1 John 4
ICC New Testament Commentary
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
II. 4:1-6. The Christological thesis. The Spirit which is of God recognizes Jesus as the Christ come in flesh.

1. 4:1-3. Content of the Confession

4:1-3. In accordance with his usual custom, the writer finds a transition to a new section in the repetition of the last prominent idea. The gift of the Spirit ensures to them knowledge. But all spiritual activities of the time could not be traced back to the Spirit of God as their source. The suggestions of every spirit could not be accepted as true. As at Corinth in the days of S.Paul, spiritual phenomena must be tested. And the reader’s experience supplied them with a test by which they could know whether the spirits were of God or not. The surest criterion was the confession of the Incarnation, or rather of the Incarnate Christ. Those who saw in Jesus of Nazareth as He appeared on earth in fleshly form the complete revelation of the Father, were of God. Those who refused to confess Jesus were not of God. Such a refusal was the peculiar characteristic of Antichrist, whose coming they had been taught to expect, and whose working they could already perceive.1. ἀγαπητοί] Cf. 2:7, etc. The writer appeals to the common bond of love which unites them all, in order to call out their best efforts for the common good. This address now becomes frequent (1, 7, 11), the main topic being love.

μὴ παντὶ πνεύματι πιστεύετε] Cf. Didache, 11:8, οὐ πᾶς δὲ ὁ λαλῶν ἐν πνεύματι προφήτης ἐστίν, ἀλλʼ ἐὰν ἔχῃ τοὺς τρόπους Κυρίου. ἀπὸ οὖν τῶν τρόπων γνωσθήσεται ὁ ψευδοπροφήτης καὶ ὁ προφήτης. All spirit-inspired utterances are not to be accepted as necessarily true. Πιστεύειν with the dative always means to accept as true, to believe in the truth of statements made by any one. Cf. John 8:31, πρὸς τοὺς πεπιστευκότας αὐτῷ Ἰουδαίους.

ἀλλὰ δοκιμάζετε] Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:10, ἄλλῳ δὲ διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, where the “discerning of spirits” is one of the recognized kinds of χαρίσματα. In the earlier generations the spiritual phenomena which accompanied the growth of Christianity were a cause of grave anxiety to all Christian leaders. It needed a special grace to distinguish between the true and the false. They might be delusions or impostures; if real, they might be evil. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, τὸ πνεῦμα μὴ σβέννυτε· προφητείας μὴ ἐξουθενεῖτε· πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε. It would generally have been far easier to say, with the ἰδιώτης of Corinth, μαίνεσθε. The difficulty, which culminated in Montanism, is of periodic recurrence. But the writer reminds his hearers that the grace of discernment was part of the Christian endowment, if Christians were willing to use the χάρισμα which they possessed. Compare the passage quoted above from the Didache; and, for the danger of yielding to the opposite temptation, compare the preceding sentences (11:7), καὶ πάντα προφήτην λαλοῦντα ἐν πνεύματι οὐ πειράσετε ὐδὲ διακρινεῖτε· πᾶσα γὰρ ἁμαρτία ἀφεθήσεται, αὕτη δὲ ἡ ἁμαρτία οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται. Compare also 12:1, πᾶς δὲ ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι Κυρίου δεχθήτω· ἔπειτα δὲ δοκιμάσαντες αὐτὸν γνώσεσθε· σύνεσιν γὰρ ἕξετε δεξιὰν καὶ ἀριστεράν. The plurals here cannot refer to an individual official.

ὅτι πολλοὶ κ.τ.λ.] The clause explains the necessity for the testing. The spirit of evil has sent forth his messengers into the world, and their activity is well known.

ψευδοπροφῆται] Cf. Matthew 7:15, προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῶν ψευδοπροφητῶν. Did. 11:6.

ἐξεληλύθασιν] Contrast the tense of 2:19, where the definite fact of their separation from the Body of the Faithful is stated. Here the thought is of their sending forth by the Spirit who inspires them, and of the effect of their mission in the world. Here ὁ κόσμος is used in its natural sense of the world of men, and is not specially contrasted with the Christian Body.

πιστευετε] πιστευητε 31 Rev_2 scr..

τα πνευματα] pr. παντα K; παν πν̄α H δ6 (Ψ).

του] om. Ia δ254.

εστιν] εισινIb δ507 (241).

2. ἐν τόυτῳ] refers to what follows, according to the customary usage of this Epistle.

γινώσκετε] The word may be taken either as imperative or indicative. At first sight the use of the imperative in ver. 1 would seem conclusive as to the interpretation of this verse. But an appeal to his readers’ knowledge and experience is more in accordance with the writer’s method. The aim of the whole Epistle is to remind them of what they already possess, and to base on it an appeal to them to make use of that which they have. In the Christian faith, as it has been taught to them from the beginning, they have adequate provision against the dangers to which they now find themselves exposed. All that is needed is that they should use what they already possess. They must trust the powers with which the Christ has endowed them. Cf. 2:29. Nowhere in the Epistle does the imperative follow ἐν τούτῳ: 2:3, 5, 3:16, 19, 24, 4:13, 5:2.

The reading γινώσκεται, which has passed into the Vulgate (cognoscitur), is an obvious corruption, the interchange of αι and ε being perhaps the commonest itacism in Greek manuscripts. The direct appeal to his readers is far more congruous with the author’s style, and suits the context better.

τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ] Here only in the Johannine books. Cf. ver. 13, ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ. The vacillation between singular and plural, and the various genitives connected with πνεῦμα, may perhaps serve as indications that the doctrine of the Spirit is not yet clearly defined in precise terms.ὁμολογεῖ] The verb is used in the Johannine books with the following constructions: (1) absolutely, cf. John 1:20, John 1:12:42; (2) with ὅτι, cf. 1 John 4:15; (3) with the single accusative, cf. 1 John 1:9 (τὰς ἁμαρτίας), 2:23 (τὸν υἱόν), 4:3 (Ἰησοῦν); (4) with the double accusative, cf. John 9:22, ἐάν τις αὐτὸν ὁμολογήσῃ Χριστόν. The construction of 2 John 1:7, οἱ μὴ ὁμολογοῦντες Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐρχόμενον ἐν σαρκί, is parallel to this verse, and equally obscure. Three constructions are possible here. (1) Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν may be the object and ἐληλυθότα ἐν σαρκί the predicate. The confession of Jesus Christ as one who has come in the flesh is the test proposed. We may perhaps compare S. Paul’s test in 1 Corinthians 12:3, οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. In favour of this construction is the natural connection which it gives of Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, which can hardly be separated unless the context clearly suggests their separation. (2) The form of ver. 3, according to the true text, is in favour of regarding Ἰησοῦν as object and the rest of the words as predicate. The error which the writer condemns seems to have been the rejection of the identity of the historical man Jesus with the pre-existent Christ, truly incarnate in His manhood, in favour of the view that some higher power, as the Aeon Christ, descended upon the man Jesus at the Baptism, and left him before the Passion. There is nothing in the Epistle which compels us to suppose that the author is combating pure Docetism, though, of course, such teaching would be excluded by the phrases used in these verses, in whatever way they are interpreted. The construction of John 9:22 may perhaps be urged as supporting this interpretation. And it probably emphasizes most clearly the view on which the writer wishes to lay stress. It is the denial of Jesus as the incarnate Christ which he regards as the source of all error, as the true text of ver. 3 (μὴ ὁμολογεῖ Ἰησοῦν) shows. But so far as grammar and syntax are concerned this separation of Ἰησοῦν from Χριστόν, without anything in the context to necessitate it, or even to suggest it, is difficult. (3) The simplest construction is, therefore, that in which the whole phrase is regarded as connected. The confession needed is of one who is Jesus Christ incarnate, a man who lived on earth a true human life under the normal conditions of humanity, and who is also the preexistent Christ who manifested God’s glory in this form. And the true text of ver. 3 favours this construction, if it is not regarded as too awkward.

