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1 John 1:5

God Is Light, So We Must Walk in the Light

1:5 Now 1  this is the gospel 2  message 3  we have heard from him 4  and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. 5 

1 John 5:4

5:4 because 6  everyone 7  who has been fathered by God 8  conquers 9  the world. 10 

Testimony About the Son

This 11  is the conquering power 12  that has conquered 13  the world: our faith.

1 John 5:11

5:11 And this is the testimony: God 14  has given us eternal life, 15  and this life is in his Son.

1 John 5:14


5:14 And this is the confidence that we have before him: that 16  whenever 17  we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

1 tn The καί (kai) at the beginning of 1:5 takes on a resumptive force, indicated by the phrase “heard from him and announce to you,” which echoes similar phrases in 1:2 and 1:3.

2 tn The word “gospel” is not in the Greek text but is supplied to clarify the meaning. See the note on the following word “message.”

3 tn The word ἀγγελία (angelia) occurs only twice in the NT, here and in 1 John 3:11. It is a cognate of ἐπαγγελία (epangelia) which occurs much more frequently (some 52 times in the NT) including 1 John 2:25. BDAG 8 s.v. ἀγγελία 1 offers the meaning “message” which suggests some overlap with the semantic range of λόγος (logos), although in the specific context of 1:5 BDAG suggests a reference to the gospel. (The precise “content” of this “good news’ is given by the ὅτι [Joti] clause which follows in 1:5b.) The word ἀγγελία here is closely equivalent to εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion): (1) it refers to the proclamation of the eyewitness testimony about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the author and the rest of the apostolic witnesses (prologue, esp. 1:3-4), and (2) it relates to the salvation of the hearers/readers, since the purpose of this proclamation is to bring them into fellowship with God and with the apostolic witnesses (1:3). Because of this the adjective “gospel” is included in the English translation.

4 tn The referent of the pronoun “him” is not entirely clear in the Greek text; it could be either (1) God the Father, or (2) Jesus Christ, both of whom are mentioned at the end of v. 3. A reference to Jesus Christ is more likely because this is the nearest possible antecedent, and because God (the Father) is specifically mentioned in the following clause in v. 5.

5 tn The key to understanding the first major section of 1 John, 1:5-3:10, is found in the statement in v. 5: “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” The idea of “proclamation” – the apostolic proclamation of eyewitness testimony which the prologue introduces (1:2, 3) – is picked up in 1:5 by the use of the noun ἀγγελία (angelia) and the verb ἀναγγέλλομεν (anangellomen), cognate to the verb in 1:3. The content of this proclamation is given by the ὅτι (Joti) clause in 1:5 as the assertion that God is light, so this statement should be understood as the author’s formulation of the apostolic eyewitness testimony introduced in the prologue. (This corresponds to the apostolic preaching elsewhere referred to as κήρυγμα [khrugma], although the term the Apostle John uses here is ἀγγελία.)

sn Following the theme statement in 1:5, God is light and in him there is no darkness at all, the author presents a series of three claims and counterclaims that make up the first unit of 1 John (1:5-2:2). The three claims begin with “if” (1:6, 8, 10) and the three counterclaims begin with “but if” (1:7, 9; 2:1).

6 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.”

7 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.

8 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.

9 tn Or “overcomes.”

10 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.

11 tn Grk “And this.”

12 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.

13 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.

14 tn The ὅτι (Joti) clause in 5:11 is epexegetical (explanatory) to the phrase καὶ αὕτη ἐστίν (kai Jauth estin) at the beginning of the verse and gives the content of the testimony for the first time: “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

15 sn In understanding how “God’s testimony” (added to the three witnesses of 5:8) can consist of eternal life it is important to remember the debate between the author and the opponents. It is not the reality of eternal life (whether it exists at all or not) that is being debated here, but rather which side in the debate (the author and his readers or the opponents) possesses it (this is a key point). The letter began with a testimony that “the eternal life” has been revealed (1:2), and it is consummated here with the reception or acknowledgment of that eternal life as the final testimony. This testimony (which is God’s testimony) consists in eternal life itself, which the author and the readers possess, but the opponents do not. This, for the author, constitutes the final apologetic in his case against the opponents.

16 tn For the third time in 5:9-14 the author uses the construction αὕτη ἐστίν ({auth estin; 5:9, 11, 14). As in the previous instance (5:11) the ὅτι (Joti) clause which follows is epexegetical (explanatory) to the pronoun αὕτη and explains what the “confidence” (παρρησία, parrhsia) consists of (technically the subject is ἡ παρρησία, the predicate nominative is the pronoun αὕτη, and the ὅτι clause explains the predicate nominative): “And the confidence which we have before him is this, namely, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”

17 tn A third-class condition is introduced by ἐάν (ean) + present subjunctive. Because the apodosis also contains a present tense verb (ἀκούει, akouei) this belongs in a subcategory of third-class conditional sentences known as present general. 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). Thus the meaning here is, “whenever (i.e., if) we ask anything according to his will, then he hears us.”

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