That the Text of the three witnesses in heaven was from the first Ages in the Italick Version., prov’d from the quotations of Tertullian and St. Cyprian.
IT is not from the MSS. themselves of the Italick Version, that we can know whether such or such a passage was in it j these MSS. have been lost for many ages: Time which consumes every thing, and carelessness in preserving them, not only in the hands of private persons, but withal in the Libraries of Convents, Princes, and learned Men, who were curious in these matters, has so order’d it, that not one Copy, as I know of, of this fammous Version of the New Testament is now extant. From the time that St. Jerottss gain’d. the ascendant over the Italick, in the Churches, as being far more correct than the copies of the former were, into which, thro’ the succession of time, a great number of faults were crept, the MSS. of that Version were by little and little suffer’d to be lost. All that we have of it is in the Writings of the Fathers, who have made Commentaries upon some Books of the New Testament; or in the quotations of several Texts of that ancient Version, in divers passages of their Works.
The most ancient Book, in which the passage of St. John is quoted, is the Treatise of Tertullian against the heretick Praxeas; it would be impossible to go back to a more remote age, since Tertullian liv’d in the same age this famous Version was made, namely, the second Century. I have quoted the passage, which regards this Text, in my Dissertation, and I would not return to it now, if I had not new observations to make upon it, in order to defend it against the false glosses of those persons, who alledge that Tertullian had not the passage of St. John in view, under pretence that he has not made an express quotation. ‘Tis thus that ancient Doctor speaks in the 25h chapter against Praxeas. “Jesus Christ speaking of the “Holy Ghost said, He shall take of mine, as himself had taken of the Father; and thus the connexion of the Father with the Son, and of the Son with the Holy Ghost causes these three to be united together; which three are one; as it is said, and myFather are one.” There we see clearly express’d the last words of the passage in St. John’s Epistle, Three are One j in like manner as we see there the very words of Jesus Christ in the Xth Chapter of the fame Apostle’s. Gospel, I and the Father are one. Tertullian has not been content with barely quoting the words of the Epistle, Tres unum sunt, but he has withal made there an observation, in order to illustrate the sense, and to shew that the word Unum has express relation to the nature and essence of the three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and not to their persons, qui tres, says he, UNUM sunt, non UNUS: which he confirms by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, who express’d himself after the same manner by the word Unum, and not by that of Units, when he spoke of himself and his Father, quomodo dictum est, adds Tertullian, Ego & Pater UNUM sumus. Can any thing be more express? Yet, instead of sincerely owning, that this is the sense and meaning of Tertullian, they take what pains they can to elude the force of this proof. They pretend, that it was of himself, and without a view to any particular Text of Scripture, that Tertullian said, qui tres unum sunt, under pretext that the words are put there without any sign of quotation; as if it was not very common in the writings of the Fathers, and particularly in Tertulliarn, to quote passages of Holy Scripture without any indication which marks ’em to be passages taken from Scripture; they need but open the Book of that ancient Doctor, and numbers of instances will offer themselves to their eyes. Was then the remark he makes upon the word unum, to shew the great difference betwixt unum and unus, with a view towards clearing up his own expression, and not that of a sacred Text? This is absurd to imagine, and still more so, because he had just made the same observation upon the word Unum us’d by Jesus Christ in the 22nd chapter, Ego & Pater UNUM sumus, I and the Father are ONE. He said, UNUM sumus, non UNUS sumus.—Unum dicit neutrali verbo, quod non pertinet ad singularitalem, sed ad unitatem. Jesus Christ said, I and the Father are one; and this one in the neuter gender does not imply there was but one person in God, (which was the error of Praxeas,) but it denotes “their unity.” The observation then which Tertullian had just made upon the difference of unum and unus, to explain the meaning of these words of the Son of God, I and the Father are one, he here makes upon these, Three are one, and yet they will have it, that he had not this Text of the sacred Scripture in view! I desire every person, who sincerely seeks after truth, to give heed to this observation.
