the Erasmus Annotationes - English translation

Steven Avery

Raising the Ghost of Arius (2011)
by Grantley Robert McDonald.


(Included under fair use.)
Analysis currently in various spots including:

Erasmus Annotationes - dancing around Jerome's Vulgate Prologue

why did Erasmus include the heavenly witnesses in the 3rd edition?

Erasmus 'craftily concealing' the Cyprian references

evidences not available to Erasmus - or not used properly



There are three that bear witness in heaven.) [1516: In the Greek manuscript text1 I find only this about the threefold testimony: Ὅτιτρεῖςεἰσινοἱμαρτυροῦντες, τὸπνεῦμακαὶτὸὕδωρ, καὶτὸαἷμα, that is: “For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood.”] [1522: In his preface to the Catholic Epistles, St Jerome suspects that this passage has been corrupted by Latin translators, and that the testimony of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was omitted by several people.2 Yet Cyril, in the second-last chapter of book XIIII of the work he calls On the treasure, cites this passage in conformity with our edition:3 “Again,” he says, “John says in the same Epistle, ‘Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood and Spirit,4 Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. There are three that testify:the Spirit, the water and the blood, and these three agree. If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater, etc.’”5 This is what Cyril says, who is—unless I am mistaken—a man of orthodox belief. And since he is fighting here against Arians, and brings against them many testimonies from the holy Scriptures, it is unlikely that he would have omitted that weapon by which they might be vanquished so effectively, if he had either known of it, or believed that it was written by the Apostle.]

[1535: For Cyril infers that the Holy Spirit is God not from what is subjoined—“and these three are one”—but from what follows: “If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater,” which refers to the Spirit, who was mentioned previously.1] [1522: And although Bede, in his careful commentary on this passage, makes an accurate and lengthy exposition of the triple witness on the earth, he made no mention of the testimony of the Father, Son and Spirit in heaven. And this man was certainly not lacking in linguistic skill or diligence in examining ancient manuscripts. Indeed, he does not even add the words “on earth,”] [1527: at least not in the manuscript version of his work,] [1522: but reads simply: “There are three that bear witness.”2 In a manuscript supplied to me from the Franciscan library at Antwerp, there was an annotation about the testimony of the Father, Word and Spirit added in the margin, but it was in a rather recent hand, such that it was clear that it had been added by some learned fellow who did not want this phrase to be omitted,]3 [1535: since there is no mention of the Father, Son and Spirit in the edition of Josse Bade. Bede followed the example of Augustine, who in his books Against Maximinus the Arian, though leaving no stone unturned4 in showing from the canonical Scriptures that the Holy Spirit is God, and that all three persons are of the same substance, nevertheless did not adduce this testimony. Yet he cites this passage [i.e. 1 Jn 5:7-8, without the comma] several times elsewhere, especially in Against MaximinusIII.22, where he argues that the Spirit, blood and water are to be understood as standing for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There he proposes and then inculcates the principle that nothing can be called one except what is of the same substance. If this is as sure as he wants us to believe, then that passage would render him a sure victory by showing successfully that not only is the Son of the same substance with the Father, but also the Holy Spirit. It is therefore quite clear that Augustine did not read this passage in his manuscripts; for if he had read it but had not adduced it, he could have seemed to collude with the enemy, which was nowhere his practice.]

[1522: But we feel the pressure of the authority of Jerome, which I should certainly not wish to disparage, although he is frequently violent, shameless, fickle and inconsistent; however, I do not quite understand what Jerome means at this point.1I shall record his words: “But just as we corrected the Evangelists some time ago according to the rule of truth, we have likewise with God’s help2restored these [Catholic Epistles] to their proper state. The first is a single letter by James, then two of Peter, three by John and one by Jude. If the letters were also rendered faithfully by translators into Latin just as their authors composed them, they would not cause the reader confusion, nor would the differences between their wording give rise to contradictions, nor would the various phrases contradict each other, especially 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.”3 We have repeated Jerome’s words to this point, from which it is clear that Jerome was not complaining about Greek codices, simply about those who translated the Greek into Latin. But precisely that which Jerome complains was omitted is now absent from the Greek manuscripts, whereas it is present in the Latin manuscripts, though not all of them. But from where does Jerome correct the error of the translators? Clearly, from the Greek manuscripts. But they either had what we have translated, or another reading. If another reading, in agreement with the Latin [Vulgate] version, what are his grounds for showing which of the two readings is the more correct, or which written by the Apostle, especially since what he reproaches is what was then in the public usage of the church? If this were not the case, I cannot see how the following passage fits:

