Homestead Heritage attacks the majestic and beautiful heavenly witnesses verse

Steven Avery

1 John 5:7
For there are three that bear record in heaven,
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost:
and these three are one.

Joel Stein went fishing for some of the weirdest, ill-founded and most vitriolic attacks on this amazing verse, especially hanging his hat on the atheist Bart Ehrman. Combined with textual idiots who claim the verse arose as a "medieval forgery" and in the "Dark ages". To say this scholarship from Joel is shoddy would be putting it nicely. Note: there is no name specifically attached to this section, but it is clearly Joel Stein, working with the research crew at the Center.

We will review this text. Please note, there is one outright 'modern scholarship' lie that Joel took from his sources.

Joel Stein in Homestead Heritage literature:

Some Bible translations, such as the King James and New King James versions, include what has become known as the Johannine comma, a short clause appearing in 1 John 5:7-8. While there has been much debate over the authenticity of this clause, it did not appear in any Greek manuscript until the fifteenth century. Although some believe it to have been omitted from earlier manuscripts as the result of a scribal error, the doctrinal significance of the clause has led many, including Sir Isaac Newton 1, to suspect a deliberate forgery. Newton and others 2 believed that the issue of the Trinity was the underlying motive behind the late insertion. A University of Leicester professor Gordon Campbell referred to the Johannine Comma as "a medieval forgery inserted into Bibles to support a trinitarian doctrine that had been erected on a disconcertingly thin biblical base." 3 New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman similarly spoke of the clause as "the most obvious instance of a theologically motivated corruption in the entire manuscript tradition of the New Testament." 4 In spite of the support that such a clause would lend to the orthodox doctrine of the trinity, the majority of scholars on both sides of the trinitarian debate concur that the Johannine comma is, at best, a textual aberration that should be excluded from the Biblical text.

1 Rob Iliffe, Friendly Criticism: Richard Simon, John Locke, Isaac Newton and the Johannine Comma 2006, p. 143 in Scripture and Scholarship

2 Everard Bierrer,
The Evolution of Religions, p. 290, 1906.

George Travis,
Letters to Edward Gibbon, 1785, pp. 319-20 The value of this opposing "evidence from silence" became a part of the verse debate,

Richard Porson responding in his letters
Letters to Mr. Archdeacon Travis, 1790, p 372
A calm inquiry into the Scripture doctrine concerning the person of Christ, p. 333, 1817.

Israel Worsley,
An enquiry into the origin of Christmas-Day, 1820, p.66. The British Review reviewed the controversy and spoke of such phrases as "tokens of intellectual weakness... culpable imbecility of mind". The Unitarian Controversy, 1821, p. 165.

3 Gordon Campbell and Thomas N. Corns,
John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought, 2008, p. 378.

4 Bart Ehrman,
The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 1996, p. 45.

Sidepoints from Steven Avery regarding the Homestead Heritage approach:

For a period of years, in our correspondence, I had emphasized to Joel the accuracy, originality and authority of this verse. Also Acts 8:37, which he actually accepted at the time. So if I appear a smidgen harsh, please understand, Joel has been invited to really examine this verse, iron sharpeneth. Instead he has shrank back. The Homestead Heritage ministry is in hiding, trying to avoid the light of the pure and perfect word of God!

My holding to the truth of the pure word of God, including the wonderful heavenly witnesses verse, was strangely attacked as a "heretical way". Simply because I fully rejected weak arguments like the ones above, even from the vaunted Homestead Heritage ministry and eldership and Center scholarship. (If you have some historical involvement relationship with their ministry, they cannot countenance your non-acceptance of their position, even if it is contra the pure Bible or involves shoddy fabrication gibberish like Yahshua. They feel if it is from their ministry, you should accept it no matter what, and not accepting their errors becomes a type of rebellion, in their eyes.)

And I embrace the pure and perfect word of God, readable, tangible, in my wonderful Authorized Version. So they had to go into hiding, avoiding any further attempts at iron sharpeneth discussion and sharing.

The Homestead Heritage ministry wants to think that the 'Lordship of Jesus' involves fighting wonderful scripture and bringing in false names like yahweh (a dark-side name==jupiter) and yahshua (gibberish.) ---- God forbid!

Returning now to the study.
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Steven Avery

a typical modern scholarship lie

it did not appear in any Greek manuscript until the fifteenth century.

This is the common lie, and to put it nicely, Joel picked it up from others without thinking.

This is an attempted claim only about the extremely limited extant Greek manuscripts. However we only have about five Greek mss extant from the first 700-800 years of Christianity with this chapter (about the same number of Latin, including Old Latin mss. with the verse, and including Codex Fuldensis with the Prologue that tells us about how scribes would drop the verse.) This was in a period when thousands of copies of the Johannine Epistles were circulating.

