1 John

I’m currently working on my dissertation for my BA at WEST. My title is something like “A Cohesion Analysis of 1 John” (although that may well change before I finish). I’m starting an indefinate series of posts on some findings from my research, hopefully finishing with a completed pdf copy of my dissertation. This is the first post: explaining basically what I’m aiming for…

I’ve never been satisfied with what commentators say about the structure of 1 John. There are three primary camps that writers fall into in this field:

  • cyclical
  • bi-partite
  • paragraphs

For now I’ll just explain what each camp thinks. In future posts I’ll revisit each one and explain more fully why I think it is an unsatisfactory structure to 1 John.

Cyclical: The main guy here is Robert Law. He came up with a theory which has been followed by lots and lots of writers. His theory was that 1 John centred around three theme (righteousness, love and faith) and that the book was structured in a cyclical way around each of these three themes. So there are three main sections in 1 John and in each one test are put forward on each of these themes.

Bi-Partite: This structure is followed by people like Brown and Harris and others. They recognise stong links between John’s Gospel and John’s first letter and so conclude that the structure of John’s gospel is also linked to the structure of 1 John. John’s gospel has and introduction, two parts and an epilogue. According to this camp, 1 John has an introduction (1:1-4), two parts (1:5-? / ?-5:12) and a conclusion (5:13-21). People disagree on exactly where the middle divide goes (2:29? 3:10??).

Paragraphs – finally, some recent commentators (most notable Marshall) have declined to impose a structure on 1 John and have simply divided the book into a series of paragraphs which may or may not relate to each other or be subordinate to each other.

Next time we’ll introduce some other, more recent, and I think more faithful proposals for 1 John. Then we’ll evaluate each camp.


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