The Comma Johanneum – What is it? What is the original wording of 1 John 5:7-8?
The Comma Johanneum (or Comma Johannine) is a reference to a textual variant found at the end of 1 John 5:7-8. The term refers to the shorter clause of John. The shorter version in English reads, "For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree." The longer version reads, "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." If the Comma Johanneum were an original part of the passage, it would be the most direct reference to the Trinity in the Bible.
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The evidence for this longer, more direct statement as part of the original text of 1 John, however, is not strong. Its presence was not known in Greek until manuscripts of the fifteenth century. Even then, most versions are found only in Latin translations. The Greek linguist Erasmus did not include this longer ending in his earlier editions of the Greek New Testament, yet included it in later editions (beginning with the third edition) after pressure from the Roman Catholic Church.
Further evidence can be suggested in the absence of this longer quote from 1 John in the writings of the church fathers. Because the concept of the Trinity was a point of great importance in early church creeds and writings, it seems highly unlikely that no church father would quote this verse in defense of the teaching of the Trinity if the longer version was in existence at that time.
But if the original text of 1 John 5:7-8 did not include this direct statement regarding the Trinity, does this in any way weaken the Bible's teachings regarding the Trinity? Certainly not! Many other places in the New Testament speak of the Divine nature of individual Persons of the Triune God. In addition, the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 shows Jesus commanding His disciples to baptize believers in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This one "name" clearly notes Father, Son, and Spirit as one God.
Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 we find a discussion of spiritual gifts that states, "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone." Father, Son, and Spirit are each referred to as the same one God. Paul also added in his conclusion to 2 Corinthians that, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Corinthians 13:14).
The evidence most likely supports the shorter reading of 1 John 5:7-8, yet this in no way changes the Bible's teachings regarding the Triune nature of God. There is one God in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who have each existed for all eternity and live in perfect unity to fulfill God's plan in our world and lives.
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