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DEFENDING 1 JOHN 5:7

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August 16, 1998 (David W. Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, 1701 Harns Rd., Oak Harbor, WA 98277) - James White (author of The King James Only Controversy), D.A. Carson (author of The King James Version Debate), and most other opponents of what they love to label "King James Onlyism," reject the Trinitarian statement in 1 John 5:7 as inspired Scripture. They gloss over the powerful arguments which have led Bible believers to accept 1 John 5:7 as Scripture for centuries on end.

"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one" (1 John 5:7).

Most modern versions omit this passage, yet 1 John 5:7 as it reads in the King James Bible stood unchallenged in the English Bible for a full six hundred years. It was in the first English Bible by John Wycliffe in 1380, in Tyndale’s New Testament of 1525, the Coverdale Bible of 1535, the Matthew’s Bible of 1537, the Taverner Bible of 1539, the Great Bible of 1539, the Geneva New Testament of 1557, the Bishop’s Bible of 1568, and the Authorized Version of 1611. It did not disappear from a standard English Bible until the English Revised of 1881 omitted it. James White would probably reply, "Sure, Wycliffe translated from the Latin Bible and 1 John 5:7 has always been in the Latin Bible. It was an accident of history. It doesn’t mean anything." I believe this history means a lot. THE FACT THAT THE MOST WIDELY USED BIBLES THROUGH THE CENTURIES CONTAINED 1 JOHN 5:7 SPEAKS VOLUMES TO ME. It tells me that God had His hand in this, that it is preserved Scripture. Were the countless preachers, theologians, church and denominational leaders, editors, translators, etc., who accepted the Trinitarian statement in 1 John 5:7-8 of these English Bibles through all these long centuries really so ignorant? What a proud generation we have today! White is correct when he states that long tradition in itself is not proof that something is true, but he ignores the fact that long tradition CAN BE an evidence that something is true, and if that tradition lines up with the Word of God, it is not to be discarded. "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set" (Proverbs 22:28). There are many reasons for believing 1 John 5:7 was penned by the Apostle John under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but White’s readers are not informed of this fact and are left with an insufficient presentation of this issue.

White ignores the scholarly defense of the Trinitarian passage published by Frederick Nolan in 1815--An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate or Received Text of the New Testament, in which the Greek manuscripts are newly classed, the integrity of the Authorised Text vindicated, and the various readings traced to their origin. This 576-page volume has been reprinted by Bible for Today, 900 Park Ave., Collingswood, NJ 08108. The Southern Presbyterian Review for April 1871, described Nolan’s book as "a work which defends the received text with matchless ingenuity and profound learning."

White ignores the Christ-honoring scholarship of 19th-century Presbyterian scholar Robert Dabney, who wrote in defense of the Trinitarian statement in 1 John 5:7 (Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, "The Doctrinal Various Readings of the New Testament Greek," Vol. 1, p. 350-390; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1891, reprinted 1967). Dabney was offered the editorship of a newspaper at age 22 and it was said of him that no man his age in the U.S. was superior as a writer. He taught at Union Theological Seminary from 1853 to 1883 and pastored the College Church during most of those years. He contributed to a number of publications, including the Central Presbyterian, the Presbyterian Critic, and the Southern Presbyterian. His last years were spent with the Austin School of Theology in Texas, a university he co-founded. A.A. Hodge called Dabney "the best teacher of theology in the United States, if not in the world," and General Stonewall Jackson referred to him as the most efficient officer he knew (Thomas Cary Johnson, The Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney, cover jacket, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1977 edition of the 1903 original).

White ignores the fact that it was particularly the Unitarians and German modernists who fought viciously against the Trinitarian passage in the King James Bible. For example, in my library is a copy of Ezra Abbot’s Memoir of the Controversy Respecting the Three Heavenly Witnesses, 1 John v.7 (New York: James Miller, 1866). Abbot, Harvard University Divinity School professor, was one of at least three Christ-denying Unitarians who worked on the English Revised Version (ERV) of 1881 and the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901. Abbot was a close friend of Philip Schaff, head of the ASV project, and was spoken of warmly in the introduction to Schaff’s history. According to the testimony of the revisers themselves, the Unitarian Abbot wielded great influence on the translation. Consider the following statement by Matthew Riddle, a member of the ASV translation committee:

"Dr. Ezra Abbot was the foremost textual critic in America, and HIS OPINIONS USUALLY PREVAILED WHEN QUESTIONS OF TEXT WERE DEBATED. ... Dr. Ezra Abbot presented a very able paper on the last clause of Romans 9:5, arguing that it was a doxology to God, and not to be referred to Christ. His view of the punctuation, which is held by many modern scholars, appears in the margin of the American Appendix, and is more defensible than the margin of the English Company. ... Acts 20:28. ‘The Lord’ is placed in the text, with this margin: ‘Some ancient authorities, including the two oldest manuscripts, read God.’ ... Dr. Abbot wrote a long article in favor of the reading [which removes ‘God’ from the text]" (Matthew Riddle, The Story of the Revised New Testament, Philadelphia: The Sunday School Times Co., 1908, pp. 30,39,83).

Matthew Riddle’s testimony in this regard is very important as he was one of the most influential members of the American Standard Version committee and one of the few members who survived to see the translation printed. The ASV was the first influential Bible published in America to drop 1 John 5:7 from the text, AND IT DID SO UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF A UNITARIAN. White sees no significance to these matters. I see great significance. White, as do most modern version defenders, ignores the direct Unitarian connection with modern textual criticism and with the textual changes pertaining to the Lord Jesus Christ which appear in the modern versions. We have exposed this connection extensively in our book Modern Versions Founded upon Apostasy.

White also ignores the scholarly articles defending 1 John 5:7 which have been published since the late 1800s by the Trinitarian Bible Society. He also ignores the excellent defense of 1 John 5:7-8 by Jack Moorman in his 1988 book When the KJV Departs from the "Majority" Text: A New Twist in the Continuing Attack on the Authorized Version (Bible for Today, 900 Park Ave., Collingswood, NJ 08108). Moorman gives an overview of the internal and external evidence for this important verse. White also ignores the excellent reply given in 1980 by Dr. Thomas Strouse to D.A. Carson’s The King James Version Debate, in which Dr. Strouse provides an overview of the arguments supporting the authenticity of 1 John 5:7 as it stands in the Received Text. Dr. Strouse (Ph.D. in theology from Bob Jones University) is Chairman of the Department of Theology, Tabernacle Baptist Theological Seminary (717 N. Whitehurst Landing Rd., Virginia Beach, Virginia 23464. 888-482-2287, tbcm@exis.net). White also ignores the landmark work of Michael Maynard, author of A History of the Debate over 1 John 5:7-8 (Comma Publications, 1855 "A" Ave. #4, Douglas, AZ 85607). It is possible, of course, that he had not seen Maynard’s book prior to the publication of The King James Bible Controversy. Maynard’s book basically summarizes the long-standing defense of 1 John 5:7-8 as it exists in the King James Bible, but White pretends that there is no reasonable defense of the Trinitarian passage.

1 John 5:7 is inspired Scripture and God has preserved it to us through the centuries.

See also --

"The Authenticity of 1 John 5:7"

"New Book in Defense of 1 John 5:7"

"Vindication of 1 John 5:7"