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1st John: Text and Interpretation

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Question #1:

G'Day Brother

Hope your keeping well.

Can you please explain 1 John 3:9?

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Does that prove eternal security or perseverance of the saints?

Your Loving Brother In Christ

Response #1:

Thanks, I'm trying to hang in there – hope you are doing the same.

As to your question, I don't think this verse proves either one. Those who are "born of God" are by definition believers who are sons of the Most High through spiritual rebirth. The Greek has both of these verbs in the perfect tense which indicates status in present state based on past action (i.e., "being in the state of being alive because of having put faith in Christ in the past"). So this verse – which expresses the truth that no one who is actually a believer can live a life of sinfulness and stay a believer (without apostatizing or being removed by the sin unto death); that is doctrinally consistent and is true from every point of view. If, however, a believer apostatizes, they become spiritually dead, are no longer "in the state of being born again" and so the verse would then not apply to that person at all.

Yours in Jesus Christ in whom we have life eternal,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Dear Bob,

I just read 1 John 5 today, and wanted to ask about passages 16 and 17. John speaks of sin being wickedness, and while all wickedness is sin, not all sin leads to death. What is he speaking of? Is this the "sin unto death" you have spoken to me before that he is talking about? When he speaks of a sin that leads to death, is he speaking of the sin unto death, where you die before you can turn away from God?

I hope to hear from you soon.

Response #2:

Yes, you are exactly right. This is the place where the Bible directly calls this phenomenon the "sin unto death" (although there are plenty of biblical examples as for example Saul and also the young man handed over to Satan "for the destruction of his flesh that his spirit might be saved" in 1Cor.5).

For more, please see the link: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death (in BB 3B: Hamartiology).

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #3:

G'Day Brother

Hope your doing well.

You ministry continues to be a great blessing to me. I pray our Lord Jesus continues to protect and embrace your ministry for the extension of his kingdom.

I'm having a little trouble fully understanding 1 John 5:18, I was hoping you can shed some light on this passage.

I wanted to let you know I have officially left my old church, please keep me in your prayers as a look for something that is Christ centered, Bible based.

Love In Christ

Response #3:

Thanks for the update. Going the way of the truth is never an easy road – but it is well worth it in the end. It is always a great encouragement to me when I hear that fellow believers like yourself have been helped by this ministry. I have been and will continue to keep you in my prayers.

As to your question, here is how the NIV translates the verse:

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.
1st John 5:18 NIV

The word "continue" is not in the Greek, of course. This is an interpretation, and in my view a defensible one, based upon taking the present tense here as progressive. The translation of the NKJV, "does not sin", is also defensible. Greek only has one present tense, unlike the three in English (i.e., "sins", "is sinning", "does sin"). So it is a matter of interpretation. But in my view translating as the KJV/NKJV et al. do is problematic in the context of the Bible, the New Testament, this epistle, and even this chapter. Indeed, in the verse immediately preceding John says "All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death" (1Jn.5:17 NIV). I would be skeptical of any believer telling me with a straight face that they are never ever involved in doing anything wrong. Now I suppose one might say that this is referring to unbelievers only, except that in the verse immediately before that John says "If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life" (1Jn.5:16 NIV). There is no argument about the essence of the translation in either of these two verses (John's Greek is the simplest in the NT, moreover). On top of all this, we have these verses from earlier in the book:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1st John 1:7 NIV


If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1st John 1:8 NIV


If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NIV


If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
1st John 1:10 NIV


My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
1st John 2:1 NIV

Beyond all argument, therefore, whatever 1st John 5:18 means, it most assuredly does not mean that sin is impossible for believers, or that all believers are in a state of sinless perfection or, conversely, that if anyone commits a sin that person is not a believer (or loses salvation). Here is how I render the verse:

We know that everyone who is born [again] from God is not [continually] sinning, but the one who is born [again] from God guards himself [against apostasy], and [so] the evil one is not [able to] lay hold of him [so as to lead him away from the faith].
1st John 5:18

This verse follows the discussion of believer backsliding which, if let unchecked (i.e., no repentance and genuine change of direction) will end one of two ways: 1) the sin unto death (which John covered explicitly in vv.16-17), or 2) apostasy – which is what John is addressing here in verse 18 (see the link: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death). If a person is truly born again, being spiritually alive, that person will confess the sins he/she does commit and will thus not be "continually sinning". But if he/she violates this "job description" and is "continually sinning", he/she will eventually be taken out by the "sin unto death" – and God's Word will be proved true. Alternatively, if the person in question allows his/her faith to lapse, falling into apostasy through the deleterious effects of continual sin (cf. Heb.3:12), when faith dies, the person is no longer "born again", no longer a believer – and God's Word will be proved true. Because of God's corrective action (in taking the believer out of life or in allowing the person to fall away through their own choice), the statement in 1st John 5:18 is 100% true – since God never lets any who belong to Him get to the point of rendering it untrue. Therefore only believers who are "not continually sinning", who pull back from sin, confess sin, repent of sin, suffer through the discipline for sin, but maintain their faith in and faithfulness to Jesus Christ are unable to be hurt by the evil one in the sense here of forfeiting their lives (in the sin unto death) or their salvation (in apostasy).

Simple verse. Simple language. But as is often true in such cases, the interpretation takes a little thought. Please do feel free to write back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi Brother!

Thank you for your explanation of 1 John 5:18; it has helped me heaps. When John talks about a sin unto death, is that spiritual or physical death? Other places in the gospel, it talks about sin bringing forth spiritual death, i.e., Rom 8:13, Rom 6:16, James 1:14-16, James 5:19,20, etc

Have I misunderstood that?

Love In Christ

Response #4:

You are most welcome – always glad to be of help.

Scripture describes three types of death, but without necessarily branding them in a way that makes their differentiation obvious to a casual or one-time reader of the Bible: spiritual death, physical death, and eternal death (the second death). There is a progression here of course. We are all born spiritually dead on account of the fall; as a result we will all die physically; and, absent a spiritual rebirth, eternal death lies on the far side of physical death (please see the link: in BB 3B: "The Three Aspects of Death"). In the case of all of the passages you mention, Rom.6:16; 8:13; Jas.1:14-16 and Jas.5:19-20, the death in question is, in my view, the end result of spiritual degeneration in the case of believers since all of these verses are warnings directed to believers. This will mean spiritual death resulting in eternal death following physical death in the case of those who apostatize, and an early physical death brought on by God before spiritual death can occur so as to avoid eternal death (i.e., the "sin unto death" of Jn.5:18) in the case of those who fail to repent of "offering their bodies to sin", "living according to the sin nature", "allowing sin to become full grown" and "refusing to turn from the error of their ways" respectively in the four passages. Biblical writers (Paul and James in this case) do not need to distinguish between the two possibilities of apostasy and the sin unto death respectively because they are both cases of "death to death" (2Cor.2:16), that is, of either becoming spiritually dead again resulting eternal death (apostasy), or of acting as if one is spiritually dead to such an extreme that it brings on the sin unto death. Both results are terrible and to be avoided at all costs, even if the former is far worse for the believer in question than the latter.

Sin results in death. Very simple. However, to really appreciate the statement, the difference between the (hopefully very temporary) loss of fellowship through sin on the one hand and the loss of salvation through apostasy on the other needs to be understood first, and the difference between apostasy which results in the second death (as is the case with all unbelievers), and the sin unto death which results in loss of reward and a painful exit from this life but not eternal death (and which only affects horrifically wayward believers) needs to be understood next. These verses are all "if the shoe fits" type statements which apply equally to both classes, so that the warning against allowing sin to reign in one's life can be simply and universally expressed. These are warnings we all need to take to heart, because the road to serious divine discipline for sin, and/or to loss of reward through terminal divine discipline, or to hell through apostasy always starts with a single false step which begins the process of undermining our faith and faithfulness.

(12) See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (13) But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. (14) We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV

In Jesus Christ through whose mercy we anticipate the resurrection of the righteous-by-faith and eternal life,

Bob L.

Question #5:

In the translation of 1 John 1:6-7 you added in brackets: (i.e., with the Father and the Son; cf. v.3).

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we are lying and are not acting truthfully. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we do have fellowship with one another (i.e., with the Father and the Son; cf. v.3), and the blood of Jesus His Son is cleansing us from all sin.
1st John 1:6-7

I thought that by 'one another' John means fellow believers?

Response #5:

It may sound like that in translation, but that is why I add "cf. v.3" which says "And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ". Fellowship between believers is not directly precluded by sin (although obviously that doesn't help!), but fellowship with God is directly precluded by sin, and that is what John is discussing throughout this chapter. The Greek can go either way; translations make it sound as if "other believers" is the better way to take it; context makes it clear (to me at least) that Jesus (and the Father) are the Ones with whom we have fellowship when we walk in the light. We might not get turned away from the coffee cake on Sunday morning if we are harboring some sin in our heart, but our prayers will be hindered until we own up to our sins, turn away from them and confess them.

Question #6:

Could you please clarify:

1 John 3:2: "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is."

I'm unsure how to understand the statement 'we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is'. It sounds as we will be like God and the reason behind it is that we will see Him just as He is. Please explain.

