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John in the Bible
Johannine literature
Gospel of John · First Epistle of John · Second Epistle of John · Third Epistle of John · Revelation · Authorship
John the Apostle · John the Evangelist · John of Patmos  · John the Presbyter · Disciple whom Jesus loved
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Related literature
Apocryphon of John · Acts of John · Logos · Signs Gospel

The First Epistle of John, usually referred to simply as First John and often written 1 John, is a book of the New Testament. This fourth catholic or "general" epistle is attributed to John the Evangelist, traditionally thought to be the author of the Gospel of John and the other two epistles of John. This Epistle was written in Ephesus between the years 100-110.[1] The work was written to counter the heresies that Jesus did not come "in the flesh," but only as a spirit. It also defined how Christians are to discern true teachers: by their ethics, their proclamation of Jesus in the flesh, and by their love.[1]

Contents

Composition

The Epistle is traditionally held to have been composed by John the Evangelist, at Ephesus, when the writer was in advanced age. The epistle's content, language and conceptual style indicate that it may have had the same author as the Gospel of John, 2 John, and 3 John.[1] Some modern scholars believe that the apostle John wrote none of the New Testament books traditionally attributed to him.[2]

  • "There are no concrete indications of the identity of the author ... We find here a special form of the horatory or 'paraenetic' style... the writer has his own locutions which give a peculiar stamp to the work... a demonstrative is given first place in a sentence, looking forward to its definition or explanation usually after some article or conjuction... This is one of the features which by its frequency distinguishes the style of the epistle from that of the Gospel of John... He also 'uses the conditional sentence in a variety of rhetorical figures which are unknown to the gospel.'[3]"[4]

Purpose

"The Fourth Gospel addresses itself to the challenges posed by Judaism and others outside Johannine circles who have rejected the community's vision of Jesus as preexistent Son, sent by the Father. The epistles" (First, Second, and Third John) "describe the fracturing of the Johannine community itself."[5]

The author wrote the Epistle so that the joy of his audience would "be full" (1.4) and that they would "sin not" (2.1) and that "you who believe in the name of the Son of God... may know that you have eternal life" (5.13). It appears as though the author was concerned about heretical teachers that had been influencing churches under his care. Such teachers were considered Antichrists (2.18-19) who had once been church leaders but whose teaching became heterodox. It appears that these teachers taught that Jesus Christ was a Spirit being without a body (4.2), that his death on the cross was not as an atonement for sins (1.7). It appears that John might have also been rebuking a proto-Gnostic named Cerinthus, who also denied the humanity of Christ.

The purpose of the author (1:1-4) is to declare the Word of Life to those to whom he writes, in order that they might be united in fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. He shows that the means of union with God are, (1) on the part of Christ, his atoning work (1:7; 2:2; 3:5; 4:10, 14; 5:11, 12) and his advocacy (2:1); and (2), on the part of man, holiness (1:6), obedience (2:3), purity (3:3), faith (3:23; 4:3; 5:5), and love (2:7, 8; 3:14; 4:7; 5:1).

Comma Johanneum

Philip the Apostle. The visible text (in Old Church Slavonic) in the book is: "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love..."

Among the most controversial verses of the Bible is an explicit reference to what some people consider the trinity, the Comma Johanneum, (1 John 5:7-8). These verses do not appear in any version of the text prior to the ninth century, but do appear in the King James Bible, something Isaac Newton commented on in An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture. This is sometimes used as evidence to counter the King-James-Only Movement. About the year 800, the Comma appeared in some texts of the Latin Vulgate, and was subsequently translated into Greek and added to later Greek manuscripts. Bart Ehrman suggests in his book Misquoting Jesus that the King James Version would not have included the passage if Desiderius Erasmus had not given in to pressure to include it in the Textus Receptus even though he doubted its authenticity.

The majority of modern translations (for example New International Version, English Standard Version and New American Standard Bible) do not include this text. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) said regarding its authenticity:

On the whole, therefore, the evidence seems to me to be clear that this passage is not a genuine portion of the inspired writings, and should not be appealed to in proof of the doctrine of the Trinity.[6]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b c Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985) "1 John," p. 355-356
  2. ^ "Although ancient traditions attributed to the Apostle John the Fourth Gospel, the Book of Revelation, and the three Epistles of John, some modern scholars believe that he wrote none of them." Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985) p. 355
  3. ^ C. H. Dodd, “The First Epistle of John and the Fourth Gospel,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, XXI (1937)"
  4. ^ The Interpreters Bible The Holy Scriptures in the King James and Revised Standard versions with general articles and introduction, exegesis, [and] exposition for each book of the Bible in twelve volumes, George Arthur Buttrick, Commentary Editor, Walter Russell Bowie, Associate Editor of Exposition, Paul Scherer, Associate Editor of Exposition, John Knox Associate Editor of New Testament Introduction and Exegesis, Samuel Terrien, Associate Editor of Old Testament Introduction and Exegesis, Nolan B. Harmon Editor, Abingdon Press, copyright 1955 by Pierce and Washabaugh, set up printed, and bound by the Parthenon Press, at Nashville, Tennessee, Volume XII, The Epistle of James, the First and Second Epistles of Peter, The First, Second, and Third Epistles of John [Introduction and Exegesis – Amos N. Wilder, Expostion (from which I quote once) – Paul W. Hoon], The Epistle of Jude, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, General Articles, Indexes
  5. ^ The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Edited by Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Union Theological Seminary, New York; NY, William J. Dalton, S. J.; Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm. (emeritus) The Divinity School, Duke University, Durham, NC; [The Johannine Epistles, Pheme Perkins], with a foreword by His Eminence Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, S.J.; Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1990
  6. ^ Barnes, Albert (2007-02-07). "Albert Barnes New Testament Notes". StudyLight.org. http://www.studylight.org/com/bnn/view.cgi?book=1jo&chapter=005. Retrieved 2007-02-07. 

This article incorporates text from Easton's Bible Dictionary (1897), a publication now in the public domain.

External links

Online translations of the First Epistle of John

Related article:

Preceded by
2 Peter
Books of the Bible Succeeded by
2 John
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