Johannine Comma

Question: Can you tell me why the Douay Rheims includes the Johanine Comma? I thought it was based on St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. Do we even have St. Jerome’s original work? Did that insertion come AFTER St. Jerome’s original of which we no longer have?

Answer:

Copies of the Bible were rare before the printing press was invented, so we do not have the original work done by St. Jerome. The critical editions of the Vulgate published after the Reformation show whole families of textual glosses and variant readings in the Vulgate tradition. I think that there have been reconstructions of St. Jerome’s original version but these are of academic interest only.

The Johannine comma was a gloss in the Latin Vulgate tradition that originated from a copyist’s error long after St. Jerome. It was among a number of “orthodox corruptions” that crept into the text of the NT over time. (There is a book about the Greek NT text additions which was written by Ehrman and published by Oxford Press.) Since the Douay-Rheims version was a translation of the official Vulgate text which had perpetuated this gloss, it was included.

Interesting story: The ancient Greek manuscripts of the NT did not have the Johannine Comma because it was a gloss in the Latin text tradition, and so Erasmus did not include it in his original version of the Textus Receptus Greek NT. This got him in dutch (pardon the pun) with Church officials because the Latin Vulgate was the official Catholic Bible up to that point. Erasmus promised that if he could find one Greek manuscript that included the JC, he would incorporate it into the new edition. Low and behold a priest acquaintance produced an obvious forgery and Erasmus (tongue firmly in cheek) included it in all subsequent editions of the TR. It was one of these later editions that underlay the King James Version and so the Johannine Comma is in the KJV.

Art Sippo
The Catholic Legate

June 11, 2004

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