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1 John 3:2-3

Context
3:2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be 1  has not yet been revealed. We 2  know that 3  whenever 4  it 5  is revealed 6  we will be like him, because 7  we will see him just as he is. 8  3:3 And everyone who has this hope focused 9  on him purifies 10  himself, just as Jesus 11  is pure). 12 

1 tn The subject of the third person singular passive verb ἐφανερώθη (efanerwqh) in 3:2 is the following clause τί ἐσόμεθα (ti esomeqa): “Beloved, now we are children of God, and what we shall be has not yet been revealed.”

sn What we will be. The opponents have been revealed as antichrists now (2:19). What believers will be is to be revealed later. In light of the mention of the parousia in 2:28, it seems likely that an eschatological revelation of the true character of believers is in view here.

2 tc The Byzantine text, the Syriac Peshitta, the Bohairic Coptic, and one ms of the Sahidic Coptic supply δέ (de) after οἴδαμεν (oidamen) in 3:2b. Additions of coordinating conjunctions such as δέ are predictable variants; this coupled with the poor external credentials suggests that this addition is not likely to be original.

tn The relationship of 3:2b to 3:2a is difficult. It seems best to regard this as a case of asyndeton, although the Byzantine text, the Syriac Peshitta, the Bohairic Coptic, and some mss of the Sahidic Coptic supply δέ (de) after οἴδαμεν (oidamen) in 3:2b. This addition is not likely to be original, but it does reflect a tendency among scribes to see an adversative (contrastive) relationship between 3:2a and 3:2b. This seems to be an accurate understanding of the relationship between the clauses from a logical standpoint: “and what we shall be has not yet been revealed; but we know that whenever he should be revealed, we shall be like him.”

3 tn The first ὅτι (Joti) in 3:2 follows οἴδαμεν (oidamen), a verb of perception, and introduces an indirect discourse clause which specifies the content of what believers know: “that whenever it should be revealed, we shall be like him.”

4 tn In this context ἐάν (ean) does not indicate (1) uncertainty about whether or not what believers will be shall be revealed, but rather (2) uncertainty about the exact time the event will take place. In the Koine period ἐάν can mean “when” or “whenever” and is virtually the equivalent of ὅταν (Jotan; see BDAG 268 s.v. ἐάν 2). It has this meaning in John 12:32 and 14:3. Thus the phrase here should be translated, “we know that whenever it is revealed.”

5 tn Many take the understood subject (“he”) of φανερωθῇ (fanerwqh) as a reference to Jesus Christ, because the same verb was used in 2:28 in reference to the parousia (second advent). In the immediate context, however, a better analogy is ἐφανερώθη τί ἐσόμεθα (efanerwqh ti esomeqa) in 3:2a. There the clause τί ἐσόμεθα is the subject of the passive verb: “what we shall be has not yet been revealed.” From a grammatical standpoint it makes better sense to see the understood subject of φανερωθῇ as “it” rather than “he” and as referring back to the clause τί ἐσόμεθα in 3:2a. In the context this makes good sense: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it shall be revealed, we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is.” This emphasizes the contrast in the verse between the present state (“not yet been revealed”) and the future state (“shall be revealed”) of believers, and this will of course take place at the parousia.

6 sn Is revealed. It may well be that the use of the same passive verb here (from φανερόω, fanerow) is intended to suggest to the reader the mention of the parousia (Christ’s second coming) in 2:28.

7 tn The second ὅτι (Joti) in 3:2 is best understood as causal, giving the reason why believers will be like God: “we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is.”

8 sn The phrase we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is has been explained two ways: (1) believers will really become more like God than they now are, and will do this through seeing God as he really is; or (2) believers will realize that they are already like God, but did not realize it until they see him as he is. One who sees a strong emphasis on realized eschatology in the Gospel of John and the Epistles might opt for the second view, since it downplays the difference between what believers already are in the present age and what they will become in the next. It seems better, though, in light of the statement in 3:2a that “what we will be has not yet been revealed” and because of the reference to Christ’s parousia in 2:28, that the author intends to distinguish between the present state of believers and what they will be like in the future. Thus the first view is better, that believers really will become more like God than they are now, as a result of seeing him as he really is.

9 tn “Focused” is not in the Greek text, but is supplied for clarity.

10 sn The verb translated purifies (ἁγνίζω, Jagnizw) is somewhat unusual here, since it is not common in the NT, and occurs only once in the Gospel of John (11:55). One might wonder why the author did not use the more common verb ἁγιάζω (Jagiazw), as in John 17:19, where Jesus prays, “On their behalf I consecrate myself, so that they may also be consecrated in the truth.” It is possible that there is some overlap between the two verbs and thus this is another example of Johannine stylistic variation, but the verb ἁγνίζω is used in the context of John 11:55, which describes ritual purification for the Passover, a usage also found in the LXX (Exod 19:10-11, Num 8:21). In this context the use of ἁγνίζω would remind the readers that, if they have the future hope of entering the Father’s presence (“seeing him as he is” in 3:2), they need to prepare themselves by living a purified lifestyle now, just as Jesus lived during his earthly life and ministry (cf. 2:6 again). This serves to rebut the opponents’ claims to moral indifference, that what the Christian does in the present life is of no consequence.

11 tn Grk “that one.” Context indicates a reference to Jesus here. The switch from αὐτός (autos) to ἐκείνος (ekeinos) parallels 1 John 2:6 (see note there). Since purity of life is mentioned in the context, this almost certainly refers to Jesus in his earthly life and ministry as the example believers should imitate (a major theme of the author throughout 1 John).

12 sn 1 John 3:1-3. All of 3:1-3 is a parenthesis within the present section in which the author reflects on what it means to be fathered by God, a subject he has mentioned at the end of 2:29. The sequence of the argument is then resumed by 3:4, which is in opposition to 2:29.



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