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Feedback archiveFeedback 2012

Islam, testimony, and the Trinity

Published: 27 May 2012(GMT+10)

In this feedback exchange CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati discusses the power and place of testimonies of conversion in apologetics, the relative freedoms of Christian and Muslim nations, and refutes in detail the Islamic criticisms of the doctrine of the Trinity—a foundational biblical truth. (Feedback slightly edited for this website.)

©istockphoto.com

Julien O. from France writes:

Hi Dr. Sarfati

Thanks for your advice and for giving me links to some helpful articles.

As you share a little bit of your knowledge with me, which I very appreciated, I would like to share just a little bit of mine with you because as you know the proverb : « Sharing is caring. » and I care about my other fellow human brothers. Moreover, I want to follow the same principle as Jesus which was to love for others what you love for yourself or to put it in another way, want for others what you want for yourself. And what I want is Paradise and above all, that God envelop me with His Mercy. So here is the info I wanted to share with you.

According to History, the best Scholar of Christianity of the 14th century was a man called Nilocas Myrtil. He lived in Bologna in Italia and was famous for his science, asceticism and piety. One of his student called Ancelm Turmeda wrote a book in which he said : « Nicolas told me that he’s got sufficient evidence that Jesus foretold the coming of another prophet who’s name will be “Ahmed” (same root as Muhammad). » This book is still available to this day.

More recently, another scholar of Christianity called Dr Jerald Dirks, who holds a Master’s degree in Divinity from Harvard University became a muslim (Muslim which means : a person who submit his will to God, just like all the prophets.). Same thing with David Gullion who was a baptist missionary 50 years in the making. Same thing with Dr Laurence Brown, Gary Miller and so many others.

I know this prove nothing but here is my advice: Every judgement should be made after hearing both side of the story. Just following one sided argument proves and lead to nothing. It is easy to lie to a fool, ignorant, uneducated or unjust person but it is not easy to lie to a just intelligent and fair person who is willing to listen to the truth. Just as the Bible says : « proves all things and hold fast to that which is good. » (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Qur’an reflects the same principle: « If a wicked person brings any news to you, you shall first investigate lest you commit injustice towards some people out of ignorance and then become sorry. »

So my advice to sum up is to investigate Islam with an unbiased mind and ask God for guidance. The best way to investigate Islam is by reading the Qur’an with sincerity and open mind. The best way to ask God for guidance is to ask him to guide you while you are in prostration (by putting your face in the ground just like Jesus did in Matthew 36:39.)

I was born in a Christian family and some years ago, I decided to investigate islam with an open mind and asked God for Guidance. Now I’m Muslim and still love Jesus, who is mentioned by the way 5 times more than Muhammad in the Qur’an. And His blessed mother, the Virgin Mary is the only name of women mentioned in the Qur’an.

I believe that the One true Religion of God should be very simple to distinguish from the others. It should be like that. So it should be clear for a sincere person who asked God for guidance and then read The Bible and The Qu’ran to distinguish what is from God and what is not. As muslims, we believe in the Bible and in the Torah but believe that the ones we have today is not the original revelation given by God to Moise [Moses] and Jesus. There might be some remains in them of the true revelation but globally, we don’t believe in them as they are today.

To conclude, this is now what I believe by being a Muslim : I believe and bear witness that there is nothing worship of worship except the One True God, who has no partners, no wife, no parents, no children, who is absolutely One, Unique and Alone, everything depends on him, nothing is Like him and to him belongs the most beautiful names and attributes. He alone we worship and He alone we ask for help. And I believe and bear witness that Muhammad is the servant and last Messenger of God and that Jesus is the servant and Messenger of God, and the Word and Spirit of God which He communicated to Mary.

May the Peace be with you Dr Sarfati.

from your brother in humanity, Julien.

Dr Sarfati responds:

Bonjour Monsieur O.

Thank you for your email, and you are welcome about the advice.

I should point out that our forthcoming book Christianity for Skeptics, written by Steve Kumar with updating by me, has a chapter on answering the claims of Islam.

