Spurious Words at 1 John 5:7,8

It’s intuitive that the older the Bible translation, the greater the accuracy. After all, it’s closer to the events. It's intuitive, but incorrect.

Thus, a fellow I met in the ministry was peeved because the modern New International Version deletes words from his favorite scripture: 1 John 5:7, a verse that, in the King James Version, clearly states the Trinity.

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

The reason he misses these words so much is that it is the Bible's only direct statement of the Trinity. All other Trinity texts require various degrees of wishful thinking. Often they are merely figures of speech taken literally.

But since the Bible is inspired and the King James Version was the only version in use for a few hundred years, surely there must be mischief in removing words. Our householder did note some explanation about the deleted words not appearing in any manuscript before the sixth century CE, but he still smelled a rat. If it was good enough for the Pilgrims, it should be good enough for us.

But the way it works is this:

The Bible writers were inspired. The Bible copyists were not. The Bible translators were not. The latter two groups were devout people doing the best they could with what they had. But they were not inspired.

The goal, then, is to get as close as one can to what the Bible writers wrote, not just what the copyists and translators produced.

Because paper and parchment is perishable, scribes had to copy and recopy and recopy to keep the message from disintegrating. Also, because early Christians were evangelizers, they had to copy and recopy to keep them supplied with the texts they would use in their ministry. Each copy is an opportunity to make a mistake. Thus, the older the copy, (manuscript) the more accurate it probably is, since there have been fewer opportunities to mess it up.

So it is a big deal when, in 1 John 5:7, the words the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one appear only in manuscripts dated after 600 CE. It means that those words were not written by John, but were inserted by a copyist around 600 CE, probably because he wanted the Bible to support the Trinity more than it actually did. It’s also unique in that it’s hard to think of it as an honest mistake. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to change Scripture, without any justification other than the Bible nowhere says what the copyist wanted it to say!

Note his cleverness. The spurious words immediately precede a legitimate group of three.

First, the 400 year old King James Version: (spurious words in bold)

7. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
8. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

Next, the New International Version, published in 1973: (note the adjustment of verses)

7  For there are three that testify:
8.  the[a] Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

   

Translators of the 400 year old KJV did not have access to the most ancient manuscripts; modern archeologists have since discovered ever older source material. So the newer Bible versions are usually more accurate than the older ones, not to mention being easier to read….no thee’s, thou’s or ye’s.

There are many dozens, probably hundreds, of English translations of the Bible that have appeared since the KJV. Few of them contain those inserted words at 1 John 5:7. Of those that do, almost all include a footnote to inform that the words only appear in later manuscripts. NIV is one of these. Here is their explanatory footnote:

Late manuscripts of the Vulgate testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8 And there are three that testify on earth: the (not found in any Greek manuscript before the sixteenth century)

Very few modern Bibles include those added words without explanation, and, it seems apparent, those that do are not being honest. They give the impression that those words were originally part of the John’s letter, when they certainly were not. Do you want to guess where those authors stand with regard to the Trinity doctrine?

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Acts of the Pioneers: an Important New Find

When the National Geographic Society announced the discovery of the Book of Judas, folks at the Whitepebble Research Institute were not happy. Religious studies, along with government studies, constitute their bread and butter, and they get nervous when someone else makes a big splash in the pool they would like to own. Thus, the Whitepebble outfit put its own manuscript sniffing operation in high gear, and shortly came up with an important find, (if you’re not fussy) the Book of Howard.

The institute is now pleased to announce a 2nd  manuscript, one-upping the National Geographic Society, entitled Acts of the Pioneers. Eminent archeologist Tom Wheatandweeds presented his find at the last Institute meeting, where it was quite a hit, let me tell you. While perhaps not as important as the book of Judas, it certainly has the stature of the book of Howard.

                                                Acts of the Pioneers               

Now in Rochester there were dwelling pioneers, reverent men and women, about thirty in number, having been gathered for the purpose of attending the pioneer service school. At the ninth hour of the day the disciples Richard and Andrew stood up before them all and said: Brothers, above all things, let us go and publish the word of Jehovah throughout all the district of Greece." And they gave them further instructions, saying: "As you go, preach, saying "I have a message from outer space." And if anyone demands of you a reason for your call, say to them "C. O. D." which means when translated "Come On Down." Moreover, if anyone does not take you in or listen to your words, on going out of that house, say "How do you feel about the Bible?"

However, some of those gathered began to say "Who will give us coffee to drink?" and "How we remember the donuts that we had yesterday and, in fact, every other day." So after having refreshments downstairs, they departed into the field.

And the thirty returned with joy and began to related to each other the many wonderful experiences that had been worked by means of them. And the place in which they were gathered was shaken, so that letters fell from the year text, and the screens fell out of the windows, and the fluorescent lights would flicker on and off all afternoon. Moreover the disciples named Peter and Kathern and Herb and Erna began to rejoice more than the others because they knew who would wind up with all those return visits.

However, while they were yet rejoicing, it became the twelfth hour. And immediately, the disciple named Herb stood up and began proclaiming loudly and repeatedly before them all, "What's for lunch?" So they all paid attention to his voice and went down to see.

And by day, they would relate to each other how they came to be disciples. And by night, they would carefully examine the scriptures to make sure of all things they were learning. But the disciple named Richard would go over to Remley's and watch television till dawn.

Now all that remains is to get those finicky authorities to stuff this new manuscript into the Bible cannon....um, I mean canon.

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Gospel of Judas and the Breakaway Sect

April 2006, the National Geographic Society surprised us with the Gospel of Judas, (not to be confused with the Gospel of Howard) found in the 1970’s Egyptian dessert.

Background on gospels: the Bible has four of them, each named after its author: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Gospel means good news. Did Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, write the Gospel of Judas? If so, he had to write fast. Jesus gave him secret revelations only days before Judas took his own life.

No, Judas is not supposed to have written the gospel himself, but even so, when would he have told anyone his inside information? He was busy around that time, handing Jesus to the authorities, then feeling remorse over the deed, then taking his life over it.

Like different newspapers covering the same events, gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke overlap a lot. The Gospel of John, written many years afterwards by the nearly 100 year old apostle, contains about 90% new material. You shouldn’t be surprised at that. The needs of the Christian community would have changed in 30 years, and so John highlighted different deeds and teachings of Jesus, more relevant to Christians of his time. He acknowledges in his final sentence that there is no end to material he could have drawn on. 

The Gospel of Judas was written long after this time, and thus the connection to Judas, who lived only a few days after Jesus gave him his claimed secret revelations, has to be shaky. The content is heavily mystical, not at all like the other writings.

Elaine Pagels of Princeton University says texts like Judas are “exploding the myth of a monolithic religion” in favor of Christian diversity. Nonsense. It explodes nothing that the Bible canon itself doesn’t explode.

Below are 5 separate scriptures from the New Testament. Look them up if you like. The statements make clear that the authors were indeed striving for monolithic unity, and not Christian diversity. And why not? They were the apostles after all, the same fellows in the Last Supper painting. They knew what Jesus had done and said, and they wanted to keep the record untainted, a fight they ultimately lost, at least in the short run. Do you really think, for the sake of diversity, that they would welcome a new gospel, written years after their own deaths, by someone who couldn’t possibly be in position to know anything?

The Gospel of Judas is useful if we keep in mind what it represents….the view of a breakaway sect, not Christianity itself. Unfortunately, you know and I know that next years’ Christmas or Easter sop from the TV networks will be the “real” story of Jesus, based on the Book of Judas.

2 Pet 3: 15   Furthermore, consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul according to the wisdom given him also wrote YOU, 16 speaking about these things as he does also in all [his] letters. In them, however, are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unsteady are twisting, as [they do] also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

1 Tim 4:1   However, the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, 2 by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron; 3 forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who have faith and accurately know the truth.

Acts 20:29   I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among YOU and will not treat the flock with tenderness, 30 and from among YOU yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.

1 John 2:18   Young children, it is the last hour, and, just as YOU have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us. But [they went out] that it might be shown up that not all are of our sort.

2 John 9   Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to YOU and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into YOUR homes or say a greeting to him.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Oh No! Politically Correct Ancient Scribes!

Elihu listened to days and days of speeches, enough to make anyone antsy. When he’d heard all he could stand, he spoke himself. As it turns out, the young man was the only one who knew what he was talking about.

A short summation of the Book of Job, the ancient exploration of suffering: Job, the account goes, was a wealthy and honored man, deservedly so. But he ran into very hard times. In short order, he lost possessions, family, and health. He exiled himself from the city and waited to die. Only he didn’t die. He just suffered.

News gets around, and Job receives three visitors who, rather than empathize, keep watch vulture-like for days. When they finally speak, it’s not to console the sick man, but to condemn him! Job has only himself to blame, they point out, because he’s been such a skunk, and so God is getting payback.

