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PASSAGES WITH REFERENCE TO THE DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT IN I JOHN

i. 7: 'If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.'

ii 1f.: 'And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, 241 Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation (ilasmos) for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.'

ii. 12: 'I write unto you, my little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.'

iii. 5: 'And ye know that he was manifested to take away sins (ina tas amartias are); and in him is no sin.'

iii. 16: 'Hereby we know love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.'

iv. 10: 'Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.'

iv. 14: 'And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.'

In the present investigation it is not possible to give the same detailed treatment to these passages as in the case of the Passion-sayings. For our purpose it must suffice to summarize the principal ideas they embody. These ideas are:

(1) The belief that the blood, or out-poured life of Jesus, has 'cleansing' power (i. 7);

(2) The close relation between the death of Christ and sin (i. 7, ii. 1f, 12, iii. 5);

(3) The connexion between forgiveness and the 'name' of Christ (ii. 12);

(4) The description of Jesus Christ, 'the righteous', as the 'propitiation' for sins (ii. 2, iv. 10);

(5) The use of the phrase, 'the Saviour of the world' (iv. 14);

(6) The thought that the death of Christ is the supreme revelation of love (iii. 16);

(7) The thought that the coming of the Son to be 'the propitiation for our sins' is grounded in the love of God (iv. 10).

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If we compare the several items of this list with the statements of the Gospel, we shall find that some of them are common to the two writings, but that others are either rarely illustrated in, or are absent from, the Gospel.

The last three appear in the Gospel. Thus, the Samaritans confess Jesus as 'the Saviour of the world' (iv. 42); Jesus declares that a man has no greater love than that he 'lay down his life for his friends' (xv. 13); and the Evangelist pens the immortal word: 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son' (iii. 16).

Of the remaining conceptions found in I John all that is paralleled in the Gospel is the connexion between the death of Christ and sin in i. 29 and the broad sacrificial ideas implicit in the saying in xii. 24 and xvii. 19. In the Gospel the Evangelist does not speak of the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, and in the sayings the nearest approach to this idea is in the words: 'He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life' (vi. 54). Nowhere in the Gospel is forgiveness related to the death or to the 'name' of Christ, and the term, 'propitiation' or any of its cognate forms, is never employed. How are those facts to be explained?

A simple answer would be provided if we could say that the Fourth Gospel and i John were written by two different writers belonging to the same 'Johannine School', and this view has been taken by some New Testament scholars, including Holtzmann,11   Jahrbuch fur protestantische Theologie, 1881, p. 690f.; 1882, pp. 128f., 316f., 460f. Schmiedel,22   The Johannine Writings, 208-11. Moffatt,33   Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament, 589-93. Scott,44   The Fourth Gospel: Its Purpose and Theology, 88f., 94. But in his Literature of the New Testament (1932), 261, Scott takes the view that the two writings are the work of the same author. 243 Lord Charnwood,11   According to St. John, 79. and others.22   See the list in Moffatt. op. cit., 589f. C. H. Dodd has recently argued that I John was written by an author who may have been a disciple of the Fourth Evangelist. See the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, Vol. 21, No. 1, April 1937, pp. 129-56. This critical opinion is based, not only on the references to the work of Christ, but also on differences regarding the Parousia, the use made of the Old Testament, faith, the Logos conception, and the application of the term 'Paraclete'. It is further supported by certain linguistic peculiarities of I John.33   Cf. Moffatt, op. cit., 590, and Dodd's article noted above. It is very doubtful, however, if the differences sustain a theory of diverse authorship. Moreover, the agreements in vocabulary and syntax are striking.44   Cf. A. E. Brooke, i.-xix.; W. F. Howard, *The fourth Gospel in Recent Criticism and Interpretation, 252-7; R. H. Charles, I.C.C., Revelation, xxxiv.-vii. In particular, there does not seem to be any real need to resort to this theory so far as the treatment given to the work of Christ is concerned. As we have seen, the thought that the Cross is grounded in love is distinctive in both writings, and if sin and sacrifice are more prominent conceptions in I John, they are not absent from the Gospel. It is probable that the most notable difference, the use of the word 'propitiation' in I Jn. ii.2, iv. 10, is exaggerated in the mind because it is commonly understood as suggesting the appeasing of the anger of God. This suggestion, however, is almost certainly mistaken. C. H. Dodd thinks that, with some confidence, we may regard ilasmos as based on the sense of katharizeiv, 'to purify';55   The Bible and the Greeks, 94f. and, in substance, a similar view has been taken by J. Moffatt.66   Love in the New Testament, 255. We must look, then, to some other explanation of the differences between I John and the Gospel.

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It has been maintained that the differences between the two writings presuppose a considerable time-interval, and that I John is the earlier and more primitive work. Holtzmann, indeed, regarded this as a necessary assumption, if identity of authorship is accepted.11   Cf. A. E. Brooke, xix. A. E. Brooke, however, has shown that there is much to be said for the view that the Epistle is the later work,22   Op. cit., xix.-xxvii. and certainly it is not easy to think that the false teaching which is opposed is earlier than the turn of the first century. In this case, the hypothesis that during an interval of, say, twenty or twenty-five years the writer's thought had undergone development to the point represented by the Fourth Gospel, falls to the ground.

The best explanation is to be found in the aim and purpose of the two writings. I John is a homily or a series of homilies; the Gospel is influenced throughout by a consistent doctrinal and religious purpose. The Evangelist writes to show that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and to help his readers to obtain life in His name by believing. Such a difference of purpose inevitably affects details of thought and expression, and all the more because in the Gospel the Evangelist's method is definitely selective. No more than any other Evangelist has he any thought of writing a biography; what he uses from the available tradition is deliberately chosen, doubtless with a sovereign hand, because it serves best the end he has in view.

The Fourth Evangelist's principal interest is in the revelation of the Incarnate Word. For this reason we cannot expect his Gospel to contain all his thoughts concerning Christ's death, but only such as are germane to his purpose. The fact, however, that he wrote I John is a salutary warning against an over-emphasis of the idea that he wrote with a conscious doctrinal intention. From the comparison 245 of the two works we see that he can write with restraint, that he can withstand the temptation to introduce cherished beliefs into his unfolding of the Gospel Story. How this inference is to be related to the evaluation of the Passion-sayings must be considered later. At this point the sayings themselves must be examined, together with the special problems which they raise.


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