1 John 2:15
Love not the world] The asyndeton is remarkable. S. John has just stated his premises, his readers’ happiness as Christians. He now abruptly states the practical conclusion, without any introductory ‘therefore’. As was said above on 1Jn_2:2, we must distinguish between the various meanings of the Apostle’s favourite word, ‘world.’ In Joh_3:16 he tells us that ‘God loved the world’, and here he tells us that we must not do so. “S. John is never afraid of an apparent contradiction when it saves his readers from a real contradiction … The opposition which is on the surface of his language may be the best way of leading us to the harmony which lies below it” (Maurice). The world which the Father loves is the whole human race. The world which we are not to love is all that is alienated from Him, all that prevents men from loving Him in return. The world which God loves is His creature and His child: the world which we are not to love is His rival. The best safeguard against the selfish love of what is sinful in the world is to remember God’s unselfish love of the world. ‘The world’ here is that from which S. James says the truly religious man keeps himself ‘unspotted’, friendship with which is ‘enmity with God’ (Jas_1:27; Jas_4:4). It is not enough to say that ‘the world’ here means ‘earthly things, so far as they tempt to sin’, or ‘sinful lusts’, or ‘worldly and impious men’. It means all of these together: all that acts as a rival to God; all that is alienated from God and opposed to Him, especially sinful men with their sinful lusts. ‘The world’ and ‘the darkness’ are almost synonymous; to love the one is to love the other (Joh_3:19): to be in the darkness is to be of the world.
neither the things that are in the world] Or, nor yet the things, &c., i.e. ‘Love not the world; no, nor anything in that sphere.’ Comp. ‘Not to consort with … no, nor eat with’ (1Co_5:11). ‘The things in the world’, as is plain from 1Jn_2:16, are not material objects, which can be desired and possessed quite innocently, although they may also be occasions of sin. Rather, they are those elements in the world which are necessarily evil, its lusts and ambitions and jealousies, which stamp it as the kingdom of ‘the ruler of this world’ (Joh_12:31) and not the kingdom of God.
If any man love the world] Once more, as in 1Jn_2:1, the statement is made quite general by the hypothetical form: everyone who does so is in this case. The Lord had proclaimed the same principle; ‘No man can serve two masters … Ye cannot serve God and mammon’ (Mat_6:24). So also S. James; ‘Whosoever would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God’ (1Jn_4:4). Comp. Gal_1:10. Thus we arrive at another pair of those opposites of which S. John is so fond. We have had light and darkness, truth and falsehood, love and hate; we now have love of the Father and love of the world. The world which is coextensive with darkness must exclude the God who is light. By writing ‘the love of the Father’ rather than ‘the love of God’ (which some authorities read here) the Apostle points to the duty of Christians as children of God. ‘The love of the Father’ (a phrase which occurs nowhere else) means man’s love to Him, not His to man: see on 1Jn_2:5. A fragment of Philo declares that ‘it is impossible for love to the world to coexist with love to God’.
1 John 2:16
Proof of the preceding statement by shewing the fundamental opposition in detail.
all that is in the world] Neuter singular: in 1Jn_2:15 we had the neuter plural. The material contents of the universe cannot be meant. To say that these did not originate from God would be to contradict the Apostle himself (Joh_1:3; Joh_1:10) and to affirm those Gnostic doctrines against which he is contending. The Gnostics, believing everything material to be radically evil, maintained that the universe was created, not by God, but by the evil one, or at least by an inferior deity. By ‘all that is in the world’ is meant the spirit which animates it, its tendencies and tone. These, which are utterly opposed to God, did not originate in Him, but in the free and rebellious wills of His creatures, seduced by ‘the ruler of this world’.
the lust of the flesh] This does not mean the lust for the flesh, any more than ‘the lust of the eyes’ means the lust for the eyes. In both cases the genitive is not objective but subjective, as is generally the case with genitives after ‘lust’ (ἐπιθυμία) in N. T. Comp. Rom_1:24, Gal_5:16, Eph_2:3. The meaning is the lusts which have their seats in the flesh and in the eyes respectively.
“Tell me where is fancy bred.
It is engendered in the eyes.”
Merchant of Venice, III. ii.
The former, therefore, will mean the desire for unlawful pleasures of sense; for enjoyments which are sinful either in themselves or as being excessive.
Note that S. John does not say ‘the lust of the body.’ ‘The body’ in N.T. is perhaps never used to denote the innately corrupt portion of man’s nature: for that the common term is ‘the flesh.’ ‘The body’ is that neutral portion which may become either good or bad. It may be sanctified as the abode and instrument of the Spirit, or degraded under the tyranny of the flesh.
the lust of the eyes] The desire of seeing unlawful sights for the sake of the sinful pleasure to be derived from the sight; idle and prurient curiosity. Familiar as S. John’s readers must have been with the foul and cruel exhibitions of the circus and amphitheatre, this statement would at once meet with their assent. Tertullian, though he does not quote this passage in his treatise De Spectaculis, is full of its spirit: “The source from which all circus games are taken pollutes them … What is tainted taints us” (VII., VIII.). Similarly S. Augustine on this passage; “This it is that works in spectacles, in theatres, in sacraments of the devil, in magical arts, in witchcraft; none other than curiosity.” See also Confessions VI. vii., viii., X. xxxv. 55.
the pride of life] Or, as R. V., the vainglory of life. Latin writers vary much in their renderings: superbia vitae; ambilio saeculi; jactantia hujus vitae; jactantia vitae humanae. The word (ἀλαζονεία) occurs elsewhere only Jas_4:16, and there in the plural; where A. V. has ‘boastings’ and R. V. ‘vauntings.’ The cognate adjective (ἀλάζων) occurs Rom_1:30 and 2Ti_3:2, where A. V. has ‘boasters’ and R. V. ‘boastful’. Pretentious ostentation, as of a wandering mountebank, is the radical signification of the word. In classical Greek the pretentiousness is the predominant notion; in Hellenistic Greek, the ostentation. Compare the account of this vice in Aristotle (Nic. Eth. IV. vii.) with Wis_5:8, 2Ma_9:8; 2Ma_15:6. Ostentatious pride in the things which one possesses is the signification of the term here; ‘life’ meaning ‘means of life, goods, possessions’. The word for ‘life’ (βίος) is altogether different from that used in 1Jn_1:1-2 and elsewhere in the Epistle (ζωή). This word (βίος) occurs again 1Jn_3:17, and elsewhere in N.T. only 8 times, chiefly in S. Luke. The other word occurs 13 times in this Epistle, and elsewhere in N. T. over 100 times. This is what we might expect. The word used here means (1) period of human life, as 1Ti_2:2; 2Ti_2:4; (2) means of life, as here, 1Jn_3:17, Mar_12:44; Luk_8:14; Luk_8:43; Luk_15:12; Luk_15:30; Luk_21:4 (in 1Pe_4:3 the word is not genuine). With the duration of mortal life and the means of prolonging it the Gospel has comparatively little to do. It is concerned rather with that spiritual life which is not measured by time (1Jn_1:2), and which is independent of material wealth and food. For this the other word (ζωή) is invariably used. By ‘the vainglory of life’ then is meant ostentatious pride in the possession of worldly resources.
