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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
1 John 1

 

 

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Verse 1

1 John 1:1. ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς] This thought, indefinite in itself, is more fully explained by the following relative clauses to this extent, that “that which was from the beginning” is identical with that which was the subject of perception by the apostle’s senses. But from the appositional adjunct περὶ κ. τ. λ. and the parenthetical sentence, 1 John 1:2, it follows that John understands by it the λόγος τῆς ζωῆς or the ζωή, and more exactly the ζωὴ αἰώνιος, which was with the Father and was manifested. That the apostle, however, does not thereby mean a mere abstraction, but a real personality, is clear, first from ἀκηκόαμεν κ. τ. λ. and ἐφανερώθη, and then especially from the comparison with the prooemium of the Gospel of John, with which what is said here is in such conformity that it cannot be doubted that by ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς the same subject is meant as is there spoken of as λόγος. The neuter form does not entitle us to understand by ἦν κ. τ. λ., with the Greek commentators Theophylact, Oecumenius, and the Scholiasts, the “ μυστήριον of God,” namely, ὅτι θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί, or even, with Grotius, the “res a Deo destinatae.” Nor does do Wette’s interpretation: “that which appeared in Christ, which was from eternity, the eternal divine life,” correspond with the representation of the apostle, according to which the ζωή not only was manifested in Christ, but is Christ Himself. By far the greatest number of commentators interpret ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς correctly of the personal Christ. The reason why John did not write ὅς (comp. chap. 1 John 2:13 : τὸν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς), but , cannot, with several commentators (Erdmann, Lücke, Ebrard(24)), be found in this, that John means not only the person in itself, but at the same time its whole history, all that it did and experienced, for ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς (synonymous with ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν, Gospel of John 1:1) is decisive as to the historical manifestation of Christ. Nor is it, with Düsterdieck, to be found in this, “because only this form (the neuter) is wide and flexible enough to bear at the same time the two conceptions of the one … object, the conception of the premundane existence and that of the historical manifestation,” for then each of the four ὅ’s would have to embrace in itself both these ideas, which, however, is not the case. But neither is it, with Hofmann (Schriftbeweis, ed. 2, I. p. 112), this: “because John just wants to describe only the subject of the apostolic proclamation as such;” for this is not the order, that John first describes the subject of the apostolic proclamation only generally, and “then” defines it more particularly, but ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς is itself the more particular definition of the subject of the proclamation. Nor, finally, is it, with Weiss, this, that the apostle does not here mean the Son of God Himself, but “that which constituted the eternal being of the Son,” namely life; for, on the one hand, nothing here points to a distinction of the Son and His being, and, on the other hand, it is not the being of the Son which the apostle heard, saw, handled, but the Son Himself. The neuter is rather to be explained in this way, that to the apostle Christ is “the life” itself; but this idea in itself is an abstract (or general) idea.(25) True, the apostle could have written even ὅς instead of the neuter; but as Christ has His peculiar importance just in this, that He is the Life itself (not merely a living individual),—comp. Gospel of John 14:6,—and as John begins his Epistle filled with this conception, it was more natural for him to write here than ὅς.(26) By ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς John describes Christ as Him who, although at a particular time He was the object of perception by sense, has been from all eternity; the imperfect ἦν, however, does not express the premundane, eternal existence, but is explained in this way, that John speaks historically, looking backwards from the point of time at which Christ had become the object of sensuous perception.

ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς] has frequently in the N. T. its more particular determination along with it, as in Mark 13:19, 2 Peter 3:4 : τῆς κτίσεως, or it is easily discovered from the context, as in Acts 26:4. In the passage 2 Thessalonians 2:13, ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς corresponds to the expression used in Ephesians 1:4 : πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσ΄ου, and is identical with the German “von Ewigkeit her” (from all eternity), for which elsewhere is said: ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων (Ephesians 3:9), or similar words. Here it is explained by the following ἥτις ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα. This existence of Christ with the Father precedes not merely His appearance in the flesh, but also the creation of the world, for according to John 1:2 the world was made by Him; ἀρχή is therefore not the moment of the beginning of the world, as it is frequently interpreted, but what preceded it (comp. Meyer on Gospel of John 1:1); Christ was before the world was, and is therefore not first from the beginning of the world, as Christ Himself in John 17:5 speaks of a δόξα which He had with the Father πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσ΄ον εἶναι.(27) The apostle says here ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, because he is looking back from the time when Christ by His incarnation became the object of sensuous perception (similarly Ebrard). It is incorrect either to change the idea of εἶναι ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς into that of existence in the predetermined plan,(28) by which the words are strained, or to interpret ἀρχή here of the beginning of the public activity of Christ in the flesh (Semler, Paulus, and others), by which the connection with 1 John 1:2 is ignored.

ἀκηκόαμεν κ. τ. λ.] By the four sentences the apostle expresses the thought that that which was from the beginning was the subject of his own perception; the main purpose of them is not “to put forward that which is to be proclaimed about Christ as absolutely certain and self-experienced” (Ebrard), but to bring out and to establish the identity of that which was from the beginning with that which was manifested in the flesh, while he has at the same time in his view the Docetan heresy afterwards mentioned by him.(29) By the with which these sentences begin, nothing else, therefore, is meant than by the of the first sentence, namely Christ Himself (Brückner, Braune); and here the peculiar paradox is to be noticed, which lies in this, that the general ( ζωή) is represented by the apostle as something perceived by his senses. It is erroneous to understand by each of these ὅ’s something different; thus by the first (with ἀκηκόαμεν), perhaps the testimony which was expressed by God Himself (Grotius), or by the law and the prophets (Oecumenius), or by John the Baptist (Nicolas de Lyra), or even the words which Christ uttered (Ebrard); by the second (with ἑωράκαμεν), the miracles of Christ (Ebrard); by the third (with ἐθεασάμεθα), tot et tauta miracula (Grotius), or even “the divine glory of Christ” (Ebrard); and by the which is to be supplied with ἐψηλάφησαν, the resurrection-body of Christ (Ebrard), or, still more arbitrarily, the panes multiplicatos, Lazarum, etc. (Grotius); all these supplementary ideas, which have originated in the incorrect assumption that John refers here to “the various sides of Christ’s appearance in the flesh,” and which can easily be confounded with others, are utterly unjustified, since they are in no way hinted, at in the context. John does not mean here to say that he has experienced this or that in Christ, but that he has heard, seen, looked upon, and handled Christ Himself. In the succession of the four verbs there lies an unmistakeable gradation (a Lapide: gradatim crescit oratio); from ἀκηκόαμεν to ἑωράκαμεν a climax occurs, in so far as we are more certainly and immediately convinced of the reality of an appearance of sense by sight than by hearing; the addition of the words τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν is not, as Lorinus already remarks, a περισσολογία or βαττολογία, but there is in them “plainly an aiming at emphasis, as: to see with one’s own eyes” (Winer, p. 535, VII. p. 564). The third verb ἐθεασάμεθα must not here be taken—with Bede and Ebrard—in the sense of spiritual beholding, by which it is removed from the sphere to which the other verbs belong; it is rather of similar signification with ἑωράκαμεν—in this respect, that, equally with the latter, it indicates the seeing with the bodily eyes. The difference does not, however, lie in this, that θεᾶσθαι = μετὰ θαύματος καὶ θάμβους ὁρᾶν (Oecumenius, a Lapide, Hornejus, etc.), or = attente cum gaudio et admiratione conspicere (Blackwell), by which significations are put into the word which are foreign to it in itself, but in this, that it has in it the suggestion of intention.(30) It is to be remarked that ἐθεασάμεθα is closely connected with the following καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν; for is not repeated here, and both verbs are in the aorist, so that they thus go to form a sort of contrast to the two preceding clauses; whilst ἀκούειν and ὁρᾷν express rather the involuntary perception, θεᾶσθαι and ψηλαφεῖν express acts of voluntary design,—the former the purposed beholding, the latter the purposed touching of the object in order to convince oneself of its reality and of its nature. As both these parts of the clause remind us of the words of the risen Christ: ψηλαφήσατέ με καὶ ἴδετε (Luke 24:39), it is not improbable that John had in his mind the beholding and touching of the Risen One, only it must be maintained at the same time that Christ was one and the same to him before and after His resurrection. In this view, the transition from the perfect to the aorist is naturally explained in this way, that the apostle in the last verbs refers to single definite acts.(31) The plural ἀκηκόαμεν κ. τ. λ. is not plur. majestaticus, but is used because John, although he speaks of himself as subject, still at the same time embraces in his consciousness the other apostles as having had the same experience as himself.

περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς] is not dependent on any of the preceding verbs;(32) it is also inadmissible to explain περί here, with Brückner, in the sense in which it is used in 1 Corinthians 16:1; 1 Corinthians 16:12, namely, in order to mark the transition to something new; not only the sense, but also the position of περί prohibits this signification; it is an additional clause in apposition to the preceding descriptions of the object, by which it is stated to what ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, ἀκηκόαμεν refers. The expression λόγος τῆς ζωῆς may be in itself a description of the Gospel (so it is taken by Grotius, Semler, Frommann, Ewald, de Wette, Brückner, Düsterdieck, etc.), and τῆς ζωῆς either gen. obj. (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 5:19), or gen. qualitatis (Philippians 2:16; Gospel of John 6:68); but this acceptation is refuted, first, by the preposition περί, instead of which the simple accusative would have had to be put, for John proclaimed not about the gospel, but the gospel itself ( ἀπαγγέλλομεν, 1 John 1:3); then by the close connection of this additional clause with the preceding objective clauses; and, finally, by the analogy with the prooemium of the Gospel of John (1 John 1:1 : ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν λόγος; 1 John 1:4 : ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν). These reasons, which are opposed to that explanation, are in favour of the explanation of Hornejus: hic non denotatur sermo s. verbum evangelii, sed Christus, which is also that of most commentators. The opinion of Düsterdieck, that “as John (according to 1 John 1:2) considered the Logos itself as ζωή, ζωὴ αἰώνιος, the λόγος in the composition λόγος τῆς ζωῆς cannot again be the personal Logos,” is overthrown by this, that τῆς ζωῆς in itself is not the name of a person, but of a thing, just as in Gospel of John 1:4, ζωή in the clause ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, and τὸ φῶς τ. ἀνθρ. in the clause καὶ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τ. ἀνθρ. Even λόγος is the name of a thing; not, indeed, that we should understand by it, first, “the word, which was preached by the apostles,” and then, because this has Christ as its subject, “Christ Himself,” as Hofmann (Schriftbew. ed. 2, I. p. 109 ff.) thinks, for the subject of a word cannot be called the Word (comp. Meyer on Gospel of John 1:1(33)), but λόγος signifies, in the province of religious thought, κατʼ ἐξοχήν, the Word by which God expressed Himself ἐν ἀρχῇ. Though John of course knows that this Word is the personal Christ, yet in this expression in itself the idea of personality is not yet brought out. This being the case, we will have to understand the compound phrase: λόγος τῆς ζωῆς, first of all as the name of a thing;(34) so that John in this description, which in itself does not express the idea of personality, does not mean to say that that which was from the beginning, and which he has heard, etc., is the person that bears the name λόγος τῆς ζωῆς, but only defines more particularly the object, previously stated indefinitely, in so far that it is the Word of life, i.e. the Word which has life in it (whose nature consists in this, that it is life), and is the source of all life (Braune); comp. John 6:35; John 8:12. In agreement with this, Weiss says (p. 35) that λόγος is here, as in the prologue of the Gospel, a description of the nature of the Son of God; but the assertion is incorrect, that the genitive τῆς ζωῆς describes the Word as “the Word belonging to life, necessary for life,” in favour of which he appeals incorrectly to the expressions ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς (John 6:35; John 6:48) and ῥήματα ζωῆς αἰωνίου (John 6:68). This explanation is refuted by this, that with it ζωή, 1 John 1:2, must be taken in a different reference from that which τῆς ζωῆς has here.(35)

The personality of this Word, which has already been indicated by ἀκηκόα΄εν κ. τ. λ., is still more definitely expressed in 1 John 1:2 by the twofold ἐφανερώθη, in which ἑωράκα΄εν καὶ ἀκηκόα΄εν of 1 John 1:3 finds its explanation. That in the expression λόγος τῆς ζωῆς the emphasis lies on τῆς ζωῆς, is clear from this, that in 1 John 1:2 it is not λόγος, but ζωή, that is the subject. The construction with περί is thus explained, that the apostle does not thereby mean to speak of the object of his proclamation, which he has already stated in ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς κ. τ. λ., but only desires to add a more particular description of it, for which reason also it is not to be regarded as dependent on ἀπαγγέλλο΄εν. Braune incorrectly takes it as “a new dependent clause parallel in its matter to the succession of relative clauses, which along with the latter comes to an end in ἀπαγγέλλο΄εν.” Ebrard groundlessly finds in this construction the suggestion, that John considers as the object of his proclamation, not Christ “as an abstract single conception” (!), but “his concrete historical experiences of Christ.”


Verses 1-4

1 John 1:1-4. Introduction of the Epistle: statement of the subject of the apostolic proclamation and of the aim of this writing. The construction of the periods is not carried out conformably to rule. The relative clauses beginning with form the object of a verbal idea, which is just as little directly expressed as the subject which belongs to it; nay, more, with περί the period that was begun breaks off, and with καὶ ζωή (which refers back to the preceding τῆς ζωῆς) begins a new period consisting of two principal members. In the new sentence, 1 John 1:3, the object, expressed in relative form, is placed before the finite verb, which contains in itself the subject. The parts of the sentence in 1 John 1:1, beginning with , are co-ordinate with each other; it is grammatically impossible to take the first part as subject and the following parts as the predicate of it (Cappellus: quod erat ab initio hoc ipsum est, quod audivimus, etc.); as far as regards the sense, it is unsuitable to find in ἐψηλάφησαν the verb which governs the preceding objective clauses (Paulus: “that which was, etc., which we have seen, our hands also have touched”). The governing verb cannot be contained in 1 John 1:2 either, for the verbs of this verse have their object near them in τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον. As ἑωράκαμεν κ. ἀκηκόαμεν, 1 John 1:3, shows itself to be the resumption of the objective clauses of 1 John 1:1,—only in more abridged form,—it is to be assumed that ἀπαγγέλλομεν, 1 John 1:3, is the verb which was before the apostle’s mind from the very beginning, from the immediate addition of which he was, however, prevented by feeling himself constrained to define the object more precisely by the appositional addition περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς. As he was then induced by τῆς ζωῆς to the parenthetical continuation in 1 John 1:2, he made the finite verb follow after he had first resumed the object.


