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Bible Commentaries
1 John 1

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Verses 1-99



1-4. Introduction

1. ὃ ἦν�

ἀρχῆς] Anarthrous. Cf. John 1:1, John 1:6:64, John 1:16:4; Genesis 1:1. That which is regarded by us as “beginning.” The anarthrous use of the word makes it denote “character, according to man’s apprehension,” rather than a definite fact or point of time. The parallels in Genesis and the Prologue of the Gospel exclude the possibility of a reference merely to the beginning of the Christian dispensation. For the writer’s use of�


ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα] The “message” has so far been viewed in its permanent results. It has been “heard” and “seen” so that those who first received it have it as an abiding possession which they can impart to others. Now the facts of its reception are presented in such a way (by the use of the aorist) as to emphasize their character. The different tenses are used with reference to the same object under different aspects. Emphasis is first laid on the results, then on the method. The aorist presents its object as a complete fact, or series of facts regarded as one whole, having a definite character. The witness is not only abiding, it is also satisfactory in kind. It rests on complete and intelligent use of adequate opportunities. There is no reason for restricting the object of the two aorists to the disciples’ experiences after the Resurrection. Such a distinction must have been more clearly marked if the writer intended his readers to grasp it. The special reference of ψηλαφᾶν to Luke 24:39 (ἴδετε τὰς χεῖράς μου καὶ τοὺς πόδας μου … ψηλαφήσατέ με καὶ ἴδετε), or to the incident recorded in John 20:26-29, where the word is not used, appears to be very doubtful. It is simpler to suppose that the same object is described in different ways, corresponding to the natural distinction in meaning between the perfect and aorist. But see Westcott, and comp. Ign. Smyr. iii. Cf. also Tert. Adv. Prax. xxv., de An. xvii., de Pat. iii.

ἐθεασάμεθα] If βλέπειν is to “look,” and ὁρᾶν to “see,” θεᾶσθαι is to “behold,” intelligently, so as to grasp the meaning and significance of that which comes within our vision. Cf. Matthew 6:1; [Mk.] 16:14; Luke 7:24; John 1:14, John 1:38, John 1:4:35, John 1:11:45; Acts 1:11; Romans 15:24; 1 John 4:12, 1 John 4:14. In the LXX the word occurs only eight times, and in the later books; cf. 2 Chronicles 22:6, and especially 2 Mac. 3:36 ἅπερ ἦν ὑπʼ ὄψιν τεθεαμένος. The word nearly always suggests careful and deliberate vision which interprets, rightly or wrongly, its object. The witnesses have not only seen and remembered. Their “seeing” was of such a character as to enable them to appreciate rightly the significance of what they saw.

καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν] Cf. Luke 24:39, already quoted, and the note on ἑωράκαμεν. The Lord’s command in Luke, and the incident recorded by the writer in his Gospel, illustrate the meaning of the words. But their reference is wider than to any definite events between the Resurrection and the Ascension.ψηλαφᾶν is to grope or feel after in order to find, like a blind man or one in the dark; hence to handle, touch. The idea of searching sometimes disappears altogether. It may also be used in the sense of “examine closely.” Cf. Polyb. viii. 18. 4 (quoted by L and S.), πᾶσαν ἐπινοίαν: Genesis 27:12, μήποτε ψηλαφήσῃ με ὁ πατήρ μου (of Isaac): Deuteronomy 28:29, ἔσῃ ψηλαφῶν μεσημβρίας: Isaiah 59:10, ψηλαφήσουσιν ὡς τυφλοὶ τοῖχον: Ps. 113:15, χεῖρας ἔχουσι καὶ οὐ ψηλαφήσουσι: Job 20:10 (A), αἱ δὲ χεῖρες αὐτοῦ ψηλαφήσουσιν ὀδυνάς. Here it naturally suggests all the evidence available for sense-perception other than hearing and sight. Possibly it emphasizes the reality of that with which they had been brought into contact, in opposition to the Docetism which may have characterized the views of the writer’s opponents. It certainly marks the intimate character of their personal intercourse with the Lord. Their opportunities included all that was necessary to make their witness�John 19:35.

περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς] Dr. Westcott’s phrase “the revelation of life” probably gives most accurately the meaning of the words: the whole message which reveals, or which gives life. Compare John 6:68, ῥήματα ζωῆς αἰωνίου, and John 3:34, τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ θεοῦ. The exact meaning of the genitive is doubtful. As a rule, when (ὁ) λόγος is followed by a genitive, not of a person, the genitive expresses the contents of the message. Cf. Matthew 13:19 (τῆς βασιλείας), Acts 13:26 (τῆς σωτηρίας ταύτης), 14:3, 20:32 (τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ), 15:7 (τοῦ εὐαγγελίου); 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ); 2 Corinthians 5:19 (τὸν λόγον τῆς καταλλαγῆς); Ephesians 1:13 (τῆς�Philippians 2:16 (λόγον ζωῆς ἐπέχοντες); Colossians 1:5 (τῆς�1 Thessalonians 2:13 (λόγον�2 Timothy 2:15 (τῆς�Hebrews 6:1 (τῆς�Revelation 1:3 (τοὺς λόγους τῆς προφητείας). On the other hand, where (τῆς) ζωῆς is added to a noun as a qualifying genitive it generally, though not always, denotes “life-giving,” or some cognate idea. Cf. John 5:29Acts 2:28 (ὁδούς, = Psalms 16:11), 3:15 (τὸν�Romans 5:18 (δικαίωσιν), 6:4 (καινότητι); Philippians 2:16 (λόγον), 4:3 (βίβλῳ); 2 Timothy 1:1 (ἐπαγγελίαν), James 1:12 (τὸν στέφανον); 1 P. 3:7 (χάριτος); Revelation 2:7 (τοῦ ξύλου), 10 (τὸν στέφανον), 3:5 (τῆς βίβλου), 11:11 (πνεῦμα), 16:3 (ψυχή), 17:8 (τὸ βιβλίον), 20:12, 15, 21:27, 21:6 (τοῦ ὕδατος), 22:1 (ὕδατος), 2 (ξύλον), 14, 19 (τὸ ξύλον), 17 (ὕδωρ). But the two meanings are not mutually exclusive. The message which announces life gives life (cf. John 5:39).περί] What the writer has to announce concerns the word of life. He does not claim to handle the whole message. He has something to tell about it. On the bearing of this preparation as the meaning of the whole verse, see the note on ὁ ἦν�

2. For the use of parenthesis to emphasize or explain a specially important word, cf. John 19:35. In this parenthesis the emphatic word is ἐφανερώθη, which is repeated at the end of the verse. The writer and his circle could bear their witness about the word of life, because the life had been manifested, to men and under conditions which made it possible for men to apprehend its nature. The reference is in quite general terms. ἡ ζωή is never used to express the being of the (personal) Logos, or pre-existent Christ.

According to Weiss, φανεροῦν never denotes the becoming visible of that which was before invisible, but the making clear of what was hitherto unknown (he compares John 2:11, John 3:21, John 7:4, John 9:3, John 17:6). But the distinction is hard to maintain in view of the Johannine usage of verbs of sight to include the understanding of that which falls under the ocular vision (cf. John 3:3). φανεροῦν may be used of all processes of making known, whether intellectual or sensible.

ἀπαγγέλλομεν] It is doubtful whether a distinction can be maintained between�

τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον] For the double article, cf. 2:25, and ver. 3, ἡ κοινωνία ἡ ἡμετέρα: John 10:11, ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός. The idea is first put forward generally, and then more particularly defined.

It is strange to find it stated (Weiss, Comm. p. 28) that αἰώνιος is always used in the N.T. in the sense of endless duration, or even that ζωὴ αἰώνιος denotes in S. John (as in S. Paul) “our everlasting further life (ewiges weiterleben) after the death of the body” (Karl, p. 6). It would be truer to say that it never has the sense of endless duration. On the other hand, it does not denote what is supra-temporal. It can only mean “belonging to the age” of which the writer is speaking or thinking, and so comes to mean possessed of the characteristics of that age. If the “age to come” is supra-temporal, then αἰώνιος denotes that the subject which it qualifies has this characteristic.“Spiritual” probably suggests its meaning most clearly in popular language. The words which it is used in the N.T. to qualify are: πῦρ, ζωή, κόλασις, κρίσις, ἁμάρτημα (Mark 3:29, v.l. κρίσεως), σκηναί, χρόνοι, θεός, βάρος, δόξης, οἰκιά, ὀλεθρος, παράκλησις, κράτος, δόξα, ἐλπίς, σωτηρία, κρίμα, λύτρωσις, πνεῦμα, κληρονομία, διαθήκη, βασιλεία, εὐαγγέλιον. Of the 71 instances of its use in the N.T., 44 are passages in which it qualifies ζωή. Its meaning is best considered in the light of this fact. It is noticeable that in the Johannine Gospel and Epistles, where it occurs 23 times, it is never used in any other connection.

ἥτις] The life manifested in Christ, to which His personal disciples could bear witness on the strength of what they had seen and heard, is eternal, inasmuch as it is in union with the Father that it attains to its true realization. The distinction between ὅς and ὅστις, which disappears altogether in late Greek, can still, as a rule, be traced in the New Testament, where in all probability ὅστις is never a mere substitute for the relative. It either suggests a reason for what has been stated before, as here, or it introduces the designation of a class to which the antecedent belongs. (Cf. Matthew 7:26, Matthew 13:52.)

πρός] Cf. John 1:2, ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, and Dr. Westcott’s note on the differences of meaning between πρός and other prepositions denoting relations. Expressed in simpler language, the particular force of πρός would seem to be that it suggests a relation realized in active communion and intercourse. Cf. Mark 6:3, οὐκ εἰσὶν αἱ�

3. ὃ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ�Deu_1 Jo. gerichtet ist”; trans. 3. p. 358.) Such a thought could not have been conveyed to his readers by so obscure a hint. It is always dangerous to read into the words of this Epistle the things which any particular theory of its authorship make it desirable to find there. On the other hand, the words do not “show the readers of this Epistle to be those who are the hearers of all his Apostolic preaching” (Weiss, p. 30). Their more probable significance is suggested by the following καὶ ὑμεῖς. What the eye-witnesses have heard and seen they announce to others as well, in order that they too may share the fellowship which Apostles and disciples have so long enjoyed.

