“Spirit” or “spirit”? Is there a problem?
A sister writes: “OK, guys, I need your help.
1 John 5:8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the ?pirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
What goes where the ? is and why? The answer is not as easy as it seems.
Hi Deb. No, the answer is not as easy as it seems. The word “spirit” can have several meanings or a different emphasis depending on both the context of a phrase or verse and whether or not it is capitalized.
The King James Bible uses both a capitalized Spirit and a small spirit. Some printings of the KJB have a small “s” in the word "spirit" in this verse, but most have a capital S and read Spirit.
Older Bible versions used a small “s” in this particular verse.
Wycliffe 1395 - “And thre ben, that yyuen witnessing in erthe, the spirit, water, and blood; and these thre ben oon.”
Tyndale 1525 - “For there are thre which beare recorde in erth: the sprete and water and bloud: and these thre are one.”
Coverdale 1535 - “And there are thre which beare recorde in earth: the sprete, water and bloude, and these thre are one.”
The Great Bible (Cranmer) 1540 - “And ther are thre which beare recorde the sprete & water, and bloud: & these thre are one.”
Matthew’s Bible 1549 - “For there are thre, whiche beare recorde in earth the spyrite and water, and bloude, and these thre are one.”
Bishops’ Bible 1568 - “And there are three which beare recorde in earth, the spirite, and water, and blood, and these three agree in one.”
The Geneva Bible 1587 - “And there are three, which beare record in the earth, the spirit, and the water and the blood: and these three agree in one.”
The Douay-Rheims 1610 - “And there are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit and the water and the blood. And these three are one.”
The Beza New Testament 1599 had all three words capitalized and read: "And there are three which beare record in the earth, the Spirit, and the Water and the Blood; and these three agree in one."
Actually, it was the King James Bible that was the first major, entire English Bible to capitalize the “s” in this verse and followed Beza's N.T. The original 1611 printing read:
King James Bible 1611 - “And there are three that beare witnesse in earth, the Spirit, and the Water, and the Blood, and these three agree in one.”
I have hard copies the Cambridge KJB, the World Publishing Company, Zondervan and the Oxford University Press King James Bible, The Scofield Reference Bible 1945, and all four of them have a capital S here in 1 John 5:8 and read: "And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."
Also having a capital S for Spirit here in 1 John 5:8 are the John Wesley N.T. 1755, Worsley Version 1770, the Newcome N.T. 1796, the the Thomson Bible 1808, the Dickinson N.T. 1833, The Living Oracles 1835, The New Covenant N.T. 1836, The Commonly Received Version 1851- "the Spirit, the water, and the blood", The Murdock Translation 1852, the Boothroyd Bible 1853, Sawyer N.T. 1858, the Kenrick N.T. 1862, the American Bible Union 1865, the Anderson N.T. 1865, The Revised English Bible 1877, Darby 1890, The New Dispensation N.T. 1897, Young's 1898, the Revised Version 1881, the ASV 1901, RSV, NRSV 1989, ESV 2001-2011, NIV, NASB, Holman Standard and the NKJV 1982. I have hard copies of them all.
A few Bibles still used a small “s” in this verse even after the KJB came out. For example:
Mace New Testament 1729 - “so that there are three witnesses, the spirit, the water, and the blood: and these three testify the same thing.
