The Genuineness of 1 John 5.7 by David Martin 1.8

In Comma Johanneum, Confessional Textual View, David Martin by Chris ThomasLeave a Comment


Of the judgment St. Jerom has made of this Text, in his Prologue to the seven Catholick Epistles

‘Tis impossible but that St. Jerom must have seen in the Italick Version a Text which Tertullian and St. Cyprian had read there before him, and which all the world had seen there as well as they, and which the great numbers of Bishops who liv’d in the fame age with St. Jerom read there also. The toilsome and difficult pains he gave himself to purge that Version from the faults, which had crept into it, did not allow him to spare a Text, which would have been the greatest of all the faults he had to correct, if it did not really belong to St. John’s Epistle; but far from taking it away, he on the contrary has complain’d in very strong terms, in his Prologue to the seven Epistles, of the omission of this Text in some private Version, which appear’d in his time; the Authors of which he treats as unfaithful Translators: a reproach unjust as well as rash, if this passage had not been in the Italick Version, which was used by the whole Church; and if withal it was not in the Greek of the New Testament, since it was from the Greek, as from the Original, that the Latin Versions were made.

These consequences are natural, and ’tis impossible to overturn ’em, but by destroying the principle from which they proceed, which is absolutely to deny that this Prologue is St. Jerom’s. And thus Mr. Simon has bent his whole force this way with a view to exclude the passage it treats of, as a forg’d and supposititious Text: Dr. Mill and F, Martianay have gone into the same opinion concerning the Prologue, but yet with different views, for they believ’d the passage of St. John genuine; their prejudice reach’d no farther than the Prologue. I have collected from the Writings of each all the reasons they have urg’d to shew that St. Jerom is not the Author: I have examin’d ’em step by step one after another, and have shewn ’em to be so weak, that Mr. Emlyn who has twice enter’d the lists since upon these matters, he has not been able to destroy one of my arguments.

The most specious of those which had been urg’d against this Preface, was that the seven Epistles are there call’d Canonicals a name which F. Martianay; who is the Author of this remark, pretends was not given to these Epistles, ’till after the sixth Century, and consequently that it could not be St. Jerom, who wrote the Preface, where they are call’d by this name. This reason would be good, if the remark was just, but I have shewn from several Authors, that it is not: I shall not offend, if I here add two other instances. The first is from Vigilius, Bishop of Tapsum in the fifth Century, who in his Book against Varimadus says, “Tis written in the Canonical Epistles, my little children, this is the last time: the quotation is from the first Epistle of St. John. The other instance is taken from St. Jerom himself, who in an Epistle to Paul, Marcellus, and Eustochium, the same Eustochium to whom the Prologue is address’d, says to ’em, Jude the Apostle and Brother of James had said in his Canonical Epistle, &c. F. Martianay, who has read so often over the works of St. Jerom, of which he has given us a most beautiful Edition, and adorned them with the most learn’d Prefaces which have appear’d, would be much surpris’d, was he alive, to see his Criticism upon the word Canonical, confuted by St. Jerom himself; but the most learned men are subject to such mistakes.

Tho’ it be a main point for those Gentlemen who dispute the Text of the witnesses in heaven to be genuine, to take from it the suffrage of St. Jerom in the Prologue here in question, yet Mr. Emlyn will not answer for the reasons which have been urg’d against this Prologue, and he does not find ’em strong enough for him to keep close behind so weak a bulwark; Mr. Martin, says he, may be one of those Writers, who are sure to defend what others have said upona subject in debate; but for my part, I undertake to defend that only, which I think valid and conclusive. Let us pass by what he says of me, he don’t know me: let us dwell upon what he tells us of his own turn of genius; I undertake, says he, to defend that only, which I think valid and conclusive.  He might at this rate have spar’d himself the trouble of writing his two last pieces in order to defend what others had said before him against the passage of St. John; he in this had less consulted his strength than his inclination, which has carried him to enter into an engagement which he would have done well not to have meddled with; he gets no honour by it. But whence is it, that after having engag’d so deeply in it, he gives up all the proofs urg’d against a Preface, which, if it subsists, is the total ruine of his side of the question? It is, he says, because he does not undertake to defend reasons which do not appear to him solid and conclusive: such a consession does not make much for their honour, and makes much for me, who have had the same opinion of it before him. Yet you must not believe that he entirely abandons the dispute; he has one shift left which appears to him secure, and with which alone he thinks to triumph. If St. Jerom, says he, was the Author of this Prologue, in which the passage that speaks of the three witnesses in heaven is characterize as the principal support of the faith, and the omission of this passage in some Versions mark’d with the odious name of unfaithfulness, would it be possible after this that St. Jerom should have never produe’d so terrible a passage against the Arians, when he opposed ’em in his Writings? I had largely answer’d this, and amongst other things had said, that this objection supposed this holy Doctor to have wrote some particular Treatise against Animism:whereas there is no such piece found among all the great Volumes we have of his; and that he had but scarce touch’d upon it as it came in his way in some of his Commentaries. Mr. Emlyn returns to me upon this subject, and contents himself with alledging in general the Comment upon Ezekiel, without marking any passage where Arianism is mention’d. This vague and confus’d manner of quoting a Book has its profit and advantages for those who judge that it is more secure to lurk behind this general form of speaking, than to appear in a distinct and express quotation. I have read St. Jerom’s Commentary upon Ezekiel more than once, and have found him so far from expressly engaging against Arianism, that he speaks not of the Holy Trinity but upon occasion of the mystical exposition of some expressions, which are found in this Prophet; and the passages which he quotes, tho’ rarely, are always such whose ideas have relation to those of the mystical terms and explications he gives, and which are often far fetch’d: instances of this observation may be seen in the xith Chapter verse 1. in the xlth Chapter, verse. 44. and in divers other places.

