John's statements are two-pronged. On the one hand, he is stressing that he himself has the credentials of witness: he personally experienced that to which he bears witness. But, on the other hand, his role is only that of a witness, of one who points beyond himself to those realities of which he speaks. He does not want to draw attention to himself so much as to the object of his experience (Marshall 1978:100), namely, the realities of Jesus' life and ministry. His stance is like that of John the Baptist in the Gospel of John: "[Jesus] must become greater; I must become less important" (Jn 3:30).
Moreover, the role of witness is not limited only to testimony that certain things really happened. A witness also proclaims the meaning and significance of those events. And for John, the significance of what hap pened in Jesus can be summarized by one word: life. Jesus himself is the life of God (1:1) and came to give eternal life to those who believe (1:2).
Thus the message that is proclaimed, the Word of life, originates in the words and works of Jesus. Because Jesus was a real human being of flesh and blood, the author can write that the life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father. The order of these verbs (have seen . . . testify . . . proclaim) is chosen deliberately. They "express in order the three ideas of experience, attestation and evangelism which form part of any gen uine and lasting response to the Gospel" (Smalley 1984:9).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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