ICC New Testament Commentary
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:(b) 2:1-6. Further statement of the conditions of fellowship. Knowledge and obedience
1, 2 The remedy for sin (in the case of those who acknowledge that they have sinned, in contrast with 1:10).
3-5a. Obedience the sign of knowledge.
5b, 6. Imitation the sign of union.
1. The recognition of the universality of sin, from which even Christians are not actually free, might lead to a misconception of its true character. Men might easily pass too lenient judgments on its heinousness, and ignore the responsibility of those who give way to its promptings. If it is impossible for any one, even the Christian, to escape sin, why condemn with such uncompromising severity failures for which men cannot reasonably be held responsible? Why strive so earnestly against what is inevitable? The writer hastens to warn his readers against such conclusions. Sin is wholly antagonistic to the Christian ideal; his whole object in trying to set out that ideal more clearly is to prevent sin, not to condone it. His aim in writing is to bring about “sinlessness” (ἵνα μὴ ἀμάρτητε). And the Christian scheme includes means by which such an aim may be gradually realized. Whenever any one gives way to any act of sin, such as must interrupt the intercourse and fellowship between men and God, which it is the great aim of Christ’s work to establish, the means exist by which this fellowship may be restored. Christians have an “advocate” with the Father (πρός: cf. 1:2), who is able and willing to plead their cause, to present their case truly and completely, to transact their business, to speak for them, if non-legal phrases convey the meaning more clearly. And His mediation is addressed to one who is Father of both Advocate and suppliants, as eager as they can be that the fellowship should be restored, on the only terms on which such fellowship can be restored, the removal of the sin which has interrupted it.τεκνία μου] The “Elder,” who is perhaps the representative of a generation which has almost passed away, naturally thinks of the younger generation to whom he is speaking as his “children.” And when he wishes to emphasize the importance of the thought which he has to teach, he naturally falls into the language of affectionate endearment. Whether he is thinking of them as his “sons in the faith,” who owe their conversion to Christianity to his ministry, is uncertain. We do not know the historical circumstances of the case with sufficient accuracy to determine.
ταῦτα] must refer to the contents of the whole Epistle, already present to the mind of the writer, rather than to the preceding chapter or any part of it, though to some extent the main teaching of the Epistle has been already declared in outline.
ἵνα μὴ ἁμάρτητε] The aorist suggests definite acts of sin rather than the habitual state, which is incompatible with the position of Christians who are in truth what their name implies. Those who are bathed need not save to wash their feet; cf. John 13:10.
καὶ ἐάν] The sentence introduced by these words is not contrasted with the preceding, but added to it “as a continuous piece of one message.” The writer’s object is to produce “sinlessness.” And this is not a fruitless aspiration after an ideal which cannot possibly be realized, for the means of dealing with the sin which he desires to combat are at hand.
παράκλητος] Most of the information which is of real importance in determining the meaning and usage of this word in the Johannine writings (it is not found elsewhere in the N.T.) is to be found in the notes of Wettstein and Westcott. The article on the word in Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible (iii. 665) gives a very clear summary of the evidence; cf. also Jülicher’s shorter statement in the Encyclopaedia Biblica (iii. 3567).
The passages where it occurs in the N.T. are John 14:16, John 14:26, John 14:15:26, John 14:16:7; 1 John 2:1. The meaning “advocate” is clearly needed in the Epistle, it is possible in 15:26, and probable in 16:7. In 14:16, 26 it must have the wider and less technical meaning of one called in to help.
As regards the use of the verb παρακαλεῖν, it has the sense of comfort in the LXX (cf. Genesis 37:35, where it is used with reference to Jacob) and in the N.T. (cf. Matthew 5:4, ὅτι αὐτοὶ παρακληθήσονται, where the influence of Isaiah 61:2, παρακαλέσαιπάντας τοὺς πενθοῦντας, is clear). The use of παράκλησις in the sense of comfort is also well established (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:4, διὰ τῆς παρακλήσεως ἧς παρακαλούμεθα). But its original meaning was to send for, summon to one’s aid, corresponding to the Latin aduocare. The following passages are often quoted: Xen. Anab. i. 6. 5, Κλέαρχον παρεκάλεσε σύμβουλον, ὃς … ἐδόκει τροτιμηθῆναι μάλιστα τῶν Ἑλλήνων: Aesch. Ctes. 200, τί δεῖ σε Δήμοσθένην παρακαλεῖν; ὅταν παρακαλῇς κακουργὸν ἄνθρωπον καὶ τεχνίτην λόγων κλέττεις τὴν ἀκρόασιν. With this corresponds the classical use of the word παράκλητος. It is used as an adjective; cf. Dion. Cass. xlvi.20, τὴν ἀγορὰν … δούλων παρακλήτων πληρώσας, but more often absolutely; cf. Demosthenes, de Falsa Legatione, 341, αἳ τῶν παρακλήτων αὗται δεήσεις καὶ σπουδαὶ τῶν ἰδίων πλεονεξιῶν εἵνεκα γίγνονται. Diogenes Laertius, iv. 7, Bion. πρὸς τὸν ἀδολέσχην λιπαροῦντα αὐτῷ συλλαβέσθαι· τὸ ἱκανόν σοι ποιήσω, ἐὰν παρακλήτους πέμψῃς καὶ μὴ αὐτὸς ἐλθῇς. The meaning of the word is thus clearly wider than that of “advocate” in English. Though it is used specially in connection with the law courts, it denotes any friend called upon to give help, either by pleading or giving evidence, or in virtue of his position and power. Its Latin equivalent is “aduocatus,” rather than “patronus,” which corresponds more in meaning to our “advocate.” The distinction is clearly defined by Asconius Pedianus, in a note on Cicero, in Q. Caecilium, “Qui defendit alterum in iudicio, aut patronus dicitur, si orator est, aut aduocatus si aut ius suggerit, aut praesentiam suam commodat amico.”
The form of the word is passive (cf. κλητός, ἐκλεκτός, ἀγαπητός, etc.). It must mean one who is called to the side of the suppliant, not one who comforts or consoles, or exhorts. The meaning “comforter” or “consoler” can attach to the word only in so far as that expresses the good office which he who is called in performs for the friend who claims his help.
The usage of the Septuagint corresponds. In Zechariah 1:13, παρακλητικός is used to translate the Hebrew נִחֻמִּים, ῥήματα καλὰ καὶ λόγους παρακλητικούς. In Job 16:2, מְנַחֵם is translated by παρακλήτωρ (παρακλήτορες κακῶν πάντες). But it should be noticed that two of the later versions (Aquila, Theodotion) render it by παράκλητοι. Symmachos has παρηγοροῦντες, an indication that in later Greek the meaning of παράκλησις was beginning to influence that of παράκλητος.Philo’s usage corresponds with the classical. The Paraclete is the advocate or intercessor; cf. de Josepho, c. 40, ἀμνηστίαν ἁπάντων παρέχω τῶν εἰς ἐμὲ πεπραγμένων· μηδενὸς ἑτέρου δεῖσθε παρακλήτου: de Vita Moysis, iii. 14, the High Priest is said rightly to bear the symbol of the Logos (τὸ λογεῖον is the LXX expression for the breast-plate), ἀναγκαῖον γὰρ ῃν τὀ͂ν ἱερώμενον τῷ τοῦ κόσμου πατρὶ παρακλήτῳ χρῆσθαι τελειοτάτῳ τὴν ἀρετὴν υἱῷ πρός τε ἀμνηστείαν ἁμαρτημάτων καὶ χορηγίαν ἀφθονωτάτων ἀγαθῶν, where the parallel to the Johannine thought is clearly marked, whether the Cosmos or the Logos is to be regarded as the “son perfect in virtue” who is used as Paraclete. In another passage usually quoted, de Opificio Mundi, c. 6, οὐδενὶ δὲ παρακλήτῳ· τίς γὰρ ἦνἕτερος, μόνῳ δὲ ἑαυτῷ χρησάμενος ὁ θεὸς ἔγνω δεῖν εὐεργετεῖν … τὴν … φύσιν, Jülicher may be right in saying that the only feasible meaning is something like “instructor,” “adviser,” so far as concerns the duty which the Paraclete is needed to perform; but the point of the sentence is that God confers His benefits on nature Himself, without using the help or services of another. Cf. also In Flaccum, §§ 3, 4.
