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to the Churches of Asia, among whom the Apostle John spent the latter part of his life. The closing exhortation : "My little children, guard yourselves from idols," would have special significance in the neighbourhood of Ephesus, which was a great stronghold of idolatry; and the absence of allusions to the Old Testament bears out the supposition that the epistle was addressed to converts from heathenism. Although there is no salutation either at the beginning or the end, and no personal or historical allusions such as would have been likely to occur if it had been a letter addressed to an individual Church, yet the writer speaks in a quiet tone of authority as if he were well-known to his readers and expected that his words would command respect. He addresses them in terms of affection, and writes as if he were well acquainted with their dangers and their needs. 1

3. Date and Place of Composition. It was probably written in the same city as tradition assigns to the Gospel, viz., Ephesus; and about the same time—85 A.D., or a few years later. It takes the Gospel for granted, and in certain passages the tone of its language is such as would befit an aged apostle addressing men of a later generation.

4. Character and Contents. In this epistle-probably the last inspired utterance of the New Testament excepting the two brief missives that

1 E.g. ii. 7: “Beloved, no new commandment write I unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning : the old commandment is the word which ye heard"; iii. 13 : "Marvel not, brethren, if the world hateth you"; iv. 7: Beloved, let us love one another : for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God."

2 " My little children,” ii. 1, 12, &c. "Perhaps we can best look at the writing not as Letter called out by

any particular circumstances, but as a Pastoral addressed to those who had been carefully trained and had lived long in the Faith; and, more particularly, to those who were familiar either with the teaching contained in the Fourth Gospel or with the record itself. The substance of the Gospel is a commentary on the Epistle: the Epistle is (so to speak) the condensed moral and practical application of the Gospel.”Westcott on The Epistles of St. John.

follow it-we have the translation into the Christian life of those great truths, regarding the fellowship of God with man, that are found in the fourth Gospel in connection with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. That Gospel, as we have seen, is doctrinal as well as historical, but its doctrines are here applied to the lives of Christ's followers. The Epistle is thus in advance of the Gospel, being designed to lead Christians to a conscious realisation of the new life to which they are called in fellowship with Christ —a life transcending and vanquishing that of the world.

Its thought springs mainly out of a twofold conception of the Divine Nature as “light," and as " love," united by a bond of righteousness. There is no laboured argument such as we find in some of Paul's epistles, but simply an appeal to first principles that are to be seen with the spiritual eye, not to be proved by means of logic.3

Although lofty and spiritual, the teaching in the epistle is at the same time intensely practical. It was evidently intended to counteract the growing tendency to magnify knowledge at the expense of practice. 4 One form of this

li. 4: "and these things we write, that our joy may be fulfilled ; V. 12, 13: “ He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life. These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God"; v. 4, 5: "For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world : and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith. And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” Cf. John xx. 31: “But these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in His name." “According to his view, which answers to the eternal order of things, the world exists indeed, but more as a semblance than as a reality. It is overcome finally and for

It is on the point of vanishing. This outward consummation is in God's hands. And over against the world' there is the Church, the organised Chris

tian society, the depository of the Truth, and the witness for the Truth. By this, therefore, all that need be done to proclaim the Gospel to those without is done naturally and effectively in virtue of its very existence. It must overcome the darkness by shining. There is therefore no need for eager exhortation to spread the word. St. Paul wrote while the conflict was undecided : St. John has seen its close" (Westcott).

2 i.-ii.28 ; ii.29-iv.6 ; iv. 7—v.

3 iv. 6: “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

4 i. 6, 7: “ If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth : but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin"; ii. 3-6: And hereby know we that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth


incipient Gnosticism was associated with the name of Cerinthus, who lived at Ephesus in the time of the apostle. Cerinthus, like many others, denied the reality of Christ's humanity,' maintaining, in particular, that the Divine Being only entered into the man Jesus at his Baptism and left him on the eve of his Passion. Hence the emphatic statement of the apostle,

“ This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood,”-implying that the Saviour fulfilled His divine mission in His death upon the cross as well as in His baptism. Again and again, in other passages, the apostle insists on the reality of the union between Jesus and the Christ, as an essential element of the Christian faith.