But whichever construction be adopted, the confession demanded is not of the truth of certain propositions about a certain person, but the confession of a Person, of whom certain propositions are true, who is possessed of the nature and qualities which they define. It is a confession not of the fact of the Incarnation, but of the Incarnate Christ.

ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα] The phrase describes the method rather than the fact. The revelation of God was made to men by the Son of God appearing in human form and living a human life. It was given in a form which made it comprehensible to men, and its effects were abiding (ἐληλυθότα). Its whole validity depended on the Revealer being true man, who could speak to men as one of themselves. The guarantee for its completeness and its intelligibility was destroyed if the Revealer and the man were not one and the same. And the confession involved allegiance to the Person of the Revealer; without that men could not make the revelation their own. Non sonando, sed amando (Bede).

The reading ἐληλυθέναι which is found in some important authorities is a natural correction of a difficult and somewhat awkward phrase. When Polycarp uses the passage he not unnaturally substitutes the infinitive for the participle. (Polycarp, ad Philipp. 6:3 f., ἀπεχόμενοι τῶν σκανδάλων καὶ τῶν ψευδαδέλφων καὶ τῶν ἐν ὑποκρίσει φερόντων τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου, οἵτινες ἀποπλανῶσι κενοὺς ἀνθρώπους. Πᾶς γὰρ ὃς ἂν μὴ ὁμολογῇ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθέναι, ἀντίχριστός ἐστιν). But it misses the point. True confession is allegiance to a Person and not acceptance of a doctrinal statement. Only the spirits which inspire men to make such a confession are “of God.”

τουτω] + ουνIc 258 (56).

γινωσκετε אc A B C L al. sat. mu. sah syrp aethutr Ir. Lcif.] γινωσκεται K al. fere. 50 vg. syrsch Cyr. Thphyl. Did. Aug.: γινωσκομεν א* 9. 14*. 69 ascr arm. cognoscemus boh-ed.: cognoscetis boh-codd.

θεου 1:0]+et spiritum erroris sah.

0 1:0—πνευμα20] om. Ia δ457-119 (209).

Ιησουν Χριστον] Χριτον Ιησουν C arm-codd.

εληλυθοτα א A C K L etc.] εληλυθεναι Β99. Cf. Polycarp (? ver. 3) Thdrt. vg. Ir. Cyp. Or. Lcif. Did.

3. The simple accusative τὸν Ἰησοῦν is undoubtedly the true text. The variants Ἱησοῦν Χριστόν, κύριον, ἐληλυθότα ἐν σαρκί are natural attempts to expand an abrupt phrase from the preceding verse. The interesting variant λύει which is presupposed in several Patristic passages must be discussed separately. It is not the only instance of an explanatory gloss which has influenced the text of this Epistle.

The shorter text emphasizes clearly the personal character of the confession (see the notes on the preceding verse). And it lays the right stress on the danger which threatened the readers of listening to those who undervalued the importance of the human life and personality of Jesus of Nazareth.

τοῦτο] The denial of Jesus.

τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου] Either the Spirit which comes from Antichrist, or more probably the special characteristic of Antichrist. The work of Antichrist was already being done in the world.

ὃ ἀκηκόατε] Cf. 2:18, ἠκούσατε ὅτι Ἀντίχριστος ἔρχεται. The “coming” of Antichrist formed part of common Jewish expectation and Christian teaching. The readers had been taught what to expect, and ought to find no difficulty in detecting its beginnings among them.

ἤδη] Cf. John 4:35, ὅτι λευκαί εἰσιν πρὸς θερισμὸν ἤδη, and 9:27, εἶπον ὑμῖν ἤδη. With these three exceptions, of which 4:35 is doubtful, the Johannine use of ἤδη is to qualify the words which follow.

πνευμα (? 1:0)] om. H 257 (33) Ia 70, 65. 172 (505) " ο (? 1:0) + αν Ia 70 (505) " μη] om. Ib δ152 (491).

ο μη ομολογει] λυει vg. (soluit) Ir. Or. Aug. Fulg. cdd. uet. op. Socr. Cf. Lcif. Tert.

τον ιησουν Α Β h 13. 27. 29. 69 ascr cdduet ap. Socrat. Cyr. Thdt. vg. fu. harl. tol. syrutr boh-ed. arm-cod. aeth. Ir. Or. Lcif. Did.] ιησουν κυριον א : τον ιησουν χριστον L al. plu. boh-codd. cat. Oec.: τον χν̄ ιν̄ Ia 192, δ254, δ454 (318) Ic 364-208. δ299 (137): ιησουν χριστον K al. plus 30 Polyc.

Thyphl. am. demid. sah. arm-ed. Aug. Tert.: + εν σαρκι εληλυθοτα א K L al. pler. cat. syrutr arm. Thphyl. Oec. Tert. (uenisse) Cyp.: + εν σαρκι εληλυθεναι H δ48 (33) Aπρι (K) Polyc.

τον] κν̄ Ic 487 (-).

εκ] om. K L kscr al. plus10 cat.

τουτο- ο 2:0] hic est Antichristus quem sah. boh. arm.

το] om. I a δ203ff, 254 (205) K δ364 (51) " του2:0] om. Ia 264 (233).

ο2:0] ο τι א 5. 6. 39. 100: ου H δ6 (Ψ).

ακηκοατε] ακηκοαμεν H δ2 (א) Ia δ 453-173 (5).

