Potamius of Lisbon

Steven Avery


Raymond Brown - Epistles of John, Anchor Bible, 1982
"....Priscillian, who is the first clear witness to the Comma."

Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman (Text of the NT - 4th ed, 2005, p. 147=148)
The oldest known citation of the Comma is in a fourth-century Latin treatise entitled Liber apologeticus (Chapter 4), attributed either to Priscillian or to his follower, Bishop Instantius of Spain.

Ian Howard Marshall, Epistles of John, 1978
"They are attested by a number of Latin writers, the earliest certain reference being in the Liber Apologeticus of the Spanish writer Priscillian (ob. c. 385) or his follower Instantius."

Grantley Robert McDonald - Raising the Ghost of Arius
"It is in another such a profession of faith—the Liber apologeticus (c. 380) of Priscillian, a Spanish bishop executed in 385 on charges of sorcery and heresy—that we first find the comma cited unambiguously."

Three of these four do not mention Potamius, Grantley only en passant.

So there is no reason that Priscillian becomes the terminus post quem for the heavenly witnesses being in the Latin Bibles! Scholarship often needs updating.

The six references in De Trinitate come to play, five often theorized around the time of Potamius. Also the Expositio Fidei Chatolice.

Steven Avery

Sick Bill Brown
"You apparently are incapable of sticking with the subject, which began as "which is the first certain citation."

The claim from Ehrman, which is being corrected:

"Priscillian is our earliest witness"

Which is simply false.
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Steven Avery

Henry Chadwick (1920-2008)
In the 1960s, along with scholars like E. R. Dodds, Peter Brown, and John Matthews, Chadwick helped make Oxford a centre in the developing study of Late Antiquity. He clarified the classical philosophical roots of Christian thinkers from Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria to Augustine of Hippo,[9] ... he was editor of Oxford Early Christian Texts (from 1970), and was able to work on two major monographs, Priscillian of Avila: the occult and the charismatic in the early Church (published 1976) and Boethius: the consolations of music, logic, theology and philosophy (published 1981)


Priscillian of Avila: The Occult and the Charismatic in the Early Church (1976)
Henry Chadwick

[Chadwick] In the passage of the first tractate ...monotheism is underpinned not only by texts from the Old Testament but also by the "Comma Johanneum" ...the three heavenly witnesses in the first epistle of John (5:7-8). ...However, the case for thinking Priscillian himself the author of the interpolation carries no conviction. It is surely older... (Chadwick, Priscillian of Avila, 1997, p. 90)

Longer text

In the passage of the first tractate where the Binionites are attacked , monotheism is underpinned not only by texts from the Old Testament but also by the Comma Johanneum, the interpolation of the three heavenly witnesses in the first epistle of John (5:7-8). Priscillian is the first writer to provide certain attestation of the interpolated text which, in the form cited by him, ended 'and these three are one in Christ Jesus ' . However , the case for thinking Priscillian himself the author of the interpolation carries no conviction.1 It is surely older (Cyprian , De Unitate 6, comes close to it ), a modification of the text made in the West at a time when the Monarchian controversy was raging in the third century

Footnote 1 needed


Chapman on Priscillian and Cyprian Unity of the Church

PIC and we can expand (use Chadwick and Chapman in reponse to Ehrman!)


Si quis uero hanc fidem non habet, catholicus dici non potest; qui catholicam non tenet fidem, ALIENUS EST, PROFANUS EST, aduersus ueritatem rebellis est.

Cyprian, De Cath. Eccl. Unit. 6

Nec perueniet ad Christi praemia qui relinquit ecclesiam Christi; ALIENUS EST, PROFANUS EST, hostis est'


Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation
Bavinck et al


If it was quoted or assumed by Tertullian, it must have been extant as early as 190; and if Cyprian cited it, it must have been known about 220. If the African version contained the text, as attested by a manuscript from the fifth century and one from the seventh century, one can go back even farther, for the African version dates from around 160 and came to Italv around 250.