In many Islam-dominated countries, converts from Islam face death

I’m sure there are converts from Christianity to Islam, as you mention about others, and about yourself, and I don’t doubt your word. Yet there are converts the other way too, and this is more impressive. The reason I say that, to be blunt, is that in Christianity-dominated countries, people are free to convert to Islam and practise their faith. Conversely, in many Islam-dominated countries, converts from Islam face death, such as Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran,1 and Abdul Rahman2 and Shoaib Assadullah3 in Afghanistan. Also, in the UK, its first female Muslim Cabinet minister, Sayeeda Warsi (Baroness Warsi), has slammed “the rising tide of militant secularisation” and says that “Christianity is a vital part of British life and warns of the dangers of eroding its importance.”4

But more important than conversion experiences is the truth. It can be summarized: historical accounts written close to Jesus’ time witness that He died then rose from the dead, leaving the tomb empty and appearing to 500 people at once. The Qur’an says differently, but it was written 600 years later. Conversely, Muhammad stayed dead, even according to the Qur’an. We would also argue that the biblical account of creation matches the evidence better, as documented in The Koran vs Genesis

Peace

Jonathan Sarfati


Bonjour M. O.

Thanks for your mail. Indeed there are also Muslims who convert to Christianity and vice versa. But as we said, that proves nothing. But notice that when I mentioned examples of conversions in my previous mail, I was only talking about scholars of Christianity, not ordinary Christians. And obviously this does not prove that Christianity is wrong but it has a little bit of meaning in some way. Just as when someone like Antony Flew gave up atheism.

There are scholars of Islam who went the other way too, often at great personal risk.

Regarding Apostasy, in the context and the purpose of Islamic law is treason. When the prophet Muhammad said: « Whoever changes his religion, kill him », that was in the context of fighting the pagans. If a man in that context join the pagans, it is military defection and treason.

The general rule in islam is sum up with that verse from the Qur’an: « There is No compulsion in Religion »

Some Jewish scholars like Zion Zohar argue that the best time for Jewish History is when the Jews were living under Islamic government.

But most likely Dhimmis who had to pay the extra tax (jizya). I guess this was before 800,000 Jews were expelled from Muslim countries after the State of Israel was formed.

Regarding the resurrection account, i advice you to watch the debate between Wiliam Lane Craig & Shabir Ally called: « Resurrection, Hoax or History ? » [Weblink deleted as per feedback rules—Ed.]

Here is an account of that.5 It still baffles me that it can even be an issue that Jesus died on the Cross. This was never disputed by His contemporaries, whether friend or foe.

Also, please note: such a debate was possible only in a country with a Christian heritage, with freedom of religion. It would never be allowed in an Islam-ruled country, because it would be forbidden by laws against proselytizing against Islam.

Regarding the evidence of creation, i advice you to watch the debate between Dr. Zakir Naik & Dr. William Campbell called « The Bible and the Qur’an in the light of modern science. » here is the link: [Weblink deleted as per feedback rules—Ed.]

But my main advice was to listen to both side of the argument. So having listen to Steve Kumar argument, why don’t you listen to the Muslims argument now in order to make a fair judgement ?

Actually, I meant that I updated and expanded his book.

Here is some good lectures you can watch :

  1. A history of Early Christianity by Dr Jerald Dirks, a former minister (deacon) of the United Methodist Church, who has a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity. [Weblink deleted as per feedback rules—Ed.]
  2. The TOP 10 reasons why the trinity is invalid By Dr. Laurence Brown, author of many books on religions. [Weblink deleted as per feedback rules—Ed.]

Not convinced—he is no theologian, but an ophthalmic surgeon. But I will answer his 10 Reasons point-by-point.

A bad start: Point 10 “The word Trinity is nowhere to be found in the Bible”. But then he concedes that it’s not really an issue, since the question is really whether the doctrine is found there. Compare, the word “monotheism” is not in the Bible either, but it is taught there, as Muslims would agree.

Point 9 quotes from The Harper Collins Encyclopedia of the Bible [sic— … of Catholicism], “The doctrine of the Trinity as such is not revealed in either the Old Testament or the New Testament.” This remains to be proven. Also, what is meant by “as such”? That there is no single verse revealing the entire doctrine, as opposed to logically derived from a number of verses? The answer can be found in the fact that the above quote ends not with a period but with a semicolon. The next clause is, “however, the essential elements of what eventually became the doctrine are contained in Scripture. [Emphasis added.] Quote mining does this Muslim apologist no credit.

