Lectionary Year B
April 27, 2003
1 John 1:1-2:2

Step II: Disposition


This passage presents us with some variety of styles of literature. Commentators note that it is not couched in the format of a letter, it has no greeting, no salutation. It begins with a prolog, setting the stage for some significant statements about Christ, God, sin, proclaiming witnessing, following, fellowship, forgiveness, the Advocate or the Righteous, light and darkness, truth and deception, etc. It seems to cover several related subjects, but in rapid fire more like the Gospel of Mark than we might expect. It seems to take several and/or close readings to discern the relations among the several topics, as if the author(s) is/are being hurried. It reads almost like a laundry list and/or a grocery list, while the subject matter defies those characteristics; they are much more significant than such lists. So, perhaps, what we have here is an outline to be memorized for further reflection, discussion, etc.


So, just how much do(es) the writer(s) intend for us to refer to the prolog in John’s Gospel? Are the repetitions of seeing, hearing, handling meant to emphasize or are they textual editorials’ duplications? What does Jesus’ blood’s cleansing have to do with walking in the light and/or having fellowship, in verse 7? Does deceiving ourselves, re: sinlessness, really remove truth from us? What about the “if, then”, cause and effect, of confession and Jesus’ forgiveness? Does I John seem to say they really that formulaic? And, does Jesus’ forgiveness really rid us of all unrighteousness? Would any believer sleep at night “making God a liar”? Is that idea an exaggeration in order to make a point? Does it also exclude God’s word from “in us”? These questions seem to indicate my wondering just how effectively I, as a believer, need to hear and heed the intensity of the conditions of human faithfulness/following/sinning/confessing, etc.

The prolog takes four or maybe even five verses to state the pre-existence of Christ, his having been witnessed by the author(s) and that the declarations of these observations provide fellowship and joy. Next the dichotomies of light and darkness, of walking therein or not, of lying and maintaining the truth, of disavowing sinfulness and self deception. Then, we get the images of Jesus’ cleansing blood and the “from all unrighteousness”. These images are not opposite, they are commensurate. Then, as if the apologist fears the argument is getting either weak or towards its end, the “making God a liar” concept emerges. Finally, the Advocate, the Righteous, appears in the text by these names.

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