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On the Epistles of John
Now we shall endeavor a commentary on the epistles of John, which is the very last portion of a New Testament commentary that we began to write and present on Friday evenings here in early 2011. When I began my commentary on the epistles of Paul in March of 2014, I wrote in part that “Even though this marks the mid-point of the New Testament Commentary which I hope to complete here on these Friday evenings, which I had begun in early 2011 with the Gospel of Matthew, a translation of Paul is where I actually began the work which had eventually become the Christogenea New Testament, about 15 years ago.” Now it has been 22 years, as I began studying Greek in early 1999 with the sole intent of one day translating Paul’s epistles, and actually completed that endeavor in 2004. Then in 2005 I translated the New Testament books written by Luke, and by the Summer of 2007 those written by John. I finished the project, which I never really imagined I would finish, with translations of the other Gospels and epistles by the end of Spring, 2008.
Now in hindsight, my own opinion is that the earlier portions of these commentaries, the gospels of Matthew and Mark, and perhaps even Luke, along with the epistles of Peter and James, were not quite comprehensive enough compared to those which I have done more recently, and perhaps one day I hope to improve them in writing, if not in audio. But it is not that I am dissatisfied with the results, and I am certain that today I would stand by everything I had said about those parts of the New Testament which I presented commentaries on in those earlier years. If there are any exceptions, I am unaware of them. However after this commentary on the epistles of John is completed, I do hope to make a new presentation of a commentary on the Revelation, as the old audio series needs to be replaced for reasons I will not mention here, and because I also believe I can augment that commentary by collating materials and perspectives from some of the books of the prophets. I do not expect much of the commentary itself to change, but I also believe I can improve many of the explanations of my interpretations. If Yahweh wills it that I complete that endeavor, then a new edition of Christreich, our commentary on the Revelation, would follow.
If our listeners are familiar with the errata page in the Christogenea New Testament section of the Christogenea website, we have been tracking changes made to the text of the Christogenea New Testament since we began these commentaries, and there is a list of such changes, most of them minor, which we have found it necessary to make these last 10 years. However the last update of the printed edition was made in December, 2017, and if Yahweh wills, one more update, hopefully the final update, will be made some time within the next year, after we have finished these commentaries.
On the Epistles of John, Part 1: Light and the Word of Life
Now, turning our attention to the first epistle of John, for our translation we have either followed or considered the readings of the 4th century Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (B), the 5th century Codices Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C) and Vaticanus Graecus 2061 (048), and the 6th century Codices known only as Uncial 0245 and Uncial 0296, all of them as they are presented in the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. Additionally, there is one ancient papyrus that was also considered, which is known as P9 in the Nestle-Aland editions. In this papyrus are preserved fragments of several verses of 1 John chapter 4, and it is esteemed to date to the 3rd century. The earliest surviving witness to any of the text of 1 John may be the Muratorian Fragment, or Canon, which dates to approximately 170 AD and which cites the opening three verses of this epistle.
As I have said in the past, while we possess a copy of the 28th edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece, which was first published in 2012, I have not yet had the opportunity to compare its Greek text and critical notes to these translations. Our translation and notes are based on the 27th edition, which was first published in 1993. The 28th edition does add 29 recently discovered papyri to the catalog of 98 New Testament papyri fragments from which readings were included in the 27th edition. But none of the newly added papyri fragments contain any portion of the epistles of John.
Among the early Christian writers, 1 John is mentioned in the surviving fragments of Papias, a bishop of Hierapolis who died about 130 AD. So Papias attests to 1 John only decades after it was written. Both Clement of Alexandria, who died circa 215 AD, and Origen who died perhaps 23 years later, had written commentaries on the epistles of John. In his commentary, Clement expressly considered the John of the Gospel to have been the same John to whom the epistles are attributed. Origen also mentioned or cited 1 John in both his de Principiis and his commentary on Matthew. 1 John is mentioned frequently in Cyprian's Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews. Cyprian was a bishop of Roman Carthage in the first half of the 3rd century. So far as we have seen, authorship of the epistles is not disputed in any of these writings.
