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Exegetical Commentary on 1 John 2:3-11

    Structure

This section contains three claims to intimate knowledge of God, expressed by the three Greek participles oJ levgwn (Jo legwn, “the one who says”) at the beginning of vv. 4, 6, and 9. As with the three conditional clauses beginning with ejavn ei[pwmen (ean eipwmen, “if we say”) in the previous section (1:6, 1:8, 1:10), these participles indirectly reflect the claims of the opponents. They are followed by the author’s evaluation of these claims and their implications. While the subject matter is generally continuous with the preceding section, the focus shifts from awareness and acknowledgment of sin to obedience of God’s commandments. It is through obedience that the Christian may have assurance of the genuineness of his or her own relationship to God.161 The concept of “light” (contrasted with “darkness”) introduced in 1:5 appears again (for the last time in 1 John) in 2:8-11. The concept of “fellowship” introduced in the prologue (1:4) and discussed in 1:8-2:2 no longer appears in this section, but is replaced by an emphasis on “knowing” and “loving” God along with one’s fellow believers (2:3, 4, 5, 10).

    2:3 Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments.

    Summary

In this section are three claims to intimate knowledge of God. These are found in vv. 4, 6, and 9. Each claim begins with the phrase the one who says… and each claim reflects the position of the secessionist opponents. There is some problem determining whether the pronouns in v. 3 (“him” [clarified as God in the NET Bible] and his) refer to God the Father or to Jesus Christ. More likely the author of 1 John refers to God the Father here. All the claims of the opponents which the author introduces in 1:5–2:11 concern knowing and having fellowship with the God who is light (compare 2:8-9 with 1:5). Also, when John wants to specify a reference to Jesus, he uses the expression “that one” (translated by the NET Bible as Jesus in v. 6 below). The author’s point in this verse is that obedience to God’s commandments gives us assurance that we have come to know God. (The author later explains what the commandments are in 1 John 3:23.)

    Exegetical Details

The significance of the kaiv (kai, “now”) at the beginning of 2:3. This is important for understanding the argument, because a similar use of the conjunction kaiv (kai) occurs at the beginning of 1:5. The use here is not just a simple continuative or connective, but has more of a resumptive force, looking back to the previous use in 1:5. The author, after discussing three claims of the opponents in 1:6, 8, and 10 and putting forward three counter-claims of his own in 1:7, 1:9, and 2:1, is now returning to the theme of God as light introduced in 1:5. The author will now discuss how a Christian may have assurance that he or she has come to know the God who is light, again by contrast with the author’s opponents who make the same profession of knowing God, but lack the reality of such knowledge, as their behavior makes clear.

The referent of ejn touvtw/ (en toutw, “by this”) in 2:3. This prepositional phrase occurs 14 times in 1 John (2:3, 2:4, 2:5 [2x], 3:10, 3:16, 3:19, 3:24, 4:2, 4:9, 4:10, 4:13, 4;17, and 5:2). Aside from two of these uses which refer to persons (2:4 and one of the two in 2:5), all of the occurrences present difficulties for the interpreter. The meaning is “in this” or “by means of this,” but what the “this” refers to is hard to determine: does it refer to preceding statements or to following statements?

(1) It appears that in cases where there is a following subordinate clause introduced by o{ti (Joti), i{na (Jina), ejavn (ean), o{tan (Jotan), or ejk (ek), and this subordinate clause does seem to be related to touvtw/ (toutw), then the phrase ejn touvtw/ (en toutw) refers to what follows in the subordinate clause. This is the case in 1 John 2:3, 3:16, 3:24, 4:9, 4:10, 4:13, and 5:2.

(2) On the other hand, in cases where there is no subordinate clause following ejn touvtw/ (en toutw), or the subordinate clause clearly does not have anything to do with the touvtw (toutw)/, then ejn touvtw/ (en toutw) could refer either to what precedes or to what follows, and each case must be decided individually based on context. Examples of this situation occur in 1 John 2:5c, 3:10, and 4:2.

(3) Sometimes it is debatable whether a subordinate clause that follows does or does not relate to touvtw/ (toutw). This is the case in 1 John 3:19 and 4:17.

The occurrence here in 2:3 fits the first case. The subordinate clause that follows is introduced by ejavn (ean). The intervening Joti-clause is an indirect discourse clause related to the verb ginwvskomen (ginwskomen, “we know”) and has nothing to do with touvtw/ (toutw). Thus the touvtw/ (toutw, “by this”) is explained by the subordinate clause (“if we keep his commandments”) with the resultant meaning: “And by this ( = if we keep his commandments) we know that we have come to know him….” Thus in this instance the ejn touvtw/ (en toutw) has virtually no relationship to what precedes; relationship to the preceding material is indicated by the kaiv (kai) which is resumptive of 1:5 rather than by the prepositional phrase ejn touvtw/ (en toutw).

The referent of aujtovn (autou, literally “him”; translated “God” in the NET Bible) in 2:3.162 Once again the referent of the third person pronoun is difficult to determine: does the pronoun aujtovn (auton) here refer to God the Father or to Jesus Christ? Many interpreters hold that this is a reference to Jesus Christ, because he is mentioned in 2:1 and the pronoun aujtov (autos) at the beginning of 2:2 clearly refers back to him. Previous uses of aujtov (autos) in 1:6, 1:7, and 1:10 (see discussions under the appropriate verses) referred to God the Father, who was explicitly mentioned in 1:5 (“God is light” must refer to God the Father). It seems more likely that God is the referent of the pronoun aujtovn (auton) here, for the following reasons: (1) the assurance that the author is dealing with here is assurance that one has come to know God, not assurance that one has come to know Jesus Christ. All the claims of the opponents which the author introduces in 1:5-2:11, in order to refute them, concern knowing and having fellowship with God who is light (compare 1 John 2:8-9 with 1:5). (2) When Jesus Christ is explicitly mentioned as an example to emulate in 1 John 2:6, the pronoun ejkei'no (ekeinos, literally “that one”; translated “Jesus” in the NET Bible) is used to distinguish this from previous references with aujtov (autos). (3) The kaiv (kai, literally “and”; translated “now” in the NET Bible) which begins 2:3 is parallel to the kaiv (kai) which begins 1:5, suggesting that the author, after discussing (somewhat indirectly) three claims of the opponents and putting forward three counter-claims in 1:6-2:2, is now returning to the discussion of “God as light” introduced in 1:5. The author will now discuss how a Christian may have assurance that he or she has come to know the God who is light.

