The King James and The Comma Johanneum

In another post I mentioned how the Quintcentenial of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament is approaching (March 1, 2016). Just about a year and a half later (Oct. 31, 1517) after its publication did Luther tack his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg Castle. So Erasmus’ work was in many ways pivotal yet it lacked integrity to a certain degree. One area of controversy are verses added between 1John 5.7 and the next verse. Here is 1John 5.6-8 (the NET) if only considering textual evidence with reasonable conclusions:

Jesus Christ is the one who came by water and blood—not by the water only, but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify, the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are in agreement.

In a future post I will try to identify how Jesus came by “water and blood.” This is another question  and consensus to the references of these terms in a practical sense toward today’s reader of the text is quite varied. Christians today, if polled, would give a variety of solutions or confess ignorance as to what “water and blood” referred.

In this post, however, I would like to share a note from the NET Bible to show some of the machinations involved which produced the addition of [in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.] after 1John 5.7.

Though Erasmus was a great scholar, his ethics left much to be desired. So today the King James adherents will insist that these words belong in the bible as an explicit testimony to the Trinity. The Trinity is on safe ground and is represented inherently throughout the bible without resorting to questionable means to defend it. Here is the note from the NET Bible explaining the controversy:

Before τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα (to pneuma kai to hudōr kai to haima), the Textus Receptus(TR) reads ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ πατήρ, ὁ λόγος, καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα, καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσι. 5:8 καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ (“in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 5:8 And there are three that testify on earth”). This reading, the infamous Comma Johanneum, has been known in the English-speaking world through the King James translation. However, the evidence—both external and internal—is decidedly against its authenticity. For a detailed discussion, see TCGNT 647–49. Our discussion will briefly address the external evidence. This longer reading is found only in nine late mss, four of which have the words in a marginal note. Most of these mss (221 2318 [18th century] {2473 [dated 1634]} and [with minor variations] 61 88 429 629 636 918) originate from the 16th century; the earliest ms, codex 221 (10th century) includes the reading in a marginal note, added sometime after the original composition. The oldest ms with the Comma in its text is from the 14th century (629), but the wording here departs from all the other mss in several places. The next oldest mss on behalf of the Comma, 88 (12th century) 429 (14th) 636 (15th), also have the reading only as a marginal note (v.l.). The remaining mss are from the 16th to 18th centuries. Thus, there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek ms until the 14th century (629), and that ms deviates from all others in its wording; the wording that matches what is found in the TR was apparently composed after Erasmus’ Greek NT was published in 1516. Indeed, the Comma appears in no Greek witness of any kind (either ms, patristic, or Greek translation of some other version) until a.d. 1215 (in a Greek translation of the Acts of the Lateran Council, a work originally written in Latin). This is all the more significant since many a Greek Father would have loved such a reading, for it so succinctly affirms the doctrine of the Trinity. The reading seems to have arisen in a 4th century Latin homily in which the text was allegorized to refer to members of the Trinity. From there, it made its way into copies of the Latin Vulgate, the text used by the Roman Catholic Church. The Trinitarian formula (known as the Comma Johanneum) made its way into the third edition of Erasmus’ Greek NT (1522) because of pressure from the Catholic Church. After his first edition appeared, there arose such a furor over the absence of the Comma that Erasmus needed to defend himself. He argued that he did not put in the Comma because he found no Greek mss that included it. Once one was produced (codex 61, written in ca. 1520), Erasmus apparently felt obliged to include the reading. He became aware of this ms sometime between May of 1520 and September of 1521. In his annotations to his third edition he does not protest the rendering now in his text, as though it were made to order; but he does defend himself from the charge of indolence, noting that he had taken care to find whatever mss he could for the production of his text. In the final analysis, Erasmus probably altered the text because of politico-theologico-economic concerns: He did not want his reputation ruined, nor his Novum Instrumentum to go unsold. Modern advocates of the TR and KJV generally argue for the inclusion of the Comma Johanneum on the basis of heretical motivation by scribes who did not include it. But these same scribes elsewhere include thoroughly orthodox readings—even in places where the TR/Byzantine mss lack them. Further, these advocates argue theologically from the position of divine preservation: Since this verse is in the TR, it must be original. (Of course, this approach is circular, presupposing as it does that the TR = the original text.) In reality, the issue is history, not heresy: How can one argue that the Comma Johanneum goes back to the original text yet does not appear until the 14th century in any Greek mss (and that form is significantly different from what is printed in the TR; the wording of theTR is not found in any Greek mss until the 16th century)? Such a stance does not do justice to the gospel: Faith must be rooted in history. Significantly, the German translation of Luther was based on Erasmus’ second edition (1519) and lacked the Comma. But the KJV translators, basing their work principally on Theodore Beza’s 10th edition of the Greek NT (1598), a work which itself was fundamentally based on Erasmus’ third and later editions (and Stephanus’ editions), popularized the Comma for the English-speaking world. Thus, the Comma Johanneum has been a battleground for English-speaking Christians more than for others.

