George Panayiotou, (fully Greek-fluent) shares thoughts on the heavenly witnesses grammar

Steven Avery

George Panayiotou, (fully Greek-fluent) shares thoughts on the heavenly witnesses grammar

The goal of the discussion was to put aside the textual and text-critical issues and simply look at the grammar from the perspective of a solid native Greek speaker. Some pragraph formatting and emphasis added!

George Panayiotou
Monday, March 23, 2020

Dear Steven, greetings! Finally, I fully understand what you were trying to focus my attention on regarding these two verses in 1 John 5, 7- 8! Certainly, from the point of view of correct linguistic/ grammatical usage, the inappropriate use of the masculine plural gender to refer to neuter nouns instead of the normal and correct neuter gender does offend the eye of a careful reader well -acquainted with Greek grammar and syntax!

Indeed, instead of the existing wording in these two verses, namely
"Οτι τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες το Πνευμα και το ύδωρ και το αίμα. και οι τρεις εις το εν εισιν",
which palpably violates the rule of the gender agreement between nouns and adjectives/participles etc., one would naturally expect here : "Ότι τρία εστι τα μαρτυρουντα : το Πνεύμα και το ύδωρ και και το αίμα, και τα τρία εις το εν εστιν ".

I now feel absolutely certain that this was the problem you expected me to focus on and address, namely the solecism! ...

Now, how are we to account for the occurrence of such a grave syntactical error? Certainly, there are not many ways! I guess we should inevitably suppose that what we have here (in verses 7-8 is another flagrant interpolation that escaped the notice of N. T. textual critics and editors, or that, if noticed, was left untouched having been regarded as hallowed by the fact that is found in the Holy Scriptures! Another, much less likely, explanation is that the problematic words (articles, numerals and participles) in these two verses, being originally in the neuter gender, were later deliberately changed into the masculine by an interpolator for the sole purpose of accommodating more naturally the major interpolation which is now excluded from many modern editions, namely, "εν τω ουρανω ο Πατήρ, ο Λόγος και το Άγιον Πνευμα. και ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισι. 8 και τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τη γη". How else can we account for this ungrammatical interpolation? [ No doubt, we encounter interpolation in Classical Greek texts but most of them conform to the rules of grammar and syntax and, for this reason, they are harder to detect!] ...

Dear Steven, please feel free to quote me wherever you like! No objection at all on my part! _ _ _.
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Steven Avery

Notice that George was thinking of the verse being an interpolation, and essentially complementing the interpolator for doing such a superb job!

and by creating a textual parallelism and a counterbalance between the Father, the Logos and the Holy Spirit on the one hand and the Spirit, the water and the blood on the other!
I do not see any grammatical difficulty in Greek when you have both heavenly and earthly witnesses. You ask whether the two parallel verses become one parallel unit. Certainly, they form a grammatical unit this is how they were intended by the interpolator to be felt and understood by the readers. Indeed the parallelism and the balance between the two verses were deliberately created to produce the effect of a single unit consisting of two parallel parts. It is more than likely that the interpolator used the masculine gender
"τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες .... και οι τρεις εις το εν εισιν"
to justify grammatically at least (or to lend credibility to) the inclusion of that part of the interpolation which is left out in many editions of the Greek New Testament, namely
"εν τω ουρανω ο Πατήρ, ο Λόγος και το Άγιον Πνευμα και ουτοι οι τρεις εν εισι 8 και τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τη γη".

Similarly here, where George points out that the Spirit in verse 6 is with neuter grammar, while the puzzling masculine grammar in the earthly witnesses (without the heavenly) is totally different.

There remains, however, something which I do not know if it has been noticed and sufficiently commented upon by N. T. scholars. In the same text ( 1 John 5 ) in the immediately preceding verse (verse 6), the participle referring to the Spirit as "the one that bears witness" is clearly in the neuter gender "το μαρτυρούν" and not, I repeat not, in the masculine gender " ο μαρτυρων" : " Και το Πνευμα εστι το μαρτυρούν", whereas in verse 7 the participle used to modify and refer to the three neuter nouns one of which is again the Spirit, the other two being " το ύδωρ " and " το αιμα", is in the masculine gender : "οι μαρτυρουντες ". Certainly, this is a discrepancy that calls for a convincing explanation, and I do not know whether the attribution of this discrepancy to the faulty Greek of the interpolator would be satisfactory enough!