The word occurs as a loan-word in the Targum and Talmudic literature, in the sense of helper, intercessor, advocate. It is used in the Targum on Job 16:20 and 33:23 as a paraphrase of מליץ taken in the sense of “interpreter.” The latter passage is especially interesting, as showing the late Jewish view of the need of angelic agency to “redeem a man from going to the pit.”
In the Talmud, פרקליט is used for “advocate,” in opposition to קטיגור (κατήγορος; cf. Revelation 12:10, ὁ κατήγωρ). “He who performs one precept has gotten to himself one paraclete, and he who commits one transgression has gotten to himself one accuser” (Pirke Aboth, iv. 15; Taylor, p. 69). “Whosoever is summoned before the court for capital punishment is saved only by powerful paracletes; such paracletes man has in repentance and good works; and if there are nine hundred and ninety-nine accusers, and only one to plead for his exoneration, he is saved” (Shab. 32a). The sin-offering is like the paraclete before God; it intercedes for man, and is followed by another offering, a thank-offering for the pardon obtained (Sifra, Megora iii. 3). These and other passages are quoted in the Jewish Encyclopaedia, s.v. (ix. 515). The same usage is found in early Christian literature, where the use of the word is independent of the Johannine use of the term; cf. 2 Clement. vi. 9, τίς ἡμῶν παράκλητος ἔσται ἐὰν μὴ εὑρεθῶμεν ἔργα ἔχοντες ὅσια καὶ δίκαια; Barnabas, c. xx. καταπονοῦντες τὸν θλιβόμενον, πλουσίων παράκλητοι, πενήτων ἄνομοι κριταί.
The connection of the word with the ordinary meaning of παράκλησις is found in Rufinus’ translation of the De Principiis; cf. ii. 7. 3, “Paracletus uero quod dicitur Spiritus sanctus, a consolatione dicitur. Paraclesis enim Latine consolatio appellatur.” He goes on to suggest that the word may have a different meaning when applied to the Holy Spirit and to Christ. “Videtur enim de Saluatore Paracletus dici deprecator. Utrumque enim significat in Graeco Paracletus, et deprecatorem et consolatorem.”
Origen seems to have understood the word in the sense of “intercessor.” Cf. Comm. in Joann. i. 38, τὴν περὶ ἡμῶν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα προστασίαν αὐτοῦ δηλοῖ παρακαλοῦντος ὑπὲρ τῆς ἀνθρώπων φύσεως καὶ ἱλασκομένου, ὡς ὁ παράκλητος καὶ ἱλασμός.In Chrysostom it has the sense of “comforter,” Hom. in Jo. 75, ἐπειδὴ γὰρ οὐδέπω αὐτὸν ἐγνωκότας εἰκὸς ἦν σφόδρα ἐπιζητεῖν τὴν συνουσίαν ἐκείνην, τὰ ῥήματα, τὴν κατὰ σάρκα αὐτοῦ παρουσίαν, καὶ μηδεμίαν δέχεσθαι παραμυθίαν ἀπόντος· τί φησιν ; ἐρωτήσω τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἄλλον παράκλητον δώσει ὑμῖν· τουτέστιν· ἄλλον ὡς ἐμέ.
In Cyril of Jerusalem the sense is not limited to that of “comforting”; cf. Catechesis, xvi. 20, Πσράκλητος δὲ καλεῖται, διὰ τὸ παρακαλεῖν καὶ παραμυθεῖθαι καὶ συναντιλαμβάνεσθαι τῆς ἀσθενείας ἡμῶν: Romans 8:26 being quoted in support, with the explanation of ὑπερεντυγχάνει"δῆλον δὲ ὅτι πρὸς τὸν θεόν."
The evidence of the old Latin Version is similar. In the Epistle “aduocatus” is used, in the Gospel either “aduocatus” or “paraclitus.” This is not seriously affected by the evidence adduced by Rönsch (Itala ü. Vulgata, p. 348), that “aduocare” acquired the meaning of “to comfort” (cf. Tertullian, adv. Marc. iv. 14, where the παρακαλέσαι τοὺς πενθοῦντας of Isaiah 61:2 is translated “aduocare languentes.” “Advocare” is a natural translation of παρακαλεῖν (cf. Tert. Pudicit. 13; Iren. III. ix. 3, v. xv. I, and the Vulgate of Isaiah 40:2, quoted by Rönsch), and owes any connection with the idea of “comforting” that it may have to that fact. Augustine’s “Paracletus, id est Consolator,” throws no light on the meaning and usage of the Greek word. The other versions do not throw much light on the subject. In Syriac, Arabic, Aethiopic, and Bohairic it is transliterated, and in the Sahidic also in the Gospel, while it has “he that prayeth for us” in the Epistle. The Vulgate has “Paracletus” in the Gospel and “Aduocatus” in the Epistle. This, no doubt, influenced the modern versions. Wycliffe renders “Comforter” in the Gospel and “Advocate” in the Epistle; and Luther also has “Tröster” in the Gospel and “Fürsprecher” in the Epistle.
Thus the evidence of early use supports the evidence of the form of the word, which is naturally passive. Its meaning must be “one called to the side of” him who claims the services of the called. The help it describes is generally assistance of some sort or other in connection with the courts of law; but it has a wider signification also,—the help of any one who “lends his presence” to his friend. Any kind of help, of advocacy, intercession, or mediation may be suggested by the context in which it is used. In itself it denotes merely “one called in to help.” In the Epistle the idea of one who pleads the Christian’s cause before God is clearly indicated, and “advocate” is the most satisfactory translation. This sense suits some of the passages in which it is used in the Gospel; in the others it suggests one who can be summoned to give the help that is needed in a wider sense. There is no authority for the sense of “Comforter,” either in the sense of “strengthener” or “consoler,” which has been so generally connected with it in consequence of the influence of Wycliffe and Luther, except Patristic interpretations of its meaning in S. John.The suggestion of Zimmern (Vater, Sohn, u. Fürsprecher in der babylonischen Gottesvorstellung), that its use in Christian and Jewish thought may be connected with the Babylonian myth of the intervention of Nusku (the Fire God), who “acts as the advocate of men at the instance of Ea and Marduk,” has not been favourably received. So far as concerns the Johannine use of the term Paraclete, far simpler explanations are to be found in its use in Philo and Rabbinic Judaism. In reality it hardly needs explanation. It was probably a common word, and the obvious one to use. Moulton and Milligan (Expositor, vol. X., 1910) quote the illustrations of its use, one from “a very illiterate letter” of the second century a.d. where it has been restored (BU 601:12), καὶ τὸν ἀραβῶνα τοῦ Σαραπίωνος παρακλος (l. παράκλητος) δέδωκα αὐτῷ, where they suggest that it may mean “on being summoned,” and an instance of the use of ἀπαράκλητος, OGIS 248:25 (175-161 b.c.), ἀπαρακλήτους.
Deissmann (Licht von Osten, p. 243, n. 1) lays stress on the use of the word in Aramaic as a proof of its frequency in vulgar Greek. Its use in the Targums and Talmudic Literature is important. The extent of the author’s acquaintance with Rabbinic thought is at last beginning to be recognized.
ἔχομεν] Augustine’s comment is worth quoting, “Maluit se ponere in numero peccatorum ut haberet aduocatum Christum, quam ponere se pro Christo aduocatum et inueniri inter damnandos superbos.” As frequently the writer identifies himself with the rest of the Christian Body. They actually possess and have experience of the means, which are potentially available for the whole world. And the need is felt by the whole Church, not because any of them might, but whenever any one does fall. The lapse of one is a matter which concerns the whole body (ἐάν τις … ἔχομεν).
Ἰησοῦν χριστὸν δίκαιον] As true man (Ἰησοῦν), He can state the case for men with absolute knowledge and real sympathy. As God’s anointed messenger to men (Χριστόν), He is naturally fitted for the task and acceptable to Him before whom He pleads. As δίκαιος He can enter the Presence from which all sin excludes. He needs no advocate for Himself. Comp. Book of Enoch 38:2, 53:6, where the Messiah is called “the Righteous One.”
αμαρτητε] αμαρτανητε14*. 69. 137 ascr Cyr. Dam.
και] om. boh-codd.
εαν τις αμαρτη] si peccetis, arm-codd.
πατερα] θεον arm. Eus. Did.: deum patrem, Tert. Cels. ad Vigil.
Ιησουν Χριστον] post δικαιον Ia 192 (318).
Χριστον] om. Ib 161* (173): + Dominum nostrum et boh-cod.
δικαιον] for καιIb 157 (29): om. Ib 62 (498): suffragatorem Cyp-cod.
