The Comma Johanneum: A Critical Evaluation of the Text of 1 John 5.7-8 by C.L. Bolt

This article isn’t brand new, but I believe it is a worthwhile contribution to our blog. I came across this essay as its author, C.L. Bolt, and I interacted on a mutual friend’s comment thread on Facebook. Mr. Bolt was happy to have me re-post it here. Be sure to check out his website, Choosing Hats, an excellent resource of presuppositional apologetics.

The Comma Johanneum: A Critical Evaluation of the Text of 1 John 5.7-8

by C.L. BOLT on DECEMBER 31, 2010

The Comma Johanneum as a Textual Problem

Introduction

The phrase “Comma Johanneum” is the name given to a short clause of a sentence found in 1 John 5.7-8 which has become a famous problem in textual criticism. The word “comma” as it is used here just means a short clause of a sentence and “Johanneum” refers to the writings of the Apostle John.[i] The phrase “Comma Johanneum” thus refers to a short clause of a sentence (comma) which has some relevance to the writings of John (Johanneum). The Comma Johanneum can be found in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.

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. 1 John 5:7-8 (KJV)[ii]

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Where Do We Stand?

Last week’s post generated plenty of conversation. I hope to highlight one of the points brought to light in a future post; namely, I will post on Tischendorf’s discovery of Sinaiticus and how the story is portrayed in the KJVO debate on all sides.

What got me thinking, though, is more along the lines of our personal backgrounds. I realize some of our regular guests have shared their own story, but I’m not sure that I even know where everyone stands on the issue. I see we have folks who regularly comment in support of the TR or MT but are not necessarily KJVO. We have others who are very critical of the CT but again, not KJVO. Then we have some who are indeed KJVO. I am also very interested in your theological leanings, as we’ve had people here who are not Christian at all. It helps to know who we’re talking to.

I’m wondering if those of you who regularly comment here (or who have in the past) would mind providing a little theological background and insight into your current thoughts on the Bible version issue. My fellow contributors are welcome to chime in as always. Even though we’ve given short bios on the authors page, and even though we all come from the IFB KJVO position, we have not all given our full position on this topic and I’m sure we even differ among ourselves.

To keep the commentary to the point, would you please follow these guidelines and answer these questions:

Guidelines: Please keep it brief yet specific. Please refrain from replying to a comment unless it addresses a specific point made (perhaps for an elaboration or clarification rather than an argument).

Questions:

1. What kind of church do you attend, if any?
2. What is your role in ministry, if any?
3. Has your position on the Bible version issue changed? If so, how?
4. How would you describe your current perspective on the TR, MT, and CT?
5. How important is this issue to you and how significant is it to your theology as a whole? (for example, do you practice separation if someone does not agree, etc)
6. What English Bibles do you recommend and use?
7. What resources have helped you, and which would you urge people to stay away from?
8. Finally, to keep things friendly, share with us what your favorite food is.

The above do not necessarily all have to be answered, or answered in order, but if you could frame your comments around these topics that would help us keep things clear and concise.

James White vs. Will Kinney

Will Kinney may not be a household name, but  those who have debated the King James Only issue on the Internet are very likely to have come across Kinney’s articles one way or another. I have personally exchanged arguments with him in the past. I do think he has a better handle of some of the issues than many drive-by commentators on the web (so much so that on a message board, a bunch of folks I’ve debated could not respond to my arguments so one member of the message board threatened to “get Will Kinney over here” to refute me, and the exchange began), but he does not hold back from the typical ad-hominem attacks of many extreme KJV Onlysists. His tone unfortunately takes away from the force of any of his legitimate arguments.

Anyway, in typical KJVO fashion, Kinney has gone on the attack against James White (who has possibly been attacked more by fellow Christians holding to the KJVO view than he has by Muslims and atheists) complete with insults and wide-eyed accusations. One video in which he does this is here, and you can follow related links to others:

On a recent episode of the Dividing Line, White responds to some charges:

Will Kinney calls into the program about 15 minutes in, and the two argue for about 12 minutes. The exchange is rather annoying, as both men are talking past each other and basically saying, “No, you answer the question” back and forth. Kinney is bold; James white is bold. Kinney is on the attack and White does not seem as though he will let these insults fly without response. Knowing Kinney’s pattern, he will not let this go. So unless James White, out of frustration, decides not to pursue the matter any further, I would expect a drawn-out back-and-forth over the next few weeks or so.

 

The SBC Expresses “Disappointment” over the NIV 2011 Bible

Do you think the recent resolution from the SBC on the NIV 2011 translation has gone too far? I think it has. Let me know what you think.

Here’s the report from Baptist Press following the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, held June 14-15.

Resolutions: SBC tackles immigration, NIV

Posted on Jun 16, 2011 | by Tom Strode

In an unusual move, messengers called to the floor and passed a resolution on the “gender-neutral 2011 New International Version” (NIV) that was not reported to the convention by the Resolutions Committee….

The NIV resolution overwhelmingly approved by messengers “expressed profound disappointment” with publication of the new translation and “respectfully request[ed] that LifeWay” not sell the version in its stores.

The resolution came to the floor when Indiana pastor Tim Overton persuaded messengers to address the 2011 version of the popular translation that his resolution said had “gone beyond acceptable translation standards” regarding gender. His resolution said 75 percent of the flawed gender translation in the TNIV appears in the new NIV. Southern Baptist messengers expressed their disapproval of the TNIV in a 2002 resolution.

Overton, pastor of Halteman Village Baptist Church in Muncie, Ind., told messengers the Southern Baptist Convention needed to address the issue in its role as a leading voice in the evangelical Christian community.

Speaking for the committee regarding its decision not to present Overton’s measure, Russell Moore said the members did not believe the issue “rose to the level of needing to be addressed by this year’s convention.” Moore said the TNIV was “something of a stealth move,” which was not true in this case. He also said the NIV is not in the same position now as it was in the past, since such translations as the Holman Christian Standard Bible and English Standard Version are now available. He also said the NIV is “just one of many Bibles out there [with] similar language.”

The committee did not oppose passage of the resolution. At the news conference, Moore said, “The committee, of course, shares the concerns that were expressed in the resolution. The issue was not whether or not we would affirm the NIV and its changes but whether or not we thought the current changes were worthy of being addressed” at this year’s meeting.

Moore is dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as teaching pastor for Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.

Thoughts?

The Etymology of “Belief”

In reading through a new book, The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family by Andrew Himes, grandson of John R. Rice, I came across a fascinating quote about the etymology of the English word “belief”. The quote comes from Karen Armstrong, The Case for God (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009), pg. 86.

When the New Testament was translated from Greek into Latin by Saint Jerome (c. 342-420) pistis became fides (“loyalty”). Fides had no verbal form, so for pisteuo Jerome used the Latin verb credo, a word that derived from cor do, “I give my heart.” He did not think of using opinor (“I hold an opinion.”) When the Bible was translated into English, credo and pisteuo became “I believe” in the King James version (1611). But the word “belief” has since changed its meaning. In Middle English, bileven meant “to praise; to value; to hold dear.” It was related to the German belieben (“to love), liebe (“beloved”), and the Latin libido. So “belief” originally meant “loyalty to a person to whom one is bound in promise or duty.” …During the late seventeenth century, however, as our concept of knowledge became more theoretical, the word “belief” started to be used to describe an intellectual assent to a hypothetical–and often dubious–proposition. Scientists and philosophers were the first to use it in this sense, but in religious contexts the Latin credere and the English “belief” both retained their original connotations well into the 19th century.

This rings true to me. I looked to a quick online etymological tool, and found this entry for “belief” which seems to confirm this sense that the English word “belief” has shifted in meaning.

belief

late 12c., replaced O.E. geleafa “belief, faith,” from W.Gmc. *ga-laubon (cf. O.S. gilobo, M.Du. gelove, O.H.G. giloubo, Ger. glaube), from *galaub- “dear, esteemed.” The prefix was altered on analogy of the verb believe. The distinction of the final consonant from that of believe developed 15c. Belief used to mean “trust in God,” while faith meant “loyalty to a person based on promise or duty” (a sense preserved in keep one’s faith, in good (or bad) faith and in common usage of faithful, faithless, which contain no notion of divinity). But faith, as cognate of L. fides, took on the religious sense beginning in 14c. translations, and belief had by 16c. become limited to “mental acceptance of something as true,” from the religious use in the sense of “things held to be true as a matter of religious doctrine” (early 13c.).

This illustrates the difficulties of translation, and the reason why studying the original languages is so important. Any translation will of necessity be inferior to the original, and the receptor words will not always match up one-for-one with the original Greek or Hebrew. It also points out the problem of words changing meaning over time. In our scientific age, “belief” has many connotations that weren’t necessarily there when the King James Version was translated in 1611.

From a theological standpoint, I think the idea that belief is loyalty, covenant faithfulness stands up to Scriptural teaching. Being a believer is not merely assenting to a set of facts, it is committing to follow Christ your entire life long.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on all this. It is especially appropriate given Easter weekend here, that we think a little more closely about what it means to believe. So feel free to discuss the theological takeaway, or the translational takeaway from this.