Translation commentary on 1 John 1:5

Before John states what he views as the central point of Jesus’ message (verse 5b), he refers briefly (in verse 5a) to the role of we: he and his cowitnesses are mediators who proclaim (compare verses 2 and 3) to you the message they themselves have heard from Jesus. Where it is preferable to use coordinated sentences, one may say something like ‘There is a message from Jesus Christ. We have heard it and (now) proclaim it to you. It is (or He said) this, “God is light…” ’ or ‘We proclaim to you what we have heard from Jesus Christ. His message is that God is light….’

In the message we have heard from him, or ‘the message we heard him utter,’ the pronoun we has exclusive force again. The verb is in the perfect tense to indicate that their hearing in the past is still effective in the present. The pronoun him refers back to “his Son Jesus Christ” in verse 3. This has often to be made explicit.

Message (here and 3.11) basically means “something a person is sent (or ordered) by somebody to tell to someone else”; then, “what one has to tell to another,” “news.” Where an analytical rendering is to be used, the clause may have to be restructured; for example, ‘something we have to tell (you); we have heard it from Jesus Christ.’

The verb proclaim is better rendered ‘to tell,’ ‘to convey’; or, in order to bring out that the writer functions as an intermediary here, “we pass on” (New English Bible). In some cases it is to be rendered by a causative form of ‘to hear.’

Verse 5b may be rendered either in indirect discourse (Revised Standard Version and others) or in direct discourse (Good News Translation and others); the Greek connective allows both interpretations.

In God is light, the predicate noun light indicates quality; hence, ‘God has as quality light,’ ‘God, light (is) his being.’ But the intended meaning is in some cases better expressed by another construction; compare, for example, ‘God lights’ (verb, meaning ‘functions as daylight’), ‘there is only light in the presence of God.’

† The problem of rendering God will usually have been solved long before the translation of the Johannine Letters is begun. However, where it is still a matter of discussion, the following points should be kept in mind: (1) The term to be used should preferably be a noun, allowing both pluralization, to refer to “the gods of the heathen,” and specification, referring to the “one and only God of the believer.” The use of a proper name, for example, the name of a so-called High-God, is not advisable. (2) Where no appropriate term for God can be found, it is often possible to coin a descriptive phrase built on an existing indigenous expression; for example, ‘the One (in the) above,’ ‘The great Ruler,’ ‘The Eternal Spirit.’ (3) Indigenous terms are, as a rule, better than borrowings. Yet the use of the latter can sometimes not be avoided. In such a case it may be wise to add a qualifying phrase that helps to interpret the meaning correctly, as in, ‘Dios (from Spanish) our Father’ in some American Indian languages.

For this discussion of the problems involved in the rendering of God, and for further examples of their solution, see also A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Mark on 1.1.

Light is a widespread symbol, but its symbolic associations vary in accordance with the system of thought in which it is used. In the Hellenistic culture light was associated with excellence, purity, integrity, wisdom, and so forth, and as such was an appropriate and commonly used symbol for the divine. The opposition light—darkness was parallel to that of heaven – earth, spirit – matter, higher – lower nature, true knowledge (“enlightenment”) – false knowledge, eternity – time, and so forth, and all such pairs of opposites were viewed as aspects of the basic opposition of the good and the bad principle (compare Introduction page 3).

John’s adversaries were strongly influenced by these ideas. Their aim was to enter the sphere of light and to escape the earthly sphere and its obligations. This led to indifference towards all those who were not thus “enlightened.” To John many of these symbolic associations of light were known also, but his interpretation of them is entirely different. He views the opposition light – darkness as an ethical one, affecting the character, intentions, and deeds of man, rather than a metaphysical one. Therefore he states again and again in this letter that living in the light means love, justice, and goodness towards one’s brother.

In the receptor culture these symbolic associations of light may be partly, sometimes even mostly, different. Despite such cultural nonconformity a more or less literal rendering of the term should be given, trusting that a fuller understanding of the symbolism will arise from the context and from its exposition in Christian preaching and teaching. It may be advisable, however, to shift from metaphor to simile, ‘God is light, as it were,’ ‘God’s being is like light.’

Renderings of the term often cover also the concept ‘sun(light),’ ‘day(light),’ or may be built on an adjective meaning ‘bright,’ ‘clear.’ The Greek uses one word for two concepts, namely, the source, or cause of light (in the sense of clarity/brightness, here and 2.8), and its effect, or radiance (1.7; 2.9-10). The same is true of English and several other receptor languages, but elsewhere one may have to make a distinction between the two. In that case the former concept has been rendered by such terms as ‘illumination,’ ‘that-which-shines,’ ‘that which causes-light.’ The last mentioned rendering may lead to further restructurings of the clause, such as ‘God causes clearness’ or ‘God makes all things bright.’

