corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

1 John 1



Other Authors
Verse 1

That which (οho). Strictly speaking, the neuter relative here is not personal, but the message “concerning the Word of life” (περι του λογου της ζωηςperi tou logou tēs zōēs), a phrase that reminds one at once of the Word (ΛογοςLogos) in John 1:1, John 1:14; Revelation 19:14 (an incidental argument for identity of authorship for all these books). For discussion of the ΛογοςLogos see notes on John 1:1-18. Here the ΛογοςLogos is described by της ζωηςtēs zōēs (of life), while in John 1:4 he is called η ζωηhē zōē (the Life) as here in 1 John 1:2 and as Jesus calls himself (John 11:25; John 14:6), an advance on the phrase here, and in Revelation 19:14 he is termed ο λογος του τεουho logos tou theou (the Word of God), though in John 1:1 the ΛογοςLogos is flatly named ο τεοςho theos (God). John does use οho in a collective personal sense in John 6:37, John 6:39. See also παν οpan ho in 1 John 5:4.

From the beginning (απ αρχηςap' archēs). Anarthrous as in John 1:1; John 6:64; John 16:4. See same phrase in 1 John 2:7. The reference goes beyond the Christian dispensation, beyond the Incarnation, to the eternal purpose of God in Christ (John 3:16), “coeval in some sense with creation” (Westcott).

That which we have heard (ο ακηκοαμενho akēkoamen). Note fourfold repetition of οho (that which) without connectives (asyndeton). The perfect tense (active indicative of ακουωakouō) stresses John‘s equipment to speak on this subject so slowly revealed. It is the literary plural unless John associates the elders of Ephesus with himself (Lightfoot) the men who certified the authenticity of the Gospel (John 21:24).

That which we have seen (ο εωρακαμενho heōrakamen). Perfect active, again, of οραωhoraō with the same emphasis on the possession of knowledge by John.

With our eyes (τοις οπταλμοις ημωνtois ophthalmois hēmōn). Instrumental case and showing it was not imagination on John‘s part, not an optical illusion as the Docetists claimed, for Jesus had an actual human body. He could be heard and seen.

That which we beheld (ο ετεασαμεταho etheasametha). Repetition with the aorist middle indicative of τεαομαιtheaomai (the very form in John 1:14), “a spectacle which broke on our astonished vision” (D. Smith).

Handled (επσηλαπησανepsēlaphēsan). First aorist active indicative of πσηλαπαωpsēlaphaō old and graphic verb (from πσαωpsaō to touch), the very verb used by Jesus to prove that he was not a mere spirit (Luke 24:39). Three senses are here appealed to (hearing, sight, touch) as combining to show the reality of Christ‘s humanity against the Docetic Gnostics and the qualification of John by experience to speak. But he is also “the Word of life” and so God Incarnate.

Verse 2

Was manifested (επανερωτηephanerōthē). First aorist passive indicative of πανεροωphaneroō to make known what already exists, whether invisible (B. Weiss) or visible, “intellectual or sensible” (Brooke). In Colossians 3:4 Paul employs it of the second coming of Christ. 1 John 1:2 here is an important parenthesis, a mark of John‘s style as in John 1:15. By the parenthesis John heaps reassurance upon his previous statement of the reality of the Incarnation by the use of εωρακαμενheōrakamen (as in 1 John 1:1) with the assertion of the validity of his “witness” (μαρτυρουμενmarturoumen) and “message” (απαγγελλομενapaggellomen), both present active indicatives (literary plurals), απαγγελλωapaggellō being the public proclamation of the great news (John 16:25).

The life, the eternal life (την ζωην την αιωνιονtēn zōēn tēn aiōnion). Taking up ζωηzōē of 1 John 1:1, John defines the term by the adjective αιωνιοςaiōnios used 71 times in the N.T., 44 times with ζωηzōē and 23 in John‘s Gospel and Epistles (only so used in these books by John). Here lt means the divine life which the Logos was and is (John 1:4; 1 John 1:1).

Which (ητιςhētis). Qualitative relative, “which very life.”

Was with the Father (ην προς τον πατεραēn pros ton patera). Not εγενετοegeneto but ηνēn and προςpros with the accusative of intimate fellowship, precisely as in John 1:1 ην προς τον τεονēn pros ton theon (was with God). Then John closes the parenthesis by repeating επανερωτηephanerōthē f0).

Verse 3

That which we have seen (ο εωρακαμενho heōrakamen). Third use of this form (1 John 1:1, 1 John 1:2, 1 John 1:3), this time resumption after the parenthesis in 1 John 1:2.

And heard (και ακηκοαμενkai akēkoamen). Second (1 John 1:1 for first) use of this form, a third in 1 John 1:5. Emphasis by repetition is a thoroughly Johannine trait.

Declare we (απαγγελλομενapaggellomen). Second use of this word (1 John 1:2 for first), but αγγελιαaggelia (message) and αναγγελλομενanaggellomen (announce) in 1 John 1:5.

That ye also may have (ινα και υμεις εχητεhina kai humeis echēte). Purpose clause with ιναhina and present active subjunctive of εχωechō (may keep on having). “Ye also” who have not seen Jesus in the flesh as well as those like John who have seen him. Like και υμινkai humin (to you also) just before.

Fellowship with us (κοινωνιαν μετ ημωνkoinōnian meth' hēmōn). Common word in this Epistle, from κοινωνοςkoinōnos partner (Luke 5:10), and κοινωνεωkoinōneō to share, in (1 Peter 4:13), with μεταmeta emphasising mutual relationship (Acts 2:42). This Epistle often uses εχωechō with a substantive rather than a verb.

