First Epistle of John

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The First Epistle of John, usually referred to simply as First John and often written 1 John, is a book of the New Testament. This fourth catholic or "general" epistle is attributed to John the Evangelist, traditionally thought to be the author of the Gospel of John and the other two Epistles of John. This Epistle was written in Ephesus between the years 100-110.[1] The work was written to counter the heresies that Jesus did not come "in the flesh," but only as a spirit. It also defined how Christians are to discern true teachers: by their ethics, their proclamation of Jesus in the flesh, and by their love.[1]



The Epistle is traditionally held to have been composed by John the Evangelist, at Ephesus, when the writer was in advanced age. The epistle's content, language and conceptual style indicate that it may have had the same author as the Gospel of John, 2 John, and 3 John.[1] Some modern scholars believe that the apostle John wrote none of the New Testament books traditionally attributed to him.[2]

  • "There are no concrete indications of the identity of the author ... We find here a special form of the horatory or 'paraenetic' style... the writer has his own locutions which give a peculiar stamp to the work... a demonstrative is given first place in a sentence, looking forward to its definition or explanation usually after some article or conjunction... This is one of the features which by its frequency distinguishes the style of the epistle from that of the Gospel of John... He also 'uses the conditional sentence in a variety of rhetorical figures which are unknown to the gospel.'[3]"[4]


"The Fourth Gospel addresses itself to the challenges posed by Judaism and others outside Johannine circles who have rejected the community's vision of Jesus as preexistent Son, sent by the Father. The epistles" (First, Second, and Third John) "describe the fracturing of the Johannine community itself."[5]

The author wrote the Epistle so that the joy of his audience would "be full" (1.4) and that they would "sin not" (2.1) and that "you who believe in the name of the Son of God... may know that you have eternal life" (5.13). It appears as though the author was concerned about heretical teachers that had been influencing churches under his care. Such teachers were considered Antichrists (2.18-19) who had once been church leaders but whose teaching became heterodox. It appears that these teachers taught that Jesus Christ was a Spirit being without a body (4.2), that his death on the cross was not as an atonement for sins (1.7). It appears that John might have also been rebuking a proto-Gnostic named Cerinthus, who also denied the humanity of Christ.

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