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1 John 2:29

2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you also know 1  that everyone who practices righteousness has been fathered 2  by him.

1 John 3:9

3:9 Everyone who has been fathered 3  by God does not practice sin, 4  because 5  God’s 6  seed 7  resides in him, and thus 8  he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God.

1 John 4:7

God is Love

4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because 9  love is from God, and everyone who loves 10  has been fathered 11  by God and knows God.

1 John 5:1

5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ 12  has been fathered 13  by God, and everyone who loves the father 14  loves the child fathered by him. 15 

1 John 5:4

5:4 because 16  everyone 17  who has been fathered by God 18  conquers 19  the world. 20 

Testimony About the Son

This 21  is the conquering power 22  that has conquered 23  the world: our faith.

1 John 5:18


5:18 We know that everyone fathered 24  by God does not sin, but God 25  protects 26  the one he has fathered, and the evil one cannot touch him.

1 tn The mood of γινώσκετε (ginwskete) may be understood as (1) indicative or (2) imperative. It is better to understand the verb here as indicative, because in 1 John “knowledge” is something one has as a result of being a believer (2:3, 5, 20, 21; 3:16, 19, 24; 4:2, 13; 5:2) rather than something one has to be exhorted about. The change in verbs from οἶδα (oida) to γινώσκω (ginwskw) is another example of Johannine stylistic variation.

2 tn The verb γεννάω (gennaw) presents a translation problem: (1) should the passive be translated archaically “be begotten” (the action of the male parent; see BDAG 193 s.v. 1.a) or (2) should it be translated “be born” (as from a female parent; see BDAG 194 s.v. 2)? A number of modern translations (RSV, NASB, NIV) have opted for the latter, but (3) the imagery expressed in 1 John 3:9 clearly refers to the action of the male parent in procreating a child, as does 5:1 (“everyone who loves the father loves the child fathered by him”), and so a word reflecting the action of the male parent is called for here. The contemporary expression “fathered by” captures this idea.

3 tn The imagery expressed here (σπέρμα αὐτοῦ, sperma autou, “his seed”) clearly refers to the action of the male parent in procreation, and so “fathered” is the best choice for translating γεννάω (gennaw; see 2:29).

4 tn The problem of the present tense of ποιεῖ (poiei) here is exactly that of the present tense of ἁμαρτάνει (Jamartanei) in 3:6. Here in 3:9 the distinction is sharply drawn between “the one who practices sin” in 3:8, who is of the devil, and “the one who is fathered by God” in 3:9, who “does not practice sin.” See S. Kubo (“I John 3:9: Absolute or Habitual?” AUSS 7 [1969]: 47-56) for a fuller discussion of the author’s argument as based on a sharp antithesis between the recipients (true Christians) and the opponents (heretics).

sn Does not practice sin. Again, as in 3:6, the author is making a clear distinction between the opponents, who as moral indifferentists downplay the significance of sin in the life of the Christian, and the recipients, who as true Christians recognize the significance of sin because Jesus came to take it away (3:5) and to destroy it as a work of the devil (3:8). This explanation still has to deal with the apparent contradiction between the author’s statements in 2:1-2 and those here in 3:9, but this is best explained in terms of the author’s tendency to present issues in “either/or” terms to bring out the drastic contrast between his readers, whom he regards as true believers, and the opponents, whom he regards as false. In 2:1-2 the author can acknowledge the possibility that a true Christian might on occasion sin, because in this context he wishes to reassure his readers that the statements he has made about the opponents in the preceding context do not apply to them. But in 3:4-10, his concern is to bring out the absolute difference between the opponents and his readers, so he speaks in theoretical terms which do not discuss the possible occasional exception, because to do so would weaken his argument.

5 tn Both the first and second ὅτι (Joti) in 3:9 are causal. The first gives the reason why the person who is begotten by God does not practice sin (“because his seed resides in him).” The second gives the reason why the person who is begotten by God is not able to sin (“because he has been begotten by God).”

6 tn Grk “his”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

7 tn The closest meaning for σπέρμα (sperma) in this context is “male generating seed” (cf. BDAG 937 s.v. 1.b), although this is a figurative rather than a literal sense. Such imagery is bold and has seemed crudely anthropomorphic to some interpreters, but it poses no more difficulty than the image of God as a male parent fathering Christians that appears in John 1:13 and is behind the use of γεννάω (gennaw) with reference to Christians in 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, and 18.