The evidence for the reading λύει = soluit in this verse is mainly Latin; before von der Goltz’s discovery, described below, it was almost exclusively so. The statements of Clement, Origen, and Socrates are most naturally explained as proving the existence of such a reading in Greek. Taking the evidence roughly in chronological order, we must notice first that of Irenaeus, though it is unfortunately only preserved in a Latin dress. In 3:16. 8 (Massuet, 207), Irenaeus is denouncing the Gnostics who distinguish between Jesus, the Christ, the Only-begotten, the Saviour. He accuses them of making many Gods, and Fathers many, and of dividing up the Son of God. The Lord warns us to beware of such, and John, His disciple, in his afore-mentioned Epistle says, “lat (2 John 1:7, 2 John 1:8). lat.” The actual reading, “lat,” may be due to the Latin translator; but it must be noticed that it suits the preceding words of Irenaeus, comminuens autem et per multa diuidens Filium Dei, so much better than the common reading μὴ ὁμολογεῖ (non confitetur), that it is more natural to suppose that Irenaeus had in his Greek text either λύει or some equivalent phrase, unless his translator has very freely paraphrased the whole passage to bring it into agreement with the text of the Epistle with which he was acquainted. (See, however, Westcott,p. 157.)The evidence of Clement of Alexandria was also available only through Latin sources. The Latin summary of his Hypotyposes has no equivalent for this passage; but in the summary of the Second Epistle we find, “Adstruit in hac epistola perfectionem fidei extra caritatem non esse, et ut nemo diuidat Iesum Christum, sed unum credat Iesum Christum uenisse in carne,” words which do not go far towards proving that Clement knew of the reading λύει in Greek, but when taken in connection with two passages in Origen suggest the possibility that the reading was known at Alexandria in Clement’s time.In the Latin version of Origen’s Commentary on S.Matthew, § 65, the reading “soluit Jesum” is found. The passage is an explanation of the parable, Matthew 24:14. The man who went on a journey being naturally identified with the Lord, Origen raises the difficulty, “How can He be said to go on a journey who promised that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He will be in their midst?” He finds a solution of the difficulty which he has raised in the distinction between the Lord’s divine and human natures. “Secundum hanc divinitatis suae naturam non peregrinatur, sed peregrinatur secundum dispensationem corporis quod suscepit.” He adds other instances of statements which must be referred to His human nature, and then adds, “Haec autem dicentes non soluimus suscepti corporis hominem, cum sit scriptum apud Joannem ‘Omnis spiritus qui soluit Iesum non est ex Deo’ sed unicuique substantiae proprietatem seruamus.” The whole argument is so thoroughly in Origen’s style, that we should hestitate to attribute the quotation of the verse in this form to the Translator, though we cannot be certain that Origen read λύει in his Greek text. The passage has been quoted frequently, but it is curious that another passage in the part of his Commentary on S.Matthew which is extant in Greek has been generally overlooked. I had noted the passage several years ago, but have seen no reference to it earlier than Dr. Zahn’s Introduction. In 16:8, Origen is commenting on the words δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν. He notices that the ψυχή is given as the λύτρον, not the πνεῦμα nor the σῶμα. He adds the caution that in saying this he has no wish to disparage the ψυχή of Jesus, but wishes only to insist on the exact statement made. And he adds, Πλὴν σήμερον ο ὐ λύω τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἀλλὰ πολλῷ πλέον οἷδα ἓν εἶναι Ἰησοῦν τὸν Χριστόν. The passage may only be an echo of such expressions as are found, e.g., in Irenaeus III. xii. 7, “Qui autem Iesum separant a Christo.” But a comparison of these two passages in the same Commentary certainly leave the impression that the reading λύει was known to Origen. The matter is determined if the Scholion is correct which is found in the Athos MS, containing information about Origen’s text which von der Goltz has described in Texte und Untersuchungen, N. F. 2:4. The Scholion, which is quoted on p. 48 of von der Goltz’s work, is as follows: ὃ λύει τὸν Ἰησοῦν. Οὕτως ὁ Εἰρηναῖος ἐν τῷ τρίτῳ κατὰ τὰς αἱρέσεις λόγῳ καὶ Ὠριγενὴς ἐν τῷ ή τόμῳ τῶν εἰς τὸν πρὸς Ρωμαίους ἐξηγητικῶν καὶ Κλήμης ὁ Στρωματεὺς ἐν τῷ περὶ τοῦ πάσχα λόγῳ. Von der Goltz points out that the 8th Book of Origen’s Commentary would seem to have contained his exposition of Rom_5:17-16, and in Rufinus’ translation (v. 8; Lomm. p. 386) 1 John 4:2 is quoted, so that it is not unlikely that in the original Greek the quotation included the third verse with the reading λύει. Thus, if we may trust the evidence of the Scholion, and there are no good grounds for not doing so, in the three instances where extant Latin evidence suggested that the reading was known to Greek writers, we have now definite evidence that it was found in their Greek text.

The only other Greek evidence for the reading is the well-known passage of Socrates about Nestorius (H. E. 7:32), αὐτίκα γοῦν ἠγνόησεν ὅτι ἐν τῇ καθολικῇ Ἰωάννου γέγραπτο ἐν τοῖς παλαίοις ἀντιγράφοις ὅτι πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ λύει τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστι. ταύτην γὰρ τὴν διάνοιαν ἐκ τῶν παλαιῶν ἀντιγράφων περιεῖλον οἱ χωρίζειν ἀπὸ τοῦ τῆς οἰκονομίας ἀνθρώπου βουλόμενοι τὴν θεότητα· διὸ καὶ οἱ παλαιοὶ ἑρμηνεῖς αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἐπεσημήναντο, ὥς τινες εἶεν ῥαδιουργήσαντες τὴν ἐπιστολήν, λύειν ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ τὸν ἄνθρωπον θέλοντες. Again this language may be “satisfied by the supposition that he was acquainted with the Latin reading and some Latin commentary” (Westcott, p. 157). But this can hardly be called the most natural interpretation of his words.The evidence of Tertullian and Augustine points to the early existence of the phrase in connection with the passages in the Johannine Epistles, though it is not always certain whether this passage or the similar words in the Second Epistle are referred to. The most important passage is adv. Marc. 5:16, “Johannes dicit processisse in mundum praecursores Antichristi spiritus, negantes Christum in carne uenisse et soluentes Iesum.” Augustine in a somewhat different manner appears to comment on both readings. After explaining the words “qui non confitetur Iesum Christum in carne uenisse.” by the suggestion that the denial is to be found in the want of love which divides the Church, he continues, “adeo ut noueritis quia ad facta retulit et omnis spiritus, ait, qui soluit Iesum.” Later on he has “soluis Iesum et negas in carne uenisse.” The natural explanation of his treatment of the passage is that in his text the words “qui soluit Jesum, non est ex Deo” (the addition of “in carne uenisse” after “Iesum” in Migne must be an error) followed the clause “qui non confitetur Iesum Christum in carne uenisse.” There are other instances of supplementary glosses in Augustine’s text of this Epistle. The quotation in the Testimonia of Cyprian (2:8), “Omnis spiritus qui confitetur Iesum Christum in carne uenisse, de Deo est, qui autem negat in carne uenisse, de Deo non est, sed est de Antichristi spiritu,” shows that the reading “soluit” was not found in the earliest form of the old Latin text, in spite of its presence in all Latin MSS except Codex Frisianus. On the whole, then, the Latin evidence points to the probability that this reading crept into the Latin texts at an early date, being first introduced as an explanatory gloss, which subsequently displaced the reading it was inserted to explain. The history of its appearance in Greek authorities is still obscure, but may perhaps be explained in the same way.

