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The Anonymity of 1 John

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  • Ken Litwak
    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
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 15, 2001
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      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.

      Ken Litwak
    • khs@picknowl.com.au
      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,
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 23, 2001
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        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
        faith.

        Sincerely,

        Kym Smith
        Adelaide
        South Australia
        khs@...
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