1 John 2:2 - Does Grace Extend to Everyone? (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

An Exegesis of 1 John 2:2

To adequately handle any passage we must work through some important exegetical steps. We need to (1) verify the text and translation, (2) identify background and context, (3) identify structural keys, (4) identify grammatical and syntactical keys, (5) identify lexical keys, (6) address Biblical context, and (7) consider theological context. Then we would verify our work, put it into practice in our own lives as appropriate, and communicate it with others as God gives us opportunity.1

(1) Text and Translation

καὶ αὐτὸς ἱλασµός ἐστιν περὶ τῶν ἁµαρτιῶν ἡµῶν, οὐ περὶ τῶν ἡµετέρων δὲ µόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσµου.2 A literal translation would read, “And He a propitiation He is for the sins of us, not for those of us only, but also for those of the whole world.” The NASB translates the concluding phrase as “but also for those of the whole world.” The ESV renders it, “but also for the sins of the whole world.” The NASB italicizes the phrase for those of, in acknowledgment that the phrase is not actually in the Greek, but the genitive tou kosmou implies the phrase, so it is a sound rendering. The implication of the translation is that the propitiation is for the sins of the whole world, rather than being for the whole world itself.

There are a couple of minor textual variants that do not affect the meaning of the words individually or the passage as a whole. A few manuscripts read huper ton, rather than peri ton. A few spell monon with the omega rather than the omicron (the omega indicates the genitive plural, the omicron indicates the adverb or adjective). We can be confident that the English translations above are good representations of the Greek text.

(2) Background and Context

John’s first epistle functions as a sequel to his Gospel. It is closely related in terminology and in thought. John addresses his letter to those he calls his little children (2:1), beloved (2:7), fathers (2:13), young men (2:13), and brethren (3:13). John writes his Gospel so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn 20:31). In his first follow-up letter, John has several purposes in mind. He proclaims “what was” so that believers might have horizontal and vertical fellowship (1:3), he writes so that his joy might be complete (1 Jn 1:4), so that his little children might not sin (1 Jn 2:1), and so that those who believe can know that they have eternal life (1 Jn 5:13). His last stated purpose builds on the purpose of John’s Gospel, written so that people might believe, whereas his letter was written so that those who believe might know. In the letter, John concentrates on the vertical relationship with God, through Christ, in chapters one through three, specifically focusing on the fruit of salvation: love (2:9-10). In chapters four and five he discusses the horizontal relationship of believers to each other and underscores success in those relationships as further practical evidence of the positional reality of salvation.

(3) Structural Keys

As John’s is a very personal letter, it is not structured as identifiably as is his Gospel. The thought transitions are often represented by personal address (such as in 2:1, 7, 12, 4:7, 5:13). Other times we recognize the theme shifts by transitional terms, such as for (hoti, 3:11), and thematic chiasm (as in 1:6-7, 2:9-10). John also uses imperatives to move from one theme to the next (as in 2:15, 24, 3:1, 4:1). Sometimes the topic changes are thematically self-explanatory. In any case, considering these structural keys, the letter can be outlined as follows:

1-3 Vertical Fellowship

1:1-4 The Basis: The Word of Life
1:5-10 The Conditions
2:1-2 The Advocate: Jesus Christ
2:3-6 The Obedience
2:7-11 The Commandment: Love
2:12-14 The Maturity
2:15-17 The Warning of Worldliness
2:18-23 The Lie vs. The Truth
2:24-29 The Promise: Eternal Life
3:1-10 The Righteousness
3:11-18 The Love Needed

4-5 Horizontal Fellowship

4:1-6 The Discernment
4:7-18 The Love Explained
4:19-21 The Basis of Love
5:1-5 The Belief
5:6-12 The Witness
5:13-15 The Assurance
5:16-21 The Sin

(4) Grammatical and Syntactical Keys

The subject is He (autos), the verb is is (estin), the object is propitiation (hilasmos). The third person singular pronoun (autos) along with the third person singular verb (estin) emphasize that it is Christ Himself who is the propitiation. The remainder of the verse modifies or qualifies the term hilasmos. It is for our sins (ton hamartion, in the genitive), but not the sins of us (ton hemeteron) only, but those of the whole world. Of the whole world (holou tou kosmou) is genitive, thus the three terms are linked: whole modifies the world. The differences in interpretation are not due to grammar and syntax, but rather to how two key words or phrases are defined.

