Study Guide

Johannine Epsitles (1-3 John)

Johannine Epsitles (1-3 John) Introduction

Guess who wrote the Epistles of John?

If you know anything about the Bible, you probably knew not to jump to conclusions and shout "me! me! me!" before giving the completely wrong answer.

That's right—no Johns were involved in the making of these letters. (What can we say? It's just one of those quirky Bible things.) The guy who wrote these letters calls himself "the elder," and all he wants is for the Christians in his community to get along and love each other.

Basically, he's calling for a giant group hug.

But not everyone is down with the elder's love fest. See, there's a group of Christians in his community that keeps making all kinds of drama. They've got some ideas about Jesus that the elder doesn't think are exactly kosher. How does he handle this dissention in the ranks? By labeling his opponents "children of the devil."

Yeah…not quite as lovey dovey now.

The elder doesn't have a whole lot of nice things to say about these folks. He straight out says that no one should love them or pray for them or even let them spend the night on a pull-out sofa. Then, he puts some precious pen and ink into writing to other Christians to warn them about falling into his opponents' evil, terrible trap.

The moral of the story? Love each other…unless that other happens to have some slightly different ideas than you.

Yeah, we told you the Bible was quirky.

What is Johannine Epsitles (1-3 John) About and Why Should I Care?

You read the gospels to get the scoop on Jesus. Then you skipped over to Paul's letters to figure out what one of history's greatest theologians had to say. Maybe you even checked out that freaky stuff in Revelation just for fun.

That's the New Testament right there. Time to snap this big old Bible shut and call it a—

Wait!

You forgot the Epistles of John.

Sure, they're only three tiny little letters squeezed into the back of this big long canon, but don't let their size fool you. They may be short, but these books are packed with all kinds of important theological goodies.

Ever heard the phrase "God is love?" That was the elder speaking. You'll find that gem in his letters along with some of the most poetic words ever written about amore. Sure, Paul has "love is patient; love is kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4) and Jesus has "love one another" (John 13:34), but the elder kind of takes the cake when it comes to New Testament reflections on love.

Of course, it's not all love and hugs and ice cream sundaes up in here. The term "antichrist" also comes from the elder's letters. He uses it to refer to anyone who pretends to be a holy and pious but is really working for the devil. You might know the terms from all those chain emails your great-uncle forwards you.

So while the Johannine Epistles might not be the most famous in the Bible, plenty of words and concepts we use today come straight from 'em.

Johannine Epsitles (1-3 John) Resources

Websites

The Brick Testament
The makers of this awesome Lego Bible have one scene from 1 John. But they get it wrong: the elder isn't condemning the Jewish people; he's condemning everyone who doesn't believe in Jesus. He's an equal opportunity damner.

Foundation for the Antichrist
This self-identified atheist group should probably give a big thank you to the Bible for its name.

Antichrist Obama
This website, run by the Westboro Baptist Church, sets out to demonstrate that President Barack Obama is both the antichrist and one of the beasts of Revelation. They obviously haven't studied their Bible too hard because they don't seem to realize that they're referring to three totally different figures there. Warning: this site is highly offensive in every way, just like everything you've come to expect from the fine people over at Westboro Baptist.

Historical Documents

The First, Second, and Third Epistles of John
Right here in living color (and in the New Revised Standard Version). Read them, analyze them, enjoy them.

Video

Johannine Christianity: The Letters
Super smart people alert! Yale professor Dale B. Martin discusses the community that followed John's Gospel and his letters.

Audio

1 John 4:16 by The Mountain Goats
This American folk rock band wrote a song titled after this verse from the elder's letters: "So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them."

God Is Love by Marvin Gaye
Another song based on 1 John 4:16. What can we say? It's one of the elder's best lines.