I John



·         Some scholars believe the Apostle John wrote it, whereas other scholars believe a follower of John wrote it.

·         Look back at the Gospel of John for a biography of John


Place and Time of Writing

·         Probably Ephesus, where John probably lived after being released from the island of Patmos

·         Probably in the late 90s.


Unique Characteristics

·         One of the General Epistles

·         A personal letter from an older apostle to the church



·         To all Christians



·         Against false teachers and a reminder for Christians to love others.


Opening I John Up


Why did John write I John?

We do not know for certain why John wrote this letter, but it could be for the same possible reason that Peter wrote his two letters:  John was close to death and saw issues that he wanted to discuss with all Christians.  He decided to do that in a letter, which is I John. 


The central theme:  Love

Love is the central theme to this letter.  You can see from the Outline below that John focused on love.  As an example, consider these six verses from the letter.  I will include them here, and as an exercise count how many times you read the word “love” or some form of “love”:

·         4:7-12:  “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

That is thirteen times in six verses, or an average of more than twice a verse.  Now, not all of John is like that, but it is a good illustration to show how John focused on love as a defining characteristic. 

    Let me give an example from John’s life that will make this point clearer.  This is not found in the Bible, but many scholars do believe it happened.  John was an old man after he was released from the island of Patmos and was back in Ephesus.  By this point, in the late 90s, he was the last living Apostle.  Therefore, many people came to John and asked questions about Christianity, how to live, how to run churches, etc.  But John always gave the same answer:  “Love one another.”  Then one day someone finally asked him why he didn’t answer the questions.  John said:  “Because if you love one another, nothing else matters.”   

   Therefore, for John, who at this point [in the late 90s) had seen the church develop over 65+ years with many conflicts, the most important aspect of a Christian is love.

·         Paul = faith,

·         James = action,

·         John = love.


Against Docetism

As a refresher on Docetism, go here:  http://studythechurch.com/Docetism.htm  By this point, Docetism had become a major threat to Christianity.  Remember that one of the main points of Docetism was that Jesus wasn’t physical and so didn’t die on the cross, but instead was a messenger from the highest god.  We can see John write against that idea in this letter:

·         4:2:  “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God:  Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

This is a direct reference to the docetic idea that Jesus wasn’t human.  Hint:  Two of the next three letters will also discuss heresies.





1:1-4:  Definition of Jesus

1:5-2:17:  Short essay on loving others and not the “world”

2:18-27:  Warning against heresies

2:28-3:10:  Christians are children of God

3:11-24:  More instructions on loving others

4:1-6:  Warning against false teachers

4:7-the end of 5:  Love for others and the confidence that comes from faith in Jesus


Timeline so far      Additions are boldfaced     All dates are approximate



Rome Empire conquered Israel without fighting


Julius Caesar assassinated by Brutus, Cassius, and others.  Mark Antony tries to seize power, and he and Octavian (Caesar’s nephew) fight for power.


The Roman Empire made Herod the Great king of Israel


Antony married Cleopatra in Egypt


Octavian’s forces defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces; they committed suicide the next year.


Octavian is given name of Augustus, becomes Augustus Caesar.  This is the beginning of Pax Romana

4 BC

Jesus born

4 BC

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt because Herod the Great wanted to kill Jesus

4 BC

Herod the Great died

4 BC

After Herod the Great died, the kingdom of the Jews was divided and given to Herod’s three sons:

The northern part, north of Nazareth, went to Philip.

The middle part called Galilee, north of Jerusalem but where Nazareth was located, went to Herod Antipas.  (He is referred to as “Herod” in the Gospels and so this can be confusing.)

The southern part called Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem was located, went to Herod Archelaus. 


All years after this point are AD



Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Nazareth instead of moving to Bethlehem


Archelaus was removed from power because he was so brutal

6 and after

The Romans did not choose another of Herod’s descendants to control Judea (southern Israel) but instead appointed Roman governors


Jesus lost in Jerusalem at age 12; Joseph and Mary found him in the Temple; possible Bar Mitzvah


Jesus probably worked as a carpenter


The Roman governor in charge of southern Israel was Pilate


Jesus baptized by John the Baptist


Jesus traveled in Israel and preached, taught, and performed miracles


1.  Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor Pilate, raises from the dead three days later and ascends out of sight about a month-and-a-half later

2.  The Apostles return to Jerusalem and pick a replacement for Judas

3.  Day of Pentecost

4.  Over 3000 people become Christian

5.  Christianity spreads outside of Israel


Peter was the leader of the Christian movement


Paul became a Christian


Paul went on his First Missionary Trip


James written around this year


Council of Jerusalem

·         Paul, Peter, the Apostle John and James the half-brother of Jesus were present along with many others


We do not know what John did during this time period


Paul went on his Second Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Galatians, I Thessalonians, and II Thessalonians


Nero was Roman emperor


Paul went on his Third Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Romans, and I & II Corinthians


Paul arrested in Jerusalem, taken to Rome, and lived under house arrest

·         Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon


James, the author of the book of James, was stoned


Paul released from prison and travelled; he may have gone to Spain

  • Paul wrote I Timothy and Titus


Fire in Rome.  The emperor Nero blamed, persecuted, and killed many Christians.  This was the first Roman persecution of Christians. 

·         I Peter written around this year


1.  Paul back in Rome

2.  Paul wrote II Timothy

3.  Peter wrote II Peter

4.  Peter and Paul martyred around this year in Rome

·         Peter crucified upside down

·         Paul beheaded


Some of the Jews got tired of the Roman rule and killed many Roman soldiers.  They thus took back the land of Israel for the Jews.


The Romans counter-attacked.  The Romans lost one battle, but won the war.


  • Mark written around this year

  • Hebrews written around this year


The Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the Temple. 


Matthew and Luke written around this year


Domitian is Roman emperor


John and Acts written around this year


1.  Persecution of Christians

2.  John was placed on the island of Patmos as a prisoner of Domitian


1.  Domitian died

2.  John was probably released from Patmos; he probably traveled to Ephesus where he stayed for the rest of his life


I John written around this year


John died


First listing of the 27 books in a letter written by an Egyptian bishop


Two councils “closed” the NT canon to those 27 books


NT divided into chapters


NT divided into verses



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