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Friday, 23 September 2011

Priscillian and Leo on the Johannine Comma

Counter I have written earlier on the Johannine Comma, without mentioning Priscillian, who is thought by many to have been its author around 380. Leaving aside such speculation, I bring in Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome in the mid-fifth century. A great foe of Priscillianism, he quoted directly from 1 John 5:6-8 in his tenth epistle, and headed up the Council of Chalcedon which released a quotation of it in both Greek and Latin. It would be instructive to see how these read.

Priscillian (or a protégé of his in Liber Apologeticus):
 Sicut Johannes ait: Tria sunt quae testimonium dicunt in terra: aqua caro et sanguis; et haec tria in unum sunt. Et tria sunt quae testimonium dicunt in coelo: pater, verbum et spiritus; et haec tria unum sunt in Christo Jesu.

Pope Leo the Great:
 Et spiritus est qui testificatur quoniam Spiritus est veritas. Quia tres sunt qui testimonium dant spiritus et aqua et sanguis et hi tres unum sunt.

Council of Chalcedon:
 Et spiritus est qui testificator quoniam Christus est veritas. Quia tres sunt qui testimonium dant spiritus aqua et sanguis et hi tres unum sunt.

Chalcedon Greek version:
. . .τρεις γαρ εισίν οι μαρτυρούντες, το πνεύμα και το ύδωρ και το αίμα, και οι τρεις εις το εν εισί.

The Greek version is significant, and differs from the publication of the Council, in retaining the reading in v. 6 as "the spirit is truth" rather than the Latin version, which typically reads "Christ is Truth." Thus it can be seen that both of these official reports followed the version current in their respective languages. The text, without the Comma, is exactly as it is in the majority of Greek copies--and the minority of Latin copes, respectively--that are extant today. The Comma appears to have either been unknown to Leo, or, at best, known but rejected as an intrusion of Priscillianism.

Furthermore, the Comma in Liber Apologeticus is significantly different than the version that eventually ended up in most Vulgate manuscripts--assuming that there even is a majority reading of the Comma. Note the variant caro (flesh) instead of spirit: this reading is also found in the earliest known copy of the Vulgate to contain the Heavenly Witnesses before the Earthly ones, the 11th century Paris Bibl. Maz. Lat. 7:
Quoniam tres sunt qui testimonium dant in coelo, pater verbum, et spiritus. Et tres sunt qui testimonium dant in terra, caro, sanguis et aqua; et hic tres in nobis unum sunt.

3 comments:

  1. Augustine's quotation of 1 John 5:7-8 in the Latin text (tres sunt testes spiritus et aqua et sanguis et tres unum sunt / three they-are, witnesses, spirit and water and blood, and three-ones one-thing they-are) does not contain the Johannine Comma in his 427/428 AD composition, Contra Maximinum. It is not until Augustine explains and endorses the Trinity interpretation of 1 John 5:7-8 in the Latin text (no Johannine Comma) in Contra Maximinum that the Johannine Comma (the Trinity interpretation of the original text) begins to be added to the Latin text, first in the margin, then in the text AFTER the original text, which is consistent with an interpretation of a passage being ADDED to the passage, and finally in the text before the original text. Not only does Priscillian's version of 1 John 5:7-8 differ from the Johannine Comma by changing spirit and water and blood to water and flesh and blood and by placing the heavenly witnesses after the earthly witnesses instead of before earthly witnesses, but also it differs by using the neuter gender (tria, quae, tria, tria, quae, tria) instead of the masculine gender (tres, qui, tres, tres, qui, tres). The Johannine Comma is a Trinity interpretation of a mistranslation of 1 John 5:7-8 (the original text) from Greek to Latin, in which the preposition εις (for, into, in) in και οι τρεις εις εν εισιν (and the three-ones for the one-thing they-are) in the last clause in 1 John 5:7-8 in the Greek text is not translated as "in" (into, in) in "et tres unum sunt" (and three-ones one-thing they-are) in the last clause in 1 John 5:7-8 in the Latin text. It is because of the missing preposition in the last clause in 1 John 5:7-8 in the Latin text that Trinitarians assumed that et tres unum sunt (and three-ones one-thing they-are) was a reference to the Trinity. If the preposition εις had been translated "in" in the last clause (et tres in unum sunt / and three-ones into/in one-thing they-are), then the Trinitarians might not have assumed a reference to the Trinity, in which case the Johannine Comma (the Trinity interpretation of the original text) might not have been added to the Latin text.

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  2. Thanks for the comment, but you did make a mistake in the gloss of the Greek of the comma, και οι τρεις εις εν εισιν (and the three-ones for the one-thing they-are)-- which should be και οι τρεις εις εν εισιν (and the three-ones for one-thing they-are), deleting the article.

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  3. Sorry, that comment is not clear. It should read:
    You made a mistake. The Greek of the comma is και οι τρεις εις το εν εισιν (which glosses as: and the three-ones for the one-thing they-are)-- which you quoted as και οι τρεις εις εν εισιν (which glosses as: and the three-ones for one-thing they-are), deleting the article from the quote but not from the gloss.

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