And the internal evidence points in the same direction. It is far easier to explain ὃ λύει as an attempt to emphasize the bearing of the verse on the heretical views of the “Separators,” than vice versa. As Wurm has acutely observed, the reading ὃ μὴ ὁμολογεῖ, etc., could only have been introduced as an explanatory gloss on ὃ λύει at a time when the meaning of this phrase had been forgotten. But it is certainly found during the period when the reading “qui soluit” could cause no difficulty and was perfectly well understood. Neither reading can be later than Irenaeus, and at that date there could have been no motive for the alteration of λύει if it had been the original reading. On the other hand, the correction of μὴ ὁμολογεῖ into λύει would give special point to the passage as a condemnation of a particular form of heresy, which at that time had to be combated.

2. 4:4-6. Attitude of the Church and the world towards this confession

4-6. If they are true to themselves the readers have nothing to fear from the activities of the Antichristian spirits at work in the world. In virtue of the new birth, which as Christians they have experienced, they have gained the victory over the false prophets, and the fruits of the victory are theirs, unless they deliberately forfeit them. The victory was not gained in their own strength. It was God who fought for them and in them. And God is greater than the devil who rules in the world. The false prophets are essentially “of the world.” All that dominates their life and action comes from it. Their teaching is derived from its wisdom, not from the revelation which God has given in His Son. And so their message is welcomed by those who belong to the world. For like associates with like. The writer and his fellow-teachers are conscious that they derive their true life from God. And those who are of God, and therefore live their lives in learning to know Him better, in the gradual assimilation of the revelation of Himself which God is making in His Son, receive the message. It is only rejected by those who are not of God, and so are not learning to know Him. Thus from the character of those who welcome their respective messages we learn to recognize and distinguish the spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.4. ὑμεῖς] The readers, whom he has instructed in the Faith, and whom he naturally addresses as his “little children,” using the privileges of age and position when he wishes to speak emphatically, in words either of warning or of exhortation. Cf 2:1, 12, 28, 3:7, 18, v. 21. The emphatic pronoun separates the readers from the false teachers.

ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστέ] Cf. John 8:23, John 8:17:14, John 8:16; 1 John 3:19, 1 John 5:19, 1 John 2:19. By the phrase εἶναι ἐκ the writer seems to denote more than merely “belonging to.” It suggests primarily spiritual dependence. A man is said to be “of God,” “of the Devil,” who draws all his inspiration, all that dominates and regulates his thought and action, from the sources out of which he is said to be. Εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ denotes especially the state of those who have experienced the spiritual regeneration which is the true note of the Christian, and who are true to their experience. Εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου is the state of those who still, whether nominally Christian or not, draw their guidance from human society, considered as an ordered whole, apart from God.

νενικήκατε] by remaining true to the Christianity which they had been taught ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, rather than by the expulsion of the false prophets (αὐτούς)from the community.

ὂτι] There was no cause for boasting of their victory. It was God who worked in them, as the Devil worked and ruled in the world. Noli te extollere. Vide quis in te vicit (Aug.).

υμεις] pr. καιIa70 (505): pr οτιI b 472, 161 (312) " εκ] filii sahd.

εστε] nati estis sahw " τεκνια] τεκνα31 cscr al. pauc.: om. boh-sah.

νενικηκατε] ενικησατεIc114 (335) " υμιν] ημινIa 75 (394) " ο2o] om.

Ia 382. δ254 (231) " εν τω κοσμω] εκ του κοσμουIa 397 ffff (96) I b 62-δ161 (767).

5. ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου εἰσίν] See the notes on ver. 4. The false teaching drew its strength from the wider knowledge of the world, rejecting or failing to appreciate the essential truth of the revelation made in Jesus Christ incarnate.

ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου λαλοῦσιν]Their teaching corresponds to their sphere. And it is welcomed by the like-minded.

ἀκούει]Cf. Oecumenius, τῷ γὰρ ὁμοίῳ τὸ ὅμοιον προστρέχει. There was apparently need of encouragement in view of the success which the false teachers had secured. Cf. again Oecumenius, εἰκὸς γάρ τινας τούτων καὶ ἀσχάλλειν ὁρῶντας ἐκείνους μὲν τοῖς πολλοῖς περισπουδάστους, ἑαυτοὺς δὲ καταφρονουμένους.

δια τουτο] pr. και69 ascr: και68. 103 Did.

λαλουσιν] om. Ib 62 (498).

ακουει αυτον (?) ο κοσμοςIa 65 (317).

6. ἡμεῖς] The contrast with ὑμεῖς (ver. 5) suggests that the teachers and not the whole body of Christians are meant. They know whence they draw the inspiration of their life and work. And they will be recognized by those who have begun to live the eternal life which consists in knowing God and His messenger (cf. John 17:3).

ὁ γινώσκων τὸν θεόν] The phrase is used as practically equivalent to εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, but it emphasizes one particular point in the continual progress made by those who “are of God,” viz. the knowledge of Him which comes from experience of life in fellowship with Him.

ὃς οὐκ ἔστιν κ.τ.λ.] They cannot know or welcome the truth, because the principles which guide their thoughts are not derived from the truth.

ἐκ τούτου] Cf. John 6:66, John 19:12, in neither of which verses is the meaning exclusively temporal. The phrase is not used again in the Epistle, or in the Johannine writings, with γινώσκειν. As compared with ἐν τούτῳ it may perhaps suggest a criterion which is less obvious, and which lies further away from that which it may be used to test. The character of their confession offers an immediate test of the spirits. It requires a longer process of intelligent observation to determine the character of the reception with which the message meets. The “test” here is the fact that the one message is welcomed by those who are of God and know God, the other only by those who are of the world. Cf. John 15:19.

γινώσκομεν] The preceding ἡμεῖς and ἡμῶν make it natural to refer this to the teachers, and grammatically this is no doubt the more correct interpretation. But when the writer is meditating, rather than pursuing a course of logically developed thought, his meditation is apt to pass out into wider spheres, and it is more than probable that he now includes in the first person plural the whole body of those whom he is addressing, as well as the teachers, with whom he began by associating himself.

τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας κ.τ.λ.] The Spirit of God, of which the essential characteristic is truth, and the spirit of the Devil, or of Antichrist, which is characterized by falsehood, the active falsehood which leads men astray (πλάνης).

ο] pr. καιIe258* (56).

ος… ημων2o א B K al. pler. vg. etc.] om. A L a 3. 142. 177*

ος] pr. καιIc364 (137).

εκ τουτου] εν τουτω A vg. sah. cop.

πν̄α (? 1o, 2o)] πρ̄αIa 205-261 (51).

C. 4:7-5:12Third presentation of the ethical and Christological theses. They are not only shown to be connected (as in B), but the proof of their inseparability is given. Love is the basis of our knowledge of fellowship with God, because God is love. And this love of God is manifested in the sending of His Son, as faith comprehends it. So the two main thoughts of the Epistle, Faith in Jesus Christ and Love of the Brethren, are intertwined in this passage, which may be divided into two sections.

