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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
1 John 2

 

 

Verse 1

1. He has just been stating that the world is on the wane and that its dissolution has already begun. 2. He has just declared that the obedient Christian shall abide ‘unto the age’ of Christ’s kingdom of glory. 3. He goes on to give as a proof that it is the ‘last hour’, that many Antichrists have already arisen; it being the common belief of Christians that Antichrist would immediately precede the return of Christ (Matthew 24:23-24). 4. Ἡ ἐσχάτη ἡμέρα is a phrase peculiar to S. John (John 6:39-40; John 6:44; John 6:54; John 11:24; John 12:48), and invariably means the end of the world, not the Christian dispensation. 5. S. John’s Gospel contains the prophecy, ‘There cometh an hour (ἔρχεται ὥρα), in which all that are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth, &c.’ (John 5:28). 6. Analogous phrases in other parts of N.T. point in the same direction: ‘In the last days grievous times shall come’ (2 Timothy 3:1); ‘Ye are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Peter 1:5); ‘In the last days mockers shall come with mockery’ (2 Peter 3:3). These and other passages shew that by ‘the last days’, ‘last time’, ‘last hour’, and the like, Christian writers did not mean the whole time between the first and second coming of Christ, but only the concluding portion of it. 7. We find similar language with similar meaning in the sub-apostolic age. Thus Ignatius (Eph. XI.) writes; “These are the last times (ἔσχατοι καιροί). Henceforth let us be reverent; let us fear the longsuffering of God, lest it turn into a judgment against us. For either let us fear the wrath which is to come, or let us love the grace which now is.”

Of other interpretations of ‘the last hour’ the most noteworthy are these. [1] The Christian dispensation, which we have every reason to believe is the last. Comp. Acts 2:17. This is the sense in which S. John’s words are true; but this is plainly not his meaning. The appearance of Christ, not of Antichrist, proves that the Christian dispensation is come. [2] A very grievous time; tempora periculosa pessima et abjectissima. This is quite against usage whether in classical or N.T. Greek: comp. 2 Timothy 3:1. The classical phrase, ‘to suffer the last things’, i.e. ‘to suffer extremities’ (τὰ ἔσχατα παθεῖν), supplies no analogy: there the notion of ‘grievous’ comes from the verb. [3] The eve of the destruction of Jerusalem. How could the appearance of Antichrist prove that this had arrived? And Jerusalem had perished at least a dozen years before the probable date of this Epistle. [4] The eve of S. John’s own death. Antichrists could be no sign of that.

It is admitted, even by some of those who reject the obvious interpretation, that “the Apostles expected a speedy appearing or manifestation of Jesus as the Judge of their nation and of all nations” (Maurice): which is to admit the whole difficulty of the rejected explanation. Only gradually was the vision of the Apostles cleared to see the true nature of the spiritual kingdom which Christ had founded on earth and left in their charge. Even Pentecost did not at once give them perfect insight. Being under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they could not teach what was untrue: but, like the Prophets before them, they sometimes uttered words which were true in a sense far higher than that which was present to their own minds. In this higher sense S. John’s words here are true. Like others, he was wrong in supposing ‘that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear’ (Luke 19:11), for ‘it was not for them to know times or seasons which the Father hath set within His own authority’ (Acts 1:7). He was right in declaring that, the Messiah having come, it was the ‘last hour.’ No event in the world’s history can ever equal the coming of Christ until He comes again. The epoch of Christianity, therefore, is rightly called the ‘last hour,’ although it has lasted nearly two thousand years. What is that compared with the many thousands of years since the creation of man, and the limitless geological periods which preceded the creation of man? What again in the eyes of Him in whose sight ‘a thousand years are but yesterday’?

“It may be remarked that the only point on which we can certainly say that the Apostles were in error, and led others into error, is in their expectation of the immediate coming of Christ; and this is the very point which our Saviour says (Mark 13:32) is known only to the Father” (Jelf).

καὶ καθὼς ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἀντίχριστος ἔρχ. And even as ye heard that Antichrist cometh. For ὅτι ἀντίχρ. [570] reads ὁ ἀντίχρ. For καθώς see on 1 John 2:6. This seems to be a case in which the aorist should be retained in English. As in 1 John 2:7, the reference is probably to a definite point in their instruction in the faith. See on 1 John 2:11. ‘Cometh’ points to the analogy between the Christ and the Antichrist. The one was hoped for, and the other dreaded, with equal certainty; and hence each might be spoken of as ‘He that cometh’ (ὁ ἐρχόμενος). ‘Art Thou He that cometh?’ (Matthew 11:3; Luke 19:20). Comp. Mark 8:38; Mark 11:9; John 4:25; John 6:14; John 11:27, &c. &c. And as to the coming of Antichrists the N.T. seems to be as explicit as the O.T. with regard to the coming of Christ. ‘Many shall come in My name, saying I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray.… There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect’ (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:24). Comp. Mark 13:22-23; Acts 20:29; 2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 2:1; and especially 2 Thessalonians 2:3, which like the passage before us seems to point to one distinct person or power as the one Antichrist, whose spirit animates all antichristian teachers.

The term ‘Antichrist’ in Scripture occurs only in the First and Second Epistles of S. John (1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7). The earliest instance of its use outside Scripture is in S. Polycarp (Ep. ad Phil. VII.), in a passage which shews that this disciple of S. John (A.D. 112–118) knew our Epistle: see on 1 John 4:3. The term does not mean merely a mock Christ or false Christ, for which the N.T. term is ψευδόχριστος (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22). Nor does it mean simply an opponent of Christ, for which we should probably have ἐχθρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ, like τοὺς ἐχθροὺς τ. σταυροῦ τ. Χρ. (Philippians 3:18) and ἐχθρὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ (James 4:4). But it includes both these ideas of counterfeiting and opposing; it means an opposition Christ or rival Christ; just as we call a rival Pope an ‘antipope’. The Antichrist is, therefore, a usurper, who under false pretences assumes a position which does not belong to him, and who opposes the rightful owner. The idea of opposition is the predominant one.

It is not easy to determine whether the Antichrist of S. John is personal or not. But the discussion of this question is too long for a note: see Appendix B.

ἀντίχρ. πολλοὶ γεγόνασιν. Have there arisen many Antichrists. The Christ was from all eternity (1 John 1:1); the Antichrist and his company arose in time: they are come into being. We have a similar contrast in the Gospel. Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος (1 John 1:1). ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ Θεοῦ (1 John 1:6). Note the difference of tense between ἐγένετο and γεγόνασιν: the perfect indicates that these antichrists are for the most part still alive. The word occurs nowhere else in this Epistle. For καθὼςκαὶ … instead of καθὼςοὕτως … comp. 1 John 2:6; 1 John 4:17; John 17:18; John 20:21. These ‘many antichrists’ are probably to be regarded as at once forerunners of the Antichrist and evidence that his spirit is already at work in the world: the one fact shews that he is not far distant, the other that in a sense he is already here. In either case we have proof that the return of Christ, which is to be heralded by the appearance of Antichrist, is near.

ὅθεν γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐσχ. ὥρα ἐστίν. Whence we come to know that it is the last hour. Ὄθεν in the sense of ‘from which data, from which premises’ hardly occurs elsewhere in N.T., excepting perhaps in Hebrews (Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 8:3), where it is uniformly rendered ‘wherefore’ in both A.V. and R.V. It is similar in meaning to ἐκ τούτου (1 John 4:6).

It is difficult to see what S. John could have meant by this, if by the ‘last hour’ he understood the Christian dispensation as a whole and not the concluding portion of it (comp. 2 Timothy 3:1). The multitude of false teachers who were spreading the great lie (1 John 2:22) that Jesus is not the Christ, were evidence, not of the existence of Christianity, but of antichristianity. Nor could evidence of the former be needed by S. John’s readers. They did not need to be convinced either that the Gospel dispensation had begun, or that it was the last in the history of the Divine Revelation. The Montanist theory that a further dispensation of the Spirit, distinct from that of the Son, was to follow and supersede the Gospel, as the Gospel had superseded Judaism, the dispensation of the Father, was a belief of later growth. (For an account of this theory as elaborated by Joachim of Flora [fl. A.D. 1180–90] see Döllinger’s Prophecies and the Prophetic Spirit in the Christian Era, pp. 114–119.) In the Apostolic age the tendency was all the other way;—to believe that the period since the coming of Christ was not only the last in the world’s history, but would be very brief. It was thought that some of the generation then existing might live to see the end (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52).


Verses 1-6

1–6. The Apostle is still treating of the condition and conduct of the believer as determined by his walking in the light; there is no break between the two chapters. Having shewn us that even Christians constantly sin, he goes on [1] to point out the remedy for sin, [2] to exhort us not to sin. The paragraph begins and ends with the latter point, but the former constitutes the chief link with the preceding paragraph: comp. 1 John 1:7. He who craves to grow in sanctification, and yet is conscious of his own frailty must constantly have recourse to the Advocate and His cleansing blood: thus he will be enabled to obey God more and more perfectly. The consideration of what it has cost to provide a remedy for sin will inspire him with a horror of sin.


Verses 1-11

1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:11. WHAT WALKING IN THE LIGHT INVOLVES

This section is largely directed against the Gnostic doctrine that to the man of enlightenment all conduct is morally indifferent. Against every form of this doctrine, which sapped the very foundations of Christian Ethics, the Apostle never wearies of inveighing. So far from its being true that all conduct is alike to the enlightened man, it is the character of his conduct that will shew whether he is enlightened or not. If he is walking in the light his condition and conduct will exhibit these things; 1. Fellowship with God and with the Brethren (5–7); 2. Consciousness and Confession of Sin (8–10); 3. Obedience to God by Imitation of Christ (1 John 2:1-6); 4. Love of the Brethren (1 John 2:7-11).


Verses 1-28

1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:28. GOD IS LIGHT


Verse 2

2. καὶ αὐτὸς ἱλασμός ἐστιν. And He Himself is a propitiation. Ἔχομενἐστιν, present tense of what is continual. In His glorified Body the Son is ever acting thus. Contrast the aorist (ἔθηκεν) of what took place once for all (1 John 3:16), His death. Beware of the unsatisfactory explanation that ‘propitiation’ is the abstract for the concrete, ‘propitiation’ (ἱλασμός) for ‘propitiator’ (ἱλαστήρ). Had S. John written ‘propitiator’ we should have lost half the truth; viz. that our Advocate propitiates by offering Himself. He is both High Priest and Victim, both Propitiator and Propitiation. It is quite obvious that He is the former; the office of Advocate includes it. It is not at all obvious that He is the latter: very rarely does an advocate offer himself as a propitiation. Ἱλασμός occurs nowhere in N.T. but here and in 1 John 4:10; in both places without the article and followed by περὶ τῶν ἁμ. ἡμῶν. It is one of the few great words in this Epistle which are not found in the Gospel. It signifies any action which has expiation as its object, whether prayer, compensation, or sacrifice. Thus ‘the ram of the atonement’ (Numbers 5:8) is ὁ κριὸς τοῦ ἱλασμοῦ. Comp. Ezekiel 44:27; Numbers 29:11; Leviticus 25:9. ‘There is forgiveness with Thee’ (Psalms 130:4) is in LXX. παρὰ σοὶ ὁ ἱλασμός ἐστιν, ‘Before Thee is the propitiation,’ Apud Te propitiatio est. The full meaning of this is given here: Jesus Christ, as being righteous, is ever present before the Lord as the propitiation. Comp. the use of ἱλάσκεσθαι (Hebrews 2:17) and of ἱλαστήριον (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:5). These passages shew that in N.T. the word is closely connected with that form of expiation which takes place by means of sacrifice or offering, although this idea is not of necessity included in the radical signification of the word itself. See notes in all three places. Latin writers use deprecatio, exoratio, and placatio as translations, as well as propitiatio. Thus Tertullian (De Pud. XIX.): et ipse placatio est pro delictis nostris; and again Horum ergo erit venia per exoratorem patris Christum. Augustine uses both propitiatio and exoratio, and also propitiator. See Appendix G. Comp. S. Paul’s words καταλλαγή (Romans 5:11; Romans 11:15; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19) and καταλλάσσειν (Romans 5:10; 1 Corinthians 7:11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). By the advocacy of Christ (παράκλητος) God is propitiated (ἱλασμός) and we are reconciled to Him (καταλλαγή).

περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτ. ἡμ. Literally, concerning our sins: our sins are matter respecting which propitiation goes on. So commonly in LXX. χίμαρον ἐξ αἰγῶν ἕνα περὶ ἁμαρτίας, ἐξιλάσασθαι περὶ ὑμῶν (Numbers 29:5; Numbers 29:11; comp. Exodus 30:15-16; Exodus 32:30; Leviticus 4:20; Leviticus 4:26; Leviticus 4:31; Leviticus 4:35, &c.). Comp. also John 8:46; John 10:33; John 16:8. Note the plural: not merely the sinfulness of human nature, but the sins which we are daily committing, is the subject of the propitiation.

οὐ περὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων δὲ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ π. ὅλου τ. κ. “The particle δέ marks the clause as guarding against error, not merely adding a new thought” (Westcott). Once more we have a parallel with the Gospel, and especially with chap. 17. ‘Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that shall believe on Me through their word … that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me … that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and lovedst them, even as Thou lovedst Me’ (John 17:20-23): ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29): ‘We know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world’ (John 4:24). Comp. 1 John 4:14. S. John’s writings are so full of the fundamental opposition between Christ or believers and the world, that there was danger lest he should seem to give his sanction to a Christian exclusiveness as fatal as the Jewish exclusiveness out of which he and other converts from Judaism had been delivered. Therefore by this (note especially ‘the whole world’) and other plain statements both in Gospel (see John 11:51 in particular) and Epistle he insists that believers have no exclusive right to the merits of Christ. The expiatory offering was made for the whole world without limitation. All who will may profit by it: quam late peccatum, tam late propitiatio (Bengel). The disabilities under which the whole human race had laboured were removed. It remained to be seen who would avail themselves of the restored privileges. It is from the Latin, pro totius mundi (understanding peccatis, which Beza inserts) that the A.V. rendering, ‘but also for the sins of the whole world,’ comes. So Luther: ‘sondern auch für der ganzen Welt.’ The supposed ellipse is neither necessary nor very probable: rather, as R.V., but also for the whole world. Comp. John 5:36; Hebrews 9:7. The latter passage shews that the ellipse is not necessary; and if it be said that ἱλασμός implies τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν (which may be doubted), then let ‘propitiation’ imply ‘sins’ in the English. We are not justified in inserting the word.

