De Trinitate shows that usage of "the three are one" with Father, Son and Holy Spirit points to the heavenly witnesses.

Steven Avery

The Heavenly Witnesses contras often say that early citations of "and these three are one" must be referencing verse 8, the earthly witnesses, even when the context is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The case is inherently circular, because it is built on the idea that the heavenly witnesses were not in the Bibles of the 200s and 300s. This case is made especially for Tertullian, Cyprian and the latest is Potamius. Should they not have included the full verse?

In addition, the claim is thus invisible allegory. A type of deceptive writing that would look very foolish as soon as the readers looked in their Bible. Oops :)

Let's look at the first seven books of De Trinitate, which are considered a one-author unit. (There is an additional full verse usage in Book X, however, that is considered a separate production, and was put under the name of Athanasius.) Quite a few scholars have placed the author of the first seven books as Eusebius of Vercelli in the 4th century, however it might be the fifth century. That question is not our concern in this post.

This section has five usages of the heavenly witnesses. Two are full, direct quotes, three are shorter, without the full verse. The two full ones have the "in Christ Jesus" section as in Isaac the Jew and Priscillian of the 4th century. Most say very specifically that this is John the Evangelist in his Epistle.

Here are the five sections.


● Bk I.50
In conclusion: although the names of the Divine Persons are implied in the passages of Scripture mentioned above, nevertheless it must always be evident that for all three the validity of the only name of the divinity is proved. In the same way, this doctrine is illustrated in this other passage of Scripture. In it, quite clearly, the names of the Divine Persons are expressed, and together the unique name of the divine nature is confirmed, since this is precisely how John the Evangelist expresses himself in his letter: "There are three who bear witness in heaven: the Father and the Word and the Holy Spirit, and in Christ Jesus they are one."
(Ps.-Athanasius/ps.-Eusebius Vercellensis, De Trinitate Book 1.50; Migne Latina, PL 62.243C; CCSL 9:14) Ps.-Athanasius/ps.-Eusebius Vercellensis)

● Bk I.55
And for the same reaction every time it is a question of People they are designated with personal names; whereas, instead, when we speak of divinity, a unique name is referred to; in fact the term "we are" clearly indicates in plural form the names of the Persons. Therefore, the expression "they are one" must refer only to the deity, while the other expression "they are three" refers to the name of the Persons. It follows that "three" constitute one, or even that "one thing is all three."
(De Trinitate Book 1 : CCSL 9:15)

● Bk I.69
And yet, if it is true that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one in the divinity, I beg you to bring me the proofs of the Law. You have already heard the evangelist John, in his epistle, testifies so perfectly: "They are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father and the Word and the Spirit, and in Christ Jesus they are one." Certainly, it must be held as a basis that in the divinity, as to their unique and complete essence, they are one, while in the names of the Persons there are three. And then, in order for you to be well informed through all that I previously explained, I intended to demonstrate that in the fullness of the divinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit a division or difference of any kind is not admissible.
(De Trinitate Book 1; CCSL 9:19)
Ps.-Athanasius/ps.-Eusebius Vercellensis, De Trinitate I, CCSL 9:19 (cf. PL 62:246)

● Bk V.46.
But the Holy Spirit exists in the Father, and in the Son, and in himself, 47. just as John the Evangelist testifies so perfectly in his Epistle: “And these three are one” Moreover, why is it called one, if anything concerning it is divided into parts? And why is it called one, if anything concerning it is perceived in different ways? 48. And how, O heretic, are the three one, if the substance is divided or separated in them? Or how are they one, if one is placed above another? Or how are the three one, if there are different divinities in them? How are they one, if there is not in them a united, eternal fullness of divinity? Moreover, just as a single fullness has no division at all into any part, is not a united fullness of divinity unable to be spoken of as having a greater or lesser part?
(De Trinitate Book 5 : CCSL 9:76-77; Translated by Dr. Jake Lake, 2018)

● Bk VII.10.
Why is it that with this name one finds that God is everywhere honored? Certainly, because in this very name of the Trinity baptism is celebrated in the unity of divinity. Why do you read that the evangelist John stated that "three is one thing" , if you then mean that they exist with different natures? How can you assert that there is the gift of a single baptism, according to the testimony of Scripture, if then you assert that different natures are in them? And why do you celebrate a regular baptism according to the rite, and then, in professing the only name of the Trinity, blaspheme?
(De Trinitate Book 7 : CCSL 9:94-95)


So, what about the references that do not have the full verse?

They are analogous to Tertullian and Cyprian and very similar to Potamius.
The context is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Yet, the author sometimes uses the full verse, sometimes not. And nobody would be so skewed or naive to deny that all the references are to the heavenly witnesses verse.

An author has the freedom to write in his own style. And he may or may not have the actual Bible text in front of him while writing. The proper conclusion is that Tertullian, Cyprian and Potamius were all referring to the heavenly witnesses verse, as was the author of De Trinitate.

Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY USA
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