First Epistle of John

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The First Epistle of John is a letter that was canonized into the vast majority of Christian bibles. Even though the author does not identify himself, most Christians believe the letter was written by John the Evangelist. This is primarily based on a supposed similar writing style to the Gospel of John, which is also anonymously written, and many scholars have demonstrated stark contrasts between the writing styles. The letter is dated by scholars to around 95-110 CE, though John the Evangelist died in 100 CE.

The letter disavows docetism, the belief that Jesus was not a real man, but a spirit (the fact that Jesus could be viewed as a mere spirit so shortly after his supposed miracles either makes me question the quality of those miracles or the reliability of the Gospels). It also gives vague guidelines for identifying antichrists from true prophets, and identifying proper love.

There is a popular corruption of I John 5:7-8 known as the Comma Johanneum. The phrase, "For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement," was altered in the 1500s by an unknown entity to read, "For there are three that testify: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these agree in one." This fraudulent insertion was no doubt made to push the agenda of the Trinity (the "Word" being a metaphor for Jesus). Most modern translations use the older Greek without the injection, but the translators of the KJV and Douay Rheims preferred the pro-Trinity corruption.

Status

I have several translations of this book from various bibles, and have read it.

Review

  • The intro is pretty vague. Who is the "we" of which the author speaks (1:1-4)? Also, while referring to God as light and darkness as sin (1:5-7) is a nice poetic approach, it's unnecessarily obscures the author's morality.
  • Using superlatives ruins the text. The author claims that anyone who doesn't follow God's commands doesn't know God (2:3-4), but that all people are sinners (1:8), which means that everyone disobeys God's commands, which implies that nobody knows God. Again, people who obey God are living in him, but "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did (2:6)." which means nobody is a Christians unless they can bring people back from the dead, turn water into wine, and curse fig trees to death.
  • I don't understand (2:7-8), "I'm not writing you a new command, but an old one... ...Yet I am writing you a new command."
  • I found (2:15-17) to be especially awful. "Do not love the world or anything in it." So, we shouldn't love our family and our friends? We shouldn't love their strength and courage and wisdom? Even most Christians will admit that non-Christians are capable of good works, but here the author says we shouldn't love anything good that they do. In fact, later in (3:14-15) the author contradicts himself saying we should love our brothers.
  • A rant against antichrists begins in (2:18) where the author explains that their emergence proves the world is on the cusp of destruction (nearly 2,000 years have passed since then!).
  • The author starts spouting tautologies in (3:4) saying sinning is bad, but righteousness is good. He says the devil is bad, and bad things are of the devil, and God is good, and good things are from God. This is useless because it doesn't say which actions are evil versus good.
  • The author says that anyone who hates his brother is a murderer (3:15). That's like saying, being jealous of your brother's car is as bad as stealing it, or lusting after a woman is as bad as raping her. Hate and murder are not equal.
  • A big message is that you can identify the truth of love through actions, not words (3:18). I find the sentiment to be quite profound, but also ignored by so many Christians.
  • The author's test to determine which spirits are from God is ridiculous. How can we tell? If the spirit says Jesus was a real person, it's from God, otherwise, it's from the antichrist (4:1-3). Surely an evil spirit will never lie. He later says that anyone who doesn't listen to him doesn't have the spirit of God (4:6)!
  • The author maintains that having one's child tortured to death is an act of love (4:9), which is abhorrent, and because he did this, we should feel compelled to love one another (4:11), which doesn't make sense.
  • The author seems to be repeating himself an awful lot, again claiming that God is love, that any man who hates his brother doesn't love God, etc. (4:20).
  • The ending is just as confusing as ever. "We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin (5:18)," which implies that Christians don't sin. But, "the whole world is under the control of the evil one (5:19)," so should everyone on Earth be evil? Are we to assume that being "born of God" only means Jesus? If that is the case, it's just another meaningless tautology.
  • The last sentence is a awkwardly tacked-on commandment, "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols (5:21)."

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