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Thursday, June 20th, 2024
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Bible Commentaries
1 John 2

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-29

II 2:1. The Apostle urges his readers to be very careful to avoid sin; yet he knows the weakness of human nature, and holds out the hope of pardon to the sinner, because ’we have an advocate with the Father’, i.e. one who intercedes for us and for the whole world.

2. Christ exercises this office of advocate for sinners by continually offering the merits of his passion and death on their behalf; thus ’he is the propitiation for our sins’, cf.Hebrews 9:24, Hebrews 9:26.

3-6 Fidelity to the Old Commandments —True and solid knowledge of God is not just theoretical, but practical. True knowledge of God leads to love of God, which manifests itself in a constant effort to carry out the divine will expressed in the commandments. Christ must serve him as Model in this respect.

7-11 And to the New —Because of its practical character, the precept of fraternal charity calls for special consideration. At first the Apostle calls it ’an old from the beginning, and he expressly enjoined it on the Chosen People, Leviticus 19:18. For Christians it received its full significance in the teachings of Christ, Matthew 6:2 ff.; Luke 10:29 ff.; John 15:12 f. In so far as this commandment was fully carried out, first by Christ and then by his followers, it may be called a new commandment. As Christians, their situation was quite different from what it had been in the time of darkness, when they lived like the Gentiles around them. They were now united by a new bond of faith, and their charity to one another, though virtually comprised in the old commandment, was new in regard to practice, motives and obligations.

9. To fail in charity is to fail in the principal obligation imposed by Christian faith. He who hates his brother shows that he is not swayed by motives of faith, but by selfishness, like those who still live in pagan darkness.

10. Christianity emphasizes the reasonableness of universal charity, and by following its teachings we give no occasion of scandal to others.

11. Hatred is a sign of spiritual blindness, and he who allows himself to be swayed by this blind passion knows not where it may lead him.

12-14 An Appeal —In this section the readers are twice addressed as ’little children’, which probably includes the whole community; then as ’fathers’, specifying the more mature; finally as ’young men’ or the immature. Corresponding to the twofold series of addresses is a change of tense of the verb, from the present ’I write’ to the aorist ’I wrote’. Many think that the present form refers to what is contained in the Epistle, and the past form indicates what had been written in the Gospel. Others, with greater probability, maintain that the present tense indicates the author’s viewpoint, the past that of the readers. A third difficulty arises from the Greek particle ?t?, to which most scholars assign a causal significance; others prefer a declarative sense, i.e. ’that’, which in my opinion is preferable here.

12. Accordingly, to the community as a whole the Apostle declares: ’Your sins have been forgiven you for his name’s sake’. Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, obtained for you this great grace, removing the obstacle that would hinder your union with God.

13. Then addressing the ’fathers’, he commends them for their mature knowledge of the faith. The ’young men’ are praised for gaining a victory over the devil, probably by curbing their passions and forming good habits.

14. In the second series he says: ’I wrote to you, little children, that you have known the Father’, and have given proof of this by keeping the commandments. The next clause is missing in Vg, but is found in the Greek text. It is a repetition of

13a, except for the change of tense: ’I wrote to you, fathers, that you have known him, who is from the beginning’. The second appeal to the ’young men’ is based on their spiritual strength, on their perseverance in faith, and their victory over Satan.

15-17 A Warning —Directly opposed to God’s will are the inordinate desires or concupiscences that centre around self. The ’world’ in St John’s terminology stands for men who are hostile to God and opposed to Christ’s teachings. A worldling is a typically selfish creature, who craves for the gratification of his animal nature. A man, who becomes inordinately attached to what worldlings seek, alienates himself from the love of God. 16. Three things in particular draw the heart away from God. They are: ’the concupiscence of the flesh’, i.e. an inordinate love for pleasure, a craving to gratify the lower animal passions, a yielding to the vices of gluttony, drunkenness, impurity, luxury; ’the concupiscence of the eyes’, i.e. a passionate attachment to riches and material possessions, a yielding to the vice of avarice; ’and the pride of life’, i.e. an uncontrolled desire for honours, esteem, rank, pomp and show, a yielding to the vices of pride, ambition, vanity and self-exaltation. It is evident that such passions do not have their origin in God, and do not belong to the life which is from God,

17. They spring from a corrupt world, and, like the world, they are even now in the process of passing away. Being of short duration, they cannot satisfy the human heart. God alone can satisfy it, and only obedience to his will can bring man full satisfaction and unending joy.

18-27 Warning against Antichrist —Three evil forces are leagued against the Father, and against the Son there are also many opponents, called ’antichrists’. St John is the only NT writer to use the name ’Antichrist’. Every opposing teacher, who strives to rob the faithful of their belief and love of Christ, is deserving of the name, although the Apostle admits St Paul’s prophecy of one chief opponent, ’the man of sin’, 2 Thessalonians 2:3. In harmony with our Lord’s prediction, Matthew 24:24, St John declares that many antichrists have arisen even now. From this fact we are to conclude ’that it is the last hour’. This phrase is not to be taken literally as the time immediately before the judgement, but can refer to the entire period of the Christian dispensation. Thus rabbinic tradition calls the whole period following the advent of the Messias ’the future world’—’Olanz habba’,cf. SB 4, 816-44; and St Peter refers to the apostolic age as ’the last time’, 1 Peter 1:5, 1 Peter 1:20. During this period truth and error concerning the person of Jesus Christ will be disseminated, the former by authorized apostles, the latter by false teachers.

19. It is acause of great distress to the beloved disciple that these teachers of error were once members of the Church. 20. In contrast to these apostates are those ’who have the unction from the Holy One’, i.e. from Christ, whose name signifies ’the Anointed One’, and who in baptism anointed them with sanctifying grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and enlightened them. The oldest MSS, e.g. B, S, P, read ’even as you all know’; Vg agrees with the majority of MSS, ’and you know all things’.

22. Who is the liar’. The falsehood of Antichrist is the denial that Jesus is the Messias, i.e. the Anointed One, and that he is the Son of God.

23. Anyone who denies the eternal generation of the Son from the Father, ’hath not the Father’, i.e. has no fellowship with him.

26-29. There is reason for warning them against false seducers. Not that they need explicit instruction in the matter. They have received the unction of the Holy Spirit who will enlighten them concerning what they must know. His teachings are the truth, without any admixture of falsehood. Let them hold fast, therefore, to the faith which he imparted to them. Thus they will be able to meet their Judge with confidence; for he judges justly and approves those who lead good lives.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on 1 John 2". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/1-john-2.html. 1951.
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