The Genuineness of 1 John 5.7 by David Martin 2.5

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


Of the obelus plac’d in the middle of the 7th Verse, There are three in heaven, &c. of the Manuscripts mention’d by the Divines of Louvain, and of that which F. Amelotte says he saw at Rome.

WE have seen that among the Manuscripts of Robert Stephens there were found seven, in which the passage of St. John was not entire, for they wanted these words εν τω ουρανω i.e. in heaven: but as notwithstanding this he did insert ’em in his Edition, for the reasons I have given, he mark’d them with two small points, which he set at the upper end of the line, one before the word εν, and the other after ουρανω, which thus form’d a kind of parenthesis nam’d an obelus, as if one should, say somewhat pointed; or sharp. This obelus, placed as it is, and ending with the word ουρανω shews that all the rest of the Verse was in the same Manuscripts, but this not suiting with those who will have the Text to be supposititious, they pretend that the end of this obelus is misplac’d, by an error of the press, and that it ought to be put after these words of the following Verse, εν τη γη, in earth. ‘Tis pretended that the Divines or Louvain pass’d the same judgment upon the misplacing this obelus 150 years ago: but they have only said that the Manuscripts of Stephens had the Text of the 7th Verse entire, and so as ’tis printed, unless the obelus be placed wrong: I would my self say as much, tho’ I maintain that it is in its true place. As it is a point of mere Criticism, which requires a nice application and enquiry, no one must be surpriz’d that Dr. Mill, who had his mind full of learning, and who could not but be very much wearied with the large Work of the Edition of the New Testament he has left us, has not allow’d all the time and pains necessary to clear up this matter; one man cannot do every thing. Where the Doctor fail’d in attention, I have endeavour’d to supply with mine; it may be seen thro’ the whole of what I have said in the xth Chapter of my Dissertation, where I have very largely treated of this matter, and in the xiiith Chapter of the Examination of Mr. Emlyn’s Answer, that there is no reason to doubt but the obelus must be in the place where ’tis put in the Edition without carrying it any farther.

Mr. Emlyn has not touch’d upon the reasons I have given, and he had no other way to take, than by calling out for the Manuscripts of Robert Stephens; to demand what is become of ’em; let ‘era produce ’em; that they cannot be lost; and such other matters which shew a man reduced to the last extremity.

Without tarrying to shew that it belongs neither to me nor any other to give an account what is become of old Manuscripts for upwards of 150 years, which may so easily have had the fate of so many others no less considerable, which are lost, J would beg of Mr. Emlyn to tell us whither this objection tends, which appears to him so pressing. For my part, I cannot see that it aims at any thing else, but to insinuate that ’tis a fable, spread by Robert Stephens, and confirm’d by Beza, his good friend; that there were Manuscripts which had the passage of St. John, some the entire passage, others without these two words, in heaven. Unless they accuse first Robert Stephens, and then Beza, of having acted one after the other, and then both together, the infamous part of cheats and impostors, I don’t see to what end they call for these Manuscripts. If Mr. Emlyn can form suspicions against the probity and honour of these two learned men, whose reputation has been, and is yet in veneration; there will be no candour and sincerity, which in this kind can be secure against his injurious suspicions. There would be withal so much extravagance in this, that I am not willing to believe him capable of it. Tho’ then these Manuscripts should be lost since the time that Stephens had ’em in his hands, and tho’ no person at present knows what is become of ’em, all that we lose thereby, is the satisfaction of seeing there the same Texts, which Stephens and Beza saw there. The truth of the fact remains always the same: a degree of more or less evidence takes away nothing from the truth, and the evidence is here great enough for the reason I have given, without any need of our seeing these Manuscripts our selves, which they say they saw.

If the obelus ought to have been carry’d so far as the middle of the 8th Verse, and all the words together, in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one: And there are three that bear record m earth, be thus cut off at one stroke, in order to join the first words of the 7th Verse, For there are three which bear record, with these other of the 8th, the Spirit, the Water, Blood, &c. as Mr. Simon and Mr. Emlyn imagine, Robert Stephens could not have condemned himself in stronger terms, and given himself up as an impostor to the Publick: For having inserted the 7th Verse intire in two following Editions, and the 8th Verse intire also; making together six witnesses; three in heaven, the Father, the Som, and the Holy Ghost, and three in earth, the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood. This reason carries with it its own conviction.

It will be withal confirm’d by the conduct which Stephens continu’d to observe after the Edition in which he had plac’d the obelus, which was that of 1550. As all his Editions were sold off, almost as fast as they came out of the press, the first, which was that of 1546. had been follow’d by that of 1549 this by the Edition in 1550 and to this third immediately succeeded a fourth, which was made in the year 1551. If the obelus had been wrong plac’d in the Edition of 1550 which is the only one in which it was inserted, as this misplacing would have introduc’d into the Epistle a false Text, namely that of the witnesses in heaven, can one conceive that Robert Stephens would not have cast out of this Edition in 1551 a passage which he had printed and rejected by the obelus of the preceding year? By such use of forming chimæras, a man must have got such a power over his own mind, as to be able to believe whatever he pleases. This would be more than enough to prove to any reasonable person, that the obelus of the 7th Verse respects only the words εν τω ουρανω, and ought not to be carried farther; but I yet reserve for the close a demonstrative proof of the same truth; I know not whether any one has ever discover’d it; for my part, I have observed it but within these few days, as I was reviewing this subject.

