1 John 3:11-12

God Is Love, So We Must Love One Another

3:11 For this is the gospel message that you have heard from the beginning: that we should love one another, 3:12 not like Cain who was of the evil one and brutally murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his deeds were evil, but his brother’s were righteous.

tn It could be argued (1) that the ὅτι (Joti) at the beginning of 3:11 is grammatically subordinate to the preceding statement at the end of 3:10. As BDF §456.1 points out, however, “Subordination with ὅτι and διότι is often very loose…and must be translated ‘for.’” Thus (2) ὅτι assumes an inferential sense, standing at the beginning of a new sentence and drawing an inference based upon all that has preceded. This is confirmed by the structural parallel between the present verse and 1:5.

tn The word “gospel” is not in the Greek text but is supplied to clarify the meaning. See the notes on the words “gospel” and “message” in 1 John 1:5.

tn See the note on the word “message” in 1 John 1:5, where this same phrase occurs.

sn For this is the gospel message…that we should love one another. The structure of this verse is parallel to 1:5, indicating the beginning of a second major section of the letter.

sn Since the author states that Cainwas of the evil one (ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ, ek tou ponhrou), in the immediate context this imagery serves as an illustration of 3:8a: The person who practices sin is of the devil (ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου, ek tou diabolou). This is similar to John 8:44, where Jesus told his opponents “you people are from your father the devil…[who] was a murderer from the beginning.” In both Jewish and early Christian writings Cain is a model for those who deliberately disbelieve; Testament of Benjamin 7:5 looks forward to the punishment of those who “are like Cain in the envy and hatred of brothers.” It is not difficult to see why the author of 1 John used Cain here as a model for the opponents in light of their failure to “love the brothers” (see 1 John 3:17).

tn For the Greek verb σφάζω (sfazw) L&N 20.72 states, “to slaughter, either animals or persons; in contexts referring to persons, the implication is of violence and mercilessness – ‘to slaughter, to kill.’” As a reflection of this nuance, the translation “brutally murdered” has been used.