So the statement is making an absurd claim. Claiming to know what was in thousands of vanished mss. And Joel is hiding the most salient information from his readers. Let us add the Council of Carthage of 484 AD, in Latin, which had hundreds of bishops affirming the verse as scripture.

Let's mention in Greek the Disputation between Athanasius and Arius from Nicea, which uses the verse, with some controversy as to exactly when it was written. Similar with the Synopsis of Sacred Scripture, which is clearly referencing the heavenly witnesses verse. How would these be written without a background of Greek mss?

There is very strong evidence that the Greek mss. in the Ante-Nicene era included the heavenly witnesses, with Cyprian being one of the many evidences. His Bible was Latin, howvever he had Greek familiarity and the evidence is that the verse came to the Latin from the Greek. (See e.g. Walter Thiele.) The solecism in the Greek text without the verse is another powerful evidence that the Latin came from a full Greek text including the heavenly witnesses. We have lots of information on these evidences on this web-site.

Even in the later period, once the Lateran Council c. 1200 AD placed the verse in Greek and Latin, side-by-side, correcting the omission in the Greek line, it is likely that Greek manuscripts were written with the verse, even if not extant today. Again, though, we only have extant a small remnant of the mss. of those days.
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Steven Avery

an incredible oneness-apostolic verse

And some apostolic oneness believers have this type of doctrinal understanding of the verse:

"I am no bible scholar but that verse really clinched the oneness of God for me before I even got the Holy Spirit."
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Steven Avery

Everard Bierer - liberal pure Bible attack - 'Dark ages'

Let us look at the fishing expedition of Joel.
We will start with:

2 Everard Bierrer, The Evolution of Religions, p. 290, 1906.

Everard Bierer (1827-1910) is the right spelling. Bierer is writing:

"a thesaursus of the stock objections to orthodox Christianity, of the frivolous ones quite as much as of the serious."

Review by William Brenton Greene, Jr. (1854-1928)
Princeton Theological Review

From his page:

Though some of the expressions in the apostolic letters as we now have them seem to countenance the orthodox scheme of atonement and redemption, there are reasons in the Gospels, and many facts of subsequent history, which prove conclusively that such doctrines were evolved long after Jesus ’ time and were sustained by the manipulations and perversions of the sacred writings by bigoted translators.

So Bierer claims that the scriptures are full of corruptions. His attack on the verse is truly that of an ignoramus.

This bold interpolation shows conclusively what Trinitarian fanaticism in the Dark Ages would do, and leaves us to imagine what renderings it probably gave to many other texts, and especially somewhat obscure ones on the same subject.

The Dark Ages?? Please. Look at the references above from the 3rd to 5th centuries, the early days of Christian writings. The so-called Dark Ages were hundreds of years later. This is the writing of a bigoted anti-pure-Bible ignoramus.

In the next sentences Bierer has an error about the Council of Nicea, claiming a close vote, when the agreement was virtually unanimous. The close vote claim correction is here:
To be fair on this point, I note that Ben David (John Jones) actually says that the signees were only a portion of the attendees. While there was no close vote, there may be more to it than simply the 99% signees. The position of Ben David is that the heavenly witnesses actually spurred the Council of Nicea, after Constantine and the Bishop of Alexandria, Alexander, had correspondence about a controversial "certain passage of scripture".


This reference barely can be considered worthless.
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Steven Avery

Bart Ehrman - atheist 'authority'

The views quoted of atheist Bart Ehrman is here:

The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament

This is similarly worthless. Ehrman posits the early chruch as ebionite and adoptionist, and tailors his arguments to match his false presupposition. On the heavenly witnesses, he really says nothing, and does not address the evidences. If Homestead Heritage considers Ehrman a textual authority they should take a scissors their Authorized Version, and even the corruption versions, and make up a whole new edition.

Nonetheless, in my judgment, the comma’s appearance in the tradition can scarcely be dated prior to the trinitarian controversies that arose after the period under examination. - Ehrman p. 45

The Cyprian and Tertullian references disprove this assertion. They wrote long before the Trinitarian controversies.

Plus there is no possible vector of transmission that would place the heavenly witnesses in the 4th century, and then immediately take over the Latin lines, and lead to the Vulgate Prologue of Jerome and Council of Carthage massive use from churches all around the Meditteranean.

The heavenly witnesses contras will make the most absurd assertions, and then men who should know better, like Joel Stein, simply parrot their ignorance and bias.
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Steven Avery

Gordon Campbell - 'medieval forgery'

Next, we will discuss the ridiculous mining of the quote from Gordon Campbell (falsely implying it was a view of John Milton) that claims the heavenly witnesses is a "medieval forgery". (We will omit his co-author Thomas N. Corns, b. 1949, because this has been a Gordon Campbell false claim for years.)

A good example of "modern scholarship". Years back I shared about the Gordon Campbell (b. 1944) nonsense with Michael Maynard (1955-2014), since it was such an absurdity.

Professor Gordon Campbell
MA (Queen's, Canada), DPhil, DLitt (York), Dr hc (Bucharest), FSA, FRHistS, FRGS, FRAS
Professor of Renaissance Studies

Professor Gordon Campbell
Department of English, University of Leicester
Lecture delivered on January 27 2003
(no longer online)

(The Trinity doctrine) hung for centuries on the exhortation of Jesus to his disciples to go forth, teaching all nations and baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28.19). The fact that ‘in the name’ (Greek eis to onoma) is singular rather than plural hinted, so it was said, at a triune god. This was not a sufficiently robust proof text, so gradually another evolved. It began as a comment on I John 5.8 (‘and there are three that bear witness on earth, the spirit, the water and the blood; and these three agree in one’). The marginal comment, written by an early medieval Christian, ran ‘for there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one’. In the twelfth century this Latin comment was translated into Greek and inserted into Greek texts of the Bible. It is the only serious proof text for the Trinity, and it is, not to put too fine a point on it, a medieval forgery. If you are curious about it, you should know that theologians refer to it as the Johannine Comma.

My remembrance is that I made efforts to reach out to Gordon Campbell to correct this nonsense.

Here is the section used by Joel, shorter.

John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought (2008)
by Gordon Campbell, Thomas N. Corns

There was, for example, a widespread awareness that the doctrine of the Trinity was post-biblical, and that the central biblical proof text for the Trinity (1 John 5: 7) was a medieval forgery inserted into Bibles to support a trinitarian doctrine that had been erected on a disconcertingly thin biblical base.

In fact, John Milton was not even an opponent of the verse, he was equivocal. And Milton, despite the spin of Campbell, never claimed it was a medieval forgery. And the claim of Gordon Campbell is simply absurd, like the "Dark ages" quote above. Why use such ignorant commentators?

Here is the Milton section, that Campbell mangled:

John Milton's Last Thoughts on the Trinity: Extracted from His Posthumous Work Entitled "A Treatise on Christian Doctrine Compiled from the Holy Scriptures Alone," Lately Published by Royal Command (1828)
John Milton


Ironically, Gordon Campbell has related to the Authorized Version as the "The Greatest Monument of English Prose". And has written "Celebrating the King James Bible" around 2010.
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Steven Avery

Thomas Belsham and the ebionite Bible-snippers

Joel continues to use many deficient 'authorities'.

This is Thomas Belsham (1750-1829), who writes like an ebionite who would snip full chapters from the Bible. Belsham attacked the virgin birth, saying of the first chapters of both Luke and Matthew:

"the narrative itself is of doubtful authority" - p.8

And wrote of:

"the spuriousness of the first two chapters of the gospel of Matthew" - p. 138

This type of unbelief was noted in a review that also referenced the learned Richard Laurence (1760-1838):

The Augustan Review (1817)
Archdeacon Daubeny’s Remarks on the Unitarians

... and to Mr. Belsham’s own Calm Enquiry.' He will find that they reject the account of our Saviour’s miraculous birth, for no better reason, than because it was omitted in the copies of certain early heretics, against whose opinions it directly militated, and who were proverbial for rejecting what did not fall in with their peculiar opinions; they having, like the Unitarians, formed a system of theology of their own—in aid of which the Bible was brought only when if could be done successfully. In this manner, and for this reason, some rejected the Epistles of St. Paul, and others the whole Old Testament, besides interpolating innumerable passages of what they retained.

On the heavenly witnesses, Belsham was simply parroting the hard-drinking skeptic, Richard Porson. Joel only gave a page number, chosen because it has the false statement that Joel can spin for an argument: "palpable forgery". That accusation from Belsham, who would snip chapters of the Bible because of the virgin birth, is totally worthless.