Verse 2

1 John 1:2. Without bringing to an end the thought begun in 1 John 1:1, from the exact continuation of which he has already digressed in περὶ τοῦ λόγου τ. ζ., the apostle in this verse expresses the double thought, that the life was manifested, and that this eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested, has been seen and is declared by him; so that in this both ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς and ἀκηκόαμεν, how the former, namely, could have been the subject of sensuous perception, find their more particular determination. This whole verse is of course parenthetical; but that it is not regarded by John as mere parenthesis (contrary to Düsterdieck) is clear, partly from the connecting καὶ, and partly from this, that in 1 John 1:3 it is not ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, but only ἀκηκόαμεν κ. τ. λ., that is resumed, while the former is fully dealt with in this verse.

καί] is not put for γάρ, but is copulative, “not disjunctive, but conjunctive” (Lücke); the thought with which it is connected is that which lies in ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, that the life, before it became subject of perception, was, as it is afterwards put, πρὸς τὸν πατέρα.(36)

ζωὴ ἐφανερώθη] Instead of a relative, the noun is repeated, as is peculiar to the diction of John; ζωή instead of λόγος τῆς ζωῆς, because the emphasis, as has been already remarked, is on ζωή, is analogous to Gospel of John 1:4, where also, after it is said of the λόγος: ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, it is not λόγος, but ζωή, that is the subject of the following sentence.(37) It is plainly incorrect to understand by ζωή the doctrina de felicitate nova = evangelium (Semler), or, with others: the felicitas of believers; but neither is S. G. Lange’s explanation, according to which ζωή = “auctor vitae, the Life-giver,” sufficient, for Christ is so designated not merely according to the operation that proceeds from Him, but at the same time according to the peculiarity of His nature.(38)

ἐφανερώθη] In what way the φανέρωσις took place is taught in chap. 1 John 4:2 and John 1:14. In this way, that the life which was in itself hidden appeared in the flesh or became flesh, did it become perceptible by sense, subject of the ἀκούειν, ὁρᾶν κ. τ. λ. Ebrard rightly remarks: “the σὰρξ γίγνεσθαι indicates the objective event of the incarnation as such; the φανερωθῆναι, the result of it for our faculty of perception.”

καὶ ἑωράκα΄εν καὶ κ. τ. λ.] The object that belongs to the verbs is τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον; according to de Wette, Brückner, and Düsterdieck, this object is only attracted to ἀπαγγέλλο΄εν, and the object is to be supplied to both of the first verbs from what precedes ( ζωή); but the two ideas ΄αρτυροῦ΄εν and ἀπαγγ. are thereby unduly separated from each other; there is more in favour of supplying only an αὐτήν with ἑωράκα΄εν (1st ed. of this comm., Myrberg), by which the idea of this verb is significantly brought out: “the life was manifested, and we have seen it;” but as in the context even this construction is not indicated, it is better, with most commentators, to connect τὴν ζωὴν τ. αἰών. also with ἑωράκα΄εν.

By ἑωράκα΄εν the apostle brings out that the eternal Life which was made manifest and perceptible was seen by himself; the verb ΄αρτυροῦ΄εν, which signifies the utterance of that which one has personally seen or experienced (comp. Gospel of John 19:35; also 1 John 1:3-4; 1 John 3:23),(39) is directly connected with this, and thereupon first follows the more general idea ἀπαγγέλλομεν; Baumgarten-Crusius incorrecty refers ΄αρτυροῦ΄εν specially to ἐφανερώθη and ἀπαγγέλλο΄εν to ἑωράκα΄εν, with the assertion that “the former two have more objective, the latter more subjective meaning.” Myrberg’s explanation also: ΄αρτυρία est expertae veritatis simplex confessio, qua homo sibi ipsi potius, quam aliis consulat: ἀπαγγελία annuntiatio veritatis cognitae, qua aliis potius, quam sibi ipsi providere studeat, is without grammatical justification.

By ὑ΄ῖν, ἀπαγγέλλο΄εν is put in reference to the readers of the Epistle; hence it does not follow, however, that it is to be understood only of the writing of this Epistle, and is therefore simply resumed by ταῦτα γράφο΄εν in 1 John 1:4; but the former is the more general idea, in which the more special one of the writing of the Epistle is embraced; the γράφειν is a particular kind of the ἀπαγγέλλειν.(40) Ebrard incorrectly separates the two, by referring ἀπαγγέλλομεν to the written Gospel of John, and γράφο΄εν to this Epistle.

τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον] The noun is here put for the pronoun αὐτήν, not only in accordance with John’s usual mode of expression, but because the idea of ζωή was to be more particularly defined by αἰώνιος. Baumgarten-Crusius erroneously explains ζωὴ αἰώνιος by “bestowing higher, unending life;” rather the ζωή, which Christ is, is marked by αἰώνιος as such as ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, or—still more comprehensively—as such as, though by the incarnation it entered into time, is in itself nevertheless without measure of time, eternal (Brückner; similarly Braune). It is true, the idea ζωὴ αἰώνιος has elsewhere in the N. T. admittedly another signification, but this does not justify the explanation of Calvin: ubi secundo repetit: annuntiamus vitam aeternam, non dubito quin de effectu loquatur, nempe quod annuntiet: beneficio Christi partam nobis esse vitam. De Wette’s explanation also, that ζωὴ αἰώνιος is an idea “which hovers in the middle between the eternal true life which is to be appropriated by believers (John 17:3), and life in Christ, so that the first is to be considered in closest connection with ἀπαγγέλλο΄εν, but the second in reference to the reflexive ἥτις ἦν,” can so much the less be held correct as the simple and clear thought of the apostle is thereby rendered complicated and obscure. Of that which the believer possesses in Christ there is here no mention at all, but only of Christ Himself; and, besides, that ζωὴ αἰών. is to the Apostle John not merely a subjective, but also an objective conception, is proved by chap. 1 John 5:11.

ἥτις ἦν] ἥτις is more significant than the simple , inasmuch as it makes the twofold relative clause as containing a confirmation of the preceding statement: ἑωράκα΄εν κ. τ. λ., τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον.(41)

The imperfect ἦν also does not here indicate the intemporal existence, but is used in reference to ἐφανερώθη: ere the ζωή appeared, it was with the Father.

πρὸς τὸν πατέρα] comp. Gospel of John 1:1 : πρὸς τὸν θεόν. The preposition πρός is often combined with the accusative in the N. T. in the sense of “with:” comp. Matthew 13:56; Matthew 26:55; but πρός with the accusative differs from πρός with the dative in this, that it describes being with one another not as a mere being beside one another, but as a living connection, a being in intercourse with one another (so also Braune); but we put too much into it, if we find the relationship of love directly expressed by πρός.(42) John does not mean to bring out that the ζωή (Christ) was connected with the Father in love, but that Christ already was, before He appeared ( ἐφανερώθη); before He was ἐν τῷ κόσ΄ῳ with men, He was therefore in heaven with God, and indeed in lively union with God as He afterwards entered into a lively communion with men. Quite erroneously, Socin, Grotius, and others understand the expression of the concealment of the ζωὴ αἰών. in the decree of God. From the fact that John here calls God in His relation to Christ πατήρ, it follows that the sonship of Christ to God is to be regarded not as first begun with His incarnation, but as premundane.

καὶ ἐφανερώθη ἡ΄ῖν] is not a mere repetition of what has been already said, but in ἡ΄ῖν a new element is added, by which ἑωράκα΄εν and ἀκηκόα΄εν κ. τ. λ., 1 John 1:1, find their explanation.