Point 8, ad hominem about lawyers. In reality, Tertullian derived the Trinity from the point that God is revealed to have made a covenant with Israel, yet from God’s side, there were three signatories to this covenant. In Roman law, a party to a legal agreement is called a persona.

Point 7 misrepresents the history of the Church: when heresies were promoted, the church had to formulate the true doctrines of Scripture in creedal form. For example, Arius promoted the heresy that Christ was a created being, and Athanasius strongly opposed Arianism on biblical grounds.6 The Nicene Creed ratified the biblical teaching. Read a serious book by scholar Gerald Bray, Creeds Councils and Christ for why Tertullian and later Church scholars showed that the Bible teaches the Trinity. [Update: I explained this far more in responses to critics of Who really is the God of Genesis? below the article, showing Tertullian’s extensive biblical reasoning.]

Point 6 quotes Hans Küng (mispronounced as “Kung”), just an argument from authority, and no mention of his extreme theological liberalism.

Point 5 is a restatement of Point 9, from Harper’s Bible Dictionary, “The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the NT.” Once more, it’s irrelevant that the word—or a certain formulation—is not there, because the doctrine is a logical deduction. The speaker failed to continue with the next sentence: “Nevertheless, the discussion above and especially the presence of trinitarian formulas in 2 Corinthians 13:14 (which is strikingly early) and Matthew 28:19 indicate that the origin of this mode of thought may be found very early in Christian history.” So this is more quote mining.

Same with point 4: citing New Catholic Encyclopedia, “The formula itself does not reflect the immediate consciousness of the period of origins.” But this is still more quote mining. The New Catholic Encyclopedia in context has no doubt that the Bible teaches the Trinity. It states explicitly a few pages later, “‘One God in three Persons’ was simply a restatement, a legitimately condensed and compact version of the more loosely organized NT teaching. Key texts were cited in support, particularly the well-known mandate put on the lips of Christ in Mt 28.19—‘baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ From the vocabulary and grammar of the Greek original, the intention of the hagiographer to communicate singleness of essence in three distinct Persons was easily derived.” [Emphasis added] In other words, the formula of the Trinity was a compact statement of biblical truth against the Arian heresy. Similarly, he goes on to quote the encyclopedia, “Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective”. Once again, this ends with a semicolon. The Encyclopedia continues: “among the 2nd-century Apologists, little more than a focusing of the problem as that of plurality within the unique Godhead. … From the vocabulary and grammar of the Greek original, the intention of the hagiographer to communicate singleness of essence in three distinct Persons was easily derived. … If it is clear on one side that the dogma of the Trinity in the stricter sense of the word was a late arrival, product of 3 centuries’ reflection and debate, it is just as clear on the opposite side that confession of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and hence an elemental Trinitarianism—went back to the period of Christian origins. [Emphasis added]

Point 3: “God is one God”. This implies the usual misrepresentation of the Trinity as tritheism. Trinitarians believe in one God, so the point knocks down a straw man.

Point 2: Jesus saying “the Lord is one”. But in Defending vital doctrines and the deity of Christ, I show that Paul included Jesus in the divine identity of the Shema, and in The Hebrew language and Messianic prophecies I show that “one” is often used of a composite unity. In Who really is the God of Genesis?, we show that the Trinity is the only meaning compatible with “God is love”. Brown talks about Christians tripping up while explaining the the oneness and threeness of God. I don’t know which Christians this Brown fellow has talked to, but if they were reasonably informed ones, he doesn’t let on. It’s very simple: the oneness and threeness are in different senses. Brown also asserts that Jesus should have explained the Trinity when He made the “Lord is one” statements. That is an argument from silence. Elsewhere He declared his divinity, and gave the Trinitarian baptismal formula. Brown is really presumptuous in declaring that Jesus had to explain the Trinity when Brown said he had to. We see next how Brown is not an ex-Christian but an ex-atheist. He is right about inconsistencies between who Jesus was and what people said about Him, but he and other Muslims should look in the mirror! (Then there is irrelevant rambling about televangelists etc. Doesn’t apply to me or CMI).

Point 1: ‘there’s no evidence in the Bible whatsoever to support the Trinity’. Another assertion and repetition of previous points. Then he claims that when you go to a Christian and ask for the primary evidence for the Trinity, they provide 1 John 5:7 (the “Johannine Comma”) “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (KJV). Yet another straw man: most informed Trinitarians throughout Church history have not used that verse, recognizing this as spurious. You won’t find this in James White’s The Forgotten Trinity. You won’t find this in CMI’s defence of the Trinity either. This is his #1 argument? Yet he repeats that this Comma is the #1 biblical passage. He needs to get out more if he thinks that this is the best arguments Christians offer! He even refutes himself by pointing out that modern Bibles have (rightly) removed this passage, and most Christians these days use these modern Bibles.

Then he continues by discussing the Trinitarian baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” His answer? The parallel passage in Mark 16:15, which doesn’t mention the Trinity, which he asserts is a contradiction.

First, logically, there is no contradiction—there would be only if the Mark passage denied the Trinity (see “Contradiction” from my article “Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation”). But even more glaringly, for a man who is so insistent about the spurious verse in 1 John 5:7, he is woefully ignorant of the fact many of the same scholars regard the last few verses of Mark as equally un-original (as do I and some colleagues—see How did Mark end his Gospel?). If it is not ignorance on Brown’s part, it’s double standards.

Finally, the closing comment by the moderator about worshipping God alone not His creation. Absolutely right! But Brown ignores the fact that Jesus accepted worship (as well as forgiving sins), the prerogative of God alone. E.g. Doubting Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God”, and Jesus didn’t contradict him. Muhammad would have torn his coat in anger and grief if one of his disciples had said that to him, or even beheaded him for blasphemy.

Jesus said: ‘that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.’ (John 5:23).’

Really, that’s the best you have? Come on!

I have written defences of the Trinity such as Jesus Christ our Creator: A biblical defence of the Trinity and The Incarnation: Why did God become Man? which demonstrate the biblical derivation. Note, nothing about the “Johannine Comma”.

OK, I’ve commented on your expert, so your turn to deal with my biblical arguments. ;)

  1. The documentary « Jihad On Terrorism ». Here is the link: [Weblink deleted as per feedback rules Ed.]

Again, May the peace be with you Dr Sarfati and thank you for your wonderful works on Evolution.

Glad they are helpful.

May God guide us all to the straight path.

Best Regards.

All the best to you too. I hope you will consider the evidence I have raised. Another point Brown overlooked is that Jesus said: “that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23).” Here again, Jesus is claiming that He is equally worthy of honour as God the Father, which no mere creature could be. Muhammad would have been appalled at any disciple saying “we must honour the Prophet (peace be upon him), just as we honour Allah”: this would be blasphemy. The Bible also tells us that we can be saved only by trusting in the Son (Acts 2:38, 4:12).

Jonathan Sarfati

Related Articles

Further Reading

References

  1. Iran orders hanging of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Jerusalem Post, jpost.com, 23 February 2012. Return to text.
  2. Christian Convert Faces Execution, ABC News, abcnews.go.com, 22 March 2012. Return to text.
  3. Second Afghan Convert Faces Death Penalty under Apostasy Law, Christian Post, christianpost.com, 29 March 2012. Return to text.
  4. Baroness Warsi: religious confidence helps Britain attack ‘persecutors’ abroad, Telegraph (UK), telegraph.co.uk, 14 February 2012. Return to text.
  5. William Lane Craig vs. Shabir Ally: “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” answeringmuslims.com, 25 March 2009. Return to text.
  6. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, ccel.org/ccel/athanasius/incarnation.txt. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Chandrasekaran M., Australia, 27 May 2012

The verse that I remembered, having read this article, is:

1 John 2:23—Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.

If I deny Jesus the Lord I do not have God. But when I confess that Jesus is the Lord and my Saviour I have God also.

Judie S., Australia, 27 May 2012

Yes, Chandrasekaran!

Our sermon tonight was on 1 John 2, and verse 23 jumped out at me even before I’d read the article.