In him is no darkness at all: the author reinforces the thought of the preceding clause by adding a negative statement of the opposite thought. This is a stylistic device he uses rather frequently. The clause serves to emphasize that the proposition God is light is an absolute one, without any exception or reservation, or, in other words, that absence of darkness is a quality of God. The force which in has in this context may have to be described; for example, ‘he has nothing in common with darkness (or with what is dark, or with anything dark)’ or “no … at all.” The Greek uses two negative forms which reinforce each other, thus expressing an emphatic negation.

Darkness: it has been pointed out “that ‘dark’ and ‘darkness’ is a universal symbol, but in different parts of the world it has different meanings and areas of connotation..: (1) the spirit world, (2) the realm of death, (3) ignorance, (4) secrecy and mystery, and (5) moral depravity and willful corruption,” and that possible renderings are often of three types, “(a) the darkness of night, (b) darkness used by shadows, including even the intense shade of a deep forest, and (c) the darkness of an enclosure such as a house without windows or a cave”.

In the present verse the noun is used with a widely encompassing meaning, as a symbol for everything that is not of God. The translator should choose a rendering that may be applied in a wide variety of ways. In several languages a term for the darkness of night (type [a] above) appears to meet this requirement. Where necessary one may shift to ‘what is not light,’ but more radical semantic adjustments are not advisable; compare the remarks on light. Other occurrences can be found in 1.6; 2.8-9, 11.

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The First Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 John 2:27

But, preferably “but as for you” (Good News Translation), represents the Greek construction of a pronoun in initial position (compare verse 24). This construction serves to emphasize the contrast between “you” and “those who would deceive you.”

The anointing which you received from him abides in you: the exegetical decisions taken, and the translational choices made in verse 20, should be reflected in the rendering of the anointing in the present verse. If one has followed interpretation (2b) in verse 20, this will result here in such renderings as ‘you have been and are being anointed by him,’ ‘you have been anointed by him, and you remain so,’ ‘you he has consecrated, and this consecration remains valid’ (Bijbel in Gewone Taal), “the initiation which you received from him stays with you” (New English Bible). Interpretation (1) leads to something like ‘the word (or the Spirit) you received is constantly in your heart.’

In the Greek you received is in the aorist tense, which has the same force here as in “you have heard” in verse 24. In from him, the pronoun has probably the same referent as in verse 25, namely, “Christ,” or “the Son.” For “to abide in” see comments on verse 14.

And introduces a kind of conclusion here; hence ‘therefore,’ etc.

You have no need that any one should teach you, or ‘you do not need any teacher.’ It is often preferable to say ‘you do not need another teacher,’ since “the anointing” itself is also likened to a teacher (verse 27b). The statement presumably implies a rejection of the teaching given by the false teachers.

“To have need” can be rendered here by expressions like ‘to want,’ ‘to lack,’ ‘to have to look for.’ In some languages the concept has to be expressed otherwise; for example (using a rhetorical question), ‘why should other people have to teach you?’ or, in direct discourse, ‘you cannot say, “Let another teach us.” ’

† On the verb teach, compare also “the doctrine,” literally “the teaching” in 2 John 9-10. When trying to find an appropriate rendering of this verb, the translator must often distinguish “between formal and informal teaching and instruction. Formal teaching implies classroom procedures, while informal teaching is largely explanation and demonstration. Some languages may distinguish between teaching as largely verbalization versus teaching as demonstration. Furthermore, differences in verbs for teaching may be based upon the content of what is taught, whether, for example, local cultural traditions or secular knowledge characteristic of western civilization. Some languages distinguish between active and causative forms of teaching.” The former may be expressed by ‘to show,’ ‘to inform,’ ‘to instruct,’ the latter by ‘to cause to know,’ ‘to cause to imitate,’ ‘to give to be learned,’ ‘to speak-hear’ in the sense of ‘to speak that people may hear.’ Some languages use an idiomatic expression such as ‘to engrave upon the mind.’

The Greek connective with which verse 27b starts may have transitional or adversative force. In the former case it serves to strengthen the imperative abide in him. In the latter case it emphasizes the contrast between the true teaching of “the anointing” and the false teaching of John’s opponents. The decision depends on the choice between the two main interpretations of the sentence structure, to be mentioned below. A transitional connective fits interpretation (1), a contrastive connective fits interpretation (2).

According to (1) the first and the fourth clause of verse 27b form the main sentence: “as his anointing teaches you about everything, abide in him.” Then the second clause, “and is true, and is no lie,” acquires the character of a parenthetical statement, inserted to press the point; and the third clause, “just as it has taught you,” repeats the first clause. This repetition serves to take up again the train of thought of the main sentence after the break caused by the parenthetical statement. For a comparable sentence structure see 1.1-3.

Although it is difficult to account for the Greek connective (kai) at the head of the third clause, this is an interpretation of the Greek that is grammatically possible. The sentence structure, however, is rather heavy, especially so because of the parenthetical statement. The rendering given in Revised Standard Version is based on this interpretation, which is also followed by Goodspeed, Bible de Jérusalem, Nieuwe Vertaling, and others.

To avoid the awkwardness of the construction just mentioned, one may have to rearrange the clause sequence. Then one may say, for example, ‘His anointing is true and is no lie, and it teaches you about everything. Just as it (referring to the anointing) has taught you (to do), abide in him’; or, transposing the clauses of the second sentence, ‘His anointing is true and is no lie. Abide in him, just as it has taught you (to do).’

Following interpretation (2), verse 27b is to be divided into two sentences. The main clauses of these are respectively the second and the fourth one; thus: “As his anointing teaches you about everything, so it (now referring to the teaching) is true and no lie. And just as it has taught you: abide in him” or, shifting to coordination, “His anointing teaches you about everything. What it teaches you is true, it is not a lie. Do what it has taught you: abide in him.” According to this interpretation the Greek connective in the beginning of the second clause (kai) indicates the beginning of a main clause. This is somewhat unusual, but it occurs also in 2.18 and John 6.57.

In the opinion of the present authors, interpretation (2) is the slightly more probable one. A solution along the same lines is found in Good News Translation, Zürcher Bibel, and others.

In his anointing teaches you about everything, the possessive pronoun is emphatic by position. It refers to Christ.

The rendering of anointing should, again, parallel the one used in verses 20 and 27a. On the basis of meaning (2b), a possible rendering is ‘he taught you (or you were taught, or you learned) about everything when he anointed (or consecrated/initiated) you.’ On the basis of meaning (1), as mentioned in the note on verse 20, one may say ‘his word/Spirit teaches you’ or ‘the word (or the Holy Spirit) that he has granted you teaches you.’

Teaches is in the present tense, expressing continuity. The teaching is an ongoing process which preserves the believers in the truth, although the false teachers try to lead them astray.

Is true, and is no lie: for true see comments on “which is true” in 1 John 2.8. The reference of lie is to the false teaching of John’s opponents. For comments on the word see verse 21.

Just as it has taught you, or ‘in accordance with what (or doing what) it has taught you.’ The pronoun it refers to “the anointing.” The verb is in the aorist in order to bring out that what they have been taught first is essentially the same as the now ongoing teaching.

Abide in him expresses what the teaching orders them to do. The Greek pronoun may be rendered “in it,” and then refers to “the anointing”; or it may be rendered “in him,” and then refers to Christ. The latter is more probable because of verse 28a. The Greek verb form should be taken as an imperative, not as an indicative. For abide in him (here and verse 28) see comments on 1 John 2.6, definition (a).

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The First Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 John 4:6

We may be interpreted as inclusive, referring to John and the congregation he is addressing, or exclusive, referring to the eyewitnesses of the word (compare comments on 1.1-4). The former is preferable.

Whoever knows God: for “to know God” (also occurring in verses 7-8) see comments on “we know him” in 2.3. The meaning of the expression comes very close to that of “to be of God”; both refer to an intimate personal relationship.

By this: the preposition By, in the Greek literally “out-of,” indicates a source. The demonstrative pronoun this points back. The phrase marks the facts mentioned in the preceding sentence as being the source from which knowledge about the Spirit can be derived; from a person’s listening or not listening to the message, we can learn whether he is inspired by the spirit of truth or the spirit of error. Compare also verses 2-3, where a man’s confessing or not confessing Jesus is mentioned as the means to know whether or not he has God’s Spirit. Some renderings used are “that is how” (New English Bible), “in this way” (Goodspeed), “because of that” (Good News Translation for the same phrase in John 6.66).

We know or, in this context, “we can tell the difference between” (Good News Translation).

