Matthew Oseka, «Luther’s Textual Study of the Greek New Testament.», Vol. 26 (2013) 49-60
The present paper explores Luther’s textual study of the Greek New Testament which is reconstructed from his approach to Galatians 1,6; 2,5 and 1 John 5,7-8 with reference to the eminent scholars of the 16th century (Laurentius Valla, Jacobus Faber Stapulensis and Erasmus) whose commentaries he consulted.
Luther’s Textual Study of the Greek New Testament 53
In the autumn of the Middle Ages nothing predicted that the Comma
Johanneum (1 John 5,7-8) would instigate an exegetical controversy
in Western Christianity. Since no Greek evidence attested any words
between οἱ μαρτυροῦντες (the ending of v. 7) and τὸ πνεῦμα (the
beginning of v. 8), in his editio princeps Erasmus ignored that certain
versions of the Vulgate inserted a text called the Comma Johanneum. The
Polyglot, however, included the Comma which was translated from Latin
The Comma was used by Edward Lee (Leus) and Jacobus Lopis
Stunica as a pretext to accuse Erasmus of a trinitarian heterodoxy31. Lee,
who later became archbishop of York, criticised Erasmus’ Greek New
Testament for departing from the Vulgate as a final and authoritative
text of the Scripture. Stunica worked on the Polyglot project of which
release was delayed and hindered by Erasmus’ legal steps. Therefore, their
attacks against the Dutch Humanist were personal and brutal.
Erasmus responded to both opponents, clarifying the textual status
of Greek original and of various Latin translations (i. e. Itala and the
Vulgate)32. In addition, he described how the church fathers appealed to
1 John 5,7-8. The Dutch Humanist emphasised that there is no Greek
manuscript containing the Comma and that Latin translations are
incoherent because among codices classified nowadays as pre-Jeromian
(Itala namely Vetus Latina) some omit these words and some retain them
either as a marginal note (gloss) or as a part of master text. The same
is true of the Vulgate, yet Erasmus’ adversaries claimed that Jerome’s
preface to the general epistles proves that Greek manuscripts with the
Comma existed at Jerome’s time but were lost over the centuries.
Actually, the said preface as recorded in Codex Fuldensis33 does not
imply that according to Jerome any Greek evidence ever had the Comma
but rather rebukes certain translators (probably of Itala) for omitting in
Bruce Manning Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission,
Corruption, and Restoration (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), 100-102 [II, III, I]. [William
Orme], Memoir of the Controversy respecting the Three Heavenly Witnesses, 1 John v. 7
(London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1830), 3-10 [Erasmus].
Erasmus Roterodamus, “Liber quo respondet Annotationibus Eduadri Lei,” in Opera
omnia emendatiora et auctiora, vol. 9, ed. Jean Le Clerc (Leiden: Vander Aa, 1706), 275-284
[XXV; 1 John 5]. Idem, “Apologia respondens ad ea quae in Novo Testamento taxaverat
Jacobus Lopis Stunica,” in Opera omnia emendatiora et auctiora, vol. 9, ed. Jean Le Clerc
(Leiden: Vander Aa, 1706), 351-353 [Ex Cap. V, Annot. I; 1 John 5].
Hieronymus Stridonensis, “Prologus in Epistulas Canonicas,” in Codex Fuldensis:
Novum Testamentum Latine interprete Hieronymo, ed. Ernst Ranke (Marburg and Leipzig:
Elwert, 1868), 399.