For the rest of the summer season, we are going to examine the Epistle of I John. I thought his would be a good idea in light of the fact that I am team teaching this biblical book in an Adult Bible Fellowship at the church where my wife Diana and I attend and are members.
I John is one of five New Testament books authored by John the Apostle. The others include the Gospel of John, the Epistles 2 & 3 John and the Book of Revelation.
The epistle’s title has always been “1 John.” It is the first and largest of John’s three epistles. John’s three epistles are classified as “general epistles” because John did not write to a particular church or individual. Another characteristic of I John is that it does not have a common epistle like structure, which includes an introduction, greeting, or concluding salutation. However, its intimate like content and tone classifies it as an “epistle.”
Even though the epistle is called I John, how do we know that the Apostle John wrote it? The epistle does not identify the author, but the strong, consistent and earliest testimony of the church ascribed it to John the apostle (cf. Luke 6:13–14). The logical conclusion being that only someone of John’s notoriety and preeminent status as an apostle would be able to write with such authority, therefore expecting complete obedience from his readers, without identifying himself (e.g., 1 John 4:6). He was well known to the readers, and he to them, so he didn’t need to mention his name.
What do we know about John? As Dr. John MacArthur explains, “John and James, his older brother (Acts 12:2), were known as “the sons of Zebedee” (Matt. 10:2–4), whom Jesus gave the name “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). John was one of the three most intimate associates of Jesus (along with Peter and James—cf. Matt. 17:1; 26:37), being an eyewitness to and participant in Jesus’ earthly ministry (1 John 1:1–4). In addition to the three epistles, John also authored the fourth Gospel, in which he identified himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” and as the one who reclined on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). He also wrote the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:1).”
The exact date of I John is difficult because no clear historical references in 1 John. Probably, John composed this letter in the latter part of the first century. Most biblical commentators conclude that John was old and living and actively writing during this time at Ephesus in Asia Minor. The tone of the epistle supports this evidence since the writer gives the impression that he is much older than his readers (e.g., “children”—2:1, 18, 28).
I John and John’s Gospel reflect similar vocabulary and manner of expression (John 1:1-14; I John 1:1-4). Such similarity causes many to date I, 2, and 3 John as occurring soon after he wrote his Gospel. Therefore, since many scholars date the Gospel of John as having been written during the latter part of the first century, they also prefer a similar date for the epistles.
Additionally, the false teaching John exposes most likely reflects the beginnings of Gnosticism which was in its early stages during the latter third of the first century. Since no mention is made of the persecution under the Emperor Domitian, which began about A.D. 95, it may have been written before that began. Therefore, a date for 1 John is c. A.D. 90–95. It was likely written from Ephesus to the churches of Asia Minor over which John exercised apostolic leadership and authority.
I encourage you to begin reading I John. Make it a part of your daily Bible reading during these summer days.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!