Only, Job has not been a skunk. He’s really been a good man. So he defends himself. Vehemently. He has to, because his visitors become more and more vicious, furious that their words should not be taken to heart. They keep goading him, by degrees, till Job, too, shoots off his mouth: Nobody’s ever been more worthy and free from blame as he, and  nobody’s ever suffered more at the hands of an unjust God, who must be unjust to pick on him this way, when He surely ought to be able to find better things to do with His time.

This is when Elihu, up till now silent, speaks. He’s steamed. But who is he steamed at?

Everyone.

Against Job his anger blazed, because he justified himself rather than God; and against his three friends too, his anger blazed, because they had found no answer, and yet they had pronounced Job wrong.    Job 32:2,3 Berkeley Version

Most Bible translations agree with the last phrase: …they had pronounced Job wrong. But the New World Translation and a few others, render it that God is the one who’d been pronounced wrong!

That’s a significant deviation. What accounts for it?

Since papyrus and vellum, like paper today, disintegrates over time, and yet the scriptures were preserved for centuries, someone had to have copied and copied and copied. Before Christ a class of scribes called the Sopherim were charged with this work. They did nothing but reproduce manuscripts, maintaining accuracy. After Christ, a class called the Massorites did the same thing. The latter made copious notes in the margins, mostly things to ensure correctness, for example counting individual letters per line to make sure their maunscript didn’t vary from that they were copying. But there’s a few places where they note that the earlier Sopherim had tweaked the Scriptures a bit, to improve readability.

Job 32:3 is one of those tweaks. It apparently says, originally, that God was pronounced wrong. But scriptures were read aloud in the synagogue on Sabbath day, and the notion of God being made wrong struck those scribes as so offensive that they changed the subject to Job, who could be wrong as rain without causing any harm! The Massorites note the substitution and give a margin footnote: this is one of the 18 emendations of the Sopherim. [Google the expression] Only, after they recorded the number, they found a few more, so the 18 emendations is really more than 20. They are scattered throughout different manuscripts.

Thus, we have political correctness way back in ancient times!

Which rendering really fits: Job or God?

Sometimes when translating, and there is a genuine choice of terms, you use context to determine which one fits. Oddly, for Job 32, both renderings will do.

Job fits, for his pals clearly accused him of vileness, without giving any evidence. They did pronounce him wrong. If you’d read Job only up to this chapter, you might prefer this rendering.

But God fits too, and seems more likely in view of what Elihu goes on to say….he speaks up in defense of God, not Job. And the three pals did level wrong charges against God, for example, telling Job that his goodness was meaningless to God, since there was no pleasing Him anyway. 

At any rate, writers of the New World Translation concluded that, since over-pious scribes took out the subject God, they should put it back in. The large print edition explains the decision in appendix 2B

Job 15:15;  42:7

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The Gospel of Judas and Howard

The folks at National Geographic are all abuzz. April 6, 2006 they gave us the Gospel of Judas, found in the 1970’s Egyptian desert .

The Gospel of Judas (I kid you not) asserts things found no where else. Judas was not Jesus’ betrayer. No. Instead, they were the best of chums, and Judas betrayed Jesus only because Jesus asked him to. Not only that, Jesus gave his special friend inside tips that he kept secret from the other eleven.

Of course, this gospel contradicts everything else in the Bible, but no matter. Research is research.

Intrigued, I went down to the desert and poked around. Sure enough, I too found an ancient gospel, the Gospel of Howard. My hands trembled as I leafed through the crumbling pages, and I gasped at the new truths I learned

According to this exciting new find, Howard, like Judas, was Jesus' favorite, and is affectionately called 'Howie' throughout the gospel. Howie was the only disciple whom Jesus bowled with, generally every Wednesday night, until, discouraged at the Master's continual 300 games, he sold both his shoes and ball.

Next, and this revelation took my breath away, the mark of the beast never was 666! That was only an accident! Turns out that a scribe had left his copying briefly, likely to use the bathroom, though we can’t be certain of his exact reason. While he was gone, his wife came in to dust, just as my wife does, and inadvertently caught the corner of the original with her feather duster, spinning it completely around. Not noticing, the copyist upon returning, resumed his work, and copied 666, when it should have been 999!

I took my find straight down to the authorities so that they could include it in the Bible canon. So far, though, the soreheads only want to fire it from a cannon. But I’m patient. Attitudes change.

What do you mean, you don’t believe it? You got something against advancing knowledge?

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'