κοινωνίαν ἔχητε] The exact phrase is found only in this Epistle in the N.T. The writer is rather fond of the use of ἔχειν with a substantive to intensify the meaning of a verb. Cf. his use of it with ἁμαρτίαν, χρείαν, παρρησίαν, ἐλπίδα, ζωήν, κόλασιν. As contrasted with the simple verb, which merely expresses the fact, it may perhaps suggest the sense “to have and enjoy.” Κοινωνεῖν is always used of active participation, where the result depends on the co-operation of the receiver as well as on the action of the giver. Cf. Philo, Leg. ad Caium, § 4 (quoted by Grimm), τίς οὖν κοινωνία πρὸς Ἀπόλλωνα τῷ μηδὲν οἰκεῖον ἐπιτηδευκότι; 1 Corinthians 10:16, οὐχὶ κοινωνία τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐστίν; It does not properly denote a merely passive sharing, as μετοχή can express, though the words are sometimes used interchangeably; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14, τίς γὰρ μετοχὴ δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ�1 Corinthians 10:16.

καὶ … δέ] Cf. John 6:51, καὶ ὁ ἄρτος δέ: 3 John 1:12, καὶ ἡμεῖς δὲ μαρτυροῦμεν. It may be considered doubtful whether “the καί emphasizes, while the δέ serves as connecting particle.” The use of καὶ … δέ would seem rather to develop and intensify a thought or idea. See Ellicott on 1 Timothy 3:10. “Fellowship, I say; and remember that the fellowship of which we speak, and which we enjoy, is no less than fellowship with God and His Son.” Comp. John 17:11, John 17:20-23.μετὰ τοῦ πατρὸς κ.τ.λ.] Fellowship with God became possible when Christ revealed Him to men as the Father, with whom His children could enter into communication. Such fellowship, i.e. that which is possible between parent and child, is only realized in and through Jesus Christ, the man whom God sent to make Him known. The title Ἰησοῦς Χριστός always emphasizes both ideas, of the historical life and human nature of Jesus of Nazareth, and of the Divine commission of God’s Messiah. And the use of the title “Son” (μετὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ) emphasizes His capacity to make God known. The writer can conceive of no adequate knowledge of God which can be apprehended by man except in so far as it is revealed in a real human life, by one who is an only be gotten Son of God. Only a Son can reveal the Father. Only an only-begotten Son, who, so to speak, sums up in Himself all the qualities of His Father, which are completely reproduced in one heir, and not distributed among many children, is in a position to make such a revelation complete. The burden of the writer’s message is summed up in the last verse of the Prologue to the Gospel, “God hath no man seen at any time; God onlybegotten (or the only-begotten Son), who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.”

4. ταῦτα] The reference is most probably to the contents of the Epistle, “already present to the writer’s mind.” There are many instances in which it is a matter of dispute whether the writer, in using οὗτος, αὕτη, ταῦτα, τοῦτο, ἐν τούτῳ, ἐκ τούτου, διὰ τοῦτο, etc., intends to refer to what has preceded or what follows. Both usages are found in the Epistle, but the reference forward would seem to be his prevailing custom. Sixteen instances may be noted where the reference is to what follows (preceded by καί, 1:4, 2:3, 3:23, 24; without καί, 2:6, 3:1, 8, 10, 16, 4:2, 9, 13, 17, 5:4, 2:14) as against seven where the reference to what preceded is at least probable (without καί, 2:22, 26, 4:6, 5:6, 13, 20; preceded by καί, 4:3). Here the reference is probably to what follows. The ταῦτα are not identical with the message described in ver. 3, nor are they contrasted with it. They are the part of it, or the things to be said in explanation of it, which it is expedient that the author should communicate in writing. Scriptio valde confirmat (Bengel).

γράφομεν ἡμεῖς] Both words are emphatic. The αὐτόπται have always borne their witness by preaching or teaching. Now there is much that the survivors, or survivor, must write down. In this context ἡμεῖς must mean “we who have seen and heard,” whether the seeing and hearing are to be interpreted literally or metaphorically. And the literal interpretation is undoubtedly the most natural. The word contains no claim to Apostolical authority, unless, indeed, none but Apostles could rightly claim to be witnesses of what has been described in vv. 1-3. And it does not justify the view that at the time of writing many still survived who had seen the Lord. The conditions are satisfied if even one survivor only is speaking in the name of those of whom he is the last representative, especially if he is addressing Christians among whom the later survivors had spent their last years. It points quite naturally to the “Johannine” circle at Ephesus, but it does no more than point. It offers no proof. The plur. γράφομεν does not occur again in the Johannine Epistles.

ἵνα … ᾖ πεπληρωμένη] For the resolved tense, cf. John 16:24. And for the sense, cf. John 15:11, John 17:13, John 4:36, John 3:29. The writer’s joy is increased the more his readers can realize the fellowship of which he has spoken, and to promote which is the object of his letter.

ἡμῶν] It is very difficult to decide between the readings ἡμῶν and ὑμῶν. The former is supported by better MSS, and the latter may possibly be affected by assimilation to John 16:24. On the other hand, ἡμεῖς is almost certainly the true text just before, and the reading ὑμῶν offers a pointed contrast, “we who have seen must write, that you who have not seen may enter into full joy.” And it is a contrast which would not appeal to scribes. Perhaps, however, the ἡμῶν suits best the thought of the writer. He would not dissociate himself, and other teachers, from the common joy felt by all when his readers attain “fellowship.” In the spiritual harvest, sower and reaper rejoice together.

2. εωρακαμεν] pr. ο B 3 40: + και ακηκοαμπεν40 | την ζωην] om. K | τηναιωνιον] om. boh-cod.

3. ακηκοαμεν] και εωρακαμεν א harl. | και1:0] om. boh-cod.

απαγγελλομεν]pr. και א kscr am. arm-codd. Thphyl.: καταγγελλομενIb 253ff (Greg. 2).

και υμιν א A B C P 7. 13. 40. 68. 180 harl. syrsch etp sah. arm. aeth. Did. Aug.] om. και K L al. pler. cat. vg. arm-codd. cop. syrp txt Dionys. Oec. Aug.

και υμεις] om. και sah. syrsch.

και η κοινωνια δε] om. και boh-txt.: om. δε C* P 13. 27. 29. 69. 81. 180 ascr* vg. sah. arm. (uid.) syrp.

αυτου]om. sah.

4. γραφομεν] scripsimus, am. harl.: γραφωK453 (62) arm-codd. boh-codd.

ημεις א A* B P 13 harl.* sah.] υμιν Acorr al. fere. om. cat. vg. syrntr cop. arm. aeth. Thphyl. Oec.

ημων א B L 31. 39. 40. 42. 57. 76. 78. 95. 98. 99. 100. 101. 105. 114. 177. 190. 1lect 13lect 14lect 3pe Rev_8 scr am. fu. harl. tol. sah. syrsch are Thphylcom Oeccom] υμων A C K P al. plu. vgcle demid. cop. syrp arm. aeth. Thphyltxt Oectxt.

πεπληρωμενη] + εν ημιν C*.

ινα] ut gaudeatis et vg. (om. gaudeatis et am.).

A. 1:5-2:27. First description of the two signs of fellowship with God, expressed negatively. First refutation of the twofold “lie.” The “ethical” and “christological” theses presented one after the other, without any definition of their mutual relations.

I. I 1:5-2:17. Walking in light the true sign of fellowship with God (ethical thesis). Refutation of the one “lie.”

1. 1:5-2:6. The thesis maintained in two parallel statements

(a) 1:5-10. The nature of God and the consequent relation of man to God

1:5-10. Having stated that his object in writing is to enable his readers to enter into fellowship, and that the mutual fellowship of Christians leads onwards to that higher fellowship with God in Christ on which indeed it is based, the writer proceeds to deduce from the nature of God the conditions under which fellowship with Him is possible. He does so by setting aside three false pleas often urged by those who claim such fellowship, the denial of the bearing of moral conduct on spiritual communion, of the responsibility for sinful action, of the actual fact of having sinned. With regard to the first two he states by way of contrast the provision made by God for overcoming the hindrances which would seem to prevent the possibility of fellowship with God, in the case of those who by their conduct or their confession refuse to shelter themselves behind such false pleas. The verses which follow contain a similar contrast, expanded into a different form in order to meet a difficulty which might be suggested by what has been said in this passage.

5. The nature of God. God is light, and therefore only those whose conduct can be described as “walking in light,” can enjoy fellowship with such a Being.

In form the opening of the Epistle is closely parallel to that of the Gospel. This verse corresponds to John 1:19, and it is introduced in exactly the same way (καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μαρτυρία). There also the idea of “witness” is taken up from the middle verses of the Prologue, just as�

καί] The connection with what immediately precedes is not obvious. According to Dr. Westcott it must be found in the idea of fellowship. “Fellowship must repose upon mutual knowledge” (p. 14). If we are to have fellowship with God and with the brethren, we must know what God is and what we are. False views on either subject must prove a fatal barrier to true fellowship. But see the preceding note. It would seem to be simpler to find the connection further back in the idea of the “announcement.” He makes his announcement, contained in the letter he finds it necessary to write (ver. 4), with a special purpose which he has now stated. And the burden of the announcement is this, that God is light, and men must walk in light if they would enjoy His fellowship.

ἀγγελία] The simplest form of the word is chosen, as the writer wishes to describe its twofold aspect as a message from God to those whom he addresses, in the following words. It is an�John 1:5-9. φῶς describes His nature as He is, the description being true so far as it goes, though not complete. The primary idea suggested by the word in this context is “illumination.” It is of the nature of light that it is and makes visible. God’s nature is such that He must make Himself known, and that knowledge reveals everything else in its true nature. That this thought is present here is suggested by the following section (2:3 ff.). That God can be “known,” and by those to whom the author is writing, is one of the leading ideas on which he lays special stress. But in view of the use of the metaphor of light and darkness in the Bible generally, and especially in S. John, and of the immediate context in this Epistle, it is impossible to exclude the ethical meaning from the signification of the word here. The context shows that this is the idea which he is most anxious to emphasize. The word must suggest the notes of Holiness and Purity as essential to God’s nature. The conditions of fellowship on which he insists are closely akin to the Levitical “Be ye holy, for I am holy, saith the Lord.” The full meaning, however, of what is contained in words is not limited to the sense in which they were probably used and understood by the writer and his first readers. Jesus’ revelation of God as “Father” goes far beyond what was understood of it by the men of His own generation. For the more permanent meaning of the sentence, and the further ideas which it may be regarded as connoting, see Dr. Westcott’s note (p. 16 f.); Findlay, p. 102.

καὶ σκοτία κ.τ.λ.] This is not a mere repetition of the sentence in negative form, in accordance with the writer’s love of double expression by parallel clauses, positive and negative. And it probably does not merely emphasize the “perfect realization in God of the idea of light.” It emphasizes rather the completeness of revelation. God is not the ἄρρητος σιγή, or βυθός, of the more developed Gnostic systems, or the “unknowable” God of the Gnostic thought which preceded those systems. Though complete knowledge of God is impossible, He can be truly “known” here and now, under the conditions and limitations of human life. His nature is “light,” which communicates itself to men, made in His image, till they are transformed into His likeness. From the ethical side, the words also emphasize the conditions of fellowship. Walking in darkness must exclude from the fellowship of Him “in whom is no darkness at all.” Conduct is not the matter of indifference that in some of the teaching of the time it was made out to be. With the order of ideas here, λόγος, ζωή, φῶς, σκοτία (vv. 2, 5), comp. the same sequence in the Prologue to the Gospel (1, 2, 4, 5).

και1o] om. boh-codd.

εστιν αυτη א B C K L P 31. 40. 69. 105. 137 ascr cscr al. fere. 60 syrp txt Thphyl. Oec.] αυτη εστιν A 13 al. uix. mu. cat. arm. vg. syrsch et p mg.

η αγγελια אc A B K L al. fere. 70 Cat. Did. Thphylcomm Oeccomm vg. syrsch arm. aeth.] η επαγγελια C P 13. 31. 40. 69. 70. 73. 137 ascr al. uixmg sah. cop.(?) syrp Thphyltxt Oectxt: א* (sic). An obvious assimilation to a commoner word by careless scribes.

απ] παρIa 264 (233) O46 (154).

και20] om. boh-txt.

αναγγελλομεν] απαγγελλομεν18. 40. 69. 98. 100. 137. 180. 57lect ascr.

εν αυτω ουκ εστιν א A C K L P al. pler. cat. vg. arm. syrp Or. Did. Aug.] ουκ εστιν εν αυτω B 13. 31 aeth. boh. (uid.) Or. Caes.

6-10. The relation of man to God as determined by the fact that God is light.

6. This revelation of God is not made to satisfy speculative curiosity. It bears directly on practical life. If truly apprehended, it puts aside three false pleas often put forward by men to excuse their “love of darkness.”

The first of these pleas is the “indifference of moral conduct to spiritual communion.” Fellowship with God is impossible where men “walk in darkness.” The light transforms those who receive it. Those who continue to practise the works of darkness cannot be in fellowship with the light. To assert the opposite is to state what is contrary to the facts as we know them (ψευδόμεθα). Now that the revelation of God as light has been made by Jesus Christ, such language is a deliberate lie. And the actual conduct of those who make such a statement belies the claim they put forward to have fellowship with God. Their actions are not an expression in life of the moral ideal revealed by Jesus Christ. They “do not the truth.”

ἐὰν εἴπωμεν] The form of the sentence introduces a not impossible, perhaps a not unlikely, contingency. And the use of the first person plural, where the writer is thinking of his τεκνία, with whom he is in spiritual fellowship, and with whom he identifies himself as “compassed with infirmity” and not free from the dangers to which he knows them to be exposed, is an indication that the influence of his opponents had made itself felt both in thought and practice among those who were in the main still faithful to the “truth” as he conceived it. Throughout the Epistle he writes under a pressing sense of danger. He is not wasting his weapons on purely hypothetical situations, of the realization of which he felt no serious apprehension.

μετʼ αὐτοῦ] the Father. The expression must have the same reference as the ἐν αὐτῷ of the preceding verse.

ἐν τῷ σκότει περιπατῶμεν] Cf. 2:11, (ὁ μισῶν) ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ περιπατεῖ: John 8:12, περιπατήσῃ ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ: cf. John 11:9, John 11:10. The metaphor used by the Lord in the Gospel has already become part of the natural religious language of Christian.The use of περιπατεῖν of conduct (cf. the Hebrew הלך) is common in S Paul and S. John. In the Synoptic Gospels it is found only in Mark 7:5, περιπατοῦσιν … κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν. Cf. Acts 21:21, τοῖς ἔθεσιν περιπατεῖν. For the LXX usage, cf. Proverbs 8:20, ἐν ὁδοῖς δικαιοσύνης περιπατῶ: Ecclesiastes 11:9, περιπάτει ἐν ὁδοῖς καρδίας σου ἄμωμος: and for the use of “walk” in connection with φῶς, Isaiah 2:5, δεῦτε πορευθῶμεν τῷ φωτὶ κυρίου.

For the false views combated in this verse we may compare Clem. Al. Str. iii .4. 30, τοιαῦτα καὶ οἱ�

σκότει] The distinction can hardly be maintained in this Epistle between σκότος, “the concrete thing called darkness,” and σκοτία, “its abstract quality” (cf. 2:11); or, as Dr. Westcott defines it, “darkness absolutely, opposed to light,” and “darkness realized as a state.” The form σκότος occurs only here and in John 3:19 in the Johannine writings.

οὐ ποιοῦμεν τὴν�John 3:21, ὁ δὲ ποιῶν τὴν�Nehemiah 9:33, ὅτιἀλήθειαν ἐποίησας: and for the opposite expression, Revelation 21:27, ὁ ποιῶν βδέλυγμα καὶ ψεῦδος: 22:15, ὁ φιλῶν καὶ ποιῶν ψεῦδος. To “do the truth,” or to “do a lie,” are natural expressions in the Johannine system of thought in which�Genesis 24:49, Genesis 24:47:29; Joshua 2:14; 2S. 15:20; and הלך באמת, 1 K. 2:4, 3:6; 2 K. 20:3; Isaiah 38:3. The “truth” has no exclusive reference to the sphere of the intellect. It expresses that which is highest, most completely in conformity with the nature and will of God, in any sphere of being. In relation to man it has to do with his whole nature, moral and spiritual as well as intellectual. “Speaking” the truth is only one part of “doing” the truth, and not the most important. To “do the truth” is to give expression to the highest of which he is capable in every sphere of his being. It relates to action, and conduct and feeling, as well as to word and thought.

εαν] + γαρ A.

τω σκοτει] τα σκοτια Hδ6 (Ψ).7. “Walking in the light,” i.e. the conscious and sustained endeavour to live a life in conformity with the revelation of God, who is “light,” especially as that revelation has been made finally and completely in Jesus Christ, is the necessary condition of fellowship. Where this condition is fulfilled, fellowship is real. To claim it is no lie. Comp. “The righteous … will live in goodness and righteousness, and will walk in eternal light” (Book of Enoch xcii. 4).

αὐτός ἐστιν] The contrast is significant. Men “walk” in light, God “is” in it. Findlay, pp. 100-102.


καί] And where the endeavour to “walk in light” is carried out (it depends on the exercise of man’s will whether or not the endeavour is made), the removal of sin, which hinders fellowship with God, is possible in consequence of what the Son of God has gained for men by His human life, the power of which has been set free by death so as to become available for all men.τὸ αἷμα κ.τ.λ.] As Westcott has pointed out, the significance of “blood” in Jewish thought is most clearly expressed in Leviticus 17:11. The blood “atones” through the life which is said to be “in” the blood. The power of Christ’s life, freely rendered to God, throughout His life and in His death, and set free by death for wider service than was possible under the limitations of a human life in Palestine at a definite date, is effective for the gradual (καθαρίζει) removal of sin in those who attempt to realize their union with God in Him. The use of καθαρίζει determines the sense to be the removal of sin rather than the cancelling of guilt. As ritual cleanness was the condition of approach to God under the Jewish sacrificial system, so the “blood” of Christ cleans men’s consciences for God’s service and fellowship. See Briggs, The Messiah of the Apostles, p. 469.

καθαρίζει] In the Synoptists the word is used especially of cleansing from leprosy (see also its use in Matthew 23:26, τὸ ἐντός: Luke 11:39, τὸ ἔξωθεν). In the Fourth Gospel it does not occur, but the adjective καθαρός is found in the Discourses of the Upper Room (13:10, 11, 15:3). In Acts it is used in the sense of “pronouncing clean” (5:15, 11:9), and also (15:9) with τὰς καρδίας: cf. 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:14, Hebrews 9:22, Hebrews 9:23, Hebrews 9:10:2; Test. Rub. 4:8. In the LXX it is found as the equivalent of טהר and הקה in the senses (1) to cleanse, (2) to pronounce clean. The present tense may point to the νίψασθαι, of which even ὁ λελουμένος has frequent need in his walk through a soiling world (John 13:10). “Docet hic locus gratuitam peccatorum veniam non semel tantum nobis dari, sed perpetuo in ecclesia residere” (Calvin).

Ἰησοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ] Cf. 4:15, 5:5; Hebrews 4:14

πάσης ἁμαρτίας] Sin in all its forms and manifestations; Matthew 12:31. Cf. James 1:2, πᾶσα χαρά: Ephesians 1:8, πᾶσασοφία: and for the singular, 1 John 3:4, 1 John 3:8, 1 John 3:9. The writer is apparently thinking of sin as an active power, showing itself in many forms, rather than of specific acts of sin. Weiss’ interpretation “all sins,” i.e. not only of the pre-Christian period of a man’s life, but also those committed in the course of Christian life, would require the plural. But in general sense it is correct, and rightly throws the emphasis on πάσης, sin in whatsoever form it may manifest itself. Karl’s limitation of the meaning to sins committed before men became Christians (“d. h. von der vor dem Christentum begangenen”), is not justified by the words used by the writer. And the reason suggested, that “post-Christian” sins require also intercession (Johannische Studien, pp. 18, 82), is a curious instance of the perversion of an excellent principle, that of interpreting the Epistle by the help of the Epistle itself.

δε] om. 29. 66** harl. * boh-txt. | εστιν] ambulat, boh-txt.

μετ αλληλων א Acorr B C K L P etc.] μετ αυτου A*uid tol. Clem. Tert. Did.: cum Deo, harl.

του υιου αυτου ιῡ χῡ H 257 (33) Ia 192 (318).

ιησου א B C P 29. 69 ** ascr fu. syrsch et p txt sah. boh-txt. arm. aethro Clem. Fulg.] + Χριστου A K L al. pler. cat. vg. boh-codd. syrp c* aethpp Tert. Aug. Bed.

του υιου αυτου] om. aeth. Aug. (semel) Ic 174.

καθαριζει] καθαρισει 5. 106. 13lect 14lect Rev_2 scr: καθαριει6. 7. 29. 66** Aug. (bis): purgabit, sah. cop.

8. The second false plea denies the abiding power of sin as a principle in one who has committed sins. To those who hold such a view, sin ceases to be of any importance. It is merely a passing incident which leaves behind it no lasting consequences. The plea rests on self-deception. It can only be maintained by those who shut their eyes to the teaching of experience, in themselves or in others. And they lead themselves astray. The consequences must be fatal unless men acknowledge their mistake and retrace their steps.

ἐὰν εἴπωμεν] For the general idea, cf. Proverbs 20:9, τίς παρρησιάσεταικαθαρὸς εἶναι�

ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔχομεν] Cf. πίστιν ἔχειν, to have faith, as an active principle working in us and forming our character. To “have sin” is not merely a synonym for to commit sins. This is necessitated by the contrast demanded by ver. 10 between ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔχομεν and οὐχ ἡμαρτήκαμεν.“Sin” is the principle of which sinful acts are the several manifestations. So long as a Christian commits sins, sin is an active power working in him; and its power still remains after the forgiveness of sins which he received at his baptism. To deny this is to refuse to accept the teaching of experience.In the N.T. the use of the phrase ἁμαρτίαν ἒχειν is confined to this Epistle and the Fourth Gospel (9:41, 15:22, 24, 19:11). The meaning of the phrase in the Gospel has been raised as an objection to the interpretation given above. It is maintained that in the Gospel it has a quite definite sense, and that it “specifically denotes the guiltiness of the sin” (Law, The Tests of Life, p. 130); and it is suggested that the meaning here must be, “If we say that we have no guilt, no responsibility for the actions, wrong in themselves, which we have committed.” It is probably true that as compared with the simple verb the phrase accentuates the ideas of guilt and responsibility. And in the passages in the Gospel where the phrase occurs these ideas are prominent. But they are contained in the Hebrew conception of sin, emphatically developed in the teaching of the N.T., rather than in the one expression as opposed to the other. He who has committed sin is responsible for his action, just as much as he who “has sin” and who feels, or should feel, in himself the presence of a power which manifests itself in his sinful acts. And though the idea of guilt is prominent in the use of the phrase in the Gospel, especially in 15:22, where the antithesis, “Now they have no excuse for their sin,” must be noticed, it does not exhaust the meaning of the phrase as used there. Cf. 9:41, εἰ τυφλοὶ ἦτε οὐκ ἄν εἴχετε ἁμαρτίαν. If they had been as ignorant, and conscious of their ignorance, as the man whom they had condemned, they might have learned, and whatever “sin” they had would have lost its power. But their refusal to see the truth when it was presented to them, and their insistence that they knew, in spite of this, gave their sin an abiding power over them. Henceforth it could prevent any possibility of their seeing the truth. And the same idea is present in ch. 15. The rejection of Christ’s words by His opponents had given sin a power over them, which it could never have had but for their missing the opportunity of better things. As it was, they not only had “sin” as an active power established in them and working its will, but they had no excuse to offer for its presence there (πρόφασιν οὐκ ἔχουσιν περὶτῆς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν, which cannot mean “they have no excuse for their guilt,” and which is not merely antithetical but adds a further point). This meaning is especially clear in ver. 24. The “sin” which had got its hold, in consequence of their rejecting Him in spite of what He had done among them, had conceived and brought forth hate (νῦν δὲ καὶ ἑωράκασιν καὶμεμισήκασιν is the contrast to ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ εἴχοσαν). And the phrase may possibly be used with something of the same meaning in 19:11, ὁ παραδιδοὺς … μείζονα ἁμαρτίαν ἔχει, though in this case the simpler meaning “the greater guilt” is more plausible. But even here the thought may be of the power which sin acquires over him who admits it. Sin could now work with more fatal power in the High Priest, who knew the relative power of God and of the Roman governor, and who incited him to his crime against justice, than in Pilate, who in spite of his greater power was more ignorant than the Jew. Even if the phrase meant no more in the Gospel than the denotation of the “guiltiness of the agent,” it would not necessarily bear exactly the same meaning in the Epistle. The writer likes to put new meaning into the phrases he repeats. But probably, though the exact nuance may be different in the two writings, the fundamental idea expressed is the same. It is the special characteristic of the writer that he loves to use his phrases, of which his store is but scanty, with slightly different shades of meaning.

ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶμεν] The phrase, as contrasted with the simple πλανώμεθα, emphasizes the agent’s responsibility for the mistake. The evidence is there; only wilful blindness refuses to accept it. We have no excuse for the sin which we “have,” in spite of our denial of the fact. See Findlay, p. 106.

πλανᾶν always suggests the idea of leading astray from the right path (cf. 2:26, 3:7; John 7:12; Revelation 2:20, Revelation 12:9, etc.). The mistake must have fatal consequences until we lead ourselves back into the way of truth.καὶ ἡ�

ουκ εστιν א B L al. pler. sah. syrp aeth. Tert. Oec.] post ημιν A C K P 5. 13. 31*. 65. 69. 137. 180 ascr Rev_2 scr cat. m 75 vg. syrp arm. Thphyl. Cyp. Lcif. Aug. Probably an accidental alteration, possibly due to Latin influence, and, at any rate, naturally maintained in Latin authorities.

9. The existence of sin, even in those who have entered the Christian community, is a patent fact. But it does not make impossible that fellowship with God which sin interrupts. In those who acknowledge the fact, God has provided for its forgiveness and removal.

πιστὸς καὶ δίκαιος] Not “faithful because He is just,” and justice in His relation to men includes the necessity of His fulfilling the promises which He has made. The two adjectives are co-ordinate. God’s faithfulness is shown in the fulfilment of His promises. He is just, in that, in spite of men’s failures to fulfil their obligations, He remains true to the covenant which He made with them; and this includes forgiveness on certain conditions. It is probable that throughout the Bible this idea of faithfulness to His covenant in spite of man’s unfaithfulness, is the primary signification of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ. Cf. Hebrews 10:23, πιστὸς ὁ ἐπαγγειλάμενος, and Romans 3:25, εἰς ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ διὰ τὴν πάρεσιν τῶν προγεγονότων ἁμαρτημάτων ἐν τῇ�John 1:27, ἄξιος ἴνα λύσω:2:25, οὐ χρείαν εἶχεν ἵνα τις μαρτυρήσῃ: 4:47, ἠρώτα ἵνα καταβῇ:5:7, ἄνθρωπον οὐκ ἔχω … ἵνα βάλῃ:6:29, τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ ἔργον ἵνα πιστεύητε 39, τοῦτο ἐστὶν τὸ θέλημα … ἵνα … μὴ�1 John 2:27, οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ἵνα τις διδάσκῃ:3:1, ποταπὴν�2 John 1:6, αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ�3 John 1:4, μειζοτέραν τούτων οὐκ ἔχω χαράν, ἵνα�Matthew 6:12, Matthew 18:32: with παράπτωμα, Matthew 6:14, Matthew 6:15; Mark 11:26: with ἁμαρτία or ἁμάρτημα, Matthew 9:2, Matthew 9:5, Matthew 9:6, Matthew 9:12:31; Mark 2:5, Mark 2:7, Mark 2:9, Mark 2:10, Mark 2:3:28, Mark 2:4:12; Luke 5:20-21; Luke 5:23-24Luke 5:23-24; Luke 7:47-49Luke 7:47-49; Luke 11:4Luke 11:4; Luke 17:3-4Luke 17:3-4; John 20:23; James 5:15; 1 John 2:12: with τὸ δάνιον, Matthew 18:27; without a direct object (or subject), Matthew 12:32, Matthew 12:18:21, Matthew 12:35; Luke 23:34, also in Mark 11:25, Luke 12:10; with ἡ ἐπίνοια τῆς καρδίας, Acts 8:22; with�Romans 4:7 ( = Psalms 32:1). The use of κρατεῖν in John 20:23 must be interpreted in the light of this usage of�

καθαρίσῃ …�Jeremiah 40:8, καὶ καθαριῶ αὐτοὺς�

πάσης�Psa_13 (14.):3, 52. (53.):2), the whole plan of God’s dealings with men is based on the assumption that all have sinned. To deny the fact in our own case is to make Him a liar, since it is implied in His whole message to us. His word can have no place in the development of our being.

ἡμαρτήκαμεν] have committed no act of sin, of which the consequences remain.ψεύστην] Cf. John 8:44, John 8:55; 1 John 2:4, 1 John 2:22, 1 John 2:4:20. And for the exact phrase, 1 John 5:10.

ὁ λόγος] Like the truth, the word can be viewed objectively or subjectively, an external message or an inward force effective and active in men. There is, of course, no reference to the personal Logos, though the word implies a more personal relationship than�John 8:37, ὁ λόγος ὁ ἐμὸς οὐ χωρεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν: Hebrews 4:12; James 1:21; 1 John 2:14.

ουκ εστιν] post ημιν69. 137 ascr arm. syrp arm. Thphyl.

ημιν] + habitans, arm-osc.

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

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

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

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

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

P P. α3. Petersburg. Bibl. Roy. 225 (ix.). Palimpsest. 1 John 3:2 του.

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

m m. Liber de divinis Scripturis sive Speculum, ed. Weihrich. Vienna Corpus xii., 1887. The following verses are quoted: 1 John 1:2, 1 John 1:3, 1 John 1:8, 1 John 1:9, 1 John 1:2:9, 1 John 1:10, 21, 23, 1 John 1:3:1 John 1:7-10, 16-18, 1 John 1:4:1, 1 John 1:9, 15, 18, 1 John 1:5:1, 1 John 1:6-8, 1 John 1:10, 20, 21; 2 John 1:7, 2 John 1:10, 2 John 1:11.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on 1 John 1". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/1-john-1.html. 1896-1924.
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