(5) Lexical Keys

There are two key concepts in 1 John 2:2 that help us understand the author’s intended meaning, and which are disputed: propitiation (hilasmos), and the whole world (holou tou kosmou). The Greek hilasmos is employed in its masculine form also in 1 John 4:10, and in neuter form (hilasterion) in Romans 3:25 and Hebrews 9:5. The term is translated by the KJV, NASB, and the ESV as propitiation, which could be understood as the place or means by which the price of sin is satisfied. The disagreement is not on the lexical definition of the word, but on the timing of when the propitiation is applied to the individual.

Romans 3:25 identifies Jesus as publicly portrayed as a propitiation. Hebrews 9:5 refers to the mercy seat, the place where the price was paid and the forgiveness was rendered.3 1 John 4:10 reiterates that Jesus was sent to be a propitiation for our sins. It is important to note that the mercy seat itself did not guarantee the forgiveness of sins—the blood had to be applied properly, according to the laws pertaining to the sacrifices.

The need for proper application is foreshadowed in Exodus 12:7, 13 at the first Passover. The shedding of blood paid the price for redemption, but the application of the blood was a separate event, even if separated by only a little time. That separate event resulted in the completion of the redemption process. In the same way, Jesus could serve as a propitiation paying completely for sin, but unless His sacrifice is applied as required (through belief in Him), that price paid is not applied, and therefore sin is not forgiven. This understanding differs from the Reformed view, which does not distinguish as separate events the price paid and the application to the elect.

The second key lexical component is the phrase the whole world (holou tou kosmou). The question is whether or not whole is qualified or unqualified. For example, Sproul suggests—correctly, I believe—that 2 Peter 3:8-9 qualifies all (pantes) as all of a specific group. He observes, “The immediate antecedent of the word any in this passage is the word us, and I think it’s perfectly clear that Peter is saying that God is not willing that any of us should perish, but that all of us should come to salvation. He’s not speaking of all mankind indiscriminately; the us is a reference to the believing people to whom Peter is speaking.”4 Similarly, Matthew 2:2 uses the word all (pas) to say that all Jerusalem was troubled along with Herod. Does the all include the houses themselves in Jerusalem? The word would not require that, but seems to be making a clear reference to the people of Jerusalem—those who could be troubled. Likewise, Matthew 11:13 describes all (pantes) the prophets as prophesying until John, yet there were clearly prophets that came after John (see Acts 21:10). The all is referring to a specific group.

Thus it is not uncommon to see a contextual qualification of universal terms. But while examples of such qualification can readily be identified, it is important to recognize that qualification should only be inferred when the context directly calls for it. There is no textual argument—grammatical or lexical—to be made that whole does not mean whole. The only arguments offered by those holding the qualified view are theological. There is nothing in 1 John 2:2 that suggests that whole is qualified, nor any other passage that would demand that we understand the whole of 1 John 2:2 as qualified.

(Coming soon: Biblical and Theological Context, Conclusions and Implications.)


1 More detail is offered on these steps, and two additional steps for Bible study (secondary verification, and exposition) in Christopher Cone, Integrating Exegesis and Exposition: Biblical Communication for Transformative Learning (Fort Worth, TX: Exegetica Publications, 2015).

2 Barbara Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, 4th ed. (Federal Republic of Germany: United Bible Societies, 1993), 1 Jn 2:2.

3 The LXX translates the Hebrew kapporeth in Ex 25:17 as the Greek, neuter, hilasterion.

4 Sproul, “TULIP and Reformed Theology: Limited Atonement.”

Christopher Cone 2015 Bio

Dr. Christopher Cone serves as Chief Academic Officer and Research Professor of Bible and Theology at Southern California Seminary. He formerly served as President of Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute, Professor of Bible and Theology, and as a Pastor of Tyndale Bible Church. He has also held several teaching positions and is the author and general editor of several books. He blogs regularly at drcone.com.