Raymond Brown is all over the map on the origination question

2. The Comma In Writers before Priscillian (A.D. 200-375)
Let us now look in the other direction to see if there was pre-Priscillian knowledge of the Comma. On the one hand, del Alamo (“Comma” 88—89) gives evidence to show that Priscillian was quite free with biblical texts and might well have shaped the Comma himself by combining the original I John passage with the reflections of the North African church writers (e.g., Cyprian) on the Trinity. On the other hand, as we saw in A2 above and also in the INTRODUCTION (VI B), there were early Latin additions to I John for which there is little or no support in Greek MSS.; and one may wonder if the origins of the Comma are to be divorced from such earlier Latin textual expansions. (24) Moreover, Riggenbach (Comma 382—86) argues on the basis of variants (25) that Priscillian’s was only one form of the Comma which, therefore, must have antedated him. (However, Lemmonyer, “Comma” 71-72, points out that variants would have arisen when the Comma was still a meditation on I John 5:7-8 and before it became part of the Latin biblical text.) One way to control these theoretical observations is to check through the church writers before Priscillian for knowledge of the Comma; and because of subsequent history, particular attention must be paid to North Africa. In Tertullian’s Adversus Praxean (25.1; CC 2, 1195), written ca. 215, he comments on John 16:14 in terms of the connection among the Father, the Son, and the Paraclete: “These three are one thing [unam] not one person [unus] as it is said, ‘My Father and I are one’ [John 10:30]” This is scarcely a reference to the Comma, but it should be kept in mind as we turn to Cyprian (d. 258), another North African.26 In De ecclesiae catholicae unitate 6 (CC 3, 254) Cyprian states, “The Lord says, ‘The Father and I are one [John 10:30],’and again of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit it is written, ‘And three are one.”27 There is a good chance that Cyprian’s second citation, like the first, is Johannine and comes from the OL text of I John 5:8, which says, “And these three are one,” in reference to the Spirit, the water, and the blood. His application of It to the divine trinitarian figures need not represent a knowledge of the Comma,28 but rather a continuance of the reflections of Tertullian combined with a general patristic tendency to invoke any scriptural group of three as symbolic of or applicable to the Trinity. In other words, Cyprian may exemplify the thought process that gave rise to the Comma. That Cyprian did not know the Comma Is suggested by its absence In the early Pseudo-Cyprian work Dc rebaptismate which twice (15 and 19; CSEL 38, 88, 92) cites the standard text of I John 5:7_. 8.29Similarly other church writers, even in North Africa, who knew Cyprian’s work show no knowledge of the Comma. In particular, the mid-sixth-century African, Facundus of Hermiane, in his Pro Defensione Trium Capitulorum ad Iustinianum (1.3.9—14; CC 90A, 12—14), cites I John 5:7—8 without the Comma (which he does not seem to know) as proof for the Trinity—the trinitarian references are derived from the significance of the Spirit, the water, and the blood. Facundus then goes on to quote Cyprian in the same vein, thus understanding Cyprian to have given a trinitarian interpretation of the standard I John text.

25 These may be seen from comparing the Comma In Priscillian’s Liber apologeticus, in Contra Varimadum, and in the Palimpsest of León.

26 It has been argued seriously by Thiele and others that Cyprian knew the Comma, a knowledge which would make second- or third-Century
North Africa the most probable area of origin. I would rather speak of area of formation.

27 See also Cyprian’s Epistula 73.12 (CSEL 32, 787) where the same “three are one” statement is applied to God. Christ, and the Spirit without a reference to Scripture.

28 Somewhat favorable to Cyprian’s knowledge of the Comma is that he knew other Latin additions to the Greek text of I John, e.g., the addition to 2:17 (NOTE on 2: 17e). Unfavorable to knowledge of the Comma is his use of “Son” instead of "Word,” although that is an occasional variant in the text of the Comma, e.g., Fulgentius, Contra Fabianum (Frag. 21.4; CC 91.4, 797), applies the “three are one” to the Divine Persons, and speaks of the “Son.” while in his Responsio contra Arianos (cited above) he speaks of the “Word.”

29 The Pseudo-Cyprianic Sermo de Centesima, published by L Reitzenstein, ZNW 15 (1914) 60—90, is attributed by H. Koch, ZNW 31(1932) 248, to fourth-century Africa and (possibly) to a follower of Priscillian, drawing upon Cyprian’s works. It speaks of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as “three witnesses” without any reference to I John (PL Supp 1, 65; Reitzenstein, 87).


