beautiful Hebraic parallelism - only with the full text - Robert Lowth and John Jebb, Charles Forster

Steven Avery

Notes on the Internal Evidence in Favor of the Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7–8)
Soverign Grace Blog

Hebraic Parallelism in 1 John 5:6–9

One of the most striking, but totally forgotten, points of internal evidence for the Comma was first proposed by Rev. Charles Forster in his 1869 work A New Plea for the Authenticity of the Three Heavenly Witnesses. In his section on the internal evidence, he points out, building upon the work of Rev. Robert Lowth in his Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, and Rev. John Jebb, who expounded further upon Lowth’s work in his Sacred Literature, that 1 John 5:6–9 in the Received Text is structured exactly according to the rules of Hebraic Parallelism, which is found all throughout the Old Testament, and carried over by the Biblical authors even into the Greek New Testament.


1 John 5:6–9a in the Greek Received Text
The passage, as it stands in the Received Text, is “a perfect example of Hebrew parallelism” and “strictly according to the laws of Hebrew poetry, as laid down by Bishops Lowth and Jebb” (Forster, pg. 237). It begins with an introductory clause (highlighted in blue), followed by two pairs of synonymous parallel couplets (highlighted in red), a six-line antithetical stanza (seen in black), and concludes with an antithetical parallel couplet. This fact is emphasized when we take notice of the coherence of the passage in light of each line within the six-line stanza having another corresponding line within the text — the first line corresponds to the fourth, the second with the fifth, and the third with the sixth.


The Antithetical Six-line Stanza in 1 John 5:7–8 in the Received Text
Forster comments (pg. 238):

The structure of this double sentence so knits together all its parts, as to shut out altogether the very idea of a break in its unity : St. Paul’s language alone can adequately describe its composition — the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth , according to the effectual working in the measure of every part.’


To all readers acquainted with the rules of Hebrew parallelism it must at once be apparent, that a sentence so constructed authenticates itself; and speaks, at the same time, syntaxically for the authenticity of the text of the three Heavenly Witnesses.

As one can see by simply comparing the Received Text to that of the Critical Text, however, the structure of the passage becomes completely marred when the Comma is omitted.


1 John 5:6–9a from the NA26 Edition Greek NT
In the Critical Text, we now have an introductory clause, followed by two pairs of synonymous parallel couplets, followed by a three-line stanza which has no correspondent within the surrounding text, and then a concluding antithetical couplet — thus introducing an awkward three-line stanza into the midst of a block of surrounding Hebraic parallelisms. A very awkward, and “harder” reading indeed.
Last edited:

Steven Avery

Robert Lowth (1710-1787)

Lectures on the sacred poetry of the Hebrews - Vol 1
2nd ed with Michaelis notes
Robert Lowth

Lectures on the sacred poetry of the Hebrews - Vol 2 -
2nd ed with Michaelis notes
Robert Lowth


John Jebb (1775-1833)

Sacred literature; comprising a review of the principles of composition laid down by the late Robert Lowth ... in his Praelections, and Isaiah: and an application of the principles so reviewed, to the illustration of the New Testament; in a series of critical observations on the style and structure of that sacred volume (1828)
John Jebb


Charles Forster (1787-1871)

A new plea for the authenticity of the text of the three heavenly witnesses; or, Porson's Letters to Travis eclectically examined, and the ... evidences for 1 John v. 7, eclectically re-surveyed (1867)
p. 236 - 238





Last edited:

Steven Avery

Timothy L. Decker tries to criticize Lowth in general.

The New Testament’s Majesty of the Old Testament’s Poetic Style: Interpreting New Testament Poems Stylized After Biblical Hebrew Poetry as Well as the State of Current New Testament Research

I ask about our verse.

Question moved to Messenger for now

Then Timothy posts here

I respond here

And can pull out more from the six PBF threads.
Last edited:

Steven Avery

Parallelism of verse 7-8

Ὅτι τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ Πατήρ, ὁ Λόγος, καὶ τὸ ἅγιον Πνεῦμα· καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσι.
Καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἕν τῇ γῇ, τὸ Πνεῦμα, καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ, καὶ τὸ αἷμα· καὶ οἱ τρεῖς εἰς τὸ ἐν εἰσιν.

Ότι τρεις είσιν οί μαρτυροΰντες, έν τώ ουρανώ,
ό πατήρ, ό λόγος, και τό άγιον Πνεύμα’
και ούτοι οί τρεις εν είσι’

και τρεις είσιν οί μαρτυροΰντες εν τη γη,
τό πνεύμα, καί τό ύδωρ, καί τό αίμα’
καί οί τρεις είς τό εν είσιν.

That there are three witnesses in heaven,
the father, the word, and the holy spirit'
and the three of them

and three are the witnesses on earth,
the spirit, and the water, and the blood
and the three are the same.

The full parallelism involves verses 6-7-8-9
Last edited:

Steven Avery


beautiful Hebraic parallelism - only with the full text - Robert Lowth and John Jebb, Charles Forster

doublets in parallelism as Johannine style
doublets in parallelism uses BVDB saving Jonathan Borland conversation

Gavin Basil McGrath - textual and grammar - poetic structure prallelism
And this wonderful Facebook discussion reviews McGrath
Pure Bible

heavenly and earthly witnesses parallelism with additional internal connections

Facebook NT Textual Criticism thread on Georgios Babiniotis and syntactic parallelism

additional grammatical, stylistic and internal evidences - Middleton, witness of God in v. 9, redundancy, Hebraic parallelism

Ilias Theodosis explains how the poetry of the heavenly and earthly witnesses affects the grammar
Abbe Le Hir - Post #5

Last edited:

Steven Avery

Facebook thread

Timothy Decker
So is the evidence or argument here that b/c the CJ fits his conception of BHP, whereas the shorter reading does not, then the CJ is the choice reading?
If that is the case, then you have to be willing to say that the TR erroneously renders the BHP style in 1 John 2:12-14 but not the CT. And (as I indicated in my dissertation), by the same standards you judge the CJ to be credible based on its style, you would have to say that the doxology of the LP is likewise discredited, as the LP is patterned after BHP but not the doxology. Equal weights and scales.
Regardless, I'm not sure that Forster and co have a strong argument. BHP is not as structurally rigid as all these citations make it appear and sound. That is, one could equally argue from the same standards that the CT just as much represents BHP. And my contention w/ Lowth is not the identity of parallelism per se but what the parallelism is and does. It is not just simply 3 (synonymous, antithetical, and sythentic), and it does more than those three things. In this case, the argument (if we take the CJ to be BHP) would say that the heavenly witnesses (v 7) are intensified by the earthly witnesses (v 8 ) as BHP is simply put A --> what is more -->B. That may be, based on an ironic reversal. However, the context of v. 6 seems that the expectation is the eathly witnesses, only to be intensified by the heavenly ones. So if this is BHP, I would have expected the heavenly witnesses to appear 2nd.
Now to argue that the CJ is styled after BHP, there are some things that would merit such an argument, such as John's style of BHP is done in three's in (see 1 John 2:12-14) in both form and word count (factors of 3). You have a similar case in the CJ in form (though not word count). And the main text in question would be bettered rendered as 2 tricolons rather than 3 bicolons or couplets. So I could see a case made. But I could not see that case being used as evidence for its inclusion. Indeed, this would not be the first time people have argued that the text has been tampered with in order to make the text fit into BHP parallelism. This is the accusation of many higher critical scholars at Phil 2 or Col 1. Again, see my dissertation on this.
Finally, Forster said, "To all readers acquainted with the rules of Hebrew parallelism it must at once be apparent..." I'll be honest, even w/ a desire to make this work, for I love BHP in the NT, it doesn't meet the parameters of BHP of either parallelism and terseness (esp. terseness). That is, BHP is so very recognizable, that we would have had a lot of talk about all of this. But even w/ its inclusion, very little is every said as though it were poetry, much less BHP.

Timothy Decker - thanks for the reply.

The potential Hebraic parallelism augments Johannine parallelism in various ways, including his usage of heaven and earth. 1 John 2:23 expresses Johannine parallelism.

The parallelism is also a key part of why the Greek grammar works only with the heavenly witnesses (and before the earthly) as pointed out astutely by the world-class Greek linguist Georgios Babiniotis.

The short text is solecistic.

The text with earthly before heavenly would be solecistic, unless you change the earthly to neuter grammar,
While there are Latin manuscripts in reverse order, and Bengel tried to flip the order, it simply does not work grammatically fo the Greek, you would have a solecism, unless you change the grammatical gender of other words.

Some of these issues are covered here, including heaven and earth and the Word as Johannine.

Notes on the Internal Evidence in Favor of the Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7–8) 2020

Generally, your attempts to minimize the Hebraic parallelism are overridden by the full picture. I think you may have thought that it was given as probative, rather than augmentative.

Remember, the interpolation theory actually posits a balanced, beautiful Latin Johannine interpolation (done by the unknown Klutz the Interpolator) as incredibly fixing the Greek text — when translated from Latin to Greek!

Wonders of Amazement!!!


And I am improving what is available on PBF. The full Charles Forster section is on the same page that links to many corroborative pages.

beautiful Hebraic parallelism - only with the full text - Robert Lowth and John Jebb, Charles Forster

It is important to realize that the parallelism occurs on two levels.

The shorter level is the six-line doublet of verses 7-8. In addition to the beauty of the doublet, and the Johannine style elements, this allows for grammatical harmony, rather than solecism. Georgios Babiniotis calls this "syntactic parallelism".

The larger level involves verses 6-7-8-9, this includes the introductory clause.

And the beautiful interlaced harmony of
the "record on earth"
"witness of God"

(without verse 7, verse 9 loses its referent.)


1 John 5:6-9 (AV)
This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.
And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.

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.

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.


The textual critic has to wave their hands, "nothing to see here" :), because rejection of the heavenly witnesses as scripture is a fundamental tenet. (See the famous Hort quote c. 1850).

If the heavenly witnesses is properly accepted as Scripture, about 99% of modern scientific textual criticism goes out the window.

Last edited: