Lectionary Year B
May 21, 2000
1 John 4:7-21

Step IV: Broader Context


It was previously noted that the first generations of Christians is maturing and some members are dead and others are approaching death by the time 1 John appears on the scene. It has grown in attempts to practice the very high principles Jesus left for them. The aging members are gaining in wisdom, born out of experiences, experiments and attempts to remain faithful to original teachings by the Teacher par excellence. Yet, their practices need evaluating and examining, re: those principles and teachings. Consequently, 1 John highlights some of those principles and teachings Jesus generated. Also, 1 John challenges some of the weaknesses, dilutions, if not pollution the Christian movement is noted to have suffered. Evidently, 1 John has a major task, here, for, apparently many mistakes and/or problems have resulted as time began to take its toll on the fledgling movement we know as early Christianity.


1 John rarely refers to the Old Testament and almost never quotes directly from it. Such is the case with this week’s lection. Exodus 33:20 and Judges 13:22 might have stimulated references to seeing God with human eyes, as verse 12 of our text has. Also, from the Sibylline Oracles, 3:17, we read, “For who, being mortal, is able to see God with eyes?” And in Fragment 1:10, another expression of such question, “For what flesh can see with eyes the true and heavenly immortal God, who inhabits the vault of heaven?” Then the final verse of our text at hand might stimulate The Apocalypse Of Sedrach 1:11f, which reads, “It is clear that anyone who hates his brother but thinks that he loves his brother is a liar and is deluding himself. For John the theologian says that we have this commandment from God, that he who loves God should also love his brother.” 4:19 of our text might echo, contemporary with John’s Epistles, Odes of Solomon 3:3, “For I should not have known how to love the Lord, if he had not continuously loved me.”


Greek philosophers’ interest in dualism might find some interest in those mentioned in this pericope, e.g., love and hate, we first loving God and God’s initiating love, God abiding in us and our abiding in God, love and fear, etc. Someone opines that the Hellenists might take exception to a God of love since that concept might seem to them that it brought into question the omnipotence of God. Also, verse 17 would catch the Hellenists’ attention, in that it mentions love being perfected and confidence reinforcing people on Judgement Day. The content of the final commandment in this passage could find acceptance among them, too, “loving brothers”.

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