Ancient Magic and Ritual Power
edited by Paul Mirecki, Meyer


The Making of a Heretic
Virginia Burrus

Priscillian's introductory remarks include a condemnation of the "Binionites," those who divide Christ from God.[57] All the tractates place great stress on the unity of Christ and God, and Priscillian may well have created the Binionites—who appear only in his writings—as a fitting counterpart to his own highly unitive theology.[58]

58. Chadwick suggests that the "Binionite" heresy was coined by Priscillian in response to accusations that he was a "Unionite," pointing out that the term "Unionita" is applied to Sabellius by a work falsely attributed to Jerome ( Indiculus de haeresibus ), which may be based on the Apology of Ithacius ( Priscillian of Avila , p. 87). However, there is in fact no evidence that Priscillian's unitive theology was an issue in the controversies of his lifetime. In 400, trinitarian issues were implicitly raised in the demand of the Council of Toledo that the Galicians Symphosius and Comasius condemn Priscillian's statement that the Son is innascibilis ( Exemplar , ll. 27-37, 52-58). It was not until the second decade of the fifth century that Orosius explicitly charged Priscillian with trinitarian errors: "Trinitatem autem solo verbo loquebatur, nam unionem absque ulla existentia aut proprietate adserens sublato 'et' patrem filium spiritum sanctum hunc esse unum Christum docebat" ( Commonitorium de errore Priscillianistarum et Origenistarum 2). Several mid-fifth-century documents that also stem from Galicia associate Priscillianism with the failure to distinguish adequately between the persons of the Trinity and consequently with the claims that either God suffered or the man Jesus did not suffer. But Abilio Barbero de Aguilera argues that the anti-Priscillianist Regula fidei falsely attributed to the Council of Toledo (400) is in fact a mid-fifth-century revision of a fourth-century document reflecting the trinitarian concerns of an earlier, pre-Priscillianist era; the redacted Regula fidei in turn shaped the anti-Priscillianist Commonitorium and Libellus that Turibius of Astorga addressed to Leo of Rome (preserved only in Leo, Ep. 15) and the anti-Priscillianist chapters of the Council of Braga (561) ("El priscilianismo: ¿Herejía o movimiento social?" 25-41)


Continue checking Grantley-Westmisnter and RGA, Tarmo Toon, KJVToday and Tim Dunkin, skim Burrus and more.
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Steven Avery

Athanasius Disputation with Arius

July 13, 2021

matthew - good questions.

Steve Waldron runs over a lot of info, I will only cover your question about John Gill and Athanasius

Die pseud-athanasianische Disputatio contra Arium is one of the Greek evidences for the authenticity of the heavenly witnesses. Annette von Stockhausen shared:

"My idea was that it's a writing probably meant and composed as an introductory text of an early collection of works of Athanasius (ep.Aeg.Lib. and Ar I-III) that was maybe compiled in Alexandria. It's more 5th century than 4th century (but I have no "real" indications for that, I must admit) and I tentatively proposed the young Cyrill of Alexandria as author (also: no hard evidence, but the feeling that Cyrill and Alexandria could be fitting for the text)." .. correspondence

Here is the Greek text translated:

“But the absolving and quickening and sanctifying laver, without which no one shall see the kingdom of heaven—is it not given to the faithful in the Thrice-Blessed Name? And in addition to all these things, John
says, ‘And the Three are One."

The disputed text in St. John
Henry Thomas Armfield

The textual critics have handled this poorly.

Cyprian, Jerome and other evidences deserve a separate discussion.

Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY, USA

Heavenly Witnesses

Steven Avery

Ehrman blog

There are two evidences that need special attention.

Cyprian - Unity of the Church 1.6, quoted John 10:30 and:

The Lord says, "I and the Father are one"
and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
"And these three are one."

The critics often try to pretend that Cyprian was involved in an invisible allegorization of the earthly witnesses. An absurd position, but common today. Scrivener at least said it was "surely safer and more candid to admit that Cyprian read v. 7 in his copies". Franz Pieper is excellent as well.

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.


Steven Avery

Potamius of Lisbon - made easier to read.
(For heavenly/earthly witnesses, I simply BOLD the text, so the reader can see the context without Conti or me placing in a verse number.)