These three evil elements or tendencies ‘in the world’ are co-ordinate: no one of them includes the other two. The first two are wrongful desires of what is not possessed; the third is a wrongful behaviour with regard to what is possessed. The first two may be the vices of a solitary; the third requires society. We can have sinful desires when we are alone, but we cannot be ostentatious without company. See Appendix A.
is not of the Father] Does not derive its origin from (ἐκ) Him, and therefore has no natural likeness to Him or connexion with Him. S. John says ‘the Father’ rather than ‘God’ to emphasize the idea of parentage. Its origin is from the world and its ruler, the devil. Comp. ‘Ye are of (ἐκ) your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will to do’ (Joh_8:44). The phrase ‘to be of’ is highly characteristic of S. John.
A. The Three Evil Tendencies in the World
The three forms of evil ‘in the world’ mentioned in 1Jn_2:16 have been taken as a summary of sin, if not in all its aspects, at least in its chief aspects. ‘The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the vainglory of life’ have seemed from very early times to form a synopsis of the various modes of temptation and sin. And certainly they cover so wide a field that we cannot well suppose that they are mere examples of evil more or less fortuitously mentioned. They appear to have been carefully chosen on account of their typical nature and wide comprehensiveness.
There is, however, a wide difference between the views stated at the beginning and end of the preceding paragraph. It is one thing to say that we have here a very comprehensive statement of three typical forms of evil; quite another to say that the statement is a summary of all the various kinds of temptation and sin.
To begin with, we must bear in mind what seems to be S. John’s purpose in this statement. He is not giving us an account of the different ways in which Christians are tempted, or (what is much the same) the different sins into which they may fall. Rather, he is stating the principal forms of evil which are exhibited ‘in the world,’ i.e. in those who are not Christians. He is insisting upon the evil origin of these desires and tendencies, and of the world in which they exist, in order that his readers may know that the world and its ways have no claim on their affections. All that is of God, and especially each child of God, has a claim on the love of every believer. All that is not of God has no such claim.
It is difficult to maintain, without making some of the three heads unnaturally elastic, that all kinds of sin, or even all of the principal kinds of sin, are included in the list. Under which of the three heads are we to place unbelief, heresy, blasphemy, or persistent impenitence? Injustice in many of its forms, and especially in the most extreme form of all—murder, cannot without some violence be brought within the sweep of these three classes of evil.
Two positions, therefore, may be insisted upon with regard to this classification.
1. It applies to forms of evil which prevail in the non-Christian world rather than to forms of temptation which beset Christians.
2. It is very comprehensive, but it is not exhaustive.
It seems well, however, to quote a powerful statement of what may be said on the other side. The italics are ours, to mark where there seems to be over-statement. “I think these distinctions, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, prove themselves to be very accurate and very complete distinctions in practice, though an ordinary philosopher may perhaps adopt some other classification of those tendencies which connect us with the world and give it a dominion over us. To the lust of the flesh may be referred the crimes and miseries which have been produced by gluttony, drunkenness, and the irregular intercourse of the sexes; an appalling catalogue, certainly, which no mortal eye could dare to gaze upon. To the lust of the eye may be referred all worship of visible things, with the divisions, persecutions, hatreds, superstitions, which this worship has produced in different countries and ages. To the pride or boasting of life,—where you are not to understand by life, for the Greek words are entirely different, either natural or spiritual life, such as the Apostle spoke of in the first chapter of the Epistle, but all that belongs to the outside of existence, houses, lands, whatever exalts a man above his fellow,—to this head we must refer the oppressor’s wrongs, and that contumely which Hamlet reckons among the things which are harder to bear even than the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.’ In these three divisions I suspect all the mischiefs which have befallen our race may be reckoned, and each of us is taught by the Apostle, and may know by experience that the seeds of the evils so enumerated are in himself” (Maurice).
Do we not feel in reading this that S. John’s words have been somewhat strained in order to make them cover the whole ground? One sin produces so many others in its train, and these again so many more, that there will not be much difficulty in making the classification exhaustive, if under each head we are to include all the crimes and miseries, divisions and hatreds, which that particular form of evil has produced.
Some of the parallels and contrasts which have from early times been made to the Apostle’s classification are striking, even when somewhat fanciful. Others are both fanciful and unreal.
The three forms of evil noticed by S. John in this passage are only partially parallel to those which are commonly represented under the three heads of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Strictly speaking those particular forms of spiritual evil which would come under the head of the devil, as distinct from the world and the flesh, are not included in the Apostle’s enumeration at all. ‘The vainglory of life’ would come under the head of the world; ‘the lust of the flesh’ of course under that of ‘the flesh;’ while ‘the lust of the eyes’ would belong partly to the one and partly to the other.
There is more reality in the parallel drawn between S. John’s classification and the three elements in the temptation by which Eve was overcome by the evil one, and again the three temptations in which Christ overcame the evil one. ‘When the woman saw that the tree was good for food (the lust of the flesh), and that it was pleasant to the eyes (the lust of the eyes), and a tree to be desired to make one wise (the vainglory of life), she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat’ (Gen_3:6). Similarly, the temptations (1) to work a miracle in order to satisfy the cravings of the flesh, (2) to submit to Satan in order to win possession of all that the eye could see, (3) to tempt God in order to win the glory of a miraculous preservation (Luk_4:1-12).
Again, there is point in the contrast drawn between these three forms of evil ‘in the world’ and the three great virtues which have been the peculiar creation of the Gospel (Liddon Bampton Lectures VIII. iii. B), purity, charity, and humility, with the three corresponding ‘counsels of perfection,’ chastity, poverty, and obedience.
But in all these cases, whether of parallel or contrast, it will probably be felt that the correspondence is not perfect throughout, and that the comparison, though striking, is not quite satisfying, because not quite exact.
It is surely both fanciful and misleading to see in this trinity of evil any contrast to the three Divine Persons in the Godhead. Is there any sense in which we can say with truth that a lust, whether of the flesh or of the eyes, is more opposed to the attributes of the Father than to the attributes of the Son? Forced analogies in any sphere are productive of fallacies; in the sphere of religious truth they may easily become profane.
1 John 2:17
and the world passeth away] Or, is passing away; as in 1Jn_2:8: the process is now going on. We owe the verb ‘pass away’ here to Coverdale: it is a great improvement on Tyndale’s ‘vanisheth away.’ Comp. ‘The fashion of this world is passing away’ (1Co_7:31), where the same verb is used, and where the active in a neuter sense is equivalent to the middle here and in 1Jn_2:8.
and the lust thereof] Not the lust for the world, but the lust which it exhibits, the sinful tendencies mentioned in 1Jn_2:16. The world is passing away with all its evil ways. How foolish, therefore, to fix one’s affections on what not only cannot endure but is already in process of dissolution! ‘The lust thereof’ = ‘all that is in the world.’
the will of God] This is the exact opposite of ‘all that is in the world’. The one sums up all the tendencies to good in the universe, the other all the tendencies to evil. We see once more how S. John in giving us the antithesis of a previous idea expands it and makes it fructify. He says that the world and all its will and ways are on the wane: but as the opposite of this he says, not merely that God and His will and ways abide, but that ‘he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever’. This implies that he who follows the ways of the world will not abide for ever. Again he speaks of the love of the world and the love of the Father; but as the opposite of the man who loves the world he says not ‘he that loveth the Father,’ but ‘he that doeth the will of the Father’. This implies that true love involves obedience. Thus we have a double antithesis. On the one hand we have the world and the man who loves it and follows its ways: they both pass away. On the other hand we have God and the man who loves Him and does His will: they both abide for ever. Instead of the goods of this life (βίος) in which the world would allow him to vaunt for a moment, he who doeth the will of God has that eternal life (ζωή) in which the true Christian has fellowship with God. ‘For ever’ is literally ‘unto the age’, i.e. ‘unto the age to come’, the kingdom of heaven; the word for ‘age’ (αἰών) being the substantive from which the word for ‘eternal’ (αἰώνιος) is derived. He who does God’s will shall abide until the kingdom of God comes and be a member of it. The latter fact, though not stated, is obviously implied. It would be a punishment and not a blessing to be allowed, like Moses, to see the kingdom but not enter it. The followers of the world share the death of the world: the children of God share His eternal life.
