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What Did Jesus Say? (2012) - 7 topics 

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Servetus In Line with Erasmus’ Discovery Of Trinitarian Fraud In 1 John 5:7-8 


[Excerpt from Stanford Rives, Did Calvin Murder Servetus (2010) pp. 268-270.]


Servetus never mentions the discovery by Erasmus of the Trinitarian-party’s additions in just the early 1500’s to 1 John 5:7-8.1 Nevertheless, we should note that Servetus was corroborated by that great scholar’s work and reasonings. This bolsters the legitimacy of Servetus’ arguments as truly Christian in spirit.


Erasmus’s correction to 1 John 5:7-8 appeared in the first two editions of Erasmus’ ground breaking translations of the New Testament--in 1516 and 1519. Erasmus was a famous scholar then living in non-Catholic England. (Its king broke from Rome.)


Erasmus was the first to systematically seek to reform the Roman Catholic Church--a decade before Luther. In 1516, Erasmus created a thorough compilation of the Greek New Testament from the best manuscripts. Then he made a translation into Latin. This translation exposed that the most significant proof text for the trinity doctrine was a false addition to a very late edition of the Latin Vulgate. This false verse was found in 1 John 5:7-8 which read in the latest Latin "Vulgate" as of the early 1500s: 


For there are three that bear witness in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. And these three are One.  


The true verse does not have as any part of the subject “Father, the Word.” Also, the true verse says merely the three are the “Spirit, water and blood,” and these three are “in agreement,” not that the “three are one.”2


Hence, the original verse had nothing to do with the trinity doctrine.


Incidentally, Servetus knew of Erasmus’ original correction, and affirmed it without mentioning the modern pious fraud that made 1 John 5:7-8 read trinitarian. Servetus wrote “John cites three pieces of evidence ‘on earth which are the Spirit, the water and the blood.’”3  (This is precisely what Erasmus discovered was the true verse.


Servetus then adds what he thought this meant. These three “show no separate incorporeal entity, but merely that he as a human being was the Son of God and at his death these three witnesses went forth.” Hence, Servetus held firm on what was the valid version of 1 John 5:7-8.


How important was the false version of the verse for trinitarianism? Its significance is exemplified in Milton’s words. Ignorant of the corruption, Milton said 1 John 5:7-8 was the “clearest foundation for the received doctrine of the essential unity of the three persons.”4


But as Goldstone explains, Erasmus detected in 1516 this version of the verse was a false addition:


This passage was generally cited as biblical justification of the Trinity, but the original Greek manuscripts from which Erasmus worked lacked this verse entirely and so he omitted it from translation.5


In response, Erasmus’ “contemporaries” were “shocked by the omission” of such language in Erasmus’ translation.6


Yet, scholars now concur that the trinitarian-party’s false changes (“Father, son” and “three are one”) are lacking in the Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic as well as “the greater part of the ancient Greek manuscripts.”7  [It is also lacking in the Vulgate since its release until a fraudulent addition at some point by the early 1500s.]


Of the Greek manuscripts that include the disputed changes, these changes begin only as a marginal note in the 10th Century. It then appears written into the verse itself only in the 1500’s! Hence, as one Christian scholar put it: “there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek ms [manuscript] until the 1500’s.”8


In other words, this effort to change 1 John took place soon after the pious fraud took place of crafting the first trinitarian church creed--the Athanasian Creed--in the 800’s to make it appear it was written in the 300’s by falsely naming it after Athanasius (who lived 293 - 373 A.D.).9


This change started as a marginal note in the 900’s to the text of 1 John 5:7-8. Then, in the 1500’s, the marginal note replaced the actual text, and was foisted on the credulous Catholics to make them believe the trinity doctrine had some tangential support all along in Scripture.


How did Erasmus respond to the howls that claimed he wrongly rejected the trinitarian-party’s version of 1 John 5:7-8? He offered to put back the words ignored from the [latest Latin Vulgate] verse if any one could produce a Greek text with them. The trinitarian-party, having engaged in numerous pious frauds to this point, could not stop. [A Catholic friar] submitted to Erasmus a purported Greek text but which later scholars now recognize was just another pious fraud. [See footnote 10 below.]


Thus, in 1522, due to a fraud upon Erasmus by Catholic authorities, Erasmus restored the trinitarian version of 1 John 5:7-8 in his edition of the Greek New Testament in 1522. As a result, the King James Bible of 1611, which derived principally from Erasmus’ 1522 edition, “included the spurious verse, despite its absence in the key Greek manuscripts.”10 That’s why we still have it today.




1. Some Servetus scholars believe that Servetus did not know of Erasmus’ discovery “for in that case he would presumably have noticed the omission of the Trinitarian passage in 1 John.” (Bainton, Hunted Heretic (orig. ed. 1953)(Beacon Press, 2005) at 7.) However, we discuss [in this excerpt above] the clear evidence that Servetus did know of this discovery, and one of his arguments relied upon it. See See Servetus, Restoration of Christianity (2007 translation) at 32. and accompanying text.

2. The true verse reads: “There are three on earth that bear witness, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three are in agreement.” W. Hall Harris, III, 1, 2, 3 John -- Comfort and Counsel for a Church in Crisis (Biblical Studies Press, 2003) at 215.

3. Servetus, Restoration (2007 translation) at 32.


4. William Bridges Hunter, John T. Shawcross, John M. Steadman, Purvis E. Boyette, A Milton Encyclopedia (Bucknell Univ. Press, 1983) at 67.


5. Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone, Out of the Flames (N.Y.: Broadway Book, 2002) at 37.


6. Alister E. McGrath, Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought (Blackwell Publishing, 1998) at 148.


7. William Bridges Hunter, John T. Shawcross, John M. Steadman, Purvis E. Boyette, A Milton Encyclopedia (Bucknell Univ. Press, 1983) at 67. Specialist Protestant scholars have elucidated that the manuscript evidence is “decidedly against their authenticity,” explaining these words in 1 John 5:7-8 only appear in eight very late manuscripts, the earliest of which is from the 10th century, but it is there only a “marginal note.” (W. Hall Harris, III, 1, 2, 3 John -- Comfort and Counsel for a Church in Crisis (Biblical Studies Press, 2003) at 214.)


8. W. Hall Harris, III, 1, 2, 3 John -- Comfort and Counsel for a Church in Crisis (Biblical Studies Press, 2003) at 214.

9. [page cross-reference.]

10. Alister E. McGrath, Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought (Blackwell Publishing, 1998) at 148. The rationale for the King James Bible’s position had to do with the fact Erasmus was compelled to put back in the spurious verse after he removed it in the 1516 and 1519 editions of his translation. Stunica was a vocal critic of Erasmus’ omission of this verse. As W. Hall Harris explains, Erasmus responded that “he had not found any Greek manuscript containing these words, but--unwisely as it turned out--promised that if he were shown any one Greek manuscript containing the words, he would insert them.” Around 1521, a Franciscan friar produced the ‘missing words’ in a text probably “written to order” (“who took the words from a [late altered] Latin Vulgate and translated them back into Greek”), and then this was passed to Erasmus as proof of a Greek text contradicting his claims. True to his word, “Erasmus inserted” the spurious verse back into his 1522 edition, known as the third edition of Erasmus. It was this edition that Beza used to create a Greek NT, which in turn the translators of the King James Bible used. This is how it passed back into the King James. But because Luther used the 1519 edition of Erasmus for his translation, the spurious verse did not pass into the German Luther Bible. See, W. Hall Harris, III, 1, 2, 3 John -- Comfort and Counsel for a Church in Crisis (Biblical Studies Press, 2003) at 214-15.