Let's look closely at one of the most important Greek evidences for the heavenly witnesses authenticity (secondary to the basic mass of Latin mss and ECW, the significance of the preservational imperative, and the super-evidences like Cyprian, Jerome's Vulgate Prologue, the Council of Carthage and the grammatical solecism .. yet still very fundamental. These types of Greek evidences eliminate the objection that the heavenly witnesses was missing from the early Greek. There are many such evidences, this is one of the clearest.)
An evidence that has flown under the radar. Back in December, 2009, we placed this on the Fighting Fundamental Forums (FFF) which has been largely dormant the last few years:
Synopsis of Scripture - 1 John
Today we will add a lot more backdrop
From the Greek Synopsis of Holy Scripture (Synopsis Sacrae Scripture) properly ascribed to Athanasius (more info below). The translation (with verses added, a bit more tweaking planned) here is by:
William Hales (1747-1831)
author of Faith in the holy Trinity and writing in the:
AntiJacobin Review and True Churchman's Magazine, Vol 50 (1816)
Sabellian Controversy---Letter XII
The section is quite beautiful, and about the first epistle of John.
Synopsis of Sacred Scripture
And lastly, St John distinguished
what Spirit is of God, and what of error; (iv. 6,)
and when we are known to be children of God, and of the Devil; (iii. 10.)
and concerning what sin we ought to pray for offenders; (v. 16)
and that he who loveth not his neighbour is not worthy of his vocation, and cannot be called Christ's; (iv. 20,)
he sheweth the unity of the Son with the Father,
and that denieth the Son holdeth not the Father; (ii. 23.)
He distinguisheth further in this Epistle, saying,
that this also is peculiar to Antichrist
, to say that Jesus Christ himself is not the Son;
in order that it may appear, that if he be not,
the liar might say that himself is [the Son.] (ii. 22.)
And throughout the whole epistle,
he exhorteth the believers in the Lord, not to despond,
if they are hated by the world, but rather to rejoice;
because the hatred of this world sheweth that the believers
have passed over from this world,
and are sharers of the heavenly conversation, (iii. 13, 14.)
And at the end of the epistle, he again remindeth them, saying,
that the Son of God is eternal life, and that this is the true God, (v. 20.)
And that we should serve this (God) and keep ourselves from idols." (v. 21)
(There is more before this, given by Armfield below, which is taken from the first three chapters.)
1 John 4:6
We are of God:
he that knoweth God heareth us;
he that is not of God heareth not us.
Hereby know we the spirit of truth,
and the spirit of error.
1 John 3:10
In this the children of God are manifest,
and the children of the devil:
whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God,
neither he that loveth not his brother.
1 John 5:16
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask,
and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death.
There is a sin unto death:
I do not say that he shall pray for it.
1 John 2:11
But he that hateth his brother is in darkness,
and walketh in darkness,
and knoweth not whither he goeth,
because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
1 John 3:13-14
Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
We know that we have passed from death unto life,
because we love the brethren.
He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
1 John 4:20
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar:
for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen,
how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
1 John 2:22 -23
Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?
He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
Whosoever denieth the Son,
the same hath not the Father:
(but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
1 John 5:20
And we know that the Son of God is come,
and hath given us an understanding,
that we may know him that is true,
and we are in him that is true,
even in his Son Jesus Christ.
This is the true God, and eternal life.
1 John 5:21
Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
And what verse in 1 John fits the following description ?Wiliam Hales
"This masterly synopsis, and paraphrase, of the spirit, rather than of the letter of this Epistle"
"he sheweth the unity of the Son with the Father"
Simple to see:
1 John 5:7
For there are three that bear record in heaven,
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost:
and these three are one.
The heavy drinking skeptic, Richard Porson (1759-1808), canvassing earlier scholarship, attempted in response to claim that the authorship was another early Greek writer, from the fifth or sixth century, mentioning Euthalius, Sophronius, or a second Athanasius who lived at the time of Euthalius, 5th century.
