In this essay I will be addressing the Holy Spirit and his work as it effected the work of the apostles. The introductory text is 1 John 5:7, where the record states:
“There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and the three are one.”
If you had opened your own Bible looking for this passage, some of you may be still trying to locate what was just presented, as part or all of it does not appear there on the page. This verse or the last phrase from it may not be in your Bible if you regularly read from the American Standard, New American Standard, the New International Version, the Amplified Version, or perhaps some other modern version. While I am not really interested in the controversies in this study as to the authenticity of this passage, I do think it would be irresponsible to say nothing concerning this.
Perhaps a note near the passage in your version may state that the second portion of this verse (“and these three are one.”) is not found in the “earliest versions of ancient manuscripts.” Perhaps you see something by reference that says that this verse only occurs in some “very late manuscripts,” as is noted in the margin if you are a regular reader using the New King James Version, although the verse is listed in the body of the text just as I listed it above. These notes and those similar to them refer to the fact that this verse or that part mentioned is not included in the two oldest known manuscript versions.
These two versions are named Siniaticus and Vaticanus. Both of them date to the 4th Century. That is what the editors wish you to know and that is what is meant if the notes or center margin information states, “not included in the earliest manuscripts” or something to that effect concerning this or other verses when noted similarly.
However, did you know that of those two versions, one of them, the one known as Vaticanus, has no text at all beyond Hebrews 9:13? Conveniently that would include the verse we have just listed. So while the statement is particularly true, the actual condition of the statement is not. It is true that this verse is not found in that version, but that is also misleading as the same can be said of any verse beyond Hebrews 9:13. There is then a wealth of other scripture that is included under that blanket statement, “not found in the earliest manuscripts” as it concerns this one ancient version. In fact, it would be true of everything beyond Hebrews 9:13, wouldn’t it? Therefore, to be completely accurate, only one of the earliest versions, the one known as Siniaticus, can be truly said to be missing this particular verse.
At the same time, a man by the name of Cyprian quoted this passage in his writings (and he died in 258) more than one hundred years prior to the copying of that single manuscript known as Siniaticus. I should wonder where he heard this verse to quote it as scripture. I can take you right to the statement in his writings if you should like. In fact well list it here for you out of the Standard English translation. Cyprian quotes John 10:30 and the latter portion of 1 John 5:7, stating, “The Lord says, “I and the Father are one; and again it is written of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, “and these three are one.” He couldn’t have been quoting another passage, as this is the only place that this phrase “and these three are one,” ever appears in the scriptures.
[This is quoted as it appears in The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.5. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody MA. 1995 reprint of the 1886 edition. Page 423.]
You won’t come by this information easily – it has taken me considerable study to locate it. The average person might never come across it.
Yet the printers of your Bibles are more than happy to tell you that this verse is missing from those “earliest” versions.
All of that makes me wonder just why they would do this. I’ll give you only a theory as to why I believe they entered notes like this concerning this verse in particular.
Originally these two versions were thought to be more accurate than all the others due strictly to their age, but that notion has now largely been discredited. One, the version now known as Siniaticus, had been found in trash basket at a monastery as it was being discarded and sent out with the rest of the rubbish for burning. The other had been ignored and forgotten and had fallen completely out of use when it was “discovered.” The generally accepted theory concerning these now is that they were largely ignored as they alike contained many script and doctrinal errors and that the one (Vaticanus) was only a bad partial version and not good for much. But historically speaking the arguments for or against acceptance should be of little concern.
Doctrinally speaking, some people early on in the history of the church didn’t like the doctrine of the Trinity as it had appeared in some teachings by its adherents in the mid second century. So, they in turn felt compelled to alter a portion of text here or there where they thought that the Holy Spirit’s choice of words led to certain conclusions they didnt approve of or care to acknowledge. The doctrine of the Trinity as put forth by first Athansius and later Augustin would eventually become a foundation of Catholic thinking and would also find its way into all Protestant teaching and all denominational churches. So it is quite possible that some of these men felt that by ridding the text of certain references they would be acting to cast doubts on what they considered to be a spurious doctrine.
The sellers and providers of most of the modern versions today are for the most part not Catholic and have no particular interest in promoting Catholic doctrine. And it seems that now some may have an interest in keeping things much as they are as it lends credence to something that has on its own no credence. It occurs to me (and maybe to you too) that the purpose then and now has been to raise doubt.
All such things come from the minds of ungodly men. While the motive may have seemed to be noble – the effect certainly is not. God’s Word has all that is necessary in it either to uphold or to overthrow any doctrine. While the doctrine of the Trinity as it is taught in modern religion is without foundation in the word of God, nevertheless it is a dangerous thing to trifle with God’s word or to append it. In the days in which we live we have seen more examples of poor, incorrect or frivolous translations and translations for particular purposes than at any previous time in history.
Aside from all that, this verse is no promotion of Augustin’s doctrine. That is not its import. Its purpose is simply to note that the purposes of the Godhead are one; and that they each worked toward a central purpose in their individual and collective dealings with humanity.
Yet, even if we were to disregard this interesting historical note, you would still find the same sentiment as found here in 1 John 5:7 in a number of other places in both the Old and the New Testament. If you but look, you will find another proof for it in this same chapter: in 1 John 5 — within the same argument where this particular verse is found.
The point concerning this peculiar historical and doctrinal note is this. We all need to be watchful and more than a little skeptical of the things that are presented to us in comment of the text and in what we read and hear, whether found here or elsewhere; and that unless we take the time to study and locate it in the word of God, we cannot rely upon what may be offered. We must verify everything that we do in the name of God and of his Christ for our very souls depend on it.
But, my main concern in this study actually lies deeper within this short verse, things which I will take up in Part 2.