Verse 3

1 John 1:3. In the opening words of this verse: ἀκηκόαμεν, the object expressed in 1 John 1:1 is resumed, and the governing verb, which was there already in the apostle’s view, is added. The drift of this verse does not, however, lie in this, but rather in the final clause: ἵνα κ. τ. λ. While John first meant to state what was the subject of his proclamation, namely, that it was that which was from the beginning and was perceived by his senses,—which he then more particularly defined in 1 John 1:2,—he now wants to state the purpose of this proclamation of that subject. In this lies the reason why the object is resumed in abridged form, namely, in the form which the immediately preceding words ( καὶ ἐφανερώθη ἡμῖν) suggested. The ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, and similarly the ἐθεασάμεθα, was not to be resumed; the former, because it has been fully dealt with in what follows it; the latter, because it was not here in the purpose of the apostle once more to bring out the reality of the sensuous appearance of Him who was from the beginning. That ἑωράκαμεν is placed before ἀκηκόαμεν—in which no artificial parallelism is to be sought for (against Ebrard)—resulted naturally from the interweaving of ἑωράκαμεν into 1 John 1:2 (de Wette).

ἀπαγγέλλομεν καὶ ὑμῖν] with ἀπαγγέλλομεν, comp. 1 John 1:2.

καί (see the critical remarks) distinguishes the readers either from others to whom the apostle had declared the same thing (Spener, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, Lücke, Düsterdieck, Myrberg, Braune, etc.), or from John (along with the other apostles). Lorinus: vos qui nimirum non audistis, nec vidistis, nec manibus vestris contrectastis verbum vitae; so also Zwingli, Bullinger, Ebrard. The latter interpretation would be preferable, if the following καί before ὑμεῖς, to which the same reference is to be attributed, did not thereby become pleonastic.

ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς κοινωνίαν ἔχητε μεθʼ ἡμῶν] Many commentators, as Socin, Bengel, Russmeyer, Spener, and others, supply with κοινωνίαν as enlargement: “with God and Christ;” without adequate ground; the enlargement of the idea κοινωνία is μεθʼ ἡμῶν (Baumgarten-Crusius, Düsterdieck, Braune), whereby, however, John does not mean “the apostles and other Christians” (de Wette), but himself, although including the other apostles, who have also seen and heard the Word of Life. This κοινωνία is self-evidently the fellowship of spirit in faith and love, which was brought about by the apostolic preaching.

ἔχειν is neither to be explained, with a Lapide, by: pergere et in ea ( κοινωνία) proficere et confirmari, nor, with Fritzsche, by: “to acquire;” the word is rather to be retained in the signification peculiar to it; the apostle simply indicates the having fellowship as the aim of the apostolic proclamation, quite apart from the question as to how the hearers of this are related to that.

καὶ κοινωνία δὲ ἡμετέρα κ. τ. λ.] By κοινωνία ἡμετέρα most commentators understand “the fellowship which the apostles and the believing hearers of their proclamation have with one another,” and, according as or ἐστί is supplied, have thus defined the thought of the verse, that the apostle states of this mutual fellowship that it either should be or is a fellowship with the Father and the Son. But as this view necessitates a scarcely justifiable enlargement of the idea κοινωνία ( κοινωνία ἡμετέρα [or ἐστί] κοινωνία μετὰ τ. πατρ. κ. τ. λ.),(43) the explanation of Baumgarten-Crusius, who resolves κοιν. ἡμετέρα into ἡμεις ἔχομεν κοινωνίαν μετὰ τ. πατρ., deserves the preference (so also Ewald, Braune); taking this explanation, the κοινωνία meant here is not identical with that mentioned before, inasmuch as the distinction is marked both by the difference of the subject: ὑμεῖς and ἡμεῖς (which is contained in ἡμετέρα), and that of the object: μεθʼ ἡμῶν and μετὰ τοῦ πατρός. According to this acceptation, the apostle here brings out that he (along with the rest of the apostles) has fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and, no doubt, in order to intimate by this that his readers, if they have fellowship with him, are thereby received with him into that fellowship. It is at all events incorrect, with Augustin, Luther, Calvin, Grotius, Ebrard, etc., to supply with this sentence. In opposition to it are—(1) the structure of the sentence, for if it were dependent on ἵνα the verb could not be omitted;(44) and (2) the thought, for as the apostles are already in fellowship with the Father and with the Son, it cannot be the aim of their ἀπαγγελία to elevate the fellowship which exists between them and those who accept their word into fellowship with the Father and with the Son. Therefore it is ἐστί that must be supplied, as Erasmus, a Lapide, Vatablus, Hornejus, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, Düsterdieck, Myrberg, Ewald Braune, etc., have rightly recognised. The conjunction καὶδέ, which is pretty often found in the N. T., is used when the idea which is connected with a preceding one is at the same time to be contrasted with it; “the introduction of something new is thereby intimated” (Pape, see on καὶδέ). Whether it be the connection or the contrast which is to be the more emphasized, this particle is never used to resume an idea with the view to a further expression of it. This usage therefore also proves that by κοιν. ἡμετέρα it is not the previously mentioned κοινωνία μεθʼ ἡμῶν, but another fellowship, namely, the fellowship of the ἡμεῖς, i.e. of John and the other apostles (not with one another, but) with the Father and with the Son, that is meant.(45) God is here called πατήρ in relation to τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ.

The full description of Christ as τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ serves to bring out the identity of that which was from the beginning with Him who became man.


Verse 4

1 John 1:4. After stating the subject and aim of his apostolic proclamation, the apostle intimates specially the aim of this Epistle. καὶ ταῦτα γράφομεν ὑμῖν] By καί, γράφομεν is made co-ordinate with ἀπαγγέλλομεν, the particular with the general, not the composition of the Epistle with that of the Gospel (Ebrard). ταῦτα refers neither merely to what precedes (Russmeyer, Sander), nor merely to what immediately follows (Socin), but to the whole Epistle (Lücke, de Wette, Düsterdieck). With γράφομεν ὑμῖν, comp. 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:12, 1 John 5:13. The plural is used because John as an apostle writes in the consciousness that his written word is in full agreement with the preaching of all the apostles; all the apostles, as it were, speak through him to the readers of the Epistle.

ἵνα χαρὰ ὑμῶν πεπληρωμένη] comp. with this John 15:11; John 17:13. The aim of the Epistle is the πλήρωσις of joy which it, as apostolic testimony to the salvation founded on the φανέρωσις of the ζωὴ αἰώνιος (1 John 1:2), was to produce in its readers. De Wette groundlessly thinks that the effect, namely, the perfected Christian frame of mind, is here put for the cause, namely, Christian perfection. It is rather very especially the perfect χαρά (not merely “the joy of conflict and victory,” Ebrard) that is the goal to which the apostle would lead his readers by this Epistle. With the reading ἡμῶν it is the χαρά of the apostles—first of all of John—that is the goal, and no doubt the joy which for them consists in this, that their word produces fruit in their hearers.(46) Incorrectly Ebrard: “If ἡμῶν is right, then the apostle resumes the mutual ἡμετέρα: that our (common) joy may be full;” for, on the one hand, ἡμετέρα is not mutual (embracing the apostles and the readers), and, on the other, ἡμῶν would have to be referred to the ἡμεῖς that is contained in γράφομεν, but not to the more remote ἡμετέρα.


Verse 5

1 John 1:5. This verse contains no inference from what precedes ( καί is not = igitur, Beza), but the thought that lays the foundation for what follows.