Here probably we should make a pause in reading the Epistle. What follows is closely connected with what precedes and is suggested by it: but there is, nevertheless, a new departure, which is made with much solemnity.
1 John 2:18
18. Little children] Or, Little ones. It is difficult to see anything in this section specially suitable to children: indeed the very reverse is rather the case. The same word (παιδία) is used here as in 1Jn_2:14 and Joh_21:5. S. John’s readers in general are addressed, irrespective of age. Both his Epistle and Gospel are written for adults and for well-instructed Christians.
it is the last time] More literally, it is the last hour; possibly, but not probably, it is a last hour. The omission of the definite article is quite intelligible and not unusual: the idea is sufficiently definite without it, for there can be only one last hour. Similarly (Judges 18) we have ‘in (the) last time there shall be mockers walking after their own ungodly lusts’: and (Act_1:8; Act_13:47) ‘unto (the) uttermost part of the earth’. A great deal has been written upon this text in order to avoid a very plain but unwelcome conclusion, that by the ‘last hour’ S. John means the time immediately preceding the return of Christ to judge the world. Hundreds of years have passed away since S. John wrote these words, and the Lord is not yet come. Rather, therefore, than admit an interpretation which seemed to charge the Apostle with a serious error, commentators have suggested all kinds of explanations as substitutes for the obvious one. The following considerations place S. John’s meaning beyond all reasonable doubt.
1. He has just been stating that the world is on the wane and that its dissolution has already begun. 2. He has just declared that the obedient Christian shall abide ‘unto the age’ of Christ’s kingdom of glory. 3. He goes on to give as a proof that it is the ‘last hour’, that many Antichrists have already arisen; it being the common belief of Christians that Antichrist would immediately precede the return of Christ. 4. ‘The last day’ is a phrase peculiar to S. John (Joh_6:39-40; Joh_6:44; Joh_6:54; Joh_11:24; Joh_12:48), and invariably means the end of the world, not the Christian dispensation. 5. Analogous phrases in other parts of N.T. point in the same direction: ‘In the last days grievous times shall come’ (2Ti_3:1); ‘Ye are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1Pe_1:5); ‘In the last days mockers shall come with mockery’ (2Pe_3:3). These and other passages shew that by ‘the last days’, ‘last time’, ‘last hour’, and the like, Christian writers did not mean the whole time between the first and second coming of Christ, but only the concluding portion of it. 6. We find similar language with similar meaning in the sub-apostolic age. Thus Ignatius (Eph. XI.) writes; “These are the last times. Henceforth let us be reverent; let us fear the longsuffering of God, lest it turn into a judgment against us. For either let us fear the wrath which is to come, or let us love the grace which now is.”
Of other interpretations of ‘the last hour’ the most noteworthy are these. (1) The Christian dispensation, which we have every reason to believe is the last. This is the sense in which S. John’s words are true; but this is plainly not his meaning. The appearance of Christ, not of Antichrist, proves that the Christian dispensation is come. (2) A very grievous time, tempora periculosa pessima et abjectissima. This is quite against usage whether in classical or N.T. Greek: comp. 2Ti_3:1. The classical phrase, ‘to suffer the last things’, i.e. ‘to suffer extremities’ (τὰ ἔσχατα παθεῖν), supplies no analogy: here the notion of ‘grievous’ comes from the verb. (3) The eve of the destruction of Jerusalem. How could the appearance of Antichrist prove that this had arrived? And Jerusalem had perished at least a dozen years before the probable date of this Epistle. (4) The eve of S. John’s own death. Antichrists could be no sign of that.
It is admitted even by some of those who reject the obvious interpretation that “the Apostles expected a speedy appearing or manifestation of Jesus as the Judge of their nation and of all nations” (Maurice): which is to admit the whole difficulty of the rejected explanation. Only gradually was the vision of the Apostles cleared to see the true nature of the spiritual kingdom which Christ had founded on earth and left in their charge. Even Pentecost did not at once give them perfect insight. Being under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they could not teach what was untrue: but, like the Prophets before them, they sometimes uttered words which were true in a sense far higher than that which was present to their own minds. In this higher sense S. John’s words here are true. Like others, he was wrong in supposing ‘that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear’ (Luk_19:11), for ‘it was not for them to know times or seasons which the Father hath set within His own authority’ (Act_1:7). He was right in declaring that, the Messiah having come, it was the ‘last hour’. No event in the world’s history can ever equal the coming of Christ until He comes again. The epoch of Christianity, therefore, is rightly called the ‘last hour’, although it has lasted nearly two thousand years. What is that compared with the many thousands of years since the creation of man, and the limitless geological periods which preceded the creation of man? What again in the eyes of Him in whose sight ‘a thousand years are but yesterday?’
“It may be remarked that the only point on which we can certainly say that the Apostles were in error, and led others into error, is in their expectation of the immediate coming of Christ; and this is the very point which our Saviour says (Mar_13:32) is known only to the Father” (Jelf).
as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come] Better, even as ye heard that Antichrist cometh: the first verb is aorist, not perfect; the second present, not future; and the conjunction is of the same strong form as in 1Jn_2:6. This seems to be a case in which the aorist should be retained in English (see on 1Jn_2:11). As in 1Jn_2:7, the reference is probably to a definite point in their instruction in the faith: and ‘cometh’ should be retained in order to bring out the analogy between the Christ and the Antichrist. The one was hoped for, and the other dreaded, with equal certainty; and hence each might be spoken of as ‘He that cometh’. ‘Art Thou He that cometh?’ (Mat_11:3; Luk_19:20). Comp. Mar_8:38; Mar_11:9; Joh_4:25; Joh_6:14; Joh_11:27, &c. &c. And as to the coming of Antichrists the N. T. seems to be as explicit as the O. T. with regard to the coming of Christ. ‘Many shall come in My name, saying I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray … There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible even the elect’ (Mat_24:5; Mat_24:24). Comp. Mar_13:22-23; Act_20:29; 2Ti_3:1; 2Pe_2:1; and especially 2Th_2:3, which like the passage before us seems to point to one distinct person or power as the one Antichrist, whose spirit animates all antichristian teachers.
