The Johaninne Comma
The Internal Evidence
The determination of the integrity of the Greek Vulgate now turns on the decision of this question, whether those texts relative to the doctrine of the Incarnation, Redemption, and Trinity, which have been already mentioned, as impugned by the advocates for a more correct text than exists in our printed editions, must be considered authentic or spurious.
I have hitherto labored to no purpose if it is not admitted that I have already laid a foundation sufficiently broad and deep for maintaining the authenticity of the contested verses. The negative argument arising in their favor, from the probability that Eusebius suppressed them in his edition, has been already stated at large. Some stress may be laid on this extraordinary circumstance, that the whole of the important interpolations, which are thus conceived to exist in the Received Text, were contrary to his peculiar notions. If we conceive them cancelled by him, there is nothing wonderful in the matter at issue; but if we consider them subsequently interpolated, it is next to miraculous that they should be so circumstanced. And what must equally excite astonishment, to a certain degree they are not more opposed to the peculiar opinions of Eusebius, by whom I conceive they were cancelled, than of the Catholics, by whom it is conceived they were inserted in the text. When separated from the sacred context, as they are always in quotation, the doctrine which they appear most to favor is that of the Sabellians; but this heresy was as contrary to the tenets of those who conformed to the Catholic as of those who adhered to the Arian opinions. It thus becomes as improbable that the former should have inserted, as it is probable the latter suppressed those verses; and just as probable is it, that both parties might have acquiesced in their suppression when they were once removed from the text of Scripture. If we connect this circumstance with that previously advanced, that Eusebius, the avowed adversary of the Sabellians, expunged these verses from his text, and that every manuscript from which they have disappeared is lineally descended from his edition, every difficulty in which this intricate subject is involved directly vanishes. The solution of the question lies in this narrow space, that he expunged them from the text, as opposed to his peculiar opinions: and the peculiar apprehensions which were indulged of Sabellianism by the orthodox, prevented them from restoring those verses or citing them in their controversies with the Arians.
Thus far we have but attained probability, though clearly of the highest degree, in favor of the authenticity of these disputed verses. The question before us is, however, involved in difficulties which still require a solution. In order to solve these, and to investigate more carefully the claims of those verses to authenticity, I shall lay them before the reader as they occur in the Greek and Latin Vulgate; subjoining those various readings, which are supposed to preserve the genuine text.
(The following verses are then quoted in Greek and in Latin; Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 5:7-8.)
Byzantine text thus reads, in Act. xx. 28. evkklhsi,an tou/ qeou/, and in I Tim. iii. 16. Qeo.j evfanerw,qh, the Palestine, or Alexandrian, according to M. Griesbach,
reads, in the former place, evkklhsi,an
tou/ kuri,ou, and in the latter, o]j
evfanerw,qh. In 1 John v. 7. the Byzantine and
In proceeding to estimate the respective merit of these readings, the first attention is due to the internal evidence. In reasoning from it we work upon solid ground. For the authenticity of some part of the verses in dispute we have that strong evidence which arises from universal consent; all manuscripts and translations supporting some part of the context of the contested passages. In the remaining parts we are given a choice between two readings, one only of which can be authentic. And in making our election, we have in the common principles of plain sense and ordinary language, a certain rule by which we may be directed. Gross solecisms in the grammatical structure, palpable oversights in the texture of the sense, cannot be ascribed to the inspired writers. If of any two given readings one be exposed to such objections, there is but the alternative, that the other must be authentic.
On applying this principle to the Palestine Text, in the first instance, it seems to bring the point in dispute to a speedy determination. The reading which it proposes in the disputed texts is not to be reconciled with sense, with grammar, or the uniform phraseology of the New Testament.
1. In Acts xx.
28, the phrase evkklhsi,an tou/ kuri,ou
is unknown to the language of the Greek Testament, and wholly irreconcilable
with the use of ivdi,ou ai[matoj for ai[matoj
auvtou, in the context, as leading to a false
or absurd meaning. The phrase evkklhsi,an tou/ qeou is that uniformly used by the evangelical writers, and that
used above ten times by
2. In 1 Tim. iii, 16, the phrase o]j evfanerw,qh is little reconcilable with sense or grammar. In order to make it Greek, in the sense of "he who was manifested," it should be ov fanerwqei.j; but this reading is rejected by the universal consent of manuscripts and translations. The subjunctive article o]j is indeed used indefinitely; but it is then put for o]j a]n, o]j eva.n, o[jij a]n, wa/j o[jij; as in this state it is synonymous with whoever, whosoever, we have only to put this term into the letter of the text, in order to discover that it reduces the reading of M. Griesbach and of the Palestine Text to palpable nonsense.
3. In 1 Joh. v. 7, three masculine adjectives, trei/j oi` marturou/ntej are forced into union with three neuter substantives, to. Pneu/ma( kai. to. u[dwr( kai. to. ai-ma; a grosser solecism than can be ascribed to any writer, sacred or profane, And low as the opinion may be which the admirers of the Corrected Text may hold of the purity of the style of St. John; it is a grosser solecism than they can fasten on the holy Evangelist, who, in his context, has made one of these adjectives regularly agree with its correspondent substantive in the neuter. There seems to be consequently as little reason for tolerating this text as either of the preceding.
alternative to which the question has been reduced, it might now be inferred,
that the reading of our printed editions, which is supported, in 1 Tim. iii. 16
by the Greek Vulgate, in 1 Joh. v.7 by the Latin Vulgate, and in Act. xx. 28 by
both the Greek and Latin Vulgate, contained the genuine text of Scripture. As
the reading of those passages, however, admits of more than a negative defence;
I proceed to examine how far this testimony of the Eastern and
Directing our attention in the first place, to the structure of the phrase, the tenor of the sense and language as fully declares for the received reading, as against the corrected.
1. In Act. xx. 28. the apostolical phrase, evkklhsi,an tou/ Qeou/, is not only preserved, but its full force consequently assigned to the epithet ivdi,ou. This term, as used by the apostle, has an exclusive and emphatic force; an exclusive, in limiting the sense to "God," the subject of the assertion;—an emphatic, in evincing the apostle's earnestness in using so extraordinary an expression. “Feed the Church of God, which he purchased with no other blood than his own,” is the literal meaning of the phrase; and this meaning is not more clearly expressed, than we shall see it was required by the object of the apostle, in writing.
2: In 1 Tim. iii. 16. there can be little doubt that the "Great Mystery," of which the apostle speaks, and that whereby some one “was manifested in the flesh,” must be the Incarnation. If we take the account given of this “mystery” in John i. 1. 14. it marks out “God” as the divine person who “was manifested.” And putting this term into the letter of the text, it renders the apostle’s explanation answerable to his purpose and to the solemn mode of his enunciation. For, as the manifestation of no person, but the incomprehensible and divine, can be a mystery, any “manifestation” of “God,” as “in the flesh,” must be a “Great Mystery.” So far, the apostle’s phrase is as just as it is sententious.
3. In 1 John v. 7. the manifest rent in the Corrected Text, which
appears from the solecism in the language, is filled up in the Received Text;
and o` path,r( o` lo,goj, being inserted, the masculine adjectives,
trei/j oi` marturou/ntej, are ascribed suitable
substantives; and by the figure attraction, which is so prevalent in Greek,
every objection is removed to the structure of the context. Nor is there thus a
necessary emendation made in the apostle's language alone, but in his meaning.
From viewing the internal evidence of the disputed texts, let us next consider the circumstances under which they were delivered; and here, I am wholly deceived, or the investigation will lead to the ultimate establishment of the same conclusion.
It is of the
last importance in deciding the present question, to ascertain the subject
which was before the apostles, in delivering themselves on the occasion before
us. Some light arises to direct us in this enquiry from the consideration, that
the words of both apostles were addressed to the Church at
It is further
deserving of remark, that both apostles are expressly engaged on the subject of
those early heresies with which the
In order to determine the question before us, it is still
necessary that we should acquire a precise knowledge of the fundamental tenets
of those heretics whom the apostles opposed.
While these heretics thus denied the Divinity and rendered void
the Incarnation and Redemption of Christ, they seemed not to have erred so
grossly on the doctrine of the Trinity. As they were respectively descended
from the Jews, though their notions were warped by the peculiar opinions of
Simon Magus, they must have derived from both sources
some knowledge of this mystic doctrine. Hence
it is of importance to observe that the Jews expressed their belief in this
doctrine in the identical terms which occur in the suspected passage; "and
the three are one.”
It is likewise observable, that as these notions had descended to the
heretics; the Nicolaitans, in particular, expressed the same belief in similar
language. And the Hebrew Gospel, which was used by the Ebionites, if not by the
Cerinthians, both of which sects were opposed by
the state of the subject as before the apostles, let us now consider the manner
in which they have discussed the points at issue between them and the heretics.
The determination of this matter is decisive of the true reading of the
contested passages. With respect to the heretics who were opposed by St. Paul,
as it has been already observed, it was not only a fundamental article of their
creed to deny the divinity of the Logos, and to degrade him into
the order of secondary and angelical existences; but a leading doctrine to deny
that Christ became incarnate and
suffered; otherwise than in appearance, for the redemption of mankind. The
opposition of these notions to the explicit declarations of St. Paul, in
the contested verses, must be directly apparent; and they appositely illustrate
the strong emphasis with which the apostle insists on the Incarnation and Redemption in both passages: "God," he
declares, "was manifested in the flesh;” and "feed the church of God
which he purchased with his own blood.” But what is more immediately to our
purpose, those heretical tenets evince the obligation which was laid on the
apostle to assert the divine nature of our Lord as strenuously as he asserted
his human. This we observe to be as effectually done in the Received Text,
where the term God is expressly introduced; as the contrary is observable in
the Corrected, where that term is superseded by "the Lord," or “he
who was manifested." Of consequence, the circumstances under which those
verses were delivered as fully confirm the reading of the one, as they
invalidate that of the other. The apostle expressly undertakes to warn the
Church against those heretics whose errors he is employed in refuting.
"Therefore watch," he declares to the Ephesian pastors, "and
remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night
and day with tears. To Timothy he declares, "If thou put the brethren in
remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus
Christ.”—"Take heed unto thyself," subjoins the apostle, "and to
thy doctrine; continue in them'"," &c. But if we omit
"God," with the Corrected Text,
These conclusions are further supported by collateral evidence. St. Ignatius, an auditor of St. John, who impugned the errors of the Nicolaitans respecting the divinity of the Logos, adopts the identical expressions of St. Paul in an Epistle addressed to the same church at Ephesus, and insists on the divinity, incarnation, and passion of Christ, in language the most full and explicit. Had all antiquity been silent on the subject of these contested verses, which are supported by the most full and unexceptionable evidence, the single testimony of this apostolical father would determine the genuine reading beyond controversion.
With respect to 1 John v. 7,8 it has been already observed, that it was directed against the peculiar errors of the Nicolaitans and Cerinthians. Of those sects it has been likewise observed, that they respectively denied that Jesus was "the Son of God," and "came in the flesh," though they mutually expressed their belief in a Trinity. Such are the fundamental errors which the apostle undertakes to refute, while at the same time he inculcates a just notion of the Trinity, distinguishing the Persons from the substance by opposing trei/j in the masculine to e]n in the neuter.
Against those who denied that "Jesus was the Son of God," he appeals to the heavenly witnesses; and against those who denied that he "was come in the flesh," he appeals to the earthly. For the admission of the one, that the "three," including the Word, were "one" God, as clearly evinced the divinity of Christ, as identifying him with the Father; as "the spirit" which he yielded up, and "the blood and water" which he shed upon the cross, evinced his humanity as proving him mortal. And this appeal to the witnesses is as obvious, as the argument deduced from it is decisive; those who abjured the Divinity of our Lord, being as naturally confuted by the testimony of the heavenly witnesses, as those who denied his humanity by the testimony of the earthly. Viewed with reference to these considerations the apostle's argument is as full and obvious, as it is clear and decisive; while it is illustrated by the circumstances under which his epistle was written. But let us suppose the seventh verse suppressed, and he not only neglects the advantage which was to be derived from the concession of his opponents, while he sums up "the witness of men," but the very end of his epistle is frustrated, as the main proposition is thus left unestablished, that "Jesus is the Son of God." And though the notions of the heretics on the doctrine of the Trinity were vague and unsettled, the Church was thus left without any warning against their peculiar tenets, though the apostle wrote with the express view of countervailing their errors. Not to insist on the circumstances of the controversy, the object of the apostle's writing, not less than the tenor of his sense, consequently require that the disputed passage should be considered an integral part of his text.
The reader must be now left to determine how far the internal evidence, supported by the circumstances of the controversy in which the sacred writers were engaged, may extend in establishing the authenticity of the disputed verses. As interpolations, we must find it as difficult to account for their origin, by considering them the product of chance as design. For assuming the reading of the Corrected Text to be genuine, is it not next to miraculous that the casual alteration introduced into the Received Text should produce so extraordinary an effect in each of the passages, and attended by consequences so various and remote, that it should amend the solecism of the language, supply the defective sense, and verify the historical circumstances under which they were written? But how is the improbability diminished by conceiving them the product of design; while they appear to be unsuitable to the controversies agitated in the primitive Church? The early heretics did not subscribe to those parts of the canon in which they occur; and they did not meet the difficulties of those disputes which were maintained with the latter. In order to answer the purposes of those controversies, Christ, in two of the contested passages, should have been identified with "God," who "was manifested in the flesh," and "purchased the Church with his own blood." And instead of "the Father, Word, and Spirit," the remaining passage should have read, "the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." Otherwise, the interpolated passages would have been direct concessions to the Gnostics and Sabellians, who, in denying the personal difference of the Father and Son, were equally obnoxious to those avowed adversaries, the Catholics and the Arians. Nor did the orthodox require these verses for the support of their cause; they had other passages which would accomplish all that they could effect; and without their aid, they maintained and established their tenets. Admitting the possibility of an interpolation, in the three instances, we must be still at a loss to conceive with what object it could have been attempted.
