Introduction: 1 John was written by a member of the Johannine community, a community that also produced the Gospel of John and 2,3 John. It was probably written around 100 AD, but a precise date is difficult to achieve. The main reason for the work is to address a schism that fractured the Johannine community. The author demonizes the dissidents who left due to theological differences, calling them liars, antichrists, and children of the devil. Paradoxically, he also exhorts the remaining community members to love one another, because God is love.
1 John: This is the message we have heard from Jesus: that God is light and has no darkness. We must confess our sins, for we all have sin, so that they can be forgiven–Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Whoever does not love another believer is not in the light, but in the darkness. I am writing to all of you, young and old alike, to remind you that you share in Christ’s victory over the evil one. Do not love the world and pride in riches, for the world is passing away.
It is the last hour! The antichrists you have heard about have already come. They are the ones who left our group. These dissidents are liars, because they deny that Jesus is the Messiah. Beloved, we are God’s children now; no one who abides in him sins, and no one who sins can abide in him. The children of God are righteous, while all who don’t love believers or who are not righteous are children of the devil. Do not believe every teacher, but test them–the ones who don’t confess that Jesus has come in the flesh are antichrists. Let us love one another because love is from God, and just as God loved us, so we ought to love one another. Jesus came by water and blood, not with the water only. This is the testimony of the water, blood, and Spirit: whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, while whoever doesn’t does not have life. If you have a request, pray to God and it will be granted. If you see a brother committing what is not a mortal sin, pray for them and God will forgive. We are God’s children, while the whole world is under the power of the evil one.
- The “antichrists” are false messiahs who arise in the last days before the end of the world, which this author believes he is living in.
- “Jesus came by water and blood” refers to baptism and the death of Jesus, respectively
- What kind of gospel did the dissidents teach? According to this author, they denied that Jesus is the Messiah (2:22), do not confess that Jesus is from God (4:3), and deny the importance of the crucifixion (5:6). It is possible that the dissidents held the docetist Christology, common among Gnostic Christians, where Jesus was fully divine but not human. Thus, he did not really suffer, and his earthly life was merely an illusion.