In recent times there are many contentions over the authorship of these three epistles which are attributed to John, although John did not use his own name in any of them. Many modern scholars, or supposed scholars, claim that John the evangelist and John the presbyter, as John refers to himself in these epistles, were actually two different men. Based upon both the ancient testimony and the internal evidence, we would reject all of the contentions. Characteristically, the same apostle also neglected to use his own name in his Gospel, instead describing himself in other ways, while the opening verses of 1 John clearly show that the author is the same as that of the Gospel, and throughout the epistle even the themes are the same as those which are most prolifically illustrated in John’s Gospel. Reading the epistle, John is clearly explaining in his own words many of the lessons with which he himself must have been most impressed, as the same lessons are featured in his Gospel account. This epistle was written as a guide to teach the practical application of the instructions of Christ which are recorded in the Gospel of John. There is no valid reason to deny that the same John authored both the Gospel and these epistles. John the evangelist is John the presbyter of these epistles, and also John the revelator, where in the Revelation of Yahshua Christ he does mention his own name on several occasions.
In Book 18, Chapter 3 of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History we read the following, speaking of the rule of the Roman emperor Domitian:
1. It is said that in this persecution the apostle and evangelist John, who was still alive, was condemned to dwell on the island of Patmos in consequence of his testimony to the divine word. 2. Irenæus, in the fifth book of his work Against Heresies, where he discusses the number of the name of Antichrist which is given in the so-called Apocalypse of John, speaks as follows concerning him: 3. "If it were necessary for his name to be proclaimed openly at the present time, it would have been declared by him who saw the revelation. For it was seen not long ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian."
Here Eusebius, who lived in the 4th century, was citing Irenæus, who lived in the 2nd. Other early Christian writers attest that after the death of Domitian, John was able to return to Ephesus, where he had published his Revelation. We would assert that being an elder of the church at Ephesus, that is where he most likely wrote these three surviving epistles. While all three epistles are didactic, the first epistle is apostolic in nature, but the second and third epistles are more personal and pastoral in nature, wherein John had also merely referred to himself as presbyter, which is an elder.
So for our purposes here, we shall proceed under the assumption that these three epistles were written after John had returned to Ephesus from Patmos upon the death of Domitian in 96 AD. It was Roman custom that upon the death of an emperor, exiles and those awaiting trial before the emperor were relieved of those burdens. The death of John is also recorded by Eusebius later in that same book, at a time which may be estimated to have been around 100 AD. This is not incredible, as John was but a young man at the passion of the Christ in 32 AD. If John were 16 when the ministry of Christ began, he would have been approximately 84 years old when he was able to leave Patmos.
So with this we shall proceed to our commentary on this first epistle of John:
I 1 That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we have observed, and our hands have touched concerning the Word of Life:
The phrase Word of Life appears somewhat earlier in the epistle of Paul to the Philippians, which was written in 61 or 62 AD where Paul exhorts the assembly and we read in chapter 2: “14 Do all things apart from murmuring and disputing, 15 that you would be perfect and with unmixed blood, blameless children of Yahweh in the midst of a race crooked and perverted - among whom you appear as luminaries in the Society, 16 upholding the Word of Life for a boast with me in the day of Christ, that not in vain have I run nor in vain have I labored.”
But while Paul used the phrase Word of Life to refer to the Gospel of Christ, here John uses the term to refer to the Word made Flesh, the Word which was God and had been embodied in Yahshua Christ Himself. Paul was not wrong, and neither is John, as both circumstances are true because God cannot be separated from His Word, and God cannot be separated from Christ who is the image of His person and His Word made Flesh. In different words, we see that same concept, that Christ cannot be separated from God, expressed later in this epistle, in chapter 2 where John wrote: “ 23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.”
As we read in John chapter 1: “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God.” Then a little further on in the chapter: “14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” In the opening verses of the Gospel of John, we have this poetic description of the Word of God which had become incarnate in Christ, and John opens this epistle with another poetic reference to that same phenomenon.
Before the incarnation of Christ, select men – men of the patriarchs and children of Israel – knew God only through His Word as it was uttered by the prophets, or by the physical apparitions by which God manifested His presence on the diverse occasions which are recorded in the Books of Moses. Here John informs us that now, he and the other disciples of Christ who had known, observed, and were even able to touch Him throughout the time of His ministry had known the Word of God intimately, as He was the embodiment of that Word. The Word itself being a physical expression of the invisible God, Yahshua Christ was also a physical expression of that same God.
The Roman Catholic Church, with its trinity doctrine, divides God into three artificial persons. Yet Paul attested in Hebrews chapter 1 that Christ is the image of God’s person, where we read: “3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” and of course, the “Majesty on high” is the invisible God. So Paul wrote in his epistle to the Colossians, speaking of Christ: “9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Christ is not in the so-called “godhead”, as the trinitarians claim. Rather the Godhead, a word which is better translated as Divinity, is in Christ. The Body of Christ is the temple for the invisible God.
However in the opening chapter of the Gospel of John several important themes are presented, and while the first is the assertion that Christ is the Word made Flesh, the same Word which was God, John also explained that Christ is “9 … the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Here John repeats both of those assertions in different terms, first where he says that he had touched the Word of Life, and then in verse 5 where he says that “God [or Yahweh] is light and there is not any darkness in Him.”
It is also apparent that here in this opening verse, that John the presbyter rather plainly asserts that he is the very same John the evangelist and apostle, as he attests to have heard, to have seen with his own eyes and even to have touched the Word of Life, which is Christ Himself. Where he says both seen and observed, he describes not only a casual sighting, but a prolonged observation which in this case only an apostle of Christ could have had. So ostensibly, “from the beginning” here is from the beginning of the ministry of Christ, and this John was one of His intimate disciples right from the beginning. Not many men named John could have claimed to have touched Christ with their own hands. Touching is not something that men did casually. Even walking through a crowd, when a sick woman reached out and took the hem of His garment, as we read in Luke chapter 8, He had exclaimed “Who touched me?”
Yet in the Gospel accounts the young apostle John is described as having had close intimate contact with Christ. For example, John was referring to himself where he wrote in John chapter 21, as Christ conferred with Peter on the shore in Galilee: “20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?” John was referring back to the event at the last supper where Peter asked him to inquire with Yahshua as to the identity of the betrayer. In the subsequent verses in that account, John admits that it was he himself to whom he had referred. Therefore to reject the apostle John’s authorship of this epistle is to reject the basic premise of the epistle itself, as it exposes the author to charges of lying for which there is no basis once it is accepted that the apostle John was indeed the author, which is also a fact for which there is no sound basis to deny.
Now, in reference to the Word of Life:
2 that the life was made manifest, and [B inserts “that which”] we have seen and we bear witness and we announce to you the eternal life which was with the Father and has been made manifest to us.
Here once again the author of this epistle is identified as John the apostle. He repeats the assertion that he had seen the Christ, and further attests that “we bear witness and we announce to you” which seems to be a reference to the Gospel written by this same author, and possibly also to the similar testimonies of the other apostles. The Greek word for announce here is ἀπαγγέλλω, which is defined by Liddell & Scott to mean, “of a messenger, to bring tidings, report, announce…” The very word gospel is from an Old English compound word, godspell or good spell, which describes a good tale or good message or tidings.
Yahshua Christ, who is described here as the “eternal life which was with the Father and has been made manifest to us”, is also the fulfillment of the first promise made to Adam after his fall, found in Genesis chapter 3: “22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.” Therefore Christ told His disciples, as it is recorded in John chapter 15: “1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.” Concerning the purpose for which Adam was created, we read in chapter 2 of the Wisdom of Solomon: “23 For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity.” Through Christ the Adamic man will be restored to that original purpose, as Paul of Tarsus wrote in 1 Corinthians chapter 15: “22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” To remain on the True Vine one must keep the commandments in order to abide in Christ. Later in this epistle, John will also attest these things in his own terms.
