Monday, November 22, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: 1 John 1-5

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that BibleGateway.com is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through 1 John, chapters 1-5.


Chapter 1

  • Verse 1 - The letter doesn't make any self-claim to authorship, but the similarity to the first part of the gospel of John is hard to miss.
Chapter 2
  • Verse 1 - The language of "advocate" also is peculiar to John's gospel, found only there in the New Testament (besides the use of the word here), although in the gospel, it is used by Jesus to refer to the Holy Spirit, whereas here it seems to refer to Jesus Christ himself. 
  • Verses 7-8 - First he says he's not writing a new command, then he says he is.  Make up your mind, already!
  • Verse 9 - What if you hate a non-believer?
  • Verses 18, 22 - These (along with a mention in chapter four, and one more time in 2 John) are the only times the word "antichrist" show up in the entire Bible.  The concept of "antichrist" definitely seems to be something John's readers are already familiar with, but the way John uses the term bares little resemblance the the "antichrist" concept as popularized in modern end times works (notably the "Left Behind" series).  Indeed, the plural John occasionally uses for the concept would seem to rule the common conception out entirely.
Chapter 3
  • Verse 4: "Everyone who sins breaks the law" - I find it notable that this verse is not constructed the other way around.  It is not "Everyone who breaks the law sins."
  • Verse 15: "and you know that no murderers have eternal life in them" - (To paraphrase Paul, permit me a moment's madness)  Especially not Moses nor King David.  And Paul?  Certainly not!
  • Verse 17 - This, again, seems to be a reference to fellow Christians, as opposed to a call to give aid to people generally.  But what about giving aid to non-Christians?
Chapter 4
  • Verse 20 - This idea that Christians should not "hate" fellow believers well keeps coming up in this short letter.  I wonder what was going on in the church that John felt the need to push on this point so much.
Chapter 5
  • Verse 3: "his commands are not burdensome" - Yet it seems to me that Christians (and I find this is true on both liberal and conservative sides of the spectrum) have so much to say about the difficulty of following Christ fully that I confess I don't really see how it can be anything other than "burdensome."  We're not talking about something that can be done without effort.
  • Verses 6-8 - I can guess at some of this, but I have to confess that the "water and blood" language is a bit alien to me.  I'm not confident that my guesses match up with John's intentions.  And he doesn't really explain the imagery all that much.  I can only assume that this language was clearer to the original audience.
  • Verses 16-17 - What does John mean in regard to "sin that does not lead to death"?  Or, conversely, what sin does lead to death, that we shouldn't worry about praying for it?  Is he just saying that we shouldn't bother praying for people who have already died?



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