I. 4:7-21. First meditation on the two thoughts now combined. Love based on faith in the revelation of Love which has been given, the test of our knowledge of God and of our birth from God

II. 5:1-12. Faith as the ground of love.

I. 1. 4:7-12. Love based on the Revelation of Love

(a) 7-10 The writer grounds an appeal to his “beloved” hearers for mutual love on the true nature of love as manifested in the Incarnation. True love is not merely a quality of nature, and on that analogy included in our conception of the Deity. It has its origin in God. Human love is a reflection of something in the Divine nature itself. Its presence in men shows that they have experienced the new birth from God and share in that higher life which consists in gradually becoming acquainted with God. Where love is absent there has not been even the beginning of the knowledge of God, for love is the very nature and being of God. And God’s love has been manifested in us. God sent His only-begotten Son, in whom His whole nature is reproduced, who alone can fully reveal it to men, into the world of men with a special purpose. That purpose was to enable men to share the higher spiritual life which He imparts (ἵνα ζήσωμεν διʼ αὐτοῦ). The nature of true love is manifested in those who have begun to share that life. True love is something which gives itself, neither in return for what has been given nor in order to get as much again: even as God gave His Son, not as a reward for the love which men had showed to Him, but as a boon to those who had only manifested their hostility to Him, in order to remove the obstacles which intervened between God and men.

7. ἀγαπητοί] One of the writer’s favourite words. It occurs ten times in the Epistles, though not in the Gospel. It is his usual method of address when he wishes to appeal to the better thoughts and feelings of his readers, or, to use S.Paul’s phrase, to “open the eyes of their hearts.” It emphasizes the natural grounds of appeal for mutual love, which can most readily be called out among those who are loved or lovable.ἡ ἀγάπη ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστίν] The whole of the Biblical revelation of God emphasizes the fact that man is made in the image of God, not God in the image of man, however much our conceptions of God are necessarily conditioned by human limitations. It suggests that whatever is best in man is the reflection, under the limitations of finite human existence, of something in the nature of God. The true nature of love cannot be appreciated unless it is recognized that its origin must be sought beyond human nature. We may compare the doctrine of “Fatherhood” insisted upon in Ephesians 3:15.

πᾶς ὁ ἀγαπῶν] It is generally recognized that love is here presented, not as the cause of the new birth from God or of the knowledge of God, but as their effect. The presence of love is the test by which the reality of their presence in any man may be known. The discussion of the question whether the writer intends to present the relation of the being born of God to the knowledge of God as one of cause and effect, or of effect and cause, is perhaps idle. He who loves shows thereby that he has experienced the new birth from God which is the beginning of Christian life, and that its effects are permanent and abiding. He also shows that he has entered upon that life which consists in the gradual acquiring of the knowledge of God. Whether this process of acquiring knowledge begins before, and leads to, the new birth, or only begins after that has been experienced and is its consequence, is not stated. The question was probably not present to the writer’s mind.

η αγαπη] post εστινIa 175 (319).

του (? Io)] om. Ic 116 (—).

ο αγαπων] + τον θεον Α: + fratrem demid. tol. Fulg.: + fratrem suum. Did.: cf. omnes qui diligunt se inuicem sahd.

καιIo—(8) εστιν] om. syrp.

γεγεννηται] γεγενηται99. 177*. 180 jscr Iscr Dam.

8. The negative counterpart of ver. 7, the statement being made, as usual, with a slight difference.

οὐκ ἔγνω] He shows by his want of love that the process of knowledge never even began in him.

ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν] Love is not merely an attribute of God, it is His very Nature and Being; or rather, the word expresses the highest conception which we can form of that Nature. Holtzmann’s note is worth quoting. “Even the false gnosis realized that God is light and spirit. But when here and in ver. 16 love is put forward as the truest presentation of God, this is the highest expression of the conception of God. It passes entirely beyond the limitations of natural religion. It does not come within the category of Substance, but only those of Power and Activity. It opens the way for an altogether new presentation of religion based on the facts of moral life.”

͂ 1o—θεον] post εστιν syrsch: om. א*192 dscr arm-cdd. aeth.: ο μη αγαπων ουκ εγνωκεν אc.

ο1o pr. οτιIc 174 (252): + δεIc 258 (56).

ουκ εγνω] om. εγνωκεν אc 31: ου γινωσκειA 3. 5. 13 Rev_4 arm. Or. cf. Lcif. Did. Fulg.: non cognoscit sah.

9. ἐν τούτῳ] The true nature of God’s love has now been shown, in a way which men can understand and appreciate, in the fact and the purpose of the Incarnation. God gave His best, that men might be enabled to live the life of God.

ἐν ἡμῖν] Not “among us.” still less “to us.” If the writer had meant “God’s love to us,” he would doubtless have used the Greek words which would convey that meaning, ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ (ἡ) εἰς ἡμᾶς. The preposition has its full force. God sent His Son that men might live. The manifestation of His love is made in those who have entered upon the life which He sent His Son to give.

τὸν μονογενῆ] The idea presented by μονογενής in the Johan nine books would seem to be that of the one and only Son who completely reproduces the nature and character of His Father, which is concentrated in one, and is not, so to speak, divided up among many brethren. It emphasizes the completeness of the revelation of God which He is able to give, as well as the uniqueness of the gift.

ἵνα ζήσωμεν] Cf. the note on ἐν ἡμῖν. The love was manifested in a definite act with a definite object.

εν1o] pr. και οτιIa 200f. 254. 502 (83) Ib 78-157 (—): pr. καιIc 114 (335).

του θεου] eius arm-codd.

εν ημιν]om. Ib 253-559 (2).

απεσταλκεν] απεστειλεν K 29. 38. 42. 57 al. plus12 Ath.

ο θεος]om. 15. 18. 25. 98. 100 Rev_5 arm. aeth. Aug.

ζησωμεν] ζωμεν א*.

10. True love is selfless. It is not a mere response. It gives itself. The sending of God’s Son was not the answer of God to something in man. It was the outcome of the very Nature of God. Cf. odes of Solomon, iii. 3, 4, “I should not have known how to love the Lord, if He had not loved me. For who is able to distinguish love, except the one that is loved?”

ἱλασμόν] Cf. 2:2. God could not give Himself while men’s sins formed a barrier between them and Him. True love must sweep away the hindrances to the fulfilment of the law of its being. While Vulg. has propitiatio, Aug. has litator, and Lucif. expiator, emphasizing the fact that that which reconciles is a person.

η αγαπη] + του θεου אsah. cop.

ηγαπησαμεν] ηγαπηκαμεν B L ηγαπησεν pr. πρωτοςK δ364 (51).

αυτος] εκεινοςA: pr. Deus sahw.

απεστειλεν] απεσταλκεν א.

περι] υπερIa 200 (83): om. Ic 174 (252).

(b) 11, 12. Love of the Brethren the test of Fellowship

In the light of such a manifestation of God’s love there can be no question about the obligation to mutual love among those who have experienced it. True knowledge always finds expression in action. The true nature of God cannot be made visible to the eye. His presence cannot be seen. But it is known in its results. Where love is, there we know that God abides in men. His abiding in men is the most complete expression of His love.

