1 John 1:1-4 – Yeshua the Word of Life

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POSTED 28 JANUARY, 2018

reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume II

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Yeshua the Messiah. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”

Various approaches are witnessed in contemporary scholarship, to the content of the Epistle of 1 John, mainly given the presence of late First Century false teachings and heresies. Some of these errors are thought to be associated with the full rise of Gnosticism by the Second Century, whereas these errors might just as well be incoherent ideas and concepts capable of doing nothing more than hurting the Body of Messiah. In view of the content of 1 John, it is easily deduced that the false teaching(s) addressed, promoted lawlessness and licentiousness. The false teaching(s) also detracted from a secure identification of Yeshua the Messiah as one sacrificed for the sins of human beings, and the proper lifestyle incumbent of those who have placed their trust in Him. When one surveys the Epistle of 1 John, warnings against sin are affluent, and statements about the nature of Yeshua are presented—not only to combat whatever amalgamation of errors the audience had encountered—but to most especially encourage the audience to live in accordance with the salvation they have been provided.

The author of 1 John attests to being a first hand witness of Yeshua the Messiah, having not only seen Him in person, but also having touched Him: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1, NIV). This leads many, including this writer, to conclude that the author of 1 John is, in fact, the Apostle John. The subject of his letter is peri tou logou tēs zōēs, “regards the Word of Life” (LITV). Here, it is to be properly recognized how there is some connection to be made with the Word or Logos of John 1:1.

John, a firsthand witness of Yeshua of Nazareth, further communicates, “the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us” (1 John 1:2, TLV). John first references tēn zōēn tēn aiōnion or “the eternal life.” Within a scope of Bible passages, it is reasonably concluded how there are multiple dimensions of eternal life, including being forgiven and redeemed from sins, as well as a quality of being that one is to experience with his or her Creator. Colin G. Kruse asserts that “the eternal life” of 1 John 1:2 should be taken as a reference to the person of Yeshua the Messiah Himself, who, to be sure, is the nexus of our understanding of what eternal life actually is:

“The expression ‘eternal life’…refers to the Word of life, the Son of God, who was found with the Father prior to his incarnation, and in whom eternal life is found (cf. 1 John 5:11-12). It was the eternal life which was with God from the beginning which, the author says, has appeared to us incarnate in Jesus Christ.”[1]

Indeed, some of the closing words of the Epistle of 1 John, precisely confirm this:

“And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:11-13).

Questions should immediately be raised about the gravity of what it means for Yeshua the Son to be titled as “the eternal life” (1 John 1:2), whose “blood cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Could a supernatural, but ultimately created being, be legitimately labeled as “the eternal life”? Fortunately, John does not leave unanswered how he approached the Savior, further stating hētis ēn pros ton patera, “which was with the Father” (Brown and Comfort).[2] Given how Yeshua has been just called “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1), and now how He “was with the Father” or ēn pros ton patera, a linguistic connection should be made with the declaration of John 1:1: “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” or ho logos ēn pros ton Theon, kai Theos ēn ho logos. Marshall recognizes how “The language used here is precisely that which was used of the personal Word which was with God in the beginning (Jn. 1:2). It was the personal manifestation of eternal life in the historical person of Jesus which was of crucial importance for the writer—and his readers.”[3]

Identifying some the grammatical features of 1 John 1:2 and John 1:1, Stephen S. Smalley further summarizes,

“[T]he christological reference is almost certainly primary, in view of the qualitative relative [hētis (ēn pros ton patera)] , ‘which (existed with the Father),’ and the force of the imperfect [ēn], ‘was’ (note the connections with v 1 [ho ēn ap’ archēs], ‘what was there from the beginning,’ and John 1:1, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,’ where the Gr. has [ēn] in both sentences). In other words John seems to be saying: ‘we are proclaiming to you the life which is indeed eternal, seeing that this life was (not ‘is’) with the Father (pre-existently).’…John’s lofty christology at this point may be intended to remind those of his readers who saw Jesus as human, and little more…that he was also divine…”[4]

Yeshua, “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1) and “the eternal life,” was One who “was with the Father” (1 John 1:2). With thematic and linguistic connections properly made with John 1:1, this serves as sure evidence of Yeshua being integrated into the Divine Identity. But let it never be said that Yeshua the Son being God, is something that serves to the dismissal of the Heavenly Father. The major thrust of the Epistle of 1 John is that the Believers live in accordance with the ways and commandments of God, something which very much involves their fellowship with both the Father and the Son: “What we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so you may have fellowship with us. Indeed, our fellowship is with the Father and His Son, Yeshua the Messiah. These things we write so our joy may be full” (1 John 1:3-4, TLV).


NOTES

[1] Colin G. Kruse, Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letters of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 57.

[2] Brown and Comfort, 829.

[3] I. Howard Marshall, New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), pp 103-104.

[4] Stephen S. Smalley, Word Biblical Commentary: 1,2,3 John, Vol 51 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1984), 10.