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Exegetical Commentary on 1 John 5:4b-12

    Structure

The previous section ended with the declaration, “everyone who is fathered by God conquers the world”; now the author will embark on an explanation of that conquest of the world in 1 John 5:4b-12. He will explain that the means by which believers conquer the world (including, of course, the opponents, who are now part of the world according to 1 John 4:5) is their faith – faith in what Jesus has done during his earthly life and ministry, including his sacrificial death on the cross. For the author, this is a faith the opponents do not possess.

The present section consists of two subsections, 5:4b-8 (which deals with the christological content of the faith that enables believers to conquer the world) and 5:9-12 (which deals with the testimony of God himself concerning his Son).

This is the last section of the main body of the letter; the conclusion follows in 5:13-21.

    5:4b This is the conquering power that has conquered the world: our faith.

    Summary

The author of 1 John refers here to a past action that has conquered the world. What past action did he have in mind? Although some interpreters connect this with the past victory achieved over the secessionist opponents, this is less likely because 1 John 2:19 makes it clear that the opponents withdrew from the church of their own accord; a struggle or battle to expel them does not appear to have been necessary in order to convince them to leave. They were not forcefully ejected. In light of this, it is more likely that the author refers here to Jesus himself, who has already overcome the world by his victory over death, as he himself stated in John 16:33. Thus when the author of 1 John says our faith is the conquering power that has conquered the world, he is speaking of believers’ faith in Jesus, who overcame the world by his sacrificial death on the cross, resurrection, and return to the Father. This is precisely the point of contention with the opponents, who deny that there is any saving significance to Jesus’ earthly life and ministry (including his death on the cross).

    Exegetical Details

The meaning of hJ nivkh (Jh nikh, “the conquering power”) in 5:4b. The standard translation for nivkh (nikh) found in almost all English Bibles is “victory,”649 but this does not preserve the relationship with the cognate verb nikavw (nikaw, used in 1 John 2:13-14 and present in this context in participial form in 5:4b and 5:5). One alternative would be “conquest,” although R. Brown states, “I prefer ‘conquering power’ to ‘conquest’; for here nikh is a metonymy for the means of victory or the power that gives victory.”650 In context this refers to the faith of believers. This is the translation used by the NET Bible.

The use of the aorist participle nikhvsasa (nikhsasa, “that has conquered”) to refer to faith as the conquering power that has conquered the world in 5:4b. Debate here centers over what temporal force, if any, can be assigned to the aorist participle. It may indicate an action contemporaneous with the (present tense) main verb, in which case the alternation between the present verb in 1 John 5:4a, the aorist participle in 5:4b, and the present participle in 5:5 is one more example of the author’s love of stylistic variation with no significant difference in meaning. This would result in the translation “This is the conquering power that conquers the world.” This is the least problematic rendering.651 Nevertheless, an aorist participle with a present tense main verb would normally indicate an action antecedent (prior) to that of the main verb, so that the aorist participle would describe a past action: “This is the conquering power that has conquered the world.” That is the most probable here.652 Thus the aorist participle stresses that the conquest of the world is something that has already been accomplished.

The conquest of the world in 5:4b. Although we concluded in the previous section that the aorist participle refers to an action antecedent (prior) to the main verb, an interpretive problem still remains: what past action does the author have in mind when he refers to believers’ faith as the “conquering power that has conquered the world”? Suggestions have been: (a) a reference to Jesus himself, who has already conquered the world by his victory over death, as he himself stated in John 16:33; (b) a reference to the past conversion (and baptism?) of the readers, at which point their faith conquered the world; or (c) the past victory achieved over the secessionist opponents when they were expelled from the community. R. Brown states, “although I favor the true aorist meaning of the verb, I see no way to be certain as to which past action I John means here.”653 Of these three possibilities, I consider the second to be the least likely, because the association of the confession “Jesus is the Son of God” in the following verse (5:5) with a conversion or baptismal context is tenuous at best, since there are no other contextual indications that liturgical processes play a significant role in 1 John. The first or third options are both possible, and although the third is intriguing in light of the ongoing dispute with the opponents, 1 John 2:19 seems to imply that the opponents withdrew of their own volition without being forcefully ejected. Possibly their departure, even if of their own volition, could be “interpreted” by the author’s readers as a “victory” over the opponents, but the other problem for this interpretation is that the struggle with the opponents appears to be still ongoing and not something completed in the past. This leaves the first option as the most likely in my judgment, and there are numerous references in the book of Revelation to Jesus’ victory (Rev 3:21, 5:5, 12:11) which would agree with this. Given that Jesus himself claimed victory over the world in John 16:33, and this victory in the Fourth Gospel was closely related to Jesus’ death and resurrection, it is easy to see how the author of 1 John could appropriate that victory as something shared by the Christians of the community he is writing to, especially since it is the significance of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, including his death on the cross, that the opponents are apparently denying.

The meaning of the phrase hJ pivsti hJmw'n (Jh pistis Jhmwn, “our faith”) in 5:4b. We have concluded in the previous paragraph that the past action denoted by the aorist participle nikhvsasa (nikhsasa, “that has conquered”) in 1 John 5:4b probably consists of an allusion to Jesus’ own victory over the world which he accomplished in the past and which is now the object of believers’ faith. Thus when the author says “our faith is the conquering power that has conquered the world” he is referring to believers’ faith in Jesus, who during his earthly life and ministry conquered the world (cf. John 16:33) by his sacrificial death on the cross, resurrection, and return to the Father. The author will elaborate on this in 1 John 5:5-6. This is precisely the point of contention with the opponents, who have denied the salvific significance of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, including the actions he performed during that ministry.654

    5:5 Now who is the person who has conquered the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

    Summary

Although v. 5 is phrased as a question, the answer is clear (thus it is a rhetorical question). The author now affirms that it is the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God who has conquered the world. The statement lends a strong christological emphasis to the section.

    Exegetical Details

The force of o{ti (Joti, “that”) in 5:5. After a verb of perception (in this case, the participle oJ pisteuvwn [Jo pisteuwn, “the one who believes”]), the Joti in 1 John 5:5 introduces indirect discourse, a declarative or recitative clause giving the content of what the person named by the participle believes: “that Jesus is the Son of God.” As in 1 John 4:15, such a confession constitutes a problem for the author’s opponents but not for his readers, who are genuine Christians.655 The shift from confessing Jesus as “Christ” in 5:1 to confessing him as “Son of God” here may not be very significant, as Smalley pointed out.656 Marshall thought the shift was related to “the power of God revealed in his Son, Jesus.”657 However, it is more likely that these two terms are used here because they form the full-orbed Johannine confession “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” as reflected in the purpose statement of the Fourth Gospel (John 20:31; cf. also 11:27). As Painter notes, “Both constructions stress correct belief over against the false belief of the opponents.”658

    5:6 Jesus Christ is the one who came by water and blood – not by the water only, but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

    Summary

There is inherently a degree of uncertainly anytime we attempt to reconstruct the views or claims of the opponents in 1 John, but probably they were saying that Jesus came with the water only. The author of 1 John says Jesus came by the water and the blood. What do these puzzling phrases mean? Since this is a debate with the opponents, both the opponents and the author’s readers would clearly have known what the author was talking about. A common interpretation sees the water as a reference to Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, while the blood is a reference to Jesus’ death on the cross. It is hard to see, though, how the opponents could have been insisting that Jesus “came…by the water only” at his baptism, unless the water is not referring only to the water of baptism, but to the Holy Spirit. Water in the Gospel of John is consistently used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39). In very simple terms, what the opponents were probably saying is that Jesus saved us by bringing the Holy Spirit. What the author of 1 John is saying is that Jesus saved us by dying on the cross. For John the water and the blood refers to the outpouring of blood and water that came forth from Jesus’ side after he died on the cross (John 19:34). Jesus’ sacrificial death was a necessary and vital part of his saving work and could not be separated from it or dispensed with (as the opponents were apparently claiming).

    Exegetical Details

The referent of the water and the blood in 5:6 and the description of Jesus as the one who came by water and blood. The identification of the “water” and the “blood” in 1 John 5:6 is a major interpretive problem. It is clear that the author is using symbolism of some sort here, but that is about all that interpreters are able to agree on! Several major and many minor approaches to understanding the “water” and the “blood” have been suggested:

(1) The phrase di= u{dato kaiV ai{mato (diJudatos kai Jaimatos, “by water and blood”) refers to the incarnation.659 It is true that the Gospel of John uses the verb e[rcomai (ercomai) to refer to Jesus’ entry into the world (John 1:11, 5:43, 16:28), and that the only other two uses of e[rcomai (ercomai) with the preposition ejn (en) in the Johannine letters (1 John 4:2, 2 John 7) both refer to Jesus Christ coming in the flesh, i.e., the incarnation. The similarity of those texts to the present verse points to the incarnation as the meaning of the phrase here. But the major objection to this interpretation is that it involves understanding the opponents as docetists, who denied the reality of the human body of Jesus. There is no indisputable evidence for docetism in the Johannine letters. Furthermore, this view has difficulty explaining the mention of the Spirit in 5:6b, because in no Johannine account of Jesus’ incarnation or coming into the world is the Spirit directly involved (e.g., John 1:14).

(2) The phrase di= u{dato kaiV ai{mato (diJudatos kai Jaimatos, “by water and blood”) refers to the ordinances (sacraments) of Christian baptism (“water”) and the Lord’s supper or eucharist (“blood”).660 In this view the preposition diav (dia) is understood as “with”: Jesus came bringing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper (“with water and blood”). By the fourth century this interpretation found support among the church fathers (Augustine, Chrysostom, and others) and later with the reformers (Luther, Calvin), but it is an extremely obscure way for the author to refer to the ordinances. There is nothing in the context to suggest the preposition diav (dia) should be understood as introducing accompanying circumstances, as this view would require. Furthermore, this is set in a polemic context where the author is addressing the claims of the opponents regarding the significance of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, and there is nothing else in 1 John to suggest that the opponents were denying the ordinances (sacraments) of baptism and the Lord’s supper. Therefore such a view must be regarded as highly improbable. It no longer has a significant following among modern interpreters.

(3) A modern variation on the previous view is suggested by G. Strecker, who sees the switch in prepositions in 5:6 from dia in the phrase di= u{dato kaiV ai{mato (diJudatos kai Jaimatos, “by water and blood”) to en in the repeated phrases following as significant. The substitution of a different preposition indicated “a change in the system of theological coordinates, and that in the phrase ejn tw'/ u{dati kaiV ejn tw'/ ai{mati it is no longer simply the baptism and death of Jesus (including its atoning effect) but also the two community sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper that are the object of the instruction.”661 Against this view which sees a significant distinction in the use of the two prepositions, most interpreters today regard this as merely another example of Johannine stylistic variation.

(4) The phrase di= u{dato kaiV ai{mato (diJudatos kai Jaimatos, “by water and blood”) refers to the baptism (“water”) and death (“blood”) of Jesus. This, with a number of variations, is the most common interpretation of the phrase in 5:6a.662 It makes considerable sense in the context, because the “water” suggests the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist which marked the beginning of his public ministry (including his self-revelation to the disciples), while the “blood” recalls Jesus’ death on the cross, where blood and water flowed from his side (John 19:34). Thus the complete phrase in 5:6a would refer to the starting point and the ending point of Jesus’ public ministry and salvific mission. Much of the imagery fits well, but as R. Brown points out, “two comings do not fit 5:6a where the single preposition dia covers two anarthrous nouns, so that ‘came by water and blood’ should mean one composite action”.663 Had separate references to Jesus’ baptism and his death been intended, it would have been clearer to repeat the preposition before each of the two nouns (di= u{dato kaiV di= ai{mato, diJudatos kai diJaimatos).

(5) A similar approach that sees separate events as the referents of “water” and “blood” is the proposal of C. Kruse that, like the previous view, the “blood” refers to Jesus’ death, but the “water,” instead of referring to Jesus’ own experience of baptism by John the Baptist, refers to Jesus’ activity of baptizing, mentioned only in the Fourth Gospel (John 3:22, 26; 4:1).664 Thus Kruse sees the author of 1 John and the secessionist opponents agreeing that Jesus had a ministry baptizing people with water.665 A major problem with this view is that, while the Gospel of John does clearly mention Jesus’ participation in a ministry of water baptism, it also points out (John 4:2) that Jesus himself was not actually baptizing with water, but his disciples were. Presumably the clarification in John 4:2 would apply to the other references in 3:22, 26 as well; this seems to downplay any significance of Jesus’ baptizing activity in the Fourth Gospel. It thus seems unlikely that this activity would form the basis for such an important claim as the dispute with the opponents in 1 John.