So I raised the possibility that the theory of interpolation should be reconsidered, with the grammatical component being one element that is generally misunderstood by modern scholars. Here is the excellent response from George.
Concerning the problematic verses in 1 John 5, I like the questions that you raise and the inevitability of the conclusion in your syllogism that "If a person holds the view that the N. T. text is inspired by the Holy Spirit and that as such it should not have bald solecisms as written originally by the apostles, then we have a situation where the evidence.... " , I fully concur with your views on the factors that must be taken into consideration in this research and the need to reopen the discussion on the authenticity/spuriousness of the heavenly witnesses verse. Of course, I know for sure that in the Greek - speaking world there are certain theologians and clerics who in their excessive zeal and readiness to accept the New Testament text unquestionably (irrespective of grammatical errors or interpolations) would regard such a discussion as blasphemy and sacrilege ! And I am afraid similar objections may be raised by those whom you call American and British N. T. "seminarian scholars ".... I find your direction of research very interesting and I have no doubt that it can prove rewarding too!

Earlier in our discussion George had made this very similar point.
I fully agree with you on the view that, when scholars come to deal with this specific question and other questions like this (namely related to N. T. text), they should first rid themselves of any biases, "N. T. seminarian preconceived ideas" and prejudice , discuss the problem with impartiality, and be ready and willing to accept arguments based on linguistic/grammatical evidence! _ _ _.

And George was quite familiar with the most important writer, historically, on this question, although he had not know of his writings on the heavenly witnesses.
... Eugenius Boulgaris ... was an internationally famous Greek scholar from Corfu! An extremely learned person, philosopher, author of several books, he even became archbishop in Ukraine! He knew Latin and classical Greek so well that he translated Vergil's famous epic poem the Aeneid int Classical Greek and specifically in the Homeric dactylic hexametre!

Steven Avery

Just a reminder.
My focus in discussing the grammar is with those who are truly fluent in Greek.

Steven Anderson and Dane Kristjan Jöhannsson went to Cyprus and made an interesting video on the topic of the ability of native Greek speakers to read, hear and understand the New Testament. However, they did not specifically work with the corruption text of either the earthly witnesses of 1 TImothy 3:16.

So far, I have found three truly fluent Greek speakers who discuss this verse, in a manner as George did above.

All agree about the solecism in the short text, and Ilias Theodosis even added extremely helpful analysis.

And I consider these three Greek-speaking gentleman as having 1,000x more significance and understanding than all the American seminarians, non-fluent, like James Whites, Bill Mounce, Barry Hofstetters and Daniel Wallace. Plus their readers, students and lemmings and dupes, who have trained themselves to accept the New Testament Greek through the eyes of the Critical Text corruptions, as if those were really normative Bible Greek.


Bill Brown brought this over to BVDB, and added his reactive value-negative comments (few as illogical as Brown.)
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Steven Avery

March 18, 2021

Dear Steven, greetings!

Here I am to deliver on my promise!

I am giving you here my discussion of the four N. T. references.

I begin first with Matthew 25:32 "και συναχθησεται έμπροσθεν αυτου πάντα τα έθνη και αφοριει αυτους απ ' αλλήλων". The use of the word έθνη belongs to the neuter gender, implies people, male and female, and means "nations". Thus it is quite natural, logical and expected for the author, that is Matthew, to use here the constructio ad sensum and refer to them by the masculine plural pronoun αυτούς, because the masculine gender in ancient Greek is used as a generic term for both male and female persons who are in the same group.

