Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
-Psalm 138:2, KJV

In Defense of the Authenticity of 1 John 5:7 (A review)


No verse of sacred writ has endured more assault than this wonderful testimony of the Heavenly Witnesses:

1 John 5:7 (KJV) For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

Obviously a clear proclamation of the triune nature of God, and a verse in partnership with John 10:30, it came under attack by Arians and other deniers of Christ’s deity soon after it was provided by the Holy Spirit. Due to this early and unrelenting violence against God’s revealed word in this verse, it is missing from the majority of Greek manuscripts (though not all).

Naturally, God’s promise to preserve his words was never in danger of breach of contract, and the true wording of this valuable passage, now called by many the Johannine Comma, survived in thousands of copies and translations. Early editors of Greek New Testaments included the text as genuine, even if only after publishing inadequate editions that left it out, because among the believing Church there was never any widespread doubt as to its genuineness before the 19th century.

After the insidious Drs. Westcott and Hort crafted a new profane, materialistic methodology for examining the text of the Bible, their concocted New Testament Text was thrust upon the Church as they sought to overturn the testimony of the Holy Spirit of 18 centuries. Their text was a compilation of readings which included many of the rejected and false variants scoured from ignored and useless manuscripts that survived if for no reason other than their lack of use, and combined to form a new “Bible” that no church prior to the late 19th century had ever possessed, copied, or read. This garbage text (some of which was, quite literally, rescued from a trash can in a monastery by Tischendorf) became the basis if the English Revised Version of 1885 and the American Standard Version of 1901.

Both of these translations obliterated this verse from their pages, creating a grammatical disaster, and changed the versification of the passage to cover their deed:

1 John 5:6-8 (King James) 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. 7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

1 John 5:6-8 (English Revised) This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. 7 And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth. 8 For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one.

Although these new translations were rejected by the Church at large, and their published copies consigned to haunt the bookshelves of many scholars and preachers who would use them in their private study when they wished to correct the word of the living God, the damage was done. “Biblical scholarship” slowly began to accept this leaven into the dough of esteemed Christian thought and study, and virtually all future translations would eventually accept this abominable monstrosity into the loving embrace of their covers as well.

Over time commentators would discontinue using 1st John 5:7 as a powerful text that proves the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and his personal unity with the Father and the Holy Ghost. The essential heresy of Arianism, already strong in these scholars, would eventually assert itself again among the many cults that have achieved great followings to this present day.

But, what of the evidence? What of the claims? What of the charges against this wonderful sentence in our Holy Book? Is it really true that it only exists because of the unscrupulous actions of an overzealous scribe? Was its inclusion in Canon just the error of an ignorant, unwitting Church for nearly two millennia; the Holy Ghost powerless to excise the work of a man’s meddling pen until the esteemed scholarship of Drs. Westcott and Hort entered the scene to rescue us from our belief in an inspired Book, and to sire more worldly scholars like Eberhard Nestle, Bruce Metzger, Daniel Wallace, and James White to continue “helping” us away from our immature reliance on a completed and delivered testimony from our Lord?

Well, no. The claims against this verse are false and do not withstand honest scrutiny. If one is able to ignore preconceptions built by Critical Text scholarship (such as it is), the reality is that the testimony of the Holy Spirit through 20 centuries before the deluge of modern translations fell upon us ought to be enough. But there is still more with which to answer the charges of those who attack our Holy Bible and its Comma. On this website I have posted an excerpt from Dr. Holland’s book that spends a brief dozen or so paragraphs disputing the claims of modern Bible correctors, which you should read. Also, in 1995, a tireless librarian named Michael Maynard, M.L.S., published an almost 400 page book called A History of the Debate over 1st John 5:7-8. That author exhausted the tomes of history in a valiant attempt provide the reader with every known discussion of this verse and its contents since the first century. Unfortunately, it is out of print, the author is deceased, and the book could cost you several hundred dollars to buy used due to its rarity.

