“Word for Today” – 1 John 5 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

November 11, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


TLSB 1Recently, I received as a gift the new The Lutheran Study Bible.  I own several study Bibles, and make regular use of them for different purposes according to their strengths.  Like most study Bibles, The Lutheran Study Bible contains the biblical text on the top half of its pages with extensive notes marking the bottom half of its pages.  These notes contain important interpretive commentary as well as quotes from the church fathers and even the occasional prayer to assist me as I meditate on a particular biblical text.

One of the concerns that many study Bible publishers share, including those who published The Lutheran Study Bible, is that a clear demarcation be made between the biblical text itself and the notes on the biblical text.  For as helpful as study notes may be, and as salutary as the doctrine that they confess may be, a study Bible’s notes are not the inspired, inerrant words of God.  Another study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, explains thusly:

The ESV Study Bible contains two kinds of words.  The first kind is the actual words of the Bible, which are the very words of God to us.  These are printed in the larger font at the top of each page.  The second kind is the study notes, which are merely human words.  These are printed in the smaller font at the bottom of each page.  The difference in font sizes serves to remind readers that the words of the Bible itself are infinitely more valuable than the words of the notes.  The words of the Bible are the words of our Creator speaking to us.  (ESV Study Bible, 10)

As valuable as notes on the Word of God might be, it is important, say the publishers of the ESV Study Bible, to distinguish between the words of man on the Word of God and the Word of God itself.  For the latter are inspired and inerrant words while the former are not.

This all brings us to our reading for today from 1 John 5.  For John writes about man’s testimony about God over and against God’s testimony about himself:

This is the one who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. (verses 6-9)

Interestingly, the King James Version of the Bible inserts another sentence immediately before verse 8 not found in the New International Version of the Bible, quoted above.  The KJV includes:  “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost:  and these three are one.”  Why does the NIV not include this sentence?

The earliest biblical manuscript in which this sentence from the KJV appears is Minuscule 88, a twelfth century manuscript, now housed at a museum in Naples.  Notably, this sentence is not included as part of the biblical text, but on the side margin, much like a study Bible note.  Apparently, some early biblical interpreters took John’s reference to “the Spirit, the water, and the blood” in verse 8 to be a reference to the Trinity and so inserted this note clearly proclaiming the doctrine of the Trinity.  With time, this originally marginal note made its way into some manuscripts as part of the actual biblical text!  The translators of the KJV used one such manuscript and so included it in their translation.  More recent scholarship, however, has noted that these words were not originally penned by John as part of his letter.  Thus, they are not included in more modern translations.

Do these words from the KJV concerning the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost teach false doctrine?  Absolutely not!  Are these words helpful in properly understanding the Trinity?  Of course they are!  Then why leave them out from modern translations of the Bible?  Because as true and helpful as these words might be, they are finally words of man, written later, and not part of the inerrant, inspired Word of God.  These words make a terrific note for a study Bible, but they are not part of the Bible itself.

More notes, commentaries, and books have been written on the Good Book than any other book in the history of the world.  Many of the notes, commentaries, and books have lots of enlightening, encouraging, and true things to say.  But remember, they are the words of man on the Word of God, not the Word of God itself.  And nothing can displace or replace the Word of God as primary for a Christian.  Thus, commit yourself to continued reading of God’s Word, first and foremost.  For this is the only Word in which we hear the absolute sure and certain voice of God.  Everything else is just commentary.  And so ends my commentary for today.  Now, go and read your Bible.

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Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – 1 John 4 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – 2 John – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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