(6) The phrase di= u{dato kaiV ai{mato (diJudatos kai Jaimatos, “by water and blood”) refers to the death of Jesus. The only other Johannine passage where “blood” and “water” are mentioned together is John 19:34, which mentions the flow of water and blood from Jesus’ side at his death on the cross. The only other use of “blood” in 1 John (1:7) also refers to the sacrificial death of Jesus. In John 19:34 the water which flowed from Jesus’ side symbolically represented the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (consistent with the imagery in John 7:39), and so it was mentioned second by way of emphasis. Association of the “water” with the Holy Spirit may well explain the author’s (seemingly) abrupt introduction of the Spirit here, in 5:6b. But the author of 1 John may well have reversed the order of “blood” and “water” from John 19:34 because for him the precise point of contention with the opponents is over the salvific significance of Jesus’ death on the cross. The opponents would have been able to acknowledge that Jesus’ “coming” was marked by his baptism (they may even have held to a theory of baptismal incarnation, i.e., that the Logos became flesh at the baptism of Jesus by John).666 But they could not acknowledge the significance of his death on the cross, because they denied any salvific significance to Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. Thus the author in his polemic against the opponents asserts, “This is the one who came by water and blood (sacrificial death on the cross), Jesus Christ, not with the water only (the water of baptism, as the opponents claimed) but with the water and with the blood (death on the cross again, or perhaps both baptism and death on the cross)….” In the repetition of the phrase “water and blood” the preposition ejn (en) is repeated before both nouns (ejn tw'/ u{dati kaiV ejn tw'/ ai{mati, en tw Judati kai en tw Jaimati), and it is not possible to determine conclusively whether the author intended a separate reference here to Jesus’ baptism as well as to his death on the cross, or (as in the first occurrence) a combined reference only to his death, or (a third possibility) a reference to Jesus’ death on the cross followed by the outpouring of the Spirit (John 19:34-35). But it does seem clear that the author’s point is that the opponent’s confession, that Jesus at his baptism “came by water” only, is insufficient as a christological confession. Thus, although it is impossible to be dogmatic about all of the details, some variation of the fourth view, that the first reference to “water and blood” in 5:6 is a comprehensive reference to Jesus’ death on the cross (which may or may not include a reference to the outpouring of the Spirit), seems preferable.

The relationship between the Spirits testimony in 5:6b and the authors assertion that Jesus came with water and blood in 5:6a. Why has the author introduced a reference to the Holy Spirit in 5:6b? The answer may be found in a further relationship between the present passage and the context of John 19:34, which seems to be in the background of this passage (see the discussion in the preceding section). In John 19:25-27 Jesus handed over the care of his mother to the Beloved Disciple, whom we have understood to be the Apostle John. In 19:30 Jesus handed over the Spirit. In 19:34 blood and water are said to have flowed from his side when pierced by the soldier’s spear. The Beloved Disciple testified to what happened, and in the following verse his testimony is said to be true. It is probable that the flow of water from Jesus’ side was understood in the early Christian community to represent symbolically the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; this is certainly consistent with the imagery of John 7:39 where the Spirit is explicitly mentioned. In John 19:35 appeal is made to the apostolic eyewitness testimony as confirmation of the truth of the events surrounding Jesus’ death on the cross. Here in 1 John, the Apostle John himself, locked in a crucial debate with the opponents over the acceptance of that very apostolic eyewitness testimony (concerning the salvific significance of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus) appeals to an even higher witness, the Holy Spirit, who offers a present and continuing testimony to the significance of Jesus’ coming by “water and blood,” i.e., his sacrificial death on the cross.667

The force of the o{ti (Joti, “because”) in 5:6b. This Joti is best understood as causal. Some interpreters have taken it as giving the content of the Spirit’s testimony: “and the Spirit is the one who testifies that the Spirit is the truth.” This is certainly possible, since a Joti-clause following the cognate verb marturevw (marturew, “I witness,” “I testify”) would normally be expected to be a direct object (i.e., indirect discourse) clause giving the content of the testimony. Examples of this can be found frequently in the Gospel of John (1:34, 3:28, 4:39, 4:44) and 1 John (4:14). But in the Gospel of John the Spirit never bears witness on his own behalf, but always on behalf of Jesus (John 15:26; also 16:13). There are, in fact, some instances in the Gospel of John where a Joti-clause following marturevw (marturew) is causal (John 8:14, 15:27), and that is more likely the meaning here: “and the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” Once again, however, the author’s tendency to write obscure sentences is obvious, and it is not absolutely certain that a causal sense best represents the author’s meaning here.

    5:7 For there are three that testify,

    Summary

The author now calls on three witnesses to support his claims about the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross. The longer version of this and the next verse found in the Textus Receptus (Received Text) is almost certainly not original.

    Exegetical Details

Textual problems concerning the longer version of 5:7. The Textus Receptus (Received Text) of 1 John 5:7-8 contains additional words which are absent from the earliest and best Greek manuscripts. These words, known as the Comma Johanneum (Latin for “Johannine sentence”) are inserted between vv. 7-8 and read as follows: ejn tw'/ oujranw'/, oJ pathvr, oJ lovgo, kaiV toV a{gion pneu'ma, kaiV ou|toi oiJ trei' e{n eijsi. 5:8 kaiV trei' eijsin oiJ marturou'nte ejn th'/ gh'/ (“…in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 5:8 And there are three that testify on earth…”). Although the words are fairly well known in the English-speaking world (primarily through their inclusion in the King James Version), manuscript and contextual evidence is decidedly against their authenticity.668 The longer reading is found only in eight late mss, four of which have the words in a marginal note. Most of these mss (2318, 221, and [with minor variations] 61, 88, 429, 629, 636, and 918) originate from the sixteenth century; the earliest ms, codex 221 (tenth century) includes the reading in a marginal note, added sometime after the original composition. Thus, there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek ms until the 1500’s; each such reading was apparently composed after Erasmus’ Greek NT was published in 1516. The story of how the longer reading was omitted from the first two editions of Erasmus’ text (1516, 1519) but came to be included in his later editions is well known. One of Erasmus’ most vocal critics was Stunica, one of the editors of the Complutensian Polyglot, who charged that Erasmus’ text lacked the trinitarian affirmation of 1 John 5:7-8 (the passage currently under discussion). Erasmus responded that he had not found any Greek manuscript containing these words, but – unwisely as it turned out – promised that if he were shown one Greek manuscript containing the words, he would insert them. A manuscript containing the “missing” words was produced, probably written to order around 1520 by a Franciscan friar who took the words from the Latin Vulgate and translated them back into Greek.669 Erasmus became aware of this manuscript between May 1520 and September 1521. He kept his promise and inserted the words of the Comma into his third edition (1522), but indicated in a lengthy footnote his suspicions that the Greek manuscript containing the disputed words had been written to order.670 The influential German translation of Luther was based on Erasmus’ second edition (1519) and so did not contain the Comma. But the translators of the King James Version, who worked mainly from Theodore Beza’s tenth edition (1598), which was based on the third and later editions of Erasmus (as well as those of Stephanus), included the Comma because they found it in these editions of the Greek text.671

The force of the o{ti (Joti, “for”) at the beginning of 5:7. A second causal Joti-clause (after the one at the end of the preceding verse) is somewhat awkward, especially since the reasons offered in each are somewhat different. The content of the second Joti-clause (the one in question here) goes somewhat beyond the content of the first. The first Joti-clause, the one at the end of 1 John 5:6, stated the reason why the Spirit is the one who testifies: because the Spirit is the truth. The second Joti-clause, here, states that there are three witnesses, of which the Spirit is one. It is probably best, therefore, to understand this second o{ti (Joti) as indicating a somewhat looser connection than the first, not strictly causal but more inferential in sense (the English translation “for” captures this inferential sense).672

    5:8 …the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are in agreement.

    Summary

There have been many attempts to identify who (or what) the three witnesses (the Spirit and the water and the blood) refer to. It is probably best to see these as references to Jesus’ power to make alive (Spirit), cleanse the believer from sin (water) and atone (blood). There is support for this symbolism in the Gospel of John (6:63, 13:10) and in 1 John (1:7, 2:2). It is also supported from the Old Testament prophecy of Zech 12:10–13:1, part of which is quoted in John 19:37. But how does all this relate to the author’s debate with the opponents? If (as we have suggested previously) the debate centered over the saving significance of what Jesus did during his earthly life and ministry (especially his death on the cross), then the continuing presence of Jesus’ power in the Christian community to which the author is writing is experienced by believers as they are made alive (by the Spirit), cleansed from their sins (represented by water) and reconciled to God (by Jesus’ death on the cross). These three things are “witnesses” because although the opponents can deny the apostolic eyewitness testimony regarding the importance of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry they cannot deny the present effects of Jesus’ actions in the lives of believers within the congregation.

    Exegetical Details

The identification of the three that testify in 5:8, “the Spirit and the water and the blood,” and their relationship to one another. The “three that testify” introduced in 1 John 5:7 are listed in 5:8 as “the Spirit and the water and the blood.” While in 5:6 the author affirmed that Jesus came by water and blood673 and the Spirit testifies, now in 5:8 he says that all three, the Spirit and the water and the blood, do the testifying. There does not seem to be any logical subordination to their testimony (e.g., the Spirit testifying through the water and the blood) because of the three parallel uses of kaiv (kai, “and”).

Once again, as with the “water and blood” in 5:6, there have been numerous proposals for the meaning of the “three witnesses” mentioned here.

(1) One of the oldest interpretations is the trinitarian one, based partly on the statement at the end of 5:8, which sees a reference to the Father, Spirit, and Son (in that order). This involves understanding the explicit reference to the Spirit as a reference to the Father, however, because in order for the symbolism to fit Johannine usage as developed and reflected in the Fourth Gospel, “water” must refer to the Holy Spirit (otherwise the Spirit is mentioned twice, directly [“Spirit”] and indirectly [“water”] in the same sequence). The problem with the water symbolism in the Gospel of John is a major difficulty for this view.

(2) T. W. Manson and W. Nauck argued that the passage refers to an early Christian initiation ritual which survived in the Syriac church which involved anointing the candidate with oil (representing the Spirit), administering baptism (= water) and the Lord’s supper (= blood).674 Although this interpretation has the advantage of preserving the order of the three witnesses as found in vv. 7-8, there is no evidence in the New Testament of a practice of anointing converts prior to baptism.675 Furthermore, there is no evidence such a practice was current either in heretical or orthodox circles during the first century.676

(3) Perhaps the most common interpretation sees the three witnesses as references to the ordinances (sacraments) of Christian baptism and the Lord’s supper.677 Major objections to this view are: (a) This view encounters the difficult problem of what to do with the explicit mention of the Spirit, which cannot be understood as a ‘sacrament’ in the sense that the water and blood can.678 (It has even been suggested that the Spirit ‘administers’ the sacraments in some sense!) (b) There is no other attested use of the term ai|ma (Jaima, “blood”) to refer to the eucharist.679 (c) If “water” in 1 John 5:6 is understood to refer to Jesus’ baptism, how could Christian baptism here be a witness to that?680

(4) Another interpretation understands all three elements as references to Jesus’ power to make alive (Spirit), cleanse (water) and atone (blood).681 There is support for this understanding of the symbolism within the Gospel of John (John 6:63, 13:10) as well as 1 John itself (1 John 1:7, 2:2), and this is also supported by the Old Testament prophecy of Zech 12:10-13:1, part of which is quoted in John 19:37). It is also clear from our interpretation of 5:6 that the water and the blood, at least, relate to the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. But one may still ask, how does all this relate to the author’s debate with the opponents?682 If, as we have suggested, the debate centers over the salvific significance of what Jesus did during his earthly life and ministry, the continuing presence of Jesus’ power in the Christian community to which the author is writing is experienced by believers as they are made alive (by the Spirit), cleansed from their sins, and reconciled to God (both by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross). These things are witnesses who “testify” because, although the opponents can deny the apostolic eyewitness testimony regarding the salvific significance of Jesus’ earthly life, ministry, and death on the cross, they cannot deny the present effects of these actions and events in the lives of believers within the Christian community.

The meaning of the authors assertion in 5:8, oiJ trei' eij toV e{n eijsin (Joi treis eis to Jen eisin, “these three are in agreement”). Some interpreters saw in this phrase, because of its similarities to statements made by Jesus in the Gospel of John (“The Father and I are one,” John 10:30; “that they may be one just as we are one,” John 17:11, 22) support for a trinitarian interpretation of the ‘three witnesses’ mentioned in the first part of the verse. This view we rejected already.683 The remaining problem with the phrase oiJ trei' eij toV e{n eijsin (Joi treis eis to Jen eisin, “these three are in agreement”) is the use of the preposition eij (eis) in such a context. Some have suggested that the prepositions eij (eis) and ejn (en) are interchangeable in New Testament Greek. While on some occasions that is true, it does little to clarify the meaning here. Better is the suggestion found in both Blass-Debrunner and M. Zerwick684 that eij (eis) + accusative has replaced the predicate nominative under the influence of the Hebrew preposition lamed, and in fact similar constructions are found in the Qumran scrolls (e.g., 1QS 5:2).685 Thus the meaning of the phrase in 1 John 5:8 is that the three witnesses are in agreement.686 They work together to achieve the same result, that is, to establish the truth that Jesus is Christ (Messiah) and Son of God (cf. John 20:31).687 Many see in the number of the witnesses (three) the Old Testament requirement that evidence had to be confirmed by two or three witnesses (Deut 19:15; cf. John 8:17-18).

    5:9 If we accept the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, because this is the testimony of God that he has testified concerning his Son.

    Summary

Sometimes the testimony of men is thought to refer to the “three witnesses” in the previous verse. More likely it refers to the testimony of John the Baptist at the baptism of Jesus (John 1:32, 3:31-33, 5:36) which the opponents were quoting to support their claim that Jesus “came by water” at his baptism (see 1 John 5:6). In this case the author of 1 John mentions here a fourth witness in addition to the three mentioned in v. 8: the fourth witness is God Himself, who has testified concerning his Son. The author is saying that the opponents, in their appeal to the human testimony of John the Baptist, are wrong because God’s testimony surpasses human testimony. For what the testimony of God consists of, we must look ahead to v. 11a.

    Exegetical Details

The referent(s) of the testimony of men in 5:9. There are three possibilities for the referent of this phrase.

(1) It may refer to the testimony of the three witnesses mentioned in the preceding verse. Some interpreters have had difficulty relating the witness of the “Spirit” in 5:8 to the testimony of men here, but in view of the interpretation we suggested in v. 8 for the identification of the three witnesses (a reference to the continuing presence of Jesus’ power in the community, experienced by believers as they are made alive [by the Spirit], cleansed from their sins, and reconciled to God [the last two by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross]) it is not difficult to see how the author could refer here to the “testimony of men,” since people in the believing community would be giving testimony to the continuing activity of Jesus in their midst as reflected in v. 8. Yet to some extent this view is related to one’s identification of the “testimony of God” later in the present verse; see the following section.

(2) Another suggestion has been that “the testimony of men” refers simply to human testimony in general.688 This interpretation, however, suffers from a failure to relate to the context of the preceding verse.

(3) The phrase “the testimony of men” refers to the testimony of John the Baptist at the baptism of Jesus (John 1:32, 3:31-33, 5:36). In this case the phrase refers implicitly to the claims of the opponents, who are claiming the support of John the Baptist’s (human) testimony for their claim that Jesus “came by water” at his baptism.689

Of these three alternatives, the first and third are most probable. The decision between them rests largely on one’s understanding of the context and one’s ability to reconstruct the views of the opponents, an undertaking that must remain to some extent speculative. Although it is difficult to decide between the first and third alternatives, I prefer the third because I think the entire section is a polemic against the opponents and their views, and understand the “testimony of God” mentioned in the following verse to refer to a fourth witness added to the “three witnesses” of 5:8.690 If the first view is correct, then the author is saying that the “testimony of men” is the testimony of believers in the community to which he is writing, yet God’s testimony is weightier still (an implicit comparison in degree). If the third view is correct, the author is saying that the opponents, in their appeal to the human testimony of John the Baptist to support their claims, are wrong, because God’s testimony surpasses human testimony (an implicit comparison of kind [the wrong claims of the opponents versus the right claims of the author and the other apostolic eyewitnesses, which agrees with God’s testimony]). It seems to me that in the author’s ongoing debate with the opponents, which runs throughout 1 John, the latter reconstruction of the argument is more likely to be correct.691

The referent(s) of the testimony of God in 5:9. Identifying the referent or referents for the “testimony of God” introduced in 1 John 5:9 presents another major difficulty. This time there are two primary alternatives:

(1) It may refer to the testimony of the “three witnesses” mentioned in 5:8, so that the testimony of the three is in fact the testimony of God himself. This is the way the neb translates the first Joti-clause in 5:9: “and this threefold testimony is indeed that of God himself.” Since we have already identified the three witnesses of 5:8 as referring to the continuing presence of Jesus’ power in the Christian community, experienced by believers as they are made alive (by the Spirit), cleansed from their sins, and reconciled to God (the last two by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross), we would have to understand God as speaking through these evidences within the community.

(2) The “testimony of God” may refer to a new, fourth testimony in addition to the three of 5:8. In this case, we must look forward in the context to identify the “testimony of God”, and this is precisely what 5:11a seems to do (“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life…”). This view seems preferable because 5:11a seems to point forward and define the “testimony of God” as something different from the “three witnesses” in 5:8. There is a partial parallel which supports this view in John 5:31-40, where a list of witnesses to Jesus are given: the testimony of John the Baptist to Jesus (5:32-33), the works that Jesus was doing (5:36), the testimony of the Father himself (5:37-38), and finally the testimony of the scriptures (5:39). In this case there are three witnesses to Jesus, and then a fourth (the testimony of the scriptures) is added to the three.

The force of the first o{ti (Joti, “because”) that introduces 5:9b. This Joti almost certainly introduces a causal clause, giving the reason why the “testimony of God” is greater than the “testimony of men”: “because this is God’s testimony that he has testified concerning his Son.”

The force of the second o{ti (Joti, “that”) in 5:9b. The second Joti in 5:9 may be understood in three different ways. (1) It may be causal, in which case it gives the reason why the testimony just mentioned is God’s testimony: “because this is the testimony of God, because he has testified concerning his Son.” This is extremely awkward because of the preceding Joti-clause which, as we have already pointed out, is almost certainly causal (see the previous section), although the second Joti could perhaps be resumptive in force, continuing the first. (2) The second Joti could be understood as epexegetical (explanatory), in which case it explains what the testimony of God mentioned in the preceding clause consists of: “because this is the testimony of God, [namely,] that he has testified concerning his Son.”692 This is much smoother grammatically, but encounters the logical problem that “the testimony of God” is defined in 5:11 (“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life…”) and the two definitions of what the testimony of God consists of are not identical (some interpreters would say that they are not even close). Thus (3) the smoothest way to understand the second Joti logically is to read it as a relative pronoun: “because this is the testimony of God which he has testified concerning his Son….” In this case it is exactly parallel to the relative clause which occurs in 5:10b: “because he has not believed the testimony which (h}n, Jhn) God has testified concerning his Son.”693 In an effort to derive a similar sense from the second Joti in 5:9 it has been suggested that the conjunction o{ti (Joti) should be read as an indefinite relative pronoun o{ti (Joti, sometimes written o{ ti [Jo ti]).694 The problem with this suggestion is the use of the neuter relative pronoun to refer to a feminine antecedent (hJ marturiva [Jh marturia, “the testimony”]). It is not without precedent for a neuter relative pronoun to refer to an antecedent of differing gender, especially as some forms tended to become fixed in usage and were used without regard to agreement. But in this particular context it is difficult to see why the author would use a neuter indefinite relative pronoun here in 5:9b and then use the normal feminine relative pronoun (h}n, Jhn) in the next verse. Perhaps this strains at the limits of even the notorious Johannine preference for stylistic variation, although it is impossible to say what the author of 1 John might or might not have been capable of doing! Because of the simplicity and logical smoothness which results from reading Joti as equivalent to a relative pronoun, I prefer the third option, although it is not without its difficulties (as are all three options). The NET Bible also follows this third option, but uses “that” to translate Joti instead of the relative pronoun “which” for English stylistic reasons.

