Thursday, December 6, 2012

1st John Chapter 5 Part 3


5:6-8 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 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.
There are numerous views as to how we should understand verse 6. Some say that the water and blood means Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan and His death on the cross. Others believe the water and blood referred to the Roman spear that pierced His side, and water and blood came out, John 19:34.

I have gone on record before as saying that I believe the mention of water in the Gospel of John chapter 3 was a reference to physical birth. It may be that John is again contending with Gnostic claims that Christ had no true body by reminding his spiritual children that Christ came by water (He was truly born as a man, without our sin nature) and by blood (He truly died; His spirit departed His flesh). Blood often refers to violent death or execution throughout Scripture. So if water represents birth, blood may represent death and John is testifying that Jesus Christ was a genuine man through and through, though He was also fully God, as we are about to learn via the Holy Spirit’s witness.

Although the traditional view of Jesus’ baptism and death also makes sense, since the Holy Spirit came upon Him when He was baptized as a witness, and the Father spoke out of Heaven at that time, Luke 3:21-22. John writes the Spirit bears witness because the Spirit is truth.

We now arrive at the controversial verse 7, what is known as the “Johannine Comma.” Though the Textus Receptus or Received Text which is the Greek body of manuscripts on which the King James and NKJV are based has verse 7 in it, many Bibles reject its authenticity. The NASB excludes verse 7 but carries a footnote stating: “a few late manuscripts have…” An NIV that I own has this about the verse, contained in the Bible only as a footnote: “Late manuscripts of the Vulgate…” There is a dearth of Greek and Latin manuscripts that have this verse in it, and all of them are relatively recent in age, only some hundreds of years old. Better men than I have argued for this verse’s authenticity, such as Henry Morris, Matthew Henry, John Wesley and others. The verse declares the triune nature of God and is completely congruent with the context of the surrounding verses as well as the overall theme of God’s person as revealed in Scripture. I believe it should still be treated as part of the text.

Verse 7 declares something that the Bible is not timid about informing us on: God is a trinity of persons who are one being. The word “trinity” does not appear in Scripture, even in this blatant definition of our triune God, but the message is clear. God often speaks in the plural throughout the Old Testament.

The first instance of God’s plurality and unity is found in the first chapter of Genesis. Genesis 1:26 says: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.’” Verse 27 adds “So God created man in His own image.” We find plurality with the use of the word “Our” when God refers to Himself; followed by the writer’s description of God simply as “He” in verse 27 when he tells us that God made mankind in His own image. Similar use of the plural is found in Genesis 11:7 when we read “Come, let Us go down…

This language is likewise used in Isaiah 6:8 when God asks “Whom shall I (singular) send, and who will go for Us (plural)?” Another verse located in Isaiah asserts this same amazing truth of plurality and unity. We read: “Come near to Me, hear this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me,” Isaiah 48:16. In this verse the verb “have” is actually singular in the Hebrew, treating God and His Spirit as one being; yet the person addressing Israel through His prophet is also God.

2 comments:

  1. One standard for including or excluding a passage in the Textus Receptus was whether the things it taught were found elsewhere in scripture. the Trinity, as you mentioned was. In addition. some of the very oldest manuscripts do contain verse 7, although many intervening ones do not. Study of the changes in hand copied manuscripts indicate which manuscripts were copied from which others, and those lacking verse 7 all arise from the same line, indicating that the verse was simply left out by mistake. Newer Texts tend to be based mostly on the number of manuscripts containing the passage, without considering the course of recording. Some groups manuscripts have been far better preserved than others, and such an approach thus tends to overemphasize the best preserved manuscripts rather than accuracy of message.

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Donald.
    I was unaware that some of the oldest manuscripts carried verse 7, which only further confirms that this verse is authentic, and it is interesting how quickly biblical scholars disregard it. Thank you for the encouragement!

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