On taking the reverse of the
question, and supposing the Byzantine text preserves the genuine reading, every
difficulty in the subject under discussion admits of the easiest solution. The
circumstances which induced Eusebius, of
Thus reasoning on the very grounds chosen by the adversaries of those texts, the question of their authenticity is easily decided; as far, at least, as respects the internal evidence. It is now merely necessary, that the testimony of competent witnesses should be adduced, to corroborate the internal evidence, with external.
manuscripts which have been cited on this subject, 1. the
2. The Alexandrian, and all
known manuscripts, except two of the
3. The whole nearly of the manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate contain 1 Joh. v. 7; which is not found in any Greek MS. but the Montfort; a manuscript which has been obviously corrected by the Latin translation.
Of the Christian fathers who have been quoted on this subject, the following have been cited in favor of the reading of the Received Text, or Greek Vulgate.
1. On Act. xx. 28. St. Ignatius, in the apostolical age; and Tertullian, near the same period. At the distance of a century and upwards from those primitive times, St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Epiphanius, St. Ambrose, and St. Chrysostom, deliver the same testimony. In the following age occur Ibas and Coelestinus; and in the succeeding, Fulgentius, Ferrandus; and Primasius. In the next age we meet Antiochus, and Martin I, and in the subsequent, Bede, who is followed, after some distance of time, by Etherius, OEcumenius, and Theophylact.
To these we may add some anonymous authorities, whose age is not easily determined.
2. On 1 Tim.
iii. 16 we may quote St. Ignatius; in the apostolical age; and Hippolytus, in the age which succeeded. The next age
presents St. Athanasius, St. Gregory Nyssene, and St. Chrysostom; and the
following age, St. Cyril, of
3. On 1 Joh. v. 7. we may cite Tertullian in the age next the apostolical, and St. Cyprian in the subsequent era. In the following age, we may quote Phoebadius, Marcus Celedensis, and Idatius Clarus; and in the succeeding; age, Eucherius, Victor Vitensis, and Vigilius Tapsensis. Fulgentius and Cassiodorus occur in the next age, and Maximus in the subsequent; to whom we might add many others, or indeed the whole of the Western Church, who after this period generally adopted this verse in their authorized version.
With respect to 1 Tim. iii 16 and Acts xx 28 it is, I trust, unnecessary to add another argument in support of their authenticity. Admitting that. there exists sufficient external evidence to prove that those verses constituted a part of Scripture; the internal evidence must decide whether we are to consider them genuine or must reject them as spurious. The point at issue is thus reduced to a matter of fact on which there is no room for a second opinion. It has been, I trust, sufficiently shown that the one text is supported by the testimony of the Eastern Church and the other by that of the Eastern and Western. The inference is of course obvious, without a formal deduction.
With respect to I John v. 7. the case is materially different. If this verse be received, it must be admitted on the single testimony of the Western Church, as far at least as respects the external evidence. And though it may seem unwarrantable to set aside the authority of the Greek Church, and pay exclusive respect to the Latin, where a question arises on the authenticity of a passage which properly belongs to the text of the former; yet when the doctrine inculcated in that passage is taken into account, there may be good reason for giving even a preference to the Western Church over that of the Eastern. The former was uncorrupted by the heresy of the Arians, who rejected the doctrine of the passage in question; the latter was wholly resigned to that heresy for at least forty years, while the Western Church retained its purity. And while the testimony borne by the latter on the subject before us, is consistent and full; that borne by the former is internally defective. It is delivered in language, which has not even the merit of being grammatically correct; while the testimony of the latter is not only unexceptionable in itself, but possesses the singular merit of removing the aforementioned imperfection on being merely turned into Greek and inserted in the context of the original. Under these circumstances there seems to be little reasonableness in allowing the Western Church any authority, and denying it, in this instance, a preference over the Eastern.
But numberless circumstances conspire to strengthen the authority of the Latin Church in supporting the authenticity of this passage. The particular Church on whose testimony principally we receive the disputed verse, is that of Africa. And even at the first sight, it must be evident, that the most implicit respect is due to its testimony.
1. In those great convulsions which agitated the Eastern and Western Churches for eight years, with scarcely any intermission, and which subjected the sacred text to the greatest changes through that vast tract of country which extends round the Levant, from Libya to Illyricum, the African provinces were exposed to the horrors of persecution but for an inconsiderable period. The Church, of course, which was established in this region neither required a new supply of sacred books nor received those which had been revised by Eusebius and St. Jerome, as removed out of the range of the influence of those ancient fathers.
2. As the African Church possessed this competency to deliver a pure unsophisticated testimony on the subject before us; that which it has borne is as explicit as it is plenary, since it is delivered in a Confession prepared by the whole church assembled in council. After the African provinces had been overrun by the Vandals, Hunneric, their king, summoned the bishops of this church and of the adjacent isles to deliberate on the doctrine inculcated in the disputed passage. Between three and four hundred prelates attended the Council which met at Carthage; and Eugenius, as bishop of that see, drew up the Confession of the orthodox, in which the contested verse is expressly quoted. That a whole church should thus concur in quoting a verse which was not contained in the received text is wholly inconceivable; and admitting that 1 John v 7 was thus generally received, its universal prevalence in that text is only to be accounted for by supposing it to have existed in it from the beginning.
3. The testimony which the African church has borne on the subject before us is not more strongly recommended by the universal consent, than the immemorial tradition of the evidence which attests the authenticity of the contested passage. Victor Vitensis and Fulgentius, Marcus Celedensis, St. Cyprian, and Tertullian, were Africans, and have referred to the verse before us. Of these witnesses, which follow each other at almost equal intervals, the first is referred to the age of Eugenius, the last to that nearly of the Apostles. They thus form a traditionary chain, carrying up the testimony of the African Church until it loses itself in time immemorial.
4. The testimony of the African Church, which possesses these strong recommendations, receives confirmation from the corroborating evidence of other churches, which were similarly circumstanced. Phoebadius and Eucherius, the latter of whom had been translated from the Spanish to the Gallican Church, were members of the latter; and both these churches had been exempt, not less than the African, from the effects of Dioclesian's persecution. Both those early fathers, Phoebadius and Eucherius, attest the authenticity of the contested passage; the testimony of the former is entitled to the greater respect as he boldly withstood the authority of Hosius whose influence tended to extend the Arian opinions in the Western world, at the very period in which he cited the contested passage. In addition to these witnesses we have, in the testimony of Maximus, the evidence of a person who visited the African Church, and who there becoming acquainted with the disputed passage wrote a tract for the purpose of employing it against the Arians. The testimony of these witnesses forms a valuable accession to that of the African Church.
5. We may appeal to the testimony of the Greek Church in confirmation of the African Churches. Not to insist at present on positive testimonies, the disputed verse, though not supported by the text of the original Greek, is clearly supported by its context. The latter does not agree so well with itself, as it does with the testimony of the African Church. The grammatical structure which is imperfect in itself, directly recovers its original integrity on being filled up with the passage which is offered on the testimony of this witness. Thus far the testimony of the Greek Church is plainly corroborative of that of the Western.
