First Epistle of John

The First Epistle of John is a book of the New Testament, and is the fourth catholic or "general" epistles. Written in Ephesus about AD 85-90, the epistle is traditionally attributed to the same author or authors who wrote the Gospel of John and the other two epistles of John. Not actually a letter, the epistle is a sermon written to counter heresies that Jesus did not come "in the flesh," but only as a spirit. It also defines how Christians are to discern true teachers: by their ethics, their proclamation of Jesus in the flesh, and by their love.

Authorship

The epistle is traditionally held to have been written by John the Evangelist, and probably also at Ephesus, and when the writer was in advanced age. The Epistle's content, language and conceptual style is an indication that a common authorship existed between this letter, the two other letters attributed to the Apostle John, as well as the Gospel of John. Whether the author was the Apostle John himself, someone who wrote under his name and spoke "for him", or whether a body of authors contributed to the writing of all four Johannine texts is an open question. However, "The three Epistles and the Gospel of John are so closely allied in diction, style, and general outlook that the burden of proof lies with the person who would deny their common authorship". [B. H. Streeter, "The Four Gospels", rev. ed. (London: Macmillan, 1930), p. 460] Some modern scholars believe that the common author or authors did not include John himself [Harris, Stephen L., "Understanding the Bible" (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985) p. 355] .

Purpose

The author wrote the Epistle so that the joy of his audience would "be full" (1.4) and that they would "sin not" (2.1) and that "you who believe in the name of the Son of God... may know that you have eternal life." (5.13) It appears as though the author was concerned about heretical teachers that had been influencing churches under his care. Such teachers were considered Antichrists (2.18-19) who had once been church leaders but whose teaching became heterodox. It appears that these teachers taught that Jesus Christ was a Spirit being without a body (4.2), that his death on the cross was not as an atonement for sins (1.7) and that they were no longer able to sin (1.8-10). It appears that John might have also been rebuking a proto-Gnostic named Cerinthus, who also denied the humanity of Christ.

The purpose of the author (1:1-4) is to declare the Word of Life to those to whom he writes, in order that they might be united in fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. He shows that the means of union with God are, (1) on the part of Christ, his atoning work (1:7; 2:2; 3:5; 4:10, 14; 5:11, 12) and his advocacy (2:1); and (2), on the part of man, holiness (1:6), obedience (2:3), purity (3:3), faith (3:23; 4:3; 5:5), and love (2:7, 8; 3:14; 4:7; 5:1).

Comma Johanneum

Among the most controversial verses of the Bible is an explicit reference to what some people consider the trinity, the Comma Johanneum, (1 John 5:7-8). These verses do not appear in any version of the text prior to the ninth century, but do appear in the King James Bible, something Isaac Newton commented on in An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture. This is sometimes used as evidence to counter the King-James-Only Movement. About the year 800, the Comma appeared in some texts of the Latin Vulgate, and was subsequently translated into Greek and added to later Greek manuscripts. Bart Ehrman suggests in his book "Misquoting Jesus" that the King James Version would not have included the passage if Desiderius Erasmus had not given in to pressure to include it in the Textus Receptus even though he doubted its authenticity.

The majority of modern translations (for example New International Version, English Standard Version and New American Standard Bible) do not include this text. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) said regarding its authenticity:

On the whole, therefore, the evidence seems to me to be clear that this passage is not a genuine portion of the inspired writings, and should not be appealed to in proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. [cite news |last=Barnes |first=Albert |url=http://www.studylight.org/com/bnn/view.cgi?book=1jo&chapter=005 |title=Albert Barnes New Testament Notes |publisher=StudyLight.org |date=2007-02-07 |accessdate=2007-02-07]

Tertullian quoted these verses in 200 AD. St Cyprian quoted these verses around the year 250.

ee also

* John the Apostle
* John the Evangelist

Footnotes

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External links

Online translations of the First Epistle of John
* [http://www.gospelhall.org/bible/bible.php?passage=1John+1 "Online Bible" at GospelHall.org]

Related article:
* [http://www.plymouthbrethren.org/passage.asp 1 John from the Biblical Resource Database]


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