Is the biblical passage at 1 John 5:7-8 (the Comma Johanneum) a Latin corruption that has entered the Greek manuscript tradition?
The authenticity of the Johannine comma, found in 1 John 5:7, has been a subject of debate from the early sixteenth century. Wikipedia says the general consensus today is that the passage is a Latin corruption that entered the Greek manuscript tradition in subsequent copies. By the way, the Johannine Comma is not to be confused with the modern punctuation mark (,); rather, the word comma in this sense came to Latin via the Greek word komma, which meant a clause, or a short grouping of words.
The text including the comma (here, in brackets) reads:
- 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, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one (KJV).
If the comma is removed, it would read:
For there are three that bear record, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one
The editors of the 1808 New Testament in an improved version found the following reasons for rejecting the comma:
- This text concerning the heavenly witnesses is not contained in any Greek manuscript which was written earlier than the fifteenth century.
- Nor in any Latin manuscript earlier than the ninth century.
- It is not found in any of the ancient versions.
- It is not cited by any of the Greek ecclesiastical writers, though to prove the doctrine of the Trinity they have cited the words both before and after this text
- It is not cited by any of the early Latin fathers, even when the subjects upon which they treat would naturally have led them to appeal to its authority.
- It is first cited by Virgilius Tapsensis, a Latin writer of no credit, in the latter end of the fifth century, and by him it is suspected to have been forged.
- It has been omitted as spurious in many editions of the New Testament since the Reformation:—in the two first of Erasmus, in those of Aldus, Colinaus, Zwinglius, and lately of Griesbach.
- It was omitted by Luther in his German version.
As this site notes, the Johannine comma has been ommitted from the United Bible Societies Version 4 (UBS4), widely accepted as representing current scholarly opinion.
Overall, I believe it would be safe to say that 1 John 5:7-8 is a later insertion, and that, as it first appears in the Latin milieu, the evidence strongly supports it being a Latin corruption that was copied back into later Greek manuscripts.