English blog

the so-called ‘comma Johanneum'

30-08-2015 - Posted by Andre Piet

image22 An elderly lady wrote me the following:

I had a conversation with a nurse of home care. She is from the Chr. Reformed Church. She is convinced that there is a triune God. Myself, I cannot believe it, because God is One. But now comes the ‘but’… In the letter of 1 John, in verse 7, it reads “the Father, the Word, and the Holy spirit, and these three are one” and from that she concludes that it is stated in the Bible. She also let me read letters from two different ministers. I could not, at all, agree with what they wrote. Andre, what am I to do with this? Can or will you respond to this problem?

The letter writer is referring to the red words in italics in the following passage from 1 John 5.

6 This is he that came by water and blood, [even] Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 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. 9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

In the newer Bible translations the red italics are, placed within square brackets or are not shown at all. Rightly so, because those words originally do not belong in the Bible. They are known by the Latin name, “comma Johanneum.” Comma means “short sentence” and Johanneum refers to the name of the book of the Bible. The words of the comma Johanneum are lacking in all of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament before the Middle Ages. Only during the Middle Ages, did this message show up in the Latin writings. Presumably, it first served as a footnote to the text and was later inserted, when copying the text. But be that as it may, it is an unmistakable later addition to the Bible. Only after several councils in which it was decided to adopt the doctrine of the Trinity, these words cropped up in various Bible translations. The doctrine of the Trinity is not based on these texts, but it is exactly the opposite: these texts crept in after the doctrine of the Trinity was declared to be dogma. Behind the comma Johanneum, in the older translations of the Bible, is hidden a bizarre story, indeed. These Bible translations are based on the so-called Textus Receptus, which is a reconstruction of the original text by the noted scholar, Erasmus (16th century). In the first edition of the Textus Receptus, the comma Johanneum was missing, because Erasmus realized that it was a much later addition. It was the time when Luther, based on the Erasmus’s edition, made his famous German translation of the Bible – without the comma Johanneum. But after the publication of the first edition of the works of Erasmus, a storm of criticism broke forth on him, because by omitting the comma Johanneum, he undermined the doctrine of the trinity. Such an accusation of heresy, in those days, was not without danger and, unfortunately, Erasmus, succumbed to this attack by including into his next edition of his Textus Receptus the comma Johanneum. And that is how these dishonest texts, under political pressure, became a part of the King James Version. Also in Luther’s translation, in which the comma Johanneum initially was missing, it was, later, added by Luther’s students. The fact that the comma Johanneum is not an original Bible text, is nowadays widely recognized and can be checked in standard reference works. Even most of the theologians who subscribe to the doctrine of the Trinity, admit that the comma Johanneum is a later addition. Today, the Roman Catholic Church, also omits the comma Johanneum, in its Latin Bible (the Vulgate). All the facts, surrounding the comma Johanneum, point in one direction: it is a man made-up story, intended to give a Scriptural status to the doctrine of the trinity. How sad that, in order to provide a Scriptural basis to a doctrine, such tactics had to be employed. Only one can say:

I am Yahweh Elohim, and there is none else. There is no Elohim except Me. -Isaiah 45:5,6,18-

The word “trinity” is nowhere to be found in the Bible; the definition (one being, three persons) is foreign to Scripture and also the distinction between a being and a person, the Bible does not know.  In short, we are dealing with an unmistakable “word of human wisdom” for which Paul already warned us (1Cor.2:13). With Paul, we profess no complex mystery, but the simple truth:

nevertheless, for us, there is one God, the Father, out of Whom all is, and we for Him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom all is, and we through Him. -1Corinthians 8:6-