Yea, and our fellowship (και η κοινωνια δε η ημετεραkai hē koinōnia de hē hēmetera). Careful explanation of his meaning in the word “fellowship” (partnership), involving fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ and only possible in Christ.

Verse 4

We write (γραπομεν ημειςgraphomen hēmeis). Literary plural present active indicative of γραπωgraphō which see in the singular in 1 John 2:12-14.

May be fulfilled (ηι πεπληρωμενηēi peplērōmenē). Periphrastic perfect passive subjunctive of πληροωplēroō stressing the state of completion in the purpose (ιναhina), remain full, precisely as in John 16:24. See aorist subjunctive in John 15:11 and perfect indicative in John 17:13. The MSS. differ as often between ημωνhēmōn (our) and υμωνhumōn (your).

Verse 5

And (καιkai). Mutual fellowship depends on mutual knowledge (Westcott).

Message (αγγελιαaggelia). Old word (from αγγελοςaggelos messenger), in N.T. only here and 1 John 3:11, and note απ αυτουap' autou (from God like απαγγελλωapaggellō in 1 John 1:3) and αναγγελλομενanaggellomen to announce, to disclose, here as in John 4:25.

God is light (ο τεος πως εστινho theos phōs estin). Precisely so the ΛογοςLogos is light (John 1:4-9) and what Jesus claimed to be (John 8:12). John repeats it in negative form as he often does (John 1:3).

Verse 6

If we say (εαν ειπωμενean eipōmen). Condition of third class with εανean and second aorist (ingressive, up and say) active subjunctive. Claiming fellowship with God (see 1 John 1:3) involves walking in the light with God (1 John 1:5) and not in the darkness (σκοτοςskotos here, but σκοτιαskotia in John 1:5). See 1 John 2:11 also for εν τηι σκοτιαι περιπατεωen tēi skotiāi peripateō lie (πσευδομεταpseudometha). Present middle indicative, plain Greek and plain English like that about the devil in John 8:44.

Do not the truth (ου ποιουμεν την αλητειανou poioumen tēn alētheian). Negative statement of the positive πσευδομεταpseudometha as in John 8:44. See John 3:21 for “doing the truth,” like Nehemiah 9:33.

Verse 7

If we walk (εαν περιπατωμενean peripatōmen). Condition of third class also with εανean and present active subjunctive (keep on walking in the light with God).

As he (ως αυτοςhōs autos). As God is light (1 John 1:5) and dwells in light unapproachable (1 Timothy 6:16).

One with another (μετ αλληλωνmet' allēlōn). As he has already said in 1 John 1:3. But we cannot have fellowship with one another unless we have it with God in Christ, and to do that we must walk in the light with God.

And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin (και το αιμα Ιησου του υιου αυτου καταριζει ημας απο πασης αμαρτιαςkai to haima Iēsou tou huiou autou katharizei hēmās apo pāsēs hamartias). This clause with καιkai in true Johannine style is coordinate with the preceding one. Walking in the light with God makes possible fellowship with one another and is made possible also by the blood of Jesus (real blood and no mere phantom, atoning blood of the sinless Son of God for our sins). John is not ashamed to use this word. It is not the mere “example” of Jesus that “cleanses” us from sin. It does cleanse the conscience and life and nothing else does (Hebrews 9:13.; Titus 2:14). See in 1 John 1:9 both forgiveness and cleansing. Cf. 1 John 3:3.

Verse 8

If we say (εαν ειπωμενean eipōmen). See 1 John 1:6.

We have no sin (αμαρτιαν ουκ εχομενhamartian ouk echomen). For this phrase see John 9:41; John 15:22, John 15:24. That is, we have no personal guilt, no principle of sin. This some of the Gnostics held, since matter was evil and the soul was not contaminated by the sinful flesh, a thin delusion with which so-called Christian scientists delude themselves today.

We deceive ourselves (εαυτους πλανωμενheautous planōmen). Present active indicative of πλαναωplanaō to lead astray. We do not deceive others who know us. Negative statement again of the same idea, “the truth is not in us.”

Verse 9

If we confess (εαν ομολογωμενean homologōmen). Third-class condition again with εανean and present active subjunctive of ομολογεωhomologeō “if we keep on confessing.” Confession of sin to God and to one another (James 5:16) is urged throughout the N.T. from John the Baptist (Mark 1:5) on.

Faithful (πιστοςpistos). Jesus made confession of sin necessary to forgiveness. It is God‘s promise and he is “righteous” (δικαιοςdikaios).

To forgive (ινα απηιhina aphēi). Sub-final clause with ιναhina and second aorist active subjunctive of απιημιaphiēmi to cleanse (και αγιασηιkai hagiasēi). So again with ιναhina and the first aorist active subjunctive of καταριζωkatharizō (1 John 1:7).

Verse 10

If we say (εαν ειπωμενean eipōmen). As in 1 John 1:6, 1 John 1:8.

We have not sinned (ουχ αμαρτηκαμενouch hamartēkamen). Perfect active indicative of αμαρτανωhamartanō This is a denial of any specific acts of sin, while in 1 John 1:8 we have the denial of the principle of sin. David Smith observes that the claim to personal perfectionism has two causes, one the stifling of conscience in making God a liar (πσευστηνpseustēn the word used of the devil by Jesus in John 8:44), and the other ignorance of God‘s word, which is not in us, else we should not make such a claim.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John 1:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology