Sin and Perfection in 1 John -- By: Colin G. Kruse
Sin and Perfection in 1 John1
Colin G. Kruse is Senior Lecturer in New Testament at the Bible College of Victoria in Australia. An ordained Anglican minister, Dr. Kruse has served in parishes in Australia and the U.S.A. and has five years of missionary service with Church Mission Society as a theological lecturer in Indonesia. Besides journal articles on the New Testament, Old Testament, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, he has authored several books, including John and 2 Corinthians in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series (Eerdmans, 2004, 1987) and The Letters of John in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series (Eerdmans, 2000).
A couple of years ago my commentary on the Letters of John was published.2 One of the difficult issues I encountered writing that commentary was the apparent contradiction in what the author says about sin in the believer’s life. In one passage he says that those who claim not to have sinned are liars, and in another passage he says that those born of God cannot sin because “God’s seed” dwells in them. The aim of this paper is to review these passages seeking to understand what they affirm and to see if the charges of contradiction made against the author are valid.
Anyone working with the Letters of John needs a working hypothesis concerning the events that lie behind them. Such a working hypothesis involves historical reconstruction, and this will be based upon assumptions about literary matters. The following scenario proceeds upon the assumption that there is a very close relationship between the Fourth Gospel and the three letters of John. For example, parallels to words and ideas used in the letters are nearly always to be found in the Gospel. There are many examples of this,3 but most striking are the similarities between the prologue of the Fourth Gospel and the opening section of 1 John, and the fact that the purpose of writing both the Fourth Gospel and 1 John has to do with faith in Christ and receiving eternal life (John 20:31; 1 John 5:13). These similarities have led several recent scholars to conclude that the one who wrote the Gospel in its original form is also responsible for the writing of 1 John, and also perhaps 2 John and 3 John,4 though some scholars would deny this,5 and others prefer to leave the question open.6
For the purposes of this article, it is assumed that the Fourth Gospel was written by the Beloved Disciple, an eyewitness of the events described in the Gospe...
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