The significance of the perfect tense ejgnwvkamen (egnwkamen, “we have come to know”) in 2:3. R. Brown apparently sees no significance here in the switch from present to perfect tense: “Variety of tense is, in part, a stylistic device.”163 Brown refers to an article by J. P. Louw in which Louw contends that overall there is no distinction in significance between aorist and perfect; both can be used to convey the idea of a perfected past action.164 Louw’s article may be accurate as far as it goes. But Louw’s point concerns the interchangeability of two past tenses (aorist and perfect) while Brown here apparently wants to interchange a present and a past tense. It appears more likely that there is some significance to the use of the perfect here that goes beyond a present tense, especially since it is in sequence with a present.165 This is probably best understood as a resultative perfect, which involves both past completed action and existing results, but emphasizes the existing results. It is clear in any case that the author is interested in reassuring those whom he considers to be believers already: they came to know God at some time in the past, and now the author is writing to reassure them of the reality of that (resulting) relationship.

The significance of ejavn (ean, “if”) in relation to the keeping of the commandments in 2:3. We might have expected to find o{ti (Joti) used here, since the subordinate clause which follows is explanatory or appositional to ejn touvtw/ (en toutw) as discussed above. Blass-Debrunner’s standard reference grammar points out that if the explanatory clause refers to actual fact, in Johannine usage o{ti (Joti) is preferred, but if the fact is only assumed, ejavn (ean) or o{tan (Jotan) is used.166 The implication of this is that the author by the use of this construction is assuming that the readers as genuine believers will indeed keep God’s commandments, but he does not state this as an absolute fact.

The referent of aujtou' (autou, “his”) in 2:3. Whose commandments does the author refer to, those of Jesus Christ or those of God the Father? In John 13:34-35 and 15:12 Jesus says that he is giving the disciples a new commandment, and in 14:15, 14:21, and 15:10 Jesus speaks of “my commandments.” Yet he also speaks of a commandment he himself has “received” from the Father (John 10:18, 12:49-50, 14:31; plural in 15:10).

References to “his commandment(s)” occur 8 times in 1 John (2:3, 2:4, 3:22, 3:23, 3:24, 5:2, 5:3 [2x]) along with one reference (4:21) to a commandment “from him.” In two of these instances (3:23 and 4:21) the immediate context makes it clear that God the Father is referred to. For the sake of consistency it seems best to understand the remaining references to “his commandment(s)” as referring to God the Father as well, including the references here in 2:3 and in the following verse (2:4). This is not absolutely certain, however, and is another instance of the ambiguity that underlies many passages in these letters and has plagued interpreters for centuries.

The referent of the commandments in 2:3. Neither in this verse nor the following one does the author explicitly state what the “commandments” are which believers are supposed to obey. One might immediately assume that the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments of the Mosaic law, Exod 20:2-17) is in view here, and in fact both Brown and Strecker have suggested that the author of 1 John intends some sort of reference to the Decalogue here in 2:3-4.167 However, there is no indication anywhere else in 1 John (unless in 5:21, with its prohibition of idolatry) that the author is concerned about his readers failing to keep the Mosaic law.168 God’s commands are spelled out later in the letter, in 3:23: “Now this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he gave us the commandment.” The phrase “love one another” is an allusion to the “new commandment” of John 13:34, a major Johannine theme (cf. 1 John 2:8, 2 John 4-6).169 It is probably best to view this as an instance of introducing a concept (the “commandments” here in 2:3) without specifying it at the time, only to return to it later and clarify what is meant (in this case, in 3:23).

    2:4 The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person.

    Summary

The first of three claims made by the opponents in 2:3-11 is found here, as expressed by the phrase The one who says…. The opponents are claiming I have come to know God but are not obeying God’s commandments. According to the author of 1 John their claim to have come to know God is false. The individual described here is a liar in whom the truth does not reside.

    Exegetical Details

The significance of the three Greek participles (oJ levgwn, Jo legwn) in 2:4, 6, and 9 with respect to the claims of the opponents. Three masculine nominative singular present participles, each preceded by the article, occur in 2:4, 2:6, and 2:9. As in the previous section (1:5-2:2), these express three claims of the opponents. In the previous section the phrase used to express the opponents’ claims was ejavn ei[pwmen (ean eipwmen, “if we say”); here it is oJ levgwn (Jo legwn, “the one who says”). Some have thought the participles used here indicate the threat is more real that that expressed by the third-class conditions (ean eipwmen, “if we say”) in 1:5-2:2. But if there is any difference between the two sets of claims it probably lies in the switch from the use of the first person plural (“if we say…”) in 1:5-2:2 to the third person singular (“the one who says…”) here. This moves the second group of claims in 2:4-9 one step further away from the readers of the Letter. R. Brown thinks we have statements here that may be virtually direct quotations from the opponents.170 Certainly the author seems less willing here to entertain the possibility that his readers could, or would, say such a thing. From a rhetorical standpoint this does serve to distance the intended recipients of the letter from those who would make such statements as these. Marshall sees the sins alluded to here as more sins of omission than sins of commission (cf. 1:6), probably due to the connection with “commandments” here.171 This may be so, but assumes the commandments mentioned here are positive ones (like “love one another”) rather than negative ones.

The referent of aujtovn (auton, literally “him”; translated “God” in the NET Bible) in 2:4. Again the referent of this pronoun is ambiguous; it may refer to God the Father or to Jesus Christ. We concluded in our discussion above of the aujtovn (auton) in 2:3a that it constituted a reference to God the Father, and the parallelism here, after the same verb (e[gnwka, egnwka [“I have come to know”]) in the same tense (perfect), argues for a similar reference to God. The person who says, “I have come to know God,” and does not keep God’s commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in such an individual. Following the same pattern as 1:6-2:2, we have here once again the opponents’ claim followed by the author’s evaluation.172 The evaluation is harsh and self-explanatory: to say a person is a liar means that the claims he or she is making are not to be believed (a not-too-subtle polemical statement against the secessionist opponents with their false christology). To say “the truth” is not in such a person, in light of passages in John’s Gospel such as 14:6 (where Jesus says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”) and 17:17 (“Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth” – note “his word” in the following verse, 1 John 2:5) again points to the falsity of the opponents’ claims. The demonstrative ejn touvtw/ (en toutw, lit. “in this one”; NET Bible “in such a person”) is a typically Johannine expression, but its placement at the end of the clause is emphatic.