Whitson’t Primitive N.T. 1745 - “The spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”
Most modern Versions use a capitalized “S” in this verse and now read “Spirit”. Among these are Darby 1890, Youngs 1898, RV, ASV 1901, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible 1902, Godbey N.T. 1902, the Twentieth Century N.T. 1904, Worrell N.T. 1904, The Modern English N.T. 1909, Weymouth N.T. 1912, The Clarke N.T. 1913, The Improved Bible 1913, The Moffatt N.T. 1913, Goodspeed N.T. 1923, Montgomery N.T. 1924, the Wade N.T. 1934, Williams N.T. 1937, The New English N.T. 1961, Bible in Basic English 1961, J.B. Phillips N.T. 1962, The Plain English N.T. 1963, The Bible in Basic English 1965, The New Berkeley Version in Modern English 1969, The New Life Version 1969, the RSV 1971, NRSV 1989, The Word of Yah 1993, A Conservative Version 2005, ESV 2011, NASB 1995, NKJV 1982, The Complete Jewish Bible 1998, The Koster Scriptures 1998, The Lawrie N.T. 1998, The Pickering N.T. 2005, NIV 2011, NET 2006, Easy to Read Version 2006, Holman Standard 2009,The Christogenea N.T. 2009, New Heart English Bible 2010, The Common English Bible 2011,The Voice 2012, the Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011 - "the Ruach Hakodesh and the mayim and the dahm", Common English Bible 2011, the Lexham English Bible 2011, KJV 21st Century Version 1994, Disciples Literal N.T. 2011, the Natural Israelite Bible 2012, Hebraic Roots Bible 2012, the Jubilee Bible 2010, the Biblos Bible 2013, the International Standard Version 2014, The Pioneers' N.T. 2014 and The Holy Bible, Modern English Version 2014.
Keep in mind that the Greek language does not use special upper or lower case letters when referring to God the Father, God the Son or the spirit or the Spirit. And in the case of “Spirit” versus “spirit” - when referring to either the Person or the influence of the Deity - the lines can become so close as to be virtually identical.
Sometimes in Scripture the capitalized “Spirit” can refer to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. But the word “spirit” with a small “s” often refers not so much to the Person of Deity, as it does to the “working, activity, influence, animating principle, essential quality, disposition, energy or the driving force” behind something.
The Old Testament Scriptures speak of “the spirit of wisdom” (Exodus 28:3; Deut. 34:9), the “spirit of jealousy” (Num. 5:14,30), the “spirit of my understanding” (Job 20:3), the “a contrite spirit” (Ps. 34:18), “a right spirit” (Ps. 51:10), “thy holy spirit” and “thy free spirit” (Ps. 51:11,12), “a broken spirit” (Ps. 51:17, Pro. 17:22), “a faithful spirit” (Pro. 11:13), “an haughty spirit” (Pro. 16:18), “an humble spirit” (Pro. 16:19), “an excellent spirit” (Pro. 17:27) “the proud in spirit” (Ecc. 7:8), “the spirit of judgment” and “the spirit of burning” (Isaiah 4:4), the “spirit of counsel” an “the spirit of knowledge” (Isaiah 11:2), “the spirit of Egypt” (Isa. 19:3), “a perverse spirit” (Isa. 19:14), “a spirit of judgment” (Isa. 28:6), “the spirit of deep sleep” (Isa. 29:10), “the spirit of heaviness” (Isa. 61:3), “an excellent spirit” (Dan. 5:12), “spirit of whoredoms” (Hosea 4:12; 5:4), “the spirit of grace and supplications” (Zech. 12:10).
In the New Testament, the Bible refers to such things as “ye know not what MANNER OF SPIRIT ye are of” (Luke 9:55), “the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake” (Acts 6:10), “the spirit of holiness” (Romans 1:4), “newness of spirit” (Rom.7:6), “the spirit of bondage” (Romans 8:15), “the spirit of slumber” (Rom. 11:8), “the spirit of the world” (1 Cor. 2:12), “the spirit of meekness” (1 Cor. 4:21), “spirit of faith” (2 Cor. 4:13), “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Eph. 1:17), “the spirit of your mind” (Eph. 4:23), “the spirit of his mouth” (2 Thes. 2:8), “the spirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1:7), “a meek and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4), “the spirit of glory” (1 Peter 4:14), “spirit of antichrist” (1 John 4:3), “the spirit of truth” (1 John 4:6), “the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6) and finally “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10)
So, what we sometimes see in Scripture is that God will speak of His Spirit and also of His “spirit”, and “the spirit of the Lord” and “the Spirit of the Lord” or “the spirit of God” and also “the Spirit of God” and “My spirit” as well.
See examples of the small “s” in the word “spirit” in the King James Bible in Genesis 6:3; Exodus 31:3; 35:31; Numbers 24:2, Isaiah 11:2; 40:7; 42:1; 44:3 and 59:21.
