The Anonymity of 1 John
- I have a question regarding he anonymity of 1 John. I know there is
discussion as to whom the author might be, whether there are two Johns
in Ephesus or only one, and so forth. I'm not asking about that here.
Rather, on the assumption, based on the contents of 1 John, that the
author expects his/her words to be taken authoritatively, why would the
author choose to be anonymous? The author does not try to pretend to be
someone else, so it's not pseudepigraphical. The author does not even
name-drop. Nothing. Why would the author, whom the recipients must
know, dispense with normal letter-writing protocol in this manner?
This is, I think, a separate issue from the anonymity of John's Gospel,
as all the Gospels are anonymous, and that might serve a different
function than a letter. Thanks.
- Dear Ken,
You asked about the anonymity of 1 John. You may not be too
keen on my rather speculative ideas but, as no one else has
responded to your question, may I offer the following.
I suspect that 1 John is anonymous because it was written at a
time when its author, the Apostle John, could have been in
considerable danger if he was identified. The danger came
about because he had written a book which, if it fell into Roman
hands, could only be understood by them as treasonous. That
book was the Revelation of which, I suspect, very few copies
were made at the time of the events and personages
(particularly Nero) it was thought to have been indicating. I
suspect that only the apostles had copies at that time.
1 John, then, was a circular letter from John to support and
encourage the faithful especially those in Asia but no doubt
more broadly in the light of the Revelation and what the
apostles expected was about to happen (i.e. severe
persecutions followed by Christ's return `Children, it is the last
hour' 2:18; the `antichrists' of 2:18-19 were primarily the
Nicolaitans [cf. Rev 2:6,15]).
My hunch is that Ephesians (written by Paul in Ephesus
following his two years in Rome - '...we are not contending
against flesh and blood...' [6:12]) and 1 Peter (written by that
apostle in Rome [1:6; 4:12; 5:10]) were written for the same
reason, and the three may well have been circulated together,
especially in Asia. I believe the Revelation and the three epistles
mentioned were all written in 62AD.
For the same reason John was not named but was called the
Beloved Disciple in the Gospel for which he was largely
responsible. I think that gospel was written in 68, soon after
Nero's death and the apostle's release from Patmos, but too
close to the events of the previous four years for John to risk
being identified with the John of Patmos (Rev 1:1,4,9) should a
copy of the Revelation be sited by someone unsympathetic to the