Thankfully, a new treatment of this topic is available for our edification. Dr. C. H. Pappas, ThM, has produced for us a well-thought out and helpful book he calls In Defense of the Authenticity of 1 John 5:7 which is in its second edition now (my digital copy says it was revised August of 2016). I have completed reading the second edition on Kindle, and I recommend it to anyone who has lingering questions over this verse and its inclusion in our perfect Bible.

The author states from the beginning:

“One does not take leave of one’s senses to embrace the King James Version. Neither does one shut one’s eyes to the facts. Men with sound minds, clear heads, and strong convictions hold and defend the Authorized Version. Better still, such men in an open debate will silence their critics.”

This is well said. There is nothing wrong in holding to the text of the King James in this verse (or any other) and the author offers much in support of it. More importantly, he provides ample logic against those who would assail this verse.

His first chapter is devoted to the external evidences for the Comma. He responds to the charge that it does not appear in enough manuscripts and catalogs those in which it does.  It is satisfying that the author does not restrict himself merely to 1Jo 5:7 but is willing to address this important verse in the context of the greater war against God’s word that has been waged since God gave it. After discussing the merits of the tired “older is better” idea foisted upon us by critics, he says:

“…one may be led astray by the false assumption that the earlier copies of the Scriptures are more reliable. To hold to such a position is to deny the doctrine of the preservation of the Scriptures, which our Lord clearly taught (Matt. 24: 35).”

He goes on at reasonable length discussing important evidence for the Comma such as Cyprian’s quotation of it:

“He lived a hundred years before the earliest extant manuscript we have in our possession. Cyprian quotes 1 John 5: 7 in his first treatise on the unity of the church. This was a universal letter written to the churches. All of this implies that the Comma was well accepted throughout Christendom.”

I spent much time in my own writings in this post above belaboring the point that the Church itself is a witness to this verse, and Pappas does similarly so in his second chapter. In the third chapter, he addresses directly the complaint that the Comma appears in too few manuscripts and tells us why that would be.

Chapters 4 and 5 offer some of the most compelling arguments of all, in my opinion: the Internal Witness to the text. While I would first argue that the flow of the text is nonsensical in English without the Comma, Pappas is clearly at home in Greek as well and explains that the structure of the text proves the validity of the words in question by grammar alone.

“By ‘internal witness,’ it is understood to be an appeal to the witness of the Scriptures themselves. Regardless of what the critics may say in denying the authenticity of the Comma, they cannot refute the internal evidence, that is, if they are honest with the Scriptures. The reading of the Scriptures in the original language demands without any equivocation the acceptance of the Comma.”

In the latter portions of this book, Pappas succeeds in demonstrating that the approach many have taken on this topic is backwards. By that I mean that the critics have put those who accept this verse on the defensive. But it is they, like the Arians before them, who have demanded that this verse be removed from the Bible. It is they who must prove that it is spurious, and yet they only offer unsubstantiated theories as to how it may have been added. We do not really need to prove that it should be included. The Holy Spirit has seen to that for centuries! But regardless of that fact, Pappas piles on the Bible’s critics with ample evidence for its inclusion.

So in the sixth chapter, Reflections, we have such statements as this:

“…we have the record of the controversy in the Greek Church as early as AD 379 with the Arians seeking to remove the Comma. But when it comes to adding the Comma to the Scriptures, there is a dead silence. The Arians were not challenging Gregory for adding the Comma, but rather, Gregory challenged the Arians for omitting the Comma from the Sacred Text. This in itself is telling.”

Re-read that and think about it. The early dispute over this verse was over someone removing it, not someone adding it. Those who would seek to remove this verse today are aligning themselves with the heretical Arians who did remove it from their copies – and whose corruption is probably the primary cause of its absence in the relatively few copies of the passage in early Greek manuscripts that have been found. And remember, when these old manuscripts have survived, it is logically because of their lack of use. This is also a well-developed theme in the book and one I have often had to repeat over and over to people who just don’t seem to understand why “older is better” is not necessarily true.

Chapter 7 spends much time “Exposing the Critics” and is a good general overview of the severe lack of fidelity among those who attack the Bible and not just this verse.

