A Non-Polemical Reading Of 1 John: Sin, Christology And The Limits Of Johannine Christianity -- By: Terry Griffith

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 49:2 (NA 1998)
Article: A Non-Polemical Reading Of 1 John: Sin, Christology And The Limits Of Johannine Christianity
Author: Terry Griffith


A Non-Polemical Reading Of 1 John:
Sin, Christology And The Limits Of Johannine Christianity

Terry Griffith

Summary

This paper offers a new paradigm for understanding the treatment of sin and Christology in 1 John that does not require gnosticising or docetic-like opponents to account for its contours. Both the ethical debate about sin (1 Jn. 1:6-2:11; 3:4-17; 4:20; 5:16-18) and the confessional statements about Jesus (1 Jn. 2:22; 4:2-3,15; 5:1,5,6) can be explained without reference to what the group that has left the Johannine community (2:19) positively believes. The issues at stake focus on the messiahship of Jesus, and the need to reinforce the limits of the Johannine community, not only by right confession but also by right conduct. Failure to keep either part of the dual commandment to believe in Jesus and to love one another (3:23) amounts to apostasy and places oneself outside the boundaries of Johannine Christianity. Confirmation of this approach is found in John’s Gospel.

I. Introduction

It is still a commonplace in Johannine scholarship that the interpretative landscape of 1 John is defined by the contours of nascent Gnosticism or Docetism. That is to say, it is assumed that 1 John is a polemical document whose purpose is to rebut the heretical christological speculations and associated spurious ethical claims of a Johannine splinter group. Frequently, this panorama is seen to adumbrate certain second-century heresies.1 However, the evidence for such trajectories is surprisingly tenuous, and one cannot but feel that 1 John is frequently interpreted in the light of later developments. This article sketches a new scenario for 1 John which is generated by the same fundamental traditions to which the Fourth Gospel is also a

witness. That is, this paper argues for a reading of 1 John, in which foundational convictions are simply restated and commonly held values are reinforced, as a means of strengthening group identity and cohesion in the light of changed ...

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