The term ‘Antichrist’ in Scripture occurs only in the First and Second Epistles of S. John (1Jn_2:18; 1Jn_2:22, 1Jn_4:3; 2Jn_1:7). The earliest instance of its use outside Scripture is in S. Polycarp (Ep. ad Phil, VII.), in a passage which shews that this disciple of S. John (a.d. 140–155) knew our Epistle: see on 1Jn_4:3. The term does not mean merely a mock Christ or false Christ, for which the N.T. term is ‘pseudo-Christ’ (Mat_24:24; Mar_13:22). Nor does it mean simply an opponent of Christ, for which we should probably have ‘enemy of Christ’, like ‘enemy of the Cross of Christ’ (Php_3:18) and ‘enemy of God’ (Jas_4:4). But it includes both these ideas of counterfeiting and opposing; it means an opposition Christ or rival Christ; just as we call a rival Pope an ‘antipope’. The Antichrist is, therefore, a usurper, who under false pretences assumes a position which does not belong to him, and who opposes the rightful owner. The idea of opposition is the predominant one.
It is not easy to determine whether the Antichrist of S. John is personal or not. But the discussion of this question is too long for a note: see Appendix B.
even now are there many Antichrists] Better, as R.V., even now have there arisen many Antichrists: the Christ was from all eternity (1Jn_1:1), the Antichrist and his company arose in time; they are come into being. We have a similar contrast in the Gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word’; but ‘There arose a man, sent from God, whose name was John’ (Joh_1:1; Joh_1:6). These ‘many Antichrists’ are probably to be regarded as at once forerunners of the Antichrist and evidence that his spirit is already at work in the world: the one fact shews that he is not far distant, the other that in a sense he is already here. In either case we have proof that the return of Christ, which is to be heralded by the appearance of Antichrist, is near.
whereby we know that it is the last time] Or, whence we come to know that it is the last hour: as in 1Jn_2:3; 1Jn_2:5 the verb indicates acquisition of and progress in knowledge. ‘Whence’ in the sense of ‘from which data, from which premises’ hardly occurs elsewhere in N.T. except perhaps in the Epistle to the Hebrews (1Jn_2:17, Joh_7:25, Joh_8:3), where the same Greek word (ὅθεν) is uniformly rendered ‘wherefore’ in both A.V. and R.V.
It is difficult to see what S. John could have meant by this, if by the ‘last hour’ he understood the Christian dispensation as a whole and not the concluding portion of it (comp. 2Ti_3:1). The multitude of false teachers who were spreading the great lie (1Jn_2:22) that Jesus is not the Christ, were evidence, not of the existence of Christianity, but of antichristianity. Nor could evidence of the former be needed by S. John’s readers. They did not need to be convinced either that the Gospel dispensation had begun, or that it was the last in the history of the Divine Revelation. The Montanist theory that a further dispensation of the Spirit, distinct from that of the Son, was to follow and supersede the Gospel, as the Gospel had superseded Judaism, the dispensation of the Father, was a belief of later growth. (For an account of this theory as elaborated by Joachim of Flora [fl. a.d. 1180–90] see Dφllinger’s
Prophecies and the Prophetic Spirit in the Christian Era, pp. 114–119.) In the Apostolic age the tendency was all the other way;—to believe that the period since the coming of Christ was not only the last in the world’s history, but would be very brief. It was thought that some of the generation then existing might live to see the end (1Th_4:15-16; 1Co_15:51-52).
In the notes on 1Jn_2:18 it has been pointed out that the term ‘Antichrist’ is in N. T. peculiar to the Epistles of S. John (1Jn_2:18; 1Jn_2:22; 1Jn_4:3; 2Jn_1:7), and that in meaning it seems to combine the ideas of a mock Christ and an opponent of Christ, but that the latter idea is the prominent one. The false claims of a rival Christ are more or less included in the signification; but the predominant notion is that of hostility.
It remains to say something on two other points of interest. I. Is the Antichrist of S. John a person or a tendency, an individual man or a principle? II. Is the Antichrist of S. John identical with the great adversary spoken of by S. Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2? The answer to the one question will to a certain extent depend upon the answer to the other.
I. It will be observed that S. John introduces the term ‘Antichrist,’ as he introduces the term ‘Logos’ (1Jn_1:1; Joh_1:1), without any explanation. He expressly states that it is one with which his readers are familiar; ‘even as ye heard that Antichrist cometh.’ Certainly this, the first introduction of the name, looks like an allusion to a person. All the more so when we remember that the Christ was ‘He that cometh’ (Mat_11:3; Luk_19:20). Both Christ and Antichrist had been the subject of prophecy, and therefore each might be spoken of as ‘He that cometh.’ But it is by no means conclusive. We may understand ‘Antichrist’ to mean an impersonal power, or principle, or tendency, exhibiting itself in the words and conduct of individuals, without doing violence to the passage. In the one case the ‘many antichrists’ will be forerunners of the great personal opponent; in the other the antichristian spirit which they exhibit may be regarded as Antichrist. But the balance of probability seems to be in favour of the view that the Antichrist, of which S. John’s readers had heard as certain to come shortly before the end of the world, is a person.
Such is not the case with the other three passages in which the term occurs. ‘Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, even he that denieth the Father and the Son’ (1Jn_2:22). There were many who denied that Jesus is the Christ and thereby denied not only the Son but the Father of whom the Son is the revelation and representative. Therefore once more we have many antichrists, each one of whom may be spoken of as ‘the Antichrist,’ inasmuch as he exhibits the antichristian characteristics. No doubt this does not exclude the idea of a person who should have these characteristics in the highest possible degree, and who had not yet appeared. But this passage taken by itself would hardly suggest such a person.
So also with the third passage in the First Epistle. ‘Every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the (spirit) of the Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh, and now is in the world already’ (1Jn_4:3). Here it is no longer ‘the Antichrist’ that is spoken of, but ‘the spirit of the Antichrist.’ This is evidently a principle; which again does not exclude, though it would not necessarily suggest or imply, the idea of a person who would embody this antichristian spirit of denial.
The passage in the Second Epistle is similar to the second passage in the First Epistle. ‘Many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist’ (1Jn_2:7). Here again we have many who exhibit the characteristics of Antichrist. Each one of them, and also the spirit which animates them, may be spoken of as ‘the Antichrist;’ the further idea of an individual who shall exhibit this spirit in an extraordinary manner being neither necessarily excluded, nor necessarily implied.
The first of the four passages, therefore, will have to interpret the other three. And as the interpretation of that passage cannot be determined beyond dispute, we must be content to admit that the question as to whether the Antichrist of S. John is personal or not cannot be answered with certainty. The probability seems to be in favour of an affirmative answer. In the passage which introduces the subject (1Jn_2:18) the Antichrist, of which the Apostle’s little children had heard as coming, appears to be a person of whom the ‘many antichrists’ with their lying doctrine are the heralds and already existing representatives. And it may well be that, having introduced the term with the personal signification familiar to his readers, the Apostle goes on to make other uses of it; in order to warn them that, although the personal Antichrist has not yet come, yet his spirit and doctrine are already at work in the world.
Nevertheless, we must allow that, if we confine our attention to the passages of S. John in which the term occurs, the balance in favour of the view that he looked to the coming of a personal Antichrist is far from conclusive. This balance, however, whatever its amount, is considerably augmented when we take a wider range and consider—(a) The origin of the doctrine which the Apostle says that his readers had already heard respecting Antichrist; (b) The treatment of the question by those who followed S. John as teachers in the Church; (c) Other passages in the N. T. which seem to bear upon the question. The discussion of this third point is placed last because it involves the second question to be investigated in this Appendix;—Is the Antichrist of S. John identical with S. Paul’s ‘man of sin.’