To this I add, that a very considerable time having pass’d betwixt the Prologue and the Commentary upon Ezekiel, ’tis by no means surprizing that St. Jerom not being concern’d in the least with the affair of Arianism, should not have present in his mind a Text of which he had spoke with so much force upon a quite different occasion, as that of the revise of St.John’s Epistle was. He was working upon this revise about the year 389 or 390; for giving in the year 392, (which he notes to be the 14th year of the reign of Theodosius) a Catalogue of his Works, he sets down in the number the review of the New Testament: now he did not finish, as is gathered from his Works, his Commentary upon Ezekiel ’till the year 414, and consequently 24 or 25 years after he drew up the Prologue to the seven Epistles. Will Mr. Emlyn find that after so long a space of time St. Jerom must have present in his mind the noble vivacity with which he had spoke of the Text of the witnesses in heaven against the unfaithful Translators, who had not inserted it in their Version, that this Text must have plac’d it self under his pen, and be necessarily repeated there? If he thinks so, those who know mankind better, and how men of the greatest parts do not always think upon the same thing, how the most judicious content themselves with saying or writing what is most to their purpose, and how 24 or 25 years time are capable of fixing the mind to one thing, without prejudice to that which made a lively impression upon it 24 years before, will not find the least difficulty in comprehending, how ’tis possible that St. Jerom, after all the reasons I have given, should not have quoted the passage of St. John, of which he had spoke with so much zeal and force in the Prologue to the Canonical Epistles.

Mr. Emlyn carries his reasoning yet one step higher, and to give it the greater advantage, he represents the Author of the Prologue as taking upon him the Character of Restorer and Preserver of this passage, against the omission which he condemns in some Latin Versions; from whence Mr. Emlyn infers, that these characters cannot belong to St. Jerom, since he has made no mention of this Text in his Commentaries, nor in his Epistles.

The Author of the Prologue does not give himself the great titles of Restorer and Preserver, nor represents himself under any of these ideas; ’tis from from himself Mr. Emlyn has taken them. The word and idea of Restorer would reach much farther than to those particular Versions, which are specify’d in the Prologue, and which, as we learn from St. Augustine, were almost of no consideration in comparison of the Italics: which was call’d she Common Version, because as I have several times observ’d, it was that of all the Churches: and the passage of St. John not being wanting in this Version, which was in the hands of all the world, the name of Restorer of this Text could not belong to the Censurer of those other obscure Versions, Which at most were only in the hands of some private persons. I say the same thing of the word Preserver; which is no less a stranger to this Preface than the other. The Text in hand had no need of any other Preserver than the original Greek, and the Bible of the Churches.

But has Mr. Emlyn well consider’d that in making the Author of this Preface, whoever he was, since he will have him not to be St. Jerom, speak thus of himself, he makes him say by a necessary consequence, that this Text was in the Greek, and in the ancient Editions; for how otherwise would he have been the Preserver of it? And will Mr. Emlyn acknowledge this? He is taken, as said the Royal Prophet, in the net which be had laid. But whilst he extricates himself out of it as well as he can, let us resume his reasoning, and draw an advantage from it in favour of the truth I maintain. The Author of the Prologue charges the Translators with unFaithfulness; who had not inserted this passage in their translation; therefore he must himself have plac’d it in his; for the Latin Poets observation; was always just,

Turpe est doctori cum culpa redarguit ipsum.

‘Tis shameful for a man to reprove others, and fall himself into the same fault he blames in them. But this is what St. Jerom cannot be charg’d with, if this passage was plac’d in his Version, which these unfaithful Translators had not inserted in theirs. Now this passage was no less in St. Jerom’s Version than in the Italick; ’tis a fact which consists in proof; I have given a great number in my Dissertation, and I shall resume and continue that subject in the following Chapter.

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