Neely Tucker reviews Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus in last Sunday’s Washington Post (click here). Unfortunately, the review takes up some of the tendentious claims that Ehrman puts forth in the book. One such claim is Ehrman’s contention that the variations in the manuscript copies of the New Testament undermine the Christian faith. The Post review writes:
Most of these are inconsequential errors in grammar or metaphor. But others are profound. . . [One] critical passage is in 1 John, which explicitly sets out the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). It is a cornerstone of Christian theology, and this is the only place where it is spelled out in the entire Bible — but it appears to have been added to the text centuries later, by an unknown scribe.
The text in question is 1 John 5:7, the so-called Comma Johanneum (a.k.a. the “Johannine comma”). Yes, the reading was erroneously added by a later scribe. But the Post review wrongly implies that the doctrine of the Trinity is dependent upon this particular reading (which is reflected in the King James Version). Nothing could be further from the truth.
The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries debates over the Trinity never appeal to this verse as a basis for Trinitarian theology. If the reading were so fundamental to that particular doctrine, it would be odd to find that the early church never referred to it. The fact is that the doctrine of the Trinity was not dependent on 1 John 5:7 because the doctrine of the Trinity was hammered out without dependence upon it.
This is just one of many baseless claims in Ehrman’s book. Unfortunately the Post is repeating the error.