The spirit of truth and the spirit of error: the construction with of allows various interpretations. The spirit may be viewed as inspiring (or leading to) truth or error, that is, as causing people to say what is true, or to lie/deceive. Or one may take the spirit as having the essential quality of truth or error, that is, as being true or not true.

The meaning spirit has here belongs to category (4) as mentioned in the comment on verse 1. For truth see comments on 1.8. The Holy Spirit is sometimes called the Spirit of Truth; for example, in John 14.17.

Error: the corresponding Greek term is related to the verb rendered “to deceive” in 1.8. The meaning the word has here is determined by its being the direct opposite of truth. Error and untruth characterize the sphere of the Devil, who is called “a liar and the father of lies” in John 8.44.

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The First Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 John 5:17

The distinction between nonmortal and mortal sin might lead people to underestimate the seriousness of sin. Therefore John thinks fit to remind his readers of the fact that all wrongdoing is sin, that is, rebellion against God and siding with the devil (compare 3.4). Yet the distinction just made remains valid, as the next sentence of the verse makes clear; some evil deeds, although undoubtedly sins, do not lead to death and can be forgiven (compare 1.9-10).

All wrongdoing is sin, or ‘every evil/unrighteous deed is sin,’ ‘everyone who does wrong is sinning.’

But there is sin which is not mortal, or ‘yet not all sin is deadly sin,’ ‘yet not everyone who sins is sinning to death.’

Verses 18-20 contain an encouragement to the believers, made emphatic by the threefold repetition of the introductory we know; compare the threefold “I am writing” and “I write” in 2.12-14.

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The First Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 John 2:6

This verse has a transitional function. The relative clause who … in him recalls to mind the thought of verse 5 in order to lead up to its Christian application: one can only be and remain in God if one behaves as Christ behaved. This reference to Christ’s example implies a command to follow him. Thus the verse serves to introduce the discussion of the new and the old commandment in verses 7-8, and of the commandment to love one’s brother in verses 9-11.

He who says, see 1 John 2.4.

(That) he abides in him: unlike verse 4 this proposition is in indirect discourse—which may nevertheless require a rendering in direct discourse, of course. The second pronoun, him, refers to God.

Abides in is a characteristic Johannine expression. It is used (a) of man remaining in God or Christ, as here and in 2.24c, 27b , 28; 3.6, 24a; 4.13, 16, and (elliptically) in 4.15b; (b) of God remaining in man, see “he abides in us” in 3.24; (c) of man remaining in something nonpersonal, see comments on 2.10; and (d) of something nonpersonal remaining in man, see comments on 2.14.

The meaning of the verb is “to be-and-remain in/with.” Here it has been rendered as ‘to be constantly present with (or joined to),’ ‘to continue in/with,’ ‘to keep in union with.’

He … ought to walk in the same way in which he walked is in the Greek literally “he … has-the-obligation (that) just-as that-one walked he-himself also be-walking.” The subject of the last clause of the Greek sentence is emphatic, and this should be brought out also in restructured renderings; compare for example “he … ought himself to live as Christ lived” (Translators’ Translation). Of the two verb forms, the first, “walked,” is in the aorist tense, indicating an action that has been performed once in the past, the second, “be-walking,” is in the present tense, indicating habitual action.

He ought expresses obligation or duty. It is rendered negatively in some languages, ‘it cannot but he,’ ‘it is still wanting/lacking that he.’

To walk in the same way in which he walked, or ‘to act/behave just like Jesus Christ did (or acted/behaved)’: a metaphorical equivalent used is ‘to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.’ For to walk see comments on 1.6.

He (in the second occurrence of this clause) renders Greek ekeinos “that one.” This Greek demonstrative pronoun occurs also in 3.3, 5, 7, 16; 4.17. In all these passages it refers to Christ, and in many languages it is to be rendered as “(Jesus) Christ.” Here it is evidently used to show that the reference is not the same as that of the third person pronouns in the verse. Consequently, to use the same pronoun in all cases (as done in Revised Standard Version and some other versions) is objectionable, since it does not distinguish references that are explicitly kept apart in the Greek.

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The First Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 John 3:9

Revised Standard Version has the major break after commits sin; Greek New Testament, Nestle, and several versions have it after abides in him. With the latter punctuation the verse contains two parallel sentences, each stating first a fact, then the reason for it. Such a clause structure is the more probable one.

No one born of God commits sin expresses the fact that the believers do not sin because they have been born of God. The same thought is expressed in 5.18a; compare also 5.4, where the consequence mentioned is “overcomes the world.”

