1 John 5
New English Translation
5 1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ[a] has been fathered[b] by God, and everyone who loves the father[c] loves the child fathered by him.[d] 2 By this[e] we know that we love the children of God: whenever we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For[f] this is the love of God:[g] that we keep his commandments.[h] And his commandments do not weigh us down, 4 because[i] everyone[j] who has been fathered by God[k] conquers[l] the world.[m]
Testimony About the Son
This[n] is the conquering power[o] that has conquered[p] the world: our faith. 5 Now who is the person who has conquered the world except the one who believes that[q] Jesus is the Son of God? 6 Jesus Christ is the one who came by water and blood—not by the water only, but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because[r] the Spirit is the truth. 7 For[s] there are three that testify,[t] 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are in agreement.
9 If we accept the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, because[u] this[v] is the testimony of God that[w] he has testified concerning his Son. 10 (The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has testified concerning his Son.)[x] 11 And this is the testimony: God[y] has given us eternal life,[z] and this life is in his Son. 12 The one who has the Son[aa] has this[ab] eternal[ac] life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this[ad] eternal[ae] life.
Assurance of Eternal Life
14 And this is the confidence that we have before him: that[ai] whenever[aj] we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know[ak] that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we have asked from him. 16 If[al] anyone sees his fellow Christian[am] committing a sin not resulting in death,[an] he should ask, and God[ao] will grant[ap] life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death.[aq] There is a sin[ar] resulting in death.[as] I do not say that he should ask about that. 17 All unrighteousness[at] is sin, but there is sin not resulting in death.[au]
18 We know that everyone fathered[av] by God does not sin, but God[aw] protects[ax] the one he has fathered, and the evil one cannot touch him. 19 We know that we are from God,[ay] and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us insight to know[az] him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This one[ba] is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.[bb]
- 1 John 5:1 tn Or “the Messiah.”
- 1 John 5:1 tn The verb γεννάω (gennaō) here means to be fathered by God and thus a child of God. The imagery in 1 John is that of the male parent who fathers children. See the note on “fathered” in 2:29 for further discussion of this imagery.
- 1 John 5:1 tc ‡ Most witnesses ([א] A P 1739 M sy) have καί (kai, “also”) before the article τόν (ton). But the external evidence for the shorter reading is significant (B Ψ 048 33 sa), and the conjunction looks to be a motivated reading in which scribes emulated the wording of 4:21 (ἀγαπᾷ καὶ τόν, agapa kai ton [“(should) also love the”]). NA27 places the conjunction in brackets, indicating doubts as to its authenticity, while NA28 keeps the conjunction but omits the brackets.
- 1 John 5:1 sn Also loves the child fathered by him. Is the meaning of 5:1b a general observation or a specific statement about God and Christians? There are three ways in which the second half of 5:1 has been understood: (1) as a general statement, proverbial in nature, applying to any parent: “everyone who loves the father also loves the child fathered by him.” (2) This has also been understood as a statement that is particularly true of one’s own parent: “everyone who loves his own father also loves the (other) children fathered by him (i.e., one’s own brothers and sisters).” (3) This could be understood as a statement which refers particularly to God, in light of the context (5:1a): “everyone who loves God who fathered Christians also loves the Christians who are fathered by God.” Without doubt options (2) and (3) are implications of the statement in its present context, but it seems most probable that the meaning of the statement is more general and proverbial in nature (option 1). This is likely because of the way in which it is introduced by the author with πᾶς ὁ (pas ho) + participle. The author could have been more explicit and said something like, “everyone who loves God also loves God’s children” had he intended option (3) without ambiguity. Yet that, in context, is the ultimate application of the statement, because it ultimately refers to the true Christian who, because he loves God, also loves the brethren, those who are God’s offspring. This is the opposite of 4:20, where the author asserted that the opponents, who profess to love God but do not love the brethren, cannot really love God because they do not love the brethren.
- 1 John 5:2 tn Once more there is the familiar difficulty of determining whether the phrase refers (1) to what precedes or (2) to what follows. Here, because ἐν τούτῳ (en toutō) is followed by a clause introduced by ὅταν (hotan) which appears to be related, it is best to understand ἐν τούτῳ as referring to what follows. The following ὅταν clause is epexegetical to ἐν τούτῳ, explaining how we know that we love God’s children: “by this we know that we love God’s children, whenever we love God and keep his commandments.”
