Skip to main content

1 John


Earlier this year, Barnabas Books published my book on 1 John. Here is part of the introduction….

Dr. Leo Buscaglia, who for many years taught a class at the University of Southern California entitled “Love 1A” once said, “Love is life. And if you miss love, you miss life.”

I believe that is true. If this was the last book that I ever wrote, the most important thing I could write about is love. That consideration is, in fact, what determined my writing … not that I expect to die tomorrow. It is just that I realized I have never written a book about the most important subject in the world.

So as I sat down to think about love, as a Christian, I naturally wondered: What book of the Bible talks most about love?

Do you know the answer?

The word “love” appears some 551 times in the Bible. 319 of those times are in the Old Testament. 144 of those are in the Psalms; that is almost one mention of love per psalm. Therefore, if we were looking for the book of the Bible that talks most about love it would be the Psalms.

The New Testament mentions love 232 times. 103 of those are in the letters of Paul. Of course, 1 Corinthians 13 is known as the Love Chapter in the Bible. However, if we were looking for one book of the New Testament that talks more about love than any other, it would be the First Letter of John. 1 John uses the word love 35 times. That is quite a lot for five chapters.

The Bible is sometimes called God’s love letter to humanity. In some sense, I imagine that is true. However, I think if we were looking for one particular letter of love in the Bible, it would have to be 1 John.

Now, I have to state a caveat right at the beginning. 1 John is not like most other letters in the New Testament. It is not addressed to a specific group of people. It does not begin with “Dear So and So” and it does not end with “Yours sincerely, John.” What is called the first letter of John is really more like a sermon or a meditation. David Jackman describes 1 John as being like a spiral staircase. He writes,

As you climb the central staircase in a large palace or a stately home, you see the same objects or paintings from a different angle, often with a new appreciation of their beauty. It is rather like that with the great truths John is concerned to state and revisit in the letter. The view gets more wonderful as you climb and the heavenly light shines more and more clearly until you reach the top.[i]

Who created this wonderful spiral staircase and when was it created? This is one of only two letters in the New Testament (the other one being Hebrews) that does not provide the author’s name. However, the opening verses of 1 John seem to suggest that the author heard, saw, and even touched Jesus of Nazareth. 
Furthermore, there are many similarities in language and topics between 1 John and the Gospel of John. Finally, it was the unanimous opinion of the Early Church that 1 John was written by John, the disciple of Jesus. The most important attestation to this came from Irenaeus who was a disciple of Polycarp who in turn was a disciple of John.

However, modern scholars have, for a number of reasons, suggested that 1 John was written by a disciple of John the Evangelist, rather than by John himself. It seems likely that a group of disciples gathered around John the Evangelist, possibly in Ephesus, and that one or more of these disciples was responsible for collecting and editing what John wrote about Jesus in his Gospel. Thus, we have two endings to the Gospel of John: one in chapter 20 and another, added by one of John’s disciples, consisting of the whole of chapter 21. It seems likely that one or more of these disciples of John also collected the meditations we have in 1 John.

In either case, whether 1 John was written by John the Evangelist or by one or more of his disciples, scholars are agreed that 1 John was most likely written toward the very end of the first century, around AD 90 or perhaps as late as 100, probably from Ephesus in Asia Minor. The conservative, evangelical scholar, Donald Guthrie, once wrote about 1 John,

In one sense the authorship is not the most important issue, for the exegesis of the letter is not greatly affected by our conclusions regarding authorship.[ii]



[i] Jackman, David, The Message of John’s Letters, Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1988, p. 18.
[ii] Guthrie, Donald, New Testament Introduction, Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1970, p. 864.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

C. S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Arthur Greeves
In light of recent developments in the United States on the issue of gay marriage, I thought it would be interesting to revisit what C. S. Lewis thought about homosexuality. Lewis, who died in 1963, never wrote about same-sex marriage, but he did write, occasionally, about the topic of homosexuality in general. In the following I am quoting from my book, Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis. For detailed references and footnotes, you may obtain a copy from Amazon, your local library, or by clicking on the book cover at the right....
In Surprised by Joy, Lewis claimed that homosexuality was a vice to which he was never tempted and that he found opaque to the imagination. For this reason he refused to say anything too strongly against the pederasty that he encountered at Malvern College, where he attended school from the age of fifteen to sixteen. Lewis did not rate pederasty as the greatest evil of the school because he felt the cruelty displayed at Malver…

A Prayer at Ground Zero

Christmas Day Thought from Henri Nouwen

"I keep thinking about the Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar. This probably is the most meaningful "crib" I have ever seen. Three small woodcarved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand - nearly too small to attract attention at all.
"But then - a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world.
"While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. While witnessing the most human of human events, I see the majesty of God appearing on the horizon of my existence. While being moved by the ge…

Sheldon Vanauken Remembered

A good crowd gathered at the White Hart Cafe in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday, February 7 for a powerpoint presentation I gave on the life and work of Sheldon Vanauken. Van, as he was known to family and friends, was best known as the author of A Severe Mercy, the autobiography of his love relationship with his wife Jean "Davy" Palmer Davis.

While living in Oxford, England in the early 1950's, Van and Davy came to faith in Christ through the influence of C. S. Lewis. Van was a professor of history and English literature at Lynchburg College from 1948 until his retirement around 1980. A Severe Mercy tells the story of Davy's death from a mysterious liver ailment in 1955 and Van's subsequent dealing with grief. Van himself died from cancer in 1996.

It was my privilege to know Van for a brief period of time during the last year of his life. However, present at the White Hart on February 7 were some who knew Van far better than I did--Floyd Newman, one of Van's…

Mentoring

The first of four posts by yours truly is now up on the Next Leadership Blog. Check it out by clicking here: Mentoring.

C. S. Lewis Tour--London

The final two days of our C. S. Lewis Tour of Ireland & England were spent in London. Upon our arrival we enjoyed a panoramic tour of the city that included Westminster Abbey. A number of our tour participants chose to tour the inside of the Abbey where they were able to view the new C. S. Lewis plaque in Poets' Corner.


Though London was not one of Lewis' favorite places to visit, there are a number of locations associated with him. One which I have noted in my new book, In the Footsteps of C. S. Lewis, is Endsleigh Palace Hospital (25 Gordon Street, London) where Lewis recovered from his wounds received during the First World War....


Not too far away from this location is King's College, part of the University of London, located on the Strand, just off the River Thames. This is the location where Lewis gave the annual commemoration oration entitled The Inner Ring on 14 December 1944....


C. S. Lewis occasionally attended theatrical events in London. One of his favorites w…

Fact, Faith, Feeling

"Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where to get off', you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith." Mere Christianity


Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, I remember seeing the graphic illustration above of what C. S. Lewis has, here, so eloquen…

A Christmas Psalm

Psalm 110
The Lord says to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet."

The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;
you will rule in the midst of your enemies.
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy majesty,
from the womb of the dawn
you will receive the dew of your youth.

The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
"You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek."

The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook beside the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms,
Chapter XII, paragraphs 4 & 5:

"We find in our Prayer Books that Psalm 110 is one of those appointed for Christmas Day. We may at first be surprised by this. There is nothing in it about peace and good-will, nothing remotely sugg…

C. S. Lewis's Parish Church

The first time I visited Oxford, in 1982, the porter at Magdalen College didn't even recognize the name--C. S. Lewis. I had asked him if he could give me directions to Lewis's former home in Headington Quarry. Obviously, he could not and did not. (Directions to Lewis's former home are now much easier to obtain. Just click here for directions and to arrange a tour: The Kilns.)
Things have changed a lot since 1982. Now Lewis is remembered all around Oxford. At the pub where the Inklings met, at Magdalen College, and not least--at his parish church--Holy Trinity Headington Quarry. The first time I visited the church I only saw the outside and Lewis's grave, shared with his brother Warnie.
Since that first visit I have returned to Holy Trinity a number of times and worshiped there. Father Tom Honey is a real gem. Under his leadership the congregation has grown and now includes a number of young families. I was overwhelmed by the number of children who came into the sanctuary…

C. S. Lewis on Church Attendance

A friend's blog written yesterday (http://wesroberts.typepad.com/) got me thinking about C. S. Lewis's experience of the church. I wrote this in a comment on Wes Robert's blog:
It is interesting to note that C. S. Lewis attended the same small church for over thirty years. The experience was nothing spectacular on a weekly basis. For most of those years Lewis didn't care much for the sermons; he even sat behind a pillar so that the priest would not see the expression on his face. He attended the service without music because he so disliked hymns. And he left right after holy communion was served probably because he didn't like to engage in small talk with other parishioners after the service. But that life-long obedience in the same direction shaped Lewis in a way that nothing else could.
Lewis was once asked, "Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?"
His answer was as follows: &q…