In response Charles Forster (more below) showed that this is a "genuine and indubitable work of ... Athanasius." And his demonstration of this has never been countered. And yet in any case, this is an early Greek witness to the heavenly witness, one of the refutations of the claim that the verse was not referenced in the Greek writings.
Porson tried to claim that the reference was to 1 John 2:23, using his own mistranslation to try to make this failed case. He also tried a cheap debating trick attempt, involving burden of proof on a peripheral issues, which is covered below. Since as Armfield points out:
======================Porson, in his opposition to the disputed verse, seems rightly to have felt that the alleged allusion to it in the Synopsis, if indeed it were an allusion, would be fatal to the view which he advocated. (p. 51)
Henry Thomas Armfield
Henry Armfield also points out that this writing was placed in editions by Oecumenius and Theophylact.
The three witnesses : The disputed text in St. John : considerations new and old (1883)
Henry Thomas Armfield
Henry Thomas Armfield (1836-1898)
And Armfield also has an excellent section, including three pages of the text translated in English. The first part (which I separated with an empty line, was not included by Hales, and would include more verses that are referenced from the epistle.)
Henry Thomas Armfield p. 48-50
From the Greek Synopsis
Fourth* of John
(footnote * Fourth, sc. in the group of the Seven Catholic Epistles
Thus, also, this is called; since also John the Evangelist writes also his Epistle, putting in mind those who had already believed in the Lord. And first, indeed, as in the Gospel so also in this Epistle, he speaks as a theologian about the Word, showing that He is always in God, and teaching that the Father is Light, in order that we may even thus know that the Word is a radiance from Him. But, speaking as a theologian, he declares that the mystery with us is not new, but even from the beginning it ever exists, but now has been manifested in the Lord, who is Life Eternal and very God. And, moreover, he assigns the cause of the coming of the Word and of His appearing, saying that it is to destroy the works of the devil, and to free us from death, and that we might know the Father and the Son Himself, Jesus Christ, our Lord. He writes accordingly to every age, to children, to young men, to old men, that God has become known, while the power of the devil has been conquered in the overthrow of death.
Further, for the rest, through the whole Epistle he teaches concerning love; wishing that we should love one another, since even Christ loved us. He discourses then of the difference between fear and love, and between the children of God and the children of the devil, and of a sin unto death and a sin not unto death, and of the difference between spirits. And, finally, he distinguishes what sort of a spirit is of God, and what is of error; and when we become known as the children of God and when of the devil; and for what sort of a sin we ought to pray; and that he who loveth not his neighbour is not worthy of his calling and cannot be called Christ's. And the Oneness, moreover, of the Son with the Father he shows; and that he who denies the Son neither has the Father. But he decides in this Epistle, saying that there is a peculiarity of Antichrist, and that it is this—the saying, that Jesus Himself is not the Christ, so that, as He is not, the liar says that he is himself Christ. But, through the whole Epistle, he exhorts believers not to despond, if they are hated in the world ; but rather to rejoice, because the hatred of the world shows that the believers have removed from this world, and afterwards belong to the heavenly citizenship. And in the end of the Epistle, moreover, again he puts them in mind, saying that the Son of God is Eternal Life and very God, both in order that we may serve Him and keep ourselves from idols.
The full Greek section, with verse allusion numbers in the margin, is given by George Travis (1741-1797):
Letters to Edward Gibbon: author of the History of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire (1794)
On p. 58-59.
With a smaller extract given in:
The English extract is given on p. 51-52.
The George Travis discussion of this verse reference is at p. 148-157 of the main body of the writing, in response to:
George Benson (1699-1762)
George Travis p. 148-157
On p. 151-152 Travis reviews Mill, Griesbach, Hody, Cave, Du Pin, Simon and Wetstein on the authorship. And p. 152-155 discusses an often discussed quote from Athansius which is consistent with his being the author. And on p. 155-157 Travis discusses the motive as to why the Benedictine editors considered this dubious (not spurious) as Athanasius. The work did not fit with the Trent pronouncements of certain apocrypha as scriptural books. Overall, a strong section from Travis, who at times was uneven, and on a couple of issues must be approached with caution.
