CLAIM: In the King James Version, John writes, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” (1 Jn. 5:7-8). Why does the King James Version include this verse, while other versions exclude it?
RESPONSE: There is no anti-Trinitarian conspiracy with modern translations. Instead, modern translations do not include this section (sometimes referred to as the Comma Johanneum), because it does not exist in the earliest manuscripts. Even the footnote in the New King James Version explains, “Only four or five very late manuscripts contain these words in Greek.”
Erasmus—a Catholic scholar and priest—published the first Greek NT in 1516, and he didn’t include this passage. In fact, Erasmus argued that we needed some early Greek manuscript in order to justify adding it to later editions. A Franciscan friar named Froy (or “Roy”) forged a manuscript, and thus Erasmus put this in his third edition in 1522. However, he included a long footnote on how he thought it was a forgery. NT scholar D.A. Carson writes, “Among the thousands of other Greek manuscripts that have come to light since this episode in the life of Erasmus, only three others attest to the reading. One is minuscule 88, a twelfth-century manuscript with the relevant words scribbled onto the margin in a seventeenth century hand; a sixteenth-century copy of the Complutensian Polygot Greek text, which was also under the influence of the Vulgate; and one other manuscript that is variously dated to the fourteenth or seventeenth century. However, the Comma Johanneum is cited in a fourth-century Latin treatise usually attributed to Priscillian. It probably sprang from allegorical exegesis of the three witnesses and, written on an early margin of a Latin manuscript of 1 John, because an established gloss in the Old Latin Bible in the fifth century. It appears in no copy of the Latin Vulgate before AD 800.”