While it gives no quarter to evil and falsehood, the epistle overflows with exhortations to the love of God and man. As we read the apostle's language here, we find it

not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him : but whoso keepeth his word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected. Hereby know we that we are in him: he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk even as he walked"; iii. 6IO: “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither knoweth him. My little children, let no man lead you astray: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous : he that doeth sin is of the devil ; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him : and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, even he that denieth the Father and the Son”; iv. 2, 3, 15:

Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh ; and now it is in the world already. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God”; V. 1, 5: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God : And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?Cf. i. 1-4.

1 Hence called Docete from a Greek word meaning apparent, not real.

2 v, 6.

3 ii. 18, 22: “ Little children, it is the last hour : and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour.

“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in the darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in the darkness, and walketh in the darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes "'; iii. 11-18: “For this is the message which ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another : not as Cain was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew

4 ii. 9-11 :


easy to believe the story told of him by Jerome, that when he was too old to preach he used to be carried to church simply to repeat in the hearing of the congregation, “ Little children, love one another.” And when some one asked him, “ Master, why dost thou always speak thus ?” he answered, “Because it is the Lord's command; and it only this be done, it is enough."


1. Authorship. The external evidence for the genuineness of this epistle is not so convincing as in the case of the one that we have just been considering ; but this is easily accounted for by its brevity and its being less suitable for public reading in church. At the same time, it is expressly quoted by Irenæus and Clement of Alexandria, and is mentioned in the Muratorian Fragment. It appears also to have been acknowledged by Eusebius, although he placed it among the disputed books. With regard to internal evidence, it has all the appearance of being genuine. Like the Third Epistle it bears to be written by “the elder,” a designation which implies that the writer was a well-known personage in the Church. Papias applies the name of "elders” specially to the surviving disciples of the Lord, as men of a past generation,-so that there was a certain appropriateness in John so describing himself, as the last of the apostles. An imitator who wished to pass for John would have made his claim in more distinct terms; and the contents of the Epistle are such that no reasonable motive can be assigned for forgery.

in us.

ye know

he him ? Because his works were evil, and his brother's righteous. Marvel not, brethren, if the world hateth you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer : and that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us : and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth"; iv. 7-13, 16-21: “Beloved, let us love one another : for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one

another. No man hath beheld God at any time: if we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love is perfected in us : hereby know we that we abide in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we know and have believed the love which God hath

God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him. erein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgement; because as he is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar : for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen. And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also"; v. 1, 2: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God: and whosoever loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and do his commandments."

The genuineness of this epistle derives considerable support also from its strong resemblance to the First,

-no less than seven of its thirteen verses having something parallel in the other.2

16 Be

10 #peoBútepos; cf. Peter's use of the expression • fellow-elder" (ó ouvπρεσβύτερος) as applied to himself (1 Pet. v. 1). Jerome refers to an opinion current in his day that the Second and Third Epistles were not written by the Apostle but by “ John the Presbyter” mentioned by Papias in a passage preserved by Eusebius. But it is not at all clear from the words of Papias that any such person ever existed, and the designation which the writer here applies to himself could only have been used by a person of outstanding position in the Church. (See, on Papias, Appendix, p. 281.)

2 Ver. I: “The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not I only, but also all they that know the truth"; cf. 1 John iii. 18: " My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue ; but in deed and truth." 4:“I rejoice greatly that I have found certain of

thy children walking in truth, even as
we received commandment from the
Father"; cf. 1 John iv. 21 : “And this
commandment have we from him, that
he who loveth God love his brother
also.” 5: “And now I beseech thee,
lady, not as though I wrote to thee a
new commandment, but that which we
had from the beginning, that we love
one another”; cf. i John ii. 7:
loved, no new commandment write I
unto you, but an old commandment
which ye had from the beginning : the
old commandment is the word which
ye heard.” 6: “And this is love, that
we should walk after his command-
ments. This is the commandment,
even as ye heard from the beginning,
that ye should walk in it"; cf. 1 John

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."

“For many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess

V. 3:


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