« Prev 1. Main Purpose: to Oppose the Gnostics. Next »


Whereas, for instance, the Gospel never says that it is opposing false teaching within the Christian fold (except in x. 1-10: see p. 135 f.), the Epistle says this most emphatically. But we found certain utterances in the Gospel aimed at very definite opponents, in other words, at the Gnostics (pp. 152-154, 160-163); and the first Epistle likewise opposes the Gnostics. We are told (ii. 4) that the author’s opponents asserted that they knew God; and it was knowledge on which the Gnostics prided themselves. We know further the doctrine of the Stoics according to which the logos or rather the individual logoi were like seeds of corn scattered throughout the world (p. 142 f.), 205and out of these the things of the world arose. The Gnostics applied this idea to themselves, and claimed that they had in their own persons the divine seed. There is a hint of this idea in iii. 9; and in i. 8, 10 of the Gnostics assertion that this made them sinless.

As to Jesus, the opponents of the writer of the Epistle taught that he was not the Christ (ii. 22). And in this again we can recognise the claim of the Gnostics, that Jesus was only a man who for a time and in a loose way became one with the Christ who had come down from heaven. This is seen even more clearly in iv. 2 f.; they deny that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, an utterance which is aimed at the same time at that other idea of the Gnostics—that he had merely a phantom body (pp. 150, 152). And in v. 6 that teaching of theirs is opposed, according to which the man who suffered on the cross was not really the redeemer, that is to say, the Christ, who had come down from heaven. The author says here that he came, that is to say, to save mankind, not only with water through his baptism but also with blood through his death.

But, further, in iii. 4, 10, ii. 4 the author declares against “every one that doeth sin” or “that keepeth not God’s commandments,” and by sin he means opposition to the injunction in iii. 3, that every one should purify himself. What he has in mind therefore is an unholy, unbridled life. Now, it is hardly possible that this reproach, which is made more than once and in the most varied forms, can apply to persons other than those who are opposed in other passages throughout the Epistle. And if this be so, the Gnostics with whom we have to deal here are not, like many others, especially in the first decades of the second century, people who adhered to the law of the Old Testament. We already have to do with a more developed form of Gnosticism.

« Prev 1. Main Purpose: to Oppose the Gnostics. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection