NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XLIX) 12/22/22
5:7-8 So we have these three witnesses: the voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, the voice from heaven at the Anointed One’s baptism, and the voice before He died. And they all say the same thing: Jesus the Anointed One is God’s Son.
As the Apostle John walked with Jesus, he heard the Pharisees upbraid the Master by challenging Him: “All we have is your word that you are the Light of the world. We need more to go on than this.” Jesus was quick to reply, “You’re right, you only have My Word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I came from and where I’ll go next. You must decide according to what you can see and hear.” But after traveling and being with Jesus for over three years, John was ready to be one of those witnesses. All John needed to do was to recall from the texts of the prophets what they had to say. For instance, Isaiah noted that God merely spoke, and the heavens and all the galaxies of stars were formed. Now they have all creation as evidence of His divinity.
Besides, Jesus testified in the Synagogue in Nazareth that the Spirit of the Lord God is upon Him because the Lord anointed Him to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He sent Him to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to sin’s captives, and to open the eyes of the physically and spiritually blind. But if these doubters wanted more, John could testify that as soon as Jesus came out of the Jordan River, the skies opened, and he saw God’s Spirit – it looked like a dove – descending and landing on Him. Then, besides the Spirit, they heard a voice: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by My love, the delight of My life.”
Yet there’s more. When Jesus took them up to a nearby mountain, John was with Peter and James. As they watched, suddenly, His face glowed with brilliant light. His clothes were illuminated. Then they realized that Moses and Elijah were also conversing deeply with Him. Then, a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am wonderfully pleased with Hm. Obey Him.” Therefore, Jesus could tell His critics; You have my word as a witness and the expression of My Father who sent Me as another witness. Then the Master backs His critics into a corner. If you think I’m merely boasting about Myself, that doesn’t count. But it is my Father – and you claim Him as your God – who is saying these glorious things about Me.
But Jesus has no plans on turning down the heat. On the contrary, he tells them, you still won’t believe that I’m the Messiah unless I do miracles by God’s power. And when I do, you can at least assume they are authentic, even if you aren’t convinced I’m an honest man. Doing that will help you be confident that the Father is in me and me in the Father. But another opportunity came for more witnesses to be won to His Messiahship. Some Greeks came to Jerusalem for the Passover. They contacted Philip and told him they wanted to meet Jesus. So, Philip told Andrew they carried the request to Jesus. Jesus responded with a somewhat mystic exclamation, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He looked to heaven and said, “Father, bring glory and honor to Your name.” Then a voice from heaven said, “I have already done this, and I will do it again.” In other words, God does not speak to anyone like that except the Messiah. Hopefully, these doubting Jews will start seeing He is God’s Son. Then they can become witnesses too.
Those who bear witness are three and thus constitute full legal testimony. It will be assumed here, without discussion, that the remainder of this verse and the first clause of verse eight are spurious. Words that are not contained in a single Greek manuscript, nor in a single Greek writing earlier than the fourteenth century (the two which include the passage being translated from the Vulgate), nor are quoted by a single Greek Father during the Trinitarian controversy, nor are found in any authority until late in the fifth century, cannot be genuine.
COMMENTARY AND HOMILETICS
This verse has comments, interpretations, and insights of the Early Church Fathers, Medieval Thinkers, Reformation Theologians, Revivalist Teachers, Reformed Scholars, and Modern Commentators.
With philosophic-theologic intensity, early Church scholar Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD) does not address this verse in his commentary. Likewise, when Erasmus printed his first edition of the Latin Vulgate (1516 AD), he omitted this verse because it was not in any of the Greek manuscripts he used. However, it is found in some early manuscripts in the margin before it became part of the main text.
The course Latin of early church writer Tertullian of Carthage (155-220 AD) alerts Bible scholars to his familiarity with Greek idioms and forms of thought. Since he wrote in Greek, there is no reason to doubt that he knew the Greek Scriptures. There is the possibility that we owe Tertullian the dawning of Old African Latin Versions of the Bible, some of which seem to have contained the disputed text here in verse seven. So, in the absence of definite evidence, we must infer that Tertullian usually translated from the Septuagint Version and the original manuscripts of the Final Covenant.
It appears clear that Tertullian was quoting verse seven when he wrote: These Three are one essence, not one Person, as it is said, “My Father and I are One.” However, a Greek expert named Richard Porson (1759-1808) says, “In my opinion, the passage in Tertullian, far from containing an allusion to 1 John 5:7, furnishes most decisive proof that he knew nothing of the verse.” The conclusion seems that verse seven, as part of Scripture, ought to be left untouched in the Versions where it stands, although it is not part of the Greek Testament.
Not a thinker, philosopher, or theologian, but a sophisticated gentleman with vast energies, Thascius Cæcilius Cyprianus (200-258 AD), bishop of Carthage, better known as Cyprian, begins talking about the spouse of the Anointed One – the Church. She cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. The Church knows one home and guards the sanctity of one intimate relationship with faithful modesty. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. So, whoever is separated from the Church and joined to an adulterous world, is separated from the promises to the Church. Those who forsake the Church of the Anointed One cannot enjoy the rewards of the Anointed One. They are strangers; they are irreverent; they are an enemy. They can no longer have God for their Father if the Church is not their mother. If anyone could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, they may also escape who are outside of the Church. But the Lord warns, saying, “Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.”
Cyprian goes on to say that those who break the peace and harmony of the Anointed One do so in opposition to Him; they gather elsewhere other than the Church, thereby scattering the Church of the Anointed One. Again, the Lord says, “The Father and I are one,”Again, it is written of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, “And these three are one.” Does anyone believe unity, which comes from God’s divine strength and is bound in the holy sacraments, can be divided in the Church and separated by parting ways with opposing wills? Those who do not hold this unity do not hold on to God’s law, do not hold the faith of the Father, and the Son does not grasp onto life and salvation. We must remember that the Roman Empire did not become Christian until 313 AD when emperor Constantine declared it so. Therefore, Cyprian is speaking of the Church as the Body of the Anointed One.
Some biblical authorities have attributed the following treatise on rebaptism to the pen of a monk named Ursinus (died 496 AD). He wrote against those who say that heretics should be rebaptized, teaching that it is not legitimate nor honoring God, that those should be rebaptized who have been baptized either in the name of the Anointed One alone or in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. However, the formula has been used in a diminished sense since then. Ursinus said that after the simple confession of the Holy Trinity and the Anointed One, the imposition of the hands of the catholic priest is sufficient for salvation.
The announcement of John the Baptizer to the Jews, “I baptize you with water. But One who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Moreover, the teaching of Apostle John includes, “There are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree as one.” Then there are our Lord’s words: “John baptized people with water, but in a few days, God will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” So, let us be careful so that none may think that we are stirring up the debate on a single article, except among those who fear God, so they maintain a low profile.
With a studious monk’s spiritual insight, Bede the Venerable (672-735 AD) comments that the Spirit bore witness that Jesus was the truth when He descended on Him at His baptism. If Jesus were not the truth, the Spirit would not have affirmed His Sonship were this not authentic. Likewise, the water and the blood witnessed Jesus is the truth by flowing from His side at the time of His crucifixion. That would not have been possible if He had not taken on a genuine human nature. The water, blood, and Spirit are independent. Yet, their testimony is the same because the Anointed One’s divinity is not to be believed apart from His humanity, nor His humanity to be accepted apart from His divinity. And all three are also present in us. Not in their natural form but by the mystical union of our souls with God. So, the Spirit makes us children of God by adoption. The water of the sacred well cleanses us, and the blood of the fountain redeems us. They are invisible in themselves but made visible for our benefit in the sacraments.
 Ibid. 8:13-14
 Psalm 33:6
 Isaiah 61:1
 Matthew 3:16
 Ibid. 17:1-5
 John 8:18
 Ibid. 8:54
 Ibid. 10:37-38
 Ibid. 12:28
 Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1
 Clement of Alexandria: Adumbrations, loc. cit.
 Tertullian, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3, American Edition, Arranged by A. Cleveland Coxe, cit., p. 621
 John 10:30
 For the details of the memorable controversy in the passage, the student may consult Frederick Henry Scrivener, “Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament;” Samuel P. Tregelles, “An Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament;” John Selby Watson, “The Life of Richard Porson;” Professor Ezra Abbot, “Orme’s Memoir of the Controversy on 1 John 5:7;” Charles Foster, “A New Plea for the Authenticity of the Text of the Three Heavenly Witnesses,” or “Porson’s Letters to Travis Eclectically Examined,” Cambridge, 1867
 Matthew 12:30
 John 10:30
 1 John 5:7
 Cyprian: Treatise 1, On the Unity of the Church, p.423, ⁋6
 Gennadius of Massilia, Jerome, and Gennadius, Lives of Illustrious Men, Ursinus, Ch. XXVII
 Luke 3:16
 1 John 5:8
 Acts of the Apostles 1:5
 A Treatise on Re-Baptism by an Anonymous Writer. ⁋19, p. 677
 Bede the Venerable: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Gerald Bray, ed., op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 224