1 John Historical Information

Author:            John the Apostle.

Date:                        A.D. 90.  Although there is no definite date indicated, it must have been written before

                        all the eye-witnesses died.  John was the last apostle to die and he died around 95 A.D. 

                        The book had to have been written late enough to challenge the heresy that belonged to

                        thelatter part of the first century and the first part of the second.  Therefore, the date must

                        bearound 85-95 A.D.

Origin:            Tradition indicates that John spent his old age in Ephesus.  Therefore, although there is

                         no reference, it is likely that 1 John was written from Ephesus.

Recipients:             Christians.

Background:            Roman Empire.  The Emperor was Domitian (A.D. 81-96).  During the last years of his

                         reign there was some persecution of Jews and Christians.  Asia, the area to which this

                         letter seems to be addressed, was the wealthiest of the Roman provinces.  Its major cities,

                         like Pergamum and Ephesus, had been centers of the Greek culture for centuries.

                        Religious.  With an environment of ingrained culture of gods and goddesses, it became

                         natural that some form of syncretism would emerge as a threat to true doctrine and

                         Christianity.  Paul had warned of this threat when he spoke to the elders of the church at

                         Ephesus (Acts 20:30).  He also corrected an error at Colossae in his letter to the

                         Colossians. 

                        Doctrinal errors during the latter part of the first century:

                        *  Docetism:  This error came from a dualistic interpretation of the world that was widely

                            accepted.  Matter was evil and the spirit was good.  (If this were true, God did not

                            create the universe and there would be no bodily resurrection.)  Docetism taught that

                            since Christ was God (spirit), He could not indwell a body (something evil).

                             Therefore, the human body of Christ was not a real one but an imaginary one.  It

                            merely seemed to be a real body.


                   *  Cerinthus:  He taught a variation of Docetism.  Jesus was born in a normal fashion. The                                     Christ came upon Jesus at His baptism.  The Christ left Him before He died on the cross.

                        Jesus suffered and rose again while The Christ remained immune from suffering since He

                        was a spiritual being.

                   *   Gnosticism:  The Gnostics were the ones “in the know.”  (Gnosis is Greek for knowledge.)

                        They had special “secret knowledge.”  They considered themselves to be spiritually

                        superior and were therefore unloving.  Some of them were quite sensual because they

                        thought the spirit would not be contaminated if the body sinned.  Others were quite stoic

                        and denied that the body and emotions really existed.

Purpose:             John wrote this book for at least two reasons:

                        1.  To convince the readers to live for Christ.

                        2.  to combat false doctrine concerning Christ, holy living, and spiritual superiority (as the

                              “enlightened” Gnostics claimed).  This spiritual superiority engendered lovelessness

                              between individuals.

Theme:            Fellowship 

Key Verse:            1:3.  “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you that you may have

                         fellowship with us.  Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus

                         Christ.”