Response #6:

You make a very good point that shows up the problem with most translations. Here is how I translate the verse:

Beloved, we are already the children of God, but what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He is revealed [in glory], we will be like Him, that we shall see Him exactly like He is.
1st John 3:2

The "because" which I translate "that" is the Greek conjunction hoti. In Classical Greek the word can be causal or merely introduce an object clause as well (and that is even more the case in biblical Greek under the influence of the Aramaic preposition dhiy which hoti often translates when Aramaic of that era is rendered into Greek). The thing that translators have missed – which they ought not to have missed since you very clearly have uncovered the problem with making the clause causal – is that rather than being causal the hoti is actually giving us a second object clause. This should be clear since the first clause is likewise introduced by a hoti. There is, it is true, no connective between the two (and that is probably why some are reluctant to translate it as "that / that" since there is no "and" between them), but this is not an absolute impediment: John omits the connective to make the two halves more vividly close (this may be an "anaphora", i.e., "that/that" repeated without connective for emphasis). In any case, the second hoti has to mean "that" just like the first one, so there is no "because" here to confuse the issue, rightly understood.

Question #7:

1 John 5:1: Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.

By saying 'the child born of Him', does John mean anyone born of God, or does he mean God's Son?

Response #7:

Since earlier in the verse the believer is said to have been "begotten" by God (gegennetai), and in the next verse the "children" refer to believers, it is best to take "child" in verse one as referring to a generic believer and to be referring to the love we are to have for our fellow Christians. This is more obvious in the Greek because of the identical word used earlier in the verse and the two classes which come next: there is clearly a parallelism being set up here by John between the "Begetter" (God) and the "begotten" (any believer): gennesanta vs. gegennemenon.

Question #8:

What you wrote about John's letter is indeed helpful (link: "The New Commandment"), which only shows me how much more work I have to still put into it. One more question regarding this passage:

7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. 9 The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
1st John 2:7-11 NASB

I think I understand what you wrote about the old and new, but I wanted to ask whether, in rather crude terms, what you said can be put in the following way:

1) The 'old commandment' refers to what is written and the specific norms of behaviour required from believer. As our Lord says, love fulfils what is written in the scripture, so it is not as if it is now taught as something unheard of.

2) The 'new commandment' refers to the application of this love, which cannot be specified or codified, because in every believer's life this requires consideration given to all the different situations that arise in our lives.

3) My only question is whether our Lord's words in the gospel about love qualify in this regard as the 'old commandment' (it has already been taught in the gospel), or as 'new commandment' (since our Lord speaks about love as a fulfillment of the Law and prophets and it is Him who gives the teaching of the Word this new 'spin')?

Response #8:

Yes, I think you put it very crisply, not crudely at all. Well done! As to your third question, I would include what Jesus tells us about love as being the first explanation of this new command. Compare:

And He (i.e., our Lord) has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1st John 4:21 NIV

Question #9:

Hi Bob,

THANK YOU for your kind and scholarly response.

Is it correct for me to assume that the Law or torah is not always referring specifically to the Mosaic Law but can at times be revealing God's other Law(s) - i.e. the Ten Commandments which have been a part of God's Law even before the establishment of the Mosaic Law?

For example, God's Law relative to His commandments prior to and subsequent to the Mosaic Law as revealed by 1 Jn. 2:3, et.al..

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
1st John 2:3 KJV

Would this be correct?

Response #9:

The word torah, usually translated "law", means, literally, "teaching". When the word is used technically, it depends who is using it and it why. In the Bible, the "Law" sometimes is restricted to the ten commandments but more frequently means all of the Pentateuch. In the New Testament in particular, it can also mean the misapplication of these truths through the system of regulation known as "the law" developed by later generations and in place as a system of salvation by works in Jesus' day. Since it is sometimes contrasted with the "law of love", etc., the true Law does sometimes also seem to comprise (ideally) all of the Old Testament teaching which foreshadows Christ, fulfilled (and therefore replaced) by the reality of the coming of the Messiah and His death for us all on the cross.

As to usage in New Testament epistles such as those of John, I think we have to understand the word "commands" as the prescriptive and proscriptive teachings of the Bible generally which are now in force. That would certainly apply to the ten commandments (as long as one understands what the fourth commandment now means as opposed to what it meant in Israel; see the link), but also to all the guidance in the gospels and the epistles. As followers of Jesus Christ having the Holy Spirit, love is our guiding star, so that if we are walking forward with Jesus, growing and applying His truth, it will not be a matter of "rule keeping" but of "mission fulfilling" that will keep us on the path of righteousness most of the time (see the link: "The Law of Love"). Ultimately, therefore, the "commands" in 1st John, for example, are the directives to love the Lord, believe in Jesus, and follow Him through love directed to the world.

(8) Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. (9) Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. (10) Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.
1st John 2:8-10 NIV

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
1st John 3:23 NIV

And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
1st John 4:21 NIV

For more on the "new and old commandment" in 1st John, please see the link.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

G'Day Brother

Hope you and everyone around you are keeping well.

Christians that believe in that false doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints often refer to this verse to support their position.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
1 John 2:19 KJV

Can this verse be interpreted like this:

They were not of us - When they went; their hearts were before departed from God, otherwise, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest - That is, this was made manifest by their going out.

What is your take on this verse?

Your Loving Brother In Christ

Response #10:

Always good to hear from you, my friend.

Objectively speaking, this verse says nothing definitive about the issue one way or another because it comments on the status of those "went out" only at the time they "went out" without explaining what happened to cause them to "go out". All the verse really says is that if those who went out were "of us" when they went out, then they wouldn't have gone out when they did. So there are three possibilities, and indeed there may be all three types in the set of those who "went out": 1) believers who left fellowship because they were weary of following Christ (headed now perhaps for the sin unto death); 2) believers who stopped believing in Christ and "went out" as a result (apostates); 3) those who were never really believers in the first place (but this is very unlikely; see next paragraph). To John, clearly enough, it doesn't make much difference either because only those who are both believers and interested in advancing spiritually are really "of us" in the sense of being positive believers whose joint "fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ" (1Jn.1:3 NIV).

To be honest, it seems to me that this verse causes more problems for the OSAS crowd, because it clearly shows a situation where there are some in the local church who at one point are walking along with us, but then later go astray. That certainly sounds like apostasy to me, or at the very least backsliding (with the danger of the sin unto death). It makes little sense for an unbeliever to be within the church fellowship in the first place because the whole reason for true fellowship in an actual local church (i.e., one that teaches the Bible) is for spiritual benefit (which unbelievers do not desire nor could they be benefitted in that way if they did so desire, at least not without becoming believers). And if for some reason the persons in question were associating with a local church for some material purpose or advantage (unlikely in John's day when believers were mostly very poor and apt to be persecuted for their faith), then why would these persons "go out" and thus leave and forfeit the advantage that lead to the false fellowship in the first place? The only reason to come into fellowship with Christians, especially in that day and age when it could be a capital offense to so associate, is if a person were really a believer – at the point when they "went in". So I see this as good circumstantial evidence for the well-documented biblical position that for those who do not follow Jesus as they should, apostasy or alternatively the sin unto death are real dangers. Those who "go out" in this verse must belong to one of those two categories.

Yours in Jesus for whom and through whom we live,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Bob,

I was reading this verse: "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." (1 John 2:19). I am starting to think that anyone who apostatizes from the faith never knew God to begin with, or ever had the love of the Father in him. God's love is so powerful, anyone who denies it was following his own imagination, not God. Likewise with "sin unto death." If someone continues to live in gross sin, but appears to have a solid faith, that person is a liar. No matter how much he studies the Bible. "Whoever says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person." (1 John 2:4)


Response #11:

Good to hear from you as always. 1st John says a lot of things, which out context, can be misread. For example:

Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
1st John 3:6 KJV

Reading this verse in this version for the first time and out of context, it would be fair to conclude not only that believers never sin, but also that anyone who has ever sinned is not a believer. Of course, there is also this:

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
1st John 5:16 KJV

And this:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
1st John 2:1 KJV

And this:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 KJV

And this:

If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
1st John 1:10 KJV

This last verse in particular makes it very clear that taking the position or positions which at first may have seemed necessary from a cursory reading of 1st John 3:6 (for example) out of context would not only be incorrect but outright wrong and spiritually incredibly dangerous – making God out to be a liar (cf. Jer.2:35).

Scripture "means what it means". However, just what it means sometimes takes 1) a full and complete understanding of the context; 2) a full and complete understanding of the entire book; 3) a full and complete understanding of the entire Bible, its theology, language, and history; 4) a full and complete understanding of the original languages in which it is written, as well as a solid understanding of the textual issues and skills necessary to establish the actual, original text; 5) the spiritual gift(s) necessary to put everything together; 6) the ministry of the Spirit; 6) the experience of doing this sort of thing to the point of being good at doing it; and 7) a good deal of hard work and effort over some considerable period of time when it comes to particularly knotty problems of interpretations. Needless to say, no one has ever entirely achieved the above – except for our dear Lord Jesus. It is also important to say that where most scripture is concerned, it is more often the case than not that any believer can come to the truth on his/her own simply by reading a translation in the Spirit – we are talking here about passages which are, for reasons discussed, more difficult to figure out correctly.

When it comes to doctrinal issues such as you broach here in the latter part of the email, there is no lack of opinion or formulated "dogma" from all manner of groups. The job of a Bible teacher in Christ's Church (as opposed to man-made denominations) is to find out the actual truth, then teach it in a way that makes that truth clear to all who are willing to be responsive to it.

