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Janet Jack wrote:

Dear Sirs,

  • Was 1 John 5:7 used or mentioned at the Council of Nicaea?
  • And, if so, what is the evidence?

Thank you,


  { Was 1 John 5:7 used or mentioned at the Council of Nicea and, if so, what is the evidence? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Janet —

Thanks for the question.

I'm not the Scripture scholar on the team but let me share with you my research and I'll let my colleague comment if they wish.

I found this on Wikipedia under Trinity, Comma Johanneum

Comma Johanneum, a short clause for 1 John 5:7

In addition to these, 1 John 5:7, which is found in the King James Version but not in modern English translations nor in the official Latin text (a revision of the Vulgate) of the Roman Catholic Church, [37] states:

"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one."

However, this Comma Johanneum is not considered to be part of the genuine text. [38] It is commonly found in Latin manuscripts, but is absent from the Greek manuscripts, except for a few late examples, where the passage appears to have been back-translated from the Latin. Erasmus, the compiler of the Textus Receptus, on which the King James Version was based, noticed that the passage was not found in any of the Greek manuscripts at his disposal and refused to include it until presented with a manuscript containing it, while still suspecting, as is now agreed, that the phrase was a gloss.[39] Although the Latin Church Father, Saint Cyprian, alone among early writers, is thought to have referred to the passage,[40] it is now considered not to be part of the original text.

Though the Wikipedia references the official Latin text from the Vatican web site, and 1 John 5:7 is not included in the official Latin text, nor the original Greek manuscripts, there is a high probability that they mentioned this passage at the Council of Nicaea. The fact that Saint Cyprian, who lived from 200 A.D. to 258 A.D., referred to the passage is enough for me to think that within the next 125 years, it would have probably had been brought up at the council. Remember we didn't have a known canon of Scripture until 382 A.D. at the Council of Rome, 57 years after the Council of Nicaea.

That said, my answer is based more on oral tradition, with a small "t", then anything else.

My answer is pure speculation, as I think any answer to this question would be.

Hope this helps,


John replied:

Hi, Janet —

The Council of Nicea was convened some six or seven decades before the Canon of Scripture had been determined, so while it relied on Scripture, it relied more heavily on Apostolic Tradition.

Some of John's letters, just like parts of the Old Testament, were actually disputed. Not every local Church accepted them.

The first Council of Nicea met in 325 A.D. but it was the Council of Rome in 382 A.D. that gave us the first official canon of Scriptures. About a decade later, the Councils of Hippo and Carthage gave us the same list or canon; all of these were local councils, thus the canon became part of the ordinary Magisterium.

It wasn't until the Second Council of Nicea in eighth century when the Church met in an ecumenical council and again ratified the work of the previous local councils and made the canon of Scripture part of extraordinary Magisterium's Teaching. All of this was long after the First Council of Nicea had defined the Trinity.

As I said, the first Council of Nicea, more than likely, relied mostly on Apostolic Teaching which had been handed down from bishop to bishop.

In fact, at the point before a letter could be read in the Church, such as 1st John, it had to be approved by the local bishop. He would read it and make sure the letter agreed with the teaching he received from the bishop who ordained him.


Eric replied:

Janet —

This would be an excellent question for Jimmy Akin, who is often a guest on Catholic Answers Live radio show/podcast and has his own iTunes podcast.

Nicea dealt not with the Trinity per se, but with the deity of Christ. The concept of the Trinity was not birthed by one council at one time; it developed over time. According to Wikipedia, Nicea covered the deity of Christ; Constantinople covered the deity of the Holy Spirit.

The council of Nicea dealt primarily with the issue of the deity of Christ. Over a century earlier, the use of the term "Trinity" ("trinitas" in Latin) could be found in the writings of Origen (185 — 254 A.D.) and Tertullian (160 — 220 A.D.), [59] and a general notion of a "divine three", in some sense, was expressed in the second and third-century writings of Polycarp, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr. [60] But the doctrine in a more full-fledged form was not formulated until the Council of Constantinople in 360 A.D. [61]

Even if we were to grant that the verse might be appealed to prove the deity of Christ, it remains true that the comma never appeared in the original Greek (or Syriac) manuscripts, and when it did appear in Greek, it was many centuries later and it was the Greek speakers who basically ran the council, so it's unlikely they would use it to prove their point.

Of course, we don't know what really happened for sure, since we have no complete transcript of the proceedings, although we do know that St. Nicholas socked Arius.


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