In "An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture", Isaac Newton argued that 1 John 5:7 was a corruption of the early church and did not appear in the original Greek scriptures. He makes a similar claim regarding 1 Timothy 3:16. 1 John 5:7 is the strongest biblical reference to the trinity. Is there an objection to Newton's historical analysis of these verses?

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.

1 Timothy 3:16 -- 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.

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    I don't think anyone other than KJV-only people think 1 John 5:7 is authentic. I wouldn't have ever even thought of Newton in relation to this verse.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 3:19
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    1 Timothy 3:16 is a very different matter, the question being one single word, and should be asked about separately. In fact it's already been asked about at the Biblical Hermeneutics site.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 3:22
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    Matthew 28:19 is a far stronger expression, in my view, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which needs no other support. The Johannine comma is well documented as Erasmus' reluctant and unwarranted addition. I Timothy 3:16 is also hugely documented by such as Dean John Burgon.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 6:49
  • Are you asking about modern understandings of these Bible verses? Or are you more specifically interested in Newton's work in particular, his methods and his other conclusions - e.g. that they were inserted deliberately as a Roman Catholic pious fraud?
    – davidlol
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 21:14
  • Is “theos” of the Textus Receptus of 1 Timothy 3:16 the original reading? This is the BH.SE question that @curiousdannii refered to. Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 22:19

2 Answers 2


In the one remaining answer, there is only one brief mention of Newton, which is, "The problem with Newton's critique is his dependence on a straw-man argument." The answer demonstrates that. However, I wonder if it might be helpful to have a closer look at Newton, to grasp why he wrote so critically of the two scriptures in question.

I asked a question on Christianity Stack about Newton's theology back in September 2020 because of evidence that he had become anti-trinitarian; apparently at the end of his masterly work, Principia Mathematica he indicated his anti-trinitarian stance, even if not clearly. I received some informative answers to my question. Links were given, one showing that Newton wrote in support of a Samuel Clarke who had written in 1712 his arguments against the Trinity doctrine. Also, that Clarke and Newton seemed to have used arguments against the Trinity doctrine used by the Socinian Johann Crell in his De Deo et Ejus Attributis. My question is at Is there a link between Socinianism and Sir Isaac Newton's conclusion to his Principia Mathematica (1687) where he attacks the Trinity doctrine?

This does not tackle specific 'trinitarian' scriptures that Newton argued against, but given his sympathy to the anti-trinitarianism of the Socinian movement some 80 years before Newton, the reasons for his critique of 1 John 5:7 and 1 Timothy 3:16 would be the same reasons promoted by the Socinian movement.

If you could provide a link to An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture which details Newton's reasons, then the answer to your question would be found there, and perhaps it would show links to Socinianism. There might even be clear evidence that Newton's critiques were just the same as the Socinian's critiques. Given that you seem to know of this essay / article / book, and if you have read it, you would already know the answer to your question. However, if you have only heard of this paper, then the need is to find it, for therein should be Newton's reasons for his critiques.

Only once we know the reasons for Newton's critiques of those two particular scriptures can trinitarians then address their objections to his arguments. As it is, we can only address objections to general critiques against those scriptures. But it is Newton's reasons that you ask trinitarians to object to. His reasons would agree with Socinian reasons, yet the published work, An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture would be the only way of being totally sure about that.


1 John 5:7, 8

The evidence for and against this "comma" is a follows. The manuscripts are identified, as usual, by their catalogue number according to the Gregory-Aland system with a date in brackets. See the list in UBS5 and NA28. See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_manuscript

01 (4th) omit

03 (4th) omit

02 (5th) omit

048 (5th) omit

024 (6th) omit

044 (800) omit

018 (9th) omit

020 (9th) omit

33 (9th) omit

2464 (9th) omit

1739 (10th) omit

81 (1044) omit

2138 (1072) omit

323 (11th) omit

436 (11th) omit

945 (11th) omit

1175 (11th) omit

1243 (11th) omit

1846 (11th) omit

2298 (11th) omit

2344 (11th) omit

1241 (12th) omit

1505 (12th) omit

1611 (12th) omit

1735 (1200) omit

1852 (13th) omit

1292 (13th) omit

1067 (14th) omit

1409 (14th) omit

1881 (14th) omit

322 (15th) omit

Late (post 15th cent) MSS (undated)

61 include

88 include

221 include

429 include

629 include

636 include

918 include

2318 include

It is NOT included in Wescott & Hort, NA28, UBS5, SBL, Majority Text, Byzantine Text, F35, Jerome's Vulgate (~400 AD), THGNT, NIVGNT.

It is included on the Orthodox text (by edict), TR and Clementine Vulgate. It is clearly a late addition from the vulgate.

1 Tim 3:16

The difference in this verse is "theos" (= God in TR and majority Byzantine text) vs "hos" (= he or who in NA28, UBS5 etc). In any case the sense of the verse is scarcely changed.

The problem with Newton's critique is his dependence on a straw-man argument. Because two texts supporting the Trinitarian view are dubious, then is Trinitarianism dubious? Hardly. There are numerous other arguments in favour of Trinitarianism in the NT.

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    Could you perhaps explain what all these numbers mean, please?
    – davidlol
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 21:19
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    These "numbers" are the catalogue designations of the various manuscripts according to the usual Gregory-Aland catalogue.
    – user43409
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 21:33
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    In addition, those who argue in favour of including 1 John 5:7,8 would argue that the verse was removed early on in the Greek versions, probably by Arians in the early centuries, and that the Vulgate Latin retained the original text. Commented Apr 7, 2019 at 12:36
  • Except that even the early Latin versions do not have it as Jerom's version of 400 AD suggests.
    – user43409
    Commented Apr 7, 2019 at 18:45

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