Now he asserts once again that he is the John who was among those who knew the Christ:
3 That which we have seen and we have heard, we announce also [the MT wants “also”] to you, that you also would have fellowship with us. Yet now our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Yahshua Christ. 4 And we write these things [C and the MT insert “to you”; the text follows א, A and B] in order that our [A and C have “your”; the text follows א and B] joy would be fulfilled.
Yahshua Christ, being the embodiment of God – or God incarnate – in His physical body is also the Son of God, HOLY SPIRIT. For this Paul had written in chapter 2 of his epistle to the Hebrews, as it is in our translation: “16 For surely not that of messengers has He taken upon Himself, but He has taken upon Himself of the offspring of Abraham, 17 from which He was obliged in all respects to become like the brethren, that He would be a compassionate and faithful high priest of the things pertaining to Yahweh to make a propitiation for the failures [or sins] of the people.”
Now our author tells us once again, in a slightly different way, that he is John the apostle:
5 And this is the message which we have heard from Him and we announce to you: that Yahweh is light and there is not any darkness in Him.
Rather than ἀγγελία or message, the Codex Ephraemi Syri (C) has ἐπαγγελία, which is declaration, or perhaps, promise. The text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B) and the Majority Text.
So where the author of this epistle explains that he is declaring “the message which we have heard from Him”, he attests that he was indeed a disciple of Christ during His earthly ministry, and there should be no reason not to accept this testimony. Our author is John the apostle and writer of the Gospel of John.
Here John invokes a second important theme which is found in the opening chapter of his Gospel. However in John chapter 1 the apostle attributes the declaration to John the Baptist, that “7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
So it is evident that here John is more explicitly referring to what he later recorded that he had heard from Christ Himself, for example in John chapter 8 where we read: “12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”, or in John chapter 9 where Christ had said: “5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Where the light of the world, which is Christ, is contrasted to darkness which is apart from Christ, we see an evocation of the opening verses of the Creation account in Genesis chapter 1. There we read, in part: “ 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.”
But this light could not have been the natural light seen by men which emanates from celestial bodies, since the sun, moon and stars were not yet created. Rather, we would assert that this “true Light”, as John described it, the creation of which was the very first expression of the Word of Life in Genesis, a Light which was otherwise never seen by men, is the announcement of the fact that God would manifest Himself in the world, and was realized in the incarnation of Christ, the Light come into the world. The divine prescience of Yahweh certainly knew that He would take part in His Creation even before it commenced, and therefore He announced the creation of this Light before anything else was created, foreseeing His incarnation as Christ, the true Light. This Light being the first element of God’s Creation, Paul had written in Colossians chapter 1 that Christ was “15… the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature”, and in chapter 13 of His Revelation Christ described Himself as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
In his first epistle to Timothy, in chapter 6, Paul of Tarsus upholds our interpretation of this Genesis chapter 3 Light and its relation to Christ where he wrote: “12 You must struggle the good struggle of the faith; you must lay hold of the eternal life to which you have been summoned and profess the good profession before many witnesses. 13 I command you before Yahweh who brings to life all things, and Christ Yahshua who testified the good profession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep this commandment spotless, irreproachable until the manifestation of our Prince Yahshua Christ. 15 Which He will show in His own time: the Blessed and Only Ruler, the King of Kings and Sovereign of Sovereigns, 16 He alone having immortality, a Light dwelling unapproachable, which not one man has seen, nor is able to see, to whom is honor and power forever.” Furthermore, Christ being “Lord of lords, and King of kings”, as he Himself had also declared in the Revelation, once again we see that He is Yahweh God incarnate.