Boiling a Kid in its Mother’s Milk

Ex. 23.19 (also Ex. 34.26, Dt. 14.21) gives a seemingly strange prohibition: “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” (ESV). So observant Jews today do not eat cheeseburgers or pepperoni pizza in case the cheese and beef are some how related. What did this ancient ban mean?

One consideration should be pointed out when reading the Old Testament text: the Hebrew was written with consonants only and the vowels were supplied through the reader’s familiarity of the language. It has been pointed out that the words for “fat” and “milk” are identical in their form (consonants). So it may be related to the prohibition against eating fat (Lev. 3.17, 7.23). While this may be a possibility, the Karaite Jews insist that they have correctly maintained the vowel marking as “milk” and not “fat.” in this particular prohibition.

Sometime in history a certain Jewish sect (Karaites) which placed more authority upon the scriptures rather than the “oral law” of the Rabbinate Jews (the dominant sect of Judaism) added vowel marking under the consonants to preserve the language after Hebrew was no longer a living language spoken by large numbers of people. One reason for the demise of Hebrew (though it was preserved to a degree by the religious professionals of that faith) was the dispersion of Jews both after the Temple destruction of 70 CE and particularly the scattering after The Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 CE). So this particular sect maintained the bible (Old Testament) with the letters (consonants) and the vowel marks under the letters preserved the distinct words (in cases where a question could arise which word was meant as some were identical).

These Karaite Jews maintained what is known as the Masoretic Text. The earliest examples date from about 1000 CE. This is the standard text accepted by Christians and Jews. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, there was found remarkable agreement with this particular source. Also, The Septuagint (the Greek translation from about 250 BCE of the Hebrew Bible and which the Christians of the 1st Century used) in very large part also finds agreement with The Masoretic Text. So, if the preservation was essentially accurate, what does the command refer to which speaks against eating meat and milk together (or more properly: “boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk”).

Another, and better, explanation may have come from an archeological excavation at Ugarit uncovering a Ugaritic text which details a fertility ritual where a kid is cooked in milk and the mixture is poured on the fields. So, if this is indeed an ancient Pagan practice, a better rationale is seen for the prohibition concerning this odd practice. The Jews were not allowed to mimic these false beliefs but to rather trust in the True and Living God.

Source: (see under Kosher laws).

Melchizedek “Made Like” the Son of God

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. (Heb. 7.1-3)

Melchizedek was not a Canaanite as many hold, instead, the book of Hebrews makes clear, He was eternal. Jesus came in the line of Melchizedek and this is why he is not equated exactly: The incarnation. Jesus, at a point in time was born in Bethlehem fully human and fully divine, whereas Melchizedek was not human but a manifestation of The Eternal Son. So, it is not technically accurate to fully equate Jesus and Melchizedek and Hebrews notes the distinction that Christ came “in the line” of Melchizedek (Heb. 7.17).

Further, if Melchizedek was a priest, where was the sacrifice since He brought only bread and wine? The answer is that this Christophany embodied the sacrifice in His person. Just as Jesus at the Last Supper had not yet died, He still used the elements bread and wine to signify His sacrifice, so Melchizedek, the Priest, symbolized a sacrifice in His person and brought bread and wine to Abraham after the defeat of the kings and the rescue of Lot.

So Melchizedek resembled the Son of God by bringing bread and wine but no blood sacrifice. The word resembled in the ESV is only found here in Heb. 7.3: aphomoiomenos means “to make like unto” and this is how the King James Version renders the word. So this Christophany is represented like Jesus bringing bread and wine instituting the Lord’s Supper. Christ’s sacrifice was the blood of the New Covenant and The Lord’s Supper signifies it. So whenever we observe this remembrance of Jesus we show that we are relying on what Jesus did on the cross for us. We announce this by taking the elements of bread and wine to encourage Christians in mutual faith and a testimony to those who have not yet believed:

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1Cor. 11.26)




Divine Election: Redemptive Love


Some folks think that if they believe hard enough God will save them. This is not the case. Faith is not something we work up as if it is native to us. Instead it is a response to hearing the message of the Gospel. God gives us saving faith. This is explained in 2Pet. 1.1:

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

The word “obtained” is lagchano in the original language. This word meant in that culture “being chosen by lot.” In the bible however this choosing is not is not a blind or random action. It is both personal and from love. It happened while we were still in our first ancestor Adam. God saw us and loved us before we were even born. Here is how it was presented to Jeremiah and is true for all who come to Christ:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you (Jer. 1.5)

Therefore God knew us as persons before we were born. These concepts of loving choice and prior knowledge are set forth in Eph. 1.4-5:

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.

He predestined us to be adopted to His family before we could do good or evil. It didn’t depend on us that we are in Christ. God saw us in Adam and decided to pay our penalty by sending Christ as an atoning sacrifice, to overcome temptation and live a righteous life for our sanctification, and to conquer death on our behalf. Knowing that God is choosing some, Christians should be watching being ready to give an answer for the faith we have (1Pet. 3.15).

Before God’s Kingdom comes the chosen Gentiles need to turn to Him and so there are more to be saved:

A partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Rom. 11.25)

The Good Life

bird nest ferns 005

The apostle quotes Ps. 34 giving a recipe for enjoyment while in this life. God wants to bless us and tells us how to find the blessed life.

1Peter 3.10-12 corresponds to Ps. 34.12-16. Here are the two sections from the ESV:

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1Peter 3.10-12)

What man is there who desires life

and loves many days, that he may see good?

Keep your tongue from evil

and your lips from speaking deceit.

Turn away from evil and do good;

seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous

and his ears toward their cry.

The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,

to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

(Ps. 34.12-16)

On the Hypostatic Union

This constant undivided union of two perfect natures in Christ’s person is exactly that which gives infinite value to His mediation and qualifies Him to be the very Mediator that sinners need.  Our Mediator is one who can sympathize because He is very man.  And yet, at the same time, He is one who can deal with the Father for us on equal terms because He is very God. – J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)

Source: On the Hypostatic Union

Cumulative Growth

James Montgomery Boice has some excellent advice to young people in his sermon series on the Minor Prophets (volume 2, p. 510). He identifies a major problem with young people today:

As I counsel with people in our day, many of them young people, I am convinced that one of their biggest problems is that they expect shortcuts. They want a simple principle that will explain all the Bible and eliminate the need for concentrated and prolonged Bible study. They want an experience that will set them on a new spiritual plateau and eliminate the need for hard climbing up the steep mountain paths of discipleship. They want a fellowship that has all the elements of a perfect heavenly fellowship without the work of building up those elements by their own hard work and active participation. This is not the way God has ordered things. He could have given shortcuts, but he has not.

To young people out there: there are no shortcuts. And if there are, they usually lead to long delays, as Pippin would say in The Fellowship of the Ring. Things are not going to be handed to you on a platter. Life is not something you can simply let happen to you. This is not a popular message in an age of instant gratification.

Young Christians often think this way as well. After the euphoria of conversion is passed, they often come to a hard shock: the Christian life is hard work! They often think that they didn’t sign up for this. As Pliable turns back in the Slough of Despond, the very first sign of trouble, so also do many today who call themselves Christians. However, as any seasoned Christian can tell you, conversion is the peace with God that starts the war on the world, the flesh, and the devil. In many ways, life is far more difficult after conversion than before.

Do not think of the Christian life as having shortcuts. Study your Bible thoroughly and deeply. Pray over it and meditate over it. Wrestle with God in prayer. Prepare for the Sabbath Day every single week, so that the Word will dwell richly in you. The Christian life is cumulative.