3:12 not like Cain 1 who was of the evil one and brutally 2 murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his deeds were evil, but his brother’s were righteous.
3:13 Therefore do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, 3 if the world hates you. 4 3:14 We know that 5 we have crossed over 6 from death to life 7 because 8 we love our fellow Christians. 9 The one who does not love remains in death. 10 3:15 Everyone who hates his fellow Christian 11 is a murderer, 12 and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing 13 in him.
1 sn Since the author states that Cain…was 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).
2 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.
3 tn Grk “brothers,” but the Greek word may be used for “brothers and sisters” or “fellow Christians” as here (cf. BDAG 18 s.v. ἀδελφός 1, where considerable nonbiblical evidence for the plural ἀδελφοί [adelfoi] meaning “brothers and sisters” is cited). Since the author is addressing his readers directly at this point, “brothers and sisters” (suggesting a degree of familial endearment) has been employed in the translation at this point, while elsewhere the less direct “fellow Christians” has been used (cf. v. 14).
5 tn The first ὅτι (Joti) clause, following a verb of perception, introduces an indirect discourse clause giving the content of what the readers are assumed to know: that they have passed over from death to life, that is, that they possess eternal life. The author gives a similar reassurance to his readers in 5:13. Alternation between the verbs οἶδα (oida) and γινώσκω (ginwskw) in 1 John is probably a matter of stylistic variation (of which the writer is extremely fond) rather than indicative of a subtle difference in meaning.
6 tn This verb essentially means “to transfer from one place to another, go/pass over,” according to BDAG 638 s.v. μεταβαίνω 1.
sn In John 13:1 the same Greek verb translated crossed over here is used to refer to Jesus’ departure from this world as he returns to the Father. Here it is used figuratively to refer to the believer’s transfer from the state of (spiritual) death to the state of (spiritual) life. This use is paralleled in John 5:24, where Jesus states, “the person who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over (same verb) from death to life.”
8 tn The second ὅτι (Joti) clause in 3:14 is also related to οἴδαμεν (oidamen), but in this case the ὅτι is causal, giving the reason why the readers know that they have passed from death to life: because they love the brothers.
sn Because we love our fellow Christians. This echoes Jesus’ words in John 13:35, where he states, “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” As in 1 John 2:3 and 5, obedience becomes the basis for assurance. But the relationship between loving one’s fellow Christian (Grk “brother”) and possessing eternal life goes beyond a proof or external test. Our love for our fellow Christians is in fact a form of God’s love for us because as far as the author of 1 John is concerned, all love comes from God (cf. 4:7-11). Therefore he can add the next line of 3:14, “the one who does not love remains in death.” Why? Because such a person does not have God’s love residing in them at all. Rather, this person can be described as a “murderer” – as the following verse goes on to do. Note also that the author’s description here of the person who does not love as remaining in death is another way of describing a person who remains in darkness, which is a description of unbelievers in John 12:46. This provides further confirmation of the spiritual state of the author’s opponents in 2:9-11.
10 sn The one who does not love remains in death. Again, the author has the secessionist opponents in view. Their refusal to show love for the brothers demonstrates that they have not made the transition from (spiritual) death to (spiritual) life, but instead have remained in a state of (spiritual) death.
12 sn Everyone who hates his fellow Christian is a murderer. On one level it is easy to see how the author could say this; the person who hates his brother is one and the same with the person who murders his brother. Behind the usage here, however, is John 8:44, the only other occurrence of the Greek word translated murderer (ἀνθρωποκτόνος, anqrwpoktonos) in the NT, where the devil is described as a “murderer from the beginning.” John 8:44 refers to the devil’s role in bringing death to Adam and Eve, but even more to his involvement (not directly mentioned in the Genesis account, but elaborated in the intertestamental literature, especially the writings of Philo) in Cain’s murder of his brother Abel. This was the first incident of murder in human history and also the first outward demonstration of the full implications of sin’s entry into the world. Ultimately, then, the devil is behind murder, just as he was behind Cain’s murder of Abel. When the hater kills, he shows himself to be a child of the devil (cf. 1 John 3:10). Once again, conduct is the clue to paternity.
13 tn The verb μένω (menw) in 3:15 refers to a spiritual reality (eternal life) which in this case does not reside in the person in question. To speak in terms of eternal life not “residing” in such an individual is not to imply that at some time in the past this person did possess eternal life and subsequently lost it, however. The previous verse (3:14) makes it clear that the individual under discussion here has “remained” in death (the realm of spiritual death) and so has never possessed eternal life to begin with, no matter what he may have claimed. Taken together with the use of μένω in 3:14, the use here implies that the opponents have “remained” in death all along, and have not ever been genuine believers. Thus “residing” rather than “remaining” is used as the translation for μένουσαν (menousan) here.