In First John 5:8, however, there is no reference to people at all but to three neuter nouns, πνεύμα, (spirit), ύδωρ (water) and αίμα ( blood). Let me, incidentally, say that, even though none of the four different verses, namely Matthew 25 :32, Luke 19:37, Acts 5:16, and Romans 2:14, that Barry Hofstetter has used in his futile attempt to prove that 1John 5:8 can stand alone and that, therefore, the preceding verse, namely the one about the "heavenly witnesses" is spurious, even though, I repeat, none of these instances is suitable for the solution of the grammatical issue involved, nevertheless the very first case, namely Matthew 25 :32, is the least suitable of all four! In this last reference, even though it is a clear case of constructio ad sensum, there is absolutely nothing in it that makes it comparable in structure to 1 John 5:8. Unlike 1 John 5:8, in which the crux of the verse are the masculine numeral and the masculine plural participle " τρεις... οι μαρτυρούντες" with the three neuter nouns, το πνευμα , το ύδωρ and το αιμα as its subjects, or rather as its referents, in Matthew 25:32, there is no masculine numeral and especially no masculine plural participle or even any participle at all for that matter! Where, then, does Barry see any similarity between Matthew 25:32 and 1 John 5 :8? Where does he see in the former anything similar or comparable in structure with reference to the masculine plural numeral and participle "τρεις... οι μαρτυρουντες " in the latter?

There follows immediately discussion of Luke 19 : 37.

Luke19:37 " ηρξατο απαν το πληθος των μαθητών χαιροντες αινειν τον Θεόν".
In this verse, Luke speaks of a crowd of people, which is the crowd of the disciples. There is a specific mention of them in it in the genitive plural, " των μαθητών ", immediately after the word " πληθος". Therefore, quite naturally and imperceptibly Luke switches from neuter singular to the masculine nominative plural participle " χαιροντες". Moreover, the presence of the masculine genitive plural "των μαθητών " immediately after the word "το πληθος " facilitates the transition from the neuter singular to the masculine plural participle "χαιροντες", since the actual (not the grammatical) gender of this sentence is the implied word "οι μαθηται" ( the disciples), which is unobtrusively deduced from the preceding genitive plural " των μαθητών". It goes without saying that the use of this masculine nominative plural participle "χαιροντες" is a typical case of constructio ad sensum. In 1 John 5 :8, however, the case is quite different : there is no reference in it to a crowd of people, there is no collective noun in the singular indicating a group of people ; there is only reference to three non-person entities, or rather " symbols" as Eugenius Bulgaris himself calls them, namely το πνεύμα (the spirit), το ύδωρ ( the water), and το αίμα (the blood). Moreover, there is no similarity in construction between Luke 19 : 37 and 1John 5:8 with reference to the syntactical function of the participles "χαιροντες" in the former and "οι μαρτυρουντες" in the latter. In the former, the participle "χαιροντες" is circumstantial, indicating manner, namely " joyfully" whereas in 1 John 5 : 8 the participle "οι μαρτυρουντες" is attributive , that is, it is equivalent to a relative clause meaning " those who bear witness" or to the corresponding masculine plural noun "οι μάρτυρες". Being an attributive participle, the word "μαρτυρουντες" is preceded by the definite article "οι" that gives it a personified status, which is not the case with the participle "χαιροντες" in Luke 19:37. There follows immediately discussion of the verse Acts 5:16.

Acts 5 :16
συνηρχετο δε και το πληθος των πέριξ πόλεων φέροντες ασθενείς και οχλουμενους υπό πνευμάτων ακαθαρτων ".
A close and comparative study of the verse Acts 5:16 and 1 John 5 : 8 shows that there is no structural similarity between them. Of course, the use of the masculine nominative plural participle "φέροντες" referring to the word " πληθος" as its subject and antecedent, which word obviously is a collective noun indicating a crowd of people, is unquestionably a case of constructio ad sensum. But, this is not the case with the verse about the "earthly witnesses " in 1 John 5 : 8, because (unlike Acts 5:16) here we do not have a collective noun! Moreover, the syntactical (structural) function of the masculine nominative plural "φέροντες " in Acts 5:16 is circumstantial, indicating manner, (namely "a crowd came bringing sick persons"), and for this reason this participle is not preceded by the definite article "οι" whereas in 1 John 5:8 the participle "οι μαρτυρουντες" is an attribute participle preceded by the definite article "οι", which ( as we have already said) gives it a personified status and a completely different function in the sentence : "those that bear witness" or "the witnesses". There follows immediately discussion of Romans 2:14.

