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.
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
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
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