6. In fine, as Origen and Eusebius have both thought that one church becomes a sufficient voucher for one even of the sacred books of the Canon; and as Eusebius has borne the most unqualified evidence to the integrity and purity of the Church of Africa, we can have no just grounds for rejecting its testimony on a single verse of Scripture. And when we consider the weight of the argument arising in favor of this verse from the internal evidence; how forcibly the subject of it was pressed upon the attention of St. John; and how amply it is attested by that external evidence which is antecedent, though deficient in that which is subsequent, to the times of the apostles, our conviction must rise that this passage is authentic. But when we add the very obvious solution which this lack of subsequent evidence receives, from the probability that Eusebius suppressed this passage in the edition which he revised; and which became the received text of the Church, which remained in subjection to the Arians for the forty years that succeeded; I trust nothing further can be lacking to convince any ingenuous mind that 1 John v. 7. really proceeded from St. John the Evangelist.
I shall now venture to conclude, that the doctrinal integrity of the Greek Vulgate is established, in the vindication of these passages. It has been my endeavor to rest it upon its natural basis; the testimony of the two Churches, in the eastern and western world, in whose keeping the sacred trust was reposed. In two instances alone, which are of any moment, their testimony is found to vary; and in these the evidence is not discovered to be contradictory, but defective, and this merely on one side. To direct us, however, in judging between the witnesses the internal evidence at once reveals that an error lies on the side of that testimony which is less full, as it is not consistent when regarded alone. Hence, on confronting the witnesses, and correcting the defective testimony by that which is more explicit, every objection to which the former was originally exposed directly disappears. As this is a result which cannot be considered accidental, there seems to be no possible mode of accounting for it, but by supposing, that there was a period when the witnesses agreed in that testimony which is more full and explicit. However inadequate therefore either of the witnesses may be considered, when regarded separately, yet when their testimony is regarded comparatively it is competent to put us in possession of the truth in all instances, which are of any importance.
It is scarcely necessary any further to prolong this discussion by specifying the relative imperfection of those systems, to which the present scheme is opposed. Those of Dr. Bentley and M. Griesbach are fundamentally defective in sacrificing the testimony of the Eastern Church for the immense period, during which the Greek Vulgate has prevailed; that of M. Matthaei is scarcely less exceptionable, in rejecting the testimony of the Western Church for the still greater period during which it has been a witness and keeper of Holy Writ.
In fact, whoever saps the basis on which the integrity of the inspired Word is properly sustained, must necessarily build on a foundation of sand. Whether we build on the authority of Origen, or of the Ancient Manuscripts, or that of the Versions of the Oriental or of the Western Church, all our documents must be taken subject to the testimony of tradition. But it seems to be a strange perversion of reason which will lead any man to give a preference to such vouchers over the proper witnesses of the inspired Word. For while the testimony of the former is subject to the same casualties as that of the latter, in having the stream of tradition rendered turbid in its course; it is exposed to infinitely greater chances of corruption from external sources. Particular Manuscripts, not to speak of the sacred writings, yet of the ancient Fathers are liable to gross and willful corruption at the first; and Versions may be made, for aught we can determine, from corrupt copies, or by unskillful hands. In these possible cases, we are possessed of no certain criterion to arrive at the truth. But we must be assured, that the Sacred Writings were delivered in immaculate purity, to those churches, to whom they were committed; that they were guarded from corruption by commanding that veneration which has never been excited by any human work; and that they have been dispersed to a degree which rendered their universal corruption utterly impossible, and consequently not likely to be attempted. It seems therefore to savor of something worse than paradox to proceed on the supposition that the copies of Scripture are generally corrupted; and that the true reading may be acquired in other and suspicious sources.
The External Evidence
Here, consequently, this discussion might be brought to a close, were it not expedient to anticipate some objections which may be urged against the conclusion, which it has been hitherto my object to establish. Of the texts of the Greek Vulgate, which have been vindicated as genuine, Act. xx. 28, 1 Tim. iii. 16, 1 Joh. v. 7 have been exposed to formidable objections. The Palestine edition in its reading of those passages has obtained a strenuous advocate in M. Griesbach. Having already laid the various readings of that edition before the reader, and specified some objections deduced from the internal evidence which preclude our considering them genuine, I shall now proceed, in the first place, to state the testimony on which their authenticity is supported, and then to offer some of the objections by which it appears to be invalidated.
1. Of Manuscripts, ten only are cited in favor of kuvrioj in Acts xx 28; not half that number in favor of o]j in 1 Tim. iii 16; all that are extant and known, with the exception of two, in favor of the reading of M. Griesbach's corrected edition [in 1 John 5:7].
2. Of Versions, the Sahidic, Coptic, Armenian, and margin of the later Syriac, support kuvrioj in Act. xx. 28; the same versions, with the Ethiopic and Erpenian Arabic, support o]j in 1 Tim. iii. 16: and all that are extant, except the Latin Vulgate and Armenian, the corrected reading of 1 Joh. v. 7.
3. Of the Fathers who have been cited in favor of the Palestine text, the following is a brief statement. (1.) On Act. xx 28. St. Ignatius, St. Irenaeus, Eusebius, Didymus, S. Chrysostom, and Theophylact; S. Jerome, Lucifer, and Augustine; Theodorus Studites, Maximus, Antonius, Ibas, Sedulius, and Alcimus; the Apostolical Constitutions, the Council of Nice, and the second Council of Carthage; a catena quoting Ammonius, and a manuscript containing the Epistles of S. Athanasius. (2.) On 1 Tim. iii. 16 Cyril Alexandrinus, S. Jerome, Theodorus Mopsuestenus, Epiphanius, Gelasius Cyzicenus, and, on his authority, Macarius of Jerusalem. (3.) On I Joh. v. 7 it has been deemed sufficient to state that the fathers are wholly silent respecting it in the Trinitarian controversy, while some of them even quote the subjoined verse, and strain that doctrine from it by an allegorical interpretation, which is plainly asserted in the contested passage.
Such is the external testimony which is offered in favor of those verses as they are inserted in the Corrected Text. And yet, however formidable it may appear, it seems exposed to no less formidable objections.
In reply to the testimony of Manuscripts quoted on this subject, it seems sufficient to state that they are collectively descended from the edition of Eusebius, and are consequently disqualified from appearing in evidence on account of his peculiar opinions. With respect to the few manuscripts which support the reading of Acts xx. 28, 1 Tim. iii. 16. they particularly approximate to his edition, as containing the Palestine text, and are consequently on that account not entitled to the least degree of credit.
The same observation may be made in reply to the testimony of Versions which has been adduced in evidence on this subject. None of them can lay claim to a degree of antiquity prior to the fourth century. In that age the principal of the ancient versions were made, chiefly under the auspices of Constantine the Great, who employed Eusebius to revise the text of Scripture. The only probability consequently is, that they were accommodated to the Palestine edition, and the principal versions cited on the present question bear internal evidence of the fact, as they coincide with the Palestine text and are divided by Eusebius's sections. Such is particularly the case with the Sahidic and Coptic, the later Syriac and Latin translations. They cannot, of course, be allowed any separate voice from the Palestine text in deciding the matter at issue.
