1 Yochanan, Jewish New Testament and comment David H. Stern
1. My children, I am writing you these things so that you won’t sin. But if anyone does sin, we have Yeshua the Messiah, the Tzaddik, who pleads our cause with the Father.
2. Also, he is the kapparah for our sins — and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.
To avoid the inference from 1:9 that Yochanan condones sin, or supposes that one may intentionally indulge in sin and expect forgiveness, Yochanan specifically says. I am writing you these things so that you won't sin. Compare Ro 3:8,6:1 t'f.; and the Mishna cited in 1:5-10N.
Some Bible-believers are so aware of the evil of sin that when confronted with its inevitability they can neither cope nor advise. Not so the New Testament. Yochanan wants the best from his readers (so that you won't sin), but nevertheless prepares them for less than the best (but if anyone does sin).
The Tzaddik. literally, "the Righteous One." See Mt 10:41N on the concept of the tzaddik in Judaism.
Who pleads our cause with the father, as stated in MJ 7:25.
He is the kapparah, "atonement, expiation, propitiation"; the Greek word is "ilasmos" related to "ilasterion" at Ro 3:25&N; see also 1:5-10N above. On Yom-Kippur (the Day of Atonement) it is through Yeshua, the kapparah (atonement) that sins are forgiven. On Yom-Kippur Jews who have not yet accepted Yeshua into their lives may understandably be uncertain as to whether God has truly forgiven their sins.
3. The way we can be sure we know him is if we are obeying his commands.
4. Anyone who says, “I know him,” but isn’t obeying his commands is a liar — the truth is not in him.
5. But if someone keeps doing what he says, then truly love for God has been brought to its goal in him. This is how we are sure that we are united with him.
6. A person who claims to be continuing in union with him ought to conduct his life the way he did.
Two ways not to have the truth:
(1) to claim not to have sin (1:8), and
(2) to say "I know him" but not obey his commands (as Ya 2:14-26 teaches).
In the Tanakh the word "know" can mean "have intimate experience"; here "knowing Yeshua" means having intimate spiritual experience with him, to the degree that one obeys his commands from the heart. Anything less is not true knowledge; there is a difference between giving mental assent to Yeshua's Messiahship and knowing him. Elsewhere Yochanan reports that Yeshua said. "If you love me, you will keep my commands," and "If you keep my commands, you will stay in my love" (Yn 14:15, 15:10; compare Yn 14:21, 15:14). This is how we are sure that we are united with him, and this answers the question raised by the "eternal security of the believer" in MJ 6:4-6N.
7. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command. On the contrary, it is an old command, which you have had from the beginning; the old command is the message which you have heard before.
8. Yet I am writing you a new command, and its reality is seen both in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
Yechiel Lichtenstein, observing that Yeshua's command to love (v. 10) is both old and new, notes that while Moses commanded, "Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18), we do not learn from this to love our friend to the point of being willing to die for him.
Indeed, Rabbi Akiva taught the opposite, that our own life comes before our friend's life. He gives the example of two men walking in the desert with water sufficient for one to survive if he drinks all of it, but both will die if they split it between them. Akiva concluded that the owner of the water should drink it, because you should love your neighbor as yourself, not more than yourself.
But our Lord said, "I am giving you a new command: that you keep on loving each other. In the same way that I have loved you, you are also to keep on loving each other" (Yn 13:34). Our Lords love was to the point of dying for us (Mk 10:45, Ro 5:8), and we are to love each other "in the same way." So this commandment is both old, since Moses already said to love your neighbor, and new, enjoining us "to lay down our lives for the brothers" (3:16).
9. Anyone who claims to be in this light while hating his brother is still in the dark.
Brother. Here and throughout this book, "fellow member of God's people."
10. The person who keeps loving his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him that could make him trip.
11. But the person who hates his brother is in the dark — yes, he is walking in the dark, and he doesn’t know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
12. You children, I am writing you because your sins have been forgiven for his sake.
13. You fathers, I am writing you because you have known him who has existed from the beginning. You young people, I am writing you because you have overcome the Evil One.
14. You children, I have written you
because you have known the Father.
You fathers, I have written you
because you have known him who has existed from the beginning.
You young people, I have written you
because you are strong —
the Word of God remains in you,
and you have overcome the Evil One.
Children... young people... fathers — believers of increasing degrees of maturity in the faith. In other words, Yochanan has something to say to everyone.
For his sake, literally, "for the sake of his name" or "by his name."
15. Do not love the world or the things of the world. If someone loves the world, then love for the Father is not in him;
16. because all the things of the world — the desires of the old nature, the desires of the eyes, and the pretensions of life — are not from the Father but from the world.
17. And the world is passing away, along with its desires. But whoever does God’s will remains forever.
Because his readers have experienced the positive results of faith (vv. 12-14) and therefore have an alternative to this world's order of things. Yochanan can tell them. Do not love the world or the things of the world (compare Yn 17:14-19).