“But you, Eustochium, virgin of Christ, by asking me so persistently for the true readings of Scripture, you are in a way exposing me in my old age to be gnawed by the teeth of those who bear me ill-will, and who call me a corrupter of the sacred Scriptures.” Who would have called him a forger, unless he had changed the public reading?1So if Cyril amongst the Greeks read what the Greek codices have now, and if Augustine and Bede amongst the Latins read only this, or both readings, I do not understand what argument Jerome can bring to show that the reading he hands down to us is genuine. Perhaps someone will say, “This was an effective weapon against the Arians.” But firstly, since it is certain that the reading varied both in the Greek and in the Latin traditions, this weapon will be worthless against them, who would doubtless with equal justification claim for themselves whichever reading serves their cause. But imagine that the reading is not in dispute, since what is said about the testimony of the water, blood and Spirit being one refers not to an identity of nature, but to an agreement in testimony, do we really think that the Arians would be so stupid as not to apply the same interpretation to the Father, the Word and the Spirit here, especially since orthodox writers give this same interpretation to a similar passage in the Gospels, since Augustine does not reject this interpretation in his diatribe Against the Arian Maximinus, and since an interlinear fragment of the Glossa ordinariainterprets this very place in this way? “[The three] are one,” says the Glossa, “that is: testifying about the same thing.”2 Satisfying ourselves with little phrases like that does not amount to strengthening the faith, but rendering it more suspect. Perhaps it might be preferable to conduct ourselves in pious pursuits in order to be united with God, than to engage in hair-splitting debates about how the Son is distinguished from the Father, and how the Spirit differs from them both. I for one do not see how the view rejected by the Arians3 can be upheld except with the help of speculative reasoning. But finally, since this entire passage is obscure, it does not have much power to refute heretics. But we have responded to our calumniator on this matter rather fully with an Apologia.

1 Argument repeated from Erasmus’ Responsio ad Annotationes Lei novas (ASD IX.4:324), and (in large part verbatim) Apologia ad Annotationes Stunicæ (ASD IX.2:254-256).
2 Glossa ordinaria, 1603, 1414; the interlinear gloss actually says: “Vnus Deus de eadem re testantes.” On Erasmus and the Glossa ordinaria, see de Jonge, 1975.
3 That is, the orthodox view of the Trinity.

One thing I shall add: though my dear Stunica so often boasts of his Rhodian codex, to which he attributes such authority, he has strangely not adduced it as an oracle here, especially since it almost agrees with our [Latin] codices so well that it might seem to be a “Lesbian straight-edge.”1However—lest I should keep anything hidden—there has been found in England one single Greek manuscript in which occurs what is lacking in the commonly-accepted texts. It is written as follows: Ὅτιτρεῖςεἰσινοἱμαρτυροῦντεςἐντῷοὐρανῷ, πατήρ, λόγοςκαὶπνεῦμα, καὶοὗτοιοἱτρεῖςἕνεἰσιν. Καὶτρεῖςεἰσινμαρτυροῦντεςἐντῇγῇ, πνεῦμα, ὕδωρ, καὶαἷμα. Εἰτὴνμαρτυρίαντῶνἀνθρώπων, etc,2 although I am not sure if it is by accident that the phrase “and these three are unto one,” which is found in our Greek manuscripts, is not repeated at this point [i.e. in verse 8].I therefore restored from this British codex what was said to be lacking in our editions, lest anyone should have any handle to blame me unjustly.3

1Cf. Adag. 493 (Lesbia regula), ASD II.1:563-564: “Quoties praepostere non ad rationem factum, sed ratio ad factum accommodatur [...].” This paragraph is taken from Erasmus’ Apologia ad Annotationes Stunicæ (ASD IX.2:256-258); see de Jonge’s notes to this passage for further information on Erasmus’ sources.

2 This information on the reading in the British codex was first given in Erasmus’ Apologia ad Annotationes Stunicæ (ASD IX.2:258), where Erasmus (or the compositor) in his haste made four errors recording the manuscript reading. The reading in Montfortianus is as follows (the points where Erasmus makes an error in the Apologiaand Annotationesare underlined): Ὅτιτρεῖςεἰσινοἱμαρτυροῦντεςἐντῷοὐρανῷ, πατήρ, λόγοςκαὶπνεῦμαἅγιον, καὶοὕτοιοἱτρεῖςἕνεἰσι. Καὶτρεῖςεἰσινοἱμαρτυροῦντεςἐντῇγῇ, πνεῦμα, [καί erroneously added here in the Apologia, but removed from the Annotationes]ὕδωρ, καὶαἷμα. Εἰτὴνμαρτυρίαντῶνἀνθρώπων[...].Erasmus’ removal of the erroneously inserted καί in the Annotationes indicates that he realised that the reading he had given in the Apologia was faulty; this evidently prompted him to check the manuscript and insert the reading from the comma directly into the text of the New Testament, for the reading there reproduces perfectly that given in Montfortianus. However, he apparently forgot to make the appropriate correction in the Annotationes.

3 Despite what has been asserted since Le Long (1720), this statement is true; in his 1522 edition, Erasmus splices the comma as it appears in Montfortianus (up to the word πνεῦμα in verse 8) into the reading he had given in his 1516 and 1519 editions. On the expression ansa calumniandi, cf. Adag. 304 (Ansam quaerere et consimiles metaphorae), ASD II.1:411-412.

However, I suspect that this codex was adapted to agree with the manuscripts of the Latins.1I have consulted two extraordinarily old manuscripts in the library of St Donatian in Bruges. Neither had the testimony of the Father, Word and Spirit. One of them did not even have the phrase “on earth,” simply: “There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood.” 2] [1527: In both copies at Konstanz, after the testimony of the water, blood and Spirit was added the testimony of the Father, Word and Spirit, with these words: “Just as in heaven there are three, the Father, Word and Spirit, and the three are one.”Neither the words “give testimony” nor the pronoun “these” were added.In the copy available for view at the public library of the University of Basel, the testimony of the Spirit, water and blood does not occur.Additionally, Paolo Bombace, a learned and honest man, made a literal transcription of this passage at my request from a very ancient codex in the Vatican Library, in which the testimony of the Father, Word and Spirit is not mentioned.3 (If the authority of antiquity impresses you, the book was extremely old; if you are impressed by the authority of the pope, it is his library from which this witness was sought.)The Aldine edition agrees with this reading. What Lorenzo [Valla] read is not entirely clear.4

1 Erasmus was evidently aware, even before seeing the Complutensian bible, that Aquinas suggested that the phrase “and these three are one” was added by Arians to make it seem that their unity was only one of testimony or intention, not one of essence; as a result, this phrase was subsequently omitted from many Latin bibles. The unusual omission of this phrase in the Greek text of the British codex made Erasmus suspect its authenticity. See above, chapter 1.6.

2 The information on the codices in Bruges is first mentioned in Erasmus’ Apologia ad Annotationes Stunicæ (ASD IX.2:256); de Jonge, in ASD IX.2:257, notes that this passage refers to a visit to Bruges in August 1521; this passage was written in September 1521.

3 The information on the Vatican codex inspected by Bombace is mentioned in Erasmus’ Apologia ad Annotationes Stunicæ (ASD IX.2:256); de Jonge, in ASD IX.2:257, notes the letter from Bombace containing this information (Epist. 1213) was dated 18 June 1521.

4 Lee had argued that if this variant was so important, it would have been mentioned by Valla, who had seen seven codices of the Greek text; see Erasmus, 1520, 200-201. In his reply to Lee (ASD IX.4:323, 326), Erasmus points out that Valla was a fallible human, and that he himself had seen more than Valla’s seven codices, all of them lacking the comma.

In the meantime the Spanish edition has been brought to me, which conflicts with all the rest, for it reads as follows: Ὅτιτρεῖςεἰσινοἱμαρτυροῦντεςἐντῷοὐρανῷ, ὁπατήρ, καὶὁλόγος, καὶτὸἅγιονπνεῦμα, καὶοἱτρεῖςεἰςτὸἕνεἰσι. Καὶτρεῖςεἰσινοἱμαρτυροῦντεςἐπὶτῆςγῆς, τὸπνεῦμα, καὶτὸὕδωρ, καὶτὸαἷμα. First of all, the exemplar which the Spanish have followed, which, if I am not mistaken, they obtained from the very same library,1 differs from the British codex in this respect: that here the articles are added—ὁπατήρ, ὁλόγος, τὸπνεῦμα—which were not given in the British codex. Secondly, where the British codex had οὗτοιοἱτρεῖς, the Spanish exemplar had simply καὶοἱτρεῖς; and the same thing happens with the Spirit, the water and the blood [in verse 8]. Furthermore, where the British codex had ἕνεἰσι, the Spanish edition gives εἰςτὸἕνεἰσι.Lastly, where the British Codex added καὶοἱτρεῖςεἰςτὸἕνεἰσι also to the earthly witnesses, this phrase is not added in the Spanish edition, at least not here.2 I am quite certain that the phrase εἰςτὸἕν is a Hebraism;3 “I shall be as a father towards him” cannot mean anything but “I shall be his father.”4Now, the Spanish edition added a scholium from the decretals, attributed to St Thomas. It declares that in the testimony of the Spirit, the water and the blood in carefully-copied codices, the phrase “and these three are one” is not added, and that it seems that this was added by those who favoured the Arian teaching.

1 That is, from the Vatican library, repository of codex B, which Erasmus has just mentioned.

2 Erasmus makes two further mistakes in comparing the readings of Montfortianus and the Complutensian edition. Just like the Complutensian edition, Montfortianus lacks the phrase καὶοἱτρεῖςεἰςτὸἕνεἰσιν in 1 Jn 5:8, as Erasmus had already remarked in the Apologia ad Annotationes Stunicæ (ASD IX.2:258) and his comments in the 1522 Annotationes, just a few lines above. This inconsistency can be explained by the fact that these observations were written at different times; by the time Erasmus saw the Complutensian edition, he no longer had access to Codex Montfortianus, which Clement had taken with him to Italy. By 1527 he had evidently forgotten that the phrase καὶοἱτρεῖςεἰςτὸἕνεἰσιν in his text was carried over from the 1516 and 1519 edition. This should not be taken as evidence that Montfortianus and the Codex Britannicus are different manuscripts, only as proof that even Erasmus sometimes made mistakes.

3 Erasmus seems to suggest that the reading in Montfortianus, which contains this apparent Hebraism, looks more trustworthy than that in the Complutensian edition, which lacks it.

4 2 Sam 7:14 (Vulg.).

For if it were added here, it could only be explained as referring to the consensus of their testimony, for Spirit, water and blood cannot be said to be one in nature; and from this it would follow that the preceding statement too, concerning the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, “and these three are one,” could be understood as indicating the consensus of their love and witness. Now with these words John asserted that the essence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is the same. First of all, what they infer is very true: that the nature of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is most simple and indivisible. If this were not the case, the Son would not really be born from the Father, and the Holy Spirit would not really proceed from the Father and the Son, at any rate as God from the substance of God.So far we have dealt with what can be inferred from the verse. But here we are clearly dealing with the reliability of witness, not about the substance of persons. For if this word “one” in many other places means “agreement” rather than “the unity of an individual,” what is so strange in our interpreting it here in a similar way? How often do we read in either Testament “one heart,” “one spirit and soul,” “one voice,” “one mind,” when this signifies agreement and mutual love? Since this trope is so familiar in the Scriptures, what is stopping us from assuming the same meaning here? In Jn 10, the Lord says: “The Father and I are one.”1 How is an Arian going to be vanquished by this evidence, unless you tell him that the word “one” in the Scriptures can only mean “what is of the same substance”? Now, since the Scriptures provide innumerable passages which teach that it can be understood as referring to consent or mutual love, I fail to see how far this will help to confirm the opinions of the orthodox, or to repress the stubbornness of the heretic. However, that Christ is speaking there of the concord he has with the Father can be inferred with a high degree of likelihood, since he is not referring to his statement about being one with the Father, but to the fact that he called God his Father, and was thus in an extraordinary fashion calling himself the Son of God. And in Jn 17 he says, “Holy Father, protect them in your name whom you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”2

1 Jn 10:30; cf. Responsio ad Annotationes Lei novas (ASD IX.4:327).

2 Jn 17:11 (NRSV, altered).

And again, “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us.”1 This entire passage deals with the consensus of love and witness, and whether we want to or not,2 we are compelled to interpret that word “one” in some other way than referring it to the divine persons. Therefore, this passage does not constrain us, unless the authority of the orthodox and a prescription of the church compels us by teaching that this passage cannot be interpreted any other way. For it is pious always to submit our thinking to the judgment of the church as soon as we have heard it make a clear statement. But in the meantime it is not wicked to investigate the truth, though without causing contention, as God reveals different things to different people. But to return to the business of this reading, the evidence we have recalled here shows that the Greek and Latin codices disagree; and in my opinion there is no danger which reading you embrace. For as to what Thomas says, that the passage was added by heretics, first of all he does not affirm it, he simply states, “It is said that....” Otherwise, the Catholic Church throughout the entire world would embrace what was adulterated by heretics. It will torture the grammarians that the Spirit, water and blood are described by the phrases “there are three” and “these are one,” especially since the words “Spirit,” “water” and “blood” are grammatically neuter in Greek. Indeed, the Apostle pays more regard to the sense than to the words, and for three witnesses, as if they were three people, he substitutes three things: Spirit, water and blood. You use the same construction if you say: “The building is a witness to the kind of builder you are.”]

And these three are one.) [1516: The word “these” is redundant] [1519: except as far as the translator added it to make the meaning plain.] [1516: And it should not be “one,” but “unto one,”] [1527: εἰςτὸἕv, as in some manuscripts.

1 Jn 17:21; cf. Responsio ad Annotationes Lei novas (ASD IX.4:327-328).2Cf. Adag. 245 (Nolens volens), ASD II.1:358-359; Adag. 1682 (Volens nolente animo), ASDII.4:137-1
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