Hills, Letis, Kutilek and Whitmer

Steven Avery

to help out


and TRA


Notes and Criticisms on Theodore P. Letis' Book,
Edward Freer Hill's Contribution to the Revival of the Ecclesiastical Text
by Doug Kutilek
Kutilek stupidity
And the fact that even Letis backs away from Hill's defence of the possible genuineness of I John 5:7 shows that Letis had questions at times as to Hills' ability to credibly reason with regard to variant readings and manuscript evidence. (Of 350+ surviving Greek manuscripts of I John, only 4 contain the passage in question in the text, and these differ among themselves in their precise wording; 4 other manuscripts have the verse written in the margin. All these manuscripts give evidence of tampering or deliberate late [even 17th century in some cases] insertion. No Greek father before the 13th century ever quotes the verse; no ancient translation includes the verse except the Latin, and there in only a minority of Old Latin manuscripts, and only in some late Vulgate manuscripts Jerome did not include it in the original Vulgate. The words can be traced to an allegorical application of v. 8 by Cyprian in the 3rd century. Yet in spite of all this evidence, Hills defended the words as possibly, even probably genuine!!!!).

Holy Word Cafe
Hills Revisited By Jon Whitmer

2. Kutilek contends that Hills defends the Johannine Comma as “unquestionably original.”

.. .The fact that even Letis backs away from Hill's defense of the possible genuineness of I John 5:7
shows that Letis had questions at times as to Hills' ability to credibly reason with regard to variant
readings and manuscript evidence.... The words can be traced to an allegorical application of v. 8
by Cyprian in the 3rd century. Yet in spite of all this evidence, Hills defended the words as
possibly, even probably genuine!!!!

[On page] 96 The list of passages Dabney objects to changing in the t.r. is clear evidence of his
ignorance of the facts in the case—the evidence against the genuineness of I John 5:7 is

Also, I John 5:7 is absent from around 350 Greek manuscripts, and present in only four in the text
and another four in the margin, with all 8 of these being late and suspect of deliberate scribal

Hills’ approach is to argue for its potential originality by way of external evidence. There is a large difference between Hills’ actual discussion of the johannine comma and Kutilek’s negative reference to it. Letis’ disagreement with Hills regarding the Johannine comma (and Kutilek does not even cite a place in the book where Letis actually “backs away” from Hills’ defense of the Johannine comma) by no means even implies “that Letis had questions at times as to Hills' ability to credibly reason with regard to variant readings and manuscript evidence.” Letis’ own words are particularly informative: (continues)


While Letis had an implied negativity to the verse, Kutilek was simply an arrogant smart-ass, trying to foist his deficient views on Letis.
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Steven Avery

From Sacred Text to Religious Text
1995 Thesis

First off, anyone who has not taken the time to actually examine the context of the quote in question is probably not in any position to formulate a finalized judgement on the matter. (I hope that all would agree on this.) Secondly, the information ("proof") is weaved throughout the 1995 PhD dissertation that I linked, and therefore a considerable portion must be read to establish a proper footing. Thirdly, It's not allowing me to cut-and-paste on Scribd;– which unfortunately presents a major hurdle in gathering all the pertinent quotations in a timely manner.

So...I would encourage a scan of the first 70 pgs. or so, and then a careful reading of pg. 74. Then continue to scan up until chapter four (pg. 126), and begin to read more carefully (especially pg. 137 and the pages (several) which immediately follow). This will only take about a half an hour or so, and will give the reader a much better vantage point of the issue at hand.

Hope this helps. Over the weekend I'll mine some quotes, and put together a more helpful list of reference points in a new thread over on the Textual Criticism or General Theology forums.
If you are stuck with Scribd, I recommend Abbyy Screenshot Reader. A small $ investment.
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Steven Avery

p. 42
8 This was not absolutely the case, however, since his omission of the comma Johanneum, as well as his resorting to the Greek New Testament were
attempts to recapture an historically earlier and therefore purer form of the Christian Faith. In fact, the radicalness of this omission can hardly be
appreciated today but it helps to put it into perspective when one notes that even Lorenzo Valla, who was suspected of antitrinitarian leanings, would not omit this passage in his Adnotationes, because perhaps, as Bentley suggests, he "considered it too impolitic to meddle with the proof-text for a doctrine so important to the Roman Church as that of the Trinity (Bentley, 1983:44-45). Not so for Erasmus.

This is clear that Letis is approving of the Erasmus omission as an attempt have a purer text.0

p. 74
... Like Origen, Erasmus had a subordinationist christology which allowed him the freedom to question the orthodox interpretations of many of
the major passages traditionally used to defend the deity of Christ (Payne, 1970:54-70).55

4. The Comma Johanneum

When Erasmus did not add the comma Johanneum to the First Epistle of John it opened the way for theologians to accuse him of contributing to a revival of Arianism (Bentley, 1983:202; Coogan: 53-116).56 Of course, Erasmus’s christology probably had nothing to do with his judgement to omit this passage (although its omission from all the Greek codices he had surveyed probably reinforced his conviction that the Trinity was a late dogmatic reflection of the Church rather than a Biblical teaching). It was simply missing from all the Greek witnesses he consulted, reason enough to drop it. But the churchmen at Alcala, with probably no more Greek MS evidence for this passage than Erasmus possessed,57 added it to their Greek text from the Vulgate, because it had gained, from around the year 800 CE onward, canonical status as part of the sacred text of the Latin Bible.

Erasmus was, however, certain it was a corruption, added to the text by the Western Church, a witness to him of yet one more form of dogmatic corruption influencing the Latin Bible. Luther seems to have been in rare agreement with Erasmus on this point. In Luther’s commentary on John’s first epistle he observes from Erasmus’s Annotationes:

The Greek books do not have these words, but this verse seems to have been inserted by the Catholics because of the Arians, yet not aptly; for wherever John speaks about the witnesses, he speaks about those on earth, not about those m heaven (LW Vol. 30:316).

Luther never put the verse in his Bible even after Erasmus added it to his third edition of the Greek New Testament.58

The comma Johanneum takes on great significance from this time forward in the history of text criticism because it remains as proof positive to future Erasmians that the Church has expanded the New Testament message at places to accommodate emerging dogmatic concerns.

55 On Origen’s Christology see Rowe (1987).

56 For a detailed treatment of all those who criticized Erasmus’s text and annotations see Bludau (1902:425-569). For briefer treatments see Boyle
(1986:123-171), Bentley (1983:194-219) and Rabil (94, n.158). For a definitive treatment of the data surrounding Erasmus and the comma Johanneum,
see de Jonge (1980:381-89).

57 On this point see Tregelles’s excellent treatment (1869:358-361).

58 It was added after Luther’s death. There have been attempts to prove that Luther reconsidered and had come to see it as genuine in later lectures on the epistle but this seems to have been answered by Ezra Abbott (1888:458-463). In his own words, Luther addressed possible future revisions
of his text: "I request my friends and my foes, my masters, printers, and readers, to let this New Testament continue mine. If they find faults in it, let them make another. I know well what I make, I see also well, what others make. But this testament shall remain Luther’s German Testament (Michaelis, 1823:439). Nevertheless, contrary to his wishes, the verse was first added in the Frankfurt edition of 1574. (ibid.) On the other hand, like the churchmen at Alcala, John Calvin and Theodore Beza both treated it as genuine. Even the French humanist, Lefevre, defended it against Erasmus (Rice 1969:180), based on the erroneous assumption of the authenticity of Jerome’s prologue to the catholic epistles, which did not begin to appear until the ninth century, cf. Scrivener (1894:vol 2, 404, n. 2).

(Quite a blunder of Letis, also of Edward Miller.)


p. 137
During the summer of 1527, Erasmus was being investigated in Valladolid by the Inquisitor General, Alonso Manrique, on his views of the Trinity and on other topics.18 One of those involved in the inquiry was Juan Quintana, to whom Servetus was employed as Secretary. In this capacity, Servetus would have had access to all the documents of Erasmus’s accusers as well as Erasmus’s response, his Apologia.19


The main issue in Erasmus’s debate with the Spaniards rested on his assertion that Scripture simply did not teach a Trinity; rather this was a doctrine
developed by the Church in response to the Arians. He referred to the position of the early Church as superior to the late developments of the fourth century, because the early church left such doctrines open-ended.

Thus, both Erasmus and Servetus shared a preference for the pre-Nicene Church (Gauss:419).

For Erasmus, the comma Johanneum (I Jn 5:7-8), was evidence of the late development of the doctrine of the Trinity, since it was found in neither the old Greek, nor old Latin MSS. This influenced his exegesis. John 10:30 reads (Grk). Erasmus abandoned the catholic interpretation which maintained that the being one was the shared divine essence. Erasmus, on the other hand, interpreted this as meaning one in agreement. Here his non-dogmatic, philological hermeneutic shows through. Servetus argued for the same interpretation in his work on the Trinity and cited Erasmus as a precedent (Servetus 1932:37).20

Erasmus even resorted to an Islamic argument in refutation of the doctrine of the Trinity. He suggested that by reciting the baptismal rite in
reverse order one discovers that the same rank is not given to three persons, supposedly identical in nature.

In the second part of his Apologia Erasmus defends himself against the charge of denying the deity of Christ. He points out, as Servetus also would
later, that the word God is always used in reference to the Father, two or three times in reference to the Son, but never in reference to the Holy Spirit.

17 Bainton had suggested a connection in 1953: ’To him [Erasmus] Servetus may well have owed his first religious awakening" (Bainton 1953:33-

18 On this see Rummel (1988) and (1989). A good case can be made for Edward Lee’s criticism of Erasmus’s edition of the Greek New Testament
and Annotations as the cause of this investigation. On this see Rummel (1988:1); (1989:84-86); and Coogan (1986:476-505).

19 Apologia ad monachos Hispanos (1528). For a general treatment of Erasmus’s rather voluminous apologiae see Gilmore (1971:62-88) and more
recently Rummel (1988:69-78).

20 In fact, Servetus never challenged the comma Johanneum probably because this interpretation also served him.


Myron Piper Gilmore, (1910-1978)
"De Modis Disputandi: The Apologetic Writings of Erasmus . In Florilegium Historiale: Essays Presented to W.K. Ferguson. Toronto.
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Steven Avery

Earlier Notes to be reviewed

Originally was going to be in this page

That has a lot of Letis and Erasmus salient material.

Theodore P. Letis

"Newton had discovered evidence, by means of Erasmus’s Annotationes,which suggested that such doctrines as the Trinity were late corruptions of Christianity and could be detected by means of textual criticism."