- 1 John 5:3 tn The force of the γάρ (gar) at the beginning of 5:3 is similar to another introductory formula used by the author of 1 John, καὶ αὕτη ἐστίν (kai hautē estin; used in 1:5; 5:4, 11, and 14). The γάρ draws an inference based on the preceding statements, particularly the one in 5:2b, regarding the love of God. If in 5:2 loving God and keeping his commandments is the key to knowing that we love God’s children, it is important to define what the love of God involves, and this is what the author is doing in 5:3. In fact, as the following ἵνα (hina) clause makes clear, loving God consists in keeping his commandments.
- 1 John 5:3 tn Once again the genitive could be understood as (1) objective, (2) subjective, or (3) both. Here an objective sense is more likely (believers’ love for God) because in the previous verse it is clear that God is the object of believers’ love.
- 1 John 5:3 tn Contrary to the punctuation of NA28 and UBS5, it is best to place a full stop (period) following τηρῶμεν (tērōmen) in 5:3. The subordinate clause introduced by ὅτι (hoti) at the beginning of 5:4 is related to the second half of 5:3 which begins with καί (kai). Καί is commonly used by the author to begin a new sentence, probably by analogy with the Hebrew vav consecutive.
- 1 John 5:4 tn The explicit reason the commandments of God are not burdensome to the believer is given by the ὅτι (hoti) clause at the beginning of 5:4. It is because “everyone who is begotten by God conquers the world.”
- 1 John 5:4 tn The masculine might have been expected here rather than the neuter πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ (pan to gegennēmenon ek tou theou) to refer to the person who is fathered by God. However, BDF §138.1 explains that “the neuter is sometimes used with respect to persons if it is not the individuals but a generic quality that is to be emphasized”; this seems to be the case here, where a collective aspect is in view: As a group, all those who have been begotten by God, that is, all true believers, overcome the world.
- 1 John 5:4 sn The author is once more looking at the situation antithetically (in ‘either/or’ terms) as he sees the readers on the one hand as true believers (everyone who is fathered by God) who have overcome the world through their faith, and the opponents on the other as those who have claimed to have a relationship with God but really do not; they belong to the world in spite of their claims.
- 1 John 5:4 tn Or “overcomes.”
- 1 John 5:4 sn Conquers the world. Once again, the author’s language is far from clear at this point, and so is his meaning, but the author has used the verb conquers (νικάω, nikaō) previously to describe the believer’s victory over the enemy, the evil one himself, in 2:13-14, and over the secessionist opponents, described as “false prophets” in 4:4. This suggests that what the author has in mind here is a victory over the opponents, who now belong to the world and speak its language (cf. 4:5). In the face of the opponents’ attempts through their false teaching to confuse the readers (true believers) about who it is they are supposed to love, the author assures the readers that loving God and keeping his commandments assures us that we really do love God’s children, and because we have already achieved victory over the world through our faith, keeping God’s commandments is not a difficult matter.
- 1 John 5:4 tn Grk “And this.”
- 1 John 5:4 tn The standard English translation for ἡ νίκη (hē nikē) is “victory” (BDAG 673 s.v.) but this does not preserve the relationship with the cognate verb νικάω (nikaō; used in 2:13, 14 and present in this context in participial form in 5:4b and 5:5). One alternative would be “conquest,” although R. E. Brown (Epistles of John [AB], 570) suggests “conquering power” as a translation for ἡ νίκη since here it is a metonymy for the means of victory or the power that gives victory, referring to believers’ faith.
- 1 John 5:4 tn The use of the aorist participle (ἡ νικήσασα, hē nikēsasa) to refer to faith as the conquering power that “has conquered the world” in 5:4b is problematic. Debate here centers over the temporal value of the aorist participle: (1) It may indicate an action contemporaneous with the (present tense) main verb, in which case the alternation between aorist participle in 5:4b and present participle in 5:5 is one more example of the author’s love of stylistic variation with no difference in meaning. (2) Nevertheless, an aorist participle with a present tense main verb would normally indicate an action antecedent to that of the main verb, so that the aorist participle would describe a past action. That is the most probable here. Thus the aorist participle stresses that the conquest of the world is something that has already been accomplished.