These are not errors at all, but are verses that describe the “working, activity, influence, animating principle, essential quality, disposition, energy or the driving force” of God behind various actions He carries out rather than to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Ghost.
It seems to me from reading my King James Bible that God does have a "spirit" with a small "s". Several passages bring this out. Many passages have God referring to His own "soul" as well.
Part of what makes this so difficult to sort out is the fact that all the Bible versions differ among themselves. Where some have a capital S others put a small s. This is true not only of the different English and foreign language bible translations but of different printing houses who all print the King James Bible and others too.
In the present Cambridge printings of the King James Bible we have references to the "spirit" of God or the "spirit" of the Lord (small s) in the following Scriptures - In Genesis 6:3 we have "And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man", Exodus 31:3 "He filled him with the spirit of God"; Numbers 24:2 "the spirit of God came upon him"; Job 26:13 "By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens"; Psalms 104: 30 "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created"; Isaiah 40:7 "the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it"; Isaiah 44:3 "I will pour my spirit upon thy seed" and Isaiah 59:21 "My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth"
Just to illustrate how the various Bible translations all differ from each other, let's take a look at Psalms 104:30 where the KJB reads spirit with a small s. "Thou sendest forth thy spirit (small s), they are created."
Bible translations that have "spirit" with a small s are Wycliffe 1395, Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587, the Revised Version 1881, Webster's translation 1833, Noyes Translation 1869, Darby 1890, Rotherham's Emphasized bible 1902, the Jewish Publication Society 1917, the NRSV 1989, the Complete Tanach and the Jubilee Bible 2010.
Versions that have a capital S in Spirit are Youngs 1898, the ASV 1901, NASB, NIV, NKJV and the ESV.
But there are several other English versions that have "breath" instead of spirit or Spirit, and these include Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549, the Complete Jewish bible, Holman Standard, The Voice, the Common English Bible and Dan Wallace and company's NET version says "life giving breath". So you can see, the versions vary greatly among themselves.
We also know that Jesus Himself had both a soul and a spirit. There are many passages that bring this out.
"And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?" Mark 2:8
"And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign?" Mark 8:12
"And the child grew and waxed strong in spirit" Luke 1:80 and 2:40 "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father..." Luke 10:21
"Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." Luke 23:46
"When Jesus therefore saw her weeping...he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled." John 11:33
"When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit" John 13:21
The Lord Jesus also had a soul, and God the Father has a soul, as can be seen from the following Scriptures. In Matthew 12:18 we find a quote from God Himself speaking through the prophet Isaiah about the Lord Jesus. "Behold, my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my SOUL is well pleased: I will put my spirit (small s) upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles."
Again, God tells us He has a soul in Isaiah 1:14 when He says "Your new moons and your appointed feasts my SOUL hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them."
And Isaiah also tells us of the SOUL of our Saviour in that great Messianic chapter 53 - "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his SOUL an offering for sin"..."He shall see the travail of his SOUL, and shall be satisfied"..."because he hath poured out his SOUL unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bear the sin of many" Isaiah 53:10-12.
In Matthew 26:38 we read of Jesus: "Then saith he unto them, My SOUL is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me." The same is repeated in Mark 14:34 - "My SOUL is exceeding sorrowful unto death" In John 12:27 we read Jesus say: "Now is my SOUL troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour."
Acts 2:27, 31 - "Because thou wilt not leave my SOUL in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." - "He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his SOUL was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption."
Since man is a tripartite creature made in the image of God, it seems that God Himself may also have a "spirit" as well as a soul. In the Old Testament God appeared to Abraham and others in a body; looked like a man and even ate (See Genesis 18:1-8), and we know that our Lord Jesus Christ, the God-Man has a body, soul and spirit as well.
Back to 1 John 5:8
As for the original question about 1 John 5:8, I believe the first printing of the King James Bible in 1611 got it right as do most Publishing companies today who print the King James Bible. “And there are three that bear witness in the earth, the Spirit, and the water and the blood; and these three agree in one.”
