Church of Pensacola
Church of Pensacola

"...and these three are one" 1 John 5:7 (the Comma Johanneum)

Please make sure you don't just go along with the majority without looking into these most important things! That is not the way to come to know our Lord Jesus with an accurate, experiential and intimate knowledge. The verse you quoted is infamous for being an insertion, even among Trinitarians!! It of course has a name it is such a famous embarrasment to the Catholic church, and all who suscribe to any of her false teachings.


The Comma Johanneum is a (a short clause) contained in most translations of the published from 1522 until the latter part of the nineteenth century, owing to the widespread use of the third edition of the (TR) as the sole source for translation. In translations containing the clause, such as the , 1 John 5:7-81 John 5:7-81 John 5:7-8 reads as follows:

5:7 "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

5:8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."

The resulting passage is an explicit reference to the of , and .

It does not appear in the older Greek manuscripts, nor in the passage as quoted by many of the early . The words apparently crept into the Latin text of the New Testament during the Middle Ages, "[possibly] as one of those medieval glosses but were then written into the text itself by a careless copyist. omitted them from his first edition; but when a storm of protest arose because the omission seemed to threaten the doctrine of the Trinity (although that doctrine had in fact been formulated long before the textual variant), he put them back in the third and later editions, whence they also came into the textus receptus, 'the received text'." Modern Bible translations such as the (NIV), the (NASB), the (ESV), the (NRSV) and others tend to either omit the Comma entirely, or relegate it to the footnotes. The official Latin text of the (a revision of the ) also excludes it.

Several early sources which one might expect to include the Comma Johanneum in fact omit it. For example, although (c. 200) places a strong emphasis on the Trinity, his quotation of 1 John 5:8 does not include the Comma. , in his Against Praxeas (c. 210), supports a view by quoting John 10:30, even though the Comma would have provided stronger support. Likewise, 's writings of the fourth century give no evidence that he was aware of the Comma's existence. (The , a copy of the Vulgate made around 546, contains a copy of Jerome's Prologue to the Canonical Gospels which seems to reference the Comma, but the Codex's version of 1 John omits it, which has led many to believe that the Prologue's reference is spurious.)

The earliest reference to what might be the Comma appears by the 3rd-century Church father. The first work to quote the Comma Johanneum as an actual part of the Epistle's text appears to be the 4th century Latin homily Liber Apologeticus, probably written by (died 385), or his close follower Bishop Instantius. Wallace notes:

"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."

This part of the homily apparently then became worked into copies of the Latin Vulgate roughly around the year 800. It was subsequently back-translated into the Greek, but only eight of the thousands of Greek New Testament manuscripts currently extant contain it. The oldest known occurrence appears to be a later addition to a 10th century manuscript now in the , the exact date of the addition not known; in this manuscript, the Comma is a variant reading offered as an alternative to the main text. The other seven sources date to the sixteenth century or later, and four of the seven are hand-written in the manuscript margins. In one manuscript, back-translated into Greek from the Vulgate, the phrase "and these three are one" is not present.

No manuscripts include the Comma, and its presence in some printed Syriac Bibles is due to back-translation from the Latin Vulgate. manuscripts and those from Ethiopian churches also do not include it. Of the surviving "Itala" or "" translations, only two support the Textus Receptus reading, namely the (6th or 7th century) and the Speculum, an 8th- or 9th-century collection of New Testament quotations.

In the 6th century, is quoted as a witness in favour of the Comma. Like Cyprian a father of the North African Church, he referred to Cyprian's remark in his "Responsio contra Arianos" ("Reply against the Arians"), as do many other African fathers (the heresy, which denied the Trinity, was particularly strong[] in North Africa); but the most notable[] and prolific writer of the African Church, , is completely silent on the matter.

"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."

The central figure in the sixteenth-century history of the Comma Johanneum is the humanist Erasmus. Erasmus had been working for years on two projects: a collation of Greek texts and a fresh Latin New Testament. In 1512, he began his work on a fresh Latin New Testament. He collected all the Vulgate manuscripts he could find to create a critical edition. Then he polished the Latin. He declared, "It is only fair that Paul should address the Romans in somewhat better Latin." In the earlier phases of the project, he never mentioned a Greek text:

"My mind is so excited at the thought of emending Jerome’s text, with notes, that I seem to myself inspired by some god. I have already almost finished emending him by collating a large number of ancient manuscripts, and this I am doing at enormous personal expense."

While his intentions for publishing a fresh Latin translation are clear, it is less clear why he included the Greek text. Though some speculate that he intended on producing a critical Greek text or that he wanted to beat the into print, there is no evidence to support this. Rather his motivation seems to be simpler: he included the Greek text to prove the superiority of his Latin version. He wrote, "There remains the New Testament translated by me, with the Greek facing, and notes on it by me." He further demonstrated the reason for the inclusion of the Greek text when defending his work:

"But one thing the facts cry out, and it can be clear, as they say, even to a blind man, that often through the translator’s clumsiness or inattention the Greek has been wrongly rendered; often the true and genuine reading has been corrupted by ignorant scribes, which we see happen every day, or altered by scribes who are half-taught and half-asleep."

Erasmus's new work was published by of in 1516 and thence became the first published Greek New Testament, the , diligenter ab Erasmo Rot. Recognitum et Emendatum. The second edition used the more familiar term Testamentum instead of Instrumentum, and eventually became a major source for Luther's translation.

In his haste, Erasmus made a considerable number of translation mistakes. He was unable to find a manuscript containing the entire Greek New Testament, so he compiled several different sources. After comparing what writings he could find, Erasmus wrote corrections between the lines and sent the documents to Froben. Erasmus said the resulting work was "thrown headlong rather than edited" ("prœcipitatum fuit verius quam editum"). He fixed many but not all of the resulting mistakes in the second edition, published in 1519. The Comma does not appear until the third edition, published in 1522.

There is one sentence that was inserted into the Catholic dominated Latin translation of the Bible called the Latin Vulgate, which afterwards found its way into the King James Bible, that seems to vaguely lend credence to the doctrine of the Trinity. Not one of the many Greek manuscripts written before the sixteenth century contain the insertion. The inserted phrase is found in First John 5:7. According to the King James Version: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one."  The man who translated the Greek text from which the K.J.V. was translated, Desiderius Erasmus, a devout Catholic scholar, did not originally include it in his work.  Here is a historical account of how it was finally included in the third edition of his work:

"When the first edition of Erasmus work came out in 1516, this phrase, dubbed today the Johannine comma, ...was not in the text for a very simple reason: it was not found in any Greek manuscript of First John that Erasmus had examined.  Instead, the phrase was found only in the Latin Vulgate.  Erasmus rightly did not include it in the first or second editions.  The note in the Annotations simply said, In the Greek codex I find only this about the threefold testimony: because there are three witnesses, spirit, water and blood.  His reliance upon the Greek manuscripts rather than the Latin Vulgate caused quite a stir.  Both Edward Lee and Diego Lopez Zuniga attacked Erasmus for not including this passage and hence encouraging Arianism' ...Erasmus protested that he was simply following the Greek texts.  In responding to Lee, Erasmus challenged him to produce a Greek manuscript that has what is missing in my edition.  Likewise Erasmus rebutted Zuniga by pointing out that while he (Zuniga) was constantly referring Erasmus to one particular Greek manuscript, in this case he had not brought this text forward, correctly assuming that even Zunigas manuscript agreed with Erasmus reading.  He also said, Finally, the whole passage is so obscure that it cannot be very valuable in refuting the (Arian) heresies.  Since Erasmus had promised, in his response to Lee, to include the passage should a Greek manuscript be found that contained it, he was constrained to insert the phrase in the third edition when presented with an Irish manuscript that contained the disputed phrase, Codex Montfortianus, now at Trinity College, Dublin. The manuscript is highly suspect, in that it most probably was created in the house of the Grey Friars, whose provincial, Henry Standish, was an old enemy of Erasmus , and whose intention was simply to refute Erasmus.  The text note in the Annotations grew tremendously, for Erasmus inserted many of the arguments and citations he had used in replying to Lee and Zuniga.  He remarked, I have restored the text.. .so as not to give anyone an occasion for slander. ...The Comma Johanneum is extremely important.  Here we have a phrase that is simply not a part of the ancient Greek manuscripts of Johns first epistle.  The few manuscripts that contain the phrase are very recent, and half of these have the reading written in the margin.  The phrase appears only in certain of the Latin versions.  There are, quite literally, hundreds of readings in the New Testament manuscript tradition that have better arguments in their favor that are rejected by both Erasmus and the KJV translators.  If indeed the Comma was a part of the original writing of the apostle John, we are forced to conclude that entire passages, rich in theological meaning, can disappear from the Greek manuscript tradition without leaving a single trace."



From this account we can all but confirm what already seemed to be probable to many, that the Comma Johanneum’ was added to try to refute Arianism, which opposed the now commonly accepted teachings that Jesus is very God, and also to try to create scriptural proof of the Trinity.  We also learn that both Zuniga and Lee, along with their probable conspirators, realized that the Bible on its own, without this added insertion, encourages what they call "Arianism".  In other words, they knew the Bible seems to teach that Jesus is not literally God, and they feared that future new translations using Erasmus Greek text might end up in the language and hands of the laity. The Bible could then be used to effectively refute the doctrine of the Trinity, and of Christs literal deity, unless they could add something to substantiate their teaching scripturally.


I believe that this was one of the main reasons the Catholic Church fought so hard, even sometimes torturing and murdering Gods people, to keep the Bible from being translated into the common languages, such as English.  It was because the doctrine of the Trinity, the absolute 'deity of Christ', and so many other practices and teachings could be exposed should the Bible become readable to all, instead of only to the few who could read Latin. Who would have ever dreamed that their worries were unfounded for the most part.  Even after the centuries of widespread Bible studies that followed, very few have ever really noticed, much less properly pursued the issue!


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© Tom Heiden