Gregory Nazianzen - and James Snapp on the grammatical discordance on BVDB

Steven Avery

This post is a good start:

Pure Bible Forum - 2014
Heavenly Witnesses and the Grammatical Gender



Next there is a reference to Gregory Nazianzen for which Bill Brown uses the James Snapp post here, as if this is some great revelation that I missed


[TC-Alternate-list] First John 5:7 and Grammar
James Snapp - 1/16/2008

... It looks to me like the true object of Gregory's protest is not the grammar of the verse, but an over-strict application of grammatical rules upon it. John was not consistent in the way he has happened upon his terms, as Gregory put it, but if Gregory had felt obligated to defend the grammar of the passage, rather than delineate his opponents' views of it, I think he would have argued that considering the special nature of the witnesses, John's choice of words is grammatically acceptable.

And clearly, by this reasoning, there were others who thought that John's choice of words (in the abbreviated text) was NOT grammatically acceptable.

As I wrote about the whole issue around Nazianzen's commentary on 1 John 5 and grammar:

"Apparently this whole issue was even on the hot table in the 300s, in some form (a whole complex analysis) when Gregory Nazianzen and his grammatical opponents sparred."

Clearly, Nazianzen himself does not seem to be invoking a grammatical argument about the abbreviated text, however it surely looks like others were.

Tim Dunkin (note the Knittel ref)
"While it seems that Gregory himself does not know of the Comma, it is also apparent that those with whom he was discussing the passage recognized a grammatical error that is present in the text if the Comma is not included. Knittel notes both the objection to verse 8 offered by Gregory's opponents on the basis of the grammatical solecism introduced by the deletion of the Comma, as well as Gregory's attempt to get around the problem by an effected indifference to the problem. He writes"
And I am far less convinced that "Gregory does not know of the Comma", especially considering the language interactions of the time. The most that could be said is "unlikely that the Comma was in his Greek mss".

Brown has some logic difficulties:

"Gregory .. never suggests that the grammar is incorrect. Thus, Gregory did not invoke the grammatical argument, "

Straw man attempt, obviously.

"meaning that the grammatical argument has no historical antecedent in the ancient church but is a recent development."

Total nonsense and simply illogical. Even the opponents of Gregory looked to be arguing the grammar.

Beyond that, the evidence from extant silence tells us little. The Latins would not make the Greek argument. And the Greeks were not frequently discussing the text. They could not discuss what they did not know.

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Steven Avery

James Snapp - cogent 2013 writing on the grammar

Lets note some material from James Snapp in 2013. At that time he was thinking about this rather cogently. I will make the formatting a little more readable and add emphasis. Commentary at bottom is planned.


Regarding Gregory of Nazianzus (thanks for the correction; Steven Avery also pointed out, over on the TC-Alternate discussion-list, that I must have mentioned the wrong Gregory) -- that is indeed part of the answer to this part of the CJ-defense. Gregory contended that inasmuch as an overly strict application of grammatical rules would indict the grammar in First John 5:7-8 (in his Greek text which obviously didn’t contain the CJ), this is a point against such rules, not against the grammar in First John 5:7-8. Thus Gregory’s reverence for the text is so high that when it contains a rough spot which a grammarian would call a solecism, the solecism must be proper, and the grammarian’s concept of proper syntax must be arbitrary.

But the disagreeing genders of nouns in First John 5:7-8 (without the CJ) remain somewhat anomalous, so one should be prepared to face a plausible case that the grammatical anomaly which occurs when John introduces OI MARTUROUNTES and then refers to TO PNEUMA KAI TO UDHR KAI TO AIMA, is suggestively resolved when the CJ is present.

Cornwall explains:
“The first thing that strikes an accurate scholar in I John 5:8, without the seventh vere preceding, is the very hard grammar of the masculine article and participle of MARTUROUNTES, and the masculine article and numeral OI TREIS, with the three neuter nouns, PNEUMA, UDWP, and AIMA.”

James White has replied that
“This is not a very major problem, as three almost always appears in the NT as a masculine when used as a substantive, the one exception being I Corinthians 13:13, where it appears as a neuter, though here referring to a list of feminines. This is more stylistic than anything else.”

But a well-prepared CJ-defender would naturally ask, in response,

"Where else in the NT does a masculine participle precede neuter nouns in this way?"

And then, the CJ-defender would attempt to point out that this stylistic anomaly disappears from verse 7 if the CJ is included, so that the masculine participle agrees with the masculine nouns that follow.

Without the CJ one has to answer the question: why did John use that masculine participle?

And do you really want to put a lot of weight on Daniel Wallace’s answer of this? Consider what he said on page 33 of Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, in a footnote intended to express why it is ill-advised to insist on a masculine gender for PNEUMA:

“Besides the Johannine texts, three other passages are occasionally used for this: Eph 1:14, 2 Thess 2:6-7, and 1 John 5:7.” [I have no idea why Dr. Wallace thus seems to categorize First John outside the Johannine corpus.] After commenting on Eph. 1:14 and II Th. 2:6-7, he states:

“First John 5:7 is perhaps the most plausible of the passages enlisted. The masculine participle in TREIS EISIN OI MARTUROUNTES refers to TO PNEUMA KAI TO UDWP KAI TO AIMA (v
, all neuter nouns. Some see this as an oblique reference to the Spirit’s personality (so I. H. Marshall, The Epistles of John [NICNT] 237, n. 20), but the fact that the author has personified water and blood, turning them into witnesses along with the Spirit, may be enough to account for the masculine gender. This interpretation also has in its behalf the allusion to Deut 19:15 (the necessity of “two or three witnesses”), for in the OT the testimony only of males was acceptable. Thus, the elder may be subtly indicating (via the masculine participle) that the Spirit, water, and blood are all valid witnesses.”

“Perhaps.” “Some see this.” “May be,” and again, “may be.” Does this not sound like a guess, a tentative detour down a side-road? The guess is satisfactory to some readers, but advocates of the CJ, if they knew how weak all this is, would pounce on it, crowing that Wallace tacitly admits that without the CJ, First John 5:7-8’s mixture of neuter nouns with masculine antecedents is an anomaly, resolvable only by the assumption (which, in keeping with his usual ways, Wallace transforms into “the fact”) that John subtly intended to personify as males the Spirit (or, spirit), water, and blood! Thus, a CJ-advocate may note, one faces two possibilities in verse 7: a straightforward and normal agreement of nouns with the CJ, or a subtle and abnormal disagreement of nouns
without the CJ.

(skip Griesbach transmission question and answer and the relationship of the Greek and Latin texts and who is destabilizing the text)
While James has other good material in that thread, I will stay here with the grammar.

The excellent Henry Thomas Armfield material can be found here:

The three witnesses, the disputed text in st. John [ep. i, ch.5, v.7]. (1883)

Nowhere in the short excerpt that you presented does he confront the points that Armfield efficiently provided on pages 203-206 of his book, and which I reproduce here, with some improvements and adjustments:

Henry Thomas Armfield

(1) It is surely an outstanding proof – a decisive proof – of the original presence of the Comma Johanneum in verse 7, that its presence is the only possible way of accounting for the use of the three masculine words, TREIS EISIN OI MARTUROUNTES, before the three neuter substantives, TO PNEUMA, KAI TO UDWR, KAI TO AIMA. Had not verse seven pre-existed, and so authorized their reiteration, they would necessarily have been written, TRIA ESTI TA MARTUROUNTA, would they not?

(2) Those who maintain the exclusion of verse 7 are fond of saying that ‘in inquiries of this kind we must, to use Bentley’s words, indulge nothing to any conjecture.’ Nevertheless they themselves conjecture as follows: ‘It is not improbable that, as a security to the faith, the dogma of the great Teacher [Perhaps Armfield was referring to Cyprian, not to Christ, despite the capitalization] was recorded in the margin of the Latin MSS, and from there it glided into the text.’

And so the question is raised: which is the most probable: Conjecture A, which implies that one copyist placed a good-sized interpretive comment in the margin (and where are the early MSS with such marginalia??), and then another copyist consciously tampered with the text by throwing the margin-note into the text, where no one until then had ever seen it, or Conjecture B, which simply attributes to an early copyist a pardonable inadvertence and a
common symptom of carelessness? It should be noted that two instances of the same kind of mistake are attested in
Codex Alexandrinus in the very same chapter.

I am well aware that those who have brought before them the anomalous use of the masculine, as applied, without intervention of verse seven, to three neuters, are ready to plead that TO PNEUMA means TO AGION PNEUMA, who, being a person, demands the masculine gender. [Thus Armfield addressed the sort of proposal that Daniel Wallace very guardedly expressed.] But surely, TO PNEUMA, in that place, as in the corresponding passages of St. John’s Gospel (19:30, 34, 35), means the human spirit of our blessed Lord, as given up in the way so remarkably described by St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke, even as ‘the water and the blood,’ mean what came forth from His side in the same hour of His decease.

It may not be amiss to add that although the Authorized Version, as it presents this passage – which shows, in verse 7, the Godhead, and in verse 8 the manhood, of Christ – prints the word “Spirit” in I John 5:8 with a capital S, those verses are printed with a small “s” in Bishop Turton’s article on the text (in Quarterly Review, Vo. 33), in which he advocates the exclusion of the text. Also that Henry Vaughn, in his poem or hymn for Trinity Sunday, so (correctly) understood it when he wrote:

“O holy, blessed, glorious Three
Eternal witnesses that be
In heaven, one God in Trinity.
As here on earth, where men withstood,
The spirit, water, and the blood
Made my Lord’s incarnation good.”
In all this I observe two things: first, while the excerpt from Plummer amounts to mere assertion, Armfield has brought argumentation. Second, inasmuch as Armfield seems willing to correct a feature in the KJV (specifically, the capitalization of “Spirit” in IJn. 5:8), he cannot be charged with the belief that the KJV is perfect; he set his entire appeal is on empirical, not doctrinal, grounds.
And actually many AV editions, including the approved Pure Cambridge Edition, (PCE), do have the proper small "s".

I have not seen any exchange between pro-CJ anti-CJ disputants in which the Pro-CJ person says, "The CJ should be included; otherwise John is guilty of a serious grammatical blunder,"

and in which Anti-CJ answers,

“If you think the disagreements of gender are a serious grammatical blunder, then you must regard
the grammatical features of verse 8 as a serious grammatical blunder, because the same disagreement of gender occurs there.”

Of course this must have happened; I simply did not observe it; I have only seen the disagreement-of-genders feature dismissed in two ways:

(1) via insistence that this is simply not a problem, because gender-disagreements occur in other New Testament passages, and there really is no valid rule that the gender of nouns in appositional clauses should agree with the gender of the antecedent noun, or

(2) via the somewhat tenuous proposal that John used resorted to this grammatical inconsistency to subtly imply that he was referring to the Holy Spirit and accorded to the Holy Spirit the status of a male witness.

Let’s revisit those other New Testament passages that you mentioned: I Cor. 13:13, Mt. 23:23, and First John 2:16.
I think that if we are going to have any chance at persuading a CJ-supporter that the gender-disagreement in First John 5:7-8 is not anomalous, bad grammar, then we need to show precisely the same feature in use elsewhere: not just disagreements of gender between nouns and their antecedent, but disagreements between a masculine antecedent and feminine nouns.
correction - neuter nouns. And this error mars the James Snapp material moving forward! (Plus he deals with the ignorant material from "Jim' which is a waste of time.)

Nonetheless, the rest of the material does have some good discussion and referencing. Laters :). I'll try to finish this up when there is some more time, the best stuff is the early stuff.
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