They on the rock [are they], which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
Luke 8:13 KJV

The phrase above "fall away" is the Greek verb aphistantai (ἀφιστανται), and means, literally, "they apostatize". The position that those who apostatize never believed in the first place is one which has a good deal of denominational support (it is the Calvinist default), but I find it to be non-biblical. It may not seem as if it matters much except from an academic point of view. However, the truth is that every single iota of God's Word is important, and that it is only by building an edifice of actual truth in our hearts, truth which we make our own by believing it (rather than merely understanding the position intellectually and continually weighing it without commitment), which produces spiritual growth. Secondly, this particular false doctrine carries with it some nasty baggage: for those who are convinced that they are saved, then "once saved always saved" (see the link) – which is the logical flip-side of this fallacy – can lead to emboldening Christians to do as they will in this life (and ironically result in the sin unto death or even to apostasy; see the link); for those who are not as firm in their faith, it can lead to constant questioning about salvation and can exacerbate doubt (which, ironically, can then compromise faith). The truth, namely, that believers are those who believe, and that our faith commitment is the manifestation of our salvation and a precious treasure which must be guarded at all costs not only avoids the idiocy of thinking we can do as we please with impunity, but also produces genuine confidence that our continuing faith is the sign of our safety and a pledge of our deliverance:

[T]his is the victory that overcometh the world, [even] our faith.
1st John 5:4b KJV

There is much more to say about these issues. Here are some links:

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death (in BB 3B)

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security I

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Bob,

If this is the case, then what does John mean when he writes that no believer who fails to believe that Jesus Christ is God was ever a believer?

Also, the verse which I used to suggest that "sin unto death" does not exist, upon second reading, does not necessarily confirm that. The key is that whoever "abideth" in him does not sin. That is, if we continue to believe in him, the end result is sinlessness. However, if God intervenes in this process, it does not necessarily mean that the promise is invalid. I do not know what tense the verb is in "whosoever sinneth" is, because it could mean that whoever sins habitually, or continues to sin does not know Jesus.


Response #12:

1) Your prose doesn't ring a bell with me. What verse are your referring to? I am pretty sure the Bible never phrases it quite this way; and as your second question makes clear the phrasing is all important. Indeed, we know from the parable of the Sower that believers do apostatize (also cf. the coming Great Apostasy; e.g., 2Thes.2:3).

2) In terms of 1st John 3:6, the Greek says oukh hamartanei (οὐχ ἁμαρτανει); literally "is not sinning" . . . or potentially "does not sin" or even "sins not". The problem is that English has three present tenses which all mean something different, sometimes significantly so as in this example. However, since the participles which precede and follow are in the present rather than the aorist, it would seem to me to be necessary to take the main verb as progressive: "the one who is abiding in Him is not engaging in sin"; that is, no one is abiding in fellowship with Jesus while they are committing sin. This interpretation is confirmed by what follows: "the one who is sinning (not "who sins/has sinned) has not seen Him". This is John's way of reminding his readers that sinning is inconsistent with the Christian way of life and antithetical to walking with the Lord.

Yours in Him in whom we abide by faith, our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hi Bob,

The verse I am referring to is the following: "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." (1 John 2:19).

Response #13:

Okay – this is the verse I had written to you about earlier, when I made the argument that at first blush many passages might seem to mean something which after further consideration of the context it is clear that they cannot mean (it's down below in the email stream I see). So I take it then that you did not find that argument convincing. I will admit that on the face of it 1st John 2:19 may seem to mean what you have recast it to mean here, but what about this?

Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
1st John 5:5 KJV

The phrase "he that believeth" is ho pisteouon (ὁ πιστευων), the articular use of the present participle: "the one who is believing [now]". This is put very crisply here by John (and is precedented throughout the NT, particularly in John's writing). So if a person who is a believer always is overcoming the world, then one way that the passage is consistent with 1st John 2:19 is if those referred to in that passage are not believers . . . at that point. I am fine with that as one possibility. There is, however, another dimension here, and that is the dimension of the precise wording 1st John 2:19. John does not say "were never of us"; what he says is that they were not "of us" when they went out . There are in fact two ways in which a person in a Christian fellowship may not belong to Christ: 1) they did but then they fell away (for a variety of possible reasons); 2) they never did but were only faking it (for a variety of possible reasons – but this seems somewhat unlikely in John's day because of a lack of ostensible advantage in doing so); and we also have to consider 3) 1st John 2:19 says "not of us" not "not belonging to Christ" – so that a disinclination to follow Christ on the part of these individuals who may have been believers is also possible (stemming from a desire to re-embrace the world).

In any case, 1st John 2:19 does not allow for the conclusion that if a person ever believes they cannot ever lose their faith; or, alternatively, that if someone does have genuine faith and then loses it, then such faith was not really genuine at all. I know the last point seems obvious but this is the Calvinist dodge for explaining away apostasy so it needs to be said.

So in regard to your paraphrase about which I raised the question, namely, "no believer who fails to believe that Jesus Christ is God was ever a believer", I would say that a person who does not believe that Jesus Christ is God does not qualify as a believer by any biblical standard. It's not just a question of information. Belief is a commitment to the Person of Christ which cannot be divorced from an appreciation of the work of Christ. God certainly knows all who have genuinely sought refuge in His Son (Heb.6:18). It is a sad fact that some who have done so eventually change their minds. This will be especially distressing for the rest of us who are determined to persevere during the Great Apostasy of the Tribulation where fully one third of the Church will apostatize and follow antichrist (see the link).

In confident expectation of our Lord's deliverance on that day,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Bob,

The argument about the precise wording of 1 John 2:19 is convincing, because John wouldn't want to necessarily generalize all of the reasons they left by using the word ‘never.’ It appears that the NIV's dynamic translation altered the meaning of said verse. I am not a Calvinist, but the argument of eternal security is also convincing because of this pericope:

‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: "No servant is greater than his master." If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: "They hated me without reason."’ (John 15:18-25)

The only way that I can see individuals that leave the church after believing in Christ is as those that never believed, because they never had the love of the Father in them. Every master recognizes his servant's voice, and every father recognizes his child's voice. They came to believe, but they heard the calling of their true father, and went home. They were not filled with the love of the Father, but instead filled with the love of the world. That is why they left, and that is why they were welcomed warmly by the outside. They came not to believe, but to mock us, and to remind us of the world, just like their father mocked our Savior by tempting him for forty days. This is to fulfill what is written in the Law: ‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.’ We know that they are like their father, because by calling themselves believers, they spoke in their native tongue, and this is why they fooled us. We will never be able to discern them because lying is the native tongue of the Devil's family. But God shall not be fooled, nor shall he be mocked, for the Law also says, ‘he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’

With the Love of the Father,

Response #14:

There are many iterations of these arguments and of these doctrines, and it seems to me sometimes those who believe in eternal security or perseverance put things pretty much the way I would put them – just as you have done here.

However, if, as you say, "they came to believe" and then later "they came not to believe", I see no other way to understand this than that they were believers in the first instance and unbelievers in the second. That is how I see it too. Therefore every believer should "take heed lest he fall" (1Cor.10:12 KJV), which, in the context of the chapter cited, is certainly a warning against apostasy and or the sin unto death.

Yours in Him to whom it is our firm intention always to stay faithful, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Dear Dr Luginbill,

I have just found Ichthys while browsing the internet to find some commentaries on Hebrews 10:26. I want to email you to ask for further explanation about the topic sometime later, but now I just want to let you know how happy I am to find this wonderful site of yours.

I have browsed quickly through the site, and find it so rich with biblical material; putting them together with your CV, I must say it is like the Lord has led me to the best Bible School material He could ever give me. I really appreciate your dedication to our Savior Lord Jesus through this endeavor, I just pray that the Holy Spirit will make it into a light and joyful one for you. I also want to ask if you have read Pastor Joseph Prince' book Destined To Reign, and if you have, what do you think about Chapter 9, 'The Waterfall of Forgiveness', his teaching on 1 John 1:9? I myself found his teaching on this subject has been very deliberating to my soul, but I just wonder whether you have any different point of view?

Thank you so much for your time reading this email, Sir.

May Jesus blesses your ministry abundantly.


Response #15:

Very good to make your acquaintance, brother – and thank you so very much for your kind and enthusiastic words!

As to your question, I am not familiar with pastor Prince's book so cannot comment on its content. Here some links which will give you my own "take" on wonderful message of forgiveness in 1st John 1:9:

John's Primer on Sin

1st John 1:8-9

Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness

The Old and New Commandments in 1st John

Please do feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #16:

Hi Bob,

If you would be so kind, I really need your expert Greek grammatical skills to help me resolve whether or not this guy is grammatically misrepresenting 1Jn. 1:9 or is simply hijacking the allowable Greek grammar to support his nonsensical notion. Thus, not being a Greek language scholar as yourself – I think something is gut wrong about this assertion...but who am I - I may learn something new here that I have been previously wrong about?

If confessing our sins is characteristic of our life, He is faithful and just (with regards to the New Covenant He established with us) to forgive our sins at some point and cleanse us from all unrighteousness at some point.
1John 1:9

This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood verses in the New Testament, again, simply because translations largely neglect to translate the significant meaning of the tense of the verbs. Here, for example, from the English translation most read "confess" as aorist, allegedly referring to an event. But it's not. "Confess" is not referring to an event but rather a lifestyle seeing as it's in the present rather than the aorist. This is not referring to an event in which a person confesses their sins. The protasis is referring to a lifestyle. It's referring to a person who characteristically acknowledges their sins. What is true of those who characteristically acknowledge their sins?

One other thing. About "confess", this is a declaration. It is a declaration, an acknowledgement of one's sins. It's used 5 times in 1John. And, for example, 4 of the 5 times the NIV translates it simply "acknowledge". (Why not 5 out of 5 times?). I say this because confessing our sins is not the same as saying, "God if in some way I have offended you, forgive me". That is not acknowledging our sins. And not only in such a case is there not acknowledgment of sin, but there is no where in the New Testament where this word for "confess" corresponds to asking for forgiveness. It's the declaration of one's own sins which is the relevant here. Likewise if in your interpersonal relationships you characteristically says, "I'm sorry if you feel I've offended you", that's more of an insult than it is a confession. For you'd be essentially telling the person that they feel offended for some illegitimate reason and so puts the guilt on other person.