● Letter to Athanasius the Bishop of Alexandria on the consubstantiality of the Son of God. You must justly admit that, when your poisonous desire of impure slander was inflamed, the venerable fathers transfixed you with pious arrows in that holier council. Here also it is clearly shown that you held before you fetters of malicious distortion, since the Savoir says: "I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of him who sent him." (John 6:38) What do you answer, serpent? Is it really possible that you seek to obfuscate the brightness of this [PAGE 138] pure profession, which they consider to be a very small problem? The occasion has a bearing on the matter. The Lord our Savior appeared to mankind as a human being, since he had clothed himself with a human body. Therefore, he said: "I have come down from heaven not to do my own will." (John 6:38) He denied the exercise of the humanity that was in him. Therefore, he cries out in order to proclaim in himself the predecessor whom he remembers as his Father and begetter. Since the Son is named second, therefore he who precedes is greater: but, because "these three are one", the substance of him who sends and of him who is sent, in the context of the unity of the Godhead, is one: "I and the Father are one." (John 10:30), and "He sees me, sees the Father." (John 14:9) and, as the Savoir himself said to the Apostles: "I have been so long with you and yet you do not know the Father." (John 14:9)

(Potamius of Lisbon. "Letter to Athanasius the Bishop of Alexandria on the consubstantiality of the Son of God" in the life and works of Potamius of Lisbon edited and translated by Marco Conti, 1998, p. 136)

● Letter on the Substance of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 3. With good reason John asserts: 'and the three of them are one' 'Substance ' is the expression of a single entity. In fact the substance of a thing is the totality of that through which a thing exists. Thus 'substance' will set a certain condition under a certain authority, or shows that a certain condition is subjected to it. As a consequence 'substance' is that through which the perplexity of faith is resigned and the unity of the Trinity is bound together.

(Potamius of Lisbon. "Letter on the Substance of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" in the life and works of Potamius of Lisbon edited and translated by Marco Conti, 1998, p. 150)

● Letter on the Substance of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 10. And now, if you agree, since we have burst out from the spring of the Trinity, let us examine again, like keen investigators, the innermost nature of the 'substance', from which the spring gushes and flows out. Thus the Savior proclaimed: 'The Father and I are one' (John 10:30). Likewise John says: "And the three of them are one'. And David also: "For this purpose God has anointed you, your God' (Ps. 44:8) he says - that is, the God to whom David's words, the half of your part of which he is the whole. 'Yours' - he says - that is devoted to you, to whom your yourself should be made over. He is 'yours' to whom the words are spoken, or 'his' who comes, or 'of him' whom he frequently meets.'Your God', he says, to whom you certainly belong, with whom you are associated thanks to unity, or who, from his 'substance', is associated with you. But since the power of the Father is the Son, the power itself pertains to its 'substance', because 'substance' cannot exist without power. With good reason the 'substance' of the Father and the Son is one.

(Potamius of Lisbon. "Letter on the Substance of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" in the life and works of Potamius of Lisbon edited and translated by Marco Conti, 1998, p. 156)

● Letter on the Substance of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 19. What the Son made, the Father caused. What the Father wanted, the Son fulfilled. The Father ordered all that the Son commanded. The will of the Father is everything for which the Son feels compassion: in fact the Word of God, Christ, that is the power of the Father, has put everything into effect. That is why the Father has made all that the Son has ordered. Indeed the Father with his power, when the Son descended to the underworld, through the Son and his self-same power, broke the adamantine bars of hell, and with the word of power evoked the dead men from the bowels of the abyss, and with the flaming sword of his mouth, according to the judgement delivered by his Christ, exiled the devil. This is one substance, this is the invisible and eternal majesty, this is the everlasting unity of the undivided Trinity. As John says: 'And the three of them are one'. And Peter implores 'three tabernacles' (Mark. 9:4), and 'every word is confirmed by three witnesses' (Matt. 18:16).

(Potamius of Lisbon. "Letter on the Substance of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" in the life and works of Potamius of Lisbon edited and translated by Marco Conti, 1998, p. 162)

Steven Avery

André Wilmart (1876-1941) - French
Richard Patrick Crosland Hanson (1916-1988)
Manlio Simonetti (1926-2017)
Marco Conti (b. 1961)
Antonio Montes Moreira (b. 1935)

Are scholars who discuss authorship.
It is likely Potamius although some allow other possibilities in the mid 4th century.

Andrew Criddle referenced Hanson and brought up the authorship here.