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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.”

This verse, commonly referred to as the Comma Johanneum, appeared in all Reformation era Bibles, but is conspicuously absent from most modern versions.

Readers who are at first alarmed by the omission are typically offered this assurance by modern pastors, scholars, and textual critics: “These kinds of variants affect no fundamental doctrines.”

While most modern Christians happily agree with that claim, the following excerpt from “Zion’s Watchtower” proves that anti-trinitarian heretics have historically disagreed:

The only text in Scripture which was ever claimed to prove, or affirm, that the Father, Son and Spirit are one, is a portion of 1 John 5:7,8. This appears only in Manuscripts written since the fifth century, and is acknowledged by all Trinitarians to be a “forgery. ” So undisputable is this, that the translators of the “Revised Version” recently published, omit the clause without note or comment, though those Revisors were themselves believers in Trinity. Like some other doctrines received by Protestants through Papacy, this one is received and fully endorsed, though its adherents are aware that not a word of Scripture can be adduced in its support. Nay more, any one who will not affirm this unscriptural doctrine as his faith, is declared by the action of the Evangelical Alliance to be nonorthodox — a heretic.

Charles Taze Russel, editor, “Hear, O Israel! Jehovah Our God is One-Jehovah,” Zion’s Watchtower, July 1882, 3

That the Jehovah’s Witnesses felt this way about 1 John 5:7 does not prove the verse’s authenticity by any means, but it does prove the inaccuracy of those who suggest that omitting a single verse affects no doctrine or that 1 John 5:7 was not central in historic debates over the Holy Trinity.

The next time someone suggests that “No doctrine is affected” by the loss of historically received readings, you might want to respond, “The Russelites didn’t think so!”