Confession is not an instance/event but rather a lifestyle.

I suggested to him that this Greek word ‘homoloego’ (CONFESS) is indeed used in 1Jn. 1:9 as a Greek FIFTH Class Present General Condition - in the Present Tense. As stated, this condition is known as the present general condition. For the most part this condition is a simple condition, that is, the speaker gives no likelihood of its fulfillment. The presentation is then neutral IF "A" then "B".

Moreover, respective to 1Jn. 1:8 he insists that the Greek verb ‘echo’ used in this Passage as a present tense is referring to a CONDITIONAL STATE rather than an ACTION – is this TRUE? I thought it to be a present tense ACTION – i.e. "we are having".

The verse is referring to the complete absence of the presence of sin. The significance of the present tense is that it is not the claim of the absence of sin at a point in time. It’s an absolute claim of one’s continual state. The verb is "to have". It is not referring to an action but a state. It is not the verb "to do". John, in this verse, is directing his comment to those who make a claim concerning their state of being, that they have absolutely no sin.

When you get the time your proven wisdom on these two notions will be most appreciated.

Response #16:

Good to hear from you.

On the snippet, it is true that the Greek verb "confess" at 1st John 1:9 is in the present stem not the aorist stem. However, although there is a difference in what is grammatically called "aspect" between the two, it is almost universally a mistake in translation/interpretation to make any significant difference out of this particular distinction. Over-reliance on aspect is almost always the mark of either a novice or someone trying to use the Greek to snow those with little knowledge of it (to use a direct parallel in English it is the difference between saying "I confess my sins"/aorist aspect, and "I am confessing my sins"/present aspect). The subjunctive in the condition here serves to make the idea a general truth rather than a specific, single-instance one (and that would also be the case if the aspect were aorist). Basic meaning: "Whenever we confess our sins, . . .". The present stem merely brings out the fact that this happens regularly. We might over-translate for illustrative purposes: "Whenever we confess our sins [as we must do on a regular basis], . . ." Here is my own translation of this critical verse:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just so as to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9

I discuss the precise meaning several places. See the link for entry into this issue: 1st John 1:9.

Beyond this one correct point (which is mightily misused), the rest of this person's translation and the conclusions he draws from his own words are entirely unwarranted. The verse means what it means and its meaning is very clear (that is why wildly differing renderings cannot be found in any of the versions). Confession is confession, and the general condition here means that whenever confession takes place, forgiveness and cleansing result. Period.

It is also worth pointing out that if the Greek here had employed the aorist stem for "confess", your author would no doubt say, "this is a one time event only!", meaning then in that hypothetical leaning too far to the other side of the aspect question that we were only forgiven once (the moral: over-translating aspect always has misleading results). Happily, the Body is composed of many members, some of whom actually do know Greek . . . and are willing to tell the truth.

On 1st John 1:8, the question is not grammatical but lexical. The verb echo means "to have". What is often missed in this verse is that the word "sin" has no definite article and is therefore not referring to acts of sin but to the sin nature. The theoretical disputant whom John rebukes is claiming to have been made perfect in his/her flesh as well as in God's books, and that is a dangerous error which John refutes: such thinking is not only untrue but also very self-deceptive: we will all have to cope with the sin resident in our bodies this side of heaven short of the resurrection. You might have a look at the following links on this:

John's Primer on Sin

1st John 1:8 vs. 1:9

1st John 1:8-10

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hi Robert, your correspondence with me gives me great hope and I re-read it from time to time. I really struggle with the fear sometimes of thinking I’m forgiven but not being. But as I said, your replies have helped me greatly. I am hoping you can give me some more advice on the following things I am still stuck on as I study the Word of God.

1. I assume you are familiar with William MacDonald and I really like his straightforward conservative way of writing and interpretation of scripture. He differentiates between apostates and backsliders and anything I read about apostasy really puts fear in me. How can I be sure God does not consider me an apostate for having committed myself to Him then falling into grievous sin for so many years? Is that not apostasy? Is that not a rejection of the Christian faith by utterly disobeying Christ and the exhortation not to sin?

2. Also, the difference between occasional sin and habitual sin troubles me. He states, "I might have the opportunity to return to my unconverted lifestyle, but I do not have the desire or inclination. If a person says he is a Christian and decides to return to a life of sin, it shows that he never became a new creation in Christ Jesus in the first place." This worries me tremendously because 1 John says that a Christian cannot practice sin which is what I did. The problem is, if I wasn’t truly saved then even though I know I believed truly, then how do I know I’m saved now because I still believe what I believed then. Was I saved then? If I had a new nature – what happened? Did I believe the facts but not fully trust Christ? I’m sure I did fully trust Him.

3. I could not have had a new nature because John says if I did I would not have been able to do that. Does this not mean that I did not truly believe and therefore never had the Spirit? If that’s the case, I don’t know how to be saved… This is why I have no confidence now that I have that new nature and am in fact saved. I don't naturally go to God as ABBA (daddy) and in fact seem to have a lot of fear of His disapproval of me. I'm not sure He's really not angry with me.

4. What does it mean to willfully repudiate Christ? Is this the same as disobeying for a long period of time and sinning greatly?

5. MacDonald says there are three unpardonable sins:

a.) Attributing to the devil the miracles that Jesus performed by the power of the Holy Spirit, thus blaspheming the Holy Spirit by calling Him the devil.

b.) Professing to embrace the Christian faith, then abandoning it and denying Christ as fully God and fully man.

c. ) Dying without faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

I’m pretty sure I have not done any of these so does that mean I am pardonable by default? I know you have addressed this before but I find so many other peoples points on this confusing.

6. Finally, my prayer life is really lame. I guess all this is really having a negative affect on it. Also, when I come before the Lord in prayer I still fear unwanted thoughts hammering my mind. It seems habitual and I don’t know how to break it.

Thanks for all your time Robert, I really am trying hard to work through all this but I never seem to gain any major strides in these particular areas. I can’t seem to get a settled sense of conviction on these and I also seem to capitulate to fear and doubt a lot. (Is the fear proof that I have not truly trusted or accepted forgiveness of my sins, which means I am not saved)? Do you think that my desire to forsake my sin and be restored to God is proof of the Holy Spirit working in my life or is it possible that it’s just me wanting that? I hope I am not taxing your patience but you are someone I trust has a firm grasp of the bible and explains it well. I eagerly await your response. I really am sorry Robert but you are the only person I have to turn to with this issue. I appreciate your time and help.

Thanks and God bless,

Response #17:

Good to hear from you – I pray for you daily, for gaining confidence in God's mercy, love, forgiveness and grace. I am sorry to hear that you are still troubled by these matters from the past, but I take encouragement from the fact that you seem (to me at any rate) to be making some progress. The evil one opposes all of our good decisions and all of our forward progress, so for those who are really trying to do what Jesus would have us to do in growth, progress and production, the process is seldom an easy one without resistance.

As to your questions:

1) No, I am not familiar with this person. Based upon what you have included here it seems to me that he has a lot to learn about this subject (as most evangelicals do), and I wonder whether or not reading some of this misguided information is not doing you more harm than good. Yes, there is a difference between spiritual regression and apostasy, but the nature of the difference is critical to understand in these sorts of discussions. Apostasy is the complete loss/abandonment of faith. Sadly, it is possible for believers to allow their faith to die out completely. In such cases, the person in question, after they have abandoned all faith in Christ, is no longer a believer – because a believer is someone who has faith in Christ for salvation. Once a person decides to stop believing in Jesus (though it is sometimes a case of atrophy over a long period rather than a snap decision based on some disappointment for which God is blamed), that person stops being a believer. But please notice, I did not say "once a person decides to start sinning with absolute impunity, that person stops being a believer". Sin often comes into the mix here because sin weakens faith. However, sin does not destroy faith. Only the free will choice of the person doing the sinning can accomplish that. The problem is that sin is a decision just as following Jesus is a decision, and the more one leans to the former rather than to the latter the weaker faith becomes (and the opposite process is true as well of course).

There are many reasons why a person may decide to stop believing in Christ. Scripture details some: the stress of persecution over the Word, for example. And we have all probably known at least someone who is a former Christian. In my own experience the most common thing I have found is the phenomenon of people getting angry with God for "letting a bad thing happen" to them. If a person loses a loved one or suffers some other difficult thing, blaming God very often leads to abandoning faith. Such people will tell you straight out that while they used to believe, they no longer do. Others simply become bored or disinterested. But this is all very different from believers who have a hard time with sin and sinful behaviors and torture themselves over their lack of obedience and the divine discipline they are receiving. The latter experience is so common that it explains why there is also a "sin unto death". That is what believers who are determined not to let go of their faith "no matter what" should really be afraid of (please see the link: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death). Not so much apostasy. Although that is a very real concern when a believer stops following Jesus and starts loving the world, it will never happen "by accident"; a person has to make the decision to stop believing in Jesus and to persevere in that foolish course to become an apostate. But if a believer gets deep enough into sinfulness and rebellion from the Lord and begins to flout their conduct like the young Corinthian man in 1st Corinthians chapter five did, then it won't be long until the Lord begins the process of terminal divine discipline (aka "the sin unto death"). Such persons are destroyed so their "spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord" (1Cor.5:5). But they die miserably and lose their reward (cf. 2Jn.1:8). Apostates, in contrast, "believe for a while" but then in times of pressure from whatever source "they fall away" (lit., "apostatize": Lk.8:13).

You are not an apostate. Moreover, the sins that trouble you are, by and large, things that you did long ago, confessed long ago, were forgiven long ago, and should have put on the shelf long ago (Phil.3:13). That is true even if the divine discipline is still continuing (which is the less likely the longer ago these things took place), because after confession and the attendant forgiveness God promises in all cases, all such suffering becomes for our good and our blessing (even though it hurts mightily).

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 NIV

2) The problem with the quotation in part two is that it is terribly ambiguous, especially in the second half of the quote, and also completely wrong to the extent that it is specific. If WM is saying as he seems to be that, once saved, a person cannot start sinning again and be a believer, that is ridiculous. It is also making a liar out of God who says the opposite in the strongest possible terms:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
1st John 1:9-10 NIV

Since the passage above is addressed to believers who are commanded to confess when they do sin, the claim of "not sinning" is ipso facto addressed to believers who don't want to admit that they do as we all do and sin from time to time. Incidentally, this verse is also in 1st John, and before anyone starts to throw all they know about the truth out the window based on what John says later in this letter, it is very important to remember that he says first here in the first chapter in verses five through ten that everyone has a sin nature, that everyone commits personal sins, that everyone needs to confess, and that anyone who claims that none of this applies to him/her is "making God out to be a liar". In the very next chapter, John also says that his purpose in writing is "so that you may not sin" – which would be a funny thing to say if believers never sin – and that "if anyone does, we have an Advocate" in Jesus Christ. Finally, I find this in very last chapter of the epistle:

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.
1John 5:16 NKJV

This can only mean that a believer can sin – and that not all sin leads to death. So whatever else we take from John's emphatic comments at places in the epistle about believers "not sinning", it is clear to anyone paying attention that while he is advocating a sinless life for believers he is most definitely not saying that any of us can be sinlessly perfect – and he is very far from saying that if we are not sinlessly perfect then we are not believers at all (see the link below for more on this).

3) You were saved. You are saved. I am extremely confident that a person who is clinging to his faith as tightly as you are is in no danger of losing salvation, not now, not ever. In my reading of the situation, you are in need of applying that faith more aggressively by committing yourself to believing firmly in the faithfulness of the One in whom you have faith. He has promised you forgiveness. Accept that promise as genuine . . . and move on. John is giving us the logical result of our position in Christ and our profession of Him: total obedience to His will. And that is what we should want and should strive for, and that includes (but is not by any means completely defined by) our sanctification from all sin. But this is a far cry from saying that we are incapable of sin or that we are damned if we ever do sin after being saved – when in fact we will never be fully free from the problem of sin as long as we live in these bodies of sin. Please see the link: "Sin in 1st John".

4) This is WM's term ("willfully repudiating Christ"), so I have no idea what he means in terms of specifics. If a person stops believing in Jesus, said person is not a believer. If a believer is wildly disobedient to Christ, but still believes, that person is a believer – one who is in bad spiritual shape, one who is in for serious divine discipline, and possibly even one who is on the cusp of the sin unto death, but a believer nonetheless. In my estimate, WM seems to be doing what many evangelicals love to do, namely, laying a serious guilt trip on believers to get them to "stop sinning". But of course corrupting, manipulating and otherwise distorting God's truth is a horrible sin itself, one that vitiates any potential "good" that might otherwise be thought to come from such misguided action. The Bible has plenty to say about the dangers of sin without erroneously throwing loss of salvation for vaguely defined offenses into the mix.

5) There is only one "unpardonable sin", namely, the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior. Period. Please see the link: "Have I committed the unpardonable sin?".

6) Fear is indeed the problem. Faith is the answer. Faith is built up by believing the truth, one step at a time. So the solution to a better prayer life and everything else in God's plan for you is to continue your spiritual growth. Learn and believe all aspects of God's truth; don't get hung up on this one issue. Everything true which you learn and believe . . . and then begin to put into practice . . . will inform, reinforce and bless everything else. Getting fixated on one small point, even if it does have to do with God's truth, always results in spiritual myopia and a whole host of spiritual problems. My advice is always the same. As to sin, confess it, turn away from it, and forget it. Then get up and get moving with the process of spiritual growth. You won't regret it.

Thanks for all your good words.

In great hopes for your peace of mind in Jesus Christ – which comes from aggressive reception, contemplation and application of all that His Word of truth contains.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hi Robert, thanks for your quick reply. Actually, William MacDonald has written over 80 books and wrote the Believer's Bible Commentary. He's very well known, I am surprised you have not heard of him. I may have misrepresented him a little. He definitely does not say a Christian doesn't sin. He basically says the same thing you do but the difference he defines is that a believer sins but is NOT characterized by it (habitually committing it). He is saying that if that's the case then there is no new nature present because what John is saying is that a true believer still sins but not habitually. This is the root of where my problem comes from in regards to what I did and whether I was ever saved and regenerated or simply practicing self reformation. I feel there are many evidences of the Spirit that I do not or no longer sense in me.

I have seen the term 'willfully repudiate Christ' used by many people.

1st Corinthians 9 and 10. If we can't fall away and be lost, what does Paul mean when he says if he doesn't discipline his body he fears he will be disqualified? And the exhortation in chapter 10 to avoid Israel's mistakes and so be destroyed?

Are the promises of forgiveness to all who forsake their sins in the OT like Isaiah 55:7 and Ezekiel 33:14-16 timeless? Or did they only apply to Israel at that time? If you believe those promises are for now, how do you know?

Thanks Robert,

Response #18:

There are probably plenty of "famous evangelicals" I haven't heard of. I dropped out of any serious consideration of that "loop" decades ago. When it comes to books, I find very little written since the mid-twentieth century to be of any use whatsoever in spiritual matters.

As to the substance, the argument you report in the first paragraph is typical, derivative of his own logic and not based on the Bible or written in biblical terms – and completely inconsistent. The logic of his position and of all those who take it is that "believers can't sin". But if that is not true, then what is true is that "believers can sin". What these folks really mean is "real believers can't sin in ways which I personally find offensive and from which I personally am able to generally abstain". That is the only thing "not habitually characterized by sin" can mean in practical terms. And that is hypocritical in the extreme and completely unhelpful for anyone trying to learn what the Bible actually has to say on the topic of sin.

I have allowed as how some believers are only occasionally erring in minor ways while some are way off in the weeds. But that does not mean that the latter are not believers or that the former are perfect. This misunderstands the whole nature of sin, and draws conclusions which the Bible does not allow. Believers are those who believe in Jesus Christ – regardless of where they are at any given moment on the issue of personal sanctification.

The phrase "willfully repudiate Christ" used out of context would seem to me to mean "stop believing in Christ", but from your last email it seemed to me to be employed in a different way, namely, to mean something like "dishonor Christ to a great degree by wildly sinful conduct". It is certainly possible to "dishonor Christ to a great degree by wildly sinful conduct". It is also possible to stop believing in Him. These are two different things. The former may lead to the latter, but often it does not. The latter may be caused by the former, but more often happens independently of gross sin. Most people in my experience stop believing because they feel that "God has let down", and not because of sin per se.

On Paul and his statements in 1st Corinthians, the biblical position is most certainly that a person can lose their salvation. "Once saved, always saved no matter what" is incorrect (see the link), and it is true that giving oneself over to a life of sin will degrade faith which, if it dies, results in apostasy; while if the person in question refuses to stop believing but also refusing to stop sinning outrageously, the result is loss of reward and a painful exit from this life via the sin unto death (see the link). Paul, one of the most humble people who ever lived, recognizes that if a person sits down to rest and stops running the race one day, one day has a tendency to turn into two and on and on, so he is unwilling to do anything which will compromise the gaining of the prize he seeks. He is also teaching his contemporary listeners and us. It's good advice, after all, to avoid sin on the one hand and press hard in our spiritual forward progress on the other. This is the only absolutely safe way to proceed. The Corinthians were an "up and down" congregation and a mixed bag too – just the perfect model for the Laodicean church age of which we are a part.

The verses you cite, Isaiah 55:7 and Ezekiel 33:14-16, most certainly apply to us today. The only caveat I would add here is that the Old Testament prophets are speaking to Israel where the entire audience is assumed to be composed of believers – or at least of those who ought to be believers – in the same way that you or I would address a putatively Christian church today. If a person is "wicked" and an unbeliever, that person needs to be saved in the first place. No repentance from sin and "cleaning up" of one's act will result in salvation. Jesus Christ died for every single human sin. All sin has been paid for so that forgiveness may be had just by asking for it – just by being willing to accept it. For unbelievers, this means accepting Jesus' work in place of their own. For believers, the point is the restoration of our fellowship with God that is ours by virtue of belonging to Christ.

How do we know all this? We know all this by faith. We have it the Bible, we have it from God's Word. Our job is to accept the truth of what God says is true, believe it and act on it. There is no other way to please Him (Heb.11:6), and no other way to advance in the Christian life to earn the rewards that our Lord wants us to earn to glorify Him forever.

In hopes of your continued spiritual advance through the truth,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hello--I hope you have time to comment on the stuff below. I sent this person who writes in italics below--a link to the article you have on your website, about the Johannine Comma, which includes my letters to you about it--so she can read what you have to say. But I am wondering--what is all this about "corrupted" manuscripts? And "lies" that Metzger believed? I thought he was too good a scholar to believe "lies" about manuscripts. I don't think that "corrupted" stuff was addressed in your article on your website.

I imagine you have heard all of this before, but wondered if you could address that here, and what she writes in blue. She is a true Christian, no doubt, but seems to be too enamoured of the KJV, as some are, though I don't think she is KJV ONLY. I have no patience with those people! Thanks and God bless you.

Hello--1 John 5:7...I did a study on that some years ago, on what it says in the KJV--"and these three are one." It is the Johannine Comma. It is NOT in any of the earliest and best Greek manuscripts and a manuscript's being from Alexandria doesn't automatically make it "corrupt." It is actually a "gloss" that a later scribe wrote in the margin, when copying the epistle, so the best scholarly concensus goes, and it got included in other copies, by other scribes. Also, when it exists in Greek, if I remember right, it is in miniscules, not the big uncials. The small letters--miniscules--came along much later than the big letters.

Looks like I opened up a can of worms! That info is not based on the early church writings. There is plenty of evidence for 1 John 5:7,8. Again, it is due to the corrupt manuscripts that were promoted as the "earliest" and therefore "better". The KJB was based on the Byzantine/Textus Receptus manuscripts, which indeed do have those verses :) But each person has to do their own study :)

The late, great Dr. Bruce Metzger, one of a handful of THE most learned scholars on the Bible and its history, did NOT think it belonged in the bible. It certainly is the truth, but he did not believe--and neither do a majority of the more orthodox biblical scholars--that it belonged in the bible, since it is not in any of the earlier, better Greek manuscripts. It's not in the Sinaiticus Codex, for instance, which is the earliest, most complete biblical manuscript, even having the last half of Revelation, which is missing from some other early manuscripts.

Again, that is because Metzger was convinced that the lies of Westcott & Hort were accurate - who based their "translation work" on the corrupt Alexandrian manuscripts. W & H were occultists and part of the Ghost Society. You can read more about that translational effort here:


I have read all of the arguments about how it should be included, but I don't think they are very good. A cyber scholar friend of mine, who knows biblical Greek and Hebrew as well as Latin, told me about it some time ago. When I have a chance, I will send along to you and everyone else, what he said about it. His area of expertise is Classic Literature of which the Bible is one, and he also knows the history of the ancient Greek manuscripts, and he told me he thinks the Sinaiticus is one of the best and it is certainly the oldest--around 250-300 AD. And in codex, not scroll, form.

I think the answer comes from which source the scholars are dependent upon. There is plenty of evidence for 1 John 5:6,7 as there is for the other verses that are omitted from the modern versions. The Sinaiticus is one of the three Alexandrian mss. They do not agree with each other. One was found in the trash and the other buried in the desert. The Byzantine number 5,600+. So I think we need to examine the facts as to which one has the better witness. I too have studied this out and am acquainted with several scholars who stand behind the Byzantine [Textus Receptus] --- this is mostly due to the fact that the early church writers refer to the verses in question before 250 AD. I cover some of this in my article:

"Today textual critics are divided on which of the thousands of manuscripts and papyri coming from these areas are most accurate. For most, the arguments boil down to two areas—the Alexandrian (Egyptian) Greek and the Byzantine Greek texts. When we compare the manuscripts from each we find a number of variants between these families. So there was some failure to copy one or the other accurately. The question is, which is more accurate and which is less accurate?

Most scholars today think that the texts from Alexandria, because they are older, are more accurate or closer to the originals. The oldest Alexandrian manuscripts date from around the fourth century after Christ while the oldest Byzantine manuscripts come from around the seventh century. However, does older necessarily equate to better? There are several factors to consider.

First, we must consider that there are fewer than 45 texts from Alexandria, compared with around 5,000 of the Byzantine manuscripts. Thus the Alexandrian texts appear to be a tiny minority.

Second, Alexandria was a major center of gnosticism, a religious/philosophical movement that corrupted early Christianity. When we look at the variants in the Alexandrian texts, we find that their gnostic leanings tend to portray Jesus Christ as neither divine nor having come in the flesh as a physical human being.

A third area to consider is that the Byzantine scribes were known to be reputable in their faithfulness in the copying process. Many more points could be argued, but English translations based on the Byzantine texts of the New Testament appear to be more accurate. (For more information, request or download our reprint article "Which Bible Translation Should I Use?")

For your peace of mind, however, the numbers of variants of any real significance between the Alexandrian texts and the Byzantine texts are few. We could sum up the differences by saying that 99.5 percent of the New Testament is the same no matter which version you have or use. The remaining half a percent would amount to about 20,000 variants. Of these, the overwhelming majority are minor scribal errors such as differences in spelling.

Of some 2,500 real differences, only about 300 involve any substantial difference in meaning. These variants involve less than one tenth of one percent of the text of the New Testament. The numbers of variants that actually affect the meaning—not just spelling—of the text are minuscule." [end quote]



"The position for the pure Bible stands directly on verses like the heavenly witnesses [1 John 5:7,8] and Acts 8:37. Otherwise we would be simplistically counting the noses of Greek manuscripts and ignoring the powerful evidences like thousands of Latin manuscripts, the ancient Old Latin line, proper thinking about inclusion and omission, internal evidences like grammatical and style and consistency, the church council at Carthage, Cyprian and Fulgentius, and much more."

Response #19:

On the Johanine Comma, since I'm not sure which posting you are referring to, let me give you three links here:

The Johanine Comma

More on the Comma

1st John and the KJV

There is a cottage industry out there of late in evangelicalism-dom which has tried to restore the reputation of Byzantine text type manuscripts versus "Alexandrian" manuscripts. This is a hot-button topic presently, and I note that there is even now a "Center for the Study and Preservation of the Majority Text"! There are plenty of individuals and denominations out there who have a vested interest in throwing out all of the progress that has been made since the mid-nineteenth century in bringing us closer to the biblical text. For my own part, I can only say what I know to be true through decades of work with the original Greek, namely, that this is a false issue whose only real effect is to promote the KJV's renderings, even when they are clearly off-base (because of being based on textual errors). Just a few things to note:

1) The idea of "text families" sounds great but is very much over-rated (with any ancient text), especially if anyone thinks they can draw any conclusions from this concept. That is because every manuscript is different, so that unless it is a case of being able to establish that ms. A was directly copied from ms. B, there is really no practical utility in the "text family" argument: every reading still has to be considered individually and every ms. individually consulted and considered, regardless of "family" (because there are plenty of "family feuds"). After all, KJV was not translated from a "text family". KJV was translated from an edited text, the so-called textus receptus (TR), very similar to Westcott and Hort's edition in form – and containing editorial guesses which violate many of the Byzantine mss. readings as well. So we have to start with something in order to translate, and in all cases of which I am aware that "something" is an edition which makes use of all the available manuscript evidence. The TR is essentially the same as Erasmus' Greek edition which was based upon only six manuscripts (not 5,600+!!!, the vast majority of which had not yet come to light at that time). Not only that – there were gaps in the coverage (since all the mss. were incomplete, a not uncommon phenomenon) and these gaps were back-translated from the Latin Vulgate! And if we are going to slam Wescott and Hort for supposed moral lapses, do we really want to promote Erasmus as the Christian ideal?

2) The vast majority of Byzantine mss. are 11th century or later with the average age somewhere around the 14th century. Codex Sinaiticus dates to the 4th (early in the cent. in my view). So while it is true that age is only one factor to consider, doesn't it defy all logic and credulity to say that a ms. which is a millennium earlier than most others should not even be considered in rendering a judgment on a passage where there is a textual issue? In Classical scholarship, if any new ms. turned up on an important author it would immediately be read by every specialist and considered – not necessarily given priority – but considered. I have used codex Aleph since the early 80's and have found it to be by far the best witness to the text of the New Testament hands down. It is not the only piece of evidence I look at when there is a textual issue, but its importance cannot be underestimated. Your correspondent is right about one thing: 99.5% of the texts are all the same regardless of family and in the vast majority of even these cases we are dealing 1) with inconsequential spelling differences ("itacisms" where some ms. spell like it sounds though being grammatically incorrect); 2) with obvious scribal errors and spelling variants or 3) with differences of little doctrinal import (e.g., because of their similarity in Greek and their similarity in sound in later times, forms of "we" and "you" (pl.) are often confused but with little real difference (especially vis-a-vis the genitives = "our" vs. "your" where often either will work in a context).

That being said, with so few passages really at issue, doesn't it make sense to make use of all resources when it comes to a real textual question? And especially when the resource is over a thousand years earlier than what you have previously counted on? I mean, just how likely is it that the thousand year later reading is correct but the thousand year earlier reading is incorrect? It is possible, but it is extremely improbable unless the earlier ms. is of very poor quality. But Sinaiticus, for example, is a very carefully produced vellum ms. of the highest quality. At the time of production, it would have cost a king's ransom to produce (which is why many believe it was one of the Bible's commissioned by Constantine). The ms. exhibits a very careful craft as most of the early uncials do. And one other thought on this point. Unlike today, books and scrolls were made and meant to last a long time. The process of copying was slow and painstaking – and therefore very expensive. What this means is that while Sinaiticus may not have been penned from the original letters of St. Paul, there would not have been too many stages between the original and Sinaiticus. It is very possible that for some of the New Testament included in that ms., only one or two intermediary copyings occurred. That is certainly something that cannot be said of the Byzantine family. Byzantium was the last bastion of Rome, and tended to "collect" materials from all over the Greek world especially as Islam began to conquer Christian areas. Therefore characterizing the Byzantine mss. as a "family" is bad enough; suggesting that we know anything for sure about the family's original provenances is ludicrous. It is more than likely that the early mss. from that place came from a variety of different places. It is the vast majority of later mss. which were copied from them (and from other now lost exemplars) that tend to look the same because over time a text was "agreed upon" and then homogenized.

3) On the topic of Alexandria, first, there is really no more of an "Alexandrian family" of mss. than there is a Byzantine one. Secondly, it is a clear ad hominem sort of slander to suggest that since something "bad" may have happened in Alexandria that anything that ever came out of that city has to be tainted (I hope we are not thinking that nothing "bad" every happened in Constantinople!). The proof is in the pudding. If Aleph was "corrupted" by "Gnostics", then why in the world is it 99.5% the same as the other mss.? If I were a sect with an ax to grind, I would have done a much better job "corrupting" the text in my favor. There certainly is very little evidence from the places where it does not agree with "the majority text" of any sort of Gnostic bias – or of any bias or pattern at all. Furthermore, no one knows where the ms. was produced. Some scholars assign it to Caesarea (and that would be my own best guess). We have the same issue with other mss. of the so-called Alexandrian family. For example, Ephraimi Rescriptus (C) is also likely to have come from Caesarea, not Alexandria, but it agrees with Sinaiticus most of the time when there is a disagreement with the Byzantines. And that, I hope, introduces another shade of meaning into the incorrect, monolithic view of "majority text or nothing". It is not just one family which disagrees with the Byzantines in places of questionable reading. There is usually an interesting sampling of evidence (from ancient versions as well as various mss.) which informs a textual decision – and almost inevitably some disagreement among the Byzantines themselves (especially if we focus on the older mss.). The "agreement" among the Byzantine mss. which these people tout would not be so pronounced if we restricted the sample to the earlier ones. That is to say, later on, the text did become homogenized, and there were many of these late, homogenized texts produced – so naturally the "agreement" is greater later (because there are more of them produced cookie-cutter style). Using the logic of correspondent, these later texts should always be read against earlier Byzantine texts just because they outnumber them.

4) Finally, a personal observation. To a scholar, virulently defending the majority text seems a very bizarre idea – sort of like taking up the cause of typewriters out of a perceived superiority of purity over computer-generated texts. The only reason I can see for a serious person who knows Greek and who has ever done any textual criticism to take up this banner would be to defend the KJV translation – or some particular rendering or renderings that would otherwise need to be thrown out. Talk about corruption, the KJV actually does incorporate a number of famous mistakes which are indeed based upon a corrupt text that was never part of the original written under the Spirit's guidance. I have a list of some of the most famous of these (see the link: Interpolations into the New Testament). The Johannine Comma is one of these. As far as I can tell, in most of these instances it is not a case of obvious doctrinal differences that come about by setting the record straight (although in any false addition there is latent heresy), but rather a desire to hold onto dearly loved passages and attack with skepticism any who question their inclusion as being "liberal atheists" (of which I am happy to say I am proudly and emphatically neither).

I'll skip any comment on the "comma" per se as you have already passed on my prior observations (at the link) and because there is no real substantive defense of the interpolation included here.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Whew! Thank you SO much for your consideration. I don't know where my correspondent got the idea that the KJV translators had thousands of manuscripts to work with. I knew they only had 6-8 Greek ones, all late copies--that tallies with what our church's best scholar said, also, Dr. Paul Maier--he too knows all about the ancient church, the Mediterranean area, etc. plus he knows biblical Greek as well as you do, plus Hebrew, Latin, Coptic, and some other languages, that I have forgotten.

I hope this person listens. I have shown her some well-rounded articles from the Web that more or less agree with you. One is with www.bible-research.com/kutilek1.html. I hope I copied that correctly. It is a sensible, less sensationalistic approach than all of this "corrupted" nonsense. I mean, didn't some later Latin translations come out of Rome? I mean, didn't bad stuff happen there, too? Weren't there gnostics there? Idol worshippers? Pagans? How far do we \go here with this?

But as always, I do appreciate your taking the time to answer me and so thoroughly, too! God bless you much!

Response #20:

Excellent points!

Sooner or the later the truth trumps everything else – at least for all who are genuinely knocking at the door and eager to find it.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi--Thanks for your help. I have a couple more questions, though. Is this true; I thought the Westcott-Hort and Neslte-Aland manuscripts were different, by my correspondent says this:

"W&H not only rejected Christ later in life, they rejected Him while doing their translation work. Because they did not believe in Him, thought the first three chapters of Genesis was a myth, and thought the blood atonement of Christ was unacceptable and strange. The Nestle-Aland is the W&H - the name was changed only. I did not say specifically that they corrupted the text, but they did use a corrupt text and promoted it as better."

I had only heard that one of them rejected Christ later on, but not all the rest. Also, she said that Sinaiticus had the OT in Greek and it was a bad translation, so if the OT was bad, then that must mean the NT isn't that good, either. She said Jerome was so mad at how bad the LXX was, that he learned Hebrew so he could do a better translation of it into Latin. Something like that.

This sounds hokey to me, and sensationalistic. But is the W and H manuscript the same as the Nestle-Aland?

Thanks and take care. I'll try not to bother you again over this. I told her that I am finished with this discussion, anyway, as we are just repeating ourselves. God bless.

Response #21:

Every scholarly edition is different. So not only is Nestle-Aland different from Wescott-Hort, but Nestle-Aland 28 is different from NA 27 (which is different from NA 26, etc., etc.). The question is "how different?". I think it is very safe to say that any secular scholar who examined all of the major editions of the Greek NT since Gutenberg would assess that the forthcoming NA 28 is not significantly different from the TR or Erasmus – because the text printed in all of these editions if well over 99% the same. That is why these colorful statement such as WH believing "the blood atonement of Christ was unacceptable and strange" are pointless. I'll say it again. The proof is in the pudding. The atonement of Christ via His spiritual death for us is in every Greek Bible, every manuscript, every edition – because they are all substantively the same. The only important exception is that modern editions have benefitted from the vast amount of material that has come to light since Erasmus' day so that we are now in a position to remove those few interpolations which do not belong in scripture. We can also clear up some other finer points as well. But let me hasten to add that in many of the "problem passages" where the text is slightly troubled, the correct text is sometimes not printed by any edition.

For all the complaints about Sinaiticus, let me observe that Aleph, the only truly ancient witness to the book of Revelation, is often not followed by NA (nor WH et al.) when it diverges from the TR. Just for example, Revelation 22:3a in speaking about the uses of the tree of life says – in the KJV and similarly in the other versions – "And there shall be no more curse"; whereas the correct translation based upon what our earliest manuscript is "so that there will no longer be any division". Here is what I write about that in CT 6:

We are also told that the foliage of the trees will likewise produce great benefits, though here again the English versions can be misleading. The Greek word therapeia (θεραπεία), the source of our "therapy", may indeed have a medicinal meaning, but not necessarily so. Its primary application has to do with care and oversight, a function which does not require some prior problem as in the case of illness (cf. Lk.12:42). Therefore "positive use" or "enjoyment" is a far preferable translation in this context where all tears have now been wiped away forever. This benefit of the tree of life will then be some sort of pleasurable activity apart from eating, and one its prime applications will be the production of unity among all believers. For the occurrence of the word "curse" found in most of the versions in verse three of chapter twenty-two is based upon a misreading of the text (as we have seen, the "curse" of Genesis chapter three had already been removed at Christ's return: Rom.8:21; cf. Zech.14:11 NASB only). As Sinaiticus makes clear, the correct Greek text reads katagma (κατάγμα) "division", not katathema (κατάθεμα) "curse". In New Jerusalem there will be no further divisiveness between the tribes, now composed of Jews and gentiles both, nor between the Bride and the Friends of the Bride. The therapeutic foliage of the tree of life will provide a pleasurable means of fellowship and harmony between all believers forevermore (Ps.47:9; Zech.2:11; Jn.10:16; 11:52).

This is usually what proper textual correction leads to: not the overthrow of major doctrine, but a better understanding of what a particular passage actually says and means. Erasmus and WH and NA and any and all other editors of the GNT may well have had personal problems, wildly incorrect doctrinal views, and heavy biases. But when it comes to their texts, it is incumbent upon critics to show just where and just how these biases have affected their work. In my opinion, they all governed their editions in a scholarly manner and did not (and indeed could not – given the facility of so many people with Greek) impose some alternative world view on the text. The text is essentially the same! Even if a person is an adherent of the Johannine comma, for example, it would be very difficult to prove that leaving it out makes any significant doctrinal difference to the positions it seems to espouse. The Trinity and the blood of Christ (especially when that doctrine is correctly understood, pace Roman Catholicism) are amply present throughout scripture. What the Johannine comma does do, however, is confuse entirely what John is trying to say in this passage, which is not to support the Trinity (in which he and we all thoroughly believe, even if NA and WH and Erasmus were atheists or worse), but to demonstrate to Gnostic opponents that Jesus was a true human being: John is also the one who reports that when Jesus' body was pierced by the lance "blood and water" came out (Jn.19:34) – and this could never have happened if He were an "aeon". This evidence, testified to by the Spirit (who inspired John's gospel) constitute "the three" who give witness here. Making them the Trinity by means of a false addition (a gloss by someone who was "explaining" it albeit incorrectly) adds nothing to our understanding of the Trinity; it merely removes any chance of correctly understanding this biblical passage – and the truth of the Bible should be what we are all about. So very ironically, the correct reading of the text clear from "Alexandrian" witnesses such as Sinaiticus preserves John's point here in attacking Gnostic ideas, whereas the supposedly "uncorrupted by Gnosticism Byzantine witnesses" are guilty of obfuscating it with this interpolation.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hello--Sorry, don't mean to belabor the Comma, but I was wondering if you have been aware of all of these supposed supports for the Johanine comma....also, was the Comma brought up at the Nicene Council, that refuted Arianism? It seems to me, that if it truly were an integral part of 1 John from the beginning, why wasn't it used then? Also, I have seen a few of these quotes, years ago, when I was researching the Comma on my own, but some are new. My correspondent says she got them from a Greek professor who spent years researching them. Could you just tell me what you think? I think you or that man on that bible-research website said that the Comma started showing up in the third centuries or so, so it may not have been added until then, but I may not be remembering it correctly. You will notice down at the end that it says that the Comma shows up in old Latin, 150 years before anything in the Greek. Is that true?

1John 5:7,8 is an integral part of Scripture, and it matches the doctrine John wrote in the Gospel of John.

The earliest references to it would be Tertullian (160-230), Cyprian (200-258), Priscillian (d. 385), Cassiodorus (480-570), Augustine (5th century), Athanasius (4th century) and Jerome (4th century). (1) It appears in the Vulgate. (2) It also appears in Manuscript 61 and Codex Ravianus. Stephanus found it in 9 of his 16 manuscripts. (3)

Its attack and deletion from some manuscripts no doubt arises from the heresies in the early church, especially Arians. Those who oppose the inclusion of I John 5:7 are supporting the Unitarians and Jehovah Witnesses while ignoring the overwhelming mass of manuscript evidence.

200 AD - Tertullian's quote is debated, but he may well be referring to the phrase found only in 1 John 5:7 when he says: "And so the connection of the Father, and the Son, and of the Paraclete (Holy Ghost) makes three cohering entities, one cohering from the other, WHICH THREE ARE ONE entity, not one person. Just as it is said "I and the Father are one entity" refers to the unity of their substance, not to oneness of their number."

250 AD - Cyprian of Carthage, wrote, "And again, of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost it is written: "And the three are One" in his On The Lapsed, On the Novatians. Note that Cyprian is quoting and says "IT IS WRITTEN, And the three are One." He lived from 180 to 250 A.D. and the scriptures he had at that time contained the verse in question. This is at least 100 years before anything we have today in the Greek copies. If it wasn't part of Holy Scripture, then where did he see it WRITTEN?

350 AD - Priscillian referred to it [Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Academia Litterarum Vindobonensis, vol. xviii, p. 6.]

350 AD - Idacius Clarus referred to it [Patrilogiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina by Migne, vol. 62, col. 359.]

350 AD - Athanasius referred to it in his De Incarnatione

380 AD - Priscillian in Liber Apologeticus quotes "and there are three which give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one in Christ Jesus."

Likewise, the anti-Arian work compiled by an unknown writer, the Varimadum (380 AD) states: "And John the Evangelist says, . . . "And there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one". (Varimadum 90:20-21).

398 AD - Aurelius Augustine used it to defend Trinitarianism in De Trinitate against the heresy of Sabellianism

415 AD - Council of Carthage. The contested verse (1 John 5:7) is quoted at the Council of Carthage (415 A. D.) by Eugenius, who drew up the confession of faith for the "orthodox." It reads with the King James. How did 350 prelates in 415 A.D. take a verse to be orthodox that wasn't in the Bible? It had to exist there from the beginning. It was quoted as "Pater, VERBUM, et Spiritus Sanctus".

450-530 AD. Several orthodox African writers quoted the verse when defending the doctrine of the Trinity against the gainsaying of the Vandals. These writers are:

A) Vigilius Tapensis in "Three Witnesses in Heaven"

B) Victor Vitensis in his Historia persecutionis [Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Academia Litterarum Vindobonensis, vol. vii, p. 60.]

C) Fulgentius in "The Three Heavenly Witnesses" [Patrilogiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina by Migne, vol. 65, col. 500.]

500 AD - Cassiodorus cited it [Patrilogiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina by Migne, vol. 70, col. 1373.]

527 AD - Fulgentius in Contra Arianos stated: "Tres sunt qui testimonium perhibent in caelo. Pater, Verbum et Spiritus, et tres unum sunt."

550 AD - The "Speculum" has it [The Speculum is a treatise that contains some good Old Latin scriptures.]

636 AD - Isidor of Seville quotes the verse as it stands in the KJB.

750 AD - Wianburgensis referred to it

800 AD - Jerome's Vulgate has it [It was not in Jerome's original Vulgate, but was brought in about 800 AD from good Old Latin manuscripts.] It is also in the Clementine Vulgate today.

157-1400 AD. Waldensian (that is, Vaudois) Bibles have the verse.

The "Waldensian," or "Vaudois" Bibles stretch from about 157 to the 1400s A.D. The fact is, according to John Calvin's successor Theodore Beza, that the Vaudois received the Scriptures from missionaries of Antioch of Syria in the 120s A.D. and finished translating it into their Latin language by 157 AD. This Bible was passed down from generation, until the Reformation of the 1500s, when the Protestants translated the Vaudois Bible into French, Italian, etc. This Bible carries heavy weight when finding out what God really said. It's believed the Vaudois were the descendants of the true Christians, and that they preserved the Christian faith for the Bible-believing Christians today.

Many critics of this passage like to say that 1 John 5:7 occurs in no ancient language version except the Latin. The passage is found in the Latin Vulgate, but it is also in some Old Latin manuscripts, and the Old Latin dates from around 200 A.D. ******This is 150 years before anything we have in Greek copies.***** In addition to this, the newest UBS critical text has now admitted that it is found in some Armenian manuscripts.

Response #22:

On the Nicene Council, we don't have a transcript of what went on (just the creed – and it's not in the creed). Going through all of the contemporaneous Greek fathers to "prove the negative" would be arduous, but I suppose the fact that no defense of orthodoxy by using the Comma is commonly known to exist, coupled with its absence from the Creed, means essentially the same thing. I find that quite persuasive evidence for it being a late addition. Good for you!

On Old Latin, the Greek New Testament is the original. Latin translations are just that: translations. No one knows how far back the Latin versions which preceded Jerome's Vulgate go, but even if they go back to the third century the point is that no actual manuscript this old has survived. The earliest to survive is Vercellensis which is somewhat later than Sinaiticus, but this codex is incomplete and only has the gospels. Of the some 100 other Old Latin mss., all are at least a century later than that and most are much later – and it is only in the sixth century that the Comma begins appearing. The origin of the Comma therefore seems to be somewhere in the fifth century.

The Comma does not occur in Tertullian or Cyprian as is very clear from reading your correspondent's information. Merely referring to the Trinity does not support the existence of the Comma since the Trinity is not dependent upon the Comma. Nor is the Comma truly in Priscillian. Let me give you something I wrote on that to show what I mean about Tertullian and Cyprian since Priscillian is much closer to "having the Comma" than those other two early fathers (and everything else on this person's list is later than the Comma's original appearance and therefore potentially derivative):

As to Priscillian, he was a fourth century bishop from Spain executed for heresy. Some of his tractates were rediscovered in the 19th century. I looked up the passage in Latin which Metzger says is possibly the first instance of the comma being attributed to the text of 1st John. However, here is what I found in Priscillian:

Sicut Ioannes 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 caelo, pater, verbum et spiritus, et haec tria unum sunt in Iesu Christo.
Liber Apologeticus 4

"It is like John says, there are three things which bear witness on earth, the water, the flesh and the blood, and these three things are to one [purpose], and there are three things which bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Spirit, and these three are one in Jesus Christ."

But here is what the KJV reads:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
1st John 5:7-8

[as compared to NIV]: For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

As you can see from my translation, the KJV based on the TR does not have the same text as Priscillian. For one thing, Priscillian places the earthly witnesses first and the heavenly witnesses second (as a kind of explanation; see below). Secondly, he has water, flesh and blood as the three earthly witnesses, not the Spirit, water, and blood. Finally, his summation of the heavenly witnesses is that they are one "in Jesus Christ" – completely absent from the KJV/TR.

In my opinion, Priscillian's prose has all the marks of a homiletic paraphrase, and a very natural one too: three witnesses, heavenly and earthly; earthly all directly related to Christ, heavenly all having the same message in Christ. This in not really what John says (nor does Priscillian really mean it to be taken that way – this is a sermon); this is merely "similar" to what John says (that is the meaning as I translate sicut above: "It is like John says" is clearly different from "This is what John says"). In other words, even Priscillian's "set up" signals a paraphrase/homily/explanation (that is the function of the word sicut, "like", in the Latin here).

It is possible that Priscillian is the originator of the homiletic idea (i.e., 3 balanced by 3 with both sets focused on Christ), and that over time this very nice and memorable application was "tweaked" by others to come up with the "standard" phraseology that ended up in late Latin texts of the Vulgate and from there made it into the TR. However, by carefully reading Priscillian's words in Latin or in English, it is very easy to tell that he most definitely was not reading this exact "comma" in his Greek (or more likely Latin) Bible. Had that been the case, the form of the comma we have now would not be so fundamentally different from his words then but would preserve the same order and the same elements since they would be reading from a common text. Indeed, the significant discrepancies guarantee that Priscillian is in fact not a witness to an alternative version (i.e., the comma), but rather a witness to (or possibly the originator of) a well-known homiletic paraphrase of this part of 1st John. The difference between his words and the TR comma show that this is not really even an interpretation (since it varies so significantly from what John actually does say), let alone a witness to the "original text". Rather it is a "sermon" loosely based upon the text. So much for sermons.

The Comma is not an "integral part of scripture" – it is not a part of scripture at all. As pointed out in the earlier email, it also confuses what John is trying to say in this passage in demonstrating the true humanity of our Savior. Whenever something is added to scripture, it also has a negative effect, even when (or maybe especially when) the addition is well intended.

Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.
Proverbs 30:6 NIV

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.


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