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G. N. Barkman's picture

Ed, I believe that the proposal that there are sheep in John 10 who do not belong to Christ, and will not hear His voice does matter.  It demonstrates a view of the passage which will probably color the intended meaning of other words and statements.

I must differ with you about the "My sheep" statement.  It could indicate other sheep which are not "mine," but not likely.  More probably it makes a distinction between those sheep who are already believers, and those who are not yet believers.  They are all sheep.  In one sense, they are all "mine" (that is Christ's sheep), but Christ may be reserving the possessive pronoun to identify those who have already come to faith in Him, as distinct from those who have not yet believed. 

If I say, "I'm going to take my family to the ballgame," does that indicate that I plan to take others who are not part of my family?  Maybe, but probably not.  Hardly anyone would take that statement to mean that I intended to take others as well.  It is simply a statement of personal relationship with one family.  I could say, "I am taking family to the ballgame," and most would understand this to mean the same thing as the original wording, or to mean that I am taking part of my family, but not all.  "My sheep hear my voice" means all of Christ's sheep hear his voice, not that there are sheep who are not Christ's.

G. N. Barkman

G. N. Barkman's picture

Ed, if I said, "I love my family, and am willing to lay down my life for them," would anyone think I intended to include others in the scope of that statement?  I seriously doubt it.  I don't consider the definite atonement interpretation of Christ's statement a logical fallacy at all.  I consider it the way most people would understand His words, "I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."  I believe it is only the need to argue for universal redemption which fuels the search for alternative ways to understand this plain statement.

G. N. Barkman

Greg Long's picture

If I say, "If there were a fire in my house, I would do whatever it takes to save my family. I would even lay down my life for my family," it does not exclude the fact that I would also lay down my life for a stranger in another scenario, say if a gunman starting shooting in a public event. The emphasis in my one statement on my love for my family in the context of a specific discussion of a house fire does not preclude my willingness to die for others; it's simply not the point of the discussion.

It light of the clear statements in 1 Jn. 2:2 and elsewhere, I interpret Jesus' statement and a similar one in Eph. 5:25 as stating nothing about the extent of the atonement. They do not preclude a universal atonement; they simply do not address it.

Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Greg Long's picture

I hope in a future article the author will address 1 John 5:19, which to me is the best key to the interpretation of "whole world" in 1 John 2:2. I find it ironic that limited atonement proponents make a big deal of interpreting John's use of "world" in 1 John 2:2 by his use of "nation" in John 11:51, rather than interpreting John's use of "whole world" by his use of "whole world" in the very same epistle.

Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Ed Vasicek's picture

G.N. Barkman, the study of the imagery of sheep is a deep one.  A good place to start is its understood use from the OT.  Zechariah ll:7-14 [ESV] suggests the sheep as Israel, and Christ [the Shepherd] as ceasing to shepherd them for 30 pieces of silver, a prophecy you are no doubt familiar with.  I think this also has reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the devastation of the Jewish nation.  Albeit complex, I think this is an important text.

I think this sets the tone and background for Jesus' teaching in John 10  -- the whole Midrash thing that I am into.  While not denying God's coming wrath upon the Jewish people, He singles out those who choose to follow Him, "my sheep" and "other sheep not of this fold."  Here is the Zechariah text. 


So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep. 8 In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me. 9 So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another.” 10 And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples. 11 So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord. 12 Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. 13 Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter. 14 Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jay's picture

It seems like this thread is rehashing my objections to GN Barkman in the first article discussion thread, so I'll sidestep that now.

@ Greg Long,

Yes, of course [Grudem] weighs the Scriptural evidence for and against differently than I do and comes to a different conclusion.

And yet he disagrees with just about every 5-pointer that I've ever read who asserts: 1) Limited Atonement is really, Really, REALLY IMPORTANT, and 2) You can't believe in the other four points of Calvinism if you don't believe in this one (see R. C. Sproul, for example), because it all rises and falls on Limited Atonement.