Then at the end of the recorded Word of Life in our Scriptures, in Revelation chapter 21, we read a promise in the description of the City of God: “3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: 4 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. 5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” But of course, the throne is the throne of the Invisible God, and the Lamb, the physical incarnation of that same God, shall sit upon it.
Now John refers once again to the darkness which is in contrast to Christ:
6 If we should say that we have fellowship with Him and we would walk in darkness, we lie and we do not practice the truth.
We have already cited the words of Christ in John chapter 8 where He said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness…” But the fellowship which John describes here is better explained in chapter 12 of his Gospel: “44 Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. 45 And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. [Because Christ is the image of the person of God, the fulness of the Divinity bodily.] 46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
Speaking of that same last day, in 1 Thessalonians chapter 1, which is the earliest of Paul’s recorded epistles, we read the same analogy where he wrote: “4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” Paul may have written these words based on oral accounts of the gospel, since it is not certain that John had already penned his Gospel by the time Paul wrote the epistle in 51 AD, which is when he was in Corinth.
Towards the end of his ministry, perhaps in 61 AD, in chapter 5 of his epistle to the Ephesians Paul wrote once again of judgment and the light of Christ, from our own translation: “8 For you were once darkness, but are now light in the Prince. Walk as children of light. 9 (For the fruit of the light is in all goodness and justness and truth, 10 scrutinizing what is acceptable to the Prince.) 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead even reprove them. 12 For the things being done by them secretly it is disgraceful even to speak of. 13 Now all things being reproved by the light are made manifest. 14 For everything being made manifest is light. Therefore He says: ‘Awaken, you who are sleeping, and rise up from among the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you.’” That in turn evokes the passage describing Christ as the Light which we had just cited from Revelation chapter 21, although Paul wrote long before John received the Revelation.
John continues in reference to the Light:
7 But if we would walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of His Son Yahshua cleanses us from all guilt.
Rather than “fellowship with one another” the Codex Alexandrinus (A) has “fellowship with Him”. The same manuscript, as well as the Majority Text, insert “Christ” after the phrase “His Son Yahshua”. The text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B) and Ephraemi Syri (C).
Fellowship in the Light is alluded to in many different ways in the books of the prophets. For example, in Isaiah chapter 2 there is an invitation to that fellowship where we read “5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.” Then in Isaiah chapter 50 where it speaks of Israel being admonished for sin: “10 Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.”
Perhaps the fellowship of the Light in Christ is foreshadowed in the Exodus account, where we read in Exodus chapter 10 “22 And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: 23 They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” Of this same event there is an analogy in the Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 18, where in contrast to the plight of the Egyptians he wrote, from our own translation: “1 But upon Your saints there was a great light of things which the voice indeed hearing but the form not seeing then because they had not suffered those things they were blessed.”
The substance of fellowship in the light is described by John in chapter 2 of this epistle, where he says in part: “the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. 9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.” Likewise, in the Revelation and the message to the church at Philadelphia, which means brotherly love, Yahshua Christ had nothing for which to condemn that church. Even later in this epistle, John also defines what it is to love one’s brother where he writes in chapter 5: “3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” We display our love for our brethren by keeping the commandments of God.
The word translated as guilt here is ἁμαρτία, a noun which is usually translated as sin in popular Bible versions, but which in Greek most literally meant “a missing the mark” and therefore as Liddell & Scott define the term, “1. a failure, fault, sin… a fault committed by one… fault of judgment” and then “2. generally, guilt, sin…” citing Greek poets, historians and philosophers as well as the Septuagint and New Testament. But perhaps because of the memories of the Roman Catholic education of my youth, when I translated the Christogenea New Testament I sought to demystify sin by using the common meanings of the words ἁμαρτία and ἁμαρτάνω, which is the corresponding verb. Sin is not something mysterious, as the Roman Catholics consider it especially in their errant doctrine of Original Sin. Rather, as John informs us later in this very epistle: “3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” The sin of Adam and Eve was not a mystery. Rather, they had violated the one law which Yahweh gave directly to Adam, in Genesis chapter 2 where he was expressly told not to eat of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We know how that law was broken, because it was still the only law given up to the time of the sin of Genesis chapter 6, so men being punished for sin must have violated that same law and how that violation occurred is described rather explicitly. The only valid conclusion is that the sin of Genesis chapters 3 and 6 was race-mixing fornication.