Ὁ κόσμος is another of S. John’s characteristic expressions. In his writings it generally means those who are alienated from God, outside the pale of the Church. “The world is a living tradition of disloyalty and dislike to God and His kingdom, just as the Church is or was meant to be a living tradition of faith, hope, and charity” (Liddon’s Easter Sermons XXII, perhaps the best existing commentary on S. John’s use of ‘the world’). But we should fall into grievous error if we assigned this meaning to the word indiscriminately. Thus, in ‘the world was made by Him’ (John 1:10) it means ‘the universe’; in ‘This is of a truth the Prophet that cometh into the world’ (John 6:14) it means ‘the earth’; in ‘God so loved the world’ (John 3:16) it means, as here, ‘the inhabitants of the earth, the human race.’ But still the prevalent meaning in both Gospel and Epistle is a bad one; ‘those who have not accepted the Christ, unbelievers, especially the great heathen organization of Rome.’ The natural order has become an unnatural disorder. S. Paul uses the word in the same sense (1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 7:33; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Colossians 2:8; Galatians 4:3; Galatians 6:14). In the Apocalypse it occurs only thrice, once in the usual sense, ‘The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord’ (Revelation 11:15), and twice in the sense of ‘the universe’ (Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8).


Verse 3

3. ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐγνώκαμεν αὐτόν. Herein we come to know that we know Him; or, we perceive that we have come to know Him. The difference between ἔγνωκα (‘I have come to know’ = ‘I know’) and other tenses of γινώσκω (‘I get to know, perceive, recognise’) should be marked. Comp. the collect for First Sunday after Epiphany; ‘that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do.’ Progressive knowledge gained by experience is implied in γινώσκειν (1 John 2:5; 1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 3:19; 1 John 3:24, &c.). Ἐν τούτῳ followed by ἐάν (John 13:35), or ὅτι (1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10; 1 John 4:13) or ὅταν (1 John 5:2), or ἵνα (John 15:8 and perhaps 1 John 4:17), is common in S. John’s writings. The meaning of ἐν τούτῳ must in each case be determined by the context. Sometimes, as here, it refers to what follows: sometimes, as probably in 1 John 4:17, to what precedes: generally to both; i.e. what has been already stated is elucidated by what follows. Comp. ἐκ τούτου (1 John 4:6) and διὰ τοῦτο (John 5:16; John 5:18; John 6:65; John 7:22; John 8:47; John 9:23; John 10:17; John 12:18; John 12:27; John 12:39, &c.), which also commonly looks both backwards and forwards: see on John 12:39. Excepting Luke 10:20, ἐν τούτῳ is peculiar to S. John. Αὐτόν, as commonly in this Epistle, probably means God rather than Christ: αἱ ἐντολαὶ αὐτοῦ everywhere else means God’s commandments (1 John 3:22; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 5:2-3), and probably here also.

ἐὰν τ. ἐντ. αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν. This = ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατεῖν (1 John 1:7) and μὴ ἁμαρτάνειν (1 John 2:1). There is no real knowledge of God, no fellowship with Him, without practical conformity to His will. Nam quisquis eum non amat, profecto ostendit, quia quam sit amabilis, non novit (Bede). S. John is again condemning that Gnostic doctrine which made excellence to consist in mere intellectual enlightenment. Divorced from holiness of life, says S. John, no enlightenment can be a knowledge of God. In his system of Christian Ethics the Apostle insists no less than Aristotle, that in morals knowledge without practice is worthless: ‘not speculation but conduct’ (οὐ γνῶσις ἀλλὰ πρᾶξις, Nic. Eth. I. iii. 6) is the aim of both the Christian and the heathen philosopher. Mere knowledge will not do: nor will knowledge ‘touched by emotion’ do. It is possible to know, and admire, and in a sort of way love, and yet act as if we had not known. But S. John gives no encouragement to devotion without a moral life (comp. 1 John 1:6). There is only one way of proving to ourselves that we know God, and that is by loving obedience to His will. Compare the very high standard of virtue set by Aristotle: he only is a virtuous man who does virtuous acts, πρῶτον μὲν ἐὰν εἰδώς, ἔπειτʼ ἐὰν προαιρούμενος, καὶ προαιρούμενος διʼ αὐτά, τὸ δὲ τρίτον καὶ ἐὰν βεβαίως καὶ ἀμετακινήτως ἔχων πράττῃ (Nic. Eth. II. iv. 3).

Τὰς ἐντολὰς τηρεῖν and τὸν λόγον τηρεῖν are phrases of frequent occurrence in S. John’s writings, Gospel (John 14:15; John 14:21; John 15:10; John 8:51-52; John 8:55; John 14:23; John 15:20; John 17:6), Epistle (1 John 2:4; 1 John 3:22; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 5:3; 1 John 2:5) and Revelation (Revelation 12:17; Revelation 14:12; Revelation 3:8; Revelation 3:10). Comp. John 14:24; Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:9. Τηρεῖν means to be on the watch to obey and fulfil; it covers both outward and inward observance.

These verses (3–5) exhibit the Vulgate as for once as capricious in its renderings as the A.V. In three consecutive sentences we have τηρεῖν translated in three different ways; observemus, custodit, servat.


Verse 4

4. The previous statement is again enforced by denying the opposite of it (1 John 1:5-6; 1 John 1:8). The construction ὁ λέγων, ὁ ἀγαπῶν, &c. now takes the place of ἐὰν εἴπωμεν, ἐὰν περιπατῶμεν, &c., but without change of meaning: after 1 John 2:11 both constructions cease and a new division begins. Comp. 1 John 1:6 which is exactly parallel to this.

ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι

ὁ λέγων ὅτι

κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετʼ αὐτοῦ,

Ἔγνωκα αὐτόν,

καὶ ἐν τῷ σκότει περιπατῶμεν,

καὶ τὰς ἐντ. αὐτοῦ μὴ τηρῶν,

ψευδόμεθα κ. οὐ π. τὴν ἀλήθ.

ψεύσ. ἐστ., κ. ἐν τ. ἡ ἀλ. οὐκ ἔστ.

By writing μὴ τηρῶν rather than οὐ τ. S. John states the case as generally and gently as possible, without asserting that any such person exists: comp. 1 John 3:10; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:20; 1 John 5:10; 1 John 5:12; Matthew 12:30, &c. Winer, 606.


Verse 5

5. The statement in 1 John 2:3 is still further emphasized by taking the opposite of 1 John 2:4, which is the opposite of 1 John 2:3. But this does not bring us back to 1 John 2:3, but to an expansion of it. S. John’s apparent retrogressions are real advances.

τὸν λόγον is a wider expression than τὰς ἐντολάς, covering the sum total of the revelation of God’s will: comp. 1 John 2:14. It is certainly wrong to interpret this of the ‘continued indwelling’ of ‘the Personal Word.’ Here the emphasis is on τηρῇ; in 1 John 2:4 on ἐντολάς. ἀληθῶς, should be truly, or of a truth, to distinguish it from ἀμήν, verily, in our Lord’s discourses. Here it stands first for emphasis, as in John 8:31 : truly in him. Like 1 John 1:7, this verse insists on the necessity for reality in holiness.

ἡ ἀγάπη τ. Θεοῦ τετελείωται. The full force of the perfect is found here as in 1 John 1:1-2; 1 John 1:10 : ‘hath been made perfect and remains so’; perfecta est or consummata est: Beza has adimpleta est. Obedience, not feeling, is the test of perfect love. This declaration shews that it is quite wrong to make ‘we know Him’ in 1 John 2:3 and ‘I know Him’ in 1 John 2:4 a Hebraism for ‘love Him’. Even if ‘know’ is ever used in the sense of ‘love,’ which may be doubted, S. John would hardly in the same sentence use ‘know’ in two totally different senses (1 John 2:3). S. John’s mention of love here shews that when he means ‘love’ he writes ‘love’ and not ‘know.’ He declares that true knowledge involves love, but they are not identical, any more than convex and concave. Ἡ ἀγάπη τ. Θεοῦ here means ‘the love of man to God’: this is the common usage in this Epistle (1 John 2:15; 1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:12; 1 John 5:3) Winer, 232. Only once is the genitive subjective and means ‘the love of God for man’; and there the context makes this quite clear (1 John 4:9). Ἀγάπη and ἀγαπᾶν are among S. John’s favourite words. His Gospel is the Gospel of Love and his Epistle the Epistle of Love. Τελειοῦν is also much more common in his writings than elsewhere in N.T., excepting the Epistle to the Hebrews, especially in the passive voice (1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:17-18; John 17:23; John 19:28). S. John is here speaking, as often in this Epistle, of an ideal state of things. No Christian’s love to God is perfect: but the more perfect his knowledge, the more perfect his obedience and his love. For the parallel in the Διδαχὴ τῶν ιβʹ Ἀποστόλων see Appendix F.

ἐν αὐτῷ ἐσμέν. Comp. ἐν αὐτῷ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν (Acts 17:28).


Verse 6

6. ὁ λέγων. He who declares his position is morally bound to act up to the declaration which he has made. To profess to abide in God involves an obligation to imitate the Son, who is the concrete expression of God’s will. ΄ένειν is another of the Apostle’s very favourite expressions, a fact greatly obscured in A.V. by capricious changes of rendering: see on 1 John 2:24. ‘To abide in’ implies habitual fellowship. Note the climax; to know Him (1 John 2:3), to be in Him (1 John 2:5), to abide in Him (1 John 2:6): cognitio, communio, constantia (Bengel). Profession of such close intimacy involves a debt (ὀφείλει, debet). S. John does not say ‘must’ (δεῖ, oportet) which might seem to imply constraint. The obligation is internal and personal. ‘Must’ (δεῖ), frequent in the Gospel and Revelation, does not occur in these Epistles. See on 1 John 3:16.

καθὼς ἐκεῖνος π. Not simply ὡς, as, but καθώς, even as: the imitation must be exact. It is always well in translation to mark the difference between ὡς and καθώς. For καθώς comp. 1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:27; 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:12; 1 John 3:23, and for καθὼς ἐκεῖνος, 1 John 3:3; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 4:17. Ἐκεῖνος in this Epistle is always Christ: 1 John 3:3; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:17. Nomen facile supplent credentes, plenum pectus habentes memoria Domini (Bengel). S. Peter says of Christ, ὑμῖν ὑπολιμπάνων ὑπογραμμὸν ἵνα ἐπακολουθήσητε τοῖς ἴχνεσιν αὐτοῦ (1 Peter 2:21); and (still more closely to S. John) S. Paul says περιπατεῖτε ἐν ἀγάπῃ, καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν, ὑμᾶς (Ephesians 5:1). Comp. Romans 15:5; Hebrews 12:2; and the Collect for the Second Sunday after Easter. In all cases it is His loving self-sacrifice that is to be imitated. Hence the next section.


Verse 7

7. ἀγαπητοί. This, the true reading, is specially suitable as the opening to this section (7–11), in which the subject of ἀγάπη comes to the front. In the second part of the Epistle, in which ἀγάπη is the main subject, ἀγαπητοί becomes the prevailing form of address (1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:21; 1 John 4:1; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:11). Augustine always in this Epistle renders ἀγαπητοί dilectissimi, the Vulgate always carissimi; but Contra Pelag. 13 Jerome has dilectissimi in 1 John 2:3. οὐκ ἐντολὴν καινὴν γραφω. The order of the Greek is worth preserving: not a new commandment do I write. What commandment is here meant? To imitate Christ (1 John 2:6)? Or, to practise brotherly love (1 John 2:9-11)? Practically it makes little matter which answer we give, for at bottom these are one and the same. They are different aspects of walking in the light. But a definite command of some kind is meant, not vaguely the whole Gospel: had he meant the latter, S. John would rather have said ‘the word’ or ‘the truth.’ See on 1 John 2:11. Καινός, as distinct from νέος, is ‘fresh, novel,’ as opposed to ‘worn out’ and ‘familiar.’ It may imply either praise, as being a reformation (κ. διαθήκη, κ. κτίσις, οὐρανὸς κ. καὶ γῆ κ.), or blame, as being an innovation (διδαχὴ κ., κ. θεοί). Νέος is ‘new, young,’ as opposed to ‘old, aged.’ In Mark 2:22 we have both words: ‘new wine into fresh wineskins.’ Trench, Synonyms of N.T., 209; Cremer, 321. In its better sense καινός is a favourite word with S. John.

εἴχετε ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς. As already noticed (1 John 1:1) the meaning of ‘beginning must always depend upon the context. Several interpretations have been suggested here, and all make good sense. [1] From the beginning of the human race: brotherly love is an original human instinct. Christian Ethics are here as old as humanity. S. Athanasius takes it in this sense. [2] From the beginning of the Law: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Leviticus 19:18) was commanded by Moses. Christian Ethics are in this only a repetition of Judaism. [3] From the beginning of your life as Christians. This was one of the first things ye were taught. On the whole this seems best, especially as we have the aorist, which ye heard, not the perfect, as A.V., ye have heard (see on 1 John 2:18): comp. 1 John 2:24 and especially 1 John 3:11; 2 John 1:5-6. The second ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς is not genuine: see critical notes. Note that both ἐντολή and λόγος, being convertible terms, have the article. See on 1 John 3:4.


Verses 7-11

7–11. Walking in the light involves not only fellowship with God and with the brethren (1 John 1:5-7), consciousness and confession of sin (1 John 1:8-10), obedience by imitation of Christ (1 John 2:1-6), but also love of the brethren. In nothing did Christ more express the Father’s Nature and Will than by His love: therefore in obeying the Father by imitating Christ we also must love. “This whole Epistle which we have undertaken to expound to you, see whether it commendeth aught else than this one thing, charity. Nor need we fear lest by much speaking thereof it come to be hateful. For what is there to love, if charity come to be hateful?” (S. Augustine). Comp. 1 John 3:10; 1 John 4:7.


