A Continuation of the Comma

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Puritan Board Sophomore
Hopefully the discussion on this thread will be better, now that certain vitriolic posters have been removed from the Board.

Dr. White: I enjoyed talking with you on Tuesday... as you might have been able to tell, I didn't have any significant points to raise, just wanted to talk (and distance myself from those who merely wanted to attack you).

I'm very surprised at what has come about from my original post... In all the years that I have read your works, and listened to the Dividing Line, I never supposed that I would be the subject of your writings. But I am glad that, though we do disagree, we can do so charitably and as brothers.

In your most recent post on the Comma, you answered my third point, much as I expected you would. I was merely asking for clarification.

Concerning my fourth point ("On what basis did the (non-KJV) Continental Reformers argue for the inclusion of the Johannine Comma [since it was not adherence to the KJV that was driving their argumentation, as could possibly be said for post-Westminster British Calvinists]?"), you replied,

I would have to ask for specifics here, as I do not know what Mr. McDonald is referring to and I would not like to attempt to hazard a guess.
My question regarded the Continental Reformers, and their defence of the Johannine Comma. These Reformers and Reformed theologians did not adhere to the King James Version (since they did not use English); hence, their defence of the Johannine Comma would not be borne out of adherence to that version. Here, I would be particularly referring to John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and Francis Turretin. Incidentally, I today discovered that the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism, in the versions in which they were finalized at the Synod of Dort (a Dutch synod with representatives from the international Reformed community), likewise cited our disputed text as proofs for the doctrine of the Trinity (Belgic Confession, Art. 9; Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 25). In my other (paranthetical) statement, I merely stated that you could, hypothetically, attribute adherence to the KJV as a principle guiding the British Reformed; but that this hypothesis cannot be likewise attributed to the Continental (Swiss, French, Dutch, etc.) Reformed.

But once again, as I explained on the Dividing Line, none of these men are overly relevant witnesses today for the simple reason that any argument they would have made was not based upon any meaningful textual foundation in comparison to what is available to us today.
So you're saying that their references to the early church fathers, their examination of the grammar and flow of the text, etc. are simply irrelevant because we've got a lot more texts now? Are you saying that all of the 5,000+ manuscripts to which you constantly refer all include 1 John 5:7-8, and give uniform testimony against the inclusion of that text? Are you likewise asserting that they are in fact a true reading of the original that St. John penned, because they occur prior to all anti-trinitarians (against whom John wrote...) who might have "mutilated this passage"? (cf. Socrates, Eccl. Hist., VII.32.)

Further, I have to wonder: is there something wrong in noting that textual criticism is a specialized field and that those who have never prepared to discuss it might not be in a real good position to offer weighty opinions on it?
Like myself, I suppose...

I mean, did the Westminster Assembly go out and do Jay Leno style "Jay Walking" segments to get a nice "broad, catholic" view of such issues as the procession of the Holy Spirit or the nature of justification just to avoid any inkling that maybe specialized study goes into doing good theology?
Two things here:

1. Are you getting sarcastic, Dr. White? I'll do my best to avoid similar remarks; but given your usage, I don't know that I'll be able to resist responding in kind, should the opportunity present itself. ;)

2. How "specialized" are we talking about? Most of the men at Westminster were pastors; some were trained theologians, but most with training in virtually every facet of theology, without any particular emphasis in any one field. The "specialists" of that period would include men like Herbert Palmer (considered the greatest catechist in England) and John Lightfoot (Talmudic expert). But you didn't have men who "specialized" in, say, theology proper, or soteriology (or even more particularly, election, or sanctification). They all had training in the original languages; and those that I have read seemed to have been aware of various textual issues. But how specialized in textual criticism does one have to be before you will give them the time of day?

If we recognize that it would be better to be John Owen than Dave Hunt on theology, why is it that everybody's opinion on textual critical matters, even if they are not particularly trained in that area, are "equal"? Isn't this the reverse of giving particular theological weight to a theological statement made by a textual critic?
1. Interesting selection of Reformed theologians, since John Owen actually wrote on the subject of textual criticism (see vol. 16 of his Works).

2. I have never said that "everybody's opinion on textual critical matters...are 'equal.'"

3. May one be highly regarded by you as a textual critic, and not adhere to your theories of textual criticism? Do you, for example, regard Dr. Letis or Dr. Van Bruggen as "specialists" in textual criticism? Or does their (in the case of Dr. Letis, "did his") adherence to the Received Text automatically disqualify them from being regarded as "specialists" in textual criticism?

Concerning my fifth point, regarding the quotes of the early fathers, you dealt solely with the Cyprianic quote(s) of the Comma. I myself was not aware of the first quote that you gave, and will not attempt to defend it as a quote of the Johannine Comma.

The the second passage appears in Cyprian as follows:

The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathereth not with me scattereth." He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathereth elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. 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." And does any one believe that this unity which thus comes from the divine strength and coheres in celestial sacraments, can be divided in the Church, and can be separated by the parting asunder of opposite wills? He who does not hold this unity does not hold God's law, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation.--De Ecclesiae Catholicae Unitatae, 6.
Any impartial reading of this passage in Cyprian (written A.D. 251) can see why it would, at the very least, appear to be a quote of the Comma. In fact, the editors of the work in ANF 5 give 1 John 5:7 as the text to which Cyprian is referring.

Dr. White, however, after quoting this passage from the words "He can no longer have God for his Father," dismisses it as a testimony to the Comma in a single paragraph, which I will briefly examine.

Of course, it would have been nice if the context had something to do with 1 John 5.
True, but we sometimes don't get the luxury of people telling us what passage they are quoting (similar to the New Testament writers, actually).

Instead, we have a string of statements about "oneness," and unfortunately, both the Greek manuscript tradition reading (i.e., which lacks the Comma) and the Comma both contain statements about oneness.
Actually, we have a bit more than the vague "statements about oneness" to which you refer. The specific phrase which Cyprian uses, "And these three are one," matches perfectly with the AV translation of 1 John 5:7 (as well as Tyndale, Coverdale, and Geneva). On the other hand, v. 8 reads, "And these three agree in one."

However, you do have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit here, just as you do in the Comma, and a statement about oneness. So at the very least it must be said that Cyprian could be making a reference to the Comma,
What he gives with the right hand...

but, it must likewise be admitted that he makes no direct citation of John, gives no means of identifying the source of his comment, and could just as well be interpreting the three witnesses of 1 John 5:6 as a Trinitarian reference as well.
1. He also quotes John 10:30 in the same sentence without making a "direct citation of John," and all recognize that it is John 10:30. Why the problem with this quote?

2. Does not Cyprian say, "And these three are one," which appears nowhere in the Bible other than in the Johannine Comma? Does he not attribute this statement as referring to the Trinity, which the Comma manifestly does? How can this be said to give "no means of identifying the source of his comment"?

3. The idea that Cyprian here is putting a gloss upon 1 John 5:8 is an old one. But in my own readings of the fathers, the common way that they would put a gloss upon a text was by (1) quoting the text, and then (2) giving a lengthy, often convoluted and forced interpretation of the text. Here, however, Cyprian does nothing of the sort; rather, he takes it as the evident teaching of the text that it says of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, "And these three are one" -- as evident as the statement of Christ in John 10:30, "I and the Father are one."

1 John 5:6-8, with the Comma, reads as follows:

This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
Without the Comma, it reads as follows:

This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
Given several of their rather imaginative interpretations of Scripture, I could definitely imagine an early church father attempting to interpret such a passage (sans Comma) as a reference to the Trinity. But, as I said before, if he were to do so, Cyprian would have stated the verse, and then gone through the exegetical gymnastics to attempt to show how his gloss actually fits this text (the water is the Father, the blood is the Son, etc.). Instead, he simply says,

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."
I find Dr. White's comments on the Cyprianic passage to be an avoiding of that passage, rather than actually dealing with it in an in-depth manner.