- 1 John 5:5 tn After a verb of perception (the participle ὁ πιστεύων [ho pisteuōn]) the ὅτι (hoti) in 5:5 introduces indirect discourse, a declarative or recitative clause giving the content of what the person named by the participle (ὁ πιστεύων) believes: “that Jesus is the Son of God.” As in 4:15, such a confession constitutes a problem for the author’s opponents but not for his readers who are genuine believers.
- 1 John 5:6 tn This ὅτι (hoti) is best understood (1) as causal. Some have taken it (2) as declarative, giving the content of the Spirit’s testimony: “and the Spirit is the One who testifies that the Spirit is the truth.” This is certainly possible, since a ὅτι clause following the cognate verb μαρτυρέω (marturevō) often gives the content of the testimony (cf. John 1:34; 3:28; 4:39, 44). But in the Gospel of John the Spirit never bears witness on his own behalf, but always on behalf of Jesus (John 15:26; 16:13). There are, in fact, some instances in the Gospel of John where a ὅτι clause following μαρτυρέω is causal (8:14; 15:27), and that is more likely here: “and the Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”
- 1 John 5:7 tn A second causal ὅτι (hoti) clause (after the one at the end of the preceding verse) is somewhat awkward, especially since the reasons offered in each are somewhat different. The content of the second ὅτι clause (the one in question here) goes somewhat beyond the content of the first. The first ὅτι clause, the one at the end of 5:6, stated the reason why the Spirit is the witness: because the Spirit is the truth. The second ὅτι clause, here, states that there are three witnesses, of which the Spirit is one. It is probably best, therefore, to understand this second ὅτι as indicating a somewhat looser connection than the first, not strictly causal but inferential in sense (the English translation “for” captures this inferential sense). See BDF §456.1 for a discussion of this ‘looser’ use of ὅτι.
- 1 John 5:7 tc Before τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸ αἷμα (to pneuma kai to hudōr kai to haima, “the Spirit and the water and the blood”) at the beginning of v. 8, the Textus Receptus (TR) reads ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ὁ πατήρ, ὁ λόγος, καὶ τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα, καὶ οὗτοι οἱ τρεῖς ἕν εἰσι. 5:8 καὶ τρεῖς εἰσιν οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ἐν τῇ γῇ (“in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 5:8 And there are three that testify on earth”). This reading, the infamous Comma Johanneum, has been known in the English-speaking world through the King James translation. However, the evidence—both external and internal—is decidedly against its authenticity. For a detailed discussion, see TCGNT 647-49. Our discussion will briefly address the external evidence. This longer reading is found only in ten late mss, four of which have the words in a marginal note. These mss range in date from the 10th century (221) to the 18th (2318). They include the following (with dates in parentheses) 221 (X), 177 (XI), 88 (XII), 429 (XIV), 629 (XIV), 636 (XV), 61 (ca.1520), 918 (XVI), 2473 (1634), and 2318 (XVIII). There are minor variations among these codices. The earliest ms, codex 221, includes the reading in a marginal note, added sometime after the original composition. The oldest ms with the Comma in its text is from the 14th century (629), but the wording here departs from all the other mss in several places. The next oldest mss on behalf of the Comma, 177 (11th century), 88 (12th), 429 (14th), and 636 (15th), also have the reading only as a marginal note (v.l.). Codex 177’s Comma is in a marginal note that must be dated after 1551, the year of the first Greek New Testament with verse numbers added. The remaining mss are from the 16th to 18th centuries. Thus, there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek ms until the 14th century (629), and that ms deviates from all others in its wording; the wording that matches what is found in the TR was apparently composed after Erasmus’ Greek NT was published in 1516. Indeed, the Comma appears in no Greek witness of any kind (either ms, patristic, or Greek translation of some other version) until a.d. 1215 (in a Greek translation of the Acts of the Lateran Council, a work originally written in Latin). This is all the more significant since many a Greek Father would have loved such a reading, for it so succinctly affirms the doctrine of the Trinity. The reading seems to have arisen in a fourth century Latin homily in which the text was allegorized to refer to members of the Trinity. From there, it made its way into copies of the Latin Vulgate, the text used by the Roman Catholic Church. The Trinitarian formula (the Comma Johanneum) found a place in the third edition of Erasmus’ Greek NT (1522) because of pressure from the Catholic Church. After his first edition appeared, there arose such a furor over the absence of the Comma that Erasmus needed to defend himself. He argued that he did not put in the Comma because he found no Greek mss that included it. Once one was produced (codex 61, written in ca. 1520), Erasmus apparently felt obliged to include the reading. He became aware of this ms sometime between May of 1520 and September of 1521. In his annotations to his third edition he does not protest the rendering now in his text, as though it were made to order, but he does defend himself from the charge of indolence, noting that he had taken care to find whatever mss he could for the production of his text. In the final analysis, Erasmus probably altered the text because of politico-theologico-economic concerns: He did not want his reputation ruined, nor his Novum Instrumentum to go unsold. Modern advocates of the TR and KJV generally argue for the inclusion of the Comma Johanneum on the basis of heretical motivation by scribes who did not include it. But these same scribes elsewhere include thoroughly orthodox readings—even in places where the TR/Byzantine mss lack them. Further, these advocates argue theologically from the position of divine preservation: Since this verse is in the TR, it must be original. (Of course, this approach is circular, presupposing as it does that the TR = the original text.) In reality, the issue is history, not heresy: How can one argue that the Comma Johanneum goes back to the original text yet does not appear until the 14th century in any Greek mss (and in a form significantly different from what is printed in the TR; the wording of the TR is not found in any Greek mss until the 16th century)? Such a stance does not do justice to the gospel: Faith must be rooted in history. Significantly, the German translation of Luther was based on Erasmus’ second edition (1519) and lacked the Comma. But the KJV translators, basing their work principally on Theodore Beza’s 10th edition of the Greek NT (1598), a work which itself was fundamentally based on Erasmus’ third and later editions (and Stephanus’ editions), popularized the Comma for the English-speaking world. Thus, the Comma Johanneum has been a battleground for English-speaking Christians more than for others. For a recent discussion of the Comma Johanneum, see Rodrigo Galiza and John W. Reeve, “The Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7–8): The Status of Its Textual History and Theological Usage in English, Greek, and Latin,” AUSS 56 (2018) 63–89.
- 1 John 5:9 tn This ὅτι (hoti) almost certainly introduces a causal clause, giving the reason why the “testimony of God” is greater than the “testimony of men”: “because this is God’s testimony that he has testified concerning his Son.”
- 1 John 5:9 tn The problem with αὕτη (hautē) in 5:9 lies in determining whether it refers (1) to what precedes or (2) to what follows. A few interpreters would see this as referring to the preceding verses (5:7-8), but the analogy with the author’s other uses of αὕτη (1:5; 3:11, 23) suggests a reference to what follows. In all of the other instances of αὕτη ἐστιν (hautē estin, 1:5; 3:11, 23) the phrase is followed by an epexegetical (explanatory) clause giving the referent (ὅτι [hoti] in 1:5, ἵνα [hina] in 3:11 and 23). The ὅτι clause which follows the αὕτη in 5:9 does not explain the testimony, but should be understood as an adjectival relative clause which qualifies the testimony further. The ὅτι clause which explains the testimony of 5:9 (to which the αὕτη in 5:9 refers) is found in 5:11, where the phrase αὕτη ἐστιν is repeated. Thus the second use of αὕτη ἐστιν in 5:11 is resumptive, and the ὅτι clause which follows the αὕτη in 5:11 is the epexegetical (explanatory) clause which explains both it and the αὕτη in 5:9 which it resumes.
- 1 John 5:9 tn The second ὅτι (hoti) in 5:9 may be understood in three different ways. (1) It may be causal, in which case it gives the reason why the testimony just mentioned is God’s testimony: “because he has testified concerning his Son.” This is extremely awkward because of the preceding ὅτι clause which is almost certainly causal (although the second ὅτι could perhaps be resumptive in force, continuing the first). (2) The second ὅτι could be understood as epexegetical (explanatory), in which case it explains what the testimony of God mentioned in the preceding clause consists of: “because this is the testimony of God, [namely,] that he has testified concerning his Son.” This is much smoother grammatically, but encounters the logical problem that “the testimony of God” is defined in 5:11 (“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life”) and the two definitions of what the testimony of God consists of are not identical (some would say that they are not even close). Thus (3) the smoothest way to understand the second ὅτι logically is to read it as a relative pronoun: “because this is the testimony of God that he has testified concerning his Son.” In this case it is exactly parallel to the relative clause which occurs in 5:10b: “because he has not believed the testimony that (ἣν, hēn) God has testified concerning his Son.” (There is in fact a textual problem with the second ὅτι in 5:9: The Byzantine tradition, along with ms P, reads a relative pronoun [ἣν] in place of the second ὅτι in 5:9 identical to the relative pronoun in 5:10b. This represents an obvious effort on the part of scribes to smooth out the reading of the text.) In an effort to derive a similar sense from the second ὅτι in 5:9 it has been suggested that the conjunction ὅτι should be read as an indefinite relative pronoun ὅτι (sometimes written ὅ τι). The problem with this suggestion is the use of the neuter relative pronoun to refer to a feminine antecedent (ἡ μαρτυρία, hē marturia). It is not without precedent for a neuter relative pronoun to refer to an antecedent of differing gender, especially as some forms tended to become fixed in usage and were used without regard to agreement. But in this particular context it is difficult to see why the author would use a neuter indefinite relative pronoun here in 5:9b and then use the normal feminine relative pronoun (ἣν) in the next verse. (Perhaps this strains at the limits of even the notorious Johannine preference for stylistic variation, although it is impossible to say what the author might or might not have been capable of doing.) Because of the simplicity and logical smoothness which results from reading ὅτι as equivalent to a relative pronoun, the third option is preferred, although it is not without its difficulties (as are all three options).
- 1 John 5:10 sn This verse is a parenthesis in John’s argument.
- 1 John 5:11 tn The ὅτι (hoti) clause in 5:11 is epexegetical (explanatory) to the phrase καὶ αὕτη ἐστίν (kai hautē estin) at the beginning of the verse and gives the content of the testimony for the first time: “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”
- 1 John 5:11 sn In understanding how “God’s testimony” (added to the three witnesses of 5:8) can consist of eternal life it is important to remember the debate between the author and the opponents. It is not the reality of eternal life (whether it exists at all or not) that is being debated here, but rather which side in the debate (the author and his readers or the opponents) possesses it (this is a key point). The letter began with a testimony that “the eternal life” has been revealed (1:2), and it is consummated here with the reception or acknowledgment of that eternal life as the final testimony. This testimony (which is God’s testimony) consists in eternal life itself, which the author and the readers possess, but the opponents do not. This, for the author, constitutes the final apologetic in his case against the opponents.
- 1 John 5:12 sn The one who has the Son. The expression “to have the Son” in 5:12 means to “possess” him in the sense that he is present in the individual’s life (see 1 John 2:23 for the use of the Greek verb “to have” to indicate possession of a divine reality). From the parallel statement in 5:10a it is clear that believing in the Son and thus having God’s testimony in one’s self is the same as “having” the Son here in 5:12a. This is essentially identical to John 3:16: “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” In contrast, the negative statement in 5:12b reflects the author’s evaluation of the opponents: “the one who does not have the Son does not have (eternal) life.” The opponents, in spite of their claims to know God, do not possess (nor have they at any time possessed, cf. 2:19) eternal life.
- 1 John 5:12 tn “This” is a translation of the Greek anaphoric article.
- 1 John 5:12 tn The word “eternal” is not in the Greek text but is supplied for clarity, since the anaphoric article in Greek points back to the previous mention of eternal life in 5:11.
- 1 John 5:12 tn “This” is a translation of the Greek anaphoric article.
- 1 John 5:12 tn The word “eternal” is not in the Greek text but is supplied for clarity, since the anaphoric article in Greek points back to the previous mention of eternal life in 5:11.
- 1 John 5:13 tn Theoretically the pronoun ταῦτα (tauta) could refer (1) to what precedes or (2) to what follows. Since it is followed by a ἵνα (hina) clause which gives the purpose for the writing, and a new subject is introduced in 5:14 (ἡ παρρησία, hē parrēsia), it seems almost certain that the ταῦτα in 5:13 refers to preceding material. Even at this, some would limit the referent of ταῦτα (1) only to 5:1-12 or even 5:12, but more likely ταῦτα in 5:13 refers (2) to the entirety of the letter, for two reasons: (a) based on the structural analogy with the Gospel of John, where the conclusion refers to all that has preceded, it is probable that the conclusion to 1 John refers likewise to all that has preceded; and (b) the statement ταῦτα ἔγραψα ὑμῖν (tauta egrapsa humin) in 5:13 forms an inclusion with the statement καὶ ταῦτα γράφομεν ἡμεῖς (kai tauta graphomen hēmeis) at the end of the prologue (1:4) and encompasses the entire body of the letter.
- 1 John 5:13 tn The dative participle πιστεύουσιν (pisteuousin) in 5:13 is in simple apposition to the indirect object of ἔγραψα (egrapsa), ὑμῖν (humin), and could be translated, “These things I have written to you, namely, to the ones who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know.” There is an exact parallel to this structure in John 1:12, where the pronoun is αὐτοῖς (autois) and the participle is τοῖς πιστεύουσιν (tois pisteuousin) as here.
- 1 John 5:13 tn This ἵνα (hina) introduces a clause giving the author’s purpose for writing “these things” (ταῦτα, tauta), which refers to the entirety of the preceding material. The two other Johannine statements about writing, 1 John 1:4 and John 20:31, are both followed by purpose clauses introduced by ἵνα, as here.
- 1 John 5:14 tn For the third time in 5:9-14 the author uses the construction αὕτη ἐστίν (hautē estin; 5:9, 11, 14). As in the previous instance (5:11) the ὅτι (hoti) clause which follows is epexegetical (explanatory) to the pronoun αὕτη and explains what the “confidence” (παρρησία, parrēsia) consists of (technically the subject is ἡ παρρησία, the predicate nominative is the pronoun αὕτη, and the ὅτι clause explains the predicate nominative): “And the confidence which we have before him is this, namely, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”
- 1 John 5:14 tn A third-class condition is introduced by ἐάν (ean) + present subjunctive. Because the apodosis also contains a present tense verb (ἀκούει, akouei) this belongs in a subcategory of third-class conditional sentences known as present general. 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). Thus the meaning here is, “whenever (i.e., if) we ask anything according to his will, then he hears us.”
- 1 John 5:15 tn This use of ἐάν (ean) with the indicative mood rather than the subjunctive constitutes an anomalous usage. Here ἐάν is used instead of ἐι (ei) to introduce a first-class condition: “if we know (οἴδαμεν, oidamen) that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests which we have asked from him.” The reality of the condition (protasis) is assumed for the sake of argument; given the protasis, the apodosis follows. The use of ἐάν for ἐι is rare but not without precedent; see M. Zerwick (Biblical Greek §§330-31).
- 1 John 5:16 tn Again ἐάν (ean) in 5:16 introduces (as in 5:14) a third-class condition, but this time, with the future indicative (αἰτήσει, aitēsei) in the apodosis, the condition is known as “more probable future.” As BDF §371.4 points out, such a condition describes what is to be expected under certain circumstances. If a person sees his Christian brother committing a sin not to death (which is probable), he should make intercession for the sinning brother (“he should ask…”), and that life will be granted to the sinner in answer to the request. The author has already pointed out in 5:14-15 that if believers make requests of God in accordance with his will they may have confidence that they will receive the requests they have asked for, and this is a specific instance.
- 1 John 5:16 tn See note on the phrase “fellow Christian” in 2:9.
- 1 John 5:16 tn Grk “a sin not to death.”
- 1 John 5:16 tn Grk “he” (see the note on the word “grant” later in this verse for discussion).