(a) There can be little doubt that the origin of the primitive doctrine respecting Antichrist is the Book of Daniel, to which our Lord Himself had drawn attention in speaking of the ‘abomination of desolation’ (Mat_24:15; Dan_9:27; Dan_12:11). The causing the daily sacrifice to cease, which was one great element of this desolation, at once brings these passages into connexion with the ‘little horn’ of Dan_8:9-14, the language respecting which seems almost necessarily to imply an individual potentate. The prophecies respecting the ‘king of fierce countenance’ (Joh_8:23-25) and ‘the king’ who ‘shall do according to his will’ (Joh_11:36-39) strongly confirm this view. And just as it has been in individuals that Christians have seen realisations, or at least types, of Antichrist (Nero, Julian, Mahomet), so it was in an individual (Antiochus Epiphanes) that the Jews believed that they saw such. It is by no means improbable that S. John himself considered Nero to be a type, indeed the great type, of Antichrist. When Nero perished so miserably and obscurely in a.d. 68, Romans and Christians alike believed that he had only disappeared for a time. Like the Emperor Frederick II. in Germany, and Sebastian ‘the Regretted’ in Portugal, this last representative of the Caesars was supposed to be still alive in mysterious retirement: some day he would return. Among Christians this belief took the form that Nero was to come again as the Antichrist (Suet. Nero 40, 56; Tac. Hist. ii. 8). All this will incline us to believe that the Antichrist, of whose future coming S. John’s ‘little children’ had heard, was not a mere principle, but a person.
(b) “That Antichrist is one individual man, not a power, not a mere ethical spirit, or a political system, not a dynasty, or a succession of rulers, was the universal tradition of the early Church.” This strong statement seems to need a small amount of qualification. The Alexandrian School is not fond of the subject. “Clement makes no mention of the Antichrist at all; Origen, after his fashion, passes into the region of generalizing allegory. The Antichrist, the ‘adversary,’ is ‘false doctrine;’ the temple of God in which he sits and exalts himself, is the written Word; men are to flee, when he comes, to ‘the mountains of truth’ (Hom. xxix. in Matt.). Gregory of Nyssa (Orat. xi. c. Eunom.) follows in the same track.” Still the general tendency is all the other way. Justin Martyr (Trypho XXXII.) says “He whom Daniel foretells would have dominion for a time, and times, and an half, is even already at the door, about to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High.” He speaks of him as ‘the man of sin.’ Irenaeus (v. xxv. 1, 3), Tertullian (De Res. Carn. XXIV., XXV.), Lactantius (Div. Inst. vii. xvii.), Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. XV. 4, n, 14, 17), and others take a similar view, some of them enlarging much upon the subject. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, xx. xix.) says “Satan shall be loosed, and by means of that Antichrist shall work with all power in a lying but wonderful manner.” Jerome affirms that Antichrist “is one man, in whom Satan shall dwell bodily;” and Theodoret that “the Man of Sin, the son of perdition, will make every effort for the seduction of the pious, by false miracles, and by force, and by persecution.” From these and many more passages that might be cited it is quite clear that the Church of the first three or four centuries almost universally regarded Antichrist as an individual. The evidence, beginning with Justin Martyr in the sub-Apostolic age, warrants us in believing that in this stream of testimony we have a belief which prevailed in the time of the Apostles and was possibly shared by them. But as regards this last point it is worth remarking how reserved the Apostles seem to have been with regard to the interpretation of prophecy. “What the Apostles disclosed concerning the future was for the most part disclosed by them in private, to individuals—not committed to writing, not intended for the edifying of the body of Christ,—and was soon lost” (J. H. Newman).
(c) Besides the various passages in N.T. which point to the coming of false Christs and false prophets (
Mat_24:5; Mat_24:24; Mar_13:22-23; Act_20:29; 2Ti_3:1; 2Pe_2:1), there are two passages which give a detailed description of a great power, hostile to God and His people, which is to arise hereafter and have great success;—Revelation 13 and 2 Thessalonians 2. The second of these passages will be considered in the discussion of the second question. With regard to the first this much may be asserted with something like certainty, that the correspondence between the ‘beast’ of Revelation 13 and the ‘little horn’ of Daniel 7 is too close to be accidental. But in consideration of the difficulty of the subject and the great diversity of opinion it would be rash to affirm positively that the ‘beast’ of the Apocalypse is a person. The correspondence between the ‘beast’ and the ‘little horn’ is not so close as to compel us to interpret both images alike. The wiser plan will be to leave Revelation 13 out of consideration as neutral, for we cannot be at all sure whether the beast (1) is a person, (2) is identical with Antichrist. We shall find that 2 Thessalonians 2 favours the belief that Antichrist is an individual.
II. There is a strong preponderance of opinion in favour of the view that the Antichrist of S. John is the same as the great adversary of S. Paul (2Th_2:3). 1. Even in the name there is some similarity; the Antichrist (ὁ ἀντίχριστος) and ‘he that opposeth’ (ὁ ἀντικείμενος). And the idea of being a rival Christ which is included in the name Antichrist and is wanting in ‘he that opposeth,’ is supplied in S. Paul’s description of the great opponent: for he is a ‘man’, and he ‘setteth himself forth as God.’ 2. Both Apostles state that their readers had previously been instructed about this future adversary. 3. Both declare that his coming is preceded by an apostasy of many nominal Christians. 4. Both connect his coming with the Second Advent of Christ. 5. Both describe him as a liar and deceiver. 6. S. Paul says that this ‘man of sin exalteth himself against all that is called God.’ S. John places the spirit of Antichrist as the opposite of the Spirit of God. 7. S. Paul states that his ‘coming is according to the working of Satan.’ S. John implies that he is of the evil one. 8. Both Apostles state that, although this great opponent of the truth is still to come, yet his spirit is already at work in the world. With agreement in so many and such important details before us, we can hardly be mistaken in affirming that the two Apostles in their accounts of the trouble in store for the Church have one and the same meaning.
Having answered, therefore, this second question in the affirmative we return to the first question with a substantial addition to the evidence. It would be most unnatural to understand S. Paul’s ‘man of sin’ as an impersonal principle; and the widely different interpretations of the passage for the most part agree in this, that the great adversary is an individual. If, therefore, S. John has the same meaning as S. Paul, then the Antichrist of S. John is an individual.
To sum up:—Although none of the four passages in S. John’s Epistles are conclusive, yet the first of them (1Jn_2:18) inclines us to regard Antichrist as a person. This view is confirmed (a) by earlier Jewish ideas on the subject, (b) by subsequent Christian ideas from the sub-Apostolic age onwards, (c) above all by S. Paul’s description of the ‘man of sin,’ whose similarity to S. John’s Antichrist is of a very close and remarkable kind.
1 John 2:19
The relation of these antichristian teachers to the Church of Christ. They were formerly nominal members, but never real members of it. They are now not members in any sense. Note the repetition, so characteristic of S. John, of the key-word ‘us’, which means the Christian Church. It occurs 5 times in this one verse.