Is is possible that this is because this has more to do with retaining and defending the Calvinist theological system than it may have to do with Scriptural specificity?  It seems to me that the people that I have come across that made this discussion of particular (fundamental?) importance are usually very, very strongly committed to the Calvinist structure and formulation (whether TULIP or not), even more so than, say, the clear interpretation of other passages that may seem to conflict.  

Paul admonishes Titus to reject a divisive man (Titus 3:10, and not just a false teacher) and ignore him, and it seems like this discussion usually pulls out the same people over and over again who will absolutely die for that system.  And those of us who accept it and who are disinclined to fight about it [I refer here to Grudem] have a better position and, frankly, Christian demeanor about it.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Given what I'm seeing in John 10, I don't think it makes any sense at all to apply this teaching to a discussion as to who "the elect" are and are not although it may incidentally touch on it.  It has to do with Jesus' defense of Himself, His roles, and His authority.  Here's a brief recap from John, chapters 8 - 10

8:1 - Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives
8:2 - Teaches at temple in the morning
8:3-11 - Adulterous woman brought to Jesus
8:12-20 - Light of the world
8:21-30 - Sent by the Father
8:31-59 - Temple debate about father Abraham / Jesus leaves the Temple
9:1-7 - Jesus heals a man born blind
9:8-12 - Neighbors question the former blind man
9:13-34 - Pharisees question man's parents
9:35-39 - Jesus finds the man
9:40-10:6 - Pharisees ask if they are blind
10:7-18 - Jesus explains he is the Good Shepherd
10:19-21 - Division among the Jews

The emphasis in John's Gospel right here is "Who is this man?".  It is not a discourse on salvation, because Jesus is too busy explaining to the unbelieving bystanders who He is. It is not a discourse on "[so and so] people are elect and these people are not", and no amount of scripture twisting will make it so.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

alex o.'s picture

DavidO wrote:

I found this article by Andy Naselli very helpful on the question at hand.  

Thanks DavidO. Though I am not much of a music aficionado, I liked the message. I agree with Owen so in some ways I am biased.

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield


G. N. Barkman's picture

Ed, thanks for the update.  I find the OT references helpful.   However, I want to state  that Jesus does not say people become His sheep by choosing to follow Him.  He puts it the other way around.  People believe in Him because they are His sheep.  "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you."  (John 10:26)  This is why I said earlier that "sheep" is used in this passage to mean "elect ones."

G. N. Barkman

ScottS's picture

I respectfully disagree with Alex's statements about the context of John's letter. Were there issues with Jew/Gentile relations? Certainly so. But the following bolded points I believe are wholly unsustainable:

The Grammatical-historical method of interpretation requires a reconstruction of what both the writer and recipients understood among themselves. Today our western society is saturated with a biblical framework whether it is readily apparent or not. The first century Gentile knew nothing of Hebrew theology. The Jews almost totally kept to themselves in the religious sphere. When the Pharisees encompassed land and sea to make a disciple the were ministering to Jews in the Diaspora not Gentiles. 1st John was not written to Gentiles. The text would be indecipherable to a first-century Gentile.

Cone has given arguments where the historical situation was not developed along with the grammatical. His arguments are incomplete, there is nothing with which to interact if one builds a false scenario. I choose to stand with Piper, MacArthur, and Sproul on this issue seeing the reference to inclusion of Gentiles.

The inclusion of Gentiles was really the burning issue of the day as evidenced by Paul's conflicts. John had been ministering 'in the land' to Hebrew Christians who were now exiled. They were ostracized by both unbelieving Hellenistic Jews and Gentiles. John continued his ministry no doubt among those he dealt with while 'in the land.' So we see the text is a Jewish document. The writer, a Hebrew who was never assimilated. Recipients who were thoroughly Jewish. If it had been written to Gentiles it probably would be stated in a way to indicate this fact. There was no reason to not name the recipients if they were not persecuted or marginalized in some way