- 1 John 5:16 tn The referent of the (understood) third person subject of δώσει (dōsei) in 5:16 is difficult to determine. Once again the author’s meaning is obscure. Several possibilities have been suggested for the referent of the subject of this verb: (1) From a grammatical and syntactical standpoint, it would be easiest to understand the subject of δώσει in 5:16 as the person who makes the request, since this person is the subject of the preceding verb αἰτήσει (aitēsei) and the following verb ἐρωτήσῃ (erōtēsē). From a theological standpoint this is extremely difficult, however, since it would make the person who prays for the sinner the giver of life, and it is questionable whether the author (for whom God is the ultimate source of life) would say that one believer could ‘give’ life to another. In this case the meaning would be: “he [the petitioner] should ask, and he [the petitioner] will grant life to him [the sinner], namely, to those who sin not to death.” (2) Another option is to see God as the subject of δώσει in 5:16 and the Giver of life to the sinner. This is far more consistent theologically with the author’s perspective on God as the Giver of life everywhere else, but it is awkward grammatically (as explained in reference to the previous position above) because it involves a shift in subjects for the three third person verbs in the context from the person who makes the request (αἰτήσει) to God (δώσει) and back to the person who makes the request (ἐρωτήσῃ). In this case the meaning would be: “he [the petitioner] should ask, and he [God] will grant life to him [the sinner], namely, to those who sin not to death.” (3) A third possibility is to see God as the subject of δώσει in 5:16, but the person who makes the request (rather than the sinner) as the referent of the indirect object αὐτῷ (autō) in 5:16. This is possible because the indirect object αὐτῷ is singular, while the dative substantival participle τοῖς ἁμαρτάνουσιν (tois hamartanousin) which follows (which clearly refers to those who sin) is plural. Thus the meaning would be: “he [the petitioner] should ask, and he [God] will grant life to him [the petitioner], with reference to [his praying for] those who sin not to death.” Although this is a difficult and awkward construction no matter what solution one takes, on the whole the second alternative seems most probable. Even if option (1) is preferred it must be acknowledged that God is ultimately the source of life, although it is given as a result of the petitioner’s intercessory prayer and the petitioner becomes, in a sense, the intermediate agent. But in the preceding context (5:11) the author has emphasized that God is the Giver of life, and in spite of the awkwardness in the change of subjects, that would seem to be the most likely meaning here, so option (2) is preferred. Option (3) is improbable because it seems clear that it should be the sinner for whom intercession is made, rather than the petitioner, who is the recipient of life. The petitioner would be assumed to possess life already or he could not be making a request which God would hear. In this case the change from the singular dative indirect object (αὐτῷ) to the plural dative substantival participle (τοῖς ἁμαρτάνουσιν) is merely a loose construction (which by this time should come as no surprise from the author).
- 1 John 5:16 tn Grk “a sin not to death.”
- 1 John 5:16 tn Or “is sin.”
- 1 John 5:16 tn Grk “a sin to death.”
- 1 John 5:17 tn The meaning of ἀδικία (adikia) here is “unrighteousness” (BDAG 20 s.v. 2). It refers to the opposite of that which is δίκαιος (dikaios, “right, just, righteous”) which is used by the author to describe both God and Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9; 2:2, 29). Here, having implied that sins committed by believers (sins “not to death”) may be prayed for and forgiven, the author does not want to leave the impression that such sin is insignificant, because this could be viewed as a concession to the views of the opponents (who as moral indifferentists have downplayed the significance of sin in the Christian’s life).
- 1 John 5:17 tn Grk “a sin not to death.”
- 1 John 5:18 tn The concept represented by the verb γεννάω (gennaō) here means to be fathered by God and thus a child of God. The imagery in 1 John is that of the male parent who fathers children (see 2:29).
- 1 John 5:18 tn Grk “he”; see the note on the following word “protects.”
- 1 John 5:18 tn The meaning of the phrase ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ τηρεῖ αὐτόν (ho gennētheis ek tou theou tērei auton) in 5:18 is extraordinarily difficult. Again the author’s capacity for making obscure statements results in several possible meanings for this phrase: (1) “The fathering by God protects him [the Christian].” Here a textual variant for ὁ γεννηθείς (ἡ γέννησις, hē gennēsis) has suggested to some that the passive participle should be understood as a noun (“fathering” or perhaps “birth”), but the ms evidence is extremely slight (1505 1852 2138 latt [syh] bo). This almost certainly represents a scribal attempt to clarify an obscure phrase. (2) “The One fathered by God [Jesus] protects him [the Christian].” This is a popular interpretation, and is certainly possible grammatically. Yet the introduction of a reference to Jesus in this context is sudden; to be unambiguous the author could have mentioned the “Son of God” here, or used the pronoun ἐκεῖνος (ekeinos) as a reference to Jesus as he consistently does elsewhere in 1 John. This interpretation, while possible, seems in context highly unlikely. (3) “The one fathered by God [the Christian] protects himself.” Again a textual problem is behind this alternative, since a number of mss (א Ac P Ψ 33 1739 M) supply the reflexive pronoun ἑαυτόν (heauton) in place of αὐτόν in 5:18. On the basis of the external evidence this has a good possibility of being the autographic wording, but internal evidence favors αὐτόν as the more difficult reading, since ἑαυτόν may be explained as a scribal attempt at grammatical smoothness. From a logical standpoint, however, it is difficult to make much more sense out of ἑαυτόν; to say what “the Christian protects himself” means in the context is far from clear. (4) “The one fathered by God [the Christian] holds on to him [God].” This results in further awkwardness, because the third person pronoun (αὐτοῦ, autou) in the following clause must refer to the Christian, not God. Furthermore, although τηρέω (tēreō) can mean “hold on to” (BDAG 1002 s.v. 2.c), this is not a common meaning for the verb in Johannine usage, occurring elsewhere only in Rev 3:3. (5) “The one fathered by God [the Christian], he [God] protects him [the Christian].” This involves a pendant nominative construction (ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ) where a description of something within the clause is placed in the nominative case and moved forward ahead of the clause for emphatic reasons. This may be influenced by Semitic style; such a construction is also present in John 17:2 (“in order that everyone whom You have given to him, he may give to them eternal life”). This view is defended by K. Beyer (Semitische Syntax im Neuen Testament [SUNT], 1:216ff.) and appears to be the most probable in terms both of syntax and of sense. It makes God the protector of the Christian (rather than the Christian himself), which fits the context much better, and there is precedent in Johannine literature for such syntactical structure.
