heavenly witnesses - Jerome's Vulgate Prologue - info to Bart Ehrman

Steven Avery

stevenavery July 17, 2021

.... The second special reference is the Vulgate Prologue to the Canonical Epistles, Jerome writing to Eustochium. This Prologue discusses how the heavenly witnesses was dropped because the doctrine was discomfiting. The response has been to try to declare this writing a “forgery”, an attempt based on nothing substantive, except the supposed lateness of the Prologue. However, Codex Fuldensis, dated 546 AD, was published by Ranke c. 1850, and has the Prologue. Hmmm

Jerome was working with Greek and Latin mss. way back in the Ante-Nicene era.

stevenavery July 21, 2021

Also, your thoughts on Jerome?

This is a first-person writing, matching his style and knowledge, and exists in the earliest extant Vulgate manuscript.
Clearly, there is a circular argument that can be used. (Jerome could not have written that about the heavenly witnesses, because the verse did not exist … blah blah.)

If you want to claim the Prologue is not Jerome, could you please give and defend specific reasons? And the proposed author/forger.

Jerome’s Prologue to the Canonical Epistles
“… in that place where we read the clause about the unity of the Trinity in the first letter of John. Indeed, it has come to our notice that in this letter some unfaithful translators have gone far astray from the truth of the faith, for in their edition they provide just the words for three [witnesses]—namely water, blood and spirit—and omit the testimony of the Father, the Word and the Spirit, by which the Catholic faith is especially strengthened, and proof is tendered of the single substance of divinity possessed by Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

For 150 years it was argued that this was a late addition, but then it was found in our earliest extant Vulgate ms. Codex Fuldensis, in the edition by Ranke c. 1850. The ms. was written under the direction of Victor of Capua.

Please do not just say … “consensus”.


I haven’t looked at the passage in Jerome or studied the manuscript tradition of his Prologue. What does Raymond Brown say about it?

The paragraph from Raymond Brown:

“To the period before 550 belongs a Prologue to the Catholic Epistles, falsely attributed to Jerome, which is preserved in the Codex Fuldensis (PL 29, 827-31). Although the Codex itself does not contain the Comma, the Prologue states that the Comma is genuine but has been omitted by unfaithful translators. The Prologue has been attributed to Vincent of Lerins (d. 450) and to Peregrinus (Künstle, Ayuso Marazuela), the fifth-century Spanish editor of the Vg. In any case, Jerome’s authority was such that this statement, spuriously attributed to him, helped to win acceptance for the Comma. . (Epistles of John, 1982 p. 782-783)”

The Peregrinus idea was countered by John Chapman in 1908, “dispose of this notion”. Grantley McDonald in Raising the Ghost of Arius says it was “refuted”. He says “Serious doubts attend the authenticity” yet he never gives any arguments against authenticity.

Jean Martianay (1647-1717) had tried to give reasons for the Prologue to be non- Jerome, his arguments were shredded by David Martin, the French Huguenot writer. Antoine Eugène Genoud (1792-1849) saw those attempts as “frivoles”.
There are no strong arguments against authenticity. Especially after the Fuldensis discovery which eliminated the argument of appearing in late mss.

In recent years there has been an attempt to say that Jerome only translated the Gospels (and maybe Acts) but this has great difficulties, especially since Jerome asserted translation of the full NT in multiple quotes.

And there is the circular argument … based on the modern textcrit “consensus” that there could not have been such manuscripts .. circular to the max!
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Steven Avery

BDEhrman January 13, 2021 at 2:09 pm

IF there were the only two options then most interpreters would say that’s what they mean. But so far as I know, that’s not an interpretation usually given for the passage. Ever? I don’t know of any place where “water'” is a symbol for God. In the OT, for exmample, water is often the entity *opposed* to God, that God has to overcome for the salvation of his people. (Genesis 1 — he overcomes water by putting in the firmament; 6-9 water threatens the human race; exodus, the sea must be conquered for savltion , etc.)
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