In fact, I was thinking SO many people (eg JWs, Muslims) should read all of 1 John. How many of them have the certain hope of spending eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ promised to His believers in Chapter 5:, verse 13?

Emmanuel N., Switzerland, 27 May 2012

I am well aware of the debate between Christianity and Islam. Since 2005, I’m part of the “Christian Friends of Israel” ministry and we have a stand on the center of our city. Most of our visitors are Muslims. Yesterday we had an intense debate with a veiled woman. When she pointed to us verses from the Qur’an, we asked her about a clear evidence of its presupposed divine inspiration. She just replied what about the Bible’s authority and we pointed her to the accuracy of the prophetic declarations, especially concerning the dispersion of the Jews & their return in their homeland. She was unable to answer at that point. By the way, another veiled woman listened to the debate and asked some questions. We had the opportunity to explain her the Gospel right from Genesis, up to the Cross. She listened without a word. She then took a look at Mark A. Gabriel’s book Jesus and Muhammad and then took a Bible we freely offered her! Amen!

John G., United Kingdom, 27 May 2012

Great defence of the Trinity

something that I find useful is the verse in Isaiah ch.44 v.6 “I am the first and I am the last,” a verse loved by the JWs) and beside me there is no God and compare it with the first chapter of revelation when it is clearly Jesus stating that he is the first and the last

A very clear demonstation of who our Saviour is.

Every blessing

Jack C., Australia, 28 May 2012

I know I will be knocked back on this but the truth is according to the Bible there is no Trinity. There are only two beings in the so called Godhead; God the Father and His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. The holy spirit is not a being but a spiritual force that’s used by them to carry out their works, and was also distributed to others, such as the disciples who performed miracles. I know you won’t accept this but that's OK, I'm sure you are forgiven for this mistake. After all we all make mistakes, only Jesus was ever perfect while in human form.

Jonathan Sarfati responds

A “spiritual force” cannot issue commands in the first person, yet we read in Acts 13:2—“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ’Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”

King T., South Africa, 28 May 2012

Thank you very much for the in-depth refutation of the Islamic viewpoint.

As far as the rejection of Jesus as God is concerned, I always have to ask my Muslim friends why they acknowledge Jesus as a prophet but then do not listen to what he says about himself. Surely if he is a prophet send by God they should accept his words as truth?

It then comes to their claim that the current version(s) of the bible are not the originals—just as our friend claims.

At which point one has to ask who has access to the originals so that we can compare those to the current versions? Where are they? How do they, the Muslims know of such unaltered documents yet cannot produce them?

There usually is no answer to that question.

M. G., South Africa, 28 May 2012

I have been forced to defend Christianity against Islam and used this argument with great success:

The Q'uran acknowledge Jesus Christ as a true prophet of God.

Jesus Christ (a true prophet according to the Q'uran) explicitly said that no-one comes to the Father but by Him, (Jn 14:6).

Therefore, Mohammed—admitting Jesus as a true prophet—would also be expected to go to God through Jesus Christ.

Doug T., United States, 28 May 2012

Excellent response and rebuttal—however, I disagree with your assertion that 1 John 5:7 is “rightly” left out of many Bibles. I will say that its generally best to avoid that verse in a debate over the trinity simply to keep it from getting sidetracked into a defense of that verse. As far as the verse itself is concerned, I’d like you to consider what the late Dr. Henry Morris said about it in his The New Defenders Study Bible.

This verse is … the clearest and most explicit statement of the doctrine of the Trinity to be found in the Bible. However it is found only in manuscripts of the Latin Bible and in four Greek manuscripts, so is believed by many biblical scholars to have been a pious addition or marginal annotation by some ancient unknown copyist. The doctrine of the Trinity does not depend on this verse, of course … On the other hand, since it does fit perfectly in the context, it also seems that this verse could well have been in John’s original autograph, and then been removed from most of the accessible manuscripts at the height of the Arian controversy in the fourth century. To eliminate this verse would leave 1 John 5:8 as a largely redundant repetition of 1 John 5:6, whereas the continuity and sense are beautifully structured and sequenced if it is included … The reference to the three witnesses “in earth” strengthens the case for the validity of the reference to the three witnesses “in heaven”, especially since the manuscript evidence for “in earth” is strong .… John seems clearly to be drawing an analogy between the three who bear witness in heaven to the three that bear witness on earth.