    2:5 But whoever keeps his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him.

    Summary

Now the author of 1 John offers a contrastive counter-claim introduced by But. The expression his word is parallel to his commandments in the previous verse. By this refers back to obeying God’s word and having his love perfected in us. Again obedience provides the Christian with assurance that we are in him.

    Exegetical Details

The relationship between his word in 2:5 and his commandments in the previous verse (2:4). In light of the contrastive nature of the author’s counter-claim, it seems highly probable that we should understand no difference here between “his commandments” in the opponents’ claim in 2:4 and “his word” in the author’s counter-claim here in 2:5. God’s “word” is here a reference to God’s ethical demands, demands which a believer will attempt to obey (but presumably the opponents, as moral indifferentists, would not be concerned about obeying). The same alternation is found in Jesus’ words in John 14:21 and 23 between “my commandments” and “my word,” where the two phrases are interchangeable, as they are here.

The use of the genitive tou' qeou' (tou qeou, “of God”) in 2:5. This is the first of 6 times the phrase hJ ajgavph tou' qeou' (Je agaph tou qeou, “the love of God”) occurs in 1 John (2:5, 2:15, 3:17, 4:9, 4:12, and 5:3). The most probable syntactical possibilities are (1) objective genitive, “our love for God,” so Dodd, Marshall, and Smalley;173 (2) subjective genitive, “God’s love for us,” an interpretation held by Westcott, Bultmann, and Houlden;174 (3) both objective and subjective;175 or (4) attributive genitive, “the divine love.”176 While caution is necessary because it is unlikely that the author of 1 John stopped to think through the implications of all these possibilities, or would have wanted to imply one to the exclusion of all the others, it does seems that a subjective genitive, emphasizing God’s love for us, is most likely here.177 In a close parallel, 1 John 4:12 speaks of “his love” (hJ ajgavph aujtou', Jh agaph autou) having been perfected in us. This refers back to “the love of God” (hJ ajgavph tou' qeou', Jh agaph tou qeou) in 4:9, where it is clear that the phrase must be subjective, because 4:9 explains the manifestation of God’s love as his sending of his Son into the world – something that God did in showing his love for us.

The significance of the perfect tense teteleivwtai (teteleiwtai, “has been perfected”) in 2:5. Blass-Debrunner’s standard reference grammar cites this verse as an example of the use of the perfect tense in general assertions or imaginary examples, a usage well established in classical Greek but rare in the New Testament.178 The use here is further described as “futuristic” (in the sense of a hypothetical case): “whoever keeps his word, truly in this person the love of God will be perfected….” The futuristic nuance is based on an interpretive assumption and introduces a futuristic emphasis, however, while the major thrust of 1 John, concerned with the debate with the secessionist opponents, is much more centered on the present reality.179 For the author of 1 John, obedience to God’s word (i.e., “his commandments,” v. 4) is something that characterizes the faithful recipients of the letter (as opposed to the opponents), and through their obedience, the love of God has been perfected in them. In the Gospel of John, love and obedience are closely related as well: in the words of Jesus, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15).

The referent of the second ejn touvtw/ (en toutw, “by this”) in 2:5.180 Since the Joti-clause which follows is indirect discourse after the verb ginwvskomen (ginwskomen, “we know”), there is no subordinate clause following ejn touvtw/ (en toutw) to explain it. Thus it fits category (2) as discussed under 2:3 above, and could refer either to what follows or to what precedes. It seems most likely that it refers back to the preceding material, serving as a sort of inclusion with the use in 2:3 and summing up the author’s rebuttal to the first claim of the opponents in the section. What follows in 2:6 is the second of the opponents’ claims, and there does not seem to be any way that this can relate to the believer’s assurance of being “in him.”

The referent of ejn aujtw'/ (en autw, “in him”) in 2:5. This is related to the same phrase used with mevnein (menein, “resides”) in the second claim of the opponents which follows in 2:6.181 As for the referent, it is either God the Father or Jesus Christ. The same phrase used in the next verse appears to refer to God the Father, since in 1 John there is a consistent switch in pronouns from aujtov (autos) to ejkei'no (ekeinos) when a reference to Jesus Christ is clearly introduced. This implies that the previous reference in 2:6 is to God the Father, as the reference here in 2:5 would be. Thus we have consistently interpreted all the unspecified third person pronoun references between 2:3 and 2:6a as referring to God the Father.

    2:6 The one who says he resides in God ought himself to walk just as Jesus walked.

    Summary

This verse contains the second of the three claims of the opponents as expressed by the phrase The one who says…. Once more we have a claim by the opponents: they claim to reside in God. The person who makes such a claim, says the author, ought…to walk (that is, behave) just as Jesus walked during his earthly life and ministry. Jesus sets the standard and example of behavior for the Christian.

    Exegetical Details

The meaning of the phrase ejn aujtw'/ mevnein (en autw menein, literally “[he] resides in him”; translated as “he resides in God” in the NET Bible) in 2:6. This is the first occurrence in 1 John of the verb mevnw (menw, “reside, remain, stay”), which is used a total of 24 times in the letter. Of these, 14 refer to the permanence of relationship between God and the believer (2:6, 3:24 [2x], 4:12, 4:13 [2x], 4:15 [2x], 4:16 [2x]), between Jesus and the believer (2:27, 2:28, 3:6), or both God and Jesus with the believer (2:24). Of the 10 remaining instances, 5 refer to other realities residing in the believer: the word of God (2:14), the message heard from the beginning (2:24 [2x]), the anointing (2:27), and God’s seed (3:9). Two more refer to realities not residing in the opponents: eternal life (3:15) and the love of God (3:17). The last three instances are more varied: the one who loves his brother resides in light (2:10), the one who does not love resides in death (3:14), and the one who resides in love (4:16) resides in God.

The first group of usages, referring to the permanence of relationship between God and the believer, Jesus and the believer, or both God and Jesus with the believer, are similar in concept to the Pauline ejn Cristw'/ (en Cristw, “in Christ”) formula.182 As E. Malatesta has pointed out, in the Johannine letters the phrase menein ejn (menein en, “to reside in”) is essentially equivalent to eijnai ejn (einai en, “to be in”).183 They refer to the reciprocal relationship of the divine indwelling of the believer on the one hand, and the “positional” relationship of the believer in God or Christ on the other. The usage here in 2:6 fits this category.

