Tuesday, April 25, 2017

1 John 3:1-2 and AUTOS (Latest Rendition)

I once studied the Apostle John's use of AUTOS in his first Epistle to see if one could discern how AUTOS is employed in 1 John 3:1-3 and other places throughout the first Johannine letter. One conclusion we can definitely reach is that AUTOS doesn't always refer to the nearest literary or contextual antecedent: the troublesome unit in 1 John 2:22-29 possibly demonstrates the seemingly obscure and varied Johannine use of pronominals. But with these facts in mind, I would like to take another look at 1 John 3:1-3.

Personally, along with R.E. Brown, I believe that these verses have reference to the Father. In 3:1, John recalls the love that the Father has shown Christians by bringing them forth as "children of God" (TEKNA QEOU). Therefore, God (the Father) is clearly the subject of verse 1 and John appears to continue developing this theme in 3:2 when he again reveals the status of spirit-begotten believers and their being recognized as "children of God."

What may of course seem problematic is John's use of FANERWQHi in 1 John 3:2 and his utilization of the verb in 2:28. 1 John 2:28 is evidently a reference to Jesus Christ and his royal PAROUSIA though I have often wondered whether it is really speaking of the Father (cf. 1 John 2:27). Leaving that problem aside for a minute, it appears safe to assert that even if FANERWQHi describes the manifestation of Christ in 2:28--God the Father is assuredly the subject in 3:1, 2.

D.E. Hiebert discusses the view of Westcott, that Christ is the subject of 1 John 3:1-2, before he poses some objections to this stance. Firstly, it's quite possible that 2:29 begins a new division of the missive. Regardless, one raises more exegetical problems by suggesting that Christ begets (spiritually) the TEKNA QEOU of 3:1-2. The verses in question (3:1-2) specifically mention the Father, and refer to those children of God. 1 John 3:9 makes a similar point and Hiebert even cites the Gospel of John 3:8 in order to demonstrate that Christians are children of God, "born of the spirit," but they are not born of Christ. See D.E. Hiebert, "An Exposition of 1 John 2:29-3:12," Bibliotheca Sacra 146(1989): 198-216. Compare 1 Peter 1:3, 23.

It may also appear problematic to speak of Christians one day being like and seeing God: "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is" (ESV). But Jesus made a similar promise in Matthew 5:8 and John also writes that the anointed conquerors who will rule as kings and priests in the city of New Jerusalem will see God's face (Revelation 22:1-5). Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 15:49 promises that those who are privileged to live immortally and incorruptibly in the heavens of God's presence will bear the image of Jesus Christ (who bears and is the image--the express reproduction--of God's very being). So there is no difficulty in saying Christians will be like God, for there will be a number of ways in which they will always be unlike Him.


Duncan said...

ABP 1Jn 3:1-3 Behold! what kind of love [has given to us the father], that [children of God we should be called]. On account of *this* the world does not know us, because it did not know him. Beloved, now [children of God we are], and not yet was it manifested what we will be; but we know that if he should be manifested, [likened to him we will be]; for we shall see him as he is. And every one having *this* hope upon him, purifies himself, as that one is pure.

John 17:18

Edgar Foster said...

Looking at the Greek, ἐὰν in 3:2 is probably best translated "when" or "whenever."

NET states: tn In this context ἐάν (ean) does not indicate (1) uncertainty about whether or not what believers will be shall be revealed, but rather (2) uncertainty about the exact time the event will take place. In the Koine period ἐάν can mean “when” or “whenever” and is virtually the equivalent of ὅταν (hotan; see BDAG 268 s.v. ἐάν 2). It has this meaning in John 12:32 and 14:3. Thus the phrase here should be translated, “we know that whenever it is revealed.”

The last part of 3:2 is the highly contentious part. Does it refer to God the Father, Christ or should it be understood another way? I also recommend Hiebert's article and R. Brown's commentary on the Johannine Epistles.

Duncan said...


Duncan said...