The referent of au{th (Jauth, “this”) in 5:9. The problem with au{th (Jauth) in 1 John 5:9 lies in determining whether it refers to what precedes or to what follows. A few interpreters would see this as referring to the preceding verses (5:7-8), but the analogy with the author’s other uses of au{th (Jauth) in 1 John 1:5, 3:11, 23 suggests a reference to what follows. In all of the other instances of au{th ejstin (Jauth estin, in 1:5, 3:11, 23) the phrase is followed by an epexegetical (explanatory) clause giving the referent (a Joti-clause in 1:5, Jina-clauses in 3:11 and 3:23). We have already discussed in the preceding section the Joti-clause which follows the demonstrative au{th (Jauth) in 5:9 and concluded that it does not explain the testimony, but should be understood as an adjectival relative clause which qualifies the testimony further. The Joti-clause which explains the testimony of 5:9 (to which the au{th [Jauth] in 5:9 refers) is found in 5:11, where the phrase au{th ejstin (Jauth estin) is repeated. Thus the second use of au{th ejstin (Jauth estin) in 5:11 is resumptive, and the Joti-clause which follows the au{th (Jauth) in 5:11 is the epexegetical (explanatory) clause which explains both it and the au{th (Jauth) in 5:9 which it resumes.695

    5:10 (The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has testified concerning his Son.)

    Summary

This verse is a parenthesis in the author’s argument, which is then resumed in v. 11. The author, in context, is not distinguishing between the person who has made a personal committment to Jesus (The one who believes in the Son of God) and the person who has failed to do so, but between the person who has made a true christological confession and the person who has made a false one (has not believed in the testimony that God has testified concerning his Son, referring to the secessionist opponents).

    Exegetical Details

This entire verse constitutes a parenthesis in John’s argument, which is then resumed in v. 11. The verse is placed in parentheses in the NET Bible to indicate this.

The difference between pisteuvwn eij toVn uiJoVn tou' qeou' (pisteuwn eis ton Juion tou qeou, “believes in the Son of God”) and pisteuvwn tw'/ qew'/ (pisteuwn tw qew, “believe God”) in 5:10. Again there is probably no difference in the significance of these constructions.696 This is made clear by the following phrase pepivsteukamen eij thVn marturivan (pepisteukamen eis thn marturian, “believed in the testimony”) in 5:10b which uses pisteuvw + eij (pisteuw + eis) to refer to the person who has not believed God.697 Once again we are dealing with the author’s love of stylistic variation, with no significant difference in meaning. The author, in context, is not distinguishing between the person who has made a personal committment to Jesus and the person who has failed to do so, but between the person who has made a true christological confession (representing the recipients of the letter) and the person who has made a false one (representing the opponents).698

    5:11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life; and this life is in his Son.

    Summary

Here, then, is God’s testimony (mentioned in v. 9). God’s testimony is that the author and his readers possess eternal life, while the opponents do not (following verse). 1 John began with a testimony by the author that the “eternal life” had been revealed (1:2) and it is consummated here with the reception/acknowledgement of that eternal life as the final testimony. The possession of eternal life by the author and his readers constitutes the final apologetic in his case against the secessionist opponents, who do not possess it.699

    Exegetical Details

The identification of the testimony of 5:11 (The referent of au{th [Jauth, “this”] in 5:11). The Joti-clause in 5:11 is epexegetical (explanatory) to the phrase kaiV au{th ejstiVn (kai Jauth estin, “and this is”) at the beginning of the verse and gives the content of the testimony for the first time: “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”700 In understanding how “God’s testimony” (added to the three witnesses of 5:8) can consist of “eternal life” it is important to remember the debate between the author and the opponents. It is not the reality of eternal life (whether it exists at all or not) that is being debated here, but rather which side in the debate (the author and his readers on one side or the opponents on the other) possesses it (this is a key point!). The letter began with a testimony that “the eternal life” has been revealed (1 John 1:2), and it is consummated here with the reception/acknowledgement of that eternal life as the final testimony. This testimony (which is God’s testimony) consists in eternal life itself, which (in the author’s opinion) the author and the readers possess, but the opponents do not. This, for the author, constitutes the final apologetic in his case against the opponents.701 They do not possess eternal life.

The meaning of the final clause of 5:11, this life is in his Son. This statement is a continuation of the preceding Joti-clause and is explained in the following verse, 1 John 5:12. The eternal life which believers possess is itself God’s testimony concerning Jesus his Son.702 To understand the author’s reasoning it is necessary to understand the chain of events surrounding the giving of eternal life to believers in the Gospel of John. The Father himself possesses this life, and he gives it to Jesus his Son (John 5:26). Thus Jesus can say in John 6:57, “I live because of the Father.” Jesus, in turn, gives life to those who believe in him, and they possess it in him (John 3:36, 5:24, and 20:31). The eternal life which believers now possess they received from Jesus, who in turn as God’s Son received it from his Father. This, for the author, constitutes a proof (or ‘testimony’) that Jesus is indeed God’s Son.

The idea of having life “in” the Son is an important one in Johannine theology, beginning with John 1:4 (“in him was life”) and extending to the purpose statement in John 20:31 (“by believing you may have life in his name”).703 Smalley noted that the Johannine formula of “life in Christ” has as its primary focus the means of life, whereas the Pauline concept of being “in Christ” (cf. Eph 1:3-14) concerns mainly the experience of the believer united to Christ.704 In fact the closest parallel to the Pauline formula (“in Christ”) in the Johannine literature is expressed not through the formula “life in him” but through the use of the verb mevnw (menw, “reside, remain”) to describe the mutual, reciprocal relationship between the Father, the Son, and the believer.705

    5:12 The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son does not have this eternal life.

    Summary

Possession of eternal life is connected to one’s relationship to God’s Son. The contrast between the readers of the letter, who are being reassured here that they do indeed possess eternal life, and the secessionist opponents, who in the opinion of the author do not, is once again portrayed in the strongest terms possible. Either one “has” the Son and “has” eternal life, or one does not “have” the Son, in which case one does not “have” eternal life either.

    Exegetical Details

The meaning of the expression to have (e[cein, ecein) the Son in 5:12. To “have” the Son means to “possess” him in the sense that he is present in the individual’s life.706 From the parallel statement in 5:10a it is clear that believing in the Son and thus having God’s testimony in one’s self is the same as “having” the Son here in 5:12a. This is essentially identical to John 3:16: “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” In contrast, the negative statement in 5:12b reflects the author’s evaluation of the opponents: “the person who does not have the Son does not have (eternal) life.” The opponents, in spite of their claims to know God, do not possess (nor have they at any time possessed, cf. 1 John 2:19) eternal life.707


649 BDAG 673 s.v. nivkh. rsv, nasb, and niv all translate nivkh (nikh) as “victory” here. However, as BDAG notes, the Greek term may include “the means for winning a victory” which makes the victory possible, as was the case when the term nivkh (nikh) was associated with the Roman emperor.

650 Brown, The Epistles of John, 570. A metonymy is a figure of speech in which one item is stated in place of a closely related item. A familiar example would be a press release that reads “the White House said today…” which is a metonymy for “the President of the United States (or his designated spokesperson) said…” since the building itself did not really speak.

651 So kjv, rsv, nab, nrsv.

652 Cf. Haas, et al., A Translator’s Handbook, 117.

653 Brown, The Epistles of John, 571.

654 See the earlier section “The Opponents and Their Teaching in 1 John” for further discussion and summarization of the views of the opponents.

655 See the section “The significance of the confession in 4:15, ‘Jesus is the Son of God,’ in terms of the author’s argument” above. Smalley thought the confession as formulated here was intended to resist “heretical tendencies in the Johannine church” (1, 2, 3 John, 276), assuming that some of the opponents were within the church to which the author writes as well as outside of it. This is an outgrowth of Smalley’s view that more than one heretical group of opponents is behind the scenario represented by the Johannine letters.

656 Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 276.

657 Marshall, The Epistles of John, 231.

658 Painter, 1, 2, and 3 John, 299.

659 This interpretation was argued by G. Richter, “Blut und Wasser aus der durchbohrten Seite Jesu (Joh 19,34b),” MTZ 21 (1970): 1-21; reprinted in Studien zum Johannesevangelium (ed. J. Hainz; BU 13; Regensburg: Pustet, 1977), 120-42. Richter’s arguments were challenged by K. Wengst, Häresie und Orthodoxie im Spiegel des ersten Johannesbriefes (Gütersloh: Mohn, 1976), 19-20. According to Brown, a major flaw in Richter’s argumentation is that he assumes the Gospel of John is clear about when the incarnation took place (at Jesus’ conception or birth), when in reality the Gospel of John is not specific about when John 1:14 took place – it could have been at Jesus’ baptism (The Epistles of John, 576). This may be true, but it assumes the Fourth Gospel is being read in a “contextless” environment, whereas in many cases the Fourth Gospel appears to assume some prior knowledge of Christian tradition on the part of its readers (e.g., no clarification is given in John 6:42 when Jesus’ opponents mention he is “the son of Joseph” – the readers are assumed to know the real account of Jesus’ conception and birth).

660 So O. Cullmann, Early Christian Worship (trans. A. S. Todd and J. B. Torrance; SBT 10; London: SCM, 1953), 110, n. 1; cf. also Westcott, The Epistles of St. John, 182. Malatesta confines the reference to baptism and the eucharist only to the second mention of water and blood in this verse (Interiority and Covenant, 312), but it is much more likely that the terms must be taken in the same way both times they occur (cf. Haas, et al., A Translator’s Handbook, 119).

661 Strecker, The Johannine Letters, 183.

662 At least part of this interpretation, the reference to baptism, can be traced as far back as Tertullian (De Baptismo 16.1-2). Among modern interpreters holding the view are Bruce, The Epistles of John, 119; Bultmann, The Johannine Epistles, 79-80; Marshall, The Epistles of John, 232-33.

663 Brown, The Epistles of John, 577.

664 Kruse, The Letters of John, 175.

665 A similar conclusion is reached by M. C. de Boer in “Jesus the Baptizer: 1 John 5:5-8 and the Gospel of John,” JBL 107 (1988): 87-106.

666 Although we have described the opponents' christological views as “baptismal incarnation,” it is possible that they held to an adoptionist christology, whereby at the baptism of Jesus by John the Spirit came upon Jesus (water only) but departed prior to his death (John 19:30). The first reference in 5:6 to water and blood would then be a composite reference (as suggested by Brown, The Epistles of John, 577) to Jesus’ sacrificial death, an event that happened after Jesus gave over the Spirit (John 19:30) but before the flow of blood and water (John 19:33-34). Other reconstructions are also possible, however. If we do not restrict the reference to “water only” to Jesus’ baptism by John, but understand it in its full Johannine significance as a reference to the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39), then it is possible that the opponents were claiming that Jesus “came with the water (= Spirit) only” (1 John 5:6), i.e. the significance of Jesus’ coming lay only in his bringing the Spirit. For the opponents this could have occurred either at Jesus’ baptism (John 1:32-33) or at his death on the cross when the Spirit was poured out (John 19:34). In either case the author of 1 John would haved viewed such a confession as insufficient (“not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood”).

667 The exact means by which the Spirit carries on this testimony are not spelled out precisely by the author in the context here. Dodd argued that the Spirit bore testimony to the salvific character of Jesus in and through the Church by means of preaching, inspired prophecy, and the sacraments (The Johannine Epistles, 129; cf. also Schnackenburg, The Johannine Epistles, 232-34). On the other hand it could be said that the Spirit testifies to the truth of the apostolic testimony about Jesus in the hearts of believers, who then possess that testimony within themselves (note 1 John 5:10; cf. Stott, The Epistles of John, 180; Bultmann, The Johannine Epistles, 80. This interpretation could be viewed as somewhat subjective, however, and thus to a degree at variance with how the Spirit’s witness is handled elsewhere in 1 John (e.g., 3:24; 4:13, where it is the fact that believers have been given the Spirit which assures them, rather than the content of some testimony or other by the Spirit). Brown may be closer to the meaning when he states, “It would make good sense of the present verse if the epistolary author was arguing that the Spirit gave testimony through the Beloved Disciple to the correct meaning of the blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side, because the Spirit had been given to that Disciple before Jesus died” (The Epistles of John, 579).

668 For further details see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft/German Bible Society, 1994), 647-49.

669 The words appear to have originated with either Priscillian (executed for heresy in a.d. 385) or Instantius, one of his followers. During the fifth century the words made their way from the margin to the text of an Itala (Old Latin) manuscript, but did not appear in the Vulgate until around a.d. 800. See further Bruce, The Epistles of John, 129-30; 132 n. 27.

670 Today this manuscript, codex (Gregory) 61, is in the library of Trinity College, Dublin.

671 Thus this is one place where the Textus Receptus (Received Text), the Greek text behind the King James Version, differs significantly from the Majority Text, the Greek text based on the majority of extant Greek manuscripts. The Majority text does not contain these disputed words.

672 For a discussion of this ‘looser’ use of o{ti (Joti) see BDF §456(1) and BDAG 732 s.v. o{ti 4.b, which states: “The subordination is oft. so loose that the transl. for recommends itself.” Smalley says the opening o{ti “resumes the thought just stated, and is also used for emphasis” (1, 2, 3 John, 281).

673 For extended discussion concerning the meaning of this expression, see the earlier section “The referent of the ‘water’ and the ‘blood’ in 5:6 and the description of Jesus as ‘the One who came by water and blood.’”

674 T. W. Manson, “Entry into Membership of the Early Church,” JTS 48 (1947): 25-33; Nauck, Die Tradition und der Charakter des ersten Johannesbriefes, 147-82.

675 See Schnackenburg for further discussion of objections to this view (The Johannine Epistles, 237-38).

676 See Marshall, The Epistles of John, 153-54.

677 In a variation of this view H. Windisch saw the three witnesses as corresponding to what he referred to as the “mysteries” of baptism (= water, cf. John 3:5-8), the eucharist (= blood, cf. John 6:54-56, 63), and the reception of the Spirit (cf. John 2:20; 20:22-23), although this interpretation involved rearranging the order of the witnesses (Die katholischen Briefe, 133). A further objection to this view is that the passages he cited from the Fourth Gospel in support of his interpretation do not occur in contexts dealing with the theme of witness to Jesus.

678 Dodd attempted to circumvent this objection by claiming that the sacraments “confirmed” the prophetic word of the Spirit (The Johannine Epistles, 131), but there is nothing in the context that suggests the Spirit’s role is somehow different from the other two witnesses in vv. 7-8.

679 Houlden responded to this objection that at this early date there was no standardization of terms for the Lord’s supper, citing the idiosyncratic use in John 6:53-56 of savrx (sarx, “flesh”) rather than sw'ma (swma, “body”) as in 1 Cor 10:17 to refer to one of the elements of the eucharist (A Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, 130). However, it is not clear that John 6 should be understood as sacramental or eucharistic (although this is a widespread view, there is no consensus on it; cf. J. D. G. Dunn, “John vi – A Eucharistic Discourse?” NTS 17 [1970/71]: 328-38). Furthermore, in John 6 the “blood” is not mentioned separately, but always in combination with “flesh.”

680 This objection is raised by Marshall, The Epistles of John, 238, who takes the “water” in 5:6 to refer to Jesus’ baptism; see the discussion of other options above in the comments on 1 John 5:6.

681 So Brown, The Epistles of John, 582.

682 Brown suggests that the opponents related these “witnesses” to Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist: “If the secessionists thought of the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism in water as the coming of salvation into the world, they may have related the testimony of the Spirit and the water (baptism) and the blood (eucharist) to that moment” (The Epistles of John, 584-85).

683 See the section “The identification of ‘the three that testify’ in 5:8 and their relationship to one another” above.

684 BDF §145(1); Zerwick, Biblical Greek, §32.

685 1QS is one of the Dead Sea scrolls found in cave 1 at Qumran and known as Serek hayyah£ad (Community Rule, also known as the Manual of Discipline).

686 So Dodd: “the three of them are in accord” (The Johannine Epistles, 131); also Schnackenburg: “Their testimony is in agreement (eis to Jen = [converge] into one)” (The Johannine Epistles, 235).

687 Cf. Brooke, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, 137.

688 So Schnackenburg, who states, “The articles are general; there is no reference to any specific testimony” (The Johannine Epistles, 238, n.123).

689 See the section “The referent of the ‘water’ and the ‘blood’ in 5:6 and the description of Jesus as ‘the One who came by water and blood’” above for a discussion of the reference to “water” in relation to the claims of the opponents.

690 See the following section “The referent(s) of the “testimony of God” in 5:9” concerning the “testimony of God” as a fourth witness added to the three in 5:8.

691 Brown, who holds this view himself, rightly points out its weakness, however: “it rests for its validity on the ability to reconstruct the theology of the secessionists in light of a GJohn tradition that both they and the author’s readers would have had to know thoroughly” (The Epistles of John, 586).

692 So Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 284.

693 There is in fact a textual variant for the second o{ti (Joti) in 5:9: the Byzantine tradition, along with manuscript P, reads a relative pronoun [h}n, Jhn] in place of the second o{ti (Joti) in 5:9, identical to the relative pronoun in 5:10b. This represents an obvious effort on the part of scribes to smooth out an admittedly difficult reading of the text.

694 J. H. Moulton and W. F. Howard state, “The neuter o{ti is often (very needlessly) printed o{ ti or even o{, ti to distinguish it from o{ti that” (MHT 2:179). See also Eugene Goetchius, The Language of the New Testament (New York: Scribner’s, 1965) 237 (§310). Brooke, however, felt that such a construction would be harsh in this context (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, 138).

695 See also the section “The identification of the “testimony” of 5:11 (The referent of au{th in 5:11)” below.

696 So Haas, et al., A Translator’s Handbook, 122. See also the section “The meaning of the verb pisteuvw (pisteuw) + dative in 3:23 and its relationship to other Johannine usages of pisteuvw (pisteuw)” above.

697 This person is described in 5:10b as oJ mhV pisteuvwn tw'/ qew'/ (Jo mh pisteuwn tw qew, “the one who does not believe God”).

698 Brown’s comment is particularly appropriate here: “The difference between the believer in 5:10a and the nonbeliever in 10b is not a difference of commitment; it involves the acceptance vs. the refusal of a christological evaluation of the historical Jesus as the Son of God” (The Epistles of John, 589).

699 Note Brown’s observation: “neither the author nor his secessionist adversaries would be questioning the reality of eternal life—they would be debating only as to which side possessed it” (The Epistles of John, 591).

700 Contra Marshall (The Epistles of John, 241, n. 42) and Smalley (1, 2, 3 John, 287), who see the Joti-clause in 5:11 not as giving the content of the testimony, but its result. See the sections “The referent(s) of the “testimony of God” in 5:9” and “The referent of au{th (Jauth, “this”) in 5:9” above.

701 See also the following section “The meaning of the expression “to have (e[cein, ecein) the Son” in 5:12.”

702 On the identification of the “testimony” see the preceding section.

703 Cf. Malatesta, Interiority and Covenant, 314-15; Smalley, John: Evangelist and Interpreter, 90-92; 241.

704 Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, 288.

705 See the discussion at 1 John 2:6, where the verb mevnw (menw) occurs for the first time in the Johannine letters.

706 See the section “The meaning of the phrase toVn patevra e[cei (ton patera ecei, ‘have the Father’) in 2:23” for the use of e[cw (ecw) to indicate possession of a divine reality.

707 As Smalley noted, “At this point John may well have in mind those heretically inclined members of his circle whose christology was faulty or inadequate, and whose boast of fellowship with God through Christ was therefore false (cf. 1:6; 2:6, 9)” (1, 2, 3 John, 289); cf. also Haas, et al., A Translator’s Handbook, 123. Marshall states, “John says ‘does not have the Son of God,’ thereby indicating once again the enormity of the offense, and the impossibility of having God as Father without accepting his Son” (The Epistles of John, 242, n. 44 [italics his]).

Related Topics: Christology, Trinity, Faith