In other passages the Christians’ behavior is viewed, not as the consequence, but as the proof of their being born of God; compare 2.29; 4.7; 5.1. This shows once more that what one is and what one does form a unity in John’s opinion.

Born of God, see comments on “born of him” in 2.29. One should understand this phrase and the comparable expression “children of God” (verse 10, and compare verse 1) from the terminology of baptism. This rite, marking the entrance into the new life in Christ, was compared with birth (compare John 3.3-8), and those who were baptized were compared with children who were being born. In this line of thought God, with whom lies the ultimate initiative in conversion and baptism, could be called “the one who begets (or causes to be born)” (compare 5.1, in Revised Standard Version rendered “the parent”).

God’s nature abides in him: the expression God’s nature is in the Greek literally “his seed.” This Greek phrase can best be interpreted metaphorically as a reference to the source of life which God implants in the believer. The choice of it is in tune with that of the preceding metaphor. Just as the male seed is the ultimate cause of a child’s life beginning at birth, so God’s regenerating power is the ultimate cause of the Christian’s new life beginning at baptism.

Now the term “seed” is normally associated with the ideas of growth, development, and change. Therefore one expects in this clause a verb like “to grow,” “to develop,” or “to change.” John, however, does not use some such verb but says “his seed abides in him.” This favorite phrase of his certainly does not refer to change but to continuity (compare “to abide” in 2.14). This means that the imagery underlying the metaphorical use of “seed” has been abandoned in the second part of the clause.

This switch in John’s thought makes the clause difficult to understand and to translate. Various interpretations are reflected in the translations investigated:

(1) “His seed” is interpreted as a reference to God’s nature. Then the clause says that the believer has come to share God’s nature or characteristics, and so is in his likeness; hence, for example, ‘God’s (very) nature remains in him’ (compare Revised Standard Version, Goodspeed, Good News Translation, and others), ‘God’s own-innermost remains in him’; or, with further adjustments, ‘he possesses God’s mind,’ or ‘he takes after his Father’ (Bijbel in Gewone Taal, adapting its wording to that of a Dutch proverbial saying).

(2) “His seed” is interpreted as a reference to the life God gives. This results in such renderings as “the divine seed remains in him” (New English Bible), ‘the divine germ of life is (effective) in him,’ ‘he has and keeps God’s life in him like a grain of seed.’ With further adjustments this may lead to something like ‘he gives us new life.’ This is the interpretation the present authors would follow.

(3) “His seed” is interpreted as a metaphor for the word of God (compare Matt 13.3-9, 18-23 and parallels) or for the Spirit of God (compare John 3.5). This leads to renderings like ‘he has and keeps God’s word,’ ‘he has and keeps God’s Spirit.’

Divergent as they are, these renderings represent the same basic interpretation of “his seed.” It is also grammatically possible, however, (4) to take this phrase in the sense of “his (that is God’s) offspring.” This may either have a singular meaning and refer to Christ (Bible de Jérusalem), or a plural meaning, referring to the Christians (Moffatt). But in the opinion of the present authors, interpretation (4) is inadvisable.

And he cannot sin: when this is taken as the main clause of the second sentence (as advocated in the first note on this verse), it forms a climax; hence ‘what is more, he cannot sin,’ ‘it is even impossible that he would sin.’

What verses 4-9 say about sinning seems to contradict verses 1.5-10, which state that with Christians sinning is not only a possibility but even a fact. To avoid this apparent contradiction many translators take the present tense of “to sin” and “to commit sin” as expressing continuation; compare Good News Translation‘s “(not) continue to sin” (verses 6, 8-9). This is grammatically possible, but the above-mentioned interpretation is, in the present authors’ opinion, more in line with John’s thought. This thought is dualistic and distinguished sharply between good and evil, God and Satan. On the one hand no man may say that he is sinless, because the struggle between good and evil is only won with the help of God (1.5-10). On the other hand those who “remain in Christ,” who came to take away sin (3.5) and to destroy the works of Satan (3.8), may believe that they are on God’s side just as God is on their side. The dividing line between God’s realm and that of Satan is here considered to run between two groups of people, the children of God and the children of the devil (3.4-10). These two aspects of dualism occur side by side in many apocalyptic writings and in some documents found in Qumran.

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The First Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 John 4:17

In this (compare “by this” in 2.3. Love, literally “the love,” is preferably interpreted as referring to God’s love for us and may have to be rendered ‘his/God’s love,’ ‘that he/God loves (us).’ With us is probably a Hebraism; the preposition has the same meaning as in the phrase “in him” in 2.5a, which see.