Here we must make a note where John wrote “But if we would walk in the light as He is in the light… the blood of His Son Yahshua cleanses us from all sin.” So John attests that walking in the light, which is keeping the commandments, as we have already explained, one may nevertheless need to be cleansed of sin. But in chapter 3 of this epistle John wrote “He that committeth sin is of the devil”, as it is in the King James Version, and therefore he seems to be contradicting himself, where instead it is the Bible translators who failed to notice an important distinction in John’s words. As we may see in the passages concerning the Light which we have already cited, one cannot walk in the Light and yet be of the devil. One can sin while walking in the Light, but that does not make one “of the devil”. So we shall cite this passage when we elucidate the truth of John’s words later in chapter 3, as John certainly is not contradicting himself.
Now John asserts that all men sin, where we again translated ἁμαρτία as guilt:
8 If we should say that we have no guilt, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Paul of Tarsus wrote likewise, in chapter 3 of his epistle to the Romans where he declared “23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” For that same reason, David wrote in the 143rd Psalm “for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” All men sinning, all men are not of the devil, and none of the children of Israel were ever said to be “of the devil” simply because they had sinned. Rather, even as they were put off in punishment for their sins, throughout the writings of the prophets they were nevertheless described as being the children of God. So the popular translations of 1 John 3:8 cannot be correct, where it says in the King James Version that “He that committeth sin is of the devil”, and they are not correct, as we hope to elucidate later in this commentary. When we do, we hope to recall John’s words here.
Now John speaks in reference to the mercy in Christ:
9 If we would admit our errors, He is trustworthy and just, that He would remit the [א and C have “our”] errors for us and would [A has “shall”] cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Again, the word translated as guilt in verse 8 and as errors here is the noun ἁμαρτία, which is sin. Next, John repeats what he had already said in verse 8, and a form of the verb ἁμαρτάνω accompanied by a negative particle is translated as “we have not done wrong”. The word translated as remit is the verb ἀφίημι, which is primarily to send forth, discharge, even of missiles, and of people or things to let go, loose, to set free or release from a thing. In this context we preferred the English word remit rather than the traditional word forgive, as remit means to cancel or refrain from exacting or inflicting a debt or punishment. The word forgive is in that manner a synonym, but also bears meaning, such as a cessation of anger or resentment associated with the act being forgiven, which the Greek word ἀφίημι does not represent.
So if we confess our sins, Yahshua Christ shall remit them on our behalf, and this is also found in the Old Testament. As we read in Proverbs chapter 28: “13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Likewise we read in the words of David in the 32nd Psalm: “5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”
In the past, we have asserted that the King James Version contained many translations purposefully constructed in order to uphold the authority of the Church of England over the Christian assemblies. One of these is found in James chapter 5, where the word ἁμαρτία is translated as fault rather than as sin as it usually is in the King James Version. Of course, the priests would not want the people to confess their sins to one another, as the apostles had instructed, as that would diminish the perceived authority of the priests. But there the apostle James had written, as it is in the King James Version: “16 Confess your faults [or sins] one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
Now in the next verse John repeats himself once again:
10 If we should say that we have not done wrong, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
The repetitions of certain concepts described here seem to be both poetic and didactic in nature, John repeated himself consciously and intentionally, and they continue throughout this epistle. These are Hebrew parallelisms, whereby something is described in different ways consecutively in order to convey a fuller description or explanation of the subject.
