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Spurious Words at 1 John 5:7,8

It’s intuitive that the older the Bible translation, the greater the accuracy. After all, it’s closer to the events. It's intuitive, but incorrect.

Thus, a fellow I met in the ministry was peeved because the modern New International Version deletes words from his favorite scripture: 1 John 5:7, a verse that, in the King James Version, clearly states the Trinity.

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

The reason he misses these words so much is that it is the Bible's only direct statement of the Trinity. All other Trinity texts require various degrees of wishful thinking. Often they are merely figures of speech taken literally.

But since the Bible is inspired and the King James Version was the only version in use for a few hundred years, surely there must be mischief in removing words. Our householder did note some explanation about the deleted words not appearing in any manuscript before the sixth century CE, but he still smelled a rat. If it was good enough for the Pilgrims, it should be good enough for us.

But the way it works is this:

The Bible writers were inspired. The Bible copyists were not. The Bible translators were not. The latter two groups were devout people doing the best they could with what they had. But they were not inspired.

The goal, then, is to get as close as one can to what the Bible writers wrote, not just what the copyists and translators produced.

Because paper and parchment is perishable, scribes had to copy and recopy and recopy to keep the message from disintegrating. Also, because early Christians were evangelizers, they had to copy and recopy to keep them supplied with the texts they would use in their ministry. Each copy is an opportunity to make a mistake. Thus, the older the copy, (manuscript) the more accurate it probably is, since there have been fewer opportunities to mess it up.

So it is a big deal when, in 1 John 5:7, the words the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one appear only in manuscripts dated after 600 CE. It means that those words were not written by John, but were inserted by a copyist around 600 CE, probably because he wanted the Bible to support the Trinity more than it actually did. It’s also unique in that it’s hard to think of it as an honest mistake. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to change Scripture, without any justification other than the Bible nowhere says what the copyist wanted it to say!

Note his cleverness. The spurious words immediately precede a legitimate group of three.

First, the 400 year old King James Version: (spurious words in bold)

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.

Next, the New International Version, published in 1973: (note the adjustment of verses)

7  For there are three that testify:
8.  the[a] Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

   

Translators of the 400 year old KJV did not have access to the most ancient manuscripts; modern archeologists have since discovered ever older source material. So the newer Bible versions are usually more accurate than the older ones, not to mention being easier to read….no thee’s, thou’s or ye’s.

There are many dozens, probably hundreds, of English translations of the Bible that have appeared since the KJV. Few of them contain those inserted words at 1 John 5:7. Of those that do, almost all include a footnote to inform that the words only appear in later manuscripts. NIV is one of these. Here is their explanatory footnote:

Late manuscripts of the Vulgate testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8 And there are three that testify on earth: the (not found in any Greek manuscript before the sixteenth century)

Very few modern Bibles include those added words without explanation, and, it seems apparent, those that do are not being honest. They give the impression that those words were originally part of the John’s letter, when they certainly were not. Do you want to guess where those authors stand with regard to the Trinity doctrine?

Comments

Jeremy Johnston

Thank you so much for this blog! Just this day a prospective student asked me to clarify these scriptures and explain why I thought the KJV was in error when it included those words in its text. I came across your blog and it helped me a great deal to explain our view on the spurious text here. Thank you brother your blog is a gift to us all

tom sheepandgoats

Thanks, Jeremy, for the kind words.

A search on "1 John 5:7" in Wt publications index turns up 107 instances in which the Watchtower has discussed the scripture. It would take a bit of searching, but no doubt many of them would have also supplied the details you were looking for.

rosie

Hello,

I've just stumbled across your very intresting blog - this link* may be of interest on this topic.
https://groups.yahoo.com/group/JWquestions-and_answers/message/1613

Respect,
R

*not sure if you will allow links

tom sheepandgoats

Not always, but sometimes. Thanks, Rosie.

M

I find it compelling that you offer an intuitive thought no one I know has ever proffered, and discredit it. It would have been beneficial for you to look as critically at your own false "intuitive thought." No one has, as you well know, a copy of the original writing. They are all "copies of copies," and all equally at risk of changes. So the copies you trust are "older" and therefore intuitively more trustworthy? One car remains in the museum, another is driven every day? Which one survives 1700 years? One sweater is worn every day, one is packed away? Which one survives longer? Thousands, even millions of believers need Bibles. A few hundred copies of one version exist, tens of thousands of the other. Which of the two was in use by all those people? One other intuitive error. It is "scholarly" to believe evolution occurred and the world is many millions of years old. Your arguments fall apart so easily, but enjoy your praise.

tom sheepandgoats

M:

One is more likely to accurately recall events of last week than of last year. Thus, the older the Bible translation, the less time has elapsed since reported events took place. Intuitively, you'd think it would be more accurate. I'd be surprised if no one has ever voiced that observation before; it's somewhat obvious. But, as explained in the post, it's incorrect. No translation was composed by eyewitnesses. They are all compilations of manuscripts. Thus, it becomes a context of unearthing the most ancient manuscripts. More recent Bibles have the edge on this, benefiting from archeological finds.

I'm not sure I understood the entire thrust of your comment.

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