Verse 8

8. πάλιν ἐντ. καινὴν γρ. ὑμ., ὅ ἐστιν ἀληθές. Either, Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true: Or, Again, as a new commandment I write unto you a thing which is true: Or, Again, a new commandment write I unto you, namely that which is true. It is difficult to decide between these three renderings; but the third is simpler than the first. Both Tyndale and the Genevan Version have ‘a thing that is true’: Beza; id quod verum est in ipso: Luther; das da wahrhaftig ist. If we adopt the rendering of A.V. and R.V., the meaning seems to be, that the newness of the commandment is true, both in the case of Christ, who promulgated it afresh, and in the case of you, who received it afresh. If we prefer the simpler rendering, the meaning will be, that what has already been shewn to be true by the pattern life of Christ and by the efforts of Christians to imitate it, is now given by S. John as a new commandment. The πάλιν introduces a new view: that which from one point of view was an old commandment, from another was a new one. It was old, but not obsolete, ancient, but not antiquated: it had been renewed in a fuller sense; it had received a fresh sanction. Thus both those who feared innovations and those who disliked what was stale might feel satisfied.

ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν. Note the double preposition, implying that it is true in the case of Christ in a different sense from that in which it is true in the case of Christians. He reissued the commandment and was the living embodiment and example of it; they accepted it and endeavoured to follow it: both illustrated its truth and soundness. See on 1 John 1:3, where μετά is repeated, and on John 20:2, where πρός is repeated. The reading ἐν ἡμῖν is certainly to be rejected.

ὅτι ἡ σκ. παράγεται. Because the darkness is passing away: present tense of a process still going on (1 John 2:17). All earlier English Versions are wrong here, from Wiclif onwards, misled by transierunt tenebrae in the Vulgate. So also Luther: denn die Finsterniss ist vergangen. On σκοτία see on 1 John 1:5. The ὅτι introduces the reason why he writes as a new commandment what has been proved true by the example of Christ and their own experience. The ideal state of things, to which the perfect fulfilment of this commandment belongs, has already begun: ‘The darkness is on the wane, the true light is shewing its power; therefore I bid you to walk as children of light.’ Comp. 1 Corinthians 7:31, where παράγει used intransitively is rightly rendered ‘passeth away,’ praeterit, vergehet. Παράγεται here is middle rather than passive, of a cloud withdrawing rather than of a veil being withdrawn. Comp. Romans 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:5.

The difference between the Vulgate (Cod. Am.) and Jerome (Adv. Jovin. I. 40) is here remarkable. In his own treatise he has Mandatum novum scripsi vobis, quod est verissimum, et in Christo, et in nobis: quia tenebrae praeterierunt et lux jam lucet. In the Vulgate he has Iterum mandatum novum scribo vobis, quod est verum et in ipso et in vobis; quoniam tenebrae transierunt et lumen verum jam lucet.

τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀλ. ἤδη φαίνει. The light, the true light, is already shining. For the repetition of the article comp. 1 John 2:7; 1 John 1:2. ‘Is shining’ rather than ‘shineth,’ to correspond with ‘is passing away.’ It is the nature of light not merely to appear (φαίνεσθαι) but to lighten (φαίνειν): comp. John 1:5. We might render here, as in Genesis 1:17, ‘is already giving light.’ Ἀληθινόν is ‘true’ as opposed to ‘spurious,’ while ἀληθές in the previous clause is ‘true’ as opposed to ‘lying’: the one is verum, the other verax. Ἀληθινός is ‘genuine,’ and hence ‘perfect,’ as realising the idea formed of it. It is represented by the old English ‘very,’ the word which both Wiclif and Purvey here employ, although they translate verum in the first part of the verse by ‘true.’ ‘Very God of Very God’ in the Nicene Creed is Θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ. Christ and the Gospel are ‘the perfect Light’ in opposition to the imperfect light of the Law and the Prophets. They are realities; the others were types and figures. They are ‘the genuine Light’ in opposition to the false light of Gnostic philosophy. Ἀληθινός is almost peculiar to S. John; four times in this Epistle, nine times in the Gospel, ten times in Revelation: elsewhere in N.T. only five times. Christ is ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ἀληθινός (John 6:32) and ἡ ἄμπελος ἡ ἀληθινή (John 15:1) as well as τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν (John 1:9). This last passage combined with John 1:5 renders it probable that Christ is intended here, rather than the light of the truth or the kingdom of heaven: although the difference between the three interpretations is not important. The contrast with the impersonal darkness does not disprove this here any more than in John 1:5. Darkness is never personal; it is not an effluence from Satan as light is from God or from Christ. It is the result, not of the presence of the evil one, but of the absence of God. Comp. ‘Ye were once darkness, but now light in the Lord: walk as children of light’ (Ephesians 5:8).


Verse 9

9. For the fifth time the Apostle indicates a possible inconsistency of a very gross kind between profession and conduct (1 John 1:6; 1 John 1:8; 1 John 1:10; 1 John 2:4). We shall have a sixth in 1 John 4:20. In most of these passages he is aiming at some of the Gnostic teaching already prevalent. And this introduces a fresh pair of contrasts. We have had light and darkness, truth and falsehood; we now have love and hate.

τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ. Ipsa appellatio amoris causam continet (Bengel). Does this mean ‘his fellow-Christian’ or ‘his fellow-man,’ whether Christian or not? The common meaning in N.T. is the former; and though there are passages where ἀδελφός seems to have the wider signification, e.g. Matthew 5:22; Luke 6:41; James 4:11, yet even here the spiritual bond of brotherhood is perhaps in the background. In S. John’s writings, where it does not mean actual relationship, it seems generally if not universally to mean ‘Christians’: not that other members of the human race are excluded, but they are not under consideration. Just as in the allegories of the Fold and of the Good Shepherd, nothing is said about goats, and in that of the Vine nothing is said about the branches of other trees; so here in the great family of the Father nothing is said about those who do not know Him. They are not shut out, but they are not definitely included. In this Epistle this passage, 1 John 3:10; 1 John 3:14-17, and 1 John 4:20-21 are somewhat open to doubt: but 1 John 5:1-2 seems very distinctly in favour of the more limited meaning; and in 1 John 5:16 the sinning ‘brother’ is certainly a fellow-Christian. In 2 John the word does not occur: 3 John 1:3; 3 John 1:5; 3 John 1:10 confirm the view here taken. In the Gospel the word is generally used of actual relationship: but in the two passages where it is used otherwise it means Christians: in John 20:17 Christ speaks of the disciples as τοὺς ἀδελφούς μου, and in John 21:23 Christians are called τοὺς ἀδελφούς (see note). In the Apocalypse, omitting Revelation 22:9 as doubtful, all the passages where the word occurs require the meaning ‘Christian’ (John 1:9; John 6:11; John 12:10; John 19:10). Note that throughout this Epistle the singular is used; τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, not τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ.

ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ ἐστὶν ἕως ἄρτι. Is in the darkness, to bring out the full contrast with the light, as in 1 John 1:6 : even until now, i.e. in spite of the light which ‘is already shining,’ and of which he has so little real experience that he believes light and hatred to be compatible. Years before this S. Paul had declared (1 Corinthians 13:2), ‘If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge … but have not love, I am nothing.’ “Fictitious sanctity dazzles the eyes of almost all men, while love is neglected, or at least driven into the farthest corner” (Calvin). The light in a man is darkness until it is warmed by love. The convert from heathendom who professes Christianity and hates his brother, says S. Augustine, is in darkness even until now. “There is no need to expound; but to rejoice, if it be not so, to bewail, if it be.” Ἄρτι is specially frequent in S. John’s Gospel: it indicates the present moment not absolutely, but in relation to the past or the future. The peculiar combination ἕως ἄρτι occurs John 2:10; John 5:17; John 16:24; Matthew 11:12; 1 Corinthians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 15:6; a fact much obscured in A.V. by the variety of renderings; ‘until now,’ ‘hitherto,’ ‘unto this day,’ ‘unto this hour,’ ‘unto this present.’


Verses 9-11

9–11. The form of these three verses is similar to that of 1 John 2:3-5, and still more so to 1 John 1:8-10. In each of these three triplets a case is placed between two statements of the opposite to it; confession of sin, obedience, and love, between two statements of denial of sin, disobedience, and hate. But in none of the triplets do we go from one opposite to the other and back again: in each case the side from which we start is restated in such a way as to constitute a distinct advance upon the original position. There is no weak tautology or barren see-saw. The emphasis grows and is marked by the increase in the predicates. In 1 John 2:9 we have one predicate: ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ ἐστὶν ἕως ἄρτι: in 1 John 2:10 we have two; ἐν τῷ φωτὶ μένει, καὶ σκάνδαλον οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῷ: in 1 John 2:11, three; ἐν τῇ σκ. ἐστίν, καὶ ἐν τῇ σκ. π., καὶ οὐκ οἶδεν ποῦ ὑπάγει. The Sinaiticus spoils this climax by making the predicate in 1 John 2:9 to be twofold; ψεύστης ἐστὶν καὶ ἐν σκ. κ.τ.λ. This reading is wrongly ascribed to Cyprian (Test. adv. Jud. iii. 3).


Verse 10

10. ὁ ἀγαπῶν. Nothing is said about what he professes; it is what he does that is of consequence. μένει means not only has entered into the light, but has it for his abode: see on 1 John 2:24.

σκάνδαλον οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῷ. There are four ways of taking this; three taking αὐτῷ as masculine, and one taking it as neuter, referring to τῷ φωτί. 1. He has in him nothing likely to ensnare him or cause him to stumble. 2. He has in him nothing likely to cause others to stumble. 3. There is in his case nothing likely to cause stumbling. 4. In the light there is nothing likely to cause stumbling. All make good sense, and the last makes a good antithesis to ‘knoweth not whither he goeth’ in 1 John 2:11 : but the first is to be preferred on account of 1 John 2:11. Yet in favour of the second it is worth noting that σκάνδαλον is commonly, if not always, used of offence caused to others. The parallel expressions ‘the truth is not in him’ (1 John 2:4), ‘His word is not in us’ (1 John 1:10; comp. 1 John 1:8), make ‘in him’ more probable than ‘in his case.’ And nothing here suggests the notion that the brother-hater leads others astray: it is his own dark condition that is contemplated: ipse sibi offendiculum est. Moreover, there is the very close parallel in John 11:9-10; ‘If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him.’ Comp. Psalms 119:165, ‘Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them’; i.e. there is no stumbling-block before them: οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῖς σκάνδαλον. It is not impossible that this passage was in the Apostle’s mind: his ἐν may represent the ‘to’ in the Hebrew original. Comp. 1 Samuel 25:31 where σκάνδαλον represents the Hebrew mikshol, ‘a stumbling.’ Elsewhere it represents moqesh ‘a snare’ (Judges 2:3; Judges 8:27). It combines the notions of tripping up and ensnaring. The word is a late form of σκανδάληθρον (Aristoph. Ach. 687) the ‘baitstick’ in a trap.


Verse 11

11. ἐν τῇ σκ. ἐστίν, κ. ἐν τῇ σκ. π. The darkness is his home and the sphere of his activity. The contrast between the godly and the wicked is similarly indicated in Proverbs 4:18-19 : αἱ δὲ ὁδοὶ τῶν δικαίων ὁμοίως φωτὶ λάμπουσιν· προπορεύονται καὶ φωτίζουσιν, ἕως κατορθώσῃ ἡ ἡμέρα. αἱ δὲ ὁδοὶ τῶν ἀσεβῶν σκοτειναί· οὐκ οἴδασιν πῶς προσκόπτουσιν. Here ποῦ ὑπάγει is literally, where he is departing: ὑπάγειν is ‘to go away.’ S. John frequently joins ποῦ with ὑπάγειν: John 3:8; John 8:14; John 12:35-36; John 14:5; John 16:5; John 7:35. Elsewhere in N.T. this construction occurs only Hebrews 11:8. In late Greek ποῦ and ὅπου are frequently used for ποῖ and ὅποι, ἐκεῖ for ἐκεῖσε (John 18:3; Matthew 2:22; Romans 15:24), ὦδε for ἐνθάδε (John 20:27; comp. Revelation 4:1; Revelation 11:12). Neither ποῖ nor ὅποι occurs in N.T. Winer, 591. The effect of joining an adverb of rest to a verb of motion may sometimes be to express both rest and motion. But this is commonly done by the converse process of joining an adverb or preposition of motion to a verb of rest: εὑρέθη εἰς Ἄζωτον, ‘was carried to Azotus and found there’ (Acts 8:40): comp. John 8:26; John 20:7.—Another close parallel between Gospel and Epistle exists here: part of John 12:35 is almost verbatim the same.

ὅτι ἡ σκ. ἐτύφλωσεν. Because the darkness hath blinded. This is just one of those cases where it is the Greek idiom to use the aorist, but the English idiom to use the perfect; and therefore the Greek aorist should be rendered by the English perfect. Comp. John 13:13; John 13:34; John 15:9; John 15:12. But the A.V. frequently turns aorists into perfects without justification (see on 1 John 1:1; 1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:24-25; 1 John 2:27; 2 John 1:6), and occasionally turns perfects into aorists (1 John 4:9; 2 John 1:4). ‘Blinded’ must not be weakened into ‘dimmed’: the verb means definitely ‘to make blind’ (John 12:40; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Animals kept in the dark, e.g. ponies in coal-mines, become blind: the organ that is never exercised loses its power. So also the conscience that is constantly ignored at last ceases to act. The source of the metaphor is perhaps Isaiah 6:10 : comp. Romans 11:10.

Before proceeding further let us briefly sum up the Apostle’s line of argument thus far. ‘God is light. Christ is that light revealed. The life of Christ was a life of obedience and a life of love. In order, therefore, to have fellowship through Him with God believers must obey and love. The state of things in which this is possible has already begun. Therefore I write to you a command which is both old and new; walk in the light by imitating the love of Christ.’ In this manner he lays the foundations of Christian Ethics. The last three verses (9–11) shew that the special aspect of walking in light which is referred to in the commandment which is at once old and new is love: and if this be so, we can hardly doubt that in calling it ‘a new commandment’ he has in his mind Christ’s farewell words, John 13:34; ‘A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.’ The latter half of the verse is, therefore, the special interpretation of ‘ought himself also to walk even as He walked.’