This consideration seems to leave very little weight to the authority of the Fathers, who are adduced in evidence on this subject. With a few exceptions, which are of no account, they also succeeded the age of Eusebius; in referring cursorily to those verses they may be conceived to have quoted from his edition, as containing the received text of the age in which they flourished. I here except, as preceding his time, S. Ignatius, S. Irenaeus, and the compilers of the Apostolical Constitutions, who have been quoted in support of Act. xx. 28, but their testimony is not entitled to the smallest respect, as derived to us through the most suspicious channels. The first and last of these witnesses are quoted from editions which have been notoriously corrupted, as it is conceived, by the Arians, and we consequently find that the genuine works of Ignatius read with the Byzantine Text instead of the Palestine. And with regard to St. Irenaeus's evidence, it is quoted merely from a translation which has been made by some barbarous writer who, in rendering the scriptural quotation’s of his original, has followed the Latin version which agrees with St. Irenaeus in possessing the Palestine reading.
We might give up the remaining authorities without any detriment to our cause. With respect to the evidence of St. Athanasius, St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Cyril of Alexandria, it is most unfairly wrested in support of the Corrected Text, as it is decidedly in favor of the Received Text, where it is fully and explicitly delivered. As to that of Eusebius, a word need not be advanced to invalidate its credit. With respect to Didymus, Jerome, Lucifer, Augustine, and Sedulius, it was as natural that they should quote the received text of their times, or follow the original Greek, as that we should follow our authorized version in preference to the Greek of Erasmus, or any of the translations of the early reformers. A few words would serve in reply to the authority of the Councils cited on this subject; that of Nice has been however most falsely and imperfectly reported, and that of Carthage, as reported in Greek, supports the received text, while in Latin it supports the corrected. If, after these observations, the testimony of the remaining writers cited on this subject be alleged, throwing Ammonius and Macarius into the same scale, as entitled to equal respect, from the questionable shape in which they approach us, we think the advocates of the Corrected Text, who must receive this testimony subject to the mistakes of the original authors and the errors of subsequent transcribers, fully entitled to the benefit of their authority. We have thus only to deplore the peculiar state of those who are reduced to the desperate situation of sustaining a cause which rests on so unsolid a foundation.
In reply to the argument which is deduced in favor of the corrected reading of 1 John v. 7 from the silence of the fathers, who have neglected to appeal to this text in the Trinitarian controversy, it may be, in the first place, observed that no such controversy existed.
In the first age of the Church the subjects debated by the Catholics and heretics turned upon the divinity and the humanity of Christ; on the doctrine of the Trinity there was no room for maintaining a contest. Not only the heretics, but the sects from which they sprang, would to a man have subscribed to the letter of this text, as they admitted the existence of “three” powers, or principles, in the "one" Divinity. Such was the doctrine of the two great sects into which they may be divided, consisting of Gnostics and Ebionites, for such was the doctrine of the Jews and Magians from whom those sects respectively descended; and such, consequently, is the doctrine which is expressly ascribed to Simon Magus, Cerinthus, Ebion, Valentinus, Marcion, and their followers.
To the Gnostics the Sabellians succeeded, whose opinions had been previously held by Noetus, and subsequently maintained by Paul of Samosata.
But I yet remain to be informed how this text could have been opposed to the errors of those heretics. As they followed the Ebionites, and 1 Joh. v. 7 had been quoted by the Evangelist as a concession of those heretics, this text, in the strictness of the letter, decided rather in their favor, than in that of the orthodox.
Marcellus of Ancyra and Photinus his disciple are referred to the Sabellian school. The contests maintained with them seem to lie most within the range of the disputed text, and to have assumed most the appearance of a Trinitarian controversy. But a very slight acquaintance with the subject of this controversy will clearly evince, that this text was wholly unsuitable to the purpose of those who were engaged in sustaining it. Eusebius and Marcellus, by whom it was carried on, were professedly agreed on the existence of "three" persons or subsistences in the Divine Nature; one of which they likewise believed to be “the Word," or Logos, and asserted to be "one" with God; it is consequently inconceivable that the text should be quoted to settle any point which was contested between them. The whole stress of the controversy rested on the force of the term Son, as opposed to the term "Word," or Logos; for the latter being equivocal, afforded the heretics an opportunity of explaining away its force, so as to confound the persons, after the error of Sabellius, while the former, as implying its correlative Father, effectually refuted this error, by establishing a personal diversity between the subsistences; since it involved an absurdity to consider a Father the same as his Son, or represent him as begetting himself. As the text before us uses the term "Word" instead of Son, it must be directly apparent that it was wholly unqualified to settle the point at issue; it can be therefore no matter of surprise that no appeal. is made to it in the whole of the controversy. Eusebius and Marcellus had, however, other reasons for declining to cite its authority. As the ardor of controversy drove them into extremes, the one leaning towards the error of Arius, and the other towards that of Sabellius, the text in dispute, as containing the orthodox doctrine, must have been as unsuitable to the purpose of the one as of the other; the term e]n making as much against Eusebius, who divided the substance, as the term trei/j against Marcellus, who confounded the persons. From this circumstance we are consequently enabled to account for more than their silence; for thus we clearly discover the cause which induced the one to expunge this text from his edition, and the other to acquiesce in its suppression.
We may pass over the opinions of Theodotus and Artemon, as well as over those of Montanus and the Encratites. The controversies with the former never extended to the consideration of the Trinity, or were conducted on the same principles as against the Sabellians; the notions of the latter on the subject of that doctrine were perfectly orthodox. In these contests, of course, we must look in vain for a Trinitarian controversy, or for a suitable occasion to cite the verse in question.
To the Sabellians the Arians may be opposed, as falling into the opposite extreme; the former confounding the Persons, as the latter divided the substance. But the contests maintained with these heretics, as not extended beyond the consideration of the second Person, did not assume the form of a Trinitarian controversy. The whole of the matter in debate the Catholics conceived capable of being decided by a few texts, some of which had the high authority of our Lord, and on such they rested the whole weight of the contest. As they were accused by their opponents of falling into the opposite extreme of the Sabellians, the contested passage must have been wholly unsuitable to their purpose, as embarrassing the question with greater difficulties than those which they undertook to remove. It is therefore little wonderful that they did not appeal to it in their contests with these heretics.
The same reasons which prevented the orthodox from citing this passage in their contests with the Arians, prevented them from citing it in their disputes with the Macedonians. In the latter case there was no question agitated respecting the second Person of the Trinity, as in the former no question respecting the third. In neither, of course, did the contests maintained with those heretics assume the form of a Trinitarian controversy, or admit of support from the contested passage.
We may subjoin the followers of Nestorius and Eutyches to those of Macedonius. But neither of the former sects denied the doctrine of the Trinity; their disputes with the Catholics being properly confined to the question whether the Son possessed one subsistence or two persons, instead of two subsistences and one person. In these controversies, of course, there was no greater necessity for an appeal to the disputed passage, than in any of the preceding.
After the period which produced these controversies, all enquiry must be fruitless which is directed in search of a Trinitarian controversy. That with the Pelagians engaged the attention of the Church for a long time subsequent to this period, and agitated the eastern and western world. But it was of a different character from those which preceded. The disputants, having at length agreed on the existence of the third person, now began to dispute on his mode of operation, a discussion which, consequently, admitted of no appeal to the text of the heavenly witnesses.