More available on Thomas Belsham and the Bible-snippers here:

Pure Bible Forum
unitarian Bible-snippers - Evanson, Belsham, Priestley - and the "Improved Version" - Matthew 28:19
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Steven Avery

Israel Worsley - "produced at the end of the fifth century" - "second epistle of John"

The next reference is one of the most imbecilic ones on the whole topic, which is jumping over a very high bar:

Israel Worsley (1768-1836)

An enquiry into the origin of Christmas-Day (1820)
by Israel Worsley

One thing was yet wanted to secure to the Doctrine of the Trinity the post to which it had thus with great difficulty been raised; this was, a text of Scripture, which in plain terms taught the Doctrine. None of its advocates pretended, that it was distinctly contained in any one declaration either of Jesus or his Apostles. They inferred it from those texts in which the Divine Being speaks royally in the plural number, and those in which the Saviour is described as holding divine powers and exercising divine attributes. But they had not long to wait; for a manuscript was produced, at the end of the fifth century, which, in the second epistle of John, ran thus. “ There are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.”

By the end of the fifth century, 400+ bishops, speaking to their Arian opponents under Hunneric, were specifically affirming the heavenly witnesses in their written statement of their faith at the 484 Council of Carthage.

This Bible text ignoramus, Israel Woolsey, claims that the verse did not even exist at that time, and was just being fabricated.

And he does not even reference the right epistle.

Why Joel Stein quotes and references such people is rather a puzzle.
It just shows an impoverished pseudo-scholarship, common from those seeking to attack the pure and majestic heavenly witnesses verse.
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Steven Avery

That looks at all the references given by Joel except:

Newton through Iliffe.


Planned to be continued later.

So far we see a very poor methodology from Joel. Mine the most sensational quotes, even when they are from atheists and ebionites, and the assertions are simply false and the scholarship is, at best, grossly deficient.
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Steven Avery

Sir Isaac Newton and Ron Iliffe

the doctrinal significance of the clause has led many, including Sir Isaac Newton[SUP]1[/SUP], to suspect a deliberate forgery. Newton and other

This is true. Newton apparently had a low Christology, and attacked a number of verses. The other major one he attacked is the amazing:

1 Timothy 3:16
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifest in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen of angels,
preached unto the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
received up into glory.

Where he wanted to change "God was manifest" to "which was manifest". This became a wild ride as the contras later switched to "who was manifest" and, since that is a solecism, came up with the hymn theory nonsense. And we have seen the trickery of deliberately mistranslating as "He was manifest..". (Still much weaker in terms of Christology, but not the actual text, not the meaning, and masking the solecism.)

Note that "God was manifest..." is in 99.5% of the Greek mss.

Newton also worked with the scholarship of Richard Simon, a Roman Catholic scholar, who cast doubt on a number of pure Bible verses.

Overall, Ron Iliffe, at least, writes in a scholarly manner.

Scripture and Scholarship in Early Modern England (2006)
Friendly Criticism: Richard Simon, John Locke, Isaac Newton and the Johannine Comma
edited by Ariel Hessayon, Nicholas Keene

Iliffe points out the difficulties that Newton had with the Vulgate Prologue.

Anyway, the big weakness in the writing page given by Joel from Ron Iliffe is the tentative attempt from Newton that Cyprian was only referencing verse 8, the earthly witnesses.

The Cyprian wording clearly points directly to the heavenly witnesses. (Check our sections on this forum.) And thus the Newton theories unravel.
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Steven Avery

George Travis and Richard Porson

George Travis, Letters to Edward Gibbon, 1785, pp. 319-20 The value of this opposing "evidence from silence" became a part of the verse debate,

Richard Porson responding in his letters Letters to Mr. Archdeacon Travis, 1790, p 372

There is too much involving Travis, Porson and many follow-up writers that we can go into on this thread.

The "evidence from silence" Joel is referring to has to do the many dozens of writers, mostly in Latin, who referenced the verse over the years, and why the authenticity of the verse was never questioned. That discussion is on the two pages he gave as urls. This is in fact a very minor blip on the radar of the debate about authenticity.

The solecism, eg. (which did not come up in Travis-Porson) in the short Greek text, would be perhaps 1,000 and much more times more significant as an argument for authenticity.

As would noting the 'frivolous' arguments made against the authenticity of the Vulgate Prologue by Jerome. The Prologue an evidence essentially proves the authenticity of the heavenly witnesses.

As a scholarship reference, Porson and Travis are not a problem, not shoddy scholarship like the five or so I mentioned above. Although it does not even scratch the surface, there is no real substance.

Richard Porson (1759-1808), as I mentioned, was a hard-drinking skeptic who died young. He was a superb Greek scholar in the classics so he used that to his advantage. And he knew every sneering, diversion cheap debating trick in the book. He also know how to avoid and evade salient evidences, like the Eugenius Bulgaris writing on the solecism.

Much of the modern contra movement against the heavenly witnesses verse just involves echoes of Porson.
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