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OF THE CONTROVERSY RESPECTING THE TEXT
THREE HEAVENLY WITNESSES.
BY CHARLES BUTLER OF LINCOLN'S INN.
[The following comparative view of the arguments, which have been advanced on both sides in discussing the genuineness of 1 John, v. 7. is taken from the Appendix to Butler's Hora Biblica. As coming from a Roman Catholic and a Trinitarian, this article must be supposed to be free from any bias on the part of the writer against the genuineness of the text. He seems, indeed, to have reviewed the subject with great impartiality, and to have given as accurate an outline of the controversy through the several stages of its progress, as the limits he prescribed to himself would admit. If in some instances he is too brief for perspicuity, he has on the whole contrived to embrace the most important points of the discussion within a smaller compass than any other writer.]
The genuineness of the verse of the Three Heav. enly Witnesses, or 1 John v. 7. has engaged much of the attention of the learned during the three last centuries ; so that, as Mr. Herbert Marsh observes, “there is hardly a library in all Europe, from the Vatican to the Bodleian, from Madrid to Moscow, in which the manuscripts of the Greek Testament have not been examined, in order to determine, whether it really proceeded from the pen of St John;" and, as Mr Travis observes, “ there are few subjects, in the walks of philology or criticism, in which, one simple question, as it appears on a distant view, expands itself, on a nearer approach, into so many complicated branches, and covers so large a field of historical and theological criticism.".
The following sheets may be found to contain, I. Some account of the state of the question ; II. Of the history of the general admission of The Verse into the printed text ; III. And of the principal disputes to which it has given rise; IV. An inquiry whether the general sense of the text is affected by the omission of The Verse; V. Some account of the argument in favour of its authenticity from prescription ; VI. Some account of the arguments against it from its absence from the Greek manuscripts; VII. Of the answers to those arguments, from its supposed existence in the manuscripts of Valla; VIII. From its supposed existence in the manuscripts of the Complutensian editors ; IX. And from its supposed existence in the manuscripts by Robert Stephens; X. Some observatio:
argument arising on its not being inserted in the Apostolos or Collection of Epistles read in the Greek Church ; XI. On its not being inserted in the oriental versions ; XII. On its not being inserted in the most ancient Latin manuscripts; XIII. On the silence of all the Greek Fathers respecting it; XIV. On the silence of the most ancient of the Latin Fathers respecting it; XV. Some account will then be given of what has been written respecting its first introduction into the Greek and Latin manuscripts.
There are many other important topics for and against the authenticity of The Verse; and several of those which have been mentioned, lead to facts and subjects which are not noticed in these sheets ;but, what is noticed, will, perhaps, be found sufficient to shew the general turn and bearings of the controversy.
I. THE STATE OF THE QUESTION is as follows :In the Textus Receptus, or received Greek text of the 1st Epistle of St John, the 7th and 8th verses of the fifth chapter are expressed in these words:
Seventh Verse. "Οτι τρείς εισιν οι μαρτυρούντες εν τω ουρανώ, ο πατήρ, και λόγος, και το άγιο πνεύμα και ούτοι οι τρείς έν είσιν.
Eighth Verse. Και τρείς εισιν οι μαρτυρούντες εν τη γή, το πνεύμα, και το ύδωρ, και το αίμα και οι τρείς εις το έν εισιν.
In the vulgate, the verses are thus translated :
7th. Quoniam tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in cælo; Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus : et hi tres unum sunt.
8th. Et tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in terrâ ; spiritus, et aqua, et sanguis : et hi tres in unum sunt.
The question is, whether the whole of the 7th verse,—or, to speak with greater accuracy, whether the words, εν τω ουρανό, ο πατήρ, ο λόγος, και το άγιον πνεύμα nai oron os apeis by cirur, in the 7th verse, and the words, και τρείς εισιν οι μαρτυρούντες εν τη γή, in the 8th verse, are genuine or spurious. If the passage in question be genuine, the text stands properly, as it is now expressed : if it be spurious, it should stand ; "Oti tpers εισιν οι μαρτυρούντες, το πνεύμα, και το ύδωρ, και το αιμα: xrà ni mgeis eis 6v sion, in the Greek ;-—and in the Latin, “ (Juoniam tres sunt, qui testimonium dant; spiritus, et aqua, et sanguis : et hi tres in unum sunt.”
II. With respect to the histORY OF THE GENERAL ADMISSION OF THE VERSE INTO THE PRINTED TEXT:
1. The first event, which deserves attention, is the insertion of it in the Latin Vulgate :-what should be understood by the Vulgate, in this place, will be mentioned afterwards.
2. The second is Erasmus's insertion of The Verse, in his three last editions of the Greek Testament.