Verbum et Ecclesia (Oct 2005)

Understanding �sin� in the Johannine epistles

  • D J van der Merwe

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 26, no. 2
pp. 543 – 570


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The author of the Johannine Epistles has a good deal to say about sin. He abhors sin, seeing it as incompatible with God� s character (oJ qeo;" fw`" ejstin, 1:5; [oJ qeo;"] divkaiov" ejstin, 2:29; and oJ qeo;" ajgavph ejstivn, 4:8) and with the status of believers as God� s children. In this article attention is given to the following relevant aspects for understanding �hamartiology�� in the Johannine epistles from a �family perspective�: (1) the �family of God�� metaphor is used as the setting in which the author describes his symbolic narrative; (2) a differentiation is made between sin inside and sin outside the family; (3) sin outside the family is also described in terms of reciprocals to emphasize its condemnation; (4) finally, he focuses on the �forgiveness of sin�. This investigation is done against the socio-religious circumstances of the Johannine community in order to understand the Elder� s ethical and doctrinal definitions of sin.