“Your Word Is Truth”
Who Are the “Three Witness Bearers”?
FOR many, many years the Bible verses at 1 John 5:7, 8 were used in an attempt to prove the Trinity. This was because they contained the words: “The Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one.” (Douay) According to the doctrine of the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the ‘Holy Ghost’ are three persons in one God, coeternal, and equal in power, glory and substance.
Today, however, these verses are rarely so used. Why? Because, as a recent Roman Catholic version, The Jerusalem Bible, explains in a footnote, they are “not in any of the early Greek MSS [manuscripts], or any of the early translations, or in the best MSS of the Vulg[ate] itself” and therefore “are probably a gloss that has crept into the text.” In other words, they are spurious.
Without the spurious addition these two verses read: “For there are three witness bearers, the spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are in agreement.” Just who are these “three witness bearers,” and on what are they in agreement?
They are in agreement regarding the truth expressed in the two preceding verses: “Who is the one that conquers the world but he who has faith that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by means of water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. And the spirit is that which is bearing witness, because the spirit is the truth.”
What is “the spirit” that is the witness bearer to Jesus as being the Son of God? It is Jehovah’s active force or holy spirit. It bore witness both in giving testimony to Jesus’ sonship and by empowering Jesus Christ to carry out his commission as the Son of God.
John the Baptist reported how the holy spirit was giving witness that Jesus is the Son of God, saying: “I viewed the spirit coming down as a dove out of heaven, and it remained upon him. Even I did not know him, but the very One who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘Whoever it is upon whom you see the spirit coming down and remaining, this is the one that baptizes in holy spirit.’ And I have seen it, and I have borne witness that this one is the Son of God.”—John 1:32-34.
That this holy spirit would even thereafter testify in behalf of Jesus Christ he himself made clear, saying to his apostles: “When the helper arrives that I will send you from the Father, the spirit of the truth, which proceeds from the Father, that one will bear witness about me.”—John 15:26.
Especially from Pentecost onward God’s holy spirit bore this witness by helping Jesus’ disciples to understand Bible prophecies that showed that Jesus is the Son of God. This is in line with the words of the apostle Paul showing that God reveals the truth to his people “through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.”—1 Cor. 2:10; Acts 2:14-36; Rom. 1:1-4.
Jehovah God’s holy spirit also served as a witness bearer in regard to Jesus as being the Son of God in that it anointed and empowered him to do mighty works proving him to be the Son of God. As he himself said: “If I am not doing the works of my Father, do not believe me. But if I am doing them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works.” The apostle Peter testified likewise: “God anointed him with holy spirit and power, and he went through the land doing good and healing all those oppressed by the Devil; because God was with him.”—John 10:37, 38; Acts 10:38.
The apostle John also states that “the water” was one of the “witness bearers.” What water is here referred to? Is it the literal water by which Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan? It would seem so. Since the spirit is literal and so is the blood, the water logically would also be literal. These words of John therefore call to mind what Jesus told Nicodemus regarding how one would be born again: “Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” The water Jesus here referred to was the water of baptism.—John 3:5.
The water of baptism testified to Jesus as being the Son of God. How? In that it was at the time of Jesus’ baptism that Jehovah God acknowledged Jesus as his Son, saying, “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:17) If Jesus had not come to John to be baptized in water, this particular confirmation of him as being the Son of God would not have taken place. The presentation of himself there to do Jehovah’s will was in fulfillment of such prophecies as Psalm 40:8: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts,” even as the apostle Paul shows at Hebrews 10:5-10.
In fact, this was the chief reason or purpose for the coming of John the Baptist and his baptizing in water, as he himself testified: “Even I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing in water was that he might be made manifest to Israel.” (John 1:31) Thus we see that in a very literal way the water with which Jesus was baptized at the Jordan, as well as what it stood for, the presentation of himself to do his Father’s will, testified to Jesus as being the Son of God.
What about the third ‘witness bearer’ that the apostle John mentions—“the blood”? What blood? Whose blood? And how does it bear witness to Jesus Christ as being the Son of God?
The blood to which John here referred without a doubt was Jesus’ own blood. No one else’s blood could so testify. God’s Word time and again shows that it is the blood of Jesus Christ that served as our ransom and cleanses us from sins: “There is one God, and one mediator . . . Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”—1 Tim. 2:5, 6; 1 John 1:7.
No ordinary human blood could serve as our ransom, even as is made clear from the Scriptures. But Jesus Christ could and did, because he was and is the Son of God. Moreover, for humankind to benefit from the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ it was necessary for ‘Christ to enter into heaven itself, there to appear in the presence of Jehovah God on our behalf.’ (Heb. 9:24) Only because he was the perfect Son of God who shed his blood as a sacrifice did Jehovah God resurrect him from the dead, enabling him thus to appear in heaven.
In view of all the foregoing, who are the “three witness bearers”? They are (1) the spirit or active force of Jehovah God; (2) the water by which Jesus was baptized, as well as what it stood for, and (3) the blood that Jesus poured out as a ransom for the sins of humankind. And all of these three bear witness to the fact that Jesus is, not God the Son, as claimed by trinitarians, but that he is indeed the Son of God.