They went out from us] It was their own doing, a distinct secession from our communion: in the Greek, ‘from us’ comes first for emphasis. It is incredible that the words can mean ‘they proceeded from us Jews’. What point would there be in that? Moreover, S. John never writes as a Jew, but always as a Christian to Christians. ‘Us’ includes all true Christians, whether of Gentile or Jewish origin. Comp. S. Paul’s warning to the Ephesian presbyters; ‘From among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them’ (Act_20:30); where the Greek is similar to what we have here: and ‘Certain men, the children of Belial’, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known’ (Deu_13:13); where the Greek of LXX. is still closer to this passage.
but they were not of us] They have a foreign origin. The single act of departure (aorist) is contrasted with the lasting condition of being ‘of us’ (imperfect). ‘Of us’ here is exactly analogous to ‘of the Father’ and ‘of the world’ in 1Jn_2:16. It is difficult to bring out in English the full force of the antithesis which is so easily expressed in the Greek. ‘From out of us they went forth, but they were not from out of us’; where ‘from out of us’ (ἐξ ἡμῶν) is of course used in two different senses, ‘out from our midst’ and ‘originating with us.’
they would no doubt have continued with us] Better, they would have abided with us: there is nothing in the Greek to represent ‘no doubt,’ and the verb is S. John’s favourite word ‘abide’ (see on 1Jn_2:24). Almost all the earlier English Versions go wrong as to ‘no doubt’. Tyndale and Cranmer have ‘no dout’, the Genevan has ‘douteles’, and the Rhemish ‘surely’. Probably these are attempts to translate the utique of the Vulgate, permansissent utique nobiscum: and the utique, which is as old as Tertullian (De Praescr, Haer. III.) is a mistaken endeavour to give a separate word to represent the Greek particle ἄν. Oddly enough, Wiclif, who worked from the Vulgate, has nothing to represent utique; ‘they hadden dwelte with us. Luther inserts ‘ja’; ‘so wδren sie ja bei uns geblieben’; which looks as if he also were under the influence of the utique. There is a similar instance Joh_8:42, where Wiclif has ‘sothli ye schulden love Me’, Cranmer, ‘truly ye wolde love Me’, and the Rhemish, ‘verely ye would love Me’, because the Vulgate (not Tertullian) gives diligeretis utique Me for ἠγαπᾶτε ἂν ἐμέ. The meaning here is that secession proves a want of fundamental union from the first. As Tertullian says: Nemo Christianus, nisi qui ad finem persevcraverit. Note that S. John does not say ‘they would have abided among us (ἐν ἡμῖν),’ but ‘with us (μεθ’ ἡμῶν)’. This brings out more clearly the idea of fellowship: ‘these antichrists had no real sympathy with us’.
but they went out that they might be made manifest] As the italics in A.V. shew, there is no Greek to represent ‘they went out’. ‘But that’ or ‘but in order that’ (α’λλ’ ἵνα) is an elliptical expression very frequent in S. John’s Gospel (Joh_1:8, Joh_9:3, Joh_13:18, Joh_14:31, Joh_15:25). We may often fill up the ellipse in some such way as ‘but this took place’, or ‘this came to pass, in order that’. S. John’s favourite construction ‘in order that’ (see on 1Jn_1:9) again points to the Divine government of events. It was in accordance with God’s will that these spurious members should be made known as such. The process which all through his Gospel the Apostle depicts as a necessary result of Christ’s coming, still continues after His departure; the separation of light from darkness, of the Church from the world, of real from unreal Christians (see introductory note to John v.). S. John assures his readers that the appearance of error and unbelief in the Church need not shake their faith in it: it is all in accordance with the Divine plan. Revelation of the truth necessarily causes a separation between those who accept and those who reject it, and is designed to do so. God does not will that any should reject the truth; but He wills that those who reject should be made manifest. S. Paul states this truth the other way; that the faithful need to be distinguished. ‘For there must be also heresies among you, that (ἵνα) they which are approved may be made manifest among you’ (1Co_11:19).
that they were not all of us] Or, that not all are of us, as in the margin of R.V. But this is doubtful; the Greek being οὐκ εἰσὶν πάντες, not οὐ πάντες εἰσιν. The Greek is somewhat ambiguous, but certainly we must have ‘are’ and not ‘were’. Two ideas seem to be in the Apostle’s mind, and his words may be the expression partly of the one, and partly of the other: 1. that these antichrists may be made manifest as not really of us; 2. that it may be made manifest that not all professing Christians are really of us.
In this verse S. John does not teach that the Christian cannot fall away; his exhortations to his readers not to love the world, but to abide in Christ, is proof of that. He is only putting in another form the declaration of Christ, ‘I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand’ (Joh_10:28). Apostasy is possible, but only for those who have never really made Christ their own, never fully given themselves to Him.
1 John 2:20
But ye have an unction from the holy One] Better, as R.V., And ye have an anointing (as in 1Jn_2:27) from the Holy One. S. John, in his manner, puts two contrasted parties side by side, the Antichrist with his antichrists, and the Christ with His christs; but the fact of there being a contrast does not warrant us in turning S. John’s simple ‘and’ (καί) into ‘but’. Tyndale holds fast to ‘and’, in spite of Wiclif’s ‘but’ and the Vulgate’s sed. Just as the Antichrist has his representatives, so the Anointed One, the Christ, has His. All Christians in a secondary sense are what Christ is in a unique and primary sense, the Lord’s anointed. ‘These anointed’, says the Apostle to his readers, ‘ye are’. The ‘ye’ is not only expressed in the Greek, but stands first after the conjunction for emphasis: ‘ye’ in contrast to these apostates. The word for ‘anointing’ or ‘unction’ (χρίσμα) strictly means the ‘completed act of anointing:’ but in LXX. it is used of the unguent or anointing oil (Exo_30:25); and Tyndale, Cranmer and the Genevan have ‘oyntment’ here. In N.T, it occurs only here and 1Jn_2:27. Kings, priests, and sometimes prophets were anointed, in token of their receiving Divine grace. Hence oil both in O. and N.T. is a figure of the Holy Spirit (Psa_45:6-7; Psa_105:15; Isa_61:1; Act_10:38; Heb_1:9; 2Co_1:21). It is confusing cause and effect to suppose that this passage was influenced by the custom of anointing candidates at baptism: the custom though ancient (for it is mentioned by S. Cyril of Jerusalem, c. a.d. 350, Catech. Lect, XXI. 3, 4), is later than this Epistle. More probably the custom was suggested by this passage. The opening of S. Cyril’s 21st Lecture throws much light on this passage. “Having been baptized into Christ and … being made partakers of Christ, ye are properly called christs, and of you God said, Touch not My christs, or anointed. Now ye were made christs by receiving the emblem of the Holy Spirit; and all things were in a figure wrought in you, because ye are figures of Christ. He also bathed Himself in the river Jordan, and … came up from them; and the Holy Spirit in substance lighted on Him, like resting upon like. In the same manner to you also, after you had come up from the pool of the sacred streams, was given the unction, the emblem of that wherewith Christ was anointed; and this is the Holy Spirit”. Similarly S. Augustine; “In the unction we have a sacramental sign (sacramentum); the virtue itself is invisible. The invisible unction is the Holy Spirit (Hom. III. 12).