2. αὐτός κ.τ.λ.] “Himself is a propitiation for our sins.” His advocacy is valid, because He can Himself bear witness that the only condition on which fellowship between God and man can be restored has actually been fulfilled, i.e. the removal of the sin by which the intercourse was interrupted. He is not only the High Priest, duly qualified to offer the necessary propitiation, but also the propitiation which He offers. The writer’s meaning is most safely determined by reference to Old Testament theories of sacrifice, or rather of propitiation. In spite of the absence of direct quotations, there can be no doubt that the author of this Epistle is greatly indebted to the Old Testament. If the hand is the hand of a Hellene, it expresses the thought of a Jew. His mind is steeped in the thoughts of the Old Testament. Though he has lived among Greeks and learned to express himself simply in their language, and to some extent has made himself acquainted with Hellenic thought, he is really as much a stranger and a sojourner among them as his fathers were. He may have some acquaintance with Gnostic theories of redemption, which Greek thought had been borrowing from the East from at least the beginning of the century before Christ, his own thoughts on the subject are the outcome of his knowledge of the Scriptures. His views on propitiation therefore, as on all other subjects, must be considered in the light of the Old Testament.The object of propitation in Jewish thought, as shown in their Scriptures, is not God, as in Greek thought, but man, who has estranged himself from God, or the sins which have intervened between him and his God. They must be “covered” before right relations can be restored between the Deity and His worshippers. This is the dominant thought in the sacrificial system of the priestly code. It is the natural outcome of the sufferings of the nation before and during the Exile which had deepened their sense of sin, and of Jehovah’s estrangement from His people. The joyous sacrificial feast which the Deity shares with His worshippers consequently gives place, in national thought and feeling, to the ritual of the day of Atonement and the whole system of sin-, trespass-, and guilt-offering. Both ideas, the sacrificial feast which forms the ground of closer union between God and men, and the propitiatory offering by means of which interrupted relations can be restored, have, of course, their counterpart in Christian thought and teaching. But it is the latter which dominates the writer’s thought here, in an age in which failure and disappointment are fast clouding the clearer vision of God. The dominant idea which is common both to the Old Testament type and the Christian counterpart is that of the absolute holiness of God, who dwells in the light to which no man can approach, till he has put away the sin which cannot enter the presence of God. So far as the means are concerned, the ceremonial has given way to the spiritual. The work of the Christ, who in His life and death freely and voluntarily offered Himself in complete surrender to the will of God and the work of righteousness, has made possible the removal of the sin which keeps men from God. So far as they attach themselves to Him their sins are covered, for the possibility of their final removal is assured.
αυτος] om. boh-cod.
ιλασμος] post εστιν A 68. 180 vg. syrsch Eus. Or. Cypr. Hil. Aug.
δε των ημετερων] I b 396 (-) I c 116.
δε] om. I c 364 (137) K δ359.
μονον] μονων B 1. 21. 33. 37. 66*. 80*. 101* al. pauc. sah. boh-codd. (uid.) Or.
3. The author has stated that his object in writing is to produce sinlessness, and that if sin intervenes to interrupt the fellowship between man and God, there is a remedy (vv. 1, 2). He now proceeds to point out the signs of Christian life, as realized in knowledge of God and union with God. They are to be found in obedience and in Christ-like conduct. Knowledge of God includes, of course, much more than obedience to His commands, but its genuineness and reality can be thus tested. The writer can conceive of no real knowledge of God which does not issue in obedience, wherever the Divine will has been revealed in definite precepts.In the Johannine system, “knowledge” is never a purely intellectual process.1 It is acquired by the exercise of all the faculties of intellect, heart, and will. Fellowship and acquaintance are its cognate ideas. It is developed in the growing experience of intercourse. This conception, which dominates the whole Old Testament idea of “knowing God” and of God “knowing” men (cf. Amos 3:2), is similarly developed in S. Paul’s “knowing God, or rather being known of Him” (Galatians 4:9). The stress laid in the Johannine writings on the true knowledge of God is certainly connected with the necessity which the author felt of combating certain stages of Gnostic thought. But to see in the language of this and other similar verses of this Epistle any necessary reference to the particular stage of second-century Gnosticism which immediately preceded the more definite systems of Marcion and Valentinus, is precarious. We know too little about the development of Gnostic ideas before Basilides to say either that the stage of Gnosticism implied in the Fourth Gospel had or had not been reached by the year 100 a.d. or before that date, or that a considerable number of years must have passed before the Church could have demanded so definite a break with opinions of this kind as is suggested in the Second and Third Epistles (cf. Schmiedel, Evangelium, Briefe und Offenbarung Johannis, pp. 38, 19).
ἐν τούτῳ] points forward, as usually. Cf. note on 1:4.
γινώσκομεν, ἐγνώκαμεν] The tenses are significant. We learn to perceive more and more clearly that our knowledge is genuine through its abiding results in a growing willingness to obey.
τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν] The phrase τηρεῖν τὰς ἐντολὰς (τὸν λόγον) is characteristic of the Johannine books, including the Apocalypse. It occurs in the Gospel 12 times, in the First Epistle 6, and in the Rev_6 (cf. also Revelation 1:3, τὰ ἐν αὐτῷ γεγραμμένα). Elsewhere it is found only in Matthew 19:17, εἰ δὲ θέλεις εἰς τὴν ζωὴν εἰσελθεῖν, τήρει τὰς ἐντολάς. Cf. Mark 7:9 (τὴν παράδοσιν); 1 Timothy 6:14, τηρῆσαί σε τὴν ἐντολὴν ἄσπιλον. Cf. also Sifre, Deut. 48, quoted by Schlatter (Sprache u. Heimat des 4ten Evangeliums). “When a man keeps the ways of the law, should he sit still and not do them? Rather shouldest thou turn to do them.” As opposed to φυλάσσειν (custodire), τηρεῖν (obseruare) denotes sympathetic obedience to the spirit of a command, rather than the rigid carrying out of its letter. We may contrast Mark 10:20, ταῦτα πάντα ἐφυλαξάμην ἐκ νεότητός μου (= Luke 18:21, ἐφύλαξα). As knowledge is not confined to the intellect, so obedience penetrates beyond the latter to the spirit. It may be noticed that the Vulgate has obseruare in this verse, custodire in ver. 4, and seruare in 5, facts which suggest that no Latin rendering was felt to be an exact equivalent, or completely satisfactory rendering, of the Greek word τηρεῖν. In the Gospel seruare is the regular rendering.
τὰς ἐντολάς] The various commands, or definite precepts, in which those parts of the whole θέλημα which are known to us have found expression.
και] om. Ia 397 fff (96).
γινωσκομεν] γινωσκωμεν A: cognoscemus boh-ed.
τηρωμεν] φυλαξωμεν א*: τηρησωμενHδ6 (Φ).
4. The test is adequate, and may be applied with certainty; for there is no such thing as knowledge which does not issue in corresponding action. The man who claims to have knowledge of God which does not carry with it as its necessary consequence the attempt to carry out His will, thereby declares himself a liar. There is no room for self-deception. The falsehood, if not conscious and deliberate, is without excuse. For the converse thought, that the doing of the will leads to fuller knowledge, cf. John 7:17.ὁ λέγων] The verse is closely parallel to 1:6, 8, 10. The form of expression is more individualized than the conditional sentences used there. It is the direct and definite statement of the writer conscious of the fact that he is dealing with a real danger, and probably with a statement that has been actually made, by men against whose influence he is trying to guard his τεκνία. If there is no reason to see in it an attack on any particular Gnostic teacher, it clearly deals with statements which they have heard, and to which they have shown themselves ready to listen.
Ψεύστης ἐστίν] The falseness of the claim is the point which is emphasized. At the same time the form of expression chosen declares its inexcusableness. Contrast 1:8 (ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶμεν). As compared with the verb (1:6, ψευδόμεθα), it may perhaps suggest that the statement is a revelation of the character of the man who makes it. “The whole character is false” (Westcott). He who claims knowledge without obedience “has” the sin which he has allowed to gain foothold. If light is seen and not followed, deterioration of character is the inevitable result.
καὶ… ἐστίν] The antithetical clause is not merely a repetition of the positive statement in a negative form. The “truth” is regarded by the writer as an active principle working in a man. It is not concerned with the intellect alone. It corresponds to the highest effort of man’s whole nature. Cf. John 8:32.
