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Bible Commentaries
1 John 1

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

That which (ο). Strictly speaking, the neuter relative here is not personal, but the message "concerning the Word of life" (περ του λογου της ζωης), a phrase that reminds one at once of the Word (Λογος) in John 1:1; John 1:14; Revelation 19:14 (an incidental argument for identity of authorship for all these books). For discussion of the Λογος see on John 1:1-18. Here the Λογος is described by της ζωης (of life), while in John 1:4 he is called η ζωη (the Life) as here in verse 1 John 1:2 and as Jesus calls himself (John 11:25; John 14:6), an advance on the phrase here, and in Revelation 19:14 he is termed ο λογος του θεου (the Word of God), though in John 1:1 the Λογος is flatly named ο θεος (God). John does use ο in a collective personal sense in John 6:37; John 6:39. See also παν ο in 1 John 5:4.

From the beginning (απ' αρχης). Anarthrous as in John 1:1; John 6:64; John 16:4. See same phrase in 1 John 2:7. The reference goes beyond the Christian dispensation, beyond the Incarnation, to the eternal purpose of God in Christ (John 3:16), "coeval in some sense with creation" (Westcott).

That which we have heard (ο ακηκοαμεν). Note fourfold repetition of ο (that which) without connectives (asyndeton). The perfect tense (active indicative of ακουω) stresses John's equipment to speak on this subject so slowly revealed. It is the literary plural unless John associates the elders of Ephesus with himself (Lightfoot) the men who certified the authenticity of the Gospel (John 21:24).

That which we have seen (ο εωρακαμεν). Perfect active, again, of οραω, with the same emphasis on the possession of knowledge by John.

With our eyes (τοις οφθαλμοις ημων). Instrumental case and showing it was not imagination on John's part, not an optical illusion as the Docetists claimed, for Jesus had an actual human body. He could be heard and seen.

That which we beheld (ο εθεασαμεθα). Repetition with the aorist middle indicative of θεαομα (the very form in John 1:14), "a spectacle which broke on our astonished vision" (D. Smith).

Handled (εψηλαφησαν). First aorist active indicative of ψηλαφαω, old and graphic verb (from ψαω, to touch), the very verb used by Jesus to prove that he was not a mere spirit (Luke 24:39). Three senses are here appealed to (hearing, sight, touch) as combining to show the reality of Christ's humanity against the Docetic Gnostics and the qualification of John by experience to speak. But he is also "the Word of life" and so God Incarnate.

Verse 2

Was manifested (εφανερωθη). First aorist passive indicative of φανεροω, to make known what already exists, whether invisible (B. Weiss) or visible, "intellectual or sensible" (Brooke). In Colossians 3:4 Paul employs it of the second coming of Christ. Verse 1 John 1:2 here is an important parenthesis, a mark of John's style as in John 1:15. By the parenthesis John heaps reassurance upon his previous statement of the reality of the Incarnation by the use of εωρακαμεν (as in verse 1 John 1:1) with the assertion of the validity of his "witness" (μαρτυρουμεν) and "message" (απαγγελλομεν), both present active indicatives (literary plurals), απαγγελλω being the public proclamation of the great news (John 16:25).

The life, the eternal life (την ζωην την αιωνιον). Taking up ζωη of verse 1 John 1:1, John defines the term by the adjective αιωνιος, used 71 times in the N.T., 44 times with ζωη and 23 in John's Gospel and Epistles (only so used in these books by John). Here lt means the divine life which the Logos was and is (John 1:4; 1 John 1:1).

Which (ητις). Qualitative relative, "which very life."

Was with the Father (ην προς τον πατερα). Not εγενετο, but ην, and προς with the accusative of intimate fellowship, precisely as in John 1:1 ην προς τον θεον (was with God). Then John closes the parenthesis by repeating εφανερωθη.

Verse 3

That which we have seen (ο εωρακαμεν). Third use of this form (verses 1 John 1:1; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 1:3), this time resumption after the parenthesis in verse 1 John 1:2.

And heard (κα ακηκοαμεν). Second (verse 1 John 1:1 for first) use of this form, a third in verse 1 John 1:5. Emphasis by repetition is a thoroughly Johannine trait.

Declare we (απαγγελλομεν). Second use of this word (verse 1 John 1:2 for first), but αγγελια (message) and αναγγελλομεν (announce) in verse 1 John 1:5.

That ye also may have (ινα κα υμεις εχητε). Purpose clause with ινα and present active subjunctive of εχω (may keep on having). "Ye also" who have not seen Jesus in the flesh as well as those like John who have seen him. Like κα υμιν (to you also) just before.

Fellowship with us (κοινωνιαν μεθ' ημων). Common word in this Epistle, from κοινωνος, partner (Luke 5:10), and κοινωνεω, to share, in (1 Peter 4:13), with μετα emphasising mutual relationship (Acts 2:42). This Epistle often uses εχω with a substantive rather than a verb.

Yea, and our fellowship (κα η κοινωνια δε η ημετερα). Careful explanation of his meaning in the word "fellowship" (partnership), involving fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ and only possible in Christ.

Verse 4

We write (γραφομεν ημεις). Literary plural present active indicative of γραφω, which see in the singular in 1 John 2:12-14.

May be fulfilled (η πεπληρωμενη). Periphrastic perfect passive subjunctive of πληροω, stressing the state of completion in the purpose (ινα), remain full, precisely as in John 16:24. See aorist subjunctive in John 15:11 and perfect indicative in John 17:13. The MSS. differ as often between ημων (our) and υμων (your).

Verse 5

And (κα). Mutual fellowship depends on mutual knowledge (Westcott).

Message (αγγελια). Old word (from αγγελος, messenger), in N.T. only here and 1 John 3:11, and note απ' αυτου (from God like απαγγελλω in verse 1 John 1:3) and αναγγελλομεν, to announce, to disclose, here as in John 4:25.

God is light (ο θεος φως εστιν). Precisely so the Λογος is light (John 1:4-9) and what Jesus claimed to be (John 8:12). John repeats it in negative form as he often does (John 1:3).

Verse 6

If we say (εαν ειπωμεν). Condition of third class with εαν and second aorist (ingressive, up and say) active subjunctive. Claiming fellowship with God (see verse 1 John 1:3) involves walking in the light with God (verse 1 John 1:5) and not in the darkness (σκοτος here, but σκοτια in John 1:5). See 1 John 2:11 also for εν τη σκοτια περιπατεω.

We lie (ψευδομεθα). Present middle indicative, plain Greek and plain English like that about the devil in John 8:44.

Do not the truth (ου ποιουμεν την αληθειαν). Negative statement of the positive ψευδομεθα as in John 8:44. See John 3:21 for "doing the truth," like Nehemiah 9:33.

Verse 7

If we walk (εαν περιπατωμεν). Condition of third class also with εαν and present active subjunctive (keep on walking in the light with God).

As he (ως αυτος). As God is light (verse 1 John 1:5) and dwells in light unapproachable (1 Timothy 6:16).

One with another (μετ' αλληλων). As he has already said in verse 1 John 1:3. But we cannot have fellowship with one another unless we have it with God in Christ, and to do that we must walk in the light with God.

And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin (κα το αιμα Ιησου του υιου αυτου καθαριζε ημας απο πασης αμαρτιας). This clause with κα in true Johannine style is coordinate with the preceding one. Walking in the light with God makes possible fellowship with one another and is made possible also by the blood of Jesus (real blood and no mere phantom, atoning blood of the sinless Son of God for our sins). John is not ashamed to use this word. It is not the mere "example" of Jesus that "cleanses" us from sin. It does cleanse the conscience and life and nothing else does (Hebrews 9:13; Titus 2:14). See in verse 1 John 1:9 both forgiveness and cleansing. Cf. 1 John 3:3.

Verse 8

If we say (εαν ειπωμεν). See verse 1 John 1:6.

We have no sin (αμαρτιαν ουκ εχομεν). For this phrase see John 9:41; John 15:22; John 15:24. That is, we have no personal guilt, no principle of sin. This some of the Gnostics held, since matter was evil and the soul was not contaminated by the sinful flesh, a thin delusion with which so-called Christian scientists delude themselves today.

We deceive ourselves (εαυτους πλανωμεν). Present active indicative of πλαναω, to lead astray. We do not deceive others who know us. Negative statement again of the same idea, "the truth is not in us."

Verse 9

If we confess (εαν ομολογωμεν). Third-class condition again with εαν and present active subjunctive of ομολογεω, "if we keep on confessing." Confession of sin to God and to one another (James 5:16) is urged throughout the N.T. from John the Baptist (Mark 1:5) on.

Faithful (πιστος). Jesus made confession of sin necessary to forgiveness. It is God's promise and he is "righteous" (δικαιος).

To forgive (ινα αφη). Sub-final clause with ινα and second aorist active subjunctive of αφιημ.

And to cleanse (κα αγιαση). So again with ινα and the first aorist active subjunctive of καθαριζω (verse 1 John 1:7).

Verse 10

If we say (εαν ειπωμεν). As in verses 1 John 1:6; 1 John 1:8.

We have not sinned (ουχ αμαρτηκαμεν). Perfect active indicative of αμαρτανω. This is a denial of any specific acts of sin, while in verse 1 John 1:8 we have the denial of the principle of sin. David Smith observes that the claim to personal perfectionism has two causes, one the stifling of conscience in making God a liar (ψευστην, the word used of the devil by Jesus in John 8:44), and the other ignorance of God's word, which is not in us, else we should not make such a claim.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John 1". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/1-john-1.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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