ἔστιν αὕτη ἀγγελία] “and this is the message;ἔστιν is here put—contrary to its usual position, comp. 1 John 2:25, 1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:3, etc.—before αὕτη “in order to mark the reality of the message” (Braune); αὕτη here—as elsewhere also—refers to what follows: ὅτι θεὸς κ. τ. λ., by which the subject-matter of the message is stated. Calvin incorrectly, following the reading ἐπαγγελία: promissio, quam vobis afferimus, hoc secum trahit, vel hanc conditionem habet annexam.

The word ἀγγελία only here and 1 John 3:11 (where, however, it is also not unopposed); frequently in the LXX. 2 Samuel 4:4; Proverbs 12:26; Proverbs 25:26; Proverbs 26:16; Isaiah 28:9; Jeremiah 48:3-4. The reading ἐπαγγελία is more difficult with the meaning “promise;” yet this may be justified in so far as every N. T. proclamation carries with it a promise.(47) De Wette prefers this reading, but takes ἐπαγγελία, following the example of Oecumenius, a Lapide, Beza, Hornejus, etc.,—contrary to the constant usus loquendi of the N. T.,—in the signification: “announcement” (Lange: “teaching”).

ἣν ἀκηκόαμεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ] “from Him, that is, Christ.” Instead of ἀπό, it is more usual to have παρά, comp. John 8:26; John 8:40; John 15:15; Acts 10:22; Acts 28:22; 2 Timothy 2:2.

αὐτός in the Epistle, not always (Paulus, Baumgarten-Crusius) indeed, but mostly, refers to God, while ἐκεῖνος refers always to Christ; here it refers backwards to τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ . χρ. in 1 John 1:3; Düsterdieck: “From Him, Christ, the Son of God manifested in the flesh (1 John 1:3), whom the apostle himself has heard (1 John 1:1 ff.), has he received the message about the Father.” In favour of the correctness of this explanation is also the following: ὅτι θεός.(48)

καὶ ἀναγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν] ἀν αγγέλλειν is synonymous with ἀπαγγέλλειν, 1 John 1:2-3, only that in ἀνα the idea “again” is contained; Erasmus: quod filius annuntiavit a patre, hoc apostolus acceptum a filio renunciat.(49) This ἀναγγέλλομεν refers back with peculiar subtleness to the preceding ἀγγελία, and thus testifies to the correctness of that reading (Düsterdieck). The subject is, as in 1 John 1:2-3, John and the rest of the apostles. To reduce their proclamation to the word which they heard from Christ Himself serves to confirm its truth; comp. the combination of ἀκούειν and ἀπαγγέλλειν in 1 John 1:3. Ebrard wrongly interprets this ἀναγγέλλομεν also of the proclamation of John which occurred in his Gospel, to which this Epistle is related as the concentrating development.(50)

ὅτι θεὸς φῶς ἐστί] φῶς is inappropriately translated by Luther: “a light;” the article weakens the thought; God is light, i.e. God’s nature is light = absolute holiness and truth (comp. chap. 1 John 4:8; Gospel of John 4:24);(51) for the signification of the symbolical expression “light,” compare especially James 1:13; James 1:17.

As God is φῶς in absolute sense, so also all light outside of Him is the radiation of His nature, as all love flows forth from Him whose nature is ἀγάπη; comp. chap. 1 John 4:7 ff.

καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία] The thought contained in the foregoing is emphasized by the negation of its opposite, which is here expressed in the strongest manner by οὐκοὐδεμία, in accordance with John’s diction (comp. chap. 1 John 2:4; 1 John 2:18, etc.).

σκοτία: antithesis of φῶς: sin and falsehood; the same antithesis is frequently in the N. T.; comp. Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:8 ff.; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5. In opposition to the general prevalent explanation given here, Weiss thus explains the sense of this verse: “God is light, i.e. He has become visible, capable of being known, namely in Christ, who certainly proclaims this truth; there is no more any darkness in God at all, i.e. no part of His nature remains any longer dark and unknown, He has (in Christ) become completely revealed.” This interpretation, to which Weiss is led by the erroneous supposition that the idea φῶς has in the N. T. no ethical reference,(52) is refuted both by the form of expression, which exhibits φῶς (just as ἀγάπη, chap. 1 John 4:8) as a description of the nature of God, and also by the train of thought, in so far as the truth expressed here forms the starting-point for all the following amplifications—which bear on the ethical relationship of Christians. Besides, the apostle would have insufficiently expressed the thought, as he would have left out the essential ἐν χριστῷ, which Weiss unjustifiably inserts. John rightly puts the truth that God is light, as the chief subject-matter of the ἀγγελία of Christ, at the top of his development; for it forms the essential basis of Christianity both in its objective and in its subjective subsistence; in it there lies as well as judgment in regard to sin, so also salvation from sin by the incarnation and death of Christ, as well as necessity of repentance and faith, so also the moral exercise of the Christian life.


Verse 6

1 John 1:6. Inference from 1 John 1:5. He alone has fellowship with God, who does not walk in darkness.

ἐὰν εἴπωμεν] The same form of speech ( ἐάν) is repeated from verse to verse (only with the exception of 1 John 2:2) until chap. 1 John 2:3; then appears the participle with the definite article: λέγων, 1 John 2:4, 1 John 2:9; ἀγαπῶν, 1 John 2:10; μισῶν, 1 John 2:11.

The use of the hypothetical particles, especially of ἐάν, is also found very often in the Gospel.(53) On the 1st person plural, Lorinus says: suam quoque in hac hypothesi personam conjugit, ut lenius ac facilius agat; better Lücke: “By the communicative and hypothetical form the language gains, on the one hand, in refining delicacy, and, on the other, in more general reference and force;” unsatisfactorily Ebrard: “The 1st person plural serves only to express the general ‘we.’ ”

ὅτι κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετʼ αὐτοῦ] see 1 John 1:3. Fellowship with God forms the innermost essence of all true Christian life.

καὶ ἐν τῷ σκότει περιπατῶμεν] comp. Gospel of John 8:12. ἐν τῷ σκότει περιπατεῖν is not merely “not to know whither we are going” (Luther), but to live in darkness, i.e. in sin, as our element. According to Weiss, who denies to the σκότος, as well as to the contrasted φῶς, an ethical reference, it is = “to walk in the unenlightened state;” but is not this just the very state in which the life is ruled by sin?

Bengel, for more particular definition, rightly adds: actione interna et externa, quoque nos vertimus; such a walking in darkness is all life whose principle is not the love of God.(54)

ψευδόμεθα καὶ οὐ ποιοῦμεν τὴν ἀλήθειαν] for, τίς κοινωνία φωτὶ πρὸς σκότος; (2 Corinthians 6:14). ψευδόμεθα expresses the moral objectionableness of such a contradiction between the deed and the word.

The negative clause is not a mere repetition of the same thought, but introduces along with it a new idea: ψευδόμεθα refers to εἴπωμεν; οὐ ποιοῦμεν τ. ἀλ. refers back to ἐν τ. σκ. περιπατῶμεν; for ποιεῖν τὴν ἀλ. is not merely = ἀληθεύειν (Ephesians 4:15), but signifies the practice of ἀλήθεια in word and deed; comp. John 3:21, where it is contrasted with φαῦλα πράσσειν, and is used expressly of ἔργα. In the common interpretation, according to which it is = agere candide, sincere (Cyprian, Theodorus, Socinus, Grotius, etc.), τὴν ἀλήθειαν does not receive its due force; by the article the idea is specified in its complete generality and objectivity: “the true,” i.e. that which corresponds to the nature and will of God (Brückner, Braune), although it must be admitted that the general idea is here used with special reference to the desirable conformity between word and deed; emphasis is thereby given to the fact that in the case mentioned in ἐὰν κ. τ. λ. the alleged κοινωνία with God is practically denied. In de Wette’s explanation: “to do that which corresponds to the nature of Christian fellowship,” a meaning is given to the expression which is neither indicated in the word nor in the train of thought.


Verse 7

1 John 1:7. This verse does not merely repeat in its antithetical form the preceding thought, but contains also—as is peculiar to John’s lively fertility of ideas—an expansion of it.

ἐὰν δὲ ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατῶμεν] is contrasted not only with the preceding ( ἐὰν) ἐν τῷ σκότει περιπατῶμεν, but also with ἐὰν εἴπωμεν, ὅτι κοιν. ἐχ. μετʼ αὐτοῦ (so also Ebrard), thus: “if we do not merely say that we have fellowship with God, and yet at the same time walk in darkness, but if we really walk ἐν τῷ φωτί.”

ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατεῖν is not “to strive after likeness to God” (Lücke), but so to walk that the light (by which, however, we are not, with Weiss, to understand only knowledge) is the element in which our light moves; this, however, is a life which does not consist in striving after likeness to God, but which has this already as its own, or which is an ἔχειν κοινωνίαν μετʼ αὐτοῦ with Him who is light. This unity between walking in the light and fellowship with God is even more clearly brought out by the following words: ὡς αὐτός ἐστιν ἐν τῷ φωτί] ὡς, because it is the same element in which the true Christian walks and in which God “lives and works” (Düsterdieck, Brückner), inasmuch as the Christian has become θείας κοινωνὸς φύσεως (2 Peter 1:4).

αὐτός refers back to αὐτοῦ, 1 John 1:6, and is put for θεός. The idea “that God is in the light” is the same as this “that God is light;” that which is the nature of God is also the element of His life; the expression used here is occasioned by the preceding ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατεῖν; Ebrard incorrectly explains: “God has chosen for His habitation the spheres of the sinless, holy, and pure life of the angels and those made perfect;” there is not the slightest hint at such a conception in the context. As Weiss denies to the expression φῶς an ethical reference, and explains ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατεῖν = “to walk in a state of right knowledge,” the clause ὡς αὐτός ἐστιν ἐν τῷ φωτί necessarily causes him a difficulty, which he can only solve by the supposition “that an idea similar to that in 1 Timothy 6:16 was before the apostle’s mind, and that he institutes a parallel between the walk of the Christian in the light of true knowledge, and the dwelling of God in the brightness of His glory,” in which it is plainly ignored that the second ἐν τῷ φωτί must necessarily have the same meaning as the first ἐν τῷ φωτί.

ἐστι is contrasted with περιπατῶμεν; the former is peculiar to God, the latter to men; the former (being) to Him who is eternal, the latter (walking) to him who is temporal.

κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετʼ ἀλλήλων] Several commentators wrongly deviate from the statement of the apostle, by interpreting as if “ μετʼ αὐτοῦ” were used instead of μετʼ ἀλλήλων, as indeed the reading of some is (see the critical notes); or by understanding—quite unsuitably

ἀλλήλων of God and men; so Calvin: quod dicit, societatem esse nobis mutuam, non simpliciter ad homines refertur, sed Deum in una parte, nos autem in altera; the same interpretation in Augustin, Beza, Socinus, Hornejus, Lange, Spener, Russmeyer, Ewald, etc. De Wette, it is true, interprets ἀλλήλων correctly, but supplies “ μετὰ τοῦ θεοῦ,” thus: “we have fellowship one with another, namely with God;” against this explanation are: first, that then John would not have mentioned the very leading thought; and, secondly, that a tautological idea results from it (Lücke), for a περιπατεῖν ἐν τῷ φωτί is only possible through the κοινωνία μετὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, nay, even is the necessary proof of it. The subject here is much rather the fellowship of Christians with one another (Bede, Lyranus, Grotius, Wolf, Bengel, Semler, Lücke, Baumgarten-Crusius, Neander, Sander, Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Braune, Brückner, etc.), and indeed quite generally, not, as Bengel considers, so that the apostle and his readers (nos et vos) would be regarded as the two parts bound together. The brotherly fellowship of Christians with one another ἐν ἀγάπῃ presupposes therefore the walking in light, or in fellowship with God, of which it is the necessary consequence.

With such a walk a second element is, however, united, namely: καὶ τὸ αἷμα ἰησοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ καθαρίζει ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἁμαρτίας.

τὸ αἶμα ἰησοῦ] is not a metonymical expression for “the consideration of His death” (Socinus, Episcopius, Grotius, etc.),(55) but: the blood which Jesus (thus spoken of here as incarnate) shed as an offering at His death; or: the bloody sacrificial death of the Lord (Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Braune).(56)

τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ] is “not merely added as a name of honour,” but also not “to indicate the close connection between the cause of God and Christ,” as Baumgarten-Crusius says, but in order to bring out the identity of the crucified One with the Son of God (so also the incarnation of the Son of God); compare chap. 1 John 5:6; at the same time, however, there lies in it an indication how the blood of Jesus can have the effect which the apostle attributes to it (so also Ebrard).

καθαρίζει ἡ΄ᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἁ΄αρτίας] may mean either the cleansing from guilt, i.e. the forgiveness of sins (Bede, Socinus, a Lapide, Calov, Lange, Baumgarten-Crusius, Erdmann, Weiss, etc.), or cleansing from sin itself, its eradication (Lücke, Frommann, “Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Myrberg, Braune, Ewald, etc.), or, finally, both together (Spener, Hornejus, Bengel, de Wette, Brückner). According to 1 John 1:9, where ἀφιέναι τὰς ἁμαρτίας and καθαρίζειν ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας are placed together and thus distinguished from one another, the second view must be regarded as the correct one,(57) as indeed the context also demands; for, as the fact that even the believer has still continually sin is in opposition to the exhortation to περιπατεῖν ἐν τῷ φωτί, the apostle had to point out that sin is ever disappearing more and more, and how, so that the walk which is troubled by it may still be considered as a walk in light, and that in spite of sin there may exist a fellowship with God, who is light. As περιπατεῖν ἐν τῷ φωτί is given as the condition (not as the means, which the blood of Christ is) of καθαρίζεσθαι, and as the subject here therefore is not the change, wrought by the blood of Christ, of man from a child of darkness into a child of light, but the growing transformation of him who has already become a child of light, the present καθαρίζει is not to be turned into the preterite, but is to be retained as the present; Spener: “He purifies us ever more and more until the final perfect purity.” Comp. Gospel of John 15:2.(58)

ἀπὸ πάσης ἁ΄αρτίας, “from every sin;” sins are regarded as the single dark spots which still continually trouble the Christian’s walk in light. The καί which connects the two parts of the subordinate clause is explained by Oecumenius, Theophylact, Beza, Lange, Semler, etc. = nam. Sander recognises the grammatical incorrectness of this interpretation, but is of opinion that the second clause is to be taken as causal, as the basis and condition of the first; but even this is arbitrary. According to de Wette, “ καί connects directly with the idea of fellowship the progressive and highest perfection of it;” but this view is founded on the incorrect assumption that the subject of the first clause is fellowship with God. Ebrard thinks that John in these two clauses together expresses the idea of κοινωνία with God, while he “analyzes it forthwith into its two elements: the fellowship of believers with one another, and the fellowship and participation in the divine vital power;” but it is in the first place incorrect to describe the κοινωνία ΄ετʼ ἀλλήλων as an clement of the κοινωνία μετὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, and in the second place the purifying efficacy of the blood of Jesus can much less be regarded as an element of it; besides, Ebrard has clearly been induced to add the word “participation,” through the perception that the idea of fellowship is quite unsuitable to the second clause. While the κοινωνία ΄ετὰ τοῦ θεοῦ is manifestly presupposed before the περιπατεῖν ἐν τῷ φωτί, these two clauses express rather the “double fruit of our walk in light, of our living fellowship with God, who is light” (Düsterdieck); but when John puts κοινωνία ΄ετʼ ἀλλήλων first, he thereby indicates that it is the sphere within which the purifying power of the blood of Christ operates on each individual (Brückner, Braune). Besides, it may be observed that the second clause is intended to point out the progressive growth of Christian life, and cannot therefore suitably precede the first clause.


Verse 8

1 John 1:8. Purification from sin presupposes the existence of sin even in believers; the denial of this is self-deception.

ἐὰν εἴπωμεν] as in 1 John 1:6; thereby is meant not merely “the speech of the heart” (Spener), but the actual expression and assertion.

ὅτι ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔχομεν] The view of Grotius,(59) that this refers to sinning before conversion, and that ἁμαρτία therefore means the guilt of sin, is rightly rejected by Lücke, Sander, etc.

The question, especially of earlier commentators, whether ἁ΄αρτία is here original sin (or sinfulness, as Weiss still thinks) or actual sin (pecc. actuale), desire (concupiscentia) or deed, is solved by the fact that the idea is considered quite generally by the apostle (so also Braune)—only, of course, with the exception of the sin spoken of in chap. 1 John 5:16. The 1st person plural ἔχο΄εν is to be noticed in so far as the having sin is thereby represented as something that is true of all Christians. The expression ἁμαρτίαν ἔχειν describes in a quite general way the taint of sin; only of the absolutely pure, in whom no trace of sin exists, is it true that he ἁ΄αρτίαν οὐκ ἔχει; the relation of this ἁ΄αρτίαν ἔχειν to περιπατεῖν ἐ΄ τῷ σκότει (1 John 1:6), in which the will of man serves sin (or in which sin is the dominating principle of life), is therefore not that of contrast (say in this way, that ἁ΄αρτίαν ἔχειν is a being tainted with sin, where no act of will takes place),(60) but is to be defined thus, that the latter ( περιπατεῖν ἐν τῷ σκότει) is a particular species of ἁ΄αρτίαν ἔχειν. Even though as Christians, who are born of God, we have no longer sin in the sense that περιπ. ἐν τῷ σκότει is true of us, nevertheless we do not yet cease to have sin; if we deny this, if we maintain that we have no sin at all, then what John says in the following words is the case with us. ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶ΄εν] not = “we are mistaken,” which πλανώ΄εθα would mean;(61) but, as Sander explains: “we mislead ourselves, take ourselves astray from salvation (or better: from truth);” by that assertion, which is a lie (not an unconscious mistake), the Christian (for the apostle is not here speaking of non-Christians) deceives himself about the truth, for which he leaves no room in himself. Braune rightly observes that ἑαυτὸν πλανᾶν emphasizes the self-activity, which the middle with its passive form leaves in the background.

καὶ ἀλήθεια ἐν ἡμῖν οὐκ ἔστιν] is not a mere repetition of ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶμεν, but adds to this another new element.

ἀλήθεια, as in 1 John 1:6, is neither = studium veri (Grotius), nor = castior cognitio (Semler), nor even = uprightness, or truthfulness (Lücke in his 2d ed.), or, as de Wette explains: “the veracity of self-knowledge and self-examination;”(62) but truth in its objective character (Lücke in his 1st ed., Baumgarten-Crusius, Düsterdieck, Brückner, Braune). Baumgarten-Crusius rightly says: “ ἀλήθεια does not need to be taken in subjective sense, the subjective lies in οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν.” The expressions used here: ἑαυτ. πλανῶμεν and ἀλ. οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν, are not milder (Sander) than the corresponding expressions in 1 John 1:6 : ψευδόμεθα and οὐ ποιοῦμεν τὴν ἀλήθειαν, but stronger (Ebrard), since in ἑαυτ. πλ. the self-injury, and in ἀλήθ. οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν the negation of possession of the truth, are more sharply marked.


Verse 9

1 John 1:9. Not a mere antithesis of the previous verse, but an expansion of the thought; “there follows as conclusion not merely this, that we are then true, but the incomparably greater and surprisingly glorious thought that God then proves Himself actually towards us as the True, as the πιστὸς καὶ δίκαιος” (Ebrard).

ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν] ὁμολογεῖν does not mean to recognise (Socinus: confiteri significat interiorem ac profundam suorum peccatorum agnitionem),(63) but to confess; of course it is manifest that the confession is not here spoken of as a purely outward act; still, at the same time, it is not sufficient to regard it merely as “an inward fact, which is founded on the whole internal tendency of the mind” (Neander); it is rather the real (even if not always vocal) expression of sins recognised within and confessed to oneself; here also it is the word in which the inner life has to operate.(64)

What are to be confessed are αἱ ἀμαρτίαι ἡμῶν, i.e. the sins of Christians, which are the particular manifestations of ἁμαρτίαν ἔχειν (so also Braune); therefore the plural.(65)

Ebrard rightly calls attention to the fact that John here mentions, as the subject of the confession, not the abstract ἁμαρτίαν ἔχειν, but τὰς ἁ΄αρτίας, i.e. the definite, concrete, single sins committed; “the mere confession in the abstract that we have sin would not have truth without the acknowledgment of the concrete particular sins, but would shrivel up into a mere phrase.”

πιστός ἐστι καὶ δίκαιος] It is true God is both in Himself, He does not become so only when we confess our sins; but this confession is the condition on which He actually proves Himself to us as πίστος καὶ δίκαιος.(66) These two epithets are indeed not of the same signification, but still, as their combination proves, of cognate meaning. God is called πιστός, inasmuch as He, as the promise-maker, also fulfils what He has promised, Hebrews 10:23 : πιστὸς ἐπαγγειλά΄ενος; Hebrews 11:11; especially as He accomplishes in believers the promise of blessing, which lies for them in the fact of their call, by conducting them through manifestation of His grace to the goal of their calling (according to Ewald, “inasmuch as He keeps His promise already repeatedly given in the O. T.”), 1 Corinthians 1:9 : πιστὸς θεός, διʼ οὔ ἐκλήθητε εἰς κοινωνίαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:24 : πιστὸς καλῶν ὑ΄ᾶς, ὃς καὶ ποιήσει; 2 Thessalonians 3:3. πιστός has this meaning here also, as results from the following ἵνα κ. τ. λ. Ebrard incorrectly calls the reference of the faithfulness of God here to His promises and prophecies an introduction of foreign ideas, and says “the subject here is faithfulness to the nature of truth and light, akin to His own nature, and which prevails in us, inasmuch as we confess our sins.”

God is described as δίκαιος in the N. T., inasmuch as He, for the realization of His kingdom of grace, gives to every one—without προσωποληψία—what is due to him, according to the righteous judgment of God, in proportion to the position which he occupies toward God (or toward the kingdom of God), God being in this regarded as the Judge; the idea of the righteousness of God and that of His judicial activity are very closely connected; God is δίκαιος κριτής, 2 Timothy 4:8; He judges ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ, Acts 17:31 (Revelation 19:11), or δικαίως, 1 Peter 2:23; His κρίσις is a κρίσις δικαία, 2 Thessalonians 1:5. The relation of the δικαιοσύνη of God to His judicial activity is found throughout in the N. T., even where the former is the subject without the latter being expressly mentioned with it. As the manifestation of the δικαία κρίσις of God consists in the righteous distribution of punishment and of blessing, it follows that δικαιοσύνη is referred to not only where both of these are mentioned together (as in 2 Thessalonians 1:5 seq.), but also where only one of the two is spoken of. God punishes as the δίκαιος, but He blesses also as the δίκαιος, no doubt in view of the realization of His kingdom, which depends upon the good obtaining the complete victory over the evil. Towards him who walks ἐν τῷ σκότει, God shows Himself δίκαιος in that He κατακρίνει him; towards him who walks ἐν τῷ φωτί, by ever more and more removing from him everything that hinders his perfect κοινωνία ΄ετὰ τοῦ θεοῦ (namely, both his consciousness of guilt, and the ἀδικία which still clings to him), and by finally permitting him to inherit the perfect happiness which is prepared for those who love God (comp. 2 Timothy 4:8). Here God is called δίκαιος, inasmuch as His purpose is directed to allotting to those who, walking in light, confess their sins, that which is suitable for them, namely, the blessing mentioned in the following ἵνα κ. τ. λ. The meaning of δίκαιος is rightly stated by Baumgarten-Crusius, Düsterdieck, Brückner, and Braune;(67) on the other hand, it is incorrect to refer δίκαιος here to the punitive activity (Drusius: justus, quia vere punivit peccata nostra in filio suo), but also to explain it = bonis, lenis, aequus (Grotius, Lange, Carpzov, etc.), for δίκαιος never has this meaning in the N. T.; it is here of cognate meaning with πιστός,(68) because the allotment of blessing bestowed in accordance with the δικαιοσύνη of God has been promised by Him, and is accomplished according to His promise; yet it must not therefore be regarded as synonymous with it (Hornejus: = in promissis servandis integer). Following Romans 3:26, some commentators have here interpreted it = δικαιῶν; but this is so much the more unjustifiable, as that very passage by the juxtaposition of the two ideas proves their different meaning.(69) According to the Roman Catholic view, πιστός refers to the peccata mortalia, δίκαιος to the peccata venialia.(70)

ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας] ἵνα, not = “so that” (Castellio: ita Justus, ut condonet), has here (as in other passages of the N. T.) not retained strictly its idea of purpose, (hence not: “in order that”), but it states what is the aim of the divine faithfulness and justice to attain which these qualities operate on men; Luther therefore translates correctly: “that.” De Wette’s explanation, with which Braune agrees: “in the divine faithfulness lies the law or the will of forgiving sins,” is unsatisfactory, inasmuch as ἀφιέναι κ. τ. λ. is not merely the will, but the operation of the divine faithfulness and justice.

τὰς ἁμαρτίας refers back to ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας, thus: “the sins confessed by us.” The remission, i.e. the forgiveness, of sins is therefore, by virtue of the faithfulness of God, the first result of the confession; the second John describes by the words: καὶ καθαρίσῃ(71) ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας. Here the first thought is not repeated epexegetically (Semler), or only in figurative manner (Lange); but the words express the same thing as the corresponding words of the 7th verse, with which the 8th and 9th verses are in closest connection (Düsterdieck, Braune; Brückner does not explain himself definitely); καθαρίζειν has here the same meaning as there, and ἀδικία (not = poena peccati, Socinus) is synonymous with ἁμαρτία; they are two different names for the same thing; comp. chap. 1 John 5:17.(72) The order in which the two clauses that express the redemptive operations of God are connected together (Myrberg: ordo verborum ponit remissionem ante abrogationem), points to the fact that purification takes place by means of forgiveness.

The context is quite decisive in favour of regarding as the subject of πιστός ἐστι κ. τ. λ. not χριστός, but (with Lücke, de Wette, Düsterdieck, Braune, etc.) θεός; for even though in 1 John 1:7 the καθαρίζειν is described as the operation of the αἷμα ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ, and in chap. 1 John 2:2, . χρ. is the subject, yet in this section θεός is the principal subject; 1 John 1:5, θεός; 1 John 1:6, αὐτός, even in 1 John 1:7, τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ; the blood of Christ, therefore, is regarded as the means by which God produces purification from sins. To hold, with Sander, that God and Christ together form the subject,(73) is quite as inappropriate here as in 1 John 1:5 to understand by αὐτοῦ both together. Though, with John, God and Jesus Christ approach very close to a unity, yet they are always distinguished by him, and never represented as one subject.


Verse 10

1 John 1:10. Not a repetition, but “a strengthening of 1 John 1:8” (Baumgarten-Crusius). As 1 John 1:8 is connected with the end of 1 John 1:7, so is this verse with 1 John 1:9.

ἐὰν εἴπωμεν] as in 1 John 1:8.

ὅτι οὐχ ἡμαρτήκαμεν] is substantially synonymous with ὅτι ἁμαρτ. οὐκ ἔχομεν, only distinguished from it in this way that the former describes an activity, the latter a state (so also Braune); the expression used here is called forth by the plural τὰς ἁμαρτίας and the idea ἀδικία (1 John 1:9), by which the sinful character is more definitely specified as an activity than by ἁμαρτία in 1 John 1:7. The perfect does not prove that ἡμαρτήκαμεν is meant of sins before conversion (Socinus, Russmeyer, Paulus, etc.); the subject here, as in all the verses before, is the sinning of Christians; for to deny former sin could not occur to a Christian.(74) The perfect is explained both by John’s usus loquendi, according to which an action lasting up to the present is often represented in this tense, and also by the fact that the confession every time refers to sins previously committed.

ψεύστην ποιοῦ΄εν αὐτόν] corresponds to ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶ΄εν; it brings out that the Christian by the denial of his sin accuses God ( αὐτόν, i.e. τὸν θεόν) of lying. In ποιεῖν there lies, as Düsterdieck remarks, a certain reproachful bitterness; comp. John 5:18; John 8:53; John 10:33; John 19:7; John 19:12. This thought presupposes the declaration of God that even the Christian sins, which 1 John 1:9 πιστός ἐστι κ. τ. λ. also suggests; for if God has promised Christians forgiveness of their sins on condition of their confessing them, the above declaration is thereby made on God’s side.

καὶ λόγος αὐτοῦ (i.e. τοῦ θεοῦ) οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν] λόγος, corresponding to the thought ἀλήθεια in 1 John 1:8, refers directly to the preceding ψεύστην κ. τ. λ. Lücke explains it correctly: “the revelation of God, especially the gospel of Jesus Christ” (so also Brückner, Düsterdieck, Braune); to understand by it (with Oecumenius, Grotius, de Wette, etc.) especially the O. T., is forbidden by the train of thought, for the subject here is not the sinfulness of man in general, but the ἁμαρτάνειν of Christians.(75) Ebrard interprets λόγος τ. θ. as the “self-proclamation of the nature of God, which has taken place both in the verbal revelations of the O. and N. T. and in the revelations of deeds,” so that even the λόγος of Gospel of John 1:1 is to be regarded as included; but from the fact that the elements mentioned here are very closely connected, it does not follow that that idea has here, or anywhere else, this extensive signification. The words οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡ΄ῖν are erroneously explained by Baumgarten-Crusius: “we have given it up, or also: we are not qualified or fit for it;” it means rather: “it is not vividly imprinted in our hearts” (Spener); it has remained external to us, inwardly unknown.

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 John 1:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/1-john-1.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, September 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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