It will, however, be doubtless objected, that although the controversies maintained by the Church, as not embracing the doctrine of the Trinity, did not admit of reference to 1 John v 7, yet, as turning on the divinity and the humanity of Christ, they necessarily suggested the expediency of an appeal to Acts xx. 28, 1 Tim. iii. 16. But this objection will have little force when it is remembered that the passage was not considered decisive, as not using the term Christ, and that the heretics who excepted against the doctrine inculcated in those texts, rejected also that part of the canon in which they are contained. Of the heretics who took the lead in this controversy, the Ebionites wholly renounced the authority of St. Paul, and the Gnostics, Marcionites, Valentinians, and their followers, corrupted or rejected the Acts and Epistles to Timothy. The orthodox were consequently reduced to the necessity of deducing their scriptural proof from that part of the canon on the authority of which they and their adversaries were mutually agreed, and were thus prevented from making those frequent appeals to the verses in dispute which the controversy may be conceived to have suggested.
It is thus apparent from the state of the early controversies maintained by the Catholics that there was no point contested which rendered an appeal to the text of the heavenly witnesses absolutely necessary. It may be now shown, from the distinctions introduced in those controversies, that the orthodox were so far from having any inducement to appeal to this text, that they had every reason to avoid an allusion to it, as it apparently favored the tenets of their opponents.
From the brief sketch which has been given of the progress of controversy in the primitive church, it must be apparent that the Sabellian controversy presented the most suitable occasion for an appeal to the contested passage. The peculiar tenets of the different sects which may be classed under this name had originated with the Jews, and had been adopted from them in the Egyptian Gospel from whence they descended to Noetus, Praxeas, Sabellius, and their followers. Under Paul of Samosata, they attained that influence in the Syriac Church which occasioned the meeting of the Council of Antioch. In the following century they were revived by Marcellus, Photinus, and Apollinarius, and were expressly condemned by the Council of Sirmium, which was convened against the Photinians.
Of the tenets of these different sects we have an explicit account not only in the writings of those polemics who opposed their errors, but in the confessions of faith which were drawn up by the councils that were summoned against them. But in whatever form Sabellianism presents itself, we are compelled to acknowledge that it absolutely derives support from the text of the heavenly witnesses. These heretics, adhering to the very letter of the text, asserted that the “Word” and “Spirit” were in God, as the reason and soul are in man; a stronger testimony in their favor than that of the heavenly witnesses could not be easily fabricated. It seems to be therefore just as reasonable to expect that the Catholics would appeal to this text, in vindicating the doctrine of the Trinity against those heretics, as that they would cite the Shema of the Jews, for the same purpose; "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." This is so palpably the case that in the council of Antioch the word o`moousion was wholly rejected, though in this term the whole strength of the Catholics' cause was rested, and in that of Sirmium it was passed over in silence; the heretics having carried their notions of the doctrine of one substance, which is asserted in the disputed verse, to such an extent, that they confounded the persons, in establishing their favorite tenet.
It may be however objected that as this text must have been challenged by the heretics, some reference must have been made to it by the orthodox, in replying to the arguments of their opponents. It is much to be regretted that we retain no more of the controversies of those heretics, than their orthodox adversaries were able to refute; yet scanty as the accounts of those controversies are we discover sufficient in the remains of them to warrant us in asserting that the disputed text was claimed by the heretics. The controversy maintained by Tertullian against Praxeas, and by Epiphanius against the Sabellians, supply the only places in which we might expect that some allusion would be made to the disputed passage, for the reply of Eusebius to Marcellus must be set out of the question for reasons which were formerly specified. In the works of Tertullian and Epiphanius we consequently find manifest traces of the disputed text, which very sufficiently declare that it was not only appealed to in the controversy, but challenged on the side of the heretics.
If we now consider the period during which the Sabellian controversy prevailed, we shall easily perceive that the negative argument adduced against 1 Joh. v. 7 derives its entire strength from an inattention to the true state of that controversy, and the period for which it prevailed. The first effectual opposition which was made against that heresy was in the council of Antioch, about sixty years previously to the council of Nice. From this period it silently gathered strength from the opposition of Arianism, until it was formally condemned in the middle of the fourth century by the council of Sirmium. The last effectual blow was struck against those rival sects in the second general council, convened at the close of the same age in Constantinople. But for a long period after this time they continued to infest the Oriental Church, until they broke out in the middle of the fifth century in the heresies of Nestorius and Eutyches.
Let us therefore advert to the history of the sacred text for the whole of this period, and view it comparatively with the state of religious controversy. Let us remember that in the earlier part of the term the canon was revised by Eusebius, the avowed adversary of the Sabellians, with the most unlimited powers to render it conducive to the promotion of what he believed [was] the ecclesiastical doctrine. Let us recollect that at the latter part of the term the Vulgar Text was again restored by the Catholics, whose prejudices were not less violently opposed to the Sabellian errors than their avowed enemies, the Arians; and that the disputed text was still conceived to be on the side of the heterodox. Let us hence consider the peculiar tendency of Eusebius's religious opinions, and the versatility of principle which he exhibited in the Council of Nice on the subject of the doctrine inculcated in the disputed passage. Let us keep in view the confession of St. Epiphanius, who flourished when the Greek Vulgate was restored; that in the sacred text, as revised by the orthodox, some remarkable passages were omitted, of which the orthodox were apprehensive. Let us further consider that this charge is brought home to the Epistle which contains the disputed verse, if not to the passage in question, by Socrates, who declares that the former was mutilated by those who wished to sever the humanity of Christ from his Divinity. Let us next remember the confession of St. Chrysostom, under whom the vulgar Greek, which had been restored under Nectarius, was fully reinstated at Constantinople, that the disputed text was most likely to be included among the omitted passages. Let us finally call to mind how closely the Nestorian and the Eutychian heresy followed after those times; and that the former was not affected by the disputed passage, while the latter was to all appearances established by its authority. When we consider all these circumstances, which must have severally contributed to render the orthodox cautious in making the most remote allusion to a text which militated against them, and which was at best of suspicious authority, as removed from the authorized edition; so far shall we be from requiring express allegations of it in every controversy which was agitated during the period of nearly two centuries, in which the doctrine of the Trinity was canvassed, and which was gradually settled by the first four general councils, that we shall be at a loss to discover in what shape it could have been produced by the Catholics, had it even retained its place in the authorized edition, from which it was removed in the earlier part of the term.
When these considerations are duly estimated, the declining strength of the negative argument against 1 Joh. v. 7 may be easily disposed of. It has been often objected that the context of the evangelist, both preceding and following the disputed verse has been quoted, while the disputed verse is wholly omitted; and that the doctrine of the Trinity has been proved by an allegorical interpretation of verse 8 which is expressly asserted in verse 7. The former assertion is principally founded on the testimony of an anonymous writer in St. Cyprian and P. Leo the great; the latter on the testimony of St. Augustine and Facundus Hermionensis. But these objections admit of a very simple solution.