A second, which terminates in the same views, and will confirm the former, is the agreement of this passage of Tertullian with that of St. Cyprian in his Book of the Unity of the Church. St. Cyprian joins together, as two Texts which mutually support each other, that of Jesus Christ, I and the Father are one, and this of St. John’s Epistle, ‘Tis written of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, these three are one. Why then shall not the words these three are one, join’d in Tertullian with, I and the Father are one, and with the same design too, namely, to prove the plurality of persons in the unity of the divine nature, be the passage of St. John’s Epistle, as they are in St. Cyprian?
To dwell a little longer upon this remark. The same words, Tres unum sunt, ” Three are one,” are found thus alone, and without the rest of the same Text, in St. Cyprian’s Epistle to Jubaianus; in Vigilius of Tapsum, in two passages of his Discourse concerning the trinity; and in the Fragments against Fabian among the works of St. Fulgentius? I here quote only the Authors, who have us’d the same Version with Tertullian. Now in all these passages the words, three are one, are indisputably inserted as belonging to St. John’s Epistle: and yet they shall not have been in Tertullian’s Book! They must have very strong proofs to convince an impartial partial mind of it, which shall have read the same Italick Version in these different Authors, and have found there the same words.
This observation leads us to a third, with which I shall conclude my reflexions upon Tertullian. Let ’em maintain, as long as they will, that these words, Three are one, are properly Tertullian’s, who spoke ’em of his own head, and without having taken them from St. John, upon this supposition, that they were not in the Latin Version of that Apostle’s Epistle; they cannot at least deny, but that several of the Ancients, famous for their orthodox belief in the sacred Trinity, did read ’em in their days is the same Version: I have produc’d so many quotations of it, to which I shall presently join so many others, that this cannot be disputed; whence then comes it, that these words, Three are one, shall be found in the Italick Version in the age of St.Cyprian, and the ages following; and the same words shall have been us’d by Tertullian, yet without having been in the Version, where the others found them? I believe they will wait long for an answer to this powerful difficulty, if they expect an answer that removes it: let them examine it, and look throughly into its consequences; I desire no more. I stop here, and pass on to St. Cyprian.
This holy Bishop of Carthage, who suffer’d martyrdom for the Christian Faith in the year of 258 has quoted the passage of St. John in two of his Treatises. He produces the last words in the Epistle to Jubaianus, and almost the entire passage in the Book of the Unity of the Church , and in these two places he quotes it upon different subjects. That of his Epistle to Jubaianus is to shew the necessity there was of rebaptizing, or rather, as he expresses himself in the beginning of that Epistle, of baptizing those, who had receiv’d baptism in the Communion of the hcreticks; who did not believe the Trinity, because this could not have been look’d on as true Baptism, since Baptism was conferr’d in the Name of the Trinity: He who receives Baptism, says he, is sactified and becomes the Temple of God; But of what God? Of the Creator? This cannot be, for he does not believe in him. Of Christ? But how can he be the Temple of Christ, who does not acknowledge him to be God? Is he then the Temple of the Holy Ghost, since THESE THREE ARE ONE? Cum tres unum sint. These words then are there quoted as a proof of the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, in one only divine essence.
He urges the same passage upon quite another design, and somewhat more at large, in his Discourse of the Unity of the Church. He wrote it against the schism of the Novatians; and he reasons there strongly, with that lively and noble eloquence which was natural to him, against the Schism in general, in order to set out the honour of it. ‘Tis there, that, after having said, that he cannot have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his Mother, he adds, the Lord has said, I and the Father are one; and again, it is written of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and THESE THREE ARE ONE.
All that the enemies to the genuineness of this passage of St. John have been capable of imagining to render useless the express quotation St. Cyprian has made of it, amounts to this, that it has respect, to the 8th verse, where the Apostle speaking of the three witnesses which are in Earth, the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood, says that these three are one, according to the Latin Version, which has translated the last words of the 8th verse, and those of the 7th in the same manner, tho’ they are very different in the Greek, as I have elsewhere shewn. I have confuted this illusion with so much force and by such demonstrative arguments in my Critical Dissertation, that the opposite party has been at a loss what answer to give, and all that Mr. Emlyn, who at present maintains the contrary side in England, has been able to do, is to quote St. Eucherius, who has said that several explain’d the three witnesses of the 8th verse mystically of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and then to produce Facundus, who has observ’d, that St. Cyprian explain’d after this mystical manner in his Treatise of the Unity of the Church, what is there said of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. But I have given such repulsive strokes to these last efforts of a deplorable cause, in my Examination of that Writer’s answer, that they have not ventur’d to appear again in the late Piece, he has publish’d, under the title of a Reply to the Examination of M. Martin: The Reply has here, as almost every where else, been mute, and pass’d over the proofs and arguments which my Book is full of in silence and confusion. I have shewn under this particular article of St. Cyprian, with how little understanding or justice Mr. Emlyn had urg’d the words of St. Eucherius; and how absurd it is to make Facundus, (who out of pure fancy has ascrib’d a meaning to him which that ancient Writer has not given the least hint of,) a supreme judge of the sense and intention of St. Cyprian; which will appear yet more and more from the new observations I am going to make upon it; for I avoid, as much as I can, tautology and repetition.
I begin with the Epistle to Jubaianus: As Facundus has made no mention of the passage of this Epistle which I have quoted, with regard to this he leaves us the field free, to take the quotation which St. Cyprian has there made of these words of St, John, These three are one, according to the sense and views which they can have there. There will be no difficulty in being ashur’d, that it is the unity of essence in the Father, the Creator of the World; in the Son, whose Temple no one can be, if he is not really God; and in the Holy Ghost, whose Temples likewise we are, and who is one with the Father and the Son. Now what have the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood, which St. John says are three witnesses in earth, and which are reduc’d to one in this, that they all three bear the same record, in common with these reasonings and these expressions? Facundus here fails the Socinian and Reason is against him too.
Let us now bring this passage of the Epistle to Jubaianus, and that of the Discourse concerning the Unity of the Church both together. St. Cyprian had there the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood of the 8th verse no more in view, than in his Epistle to Jubaianus: We see there only the proper and ordinary names of the three divine persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; by what means then will they introduce the Spirit under the name of Father; the Water under the name of Holy Ghost; and the Blood under the name of Son? Reason will never envy an imagination, which thus abuses it. We have lately seen in Tertullian the Text of the Gospel, I and the Father are one, plac’d in conjunction with these words of St. John, these three are one; we find in the same manner these two passages join’d together in the quotation of St. Cyprian, why then shall not this be here the three one of the 7th verse, as it is in Tertullian; or why shall not the three are one in Tertullian be the three one of the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood, if it is so in St. Cyprian?
This reasoning is so much the more firm and solid, as St. Cyprian does not add these words of the Epistle of St. John,but in the same sense as as the former, I and my Father are one: Now as according to him, and all the Fathers of the Church, these signify an unity of nature betwixt the Father and the Son, the same unity must be express’d in the other passage, which is parallel to the former, these three are one; and consequently they cannot, even in the very meaning of St. Cyprian, be understood of the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood, which far from having this unity of nature, are three very different natures. But we tarry too long in answering an illusion, which has not the least appearance of reality, and in defence of which they have not been able to produce one reason, that is taken either from the language of St. Cyprian, or the subject of the Treatise in which this passage is read, or from any hypothesis of this holy Bishop which can favour it. Is not this to make an Author say what he has not said, and which cannot even have come into his thoughts? The Text then of the witnesses in heaven was in Tertullian and St. Cyprian’s time in the Italick Version; and we shall see it there again in the succeeding ages.