The three main kinds of temptations were present already in the Garden of Eden, as is clear from Genesis 3:6: "When the woman saw that the tree was good for ftxxi" (the desires of the old nature or "flesh." Ro 7:5N), "and thai it was a delight to the eyes" (the desires of the eyes), "and a tree to be desired to make one wise" (the pretensions of life), "she took of the fruit and ate." Satan later used the same temptations with Yeshua, but he resisted them (Mt 4:1-1 l&NN, MJ 4:14-16&N). Yochanan's readers and we are to do the same.
18. Children, this is the Last Hour. You have heard that an Anti-Messiah is coming; and in fact, many anti-Messiahs have arisen now — which is how we know that this is the Last Hour.
19. They went out from us, but they weren’t part of us; for had they been part of us, they would have remained with us.
An anti-Messiah or "antichrist" is coming. See 2 Th 2:3N on the Man of Lawlessness and his role in the drama of End-Time history; see also Revelation 12-13. Yochanan is less concerned with this unique anti-Messianic figure than with the practical danger to believers from the many anti-Messiahs who went out from us, but they weren't part of us, who deny that Yeshua is the Messiah (vv. 22-23&N) or that he came as a flesh-and-blood human being (4:2-3&N, 2 Yn 7&N). See also 3:7-10N.
20. But you have received the Messiah’s anointing from HaKadosh, and you know all this.
You have received the Messiah's anointing, literally, "you have an anointing"; but, because of the context, this could be rendered, "you have been "Messiah-ed."' HaKadosh ("the Holy One") is understood here to mean God the Father (see Rv 3:7N). Because the Holy One has 'Messiah-ed" you with the real Messiah, Yeshua, you know all this about the danger of anti-Messiahs (vv. 18-19).
21. It is not because you don’t know the truth that I have written to you, but because you do know it, and because no lie has its origin in the truth.
22. Who is a liar at all, if not the person who denies that Yeshua is the Messiah? Such a person is an anti-Messiah — he is denying the Father and the Son.
23. Everyone who denies the Son is also without the Father, but the person who acknowledges the Son has the Father as well.
This passage invites comparison with Yeshua's own statements — "If you knew me you would know my Father too" (Yn 8:19), "I and the Father are one" (Yn 10:30), and "I am the Way — and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me" (Yn 14:6). All these verses refute the Two-Covenant theory (see Yo 14:6&N), which says that Jews and Christians each have their own independent but equally valid covenants with God, so that Jews do not need to relate to the New Testament or to Yeshua.
Even though Yochanan is writing primarily to Gentile believers, he makes his statement universal: Everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, who denies the Son — which, in context (v. 22), means denying Yeshua's Messiahship — is also without the Father. Thus does the New Testament directly contradict a central tenet of non-Messianic Judaism, that a Jew can have God as his Father while rejecting Yeshua. On the contrary, it is the person who acknowledges the Son who has the Father as well, as taught in Yn 14:6, cited above. But Everyone who denies the Son is also without the Father. Nothing could be clearer.
Ecumenical dialogue which attempts to overlook this basic contradiction between non-Messianic Judaism on the one hand, and Messianic Judaism and Christianity on the other, must ignore, distort or defuse this verse. Such dialogue will be built on a facile and superficial bowdlerization of New Testament faith, and any agreement emerging from it will necessarily have sidestepped what the Bible presents as serious and true answers to the ultimate questions of life. On the other hand, the dinim (halakhic decisions) of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986), an American Orthodox Jewish community leader, prohibited Jews from engaging in religious dialogue-with Christians at all. In a way, his rulings recognized the irreconcilability of the opposing claims, more honest than denaturing the claims themselves. But recognizing irreconcilability is not the same as recognizing truth, and prohibiting discussion of a subject is not the way to arrive at the truth about it.
Some segments of the Orthodox Jewish community carry this approach even further by prohibiting the reading of the New Testament itself. Obviously, persons who subject themselves to this din have less opportunity to learn whether the New Testament's claims are true; although there are instances of Orthodox Jews who happened to come across a New Testament, read it secretly, and discovered it to be not the hateful book of lies it was purported to be, but the book of love and salvation which it is.
24. Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you will also remain in union with both the Son and the Father.
25. And this is what he has promised us: eternal life.
26. I have written you these things about the people who are trying to deceive you.
27. As for you, the Messianic anointing you received from the Father remains in you, so that you have no need for anyone to teach you. On the contrary, as his Messianic anointing continues to teach you about all things, and is true, not a counterfeit, so, just as he taught you, remain united with him.
You have no need for anyone to teach you. Both "you's" are plural and refer to the believing community as a whole; there is no ground here for a hyper-individualistic understanding of the Gospel wherein the views of other believers and the gathering of believers together are considered unimportant (see MJ 10:25&N). On "messianic anointing" see v. 20N.
28. And now, children, remain united with him; so that when he appears, we may have confidence and not shrink back from him in shame at his coming.
29. If you know that he is righteous, you should also know that he is the Father of everyone who does what is right.
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3
- chapter 4
- chapter 5