The Genuineness of 1 John 5.7 by David Martin 2.3

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


The passage of St. John proved to be genuine from the Greek Manuscripts with some particular considerations upon the Manuscripts of Laurentius Valla, upon that of Complutum, and that of England or the Codex Britannicus.

IT would be very surprizing that two of the three parts of the Christian World, namely, Europe and Africk, should have constantly had in St. John’s Epistle the Text which speaks of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and that the ltalick Version made in the second Century from the Greek Copies, and the Version of St. Jerom, exactly compar’d with the most faithful Manuscripts as Mr.Simon owns; it would be, I say, very surprizing, that all these sorts of Copies should have entirely vanish’d in these latter ages, so that there should not be sound one from which to make a Greek Edition of the New Testament in favour of a Text so recommended; yet this its adversaries pretend. Hear them, and one would believe there never were such Copies, and under pretext that the Libraries in England, France, Germany, and Italy, have some in which this passage is not read, they boldly and positively conclude, that the Text is not, nor was, in any Greek Copy. These sort of conclusions drawn from a particular to an universal are condemn’d by all Philosophers as false and illusory: one or two instances to the contrary are enough to destroy ’em. In the present case two Manuscripts which had this passage would hinder that universal conclusion, that all the Greek Manuscripts have omitted it, that it is in none. At most, they could only oppose the great number of those, where it is not, to the small number of those where it would be; but even this decides nothing: Mr. Simon shall here again speak for me: We must prefer, says he, the fewer number of Greek Copies to the greater, when these few Copies are conformable with the most ancient Latin Fathers. He makes this reasoning upon the clause of the Lord’s Prayer, For thine is the kingdom, &c. but he did not dream that one might make use of it against himself in favour of the passage of St. John; truth made him speak it, and we reap the profit. We have withal this advantage of him in this reasoning, that he has formed it in opposition to almost all the Greek Copies of the Lord’s Prayer, which except one or two have all these last words, For thine is the kingdom, &c. and which even by his own consession are found quoted in some ancient Fathers of the Greek Church: whereas there is no Father, either Greek or Latin, whom they can alledge against the passage of St. John: so far from this, that we have several Greeks who have quoted it, and the Latins have constantly made use of it.

Besides this, there is a great difference betwixt the Manuscripts in which an intire passage is found, and those where it is not found at all; the former are a positive proof; the latter form only a difficulty, a conjecture: but a positive and express proof is by no law in the world destroy’d by a conjecture, or a simple difficulty. If this was once not receiv’d in the World, it would oft happen that facts the best averr’d by positive and express proofs would be overturn’d by the difficulties and conjectures which would be found to urge against them.

To come then to the Greek Manuscripts which authorize the Text we are upon to be genuine. I have quoted those which the learned Critick Laurentius Valla had carefully collected in order to correct divers faults which he found in the vulgar Version of the New Testament. I had said they were seven, Mr. Emlyn has said only three. This was one of his least mistakes in these matters; I thought he would have recollected himself when I had produc’d the express declaration of Valla, who in a Note upon St. John speaks of seven Manuscripts, and who had never said that he had but three; but since Mr. Emlyn does not submit to these testimonies, under the shadow of giving a different sense to ’em, I will add one word farther upon the subject; the matter is of no great consequence, but we must however pay this honour to truth; my own will be found in it.

Erasmus is the person, to whom the Publick is indebted for the impression of Laurentius Valla’s Works, the Manuscript of which was forgot in a place where the moisture and worms would have infallibly consum’d it. Having drawn it out thence, and read it with all the attention and regard such a Work deserves, he says that Valla had seven very valuable Manuscripts from which to make his annotations; as he himself, says he, he has declared, Laurentius Valla septem bonae fidei codices se secuturn fuisse testatur. For this once perhaps Mr. Emlyn will own that I had reason, and that he had none to say, this can only prove the number of Manuscripts he had upon the Gospel, and not upon the Epistle of St.John. I cannot comprehend how he could form to himself such an illusion, since at this rate one might as well say, that he had not even three, tho’ Mr. Emlyn had adopted that small number: but this is to amuse our selves about trifles. The Main of the affair is that Valla had Greek Manuscripts of St. John’s Epistle; that he has found fault with the Latin Version for not having follow’d the Greek in several passages of that Epistle; that he has withal made an observation against a particular word added in that Version, and which was not in the Greek; ’tis the word Simus of the first verse of the 3rd Chapter, Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called and be the children of God; for ’tis thus in the Vulgate. But says Laurentius Valla upon this, the word be is not in the Greek: the addition of this word was of no consequence, yet Valla would not let it pass: how then could so severe a Censor have let go this whole verse of the 5th Chapter, There are three, that bear record in heaven, &c. which was in the Vulgate, without making a remark, that it was not in the Greek, if in reality he did not find it there? Valla was very attentive to the additions, he met with in the Latin Version, to correct ’em by the Greek; I could fill more than two pages with this sort of observations, or corrections, which he has made upon the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles, if it was necessary to copy ’em here. In this he only followed the plan he had form’d for that Work; this plan did not lead him to set down the places where the Latin was found to agree with the Greek: saying nothing then of the Text of the witnesses in heaven, ’tis as much as if he had said, that the Greek and the Latin agreed. This reasoning which I have urg’d in the Examination of Mr. Emlyn’s Answer to my Dissertation, has been but slightly glanc’d at in his Reply: he has not touch’d upon the main matter; its force always subsists: it is evident; there I fix.

A few years after the death of Laurentius Valla the famous Edition of Cardinal Ximenes was made at Complutum in Spain, of which I have already spoke. As we have not a particular account of the Manuscripts which were us’d on this occasion, and yet less of those which serv’d for the edition of the Canonical Epistles, we cannot know exactly whether that from which the Text in question was taken was the only one in which it was found, or whether they preferred it to the rest; it is withal of very little importance to know it. What is certain, is first, that this passage was printed at a time when no one had yet undertook to dispute its being genuine; for it was not ’till some years after, and upon the occasion of Erasmus’s not inserting it in his Editions of 1516, and 1519, that they began to suspect these words might have crept into that place of St. John’s Epistle in favour of the doctrine of the Trinity. So that they cannot say, ’twas prejudice of party, which prevail’d upon Cardinal Ximenes, or the other learned men who were employ’d in that Edition, to forge this Text, in order to oppose it to the Editions of Aldus, and Erasmus. Mr. Simon has imagin’d, that Ximenes, and these Editors, seeing this sacred Text in the Latin Bible, and not finding it in any Greek Copy, that they might not leave this place of the Epistle empty, and to make the Greek answer to the Latin, forg’d amongst themselves this new Text. I question whether Mr. Simon, who has been so dextrous in inventing such turns of cunning would have been capable of making use of ’em himself, had he been in the place of Ximenes and the Editors: Charity forbids me to pass such a judgment upon him; especially since being no longer in the World he cannot answer for himself. But the same charity which I am willing we should have for him, ought to have hinder’d him from forming so injurious an accusation of an enterprize he had no proof of, and against persons famous both for their dignity and their learning, and whose probity was never brought under any suspicion. Thus we see that Erasmus, who, as I have elsewhere observed, does not appear to have been prejudiced in favour of the genuineness of the passage of Sr. John, has shewn a great respect to the Complutensian Bible with relation to the same Text; and Robert Stephens so much valued it, that he gave it the first place amongst all the Manuscripts which he used in his Editions of the New Testament.

So black an imputation as that of Mr. Simon would deserve no other treatment than to be sent back to its Author. But because those, who maintain this passage is not found in any Greek Manuscripts, are concern’d to let this accusation be current, in order to destroy the Manuscript of Ximenes, I would demand of them whether if they had a mind to form a Greek passage, that should answer to the Latin, they would have placed in that, οι τρεις εις το εν εισιν, to answer to the Latin, bi tres unum sunt? The difference of the sense of the Greek and Latin is very evident, and it was so easy to put in the Greek,  ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισιν, which is expressly what the Latin imports, that ’tis inconceivable how men of parts, and who were very well acquainted with both languages, would have made so gross a mistake, and so foreign to their purpose. Since Mr. Emlyn took in hand to answer my Dissertation, in which I had defended the Complutensian Manuscript against Mr. Simon, he ought to signalize his zeal for this head of the party, and the interest which he himself takes in his cause.  But because it may be that I did not sufficiently apply my self to shew the full absurdity of this gross imputation, I think that as I design to put an end to all these matters in this Discourse, I ought to pass by nothing that I think worthy my observation.

In this view I shall again make this observation upon the Editors of the Complutensian Bible: as they saw that these words of their Manuscript, at οι τρεις εις το εν εισιν, which regularly speaking are not the same thing with those, ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισιν, in some measure corrected the notion which St. Thomas had form’d, tho’ without reason, that these words of the Latin Version, bi tres unum sunt, had been added by the Arians at the end of the 7th verse; they plac’d in the margin of their Edition the very words of St. Thomas, so sincere were they in the matter. For what occasion was there for this long remark, and the quotation of the passage from St Thomas, if the form of these words in their Manuscript had not been different from the tres unum sunt, which the Abbat Joachim had abus’d, and upon account of which St. Thomas had made the observation just mention’d?