Extraordinary pains have been taken, to reduce all the Manuscripts which Stephens had of the first Epistle of St. John to the number of seven, and to shew that they were only the seven which are set down in the margin with reference to the obelus of the 7th Verse; and as they pretended this obelus was inserted in order to cast out of the Epistle the whole Text of the witnesses in heaven, they concluded from thence that this Text not being in his seven Manuscripts it was not therefore in any. I have here and elsewhere shewn in the passages which I have alledg’d the falsity of all these suppositions; but without so many reasons, and having recourse to a discussion upon which they form several difficulties, here is a short and certain way to come at the same end: which is, that the very reason they rely so much upon, destroys it self, and carries with it the conviction of quite the contrary.

The obelus refers to seven Manuscripts mark’d in the margin by these Greek numeral Letters, δ, ε, ζ, θ, ι, ια, ιγ,  to signify that in these the words mark’d by the obelus were wanting; now this is so far from proving that Stephens had none but these very Manuscripts of St. John’s Epistle, that ’tis a convincing proof he had several beside.

To be satisfy’d of this they need but run over with their eyes Stephen’s Edition; they will there see from, one end to the other abundance of Texts mark’d like this with an obelus, sometimes upon one word only, sometimes several, and sometimes half a Verse, wish the reference of some Manuscripts set down in the margin: some of these obelus’s refer but to one Manuscript, others to two or three, and several to nine or ten, but this very thing shews that they were not all the Manuscripts of the Gospel or the Epistle, or the like Book of the New Testament which are specified by this sort of references, but that beside these he had others withal.

When Stephens mark’d with an obelus one or more words which he did not find in his Manuscripts he put in the margin εν πασι, in all, to signify that these words were wanting in all:  most frequently he set down by abbreviation the single letter π, which being the first of the Greek word πανζα, express’d the same thing; but when the passage of the Text where he put an obelus was wanting only in some, he mark’d by the numeral letters I have mention’d each of those which had not the words, and ’tis then a perfect demonstration that he had others in which the words were read.

For instance, In the 3rd Chapter of Matthew, verse 11, He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire, the last words and with fire are mark’d by an obelus, and in the margin are plac’d these seven Greek Letters, α, γ, δ, ε, ς, ρ ,ιβ  which signify’d seven Copies, where these words were wanting. In the 6th Chapter, in which the Lord’s Prayer is recited, there is an obelus over these words, For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen; and in the margin is put the letter β which specify’d the Copy in which these words, which were found in all the rest, were not. In the same Gospel 8:13 the word first, is mark’d with an obelus, which refers to one Manuscript only, because there was but that which had it not. In the 9th Chapter, verse 13. these words to repentance, are read in all the Manuscripts excepting two, which are express’d in the margin by β & ιβ. It would be endless to quote all the other parallel instances. As then it would be certainly wrong to imagine that Stephens had but such Books of the New Testament, as answer to the number of Manuscripts mark’d in the margin by obelus’s in the Gospels or in the Epistles, they may thence see whether they have reason to say that he had only the seven Manuscripts to which the obelus of the 7th Verse refers of the first Epistle of St. John, besides the Complutensian Bible: since on the contrary ’tis every where a certain proof that he had several others, and that in them the words were read which were wanting in those denoted by the obelus.

‘Tis a constant use, and a practice so universally observed, in such cases not to carry the references of the obelus’s, and such other marks, farther than the sole Copies, upon occasion of which they were inserted, that there never yet was made an Edition when the matter was otherwise. Before Robert Stephens had made his Greek Edition of 1550 he had printed several fine Latin Bibles, for which he had made an excellent choice of the most extraordinary Manuscripts. When he did not find a word or a sentence in some which were generally in the others, he mark’d these Manuscripts with an obelus: his Editions afford abundance of examples; we have one among the rest upon this very Verse of the 5th Chapter of St. John’s Epistle, which Mr. Simon has not forgot, and upon occasion of which he commends the exactness of Stephens. The passage is entire in this Latin Edition, which was made in 1540, but it is therewith an obelus or parenthesis, which includes all these words of the Latin Text, in Cœlo, Pater, Verbum, & Spiritus Sanctus & qui teflimonium dant in terra; which were in all his Manuscripts except three or four, in which they were wanting, and which are noted in the margin to answer to the obelus; but for this very reason that only these Manuscripts are there specified, ’tis an infallible proof that he had several others in which the Text was entire.

Hentenius, Prosessor of Divinity at Louvain, printed in 1547 a very beautiful Latin Bible and not finding in five Manuscripts these very words of the 7th Verse in cœlo, which answer to the Greek εν ουρανω, which were wanting in seven Manuscripts of Stephens, Hentenius, I say, places there an obelus with a reference to five Manuscripts. Now as it would be absurd to infer that Hentenius had only these five Manuscripts of St. John’s Epistle, ’tis just the same to say that Stephens had but seven Manuscripts of this Epistle, under pretext that the obelus mentions but seven; since on the contrary Hentenius taking notice but of five in which the words in cœlo were not read, he has shewn by this very thing that they were read in the others: the case is the same with regard to the seven Greek Manuscripts of Stephens, which had not the words:  εν τω ουρανω.