The Greek verb mevnw (menw) is commonly translated into contemporary English as “remain” or “abide,” but both of these translations have some problems. In some circles “abide” has become almost a technical term for some sort of special intimate fellowship or close relationship between the Christian and God, so that one may speak of Christians who are “abiding” and Christians who are not.184 Insofar as the word “abide” indicates a close, intimate (and permanent) relationship between the believer and God, it is not inaccurate; but it must be remembered that for the author of the Gospel of John and the Johannine letters every genuine Christian has this type of relationship with God, and the person who does not have this type of relationship is not a believer at all (in spite of what he or she may claim).185 On the other hand, to translate mevnw (menw) as “remain” removes some of these problems, but creates others: in certain contexts, such a translation can give the impression that those who currently “remain” in this relationship with God could at some point choose not to “remain”, i.e., could choose to abandon their faith and return to an unsaved condition. While one may easily think in terms of the author’s opponents in 1 John as not “remaining” in this sense (as many interpreters do), the author makes it inescapably clear in 1 John 2:19 that these people, in spite of their claims to know God and be in fellowship with God, never really were genuine believers to begin with. In an attempt to avoid both these misconceptions, the NET Bible has translated mevnw (menw) as “reside” except in cases where the context indicates that “remain” is a more accurate nuance.186

The referent of ejkei'no (ekeinos, literally “that one”; translated by the NET Bible as “Jesus”) in 2:6. It seems clear that ejkei'no (ekeinos) here does not refer to the same person as aujtw'/ (autw) in 2:6a. We argued in 2:3 above that the third person pronoun reference there (as in 2:4 and 2:5) referred to God the Father rather than Jesus Christ. This would also be true for aujtw'/ (autw) in 2:6a.187 The switch to ejkei'no (ekeinos) indicates a change in the referent, however, and a reference to Jesus Christ is confirmed by the verb periepavthsen (periepathsen, “walked”), an activity which can only describe Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, the significance of which is one of the points of contention the author has with the opponents. As a matter of fact, ejkei'no (ekeinos) occurs 6 times in 1 John (2:6, 3:3, 3;5, 3:7, 3:16, and 4:17), and it turns out that each one of these refers to Jesus Christ.188

The ethical requirement implied in 2:6. For the author it is not enough to put forward a claim to reside in God. Such a claim (presumably here being made by the secessionist opponents) carries with it an implied ethical requirement to conduct oneself the way Jesus did during his earthly life and ministry (“ought himself to walk just as Jesus walked”). The verb plus infinitive ojfeivleiperipatei'n (ofeileiperipatein, “ought…to walk”) is a common metaphor for conduct (it was used this way previously in 1:6-7). The behavior and conduct of the historical Jesus is put forward here as a model for believers to emulate, and this presupposes that the readers of this letter had some information about Jesus’ earthly life and ministry to base their imitation on. It is reasonable to assume the primary source for such knowledge would be the Fourth Gospel (or the tradition behind it), although this does not exclude the possibility of knowledge about Jesus’ life and ministry from other sources as well. This call for believers to base their behavior on the example of Jesus will be repeated and escalated in 1 John 3:16. Finally, in light of the “residing” terminology (see above on the verb mevnw (menw, “reside, remain, stay”) which refers here to the reciprocal relationship of the divine indwelling of the believer on the one hand, and the “positional” relationship of the believer in God or Christ on the other – a relationship which all true Christians possess – this obligation to conduct oneself the way Jesus did is likewise placed upon all true Christians. It is not an option for Christians not to follow the example of Jesus. We may presume, however, that this is a major part of the fault the author finds with his opponents – while claiming to “reside” in God, they are not following the example of Jesus in their conduct.

    2:7 Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have already heard.

    Summary

As in 1 John 1:1, the beginning refers to the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The old commandment and the word that you have already heard both refer to Jesus’ teaching while on earth with the disciples, specifically the “new commandment” of John 13:34-35, that believers should love one another. Jesus’ commandment to love one another can be described as old by the author of 1 John because it has been around since Jesus’ earthly ministry, and the present writer is not changing it. Referring to the commandment of John 13:34-35 in this way is a subtle way of reminding the readers (Christians in the community that the author is writing to) that they should hold fast to the apostolic testimony about who Jesus is, in the face of the challenges to this testimony raised by the secessionist opponents.

    Exegetical Details

The author’s address to the readers in 2:7. Verse 7 begins with a term of endearment (“Dear friends”), a sure sign of the author’s affection for the intended recipients of the letter. John uses this term, ajgaphtoiv (agaphtoi) elsewhere in his letters – the plural form occurs in 1 John 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11 and the singular in 3 John 1, 2, 5, 11. Bultmann cites Pauline usage as well (Rom 12:19; 2 Cor 7:1) to support his assertion that this was a common form of homiletical address in early Christianity.189

The old commandment in 2:7. Why does the author describe what he is writing as not “a new commandment” in 2:7 when Jesus describes his commandment to the disciples in John 13:34 as a “new” commandment? On the surface the author seems to be saying exactly the opposite of what we would expect him to say. Smalley suggests the author refers to “an old commandment which you have had from the beginning” for two reasons: the command to love one’s neighbor was contained in the Mosaic law (Lev 19:18), and the recipients of 1 John, belonging to the second generation of Christian believers, would have regarded Jesus’ commandment to his disciples to love one another as an “old” one.190 Others would deny that the “commandment” the author speaks of here is to be identified with the “new commandment” of Jesus to the disciples in John 13:34 precisely because the author here specifically rejects the designation “new.” There is so much emphasis on love throughout 1 John, however, that such a theory has little to commend it.191 It seems almost certain that the commandment of Jesus to his disciples to “love one another” is central to the theme of 1 John (cf. 1 John 3:16). More likely, the author means that what he writes is not a “new” commandment in the sense that it does not originate with him. Recall that one of the charges he makes against the opponents is that they are ‘progressives’ who have “gone too far” with respect to their christology (2 John 9).192 Thus it is important to the author to demonstrate to the intended recipients of the letter that his message and emphasis is one that has been “from the beginning”193 and does not represent a doctrinal innovation, as the teaching of the opponents does. Marshall suggests the author’s emphasis on the “old” nature of the commandment here may have arisen from resistance by the opponents within the community (prior to their secession from it) to Johannine language about a “new” law (cf. 2 John 5).194

The meaning of ajp= ajrch' (ap archs, “from the beginning”) in 2:7 and its relationship to the same phrase in 1 John 1:1. We interpreted the phrase ajp= ajrch' (ap archs, “from the beginning”) in 1 John 1:1 as a reference to the “beginning” of Jesus’ earthly ministry, which marked the beginning of his self-revelation to his disciples (cf. Jesus’ statement to his disciples that they had been with him “from the beginning” in John 15:27). This fits the context here as well, in keeping with the author’s stress on the importance of the apostolic eyewitness testimony to the significance of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus.195 The commandment the author is writing about was new when it was first manifested in the words and works of Jesus during his earthly career (cf. John 13:34). Now, however, it can be called “an old commandment which you have had from the beginning,” the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and old in comparison to the innovative teaching of the opponents who have not remained in the apostolic teaching but have “gone on ahead” (2 John 9), becoming “progressives” in a bad sense.

    2:8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.

    Summary

Jesus’ commandment to love one another can also be described as a new commandment, however, since that is the way Jesus himself described it to his original disciples (John 13:34). The darkness and the true light are allusions to John 1:5: “and the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.” In the beginning of John’s Gospel Jesus is described as “the true light, who gives light to everyone” (John 1:9).

    Exegetical Details

The significance of pavlin (palin, literally “again”; translated by the NET Bible as “on the other hand”) at the beginning of 2:8. Does pavlin (palin) at the beginning of 2:8, along with the designation of the commandment in 2:8 as a “new commandment” (ejntolhVn kainhVn, entolhn kainhn) refer to another commandment than the one mentioned in 2:7, or is this another designation for the same commandment as the one in 2:7? The Greek term pavlin (palin) means “again” or “on the other hand”196 and indicates not necessarily a new thought, but a further thought about the commandment already mentioned in v. 7. Although in v. 7 the author had designated this commandment as an “old” one, he now adds that in one sense it could be considered new: it is “new” (kainov, kainos) in the sense of having fresh applicability to the readers and their present situation, rather than being “new” in the sense of time (nevo, neos).

The newness of the “new commandment” the author writes in 2:8. While some interpreters see the reference to the “new” commandment written by the author here as no more than a conscious echo of Jesus’ “new commandment” to the disciples in John 13:34, it is not clear that this totally explains the author’s usage. Smalley argues that the newness of the commandment is demonstrated in at least three ways: (1) God has demonstrated his love for humanity in his self-giving through Jesus (1 John 4:9; cf. John 3:16); (2) Jesus by his own obedience fulfilled the Mosaic law (John 2:27; Rom 10:4); (3) Jesus makes it possible for believers to receive eternal life and through him to fulfill the law of selfless Christlike love (1 John 4:8-11; 5:11-12).197

The referent of aujtw'/ (autw, “in him”) in 2:8. Probably we should understand this as a reference to Jesus Christ, since the last third person pronoun, ejkei'no (ekeinos) in 2:6b, referred to Jesus, and there has been no indication in the context of a change in referent. In addition, since Jesus is clearly the one who gives his disciples a “new commandment” in the Fourth Gospel (John 13:34-35), it seems more natural to connect him with the “new commandment” mentioned here.

The force of the o{ti (Joti) in 2:8. It is possible that the o{ti (Joti) is epexegetical198 or appositional to the “commandment” (ejntolhVn, entolhn) giving a further explanation or clarification of it; in this case it should be translated as “that” (or perhaps “in that”): “I am writing a new commandment to you which is true in him and in you, in that the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” But the statement following the o{ti (Joti) is about light and darkness, and it is difficult to see how this has anything to do with the commandment, especially as we have suggested the commandment is related to the commandment of John 13:34 for believers to love one another.

It seems far more likely that the Joti-clause should be understood as causal, but this still does not answer the question of whether it offers the reason for writing the “new” commandment itself or the reason for the relative clause (“which is true in him and in you”). Probably it gives the reason for the writing of the commandment, although R. Brown thinks it refers to both.199 Because the author sees the victory of light over darkness as something already begun, he is writing Jesus’ commandment to love one another to the readers as a reminder to (1) hold fast to what they have already heard (cf. 2:7) and (2) not be influenced by the innovative or “progressive” (false) teaching of the opponents. The language of the Joti-clause recalls John 1:4-5 in the prologue to the Gospel of John.

The significance of the light/darkness motif in 2:8 in relation to the argument. The light/darkness motif introduced in the Joti-clause suggests the struggle with the opponents, a struggle which has some eschatological overtones for the author. This will be more fully developed later, when the author announces that it is “the last hour” and labels the opponents “antichrists” (1 John 2:18). But for now, the opponents are still “in” darkness, as their failure to obey the “new” commandment to love one another indicates. They “walk in darkness” (1:6, 2:11), reside “in darkness” (2:9), and the darkness “has blinded their eyes” (2:11). But in contrast to all this, the victorious note of the author here is that “the darkness is passing away.” Even as the opponents with their “progressive” (and false) teaching about Jesus are plunging headlong into darkness, light is increasing for the author’s readers – Christians in the community to which he is writing – as they hold fast to the apostolic eyewitness testimony about Jesus.

The meaning of toV fw' toV ajlhqinovn (to fws to alhqinon, “the true light”) in 2:8. In the Gospel of John (esp. 1:4,5 and 8:12) the “light” refers to Jesus himself. Here in 1 John, however, the reference is somewhat broader. It involves believers “walking in the light” (1:7) and “residing in the light” (2:10). The “true light” is already shining (2:8). Finally, God himself is described as “light” (1:5). We mentioned in the discussion of 1:5 above that this involves the moral realm and constitutes a description of God’s character as pure and completely sinless. In the antithetical (either-or) terminology of 1 John, being “in the light” or “walking in the light” involves adherence to the ethical demands placed by God on believers to emulate his character and lifestyle.200 Kilpatrick suggests that the author’s choice of the adjective ajlhqinov (alhqinos, “true”) here rather than ajlhqhv (alhqhs, “true”) in v. 8a was deliberate since in the letters he uses the former attributively (as here) and the latter as a predicate (also 3 John 12).201

    2:9 The one who says he is in the light but still hates his fellow Christian is still in the darkness.