In any case, the problem with making a firm claim that Cyprian is "citing" the text is that you cannot find it being used by any of his contemporaries, nor does it appear in any other context where one would expect it to appear outside of an off-hand reference to "oneness" that is not even slightly connected with the topic Cyprian is actually addressing. If everyone was quoting the text, it would be one thing for Cyprian to throw out a common text, but given that no contemporary sources, patristic or manuscript, contain the Comma, simply assuming "citation" over against "interpretation/comment" on a text that we can know was current (1 John 5:6) is unwarranted... If you are going to cling to a single text in Cyprian that is ambiguous, why not allow all the other writers (Ignatius, Irenaeus, Tertullian, etc.) speak with equal force to the non-existence in their Scriptures of this addition?
1. So Cyprian didn't use it here because no one else did? If we found one more person who referred to the Comma, would that change your mind at all? Or were they simply "employing the same gloss"? Cannot Cyprian's words stand for themselves, without reinterpreting him because of what his contemporaries did not say? Are you really trying to overthrow this as a quote of the Comma because of an argument from silence?

2. I do not claim that Cyprian is "citing" the text (that might have made it easier, if he had said, "as it says in 1 John 5:7"); I claim that Cyprian is quoting the text.

3. In spite of your assertion that we "assume" that he is quoting the Johannine Comma, it seems that you are assuming that Cyprian was not quoting the Comma, evidence to the contrary, because of your assumption that it could not have existed in his day.

4. Your interpretation of Cyprian (that it is "interpretation/comment") has already been shown to be unwarranted.

5. The reason why you have to eliminate this as a quote of 1 John 5:7 is because this establishes an early authority for the Comma (A.D. 251) -- long before the postulated fourth century Latin treatise.


Puritan Board Sophomore
I wanted also to say, Dr. White, thank you for taking my suggestion following my tenth point, in creating a Puritanboard profile and posting on the subjects under consideration.


Maybe we'll even get around to discussing exclusive psalmody. :lol:

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Yea, stick to typing out your thoughts Sean; I believe the cat had your tongue the other day on the DL. :D


Puritan Board Freshman

I will need to be brief here, as I truly think I am beginning to repeat myself needlessly.

Originally posted by Kaalvenist
Dr. White: I enjoyed talking with you on Tuesday... as you might have been able to tell, I didn't have any significant points to raise, just wanted to talk (and distance myself from those who merely wanted to attack you).

Well, it was nice of you to call.


1) As to the Continental Reformers, those who used the text did so because they found it in the text of the day. The work of Erasmus, Stephanos, and Beza, can not be considered full-orbed in any fashion. Default texts are just that, default texts: it is not like they had a clear idea of the landscape we can identify today and made a particular choice for the TR over against anything else. The citation of these individuals is simply not compelling, surely not to me, and would likewise leave you without any basis for apologetic interaction, either.

2) Various confessions citing the text are irrelevant to me as well, as none of those gatherings met to examine the textual data regarding the late insertion of that reading.

3) You only have a disputed interpretation of Cyprian which is rejected by the majority of patristic scholars as being a definite citation, yet, you refer to "church fathers." What others do you refer to? Metzger specifically asserts:

The passage is absent from the manuscripts of all ancient versions (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Arabic, Slavonic), except the Latin; and it is not found (a) in the Old Latin in its early form (Tertullian Cyprian Augustine), or in the Vulgate (b) as issued by Jerome (codex Fuldensis [copied a.d. 541"“46] and codex Amiatinus [copied before a.d. 716]) or (c) as revised by Alcuin (first hand of codex Vallicellianus [ninth century]).
Metzger, B. M., & United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition; a companion volume to the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (Page 648). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

The argument concerning grammar is vacuous, and again, I've already addressed it and you have yet to respond to that information. I would like you to explain, if you would, why Gregory Nazianzus did not simply cite the Comma in the following context:

But to my mind, he says, those things are said to be connumerated
and of the same essence of which the names also correspond, as Three
Men, or Three gods, but not Three this and that. What does this
concession amount to? It is suitable to one laying down the law as to
names, not to one who is asserting the truth. For I also will assert that
Peter and James and John are not three or consubstantial, so long as I
cannot say Three Peters, or Three Jameses, or Three Johns; for what you
have reserved for common names we demand also for proper names, in
accordance with your arrangement; or else you will be unfair in not
conceding to others what you assume for yourself. What about John then,
when in his Catholic Epistle he says that there are Three that bear witness,
the Spirit and the Water and the Blood? Do you think he is talking
nonsense? First, because he has ventured to reckon under one numeral
things which are not consubstantial, though you say this ought to be done
only in the case of things which are consubstantial. For who would assert
that these are consubstantial? Secondly, because he has not been consistent
in the way he has happened upon his terms; for after using Three in the
masculine gender he adds three words which are neuter, contrary to the
definitions and laws which you and your grammarians have laid down. For
what is the difference between putting a masculine Three first, and then
adding One and One and One in the neuter, or after a masculine One and
One and One to use the Three not in the masculine but in the neuter, which
you yourself disclaim in the case of Deity? What have you to say about
the Crab, which may mean either an animal, or an instrument, or a
constellation? And what about the Dog, now terrestrial, now aquatic, now
celestial? Do you not see that three crabs or dogs are spoken of? Why of
course it is so. Well then, are they therefore of one substance? None but a
fool would say that. So you see how completely your argument from
con-numeration has broken down, and is refuted by all these instances. For
if things that are of one substance are not always counted under one
numeral, and things not of one substance are thus counted, and the
pronunciation of the name once for all is used in both cases, what
advantage do you gain towards your doctrine?

(GN, Fifth Theological Oration, "On the Holy Spirit," 19)

If you will read it carefully, it becomes clear that if Nazianzus had known of the text, he would surely have cited it, as the alleged "grammatical" issue is brought to the fore. He does not, hence, he obviously had never even heard of the expanded reading.

Once again, sir, if you posit its complete deletion from the entirety of the Greek manuscript tradition (Cyprian was writing in Latin, btw), upon what basis do you say to anyone today that we still possess the inspired words that were originally given to us?

4) I have never said 1 John is contained in all 5k manuscripts of the NT, to which I allegedly "constantly" refer.

5) I simply pointed out that citing theologians with no specialty in the field is not overly convincing, especially when those theologians lived prior to the discovery of the papyri. I leave it to the readers to decide between us on the issue.

6) Ted Letis attacked me personally for years, but would never face me in debate. But I thought we were talking about the Comma, were we not?

7) I will allow the readers to decide regarding Cyprian, and judge if you have answered the many questions that accompany asserting this is a reference to the Comma, including the problem of simply citing a passage in passing that no one else had ever heard of, the higher probability of this being a gloss on 5:6, which we know did exist at the time independently of the Cyprianic text, and the issue of the textual transmission of the patristic sources themselves.

8) At one point you ask if I am using an argument from silence. Given the textual basis of the Comma, I found that so ironic as to be humorous.

9) You likewise said I am "assuming" the Comma did not exist in Cyprian's day. I simply ask you to show me any direct manuscript evidence in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Bohairic, etc., that would demonstrate its existence as a part of the text contemporaneously with Cyprian. He who alleges bears the burden of proof. You are alleging it was there. Proof please?



Puritan Board Sophomore
Dr. White,

First, I appreciate and have personally been positively influenced by your writings. Thank you.

Just a quick note:

Concerning your Apologetic blog entries, (the ones for 3/17 and 3/16):

In the 3/17 blog, you refer to some unnamed person from the Puritan Board, who has been banned that wrote you an email, the body of which appears in your blog.

Two blog entries preceding that (the 3/16 blog), you respond to Sean McDonald, also from the Puritan Board.

Being one who regularly reads the Puritan Board, I happen to realize that these two people are not the same. However, I'm not so sure that the majority of your blog readers (who are not familiar with the Puritan Board) realize that these are two different people. The 3/17 blog entry doesn't make it crystal clear that they are not the same. Per chance, could you modify your 3/17 entry to note that this entry is not concerning Sean McDonald to which you refered in the entry from the day before?


We return now to our regularly scheduled programing.

Evan May

Inactive User
Though I must admit my brain missed it at first, the blog entry does specify that it is Michael Dries:

1. The email is signed "mdries"
2. He is referred to as the man who was banned from the PuritanBoard
3. He is referred to as the man who notified Dr. White of Stauffer's book

Anyone who has been involved the last couple of days will know exactly who he is.
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