“No longer are the Scriptures revered as the ‘Voice from Beyond.’ They are no longer regarded as the very Word of God. Professors in our schools and universities present the Bible to young scholars as fables of ancient literature. The source critics have accomplished their end. They are rightly defined as ‘Unholy Hands on the Holy Bible.’ Presently, pastors in many churches are correcting the Scriptures rather than correcting the people by the Scriptures.”

Chapter 8 address more about the work done for the 1881 Revised Version.

The author offers a useful appendix containing “The witness of the Church Fathers,” “The Arian Persecutions,” the “Two Greek Texts” (introductory information for the whole controversy over Bible versions), and several more, including a brief section on Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, the two corrupt manuscripts that make up the basis for the majority of readings chosen against the King James Bible in modern versions.

If there is any criticism I could level against the author’s work, it would be the over-emphasis on the Greek Orthodox church in his chapter titled Reflections and also in the third chapter, but the amount of information provided in this book far outweighs such a minor point.

In parting let me say this. It is sad to see that many teachers, when expositing on this passage of the Bible or on the topic of the Trinity, limp over this verse as if it is not there for their use and instruction. It is as if the marginal note in their Scofield Reference Bible has rendered them impotent. Even some of those who would regard the King James Bible to be God’s word in English seem reluctant to bellow this verse out with the vigor that they would give other disputed but true readings, such as “God was manifest in the flesh” in 1Ti 3:16. Perhaps they may read this book and remember that they can and should confidently and boldly declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). The living God of the Bible has seen to the inclusion of this verse in billions of copies of his words throughout history and to this day. There is no reason this powerful verse should be ignored.

I can recall that when I first read Michael Maynard’s long book on this topic in 1995 that I calculated that a defense of one of the most questioned verses in the King James Bible could increase one’s willingness to believe the rest of it. Over 20 years later I have learned that for most people, there is simply no reaching them on this issue regardless of the facts – they enjoy their “smooth things” (Isa 30:10) and multiple versions and do not want a final authority to contend with. But still, the fact remains that 1Jo 5:7 is, without a doubt, the most attacked verse in the Book. It may be true that more ink, toner, and electrons have been spilled on various other “problem texts,” but that is only because in the eyes of most critics, 1Jo 5:7 was disposed of long ago and nothing more need be said. But they are wrong about that. If you doubt the accuracy if the Received Text in our King James Bible anywhere, perhaps the rigorous yet concise defense of this beloved passage presented in In Defense of the Authenticity of 1 John 5:7 will help you realize you can trust all of it. It’s only 158 pages in print. Why not read it?

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16 Responses to In Defense of the Authenticity of 1 John 5:7 (A review)

  1. Brian Johnson says:

    (Psalms 119:89) For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

  2. David Johnson says:

    Thank you

  3. Vadym Diachenko says:

    Good work. It is needed indeed.

  4. Barney Bryant says:

    Probably one of the most asine aspects of any so-called versio (I call them perversions) is leaving out the only verse that specifically states the Triune Godhead as being one. My qustion to all KJB critics when challenging me and position on the KJB as being “THE”Real Bible is why would they leave that one out. Just why would the do that. They never have an answer.

  5. Craig Giddens says:

    I’m always scratching my head whenever I hear some well known radio/TV preacher or apologetics ministry defending the Trinity yet they never mention 1 John 5:7.

  6. Nick Wagner says:

    Whilst myself and my entire Church both here in Australia and abroad only use the KJV for study and talks – we acknowledge that the seal of God to secure the truth of his Word applies only to the original language texts of Hebrew and Greek.
    The KJV majestic and of faithful scholarship is not inerrant.
    Bible Numerics [see Ivan Panin and John Bullinger] wherein the letters of these original languages have arithmetical values creates extensive continuing patterns of, for example; multiples of 7 in verses and chapters.
    Ivan Panin does not include the missing scripture you so valiantly defend.
    6 “This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. 7 And it is the Spirit that witnesseth, because the Spirit is the truth. 8 Because the witnessing [ones] are three: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one.”
    Jesus knew beforehand that his most precious Word would need protection from Rome, mad monks and Drs. Westcott and Hort. Thus through Bible Numerics every word, every verse, every chapter is sealed and can be verified as authentic.
    This also confirms the God-given truth of Mark 16:15-20 and Matthew 28:19 both of which are contested by unbelievers.