It may be doubted whether S. John in this verse makes any allusion to the anointing which was a feature in some Gnostic systems.
from the holy One] This almost certainly means Christ, in accordance with other passages both in S. John and elsewhere (Joh_6:69; Rev_3:7; Mar_1:24; Act_3:14; Ps. 20:10), and in harmony with Christ being called ‘righteous’ in vv,. 1, 29, and ‘pure’ in 1Jn_3:3. Moreover in Joh_14:26; Joh_15:26; Joh_16:7; Joh_16:14 Christ promises to give the Holy Spirit. It may possibly mean God the Father (Hab_3:3; Hos_11:9; 1Co_6:19). It cannot well mean the Holy Spirit, unless some other meaning be found for ‘anointing’.
and ye know all things] There is very high authority for reading and ye all know (this), or, omitting the conjunction and placing a colon after ‘Holy One’, ye all know (this). If the reading followed in A.V. and R.V. be right, the meaning is, ‘It is you (and not these antichristian Gnostics who claim it) that are, in virtue of the anointing of the Spirit of truth, in the possession of the true knowledge’. Christians are in possession of the truth in a far higher sense than any unchristian philosopher. All the unbeliever’s knowledge is out of balance and proportion. The assertion here is strictly in harmony with the promise of Christ; ‘When He, the Spirit of truth is come, He shall guide you into all the truth’ (Joh_16:13). In the same spirit S. Ignatius writes, “None of these things is hidden from you, if ye be perfect in your faith and love towards Jesus Christ” (Eph. xiv. 1); and similarly S. Polycarp, “Nothing is hidden from you” (Phil. xii. 1). Comp. ‘They that seek the Lord understand all things’ (Pro_28:5).
1 John 2:21
I have not written] Literally, as in 1Jn_2:13-14; 1Jn_2:26, I wrote not, or, did not write: it is the aorist in the Greek. But (whatever may be true of 1Jn_2:13-14) what we have here is almost certainly the epistolary aorist, which may be represented in English either by the present or by the perfect. ‘I have written’ probably does not refer to the whole letter, but only to this section about the antichrists; this seems clear from 1Jn_2:26. ‘Do not think from my warning you against lying teachers that I suspect you of being ignorant of the truth: you who have been anointed with the Spirit of truth cannot be ignorant of the truth. I write as unto men who will appreciate what I say. I write, not to teach, but to confirm’. “S. John does not treat Christianity as a religion containing elements of truth, or even more truth than any religion which had preceded it. S. John presents Christianity to the soul as a religion which must be everything to it, if it is not really to be worse than nothing” (Liddon).
because ye know not the truth; but because ye know it, and that, &c.] There are no less than three ways of taking this, depending upon the meaning given to the thrice-repeated conjunction (ὅτι), which in each place may mean either ‘because’ or ‘that’. 1. As A.V.; because, … but because … and that. The A.V. follows the earlier Versions in putting ‘that’ in the last clause: so Wiclif, Tyndale, Cranmer, &c. 2. As R.V.; ‘because’ in each clause. 3. ‘That’ in each clause: ‘I have not written that ye know not the truth, but that ye know it, and that &c.’ This last is almost certainly wrong. As in 1Jn_2:13-14 the verb ‘write’ introduces the reason for writing and not the subject-matter or contents of the Epistle. And if the first conjunction is ‘because’, it is the simplest and most natural to take the second and third in the same way. The Apostle warns them against antichristian lies, not because they are ignorant, but (1) because they possess the truth, and (2) because every kind of lie is utterly alien to the truth they possess. “There is the modesty and the sound philosophy of an Apostle! Many of us think that we can put the truth into people, by screaming it into their ears. We do not suppose that they have any truth in them to which we can make appeal. S. John had no notion that he could be of use to his dear children at Ephesus unless there was a truth in them, a capacity of distinguishing truth from lies, a sense that one must be the eternal opposition of the other” (Maurice).
no lie is of the truth] Literally, every lie is not-of-the truth: the negative belongs to the predicate (comp. 1Jn_3:15). ‘Of the truth’ here is exactly analogous to ‘of the Father’ and ‘of the world’ in 1Jn_2:16 and to ‘of us’ in 1Jn_2:19. Every lie is in origin utterly removed from the truth: the truth springs from God; lying from the devil, ‘for he is a liar and the father thereof’ (Joh_8:44). See on 1Jn_2:16.
1 John 2:22
Who is a liar] More accurately, as R.V., Who is the liar: the A.V. here again follows the earlier English Versions. But we must beware of exaggerating the article in interpretation, although it is right to translate it. It merely marks the passage from the abstract to the concrete: ‘Every lie is absolutely alien from the truth. Who then is the one who speaks lies? There are no liars if he who denies that Jesus is the Christ is not one’. The exactly parallel construction in 1Jn_5:4-5 shews that ‘the liar’ here does not mean ‘the greatest liar possible’. Moreover, this would not be true. Is denying that Jesus is the Christ a greater lie than denying the existence of the Son, or of God?
The abruptness of the question is startling. Throughout these verses (22–24) “clause stands by clause in stern solemnity without any connecting particles.”
but he that denieth] These Gnostic teachers, who profess to be in possession of the higher truth, are really possessed by one of the worst of lies.—For the way in which the Gnostics denied the fundamental Christian truth of the Incarnation see the Introduction, p. 19.
He is Antichrist] Better, as R.V., This is the antichrist, or The antichrist is this man: ‘this’, as in 1Jn_2:25 and 1Jn_1:5, may be the predicate. The article before ‘antichrist’, almost certainly spurious in 1Jn_2:18, is certainly genuine here, 1Jn_4:3, and 2Jn_1:7. But ‘the antichrist’ here probably does not mean the great personal rival of Christ, but the antichristian teacher who is like him and in this matter acts as his mouth-piece.
that denieth the Father and the Son] This clause is substituted for ‘that denieth that Jesus is the Christ’. By this substitution, which is quite in S. John’s manner, he leads us on to see that to deny the one is to deny the other. Jesus is the Christ, and the Christ is the Son of God; therefore to deny that Jesus is the Christ is to deny the Son. And to deny the Son is to deny the Father; not merely because Son and Father are correlatives and mutually imply one another, but because the Son is the revelation of the Father, without whom the Father cannot be known. ‘Neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him’ (Mat_11:27). ‘No one cometh unto the Father but by Me’ (Joh_14:6). Comp. Joh_5:23; Joh_15:23. Some would put a full stop at ‘antichrist,’ and connect what follows with 1Jn_2:23, thus; This is the antichrist. He that denieth the Father (denieth) the Son also: every one that denieth the Son hath not the Father either.
1 John 2:23
The previous statement is emphasized by an expansion of it stated both negatively and positively. The expansion consists in declaring that to deny the Son is not merely to do that, and indeed not merely to deny the Father, but also (οὐδέ) to debar oneself from communion with the Father. So that we now have a third consequence of denying that Jesus is the Christ. To deny this is (1) to deny the Son, which is (2) to deny the Father, which is (3) to be cut off from the Father. ‘To have the Father’ must not be weakened to mean ‘to hold as an article of faith that He is the Father’; still less, ‘to know the Father’s will’. It means, quite literally, ‘to have Him as his own Father’. Those who deny the Son cancel their own right to be called ‘sons of God’: they ipso facto excommunicate themselves from the great Christian family in which Christ is the Brother, and God is the Father, of all believers. ‘To as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God’ (Joh_1:12).
but he that acknowledged the Son] Better, as R. V., he that confesseth the Son: it is the same verb (ὁμολογεῖν) as is used 1Jn_1:9, 1Jn_4:2-3; 1Jn_4:15; 2Jn_1:7. It is surprising that A. V., while admitting the passage about the three Heavenly Witnesses (1Jn_5:7) without any mark of doubtfulness, prints the second half of this verse in italics, as if there were nothing to represent it in the Greek. Excepting the ‘but’, the sentence is undoubtedly genuine, being found in all the best MSS. (אABC) and many other authorities. A few authorities omit it accidentally, owing to the two halves of the verse ending in the Greek with the same three words (τὸν πατέρα ἔχει). Tyndale and the Genevan omit the sentence: Cranmer and the Rhemish retain it; Cranmer marking it as wanting authority, and both omitting ‘but’, which Wiclif inserts, although there is no conjunction in the Vulgate. The asyndeton is impressive and continues through three verses, 22, 23, 24. “The sentences fall on the reader’s soul like notes of a trumpet. Without cement, and therefore all the more ruggedly clasping each other, they are like a Cyclopean wall” (Haupt). It would be possible to translate, ‘He that confesseth, hath the Son and the Father’ (comp. 2Jn_1:9): but this is not probable.
