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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

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The First Letter of John - Introduction

Unlike 2 and 3 John, this book is not a letter but a tract, occasioned by the denial of the reality of the incarnation ( 2.22; 4.2–3, 15 ) by some heretical Christians ( 2.19 ). These claim to be superior in knowing God ( 2.3–4 ), in love for God ( 4.20 ), and in communion with God ( 1.6 ).

The treatise may well be from the same hand that wrote 2 and 3 John. Its style and themes also recall those of the Fourth Gospel: centrality of the incarnation, the mission of the only Son, the Word ( 1.1 ). Still, no mention is made of the Holy Spirit as personal (Jesus is the “one who … will plead our cause” in 2.1 ), or of “glory,” or of “judging,” all important in the Gospel. This may indicate that the tract had an earlier origin than the Gospel, or that it was written by a different author from the same school of thought. Tradition has associated the tract with Asia Minor and the name of John.

The main body of the book is enclosed between a prologue ( 1.1–4 ) and an epilogue ( 5.13–21 ). Three aspects of God are developed in concentric circles: God is “Light” ( 1.5–2.27 ), “Righteous” ( 2.28–4.6 ), “Love” ( 4.7–5.12 ).

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