"Who Was Jesus Christ?"
I quote a portion of his tract which deals with the spuriousness of
1 John 5:7 & 1 Tim 3:16 :-
- 1 John 5:7. "For there are three that bear record [in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth] the spirit, the water, and the blood…"
Thus reads our English translation. But the words enclosed in brackets are spurious; that is, they are no part of the Bible, no part of the epistle as it was written by John, but have been added without authority at a later time. This is not a matter of any doubt; it is a certainty, and universally allowed at the present day by the advocates, as well as by the opponents, of the Trinity.
A writer in the Eclectic Review, for instance, "the religious character of which is unsuspiciously orthodox," writes thus of the passage: "We are unspeakably ashamed that any modern divines should have fought for the retention of a passage so indisputably spurious. We could adduce half a dozen, or half a score of passages of ample length, supported by better authority than this, but which are rejected in every printed edition and translation."
Bishop Lowth, also a Trinitarian and a learned man, is equally decided. "We have some wranglers in theology," he says, "sworn to follow their master, who are prepared to defend anything, however absurd, should there be occasion. But I believe there is no one among us, in the least degree conversant with sacred criticism, and having the use of his understanding, who would be willing to contend for the genuineness of the verse 1 John 5:7."
I do not therefore dwell on this text for the sake of making its spuriousness any more evident, but because its history will illustrate the manner in which some few other corruptions have crept into our text.
The books of the New Testament are written in the Greek language from which our English Testament is a translation. Before the invention of printing, the Greek text was handed down by means of manuscript copies of the different parts, on parchment or paper, each taken from one more ancient, and so originally from the autograph of the apostle or evangelist himself. Of these manuscripts we have a large number preserved to us, of different degrees of antiquity, dating probably from the seventh century downwards. Of this epistle of John between one and two hundred codices have been examined; and from this number only one is found containing our present text, or rather, I should say, containing a form of words nearly resembling our present text. That one is the Dublin manuscript. When Erasmus published his edition of the Greek Testament about the period of the Reformation, knowing this verse to be spurious, he of course omitted it; but when his first and his second editions appeared without it, the uninformed "Orthodox" of the day, who had been accustomed to read the text in their Latin translation, "the Vulgate," raised a great clamor against the learned Editor for omitting their favorite stronghold. He answered that it was no part of the epistle of John, and that if they would produce a single manuscript containing it, he would insert it. This Dublin manuscript was finally produced, and in his third and subsequent editions he did insert it, for the sake, as he says, "of avoiding calumny." Thence it has come into the common editions of the present day. But Luther rejected it in his translation, as well as others in theirs; and in some versions and editions it is enclosed in brackets.
The corruption of the Dublin manuscript is discovered, by certain signs which it would be out of place to explain here, to have been imitated from the Latin Vulgate, which was the version in common use throughout Catholic countries. It appears in the greater part of the copies of this version, although from the best manuscripts of that also, it is cast out. It is quoted by none of the Greek Fathers, although in the Arian controversy which arose in the fourth century, we find the Scriptures ransacked from beginning to end, and even the verse succeeding this cited to furnish confirmation to the doctrine of the Trinity. It was not quoted by them because it was not there. Nor do we find it in the writings of any Latin writer, till Vigilius Tapsensis at the end of the fifth century. It was possibly first inserted in the Vulgate by him, for it was his habit to put his own words in other people’s mouth, and he is supposed to be the author of the creed which goes by the name of Athanasius. But it may, more probably, have been first written in the margin, according to the custom of that age, as a note or gloss, and by a subsequent transcriber have been incorporated into the text, by mistake, or as an authority convenient to the advocates of the Trinity and supposed to be conformable to the true opinions of St. John. It has thence stolen into the fashionable texts of different languages, and stands there like a thief in the crowd, whom everybody knows but nobody seizes. We would better now lay hands on it at once, and cross out the suppositious words in all the Bibles we may possess.
In this state of the case, it is a very wicked treachery to use this text in argument; and it is also wrong, as it seems to me, to read it from the pulpit without comment, as a part of the epistle, thereby imposing on the ignorant and giving countenance to forgery. The former offense we have to charge on no writers of consideration at the present day; but the latter, I believe, is the prevalent custom in the Trinitarian churches. ...
- 1 Timothy 3:16. It thus reads in our English: "And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."
The true Bible reading is decided to be "He who was manifest in the flesh" (i.e. Christ) "was justified in the spirit, seen of angels…" It being admitted by men of all modes of belief who have examined the matter that the present is not the true reading, the only doubt is between "which" and "he who." And you will easily perceive by merely looking at the Greek letters how the word "God" might have arisen from either of these. The Greek for God, contracted, as is usual in the manuscripts, is QS. The Greek for "he who" is OS. The Greek for "which" is O. Now the copyist seeing O might have added S to make it OS, or finding OS might have added the two dashes which convert it into QS signifying God, either by mistake, or more probably from thinking that they had been omitted from mistake by his predecessor, and his theological opinions would have led him to prefer the latter reading. This conjecture is made probable by its having been discovered that the two dashes in question have been added to several of the important manuscripts by an after hand, and with a different ink from that in which the rest is written. But however these conjectures of the manner of the corruption may be received, it is placed beyond any reasonable doubt that the word "God" is no part of the genuine text.
The manner in which the passage is often cited is an instance of the looseness with which thoughtless readers generally interpret texts of a like kind. It is frequently quoted as if it read "Great is the mystery of the Godhead," but "godliness" means nothing of the sort. Godliness means piety, which it is the great burden of the epistle to enforce. You will perceive from reading the previous and succeeding chapters that certain schismatics had arisen in the church of Ephesus, who inculcated celibacy and an ascetic life as that which was acceptable to God. And there were those also who professed to reveal the hidden philosophy of religion, the mystery of the faith, the secret things of heaven and of futurity, against whom the warning in the last verses of the last chapter is pronounced, and to whom History traces much of the gradual corruption of Christianity. To these teachers Paul alludes in the present text. He has instructed Timothy that with regard to officers of the church, the great concern is that they should be pious; for however much value might be set on other pretended mysteries, yet "the pillar and ground of the truth, and without controversy great, is the mystery of piety. He who was manifest in the flesh, was justified in the spirit" was not justified by knowledge of a dark philosophy, but by the state of his soul, by inward purity, "was seen of angels," even to higher Intelligences was a spectacle of moral beauty, "was preached unto the Gentiles," ... "was believed on in the world," and among the believers were the Ephesians themselves, and finally was "received up into glory," which was a sign of confirmation and acceptance ... All this is a strong enforcement of the great principle that "the pillar and foundation of the faith is" (not asceticism, nor a knowledge of mysteries, but) piety, "godliness," a mysterious bliss, a state of the heart known only to the few who experience it. So that this text, far from favoring the way of thinking called orthodox, is one of those which might perhaps, without injustice, be turned directly against it; for I apprehend that those who follow that way are apt, like the Ephesian Gnostics (although the virtues of the truly devout are continually operating to counteract the tendency), to rely rather on their theological zeal and their knowledge of mysteries than on spiritual purity and heavenly-mindedness; or, at least, that they set a disproportionate value on the former class of virtues.