- 1 John 5:19 tn The preposition ἐκ (ek) here indicates both source and possession: Christians are “from” God in the sense that they are begotten by him, and they belong to him. For a similar use of the preposition compare the phrases ἐκ τοῦ πατρός (ek tou patros) and ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου (ek tou kosmou) in 1 John 2:16.
- 1 John 5:20 tn The ἵνα (hina) introduces a purpose clause which gives the purpose of the preceding affirmation: “we know that the Son of God has come and has given us insight (so that we may) know him who is true.”
- 1 John 5:20 sn The pronoun This one (οὗτος, houtos) refers to a person, but it is far from clear whether it should be understood as a reference (1) to God the Father or (2) to Jesus Christ. R. E. Brown (Epistles of John [AB], 625) comments, “I John, which began with an example of stunning grammatical obscurity in the prologue, continues to the end to offer us examples of unclear grammar.” The nearest previous antecedent is Jesus Christ, immediately preceding, but on some occasions when this has been true the pronoun still refers to God (see 1 John 2:3). The first predicate which follows This one in 5:20, the true God, is a description of God the Father used by Jesus in John 17:3, and was used in the preceding clause of the present verse to refer to God the Father (him who is true). Yet the second predicate of This one in 5:20, eternal life, appears to refer to Jesus, because although the Father possesses “life” (John 5:26; 6:57) just as Jesus does (John 1:4; 6:57, 1 John 5:11), “life” is never predicated of the Father elsewhere, while it is predicated of Jesus in John 11:25 and 14:6 (a self-predication by Jesus). If This one in 5:20 is understood as referring to Jesus, it forms an inclusion with the prologue, which introduced the reader to “the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” Thus it appears best to understand the pronoun This one in 5:20 as a reference to Jesus Christ. The christological affirmation which results is striking, but certainly not beyond the capabilities of the author (see John 1:1 and 20:28): This One [Jesus Christ] is the true God and eternal life. See also D. B. Wallace, Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance, Studies in Biblical Greek 14, ed. D. A. Carson (Bern/New York: Peter Lang, 2009), 273-77.
- 1 John 5:21 tc Most later mss (P 81 1175 M) have ἀμήν (amēn, “amen”) at the end of this letter. Such a conclusion is routinely added by scribes to NT books because a few of these books originally had such an ending (cf. Rom 16:27; Gal 6:18; Jude 25). A majority of Greek witnesses have the concluding ἀμήν in every NT book except Acts, James, and 3 John (and even in these books, ἀμήν is found in some witnesses). It is thus a predictable variant. Further, the earliest and best witnesses, along with several others (א A B Ψ 33 323 630 1505 1739 sy co), lack the inoffensive particle, rendering its omission as the authentic reading.sn The modern reader may wonder what all this has to do with idolatry. In the author’s mind, to follow the secessionist opponents with their false Christology would amount to idolatry, since it would involve worshiping a false god instead of the true God, Jesus Christ. Thus guard yourselves from idols means for the readers to guard themselves against the opponents and their teaching.