That: in the interpretation recommended in these notes, the that clause explains in this by mentioning something that is to be made to happen. Accordingly the connective that has the meaning “namely that,” “to wit that.” If, however, in this is taken as pointing back, the connective that can better be given consecutive meaning, as in “so that,” “with the result that.”

We may have confidence for the day of judgment is preferably taken as a reference to the future, “we will have confidence on….” For “to have confidence” see comments on 2.28.

The day of judgment, or ‘the day when all men (or we) are judged,’ ‘the moment when Christ judges mankind/us’: the phrase occurs as a technical term for an eschatological event (an event at the last days), both in the Greek version of the Old testament and in the New Testament (for example, Matt 10.15; 12.36; 2 Peter 2.9; 3.7). References to that event are found also in John 5.22, 27; 1 John 2.28-29, where it is Christ who judges in the name of God.

Judgment and “to judge” are in themselves neutral terms referring to making a decision in a lawsuit or in a similar affair. The concept is often to be rendered by an idiomatic or descriptive phrase such as ‘word straight to throw,’ ‘separate the good men from the wicked,’ ‘to measure something,’ and ‘to finish a case.’

In the present context, however, this basically neutral word has acquired a menacing sound because of man’s sinfulness; hence such renderings as ‘judge us for our sins (literally to receive our words about our sins),’ ‘inquiry about sin.’ Some versions use words referring to condemnation or punishment; this is to be rejected, since it anticipates an unfavorable decision for all, whereas the context presupposes a favorable decision for Christ’s followers.

Because as he is so are we in this world explains what is the foundation of their confidence. The clause is sometimes better rendered as a new sentence; for example, ‘This is so because as he is….’ For he (literally “that-one”) referring to Christ see comments on 2.6.

As he is so are we, or ‘we are just as Christ is,’ ‘our life is like Christ’s (life)’: the point of comparison may be Christ’s righteousness (see comments on 2.29 and compare 3.3) or his relationship with God. The latter fits the present context best; between God and Jesus there is perfect love and fellowship (compare John 14.10; 15.9-10; 17.11, 15-16, 21-23). Since this relationship is the model of the Christian’s relationship with God, and since Jesus can never be thought of as fearing his heavenly Father, his followers should not fear him either.

This point of comparison should preferably not be made explicit unless idiom requires doing so. In the latter case one may have to say something like ‘as he is living with God, so are we.’

In this world goes with so are we. The modification serves to express that man as he is in this world does not have the same direct and full relationship with God’s love as Christ has. As such it has a restrictive function. For world see comments on 2.15, meaning (2).

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The First Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 John 2:17

The clause the world passes away, and the lust of it expresses the second reason for the exhortation given in verse 15a. The verb has durative aspect, referring to a continuing process that will be, but is not yet, completed. It may also be rendered ‘is ending,’ ‘is coming to its end,’ ‘is on its way to perish,’ ‘will not exist much longer,’ ‘is fading/disappearing.’

The phrase the lust of it briefly sums up the three phrases of verse 16. The pronoun may refer to the goal, that is, to what men desire, which leads to a rendering like “everything in it that men desire” (Good News Translation). Or it may refer to the agent; hence, ‘what it (or the world) lusts after’; compare also ‘the desires it (or the world) arouses.’ The latter interpretation agrees with that of the comparable constructions in verse 16.

He who does the will of God abides for ever is in strong contrast to the preceding clause. Whereas the evil world is on the way to its end and has no permanence, those who do God’s will are without end and share in the permanent life of God.

“To do the will of” is a Hebraistic expression often found in the New Testament. It may be rendered here ‘to act according to God’s will,’ ‘to do what God demands,’ ‘to do what God tells one to do.’ Some idiomatic renderings are ‘to follow God’s heart,’ ‘to do the thing-loved of god.’ For comparable Hebraisms with “to do,” see the note on “do not live according to the truth” in 1.6.

In some receptor languages the will is identified with various parts of the body. This may result in rendering the will of God by such expressions as ‘the stomach of God,’ ‘what comes from God’s abdomen,’ or, laying a close connection between the voice and the will, ‘the throat/larynx of God.’

“To abide,” that is, to be-and-remain; in this context, ‘to stay,’ or ‘to live.’ Compare the note on “to abide in him” in 1 John 2.6. For for ever, see “eternal” in 1.2.

Quoted with permission from Haas, C., de Jonge, M. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on The First Letter of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .