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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
1 John 2



Verses 5-28

5–2:28.] FIRST PART OF THE EPISTLE: the message, that, if we would have communion with Him who is Light, we must walk in light, keeping His commandments. See the discussion on the division of the Epistle, in the Prolegomena.

Verse 8

8–2:2.] Unfolding of the idea of purification from sin by the blood of Christ, in connexion with our walking in light. This last is adduced in one of its plainest and simplest consequences, viz. the recognition of all that is yet darkness in us, in the confession of our sins. “Si te confessus fueris peccatorem, est in te veritas: nam ipsa veritas lux est. Nondum perfecte splenduit vita tua, quia insunt peccata: sed tamen jam illuminari cœpisti, quia inest confessio peccatorum.” Aug(11) The light that is in us convicts the darkness, and we, no longer loving nor desiring to sin, have, by means of the propitiatory and sanctifying blood of Christ, both full forgiveness of and sure purification from all our sins. But the true test of this state of communion with and knowledge of God is, the keeping of His commandments (1 John 2:3-6), the walking as Christ walked: and this test is concentrated and summed up in its one crucial application, viz. to the law of love (1 John 2:7-11).

Verse 1

1.] My little children (see reff.: the diminutive expresses tender affection: perhaps also is used in reference to his age and long standing as a father in Christ. Compare the beautiful legend in Eus. H. E. iii. 23, where St. John calls back the young man to him with the words τί με φεύγεις, τέκνον, τὸν σαυτοῦ πατέρα;) these things I write unto you, that ye may sin not (at all) (this exclusive meaning is given by the aor. implying the absence not only of the habit, but of any single acts, of sin. ταῦτα γράφω, not as Bengel, that which follows; nor, as Grot., both the preceding and the following: but as most Commentators, the preceding only, viz. the concluding 1 John 2:8-10 of the former chapter, not in their details merely, but as Düsterd., “in seiner lebendigen Harmonie.” The object of writing that passage was, to bring about in them the forsaking of sin. The very announcement there made, that if we confess our sins He in His faithfulness and righteousness will cleanse us from all sin, sufficiently substantiates what the Apostle here says, without, with Aug(13), al. (see above), bringing out too strongly the contemplation of a supposed misunderstanding on the part of the readers. To do this is to miss the deeper connexion in which these words stand to the great whole in its harmony, and to give instead only an apparent and superficial one. The reference of this exhortation to the unconverted among them, and rendering of ἵνα μὴ ἁμάρτητε, “ne maneatis in peccato,” maintained by Socinus and his followers, need only be mentioned to be refuted. The aor. alone, ἁμάρτητε, may serve to shew its utter untenableness). And if any man have sinned (aor., have committed an act of sin: still speaking of those spots of sin which owing to the infirmity of the flesh remain even in those who are walking in the light. By this ἐάν τις ἁμ., there is not, as Benson objects to this interpretation, any doubt expressed that all do occasionally sin, but the hypothesis is made, as ever by this formula, purely and generally. The resumption of the first person immediately, makes it evident that the hypothesis is in fact realized in us all), we have an Advocate with (here the sense of πρός, as a prep. of reference, is more brought out than when it is joined with a merely essential verb, as in John 1:1, and our ch. 1 John 1:2) the Father, Jesus Christ (the principal word requiring elucidation here is παράκλητον. There are two classes of interpretations of it, which, as already remarked (on John 14:16), by no means exclude one another. Of these, that one which may be summed up under the meaning “COMFORTER,” has already been treated, on John, l. c. With the other we have now to deal. ADVOCATE, advocatus, παράκλητος, ‘causæ patronus,’ is the commoner sense of the word, answering as it does more closely to its etymology. It is found in Demosth. (p. 343. 10) and the orators: and occurs frequently in Philo in the same peculiar reference as here: e. g. in Flacc. 3, vol. ii. p. 519, where Macro is called the παράκλητος of Caius with Tiberius: de Jos. 40, p. 75: and most notably for our present place, de vita Mos. iii. 14, p. 155, ἀναγκαῖον γὰρ ἦν τὸν ἱερώμενον τῷ τοῦ κόσμου πατρί, παρακλήτῳ χρῆσθαι τελειοτάτῳ τὴν ἀρετὴν υἱῷ πρός τε ἀμνηστίαν ἁμαρτημάτων καὶ χορηγίαν ἀφθονωτάτων ἀγαθῶν. In patristic literature, Düsterd. cites the Epistle of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne (Eus. H. E. 1 John 2:1), where a young Christian, named Vettius Epagathus, ἠξίου καὶ αὐτὸς ἀκουσθῆναι ἀπολογούμενος ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀδελφῶν, … ἀνελήφθη καὶ αὐτὸς εἰς τὸν κλῆρον τῶν μαρτύρων, παράκλητος χριστιανῶν χρηματίσας, ἔχων δὲ τὸν παράκλητον ἐν ἑαυτῷ: where Ruffinus’s version, “habens in se advocatum pro nobis Jesum,” is certainly not right; τὸν παράκλητον meaning the Holy Spirit. Cyril Alex. in the Acts of the Council of Ephesus, p. 164 (Suicer), says, παράκλητος καὶ ἱλαστήριον ὁ υἱὸς ὠνόμασται· καθίστησι γὰρ τοῖς ἐπὶ γῆς εὐμενῆ τὸν πατέρα, καὶ παντὸς ἡμῖν εὑρίσκεται πρόξενος ἀγαθοῦ. Augustine gives the sense thus, in words following those above cited: “Ille est ergo advocatus: da operam tu ne pecces: si de infirmitate vitæ subrepserit peccatum, continuo vide, continuo displiceat, continuo damna; et cum damnaveris, securus ad judicem venies. Ibi habes advocatum: noli timere ne perdas caussam confessionis tuæ. Si enim aliquando in hac vita committit se homo disertæ linguæ et non perit: committis te verbo, et periturus es?” There is no discrepancy between this passage, where the Son is our παράκλητος, and John 14:16, where the Holy Spirit is called by the same name: rather is there the closest accordance, seeing that there our Lord says He will pray the Father and He will send us ἄλλον παράκλητον: Himself, the Son of God, being thus asserted to hold this office in the first place, and the Holy Spirit to be His Substitute in His absence. See on the definite idea of the detail of the advocacy of the Son of God, Huther’s important note here) (being) righteous (the adj. δίκαιον, without the art., carries a ratiocinative force; “in that He is righteous,” as a contrast to ἐάν τις ἀμάρτῃ. In a strict rendering, this force of the anarthrous adj. should be kept, and pointed out in exegesis: in an English version, it is hardly possible to render it otherwise than our translators have done, “the righteous,” though it is not τὸν δίκαιον. The definite art. in English calls attention at once to the predicate, as does the omission of the definite art. in Greek: and thus the purpose of the writer is answered. And this is often the case: a vernacular version, in order to bring out in English the same idea which is expressed by the Greek, is constrained to adopt a phrase which is not in the Greek, and which sometimes looks as if the translators had made a blunder in grammar. It would be well if this were always carefully kept in mind by those who would revise our authorized version. No supposed by-sense of δίκαιος, bonus, lenis (Grot.), or = δικαιῶν (see Wolf), must (see above on ch. 1 John 1:9) be for a moment thought of. “The righteousness of Christ stands on our side: for God’s righteousness is, in Jesus Christ, ours.” Luther):—

Verse 2

2.] and He (“idemque ille,” as Lücke. καί is merely the copula, not = quia, as Corn.-a-lap.; nor γάρ, as Syr. (not in Etheridge), Beza; it serves to bind the fundamental general proposition which follows, to the resulting particular one which has preceded) is a propitiation (“the abstract verbal substantive in - μος betokens the intransitive reference of the verb,” see Kühner’s Gr. Gr. vol. i. § 378. So that ἱλασμός is not, as Grot., in his notes, = ἱλαστής, but is abstract, as ἁγιασμός applied to Christ 1 Corinthians 1:30, ἁμαρτία, 2 Corinthians 5:21. Düsterdieck here has given a long and able exposition of the word and idea, in refutation of Socinus, and of Grotius’s notes. Grot. himself, being suspected of Socinianism, wrote his “Defensio fidei catholicæ de satisfactione Christi adversus Faustum Socinum,” in which, ch. 7–10, he gives a full and satisfactory explanation “de placatione et reconciliatione, de redemptione, de expiatione nostra per Christi mortem facta.” Socinus had maintained that ἱλάσκεσθαι does not mean “ex irato mitem reddere,” but merely “declarare quod pertinet ad pœnas peccatorum, ejus animum cujus est eas sumere atque repetere, mitem atque pacatum: declarare, fore ut peccata meritas pœnas non luant.” But against this Grot. shews that ἱλάσκεσθαι, as εἰρηνοποιεῖν and καταλλάσσειν, imports ‘placare,’ i. e. ‘iram avertere;’ and Christ has, as our ἱλασμός or ἱλαστήριον, i. e. as a sin-offering, reconciled God and us by nothing else but by His voluntary death as a sacrifice: has by this averted God’s wrath from us. According to the constant usage of Scripture, God is in so far ἵλεως in regard to the sins of men, as He suffers His ἔλεος to prevail instead of His ὀργή. See LXX in 2 Chronicles 6:25; 2 Chronicles 6:27, Jeremiah 38 (31) 34, 43 (36) 3, Numbers 14:18 ff. And the Greek usage entirely agrees; see Hom. Il α. 147, ὄφρʼ ἡμῖν ἑκάεργον ἱλάσσεαι, and Alberti’s note on Hesych. s. v. ἱλάσκεσθαι. Hesych. gives the sense of ἱλάσκεσθαι, ἐξιλεοῦσθαι, and of ἱλασμός, εὐμένεια, συγχώρησις, διαλλαγή, πραότης) for ( περί, as so often in similar connexions, cf. Hebrews 10:6; Hebrews 10:8, and reff., concerning, i. e. in behalf of; not so strong as ὑπέρ, which fixes the latter meaning, excluding the wider one) our sins: yet not for ours only, but also for the whole world (in the latter clause there is an ellipsis very common in ordinary speech in every language: “for the whole world” = “for the sins of the whole world.” See besides reff., Revelation 13:11, 2 Peter 1:1; and Winer, edn. 6, § 66. 2 f. “Quam late patet peccatum, tam late propitiatio,” Bengel. But this has been misunderstood or evaded by many interpreters. Cyril and Œc. (alt.) explain ἡμετέρων to refer to the Jews, ολου τοῦ κόσμου to the Gentiles. And many others, taking the former in its true sense, yet limit the latter, not being able to take in the true doctrine of universal redemption. So Bed(14), “non pro illis solum propitiatio est Christus quibus tunc in carne viventibus scribebat Joannes, sed etiam pro omni Ecclesia quæ per totam mundi latitudinem diffusa est, (a) primo nimirum electo usque ad ultimum qui in fine mundi nasciturus est porrecta … Pro totius ergo mundi peccatis interpellat Dominus, quia per totum mundum est Ecclesia, quam suo sanguine comparavit.” (This latter part is an evident reference to Augustine; but it is remarkable that on referring to Augustine we find “Ecce habes Ecclesiam per totum mundum;” but he ends, “… sed et totius mundi, quem suo sanguine comparavit.”) Similarly Calvin: “neque enim aliud fuit consilium Johannis, quam toti Ecclesiæ commune facere hoc bonum. Ergo sub omnibus, reprobos non comprehendit: sed eos designat qui simul credituri erant, et qui per varias mundi plagas dispersi erant.” But this unworthy and evasive view is opposed by the whole mass of evangelical expositors.

The reason of the insertion of the particular here, is well given by Luther: “It is a patent fact that thou too art a part of the whole world: so that thine heart cannot deceive itself and think, The Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me”).

Verses 3-11

3–11.] This communion with God consists, secondly, in keeping His commandments, and especially the commandment to love one another. No new division of the Epistle begins, as in Sander: 1 John 2:3 is closely joined to ch. 1 John 1:5-6, which introduced the first conditional passage 1 John 1:7 to 1 John 2:2. The great test of communion with God, walking in the light, first requires that we confess our sins: next requires that we keep His commandments. So in the main Œc.: εἰρηκὼς ἄνω τοὺς εἰς τὸν κύριον πεπιστευκότας κοινωνίαν ἔχειν πρὸς αὐτόν, πιστωτικὰ τῆς κοινωνίας τῆς πρὸς αὐτὸν παρατίθεται. And in this ( ἐν, of the conditional element: in this is placed, on this depends, our knowledge. In ch. 1 John 3:24 (see below), the ἐν τούτῳ is resumed by ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος οὗ ἡμῖν ἔδωκεν) we know (pres.: from time to time, from day to day) that we have the knowledge of him (perf.: have acquired and retain that knowledge: and this ἐγνωκέναι is not, as some (Lange, Carpzov., Wahl) make it, the love of God, as neither of course is it mere theoretical knowledge: but is that inner and living acquaintance which springs out of unity of heart and affection), if (“St. John uses the formula ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν first as referring the demonstrative pronoun back to what has gone before, as e. g. in our 1 John 2:5, and in ch. 1 John 3:10. If however the demonstrative pronoun in this or a like formula looks onward, and the token itself, with the circumstance of which it is a token, follows, he expresses this token variously and significantly, according to the various shades of meaning to be conveyed. Sometimes the token implied in the demonstrative follows in a separate sentence, as in ch. 1 John 4:2; sometimes the construction is slightly changed, and the sentence begun with ἐν τούτῳ is not regularly brought to a close, but continued in a new and correlative form: e. g. ch. 1 John 3:24, where ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκ. is taken up by ἐκ τοῦ πν. And this way of expression is closely parallel to that where ὅτι completes the construction begun with ἐν τούτῳ. So ch. 1 John 3:16; 1 John 3:19; 1 John 4:9-10; 1 John 4:13. In these cases, the full objective reality of the token as a fact, is set forth. It is an undoubted fact that He has given us of His Spirit, that He has sent His Son: and from these facts our inference is secure to the other facts in question, that He abideth in us, &c. But in other passages, we find instead of this ὅτι, an ἵνα, as ch. 1 John 4:17 (but see not there: the case surely is not quite parallel, H. A.), or an ἐάν, as here, John 13:35, or ὅταν, ch. 1 John 5:2. This ἐάν, ὅταν, mark the token implied in ἐν τούτῳ as one not actually existent, an historical or objectively certain fact; but as a possible contingency, something hypothetically, and conditionally assumed: in other words as ideal.” Düsterdieck, pp. 172 f. And so here: the token, that we have the knowledge of Him, is present, if, posito that) we keep (pres., as a habit, from time to time, ἐντολαί being necessarily prescriptions regarding circumstances as they arise) His commandments (first as to the expression. St. John never uses the word νόμος for the rule of Christian obedience: this word is reserved for the Mosaic law, John 1:17; John 1:46, and in all, fifteen times in the Gospel: but almost always ἐντολαί,—sometimes λόγος θεοῦ or χριστοῦ, John 8:51 f., John 14:23 f., John 17:6, our 1 John 2:5. And as a verb he always uses τηρεῖν, very seldom ποιεῖν (only in the two controverted places, ch. 1 John 5:4, Revelation 22:14 v. r.: ch. 1 John 1:6, 1 John 2:17 are not cases in point). τηρεῖν keeps its peculiar meaning of watching, guarding as some precious thing, “observing to keep.” Next, whose commandments? The older expositors for the most part refer αὐτόν, αὐτοῦ, αὐτῷ, 1 John 2:3-6, to Christ: so Aug(15), Episcop., Grot., Luther, Seb.-Schmidt, Calov., Wolf, Lange, Bengel, Sander, Neander. Socinus inclines to this view, but doubtfully; Erasmus understands αὐτός, 1 John 2:3-4, of God, αὐτός and ἐκεῖνος, 1 John 2:5-6, of Christ. Most modern Commentators understand αὐτόν, αὐτοῦ, αὐτῷ throughout of God, and ἐκεῖνος of Christ. So Lücke, Baumg.-Crus., De Wette, Huther, Brückner, and in old times Bed(16) and Œc. That this latter is the right understanding of the terms, is supposed to be shewn by the substitution (?) in 1 John 2:5 of τοῦ θεοῦ for αὐτοῦ, and its taking up again by ἐν αὐτῷ in 1 John 2:6, followed by καθὼς ἐκεῖνος περιεπάτησεν. But of this I am by no means thoroughly persuaded: see note, 1 John 2:6).

Verse 4

4.] Assertion, parallel with ch. 1 John 1:8, of the futility of pretending to the knowledge of God where this test is not fulfilled. The man saying ( ὁ λέγων answers to ἐὰν εἴπωμεν, ch. 1 John 1:8. ὅτι recitantis cannot be expressed in English), I have the knowledge of Him (see above) and not keeping His commandments, is a liar (answers to ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶμεν ch. 1 John 1:8), and in this man the truth is not (see above on ch. 1 John 1:8, where the words are the Same:

Verse 5

5.] assertion of the other alternative, not merely as before, but, as usual, carried further and differently expressed: “oppositio cum accessione,” as Grot.):—but whosoever keepeth His word (synonymous with τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ, considered as a whole: on the mode of expression, see above), of a truth in him is the love of God perfected (why should this transition be made from knowledge to love? “Amor præsupponit cognitionem,” as Grot.: and is a further step in the same κοινωνία with God: not indeed that the former step is passed through and done with, but that true knowledge and love increase together, and the former is the measure of the latter, just as keeping God’s commandments is the test and measure of true knowledge of Him. And thus in the final and perfect ideal, the two are coincident: the perfect observation of His commandments is the perfection of love to Him. It is manifest, from what has been said, that ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ must be our love towards God, not His love towards us: τοῦ θεοῦ a gen. objective, not subjective. Some Commentators have held the other meaning: partly because τετελείωται seemed better to be interpreted thus, and partly from doctrinal motives, as in the case of Flacius and Calovius, to keep out the Romish folly of supererogation. But the explanation, though the words themselves admit it (see ch. 1 John 4:9), is manifestly alien from the context. And of any foolish dreams of perfection or super-perfection there is no fear, if we understand the passage as intended by the Apostle, as setting forth the true ideal and perfection of knowledge and love to God, as measured by the perfect keeping of His word: which though none of us can fully reach, every true Christian has before him as his aim and final object. So that there is no need again to depart from the meaning of τετελείωται, as has been done by Beza (“itaque τελειοῦν hoc in loco non declarat perfecte aliquid præstare, sed mendacio et simulationi, inani denique speciei opponitur: ut hoc plane sit quod dicimus in vulgato sermone, mettre en exécution”)). In this (in the fact of our progress towards this ideal state of perfection of obedience and therefore of love:—thus assured that the germ of the state is in us and unfolding) we know that we are in Him (this completes the logical period which began in 1 John 2:3, by reasserting that verse, carrying however that assertion yet deeper, by substituting ἐν αὐτῷ ἐσμέν for ἐγνώκαμεν αὐτόν. This “being in Him” is in fact the Christian life in its central depth of κοινωνία with God and with one another: the spiritual truth corresponding to the physical one enunciated by St. Paul, Acts 17:28, ἐν αὐτῷ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν).

Verse 6

6.] The state of being in Him is carried forward a step further by the expression “abide in Him:” (“Synonyma cum gradatione: Illum nosse: in Illo esse: in Illo manere: cognitio: communio: constantia.” Bengel:) and the way is prepared, by what follows, for the coming exhortation 1 John 2:7-11, to walk in love. The man saying that He abideth in Him (God, as above) ought (see reff. Huther well remarks, that the obligation is grounded on the λέγειν, the profession, being one of consistency with it; not on the μένειν, which would imply that which follows, as matter of necessity), even as He (Christ: by ἐκεῖνος (see above) a third person is introduced: not necessarily, see 2 Timothy 2:26 and note, but apparently by the requirements of this passage, αὐτός having come down all the way from ch. 1 John 1:5 as referred to God. I say apparently: because I do not regard it as by any means a settled matter that this αὐτός does not throughout apply to Christ, and then this ἐκεῖνος will merely refer to a different phase of predication respecting the same person as the ἐν αὐτῷ designates, as in the examples produced in the note as above) walked (during His life upon earth: see below), himself also thus to walk (not any one particular of Christ’s walk upon earth is here pointed at, but the whole of his life of holiness and purity and love. This latter, as including all the rest, is most in the Apostle’s mind. So in Ephesians 5:1-2, where St. Paul exhorts us to be followers of God, he adds, καὶ περιπατεῖτε ἐν ἀγάπῃ, καθὼς καὶ ὁ χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν ὑμᾶς. Luther simply but appositely remarks, that it is not Christ’s walking on the sea, but His ordinary walk, that we are called on here to imitate).

Verses 7-11

7–11.] The commandment of Love. The context see below. Beloved, I write not to you a new commandment, but an old commandment, which ye had from the beginning: the old commandment is the word which ye heard (on the right understanding of this verse, very much depends. The great question is, To what commandment does ἐντολή refer? Does it point forward to the commandment of brotherly love, in 1 John 2:9, or back to that of walking as Christ walked, in 1 John 2:6? One or other of these views has generally been taken decidedly, and exclusively of the other. The former view has been upheld by Aug(17), Bed(18), Œc., Thl., Luther, Calv., Grot., Wolf, Bengel, Knapp, Baumg.-Crus., De Wette, Neander, Sander, Düsterdieck, al.; the latter by Beza, Socinus, Seb.-Schmidt, Piscator, Episcopius, Flacius, Calov., Lücke, Fritzsche, Jackmann, al. Of these, some on both sides may fairly be dismissed, as maintaining preposterous meanings for some of the terms used. Thus Flacius, Seb.-Schmidt, Calov., understand ἐντολή to be, not a commandment, which from usage and from 1 John 2:3 and ch. 1 John 3:23, 1 John 5:3, it must be, but the whole “doctrina de Christo ejusque beneficiis,” including the forgiveness of sins, 1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 2:12. Then thus taking it, the epithets “old” and “new” become the O. T. prophecies of Christ, and their N. T. fulfilment. Thus on the other side some, e. g. Aug(19), Bed(20), Beza, Luther (2), Seb.-Schmidt, Wolf, al., understand “new” and “old” not of time, but in a tropical meaning, with reference to the old Jewish or heathen darkness and the new light of Christ: a view which cannot possibly be maintained in the face of so plain a token of time as is furnished by ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς and by the aor. εἴχετε and ἠκούσατε. These being so far set aside, the above classes of interpreters are again divided as to their understanding of the epithets “old” and “new.” Those who understand the ἐντολή, 1 John 2:7-8, of the command of love, mostly explain the oldness and newness of the difference between O. and N. T. revelation (so the Greeks, Grot., and Wolf), and some go on to understand the ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς of the original obscure and imperfect command to love one another in the O. T. which failed in the crowning particular of love towards enemies. Of these, the Greeks, holding not Jewish Christians alone, but Gentile also to be addressed, interpret παλαιὰ ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς and ἠκούσατε of the testimony of conscience to the law of love among the Gentiles: so Œc. and the Scholl. speak of ἡ κατὰ τὰς φυσικὰς ἐννοίας φιλικὴ διάθεσις. Wolf tries to distinguish the two by referring εἴχετε to the Jews, ἠκούσατε to the Gentiles. On the other hand, those who refer ἐντολή in 1 John 2:7-8, to 1 John 2:6, mostly understand the “old” and “new” of the different aspects in which the following the example of Christ would be regarded, within the limits of the N. T. period, since the readers had begun their Christian lives: so Socinus, Jackmann, Piscator, Episcopius, Lücke. The lastnamed reference of ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς to the beginning of the Christian life of the readers, and the corresponding explanation of the “oldness” of the commandment, is combined by De Wette and Neander only with their view of ἐντολή as the law of love. Düsterdieck, from whom the above particulars are mainly taken, finds fault with the exclusive reference maintained for the most part by the interpreters on both sides, and believes that a via media may be found more agreeable to the ethical habits of thought of the Apostle, and to the context of the passage. This context requires, 1) that we maintain a logical connexion between 1 John 2:6 and 1 John 2:7, as indicated by ὀφείλει and ἐντολή: 2) that we maintain the like logical connexion between 1 John 2:8 and 1 John 2:9, as indicated by the figure common to them both, of the darkness and the light. Now, of these, 1) is neglected by those who understand the ἐντολή barely as the law of love; 2) is neglected by those who understand it barely of following Christ’s example. The former make 1 John 2:7 spring out of no contextual development: the latter treat similarly 1 John 2:9. And the true view is to be found as thus indicated: the walk of Christ, which is our example, is essentially and completely summed up in one word, Love: and so the command, to walk as he walked, essentially and completely resolves itself into the law of brotherly love: for this last, taken in all its depth, includes not one special detail in a holy Christian life, but the whole of that life itself. Taking then this view, how are we to interpret in detail? What is καινήν? what is παλαιάν? what is ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς? For these clearly all hang together. If ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς is to signify ‘from the beginning of O. T. revelation,’ or ‘from the beginning of God’s testimony in man’s conscience,’ we seem to be doing violence to the simple mode of address which is prevalent in our Apostle’s style. The εἴχετε and ἠκούσατε, especially the latter, will hardly bear interpreting of the remote forefathers of the readers, as on this hypothesis they must, but require to be confined to the readers themselves, especially as they are aorists and not perfects. And if so, the meaning of ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς is fixed to be, from the beginning of the Christian lives, from the time when τὸν λόγον ἤκουσαν. Then as to καινήν, and παλαιάν, the explanation will be simple enough. The command to love one another cannot be said to be new, for it forms a part of the λόγος ὃν ἠκούσατε, nay, is the very sum and centre of that λόγος: but again, it may be said to be new, inasmuch as it ever assumes new freshness as the Christian life unfolds, as the old darkness is more and more cleared away and the true light shineth: in that light we see light; in the light of Him who maketh all things new.

That the ἐντολή as such refers to the law of love, thus indeed connected with Christ’s example here, but still to the law of love and no other, is plain from the whole usage of the Apostle; compare especially 2 John 1:4-6, where the very same train of thought occurs as here, the περιπατεῖν ἐν ἀληθείᾳ being = περιπατεῖν ἐν φωτί here, being followed up by καθὼς ἐντολὴν ἐλάβομεν παρὰ τοῦ πατρός, and that ἐντολή being characterized, as here,— οὐχ ὡς ἐντολὴν γράφων σοι καινήν, ἀλλὰ ἣν εἴχομεν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, and finally being stated to be ἵνα ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους. Indeed the whole process of that passage from this point is most instructive as to our present one: καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἀγάπη, ἵνα περιπατῶμεν κατὰ τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ. αὕτη ἡ ἐντολή ἐστιν, καθὼς ἠκούσατε ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς ἵνα ἐν αὐτῇ περιπατῆτε: where the same complex of the whole Christian walk is included in the one idea of love, and ἀγάπη identified with walking according to His commandments. Again in ch. 1 John 3:11, the same formula is used in speaking of the law of love— αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἀγγελία ἣνν ἠκούσατε ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, ἵνα ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους: cf. also ch. 1 John 4:21, 1 John 5:3, 1 John 3:22-24; again ch. 1 John 3:14, 1 John 4:16, John 13:35; ch. 1 John 5:1-2, John 15:10.

To recapitulate: on the interpretation here adopted, which is also that of Düsterdieck and Huther, the ἐντολή is the command to walk as Christ walked, passing as the passage advances into the law of love. This ἐντολή is no καινή, but παλαιά, seeing that they had it ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, from the beginning of their faith, and it was in fact the sum of the λόγος which they ἤκουσαν).

Verse 8

8.] Again (this πάλιν is what is called ἐπανορθωτικόν; takes up and contravenes what has been as yet said: q. d., “in another view of the subject, …:” “et contrarietatem declarat et iterationem, hic autem non repetitionis sed contrarietatis est declaratio,” as Erasm. It refers to the whole sentence, not merely to γράφω. The emphasis is on καινήν) a new commandment write I unto you (“new,” in three possible ways of interpretation: 1) “novum dicit quod Deus quotidie suggerendo veluti renovat: … Joannes negat ejusmodi esse doctrinam de fratribus diligendis, quæ tempore obsolescat: sed perpetuo vigere,” Calv.: or 2) “illam præceptionem quam vobis dudum cognitam esse dixi, sic vobis denuo commendo atque injungo, tanquam si nova esset, nec vobis antehac unquam cognita,” Knapp, and so Neander; or 3) in that it was first promulgated with Christianity and unknown before. The two first are condemned by the fact, that the word in each case on which the stress of the interpretation rests, is not expressed in the text: there is for 1) no ἀεί, for 2) no νῦν. The third agrees well both with the context and with St. John’s habit of thought, as well as with matter of fact, and our Lord’s own words, John 13:34; John 15:12. When Lücke objects to it that thus we have to take παλαιάν and καινήν in two different senses, he hits in fact the very point in which this interpretation approves itself the most to those who are familiar with the oxymoron of St. John’s style. As Düsterd. replies, “when I stand at the point of time indicated by ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, and look forwards on the Christian life of the readers, the ἐντολή appears as one long known; the readers have known it from the beginning as an essential commandment, they have had it as long as they have been Christians: on the other hand, if I look backward on the life of the readers before that ἀρχή, whether they were before that Jews or Gentiles, this same commandment of necessity appears as a new one, essentially Christian, first beginning for the readers with that beginning; for even for the Jewish Christians the command of brotherly love is a new one, seeing that it is ordained in imitation of Christ, John 13:34”), which (thing, viz the fact that the commandment is a new one: see below) is true in Him and in you: because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is now shining (i. e. the commandment is a new one, and this is true both in (the case of) Him (Christ) and in (the case of) you: because ( ἐν ὑμῖν) the darkness is passing away, and ( ἐν αὐτῷ) the true light is shining: therefore on both accounts the command is a new one: new as regards you, because you are newly come from darkness into light: new as regards Him, because He uttered it when He came into the world to lighten every man, and began that shining which even now continues. This reference of the two clauses I hold fast against Düsterdieck, who maintains that the refers to the content of the ἐντολή, viz. walking in brotherly love: that the commandment finds its fulfilment ( ἀληθές ἐστιν?) in the walk of Christians in union with Christ. But to this there are several objections which he has not noticed: 1) the probable logic of the sentence. The Apostle has made what is apparently a paradoxical assertion. He has stated that the commandment is not new but old, and then has, notwithstanding, asserted its newness. Then he proceeds ὅ ἐστιν ἀληθὲς.… ὅτι κ. τ. λ. Is it not probable that this form of sentence introduces the explanation of the paradox? Is it probable, as would be the case on the other view, that so startling a proposition (after 1 John 2:7) as πάλιν ἐντολὴν καινὴν γράφω ὑμῖν, would remain altogether unexplained? 2) the word ἀληθές. Düsterd. says, “The Apostle calls that which is enjoined in the ἐντολή, ἀληθές, because it finds its truth in its living activity, in its practical reality: it is in deed and truth ( ἀληθῶς, 1 John 2:5, John 4:42, (John 6:55)) living and present, and so far true, real.” But even granting this sense of ἀληθής to be possible (which may be doubted: ἀληθῶς is clearly no case in point, its adverbial character removing it into another phase of predication), is it likely that so unusual and harsh a word would be chosen as the adj. ἀληθές (rather than the adv. ἀληθῶς) when the obvious sense of ἀληθές would so naturally refer it, in the reader’s mind, to the καινότης just asserted? 3) Düsterd. has entirely neglected the repetition of the prep. ἐν, which fact separates off ἐν αὐτῷ and ἐν ὑμῖν as two distinct departments, and prevents their being considered in union. “Him,” Christ, the Head, and “you,” the readers, as the members, which depend on the Head as the grapes on the true vine, the Apostle regards as united in the real community of life (ch. 1 John 1:3 f.), &c. But this would require ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ ὑμῖν: and accordingly a little below he says, “Ihm und Euch ist es wahr, was Iohannes fordert.” 4) The strict present παράγεται is disregarded by D.’s explanation. He upholds indeed a present sense, as against the “transierunt tenebræ” of the vulgate (“the darkness is past,” E. V.), but makes no further remark, not seeing apparently how peculiarly this present fits the application of the sentence to accounting for the newness of the commandment—“You are living in a time when the darkness is rolling away, even now passing:” so that the command, which is of the Light, is well said to be “new.”

As in almost every verse of this difficult portion of the Epistle, the divergencies of interpretation are almost endless. Some few only of them can be mentioned here. That recently defended (as above) by Düsterdieck, was before taken by Œc., Luther, Grot., Knapp, Baumg.-Crus., Semler, &c.: that which I have maintained, by Calvin, Socinus, Flacius, Calov., Morus, Horneius, De Wette, Lücke, Neander, Huther. Some take the ὅτι as declarative: “it is true, that the darkness,” &c.: so Castellio, Socinus, Bengel, “ ὅτι, quod: hoc est illud præceptum, amor fratris, ex luce.” Erasm., Episcopius, Grot., separate the words ὅ ἐστιν ἀληθὲς ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν into subject and predicate: “quod verum est in illo (Christo), id etiam in vobis verum est,” or “esse debet.” The whole discussion, carried into most minute detail, may be seen in Düsterdieck’s note. To mention two matters of verbal nicety: 1) παράγεται need not be pressed, with Bengel, to its passive meaning: “non dicit παράγει, transit, sed - εται, traducitur, commutatur, ut tandem absorbeatur. Idem verbum, 1 John 2:17, ubi opponitur mansioni.” But the passive is not necessary for this sense: nay, in 1 John 2:17 it is hardly admissible, and there can be no doubt that the middle was intended, in the same sense as the intr. act., 1 Corinthians 7:31; 2) ἤδη φαίνει, joined with the present παράγεται, is best taken to mean, not the full and entire shining of the true light, but its beginning to shine: its full light at the coming of the Lord, is indeed close at hand, 1 John 2:18, and to that the ἤδη φαίνει looks on.

Verse 9-10

9, 10.] We now come to the enunciation of the law of brotherly love, and in a form resembling that used in ch. 1 John 1:8; 1 John 1:10; and in 1 John 2:4 f. First is asserted the incompatibility of living in hatred and walking in the light: then the identity of walking in love and walking in the light: then lastly as a contrast to the last ( ὁ ἀγαπῶν.… ὁ δὲ μισῶν), the same fact with regard to hatred and the darkness, and the blinding effect on him who walks in it. The φῶς is as before, the light of Christ, now partially shining, but one day to be fully revealed: the σκοτία is the darkness of this present world, now passing away). He that saith that he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in the darkness until now (Düsterd. has very properly protested against the softening down of μισεῖν into “minus diligere, posthabere, non colere,” &c. “Nothing,” he says, “can be more shallow and weak as compared with the ethics of the whole Scripture. All the truth, depth, and power of Christian ethics rests on the ‘aut … aut,’ so distinctly insisted on by St. John. On the one side is God, on the other the world: here is life, there is death (ch. 1 John 3:14): here, love; there, hate, i. e. murder (ch. 1 John 3:14 ff.), there is no medium. In the space between, is nothing. Life may as yet be merely elementary and fragmentary. Love may be as yet weak and poor, but still, life in God and its necessary demonstration in love is present really and truly, and the word of our Lord is true, ‘He that is not against me is with me,’ Luke 9:50; and on the other side, the life according to the flesh, the attachment to the world, and the necessary action of this selfishness by means of hatred, may be much hidden, may be craftily covered and with splendid outer surface; but in the secret depth of the man, there where spring the real fountains of his moral life, is not God but the world; the man is yet in death, and can consequently love nothing but himself and must hate his brother: and then that other word of the Lord is true, ‘He that is not for me is against me,’ Luke 11:23. For a man can only be either for or against Christ, and consequently can only have either love or hate towards his brother.” Bengel says well, on 1 John 2:11, “oppositio immediata: ubi non est amor, odium est: cor enim non est vacuum.”

It has been questioned, who is meant by τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ. It seems plain that the expression here is not = τὸν πλησίον αὐτοῦ, seeing that St. John is writing to Christians, and treating of their κοινωνία μετʼ ἀλλήλων. On the other hand, if we are to restrict the meaning, as is done by most modern Commentators, to Christian brotherhood, it is plain that we cannot understand strictly τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ in 1 John 2:9; 1 John 2:11, seeing that the man there spoken of is in reality not a Christian at all. So that either we must enlarge the sense of ἀδελφός, or suppose some impropriety of language in the use of the term in these verses, q. d. him who ought to be loved by him as a Christian brother, supposing himself to be really a Christian. This difficulty does not seem to have struck any of the Commentators: but it is one which certainly will not allow us to confine the term to its utmost strictness of meaning.

ἕως ἄρτι, up to this moment: notwithstanding any apparent change which may have taken place in him when he passed into the ranks of nominal Christians).

Verse 10

10.] He that loveth his brother abideth in the light (i. e. the continuance of the habit of brotherly love is a measure of and a guarantee for his continuance in that light whose great command is Love), and there is no occasion of stumbling in him (so E. V., excellently. For it is clear by the parallel in 1 John 2:11, that this is what is meant, and not that he gives no occasion of stumbling to others, as Calov., al., “Qui fratrem odit, ipse sibi offendiculum est, et incurrit in seipsum et in omnia intus et foris; qui amat, expeditum iter habet.” Bengel. Cf. also John 11:9-10, which is in more than one respect the key-text here. For it also explains the apparently difficult ἐν αὐτῷ, occurring as it does there in 1 John 2:10, ἐὰν δέ τις περιπατῇ ἐν τῇ νυκτί, προσκόπτει, ὅτι τὸ φῶς οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῷ. The light, and the darkness, by which we walk safely, or stumble, are within ourselves; admitted into us by the eye, whose singleness fills the whole body with light).

Verse 11

11.] But (= whereas) he that hateth his brother (see above) is in the darkness (has never come out of it: corresponds to ἐν τῷ φωτὶ μένει above: denotes his state, whereas περιπατεῖ indicates more his outward acts), and walketh in the darkness, and knoweth not where (see reff. ποῦ with a verb of motion obviously includes that motion: but it includes also the spot on which the motion is taking place: e. g., here, not only the destination to which, but also the way by which, he is going. In some places, this cannot be pressed, as in John 8:14, where πόθεν ἦλθον and ποῦ ( ποῖ) ὑπάγω are opposed to one another) he goeth, because the darkness blinded (it is a matter of old standing: “blinded,” and not “hath blinded,” because it is no new effect of a state into which he has lately come, but the long past work of a state which is supposed to be gone by, and is not) his eyes.

Verses 12-14

12–14.] Threefold address to the readers, accompanied by a threefold reason for writing to them; all repeated by way of parallelism, with some variations and enlargements. On the connexion and explanation of these verses, it may be observed, 1) that we have three classes of readers, denoted the first time by τεκνία, πατέρες, νεανίσκοι, and the second time by παιδία, πατέρες, νεανίσκοι. 2) that all three are addressed the first time in the present γράφω, the second time in the aorist ἔγραψα. 3) that while to the πατέρες and νεανίσκοι the same words are each time used (to the latter with an addition the second time), the τεκνία and παιδία are differently addressed.

The first question arising is, what do these three classes import, and how are they to be distributed among the readers? It is obvious that the chief difficulty here is with τεκνία and παιδία. The former word is used by our Apostle once with μου, 1 John 2:1, and six times without μου; 1 John 2:28, ch. 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:18, 1 John 4:4, 1 John 5:21; but always as importing the whole of his readers; and once it is reported by him as used by our Lord, also in a general address to all His disciples, John 13:33. παιδία is used by him similarly in our 1 John 2:18, and reported by him as used by our Lord in a general address, John 21:5. These facts make it very probable that both the words are here used as general designations of all the readers, and not as a designation of any particular class among them. And this is made more probable, by the fact that if τεκνία and παιδία did point out the children among them, properly or spiritually so called, the rank of classes would be different from that which would occur to any writer, viz. neither according to ascending age nor to descending, but children, fathers, young men. We seem then to have made it highly probable that τεκνία and παιδία address all the readers alike. Now if we lay any stress on the third circumstance above mentioned, that τεκνία and παιδία are differently addressed, and not so πατέρες and νεανίσκοι, and endeavour therefrom to deduce any distinction between τεκνία and παιδία in the age or qualities expressed by them, I conceive that we shall establish nothing satisfactory. If a reason for this variation of address is to be discovered, it must be sought in the parallelism of the passage. With these preliminary remarks, we come to the details. I write to you, little children (see above), because (Socinus, Seb.-Schmidt, Schött., Bengel, Paulus, Sander, Neander, render ὅτιthat.” But the meaning seems determined for us by 1 John 2:21, where it is quite impossible thus to render it: although even there Bengel tries to be consistent. It is manifest that we must keep the same rendering throughout. The particle then gives the reasons why he writes (what, see below on the first ἔγραψα) to each class among them) your sins have been (perf.: see note on Matthew 9:2) forgiven you for the sake of His (Christ’s) name ( ἰησοῦς χριστός, the Saviour, the anointed one, bringing to mind all the work wrought out by Him for us, and all the acceptance of that work by the Father: so that it may be well said that on account of, for the sake of, that Name which the Father hath given Him, which is above every name, our sins are forgiven).

Verse 13

13.] I write to you, fathers, because ye know Him that was (cf. ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, χῆς, ch. 1 John 1:1) from the beginning (i. e. in St. John’s usage of speech, Christ; see ch. 1 John 1:1 and notes). I write to you, young men,because ye have conquered the wicked one (the proper attribute of youth is, to carry on the active parts of life: if soldiers, to be engaged in all active service: that of age, to contemplate, and arrive at sound and matured knowledge. The latter have conquered as well, but the burden and heat of their struggle is past: “viribus fortibus et robustis tribuitur supra fortissimum et robustissimum victoria.” Carpzov. The πονηρός is he in whom, in whose power, the whole world lieth, ch. 1 John 5:19, John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11; the διάβολος, who deceives from the beginning, John 8:44, ch. 1 John 3:8; 1 John 3:10; 1 John 3:12; whose works Christ came into the world to destroy, ch. 1 John 3:8. He is conquered once and for all, by those who have passed from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, to communion with the Father and the Son, ch. 1 John 5:18. Whatever conflict remains for them afterwards, is with a baffled and conquered enemy: is a τηρεῖν αὐτοὺς ( ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ), ch. 1 John 5:18, which τηρεῖν (see note there), owing to their whole life being led in communion with the Father and Son, is a τηρεῖσθαι, John 17:15).

He now repeats (see above) the three classes, but with some variations and additions in his reasons for writing to each, and with the aor. ἔγραψα instead of the present γράφω. In seeking a reason for this change of tense, we have a choice between several views of Commentators. These are rather complicated by the fact that many of them read γράφω in the fourth place, against almost all authority. Of those, some, as Calvin, have been fairly baffled by the two aorists following the four presents, and have imagined 1 John 2:14 to be interpolated: “Quanquam fieri potest ut Joannes ipse sententiam de adolescentibus augendi causa secunde inseruerit (illic enim addit fortes esse, quod non prius dixerat), librarii autem temere numerum implere voluerint.” Of the rest, some (Storr, Lange, Baumg.-Crus., Schött.) think that the allusion is to St. John’s Gospel: others, as Michaelis, to a former epistle; by far the greater part however agree rightly that this Epistle must be meant by both: see Galatians 6:11, Philemon 1:19; Philemon 1:21; our 1 John 2:21; 1 John 2:26; ch. 1 John 5:13. Still, there is a wide difference in giving each tense a distinct reference. Bengel holds them to import much the same: “a scribo transit ad scripsi: non temere: scilicet verbo scribendi ex præsenti in præteritum transposito immisit commonitionem firmissimam:” and so Sander, and in the main Neander: “as John has said ‘I write to you,’ so now he takes up again and sums up that which he has written, saying, ‘I have written to you:’ q. d., it stands fast: I have nothing more to say: this you must regard as my permanent testimony.” And Paulus, comparing the formula “we decree and have decreed.” But as Huther remarks, this view presupposes the false rendering of ὅτι by “that.” Lücke, after Rickli, with much ingenuity tries to fix ἔγραψα on the preceding portion of the Epistle, keeping γράφω for the following. And in so doing, he fancies he sees a correspondence, in what has preceded and in what follows, with these addresses to different classes of hearers: e. g., in ch. 1 John 1:5-7, and 1 John 2:15-17, with ἀφέωνται αἱ ἁμ.: in 1 John 1:8 to 1 John 2:2, and 1 John 2:18-27, with ὅτι ἐγνώκατε …: in 1 John 2:3-11, and 1 John 2:28 to 1 John 3:22, with ὅτι νενικήκατε … But no such correspondence really subsists: and Lücke himself subsequently gave up this view:—see note in Bertheau’s edn. of Lücke, p. 265. De Wette and Brückner, with whom Huther agrees, believe γράφω to refer to the immediate act of writing, going on at the moment: ἔγραψα, to what has preceded this point: so that the former refers more to the whole Epistle, the latter to the contents of what has gone before. Düsterdieck disapproves this, and, following Beza, refers both γράφω and ἔγραψα to the whole Epistle: the former to the Apostle’s immediate act of writing, the latter to the readers’ act of reading when complete. In deciding between these two last views, we must bear in mind the epistolary use of the aor. ἔγραψα, according to which it refers, never, that I am aware, when thus used absolutely, to a previous portion of the Epistle, but always to the whole: which circumstance would seem to rule the meaning here, and to determine for Beza and Düsterdieck. And no objection lies against their view, as Huther urges, from the change of persons to be supplied (see above): the supply may just as well be thus made, understanding the reference both times to be to the Apostle himself: “I write ( γράφω), now that I am writing:” “I wrote ( ἔγραψα), when I wrote.” I wrote to you, children (by παιδία all the readers are meant: see above), because ye know the Father (the very word παιδία reminds of πατήρ: and the relation is close, between this and that which is said before, that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s name’s sake. They are received thus by adoption into God’s family, and He is become their reconciled Father, as He is the Father of Him through whom they have received their adoption: and one of the first evidences of dawning intelligence in a child is the recognition of its father. But this knowledge of the Father does not precede, nay, it presupposes, communion with the Son: for none knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him, Matthew 11:27). I wrote to you, fathers, because ye know Him that was from the beginning (verbatim as before: to shew perhaps in strong light the great truth of John 17:3, that the whole sum of Christian ripeness and experience is, this knowledge of σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεόν, καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας ἰησοῦν χριστόν. Bengel gives another reason: “Hoc comma ex versu præcedente, non additis pluribus verbis, repetit propositioni tractationem æque brevem subjungens, et modestia ad patres utens, quibus non opus erat multa scribi”). I wrote to you, young men, because ye are strong (Ovid, Met. xv. 208, “Transit in æstatem post ver robustior annus, Fitque valens juvenis, neque enim robustior ætas Ulla.” Wetst. ἰσχυρός, strong in fight: so in ref. Heb., Luke 11:21 (21)), and the word of God abideth in you (i. e. the whole announcement of the good news of the gospel in Christ has found entrance into your hearts and an abiding place there, and there dwells and works. The copulæ may be supplied as Grot., “Illud prius καί valet hic quia, alterum καί positum est pro ob id. … Fortes jam estis, non vestris viribus, verum ideo quod verbum illud Dei, profectum a Christo, est in vobis: inde vobis robur tantum obtigit, ut et mundi hujus principem vinceretis”), and ye have oonquered the wicked one (see above).

Verses 15-17

15–17.] Dehortation from the love of the world. The preceding designation of the different classes has been, as so frequently in St. John, their ideal designation, in the perfection of their several states of Christian life: and now, as so often, he brings that ideal state to bear on real temptations and duties. The love of the Father, the abiding in Him by His word abiding in them, the victory over him in whom ὅλος ὁ κόσμος κεῖται,—these particulars have been enounced: and though there may be a more apparent reason why the young should have this dehortation addressed to them, and more apparent allusion to the νενικήκατε τὸν πονηρόν in the bringing out of the κόσμος, yet there can be no doubt that it is to all that this address is made. All are in the world, and as long as they are, are in danger of being betrayed by the senses to cleave to the things present and seen, to the forgetfulness of those which are absent and unseen. This general reference is shewn by the ἐάν τις which follows. Love not the world (what is ὁ κόσμος, in the diction of St. John? And what does he import by ἀγαπᾷν τὸν κόσμον? When we read John 3:16, οὕτως ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, κ. τ. λ., are we to understand the same thing by the words as here? and if not, are both κόσμος and ἀγαπᾷν taken in a different sense, or if one only, which? Beza replies, “Mundum considerat quatenus cum Dei voluntate non consentit, et enim amorem damnat qui nos a Deo abducit: alioquin dicitur Deus ipse suum mundum infinito quodam amore dilexisse, id est, eos quos ex mundo elegit,” The palpable error of this last “id est,” directs us to the right solution of both questions. The κόσμος in both cases is the same, the ἀγαπᾷν is different. In John 3:16 it is the love of divine compassion and creative and redeeming mercy: here, it is the love of selfish desire, cherishing avarice or pride. But then recurs our question, What is ὁ κόσμος? And it is no easy one to answer. If we reply so as to make it personal, we are met at once by the difficulty of τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ: from which we cannot escape by saying that these are as below ἡ ἐπιθυμία κ. τ. λ., for none can be said ἀγαπᾷν τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν, but the ἐπιθυμία is the ἀγάπη. Hence some have been led to take these three, ἡ ἐπιθ. τῆς σαρκός, ἡ ἐπιθ. τῶν ὀφθ., ἡ ἀλαζονεία τοῦ βίου, as put for the things desired, and the material of the ἀλαζονεία. So Calvin, Episcopius, Bengel: but this manifestly will not hold, owing to the opposition in 1 John 2:17 between ὁ κόσμος κ. ἡ ἐπιθυμία αὐτοῦ on the one hand, and ὁ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ on the other, which evidently requires that its first member should be personal as well as its second. And this last will be a weighty reason also against 2) taking ὁ κόσμος as merely material, the present order of things, in so far as it is alien from God. We are thus brought to a point, for our understanding of ὁ κόσμος, intermediate between personal and material. But then our question is, which of the two is to take the first place? Is ὁ κόσμος the world of matter, including the men who dwell in it, or is it the world of man, including matter as subordinate to man? If the former, we seem in danger of falling into a dualism, in which God and the world of matter should be set over against one another as independent existences: for thus the evil one, the ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου, and his agents the κοσμοκράτορες, would themselves be included in the κόσμος, and adjuncts to the world of matter: a mode of thought which no where appears in the apostolic writings. We are thus narrowed to our other alternative, that of understanding ὁ κόσμος as of human persons, including the inferior ranks of created being, and the mass of inanimate matter which they inhabit. Let us see whether this view will meet the necessities of our text and of similar passages. Thus understood, the κόσμος was constituted at first in Adam, well-pleasing to God and obedient to Him: it was man’s world, and in man it is summed up: and in man it fell from God’s light into the darkness of selfish pursuits and ἐπιθυμίαι κοσμικαί, in and by which man, who should be rising through his cosmic corporeal nature to God, has become materialized in spirit and dragged down so as to be worldly and sensual and like him who has led him astray, and who now, having thus subjected man’s nature by temptation, has become the ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου. And thus the κόσμος is “man and man’s world,” in his and its fall from God. It was this world which God loved, in its enmity to Him, with the holy love of Redemption: it is this world which we are not to love, in its alienation from Him, with the selfish love of participation. And this κόσμος is spoken of sometimes as personal, sometimes as material, according to the context in which it occurs. To give but a few decisive examples; of the purely personal sense, John 15:18, εἰ ὁ κόσμος ὑμᾶς μισεῖ κ. τ. λ., followed by εἰ ἐμὲ ἐδίωξαν, καὶ ὑμᾶς διώξουσιν, where the singular is broken up into the individual persons: of the purely material, John 11:9, ἐάν τις περιπατῇ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, οὐ προσκόπτει, ὅτι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου τούτου βλέπει. And in passages like the present, these two senses alternate with and interpenetrate one another: e. g. in τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, the κόσμος is apparently material and local: in the opposition which follows, between the love of the world and the love of the Father, the personal meaning begins to be evident: in what follows, πᾶν τὸ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, which at first sight seems material, is explained by ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῆς σαρκός, κ. τ. λ., which are the subjective desires of the τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, not the things themselves: then, finally, in 1 John 2:17 where ὁ κόσμος καὶ ἡ ἐπιθυμία αὐτοῦ is opposed to ὁ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, it is plain that we have passed, by the transition in the last verse, from the material to the personal sense altogether. This account may serve to explain that which has given so much trouble to Commentators here, the question whether ἐπιθυμία is not put for the thing itself which is desired: the fact being that, the κόσμος including the material world in the men, the ἐπιθυμίαι, which are in the men, are in the κόσμος, as well as the things of which they are the desires, and which are in their turn included in them. See on the whole, the long and elaborate note in Düsterdieck, the results of which are nearly the same as those arrived at above. To detail all the shades of opinion, would be hopeless: they will mostly be found, classified and discussed, in the note referred to), nor yet (not = μήτε, but carrying with it an exclusive and disjunctive force, implying that what follows is not identical with what went before. That was spoken of the world itself, the totality: “have no love for this present world as such.” But an escape from this prohibition might be sought by men who would deny in the abstract the charge of worldly-mindedness, but devoted themselves to some one object of those followed by worldly men: so that it is necessary to add, after “Love not the world,”—“no, nor any thing in it”) the things in the world (explained above: here, the objects after which the ungodly world’s ἐπιθυμία reaches out, and on which its ἀλαζονεία is founded). If any man (see on the same expression above, 1 John 2:1) love the world, the love of the Father is not in him ( ἡ ἀγ. τοῦ πατρός, love to the Father, as opposed to his love to the world: not as Luther (2), Seb.-Schmidt, and Calov., the love which the Father hath shewed to us: nor as Bengel, “amor Patris erga suos et filialis erga Patrem.” As Bed(22), “unum cor duos sibi tam adversarios amores non capit.” Philo says, fragm. ex Joh. Damasceni sacris parallelis, p. 370 B (vol. ii. p. 649), ἀμήχανον συνυπάρχειν τὴν πρὸς κόσμον ἀγάπην τῇ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἀγάπῃ, ὡς ἀμήχανον συνυπάρχειν ἀλλήλοις φῶς καὶ σκότος).

Verse 16

16.] Gives a reason for the assertion in 1 John 2:15; viz. the entire separation from one another of the world and God. In order to understand clearly the following, it is necessary to define strictly the things mentioned, and to lay down explicitly the apposition between πᾶν τὸ ἐν τῷ κ., and the three particulars which follow as included in that category. By some Commentators this has been altogether passed over: by others very variously done. I apprehend it can only be rightly done by bearing in mind what was said before,—that, as the world is summed up in man, both those objective material things which are properly τὰ ἐν τῷ κ., and those inward subjectivities which are in man and grounded on his cosmic state, are regarded as being ἐν τῷ κ., and these pass into, and are almost interchanged with, one another. Now here, the three things spoken of as examples of τὰ ἐν τῷ κ., are all purely subjective,— ἐπιθυμία, ἐπιθυμία, ἀλαζονεία. But they are subjectivities having their ground in the objectivities of the ungodly world: the first ἐπιθυμία springs out of (see below) the σάρξ, the human nature unrenewed by God: the second resides in that sense which takes note of outward things and so is inflamed by them; and the ἀλαζονεία is that belonging to ὁ βίος, the manner of life of worldly men among one another, whereby pride as to display and pomp is cherished. Now each one of these three is included in, and includes in itself, love to the world: and he that loves the world falls into, walks after, becomes part of, these lusts, and this ἀλαζονεία, which is not of the Father but of the world. Loving the things of the world, he becomes conformed to the world, and following the lusts and pride which are in the world, he himself becomes one of the things in the world. Because every thing that is in the world, (namely, or for instance) the lust of the flesh ( τῆς σαρκός is not, as made by so many Commentators, an objective gen., so that the words should mean, “lust after the flesh,” i. e. impure desire: this they include, but far more. The gen. is subjective, the flesh being that wherein the lust dwells, as in reff.: and in ἐπιθ. τῶν καρδιῶν, Romans 1:24; cf. Proverbs 21:26, Sirach 5:2; Sirach 18:30,— τοῦ σώματος, Romans 6:12,— τῶν ἀνθρώπων, 1 Peter 4:2; cf. 2 Peter 3:3, Jude 1:16; Jude 1:18,—and cf. also such expressions as ἐπιθυμίαι κοσμικαί, Titus 2:12, and σαρκικαί, 1 Peter 2:11. The gen. after ἐπιθυμία is never, either in LXX or N. T., objective. Cf. some passages in which it occurs in other than the subjective sense, but never of the object desired: Ephesians 4:22, 2 Peter 2:10. In Philippians 1:23, only Origen reads after ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχων, τοῦ ἀναλῦσαι instead of εἰς τὸ ἀν.), and the lust of the eyes (subjective gen. as before: the lust which the eye begets by seeing. In the apocryphal Testament of the twelve patriarchs (Fabricius, cod. Pseudepigr. Vet. Test. i. p. 522), among the seven πνεύματα τῆς πλάνης is enumerated the πνεῦμα ὁράσεως, μεθʼ ἧς γίνεται ἐπιθυμία. Sander, whose commentary, otherwise useful, is disfigured throughout by an ill-natured spirit of carping at Lücke and De Wette, denies the applicability of this passage, understanding ἐπιθυμ. τῶν ὀφθ. as (if I rightly take his meaning, which is not very clear) the desire of seeing, as of the man who would not come to the supper because he must go and see his five yoke of oxen. But his whole view of this difficult passage is very superficial), and the vainglory of life (the ἀλάζων is one who lays claim to credit or glory which is not his own: see notes on Romans 1:30 and James 4:16. βίος here as in ref. is men’s way or course of life. So in Polyb. vi. 57. 6, ἡ περὶ τοὺς βίους ἀλαζονεία κ. πολυτέλεια: he having before observed, τοὺς βίους γενέσθαι πολυτελεστέρους. This βίος comprehends in it the means of living and fashion of living,—table, furniture, equipage, income, rank; and the ἀλαζονεία arising out of these is that vainglorious pride, which is so common in the rich and fashionable), is not of (springs not from, has not as its source: see below) the Father (this name is again used for God, in reference to τεκνία and παιδία above), but is of the world (has its origin from the world. It is necessary, in opposition to all such interpretations as that of Socinus, “valde dissident ab eis quæ Deus per Christum nos sectari jussit,” and Rosenmüller, “non est in his perfectio moralis,” to lay down very distinctly St. John’s limits of thought and speech in this matter. “Through our whole Epistle,” says Düsterdieck (cf. especially 1 John 2:29, ch. 1 John 3:7 ff., 1 John 4:2 ff., 1 John 4:7 ff., 1 John 5:1 ff.), “runs the view, which also is manifest in the Gospel of St. John, that only the mind which springs from God is directed to God. He who is born of God, loves God, knows God (1 John 2:3 ff.), does God’s will. God Himself, who first loved us, viz. in Christ His incarnate Son, begot in us that love which of moral necessity returns again to the Father, and of like necessity embraces our brethren also. This love is hated by the world, because it springs not from the world. It depends not on the world, any more than that perverted love which springs from the world and is directed towards the world, the lust of the flesh, &c., can be directed to the Father, or to God’s children. So that John grasps in reality down to the very foundations of the moral life, when he reminds his readers of the essentially distinct origin of the love of the world, and the love of God. The inmost kernel of the matter is hereby laid bare, and with it a glimpse is given of the whole process of the love of the world, and the love of God, even to the end; and this end is now set forth expressly with extraordinary power:” viz., in the next verse).

Verse 17

17.] And the world is passing away, and the lust of it ( αὐτοῦ is subjective again: not as Lücke, Neander, Sander, objective, “the lust after it,” but as in 1 John 2:16, which see on the construction: ἡ ἐπιθ. αὐτοῦ summing up in one the three which are there mentioned. παράγεται as in 1 John 2:8; not declaring merely an attribute, that it is the quality of the world and its lust to pass away,—but a matter of fact, that it is even now in act so to pass. See Meyer on 1 Corinthians 7:31. It is no objection to this, that the μένει, which is opposed to παράγεται, contains, not a matter of fact, but a qualitative predication. This is made necessary by the words εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα which that clause contains): but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (in this latter member of the contrast, we have a clearly personal agent introduced: and therefore, as above remarked, we may expect that the former member also will have a like personal reference. But this expectation must not be pushed too far: seeing that in the κόσμος, the ungodly men, who are in all their desires and thoughts ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου, are included. They and their lusts belong to, are part of, depend on, a world which is passing away. On the other hand, eternal fixity and duration belongs only to that order of things, and to those men, who are in entire accordance with the will of God. And among these is he that doeth that will, which is (see 1 John 2:3-6) the true proof and following out of love towards Him. As God Himself is eternal, so is all that is in communion with Him: and this are they who believe in Him and love Him, and do His will).

Verse 18

18.] Children ( παιδία, as before, is addressed not to any one class, but to all the readers), it is the last time (what is exactly the Apostle’s meaning by these words? Clearly, in some sense or other, that it is the last period of the world. For we must at once repudiate such views as that of Bengel, who, strange to say, seems to understand it as “extrema Johannis ætas,” and that of Steinhofer, who explains it to be John’s own time as the close of the Apostolic age: and even more decidedly that of Œc. ( ἔστι δὲ τὸ ἔσχατον καὶ κατὰ τὸ χείριστον ἐκλαθεῖν, ὡς ὅταν φαμέν, εἰς ἔσχατον ἀφῖγμαι κακοῦ), Schöttgen, Carpzov., Rosenm., for all other reasons, and on account of the saying 2 Timothy 3:1, ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις ἐνστήσονται καιροὶ χαλεποί.

These then being cleared away, we come to the view of Grot.: “ultimum tempus, ubi ad Judæos sermo est, significat tempus proximum excidio urbis ac templi et reipublicæ Judæorum,” proceeding to interpret the ἀντίχριστοι to be the many false Christs who arose in that period, and ἀντίχριστος to be the chief of them, Barchochebas. So Hammond, Mede, Lightfoot, Socinus: and similarly, but not so decidedly, Episcopius. But two sufficient replies may be given to this view. First, that thus these false Messiahs of the Jews must have gone forth ἐξ ἡμῶν, i. e. from the Christian Church, which they did not. Secondly, what would the approximation of the destruction of Jerusalem, viewed merely as a Jewish event (which it must be, on the hypothesis here, as ἐσχάτη would only be true as addressed to Jews), have to do with the subject of our Epistle?

And thus we have arrived at the views of those who recognize here the last age of the world, but are anxious to get rid of the idea that the Apostle, in thus speaking, regarded the coming of the Lord as near at hand, and endeavour to give some meaning to the expression which shall preclude this (to them) objectionable notion. Among these may be mentioned Calvin, and many of the elder Commentators (e. g. Aug(23), Bed(24), Schol. I., Œc., Thl.), who understand the latter dispensation: the time from Christ’s advent in the flesh to His coming to judgment. This is (Calv.) “ultimum tempus, in quo sic complentur omnia, ut nihil supersit præter ultimam Christi revelationem.” With this in the main, Beza, Wolf, Lücke, De Wette, Neander, Sander, also agree. But, apart from considerations of the unfitness of such an idea in the context, in which παράγεται, 1 John 2:8; 1 John 2:17,—and our 1 John 2:28, shew that it is the coming of the Lord which is before the mind of the Apostle,—this objection is fatal to it: that manifestly not this whole period itself, but some time within its limits is meant, from the nature of the sign given below, ὅθεν γινώσκομεν κ. τ. λ. If the whole Christian dispensation were intended by ἐσχάτη ὥρα, it would not be stated as a sign of its presence, that already there were many antichrists, but rather that already He was come who is to be the final revelation of the Father. The circumstance of there being already many antichrists, corresponds with a prophecy delivered by our Lord, not of the general character of the whole of the last dispensation, but of the particular character of the time preceding τὸ τέλος, to which prophecy and to which time the Apostle here beyond question alludes.

Düsterdieck’s interpretation is founded in some respects on those of Socinus and Grotius, impugned above,—but with this difference, that he believes the expression to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem considered not as a Jewish, but as a Christian event: as opening that period of judgment, which shall precede the end, and the length of which was no where laid down in our Lord’s prophecies, nor revealed to the Apostles. But thus, with all his anxiety to escape the ascribing to the Apostles a mistaken view as to the nearness of the Lord’s second coming, he does in fact fall unavoidably into that class of interpreters, by regarding that as left uncertain, of which the apostolic prophecies seem to speak with some certainty. And I believe that if we are to deal ingenuously both with words and with facts, we must recognize this difficulty here, as well as in such passages as 1 Corinthians 15:52; 2 Corinthians 5:1 ff.; 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ff.; and understand the Apostle to be speaking, as any one in any subsequent age of the Church might have spoken, and as we may speak now, of his time as being the last time, seeing that the signs of the last time were rife in it. How long it may please God to prolong this ἐσχάτη ὥρα, how long to permit the signs to continue which demonstrate each age of the church to have this character, is a question to which it was not given to him, and is not given to us, to reply. To him indeed many prophetic visions were given, and have been recorded for us; but what is their plain and unmistakable import, will only then be known, when it becomes necessary for the churches to see clearly the signs of His coming): and even as ye heard (in our preaching, when ye received the Gospel) that antichrist cometh ( ἔρχεται, the present of ordained fixity: “is to come.” But who, and what, is ἀντίχριστος? As far as the meaning of the word is concerned, it may mean, either 1) one who stands against Christ, or 2) one who stands instead of Christ. The latter meaning is strenuously maintained here by Grotius, who holds that our ἀντίχριστος here has nothing to do with the ἀντικείμενος of St. Paul, 2 Thessalonians 2:3; that being “qui Deo summo se hostem profitetur,” whereas this is “qui se Christum facit:” understanding this and what follows (see above) of the ψευδόχριστοι prophesied of by our Lord, Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:24. This he defends by ἀντιβασιλεύς, meaning a viceroy, not an adversary of the king. And as Düsterd. suggests, he might have cited more instances on his side: ἀντίψυχος, in Ignat. Smyrn. 10, p. 716; Eph. 21, p. 661; Polyc. 2, 6, pp. 721, 725, in the sense of ἀντίλυτρον: the Homeric ἀντίθεος, “equal to the gods:” ἀνθύπατος, a proconsul, &c. But seeing that the other meaning, “adversarius Christi,” is also upheld by precedent,—e. g. τύποςἀντίτυπος, ἀντιφιλόσοφος, ἀντιφάρμακον, ἀντίθεος in Homer also = enemy to the gods (so Chrys. on 2 Thessalonians 2:4, ἀντίθεός τις ἔσται, κ. πάντας καταλύσει τοὺς θεούς, κ. κελεύσει προσκυνεῖν αὐτὸν ἀντὶ τοῦ θεοῦ), ἀντιφύλαξ, ἀντιμαχητής, ἀντικάτων (the book written by Cæsar against Cato), &c.,—it is clear that we cannot solve the doubt by philology alone, but must take into account other considerations. And first among these comes the fact, that St. John, who was acquainted with the form ψευδόχριστος, using as he does ψευδοπροφήτης, ch. 1 John 4:1, never uses it, but always (see reff.) this word ἀντίχριστος. Is it not hence probable that he intended to signify, not a false Christ, but an antichrist? Next, we may fairly allege the ancient interpretations, as shewing how Greeks themselves understood the word. In these we do not find a vestige of the meaning ψευδόχριστος being attached to the term ἀντίχριστος (Hippolyt. de Antichristo, § 6, p. 734, Migne, κατὰ πάντα ἐξομοιοῦσθαι βούλεται ὁ πλάνος τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ, is not really to the point; it does not give a meaning to ἀντίχριστος, but only alleges an undeniable feature in his character. The same may be said of Iren. Hær. v. 28. 2, p. 326, “ut sicut Christum adorent illum qui seducentur ab illo:” and of that of Hippolytus, de Christo et Antichristo, c. 49, p. 768, ἐξομοιοῦσθαι μέλλει τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ, and indeed of all the passages where the Greek Fathers, as Cyril, Theodoret, &c., speak of the likeness of antichrist to Christ), but every where (see e. g. the quotations in Suicer) they interpret ἀντίχριστος by ἐναντίος τῷ χριστῷ. The most decided is Thl., πάντως ὁ ψεύστης ἐναντίος ὢν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ ἤτοι τῷ χριστῷ ἀντίχριστός ἐστι. So also the Latins: Tert(25) de præscr. hær. 4, vol. ii. p. 16,—“qui antichristi, interim et semper, nisi Christi rebelles?”—Aug(26) in loc.,—“Latine Antichristus est, contrarius Christo:” and so Bede(27) And lastly our 1 John 2:22 is quite against Grot.’s view, where ἀντίχριστος is interpreted, not ὁ προσποιούμενος χριστὸν εἶναι, but ὁ ἀρνούμενος τὸν πατέρα κ. τὸν υἱόν, which is explained, 1 John 2:23, to be involved in ἀρνεῖσθαι τὸν υἱόν.

Taking then ( ) ἀντίχριστος for Christ’s adversary, I would refer to the disquisition and summary of opinions in the Prolegomena to Vol. III. on 2 Thessalonians 2:1 ff., where the reasons which have induced me to expect a personal Antichrist are given in full: as are also the indications furnished by prophecy, and by the history of the church and the world, as to his probable character and work), even now there have arisen many antichrists (not, “even now many have become antichrists:” this would rather be ἀντίχριστοι γεγόνασιν πολλοί, or πολλοὶ ἀντίχ. γεγ. By the πολλοί being thrown between the subst. and the verb, it is shewn to be only an epithet, not the subject of the proposition. But what are we to understand the Apostle as saying? Is this fact alleged as a presumption that ὁ ἀντίχριστος is near, these πολλοὶ ἀντίχριστοι prefiguring and heralding him,—or as a proof that he is come, being in fact the aggregate of these? The question is an important one, as affecting that of a personal or collective antichrist. And the first thing to be noticed in answering it is, that these ἀντίχριστοι πολλοί are explained by the Apostle himself, 1 John 2:22 f., to be deniers of the Father and the Son: i. e. of the Son: and even more explicitly, ch. 1 John 4:3, deniers that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. Here, however, this latter point is not yet brought out: here it is as ψεῦσται that we hear of them: as deniers of the truth, which Truth is Jesus Christ, the Son of God: as not having the Spirit, which is truth and no lie, 1 John 2:27. They are said to have gone forth from the Christian church, but not to have been ἐξ ἡμῶν, as their spirit ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν, ch. 1 John 4:3. They are ἀντίχριστοι; their spirit is τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου, ibid., of which the readers had heard that it should come, and it was in the world already. From much of this it might at first sight appear as if these ἀντίχριστοι in their aggregate formed ὁ ἀντίχριστος. But a nearer inspection will convince us that this cannot be so. ( ) χριστός and ( ) ἀντίχριστος stand over against one another, and analogy requires that if the one be personal, the other should be also. And in ch. 1 John 4:3 we are not told that merely the spirit is ἀντιχρίστου, but that it is τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου, the personal reference being still kept. Again, we have ἔρχεται, the present future of prophetic fixity, in both places, here and in ch. 1 John 4:3, set against γεγόνασιν and ἐστίν: and the verb itself, in its prophetic sense, one regularly used of Christ, as here of antichrist. So that our only refuge in order to consistent interpretation here, is to regard these ἀντίχριστοι πολλοί clothed with the attributes and having the spirit of ὁ ἀντίχριστος, as being his forerunners, in the sense of 2 Thessalonians 2:7, τὸ γὰρ μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται τῆς ἀνομίας: meaning, as I have explained at length in the summary referred to above, that the antichristian principle was then, as it is now, and will be in every age, working, realizing, and concentrating itself from time to time, in evil men and evil books and evil days, but awaiting its final development and consummation in ( ) ἀντίχριστος, who shall personally appear before the coming of the Lord. In St. John’s time these ἀντίχριστοι πολλοί were to be seen in the early heretical teachers whose false and corrupting doctrine and practice was beginning to trouble the church. See again, Düsterdieck’s long and elaborate note, in which he has discussed all the difficulties of the subject. He in the main agrees with the conclusion given above; as do also De Wette, Lücke, Erdmann): from whence we know that it is the last time (these words are a formal statement of the connexion between the first and second members of the foregoing sentence, which without them it would be left for the reader to supply in his mind).

Verses 18-28

18–28.] WARNING AGAINST ANTICHRISTS AND FALSE TEACHERS (1 John 2:18-23): AND EXHORTATION TO ABIDE IN CHRIST (1 John 2:24-28). The place which this portion holds will be best seen by strictly recapitulating. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness:” that (ch. 1 John 1:5) is the ground-tone of this whole division of the Epistle. In ch. 1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:11, the Apostle shews, wherein the believer’s walking in light consists. At 1 John 2:12, his style takes at once a hortatory turn. In his addresses to the various classes of his readers, the tone of warning is slightly struck by νενικήκατε τὸν πονηρόν: if indeed the whole form of assertion of an ideal state in each case do not of itself carry a delicate shade of warning. Hence the transition is easy to actual warning. And this in 1 John 2:15-17 begins by general dehortation from the love of the world as excluding the love of God, and now proceeds by caution against those in the world who would rob them of Him by whom alone walking in the light of God is made both possible and actual to us. The note of transition from the last verses is the παράγεται, here taken up by ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν. The world is passing away: and those temptations and conflicts of which ye have heard as belonging to its last period, are now upon you: those adversaries who would endanger your abiding in Him and being found in Him at His coming.

Verse 19

19.] These antichrists are designated as having been formerly attached to the Christian church, but never really members of it. They had not that communion with the Father and the Son in which the communion of Christians with one another really consists, inasmuch as they deny the Father and the Son. They went out from among us, but they were not of us (it is plain that the prep. ἐξ must in this sentence be taken in two different meanings: first, with ἐξῆλθαν, in the mere local reference, and even so our Lord Himself uses the expression, John 8:42, ἐγὼ γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθον καὶ ἥκω, words which are varied, John 13:3, by ἀπό, and John 16:27 by παρά. And in John 13:3, the local meaning is stamped as the true one by the addition of καὶ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ὑπάγει. On the other hand, ἐκ with εἶναι is very frequently used by our Apostle to denote that inner and vital dependence which betokens origin: cf. John 3:31; John 7:17; John 8:23; John 8:44, &c. It is clear then from this double meaning of ἐξ, that ἐξῆλθαν ἐξ ἡμῶν should be rendered with Aug(28) and Bed(29), “ex nobis exierunt,” and not “ex nobis prodierunt,” as vulg. The idea of origin should be kept out of view, as necessarily not contained in the words, which are to be understood as Œc. and Thl., γεγονότες μαθηταὶ ἀπέστησαν τῆς ἀληθείας καὶ ἰδίας βλασφημίας ἐξεῦρον. Aug(30) and Bed(31) illustrate their relation to the body of Christ by a homely but instructive comparison: “quandoquidem adhuc curatur corpus ipsius (Domini nostri Jesu Christi), et sanitas perfecta non erit nisi in resurrectione mortuorum; sic sunt in corpore Christi, quomodo humores mali. Quando evomuntur, tunc relevatur corpus: sic et mali quando exeunt, tunc ecclesia relevatur. Et dicit quando eos evomit atque projicit corpus, ex me exierunt humores isti, sed non erant ex me. Quid est, non erant ex me? Non de carne mea præcisi sunt, sed pectus mihi premebant dum inessent.” Aug(32) in Ep. Joh. Tract. iii. 4, vol. iii. p. 1999. On this, see more below): for if they had been of us ( ἐξ ἡμῶν is emphatically repeated), they would have remained with us (the E. V. inserts “no doubt,” as representing the “utique” of the vulgate, which was the result of the futile endeavour to render the Greek verbatim, and was intended to give the ἄν. In some places this endeavour has produced results more serious than here. In John 4:10, σὺ ἂν ᾔτησας is rendered “tu forsitan petiisses,” and by the Rheims version, “Thou perhaps wouldest have asked of Him:” in John 5:46, “si enim crederetis Mosi, crederetis forsitan et mihi:” see also Vulgate, and Rheims, and Bishops’ Bible, in John 8:42, Matthew 11:23. I am indebted for this useful remark to the Rev. Henry Craik of Bristol.

The sense is, if they had really belonged to our number, had been true servants of Christ, they would have endured, and would not have become ἀντίχριστοι: their very becoming so, proves the unreality of their Christian profession. This point is now brought out in what follows): but (the ellipsis is variously supplied: by ἐξῆλθαν from above; so the Syr., Bengel, Lücke, al.: by τοῦτο πεποιήκασιν, πεπόνθασιν, as Œc., Thl.: “hoc factum est,” as Socinus: “hæc facit Deus,” as Calvin. All these in fact come to the same, provided that we keep ἵνα to its true telic meaning, which must imply a doer; and that doer, God. So that it will be better, as the divine purpose must be understood in the depth of the meaning, whatever be supplied, to take the simplest supplement, viz. the ἐξῆλθαν, which is already the expressed verb of the sentence) in order that they may be made manifest, that all are not of us (the construction is a mixed one, compounded of two, 1) ἵνα φανερωθῶσιν ὅτι οὐκ ἦσαν ἐξ ἡμῶν, and 2) ἵνα φανερωθῇ ὅτι οὐκ εἰσὶν πάντες ἐξ ἡμῶν: and the meaning is, that by their example it may be made manifest that all (who are among us) are not of us. This is shewn by the change of tense from ἦσαν to εἰσίν: and by the impossibility of giving any adequate grammatical sense to the words on the other hypothesis, viz. that πάντες means “they all,” viz. the ἀντίχριστοι. For, of the two ways in which the words have been taken, we have 1) that of the E. V. “that they were not all of us,” which leaves open the inevitable conclusion that some of them are of us. Œcumenius indeed tries to make the distinction in another way,— τουτέστι κατάδηλοι γένωνται ὅτι πάντη ἀπηλλοτρίωνται ἡμῶν καὶ μετὰ τῶν οὐχ ἡμετέρων προσεκολλήθησαν. εἰσὶ γάρ τινες ἐν τούτοις καὶ οὐχ ἐξ ἡμῶν ὄντες, οἷς δηλαδὴ συνῆψαν ἑαυτοὺς οἱ ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξελθόντες.… ἡμῶν γὰρ ἀποῤῥαγέντες τῶν οἰκείων, ἄλλοις ἐκολλήθησαν τοῖς ἀλλοτρίοις ἡμῶν. But this is manifestly a mistake, and is in fact a confounding of ἐξ ἡμῶν εἰσιν with ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν, which the Apostle expressly distinguishes. Then 2) we have the way proposed by Socinus, to take οὐ πάντες for “nulli;” not “non omnes” but “omnes non:” in fact making οὐκ belong to the predicate, εἰσὶν ἐξ ἡμῶν, not to the subject, πάντες; which is the case in Romans 3:20, ἐξ ἔργων νόμου οὐ δικαιωθήσεται πᾶσα σάρξ. But it may fairly be replied here, that whereas in that passage there is no ambiguity whatever, the words πᾶσα σάρξ falling emphatically at the end, here there would be every chance of the reader mistaking the meaning, no such stress lying on the πάντες as would lie if the arrangement were οὐκ εἰσὶν ἐξ ἡμῶν πάντες, or πάντες οὐκ εἰσὶν ἐξ ἡμῶν. So that our only refuge seems to be, to believe that the Apostle makes their φανέρωσις the proof not that they were not of us, but that all are not of us, scil. who are commonly found among us. This is the rendering of the principal modern Commentators: cf. Lücke, De Wette, Düsterdieck, Huther. See on the sense, 1 Corinthians 11:19, δεῖ γὰρ καὶ αἱρέσεις ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι, ἵνα ( καὶ) οἱ δόκιμοι φανεροὶ γένωνται ἐν ὑμῖν.

It is not my intention to go at length into the question as to the dogmatic consequences which have been deduced from this verse. It may be sufficient to refer my readers to the principal sources of the two antagonistic opinions as to the final perseverance (not of the elect, which is a truism, but) of those who have been once truly children of God. They will find the most complete statement of the predestinarian view as founded on our passage, in Augustine, De dono perseverantiæ, 8 (19), 9 (21), vol. x. p. 1003 f. and De correptione et gratia, 9 (20), p. 928. In the former passage he says, “Hominibus videtur omnes qui boni apparent fideles perseverantiam usque in finem accipere debuisse. Deus autem melius esse judicavit, miscere quosdam non perseveraturos certo numero sanctorum, ut quibus non expedit in hujus vitæ tentatione securitas, non possint esse securi, 1 Corinthians 10:12. Ex duobus autem piis cur huic donetur perseverantia usque in finem, illi autem non detur, inscrutabiliora sunt judicia Dei. Illud tamen fidelibus debet esse certissimum, hunc esse ex prædestinatis, illum non esse. Nam si fuissent ex nobis, ait unus prædestinatorum, qui de pectore Domini bibebat hoc secretum, mansissent utique nobiscum.” See also Calvin h. l., who sums up all thus, “Quare non immerito dicit, ubi efficax est Dei vocatio, illic certam perseverantiam fore.” The other side is ably stated by Didymus (cited in Düsterd.), whose conclusion is, “Igitur, licet figurate dicta sint hæc, attamen voluntariam necessitatem ostendunt, a quorum et cohabitatione quæ potest esse malis viris cum bonis abscesserint, dum vitio suo tales sint facti. Non igitur oportet intelligi contrarietatem hoc verbo significari naturarum.” The various opponents of the predestinarian view as such, have had recourse, as so often, to various unworthy artifices and untenable explainings away of words, to escape from the inference pressed on them. Thus Socinus and Episcopius lay stress on the fact that ἦσαν is imperfect, not perfect: “non enim Apostolus dicit antichristos illos nunquam antea vere Christianos fuisse, sed tantum quod tum, vel jam antequam antichristos se esse profiterentur, non erant ii, qui esse debebant,” &c. And so even Grot. (“qui ista crepitabant, jam deseruerant Christianam professionem … Si illi tunc ex animo fuissent Christiani cum ista inciperent, non deseruissent cœtus nostros”). Calov.again tries to escape from the inference, by making ἐξ ἡμῶν apply not to Christians in general, but to the Apostles only.

The best account of the whole matter is found in Düsterdieck’s long note, in which he has thoroughly gone over all the opinions and given his own conclusion. It is, in the main, as follows. The Apostle is speaking here not dogmatically but ethically. As Didymus above, if there is a necessity in the μεμενήκεισαν, it is a “necessitas voluntaria.” As Aug(33) in his comm. here (written sixteen years before the treatise De dono perseverantiæ), “de voluntate sua quisque aut Antichristus, aut in Christo est. Aut in membris sumus, aut in humoribus malis. Qui se in melius commutat, in corpore membrum est: qui autem in malitia permanet, humor malus est: et quando exierit, relevabuntur qui premebantur.” We must take these words, 1 John 2:19, in intimate connexion with the enunciation of this whole portion of the Epistle, ch. 1 John 1:5-7. The object of this portion is, ch. 1 John 1:3, that ye may have fellowship with us, in that we have fellowship with the Father and the Son. This aim penetrates all the warning and exhortation 1 John 2:18-28. This fellowship depends on the walking in light, i. e. on knowledge of the truth as regards ourselves and God, and love to God and the brethren. He who departs from the truth, he who loves not God and the brethren, belongs not to this fellowship, and shews that he belongs not to it. If he had belonged to it, he would have held fast his walk in the light, as shewn by these indications. This is the human side, on which our passage regards the act and fact. There is also a divine side. They who attain eternal life are given by the Father to the Son, and no man can come to the Son except the Father draw him (John 6:37; John 6:44; John 6:65; John 17:6), and such are kept by God (ib. John 17:11); but also we read that they believe on the Son, receive the word of the Son, and keep themselves (John 6:40; John 17:6 f., John 1:12, James 1:27). And so again on the other side, they who remain at last excluded from eternal life, are thus excluded not only by God’s decree, but by their own evil choice and will. The words cited above, John 6:65, were spoken by our Lord with direct reference to the traitor Judas: but on the other hand St. John gives notices of the ethical development of Judas which leave no doubt that his depravity went hand in hand with God’s judgment on him. Judas was covetous: his heart was inclined to mammon; hence he understood not the love of Mary when she anointed Jesus with her precious ointment: he grudged his Lord this token of love: he could not abide with Christ, because he shut his heart through greed, through love of the world, against the love of Christ; for the knowledge of the Lord, faith in Him, fellowship with Him, are all summed up in Love. Thus we see that in the rejection, as in the acceptance of eternal life, the two factors, God’s will and man’s will, are to be regarded in their ethical connexion only. In order to that knowledge of God, which is eternal life, man must be taught of God (John 6:45): but man must also learn of God. And the more St. John sets forth the essential nature of this knowledge of God and Jesus Christ as ethical, the more does he recognize, in putting forward God’s will in the matter, man’s will also. Christ is the Saviour of the whole world, ch. 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:14. But in the personal appropriation of this universal salvation, not all really take it to themselves,—and many, who have taken it, fall away again, because they do not keep the grace given, do not abide in Christ, do not walk in the light. This last is by no means denied by St. John when he says “if they had been of us they would have remained with us.” The words set forth an ideal ( ἄν, not γε or a similar particle) similar to that in ch. 1 John 2:5, 1 John 3:9, 1 John 5:18. As in no one of those places can the Apostle possibly mean, that a true believer, one really born of God, has perfect love to God and cannot sin (for what then would ch. 1 John 2:1 mean?),—so neither here can he mean that whoever once inwardly and truly belongs to the communion of believers cannot by any possibility fall from it. I have abridged Düsterd.’s remarks, and thereby, I fear, not increased their perspicuity. Those who are able (and I would hope, for the sake of English theology, that this number is daily increasing) should by all means give some days to the thorough study of them).

Verse 20-21

20, 21.] The Apostle puts them in mind, in an apologetic form, of the truth which they as Christians possessed, and the very possession of which, not the contrary, was his reason for thus writing to them. This reminiscence carries at the same time with it the force of an exhortation, as so many of the ideal statements on Christian perfection in our Epistle. What they have in the ideal depth of their Christian life, that they ought to have in living and working reality. And (hardly as Lücke, logically adversative to what preceded: so De Wette (aber), and many others. Huther ascribes this interpretation virtually to Düsterdieck, but wrongly: for the latter keeps καί in its simple copulative meaning, and only asserts that what adversative meaning there is consists in the sense, not in the outward expression. “John,” he says, “denotes only the passage to a new particular, without distinctly marking its adversative relation to the last”) ye (expressed, as emphatic: see above) have an anointing ( χρῖσμα is properly the oil or ointment with which the anointing takes place, not the act itself of anointing. For this we have in English no word adequate to the necessity of the passage: “unguent” is the nearest approach, but is still inadequate. It is certain that in later Greek there arose a considerable confusion between verbal nouns in - μα and their cognates in - σις. Thus in Exodus 29, the ἔλαιον τοῦ χρίσματος, 1 John 2:7, becomes the ἔλαιον τῆς χρίσεως, in 1 John 2:21. On the meaning, see below) from the Holy One (viz. from Christ, the δίκαιος of our 1 John 2:1, the ἁγνός of ch. 1 John 3:3, the ἅγιος of Acts 3:14, and ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ of John 6:69; cf. also Revelation 3:18, where the Laodicean church is counselled to buy of Christ κολλύριον ἐγχρῖσαι τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς σου, ἵνα βλέπῃς. This is agreed to by almost all Commentators: even Socinus says that the Apostle “de Deo simul et Christo loqui, non secus ac si ambo una tantum persona essent:” and Schlichting concedes that the words may be understood of Christ), and know all things (the full and perfect knowledge of Christian truth is the ideal completion of those who have this anointing. This of course must not be understood as actually predicated of these readers: but the expression explains itself as referring to all things needful for right action in the matter under consideration: q. d. πάντα ταῦτα. So most Commentators. “Quod autem omnia dicit novisse, non universaliter capi, sed ad præsentis loci circumstantiam restringi debet,” Calv. See note on John 16:13; cf. also 1 Corinthians 1:5; 1 Corinthians 8:1; Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 2:2. Some understand, all things necessary to Christian life and godliness: so Œc., Wolf, Bengel, Neander: “quæ ut homines a Spiritu Sancto uncti doctique tum ad salutem, tum ad cavendos illos seductorum et antichristorum errores scire debetis,” Wolf. The alternative reading πάντες would mean “ye all know it:” a sense which hardly seems to be applicable.

But now the question recurs, What is this χρῖσμα, and what leads the Apostle to use this peculiar expression here? The reply to the latter question is probably, as Bengel, “Alludit appellatio chrismatis ad antichristi nomen, ex opposito.” The Apostle sets his readers, as χριστούς, anointed of God, over against the ἀντίχριστοι. Then as to the nature of the χρῖσμα, we can hardly fail to be right in interpreting it of the Holy Ghost. For “Christ received the Holy Ghost without measure (John 3:34): on Him the Holy Ghost abode (ib. John 1:33): God ἔχρισεν αὐτὸν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ (Acts 10:38). Christ baptizeth with the Holy Ghost (John 1:33): He sends the Holy Ghost, who takes of His and shews it to believers (John 15:26; John 16:14, Acts 2:33). And seeing that the Son hath all which the Father hath, the Father is said to send forth the Spirit of His Son into the hearts of His children (Galatians 4:6; cf. Ephesians 3:16, Philippians 1:19, 2 Corinthians 3:17 ff.), and this, at the prayer, in the name, through the mediation, of the Son (John 14:16; John 16:7 f.): the Father anoints believers by giving them His Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21 f.), as He has anointed the Son with the Holy Ghost. And hence the Spirit, which we have received, is the token that we are in the Father (ch. 1 John 3:24), and in the Son (1 John 2:27), that we are children of God (Romans 8:14 ff., Galatians 4:6). The Holy Ghost teaches the faithful the truth and keeps them in it: that truth, in the knowledge of which they have eternal life, having thereby the Father and the Son.” Düsterdieck, p. 354 f. This anointing, by virtue of which they are Christ’s and the Father’s, and without which a man is none of Christ’s (Romans 8:14; Romans 8:9), in respect of which they are χριστοί, the ἀντίχριστοι attack in its very root, and would rob them of, thereby severing them from the Son and from the Father: from light and truth and life. And this very χρῖσμα is the means and weapon whereby they must be detected and resisted).

Verse 21

21.] I did not write to you (see on ἔγραψα above, 1 John 2:13-14. It may refer either to what has immediately preceded, or to the whole Epistle: here probably to the immediately preceding) because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and because no lie is of the truth (i. e. coupling the fact of your knowledge of the truth with the fact that no lie is of the truth, I wrote to supply the link between these two, to point out to you the lie and the liar, that you might at once act on that your knowledge of the truth, and not listen to them that deceive you. Thus we keep ὅτι and καὶ ὅτι correlative. So Justiniani, Schlichting, and Neander: but almost all the expositors take the second ὅτι as dependent on οἴδατε, “because ye know the truth, and (also know) that no lie, &c.” So Aug(34), Bed(35), Erasmus, Grot., Calvin, Luther, Estius, Corn.-a-lap., Socinus, Episcopius, Wolf, Whitby, Hammond, Lücke, Baumg.-Crus., De Wette, Sander, Düsterd., Huther, and many others. But this surely does violence to the construction: ὅτι οἴδατε αὐτήν, καὶ ὅτιοὐκ ἔστιν. ὅτι twice repeated, and each time with an indicative verb, surely must be kept to one and the same meaning in both clauses. Nor does the sense gain any thing, as Düsterd. maintains. For their knowing the truth and their knowing that no lie is of the truth, the one a cognition of God and His Son, the other a mere apprehension of a truism, are no logical correlatives, nor can be concurrent reasons for the Apostle’s writing: whereas the two facts, the one, their knowing the truth, the other, that no lie belongs to that truth, are concurrent reasons for the Apostle’s writing: viz. that he may set plainly before them what the lie is, that they may at once discern their entire alienation from it. And this accordingly he proceeds to do in the next verse. As regards the construction of πᾶν ψεῦδος.… οὐκ ἔστιν, it is not, as so many of the Commentators, a Hebraism, but merely that common one of attaching the negative to the predicate, instead of to the subject. πᾶν ψεῦδος (every lie) ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας οὐκ ἔστιν (is excluded from being of the truth)).

Verse 22

22.] Who is the liar (the question passes from the abstract τὸ ψεῦδος to the concrete ὁ ψεύστης. “Quis est illius mendacii reus” as Bengel. The Apostle proceeds to identify the utterer of the ψεῦδος of which he has just spoken. We have a similar question in ch. 1 John 5:4-5; where after describing the victory that overcometh the world, he rejoins τίς ἐστιν ὁ νικῶν κ. τ. λ. εἰ μὴ ὁ, as here. Some have neglected the article altogether; so Luther, and the E. V.; others have given it merely the force of pointing out as “insigne:” so Calv. (“nisi hoc censeatur mendacium, aliud nullum haberi posse”), Seb.-Schmidt; Socin. (“mendacium, quo nihil possit esse majus”), De Wette (‘diese Irrlehre gilt dem Ap. statt aller, scheint ihm alle andern einzuschliessen’). So also Lücke, and Huther. But there can be little doubt that the refers as above to the preceding ψεῦδος), but (“if not:” so εἰ μή in ref. and Luke 17:18, Romans 11:15, 1 Corinthians 2:11, 2 Corinthians 2:2) he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ (lit. “denieth (to the effect) that Jesus is not the Christ.” “This excepting εἰ μή,” says Kühner, Gram. ii. p. 561, “is frequently found after τί (= τί ἄλλο), and also after οὐδεὶς ἄλλος. Hom. hymn. Cer. 78, οὐδέ τις ἄλλος αἴτιος ἀθανάτοισιν, εἰ μὴ νεφεληγερέτα ζεύς: Aristoph. Eq. 1106, μηδὲν ἄλλʼ, εἰ μὴ ἔσθιε: Xen. Œc. ix. 1, τί δέ, εἰ μὴ ὑπισχνεῖτό γε ἐπιμελήσεσθαι; Cf. Cyr. i. 4. 13.” So the Greeks often, bringing outmore distinctly the negative proposition involved in the verb of negation,—so Demosth. p. 871: ὡς δʼ οὐκ ἐκεῖνος ἐγεώργει τὴν γῆν, οὐκ ἠδύνατʼ ἀρνηθῆναι,—or prohibition,—so Herod. iii. 128, δαρεῖος ἀπαγορεύει ὑμῖν μὴ δορυφορέειν ὀροίτεα. See Kühner, Gram. ii. p. 410. On the meaning, see below)? This (the ψεύστης just described; ὁ ἀρνούμενος, &c. below being appositional, and an additional consequence from his former denial) is the antichrist (on the personal interpretation, see above, 1 John 2:18. ὁ ἀντίχρ. is obviously here used not as predicating the one person in whom the character shall be finally and centrally realized, but as setting forth identity of character with him, and participation in the same development of the antichristian principle. Nor is this, as Huther characterizes it, a “willkurliche Umdeutung und Erganzung,” but something of the kind must be understood, whichever way antichrist be taken, collective or personal), who denieth the Father and the Son (it is implied then, that the denying Jesus to be the Christ, is equivalent to denying the Father and the Son. And this the Apostle carefully asserts in the next verse).

Verse 23

23.] Every one that denieth the Son, neither hath he the Father (the οὐδέ is exclusive and climacteric; not only hath he denied the Son, but he cannot hold, possess the Father): he that confesseth the Son hath also the Father. As nearly the whole of this Epistle, so especially such an assertion as this, formed a battle-field for the old rationalists. Some of the early Commentators and Fathers imagining that Jewish error was indicated by the denying that Jesus is the Christ, the idea has been again taken up by Semler, al., and pressed in the anti-trinitarian interest. Grot., Socinus, Episcopius, all evade the Apostle’s words by inadequate or far-fetched interpretations, understanding the expressions in this verse, of not obeying the teaching, not following the example, &c. of the Son, and by consequence of the Father. But the deeper and truer meaning of the Apostle’s words has been recognized by all the better Commentators, with some variations from one another. While some, as Beza, Calov., Seb.-Schmidt, mark perhaps too precisely the doctrinal character of the words, others, as Lücke and De Wette, make their force consist too much in an ideal and economical relation between the divine Persons. Still all are agreed, that that which is spoken of is the revelation of the Father by the Son only, and that he who rejects this in its fulness rejects all that can be known of the real essence and nature of the Father Himself; “nempe quia Deus se totum nobis in Christo fruendum dedit,” as Calvin. “The antichrists denied that Jesus, the definite Person whom the Apostles had seen, heard, and handled, is the Christ. In whatever sense this denial is to be taken,—the Apostle speaks merely of the fact, as known to the readers;—at all events there is involved in it a denial of the Son of God; because it is only as the incarnate Son of God (ch. 1 John 4:2), that Jesus is the Christ. And in the denial of the Son is involved necessarily the denial of the Father, since the Father cannot be known without the Son, and the Father cannot be perceived, believed on, loved, by any man, without the Son, or otherwise than through the Son, i. e. the Son manifested in the flesh, the Christ, which is, Jesus. So that in St. John’s development of the argument there are three essentially connected points: denial of the Christ, of the Son, of the Father. The middle link of the chain, the denial of the Son of God, shews how the denial of the Father is of necessity involved in the denial of Christ. And the cogency of this proof is made yet more stringent by another equally unavoidable process of argument. The antichristian false doctrine consists mainly in a negation, in the denying of the fundamental Christian truth, that Jesus is the Christ. But in this is involved the denial of the essence of the Son as well as of the Father, and again in this denial is involved the losing, the virtual not having of the Son and of the Father. In the sense of St. John, we may say, taking the first and last steps of his argument and leaving out the intervening ones: He who denieth that Jesus is the Christ, hath not the Father. And this necessary connexion between denying and not having, is perfectly clear, the moment we understand the ethical character, the living realism, of St. John’s way of regarding the subject. As (1 John 2:23) we cannot separate the knowledge and confession of the Christ, the Son, the Father, from the having, the real possession of, the practical fellowship with, the actual remaining in the Son and the Father, so conversely, together with the denial is necessarily given the not-having; together with the loss of the truth of the knowledge, the loss of the life which consists in that knowledge (John 17:3). In such a connexion, the confession of the truth is as essential on the one side, as the denial on the other. Each is the necessary manifestation of the belief or unbelief hidden in the heart. And this ὁμολογεῖν is not to be understood of the ‘confessio cordis, vocis, et operis’ (Bede), but only as ch. 1 John 1:9, of the confession of the month ( στόματι ὁμολογεῖται, Romans 10:10, see John 12:42). It is parallel with φέρειν διδαχήν, 2 John 1:7; 2 John 1:10; and indicates the definite utterance of the doctrine which was made known by the apostolic preaching, 1 John 2:24.” Düsterdieck.

Verse 24-25

24, 25.] Exhortation to perseverance in the truth delivered to them, and statement of the promise connected with it: connected with the foregoing by the ὁμολογεῖν, as involving an ἀκοῦσαι: see the concluding sentence of Düsterd. above.

Ye (the ὑμεῖς stands alone, serving to mark more distinctly the change of person. We have a similar anacoluthon in 1 John 2:27. Kühner, Gram. ii. p. 156, says: “The word which exceeds in significance the other members of the sentence, is sometimes with rhetorical emphasis not only put at the beginning of the sentence, but also expressed in a form calculated to shew that it is the subject underlying the whole sentence, although the grammatical structure would require another and dependent case. So Plato, Cratyl. p. 403, A, ὁ δὲ ἅιδης, οἱ πολλοὶ μέν μοι δοκοῦσιν ἀπολαμβάνειν τὸ ἀειδὲς προσευρῆσθαι τῷ ὀνόματι τούτῳ: and ib. p. 404, περσέφαττα δέ, πολλοὶ μὲν καὶ τοῦτο φοβοῦνται τὸ ὄνομα.” Some however explain the position of ὑμεῖς here by a trajection: so Bengel, “antitheton est in pronomine, ideo adhibetur trajectio;” and so Beza, Socinus, and even De Wette. But the other is more probable),—let that which ye heard from the beginning, abide in you (i. e. not merely as Thl., φυλάττετε παρʼ ἑαυτοῖς, but as in ch. 1 John 3:9, σπέρμα αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ μένει, the truth respecting the Father and the Son once heard is regarded as a seed, dropt in and abiding in the man. ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, necessarily bound here to the subjects of ἠκούσατε, just as it is necessarily bound in ch. 1 John 1:1, to the subject of ἦν,—as Beza, “Ex quo institui cœpistis in primis christianæ religionis rudimentis”). If that which ye heard from the beginning abide (aor. in the sense of the futurus exactus, “shall have abode.” The result in the apodosis will be brought about by the accumulative accomplishment of the supposition) in you, ye also (on your part; vicissim, as Bengel. If it abide in you, ye too shall abide.…) shall abide in the Son and in the Father (here again the rationalizing Commentators, Socinus, Grotius, Hammond, Semler, have endeavoured to explain away the close personal relation and immanence in God expressed by the Apostle’s words: “ita cum Patre et Filio conjunctum esse, ut bonorum ab utroque proficiscentium quis sit particeps,” Socinus,—and similarly Semler: “summo eorum favore et amicitia fruemini,” Grot., Hamm. But here as every where else, they entirely miss the sense. He in whom abides the message of life in Christ which he has heard, not only has received the tidings of that life, but is transformed into the likeness of Him whose seed he has taken into him: is become a new creation: and the element in which and by which he lives and acts is even He in whom and by whom this new lite comes, even Christ the Son of God. And thus living in the Son, he lives in the Father also: for Christ the Son of God is the manifestation and effulgence of the Father, himself abiding ever in the Father, as His people abide in Him. See the same truth declared John 6:56; John 15:1 ff; John 17:23 (Ephesians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:17)). And ( καί is the simple copula: not put αἰτιολογικῶς, as Œc., Thl.) the promise (the preceding μενεῖτε naturally carried the mind onwards into the future. The result of that abiding will be the fulfilment, not only in partial present possession but in complete future accomplishment, of Christ’s promise to us. This taking up again and explaining of something expressed (see ch. 1 John 3:23, 1 John 5:11) or implied (see ch. 1 John 1:5, 1 John 4:21, 1 John 5:14) before, is often found in our Apostle’s style) which He Himself (Christ; cf. ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς, ch. 1 John 1:1; cf. αὐτῷ, 1 John 2:8; αὐτοῦ, 1 John 2:27; αὐτῷ, 1 John 2:28) promised to us (in many passages of the Gospel: e. g., John 3:15; John 4:14; John 6:40; John 6:47; John 6:57; John 11:25-26; John 17:2-3) is this, (even) eternal life (accus. instead of nom., by a common attraction of the subject of the sentence into the case of the relative clause: “urbem quam statuo vestra est.” The fact of ζωὴν αἰώνιον being put in logical apposition with ἐπαγγελία must not make us suppose, that ἐπαγγελία means the thing promised. The aor. ἐπηγγείλατο plainly enough shews that ἐπαγγ. is to be taken in its usual sense of a spoken promise. Then, when the purport of this promise comes to be explained, it is not “that we should inherit eternal life,” but, instead, the subject of the spoken promise is expressed, as very commonly in ordinary discourse. “He promised me such or such a price” is a case in point).

Verse 26-27

26, 27.] Conclusion of the section concerning antichrist. These things I wrote to you concerning them that deceive you ( ταῦτα, the whole since 1 John 2:18. The pres. part. πλανώντων describes the occupation, the endeavour of the antichrists: what result it had had, is not expressed: some result seems implied by 1 John 2:19). And you (the same anacoluthon rhetoricum as in 1 John 2:24; again setting his believing readers in marked contrast to the deceivers just mentioned),—the anointing which ye received from Him (Christ, 1 John 2:25; see above, 1 John 2:20; as also on χρῖσμα) abideth in you (“habet hic indicativus perquam subtilem exhortationem, conferendam ad 2 Timothy 3:14.” Bengel), and (“et ideo,” Beng.) ye have no need that any one teach you (the construction = χρείαν ἔχετε τοῦ διδάσκειν ὑμᾶς, Hebrews 5:12, or that with the simple infin., Matthew 3:14; Matthew 14:16, al. See reff. The ἵνα in such cases cannot be pressed to its telic meaning; rather we should say that the clause beginning with ἵνα is epexegetical of the verb preceding. Some Commentators have understood the διδάσκειν of the teaching of the antichrists: so Corn.-a-lap., “non est necesse ut pseudo-apostoli et hæretici vos doceant veram fidem et doctrinam:” so Semler, Sander, al.: but manifestly from want of apprehension of the Apostle’s meaning. His assertions here are so many delicate exhortations, veiled under the declaration of their true ideal state of unction with the Holy Spirit who guides into all truth. If that unction were abiding in them in all its fulness, they would have no need for his or any other teaching. And in what is said, he does not indeed say that it is not abiding in them; but the contrary, thus reminding them what their real state is): but (contrast to the οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε) as his anointing teacheth you concerning all things (if we read τὸ αὐτό, it is not, as Bengel, “semper idem, sibi constans:” but marks merely the identity of the anointing which they once received with that which was now abiding in them. On the reading, see the digest. Our διδάσκει ὑμᾶς περὶ πάντων is parallel to ὁδηγήσει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν ἀλήθειαν πᾶσαν, John 16:13.

Two ways are open to us of taking what follows. Either 1) καὶ ἀληθές ἐστιν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ψ., καὶ καθὼς ἐδίδαξεν ὑμᾶς is all part of the protasis, which begins with ὡς above, and the apodosis begins with μένετε,—or 2) the apodosis to ὡς κ. τ. λ. is καὶ ἀληθές ἐστιν κ. οὐκ ἔ. ψ., and then comes a new protasis, κ. καθὼς ἐδ. ὑμ., with its apodosis μένετε κ. τ. λ. The former view is taken by Œc. and Thl., by Lücke, De Wette, Neander, Düsterdieck, al.: the latter by Luther, Calv., Baumg.-Crus., Sander, Brückner, Huther, and indeed most Commentators. If we take the former, we must regard καὶ ἀλ. . κ. οὐκ ἔ. ψ. as a parenthetical insertion, stamping the character of the διδαχὴ περὶ πάντων just mentioned, and then καὶ καθὼς ἐδ. ὑμ. as a resumption, slightly varied, of ὡςδιδάσκει ὑμ. before. To this it is objected, that it is harsh, and not so like St. John’s style as the other: that καθώς does not naturally resume ὡς, nor καί, ἀλλά,—nor the aor. ἐδίδαξεν the pres. διδάσκει: that περὶ πάντων in the former clause has no correspondent in μένετε ἐν αὐτῷ in the latter. But it is answered on the other side, that these divergences from the former expression are entirely in accordance with the vivid and rapid movement of the thought in the Apostle’s style, and cannot in any way tend to obscure the connexion. The ἀλλά above was occasioned by the preceding οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ἵνα, whereas the καί before καθώς seems to take up again the construction broken by the parenthesis κ. ἀλ.… ψ. Again καθώς, the fuller and more precise conjunction, not only repeats but enforces the ὡς above. And the change of the pres. διδάσκει into the aor. ἐδίδαξεν is no objection, but a recommendation, to this view. For by it we have, as so often in St. John’s repetitions, a new side of the subject brought out: viz. the absolute historical fact, that at a certain time this teaching came to them from Christ, viz. when they heard the apostolic preaching: so that the ὡς διδάσκει, its enduring teaching, is not only taken up again but placed in a new light, by its commencement being referred to. And as to the last objection, which is Huther’s, of there being in the resumption no member corresponding to περὶ πάντων, it seems to me to amount to nothing. The correspondent member would be found not in the apodosis, μενεῖτε or μένετε,—but in the resumption of the protasis: and there it may be well understood to be implied in ἐδίδαξεν, there being no reason why it should be again expressed. But against the second view there are weightier objections. First, the καί before ἀληθές is in this case no natural introduction to an apodosis. Huther compares it with the καί before ὑμεῖς in 1 John 2:24; but that, giving (see there) the sense of “ye too,” is quite another thing. Here, there is no mutual correspondence, and the καί merely drags on the ear. Then, the apodosis thus introduced is no logical apodosis: “as it teaches you concerning all things, (so) it is true and is not a lie,” is not a connected judgment: its being true and not a lie may be an authoritative assertion inserted by way of reminding, but cannot be a logical inference from its teaching being universal; for universal teaching may be false, as well as true. For these reasons I prefer, and adopt the former rendering),—and is true, and is not a lie (what is true, and not a lie? the anointing itself, or that which it teaches about all things? Œc. and Thl. understand the latter: ἀληθές γάρ ἐστι κ. οὐκ ἔστι ψεῦδος ὃ δηλονότι ἐδίδαξεν ὑμᾶς. But the construction seems to require the other view: ἁληθές is in strict concord with τὸ χρῖσμα, and to supply τὸ διδασκόμενον would be very harsh. And this is quite correspondent to the fact that the Spirit who is this anointing, is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17) and therefore leads into all truth (ib. John 16:13). As Düsterd. remarks, “the chrisma which abides in and teaches believers, is essentially true, is not a lie, and hence nothing can come from it which is a lie”)—and even as He (or, it? so Erasmus, paraphrasing χρῖσμα by ‘Spiritus’ and adding “perseveretis in eo quod Ille vos semel docuit;” and so Düsterd.: but the change to the aor. seems necessarily to refer to Christ as the subject,—the ἅγιος from whom the χρῖσμα came, and who is ever in the Writer’s mind, a subject ever ready to be supplied) taught you, abide in Him (or, “in it,” as Erasmus? or, in that which it teaches, as Baumg.-Crus.? Neither of these: for the μένετε ἐν αὐτῷ is immediately after repeated, and the reference of αὐτῷ fixed, by what follows, to be to Christ. (But I see that Estius, holding it improbable that this αὐτῷ refers to Christ, makes that also to mean “in eo quod doctum fuerat:” supplying “Christ” as a subject before φανερωθῇ.)

As regards μένετε, Huther, who upholds this reading, takes it as indicative here, and imperative in the next verse. But, apart from the arbitrariness of such a distinction, would it be quite true or according to the Apostle’s way of asserting as existent the ideal Christian state of his readers? True, he does assert that the chrisma μένει in them, and from that abiding, important consequences are hortatively deduced: one of the most important of which is, the enduring and ultimate abiding in Christ. Therefore I much prefer taking μένετε imperative. The reading μενεῖτε is variously understood: by Socinus, Corn.-a-lap., Estius, Lorinus, Semler, al., as an imperative: by others as a pure future: so Beza, “mihi videtur omnino servanda futuri propria significatio ut est optime sperantis:” and Bengel, “vim consolandi et hortandi habet hoc futurum.” But see Digest).

Verse 28

28.] Conclusion of this part of the Epistle: forming also a transition to the next part: see below. And now (by καὶ νῦν, the preceding considerations are linked on to the exhortation regarding present practice which follows: see reff. On ἀλλὰ νῦν, νῦν δέ, νῦν οὖν see Düsterdieck’s note), little children (the affectionate repetition of τεκνία binds this on to 1 John 2:18, and to the ὁ δὲ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, 1 John 2:17), abide in Him (“repetitio est præcepti cum blanda appellatione, qua paternum erga eos amorem declaret,” Estius. αὐτῷ, Christ: as before, 1 John 2:27; but here even more decidedly,—pace Estii, see above: and against the Socinian interpreters): in order that if He should be manifested (in case of His second coming taking place. The ἐάν differs from ὅταν, in marking, not time but reality only. We may supply, “in our time:” but it is better to leave it unsupplied), we (observe that he changes to the communicative way of speaking. This was not a matter in which Apostle and converts, teacher and hearer, were separate: but one in which all had a share: viz. the Christian hope of standing before the Lord with joy at His coming. This is far the most likely reason, and not as Seb.-Schmidt, mere modesty, still less, as Sander, because the failure of any of his τεκνία at that day would be a detraction from his full apostolic reward: for the relation between shepherd and flock, minister and people, is not in question here) may have confidence ( παῤῥησία, subjective: not freedom of speech, but confidence,—see note on Hebrews 3:6; and the reff. Cf. also Suicer, sub voce), and may not shrink with shame from Him (the ἀπʼ in ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ, expresses the flying from His presence, which the shame in αἰσχυνθῶμεν would suggest: see reff. (Hammond renders, “turn with shame from Him.”) It is not equivalent to coram, as many Commentators: nor to ὑπό, as Socinus: nor to both of these together, as Sander, who however quotes πορεύεσθε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ, Matthew 25:41; nor can the words mean, as Erasmus thought, “ut illum non pudeat nostri.” “He who has not abode in the Lord ( ἐν αὐτῷ), will flee from Him ( ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ) with shame and confusion when He appears.” Düsterd.) at His coming (Bengel remarks, “Epistolam igitur hanc prius scripsisse videtur quam apocalypsin, in qua demum adventus magis est dilatus.” On this, see Prolegomena).

1 John 2:29 to 1 John 5:5.] THE SECOND GREAT DIVISION OF THE EPISTLE: the doing of righteousness, the sign of new birth from God: the opposite, the sign of not being of God. This main subject, enunciated in 1 John 2:29, is carried onward throughout, and more especially with reference to brotherly love, which is the great and obvious example of likeness to God, and its absence the most decisive proof of alienation from Him. The various subdivisions see, as the exegesis proceeds.

1 John 2:29 to 1 John 3:3.] Connected with the principle enounced 1 John 2:29, is its obvious application to ourselves, as children of God. Hoping as we do to be entirely like Christ at His appearing, each one of us, in pursuance of this hope, is even now approximating to this perfect likeness by purifying himself even as He is pure.

Verse 29

29.] If ye know (appeal to their recognition of the divine character as that which he describes it) that He is righteous (of whom is this said? If of Christ, as seems most natural after αὐτοῦ.… αὐτοῦ preceding, we find a difficulty in ἐξ αὐτοῦ γεγέννηται below, seeing that we are never said to be born anew of Christ, but always of God (through Christ), ch. 1 John 3:1; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:4; 1 John 5:18 &c. If on the other hand they are said of God, it seems strange that after a change of reference from the preceding αὐτοῦ, another subject should be expressed in ch. 1 John 3:1 by the words ὁ πατήρ. In consequence of these difficulties, some, as Storr, Lücke, al., have referred δίκαιός ἐστιν to Christ, and ἐξ αὐτοῦ to God; which cannot well be. It would be possible, doubtless, to understand the whole of Christ, without change of subject from 1 John 2:28; and to leave the γεγέννηται ἐξ αὐτοῦ as we find it. If it occurs no where else in reference to Christ, there is in it nothing abhorrent from our Christian ideas. And in St. John’s sense of the intimate union between the Father and Son, he who is born of the Father might be said to be born of the Son also. Another reason for this might be the easily occurring reference, in δίκαιός ἐστιν, to ἰησοῦν χριστὸν δίκαιον, 1 John 2:1. This view is taken by Bengel, Corn.-a-lap., Lorinus, al. But after all, the other, which is that of most ancient expositors, of Baumg.-Crus., De Wette, Neander, Düsterdieck, al., must, I apprehend, be adopted. The analogy of the passage, as shewn in ch. 1 John 3:1-2; 1 John 3:9-10, fixes the ἐξ αὐτοῦ γεγέννηται to birth from God: and the absence of a new expressed subject in δίκαιός ἐστιν must be accounted for by remembering that this verse, as ch. 1 John 1:5, is the opening, and general statement, of a new section of the Epistle. And the essential unity of the Father and the Son comes in on this side also: so that the judgment alluded to 1 John 2:28, which shall be executed by the Son, being judgment committed to Him by the Father, brings to mind the justice and righteousness in which that judgment is founded.

The whole subject of the righteousness of God is fully treated by Düsterd. in his note here. The definition which seems to him to express it most fully, is that of Hollaz, one of the best of the old Lutheran dogmatists (died 1713),—in his Examen theologicum,—“Justitia Dei est attributum divinum ἐνεργητικόν, vi cujus Deus omnia qnæ æternæ suæ legi sunt conformia, vult et agit; creaturis convenientes leges præscribit, promissa facta hominibus implet, bonos remuneratur et impios punit”): ye know (many, as vulg., which Aug(36), Bed(37), and the R.-C. expositors follow, also Luth., Calv., Socin., Episcop., Grot., Carpzov., Lücke, Sander, al., take γινώσκετε as imperative. But the whole tone of the Epistle is against this: which is one not of authoritative revelation of truth, but of inferring ethical truth from previously known theosophic facts. And with such a tone it is much more consonant to say, “If ye know the one, ye know—that knowledge sets forth and assumes—the other:” than to say, “If ye know the one, know the other.” Not to insist, that γινώσκειν is more the apprehension, εἴδητε the possession, of knowledge; if ye are already aware, … ye thereby know …) that also every one who doeth righteousness ( τὴν δικαιοσύνην, the righteousness which is implied in δίκαιος above: if it were not too strong, we might almost say, “that righteousness:” the art. shewing that there is no other. πᾶς, “omnis, et solus,” says Bengel: every one, and no one else. The proposition will bear converting: not logically, but theologically, ποιῶν, for (see Hollaz’s definition above) all righteousness is energetic: it springs out of holiness, truth, love: πρακτικαὶ γὰρ αἱ ἀρεταί, καὶ ἐν τῷ γίνεσθαι ἔχουσι τὸ εἶναι· παυσάμεναι γὰρ ἢ μέλλουσαι οὐδὲ τὸ εἶναι ἔχουσι. Œc. on ch. 1 John 3:3), is born (= hath been begotten) of Him (God: see above: ὁ δίκαιος γὰρ δικαίους γεννᾷ.

The inference here must be carefully kept to the Apostle’s words and obvious sense. And those require that we should understand it thus: God is righteous. This is our axiom, from which we set out. And if so, then the source of righteousness. When therefore a man doeth righteousness, γινώσκομεν, we apprehend, we collect, from our previous knowledge of these truths, that the source of his righteousness is God: that in consequence he has acquired by new birth from God, that righteousness which he had not by nature. We argue from his ποιεῖν τὴν δικαιοσύνην to his γεγεννῆσθαι ἐκ θεοῦ. And the right apprehension of this is the more important, because the whole mass of Socinian and Pelagian Commentators have reversed the members of the argument, and made it conclude that ποιεῖν τὴν δικαιοσύνην is the condition, on our part, of becoming a child of God. So Socinus, Episcopius, Grot., Hammond, Semler, Rosenmüller, al. And the R.-C. expositors, while they avoid this error, making the good works spoken of to be, as Lyra, “opera justitiæ infusæ, quæ datur cum gratia, per quam homo constituitur in quadam participatione supernaturali esse divini,” yet go equally wrong, in understanding γεγέννηται not as the statement of a past and abiding fact, but as the ground of a confidence as to the future: “habebit omnimodam fiduciam, quia judici suo justo similis, imo ex ipso natus est, hoc est, ipsius filius et hæres est.” Corn.-a-lap.).


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 John 2:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

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