    Summary

Another claim by the opponents is now given: they claim to be in the light. Such a person’s actions in hating his fellow Christian speak louder than words. As far as the author of 1 John is concerned, this person – regardless of his or her claim to the contrary – is still in the darkness. According to John 3:17-21, an important thematic section in the Fourth Gospel, a person either comes to the “light” (i.e., comes to Jesus) or a person remains in the darkness. For John, there are no other alternatives. The choice an individual has made in this regard will become evident in how he or she treats fellow members of the community.

The opposite to hating one’s fellow Christian is, of course, the fulfillment of the new commandment of John 13:34 – to show love for fellow believers. Although not mentioned explicitly here, the opposite action to “hating” one’s fellow believer is clear, and this introduces a theme so important for the author of 1 John – loving one’s brother or sister in Christ – that it will occur repeatedly in 1 John (3:10ff., 23; 4:7, 11ff., 20-21; cf. 5:16).202

    Exegetical Details

This verse contains the third of the three claims of the opponents as expressed by the participle oJ levgwn (Jo legwn, “the one who says”). Here again the claim of the opponents (to be in the light) is shown to be false by their behavior in hating their fellow members of the community.203 Smalley observes:

    To claim existence “in the light” of God is one matter; but to do so while practicing hatred, rather than love, is a contradiction. Indeed, disobeying the law of love makes a right relationship with God impossible; for abiding in him means living as Jesus lived (vv 4, 6).204

The use of the verb “hate” may seem too strong, but for the author the failure to show love for others in the Christian community to which one belongs is a very serious matter. Coupled with this is the antithetical tendency of Johannine thought, which typically sees things in terms of polar opposites (cf. John 3:18-21). This antithetical terminology with respect to light and darkness occurs in John 1:5; 12:35-36. As Westcott noted, “there is no twilight in this spiritual world.”205 To be “in the darkness” in Johannine terms almost certainly signifies the status of an unbeliever; in the Fourth Gospel Jesus says the person who follows him “will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12). Likewise, when Judas Iscariot departs from the upper room, “it was night” (13:30). Just as Judas followed Jesus for a while, but ultimately departed and returned to the darkness from which he had come, so the author of 1 John sees the secessionist opponents, who may have associated with the Christian community for some time, but have nevertheless remained “in the darkness.” Smalley sees the darkness terminology as shifting from its use in the Gospel of John where it refers to outsiders to the use here where it refers to “heterodox members within John’s congregation, as well as to the secessionists.”206 However, it is more likely that the usage remains the same in the Gospel of John and 1 John, since in my opinion the situation in 1 John can be explained in terms of one group of secessionists who have departed from John’s community and who continue from outside the community to recruit others to their own point of view (cf. 1 John 2:18-19; 4:5).

The force of the kaiv (kai, translated here by the NET Bible as “but [still]”) in 2:9. The conjunction kaiv (kai) here has adversative or concessive force: “the one who says he is in the light although hating his brother….”

    2:10 The one who loves his fellow Christian resides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

    Summary

Once again, loving one’s fellow Christian is an evidence that one resides in the light. Love for one’s fellow believer will prevent the person himself from stumbling, that is, from leaving the community to which the letter is addressed and adopting the heterodox teaching of the secessionist opponents.

    Exegetical Details

The meaning of the phrase ejn tw'/ fwtiV mevnei (en tw fwti menei, “resides in the light”) in 2:10. To “reside/remain in the light” in the context of 1 John with its emphasis on adhering to the apostolic eyewitness testimony about Jesus (as opposed to the “progressive” teaching of the opponents) is to remain in the author’s (apostolic) teaching instead of siding with the opponents. However, it also involves adherence to the “new commandment” of 2:8, that is, the commandment to “love one another,” a summary term for obedience to all of God’s ethical injunctions. The person who “resides/remains in the light” continues to “walk in the light” (1:7) and to emulate the character of God who is light (1:5) and Christ who set believers an example (2:6, 3:16). For the author, this is primarily demonstrated by loving one’s fellow believers.207

The meaning of skavndalon (skandalon, “cause for stumbling”) in 2:10. The idea of a “stumbling block” is appropriate here.208 It is confirmed by the implication in the following verse (1 John 2:11) that the person who walks in the darkness cannot see where he is going, and therefore is likely to stumble. The Greek term translated “stumbling block” is used figuratively in the New Testament to refer to something that constitutes a temptation to sin or an enticement to apostasy or false belief (cf. Rom 9:33; 1 Pet 2:8; Rev 2:14), and that fits the context here.209

We may still ask, however, whether this “stumbling block” causes the person himself to stumble, or causes others around him to stumble. The two times the cognate verb is used in the Gospel of John (6:61, 16:1) both refer to causing others to stumble. If that is the case here, then the believer who loves his brothers will not cause them to stumble and thus drive them out from the community of the author into the community and teaching of the opponents. Still, it seems to me more likely that the author means here that love for one’s brother will prevent the person himself from stumbling, that is, leaving the author’s community and adopting the teaching of the opponents. Probably a parallel is to be found in Ps 119:165, where the cause for stumbling is in the person himself.

The referent of aujtw'/ (autw, “in him”) in 2:10. Does this third person pronoun refer to the person who loves his brother, and thus has no cause for stumbling “in him” (ejn aujtw'/, en autw), or to the light itself, which has no cause for stumbling “in it” (ejn aujtw'/, en autw)?210 The difference in meaning is not great, but on the analogy of the parallel in Ps 119:165 suggested above it is probably the person who is in view. The final Joti-clause in the next verse, 2:11, seems to confirm this because it pictures darkness as operative within a person, suggesting that by contrast that the person who loves his brother has no such principle operating within him (ejn aujtw'/, en autw).211

    2:11 But the one who hates his fellow Christian is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

    Summary

On the other hand, the person who hates his fellow Christian has never “come to the light” at all but continues to live in the darkness. Such a person may rightfully be described as spiritually blind (compare John 9:39-41).

    Exegetical Details

The participial phrase oJ misw'n (Jo miswn, “the one who hates”) in 2:11 and its relationship to the phrase oJ ajgapw'n (Jo agapwn, “the one who loves”) in 2:10. It is clear that the participial phrase here in 2:11, oJ misw'n (Jo miswn), stands completely opposite to the phrase oJ ajgapw'n (Jo agapwn) in 2:10. The shift from the verb mevnw (menw) in the expression ejn tw'/ fwtiV mevnei (en tw fwti menei, 2:10) to the verb eijmi (eimi) in the expression ejn th'/ skotiva/ ejstiVn (en th skotia estin, 2:11) appears to be yet another instance of Johannine use of interchangeable terminology.212 Once again the author is thinking in terms of polar opposites or antitheses. R. Bultmann states, “Just as darkness and light are mutually exclusive antitheses, so, too, are hate and love. ...A third possibility, a neutral relationship to one’s brother, is excluded.”213

Note that oJ misw'n (Jo miswn, “the one who hates”) refers here, as did oJ levgwn (Jo legwn, “the one who says”) in 2:4, 6, and 9, to the opponents.

The concept of walking in the darkness in 2:11 and its relationship to the similar concept in 1:6. Here in 1 John 2:11 the person who hates his brother is said to be “walking in the darkness” (ejn th'/ skotiva/ peripatei', en th skotia peripatei), which is the antithesis of loving one’s brother and “residing/remaining in the light” (2:10). In 1:6 “walking in the darkness” (ejn tw'/ skovtei peripatw'men, en tw skotei peripatwmen) was opposed to being in fellowship with God. But in the verse before that (1:5), we are told that God is characterized by “light,” so the antithesis between light and darkness is much the same as here.

It seems clear from the antithesis between light and darkness, which is the basis of the author’s imagery here, that the opponents, who are said to be “walking in the darkness,” are not portrayed as believers but as unbelievers. The same imagery occurs in John 3:19-21, where those “who loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” hate the light and refuse to come to the light, a clear description of unbelievers.

The first half of v. 11 is very similar to John 12:35, “The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.” In John 12:36 Jesus goes on to state, “While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become sons of light.”214

The concept of blindness in 2:11. Blindness in the New Testament is frequently a spiritual condition associated with deliberate disbelief (e.g., Acts 28:25-27; Rom 11:9; 2 Cor 4:4). Particularly applicable here is John 12:39-40, where deliberate refusal to believe in spite of the sign-miracles Jesus had performed led to inability to believe. In John’s Gospel this is explained in the words of Isaiah (quoted in John 12:38-39) as a deliberate blinding in response to their deliberate disbelief. While no agent is specifically mentioned here in 1 John 2:11, the next section will contain references to “the evil one” (2:13-14) and “Antichrist” (2:18-22).215 The connection between evil deeds, the influence of Satan (the “evil one”), and darkness (“night”) are all present in the reference to Judas in John 13:27-30, which concludes with the evangelist’s observation, “Now it was night.” Just as those who refuse to come to the light are left in darkness (John 3:18-21), so here those who refuse to love fellow members of the Christian community are said to be in darkness. This is tantamount to identifying them as unbelievers.


161 Thus 1 John really does address the topic of personal assurance of salvation. But it is crucial to note that this assurance extends to one’s own salvation, but not necessarily to the salvation of others, nor is it based on a mechanical formula which if repeated correctly guarantees salvation of the person using it, much like the word “Friend” spoken by Gandalf at the gates of Moria automatically opens the doors (J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd ed. [Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965] 321).

162 The NET Bible’s philosophy of translation states that it consistently specifies referents that are not clear (except in the case where the ambiguity appears deliberate, as it does occasionally in 1 John).

163 Brown, The Epistles of John, 249-50.

164 Johannes P. Louw, “Verbal Aspect in the First Letter of John,” Neotestamentica 9 (1975): 98-104.

165 Smalley states that the perfect tense here “implies a past experience with continuing effects” (1, 2, 3 John, 45). A bit more precisely stated, the perfect tense in Hellenistic Koiné describes past action with results in existence at the time of speaking or writing.

166 BDF §394.

167 Brown, The Epistles of John, 280-81; Strecker, The Johannine Letters, 40, n. 22.

168 The reference to idolatry in 1 John 5:21 is better understood metaphorically. See the discussion there.

169 On the concept of love as commandment in the Johannine literature see H.-H. Esser, NIDNTT 1:337-39.

170 Brown states, “The false statements here may approach being exact quotations from the secessionists, while those in ch. 1 may have been secessionist-inspired but rephrased in the author’s wording” (The Epistles of John, 253).

171 Marshall, The Epistles of John, 124.

172 Smalley observes, “Presumably the linguistic echoes of the earlier trilogy, 1:6, 8, and 10, are deliberate” (1, 2, 3 John, 47).

173 Dodd, The Johannine Epistles, 31; Marshall, The Epistles of John, 125; Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 49.

174 Westcott, The Epistles of St. John, 49; Bultmann, The Johannine Epistles, 25; Houlden, A Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, 68.

175 Maximilian Zerwick refers to this kind of genitive as the «general» genitive in Biblical Greek, §§36-39. Wallace uses the term “plenary genitive” in a similar way (Exegetical Syntax, 119-21).

176 So Schnackenburg, who takes this as a genitive of quality, denoting God’s kind of love (The Johannine Epistles, 97; cf. also n. 118).

177 Brown observes, “One may wonder whether even implicitly the epistolary author ever stopped to ask himself which type of genitive he meant; or did he simply use a set phrase with a whole complexus of meaning which he did not refine further? Here I think it impossible to be sure what the author meant…” (The Epistles of John, 257).

178 BDF §344.

179 It is true that the author introduces an eschatological emphasis with the reference to “the last hour” in 2:18, but for the author, the eschatological emphasis still reflects a present reality.

180 See the section “The referent of ejn touvtw/ (en toutw, “by this”) in 2:3” above. The first ejn touvtw/ (en toutw) phrase in 2:5 refers to the individual in whom love is perfected and thus is translated “in this person.”

181 See the discussion of the phrase ejn aujtw'/ mevnein (en autw menein) in 2:6.

182 See, e.g., Eph 1:3-14, where the phrase occurs in 1:3, 10, 12.

183 Edward Malatesta, Interiority and Covenant: A Study of ei\nai ejn and mevnein ejn in the First Letter of Saint John, Analecta Biblica 69 (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1978). This is an extremely important study (with implications for the terminology used in the Gospel of John as well) in which the author demonstrates the interchangeability in 1 John of the two Greek phrases in the title. In other words, in 1 John, to “abide in” (“reside in, remain in”) Christ is the same as to “be” in Christ.