However other Bibles that have a small “s” here and say “three that bear witness in the earth, the spirit, and the water and the blood” may be focusing more on the idea of the working or the energizing power of “the spirit of truth” (1 John 4:6) than of the direct action of the Holy Ghost.
Foreign language Bibles that also have a capital "S" in the word Spirit in 1 John 5:8 are the following: The French Martin 1744, Louis Segond 1910 and French Ostervald 1996 - "l'Esprit, l'eau, et le sang", the Italian Diodati 1649, 1991 and La Nuova Riveduta 2006 - "lo Spirito, e l’acqua, e il sangue", the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569, the Cipriano de Valera of 1602 and the Reina Valeras from 1909 to 1995 - "el Espíritu, y el agua, y la sangre", the Portuguese Almeida 1681 and the modern Portuguese Bibles - "o Espírito, e a água, e o sangue", the Dutch Staten Vertaling -"de Geest, en het water, en het bloed", the Tagalog Ang Dating Biblia 1905 and the Tagalog Ang Salita ng Diyos of 1998 - "ang Espiritu, ang tubig, at ang dugo", the Romanian Cornilescu - "Duhul, apa şi sîngele", the Hungarian Károli bible - "a Lélek, a víz és a vér" and even Scrivener's 1894 Greek text (Trinitarian Bible Society) as well as the Greek Orthodox text of 1904 have a capital letter for "Spirit" - τὸ Πνεῦμα, καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ, καὶ τὸ αἷμα·
Of much greater concern should be the fact that most of today’s new Vatican Versions like the ESV, NIV, NASB completely omit some 23 words and the strongest teaching in the Bible about the Trinity from 1 John 5:7-8.
See Why 1 John 5:7-8 “the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one” is inspired Scripture -
I hope this has been of some help to you, sister Deb. May God increase our faith and understanding and our love for His precious words.
All of grace, believing the Book - the Authorized King James Holy Bible.
Return to Articles - http://brandplucked.webs.com/kjbarticles.htm
Here is a copy of a letter from Cambridge University Press, written in June of 1985 where they acknowledge they had a printing error in 1 John 5:8 of a small "s" instead of capital S in the word "Spirit" for years
The Bible Commentators on 1 John 5:8
1 John 5:8 as it stands in the Cambridge King James Bible - “And there are three that bear witness in the earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”
Bible commentators once again are all over the board, but those who affirm that the Spirit spoken of in 1 John 5:8 is the Holy Spirit of God are the following - John Calvin, John Trapp, Albert Barnes, Matthew Poole, Peter Pett, Adam Clarke, Coffman, Robertson, Phillip Schaff, Thomas Coke, Thomas Constable, Burkitt, Jamieson, Faussett and Brown and John Gill.
John Calvin - “8There are three He applies what had been said of water and blood to it’s own purpose, in order that they who reject Christ might have no excuse; for by testimonies abundantly strong and clear, he proves that it is he who had been formerly promised, inasmuch as water and blood, being the pledges and the effects of salvation, really testify that he had been sent by God. He adds a third witness, the Holy Spirit, who yet holds the first place, for without him the wafer and blood would have flowed without any benefit; for it is he who seals on our hearts the testimony of the water and blood; it is he who by his power makes the fruit of Christ’s death to come to us; yea, he makes the blood shed for our redemption to penetrate into our hearts, or, to say all in one word, he makes Christ with all his blessings to become ours.
So Paul, in Romans after having said that Christ by his resurrection manifested himself to be the Son of God, immediately adds, “Through the sanctification of the Spirit.” For whatever signs of divine glory may shine forth in Christ, they would yet be obscure to us and escape our vision, were not the Holy Spirit to open for us the eyes of faith.
Readers may now understand why John adduced the Spirit as a witness together with the water and the blood, even because it is the peculiar office of the Spirit, to cleanse our consciences by the blood of Christ, to cause the cleansing effected by it to be efficacious. On this subject some remarks are made at the beginning of the Second Epistle of Peter, where he uses nearly the same mode of speaking, that is, that the Holy Spirit cleanses our hearts by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ.”
John Trapp’s Commentary (English Puritan) - “8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
Ver. 8. The Spirit and the water] The Spirit of sanctification testified by saving graces and new divine gifts, the water of repentance, and the blood of Christ applied by faith. These be the three witnesses of a man’s happiness here. When the waters of sanctification are troubled and muddy, let us run to the witness of blood.
Albert Barnes Commentary - on 1 John 5:8- “The Spirit - Evidently the Holy Spirit. The assertion here is, that that Spirit bears witness to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, 1 John 5:5. The testimony of the Holy Spirit to this fact is contained in the following things:
(1)He did it at the baptism of Jesus. Notes, Matthew 3:16-17.
(2)Christ was eminently endowed with the influences of the Holy Spirit; as it was predicted that the Messiah would be, and as it was appropriate he should be, Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 61:1. Compare Luke 4:18; Notes, John 3:34.
(3)the Holy Spirit bore witness to his Messiahship, after his ascension, by descending, according to his promise, on his apostles, and by accompanying the message which they delivered with saving power to thousands in Jerusalem, John 16:14-15.
(5)he does it in the hearts of all true Christians, for “no man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost,” 1 Corinthians 12:3. See the notes at that passage.
The Spirit of God has thus always borne witness to the fact that Jesus is the Christ, and he will continue to do it to the end of time, convincing yet countless millions that he was sent from God to redeem and save lost people.”
Matthew Poole’s Annotations - “And for the three that are said to bear witness on earth; there is, first, the Spirit, who, though the Holy Ghost were in the former triad, needs not here be taken for another Spirit, but may be the same, considered under another notion, and as testifying in another manner; not transiently and immediately from heaven, as there, but statedly, and as inacting instruments here on earth; extraordinarily, the man Christ Jesus, all his apostles and first disciples, in all the wonderful works which they did for the confirmation of the Christian doctrine; and ordinarily, the whole church of true Christians; for it animates the whole living body of Christ, and makes it, though in an imperfect measure, by a uniform course of actions, tending to God and heaven, an extant visible proof to the world of the truth of that religion which obtains in it, and of his Divine power and nature who is the Head of it.”
Peter Pett’s Commentary - “Indeed this is borne witness to by the Spirit, for He is the Spirit of truth. He came on Jesus with power at Jesus’ baptism, where Jesus was testified to as the only Son and the Servant Who was pleasing to God, and He came to Him powerfully in His death when He raised Him from the dead (Romans 1:4). So all three agree in their witness to Jesus as the Christ, the Spirit, the water and the blood, and all are agreed together and are one in revealing Him as the Christ. In both His life and His death he was the Christ.
The Spirit further bears witness to Christ through God’s witnesses, first the Apostles, then those whom the Apostles appointed, and then through the leaders of the true churches.
But God Himself is also the witness to His Son. He Himself bore witness, for it was he Who sent the Holy Spirit on Him at His baptism, and made His declaration of Who He was as His Son, and how pleasing He was as His Servant, and it was He Who powerfully raised Him from the dead through His Holy Spirit at His resurrection. And His witness is greater than any witness of man.”
Adam Clarke - “The Spirit, and the water, and the blood - This verse is supposed to mean "the Spirit - in the word confirmed by miracles; the water - in baptism, wherein we are dedicated to the Son, (with the Father and the Holy Spirit), typifying his spotless purity, and the inward purifying of our nature; and the blood - represented in the Lord's Supper, and applied to the consciences of believers: and all these harmoniously agree in the same testimony, that Jesus Christ is the Divine, the complete, the only Savior of the world."
- Mr. Wesley's notes. By the written word, which proceeded from the Holy Spirit, that Spirit is continually witnessing upon earth, that God hath given unto us eternal life.
By baptism, which points out our regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and which is still maintained as an initiatory rite in the Christian Church, we have another witness on earth of the truth, certainty, importance, and efficacy of the Christian religion.”