ἐν τούτῳ] In such an one. In the Gospel and Epistles of S. John, when οὗτοςrefers back, it always denotes the subject or object, as previously described; cf. John 1:2 (οὗτος, the Logos who is θεός), v. 38, τούτῳ ὑμεῖς οὐ πιστεύετε (one sent by God).
οτι א A B 18. 25. 27. 33**. 65. 66**. 68. 69. 98. 101. 177. 180 ascr dscr jscr 57lect syrute Clem. Cyp. Lcif. Aug. Amb.] om. C K L P al. plu. cat. aethute Clem. Oec.
και] om. και A P 13. 27. 29 " εντου τω] in Eo boh-codd.: om. א 19.
η] om. 21. 34. 56. 100. 192. Oscr Ψ.
αληθεια)+ του θεου א 8. 25 aeth.: + εν αυτου19a: + εν αυτω 19 b.
5. Again the thought is carried further in the statement of the opposite. The whole word is substituted for the definite precepts, and knowledge gives way to love. Perfect obedience gains the whole prize. For love is greater than knowledge.
ὃς δʼ ἂν τηρῇ] The statement is made in its most general form. Contrast the preceding verse, and 1:6 ff. The difference shows that the writer has in view definite “Gnostic” claims. Knowledge is not the possession of a few “pneumatic” individuals. In contrast with the claim of such an one, whose conduct shows the falsity of his claim, is set the possibility of obtaining the higher prize, the perfection of love, open to all who are willing to obey. The “chance o’ the prize of learning love” is not reserved to the few who think that they “know.”
αὐτοῦ τὸν λόγον] The order of the words throws the emphasis on αὐτοῦ, which takes up the αὐτόν of the Gnostic’s claim. The teaching of the God, whom he claims to know, is very different from the views expressed in his claim.
The λόγος is the sum of the ἐντολαί, or rather it is the whole of which they are the parts. Love is not made perfect in a series of acts of obedience to so many definite commands. It reaches its full growth only when God’s whole plan is welcomed and absorbed. The ἐντολαί offer adequate tests of the truth or falsehood of any claim to know God. But something more is needed before Obedience can have her perfect work.
ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ] The love of God has been interpreted in three ways, according as the genitive is regarded as subjective, objective, or qualitative; God’s love for us, or our love for God, or the love which is characteristic of Him, which “answers to His nature” and which when “communicated to man is effective in him towards the brethren and towards God Himself.” The second gives the simplest and most natural meaning to the words in their present context. The love for God of which man is capable is only fully realized in absolute obedience. At the same time we must remember that it is the teaching of the author that it is God’s love for men which calls out the response of man’s love for Him. “We love Him, because He first loved us.” Comp. 2:15, 3:17, 4:12, 5:3.
ἀληθῶς] The true state of the case as contrasted with the false plea set up by the man who claims to have knowledge without obedience. The emphatic position, however, of the word suggests that it may reasonably be regarded as one of the many signs which are to be found in this Epistle, that the writer feels strongly the need of encouraging his readers with the assurance of the reality of their Christian privileges. Certainty is within their grasp if they will use the means which have been placed at their disposal. Comp. John 8:31.
τηρη] τηρει K 13. 100. 142 cscr 57lect: τηρησει Ia δ453 (5).
τον] om. Ia δ203 (265).
αληθως] om. 27. 29. 66**.
5b, 6. Imitation the sign of Union.
The test of union with God is the imitation of His Son. This is not stated directly, as in the case of knowledge (ver. 3), but the claim to “abide in Him” is said to carry with it the moral obligation to “follow the blessed steps of His most holy life.” See Findlay, p. 149.ἐν αὐτῷ μένειν] This form of expression is peculiar to the Johannine writings (Gospel and First Epistle). It is the equivalent, in his system of thought, of the Pauline ἐν Χριστῷ εἶναι, of which it was a very natural modification, if it is to be attributed to the author, and not to his Master. The longer the Lord delayed His coming, the more it came to be realized that union with Christ under the conditions of earthly existence must be an abiding rather than a short tarrying. The idea had taken its new shape before the “last hour” was thought to have struck. Bengel points out a climax: cognitio (ver. 3), communio (5), constantia (6).
ἐκεῖνος] For the use of ἐκεῖνος with reference to Christ, cf. 1 John 3:3, 1 John 3:5, 1 John 3:7, 1 John 3:16, 1 John 3:4:17; John 7:11, John 7:19:21, John 7:9:12, John 7:28, and perhaps also 19:35 (Zahn, Einleitung, ii. 481; cf. Introd. p. iv).
περιπατεῖν] See note on 1:6. For its use in the Johannine writings, cf. John 8:12, John 8:11:9 f., John 8:12:35; 1 John 1:6, 1 John 1:7, 1 John 1:2:11; 2 John 1:4, 2 John 1:6; 3 John 1:3, 3 John 1:4.
εν τουτω] post θεου P 31: om. Hδ2 (א) (?) (cf. Tisch. ver. 4) Ic 116* (-).
γινωσκομεν] cognoscemus, boh-ed.
καθως … περιπατειν] sic ambulare sicut (+et codd.) ille ambulauit, arm.
και … περιπατειν] om. L.
και αυτος] post ουτωςIa 65 (317) Ic 174 : om. sahd.
ουτως א C K P al. pler. cat. cop. syrp arm. Salv. Thphyl. Oec.] om. A B 3. 34. 65. 81. 180 dscr vg. sah. aeth. Clem. Or. Cyr. Cyp. Aug. The omission may possibly be due to the similarity of the preceding word, but the evidence against it is very strong.
2. 2:7-17. Proof of the ethical thesis from the circumstances in which the readers find themselves, and from their previous experience. The old commandment is always new in the growing light of God’s revelation. “Walking in light” and “keeping the commandments” further defined as love of the brethren
(a) 7-11. General. Brotherly love
(b) 12-17. Individual. Warning against love of the world
7-8. The Commandment, old and new.It is hardly necessary to discuss the interpretations which regard the “old” and the “new” as different commandments, the old commandment being the injunction to “walk as He walked,” and the new, the call to brotherly love. But assuming the identity of the old and the new, the commandment has been interpreted in three different ways. (1) With reference to 1:5 ff., to give proof of “walking in light” by the confession of sin and the avoiding of everything sinful. (2) With reference to the verses immediately preceding, to “walk as He walked.” Of these the second is the most natural, but it is not necessary to find a reference to any actual words of the Epistle which have preceded. The expressions which follow, “of which ye were in possession from the beginning,” “the word which ye heard,” make such a reference improbable. (3) The expression ἐντολὴ καινή recalls so vividly the language of the Gospel, and the connection with the duty of brotherly love insisted upon in vv. 9 and 10 is so clear, that we are almost compelled to interpret the passage in accordance with John 13:34, ἐντολὴν καινὴν δίδωμι ὑμῖν ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους, καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς, where the “newness” is to be found in the new standard required, καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς, rather than in the duty of mutual love, which was recognized in the Jewish law. In meaning this interpretation is practically identical with (2). “The idea of the imitation of Christ is identical with the fulfilment of love” (Westcott). And it gives the most natural meaning to the description of the commandment as old, and yet new “in Him and in you.” The old commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour,” which was already contained in the Mosaic law, if not also to be found in the conscience of those who “having no law, are a law unto themselves,” received a new meaning and application in the light of Christ’s teaching and example, and in the lives of His followers. And it had lately acquired a deeper meaning in contrast with the loveless intellectualism, which the writer clearly regarded as one of the worst dangers in the teaching and example of his opponents.
ἀγαπητοί] The first occurrence of the writer’s favourite form of address in these Epistles. Cf. 3:2, 21, 4:1, 7; 3 John 1:2, 3 John 1:5, 3 John 1:11. No conclusion can be drawn from its use as to the meaning of the command. The reading of the received text (ἀδελφοί) is found in the vocative only once in these Epistles. Both words are suitable expressions to introduce an appeal to the readers to show their brotherhood in Christ by active brotherly love, whether the writer has primarily in view, as the objects of the love which he inculcates, Christians as Christians, or men as men. The attestation, however, is decisive in favour of ἀγαπητοί. And, on the whole, it is not only more in accordance with his style, but suits his appeal better. The ἀδελφοί may have been suggested by the language of vv. 9, 10.ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς] The meaning of this expression must, of course, be determined from the context in each case. It is used eight times in the First Epistle, and twice in the Second. In 1:1 it recalls the use of ἐν ἀρχῇ in the first chapter of Genesis and in the Prologue of the Gospel. Its use in 3:8 (ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς ὁ διάβολος ἁμαρτάνει) is similar. Twice in this present chapter (2:13, 14) it occurs in the phrase, “Ye have known Him who is from the beginning.” The remaining instances in the two Epistles all have reference to the “old” command. The repetition of the words at the end of ver. 7 (ὃν ἠκούσατε [ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς]) in the Received Text is almost certainly wrong. They have probably been introduced from the similar phrase in ver. 24.
