Ethics And "Imitatio Christi" In 1 John A Jewish Perspective -- By: Mavis M. Leung

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 069:1 (NA 2018)
Article: Ethics And "Imitatio Christi" In 1 John A Jewish Perspective
Author: Mavis M. Leung


Ethics And Imitatio Christi In 1 John
A Jewish Perspective

Mavis M. Leung

([email protected])

Summary

This paper focuses on one of the ethical features of 1 John, namely ‘the imitation of Christ’. It argues that this ethical feature is related to the believers’ identity and vocation as the people of God. Just as in the OT Israel is obliged to reflect God’s nature in everyday life, the believers must take on Jesus’ character as their character and follow in his footsteps to surrender one’s own life for the benefits of others. The result of this paper indicates that the weight of the Jewish ethical thoughts in the formation of Johannine ethics is more important than often acknowledged.

1. Introduction

The last two decades have seen a surge of scholarly interest in topics surrounding Johannine ethics or ethos. Recent publications are in general more affirmative of the place and importance of the (implicit) ethics in John’s Gospel and Epistles,1 in contrast to some previous

works that tend to be relatively negative on this matter.2 In particular, several recent works have approached the ethics in 1 John from the sociological perspective concerning family relationships and group identity. For example, Jan G. van der Watt has shown that in 1 John the social conventions of the ancient Mediterranean family are evoked to foster the believers’ group identity and thereby encourage certain behaviours.3 For Jörg Frey, ‘the family ethos’ lays the ‘strongest basis’ of Johannine ethical thinking.4 Dirk G. van der Merwe notes that the ‘ethos of the ethics in the Johannine epistles’ is fundamentally ‘a matter of “fellowship” within a family’.5

One of the ethical emphases in 1 John is the ‘imitation of Christ’. According to van der Watt, this Johannine feature serves to motivate the believers to imitate Jesus’ behaviour by means of two social phenomena within the Graeco-Roman milieu, namely ‘reciprocity’ and ‘mimesis’.6 Cornelius Bennema has recently published a monograph on the subject of ‘mimesis’ in the Johannine literature. One of the sections of his book is devoted to examine ‘the Believer–Jesus/God Mimesis’ in John’s Gospel and Epistles.7 In bot...

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