reading of the Bible. On our reading of the Bible the Trinity is impossible as it contradicts plain scripture and the ideas of this doctrine, and terminology to express those ideas, have to be read into certain verses/passages.]

"Altogether there are about 4, 700 relevant manuscripts, and at least 100,000 quotations or allusions in the early fathers . . . Thus, the Trinitarian texts in the first Epistle of John, which make explicit what other texts merely hint at, originally read simply: 'There are three which bear witness, the spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are one.' This was altered in the FOURTH CENTURY to read: 'There are three which bear witness on earth, the spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are one in Christ Jesus; and there are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Spirit, and these three are one" (A History of Christianity, P. Johnson, pp. 26-27).

A.E.Brooke in a "Separate Note, The Text of 1 Jn.v.7,8." - A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, Edinburgh, Clark, 1912, pp154-165, writes, in part:

"It is not necessary now to prove at any great length the spurious-ness of this interesting but unfortunate gloss. Its style and want of conformity to the context would be sufficient to condemn it, even if it had considerable support from trustworthy authorities for the text. Without it the passage runs clearly. The threefold witness is first given, which satisfies the requirements of the law; and after the witness which is legally valid among men, is given the " greater witness " of God, which is precisely defined in ver. 9, though the exact meaning of the words is doubtful. The "heavenly witnesses" destroy the natural sequence of the passage. And the personal use of [the logos]is wholly alien to the style of the Epistle, and also of the Gospel, where it is confined to the Prologue. In the earliest form in which the words appear in Greek, the absence of articles and copulae, where Greek would require their presence, betrays at once their derivation from Latin. It is enough to recapitulate the well-known and often stated facts that the words are not found (as part of the johannine text) (1) in any Greek manuscript with the exception of two very late MSS, obviously modified by the text of the Latin Vulgate, and in the margin of a third, the marginal note being in a seventeenth century hand ; (2) in any independent Greek writer; (3) in any Latin writer earlier than Priscillian ; (4) in any ancient version except in the Latin, where it is absent from the older forms of the old Latin as found in Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine; from the Vulgate as issued by Jerome, according to the testimony of the Codices Amiatinus and Fuldensis; and from Alcuin's revision (Codex Vallicellianus). And even when it first appears in the Vulgate, in the " Theodulfiatin" recension, the earthly witnesses are placed before the heavenly.
The history of the gloss has been well told by Wettstein, Tischendorf, and Westcott, from whose work the accounts in most commentaries are obviously derived. New light has been thrown on the subject in the interesting monograph of Kunstle, Das comma Joanneum auf seine Hekunft untersucht,1905, and some interesting suggestions as to the origin of the celebrated Codex Britannicus," on the authority of which Erasmus in fulfilment of his rash promise introduced the clause into the text of his Third Edition, by Dr. Rendel Harris in his Hi'story of the Leicester Codex.
The history of the gloss itself naturally begins much earlier than the history of its introduction into the actual text of the Epistle.
The passage in Tertullian (adv. Praxeam, c.25), which has often been quoted as containing an allusion to the verse, is really proof that he knew no such reading in the Epistle.....

"Unfortunately there is no direct quotation of the passage in Cyprian: though the citation and interpretation of 1 John v.6-8 in the psuedo-Cyprianic tract, de rebaptismate, c.15, witnesses to the early Latin text, which has no trace of the heavenly witnesses.

"The well-known passage in Cyprian, de Catholic eccleiae unitate, c.6, shows how easily the language of 1 Jn. v.8 was interpreted of the Three Persons of the Trinity: "dicit Dominus Ego et pater unum sumus et iterum de Patre et Filio et Spiritu sancto scritum est Et tres unum sunt." In favour of this, which is the natural interpretation of Cyprian's words, is the reference to him in Facundus, pro defensione trium capit. i.3, who, after giving the same interpretation of the Spirit and the water and the blood, adds, "Quod tamen Ioannis apostoli yestimonium b. Cyprianus, Carthaginiensis antistes et martyr in epistola siue libro quem unitate sanctae ecclesiae scripsit, de patre et filio et spiritu sancto dictum intelligit.
Augustine's interesting interpretation(Contra Maximinum,ii.22) of 1 Jn. v.8, which he quotes in the form "Tres sunt testes, spiritus et aqua et sanguis et tres unum sunt," shows that this interpretation was traditional in his time, so that he can assume that the writer of the Epistle intended the "unum" to refer to the three perosns symbolised by the Spirit, water and blood, and not to the symbols, which are different in substance. Incidentally it shows, also, of course, that the heavenly witnesses formed no part of his text....

"...The gloss was certainly known as part of the text of the Epistle in Africa in the fifth century. Its acceptance as part of the text cannot be proved in any country except Spain in the fourth century. There it was undoubtedly used by Priscillian (? 380). The influence of his work and writings on the Latin text of the Bible, which passed over into orthodox circles through Peregrinus and others, is an undoubted fact. It is through the Theodulfian Recension of the Vulgate that the gloss first gained anything like wide acceptance. A large proportion of the earlier evidence for the gloss can be very plausibly traced to Spanish influences. Thus the importance of the name of Priscillian in the history of the insertion is fully established. But Kunstle has not proved his point that Priscillian was the first who introduced the words into the text of S. Johns Epistle, or even that this first took place in Spain. At least it may be said that the evidence of Spanish manuscripts, of the form in which the gloss is found in Priscillian, and of its use by his opponents, suggest the probability that Priscillian was not responsible for its first introduction. But these reasons are not conclusive. In one point Priscillian has preserved the true reading against (?) all Latin authorities, reading, with regard to the earthly witnesses, in unum sunt. It is a possible explanation of the textual facts that the words in Christo Iesu were first connected with the passage by Priscillian, either as part of the text or an explanation. In the place which lie assigns to them they support his " Panchristismos" admirably. Their first connection with the earthly witnesses may be due to their removal by Peregrinus or some orthodox opponent of Priscillian to a place where they did not give such clear support to Priscillian's views.
At present we cannot say more than that the insertion was certainly known in Africa in the fifth century. The connection between the Spanish and African texts still requires investigation. Though it's acceptance as part of the text of the Epistle cannot be proved for any locality except Spain in the fourth century, it does not necessarily follow that it is of Spainish origin......
"Before the appearance of Erasmus's third edition in 1522 the gloss had already been printed in Greek in the Complutensian Polygott in 1514. The text is obviously derived, if not taken immediately from the Vulgate, though the supply of the necessary articles and copulas to make the sentences Greek has partially concealed its close dependence upon the Latin."

For more on this subject please visit http://hector3000.future.easyspace.com/comma.htm