Where the phrase is used of the “old” command, it may refer either to the early days of the Mosaic legislation, or to the beginning of the education of each convert to whom the writer is speaking, or to the beginning of his life as a Christian. A reference to the teaching of Judaism on the subject of “love” seems, on the whole, to satisfy the conditions best in each case. But it is probably a mistake to attempt to define the meaning of the phrase very rigidly. Long continuance is suggested rather than a definite starting-point. It is not easy to determine whether the writer is thinking of the beginning of the life of each of his readers, or of their religious consciousness, or of their Christian life. The point can be settled only by the more general consideration of the character of the false teaching combated in these Epistles. The real force of the expression is to heighten the contrast of the “newer” teaching which placed knowledge higher than love. The writer has in view the
“Many Antichrists, who answered prompt
‘Am I not Jaspar as thyself art John?
Nay, young, whereas through age thou mayest forget?’”
He is confident that as against the “glozing of some new shrewd tongue” that which was “from the beginning” will prove to be “of new significance and fresh result.”
ὁ λόγος ὃν ἠκούσατε] “The word which ye heard” must be that which was told them by their teachers, whether Jewish or Christian or both. The command to love one’s neighbour was common to both. ὁ λόγος more naturally suggests a whole message rather than one definite command. But it may refer to the new commandment of John 13:34, regarded as a rule of life rather than a single precept.
αγαπητοι א A B C Psa_20 cat. vg. sah. cop. syrutr arm. Did. Thphyl. Aug. Bed.] αδελφοι Κ L al. plur. aethutr Oec.: om. jscr: αδελφοι μου Ic δ299 (-).
ειχετε] εχετε 27. 29. 34. 42. 57lect 58lect ascr kscr: habemus sah: habebamu, arm-ed.
η1o] pr. καιIa 7.
η κουσατε א A B C P 5. 13. 27. 29. 39. 40. 65. 68. 81. 180 dscr jscr vg. sah. cop. syrutr arm. aeth. Aug. Thphyl.] + απ αρχης K L al. longe plur. cat. Oec.
8. The command, which is as old as the Law of Moses, even if the writer did not regard it as implicitly contained in the story of Cain and Abel (cf. 3:11, 12, ἵνα ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους· οὐ καθὼς Καὶν κ.τ.λ.) becomes new “in Him (i.e. Christ) and in you.” The ἐντολή, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour,” received an altogether new meaning and scope in the light of Christ’s teaching as to “Who my neighbour is,” of His own example shown most clearly in His treatment of Tax-gatherers and Aliens, and of the carrying out of His example by His followers in the admission of Gentiles to the full privileges of Christianity on equal terms with the Jews. In Christ and in Christians the old command had gained “new significance and fresh result.” The verse had, no doubt, a special significance in view of the recent victory gained over the false teaching, and its depreciation of the law of love, which characterized the conduct and the thought of its supporters. The author rightly saw in recent events how the Church had “rescued the law of love” from the darkness which threatened to overwhelm it. The true light was shining more brightly in consequence, and the darkness more quickly passing away. But though these recent events were the occasion, they do not exhaust the meaning of the words, which have a far wider reference. Wurm, who argues with great plausibility for the reference to the victory over the false teachers (see esp. p. 104), apparently confines the reference to that incident too narrowly. Though it affords a fairly adequate explanation of the words ἐν ὑμῖν, it is unsatisfactory as an explanation of ἐν αὐτῷ. The new significance of the law of love in Christ and in Christians had a far wider application. The light of the true knowledge of God was already shining and dispelling the darkness of exclusiveness by the light of love wheresoever the “darkness overtook it not.”
πάλιν] The word clearly introduces another description of the same commandment, not another command. Cf. John 16:28, πάλιν ἀφίημι τὸν κόσμον, where πάλιν cannot mean “a second time,” and 1 Corinthians 12:21, οὐ δύναται ὁ ὀφθαλμὸς εἰπεῖν τῇ χειρί … ἢ πάλιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῖς ποσίν. Cf. also John 19:37; Romans 15:10, Romans 15:11, Romans 15:12; 1 Corinthians 3:20; (?) 2 Corinthians 10:7, 2 Corinthians 10:11:16; Hebrews 1:5, (?) 6, 2:13, 4:5, 10:30. The use of πάλιν in the N.T. to introduce another quotation in proof of the same point, or a further thought about the same subject, is fully established.
ὅ] The antecedent to the neuter relative is the clause ἐντολὴν καινὴν γράφω ὑμῖν. “It is a new commandment that I write unto you.” The order lays the emphasis on ἐντολὴν καινήν. It is the “newness” of the old command which is said to be true in Him and in His followers.
ὅτι … φαίνει] The shining of the true light reveals the true character of that which the darkness hid or obscured. The force of the present tense in παράγεται and φαίνει is significant. They must be interpreted as presents. All is not yet clear and known, but the process has already begun. The darkness is passing away. Contrast “It has become bright as the sun upon earth, and the darkness is past” (Book of Enoch 58:5).There are many indications in the Epistle that the writer regards the Parousia as imminent. Cf. especially ver. 18, ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν. The present verse throws some light on the difficult question of the relation between the teaching of the Gospel and that of the Epistle on the subject of the Parousia. In the Epistle the expectation is more clearly stated and more obviously felt than in the Gospel, though in the earlier work the idea of “the last day” not only receives definite expression, but is something more than an obsolete conception, alien to the author’s real thoughts and sympathy, or a mere condescension to popular Christianity, fed on Apocalyptic expectation and unable to bear a purely spiritual interpretation. A difference of emphasis is not necessarily a change of view. It is doubtful if the two conceptions are really inconsistent. Their inconsistency would not be felt by a writer of the particular type of thought which characterizes the author. Their meeting point lies in the idea of “manifestation,” which is his characteristic expression for the Parousia, as also for the earthly life of the Lord. For him the “Presence” is no sudden unveiling of a man from heaven, who in the twinkling of an eye shall destroy the old and set up the new. It is the consummation of a process which is continuously going on. It is the final manifestation of the things that are, and therefore the passing away of all that is phenomenal. As eternal life “is” now and “shall be” hereafter, as judgment is a process already going on, because men must show their true nature by their attitude to the Christ, while its completion is a final act; so the Parousia is the complete manifestation of that which is already at work. The time of its completion is still thought of as “the last day,” and “the day of judgment.” The true light is already shining, and the darkness is passing away. But He who is coming will come.
καινην] om. I a 1100 (310) K δ161.
ο … αυτω] in qua est ueritas, boh. " εστιν] μενει H δ3 (C) Ia 200f.
ο εστιν αληθες] om. I a 70.
αληθες] post αυτω A.
εν υμιν] א B C K L al. longe plur. cat. vg. sah. boh-ed. syrsch etp txt arm. aeth. Thphyl. Oec. Aug. Bed.] εν ημιν A P 4. 7. 9. 22. 29. 31. 34. 47. 76* cscr tol. boh-cod. syrp mg Hier.: om. εν H δ162 (269).
σκοτια] σκια A.9. The true light was already shining and gaining ground. The darkness was passing away. But it had not yet passed. The perfect day had not yet dawned. All had not yet recognized the light. And all who claimed to have done so could not make good their claim. The true light, when once apprehended, leads to very definite results. The claim to have recognized it, if not borne out by their presence, is false. These results are presented in sentences similar to vv. 4 and 6. The writer puts before his readers the cases of typical individuals, he that saith, he that loveth, he that hateth. The falsity of the claim is sharply stated. At the same time the form of expression (ἐντῇ σκοτίᾳ ἐστὶν ἕως ἄρτι) would seem to suggest that there is more excuse for self-deception. The claimant is not called ψεύστης (v. 4). “It is always easy to mistake an intellectual knowledge for a spiritual knowledge of the Truth” (Westcott). To claim to have knowledge of God, actually realized in personal experience (γινώσκειν), without obeying his commands, is deliberate falsehood. To claim spiritual illumination without love may be due to the fact that we are deceiving ourselves. It may be the result of mistaken notions as to the function of the intellect. Those who put forward such a claim only show that their apprehension of the “light” is not at present so complete as they imagine.
