R. L. Dabney’s Defense of 1 John 5:7 (Part 2 and conclusion)

THE MANUSCRIPTS

It is true that the disputed verse has little support from Greek copies and has been found in only two–the Montfort MS in Dublin University Library and the Codex WIZANBURGENSIS of the 8th century. The Chief manuscript authority for 1 John 5.7 is in the Latin versions and it is found, with few exceptions in all the codices of these, both in the Vulgate and in the Old Latin. Among ancient writers who refer to all or allude to the disputed words are Tertullian and Cyprian and many later Latin authors. The passage is asserted as genuine Scripture with the almost unanimous agreement of Latin Christendom from the earliest ages. It should be remembered that the Old Latin was translated from the Greek at a very early age, certainly within a century of the death of the Apostles. The African churches did not lose their sacred books to the same extent as the Greek Churches during the great persecutions and it is in African Latin writers that we find some of the earliest citations of the disputed verse. Another relevant fact is that the ancient Latin churches were not so much tainted with the Arian heresy, the suspected source of so many corruptions. In the contest with Arians, the Council of Carthage, and other early “Fathers” appeal to this verse with questioning confidence as a decisive testimony against them.

Origen exercised a powerful influence over the transmission of the Greek text in the period before some of the most ancient copies now in existence were written. Mosheim describes him as “a compound of contraries, wise and unwise, acute and stupid, judicious and injudicious; the enemy of superstition, and its patron; a strenuous defender of Christianity, and its corrupter; energetic and irresolute; one to whom the Bible owes much, and from who it has suffered much.” He was the great corrupter, and the source, or at least the channel, of nearly all the speculative errors which plagued the Church in after ages. Nolan asserts that the most characteristic discrepancies between the common Greek text and the texts current in Palestine and Egypt in Origen’s day are distinctly traceable to a Marcionite or Valentinian source, and that Origen’s was the mediating hand for introducing these corruptions into the latter texts.

It is highly significant that important texts bearing on the Trinitarian doctrine, which appear in the Greek and Latin are lacking in the old MSS of the Palestinian and Egyptian. The disputed texts were designed to condemn and refute the errors of the Ebionites and Gnostics, Corinthians and Nicolaitanes. It is not surprising that the influence of Origen should result in the suppression of some of these authentic testimonies in the Greek copies, while the old Latin which circulated in areas not much affected by Origen’s influence, should preserve such a reading as that found in 1 John 5.7

(Summarised from Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1967, by the Trinitarian Bible Society, 217 Kingston Road, London, SW19, 3NN England).

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