John Wesley - “Verse 8 - And there are three that testify in heaven - The testimony of the Spirit, the water, and the blood, is by an eminent gradation corroborated by three, who give a still greater testimony. The Father - Who clearly testified of the Son, both at his baptism and at his transfiguration. The Word - Who testified of himself on many occasions, while he was on earth; and again, with still greater solemnity, after his ascension into heaven, Revelation 1:5 ; Revelation 19:13 . And the Spirit - Whose testimony was added chiefly after his glorification, 1 John 2:27 ; John 15:26 ; Acts 5:32 ; Romans 8:16 . And these three are one - Even as those two, the Father and the Son, are one, John 10:30 . Nothing can separate the Spirit from the Father and the Son. If he were not one with the Father and the Son, the apostle ought to have said, The Father and the Word, who are one, and the Spirit, are two. But this is contrary to the whole tenor of revelation. It remains that these three are one. They are one in essence, in knowledge, in will, and in their testimony.
It is observable, the three in the one verse are opposed, not conjointly, but severally, to the three in the other: as if he had said, Not only the Spirit testifies, but also the Father, John 5:37 ; not only the water, but also the Word, John 3:11 , John 10:41 ; not only the blood, but also the Holy Ghost, John 15:26 , &c. It must now appear, to every reasonable man, how absolutely necessary 1 John 5:8 is. St. John could not think of the testimony of the Spirit, and water, and blood, and subjoin, "The testimony of God is greater," without thinking also of the testimony of the Son and Holy Ghost; yea, and mentioning it in so solemn an enumeration. Nor can any possible reason be devised, why, without three testifying in heaven, he should enumerate three, and no more, who testify on earth. The testimony of all is given on earth, not in heaven; but they who testify are part on earth, part in heaven. The witnesses who are on earth testify chiefly concerning his abode on earth, though not excluding his state of exaltation: the witnesses who are in heaven testify chiefly concerning his glory at God's right hand, though not excluding his state of humiliation.”
Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible - “The Spirit ... There is no doubt regarding the identity of this witness, the same being the inspired testimony of the holy apostles of Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament; and apart from that New Testament, there is no other authentic written source of the historical events which are the foundation of Christianity… In a lesser sense, of course, the earnest of the Holy Spirit given to all believers in Christ on condition of and subsequent to their repentance and baptism imparts the blessed fruit of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, etc. (Galatians 5:22).
Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament - “Verse 8
The three (οι τρεις — hoi treis). The resumptive article.
Agree in one (εις το εν εισιν — eis to hen eisin). “Are for the one thing,” to bring us to faith in Jesus as the Incarnate Son of God, the very purpose for which John wrote his Gospel (John 20:31).
Schaff’s Commentary on the N.T. - “Then the three witnesses on earth must be supposed to be, in relation to that other testimony, ‘the witness of men:’ testifying to the perfected Gospel of the ascended Lord under the influence of the Spirit, to the baptism of our Lord and our baptism, to the finished atonement and the sacramental commemoration of it. This introduces a very violent abruptness into the apostle’s strain. Without these words the sense runs smoothly on. The Spirit now takes precedence as being still the one and only witness, who bears the testimony throughout revelation and in the history of the Christian Church. But He bears His witness to Christ now and continuously through the records which gather round His baptism ‘in water’ and His baptism ‘in blood;’ and through the effects of the faith in His name as the dispenser of pardon and renewal. ‘And these three agree in one:’ they had been made three, and two of them personified as witnesses, because of the supreme importance of the anointing of the human nature of Christ by the Holy Ghost and of the pouring out of His blood. If there is any allusion to the ‘two or three witnesses’ by which truth must be established, that allusion is very faint. The apostle hastens to say that the threefold witness converges to one truth, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, faith in whom overcomes the world.”
Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible - “I take the Spirit in this verse to relate, not to his personal attestation to this character of Christ, which he gave as one of the witnesses in heaven, 1 John 5:7 but to his gifts and graces, since that which is born of the Spirit is called spirit (John 3:6.), and these witness to Christ on earth, as they appear, and evidently operate in and by the subjects of them on earth, in confirmation of the doctrine of the gospel concerning him.”