The “light” is, of course, that which illumines the moral and spiritual spheres. Cf. Origen, Comm. in Joann. xiii. 23, φῶς οὗν ὀνομάζεται ὁ θεὸς ἀπὸ τοῦ σωματικοῦ φωτὸς μεταληφθεὶς εἰς ἀόρατον καὶ ἀσώματον φῶς, διὰ τὴν ἐν τῷ φωτίζειν νοητοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς δύναμιν οὕτω λεγόμενος. In virtue of such “light” it is possible for men to go forward in moral duty and spiritual growth, just as the light of the sun makes it possible for them to walk on the earth’s surface without stumbling or tripping up (cf. John 11:9 f.).
μισῶν] The writer naturally does not deal with the possibility of intermediate states between love and hatred. In so far as the attitude of any particular man towards his fellow-man is not love, it is hatred. In so far as it is not hatred, it is love. The statements are absolute. The writer is not now concerned with their applicability to the complex feelings of one man towards another in actual life, or how the feelings of love and hatred are mingled in them. It is his custom to make absolute statements, without any attempt to work out their bearing on actual individual cases. His work is that of the prophet, not of the casuist.τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ] The full meaning of these verses can be realized only in the light of the revelation of the brotherhood of all men in Christ. In spite of the statements which are usually made to the contrary, we are hardly justified in saying that this universalism is beyond the writer’s vision. The Christ of the Fourth Gospel is the Light of the World, but the command to love one another is given to those who have recognized His claims. In the Epistle, Christ is the Propitiation for the whole world. But this is potential rather than actual. The writer has to deal with present circumstances, and polemical aims undoubtedly colour the expression of his views. Prophet and not casuist as he is, he is nevertheless too much in earnest to lose sight of the practical. Vague generalities are not the instruments with which he works. A vapid philanthropy, or a pretentious cosmopolitanism, which might neglect the more obvious duties of love lying closer to hand, would find no favour with him. The wider brotherhood might be a hope for the future, as it is for us. But the idea of brotherhood was actually realized among Christians, though in his own community it is clear that much was still wanting in this respect. It is of this brotherhood that he is primarily thinking. In his letters to individuals this is even clearer than here (cf. 3 John 1:5, 3 John 1:10). And the usage of the word ἀδελφοί in the New Testament certainly favours this view. At the same time, the wider view of the Sermon on the Mount and the Parable of the Good Samaritan is in no way contradicted by the more limited statements of this Epistle. The language used here lends itself easily to a similar expansion. The Lord had summarized the teaching of the Mosaic Law in the words, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy.” The new light had revealed the brotherhood of all men. In its light the term “brother” includes both classes, neighbours and enemies, whom the Law had separated. He who now hates his “brother” has not had his mental vision cleared by the light. The writer’s words can easily be made to convey the wider truth. He certainly would not contradict it. What he enforces is the first step towards its realization. And he is always thinking of the next step which his readers must take. Note the emphatic position of ἕως ἄρτι: the light is shining and he is in darkness still.
Om. totum comma sahd.
εν 2o]pr. ψευστης εστιν και א 15. 43. 98. 137 arm. aeth. Cypr.
σκοτια] σκια 100 (mg.).
10. The contrast is, as usual, stated in terms which carry it a stage further, μένειν being substituted for εἶναι. It is possible that a man might attain to the light. He cannot abide in it without showing that love which the new light has revealed to be the true attitude of Christian to Christian, and of man to man. Cf. John 12:46, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ μὴ μείνῃ: 8:35, ὁ υἱὸς μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. The slave may learn much, but he cannot abide in the house for ever.σκάνδαλον … ἔστιν] The stumbling-block may be that which a man puts either in his own way, or in that of his neighbour. The word is not found elsewhere in the Johannine books, except Revelation 2:14 (βαλεῖν σκάνδαλον ἐνώπιον τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ). The verb is found in John 6:61, John 16:1. The general usage of the New Testament, and perhaps the use of the verb in the Fourth Gospel, is in favour of the second interpretation. And it gives a possible sense. He who loves his neighbour not only abides in the light himself, but is also free from the guilt of causing others to offend. But the general context almost requires the other explanation. The effect of love and hate on the man himself is the subject of the whole passage. The sphere of his moral and spiritual progress or decline is regarded as being within himself. The occasions of falling are within. Cf. Hosea 4:17, ἔθηκεν ἐαυτῷ σκάνδαλα. This may be suggested by what is probably the true form of the text, σκάνδαλον ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν, internal stumbling-block, causing offence within, there is none. Possibly ἐν αὐτῷ may refer to ἐν τῷ φωτί,“In the light there is nothing to cause stumbling.” Cf., however, John 11:9, John 11:10. For the phrase itself we may compare the Rabbinic הַמֵּבִיא תְקָלָה לַחֲרֵיבוֹ quoted by Schlatter from Sifre, Numbers 5:15.
εν αυτω B Κ L Ρ al. pler. cat. vg. syrp arm. Thphyl. Oec. Aug.] post εστιν א A C 5. 105 jscr m syrsch sah. Lcif.
11. The first part of this verse repeats verse 9. The remainder emphasizes the dangers of the state described. The man’s mental, moral, and spiritual state must affect his conduct. He “walks” in that in which he “is.” He who walks about in darkness can have no idea whither he is going. At every moment he is in danger of falling. Hatred perverts a man’s whole action, and prevents conscious progress toward any satisfactory goal. The darkness in which he has chosen to abide (μισῶν) has deprived him of the use of those means which he possesses of directing his course aright. It is an overfanciful interpretation which sees in the last words of the verse any reference to the idea that darkness, or want of the opportunity of using them, actually destroys the organs of vision. There is no reason to suppose that the writer had this physical truth in view as he wrote. He may be thinking of Isaiah 6:10; comp. Romans 11:8-10 and the close parallel in John 12:35.
εστιν] μενει Ρ.
τους οφθαλμους] post αυτου2:0 3, 42, 57, 95, 101.
αυτου2:0] om. K2 δ161 (261).
12-17. Warning against love of the World. The appeal based on the readers’ position and attainments.
12-14. Grounds of the appeal.
15-17. Warning.12. Before passing on to the more direct application of the general principles which he has now stated in outline, the writer reminds his readers of what their position is and what is involved in it. He knows that they are harassed by doubts as to the validity of their Christian position, so he hastens to assure them of it, and to use his assurance as the ground of the appeal which he is making. He writes to them the Epistle which is in course of composition (γράφω), because they are already members of the community of light. In virtue of what Christ is and has done, the sin which separates them from God has been, actually in part, potentially altogether, removed. The old, in their experience, and the young, in their strength, have a power which stands them in good stead. They can enjoy fellowship with God who is light, and in the communion of that fellowship they can see clearly so as to “walk” without stumbling, to avoid the false allurements of the world, and the consequences which would follow their acceptance of the false teaching of the many antichrists whose presence shows that the last hour is come. And the reasons which led him to write that part of his letter which has already been penned (ἔγραψα; cf. 27, where the ταῦτα shows that the reference is to the preceding verses) are similar. Those who have learned by experience the truth of the Fatherhood of God can confess the sins which their Father is faithful and just to forgive, and as παιδία who need and can obtain fatherly discipline and guidance they can go forward in the strength of love. Thus their position as Christians is the ground of his appeal. Much can be said to them which it would be impossible to address to those outside. Most, in fact, of what he has to say is of the nature of calling to remembrance that which they already know. The true safeguard against their present dangers lies in their realizing their Christian position, in carrying out in life the faith and knowledge which they already possess, in rekindling the enthusiasm of earlier days which has now grown cold. The experience of age, and the vigour of youth and early manhood, supply all that is needed to restore health in Christian thought and life. The life of the society is safe if the two classes of which it is composed will contribute of their treasure to the common store, and use for themselves and for the community the powers of which they are in actual possession.γράφω] The present naturally refers to that which is in the course of composition, the letter as a whole. The present tense is used in 1:4, 2:1, 13 (bis). In each case the reference may be to the whole Epistle, though where ταῦτα is used it has suggested to some the probability of a more limited reference. The simplest explanation of the use of the aorist in ver. 14 (ἔγραψα) is that the writer turns back in thought to that part of the letter which he has already finished, the writing of which can now be regarded as a simple complete act. Of the many explanations which have been offered this would seem on the whole to be the most natural, and least unsatisfactory. The suggestion that the author wished to vary the monotony of six repetitions of the same word need hardly be taken seriously. He is afraid neither of monotony nor of repetition, and the slight changes which he introduces into his repetitions are seldom, if ever, devoid of significance. A reference to a former document, either the Gospel, or a lost Epistle, is not probable. The reasons given for having written do not suit the Gospel, while they fit it admirably with the present Epistle, and with that part of it which has already taken shape. The Gospel was undoubtedly written for Christians rather than for those who were still “of the world.” But its object was to instruct, to increase faith and deepen spiritual life, by imparting wider knowledge and clearer understanding of the real meaning of things already known. The aim of the Epistle is to emphasize the important points of what the readers have already grasped, and to persuade them to use their knowledge to meet present dangers. It was because of the knowledge which all possessed, of the Christian experience of the elder, and the strength and achievements in the Christian warfare of the younger among his readers, that he could make his appeal. But for that, he could not have written what he had written. A reference to a former Epistle must almost necessarily have been made clearer and more definite. It is, of course, quite possible that he had written to them before the present occasion. That the Canon has preserved but a selection of the Apostolic and sub-Apostolic correspondence is proved by the references contained in the Pauline Epistles, and probably in 3 John 1:9. And if such a letter had been written, it might have been misunderstood and have required further explanation or justification (cf. Karl, p. 32), as S. Paul found on two occasions during his correspondence with the Corinthians. But there is nothing in the passage to suggest that this was the case.