Regards,

Doug T.

Jonathan Sarfati responds

Glad you like the rebuttal. All the same, I must strongly advise against the Comma all the same. I was well aware of Dr Morris’ comments, and he was just misinformed here.

First, not only is is absent from most Greek manuscripts, it was never found in any of them until the 16th century. The first of any Greek witnesses was a 13th-century translation from a Latin work.

Second, if such a verse had existed, it would surely have been used to defend the correct Trinitarian view. Yet it is absent from all the Greek works by the great Trinitarians like Basil and Athanasius. It is also absent from the 2nd-century Latin writer Tertullian, the first to expound the explicit doctrine, as explained in point 7 above. The passage is just not found in old Latin Christian works or in the earliest editions of the Vulgate. The Comma is also conspicuously absent from the ancient translations such as Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Arabic, and Slavonic. Luther’s German translation from the second edition of Erasmus’ Greek also lacked the Comma. See also the articles by evangelical textual scholar Dr Dan Wallace, The Textual Problem in 1 John 5:7–8 and The Comma Johanneum and Cyprian.

Third, it is very dangerous to assert that such an important verse had been removed from most manuscripts. This is actually all-too-similar to the Islamic charge that the Bible has been corrupted to remove references to Muhammad. The answer is the same: unless they can produce the alleged early uncorrupted manuscripts to compare with the extant ones, they have no case. In any case, these alleged corruptors could not have done a good job, since they left the passages that Trinitarians actually used to prove their argument!

In reality, the heretics mostly didn’t corrupt manuscripts but twisted the meanings of the clearly genuine readings. The one main exception was Marcion, a wealthy heretic who tried to produce a highly reduced Canon of Scripture. But he was excommunicated and his huge donation returned to him. So Christians were on the lookout for deliberate tampering as Marcion tried. See also “Isn’t it true that all modern Bible versions are translated from biblical manuscripts corrupted by heretics?” by Fred Butler, who is a good CMI supporter.

Fourth, why use such a textually dubious argument for the Trinity when there are so many well-attested passages that make this doctrine plain?

Murray D., South Africa, 1 June 2012

Hi Dr. Sarfati,

I'm now somewhat confused as to resources. You mention Tertullian and Athanasius as not mentioning this scripture, yet Dr. John Gill (1690-1771), which I generally assumed was a sound expositor, has the following section in his commentary on this verse:

1Jn 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven,… That is, that Jesus is the Son of God. The genuineness of this text has been called in question by some, because it is wanting in the Syriac version, as it also is in the Arabic and Ethiopic versions; and because the old Latin interpreter has it not; and it is not to be found in many Greek manuscripts; nor cited by many of the ancient fathers, even by such who wrote against the Arians, when it might have been of great service to them: to all which it may be replied, that as to the Syriac version, which is the most ancient, and of the greatest consequence, it is but a version, and a defective one. The history of the adulterous woman in the eighth of John, the second epistle of Peter, the second and third epistles of John, the epistle of Jude, and the book of the Revelations, were formerly wanting in it, till restored from Bishop Usher's copy by De Dieu and Dr. Pocock, and who also, from an eastern copy, has supplied this version with this text. As to the old Latin interpreter, it is certain it is to be seen in many Latin manuscripts of an early date, and stands in the Vulgate Latin edition of the London Polyglot Bible: and the Latin translation, which bears the name of Jerom, has it, and who, in an epistle of his to Eustochium, prefixed to his translation of these canonical epistles, complains of the omission of it by unfaithful interpreters. And as to its being wanting in some Greek manuscripts, as the Alexandrian, and others, it need only be said, that it is to be found in many others; it is in an old British copy, and in the Complutensian edition, the compilers of which made use of various copies; and out of sixteen ancient copies of Robert Stephens’s, nine of them had it: and as to its not being cited by some of the ancient fathers, this can be no sufficient proof of the spuriousness of it, since it might be in the original copy, though not in the copies used by them, through the carelessness or unfaithfulness of transcribers; or it might be in their copies, and yet not cited by them, they having Scriptures enough without it, to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ: and yet, after all, certain it is, that it is cited by many of them; by Fulgentius (z), in the beginning of the “sixth” century, against the Arians, without any scruple or hesitation; and Jerom, as before observed, has it in his translation made in the latter end of the “fourth” century; and it is cited by Athanasius (a) about the year 350; and before him by Cyprian (b), in the middle, of the “third” century, about the year 250; and is referred to by Tertullian (c) about, the year 200; and which was within a “hundred” years, or little more, of the writing of the epistle; which may be enough to satisfy anyone of the genuineness of this passage; and besides, there never was any dispute about it till Erasmus left it out in the, first edition of his translation of the New Testament; and yet he himself, upon the credit of the old British copy before mentioned, put it into another edition of his translation. The heavenly witnesses of Christ's sonship are …