The only thing they can object is to say that Stephens having besides these seven MSS. the Complutensian Edition, in which the passage of St. John’s Epistle was entire; he ought not to have put, as he has so frequently done in other places, εν πασι, or simply π since it was not wanting in all:  but ought only to have mark’d those, in which it was wanting, which are these seven.

This answer might take place, first, is it was true that Stephens had taken the Text we are upon from the Complutensian Edition: but nothing is more evidently false: I have shewn it in my Dissertation upon this passage; and to repeat it here in two words, the Edition of Complutum has και οι τρεις, these words of Stephens και ουτοι οι τρεις the Complutensian says, εισ το εν εισι, Robert Stephens, εν εισι. Which makes a very great difference, in the 8th Verse the Complutensian reads επι της γης; Stephens εν τη γη; the last clause of this Verse, οι τρεις εις το εν εισιν, is wanting in the Edition of Complutum, where the words are plac’d at the end of the 7th Verse; there is nothing like this in the Editions of Stephens, and these words are at the end of the 8th Verse, as they ought to be agreeably to the other Greek Manuscripts and the Latin. Stephens cannot then have had that Edition in view.

Secondly, When upon putting an obelus, there remain’d but one or two Copies which had the words, that the obelus mark’d to be wanting in some Manuscripts; it was his custom to set in the margin εν πασι, or π with the Greek word πλην, which signifies except, to denote that these words were wanting in all, except such or such Copies: for instance, in St. John, Chap. 6 verse 45. he places an obelus over the word ακουσας, and in the margin π. πλην του γ. και του η to express, in all except the two Manuscripts γ & η.  In St. Matthew 5:33, παλιν, in the margin, π. πλην. ιβ, i.e. in all, except the Manuscript ιβ. In Chap. xii. verse 35 της καρδιας, in the margin, π. πλην του η. in all except the Manuscript ιβ. In St. John, Chap. iii. verse 25. Ιουδαιαν. the margin, π. πλην του α i.e. in all except the Copy α, which is the Complutensian Edition:  and it is this very Edition they would make to be an exception to the list of the seven Manuscripts mark’d with an obelus in St. John’s Epistle, as if it was the only Copy which Stephens had besides those seven, and the only one in which the Text was. But Stephens has not put, as in other places πλην του α, except the Complutensian, and they have no right to make him say what he has not said, and what is withal very different from his common custom. All this shews that if Stephens had only had these seven Manuscripts of St. John’s Epistle, he would not have stood to have named them one after another, to let us understand that the obelus he had put in the Text respected only these.

Beza, who had Stephens’ Manuscripts, and who had made his annotations upon these very Manuscripts, leaves no room to doubt of the truth I have just demonstrated, since speaking of the words εν τω ουρανω, over which we find the obelus, he says they were wanting in seven Manuscripts, but with regard to the whole Verse, for ’tis of this he treats in his Note, it Was in some of Stephens’s Manuscripts, besides the Complutenstan Bible: Erasmus, says he, read this Verse in the Codex Britannicus; it is in the Complutensian Edition; and we read it also in some old Manuscripts of our dear friend Stephens.

What remains is only to say two words upon the other Manuscripts mention’d in the title of this Chapter, those which are spoke of by the Divines of Louvain, and that which F. Amelotte says he saw at Rome.

I had quoted in my Dissertation upon this Text a considerable passage from the Divines of Louvain, who having printed a Latin Bible in the year 1574. speaking of the Greek Copies say in their Preface, that besides that of the Complutum, the Codex Britannicus of Erasmus, and the Manuscripts of Robert Stephens, they had seen several others of the same sort; that is to say, in what concerns the passage of St. John, for ’tis of this they were speaking. Mr. Emlyn had answer’d, that this must only be understood of the Latin Editions. I showed the impropriety of that answer; and he has stopp’d there; thus leaving me by his conviction the Greek Manuscripts in which this passage was, which the Divines of Louvain said they had seen.

Next came the testimony of Amelotte a Father of the Oratory, who says in a Note upon the Text of St. John, that he had seen it at Rome in a very ancient Greek Manuscript of the Vatican Library. Mr. Emlyn had borrow’d from Mr.Simon, (who in several respects appears to have been no good friend to F. Amelotte) all that he had advanc’d to render his integrity doubtful. I have examin’d all his reasons, and confuted them. Mr. Emlyn, who had held himself secure of his fact under the authority of Mr. Simon, yields to ’em; and F. Amelotte’s integrity has remained safe as to that matter; nothing that I have said has been confuted: here again then is another very ancient Greek Manuscript in which the Text of the three witnesses in heaven is found, as in the Complutensian, the Manuscript of Erasmus, those of Robert Stephens, and some others which had fallen under the eyes of the Divines of Louvain:  will they after this say, that ’tis in no Manuscript?

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