If we assert that we do not sin, it is tantamount to claiming that God is a liar, because it is His Word which instructs us that all men sin. As Paul of Tarsus wrote in Galatians chapter 3, from our own translation: “22 But the writing has enclosed all under fault [or sin], in order that the promise, from the faith of Yahshua Christ, would be given to those who are believing. 23 But before the faith was to come we had been guarded under law, being enclosed to the faith destined to be revealed. 24 So the law has been our tutor for Christ, in order that from faith we would be deemed righteous.” Again, even with all of the children of Israel enclosed under sin, guilty of transgressing the law, they were never considered children of the devil. In fact, in John chapter 11 this same apostle wrote that Christ had died “52… not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad”, even before they received or accepted the Gospel of Christ they were called the children of God.
As John said in verse 8, if we claim we have no sin then the Truth is not in us, and here, if we make that same claim, that His Word is not in us. His Word is the only Truth. As Christ had said, as it is recorded in John chapter 14, “6… I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Later in the same chapter we read: “23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.” Endeavoring to keep the sayings of Christ is to keep the Word of God, which informs us that all men sin in a manner whereby we cannot imagine ourselves to be exempt. Thus we read in Ecclesiastes chapter 7: “20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.”
Likewise, in the 53rd Psalm, in words attributed to David: “2 God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. 3 Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” So we read in Romans chapter 5, speaking of the breaking of that very first commandment of Genesis chapter 2: “12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come…. 17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)” So all men sinned, but not necessarily in that same manner in which Adam had sinned, as all men have not eaten of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Commencing with John chapter 2, the apostle offers another admonishment which warns against sin:
II 1 My children, I write these things to you in order that you do not do wrong. And if one should do wrong, we have an Advocate with the Father: the righteous Yahshua Christ.
Once again, the verb ἁμαρτάνω is to do wrong here, where it may have been translated as sin. Once again, just as John had attested that if we walk in the light and confess our sins that they would be remitted by Christ, here we see that when Christians sin they have an Advocate in Christ. This also stands in conflict with the popular translations of 1 John 3:8 which read in part that “He that committeth sin is of the devil”, so we shall also cite this passage again when we comment on that statement. As we have said, we cannot imagine that John was contradicting himself. Devils, or those of the devil, do not have an advocate with the Father, but the Lake of Fire is prepared for the devil and his angels, which is evident both in Matthew chapter 25 and in Revelation chapter 20.
Now referring to the propitiation which is in Christ, John makes a declaration:
2 And He is a propitiation on behalf of our errors; yet not for ours only but for the whole Society.
We have often spoken in our commentaries about that word which we translate as society here, which is κόσμος. Modern denominational churches insist that it designates the planet and everyone on it, but that certainly is not true. The κόσμος is the order of the οἰκουμένη, which is the physical world occupied by the nations of the society (see What is the World?). Here we will reproduce a short commentary on this word κόσμος from the 3rd century Christian writer Origen. Not that we agree with all of his conclusions, but some of them are agreeable, and they also reflect the struggle which even early Christians had in determining how this word κόσμος was used in the New Testament.
From Origen, in Book 1, Chapter 2 of his Origen de Principiis, citing Wisdom, 7:25, he says “Now, we find in the treatise called the Wisdom of Solomon the following description of the wisdom of God: ‘For she is the breath of the power of God, and the purest efflux of the glory of the Almighty.’” So we see that Origen esteemed the Wisdom of Solomon as Scripture, and he cited Wisdom again later in that same chapter, and also in Book 2, Chapter 3 of the same work, which is the citation that is pertinent to our discussion here, where he wrote: “Having discussed these points regarding the nature of the world to the best of our ability, it does not seem out of place to inquire what is the meaning of the term world, which in holy Scripture is shown frequently to have different significations. For what we call in Latin mundus, is termed in Greek κόσμος, and κόσμος signifies not only a world, but also an ornament. Finally, in Isaiah, where the language of reproof is directed to the chief daughters of Sion, and where he says, ‘Instead of an ornament of a golden head, thou wilt have baldness on account of thy works,’ he employs the same term to denote ornament as to denote the world, viz., κόσμος. For the plan of the world is said to be contained in the clothing of the high priest, as we find in the Wisdom of Solomon, where he says, ‘For in the long garment was the whole world.’ That earth of ours, with its inhabitants, is also termed the world, as when Scripture says, ‘The whole world lieth in wickedness.’ Clement indeed, a disciple of the apostles, makes mention of those whom the Greeks called Ἀντίχθονες [inhabitants of an opposite or counter-earth, later the Southern hemisphere – WRF], and other parts of the earth, to which no one of our people can approach, nor can any one of those who are there cross over to us, which he also termed worlds, saying, ‘The ocean is impassable to men; and those are worlds which are on the other side of it, which are governed by these same arrangements of the ruling God.’ [But not necessarily for their good – WRF] That universe which is bounded by heaven and earth is also called a world, as Paul declares: ‘For the fashion of this world will pass away.’ Our Lord and Saviour also points out a certain other world besides this visible one, which it would indeed be difficult to describe and make known. He says, ‘I am not of this world.’ For, as if He were of a certain other world, He says, ‘I am not of this world.’ Now, of this world we have said beforehand, that the explanation was difficult; and for this reason, that there might not be afforded to any an occasion of entertaining the supposition that we maintain the existence of certain images which the Greeks call ‘ideas:’ for it is certainly alien to our (writers) to speak of an incorporeal world existing in the imagination alone, or in the fleeting world of thoughts; and how they can assert either that the Saviour comes from thence, or that the saints will go thither, I do not see.”
Before we comment on this passage from Origen, speaking of the seed of Abraham, Paul of Tarsus wrote in Romans chapter 4 and said: “13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” Later in that chapter Paul spoke of Abraham and said: “18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.” In that same chapter, Paul was teaching the fact that the nations to whom he had brought the Gospel of Christ were the very nations which had resulted from the promise to Abraham two thousand years earlier, and these are the children of God scattered abroad which John described in his Gospel: the children of Israel who were scattered in the captivities of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon.
So we read in Isaiah chapter 27, even as the children of Israel were being taken into Assyrian captivity, a promise that “6 He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” It is of them that Paul wrote in Galatians chapter 4 where he said “4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Then we read in the words of Christ in Matthew chapter 27 that “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” as He could only redeem them who were under the law. Finally, the City of God described in the closing chapters of the Revelation has the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on its twelve gates, and there are no gates for any other tribe.
Origen struggled with the application of the word κόσμος, or world, yet he also expressed the truth of the matter, even if he did not notice it. If Israel was in the time of their captivity to fill the face of the world with fruit, and if the many nations promised to come of Abraham’s seed were the nations to whom the apostle had brought the Gospel, as Paul himself had attested, as that was the promise by which Abraham would be heir of the world, then that is the world which Christ had come to save, and that is the world whose sins are forgiven, as only the children of Israel were under the law, and therefore sin was only imputed to them.
So just as Origen had noticed, although he did not realize the consequences, and as he also admitted that the word κόσμος may represent only a certain portion of the planet and its inhabitants, all of these statements which we have just cited are reconciled in Solomon’s confession in Wisdom chapter 18 where he wrote: “24 For in the long garment was the whole world, and in the four rows of the stones [which represent those same twelve tribes] was the glory of the fathers graven, and thy Majesty upon the diadem of his head.” This is the world of the promises, and this is the world which Yahweh God Incarnate had planned to save, as He Himself professed in Isaiah chapter 45: “15 Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour…. 17 But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.”
This is the world for whom Christ became a propitiation, and whose sins are remitted. Thus we read in a declaration of the promise of Christ found in Luke chapter 2, in the words of Simeon as he beheld the infant Christ in the temple, from our own translation: “29 Now release Your servant, Master, in peace according to Your word: 30 Because my eyes have seen Your Salvation, 31 which You have prepared in front of all the people: 32 a light for the revelation of the Nations and honor of Your people Israel!” Christ is that Light, the Light come into the world.
Yahweh willing, we will resume our commentary from the beginning of 1 John chapter 2 next week.