Thomas Constable Expository Notes - “Verse 8 Really there are three witnesses to the truth. These witnesses are the Holy Spirit teaching through the apostles and prophets, the water of Jesus' baptism, and the blood of His crucifixion. John personified the latter two in this verse. The testimony of eyewitnesses and prophets as well as that of the historical events affirmed the divine and human character of Jesus Christ.
Burkitt’s Expository Notes on the N.T. - “Verse 8 As if the apostle had said, "As there are three in heaven who have given us their testimony to the divinity of Christ and his doctrine here on earth, so there are three witnesses here below testifying the same thing, namely, the Spirit, in the preaching of the gospel, and in the souls of believers: the water, or sacrament of baptism, wherein we are baptized in the name of the Son, as well as of the Father and the blood, that is, the death of Christ, and the sufferings of those who have sealed this truth with their blood; all these do give testimony on earth to Christ's divinity from heaven."
Jameson, Faussett and Brown - “8. agree in one--" tend unto one result"; their agreeing testimony to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship they give by the sacramental grace in the water of baptism, received by the penitent believer, by the atoning efficacy of His blood, and by the internal witness of His Spirit (1Jo 5:10): answering to the testimony given to Jesus' Sonship and Messiahship by His baptism, His crucifixion, and the Spirit's manifestations in Him (see on 1Jo 5:6). It was by His coming by water (that is, His baptism in Jordan) that Jesus was solemnly inaugurated in office, and revealed Himself as Messiah; this must have been peculiarly important in John's estimation, who was first led to Christ by the testimony of the Baptist. By the baptism then received by Christ, and by His redeeming blood-shedding, and by that which the Spirit of God, whose witness is infallible, has effected, and still effects, by Him, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, unite, as the threefold witness, to verify His divine Messiahship.”
John Gill - “the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; by the "Spirit" is not meant the human Spirit or soul of Christ; for however that may be a witness of the truth of his human nature, yet not of his divine sonship: and moreover cannot be said to be a witness in earth; rather the Gospel, called the Spirit, which is a testimony of Christ's person, office, and graces and is preached by men on earth; or else the gifts of the Spirit bestowed on men on earth, both in an extraordinary and ordinary way, by which they have been qualified to bear witness to this truth; or it may be the Holy Spirit itself is intended, as he is in the hearts of his people here on earth, where he not only witnesses to the truth of their sonship, but also of the sonship of Christ, and is that witness a believer has within himself of it, mentioned in 1 John 5:10."
Notes from the Internet
Acts 11:28 An interesting case study
I mention this example of spelling changes in the KJB and how some other Bibles have printed this verse because a man came to our KJB Debate forum and asked about it.
In the original printing of the 1611 King James Bible Acts 11:28 looked like this - "And there stood vp one of them, named Agabus, and signified by the spirit, that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to passe in the dayes of Claudius Cesar."
You will notice the small "s" in the word "spirit". This is a matter of interpretation as well as a possible printing error that was later corrected. Quite a few other English bibles had a small "s" in the word "spirit". These include Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1534, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549, the Bishops' Bible 1568.
All these bibles has the small "spirit", and it could be referring to the human spirit of Agabus, or possibly to the energizing power of God.
Other English bibles after the King James Bible also had a small "s" in "spirit". These include Whiston's Primitive New Testament 1745, the Thomas Haweis New Testament 1795 and the Sawyer New Testament of 1858. Lamsa's 1933 translation of the Syriac Peshitta likewise has a small "s" saying - "Agabus stood up and foretold by the spirit, that a great famine was to come"
The first English Bible to have "signified by the Spirit" with a capital "S" was the Geneva bible of 1587. So it could be that the initial 1611's "spirit" was a printing error made by the printers who were used to seeing the small "spirit" in so many previous English bibles.
In his book, The Authorized Edition of the English Bible 1611, Scrivener doesn't even mention this spelling difference or when it was changed to a capital S "Spirit", so it seems to have been of little significance to him. The present printings of the King James Bible now say that the prophet Agabus "signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth".