1 John 5:7-8 – King James Version error

The translators of the KJV may have incorporated many of Erasmus’ corrections but not all of it. One example is that the KJV contains Matt. 6:13 even though it is not in Erasmus’ Textus Receptus (a correction Jerome’s old Latin Vulgate). So why do we continue to keep it in the Lord’s Prayer? Tradition I guess. The KJV translators also incorporated some of Erasmus’ later errors too. The 3rd edition of his Greek-Latin New Testament added the clause of 1 John 5:7-8. The KJV translators must have used the 3rd edition rather than the 1st or 2nd editions because the KJV also contains the short clause of 1 John 5:7-8. This is one of the numerous errors that eventually got inserted into the KJV, which still remains in the NKJV too. This clause is an issue in the KJV-only movement but they claim that non-KJV bibles have erroneously removed this vital clause that supports the trinitarian theology of Father-Son-Holy Spirit. All modern translations using the newer critical Greek manuscripts, e.g., T/NIV, NASB, N/RSV, NLT, have removed the erroneous clause. The NKJV has stuck loyally with the outdated Textus Receptus.

KJV: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. (also in NKJV)
TNIV: For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
NASB: For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
NRSV: There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree.

The NKJV footnote says: “NU-Text and M-Text omit the words from in heaven (verse 7) through on earth (verse 8). Only four or five very late manuscripts contain these words in Greek.” It is probable that St. Cyprian, a 3rd century Church father, added this clause in his sermon to elaborate on the Latin Vulgate. He quoted John 10:30 and added in this clause. It is also interesting that he did not quote this from the book of First Epistle of John but that he added it while quoting from the Gospel of John. It is most likely that St. Cyprian’s sermon, which contained this clause, eventually got included into the Latin Vulgate later on, which in turn, got translated back into some of the Greek manuscripts.

The TNIV footnote says: “Late manuscripts of the Vulgate testify in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8 And there are three that testify on earth: the (not found in any Greek manuscript before the fourteenth century).” The early Church Fathers who debated the Arians concerning the trinity would have loved this clause but even they did not ever mention this in their writings. Clement of Alexandria, who debated about the trinity, did not include the clause of 1 John 5:7-8. Neither did Tertullian nor St. Jerome use it. The writings of St. Jerome (4th c.) did not contain this clause either.

If earlier manuscripts and Church Fathers knew nothing of this 1 John 5 clause, why should the KJV-only movement keep insisting that it should be in the bible? I wonder if the translation committee of a future updated NKJV will ever use the newer critical Greek manuscripts? People seem to keep buying these N/KJV bibles (according to CBA bible sales) even though they are not based on the oldest manuscripts. Maybe it’s all perception as to which is supposed to be the most accurate or truest version? (above picture: Erasmus)

9 thoughts on “1 John 5:7-8 – King James Version error

  1. CYPA, welcome to NewEpistles. I didn’t mean to offend you as a pro-KJV reader. It does amaze me that the KJV continues to be used by so many people…and you are right, it will still be around for the next few hundred years.


  2. Kevin, I think it will not die out. Until now, the KJV, after 100+ years, from 1901, is still on the first three top sellers in the market. If we will use that rate (100 years, go down by 3 steps), the KJV is at least at the 6th top seller. And you would have to wait more hundreds of years if you would expect for the KJV to die out.
    Besides, those evangelicals who use the KJV are the people who are more zealous to bring the Gospel to remote nations, and will therefore use the KJV either as the standard version, or the text for translation.
    Besides, I’m not an ‘old woman,’ and I haven’t even read the ‘prayerbook,’ but as an 18-year old person, I prefer the KJV than any other translation, and I will pass it on to my children.


  3. Whoops, I also found 5 more between years 1611 and 1885: 1) the Thompson’s translation (1808), 2) Webster’s Revision (1833), 3) Brenton’s English Translation of the Septuagint (1851), 4) Young’s Literal Translation (1862), and 5) Julia E. Smith Parker’s Translation (1876). But I think my previous point is still valid.


  4. I think you’re onto something Joe. I just realized that in the 100 years since 1901, there has been 24 new English translations produced to date (plus others). But 100 years before 1901, to my knowledge, I know of only one called the English Revised Version (ERV) (1881-85). And between 1611 and the ERV (1885), there was also only one, the revision of the Douay-Rheims (1749-50).

    It’s amazing! Like technology this century, we have also seen a huge increase in the number of bible translations. I think the chances are high that use of the KJV will die out in the next 100 years.


  5. It is interesting, Kevin. And the ASV is nearly non-existent. I have it in electronic form on my Libronix. Of course, the ASV has been superceded by the NASB.

    One thing that I would think will cause the KJV to diminish . . . a lot of older folks grew up with the KJV. They never switched because they are simply used to the KJV. This trend it would seem should go down. People born in the 70’s and beyond will have much smaller numbers raised on the KJV, no stats – just my supposition.

    It would be interesting to see where it is in 100 years. Maybe we’ll get to see where it is in 50. How much of its sustaining ability will be due to KJVO? Why else would anyone choose the KJV over modern translations or the NKJV unless they buy into KJVO argumentation?


  6. Joe, you might be right and it’s something I wondered about too. If someone came up with the bright idea of updating the KJV, it might no be as popular as it is today….but remember that the ASV came out in 1901 and its translators probably thought that it would replace the KJV. Well, 106 years later, the KJV is still # 1, 2, or 3 on the best-sellers list. Unbelievable!! It sure surprises me how many people out there still read the KJV. And who knows, maybe 100 years from now, it still might be on the top 10 best-sellers if it’s survived for the last 400 years.


  7. Hey Kevin, Thanks for your help with links. Let me post a link to an article I recently wrote on this verse.

    I don’t think the NKJV will ever use the newer critical text. Using the Textus Receptus is the single thing that makes the NKJV distinct from translations such as the ESV and NASB while updating the KJV language (most of the time). If they had done the NKJV 100 years earlier, perhaps it would simply be the newest revision of the KJV rather than its own translation.


  8. And the 1962 preface also says something of that sort:
    “And always there has been the understanding that no alterations should be made which would involved or imply any change of doctrine of the Church as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer, or any other alteration…”

    I am surprised the 1962 Anglican prayerbook, Canadian, still used the KJV. I am really surprised they didn’t use the RSV, which would already have been published by 1952. I don’t think the 1985 Book of Alternative Services used the RSV either. The RSV would have been a much better translation than the KJV but maybe the Anglican Church wasn’t ready for it yet?


  9. Kevin,

    Some things are in the Anglican prayerbook because they predate the KJV. The prayerbook, 1549, was not revised to line up with the KJV, 1611.

    In the preface to my edition of the prayerbook, Candian Revision, 1918, it says,

    “The book of common prayer is a priceless possession of our Church. By its intrinsic merits as a book deigned for the reverent and seemly worship of Almighty God, as well as by its historic associations it has endeared itself to generation after generation of devout Christians throughout the world. None would desire or advocate any change therein which would impair or lessen this deep-seated affection.”

    The 1662 preface says something similar. As long as it is comprehensible and not against sound doctrine then no revision.


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