While my math skills are limited, I actually wrote part 3 before part 2…
Eugenius, Part 3, A Better Way
Eugenius is apparently the source of much of the grammatical speculation that has been cited in this forum regarding 1 John 5:8. Part 2 will consist of a more detailed response to Eugenius’ argument. Here I’m simply going to suggest that there is a fairly simple alternative. As before, NT texts are taken from the TR to forestall the objection that there is some sort of text critical difficulty that, in the mind of the KJO, will invalidate the argument, and English from the KJV.
Have a look at 1 John 5:8:
και τρεις εισιν οι μαρτυρουντες εν τη γη το πνευμα και το υδωρ και το αιμα και οι τρεις εις το εν εισιν.
And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
Now, a bit of a grammar lesson (sorry, but once a teacher…) better to understand the argument. “That bear witness” in English is actually a relative clause, but in Greek it’s a participle. A part of what? A participle. Participle comes from the Latin “to have a share in”, and what participles do is share in the qualities of both an adjective and a verb – they are verbal adjectives. Another thing that adjectives get to do from time to time is to pretend to be nouns. We do this with proverbial statements in English, “The good die young” or “The poor shall always be with you.” The latter example shows that Greek does it too, since it’s a quotation from the NT. In Greek (and Latin – I have to mention Latin in everything I write, or I turn into a turnip) it’s done much more frequently, and not just with proverbial statements.
Greek does this most often by planting a definite article in front of the adjective or participle. That’s the syntax of “there are three that bear witness.” It’s a substantive participle, standing in where one might expect a noun instead. Had the author written οἱ μαρτύρες, “witnesses,” it would mean essentially the same thing, the difference being that the participle describes the referent in terms of the action inherent in the verb. Greek does this all the time, such as at John 3:16, “everyone who believes” is actually a substantive phrase parallel to “three who bear witness.”
Now, why is this important? It means that the substantive functions more like a noun than like an adjective. That means it doesn’t modify another noun (or nouns) in the sentence, but gets its number and gender from its understood antecedent, and its case from how it’s used in the sentence. There is therefore no need for it to agree with anything in the sentence. Here, the author is clearly thinking of “witnesses, those who give witness.”
Notice also that “the spirit, and the water, and the blood” all have the definite article. This not only suggests that they are discrete elements, but that they are to be associated with the the subject and with each other without being the same as each other. They are three different types of witnesses. Instead of the participle modifying them, they stand in apposition with the substantive participle. They are the particular examples of the witnesses. Since the substantive is acting as a noun, there is no need for “grammatical concord” between the substantive participle and the nouns which stand in apposition to it. It doesn’t matter that “those who give witness” is masculine and that the three nouns are neuter.
Are there other examples of this? Actually there are many throughout Greek literature, but two stand out in the NT:
Matt 23:23 … τα βαρυτερα του νομου την κρισιν και τον ελεον και την πιστιν …
…the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith…
Here, we have an adjectival substantive which is in Greek neuter plural, “the weightier matters” which is then particularized by three nouns in apposition, law, which is masculine, mercy, which is feminine, and faith, also feminine.
1 John 2:16 οτι παν το εν τω κοσμω η επιθυμια της σαρκος και η επιθυμια των οφθαλμων και η αλαζονεια του βιου…
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life…
“All that is in the world” is a neuter substantive phrase that is then particularized by three nouns in the feminine, lust (twice) and pride.
Why didn’t Eugenius, whose Greek was supposed to be so good, come up with this? I believe that he was so strongly theologically motivated to keep the “received text” here that he either didn’t see any other grammatical options or that he deliberately ignored them. This then set the tone for the 19th century apologists who similarly desired to protect the text.
I found the following from Meyer after I thought through this:
τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες] The masculine is used because the three that are mentioned are regarded as concrete witnesses (Lücke, etc.), but not because they are “types of men representing these three” (Bengel), or symbols of the Trinity (as they are interpreted in the Scholion of Matthaei, p. 138, mentioned in the critical notes). It is uncertain whether John brings out this triplicity of witnesses with reference to the well-known legal rule, Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15, Matthew 18:16, etc., as several commentators suppose. It is not to be deduced from the present that ὕδωρ and αἷμα are things still at present existing, and hence the sacraments, for by means of the witness of the Spirit the whole redemptive life of Christ is permanently present, so that the baptism and death of Jesus—although belonging to the past—prove Him constantly to be the Messiah who makes atonement for the world (so also Braune). The participle οἱ μαρτυροῦντες, instead of the substantive οἱ μάρτυρες, emphasizes more strongly the activity of the witnessing.
Nice to know that a smart guy agrees with me!