Dale Tuggy

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.


  1. john
    January 7, 2012 @ 12:43 am

    You are not missing something.
    As I,m sure you know the verse which appears in KJV and earlier bibles was probably an overenthusiastic insertion by someone who lived in the middle ages.
    It was never found in any original text.and has been deleted from most modern bibles.
    At one time however it was regarded as the only specific reference to the trinity in the bible.
    If one looks at the Greek version of the verse, one finds that ‘hen’ is used for ‘one’
    This is the same word that is used in –
    John 10v30 “I and the Father are one”(hen)
    1 Corinthians 3 v 8 “the one who plants and the one who waters are one ” (hen)
    Acts 1 verse 17 “he was one of us” (hen)
    Philippians 2v2 “united in spirit and having a common purpose” (hen)

    Best Wishes


  2. Marg
    January 6, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

    I have never been able to understand why 1 John 5:7 should be considered evidence of tri-unity. If indeed there are there 3 in heaven that bear witness, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their witness is “one”.

    That, I notice, is the same conclusion that Clarke suggests. Their testimony is one “thing”. It doesn’t suggest that the three selves are one “being”.

    But maybe I’m missing something.

  3. trinities - Linkage: On the corruption of 1 John 5:7 (Dale)
    July 27, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

    […] brought up this example in a recent post,  because it was for hundreds of years a favorite trinitarian proof text, seemingly the […]

  4. James Goetz
    June 17, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

    My mind boggles when I try to think about a consistent approach to evaluating biblical redaction, glosses, and copy errors. Anyway, I play it safe and never appeal to 1 John 5:7 for Trinitarian doctrine.

  5. Dave Burke
    June 17, 2011 @ 6:44 am


    (I) ‘Corruption’ is an obviously tendentious term for it, since nothing is a corruption unless it introduces a deficiency. You could just as easily call it an improvement

    If it’s a deviation from the original text, it’s a corruption no matter how much theological benefit it appears to provide. Your argument is massively subjective.

    No, we could not just as easily call the Comma Johanneum an improvement. What does it actually improve? Nothing that I can see. It makes a claim that John isn’t actually making, and it introduces an idea which is alien to the context.

  6. Dave Burke
    June 17, 2011 @ 6:18 am

    ^^ That is one of the many reasons why I bought an NET Bible years ago, and never looked back.

    The text may not flow as smoothly as some other versions, and it lacks the poetry of the KJV, but it’s superbly accurate and it’s worth the price for the footnotes alone.

  7. Dale
    June 17, 2011 @ 12:26 am

    OK – “automatically”. But seriously, has anyone ever defended an interpolation on providential grounds?

    About the “Comma” – I was basically remembering this rightly. I think it’d be misleading to say it goes back to the 4th c. The idea, but not, seemingly, the Greek words in copies of the NT.

    Here’s most of the note from the good folks at the NET Bible (emphases added):

    …the infamous Comma Johanneum, has been known in the English-speaking world through the King James translation. However, the evidence – both external and internal – is decidedly against its authenticity. … This longer reading is found only in nine late mss, four of which have the words in a marginal note. … The oldest ms with the Comma in its text is from the 14th century (629), but the wording here departs from all the other mss in several places. The next oldest mss on behalf of the Comma, 88 (12th century) 429 (14th) 636 (15th), also have the reading only as a marginal note (v.l.). The remaining mss are from the 16th to 18th centuries. Thus, there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek ms until the 14th century (629), and that ms deviates from all others in its wording; the wording that matches what is found in the TR was apparently composed after Erasmus’ Greek NT was published in 1516. Indeed, the Comma appears in no Greek witness of any kind (either ms, patristic, or Greek translation of some other version) until a.d. 1215 (in a Greek translation of the Acts of the Lateran Council, a work originally written in Latin). This is all the more significant since many a Greek Father would have loved such a reading, for it so succinctly affirms the doctrine of the Trinity. The reading seems to have arisen in a 4th century Latin homily in which the text was allegorized to refer to members of the Trinity.From there, it made its way into copies of the Latin Vulgate, the text used by the Roman Catholic Church. The Trinitarian formula (known as the Comma Johanneum) made its way into the third edition of Erasmus’ Greek NT (1522) because of pressure from the Catholic Church. …In the final analysis, Erasmus probably altered the text because of politico-theologico-economic concerns: He did not want his reputation ruined, nor his Novum Instrumentum to go unsold. Modern advocates of the TR and KJV generally argue for the inclusion of the Comma Johanneum on the basis of heretical motivation by scribes who did not include it. But these same scribes elsewhere include thoroughly orthodox readings – even in places where the TR/Byzantine mss lack them. Further, these advocates argue theologically from the position of divine preservation: Since this verse is in the TR, it must be original. (Of course, this approach is circular, presupposing as it does that the TR = the original text.) In reality, the issue is history, not heresy: How can one argue that the Comma Johanneum goes back to the original text yet does not appear until the 14th century in any Greek mss (and that form is significantly different from what is printed in the TR; the wording of the TR is not found in any Greek mss until the 16th century)? Such a stance does not do justice to the gospel: Faith must be rooted in history. Significantly, the German translation of Luther was based on Erasmus’ second edition (1519) and lacked the Comma. But the KJV translators, basing their work principally on Theodore Beza’s 10th edition of the Greek NT (1598), a work which itself was fundamentally based on Erasmus’ third and later editions (and Stephanus’ editions), popularized the Comma for the English-speaking world. Thus, the Comma Johanneum has been a battleground for English-speaking Christians more than for others.

  8. Brandon
    June 16, 2011 @ 6:14 pm

    A better example with regard to (II) is the ending of Mark: certainly not original to the Gospel, however early it may be. But originalists won’t bat an eye at that. The Johannine Comma is not so securely throned, but it won’t be ruled out automatically for the same reason the ending to Mark isn’t ruled out automatically.

  9. Brandon
    June 16, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

    This is precisely what I mean by controversial assumptions.

    (I) ‘Corruption’ is an obviously tendentious term for it, since nothing is a corruption unless it introduces a deficiency. You could just as easily call it an improvement (which it is, if we’re talking literarily; even in Greek Fathers who obviously don’t have it in their text, like Nazianzen, noted that the grammar of the sentence is very poor; the interpolation completely fixes the syntactical problems without changing anything else). Why not ‘gloss’ or ‘redaction’ or ‘supplement’ or even just ‘interpolation’? All of them work just as well, and are as correct as regards the fact, without introducing any tendentious assumption about status.

    (II) And obviously there was an original version of the gloss, so originalism doesn’t necessarily rule it out, any more than it rules out I and II Samuel, or the book of Acts, because they relied on prior sources. The question is whether the original version was inspired; this is not proven merely by showing it joined the rest of the canon later.

    The Johannine Comma goes back at least to the fourth century, though, and possibly to the third, since it played a role in the West in disputes over Arianism; and is in a minority of Greek manuscripts going back at least to the tenth century (although in some cases as a marginal note).

    Also, the story about Erasmus is apocryphal; he seems not to have put it in originally simply because none of the Greek manuscripts originally available to him had it and he was using only Greek manuscripts; but he also seems to have actively looked to find one that did. That it was not in every manuscript was known in the West at least since the thirteenth century, when the Fourth Lateran Council explicitly mentioned the fact.

  10. Dale
    June 16, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

    Inspired corruptions?

    I guess I’m assuming that it was properly speaking the originals which were inspired.

    I think the line you suggest would be a hard sell in the present case. I’m away from my books right now, but I recall that this is the one which doesn’t occur in any pre-modern Greek MS or church father quote. I believe Erasmus was the first to rat it out, but then restored it under pressure.

  11. Brandon
    June 16, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

    In fact, up until I think some time in the late 19th c., trinitarians thought they had something pretty close: 1 John 5:7. (Compare the KJV with any modern translation.)

    It’s not relevant to the main argument (with which I largely agree; theologians often allow themselves an absurd amount of looseness), but it should be pointed out that many of us still do; holding the gloss as noncanonical because it is later requires assumptions about the nature of Scripture (and canonicity) that are controversial at the least.

  12. James Goetz
    June 16, 2011 @ 9:03 am

    Dave – LOL. I have to ponder this new terminology…

    I propose that apologists should be called Trinitarians or unitarians while polemists should be called anti-trinitarian or anti-unitarian. 🙂

  13. Dale
    June 16, 2011 @ 8:34 am

    Any idea on what he was talking about

    Again, I think it was just the sight, as it were, of three co-operating persons (or something somewhat like persons?), each of whom in some sense “is” God. One just discerns the reality, I guess, if one has eyes to see. I think something like that is his claim. No, this is not an argument against any non-trinitarian theory. But at least in the original, in-house piece, he felt no need whatever to address any competition. In a sense this is wholly understandable and reasonable. What is not, is the near absence of unitarian views from sources like this.

  14. Dale
    June 16, 2011 @ 8:26 am

    Dave – LOL. I have to ponder this new terminology…

  15. Dale
    June 16, 2011 @ 8:20 am

    Matt – thanks! Correction made.

  16. Dave Burke
    June 16, 2011 @ 12:12 am

    Why do Trinitarians always characterise every alternative Christology as “anti-Trinitarianism”? I don’t go around accusing them of “anti-Unitarianism.” Perhaps I should.

    Sanders definitely sounds like he subscribes to a form of mysterian theology.

  17. Matt
    June 15, 2011 @ 7:59 pm

    Really enjoyed your post by the way.

    Having read Sanders’ response to your initial response first, I was already frustrated at a number of rather woolly, ill-defined aspects and one rather less charitable one.

    Woolly: for example, on defending his statement that “whole books of the Bible are structured by a Trinitarian logic”, instead of actually giving a reference / example / explanation of what he meant by this in the first place, he just told us what he didn’t mean by logic, vaguely waved a hand at the notion that “logic” needn’t be the strict philosophical kind, muttered something about the logic of cheeseburgers (what?!), and then moved on to justify the “logic” of the overall thrust of his article. I’m still in the dark about these “structures” according to “Trinitarian logic”, which is a shame as they might have been interesting. Any idea on what he was talking about, or was it just the groundless assertion his poor defense of it makes it appear?

    Less charitable: Sanders seemed to be quite content with more than a whiff of ad hominem smear in his article. That, along with his “smug forgetfulness” of the controversial nature of his foundation claim – that the Bible does indeed teach Trinitarianism – supports his final smear, but now of your whole profession!

    Loved your point about leaving the door open to the notion that something’s gone wrong in mainstream theology being something that should be pretty trivial point to protestants. You *should* be right on this one of course, but to so many mainstream protestants I’ve come across they’re now part of such a large and long-established club that it’s become a new orthodoxy. “Sure, something had gone wrong a while back, but luckily we got all that fixed up a while back on the somewhere on the way out of the dark ages”.


  18. James Goetz
    June 15, 2011 @ 5:26 pm


    I am with you on the primary topic of you post. As a Trinitarian, I think it is lame for a fellow Trinitarian to say “it’s a good thing that there’s no ‘Trinity verse’ in the Bible.” 🙂

  19. James Goetz
    June 15, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

    In sophisticated catholic circles c. 200, as best I can tell, it was basically subordinationist unitarians vs. “monarchians,” at least some of whom where humanitarian unitarians. (In the polemical lingo of the day – “psilanthropists” – mere-man-ers, who thought Jesus had only a human nature.)

    Hi Dale, as I mentioned elsewhere, since Arius suggested that Alexander and evidently the entire Nicea Council held to monarchianism (Sabellianism), then perhaps earlier labeling of monarchianism was muddy. For example, many proto-trinitarians in the early church could have been labeled as Sabellians while they did not know how to articulate their view that the Son was equal to God while the Father and Son were distinct persons yet one God.

  20. Matt
    June 15, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

    Hi Dale,

    I hesitate to offer a clarification to your post: in Para 3 it could sound like you’re saying that Newton was the one who inserted the “3 in heaven” – whereas of course he showed it to be a late corruption.

    Interestingly in the same context Newton pointed out the lasting disputes on the Trinity both before, during and after the time of Jerome… during which of course he would certainly have appealed to the “3 in heaven” had that been a part of the text at the time.