WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LXVII) 01/17/23

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.

With her crafted spiritual insight, Judith Lieu (1951) supposes that the next move appears to be provoked less by clear logic than by a prior association of images. The water and blood now join the Spirit as the source of testimony. Some interpreters refer to these as baptism, and eucharist, along with the gift of the Spirit, mediate and make real for believers the salvation brought by Jesus, God’s Son. However, it remains unlikely that blood would bear a Eucharistic reference, and a more persuasive solution would allow some continuity with the meaning that water and blood carry in verse six.

Spiritual life symbolized by water, and forgiveness, represented by the blood, are given by God, and experienced as realities in the lives of those who believe. But they are no less grounded in the life and death of the Son God sent. Each represents a particular and necessary aspect, yet they are not independent of one another, nor can one be affirmed without the others. John describes them as resulting in one thing; it is the testimony they gave, not what they are in themselves.[1]

Contextual interpretation specialist Gary M. Burge (1952) states that he urged a controversy fueled by spiritual (or charismatic) impulses elsewhere. Teachers claiming anointing by the Holy Spirit were pressing their views on the community.[2] It was the spiritual terrain familiar to the Johannine churches. John, therefore, adds yet another component to his list of witnesses. In verse seven, John adds “Spirit” to “water” and “blood” in verse eight. It reaffirms that all three shared the same view. What did John have in mind? The doctrine of salvation was his chief concern, so he may be thinking of the one whose testimony at the foot of the cross anchors its historical significance by emphasizing its centrality.[3] If the Spirit testifies – and if the beloved disciple is the community’s premier witness – then indirectly, verse eight argues that John’s eyewitness account is Spirit-inspired. The Spirit conveys the truth; the beloved disciple conveys the reality. Therefore, what the Beloved Disciple has said comes from the Spirit.[4]

Emphasizing the Apostle John’s call to the Anointed One’s fellowship, Bruce B. Barton (1954) reiterates that this famous passage, called “the heavenly witnesses,” has been the object of much discussion. It came from a gloss on 1 John 5:8 that explained that the three elements (water, blood, and Spirit) symbolized the Trinity. Somehow, this gloss ended up in the text. The passage has a Latin origin. Its first appearance was in the work of Priscillian, a fourth-century Spanish heretic. It appeared in the writings of the Latin fathers from the fifth century onward and found its way into more and more copies of the Latin Vulgate. But the phrase cannot be found in any Greek manuscript before the eleventh century and was never cited by any Greek father. Erasmus did not include “the heavenly witness” passage in the first two editions of his Greek New Testament. He was criticized for this by defenders of the Latin Vulgate. Erasmus, in reply, said that he would include it if he could see it in just one Greek manuscript. Erasmus kept his promise and had it in the third edition. It became part of the Textus Receptus used in the KJV and NKJV English translations.[5]

As a scholar who truly inspires the Anointed One’s missionaries, Daniel L. Akin (1957), tells us that the first witness the Apostle John calls to testify is Jesus. The word “water” occurs four times in verses six through eight. Some see this as a reference to the water of physical birth, the water that flowed from our Lord’s side when pierced on the cross,[6] or even the two sacraments or ordinances of baptism (water) and the Lord’s Supper (blood). Both Martin Luther and John Calvin held this last perspective. However, the historical context of refuting the false teachings of Cerinthus, who said the Anointed One’s spirit descended on the man Jesus at His baptism but abandoned Him on the cross, points strongly in the direction that John had the baptism of Jesus in mind. The second witness the Apostle calls to the stand is the Anointed One, represented by the “blood,” which occurs three times in verses six through eight.

Therefore, our Savior’s ministry was initiated at His baptism and finished with His bloody death on the cross. Did not Jesus say from the cross, “It is finished?[7] The Apostle John’s third witness to testify concerns Jesus’ divine sonship with God. He is referenced three times in verses six through eight. In verse six, the Bible says the Spirit provides a consistent and continuous witness that Jesus is the Anointed One, and He does so because “the Spirit is the truth.” Jesus said the same thing about the Holy Spirit.[8] [9]

With a classical thinkng aproach to understanding the Scriptures, Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) proposes that the Apostle John’s interest in the assurance of defining “testimony” is at the center of this last passage in verses one to twelve and continues in verse seven because those who testify are three.[10] The second of three references in verses five to nine to “testifying” indicates that, in fact, not one, not the Spirit alone, but three testify. “Those who” mark John’s personification of the water and the blood for having them serve here also as “witnesses along with the Spirit.” Thus, the clause intends to show that the evidence for the assertions just given is beyond any legal doubt. John’s three witnesses attend Jesus’ coming to mark reliably and inform finally and fully not only the identity of Jesus’ person but also the essence of his accomplishment. Therefore, in this trinity of witnesses, each testifies in association with the others. None adequately testifies apart from the rest.