The average Gentile may well have known nothing of "Hebrew theology," but John is not writing to average Gentiles, he is writing to saved Gentiles and Jews—all believers of his target for the letter. By the time John was writing to this group, the text would be wholly decipherable to many believing Gentiles. Scripture makes this abundantly evident:

  1. There were, before the gospel spread, already believing Gentiles that were dispersed around the Roman empire, awaiting (unbeknownst to them) God to bring that gospel message; the Ethiopian eunuch was familiar with OT scripture, though still struggling to understand (Acts 8:27-30) and Cornelius was a believer of the true God (Acts 10:1-2), no doubt from interaction with some Jewish thought (Peter even calls in his sermon to Cornelius upon the authority of the prophets, Acts 10:43). This was only the early period, before the gospel expansion to the empire.
  2. Paul's preaching in synagogues, as was his normal mode of operation when coming to a new community, included God fearers that were not Jewish (Antioch, Acts 13:26, 42; Iconium, Acts 14:1; Thessalonica, Acts 17:4; Berea, Acts 17:12; etc.). God had already been preparing certain Gentiles to hear the good news and understand it from an OT context.
  3. Most importantly, by the time John was writing, Paul had already spent considerable time teaching Gentiles, two years located in the central position of Ephesus, such that Greeks from throughout Asia had heard his teaching (Acts 19:10). He was focused on "the kingdom of God" in his long term teaching ministry (Acts 19:8), and without question would have been pulling his teaching about the kingdom from OT Scriptures, since much (if any, depending upon one's views) of the NT was not yet written.

It is completely unsustainable to believe that believing Gentiles were ignorant of Hebrew theology and the OT background by the time of John writing (and even most of Paul's letters show he wrote to Gentiles with the understanding they knew OT background; e.g. Romans).

John himself would write to the churches in Gentile lands when the book of Revelation was penned (Rev 2-3). John's ministry was clearly not so isolated to the Jews alone as some would argue, and his Gospel is generally recognized as being a writing with a focus upon Christ's work for the world (unlike, generally speaking, Matthew to the Jews, Mark to the Romans, and Luke to the Greeks). And primarily, in John's writings, the world refers to the unbelieving crowd (if it refers to a group of people) or the system under which that group operates. In 1 Jn 2:2, however, it has to be the people group referred to, because only people have sins to be propitiated.

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

alex o.'s picture

In order not to clutter I won't use the quote function Scott but will just defend my thoughts here. Firstly, as I noted, no reason exists to think that John ever ministered to Hellenistic Jews while in the Jerusalem Church (if indeed John's ministry was in Jerusalem, if it wasn't in Jerusalem, there would be even less chance John would have any Gentile contact). It is important to understand that Gentiles were not like modern Gentiles today (these were really pagans whose thinking and background we can know from the plethora of materials from the time). Here is point to point:

1. The Etiope Eunuch was on pilgrimage (already a convert attending the feasts as required). Cornelius was a God-fearer already. These were instances pointed out by the Spirit that The New Covenant was now applied to a new class: Gentiles in general. These are 'fulfillment notices' among other things for the disciples.

2. I agree with the point without having to jump to a forced conclusion.

3. Again, general agreement, without seeing how it has to come towards specific conclusion. Nuance is involved by seeing the whole picture from cultural studies.

Believing Gentiles is the key but you have not proved That this Hebraic Jew had any ministry to Gentiles or that the recipients were Gentiles. You will have to do better than this before I will be convinced. I took this tact on the recipients as I did not think it was adequately developed (eliminated as a consideration). The more I looked at the data, it seemed to me that this was a live option (and I still think it very viable). I would argue that John had little capacity to relate to Gentile thought if that thought was not deeply rooted in the O.T. and Jewish Theology.

Look at John's style of writing. He sounds like Jesus the Hebrew! No doubt that Jesus' discipling of John deeply influenced both his theological thought and writing style. No, this is an area (the recipients) that defies quick dismissal one way or another.

The "world" use in John needs to be cataloged according to context (I think you will find some interesting things). As in Hebraic style, John's careful choice of words is significant. The reader will have to carefully see what the writer means in the immediate context and not look at other places later or earlier in the text. This aspect is thoroughly Jewish and includes those things common in thought among them without pedantically referencing the fact. The immediate context reigns supreme in Hebrew. 