  7. Nick Wagner says:

    There is much debate doctrinally over The Trinity. Luther definitely preached the God-head as being of three co-existing and equal persons in Heaven: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
    There is much in the scriptures to support this notion; but also there is much in scripture that speaks against this.
    My personal understanding on this is that in the Heavens there are two eternal beings responsible for the creation of the angels and the Universe (and our amazing planet Earth). The father and the Son are truly one. And Jesus affirms this in his ministry.
    The Holy Spirit is the operative spiritual power of our Father which comes into the world after Jesus has accomplished his atonement and resurrection.
    John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
    John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
    John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
    John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
    John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
    Joh 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
    John 7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

  8. Nick Wagner says:

    Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

  9. Roy Guttridge says:

    What is the position of the T.B.S on the publication of the E.S.V translation of the Bible, seeing that those involved are conservative evangelical Bible scholars.

    Regards

    Roy Guttridge.

  10. Rich Cuningham says:

    So,according to you, modern english bibles like the NASB,NIV,ASV,etc.,are corrupt, but the KJV is practically inerrant, while modern critical scholars think the other way around. Well not only does this disagreement affect Christian doctrine, it also adversely affects the idea that the Bible is without error. Unfortunately the original writings are missing.

  11. William says:

    To be honest, none of your posts ever answer the most important and relevant question of all: where does God call the KJV perfect. I was raised at West Jacksonville Baptist Church, a KJV Onlyist church. They never gave a logical reason that I ought to believe the KJV was perfect as a divine declaration. The translators themselves did not believe the KJV to be perfect.

    On top of that, for 18 years, all of the thousands of Christians throughout the empire of Rome had not a single copy of the New Testament. I don’t want all of these complicated justifications of this false teaching. The ONLY thing that I will accept is a clear divine declaration specifically naming the KJV as perfect.

    Oh, and if your argument is that there is a perfect text in every language, I can tell you of seventy languages that will never have a single copy of Scripture, because they can never have a written alphabet.

    • Brandon says:

      You think you are being clever and logical by saying “where does God call the KJV perfect” — but you may as well ask where God says there are 66 books to the canon, or where does God say that the book of Ruth is Scripture, or where does God say that the book of Revelation is perfect, etc, etc, etc. While you think you have some kind of “stumper” question, all you have done is demonstrate that you have not seriously considered the whole issue at all. I do not see why we would expect God to behave differently regarding Bible translations than he does with the more basic issues of the canon of Scripture or being assured that there are no mistakes in the book of Habakkuk. Start here. http://av1611.com/kjbp/blog/if-jesus-preached-in-your-church-which-bible-would-he-use/

  12. Ken says:

    Thank you for this post! It’s not falling on deaf ears.

  13. Hope Odesanmi says:

    Is the Father,Word,and the Holy Ghost,is the JEHOVAH or God alone? 1John5:7.

  14. Mary Little says:

    Dr. Pappas: I congratulate you for your service to all true believers who are laboring amongst the corruptors of the truth. A translation is after all an elegant commentary but also a testimonial to the underlying Greek or Hebrew autographs. From my studies in the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures, the Jewish scribes were by far more careful in their transmission of the Hebrew autograph. The Dead Sea Scrolls have validated the accuracy of this claim as the Scrolls date during and before the time of Jesus Christ. I write this to support the fact that the doctrine of the Trinity is supported by the most-often quoted portion of the Old Testament, the Schma Israel: Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD.” The Hebrew translation should be: “Hear O Israel, Yehovah our Elohim [plural: Gods] is one [unified] Yehovah”. 1 John 5:7 agrees with Deuteronomy 6:4. To deny the Trinity is to deny the very essence of the unity of the Godhead.

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