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5. DATE OF COMPOSITION.

But when was the Epistle written? Since it represents the simpler and earlier form of the Christian faith, it is natural to think it older than the Gospel. But the contrary may also have been the case; and there are many other writers who have not followed the Gospel of John, when it diverges from the original teaching, but have betaken themselves to this. We must therefore look for another means of deciding the question. Let me quote here ii. 12-14: “I write unto you, my little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye know him which is from the 211beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the evil one. I have written unto you, little children, because ye know the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye know him which is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the evil one.” This can hardly be understood to mean anything else than that the author wishes to inform his readers that what he now writes is essentially the same as he has already written to them once before. And thus it is very natural to suppose that he suggests that he had done this in the Gospel. With this the external evidence would agree; the Epistle, like the Gospel, is not used by Christian writers until after the year 140, and when it is first used there is no mention of the author’s name.

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