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The Three that Bear Witness

 

 

Q 1 John 5: 7, 8 in the King James (Authorised) Version of 1611 reads:

7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

 

Isn’t this incontrovertible proof that the Bible teaches the doctrine of the Trinity (hypostasis)?

 

A Not according to several authoritative translations made by a range of creditable scholars and based on variant readings of ancient biblical manuscripts.

 

For example, the widely-used New King James Version of 1982 (also known as the Revised Authorised Version), reproduces 1 John 5: 7, 8 similarly, but appends this footnote:

 

7 For there are three that bear witness [a]in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.

 

Footnotes: [a]1 John 5: 7 NU [Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament/United Bible Society], M [Masoretic Text] omit the words from in heaven (v. 7) through on earth (v. 8). Only 4 or 5 very late mss. contain these words in Greek.

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Alternative Renderings of 1 John 5: 7, 8

New International Version (NIV) in both UK and US versions has this:

 

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the [a] Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

 

Footnotes: 1 John 5: 8 [a] Late manuscripts of the Vulgate testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8 And there are three that testify on earth: the (not found in any Greek manuscript before the fourteenth century)

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New English Bible (NEB) (1970), has no footnotes, but renders vs. 7, 8 simply:

 

For there are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three are in agreement.

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The Jerusalem Bible (1968):

so that there are three witnesses, 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood, and all three of them agree.

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Louis Segond (LSG), 1910, French:

 

7 Car il y en a trois qui rendent témoignage: 8 l’Esprit, l’eau et le sang, et les trois sont d’accord. [7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, water, and blood, and the three agree.]

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The Emphasized Bible, J.B. Rotherham, 1902

Because three are they who are bearing witness 8 The Spirit, and the Water, and the Blood; And the three are witnesses unto one thing.

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Towarzystwo Biblijne w Polsce, 1975, Polish

7 Albowiem trzech jest świadków 8 Duch i woda, i krew a ci trzej są zgodni. [7 For there are three witnesses. 8 Spirit and water and blood, and these three agree.]

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Reina Valera Revisada (RVR1977), Spanish:

 

7 Porque tres son los que dan testimonio [en el cielo: el Padre, el Verbo y el Espíritu Santo; y estos tres son uno. 8 Y tres son los que dan testimonio en la tierra][a]: el Espíritu, el agua y la sangre; y estos tres concuerdan.

 

Footnotes: [a] 1 Juan 5: 8 Los corchetes indican pasajes omitidos por algunos de los principales manuscritos. [‘The square brackets indicate passages omitted by some of the major manuscripts’, i.e., ‘in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three who bear witness on earth’]

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Summary

When read correctly, the run of thought in this passage is much more clear, from vs. 6-8 (KJV), leaving out the spurious text:

 

This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the spirit that beareth witness, because the spirit is truth. . . . 7 For there are three that bear record: 8 the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

 

Conclusion

What, then, is the meaning of each of the three that agree Spirit, Water, Blood?

 

1. The spirit is God’s holy disposition in the mind, heart and will of the consecrated believer: ‘ 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things’ (Phil. 4: 7, 8, KJV)

 

2. The water represents the (literal and figurative) baptism of the believer: ‘. . . ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Cor. 6: 11, KJV).

 

3. The blood represents the merit of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, by which the believer is faith-justified: ‘ 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time’ (1 Tim. 2: 5, 6, KJV).

 

All of these attributes unite in testimony to the world that was, is now, and is yet to be, that the saving work of Christ is the only way for reconciliation with God the Father, unto life eternal.

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For further study re biblical manuscripts

<https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/encyclopedia-of-the-bible/Text-Manuscripts-New-Testament>

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