It is not easy to determine whether the division which follows (1 John 2:12-28) is best regarded as a subdivision of the first main portion of the Epistle, or as a co-ordinate portion. In favour of the latter view are these facts: 1. The idea of light which runs through the whole of the division just concluded (1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:11), and which is mentioned six times in it, now disappears altogether. 2. The Epistle now takes a distinctly hortatory turn. The first part lays down principles: this part gives warnings and exhortations. 3. The Apostle seems to make a fresh start: 1 John 2:12-14 read like a new Introduction. In favour of making this part a sub-division of the first main division it may be urged: 1. Though the idea of light is no longer mentioned, yet other ideas to which it directly led, love, the truth, abiding in God, still continue: the parts evidently overlap. 2. The hortatory turn is but a partial change of form occurring only in 1 John 2:15; 1 John 2:28. In the intermediate verses the aphoristic mode of expression continues. 3. The quasi-Introduction in 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:7.

On the whole it seems best to consider what follows as a subordinate part of the first main division of the Epistle. Thus far we have had THE CONDITION AND CONDUCT OF THE BELIEVER considered on its positive side. We now have the negative side—WHAT WALKING IN THE LIGHT EXCLUDES.


Verses 12-14

12–14. THREEFOLD STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR WRITING

“Hitherto St John has stated briefly the main scope of his Epistle. He has shewn what is the great problem of life, and how the Gospel meets it with an answer and a law complete and progressive, old and new. He now pauses, as it were to contemplate those whom he is addressing more distinctly and directly, and to gather up in a more definite form the charge which is at once the foundation and the end of all he writes” (Westcott).

These verses have given rise to much discussion [1] as to the different classes addressed, [2] as to the meaning of the change of tense, from γράφω, I write, to ἔγραψα, I wrote or have written. In the true text each of these forms occurs thrice. We have to deal with a change from a triplet with γράφω to a triplet with ἔγραψα. This arrangement is of importance in discussing the two difficulties. [1] The question as to the classes addressed is much the easier of the two. It will be observed that in each triplet we have ‘little children’ followed by ‘fathers’ and ‘young men’; the sole difference being the use of τεκνία in the first case and παιδία in the second. But this need not make us give a different interpretation in each case. ‘Little children’ throughout the Epistle, whether expressed as in 1 John 2:14; 1 John 2:18 (παιδία), or as in 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:12; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21 (τεκνία), probably means the Apostle’s readers generally, and has nothing to do with age or with standing in the Christian community. It indicates neither those who are of tender years, nor those who are young in the faith. It is a term of affection for all the Apostle’s ‘dear children.’ But this is not the case with either ‘fathers’ or ‘young men.’ These terms are probably in each triplet to be understood of the older and younger men among the Christians addressed. This fully accounts for the order in each triplet; first the whole community, then the old, then the young. If ‘little children’ had reference to age, we should have had either ‘children, youths, fathers,’ or ‘fathers, youths, children.’ There is, however, something to be said for the view that all S. John’s readers are addressed in all three cases, the Christian life of all having analogies with youth, manhood, and age; with the innocence of childhood, the strength of prime, and the experience of full maturity. Thus S. Augustine says that Christians are filioli, quia baptismo neonati sunt; patres, quia Christum patrem et antiquum dierum agnoscunt; adolescentes, quia fortes sunt et validi. But the other interpretation is better. To make τεκνία refer to the whole body of readers, and παιδία to a subdivision coordinate with πατέρες and νεανίσκοι, violently dislocates the grouping: so strange an arrangement may safely be rejected.

[2] The question as to the change from γράφω to ἔγραψα is much more difficult and cannot be decided with confidence. It is much easier to shew that other explanations are unsatisfactory than to produce an explanation that is free from serious objection. The following interpretations of the change from the present to the aorist have been suggested. 1. ‘I write’ refers to the Epistle, ‘I wrote’ to the Gospel which it accompanies. The Apostle first gives reasons why he is writing this letter to the Church and to particular portions of it; and then gives reasons, partly the same and partly not, why he wrote the Gospel to which it makes such frequent allusions. On the whole this seems least unsatisfactory. It gives an intelligible meaning to each tense and accounts for the abrupt change. But it must be admitted that ἔγραψα in 1 John 2:21 cannot easily be referred to the Gospel: 1 John 2:26 is not parallel. 2. ‘I write’ refers to this Epistle; ‘I wrote’ to a former Epistle. But of any former Epistle we have no evidence whatever. 3. ‘I write’ refers to the whole Epistle; ‘I wrote’ to the first part down to 1 John 2:11. But would S. John have first said that he wrote the whole letter for certain reasons, and then said that he wrote a portion of it for much the same reasons? Had ‘I wrote’ preceded ‘I write,’ and had the reasons in each triplet been more different, this explanation would have been more satisfactory. 4. ‘I write’ refers to what follows, ‘I wrote’ to what precedes. This is a construction louche indeed! The objection urged against the preceding explanation applies still more strongly. 5. ‘I write’ is written from the writer’s point of view, ‘I wrote’ from the reader’s point of view: the latter is the epistolary aorist, like scripsi or scribebam in Latin (comp. Philippians 2:25; Philippians 2:28; Philemon 1:12, and especially 19 and 21). But is it likely that S. John would make three statements from his own stand-point, and then repeat them from his readers’ stand-point? And if so, why make any change in them? 6. The repetition is made for emphasis. This explains the repetition, but not the change of tense. Hence ὃ γέγραφα γέγραφα (John 19:22) and χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε. πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε (Philippians 4:4) are not analogous; for there the same tense is repeated. 7. S. John may have left off writing at the end of 1 John 2:13, and then on resuming may have partly repeated himself from the new point of time, saying ‘I wrote’ where he had previously said ‘I write.’ This is conceivable, but is a little fine-drawn.—Without, therefore, confidently affirming that it is the right explanation, we fall back upon the one first stated, as intelligible in itself and more satisfactory than the others. Commentators on the Vulgate are not confronted by the difficulty, both γράφω and ἔγραψα being rendered alike scribo, excepting by Jerome (Cod. Amiatinus) who omits one ἔγραψα and translates the last scripsi. Latin translators probably regarded ἔγραψα as an epistolary aorist.

A parallel arrangement will help the reader to consider the two questions for himself.

γράφω ὑμῖν, τεκνίο, ὄτι ἀφέωνται ὑμῖν αἱ ἁμαρτίαι διὰ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ.

ἔγραψα ὑμῖν, παιδία, ὅτι ἐγνώκατε τὸν πατέρα.

γραφω ὑμῖν, πατέρες, ὅτι ἐγνώκατε τὸν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς.

ἔγραψα ὑμῖν, πατέρες, ὅτι ἐγνώκατε τὸν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς.

γράφω ὑμῖν, νεανίσκοι, ὅτι νενικήκατε τὸν πονηρόν.

ἔγραψα ὑμῖν, νεανίσκοι, ὅτι ἰσχυροί ἐστε, καὶ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν μένει, καὶ νενικήκατε τὸν πονηρόν.

τεκνία. As in 1 John 2:1 (τεκνία μου), 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21, this address includes all his readers (in 1 John 3:7 the reading is disputable). Omnes suos auditores, quos ipse in Christo praecesserat, filiorum nomine glorificat (Bede). Some would render ὅτι ἀφέωνται ὑμ. αἱ ἁμαρτ. ‘that your sins are forgiven you’; and so in each of these six sentences substituting ‘that’ for ‘because.’ Of course this is possible grammatically, but otherwise is highly improbable. See on 1 John 2:21. The Vulgate has quoniam, Augustine quia, Luther denn. The verses are not quoted by Tertullian or Cyprian. S. John is evidently not telling his children what he is writing, but why he writes it. The very first condition of Christian morals is the forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:7); therefore he reminds all of them of this first. Ἀφέωνται (Luke 5:20; Luke 5:23; Luke 7:47; and perhaps John 20:23) is now commonly admitted to be a perfect indicative (= ἀφεῖνται) of Doric origin but used sometimes by Attic writers: Winer, 96, 97; Veitch, 104. The remittuntur of the Vulgate is therefore inadequate: not ‘are being forgiven,’ but ‘have been forgiven and remain so.’

διὰ τὸ ὄν. αὐτοῦ. Here, as in 1 John 1:5, it is obvious that αὐτοῦ refers to Jesus Christ and not to the Father. It was by believing on His Name that they acquired the right to become children of God (John 1:12). ‘The Name of Jesus Christ’ is not a mere periphrasis for Jesus Christ. Names in Scripture are constantly given as marks of character possessed or of functions to be performed. This is the case with all the Divine Names. The Name of Jesus Christ indicates His attributes and His relations to man and to God. It is through these that the sins of S. John’s dear children have been forgiven. Comp. 1 John 3:23; 1 John 5:13; 3 John 1:7. For διὰ τὸ ὄνομα comp. Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:9; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17; John 15:21; Revelation 2:3.


Verses 12-28

12–28. THE THINGS AND PERSONS TO BE AVOIDED

These are summed up under two heads: i. The World and the Things in the World (15–17); ii. Antichrists (18–26). The section begins with a threefold statement of the happy experiences which those addressed have had in the Gospel, and gives these as a reason for their being addressed (12–14), and ends with an exhortation to abide in Christ as the best safe-guard from the dangers against which the Apostle has been warning them (27, 28).


Verse 13

13. πατέρες. The older men among his readers: comp. Judges 17:10; Judges 18:19; 2 Kings 2:12; 2 Kings 6:21; 2 Kings 13:14. The address stands alone in N.T. The nearest approaches to it are Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21, where the actual fathers of children are addressed. Comp. Titus 2:1-8, where S. Paul in like manner gives directions as to the exhortations suitable for Christians of different ages. ἐγνώκατε. Ye know: ‘ye have come to know’ and therefore ‘ye know,’ as in 1 John 2:3. The knowledge possessed by the old is fitly expressed by a word which signifies the result of progressive experience. τὸν ἀπ ̓ ἀρχῆς means Christ, not the Father, as is plain from the opening words of the Epistle. By the knowledge of Christ which these older Christians had gradually acquired is certainly not meant the having seen Him in the flesh. Very few, if any, of S. John’s readers could have done that. And if they had, the Apostle would not have attached any moral or spiritual value to the fact (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). Besides which, in order to express this we should require ‘ye have seen Jesus our Lord’ (1 Corinthians 9:1) rather than ‘ye have come to know Him that was from the beginning.’ On ἀπ ̓ ἀρχῆς see on 1 John 1:1.

νεανίσκοι. The younger half of his readers; men in the prime, or not yet in the prime of life: adolescentes, juvenes. For νενικήκατε comp. John 16:33. Throughout both Epistle and Gospel S. John regards eternal life as a prize already won by the believer (John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:47; John 6:54; John 17:3): the contest is not to gain, but to retain. These three perfects, ἀφέωνται, ἐγνώκατε, νενικήκατε, once more express the abiding result of past action (1 John 1:1-2; 1 John 1:5; 1 John 1:10). He bases his appeals to the young on the victory which their strength has won, just as he bases his appeals to the aged on the knowledge which their experience has gained, and his appeals to all on the forgiveness which they have all received. There is the confidence of victory in all S. John’s writings.

τὸν πονηρόν. It is important to have a uniform rendering for πονηρός, respecting which there has been so much controversy with regard to the last petition in the Lord’s Prayer. The A.V., following earlier Versions, wavers between ‘wicked’ and ‘evil,’ even in the same verse (1 John 3:12). ‘Evil’ is to be preferred throughout. Almost all are agreed that the evil one here means the devil, although the Genevan Version has ‘the evil man,’ as in Matthew 12:35. Wiclif, Tyndale, and Cranmer supply neither ‘man’ nor ‘one,’ but write ‘the wicked’ or ‘that wicked.’ ‘The wicked’ in English would inevitably be understood as plural. For this name for Satan comp. 1 John 5:18; Matthew 13:19 and also 1 John 3:12; 1 John 5:19; John 17:15; Ephesians 6:16. In these last four passages the gender, though probably masculine, may, as in Matthew 6:13, possibly be neuter. S. John elsewhere speaks of the evil one as ὁ διάβολος (1 John 3:8; 1 John 3:10; John 8:44; John 13:2), ὁ Σατανᾶς (John 13:27), ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου (John 12:31; John 16:11), ὁ τοῦ κόσμου ἄρχων (John 14:30), ὁ κατήγωρ τῶν ἀδελφῶν ἡμῶν (Revelation 12:10), ὁ ὄφις ὁ ἀρχαῖος, ὁ καλούμενος Διάβολος καὶ ὁ Σατανᾶς (Revelation 12:9 : comp. Revelation 20:2), ὁ δράκων (Revelation 12:7-8; Revelation 13:2; Revelation 16:13; Revelation 20:2).

ἔγραψα ὑμῖν, παιδία. All the chief MSS., confirmed by the Versions, give ἔγραψα and not γράφω here. The latter reading probably arose from interpreting παιδία as a subdivision of τεκνία, co-ordinate with πατέρες and νεανίσκοι. Beyond reasonable doubt παιδία is coextensive with τεκνία and includes all his readers. The two words should, however, be distinguished in translation. Keeping ‘little children’ for τεκνία, we may render παιδία little ones. The Vulgate has filioli for τεκνία and here has infantes for παιδία, but inconsistently has filioli in 1 John 2:18. Augustine has pueri for παιδία. Τεκνία implies both juniority and relationship; παιδία implies the former only. Both are terms of affection. Ἐγνώκατε, as in 1 John 2:3; 1 John 2:13, ye know. In 1 John 2:12 the Apostle attributes to them the possession of spiritual peace through the remission of sins: here he attributes to them the possession of spiritual truth through knowledge of the Father. This knowledge they had acquired specially through S. John’s Gospel, in which the Fatherhood of God is a most prominent doctrine. In the fourth Gospel God is called the Father twice as frequently as in all three Synoptics: the numbers are about as follows; S. Matthew 40 times, S. Mark 5, S. Luke 17, S. John 126. While the addresses to his children as a whole and to the younger section of them vary, the two addresses to the fathers are the same, excepting the change of tense. Their spiritual experience is practically complete and cannot be better summed up than by the knowledge of the Incarnate Word. The Vulgate both Old and New omits the second address to the ‘fathers’: but Augustine and Bede have it.


Verse 14

14. Ἰσχυρός is frequent in the Apocalypse; elsewhere in S. John’s writings here only. Comp. Ephesians 6:10-20.

ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ. [565] and the Thebaic or Sahidic Version (2nd or 3rd cent.) omit τοῦ Θεοῦ. In 1 John 2:20 we again find [566] and the Thebaic alone in a reading which is very likely original: comp. Acts 27:37; Romans 13:13; Colossians 3:6; Hebrews 3:2; 2 John 1:8. The clause is an echo of John 15:7. This possession is the secret of their strength and the source of their victory. They conquer because they are strong, and they are strong because God’s word is ever in their hearts. They have God’s will, especially as revealed in Scripture, and in particular in the Gospel, as a permanent power within them: hence the permanence of their victory. So long as they trust in this and not in themselves, and remember that their victory is not yet final, they may rejoice in the confidence which the consciousness of strength and of victory gives them. Humiles estote, ne in pugna cadatis (Bede).

It is plain from the context and from John 5:38; John 10:35; John 17:6; John 17:14; Revelation 1:9; Revelation 6:9, that ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ here does not mean the Word, the Son of God. See on 1 John 2:5 and 1 John 1:10. S. John never uses the term ὁ λόγος in this sense in the body either of his Gospel or of his Epistle, but only in the theological Introductions to each.


Verse 15

15. μὴ ἀγαπᾶτε τὸν κόσμον. The asyndeton is remarkable. S. John has just stated his premises, his readers’ happiness as Christians. He now abruptly states the practical conclusion, without any introductory οὖν or διὰ τοῦτο. Our equally abrupt ‘Love not the world’ comes from the Rhemish. Tyndale and others weaken it by expansion; ‘So that ye love not the worlde.’ And obviously S. John is once more addressing all his readers, not the νεανίσκοι only. Omnibus his pariter mandat (Bede). As was said above on 1 John 2:2, we must distinguish between the various meanings of the Apostle’s favourite word, κόσμος. In John 3:16 he tells us that ‘God loved the world’, and here he tells us that we must not do so. “S. John is never afraid of an apparent contradiction when it saves his readers from a real contradiction.… The opposition which is on the surface of his language may be the best way of leading us to the harmony which lies below it” (Maurice). The world which the Father loves is the whole human race. The world which we are not to love is all that is alienated from Him, all that prevents men from loving Him in return. The world which God loves is His creature and His child: the world which we are not to love is His rival. The best safeguard against the selfish love of what is sinful in the world is to remember God’s unselfish love of the world. Ὁ κόσμος here is that from which S. James says the truly religious man keeps himself ἄσπιλον, friendship with which is ἔχθρα τοῦ Θεοῦ (James 1:27; James 4:4). It is not enough to say that ‘the world’ here means ‘earthly things, so far as they tempt to sin,’ or ‘sinful lusts,’ or ‘worldly and impious men.’ It means all of these together: all that acts as a rival to God; all that is alienated from God and opposed to Him, especially sinful men with their sinful lusts. Ὁ κόσμος and ἡ σκοτία are almost synonymous. To love the one is to love the other (John 3:19). To be ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ (1 John 2:9; 1 John 2:11) is to be ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου (1 John 2:16; 1 John 4:5). Nor is μὴ ἀγαπᾶτε to be weakened into ‘love not too much’: it means quite literally, ‘love not at all.’ The world ‘lies in the evil one’ (1 John 2:19); and those who ‘have overcome the evil one’ cannot love the world.

μηδὲ τὰ ἐν τῷκ. Nor yet the things &c. ‘Love not the world; no, nor anything in that sphere.’ Comp. Matthew 6:25; Matthew 23:9-10; and μὴ συναναμίγνυσθαιτῷ τοιούτῳ μηδὲ συνεσθίειν (1 Corinthians 5:11). Τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, as is plain from 1 John 2:16, are not material objects, which can be desired and possessed quite innocently, although they may also be occasions of sin. Rather, they are those elements in the world which are necessarily evil, its lusts and ambitions and jealousies, which stamp it as the kingdom of ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31) and not the kingdom of God.

ἐάν τις ἀγαπᾷ. Once more, as in 1 John 2:1, the statement is made quite general by the hypothetical form: everyone who does so is in this case. The Lord had proclaimed the same principle; ‘No man can serve two masters … Ye cannot serve God and mammon’ (Matthew 6:24). So also S. James; ‘Whosoever would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God’ (1 John 4:4). Comp. Galatians 1:10. Thus we arrive at another pair of those opposites of which S. John is so fond. We have had light and darkness, truth and falsehood, love and hate; we now have love of the Father and love of the world. The world which is coextensive with darkness must exclude the God who is light.

ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ πατρός occurs nowhere else: hence the reading of [567][568], ἡ ἀγ. τ. Θεοῦ. It means man’s love to the Father, not His to man (see on 1 John 2:5); and it points to the duty of Christians as children of God. They must not love their Father’s enemies. The order of the Greek is perhaps to be preserved. There is not the love of the Father in him. Whatever profession there may be of Christianity, the guiding principle of his life is something quite different from devotion to God.


Verses 15-17

15–17. THE THINGS TO BE AVOIDED—THE WORLD AND ITS WAYS

Having reminded them solemnly of the blessedness of their condition as members of the Christian family, whether old or young, and having declared that this blessedness of peace, knowledge, and strength is his reason for writing to them, he goes on to exhort them to live in a manner that shall be worthy of this high estate, and to avoid all that is inconsistent with it. In chap. 1. walking in darkness was shewn to be incompatible with fellowship with God. Here love of God is shewn to be incompatible with affection for the world.


Verse 16

16. Proof of the preceding statement by shewing the fundamental opposition in detail.

πᾶν τὸ ἐν τῷ κ. Neuter singular: in 1 John 2:15 we had the neuter plural. The material contents of the universe cannot be meant. To say that these did not originate from God would be to contradict the Apostle himself (John 1:3; John 1:10) and to affirm those Gnostic doctrines against which he is contending. The Gnostics, believing everything material to be radically evil, maintained that the universe was created, not by God, but by the evil one, or at least by an inferior deity. By ‘all that is in the world’ is meant the spirit which animates it, its tendencies and tone. These, which are utterly opposed to God, did not originate in Him, but in the free and rebellious wills of His creatures, seduced by ‘the ruler of this world.’

The Latin writers, almost without exception, translate (with some differences of wording); “All that is in the world is the lust of the flesh.’ The est appears in Cyprian four times, in Ambrose, in Augustine frequently, in Jerome twice, in Ambrosiaster, Zeno of Verona, Gelasius, &c. See Appendix G.

ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῆς σαρκός. Not ‘the lust for the flesh,’ any more than ἡ ἐπ. τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν means ‘the lust for the eyes.’ In both instances the genitive is subjective, as is generally the case with genitives after ἐπιθυμία in N.T. Comp. ἐν ταῖς ἐπ. τῶν καρδιῶν (Romans 1:24); ἀνθρώπων ἐπιθυμίαις (1 Peter 4:2); τῆς ἐπ. τῆς ψυχῆς σου (Revelation 18:14). See also Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 2:3. The meaning is the lusts which have their seats in the flesh and in the eyes respectively.

“Tell me where is fancy bred.

It is engendered in the eyes.”

Merchant of Venice, III. ii.

The former, therefore, will mean the desire for unlawful pleasures of sense; for enjoyments which are sinful either in themselves or as being excessive.

Note that S. John does not say ἡ ἐπιθ. τοῦ σώματος. Σῶμα in N.T. is perhaps never used to denote the innately corrupt portion of man’s nature: for that the common term is ἡ σάρξ. S. John and S. Paul are here also in harmony: see on 1 John 1:3; 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 2:19. Τὸ σῶμα is the neutral portion which may become either good or bad. It may be sanctified as the abode and instrument of the Spirit, or degraded under the tyranny of the flesh. See Introduction Chap. II. § vii.

ἡ ἐπιθ. τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν. The eyes are the chief channel between the flesh and the outside world; and ‘the lust of the eyes’ is the desire of seeing unlawful sights for the sake of the sinful pleasure to be derived from the sight; idle and prurient curiosity. Familiar as S. John’s readers must have been with the foul and cruel exhibition of the circus and amphitheatre, this statement would at once meet with their assent. Tertullian, though he does not quote this passage in his treatise De Spectaculis, is full of its spirit: “The source from which all circus games are taken pollutes them … What is tainted taints us” (VII., VIII.). Similarly S. Augustine on this passage; “This it is that works in spectacles, in theatres, in sacraments of the devil, in magical arts, in witchcraft; none other than curiosity.” See also Confessions VI. vii., viii, x. xxxv, 55. In the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs the second of the seven spirits of seduction is πνεῦμα ὁράσεως, μεθ ̓ ἦς γίνεται ἐπιθυμία (Lücke).

ἡ ἀλαζονεία τοῦ βίου. Or, as Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort prefer, ἡ ἀλαζονία τ. β.: the vainglory of life. Latin writers vary much in their renderings: superbia vitae (Vulgate Old and New); ambitio saeculi (Cyprian, Augustine, Zeno Veron., Gelasius); jactantia vitae (Ambrose); superbia hujus vitae (Jerome). Ἀλαζονεία occurs elsewhere only James 4:16, and there in the plural; where A.V. has ‘boastings’ and R.V. ‘vauntings.’ The cognate adjective (ἀλαζών) occurs Romans 1:30 and 2 Timothy 3:2, where A.V. has ‘boasters’ and R.V. ‘boastful.’ Pretentious ostentation, as of a wandering mountebank, is the radical signification of the word. In Classical Greek the pretentiousness is the predominant notion; in Hellenistic Greek, the ostentation. Compare the account of this vice in Aristotle (Nic. Eth. IV. vii.) with Wisdom of Solomon 5:8; 2 Maccabees 9:8; 2 Maccabees 15:6. Ostentatious pride in the things which one possesses is the signification of the term here; ‘life’ meaning ‘means of life, goods, possessions.’ Βίος must be carefully distinguished from ζωή. Βίος occurs again 1 John 3:17, and elsewhere in N.T. only 8 times. Ζωή occurs 13 times in this Epistle, and elsewhere in N.T. over 100 times. This is what we might expect from the meaning of the two words. Βίος means [1] period of human life, as 1 Timothy 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:4; [2] means of life, as here, 1 John 3:17; Mark 12:44; Luke 8:14; Luke 8:43; Luke 15:12; Luke 15:30; Luke 21:4. In 1 Peter 4:3 the word is not genuine. Ζωή means that vital principle which through Christ man shares with God (1 John 1:2; John 1:4). With the duration of mortal life and the means of prolonging it the Gospel has comparatively little to do. It is concerned rather with that spiritual life which is not measured by time (see on 1 John 1:2), and which is independent of material wealth and food. For this kind of life ζωή is invariably used. By ἡ ἀλ. τ. βίου, therefore, is meant ostentatious pride in the possession of worldly resources. See Trench, Synonyms of N.T., 87, 95; Cremer, 272.

These three evil elements or tendencies ‘in the world’ are co-ordinate: no one of them includes the other two. The first two are wrongful desires of what is not possessed; the third is a wrongful behaviour with regard to what is possessed. The first two may be the vices of a solitary; the third requires society. We can have sinful desires when we are alone, but we cannot be ostentatious without company. See Appendix A.

οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τ. πατρός. Does not derive its origin from (ἐκ) Him, and therefore has no natural likeness to Him or connexion with Him. S. John says ‘the Father’ rather than ‘God’ to emphasize the idea of parentage. Its origin is from the world and its ruler, the devil. Comp. ‘Ye are of (ἐκ) your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will to do’ (John 8:44). The phrase εἶναι ἐκ is highly characteristic of S. John.

ἀλλὰ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἐστίν. Cyprian twice renders sed ex concupiscentia saeculi, and twice sed ex concupiscentia mundi. Zeno of Verona makes the same insertion. An instance of Western interpolation.


Verse 17

17. παράγεται. Is passing away; as in 1 John 2:8 : the process is now going on. We owe the verb ‘pass away’ here to Coverdale: it is a great improvement on Tyndale’s ‘vanisheth away’. Comp. ‘The fashion of this world is passing away’ (1 Corinthians 7:31), where the same verb is used, and where the active in a neuter sense (παράγει) is equivalent to the middle here and in 1 John 2:8.

ἡ ἐπιθ. αὐτοῦ. Not the lust for the world, but the lust which it exhibits, the sinful tendencies mentioned in 1 John 2:16. The world is passing away with all its evil ways. How foolish, therefore, to fix one’s affections on what not only cannot endure but is already in process of dissolution! ‘The lust thereof’ = ‘all that is in the world.’ Codex [569] omits αὐτοῦ, and is supported in this by some other authorities.

τὸ θέλημα τ. Θεοῦ. This is the exact opposite of πᾶν τὸ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ. The one sums up all the tendencies to good in the universe, the other all the tendencies to evil. We see once more how S. John in giving us the antithesis of a previous idea expands it and makes it fructify. He says that the world and all its will and ways are on the wane: but as the opposite of this he says, not merely that God and His will and ways abide, but that ‘he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.’ This implies that he who follows the ways of the world will not abide for ever. Again he speaks of the love of the world and the love of the Father; but as the opposite of the man who loves the world he says not ‘he that loveth the Father,’ but ‘he that doeth the will of the Father.’ This implies that true love involves obedience. Thus we have a double antithesis. On the one hand we have the world and the man who loves it and follows its ways: they both pass away. On the other hand we have God and the man who loves Him and does His will: they both abide for ever. Instead of the goods of this life (βίος) in which the world would allow him to vaunt for a moment, he who doeth the will of God has that eternal life (ζωή) in which the true Christian has fellowship with God. In this far higher sense what was ignorantly said of S. John himself becomes literally true of every believer: ‘That disciple shall not die.’ Heracleon, the earliest commentator on S. John that is known to us (c. A.D. 170), says of the devil μὴ ἔχειν θέλημα, ἀλλ ̓ ἐπιθυμίας. Εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα is literally ‘unto the age’, i.e. ‘unto the age to come’, the kingdom of heaven. He who does God’s will shall abide until the kingdom of God comes and be a member of it. The latter fact, though not stated, is obviously implied. It would be a punishment and not a blessing to be allowed, like Moses, to see the kingdom but not enter it. The followers of the world share the death of the world: the children of God share His eternal life. Augustine adds at the close of this verse sicut et ipse manet in aeternum. Other Latin authorities have quomodo et Deus manet (or manebit) in aeternum. Another case of Western interpolation. Cyprian quotes the passage four times, always with this addition in some form or other. See Appendix G.

Here probably we should make a pause in reading the Epistle. What follows is closely connected with what precedes and is suggested by it: but there is, nevertheless, a new departure which is made with much solemnity.


Verse 18

18. παιδία. Little ones. See on 1 John 2:14. It is difficult to see anything in this section specially suitable to children: indeed the very reverse is rather the case. S. John’s readers in general are addressed, irrespective of age. Both his Epistle and Gospel are written for adults and for well-instructed Christians.

ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν. It is the last hour; possibly, but not probably, it is a last hour. The omission of the definite article is quite intelligible and not unusual: the idea is sufficiently definite without it, for there can be only one last hour. Similarly (Judges 1:18) we have ἐπ ἐσχάτου χρόνου: and (Acts 1:8; Acts 13:47) ἕως ἐσχάτου τ. γῆς. A great deal has been written upon this text in order to avoid a very plain but unwelcome conclusion, that by the ‘last hour’ S. John means the time immediately preceding the return of Christ to judge the world. Hundreds of years have passed away since S. John wrote these words, and the Lord is not yet come. Rather, therefore, than admit an interpretation which seemed to charge the Apostle with a serious error, commentators have suggested all kinds of explanations as substitutes for the obvious one. The following considerations place S. John’s meaning beyond all reasonable doubt.


Verses 18-26

18–26. THE PERSONS TO BE AVOIDED—ANTICHRISTS


Verse 19

19. The relation of these antichristian teachers to the Church of Christ. They were formerly nominal members, but never real members of it. They are now not members in any sense. Note the repetition, so characteristic of S. John, of the key-word ἡμῶν, which means the Christian Church. It occurs five times in this one verse.

ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν. Tenses, which in other respects are second aorists in form, frequently in LXX. and N.T. have the α of the first aorist. Comp. 2 John 1:5; 2 John 1:7; 3 John 1:7. Winer, 86, 87. Note the chiasmus: ἐξ ἡμῶν stands first in the one clause and last in the other for emphasis. ‘Out from us they went; it was their own doing,—a distinct separation from our communion: but that very fact proves that their origin is not from us’. We can hardly express in English the simple and forcible antithesis of ἐξ ἡμῶν. It is incredible that the first clause means ‘they proceeded from us Jews.’ What point is there in that? Moreover, S. John never writes as a Jew, but always as a Christian to Christians. Ἡμῶν includes all true Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles in origin. Comp. καὶ ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν ἀναστήσονται ἄνδρες λαλοῦντες διεστραμμένα (Acts 20:30), which may refer to these very antichrists (the words are addressed to the Ephesian presbyters): and ἐξηλθον ἄνδρες παράνομοι ἐξ ὑμῶν καὶ ἀπέστησαν τοὺς κατοικοῦντας τὴν πόλιν αὐτῶν (Deuteronomy 13:14). In the second clause ἐξ ἡμῶν is exactly analogous to ἐκ τού πατρός and ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου in 1 John 2:16. The contrast between the single act of departure (ἐξῆλθαν) and the lasting condition of origin (ἦσαν) is clearly marked by the tenses. Comp. John 4:27; John 4:47; John 4:50; John 5:9; John 6:1-2; John 6:16-17; John 6:66; John 7:14; John 7:30-31; John 7:44.

μεμεν. ἄν μεθ ̓ ἡμῶν. They would have abided with us. See on 1 John 2:24. The ‘no doubt’ of A.V. corresponds to nothing in the Greek, and the intrusion is interesting. Almost all the earlier English Versions go wrong as to ‘no doubt.’ Tyndale and Cranmer have ‘no dout,’ the Genevan has ‘douteles,’ and the Rhemish ‘surely.’ Probably these are attempts to translate the utique of the Vulgate, permansissent utique nobiscum: and the utique, which is as old as Tertullian (De Praescr. Haer. III.), is a mistaken endeavour to give a separate word to represent the Greek particle ἄν. Wiclif (not Purvey) has ‘sotheli’ to represent utique; ‘sotheli they hadden dwelte with us’. Luther inserts ‘ja’; ‘so wären sie ja bei uns geblieben’; which looks as if he also were under the influence of the utique. There is a similar instance John 8:42, where Wiclif has ‘sotheli ye schulden love Me’, Cranmer, ‘truly ye wolde love Me’, and the Rhemish, ‘verely ye would love Me’, because the Vulgate (not Tertullian) gives diligeretis utique Me for ἠγαπᾶτε ἂν ἐμέ. Comp. 3 John 1:9, where the Vulgate has scripsissem forsitan to represent the reading ἔγραψα ἄν. The meaning here is that secession proves a want of fundamental union from the first. As Tertullian says: Nemo Christianus, nisi qui ad finem perseveraverit. Note that S. John does not say ‘they would have abided among us (ἐν ἡμῖν)’, but ‘with us (μεθ ̓ ἡμῶν)’. This brings out more clearly the idea of fellowship: ‘these antichrists had no real sympathy with us’.

ἀλλʼ ἵνα φανερωθῶσιν. Ἀλλ ̓ ἵνα is an elliptical expression very frequent in S. John’s Gospel (John 1:8; Joh_9:3; Joh_13:18; Joh_14:31; Joh_15:25). The ellipse may be filled up thus; ἀλλὰ τοῦτο γέγονεν ἵνα, or by supplying a verb from the previous sentence; ἀλλʼ ἐξῆλθαν ἵνα. Winer, 398, 774. The Apostle’s favourite construction with ἵνα (see on 1 John 1:9) again points to the Divine government of events. It was God’s will that these spurious members should be made known as such. The κρίσις, which all through the Gospel is given as the necessary result of the manifestation of the Son, still continues after His return to the Father—the separation of light from darkness, of the Church from the world, of real from unreal Christians (see introductory note to John 5). S. John assures his readers that the appearance of error and unbelief in the Church need not shake their faith in it: it is all in accordance with the Divine plan. Revelation of the truth necessarily causes a separation between those who accept and those who reject it, and is designed to do so. God does not will that any should reject the truth; but He wills that those who reject should be made manifest. S. Paul states this truth the other way; that the faithful need to be distinguished from the rest: δεῖ γὰρ καὶ αἱρέσεις ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι, ἵνα οἱ δόκιμοι φανεροὶ γένωνται ἐν ὑμῖν (1 Corinthians 11:19).

ὅτι οὐκ εἰσὶν πάντες ἐξ ἡμῶν. Does this mean ‘that not all are of us’, as in the margin of R.V., or ‘that they are not, any of them, of us’? Certainly the latter. ‘That they were not all of us’, as A.V. is doubly wrong. Where the negative immediately precedes πᾶς, it negatives the πᾶς, and the meaning is non omnis, ‘not every one’ or ‘not all’. Where the verb intervenes, the οὐ negatives the verb and not the πᾶς: ‘not any one’ or ‘all … not’. This idiom appears to be a Hebraism, far more common in LXX. than in N.T.; comp. Exodus 12:16; Exodus 12:44; Exodus 25:40; &c. &c. Contrast οὐ πᾶσα σὰρξ ἡ αὐτὴ σάρξ (1 Corinthians 15:39) with οὐκ ἂν ἐσώθη πᾶσα σάρξ (Matthew 24:22). Wiclif, Tyndale, and Cranmer rather avoid the difficulty by omitting ‘all’; but the omission gives the right sense in a weakened form. The erroneous ‘were’ comes from Tyndale and Cranmer: Wiclif, the Genevan and the Rhemish are right. For οὐπᾶς comp. Revelation 21:27; Luke 1:37; Romans 3:20. Winer, 214.

In this verse S. John does not teach that the Christian cannot fall away; his exhortations to his readers not to love the world, but to abide in Christ, is proof of that. He is only putting in another form the declaration of Christ, ‘I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand’ (John 10:28). Apostasy is possible, but only for those who have never really made Christ their own, never fully given themselves to Him.


Verse 20

20. καὶ ὑμεῖς χρῖσμα ἔχετε. And ye have an anointing (as in 1 John 2:27) from the Holy One. S. John, in his manner, puts two contrasted parties side by side, the Antichrist with his antichrists, and the Christ with His christs; but the fact of there being a contrast does not warrant us in turning S. John’s simple ‘and’ (καί) into ‘but.’ Tyndale holds fast to ‘and’, in spite of Wiclif’s ‘but’ and the Vulgate’s sed. Just as the Antichrist has his representatives, so the Anointed One, the Christ, has His. All Christians in a secondary sense are what Christ is in a unique and primary sense, the Lord’s anointed. ‘These anointed’, says the Apostle to his readers, ‘ye are’. The ‘ye’ is not only expressed in the Greek, but stands first after the conjunction for emphasis: ‘ye’ in contrast to these apostates. The word for ‘anointing’ or ‘unction’ (χρῖσμα) strictly means the ‘completed act of anointing’: but in LXX. it is used of the unguent or anointing oil (Exodus 30:25); and Tyndale, Cranmer and the Genevan have ‘oyntment’ here. In N.T. it occurs only here and 1 John 2:27. Kings, priests, and sometimes prophets were anointed, in token of their receiving Divine grace. Hence oil both in O. and N.T. is a figure of the Holy Spirit (Psalms 45:6-7; Psalms 105:15; Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:38; Hebrews 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:21). It is confusing cause and effect to suppose that this passage was influenced by the custom of anointing candidates at baptism: the custom though ancient (for it is mentioned by Tertullian, C. A.D. 195, De Bapt. VII., and by S. Cyril of Jerusalem, C. A.D. 350, Catech. Lect. XXI. 3, 4), is later than this Epistle. More probably the custom was suggested by this passage. The opening of S. Cyril’s 21st Lecture throws much light on this passage. “Having been baptized into Christ and … being made partakers of Christ, ye are properly called christs, and of you God said, Touch not My christs, or anointed. Now ye were made christs by receiving the emblems of the Holy Spirit; and all things were in a figure wrought in you, because ye are figures of Christ. He also bathed Himself in the river Jordan, and … came up from the waters; and the Holy Spirit in substance lighted on Him, like resting upon like. In the same manner to you also, after you had come up from the pool of the sacred streams, was given the unction, the emblem of that wherewith Christ was anointed; and this is the Holy Spirit”. Similarly S. Augustine; “In the unction we have a sacramental sign (sacramentum); the virtue itself is invisible. The invisible unction is the Holy Spirit” (Hom. III. 12). Comp. Ephesians 1:13.

It may be doubted whether S. John in this verse makes any allusion to the anointing which was a feature in some Gnostic systems.

ἀπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου. This almost certainly means Christ, in accordance with other passages both in S. John and elsewhere (John 6:69; Revelation 3:7; Mark 1:24; Acts 3:14; Ps. 20:10), and in harmony with Christ being called δίκαιος in 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:29, and ἁγνός in 1 John 3:3. Moreover in John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7; John 16:14 Christ promises to give the Holy Spirit. It may possibly mean God the Father (Habakkuk 3:3; Hosea 11:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19). It cannot well mean the Holy Spirit, unless some other meaning be found for χρῖσμα. The meaning then is “a chrism from the Christ.”

καὶ οἴδατε πάντα. The reading is profoundly uncertain: see critical notes. Here, as in 1 John 2:14, it is possible that [571] and the Thebaic Version preserve the original reading: οἴδατε πάντες with a colon after τοῦ ἁγίου. In which case the meaning may be either ‘Ye all know this’; or ‘Ye all know—I have not written to you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it’, with a very intelligible anacoluthon. “The harmony between [572] and the Thebaic in characteristic readings, for which they stand almost or quite alone, is well worth notice: e.g. Acts 27:37; Romans 13:13; Colossians 3:6; Hebrews 3:2; 1 John 2:14; 1 John 2:20” (Scrivener). If A.V. and R.V. are right with καὶ οἴδατε πάντα, the meaning will be, ‘It is you (and not these antichristian Gnostics who claim it) that are in possession of the true knowledge, in virtue of the anointing of the Spirit of truth. Christians possess the truth in a far higher sense than any unchristian philosopher. The unbeliever’s knowledge is all out of balance and proportion. The material side is exaggerated, the spiritual is distorted or ignored. Whichever reading we adopt, the meaning is strictly in harmony with the promise of Christ; ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ ἐκεῖνος, τὸ Πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ὁδηγήσει ὑμᾶς εἰς πᾶσαν τὴν ἀλήθειανinto all the truth (John 16:13). Similarly S. Ignatius writes; ὧν οὐδὲν λανθάνει ὑμᾶς, ἐὰν τελείως εἰς Ἰησοῦν Χρ. ἔχητε τὴν πίστιν καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην (Eph. XIV. 1): and S. Polycarp; οὐδὲν ὑμᾶς λέληθεν (XII.). Comp. οἱ δὲ ζητοῦντες τὸν Κύριον συνήσουσιν ἐν παντί (Proverbs 28:5), and see 1 Timothy 4:9.

The whole verse is very remarkable as being addressed by the Apostle to the Christian laity, and is in marked contrast to the clerical exclusiveness of some later teachers.


Verses 20-29

1 John 2:29 to 1 John 5:12. GOD IS LOVE

There seems to be no serious break in the Epistle from this point onwards until we reach the concluding verses which form a sort of summary (1 John 5:13-21). The key-word ‘love’ is distributed, and not very unevenly, over the whole, from 1 John 3:1 to 1 John 5:3. Subdivisions, however, exist and will be pointed out as they occur. The next two subdivisions may be marked thus; The Children of God and the Children of the Devil (1 John 2:29 to 1 John 3:12); Love and Hate (1 John 3:13-24). The two, as we shall find, are closely linked together, and might be placed under one heading, thus; The Righteousness of the Children of God in their relation to the Hate of the World (1 John 2:29 to 1 John 3:24).


Verse 21

21. οὐκ ἔγραψα. Whatever may be the explanation of the tense in 1 John 2:14, here we probably have the epistolary aorist, which may be represented by either the present or the perfect in English. But some would refer this also to the Gospel; and the absence of ταῦτα renders this not impossible. More probably, however, as appears from 1 John 2:26, ἔγραψα both here and there refers to this section about antichrists. ‘Do not think from my warning you against lying teachers that I suspect you of being ignorant of the truth: you who have been anointed with the Spirit of truth cannot be ignorant of the truth. I write as unto men who will appreciate what I say. I write, not to teach, but to confirm.’ “S. John does not treat Christianity as a religion containing elements of truth, or even more truth than any religion which had preceded it. S. John presents Christianity to the soul as a religion which must be everything to it, if it is not really to be worse than nothing” (Liddon).

ὅτι οὐκ οἴδατε τ. ἀλ., ἀλλʼ ὅτι οἴδ. αὐτήν, καὶ ὅτι. There are no less than three ways of taking this, depending upon the meaning given to the thrice repeated conjunction (ὅτι), which in each place may mean either ‘because’ or ‘that’. 1. As A.V.; because, … but because … and that. The A.V. follows the earlier Versions in putting ‘that’ in the last clause: so Tyndale, Cranmer, &c. 2. As R.V.; ‘because’ in each clause. 3. ‘That’ in each clause: ‘I have not written that ye know not the truth, but that ye know it, and that &c.’ This last is almost certainly wrong. As in 1 John 2:13-14 the verb ‘write’ introduces the reason for writing and not the subject-matter or contents of the Epistle. And if the first conjunction is ‘because’, it is the simplest and most natural to take the second and third in the same way. The Apostle warns them against antichristian lies, not because they are ignorant, but [1] because they possess the truth, and [2] because every kind of lie is utterly alien to the truth they possess. “There is the modesty and the sound philosophy of an Apostle! Many of us think that we can put the truth into people, by screaming it into their ears. We do not suppose that they have any truth in them to which we can make appeal. S. John had no notion that he could be of use to his dear children at Ephesus unless there was a truth in them, a capacity of distinguishing truth from lies, a sense that one must be the eternal opposition of the other” (Maurice). Comp. ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ἅπαξ πάντα (Judges 1:5).

πᾶν ψεῦδος ἐκ τ. ἀλ. οὐκ ἔστιν. As in 1 John 3:15, the negative belongs to the verb and not to the πᾶν; “all … not, not any, none’: No lie is of the truth. There is nothing Hebraistic in this form of expression, as in 1 John 2:19 : comp. Ephesians 5:5; John 3:16. Ἐκ expresses origin, as in 1 John 2:16; 1 John 2:19; ἐκ τοῦ πατρός, ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου, ἐξ ἡμῶν. Comp. τὸ βάπτισμα Ἰωάννου ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἦν, ἢ ἐξ ἀνθρώπων; (Luke 20:5). Every lie is from its very source utterly removed from the truth. The truth springs from ὁ ἀψευδὴς Θεός (Titus 1:2); lying from the devil, ὅτι ψεύστης ἐστὶ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ (John 8:44): ἀλήθεια γὰρ ὀπαδὸς Θεοῦ (Philo Vita Mosis III): πάντῃ ἅρα ἀψευδὲς τὸ θεῖον (Plato Rep. II. 208 E).


Verse 22

22. τίς ἐστιν ὁ ψεύστης. Who is the liar? R.V. is here again superior to previous English Versions. But we must beware of exaggerating the article in interpretation, although it is right to translate it. It merely marks the passage from the abstract to the concrete: ‘Every lie is absolutely alien from the truth. Who then is the one who speaks lies? There are no liars if he who denies that Jesus is the Christ is not one.’ The exactly parallel construction in 1 John 2:4-5 shews that ‘the liar’ here does not mean ‘the greatest liar possible’. Moreover, this would not be true. Is denying that Jesus is the Christ a greater lie than denying the existence of the Son, or of God? Nor does this lie include all falsehood. A Jew or Mahometan possesses a large portion of the truth along with this falsehood. It is, however, an instance of what Plato calls τὸ ὡς ἀληθῶς ψεῦδος, a lie περὶ τὰ κυριώτατα, i.e. a veritable falsehood on the most momentous subjects. Cerinthus and his Gnostic hearers, who profess to be in possession of the higher truth, are really possessed by one of the worst of lies (see Introduction).

The abruptness of the Apostle’s question is startling. Throughout these verses (22–24) “clause stands by clause in stern solemnity without any connecting particles” (Westcott).

οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἀντ. This is the antichrist, as R.V. The article, almost certainly spurious in 1 John 2:18, is certainly genuine here, 1 John 4:3, and 2 John 1:7. But here ὁ ἀντίχριστος does not seem to mean the great personal rival of the Christ, but the antichristian teacher who exhibits his spirit and acts as his mouthpiece.

ὁ ἀρνούμενος τ. πατέρα κ. τ. υἱόν. This clause takes the place of ὁ ἀρν. ὅτι Ἰησοῦς οὐκ ἕστιν ὁ Χριστός. The change, which is quite in S. John’s manner, implies that to deny the one truth is to deny the other. Jesus is the Christ, and the Christ is the Son of God; therefore to deny that Jesus is the Christ is to deny the Son. And to deny the Son is to deny the Father; not merely because Son and Father are correlatives and mutually imply one another, but because the Son is the revelation of the Father, without whom the Father cannot be known. ‘Neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him’ (Matthew 11:27). ‘No one cometh unto the Father but by Me’ (John 14:6). Comp. John 5:23; John 15:23. Some would put a full stop at ‘antichrist,’ and connect what follows with 1 John 2:23, thus; This is the antichrist. He that denieth the Father (denieth) the Son also: every one that denieth the Son hath not the Father either.


Verse 23

23. The previous statement is emphasized by an expansion of it stated both negatively and positively. The expansion consists in declaring that to deny the Son is not merely to do that, and indeed not merely to deny the Father, but also (οὐδέ) to debar oneself from communion with the Father. So that we now have a third consequence of denying that Jesus is the Christ. To deny this is [1] to deny the Son, which is [2] to deny the Father, which is [3] to be cut off from the Father. ‘To have the Father’ must not be weakened to mean ‘to hold as an article of faith that He is the Father’; still less, ‘to know the Father’s will’. It means, quite literally, ‘to have Him as his own Father’. Those who deny the Son cancel their own right to be called τέκνα Θεοῦ: they ipso facto excommunicate themselves from the great Christian family in which Christ is the Brother, and God is the Father, of all believers. ‘To as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God’ (John 1:12). The verse is a condemnation of those who insist on the Fatherhood of God and yet deny the Divinity of Jesus Christ. And the condemnation is made with special comprehensiveness: not merely ὁ ἀρνούμενος but πᾶς ὁ ἀρν. As if the Apostle would say, ‘Some may think that there are exceptions to this principle; but it holds good of every one’. Comp. 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:4; 1 John 3:6; 1 John 3:9-10; 1 John 3:15; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:4; 1 John 5:18; 2 John 1:9.

ὁ ὁμολογῶν. He that confesseth, as R.V. The translation of ὁμολογεῖν should be uniform in 1 John 1:9; 1 John 4:2-3; 1 John 4:15; 2 John 1:7. It is surprising that A.V., while admitting the passage about the three Heavenly Witnesses (1 John 5:7) without any mark of doubtfulness, prints the second half of this verse in italics, as if there were nothing to represent it in the Greek. Excepting the ‘but’, the sentence is undoubtedly genuine, being found in all the best MSS. ([573][574][575][576]) and many other authorities. A few authorities omit it accidentally, owing to the two halves of the verse ending in the Greek with the same three words (τὸν πατἑρα ἔχει). Tyndale, Luther, and the Genevan omit the sentence: Cranmer and the Rhemish retain it; Cranmer marking it as wanting authority, and both omitting ‘but’, which Purvey inserts, although there is no conjunction in the Vulgate. Other Versions insert different conjunctions. The asyndeton is impressive and continues through three verses, 22, 23, 24. “The sentences fall on the reader’s soul like notes of a trumpet. Without cement, and therefore all the more ruggedly clasping each other, they are like a Cyclopean wall” (Haupt). It would be possible to translate, ‘He that confesseth, hath the Son and the Father’ (comp. 2 John 1:9): but this is not probable.


Verse 24

24. ὑμεῖς ὃ ἠκούσατε. The οὗν is an erroneous insertion in many of the inferior MSS. which omit the second half of 1 John 2:23 : it weakens the force of the charge. As for you (with great emphasis, in contrast to these antichristian liars), let that abide in you which ye heard from the beginning. For the nominativus pendens comp. John 6:39; John 7:38; John 14:12; John 15:2; John 17:2; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 3:21 : Winer, 718. Ἠκούσατε should be rendered as an aorist: as in 1 John 2:7 and 1 John 3:11, it points to the definite time when they were instructed in the faith. ‘Hold fast what ye first heard, and reject these lying innovations’.

In this passage the arbitrary distinctions introduced by the translators of 1611 reach a climax. The same Greek word (μένειν) is translated in three different ways in one verse; ‘abide … remain … continue’. Elsewhere it is rendered in four other ways, making seven English words to one Greek; ‘dwell’ (John 1:39; John 6:56; John 14:10; John 14:17), ‘tarry’ (John 4:40; John 21:22-23), ‘endure’ (John 6:27), ‘be present’ (John 14:25). The translators in their Address to the Reader tell us that these changes were often made knowingly and sometimes of set purpose. See Trench On the A.V. of N.T. pp. 85–87. They are generally regretable, and here are doubly so: [1] an expression highly characteristic of S. John (Gospel, 1 and 2 Epp., Rev.) and of deep meaning is blurred, [2] the emphasis gained by iteration, which is also characteristic of S. John, is entirely lost. ‘Let the truths which were first taught you have a home in your hearts: if these have a home in you, ye also shall have a home in the Son and in the Father’. The Son is mentioned first because it is by abiding in Him that we abide in the Father. Bede quaintly suggests another reason: ne dicant Ariani, Filium minorem Patre propterea credendum, quia nunquam ante Patrem nominatus inveniatur. But there was ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ &c.’ (2 Corinthians 13:14) to forbid so weak an argument.


Verse 25

25. καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἐπ. ἣν αὐτὸς ἐπ. ἡμῖν. And the promise which He Himself promised us is this. As in 1 John 1:5; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 5:11; 1 John 5:14, αὕτη is the predicate and refers to what follows, not to what precedes: comp. 1 John 2:22. ‘This is what His promise amounted to—no less than eternal life’. But the connexion with what precedes is close; for eternal life is only another name for abiding in the Son and the Father. Ἐπαγγελία, frequent in the Acts, S. Paul, and Hebrews, occurs here only in S. John: ἐπαγγέλλεσθαι also is used nowhere else by him. For the promise itself see John 3:15; John 4:14; John 6:40; John 6:51; John 6:54; John 6:58, &c. Αὐτός, as commonly in the nominative, is emphatic: et haec est repromissio quam ipse pollicitus est nobis (New Vulgate). Augustine has pollicitatio; the Old Vulgate promissio and vobis. Comp. 1 John 2:2. Of course αὐτός means Christ, “who in this passage forms the centre round which the statements of the Apostle move” (Huther). [577] reads ὑμῖν for ἡμῖν, but the other Uncials and almost all Versions are unanimous for ἡμῖν, which has internal evidence strongly on its side. Note the double article, τὴν ζ. τὴν αἰών., as in 1 John 1:2 and nowhere else in this phrase: but see on 1 John 1:3. Note also that the substantive placed after a relative clause is attracted to the case of the relative: comp. Acts 21:16; Philippians 3:18; Philemon 1:10.


Verse 26

26. ταῦτα ἔγραψα. This is not parallel to ἔγραψα in 1 John 2:14; 1 John 2:21 where there is no ταῦτα. Here the reference must be to the Epistle, or rather to the section about the antichrists (18–25): 1 John 2:14 probably refers in all three sentences to the Gospel: 1 John 2:21 is doubtful, but is best taken in conjunction with this as referring to the paragraph in which it occurs.

τῶν πλανώντων. That lead you astray, i.e. that are endeavouring to do so: see on 1 John 1:8. Thus Satan is called ὁ πλανῶν τὴν οἰκουμένην ὅλην. In both cases the present participle expresses habitual effort, not success. In such cases the participle with the article is almost a substantive, and as such loses all notion of time. Winer, 444.


Verse 27

27. καὶ ὑμεῖς τὸ χρ. δ ἐλάβετε. As in 1 John 2:2, we have the false and the true Christians put side by side in contrast; but this does not justify us in turning S. John’s simple ‘and’ (καί) into ‘but’. As in 1 John 2:24, we have the pronoun put first with great emphasis, and as a nominativus pendens. Moreover, the reception of the chrism refers to the definite occasion when Christ poured out His Spirit upon them, viz. their baptism; and therefore the aorist should be retained. Wherefore, as R.V., And as for you, the anointing which ye received.

μένει ἐν ὑμῖν. In order to convey a command or a rebuke gently, we often state as a fact what ought to be a fact. This may be the meaning here; and hence the Vulgate reads maneat in vobis. If not, it is an expression of the Apostle’s great confidence in the spiritual condition of his children. For λαμβάνειν ἀπό comp. 1 John 3:22; 3 John 1:7. S. John more often writes λαμβάνειν παρά, ‘to receive at the hands of’; John 5:41; John 5:44; John 10:18; 2 John 1:4; Revelation 2:27.

οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ἵνα. Ye have no such need that any one teach you. The construction is peculiar to S. John (Gospel John 2:25; John 16:30): elsewhere either the infinitive or a genitive. For the meaning comp. 1 John 2:20. He who has once been anointed with the Spirit of truth has no need even of an Apostle’s teaching, This seems to be quite conclusive against ‘little children’ anywhere in this Epistle meaning children in years or children in knowledge of the Gospel. S. John writes throughout for adult and well-instructed Christians, to whom he writes not to give information, but to confirm and enforce and perhaps develope what they have all along known. Of course S. John does not mean that the anointing with the Spirit supersedes all necessity for instruction. The whole Epistle, and in this chapter 1 John 2:6-7; 1 John 2:24, are conclusive against such a view. S. John assumes that his readers have been thoroughly instructed in ‘the word’ and ‘the truth’, before receiving the outpouring of the Spirit which shows them the full meaning of ‘the word’ and confirms them in ‘the truth’. If S. John has no sympathy with a knowledge which professed to rise higher than Christian teaching, still less has he sympathy with a fanaticism which would dispense with Christian teaching. While he condemns the Gnosticism of his own age, he gives no encouragement to the Montanism of a century later. But he does testify to the high position of the Christian laity who make good use of their privileges.

There are several various readings of importance in the second half of this verse: see critical notes. The A.V. deserts Wiclif, Purvey, Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Rhemish to follow the Genevan in preferring μενεῖτε to μένετε ([578][579][580][581] and Versions). The possible constructions are almost as numerous as the readings and are less easily determined, but they do not seriously affect the general sense. We may render [1] But as His anointing teacheth you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you,—do ye abide in Him; making only one sentence with a long protasis. Or [2] we may break it into two sentences, each with a protasis and apodosis; But as His anointing teacheth you concerning all things, it is true and is no lie; and even as it taught you, do ye abide in Him. The majority of English Versions, including R.V., are for the former: so also the Vulgate. Commentators are much divided; but Huther claims to have most on his side for the latter. He has against him Alford, Braune, De Wette, Düsterdieck, Ewald, Lücke, Neander, Westcott. The sentence seems to be a recapitulation of the sentence:—ὡς τὸ αὐτοῦ χρίσμα διδάσκει ὑμᾶς περὶ πάντων recalls 1 John 2:20; ἀληθές ἐστιν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ψεῦδος recalls 1 John 2:21-23; μένετε ἐν αὐτῷ recalls 1 John 2:24-25. The καθώς emphasizes the exactness of the conformity, even as: comp. 1 John 2:6; 1 John 2:8; 1 John 3:2-3; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:17; 2 John 1:4; 2 John 1:6. What is the nominative to ἐδίδαξεν? Probably ‘He’ implied in αὐτῷ. This explains the change of tense: ἐδίδαξεν refers to the gift of the Spirit made once for all by Christ; διδάσκει to the continual illumination which is the result of that gift. Winer, 764. Whether μένετε is indicative, like the μένει just before, or imperative, like the μένετε just following, is uncertain and unimportant. Therefore we adopt [3] But as His anointing teacheth you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as He taught you,—ye abide in Him, or abide in Him. The number of passages in S. John’s writings in which verbs occur which may be either imperative or indicative, is remarkable: comp. 1 John 2:29; John 5:39; John 12:19; John 14:1; John 15:18; John 15:27. As in 1 John 2:10, ἐν αὐτῷ is ambiguous: it may be neuter and mean ἐν τῷ χρίσματι, as some Latin Versions seem to have taken it; permanete in ipsa (unctione). But the next verse is decisive: ἐν αὐτῷ in both cases must mean in Christ. And this confirms the rendering ‘He taught’ as preferable to ‘it taught’. Luther makes ἐν αὐτῷ refer to καθὼς ἐδίδαξεν: und wie sie euch gelehret hat, so bleibet bei demselbigen.


Verse 27-28

27, 28. THE PLACE OF SAFETY—CHRIST


Verse 28

28. καὶ νῦν introduces the practical conclusion: see on 2 John 1:5 and comp. John 17:5, where Jesus, ‘having accomplished the work given Him to do’, prays καὶ νῦν δόξασόν με σύ, πάτερ. So also in Acts 3:17; Acts 7:34; Acts 10:5. Haupt thinks that καὶ νῦν introduces the new division of the Epistle, which (almost all agree) begins near this point. The truth seems to be that 1 John 2:28-29 are at once the conclusion of one division and the beginning of another: τεκνία recalls the beginning of this section (1 John 2:18), and no doubt means all S. John’s readers.

ἐὰν φανερωθῇ. If He shall be manifested, as R.V. In inferior authorities the more difficult ἐάν has been softened into ὅταν. ‘If’ seems to imply a doubt as to Christ’s return, and the change to ‘when’ has probably been made to avoid this. But ‘if’ implies no doubt as to the fact, it merely implies indifference as to the time: ‘if He should return in our day’ (see on John 6:62; John 12:32; John 14:3). Be manifested is greatly superior to ‘appear’ (as Augustine’s manifestatus fuerit is superior to the Vulgate’s apparuerit) because [1] φανερωθῇ is passive; [2] φανεροῦν is a favourite word with S. John and should be translated uniformly in order to mark this fact (1 John 1:2; 1 John 2:19; 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:8; 1 John 4:9; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 15:4; John 1:31; John 3:21, &c. &c.). Beza has conspicuus factus fuerit. As applied to Christ it is used of His being manifested in His Incarnation (1 John 1:2; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:8), in His words and works (John 2:11; John 17:6), in His appearances after the Resurrection (John 21:1; John 21:14), in His return to judgment (here and 1 John 3:2). S. John alone uses the word in this last sense, for which other N.T. writers have ‘to be revealed’ (ἀποκαλύπτεσθαι), a verb never used by S. John excepting once (John 12:38) in a quotation from O.T. (Isaiah 53:1), where he is under the influence of the LXX.

Note the correspondence between the clauses: ἐὰν φανερωθῇ = ἑν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ, and σχῶμεν παρρησίαν = μὴ αἰσχυνθῶμεν ἀπ ̓ αὐτοῦ.

σχῶμεν παρρησίαν. The R.V. has we may have boldness. At first sight this looks like one of those small changes which have been somewhat hastily condemned as ‘vexatious, teasing, and irritating.’ The A.V. wavers between ‘boldness’ (1 John 4:17; Acts 4:13; Acts 4:29; Acts 4:31, &c.) and ‘confidence,’ with occasionally ‘boldly’ (Hebrews 4:16) instead of ‘with boldness.’ The R.V. consistently has ‘boldness’ in all these places. Παρρησία means literally ‘freedom in speaking, readiness to say anything, frankness, intrepidity.’ In this Epistle and that to the Hebrews it means especially the fearless trust with which the faithful soul meets God: 1 John 3:21; 1 John 4:17; 1 John 5:14. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:19. In σχῶμεν S. John once more breaks the logic of his sentence rather than seem to exempt himself from what he tells others: μένετε, ἵνα σχῶμεν is parallel to ἐάν τις ἁμάρτῃ, ἔχομεν (1 John 2:2).

μὴ αἰσχυνθῶμεν ἀπ ̓ αὐτοῦ. The graphic terseness can scarcely be reproduced in English. We see the averted face and shrinking form, which are the results of the shame, clearly indicated in the Greek. ‘Turn with shame from Him’ and ‘Shrink with shame from Him’ have been suggested as renderings. Comp. μὴ φοβηθῆτε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεινόντων τὸ σῶμα (Matthew 10:28), ‘Shrink not away in fear from them.’ ‘Receive shame from Him’ is almost certainly not the meaning, although the Vulgate has confundamur ab eo: ἀπὸ means ‘away from’ not ‘proceeding from.’ Comp. προσέχετε ἀπὸ (Matthew 7:15; Matthew 10:17; Matthew 16:11; Luke 12:1; Luke 20:46) and φυλάσσεσθε ἀπὸ (Luke 12:15) and the LXX. of Isaiah 1:29; Jeremiah 2:36; Jeremiah 12:13; and the speechless confusion of him who had no wedding-garment (Matthew 22:13).

ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ. The word occurs nowhere else in S. John’s writings. In N.T. it is almost a technical term to express Christ’s return to judgment (Matthew 24:3; Matthew 24:27; Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; James 5:7-8; 2 Peter 1:16, &c.). S. John uses it, as he uses ὁ Λόγος and ὁ πονηρός, without explanation, confident that his readers understand it. This is one of many small indications that he writes to well-instructed believers, not to children or the recently converted. The single occurrence of the word here, “where it might easily have been omitted, in exactly the same sense as it bears in all the other groups of apostolic writings, is a signal example of the danger of drawing conclusions from the negative phenomena of the books of N.T. The fact is the more worthy of notice as the subject of eschatology falls into the background in the Gospel and Epistles of S. John. Comp. John 21:22” (Westcott).

S. John’s divisions are seldom made with a broad line across the text (see on 1 John 3:10; 1 John 3:24). The parts dovetail into one another and intermingle in a way that at times looks like confusion. Wherever we may place the dividing line we find similar thoughts on each side of it. Such is the case here. If we place the line between 1 John 2:27-28 we have the idea of abiding in Christ (1 John 2:24; 1 John 2:27-28) on both sides of it. If we place it between 1 John 2:28-29, we have the idea of Divine righteousness and holiness (1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:12; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:29) prominent in both divisions. If we make the division coincide with the chapters, we have the leading ideas of boldness towards Christ and God (1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:21; 1 John 4:17; 1 John 5:14), of Christ’s return to judgment (1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:2; 1 John 4:17), of doing righteousness (1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:7-10), and of Divine sonship (1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:1-2, &c.), on both sides of the division. It seems quite clear therefore that both these verses (28, 29) belong to both portions of the Epistle, and that 1 John 2:29 at any rate is more closely connected with what follows than with what precedes.

The close connexion between the parts must not lead us to suppose that there is no division here at all. The transition is gentle and gradual, but when it is over we find ourselves on new ground. The antithesis between light and darkness is replaced by that between love and hate. The opposition between the world and God becomes the opposition between the world and God’s children. The idea of having fellowship with God is transformed into that of being sons of God. Walking in the light is spoken of as doing righteousness. And not only do previous thoughts, if they reappear, assume a new form, but new thoughts also are introduced: the Second Advent, the boldness of the faithful Christian, the filial relation between believers and God. Although there may be uncertainty as to where the new division should begin, there is none as to the fact of there being one.


Verse 29

29. ἐὰν εἰδῆτε ὅτι δίκαιός ἐστιν. This probably does not mean Christ, although the preceding verse refers entirely to Him. ‘To be born of Christ,’ though containing “nothing abhorrent from our Christian ideas,” is not a Scriptural expression; whereas ‘to be born of God’ is not only a common thought in Scripture, but is specially common in this Epistle and occurs in the very next verse. And clearly ‘He’ and ‘Him’ must be interpreted alike: it destroys the argument (ὁ δίκαιος δικαίους γεννᾷ, justus justum gignit, as Oecumenius and Bengel put it) to interpret ‘He is righteous’ of Christ and ‘born of Him’ of God. Moreover, this explanation gets rid of one abrupt change by substituting another still more abrupt. That ‘He, Him, His’ in 1 John 2:28 means Christ, and ‘He, Him’ in 1 John 2:29 means God, is some confirmation of the view that a new division of the letter begins with 1 John 2:29. That ‘God is righteous’ see 1 John 1:9 and John 17:25. But S. John is so full of the truth that Christ and the Father are one, and that Christ is God revealed to man, that he makes the transition from one to the other almost imperceptibly. Bede interprets both δίκαιός ἐστιν and ἐξ αὐτοῦ of Christ.

γινώσκετε. Once more we are in doubt as to indicative or imperative: see on 1 John 2:27. The Vulgate has scitote, and hence Wiclif and the Rhemish, as also Tyndale and Cranmer, have the imperative. But the indicative is more in harmony with 1 John 2:20-21 : Ye know that everyone also, i.e. not only Christ, but every righteous believer, is a son of God. Beza has nostis, which the Genevan mistranslates ‘ye have known’. Note the change from εἰδῆτε to γινώσκετε, the one expressing the knowledge that is intuitive or simply possessed, the other that which is acquired by experience: ‘If ye are aware that God is righteous, ye must recognise, &c.’ Contrast 1 John 2:11; 1 John 2:20-21 with 1 John 2:3-5; 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 2:18. Comp. ὃ ἐγὼ ποιῶ σὺ οὐκ οἶδας ἄρτι, γνώσῃ δὲ μετὰ ταῦτα (John 13:7): πάντα σὺ οἶδας σὺ γινώσκεις ὅτι φιλῶ σε (John 21:17): and conversely, εἰ ἐγνώκειτέ με, καὶ τὸν πατέρα μου ἂν ἤδειτε (John 14:7).

ὁ ποιῶν. ‘That habitually doeth:’ not the fact of having done a righteous act here and there, but the habit of righteousness, proves sonship. Morality in the highest sense can come of no lower source than God. τὴν δικαιοσύνην. The article possibly means His righteousness, or the righteousness that is rightly known as such; but it is safer to omit it in translation. The omission of the article before abstract nouns is the rule; but the exceptions are very numerous, and among the exceptions are the many cases in which the article is used for a possessive pronoun. Winer, 148. Again, “the Article is rightly prefixed to words by which a system of action, familiar to the mind as such, is intended to be signified” (Green, Grammar of the N.T. p. 17). It is difficult to decide between these two explanations, but the latter seems better. Comp. ποιεῖν τὴν ἀλήθειαν.

ἐξ αὐτοῦ γεγἐννηται. Of Him hath he been begotten and His child he remains: ἐξ αὐτοῦ first for emphasis. Just as only he who habitually walks in the light has true fellowship with the God who is light (1 John 1:6-7), so only he who habitually does righteousness is a true son of the God who is righteous. Thus the writer to Diognetus says that the Christian is Λόγῳ προσφιλεῖ γεννηθείς, while the Son is πάντοτε νέος ἐν ἁγίων καρδίαις γεννώμενος (xi.). Other signs of the Divine birth are love of the brethren (1 John 4:7) and faith in Jesus as the Christ (1 John 5:1). Righteousness begins in faith and ends in love.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 1 John 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-john-2.html. 1896.

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Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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