1 John 2:24
Let that therefore abide in you] The ‘therefore’ is undoubtedly to be omitted: it is a mistaken insertion in many of those inferior MSS. which omit the second half of 1Jn_2:23. This verse begins with a very emphatic pronoun; As for you (in contrast to these antichristian liars), let that abide in you which ye heard from the beginning. The pronoun in the Greek is a nominativus pendens: comp. Joh_6:39; Joh_7:38; Joh_14:12; Joh_15:2; Joh_17:2; Rev_2:26; Rev_3:12; Rev_3:21. The verb is an aorist and should be retained as such, as in 1Jn_2:7: it points to the definite period when they were first instructed in the faith. ‘Hold fast the Gospel which ye first heard, and reject the innovations of these false teachers’.
If that which ye have heard … shall remain in you, ye also shall continue] Better, as R. V., if that which ye heard … abide in you, ye also shall abide. Here the arbitrary distinctions introduced by the translators of 1611 reach a climax: the same Greek word (μένειν) is rendered in three different ways in the same verse. Elsewhere it is rendered in four other ways, making seven English words to one Greek: ‘dwell’ (Joh_1:39; Joh_6:56; Joh_14:10; Joh_14:17), ‘tarry’ (Joh_4:40, Joh_21:22-23), ‘endure’ (Joh_6:27), ‘be present’ (Joh_14:25). The translators in their Address to the Reader tell us that these changes were often made knowingly and sometimes of set purpose. They are generally regrettable, and here are doubly so: (1) an expression characteristic of S. John and of deep meaning is blurred, (2) the emphasis gained by iteration, which is also characteristic of S. John, is entirely lost. ‘Let the truths which were first taught you have a home in your hearts: if these have a home in you, ye also shall have a home in the Son and in the Father’.
1 John 2:25
And this is the promise that he hath promised us] Or, and the promise which He promised us is this: the aorist had better be retained, and ‘this’ is probably the predicate, referring to what follows (comp. Joh_5:22, 1Jn_1:5, 1Jn_5:14) and not the subject, referring to what precedes. This view is confirmed by 1Jn_3:23 and 1Jn_5:11. The connexion with what precedes is close, ‘eternal life’ being only another view of ‘abiding in the Father and the Son’. The ‘He’ is emphatic, and perhaps ‘He Himself would not be too strong as a rendering. Of course Christ is meant, “who in this whole passage forms the centre round which all the statements of the Apostle move” (Huther). For the promise see Joh_3:15; Joh_4:14; Joh_6:40, &c. &c. The best MS. (B) reads ‘promised you’, for ‘promised us’.
1 John 2:26
These things have I written unto you] ‘These things’ probably mean the warnings about the antichrists, not the whole Epistle. ‘I have written’, or ‘I wrote’, is the epistolary aorist as in 1Jn_2:21.
that seduce you] Better, that lead you astray, i.e. that are endeavouring to do so. It is the active of the verb which is used in 1Jn_1:8 (see note there); and the present participle, which indicates the tendency and habit, but not the success, of the antichristian teachers.
1 John 2:27
27, 28. The Place of Safety;—Christ
27. But the anointing which ye have received] As in 1Jn_2:2, we have the false and the true Christians put side by side in contrast; but this does not justify us in turning S. John’s simple ‘and’ (καί) into ‘but’. As in 1Jn_2:24, we have the pronoun put first with great emphasis, and as a nominativus pendens. Moreover, the reception of the chrism refers to the definite occasion when Christ poured out His Spirit upon them, viz. their baptism; and therefore the aorist should be retained. Wherefore, as R. V., And as for you, the anointing which ye received.
abideth in you] We often, in order to convey a command or a rebuke gently, state as a fact what ought to be a fact. This is perhaps S. John’s meaning here. If not, it is an expression of strong confidence in those whom he adresses.
ye need not that any man teach you] This seems to confirm the reading ‘ye know all things’ in 1Jn_2:20. The believer who has once been anointed with the Spirit of truth has no need even of an Apostle’s teaching. This seems to be quite conclusive against ‘little children’ anywhere in this Epistle meaning children in years or children in knowledge of the Gospel. S. John writes throughout for adult and well-instructed Christians, to whom he writes not to give information, but to confirm and enforce and perhaps develope what they have all along known. Of course S. John does not mean that the anointing with the Spirit supersedes all necessity for instruction. The whole Epistle, and in this chapter 1Jn_2:6-7; 1Jn_2:24, are conclusive against such a view. S. John assumes that his readers have been thoroughly instructed in ‘the word’ and ‘the truth’, before receiving the outpouring of the Spirit which shews them the full meaning of ‘the word’ and confirms them in ‘the truth’. If S. John has no sympathy with a knowledge which professed to rise higher than Christian teaching, still less has he sympathy with a fanaticism which would dispense with Christian teaching. While he condemns the Gnosticism of his own age, he gives no encouragement to the Montanism of a century later.
but as the same anointing … ye shall abide in him] We have here to settle, first the question of readings, and then the question of construction. ‘But as His anointing’ (אBC, Vulgate, Syriac) is certainly superior to ‘But as the same anointing’ (AKL, Coptic), and still more is ‘ye abide’ or ‘abide ye’ (אABC, Versions) superior to ‘ye shall abide’ (KL). The A. V. deserts Wiclif, Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Rhemish, to follow the Genevan in adopting the future. The construction is not so easily determined, but does not seriously affect the sense. We may render, (1) But as His anointing teacheth you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you,—do ye abide in Him; making only one sentence with a long protasis. Or (2) we may break it into two sentences, each with a protasis and apodosis; But as His anointing teacheth you concerning all things, it is true and is no lie; and even as it taught you, do ye abide in Him, The majority of English Versions, including R.V., are for the former: so also the Vulgate. Commentators are much divided; but Huther claims to have most on his side for the latter. He has against him Alford, Braune, De Wette, Dsterdieck, Ewald, Lcke, Neander, Westcott. The sentence seems to be a recapitulation of the section. ‘As His anointing teaches you concerning all things’ recalls 1Jn_2:20; ‘is true and is no lie’ recalls 1Jn_2:21-23; ‘do ye abide in Him’ recalls 1Jn_2:24-25. Probably we ought to supply a new nominative for ‘taught’, viz. ‘He’, i.e. Christ understood from ‘in Him’. This explains the difference of tense: ‘taught’ refers to the gift of the Spirit of truth made once for all by Christ; ‘teacheth’ to the continual illumination which is the result of the gift. It is comparatively unimportant whether we consider ‘do ye abide’ (μένετε) as indicative, like ‘abideth’ just before, or as imperative, like ‘abide’ in the next verse. See on 1Jn_2:29.