8 tn “Thus” is not in the Greek text, but is supplied to bring out the resultative force of the clause in English.

9 tn This ὅτι (Joti) is causal, giving the reason why the readers, as believers, ought to love one another: because love comes from God. The next clause, introduced by καί (kai), does not give a second reason (i.e., is not related to the ὅτι clause), but introduces a second and additional thought: Everyone who loves is fathered by God and knows God.

10 tn As in 2:23 and 3:4, the author uses πᾶς (pas) with the present articular participle as a generalization to describe a category of people.

sn From the author’s “either/or” perspective (which tends to see things in terms of polar opposites) the use of a generalization like everyone who presents a way of categorizing the opponents on the one hand and the recipients, whom the author regards as genuine Christians, on the other. Thus everyone who loves refers to all true Christians, who give evidence by their love for one another that they have indeed been begotten by God and are thus God’s children. The opposite situation is described in the following verse, 4:8, where (although everyone [πᾶς, pas] is omitted) it is clear that a contrast is intended.

11 tn The verb γεννάω (gennaw) in this context means to be fathered by God and thus a child of God. The imagery in 1 John is that of the male parent who fathers children (see especially 3:9 and 5:1).

12 tn Or “the Messiah.”

13 tn The verb γεννάω (gennaw) here means to be fathered by God and thus a child of God. The imagery in 1 John is that of the male parent who fathers children. See the note on “fathered” in 2:29 for further discussion of this imagery.

14 tc ‡ Most witnesses ([א] A P 1739 Ï sy) have καί (kai, “also”) before the article τόν (ton). But the external evidence for the shorter reading is significant (B Ψ 048vid 33 pc sa), and the conjunction looks to be a motivated reading in which scribes emulated the wording of 4:21 (ἀγαπᾷ καὶ τόν, agapa kai ton). NA27 places the conjunction in brackets, indicating doubts as to its authenticity.

15 sn Also loves the child fathered by him. Is the meaning of 5:1b a general observation or a specific statement about God and Christians? There are three ways in which the second half of 5:1 has been understood: (1) as a general statement, proverbial in nature, applying to any parent: “everyone who loves the father also loves the child fathered by him.” (2) This has also been understood as a statement that is particularly true of one’s own parent: “everyone who loves his own father also loves the (other) children fathered by him (i.e., one’s own brothers and sisters).” (3) This could be understood as a statement which refers particularly to God, in light of the context (5:1a): “everyone who loves God who fathered Christians also loves the Christians who are fathered by God.” Without doubt options (2) and (3) are implications of the statement in its present context, but it seems most probable that the meaning of the statement is more general and proverbial in nature (option 1). This is likely because of the way in which it is introduced by the author with πᾶς ὁ (pas Jo) + participle. The author could have been more explicit and said something like, “everyone who loves God also loves God’s children” had he intended option (3) without ambiguity. Yet that, in context, is the ultimate application of the statement, because it ultimately refers to the true Christian who, because he loves God, also loves the brethren, those who are God’s offspring. This is the opposite of 4:20, where the author asserted that the opponents, who profess to love God but do not love the brethren, cannot really love God because they do not love the brethren.

16 tn The explicit reason the commandments of God are not burdensome to the believer is given by the ὅτι (Joti) clause at the beginning of 5:4. It is because “everyone who is begotten by God conquers the world.”

17 tn The masculine might have been expected here rather than the neuter πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ (pan to gegennhmenon ek tou qeou) to refer to the person who is fathered by God. However, BDF §138.1 explains that “the neuter is sometimes used with respect to persons if it is not the individuals but a generic quality that is to be emphasized”; this seems to be the case here, where a collective aspect is in view: As a group, all those who have been begotten by God, that is, all true believers, overcome the world.

18 sn The author is once more looking at the situation antithetically (in ‘either/or’ terms) as he sees the readers on the one hand as true believers (everyone who is fathered by God) who have overcome the world through their faith, and the opponents on the other as those who have claimed to have a relationship with God but really do not; they belong to the world in spite of their claims.

19 tn Or “overcomes.”

20 sn Conquers the world. Once again, the author’s language is far from clear at this point, and so is his meaning, but the author has used the verb conquers (νικάω, nikaw) previously to describe the believer’s victory over the enemy, the evil one himself, in 2:13-14, and over the secessionist opponents, described as “false prophets” in 4:4. This suggests that what the author has in mind here is a victory over the opponents, who now belong to the world and speak its language (cf. 4:5). In the face of the opponents’ attempts through their false teaching to confuse the readers (true believers) about who it is they are supposed to love, the author assures the readers that loving God and keeping his commandments assures us that we really do love God’s children, and because we have already achieved victory over the world through our faith, keeping God’s commandments is not a difficult matter.

21 tn Grk “And this.”

22 tn The standard English translation for ἡ νίκη (Jh nikh) is “victory” (BDAG 673 s.v.) but this does not preserve the relationship with the cognate verb νικάω (nikaw; used in 2:13,14 and present in this context in participial form in 5:4b and 5:5). One alternative would be “conquest,” although R. E. Brown (Epistles of John [AB], 570) suggests “conquering power” as a translation for ἡ νίκη since here it is a metonymy for the means of victory or the power that gives victory, referring to believers’ faith.

23 tn The use of the aorist participle (ἡ νικήσασα, Jh nikhsasa) to refer to faith as the conquering power that “has conquered the world” in 5:4b is problematic. Debate here centers over the temporal value of the aorist participle: (1) It may indicate an action contemporaneous with the (present tense) main verb, in which case the alternation between aorist participle in 5:4b and present participle in 5:5 is one more example of the author’s love of stylistic variation with no difference in meaning. (2) Nevertheless, an aorist participle with a present tense main verb would normally indicate an action antecedent to that of the main verb, so that the aorist participle would describe a past action. That is the most probable here. Thus the aorist participle stresses that the conquest of the world is something that has already been accomplished.

24 tn The concept represented by the verb γεννάω (gennaw) here means to be fathered by God and thus a child of God. The imagery in 1 John is that of the male parent who fathers children (see 2:29).

25 tn Grk “he”; see the note on the following word “protects.”

26 tn The meaning of the phrase ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ τηρεῖ αὐτόν (Jo gennhqeis ek tou qeou threi auton) in 5:18 is extraordinarily difficult. Again the author’s capacity for making obscure statements results in several possible meanings for this phrase: (1) “The fathering by God protects him [the Christian].” Here a textual variant for ὁ γεννηθείς (ἡ γέννησις, Jh gennhsi") has suggested to some that the passive participle should be understood as a noun (“fathering” or perhaps “birth”), but the ms evidence is extremely slight (1505 1852 2138 latt [syh] bo). This almost certainly represents a scribal attempt to clarify an obscure phrase. (2) “The One fathered by God [Jesus] protects him [the Christian].” This is a popular interpretation, and is certainly possible grammatically. Yet the introduction of a reference to Jesus in this context is sudden; to be unambiguous the author could have mentioned the “Son of God” here, or used the pronoun ἐκεῖνος (ekeinos) as a reference to Jesus as he consistently does elsewhere in 1 John. This interpretation, while possible, seems in context highly unlikely. (3) “The one fathered by God [the Christian] protects himself.” Again a textual problem is behind this alternative, since a number of mss (א Ac P Ψ 33 1739 Ï) supply the reflexive pronoun ἑαυτόν (Jeauton) in place of αὐτόν in 5:18. On the basis of the external evidence this has a good possibility of being the original reading, but internal evidence favors αὐτόν as the more difficult reading, since ἑαυτόν may be explained as a scribal attempt at grammatical smoothness. From a logical standpoint, however, it is difficult to make much more sense out of ἑαυτόν; to say what “the Christian protects himself” means in the context is far from clear. (4) “The one fathered by God [the Christian] holds on to him [God].” This results in further awkwardness, because the third person pronoun (αὐτοῦ, autou) in the following clause must refer to the Christian, not God. Furthermore, although τηρέω (threw) can mean “hold on to” (BDAG 1002 s.v. 2.c), this is not a common meaning for the verb in Johannine usage, occurring elsewhere only in Rev 3:3. (5) “The one fathered by God [the Christian], he [God] protects him [the Christian].” This involves a pendant nominative construction (ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ) where a description of something within the clause is placed in the nominative case and moved forward ahead of the clause for emphatic reasons. This may be influenced by Semitic style; such a construction is also present in John 17:2 (“in order that everyone whom You have given to him, he may give to them eternal life”). This view is defended by K. Beyer (Semitische Syntax im Neuen Testament [SUNT], 1:216ff.) and appears to be the most probable in terms both of syntax and of sense. It makes God the protector of the Christian (rather than the Christian himself), which fits the context much better, and there is precedent in Johannine literature for such syntactical structure.

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