I admire divine Providence upon this occasion % the first GreekManuscript expos’d to the World by printing, presents us this marvellous Text with these last words ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισιν, which are taken from the 8th verse and which in that Edition are wanting at the close of that Verse; six years after the same Verse of the witnesses in heaven appear’d again in an Edition of Erasmus, who finds it in a Manuscript different from that of Complutum, and in this Edition the last words of the 7th verse are those which are peculiar to it, ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισιν, and the 8th verse keeps those which belong to it, and which the Manuscripts of Erasmus and Aldus had kept, οι τρεις εις το εν εισιν. Lastly come the Manuscripts of Robert Stephens, which have the Text of the three witnesses in heaven, with some slight differences in the Greek articles, but which are nothing to the thing it self. These small variations in the Manuscripts of the Greek Editions seem to have been so order’d by Providence, to prevent the thought that some had been copied from the rest, and that one sole Manuscript had been the foundation of all the three, or even that it had been a forg’d Manuscript.

That of Erasmus was the second from whence the passage of St. John’s Epistle came into the hands of the publick, with a Latin Version. Erasmus had recover’d it from England, and it was for this reason that he gave it the name of Codex Britannicus. This Manuscript has met with no better treatment than that of Complutum from Mr. Simon and Mr. Emlyn: both have treated it as forg’d and imaginary. It was a Manuscript says Mr. Emlyn, which no body has ever seen, nor any other ever spoke of but Erasmus, either before him, or after him, except from what he says of it himself. Mr. Simon has not absolutely denied the reality of this Manuscript, nor has he imputed the forgery of it to Erasmus; he does not deny also but that the Text of St. John’s Epistle was there such as Erasmus gives it. Well! and have we not then at least one Greek Manuscript of the passage in question? It seems so, but Mr. Simon knew soon how to take it from us; this, says he, was no other than a Copy from the Greek of the Council of Lateran, and the Greek of this Council, held in 1215 was made from the Latin, and thus by a little artifice we are brought back from the Greek to the Latin, and consequently there’s no Greek Copy for this Text. I have sapped the foundation of all these Fictions, which only have their source from an incorrigible obstinacy in rejecting this passage, and an unlimited assurance to deny the most certain facts and most undeniably prov’d: my confutation has stood without a reply. Mr.Emlyn would have touched upon it in his first piece, and have cast some blemish on it, but the examination I have made has taken from him the desire of returning to it again in his last, which he calls a Reply. The Editors, says he, of the Complutensian Bible bad no Manuscript for this Text; Erasmus inserted it in his Edition against his own opinion, for fear of calumny. This is call’d deciding; and deciding clearly; but to decide is, is not to answer: reasons are demanded, and Mr. Emlyn gives none. I do not know what he means when he says that Erasmus inserted the passage of St. John in his edition of 1522 against his own opinion. If he means the opinion of Erasmus concerning the genuineness of the passage it self, it is not absolutely true; Erasmus never declared against its being authentick: nothing like it will be found either in his Commentary, or in his answers to Stunica and Ley; all that is seen there is only a kind of perplexity into which the want of this passage in the Manuscripts from which he had made his two first Editions had thrown him; and the same defect in a certain old Latin Manuscript which he highly valued, to which he join’d what he had observ’d concerning S. Cyril principally, that he had not quoted this passage upon occasions, where it would have been very much to his purpose. All this held his mind for some time in doubt betwixt these and the contrary reasons he had for believing the Text genuine. Thus when Ley and Stunica had wrote against him upon his leaving it out of his two Greek Editions, he gives no other answer, but that he foliow’d his Manuscripts closely, and that if they would shew him one which had the passage, he would streight put out another Edition, in which it should be inserted. Upon this he meets with a Manuscript in England where he finds this passage, and without hesitation or offering the least violence to himself, he gives it a place in his Edition. By this means he satisfies his conscience, and silences his calumniators, who spread abroad against him scandalous reports, as if he had meant to favour Arianism by suppressing so plain a Text. Mr. Emlyn should have better observ’d the frank and open conduct of Erasmus in this whole affair, and have thus shewn somewhat more regard to the judgment he had pass’d himself upon the Codex Britannicus. He had spoke of it as of an imaginary Manuscript, forg’d and supposititious; now how can this be reconcil’d with what he has just said, that Erasmus had produc’d it against his own opinion, for fear of calumny? But what calumny? That he did not insert in a new Edition a passage which he found in a Manuscript that no body besides himself had ever seen? Certainly Mr. Emlyn did not think of the matter. The Manuscript which Erasmus spoke of really existed, and the Text of St. John was in this Manuscripts to attempt to form doubts in so clear a case is to seek for darkness in broad day.

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