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1 John 4:2-3

Context
4:2 By this 1  you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses 2  Jesus as the Christ 3  who has come in the flesh is from God, 4:3 but 4  every spirit that does not confess 5  Jesus 6  is not from God, and this is the spirit 7  of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now is already in the world.

1 tn There is no subordinating conjunction following the ἐν τούτῳ (en toutw) here in 4:2, so the phrase could refer either (1) to what precedes or (2) to what follows. Contextually the phrase refers to what follows, because the following clause in 4:2b-3a (πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ ὁμολογεῖ ᾿Ιησοῦν Χριστὸνἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, καὶ πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ μὴ ὁμολογεῖ τὸν ᾿Ιησοῦν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν), while not introduced by a subordinating conjunction, does explain the preceding clause beginning with ἐν τούτῳ. In other words, the following clause in 4:2b-3a is analogous to a subordinate clause introduced by an epexegetical ἵνα (Jina) or ὅτι (Joti), and the relationship can be represented in the English translation by a colon, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every Spirit that confesses Jesus as the Christ who has come in the flesh is from God, but every Spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”

2 tn Or “acknowledges.”

3 tn This forms part of the author’s christological confession which serves as a test of the spirits. Many interpreters have speculated that the author of 1 John is here correcting or adapting a slogan of the secessionist opponents, but there is no concrete evidence for this in the text. Such a possibility is mere conjecture (see R. E. Brown, Epistles of John [AB], 492). The phrase may be understood in a number of different ways, however: (1) the entire phrase “Jesus Christ come in the flesh” may be considered the single object of the verb ὁμολογεῖ (Jomologei; so B. F. Westcott, A. Brooke, J. Bonsirven, R. E. Brown, S. Smalley, and others); (2) the verb ὁμολογεῖ may be followed by a double accusative, so that both “Jesus Christ” and “come in the flesh” are objects of the verb; the meaning would be “confess Jesus Christ as come in the flesh” (so B. Weiss, J. Chaine, and others). (3) Another possibility is to see the verb as followed by a double accusative as in (2), but in this case the first object is “Jesus” and the second is “the Christ come in the flesh,” so that what is being confessed is “Jesus as the Christ come in the flesh” (so N. Alexander, J. Stott, J. Houlden, and others). All three options are grammatically possible, although not equally probable. Option (1) has a number of points in its favor: (a) the parallel in 2 John 7 suggests to some that the phrase should be understood as a single object; (b) option (2) makes “Jesus Christ” the name of the preincarnate second Person of the Trinity, and this would be the only place in the Johannine literature where such a designation for the preincarnate Λόγος (Logos) occurs; and (c) option (3) would have been much clearer if Χριστόν (Criston) were accompanied by the article (ὁμολογεῖ ᾿Ιησοῦν τὸν Χριστόν, Jomologei Ihsoun ton Criston). Nevertheless option (3) is preferred on the basis of the overall context involving the secessionist opponents: Their christological views would allow the confession of the Christ come in the flesh (perhaps in the sense of the Spirit indwelling believers, although this is hard to prove), but they would have trouble confessing that Jesus was (exclusively) the Christ incarnate. The author’s failure to repeat the qualifying phrases (Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα, Criston en sarki elhluqota) in the negative repetition in 4:3a actually suggests that the stress is on Jesus as the confession the opponents could not or would not make. It is difficult to see how the parallel in 2 John 7 favors option (1), although R. E. Brown (Epistles of John [AB], 492) thinks it does. The related or parallel construction in John 9:22 (ἐάν τις αὐτὸν ὁμολογήσῃ Χριστόν, ean ti" auton Jomologhsh Criston) provides further support for option (3). This is discounted by R. E. Brown because the verb in John 9:22 occurs between the two accusative objects rather than preceding both as here (Epistles of John [AB], 493 – although Brown does mention Rom 10:9 as another parallel closer in grammatical structure to 1 John 4:2). Brown does not mention the textual variants in John 9:22, however: Both Ì66 and Ì75 (along with K, Ë13 and others) read ὁμολογήσῃ αὐτὸν Χριστόν (Jomologhsh auton Criston). This structure exactly parallels 1 John 4:2, and a case can be made that this is actually the preferred reading in John 9:22; furthermore, it is clear from the context in John 9:22 that Χριστόν is the complement (what is predicated of the first accusative) since the object (the first accusative) is αὐτόν rather than the proper name ᾿Ιησοῦν. The parallel in John 9:22 thus appears to be clearer than either 1 John 4:2 or 2 John 7, and thus to prove useful in understanding both the latter constructions.

4 tn The καί (kai) which begins 4:3 introduces the “negative side” of the test by which the spirits might be known in 4:2-3. Thus it is adversative in force: “every spirit that confesses Jesus as Christ who has come in the flesh is from God, but every Spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”

5 tn Or “does not acknowledge.”

6 tc A number of variants are generated from the simple τὸν ᾿Ιησοῦν (ton Ihsoun), some of which turn the expression into an explicit object-complement construction. ᾿Ιησοῦν κύριον (Ihsoun kurion, “Jesus as Lord”) is found in א, τὸν ᾿Ιησοῦν Χριστόν (ton Ihsoun Criston, “Jesus as Christ”) is read by the Byzantine minuscules, τὸν Χριστόν (“the Christ”) is the reading of 1846, and ᾿Ιησοῦν without the article is found in 1881 2464. But τὸν ᾿Ιησοῦν is well supported by A B Ψ 33 81 1739 al, and internally best explains the rise of the others. It is thus preferred on both external and internal grounds.

7 tn “Spirit” is not in the Greek text but is implied.



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