It is still more difficult to suppose that the presents and the aorists have exactly the same reference. The use of the “epistolary aorist” by which the author mentally transfers himself to the position of the recipients of the letter, or “regards his letter as ideally complete,” is established. But it does not give us a satisfactory explanation of the change from present to aorist. Law’s suggestion (The Tests of Life, p. 309), that after writing as far as the end of ver. 13 “the author was interrupted in his composition, and that, resuming his pen, he naturally caught up his line of thought by repeating his last sentence,” is ingenious. But again it must be noticed that there is nothing to indicate that such a break actually took place. Repetition with slight changes not insignificant is a regular feature of the author’s style.On the whole, the explanation to which preference has been given above is the best solution of a difficult problem, unless we prefer to leave it in the class of problems insoluble without the fuller knowledge of the exact circumstances, which doubtless made the writer’s meaning, and reasons for writing as he did, quite clear to those who read his words.
τεκνία] The use of the diminutive is confined in the New Testament to the Johannine writings, with the exception of one passage in S. Paul (Galatians 4:19) where the reading is doubtful. It occurs only once in the Gospel. Its use is comparatively frequent in the Epistle (2:1. 12, 28, 3:7, 18, 4:4, 5:21). It is a natural word for the aged disciple, or Apostle, to use when addressing the members of a Church of whom many were no doubt his “sons in the Faith,” and practically all must have belonged to a younger generation than himself. Differences of meaning must not always be pressed, but the word expresses community of nature, as contrasted with παιδία, which suggests the need of moral training and guidance (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:20, μὴ παιδία γίνεσθε ταῖς φρεσίν). Throughout the Epistle the word seems to be used as a term of affection for the whole society to which the author writes. The final warning of the Epistle (v. 21) against idols, literal or metaphorical, could hardly be addressed to the children as opposed to the grown-up members of the community.
The regular usage of the word in the Epistle has an important bearing on the next difficulty which these verses present, the question whether a double or triple division of the readers is intended. In the former case the clauses containing the vocatives τεκνία and παιδία are addressed to the whole community, which is then divided into the two classes of πατέρες and νεανίσκοι. This is now generally recognized as the most satisfactory interpretation. A triple division in which fathers are the middle term, could only be accepted as a last necessity. It might be possible, as Karl maintains, that the writer should first state the two extremes and then add the mean. But it is in the last degree improbable. Augustine’s explanation, “Filioli, quia baptismo neonati sunt, patres, quia Christum patrem et antiquum dierum agnoscunt, adolescentes, quia fortes sunt et ualidi,” fails to justify the relative position of the last two terms. And both terms, τεκνία and παιδία, have their significance as addressed to the whole body. All the children of the Kingdom share in the forgiveness of sins which Christ has won for them, and all are παιδία; for the teaching and exhortation, which he has found it necessary to impart to them, show that none of them has finished his Christian education. Not even the eldest of them is as yet τέλειος.ὅ ι] The third difficulty of the passage is the meaning of ὅτι. Does it introduce the contents of what is written, or the reasons for writing? Usage is probably in favour of the “causal” meaning. There is no certain instance in the Epistle of the use of ὅτι after γράφω in the “declarative” sense (cf. ver. 21). The “contents” are generally expressed by an objective accusation (ταῦτα, ἐντολὴν καινήν). But this is not decisive. It is a question which must be decided by the general meaning of the individual passage. In these verses the causal meaning certainly gives the better sense. Rothe, indeed, makes out a case for the declarative. “Here again (as in 1:5) John gives expression in another pregnant formula to that which he has to say to them. Shortly summarized it is this. He would have them know that in their case none of the necessary conditions for a complete Christianity are wanting, in all its real earnestness and joyful confidence. He adds further that this is not the first time that he has written this to them” (Der erste Brief Johannis, p. 61 f.). In other words, he has nothing new to tell them as Christians. He is merely reminding them of what they are. But surely the writer is doing more than this. He does not merely remind them of their Christian standing. He is trying to show them how their position as Christians enables them to meet the dangers to which they are exposed, and so to justify and enforce the appeal which he is making. It is because they are in fellowship with God and have real experience of the Fatherhood of God that he can appeal to them with confidence that his appeal will meet with a response.
ἀφέωνται] Cf. Luke 5:20, Luke 5:23, Luke 5:7:47, 48, and (probably) John 20:23. The present is used in Matthew and Mark.
διὰ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ] The “name” always stands for that which is implied by the name. In Jewish thought the name is never merely appellative. Because Christ is what He is, and has done what He has done, true relations between God and man have again become possible. If any definite name is intended, it is probably the name “Jesus Christ” (cf. 2:1). The expression is not the mere equivalent of “because of His position as Paraclete and Propitiation.” See Briggs, The Messiah of the Apostles, p. 475.The origin of the phrase is probably to be found in the Old Testament doctrine that God continued His kindness to Israel, in spite of their rebelliousness, for His name’s sake. Cf. especially Ezekiel 20:8, Ezekiel 20:9, “They rebelled—but I wrought for My name’s sake”; 36:22, “I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for Mine holy name.” It has, however, acquired a somewhat different meaning as used by the author. We may also compare the Rabbinic parallel, quoted by Schlatter, “The wise say, For His name’s sake He dealt with them (עָשָׁה עִמָּהֶם לַמַען שְׁמוֹ, Mechilta, Exodus 14:15, Exodus 14:29 b).
τεκνια] τεκνα1. 10. 40: παιδια27. 29. 66**. 68. 103. 106 Rev_10 sah. cat. Sev.
υμιν] υμων L 31. 68. 99 ascr jscr kscr sahd.
13. πατέρες] The word is more naturally taken as referring to actual age than to length of Christian experience. “The knowledge which comes of long experience is the characteristic endowment of mature years.” But the τὸν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς shows that the writer is thinking of length of years as giving the opportunity of maturity of Christian experience. And he writes in full view of the circumstances. The full significance of the Person of Jesus Christ was apprehended only very gradually either in the society of His followers, or by its individual members. And in the knowledge which had been thus slowly gained was to be found the corrective of the false views which were leading men astray (ver. 27). The knowledge of the fathers, as well as the strength of the young men, was needed to meet the difficulties of the time.
τὸν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς] The Word who was in the beginning with God, of whose manifestation in human life the writer and his contemporaries had been witnesses, and in whom the “fathers” had come to believe with growing knowledge and fuller conviction as they gained experience, though they had not seen Him. The phrase, “Him who is from the beginning,” would have no special significance here as applied to God. On the other hand, the refusal, on the part of many among whom the writer lived, to believe that the pre-existent Logos had become truly incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, and to go forward in that belief to closer fellowship, seemed to him to be the most serious intellectual danger which threatened the Church of his day.νενικήκατε τὸν πονηρόν] “The characteristic of youth is victory, the prize of strength.” The conquest of evil, here represented as the result of an active struggle with a personal foe (τὸν πονηρόν), is as characteristic of the earlier years of Christian endeavour as is the fuller knowledge gained through experience of its later years. The words have probably a primary reference to the victory which had been gained in the assertion of the truth, and which led to the withdrawal of the false teachers. But they were meant to go beyond their original reference. If it was “better age, exempt from strife should know,” it was also “better youth should strive toward making.” And in both cases the appeal is made on the ground of what has already been gained. To the younger generation belonged the strength, already trained and tested, which the experience of the elders could guide. And both could rely on what had been acquired through past successes in the special efforts which the present and the future demanded from the whole Society.