John's use of terms has to be from deeply theological understandings previously accepted. For example: What was the announcement they had heard from the beginning (1.5, 3.11)?

Hebrew thought will sometimes see fulfillment differently that how we think fulfillment should occur. The Hebrew mind had the Mosaic System of sacrifice and observance as central as part of their thought, it was of course required. Here John writes New Covenant realities without actually mentioning that he is so doing. If one were brought up with The Mosaic System in mind, they would understand. Notice further in chapter 1 how he mentions light and darkness. The legal system (as Paul explicitly describes) of the Jews showed how only perfection would be acceptable and the adherent would have remedy only by sacrifice. Notice what happens next: Confession towards God!

In Moses confession took place in the courtyard before the Meeting Place with the confessor having his sacrifice ready. He would place his hands on the animal and confess (implicit substitution). Here however John tells the Christian the New Covenant reality under the High Priesthood of Jesus that restored fellowship in the Spirit is immediate. Later when we come to our verse under examination, John mentions Jesus' propitiation: The New Reality - The New Covenant. The law has changed, there is a new law since there is a new priesthood! All this John says without actually using the phrase (as Paul does) New Covenant. There is an implicitness, if you will, in Hebrew thought that differs from how we today would examine a text.

I am sticking to my guns on this and will do more studies in the area. Historical considerations should loom large when examining John especially over the other General Epistle writers. Above all these writers, he is the most Jewish (as opposed to Hellenistic).

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield


ScottS's picture

Your initial replies to my three points are fine, except in your "counter" to #1, you seem to miss the point of what I am chiefly arguing: your position that "The text [of John's letters] would be indecipherable to a first-century Gentile," yet these two "already converts" are still believing Gentiles, the one of which is certainly immersing himself in OT texts, and so John's allusions/references to OT texts need not be considered "indecipherable" to believing first-century Gentiles.

You state "have not proved That this Hebraic Jew had any ministry to Gentiles," yet the book of Revelation that I note in my final paragraph (which is directed to churches in Asia, so that is how my 3rd point relates directly to the discussion) is specifically addressed to the seven churches of Asia, which were all chiefly Gentile churches. That should, beyond doubt, prove John had a "ministry to Gentiles" (assuming one holds John the Apostle is the writer of Revelation, the Gospel bearing his name, and the three letters attributed to him, all of which I do hold).

"John's style of writing" and that he "above all these writers [of the General Epistles], he is the most Jewish" is relevant as far as indicating he was a Hebrew in thought, but not relevant to whether believing Gentiles that were taught the OT could decipher John's writings, nor any reason to dismiss that he was writing to a mixed Jewish/Gentile believing audience with his writings. Whatever implications of comparing Old Covenant to New Covenant may have be lost on some of his recipients, but not all, and those that could explain it to their fellow believers no doubt did so (just as believers today have teaching ministries to other believers to help them see truths of Scripture missed without proper background). So the initial audience cannot be determined purely based on the style of the writer, but at best by the content within it. The content of 1 John is applicable to all believers, which of course the Divine Author behind 1 John no doubt also intended the letter to be instructive to all believers, even if those later believers would need to get some OT background to understand better (the whole NT requires an OT background to understand it correctly).

I agree "the 'world' use in John needs to be cataloged according to context," but also contend that in the majority of his uses he refers to either unbelieving/ungodly people or the system of unbelief/ungodliness influencing the world (which is primarily influencing through those said people, along with the spiritual forces against mankind). And while immediate context is important, that does not mean one simply should "not look at other places later or earlier in the text" for his usage, as he also follows themes of thought (and the two prominent uses of ungodly people or the ungodly system are not wholly unrelated thematically). However, I am not aware of any place that it is defensible that he refers to the "world" of the Gentiles when referring to people, but rather if he is making a reference to persons, he either includes all people generally (humanity) or unbelieving/ungodly people in particular (when contrasted with believers, such as here in 1 Jn 2:2).

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16


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