Historical Review

Historical detail on other threads, this is a Where Are We Now discussion.

The superb 1780 letter by world-class Greek scholar Eugenius Bulgaris quickly was a super-evidence of authenticity in the controversies. Franz Anton Knittel in 1785 used it in his superb defense of the verse in his German book. And generally this was combined with a number of other "internal" evidences such as the pointing to verse 7 from verse 9 and the clear Johannine style, to form a powerful phalanx of authenticity. And these "internals" were combined with foundational evidences (Old Latin and Vulgate mss, numerous early church writers), external super-evidences (Cyprian, Vulgate Prologue, Council of Carthage), Greek evidences (Synopsis of Scripture, Dialog of Athanasius with Arius at Nicea), the early church use of heavenly witnesses phrasing (Charles Forster) and dozens more regular evidences abundant. With the discovery of new mss and evidences, by the time of the discovery in 1868 that the Codex Fuldensis of 546 AD had what must have been Jerome's Vulgate Prologue, we had, by any sensible thinking, a full demonstration unto proof of heavenly witnesses authenticity.


Five Alternative Constructio ad Sensum Arguments to Prevent Acknowledging Collapse of the Abbreviated (Omission) Text

Eugenius was clear that the earthly witnesses verse could not stand grammatically without the heavenly witnesses.

a false alteration which had crept into that place, that verse eight, which follows, would not stand, unless verse seven were to proceed it
.. some violence of language, and through a most manifest grammatical solecism.

And Eugenius as a Greek speaker and scholar was simply unsurpassed. Until our little internet grammatical troll Jim came along (at first he did not know about Eugenius Bulgaris, I pointed him out in our discussions, Jim had formerly simply attacked Nolan and Dabney as having fabricated the argument as hacks) no one had the temerity even to criticize his words. However, they wanted to get around the argument.

On the research pages we show that five somewhat overlapping types of constructio ad sensum were developed.
These all had elements in common. Eugenius unmentioned. Obvious difficulties ignored. None of them showed that their claims were a feature of the Greek language. No analogies given. And often they used a little tomfoolery of giving their interpretation without telling the reader that historically the heavenly witnesses verse, with which the grammar works fine, was part of the section. So each one could pretend that they had found a normal bonus, value-added exegesis "solution". The one thing they could not tell the readers was that it looked like the text was corrupt!

personalization of πνεῦμα
personalization by being (concrete) witnesses
personalization by witnessing, the metaphor
symbols of the Trinity
classes of men from 1 John 5:9

We will watch the development of these ideas. To be fair, Bengel had flipped the heavenly and earthly witnesses and thus had a similar struggle with the Greek grammar, even while supported the flipped-text authenticity. (It is hard to claim that the later verse would supply the masculine grammar for the former, so he also claimed a weak personalization of spirit attempt. "To be bearing witness, properly applies to persons.." Gnomon, p. 808.)


Before Eugenius Bulgaris 1780 Letter

There is a history of awareness of the gender mismatch from Gregory Nazianzen to the mss starting with the scholium c. 900 AD (ascribed the masculine grammar to the Trinity, clearly a need was seen to favorably explain the harsh grammar) to Erasmus ("torquebit grammaticos") to Latin references in the 1700s. This can be given its own study at a later time.


Grammatical Discussion Avoided by Contras - Special Note on Richard Porson and George Travis

Richard Porson (1759-1808) avoided the grammar in the back-and-forth dialog with George Travis, even though he was aware of the Eugenius writing, on both Philopatris and Bryennius. So it would be extremely unlikely for Porson not to know his heavenly witnesses writing.
And Porson, despite his posturing method at times in helping with evidences (Porson was a shrewd debater) very craftily left the grammar out of the debate. While Richard Porson was one of the top Greek scholars in Europe, Eugenius Bulgaris was one whose Greek fluency would almost surely be far stronger than Porson. So Porson would be in an awkward spot to just try to get by with wit and denigrating sarcasm. Better just sidestep.

Porson did have this little reference, but he did not relate it to the grammatical mismatch.

Letters to Mr. Archdeacon Travis, in Answer to His Defence of the Three Heavenly Witnesses, 1 John, V 7 (1790)
Richard Porson
https://books.google.com/books?id=uNOLTFNl2_IC&pg=PA200 (1828)
... Simon found it in the margin of two MSS. and Mr. Matthaei in a third. The latter scholium is this: "Three in the masculine gender, in token of the Trinity : the spirit, of the Godhead ; the water, of the enlightening knowledge to mankind, by the spirit; the blood, of the incarnation." These Mss. are of the tenth and eleventh centuries."
George Travis (1741-1797) wrote contra Gibbon in 1782, published the book to Gibbon in 1784.
And the Porson-Travis years started in 1788, and Porson ended his end in 1790. The second edition of the Travis book in 1785 lacked the critical grammatical references (Erasmus or most importantly, Eugenius.) And the 3rd edition of the Travis book was 1794 (with an indication that it was basically ready years earlier). In the that book he says he is answering Simon, Emlyn, Michaelis, Wetstein, La Croze and Le Long in the last three letters. Travis apparently did not know of the Eugenius letter in Matthaei in 1780, or the Knittel reference was in 1785 in German earlier.

In the 1794 3rd edition p. 26-28 Travis gives a reference relating to the grammar and Euthymius Zigabenus, one that needs its own further checking. Only in this 1794 edition, (not in the 1785 when the debate was on) at the tale end of the debate, did Travis now write:

In corroboration' of these arguments drawn from the internal sense of the passage, and its congruity with the context, let it be next observed that the terms, the expressions which St. John uses in the eighth presuppose, and in grammatical construction demand, the precedency of the seventh verse now in question. (continues.. p. 447-449)
A strong section technically, yet lacking a reference to Eugenius. The sense is that the information from Eugenius got to Travis directly or indirectly. In the footnote of p. 447 Travis also emphasizes the Erasmus wording, so we will plan on revisiting that separately.

An additional side-irony is how Herbert Marsh used an analogous solecism in discussing mss. Needs its own little discussion.

In the 1800s, savvy defenders with strong language skills like Frederick Nolan and Nathaniel Ellsworth Cornwall highlighted the solecism problem, while contras generally said very little (what could they say?) Since grammar studies were picking up in the 1800s, it became necessary to find some explanation for the harsh and bald solecism, and we will plan to show the jumping around and hand-waving methods attempted.


Vibrant Debate Period on Eugenius Bulgaris grammatical gender exposition

This Eugenius Bulgaris analysis was vibrantly referenced, with Eugenius usually clearly named, till about 1830.

Color code:
Evidence used for authenticity
Writer was contra authenticity, how did he relate to grammar

Travis - no reference, nor to Matthaei
Marsh to Travis (1795) - no reference

Christian Frederick Matthaei (1744–1811) - 1782 published Eugenius in Latin

Franz Anton Knittel (1721-1792)
Latin in 1785 German book, Neue Kritiken über den berühmten Spruch: Drey sind die da zeugen im Himmel, der Vater, das Wort und der heilige Geist; und diese drey sind eins.

George Christian Knapp (1753-1825) writing in Latin in 1805

Richard Laurence (1760-1838) writing contra Griesbach in general and the Diatribe specifically, in 1814

Frederick Nolan (1784-1864), also likely 1814

William Hales (1747-1831), 1816

John Pye Smith (1774-1851) "the neuter nouns are, by the composition of the sentence, personified"

Thomas Burgess (1756-1837) in 1821 contra John Pye Smith

Thomas Turton (1780-1864) writing contra Nolan and Burgess

William Craig Brownlee (1784-1860).

William Alleyn Evanson (1786-1857) translated Knittel to English in 1829 - http://archive.org/stream/newcritici...e/206/mode/2up
Dionysius Alexandrinus (in Eusebius) certifies that the First Epistle of John is free from solecisms. I do not remember having found such a construction in the Alexandrine Version."

There is likely more, especially in Latin and German.
- Eugenius - grammatical gender - contra response FIVE ATTEMPTS - Knapp - Turton - John Pye Smith - Rosenmuller -- Thomas Sheldon Green - Henry Alford - James Gloag - Oxlee


starting with the acerbic heavy-drinking skeptic contra Richard Porson (1795-1808).

JFB - (1863) used a reverse logic, that the actual creation of the verse, was because
"they were implied by the use of the masculine noun for 'three.'" (net commentary by David L. Hannah, matching JFB)

Edward Freer Hills helped revitalize interest.


Modern Times

A double-barrel method was used by the contras to mask the solecism.

On the bogus side, Gary Hudson, followed by one gentleman named Jim, took a brand new position lar


Here are some examples, working with the earlier timeline:

historical research - referencing

and now trying to give a clearer picture of how the debate developed.