Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Trinity in 1st John

I was taken aback the other day when I was reading the biblical reading from the Office of Readings and came across this passage: "Quoniam tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in cælo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus: et hi tres unum sunt. Et tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in terra: spiritus, et aqua, et sanguis: et hi tres unum sunt" (1 John 5:7-8). I did not recall such an explicit mention of the Trinity in 1 John or anywhere in the Bible except Mt. 28. So, I looked in both the old and new NAB and found out that the Trinitarian text is not there! It says in the RNAB: "So there are three that testify, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and the three are of one accord." In the Nova Vulgata it says: "Quia tres sunt, qui testificantur: Spiritus et aqua et sanguis; et hi tres in unum sunt." Clearly there was an alternative reading at the time of St. Jerome that later scholarship has interpreted as a gloss. Also, clearly my copy of the Latin office doesn't use the Nova Vulgata. The current critical edition of the Greek text (NA26) does not have the Trinitarian language. Since I don't have my copy at work I can't look up the footnotes.

Still, it is an amazing passage when read in the way St. Jerome did. I wish it were canonical, because then my task in teaching about the Trinity to seminarians would be easier!


Joe said...


In the Eastern Church the text still is canonical. Also, in theory, Rome could reinsert it into a future edition of the Vulgate. That it was read as canonical for centuries should be sufficient to consider it authentic biblical text.

Robert Gotcher said...

Depends on whether you think the monograph is the basis for canonicity or not. Of course, we have no monographs, except for perhaps a scrap of Matthew.

Joe said...

And I think that we never will know with certainty what exactly was in the original manuscript and what wasn't. Even if it is a gloss however, it is gloss so closely associated with Scripture (and previously received as Scripture), then it has a firm place in the universal Christian tradition. So, I think that it can still be used, at the very least, as an early attestation to the Church's trinitarian faith.

Robert Gotcher said...

I agree completely. I'm going to add a mention of this to my Trinity class.

Santiago Chiva de Agustín said...

Hello. Congratulations for your blog. Do you know why the young people pray the holy rosary? You can watch here fifty testimonies of young university students
(in Spanish, with english subtitles)
See it:
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Santiago (Granada, Spain)