1 John - Introduction
FIRST EPISTLE OF ST. JOHN
Authenticity and Canonicity.
This Epistle was written by the author of the Fourth Gospel. This is evident from the similarities in language and vocabulary,
in style, in dogmatic content and expression, all of which cannot be explained adequately by the hypothesis of imitation.
Elsewhere it is demonstrated that St. John the Apostle is the author of the Fourth Gospel; hence he is also the author of
this first Epistle. This is corroborated by the author's claim to be a witness of that to which he testifies (1,
1-3; 4, 14).
St. Irenaeus is the first extant author to ascribe this Epistle explicitly to St. John the Evangelist. The
author of the Muratorian Fragment calls attention to the identity of authorship of this Epistle and the Gospel as evidenced
in the prologues of both. Eusebius places this Epistles among the "undisputed books." Other external evidence
can be cited in abundance.
Time and Place of Composition. This Epistle was written either shortly before the
Fourth Gospel to serve as its introduction, or, as seems more probable, shortly after, to serve as a kind of postscript.
This helps explain the absence from the Epistle of the usual epistolary salutations. It was written most probably towards
the end of the first century, when the christological heresies alluded to in the Epistle began to make their appearance; hence
between the years 85 and 95 A.D.
There is no exact information regarding the place of its composition. From its close connection
with the Gospel, however, we may conjecture it was written at Ephesus, where, according to Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. III,
1, 1) St. John published his Gospel.
Destination and Purpose. It is highly probable that this was a circular letter
directed to the churches of Asia Minor which came under the jurisdiction of St. John. Despite the absence of the usual
salutations, the epistolary character is evident from the general tone, and from certain phrases (2, 1.7.12-14).
The author writes mainly to preserve
his readers in possession of eternal life, in communion with God and Christ. The polemical motive, less evident than
in the Gospel, is present in the emphasis placed on the necessity of faith in the Incarnation, and in the condemnation of
the false teachers who deny this fundamental truth. The author's purpose will be seen more fully in the Commentary.
God is Light 1, 5 -- 2, 27
II. God is Justice 2, 28 -- 4, 6
III. God is Love 4, 7 -- 5,
FIRST EPISTLE OF ST. JOHN THE APOSTLE
St. John the Apostle, the author of the Fourth
Gospel, is also the author of this Epistle. Many commentators are of the opinion that the Epistle was written shortly
before or shortly after the Gospel to serve as an introduction, or as a postscript, to it, or at least with the intention
that both should be read together. Beyond this, there is nothing to indicate the time and place of its composition;
but from this close connection we may say that it was written at Ephesus towards the close of the first century.
The Apostle wrote this letter
probably as a pastoral or circular letter to the faithful of Asia Minor, to remind them of what he had written and preached
concerning the divinity of Christ, and thus to strengthen them against the heresies of the day. For it seems certain
that, in the churches to which the letter is directed, there had risen false teachers and prophets---antichrists who denied
that Jesus was the Messias, and Incarnate Son of God.
The fundamental thought of the Epistle is this: God is made known to us in Jesus Christ; hence,
fellowship with the Father is through the Son. There are three main currents of thought: (1) God is light; (2) God is
justice; (3) God is love.
Hence, if we are to have fellowship with the Father through the Son, we must walk in light, in justice or
holiness, and in love. Thus the Apostle calls those who deny that Jesus Christ is the Christ and the Incarnate Son of
God, liars and antichrists. He especially emphasizes the sublimity and excellence of love, the love of God finding expression
in brotherly love. The Apostle further shows how to distinguish the children of God from the children of the devil;
he describes the baseness and gravity of sin; and finally, he shows how the sinner may hope for pardon.