A Linguistic Overview of 1 John -- By: Randall K. J. Tan

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 10:3 (Fall 2006)
Article: A Linguistic Overview of 1 John
Author: Randall K. J. Tan


A Linguistic Overview of 1 John

Randall K. J. Tan

Randall K. J. Tan is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Kentucky Christian University in Grayson, Kentucky. Prior to his appointment at KCU, he served as an adjunct faculty member at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky, and as assistant editor of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. He has contributed a number of scholarly articles and coauthored The Pauline Writings: An Annotated Bibliography (Baker, 2002) with Mark A. Seifrid. He also co-annotated OpenText.org Syntactically Annotated Greek New Testament (Logos Bible Software) with Matthew Brook O’Donnell. Besides teaching at KCU, Dr. Tan also serves on the pastoral leadership team of a multinational church fellowship in Grayson, Kentucky.

Introduction: A Fresh Approach

When you open up your Bible and start reading a letter in the New Testament, what do you usually look for? Do you read the entire letter in one sitting? Or do you look over only a favorite passage or even just a favorite verse? Like many others, I believe that we need to consider the entire message of a letter to understand properly God’s message through the human author both to the original recipients of the letter and to us (as only one group out of a multitude of recipients in subsequent cultures and times).1

Interpreting a whole letter can seem to be a very daunting task to many people. It is by no means an impossible mission, however. This article will showcase a fresh inductive approach to the interpretation of entire texts by providing a linguistic overview of 1 John. By a linguistic overview, I mean a study that focuses on the text and language of 1 John and that is informed by modern linguistics.2 While similar methods can be applied to study the New Testament in the original Greek, I have chosen to present an updated version of methods that I have tested with college students this past year, methods that allow for study using English (or any other language) translations of the Bible.3 It is hoped that, besides shedding light on the overall message of 1 John, this article will arm readers with knowledge on one useful way to begin to interpret whole books of the Bible.

Explaining the Theory

In a written text, the combination of words and grammar we read give more than just isolated meanings or ideas. The text, in fact, gives a representation of the world (or imaginary world).4 For instance, a romance novel will represent not only...

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