1 John Archeology

    First John does not name its author but has an enormous number of similarities to the Gospel of John (e.g., cf. 1Jn 1:1 and Jn 1:1; 1Jn 1:4 and Jn 16:24; 1Jn 2:7 and Jn 13:34-35; 1Jn 4:6 and Jn 8:47; 1Jn 5:12 and Jn 3:36). Although some scholars have sought to point out differences between the Gospel and the epistle. the commonalities far outweigh the dissimilarities. In addition, the author of the epistle declared himself to have seen and touched Jesus (1:1). 

    There is no indication of when the book was written. However, since the author appears to have been elderly (note his repeatedly reference to his original readers as "children"; see 2:1; 3:7), many believe that this letter was written near the end of the first century, The possibility that the epistle was written to oppose an early form of Gnosticism, a second-century heresy, supports this dating. Ephesus has been suggested as the place of writing. 

    First John was apparently intended to be a circular letter; it does not specify any recipients or refer to any geographic locations. The earliest confirmed use of 1 John was in the Roman province of Asia (in modern Turkey), where Ephesus was located. 

    First John 4:2 is the clearest indication that a kind of proto-Gnostic teaching may have been the heresy John was confronting. Because Gnostics considered physical matter to be innately evil, they could not comprehend the incarnation. For them, the divine Logos ("Word") could not possibly have become flesh. Gnosticism denies the need for an incarnation or an atonement (the implied assertion that Jesus had a physical body in 1Jn 1:1 may also be set against Gnostic teaching)
If John were confronting Gnosticism, however, readers might expect a more complete refutation of its doctrines. First John is surely nothing like the anti-Gnostic texts we see from the second century (such as Irenaeus's Against Heresies). It seems best to suggest that John was aware of a rising tendency toward anti-incarnational thinking among some who called themselves Christians but that his letter is a general exhortation toward godliness. 

    Look for John's call for Christians to live in a godly manner: turning from sin, obeying God's commands, showing love to other believers, abandoning worldly glory and holding fast to orthodox teaching about Jesus Christ.   

  • The Gnostics denied that their immoral actions were sinful (1:10). 
  • The Gnostics insisted that the teaching of the apostles was to be supplemented with the "higher knowledge" they claimed to possess (2:27).  
  • The Gnostics taught that the divine Christ came upon the human Jesus at his baptism and then left him at the cross, so that it was only the man Jesus who died (4:2). 

First John includes the following themes: 

1. The incarnation. John wrote this epistle to warn Christians of false teachers, or "antichrists" (2:18), from within the church who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh (2:22; 4:2-3). John insisted that Christ is not some supernatural apparition disguised as a human but a historical person, Jesus of Nazareth. The test of Biblical Christianity is belief in the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus Christ. 

2. Love. The key command of this beautiful little book is the call to love (3:11,23; 4:11,21). Christians are to follow Christ's example by loving one another (3:10-11) and caring for those in need (3:17), even to the point of laying down their lives for one another (3:16). Since -love comes from God" (4:7), genuine love can only be expressed as God lives in us (4:12) and we in him (4:16). 

3. Christian certainties. John asserted that Christians can be certain of the following: (1) Jesus is the Son of God (5:5). (2) Believers have eternal life through him (5:11). (3) God hears and answers their prayers (5:14). (4) They are no longer in bondage to sin but are kept safe by God from the evil one (5:18). (5) They are children of God (5:19). (6) They can know God through his Son, Jesus Christ (5:20). (7) Jesus is "the true God" (5:20). 

I. The Reality of the Incarnation (1:1-4) 
II. Fellowship With the Father and the Son (1:5-2:28) 
    A. Walking in the Light as the Basis of Fellowship (1:5-2:11) 
    B. A Digression (2:12-14) C. Love of the World as a Hindrance to Fellowship (2:15-17) 
    D. Denial of Christ as a Hindrance to Fellowship (2:18-28) 
III. Children of God (2:29-4:6) 
    A. What a Child of God Looks Like (2:29-3:24) 
    B. What a Child of God Knows (4:1-6) 
IV. God Is Love (4:7-5:12) 
V. Great Christian Certainties (5:13-21) 

The Gnostics and their scriptures

    1 JOHN 4 Gnosticism was one of the earliest Christian heresies. Gnostic writings are many and varied, frequently drawing upon Platonic concepts, imagery from the New Testament and pagan myth. A number of Gnostic texts were discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945. Many were pseudo-apostolic-- falsely ascribed to apostles. Examples include the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocryphon of James and the Letter of Peter to Philip. Certain broad observations can be made of Gnostic literature: 
  • From the Greek word gnosis, meaning "knowledge," Gnosticism was a movement that claimed to provide secret knowledge about God. Its adherents considered the Biblical God,the Creator of the world, to be an inferior god. In Gnostic teaching the material world was innately evil and thus its Creator a lesser deity. 
  • The Gnostic Savior, rather than providing atonement for sin, brought the knowledge of humanity's"true"divine origins, thus freeing people from their ignorance and enslavement to the material world. 
  • Some Gnostics believed that"the Christ" (a kind of spiritual anointing or presence) came upon the man Jesus at his baptism and departed before his crucifixion—thus, that there was no lasting union of divine and human natures in Jesus.ln their view, the true Christ had no physical body. 
  • One particular brand of Gnostics, called "Docetists," believed that Jesus was actually a divine spirit who only appeared to be physical: His body, they argued, was not truly flesh but was only an illusion. First John 4:2 ("Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God") refutes this teaching. Possibly those whom John countered were forerunners of the groups that later wrote the Gnostic texts. 
    John's warnings indicate that heresy can come in many forms, often in the guise of apostolic teaching. Those who deny the humanity of Jesus are equally as heretical as those who deny his deity. In addition, any doctrine that understands the created, material world to be intrinsically evil is dangerous and misguided.