11. ἀγαπητοί] Cf. ver. 7. The loving address is here used for the sixth and last time.

οὕτως] Cf. John 3:16, of which this verse seems to be an echo. Οὕτως defines the way in which God manifested the true nature of love, by giving His Son.

καὶ ἡμεῖς] The writer and his readers, or more generally the Christian Family, those who have experienced and appropriated the revelation of love. Those who have learned the true character of love are under the strongest obligation to carry out, in such spheres as they can, the lesson which they have learned. The proper result of divine birth is divine activity.

ο θεος] post ημαςIb 253f. 559. δ152. δ260 (2).

οφειλομεν και ημειςIa δ453-173 (5).

12. θεὸν κ.τ.λ.] Cf. John 1:18, where the order of the first two words is the same. The absence of the article throws the emphasis on the nature and character of God. As He is in His true nature He cannot be made visible to the eyes of men, so that they can grasp the meaning of what they see (θεᾶσθαι, contrast the ἑώρακεν of the Gospel, which merely states the fact).

ἂν κ.τ.λ.] What cannot be seen can be known by its fruits. Mutual love is a sign of the indwelling of God in men. “Through our love for each other (as Christians) we build the Temple, in which God can dwell in and among us” (Rothe). His love for men receives its most perfect expression in His giving Himself to men, and entering into fellowship with them.

αὐτοῦ] There is the usual division of opinion as to whether the genitive is subjective or objective, or whether the two meanings are to be combined, the love which comes from God and which He causes to exist in men. The context on the whole favours the view that it should be taken as subjective. God’s love to men is realized most fully in His condescending to abide in men. Cf. ver. 9, ἐφανερώθη ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν.

12. θεον] pr. αδελφοιIa 170 (303).

τετελειωμενη] pr. τετελειωται και13: post ημινA 5. 13. 31. 68. 69 ascr vg. Thphyl.: perfecta erit sahd.

εν ημιν] post εστιν K L al. pler. cat. sah. cop. syrutr arm. aeth. Oec. Aug.13-16a. Proofs of Fellowship. The gift of the Spirit. The witness of those who actually saw the manifestation of love in the Life of Jesus. By means of the Spirit, of which He has given us, we are conscious that fellowship between Him and us really exists. Furthermore, the great proof of His love, the sending of His Son as Saviour of the world, rests on certain witness. We who lived with Him on earth, and have seen and understood the meaning of what we saw, can bear true witness. All who accept the fact that Jesus of Nazareth, who lived on earth as a man among men, is the Son of God, and who mould their lives in accordance with this confession, are in true fellowship with God. And we who saw Him have learned to know and to believe the love which God has for us, and shows in us.

13. The writer passes from the facts to Christian consciousness of the facts. We are assured that fellowship between God and us really exists, because he has given us of His Spirit, and the effects of His gifts are permanent. Cf. 3:24, where the same conclusion is reached. For the use of the preposition, cf. Matthew 25:28, δότε ἡμῖν ἐκ τοῦ ἐλαίου ὑμῶν. For the general arrangement of the matter, cf. 1 John 2:5, 1 John 2:6.

μενομεν] + και ημεις13.

αυτος] + est s. manet sah. boh.: + (?) ο θεοςIa 158 (395).

πῡς] πρσ̄O46(154).

δεδωκεν א B K L al. plur. cat. Ath. Cyr.] εδωκεν13, 27, 29 cscr Ath. Bas. Cyr.

14. Beside the internal witness of the Spirit, there is also the external witness of those who saw the great proof of God’s love. Their vision was complete, and lasting in its results. The testimony, therefore, which they bear is sure.

ἡμεῖς] The word must here refer to the actual eye-witnesses of the life of Jesus on earth. The exaggeration of the view which finds “the αὐτόπται of the Province”1 in each use of the first person plural of the pronoun in the Epistle, should not be allowed to obscure the natural meaning of certain expressions which it contains; cf. 1 John 1:1. The verb looks back to ver. 12: “God Himself no one has ever yet beheld; but we have beheld His Son.

σωτῆρα] Cf. John 4:42, οὗτός ἐστιν ἀληθῶς ὁ σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου. The purpose of the mission was to restore the fellowship which had been gradually forfeited.

τεθεαμεθα א B K L al. longe. pler. cat. Thphyl. Oec.] εθεασαμεθα A 27. 29. 33. 34. 66**. 68. 98 al. aliq. Cyr.

μαρτυρουμεν] testati sumus sah.

απεσταλκεν] απεστειλενIa 396fff (96) Ib 78-157 (—) O46 (154).

υιον] + αυτουIc 364, 259 (137).

15. ὁμολογήσῃ] Cf. 4:2 and notes. The confession is stated variously; cf. 4:2; 2 John 1:7, and the various confessions is the Gospel. The essential point seems to be the identity of Jesus, the man who lived on earth a human life, with the Son of God, who as only-begotten Son of His Father could reveal the Father to men. In the thought of the writer no other conditions could assure the validity of the revelation and the possibility of its comprehension by man. He who “confesses” this, i.e. makes this belief the guiding principle of his life and action, is assured of the truth of his fellowship with God. Thus the work of the original witnesses is continued in the “confession” of those who “have not seen and yet have believed.” Such a confession is as sure a test of Divine fellowship as “mutual love.” As it cannot be true unless it issues in such mutual love, it is difficult to distinguish the two. The writer probably puts it forward rather for its value as an objective sign to others, than for its power of giving assurance to him who makes it. In the Christian community there is external as well as internal assurance to be found by those who look for it.

16a. καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐγνώκαμεν καὶ πεπιστεύκαμεν] If, as seems probable, the first person plural still refers to the writer and other teachers who, like him, had seen the Lord on earth, he is thinking of his early experiences in Galilee or Jerusalem, when growing acquaintance passed into assured faith, which had never since been lost. Contrast the order in the confession of S. Peter, John 6:69. The growth of knowledge and the growth of faith act and react on each other.

ἐν ἡμῖν] The love which God has for men is manifested in those who respond to it, in whom it issues in higher life. But perhaps it is safer to regard the preposition as a trace of the influence of Aramaic forms of expression on the writer’s style.

ομολογηση] ομολογηA 5 " ιησους] κσ̄Ia 101 (40): χσ̄ κσ̄Ia 382 (231): + χριστοςB m, arm-codd. Cf. Tert.

αυτος] ουτοςIa δ 457-110 (209) : + est s. manet boh. sah.

πεπιστευκαμεν και εγνωκαμενarm. " πεπιστευκαμεν] πιστευομενA 13 am. tol. cop.

την αγαπην] +Dei am. * arm.

εχει] εσχενH δ6 (Ψ).

εν ημιν] μεθ ημωνIa 397ffff. δ157 (96).

16b-21. Love and Faith in relation to Judgment. The nature of true love.Since God is love, he who abides in love abides in God and God in him. Thus the test of love can give full assurance with regard to the reality of our fellowship with God. It is a logical deduction from the very nature of God. Love has been made perfect in us when, and only when, we can look forward with entire confidence to the great day of God’s judgment, knowing that as the exalted Christ abides in the Father’s love, so we abide in it so far as that is possible under the conditions of our present existence. Where full confidence is not yet possible, love is not yet made perfect, for fear and dread have no place in true love. It drives them out completely from the sphere of its activity. For fear has in itself something of the nature of punishment, and he who experiences it has not yet been made perfect in love. How then can we say that we have love? Because our love, in whatever degree we possess it as yet, has its origin in something that is above and beyond us. It has its origin in God. It is called out in response to the love which God has for us. But our claim to love can be put to an obvious test. Love is active, and must, if it is real, go forth to those who need it. If any one claims to love God and does not show love to his brethren, his claim is not only false, but reveals a falseness of character. Love will show itself wherever an object of love is to be found. He who will not take even the first step can never reach the goal. If the sight of his brother does not call out his love, the fact shows that he cannot have love enough to reach as far as God. And for us the matter is determined, once for all, by the Master’s command. He has said, “The first commandment is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. And the second is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

16b. ὁ θεός κ.τ.λ.] Cf. ver. 8, where love is shown to be the necessary condition of knowledge of God. Here it is presented as the necessary condition of fellowship.

ὁ μένων κ.τ.λ.] Cf. ver. 12, where the writer emphasizes the fact that God’s love for men is shown most completely in His willingness to “abide” in us. Here the emphasis is laid on the mutual character of the intercourse, ἐν τῷ θεῷ μένει καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἐν αὐτῷ, and especially on the human side. By abiding in love, the Christian realizes the divine fellowship.

και4o—μενει2o] om. Syrsch " om H δ2 (א)—μενει2oא B K L al. fere. 50 sah. cop. syrp arm. Cyp. Aug.] om. A al. sat. mul. cat. vg. aeth. Thphyl. Oec. Cyp.

17. ἐν τούτῳ κ.τ.λ.] Two interpretations of this verse are possible, according as the words refer to what precedes or to what follows. Ἐν τούτῳ may recapitulate the clause ἐν τῷ θεῷ μένει καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἐν αὐτῷ. Love finds its consummation in the realization of this mutual fellowship. But it would be truer to say that love is made perfect, not in fellowship generally, but in perfect fellowship; and this is hardly expressed by the words. And in the general usage of the author ἐν τούτῳ refers to what follows, whenever the sentence contains a clause which allows of such a reference. Such clauses are either added without connecting particle, or are introduced by ὅτι, ἐάν, or ὅταν. There is no certain instance of the construction ἐν τούτῳ ἵνα. But John 15:8 should probably be interpreted in this way (ἐντούτῳ ἐδοξάσθη ὁ πατήρ μου, ἵνα καρπὸν πολὺν φέρητε). And the writer’s use of the purely definitive ἵνα is so well established that such a construction causes no difficulty. If ἐν τούτῳ refers to the clause introduced by ἵνα the meaning will be that love is made perfect in full confidence, It has been perfectly realized only by those who can look forward with sure confidence to the judgment of the Great Day. Such confidence is the sign of perfect love. The thought is developed further in ver. 18. Cf. also 2:28.

παρρησίαν] See the note on 2:28.

μεθʼ ἡμῶν] As contrasted with ἐν ἡμῖν (א)it is possible that the phrase may emphasize the co-operation of men in the realization of fellowship, “In fulfilling this issue, God works with man” (Westcott, who compares Acts 15:4). But it is at least equally possible that the usage of the Hebrew preposition עם may have influenced the choice of preposition.

ὅτι κ.τ.λ.] The ground of the assurance. Those who have attained to fellowship share, in some degree, the character of the Christ, as He is in His exalted state, in perfect fellowship with the Father. Cf. John 17:23, ἐγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ σὺ ἐν ἐμοί· ἵνα ὦσιν τετελειωμένοι εἰς ἕν. Those who are like their Judge, can await with confidence the result of His decrees. The fellowship is limited by the conditions of earthly life (ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ). Οὗτος“emphasizes the idea of transitoriness.” But so far as it goes the fellowship is real.

ἐκεῖνος] is generally used in this Epistle of the exalted Christ; cf. 2:6, 3:3, 5, 7, 16.

ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως] Cf. 2:28, ἐὰν φανερωθῇ. However much the writer may seek to spiritualize the ordinary Christian, or even the Synoptic, eschatology, he has not eliminated from the sphere of his theological thought the idea of a final “day” of judgment, when the processes which are already at work shall reach their final issue and manifestation. The attempts which have been made to draw a distinction in this respect between the Gospel and the Epistle cannot be said to have been successful.

η αγαπη] + του θεου96 alpauc vgcle tol. sahbw: eius arm.

μεθ ημων] + εν ημιν א.

εχωμεν] εχομεν א K Rev_5: σχωμεν Ib 78 (-).

τη] om. Ia δ454 (794).

ημερα] αγαπη א.

οτι… εσμεν] ut … simus sahbw (non liquet sahd).

κρισεως] + προς τον ενανθρωπησαντα Ic 208-116, 356 (307).

εκεινος] κακεινος13 Rev_2.

εστιν] ην εν τω κοσμω αμωμος και καθαρος ουτως Ic 116, 356 (-).

εσμεν] εσομεθα א.

18. Fear, which is essentially self-centred, has no place in love, which in its perfection involves complete self-surrender. The two cannot exist side by side. The presence of fear is a sign that love is not yet perfect. “Love cannot be mingled with fear” (Seneca, Ep. Mor. 47:18).

κόλασιν ἔχει] not only “includes the punishment which it anticipates,” but is in itself of the nature of punishment. Till love is supreme, it is a necessary chastisement, a part of the divine discipline, which has its salutary office. κόλασις is used in the New Testament only here and in Matthew 25:46; Mat 25:2 Mac. 4:38. (Contrast the use of τιμωρία, “requital.”) The expression must mean here more than “suffers punishment,” as in Hermas, S. 9:18. 1, ὁ μὴ γινώσκων θεὸν καὶ πονηρευόμενος ἔχεικόλασίν τινα τῆς πονηρίας αὐτοῦ.

ἔξω βάλλει] Cf. Matthew 5:13, Matthew 5:13:48; John 6:37, John 9:34, John 12:31, John 15:6. Love must altogether banish fear from the enclosure in which her work is done.

ὁ δὲ φοβούμενος κ.τ.λ.] Till fear has been “cast outside,” love has not been made perfect. Cf. Philo, quod Deus sit immut. 69 (Cohn, 2:72), τοῖς μὲν οὖν μήτε μέρος μήτε πάθος ἄνθρωπου περὶτὸ ὂν νομίζουσιν, ἀλλὰ θεοπρεπῶς αὐτὸ διʼ αὐτὸ μόνον τιμῶσι τὸἀγαπᾶν οἰκειότατον, φοβεῖσθαι δὲ τοῖς ἑτέροις, quoted by Windisch.

εν τη] η Ic 114 (335): om. τη Ib 253 (2).

φοβος (? 2:0)] φοβουμενος Ia δ157 (547) Ic 174 (252).

19. ἡμεῖς] We Christians, as in ver. 17. The point has been much disputed whether the verb (ἀγαπῶμεν) is to be interpreted as an exhortation (conjunctive) or as a statement of fact (indicative). The attempt to construe it as a conjunctive has led to various modifications of the text, the introduction of a connecting particle οὖν, never found in the true text of this Epistle cf., however, 3 John 1:8), or the insertion of an object for the verb (τὸν θεόν, αὐτόν, inuicem). And both modifications would be natural if the clause is to be taken as hortatory. But a further meditation on the nature of love as manifested in us is more suitable to the context, and it gives a deeper meaning to the words. Our love is not self-originated. It has a divine origin. It is called out in response to what God has given. Thus interpreted, the words offer a far more powerful incentive to the exercise of love than a mere exhortation, and they have their natural place in the writer’s thoughts. God is love; by the path of love we can enter into His fellowship (16): in our case love is made perfect in proportion as it casts out fear and establishes full confidence (17, 18). And it rests on something greater and stronger than our own powers. It is the response of our nature to the love which God Himself has shown. Such love which He has called out in us must find an object. If it fails to find out the nearer object, it will never reach the further (19, 20). And besides this, there is the Lord’s express command (21).

αὐτός] The variant ὁ θεός is probably a true explanation. But αὐτός is not only better attested, it is more in harmony with the writer’s style.

πρῶτος] Cf. John 1:42.

ημεις א B K L al. longe. plur. cat. sah. cop. syrp arm. Thphyl. Oec. Aug.] + ουν A 5. 8. 13. 31. 98. 101. 105. 106**. 107. 177** gscr kscr al. pauc. vg. syrsch.

αγαπωμεν A B 5. 27. 29. 66** fu. aeth. boh-codd. Aug. Pelag. Bed.] scimus sah.: + τον θεον א 13. 33. 34. 68. 69. 91. 137 ascr cscr dscr vg. demid. harl. tol. sur. boh-ed. arm. Leo: + αυτον K L al. longe. plur. cat. Thphyl. Oec. Aug.: + inuicem am. Leo.

αυτος א B K L al. pler. cat. harl. sah. cop. syr. arm. aeth. Thphyl. Oec Aug.] ο θεος A 5. 8. 13. 14*. 33. 34. 81. vg. Pelag.

πρωτος] πρωτον 5. 8. 25. 40. 69. ascr.

ηγαπησεν] ηγαπηκεν 13.

20. ἐάν τις εἴπῃ] Cf. 1:6, ἐὰν εἴπωμεν, and the more definite ὁ λέγων (2:4). The false claim is mentioned quite generally. At the same time, it is not improbable that the false teachers, who claimed to possess a superior knowledge of the true God, may also have laid claim to a superior love of the Father, who was “good,” and not merely “just,” as the God of the Old Testament. And the emphasis laid throughout the Epistle on the duty of mutual love makes it clear that their “superior” love had been more or less conspicuous in its failure to begin at home, or to master the import of the Lord’s verdict, ἐφʼ ὅσον οὐκἐποιήσατε ἑνὶ τούτων τῶν ἐλαχίστων, οὐδὲ ἐμοὶ ἐποιήσατε.

μισῇ] Cf. 2:9.

ψεύστης ἐστίν] He not only states what is false (ψεύδεται), but reveals by his false claim a real falseness of character, if the difference between two possible forms of expression is to be pressed.

ὁ γὰρ κ.τ.λ.] Love must express itself in action. He who refuses to make use of the obvious opportunities, which his position in this world affords him, cannot entertain the highest love.

ὃν ἑώρακεν] Cf. Oec. ἐφελκυστικὸν γὰρ ὅρασις πρὸς ἀγάπην, and the saying of Philo, de Decalogo, 23 (Cohn, 4:296), ἀμήχανονδὲ εὐσεβεῖσθαι τὸν ἀόρατον ὑπὸ τῶν εἰς τοὺς ἐμφανεῖς καὶ ἐγγὺς ὄντας ἀσεβούντων.

οὐ δύναται] The reading of א B, etc., is perhaps more impressive and more in agreement with the writer’s love of absolute statement than the variant which Westcott condemns as “the rhetorical phrase of the common text” (πῶς δύναται). At the same time the latter reading suggests a new point. The man who rejects the obvious method of giving expression to love in the case of those whom he has seen, has no way left by which he can attempt the harder task of reaching out to that which is invisible.

οτι] om. א Aug. (bis).

αγαπω] post θεον1:0 Ia 70 (505): αγαπα Ic 551 (216): ηγαπηκεν H δ48 (33).

μιση] μισει Κh al.25 cat. Dam. Thphyl.

γαρ] om. Ia 158 (395) Ib 157 (29).

ου δυναται] א B 27. 29. 66**. 68. 69 ascr sah. syr. Lcif.] πως δυναται A K L al. pler. cat. vg. syr. cop. arm. aeth. Dam. Thphyl. Oec. Cyp. Aug.

αγαπαν] αγαπησαι13 Rev_2.

21. The duty of love not only follows necessarily from what God has done for us, it rests on His direct commandment.

ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ] naturally refers to God, as the variant in the Vulgate interprets it, though here as elsewhere, in the language of meditation, when the writer is of Semitic origin, a change of person is by no means impossible.

The most direct statement of the command is Mark 12:29 ff., where the Lord quotes the command of Deuteronomy 6:4, Deuteronomy 6:5. The writer no doubt knew the Marcan passage, even if he had not himself heard the saying which it records, when it was originally spoken. Cf. also John 13:34.

εχομεν] accepimus sah. boh-codd.

απ αυτου] απο του θεου A vg. am. demid. harl. tol.

om. θεον… τον 2:0 B* A* (uid.).

om. και 2:0 13. 34.

αυτου (? 2:0)] εαυτου Ic 114 (335).

Ψ̠δ6. Athos. Lawra 172 (β52) (viii.-ix.).

אԠא. δ2. Codex Sinaiticus. Petersburg (iv.).

A δ4. Codex Alexandrinus. London. Brit. Mus. Royal Libr. I. D. v.-viii. (v.).

B δ1. Codex Vaticanus. Rome. Vat. Gr. 1209 (iv.).

C δ3. Codex Ephraimi. Paris. Bibl. Nat. 9 (v.); 1 John 1:1 τους—(2) εωρα[κομεν]. 4:2 εστιν—(3 John 1:2) ψυχη.

L α5. Rome. Angel. 39 (ol. A. 2. 15) (ix.).

13 13 ( = 33gosp.). δ48. Paris. Bibl. Nat. Gr. 14 (ix.-x.).

1 Cf. Holtzmann on 3 John 1:9.

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
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; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
We love him, because he first loved us.
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
ICC New Testament commentary on selected books

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