Romans 2:14 " όταν γαρ έθνη τα μη νόμον έχοντα φύσει τα του νόμου ποιηι, ουτοι νόμον μη έχοντες εαυτοις εισι νόμος."
In this case too, if we compare closely and carefully Romans 2: 14 with 1 John 5: 8 , we will observe that there is no structural similarity between them concerning the participle "έχοντες" in the former case and "οι μαρτυρουντες" in the latter. Here again we see that the antecedent (or referent) of the masculine plural participle " έχοντες" is a neuter word in the plural, namely "έθνη", which indicates numerous people whereas in 1 John 5:8 this is not the case. In the latter, we have three elements, entities, which are personified, represented as persons, witnesses ; we do not have either the name of a crowd or a collective noun. Moreover, the masculine plural participle "έχοντες" in the phrase "ουτοι μη νόμον έχοντες" is circumstantial, specifically causal in function meaning "because they do not have the law", and therefore it has a completely different structural role in the sentence than the masculine plural participle "οι μαρτυρουντες" in First John 5:8, which is obviously attributive and (unlike Romans 2: 14) is preceded by the definite article " οι". Once more we have a constructio ad sensum , in Romans 2:14 this time, but something that certainly we cannot explain as being such in 1John 5:8 . __

I have finished with the discussion of the four references. However, I have something more important to say about 1 John 5: 8 but it is too late now. Thanks a lot for your kind words but please don't rush! Wait until I write to you what I have to say by way of conclusion! Please wait until tomorrow! Goodbye!

Concluding Remarks!
Having thoroughly studied all four references (Matthew 25:32, Luke19:37, Acts 5 :16, and Romans 2 : 14), I have come to the conclusion that all of them, being unquestionably cases of constructio ad sensum, are unsuitable or rather irrelevant for helping us explain the use of the masculine plural "τρεις... οι μαρτυρουντεs" in connection with the three neuter adjectives το πνευμα, το ύδωρ and το αίμα in 1 John 5 : 8. I have pointed out the differences that exist between those four cases and the latter! Barry Hofstetter was under the erroneous impression that by adducing those four N. T. examples of clear-cut constructio ad sensum and building his argument on them he convincingly and conclusively proved, "beyond a shadow of doubt", to use his own words, that the grammatical issue of the construction of the masculine plural numeral "τρεις" and the masculine plural participle " οι μαρτυρουντεs" in connection with the three neuter singular referents was definitively solved! He explained the problem, away by regarding this structural peculiarity as just an ordinary case of constructio ad sensum! Being quite satisfied with this easy solution, Barry felt no qualms about asserting that consequently 1 John 5 : 8, namely the verse about the " earthly witnesses" και τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντεs εν τηι γηι... " can stand alone, on its own feet, by itself, without presupposing or necessitating the existence and genuineness of the preceding verse that is 1John5 :7, namely the verse about the "heavenly witnesses ", which he considers spurious, the result of interpolation! Unfortunately, I share neither Barry's triumphant jubilation at solving this problem nor his slur on Eugenius Bulgaris' competence as a Greek philologist [Barry :" Why didn't Eugenius, whose Greek was supposed to be so good, come up with this?"] . I have already explained, in the discussion of each of the four N. T. examples adduced by Barry, that none of them can lend weight to his assertion that the use of the masculine plural phrase" τρεις ... οι μαρτυρουντεs... " with reference to the "earthly witnesses" is a case of constructio ad sensum, since I have shown that none of them exhibits anything similar in construction to the issue under discussion in 1John5:8. I will indicate here right below another fundamental difference that I have not yet mentioned up to now : In all four N. T. examples used by Barry, the masculine plural pronouns and masculine plural participles follow their antecedent, namely they come after their neuter-gender nouns to which they refer, "αυτούς" (Matthew 25:32), "ουτοι" (Romans 2:14), "χαίροντες" (Luke 19: 37), "φέροντες (Acts 5 : 16,) and " έχοντες " (Romans 2: 14) whereas in 1Jonn5:8 the masculine plural phrase " τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντεs... " comes before its referents, namely before the neuter nouns το πνευμα ( the spirit), το ύδωρ (the water), and το αίμα (the blood). I believe that this is an extremely important difference, the most important of all that I have mentioned up to now in connection with Barry's four N. T. examples and 1John 5 :8. Incidentally,let me say that Barry did not notice any of these differences or a least did not considered them important enough to comment on them! All these differences are serious enough , first to render the examples on which Barry has built his argument not only unsuitable but also utterly irrelevant for helping us to solve the problem at hand, and second to exclude the possibility that the peculiarity of construction in 1 John 5 : 8 is nothing else but an ordinary case of constructio ad sensum! Dear Steven, there is about one more page of comments that I have prepared to send you but for technical reasons I could not send them together with this one but I will send them to you immediately after this.

The significance of these differences is obvious. The fact that the masculine plural numeral τρεις and the masculine plural participle with its definite article "οι μαρτυρουντες" in 1John5: 8 are emphatically and functionally placed before their neuter gender referents, namely το πνευμα, το ύδωρ and το αίμα, in contradistinction to what is the case in the four N. T. examples adduced by Barry, in which the masculine plural pronouns and the masculine plural participles come after the nouns to which they refer, far from being satisfactorily explainable as an instance of constructio ad sensum, is certainly something quite different! The author of the Letter First John, instead of using the masculine plural "τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τηι γηι..." in 5 : 8, could have easily written here in the neuter plural : "τρία εισι ( or εστί) τα μαρτυρουντα εν τηι γηι... " but he did not! Evidently, he made a conscious and deliberate choice in using the masculine plural. The only plausible reason why in 1John5 : 8 three entities or elements, το πνευμα, (the spirit), το ύδωρ (the water) and το αιμα (the blood) are here personified and spoken of as persons who bear witness, is John's intent and attempt (quite successful I would say!) to give them a grand, dignified, and "hallowed" status, equivalent and parallel to that of the three holy persons, namely the "heavenly witnesses" [ ο Πατήρ, ο Λόγος and το Άγιον Πνεύμα], who have already been mentioned in the immediately preceding verse, that is 1John 5 :7, [which Barry and his allies want to eliminate as spurious! ] Thus, the effect that is created by the juxtaposition of two verses, one referring to the "heavenly witnesses", and the other to the " earthly witnesses" is one that combines not only structural and rhetorical parallelism but also parallelism in meaning. In conclusion, one might quite naturally and logically feel that the two verses, verse 7 talking about the "heavenly witnesses" and verse 8 talking about the "earthly witnesses" are closely and neatly tied and held together and are structurally and semantically characterised by parallelism, correspondence and counterbalance. Thus, contrary to what Barry has obstinately contended, verse 8 cannot stand alone on its feet without its "mate", namely verse 7, with which they form a harmonious pair! Steven, this is what I had to say about this matter. I only hope you find it useful to some extent. You are the judge of it! Best wishes! Good luck!
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Steven Avery

Dear Steven, greetings! It is with great pleasure that I am reporting to you that I can now confirm that indeed Georgios Gennadios Scholarios in his Επιτομή κατά Εθνικων 4. XV ( p. 263 in the printed edition) does refer to 1 John 5 :7 as follows : "Τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τωι ουρανωι, ο Πατήρ, ο Λόγος και το Πνεύμα το άγιον" and that he utilizes it as a genuine and authentic verse of the New Testament! I hope that this answers your question satisfactorily! I have located this particular verse in the aforementioned work of his! Georgios Gennadios Scholarios was the first Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople immediately after its capture by the Ottoman Turks on May 29th in the year 1453! He was renowned for his profound theological learning!

Dear Steven, greetings again! The context to which Georgios Gennahios Scholarios' reference to (and citation of) "the heavenly witnesses" verse is the following : Πατρι δε και Υιωι συναριθμουσι και το Πνευμα το άγιον τα της θείας Γραφης ρητά ως... και εν τηι Ιωάννου πρώτηι : " Τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τωι ουρανωι, ο Πατηρ, ο Λόγος και το Πνευμα το άγιον." ( Επιτομη κατά Εθνικών 4. XV, page 263 in the printed edition)

Dear Steven, just in case you are not already aware of this, I would like to mention that three distinguished Byzantine scholars and theologians, Euthymius Zigabenus (1150 - 1120), Manuel Calecas (14th century), and Ioseph Bryennius ( circa 1350- 1430) accepted the "heavenly witnesses" verse as genuine and authentic and made use of it in their theological argumentation concerning other, unrelated, theological matters!