Charles Forster (1787-1871)
Forster gives us a really fine section, p. 51-59, including a vocabulary and style analysis showing the Synopsis as from Athansius. Porson's deliberatie mistranslation, made in order to fold the unity into 1 John 2:23, is discussed on p. 58. Note that Charles Forster makes a minor error in saying that the heavenly witnesses section (5:7) is "immediately before" (5:10) and "immediately after" (5:16) chapter 5 refs. That wording from Forster does not allow that 1 John 2:23 is put after 5:7. The reason for that unusual placement of 2:23 (generally the epistles section does go in order) being that 2:23 talks about the Son and the Father.
You can see that the placement of John 2:23 is unusual from the Porson list:
i.1 i.5 i.2 v.20 iii.8 ii.12—14. iii.10-18 iv.7—12. iv.19.18 iii.10. iv.2, 3, 6 v.16 iii.14 iv.8. [ii. 23.] 22. iii.13,14. v. 20, 21.
In fact, Hugoenot Pastor David Martin does nicely make this same point about the placement of 2:23:
Charles Forster"they are there only as a consequence of that Unity, not in proof of the Unity itself"
The genuineness of the text of the first Epistle of saint John. chap. v. [verse]. 7., tr. from the French (1722)
P. 55-57 - vocabulary and style
p. 57-59 - reference to 1 John v. 7
Various commentators had taken the contra side to this interpretation. The contra Thomas Emlyn in his Reply p. 265 to David Martin were early taking two sides of the issue.
Richard Porson places all the contra arguments together in the back-and-forth with George Travis.
Letters to Mr. Archdeacon Travis, in Answer to His Defence of the Three Heavenly Witnesses, I John, V 7
Some of his arguments had limited validity (e.g. that the section was not totally linear in verse referencing), some were easily answered later in Forster and Armfield. Porson had thrown in a deliberate mistranslation involving the conjunction, which Forster pointed out on p. 58-59.
And I want to focus on what is really the critical point, one that is mentioned in some detail by Armfield, allowing that Forster had handled the grammatical/translational aspect. The question arose as to whether the verse being referenced for unity was 1 John 2:23 (which is referenced next) or 1 John 5:7. However, 1 John 2:23 has no reference to unity.
The logic from Porson here is a total fail. However, it is a standard action of Porson to use the cheap debating trick. In this case a red herring supposed burden of proof. In fact, whatever oneness the author of the Synopsis (e.g. Athanasius) desires for his unity will work for his exposition. If Athanasius read the heavenly witnesses as a unity of consent, rather than essence, he could still write that John is showing the unity or oneness (of consent) of the Son with the Father. (James White, while remaining a believer in the Lord Jesus, is an example of a writer who comes from the mode of the "Porson sneer" style.)Reference here is made solely to ii. 23, ... If you object that the verse ii. 23. does not teach the unity of the Son with the Father, you must prove,
1. that the author of the Synopsis means unity of essence, not of consent;
2. that no ancient writer would or could interpret it in that manner. - Porson
Also, the skeptic Porson demonstrates an animus, even a hatred, against scripture with this comment:
======================I once intended to transcribe the whole; but, to avoid the fatigue and disgust of such a task, I shall set down in their order the passages which the author cites from this epistle.
This inquiry into the Synopsis and the heavenly witnesses is planned for some forum discussions. One post has been placed in the NT Textual Criticism forum.
And I do want to possibly do a spot of tweaking on verse references and possibly add some notes from other commentators. Also show church history writers who accepted the authority of this work as early and significant (e.g Humphrey Prideaux and John Williams Proudfit) Also look a little more on the Athanasius request from Constans. And give a review of the 1800s discussions on authorship and dating. (note to self, check Pericope as well as heavenly witnesses writers in index.)