The three witnesses – Spirit, water, and blood – offer testimonies to the person’s significance and the work of the coming One. First, they provide a necessary understanding of Jesus’ suffering and death. According to the Apostle John, Jesus was no mere man;[11] Jesus’ death was no meager execution of a condemned throne-pretender.[12] Instead, Spirit, water, and blood identify Jesus as One who came from heaven above.[13] As one whose being is both divine and human, Spirit, water, and blood inform not just the manner but also the significance of his accomplishment, of giving Himself as the one and only Son[14] who “takes away the sin of the world.”[15] Thus, the Spirit, water, and blood define the life Jesus sacrificed that is ours through Him, namely, the water and blood. So, now we live the life He gave us for Him, like Him, and for others. So, follow His example in His living, loving, suffering, and dying for all.

The baptismal gift of “having our bodies washed with pure water[16] signifies that our reception of the Spirit through Jesus’ baptism[17] is impossible apart from the cleansing flow of Jesus’ blood.[18] So likewise, birth from above[19] through water is impossible apart from giving up Jesus’ human spirit unto death on the cross,[20] not only concerning our but also those of the whole world.[21]

Furthermore, none of His gifts are impossible apart from the offering of His flesh and the spilling of His blood, given and shed for us poor sinners to eat and drink.[22] Thus, Jesus’ suffering and death, the tearing of His flesh, and the spilling of His blood are inseparable from baptism and communion. By this, Jesus gave His flesh as food and His blood as drink to forgive our sins.[23]

Great expositional teacher David Guzik (1961) reiterates that the words in question in verses seven and eight occurred in no Greek manuscript until the fourteenth century, except for one in the eleventh century and one twelfth-century manuscript and added to the margin by another hand. In the first few hundred years of Christianity, there were many theological debates regarding the exact nature and understanding of the Trinity. No one quoted these words in question in all those debates. If John originally wrote them, it seems strange that no early Church fathers would have mentioned them. Though none of the ancient scholars quote from this verse, several of them do quote them. Why skip verse seven, especially if it is such a great statement of the Trinity? All ancient translations exclude this disputed passage – Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopian, Coptic, Sahidic, Armenian, Slavonian, etc. Only in the Latin Vulgate does it appear.

There is no explicit statement of the Trinity woven into the fabric of the Final Covenant. Instead, we find the Father, Son, and Spirit working together as equals, yet distinct personalities.[24] Bible Scholars call this passage found in only three Greek manuscripts “Johannine Comma.[25] First, the Codex Guelpherbytanus appeared in the seventeenth century. [We know this manuscript is from the seventeenth century because it contains a quote from a book written in the seventeenth century]. Second, the Codex Ravianus or Berolinensis. Second, [a copy of a text printed in 1514 because it repeats the same typographical mistakes]. And third, a manuscript “discovered” in the days of Erasmus, the Codex Montfortii. The Greek text of the Final Covenant that Erasmus printed became one of the Greek texts used to make the King James Bible.


[1] Lieu, Judith: A New Testament Library, I, II, & III John, op. cit., p. 214

[2] 1 John 2:27; 4:1-6

[3] John 19:35

[4] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John (The NIV Application Commentary), op. cit., pp. 203-204

[5] Burton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 110-111

[6] John 19:34-35

[7] Ibid. 19:30

[8] Ibid. 15:26

[9] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (the Anointed One-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[10] See Deuteronomy 19:15; 17:6; John 8:17

[11] John 1:13-14

[12] Ibid. 19:19

[13] Ibid. 3:13

[14] 1 John 4:9; see also Jn 1:14,18; 3; 16,18

[15] John 1:29; see also 1 John 1:7,9; 2:1-2

[16] Hebrews 10:12

[17] John 1:33

[18] 1 John 1:7

[19] John 3:3

[20] Ibid. 19:30; cf. Jn 11:33

[21] 1 John 2:2

[22] John 6:27,32-33.35,48-51, 53-58

[23] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, 1-3 John, op. cit., pp. 534-537

[24] Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19; Luke 1:35; John 1:33-34; 14:16; 16:13-15; 20:21-22; Acts of the Apostles 2:33-38; Romans 15:16; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 13:34; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 3:14:16; 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2

[25] The inserted words in verses seven and eight

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s