Archibald Alexander and the authenticity of 1 John 5:7

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
And although the text in 1 John v. 7, has been disputed, on plausible grounds, and the testimony of existing manuscripts is unfavourable to its authenticity, yet there being positive evidence that ancient manuscripts which contained it, have been destroyed or lost, I think it should not be omitted in a summary of the evidence of the doctrine of the Trinity, as I have a strong persuasion that it is really a precious part of inspired Scripture, which we are not at liberty to abandon, but which was probably insidiously dropped out of the copies, in the days of Arian ascendency. What confirms me in this opinion is, that it is evidently referred to both by Tertullian and Cyprian, who lived long before our oldest extant manuscripts were written. The words are, "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." Here we have our whole doctrine expressed, as clearly as it could be done in words.

Archibald Alexander, A Brief Compend of Bible Truth (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1846), p. 42.

P.S. I do not buy this argument myself, so do not shoot the messenger. I post it because I consider it important to know such information.
 

Scottish Presbyterian

Puritan Board Freshman
And although the text in 1 John v. 7, has been disputed, on plausible grounds, and the testimony of existing manuscripts is unfavourable to its authenticity, yet there being positive evidence that ancient manuscripts which contained it, have been destroyed or lost, I think it should not be omitted in a summary of the evidence of the doctrine of the Trinity, as I have a strong persuasion that it is really a precious part of inspired Scripture, which we are not at liberty to abandon, but which was probably insidiously dropped out of the copies, in the days of Arian ascendency. What confirms me in this opinion is, that it is evidently referred to both by Tertullian and Cyprian, who lived long before our oldest extant manuscripts were written. The words are, "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." Here we have our whole doctrine expressed, as clearly as it could be done in words.

Archibald Alexander, A Brief Compend of Bible Truth (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1846), p. 42.

P.S. I do not buy this argument myself, so do not shoot the messenger. I post it because I consider it important to know such information.

Thanks Daniel. Out of interest, what is it about this argument you do not buy? He refers to Tertullian and Cyprian, and could have given many more early fathers who refer to this text as scripture. Also, Jerome translated it into the Vulgate. Whatever conclusion you come to about whether or not it is authentic scripture (of course there are readings without as well as with - personally, like Alexander, I'm convinced it is scripture) surely the early quotations and translations are more than enough evidence to prove conclusively that this was not a late insertion into the text as is often claimed.
 
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JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks Faniel. Out of interest, what is it about this argument you do not buy? He refers to Tertullian and Cyprian, and could have given many more early fathers who refer to this text as scripture. Also, Jerome translated it into the Vulgate. Whatever conclusion you come to about whether or not it is authentic scripture (of course there are readings without as well as with - personally, like Alexander, I'm convinced it is scripture) surely the early quotations and translations are more than enough evidence to prove conclusively that this was not a late insertion into the text as is often claimed.
Here is a blast from the past, with some PB 'heavy hitters' participating. Makes for interesting reading on both sides of the issue.

 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Here is a blast from the past, with some PB 'heavy hitters' participating. Makes for interesting reading on both sides of the issue.


Ahhh.... The good ol' days.
 

VilnaGaon

Puritan Board Sophomore
And although the text in 1 John v. 7, has been disputed, on plausible grounds, and the testimony of existing manuscripts is unfavourable to its authenticity, yet there being positive evidence that ancient manuscripts which contained it, have been destroyed or lost, I think it should not be omitted in a summary of the evidence of the doctrine of the Trinity, as I have a strong persuasion that it is really a precious part of inspired Scripture, which we are not at liberty to abandon, but which was probably insidiously dropped out of the copies, in the days of Arian ascendency. What confirms me in this opinion is, that it is evidently referred to both by Tertullian and Cyprian, who lived long before our oldest extant manuscripts were written. The words are, "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." Here we have our whole doctrine expressed, as clearly as it could be done in words.

Archibald Alexander, A Brief Compend of Bible Truth (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1846), p. 42.

P.S. I do not buy this argument myself, so do not shoot the messenger. I post it because I consider it important to know such information.

The devil hates 1John 5:7 as it is in the KJV and the Geneva, as that verse states more clearly than any other verse in the Bible the Equality and Unity of the Person's in the Godhead. The best proof that that verse is genuine is that it exalts the Lord Jesus Christ and that is good enough for me. I use that verse when witnessing to Muslims and Jews.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Thanks Daniel. Out of interest, what is it about this argument you do not buy? He refers to Tertullian and Cyprian, and could have given many more early fathers who refer to this text as scripture. Also, Jerome translated it into the Vulgate. Whatever conclusion you come to about whether or not it is authentic scripture (of course there are readings without as well as with - personally, like Alexander, I'm convinced it is scripture) surely the early quotations and translations are more than enough evidence to prove conclusively that this was not a late insertion into the text as is often claimed.

I would refer you to the thread cited above by @JimmyH for a further discussion of the subject. In my opinion, the manuscript evidence does not support the disputed reading. For various reasons, I believe that the evidence from alleged citations and translations is not conclusive enough to overturn the counter-evidence against its originality. The impartial critic must weigh - not merely count - all the evidence at his disposal rather simply appealing to the evidence that appears to favour his case. I am, of course, always open to persuasion.

In relation to Archibald Alexander specifically, I cited him because I believe it is important for people to know what his opinion was even if they disagree with it. I have done so with various other theological subjects, as people not being honest with sources or hiding the fact that their heroes disagree with them occasionally is something that irritates me.
 

Scottish Presbyterian

Puritan Board Freshman
I would refer you to the thread cited above by @JimmyH for a further discussion of the subject. In my opinion, the manuscript evidence does not support the disputed reading. For various reasons, I believe that the evidence from alleged citations and translations is not conclusive enough to overturn the counter-evidence against its originality. The impartial critic must weigh - not merely count - all the evidence at his disposal rather simply appealing to the evidence that appears to favour his case. I am, of course, always open to persuasion.

In relation to Archibald Alexander specifically, I cited him because I believe it is important for people to know what his opinion was even if they disagree with it. I have done so with various other theological subjects, as people not being honest with sources or hiding the fact that their heroes disagree with them occasionally is something that irritates me.
Yes that thread is very good. Maybe I'm misunderstanding Alexander, but I don't gather that he is relying on this point alone to decide on its authenticity. Rather he seems to be making the case that the oldest extant manuscripts are not the oldest manuscripts of this verse, I.e. it is of far greater antiquity than any currently extant manuscripts which contain it. The quotations or allusions from a dozen or so early fathers, and of course the translation into Latin in the 4th Century, conclusively prove this point do they not? I do of course agree that this by itself does not conclusively prove authenticity, but it does disprove what many (maybe most) opponents of the Comma would probably consider to be one of the strongest arguments against it.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
@dildaysc / Steven, thank you for your labors in this area!

As Part 4 listed the Belgic Confession mention, I thought I would list the other Reformed Confessions and Catechisms which likewise support their doctrine of the trinity / triune nature of the Godhead on this verse:

1 John 5:7

Westminster Confession of Faith 1646 2.3
Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 6
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 6
The London Baptist Confession of 1689 2:3
The Belgic Confession of 1561, Article 9 quotes the passage: “There are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.”
The Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, Lord’s Day 8, Q&A 25, footnote 5
 
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