(z) Respons. contr. Arian. obj. 10. & de Trinitate, c. 4. (a)Contr. Arium, p. 109. (b) De Unitate Eccles. p. 255. & in Ep. 73. ad Jubajan, p. 184. (c) Contr. Praxeam, c. 25. (d) Zohar in Gen. fol. 1. 3.

Best regards.

Jonathan Sarfati responds

Unfortunately, John Gill wrote before the discovery of many more manuscripts, and these undermine his claim that the Comma is missing “through the carelessness or unfaithfulness of transcribers”.

This also means that we have a different perspective on what “old” means when it comes to manuscripts. Gill was a fine 18th-century theologian (1697–1771), so he might well consider as an “old British copy” Codex 61 from Oxford around 1520. But this is now way too late to be a reliable witness compared to the many manuscripts from the first few centuries AD. Similarly, the Complutensian Polyglot Bible was from around that time, again way too late to be a reliable textual witness.

Also, Gill seems unaware that the earliest extant copies of the Vulgate don't have the Comma. This found its way into later editions.

There is also a problem with the term “citation”. Cyprian probably believed that the undisputed text of 1 John 5 alluded to the Trinity, but this doesn't mean that the Comma was in the text:

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three are one.

All that was cited was “and these three are one,” and this is undisputed. The question is what three he was referring to. Dr Dan Wallace covers that in the linked article above.

The Athanasius reference, Disputatio contra Arium, is most likely not by Athanasius at all, but purports to be a report of a debate he supposedly had with Arius at Nicaea, according to Dr Wallace. And even then, much like Cyprian, the Comma is not quoted as part of the text, but only the undisputed “and these three are one.”

But also, is not that sin-remitting, life-giving and sanctifying washing [baptism], without which, no one shall see the kingdom of heaven, given to the faithful in the Thrice-Blessed Name? In addition to all these, John affirms, “and these three are one.”

I couldn’t find the Comma in Tertullian’s Against Praxeas either.

But I will leave the last word to Dr Gill, as you cited:

they having Scriptures enough without it, to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ

That is precisely my advice: use these many undisputed passages. It might be a little more work than simply pulling out the Comma, but it will be far deeper.

Danny J., United States, 5 June 2012

There are some other problems with claiming that the Holy Spirit is not a third person in the Trinity:

  1. Why do we need to baptize new disciples in the name of the Holy Spirit? The only instances I see in the Greek New Testament where I see “in the name of” it refers to God, and in Matthew 28:19 that phrase is used not only for the Father and the son, but also for the Holy Spirit.
  2. If the Holy Spirit is only a force then why is the Holy Spirit called “He” and given the properties of a person. He can be blasphemed (Lk. 12:10). He can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4). He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30).
  3. And why does Jesus call the Holy Spirit another comforter like Himself which is what the Greek word for “another” (allon) means there (Jn. 14:16-18)?

P. F., United Kingdom, 2 July 2012

The Bible tells histories of people, men, women and children, clearly and honestly, and it names hundreds of individual women. In contrast, I note Julien O. states the Koran refers to only one woman by name—Mary, the mother of Jesus, (who is incorrectly also referred to as the sister of Aaron, who lived 1300 years earlier (Maryam 19:27–28)). It is not a book for all times and cultures but very much a product of a particular Arab, time-bound, male-dominated, even chauvinistic, society.

Thank you for your insightful, intelligent, informative and relevant articles—a real blessing and resource.

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