εγνωκατε] εγνωκαμεν Ib 62 161 (498).
νενικηκατε] ενικησατε Ib 62 161 (498) K 2.
τον πονηρον] το πονηρον א95.
14. For the moment the writer’s thoughts turn back to what he has already written. In what he has already said he has treated them as παιδία, still in need of discipline and guidance. Their faith had not yet grown to maturity. And this was true of all alike, young and old, the thinkers as well as the soldiers of the Society. But it was in virtue of their Christian standing that he could speak to them as he did. In the Jewish Synagogue or in the Christian Church they had all learned to know God as their Father. The elders among them had made real progress in their realization of what the Christ really is. The younger and more active converts had gained the strength which comes of victory over evil. Perhaps they had rendered conspicuous service in the recent crisis. And their powers had matured in the strife. The message of the Gospel was a living force within them, and permanently active. It was abiding in them. There were flaws in the work which needed mending. It had been necessary to treat them, young and old alike, as not yet “grown up.” The false pleas which many among them were only too ready to listen to, if not to urge, must be sharply and clearly exposed. Statements which they might well make, perhaps in some cases had made, must be called quite definitely “lies.” He must not shrink from plain language. But he could never have ventured to use the language which he had not hesitated to address to them, had it not been for the great progress which they had already made in the things of Christ. Strength and experience were really theirs. Reproofs could be uttered and appeals made with full confidence of success. Their Christian faith was sound, even though their hands might be slack, and their minds somewhat listless. For them victory and knowledge were abiding results, and not mere incidents in past history.
ἔγραψα] Cf. the notes on ver. 12. The γράφω of the Received Text is probably due to an attempt to get a series of three in the right order of age, by correctors who failed to grasp the general arrangement of these verses.
εγραψα1o א A B C L P al. 35 cat. sah. cop. syrutr arm. aeth. Or.] γραφω K al. sat. mul. armcdd aliq Oec. fu. demid. harl. Aug.
εγραψα2o … αρχης] om. vg-ed.
εγραψα2o] scribo, vg-ed.
εγραψα3o] scribo, vg-ed.
τον απ αρχης] το απαρχης B.
του θεου] om. B sah.
15-17. Warning against love of the world.
The writer appeals to his readers, on the ground of their Christian standing, to avoid the love of the world. For him the world is the whole created system, considered as apart from God and opposed to God. But there is a tendency to narrow down its meaning either to humanity as estranged from God or regardless of God, or to all that is opposed to the Christian view. Such love for the present and finite, either as a whole or in its several parts, excludes the possibility of the higher love, of God and of men as brethren in Christ, which is the essential characteristic of “walking in light,” and the observance of which sums up the whole of Christian duty in one command, at once old and new. The evil desires which assail men through the lower part of their nature in general, or through the sense of vision in particular, or through the external good which falls to their lot, if regarded and used as opportunities for display, have their origin not in the Father, but in the world which has broken loose from Him. And the world and the desires which it fosters are alike transitory. Only that which falls in with God’s will, and carries forward His purpose, is of permanent value and lasting character.
15. ὁ κόσμος is not merely “an ethical conception” in the Johannine system, “mankind fallen away from God.” Such an interpretation leaves no intelligible sense to the phrase τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ. It is the whole system, considered in itself, apart from its Maker, though in many cases the context shows that its meaning is narrowed down to “humanity.” In the view of the writer, no doubt man is its most important part, the centre of the whole. But here it is used in its wider sense. The various interpretations which have been given of the phrase can be found in Huther and elsewhere. The majority of them are in reality paraphrases of particular instances of its use. As contrasted with ὁ κόσμος, τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ are the individual objects which excite admiration or love. In the next verse they are spoken of collectively. Comp. Jam 1:27, Jam 4:4.
ουκ εστιν] post πατρος P Aug.: post αυτω 31.
του πατρος א B K L P al. pler. cat. vg. sah. cop. syrutr arm. Or. Dam. Thphyl. Oec. Aug.] του θεου A C 3. 13. 43. 65. 58lect dscr harl. aethutr: του θεου και πατρος15. 18. 26. 36 boh-cod. (uid.).
16. The attempt to find in the terms of this verse a complete catalogue of sins, or even of “worldly” sins, is unsatisfactory. The three illustrations of “all that is in the world” are not meant to be exhaustive. The parallelism to the mediaeval uoluptas, auaritia, superbia is by no means exact. We may compare the sentence quoted by Wettstein from Stobaeus, φιληδονία μὲν ἐν ταῖς ἀπολαύσεσι ταῖς διὰ σώματος, πλεονεξία δὲ ἐν τῷ κερδαίνειν, φιλοδοξία δὲ ἐν τῷ καθυπερέχειν τῶν ἴσων τε καὶ ὁμοίων: but it is an illustration of the natural tendency to threefold division rather than an exact parallel. Still less successful is the attempt to find instances of the three classes in the Temptation of our Lord. The “desire of the simplest support of natural life” is hardly an ἐπιθυμία τῆς σαρκός. The first temptation turned on the wish, or the suggestion, to use supernatural powers to gratify a natural want. The “offer of the kingdoms of the civilized world” is not very closely connected with the “lust of the eyes.” Nor again is the “call to claim an open manifestation of God’s protecting power” an obvious instance of the use of gifts for personal ostentation. All such endeavours to find an ideal completeness in the ad hoc statements of a letter, written to particular people to meet their special needs, are misleading.
The opposition in this verse is not strictly accurate. “The things that are in the world” suggest objects, whether material or not, which call out desires or boasting rather than the feelings of desire or pride themselves. But it is quite in keeping with the author’s style.
τῆς σαρκός] σάρξ denotes human nature as corrupted by sin. Cf. Galatians 5:17 (ἡ γὰρ σὰρξ ἐπιθυμεῖ κατὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα κατὰ τῆς σαρκός). The genitive is subjective, the desire which the flesh feels, in that which appeals to the man as gratifying the flesh. There is no need to narrow down the meaning any further to special forms of desire. There is really nothing in the Epistle to suggest that the grosser forms of immorality were either practised or condoned by the false teachers.
ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν] The desire for all that appeals to the man as gratifying his sense of vision, a special form of the more general desire already described. Comp. πνεῦμα ὁράσεως, μεθʼ ἧς γίνεται ἐπιθυμία (Testament of Reuben ii. 4).
ἀλαζονεία] Cf. Jam 4:16, νῦν δὲ καυχᾶσθε ἐν ταῖς ἀλαζονίαις ὑμῶν· πᾶσα καύχησις τοιαύτη πονηρά ἐστιν, and Dr. Mayor’s note, who quotes Arist. Eth. Nic. iv. 7. 2, δοκεῖ, ὁ ἀλάζων προσποιητικὸς τῶν ἐνδόξων εἶναι καὶ μὴ ὑπαρχόντων καὶ μειζόνων ἢ ὑπάρχει. Comp. Testament of Dan i. 6; Joseph xvii. 3.
The substantive is found in Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2. Love of display by means of external possessions would seem to be what is chiefly intended here. Βίος is always life in its external aspect, or the means of supporting life. Cf. 3:17, ὃς ἂν ἔχῃ τὸν βίον τοῦ κόσμου: Luke 8:14, Luke 15:12.ἐκ τοῦ πατρός]All such desires and feelings are not part of that endowment of humanity which has come from the Father. They are a perversion of man’s true nature as God made him. They have their origin in the finite order in so far as it has become estranged from God.
τω] om. I a 200f. δ457 (83) I b 365-398*.
η1o] εστιν I c 114 (335).
και 2o] om. I a 382 (231) Απρ1.
η3o] om. I a 264 (233).
ουκ εστιν] post πατροςI a δ180 (1319).
17. All such objects of desire must in the end prove unsatisfactory, because of their transitory character. Permanent value attaches only to such things as correspond to God’s plan for the world and for men. He that fulfils God’s destiny for himself “abideth for ever.” “In the mind of God, values are facts, and indestructible facts. Whatever has value in God’s sight is safe for evermore; time and change cannot touch it.”
“All that is, at all,
Lasts ever, past recal
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.
He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.
I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.
I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.
And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.