184 Some would speak of Christians who are “out of fellowship,” while others would understand Christians who do not “abide” as Christians who are repeatedly engaging in some sin or other.

185 In particular, as the secessionist opponents appear to be doing.

186 That is, in contexts where some sort of change of status or state is implied. In these cases “remain” is a more appropriate translation.

187 See the discussion on the referent of this term above.

188 The NET Bible translates each of these occurrences of ejkei'no (ekeinos) as “Jesus,” since the NET Bible consistently specifies ambiguous pronoun referents in the English translation as a matter of its translation philosophy. Each of these instances will still be examined in context in the course of this commentary.

189 Bultmann, The Johannine Epistles, 26.

190 Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 54.

191 Cf. Brown’s comment: “I find it unlikely that the epistolary author, who puts so much emphasis on love, would ever say that he did not intend to write about love” (The Epistles of John, 264).

192 Cf. Schnackenburg, who stated, “the author inserts a section (vv. 7-8) to show that this commandment is both old and new. This makes sense only if the opponents were in his eyes ‘innovators’ (cf. 2 John 9)” (The Johannine Epistles, 104).

193 Note the use of ajp= ajrch' (ap archs, “from the beginning”) and compare 1:1; see also the following section.

194 Marshall, The Epistles of John, 128-29.

195 Schnackenburg, however, takes the “beginning” to refer to “the moment they [i.e., the recipients] became Christians” (The Johannine Epistles, 104).

196 Cf. BDAG, 752 (2) and 753 (4) s.v. pavlin. Brown renders it as “on second thought” here (The Epistles of John, 266).

197 Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 56.

198 I.e., explanatory.

199 Brown, The Epistles of John, 268.

200 This concept is also found elsewhere in the NT, e.g., 1 Peter 1:15-16, 2 Cor. 7:1.

201 G. D. Kilpatrick, “Two Johannine Idioms in the Johannine Epistles,” JTS 12 (1961): 272-73.

202 Cf. Schnackenburg, “Love of brother and sister is the essential prerequisite for fellowship with God. Just as Gjohn knows no halfway house between faith and unbelief, so both Johannine writings constantly draw a contrast between love and hatred” (The Johannine Epistles, 107).

203 Literally “hating their brothers,” but “fellow member of the community” is used here to clarify that actual siblings are not the referent, nor is the term gender-specific. The point is that the opponents are not genuine Christians, although those they hate are genuine Christians. No description is perfectly adequate here, because the opponents, having seceded from the Christian community the author is writing to and having founded their own competing community, no longer belong to the same community as the readers. Likewise, they could be described as “fellow Christians” (so the NET Bible translation) but at the same time, the author of 1 John would not admit that his opponents were genuine Christians, in light of their rejection of the apostolic testimony about Jesus. Brown’s attempt to qualify the referent even further as “fellow Johannine Christian” (The Epistles of John, 271) raises even more questions and problems concerning the exclusivity of the Johannine community and its isolation from all other forms of early Christianity, not just heretical or unorthodox forms like the present secessionist opponents. All this has to be kept in mind when reading these statements about the opponents, and using the literal “brother” does not resolve the problem either – they may be “self-professed” brothers, but the author would still not acknowledge their claims.

204 Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 60.

205 Westcott, The Epistles of St. John, 55. Likewise Schnackenburg observed, “At last we are told what the commandment is – the love of brothers and sisters. The converse, hatred of brother or sister, incurs the sternest condemnation. Like the contrast between light and darkness, there are no halfway stages between love and hate. Once again, the heretical opponents are given their say…. They are now condemned to utter darkness for hating their brothers and sisters” (The Johannine Epistles, 107).

206 Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 60.

207 Bultmann takes “brother” here to refer to “one’s fellowman the ‘neighbor’” generally (The Johannine Epistles, 28) – closer to the statements in the synoptic gospels about loving one’s neighbor as oneself – but in the context of 1 John “brother” almost certainly means “fellow member of the community,” which would be a fellow Christian, except that the opponents as those who do not show love to their brethren are not regarded by the author of 1 John as Christians at all (cf. 2:19).

208 Cf. Lev 19:14 where the imagery of the “stumbling block” – an obstacle that causes the unwary to trip and fall – appears in the OT.

209 Contra BAGD 753 s.v. skavndalon 3 which translates the term in 1 John 2:10 as “stain” or “fault” (BDAG 926 added a reference to 1 John 2:10 s.v. skavndalon 1, “trap” while retaining the earlier reference s.v. skavndalon 3) and Bultmann (The Johannine Epistles, 28) who renders the term here as “blemish” (also G. Stählin, TDNT 7:356-57). Such a translation suggests more of a concept of sinless perfection on the part of the Christian who loves his fellow believer, but the point here seems to be not sinless perfection but the concept of an enticement to apostasy or temptation to sin (in line with other New Testament usage), in particular the temptation to committ the apostasy of the secessionist opponents with their false christology. Loving one’s fellow Christians provides a safeguard against that.

210 The same Greek phrase (ejn aujtw'/, en autw) may be translated either “in him” or “in it” depending on the context. Smalley (1, 2, 3 John, 62) takes the latter option, arguing that the translation “in him there is no cause for stumbling” might favor a doctrine of sinless perfection. However, as the previous footnote indicates, such a view is more related to the translation of the term skavndalon (skandalon) than the referent of the pronoun aujtw'/, (autw).

211 So also Schnackenburg, who stated that in the first edition of his commentary he had taken the phrase to refer to a cause for others stumbling – “there is nothing in such a person to cause offense in the brothers and sisters,” although he later came to understand the phrase to mean “in the realm of the light there is no offense, no cause of stumbling, for those who walk in the light” (The Johannine Epistles, 108).

212 Although the interchangeability of the verbs mevnw (menw) and eijmi (eimi) here does form the central point of E. Malatesta’s important thesis about the meaning of “abiding” in the Johannine corpus (Interiority and Covenant: A Study of ei\nai ejn and mevnein ejn in the First Letter of Saint John, Analecta Biblica 69 (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1978).

213 Bultmann, The Johannine Epistles, 28.

214 Concerning the image of “walking in the darkness” see also John 8:12 and 11:9-10.

215 Brown, The Epistles of John, 276.

Related Topics: Soteriology (Salvation), Spiritual Life