However paradoxical the assertion may in the first instance appear, it is notwithstanding the fact, that a stronger argument was deducible from the testimony of the earthly witnesses in favor of the Catholic doctrine, than from that of the heavenly witnesses. The point on which the orthodox and heterodox divided was the diversity of the Persons; on the unity of the substance there was no difference of opinion between the Catholics on the one side, and the Sabellians, the Apollinarists, and the Eutychians, on the other. The whole of the distinctions on which the orthodox founded their proofs of the former point were lacking in the disputed verse, but those on which the heterodox founded their proofs of the latter were forcibly marked in the same passage. The Sabellians contended that the Father, and his Word, and Spirit, were one Person, while the Catholics maintained that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, must be three Persons. And the Apollinarists and Eutychians held that the three which bore record in heaven were one substance, the humanity of Christ being absorbed in his Divinity; while the Catholics, asserting the existence of two natures in the same Divine Person, believed that Christ was of one substance with God in the former, but of a like substance with Man in the latter. We thus easily discover the causes which induced the orthodox to rest their cause on the testimony of the earthly witnesses instead of the heavenly. The specific mention of "the blood" in verse 8 not only designated Christ as a separate Person from the Father, against the Sabellians; but as a Person, in whom the human nature was united with the divine, without any confusion of substance, against the Eutychians. Under this view, the preference shown by the orthodox to the text of the earthly witnesses, over that of the heavenly, needs no palliation from the circumstance of the one text being unquestioned and the other of doubtful authority, in the age when those points were debated.
From the negative testimony of Pseudo-Cyprian, St. Augustine, P. Leo, and Facundus Hermionensis, we can consequently deduce nothing more, than that the text of the heavenly witnesses was absent from the current copies of the vulgate of St. Jerome, which was in general use when they wrote; and that it best answered the purpose of those writers to pass it over in silence. St. Augustine's testimony is thus easily disposed of; he wrote while the heresy of Apollinarius prevailed, and with a peculiar respect for the corrected translation of St. Jerome in which the disputed verse was omitted. The testimony of P. Leo and Facundus presents still fewer difficulties, as it is adduced from their controversy with the Eutychians, it is not entitled to the smallest respect. The disputed text embarrassed their cause with difficulties which they were unable to solve; it is therefore unreasonable to expect in their works anything in the shape of an appeal to its authority. In fact, it must be apparent to the most superficial observer, that Facundus has absolutely labored to destroy its authority by depriving it of the support of St. Cyprian. But with so much skill has he effected his purpose, that in retaining the phrase "in earth," in order to strengthen the verse which he has quoted, he has evinced, beyond the possibility of dispute, that the phrase "in heaven," with its context, was extant in the text which was before him.
This consideration will enable us to appreciate the testimony of the anonymous writer in St. Cyprian, and to give some account of the origin of that work which is written on the baptism of heretics. And when we consider that the controversy on this subject was soon terminated; and that some works were ascribed to St. Cyprian, by the Macedonians, for the purpose of supporting points of controversy like that before us; we may at least admit the possibility that this anonymous tract might have been fabricated for the express purpose of exhibiting the context of St. John without the disputed passage. This passage was thus deprived, at a stroke, of the testimony of St. Cyprian and of the text which existed in his times; and this, as we have seen, in the peculiar case of P. Leo and Facundus, was no inconsiderable object with the polemics who engaged in those days. Until at least some better account is given of this anonymous tract, we need not regard with much apprehension any appeal to its testimony on the subject at present contested.
Nor do the objections which have been adduced against the testimony of Eucherius, from the diversity of the copies which contain that writer's works, and which sometimes omit the contested passage, at all affect the point in dispute. Eucherius preceded the era which produced the Eutychian controversy; and in quoting the disputed text he furnished an authority in favor of that heresy. As the removal of an obnoxious passage from his works was merely an accommodation of his quotations to the sacred tent, as corrected by the Greek, it is only wonderful that the text of the heavenly witnesses should have retained its place in any copy of his writings. For the testimony of Cerealis fully evinces that this text has disappeared from some tracts in which it was originally inserted.
The variations of the disputed passage, as read in the modern Latin Vulgate, present no greater difficulty. In some copies it is wholly omitted, in some it is annexed in the margin, though in most it is inserted in the text. But that it has been thus added, as a gloss on the eighth verse, is an assumption which may be very easily refuted. In the first place it was a custom unknown to the primitive church to allude to the mystery of the Trinity, unless in oblique terms, before those who had not been initiated in the Christian covenant. In the next place, the seventh verse is really no explanatory gloss of the eighth, unless we suppose it framed by the heretics. From the times of Tertullian and Cyprian, in whose interpretations the disputed verse is supposed to have originated, to those of Fulgentius and Eugenius, in whose times it was confessedly incorporated in the sacred canon, an orthodox exposition of the doctrine extracted from the eighth verse, could have been only expressed in the terms the "Father and the Son," instead of "the Father and the Word," &c. By the latter reading, of course, the supposition that the seventh verse is a marginal gloss on the eighth, is so completely overthrown, that it furnishes a very decisive confirmation of the contrary assumption, that the disputed verse was originally suppressed, not gradually introduced, into the Latin translation.
In fact, as the explanation offered by the impugners of the text of the heavenly witnesses, to account for the varieties in this translation, thus wholly fails of its end, a very satisfactory solution of the difficulty which thus arises may be suggested in the consideration that St. Jerome put forth two editions of the Catholic Epistles, in one of which the contested verse was omitted, though it was retained in the other. And this conjecture may be maintained on the strength of many corroborating circumstances. It is indisputable that two editions of some books of Scripture had been not only published by that early father; but that one edition had been in some instances dedicated to Eustochium, to whom the Catholic Epistles are inscribed in the Prologue. Now as St. Jerome likewise undertook the revisal of the Italic translation, at the request of P. Damasus, we have thus authority for believing that two editions had been published of the part of Scripture in question. And admitting this to have been the case, every difficulty in the matter before us admits of the clearest solution, Agreeably to the prejudices of the age in which the Latin Vulgate was published, St. Jerome inserted the contested verse in the text which was designed for private use, omitting it in that which was intended far general circulation. And in thus acting he adhered to the peculiar plan which he had prescribed to himself in revising the Latin translation, having omitted the disputed verse in the authorized version, on the authority of the Greek, from whence it had been removed by Eusebius, but having availed himself of the variations of the Latin translation, in choosing that reading of the disputed verse which was calculated to support the ecclesiastical doctrine of one substance, as understood by the initiated in the Christian mysteries.
On summing up the arguments which have been urged against the text of the heavenly witnesses, I cannot therefore discover any thing which materially affects the authenticity of this verse, either in the omissions of the Greek manuscripts or the silence of the Greek fathers, in the variations of the Latin version or the allegorical explanations of the Latin polemics. The objections hence raised against that text are perfectly consistent with that strong evidence in its favor, which is deducible from the internal evidence and the external testimony of the African Church, which testimony remains to be disposed of before we can consider it spurious. Nor is there any objection to which the text of the Vulgar Greek is exposed, in other respects, which at all detracts from its credit.
It has been stated against I Joh. v. 7, 8. as read in the Greek Vulgate, that the objection raised to the grammatical structure of the Palestine text, is removed but a step back by the insertion of I Joh. v, 7, as the same false concord occurs in the context [in] I Joh. v. 8. as read in the Byzantine edition; trei/j oi` marturou/ntej being there made to agree with to. Pneu/ma( kai. to. u[dwr. But this objection has been made without any attention to the force of the figure attraction. The only difficulty which embarrasses the construction lies is furnishing the first adjectives trei/j oi` marturou/ntej with substantives; which is effectually done, by the insertion of o` path,r( o` lo,goj, in the disputed passage. The subsequent trei/j oi` marturou/ntej are thence attracted to the foregoing adjectives, instead of being governed by the subsequent to. Pneu/ma( kai. to. u[dwr, in the strictest consistency with the style of St. John and the genius of the Greek language.
It has been further objected to the Byzantine text; that evkklhsi,an tou/ Qeou Act. xx. 28 has been substituted for evkklhsi,an tou/ kuri,ou, in order to accommodate the phrase to the style of St. Paul; and that parallel examples to o]j evfanerw,qh [in] 1 Tim. iii. 16. used in the definitive sense of "he who was manifested," occur in Mar, iv. 25, Luc. viii. 18, Rom. viii. 32. But the former observation appears to me to remove one difficulty by the happy expedient of creating a greater; for thus a double inconsistency is substantiated—against the Apostle in the first instance, and against the Evangelist in the second, which is no less happily conceived to be corrected by the blunder of a transcriber. And the latter observation unfortunately finds not the least support from the adduced examples, as they are essentially different from the passages which they are taken to illustrate.
It has been further urged against the Greek Vulgate that Liberatus states the vulgar reading of I Tim. iii. 16. to be a correction of the heretic Macedonius; and that I John v. 7. could not have existed in the sacred text in the age of the Alogi, since these heretics rejected the Gospel of St. John as militating against their peculiar opinions, yet have not objected to the Epistles of the Evangelist, which are equally opposed to their tenets when the disputed verse forms a part of his context. But when the principles of Liberatus are taken into account, together with the obscurity and contradictoriness of his testimony, it will not be deemed worthy of implicit credence. We may however grant that it has every foundation in truth, without effecting in the least the integrity of the Greek Vulgate. When it is remembered that the reading which Macedonius is said to have corrected is found in a verse which Eusebius had previously corrupted, we may admit that the alteration was made in some copies, and yet maintain that the integrity of the sacred text was restored, not impaired, by the last emendation. But the possibility of thus altering a few copies will be still infinitely remote from accounting for the general corruption of the Greek Vulgate, and until this object is attained the present objection must wholly fail of its intention. As to that which has been advanced from the consideration of the Alogi, who have not objected to St. John's Epistle, it seems to have been urged from a partial view of St. Epiphanius's account of those heretics. As far as I can collect from his words, he has implicitly declared that they objected not less to the Epistles written by St. John, than to his Gospel. And had not this been the case, the objection might be easily set aside, as it equally proves, that the first verses of the Epistle must have been also absent from the Apostle's text, as they are even more strongly opposed to the peculiar tenets of the Alogi. As this is a position which will be hardly sustained by any objector, I apprehend that the present objection in proving so much, really proves nothing.
A few words will now cover the Greek Vulgate. from every objection which has been raised to its verbal integrity. It has been an old objection urged against the Apocalypse and Epistle to the Hebrews, that neither of those canonical books corresponds with the style of the author, with whose name they are inscribed; the one possessing an elevation of language which is not discoverable in the works of St. Paul, the other abounding in solecisms which are not discoverable in the other writings of St. John the Evangelist. But when due allowances are made for the latitude in which the term style was used by the ancients; and when the peculiar subjects of the books under review are taken into account, this objection, which at best is founded on a very fallacious criterion, admits of a very easy solution. As the term style, in the original acceptation, was applied not merely to the peculiar mode of expression in which a writer delivers himself, but jointly to the diction and sentiment, an elevation in the latter which arises out of the subject, has afforded the chief ground to the objection. In the retrospect which the one Apostle takes of the primitive state of the Church, and in the prospect which the other gives into its future fortune, objects seized the imagination which were essentially different from those which engrossed the attention, when they described the acts of our Lord, or inculcated his doctrines. Adapting their language to their matter, they adopt a different elevation of manner in treating different subjects, and have thus furnished the objector with grounds to urge his exceptions. With greater plausibility have they been urged against the Apocalypse, than the Epistle to the Hebrews. By a nice attention to the texture of the phrase, many expressions have been discovered in the latter, which are characteristic of the manner adopted by St. Paul in his other Epistles. And though some expressions in the Apocalypse appear to be less reconcilable to the style of St. John, yet when it is considered that they are Hebrew idioms which are particularly suited to the prophetical style which is adopted by St. John, we have no great allowance to make for the difference of the Evangelist's subject, in order to meet every objection which has been made to these passages.
Thus weighing every objection which has been stated against the Greek Vulgate, there appears to be none urged which can at all affect its integrity as a perfect rule of faith and manners. In regarding the constitution of the primitive church, and the care taken to disperse the commonest documents relative to ecclesiastical polity, it is impossible even to conceive how the inspired text could have been corrupted in the first ages of Christianity. In the age of St. Irenaeus and Tertullian, who followed in the next succession after the Apostles, the authenticity of the sacred canon was investigated with the utmost care; and in the age of Origen, who succeeded at no great interval of time, it was still considered free from corruption. To the period intervening between his times and those of St. Chrysostom, whatever alterations were made in the text must be referred, as at the latter period the vulgar text, which has been since used in the Church, was confessedly adopted. In this period, which extends to little more than an hundred and fifty years, we are accordingly informed that those editions of the Greek were published to which we can trace every variety in the sacred text, whether existing in the original or in translations. Of these editions, however, two only are entitled to any consideration; that of Palestine, which prevails in the writings of Eusebius, Athanasius, Cyril, and Isidore, and is, found in the Vatican manuscript; and that of Byzantium, which prevails in the writing of Chrysostom, Gregory Nyssene, Nazianzene, &c. and is found in the great body of Greek manuscripts. The weight of evidence which supports both editions has been already laid in detail before the reader. In almost all points of importance they mutually afford each other confirmation; and where this coincidence fails the testimony of the oldest witnesses, contained in the primitive Italic and Syriac versions, is generally found on the side of the Greek Vulgate, the testimony of those witnesses being further confirmed by that of the primitive fathers. The variations in the testimony of later texts, versions, and writers, is besides easily traced to the influence of the Marcionite and Valentinian heresies, which, as merely affecting a text essentially different from the Vulgar Greek, leaves the evidence arising in favor of this text from the immemorial tradition of the Church, unaffected by any objection.
In the single instance of the text of the heavenly witnesses a
difficulty arises, as it cannot be denied that this verse has been wholly lost
in the Greek Vulgate. But I cannot admit that the integrity of the sacred text
is at all affected by this consideration. Were the Greek Church the only
witness of its integrity, or guardian of its purity, the objection would be of
vital importance. But in deciding the present question, the
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