1 John 1:1
[1.The Exordium (1John 1:1-4).

(1)OBJECT AND PURPOSE OF THE APOSTOLIC PREACHING: The setting forth of the historical Christ for the spread of human fellowship with the Father and the Son (1John 1:1-3).

(2)DESIGN OF THE EPISTLE: Fulness of joy for those who should read it (1John 1:4).]

(1) That which was from the beginning.--The profound emotion, the hearty sympathy, the tender anxiety which St. John feels as he begins his counsels to his friends, mark off this introduction very distinctly from the parallel passage in the Gospel. There it was calm contemplation of the height and depth of Christ's existence; here he vehemently insists on the personal relation between the Word and those to whom He had been revealed.

As in the Gospel, he starts with the grandeur of an indefiniteness beyond which no eye can pierce: At the beginning of all that concerns us, be it world or universe or all creation, there was----that which we are announcing. "That which," not "Him who," because it is not merely the Person of Christ which he is going to declare, but also His Being, all that relates to Him, His gospel, the treasures of wisdom that lay in Him, His truth, all that could be known about Him by human ken.

The vibrating eloquence of the passage makes the construction at first sight obscure. But take "that declare we unto you" (1John 1:3) as the principal verb, set aside 1John 1:2 as a parenthesis, notice the rising climax of 1John 1:1 (heard, seen, looked upon, handled), pause at the end of 1John 1:1 to sum up the results of this climax in the words "of (or, that which concerns) the Word of life," and at the beginning of 1John 1:3 resume the thoughts interrupted by the parenthesis, and all is at once clear.

Which we have heard.--All those gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth, enough to fill countless books could they have been noted down. St. John has given us more of these than any other of the Evangelists; and their effect upon him was such that it is almost the same as if he had written down nothing at all of his own; for the thought and style of Him who had loved him more intimately than others, had moulded his own thought and style into a strikingly close resemblance. "We" includes ail the eye-witnesses. (Comp. Luke 1:2.)

Which we have seen.--All that is meant by the Word of God in its fullest sense had been seen in the human Person of Jesus of Nazareth during His earthly sojourn, and especially during the three years' ministry. In a similar sense Jesus Himself said, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," John 14:9. (Comp. 1John 4:14; Isaiah 40:5; 2Peter 1:16.)

With our eyes.--This gives the same force as "the Word was made flesh;" it was an actual personal visible revelation, as opposed to the evolving of a religious system out of the inner consciousness or reflection.

Which we have looked upon.--A more deliberate and closer contemplation; for which John had special opportunities, as one of the inner three, and again as he who lay on Jesus' bosom. There is a change of tense implying emphasis on the historic fact, "which in those days we gazed upon."

And our hands have handled.--Comp. Matthew 26:49; Luke 24:39; John 20:27. This and the foregoing expressions might be directed against Cerinthus and the Doketists--those that held that Christ was only a phantom.

Of the Word of life.--All that concerns the Word of the true Life, the Reason, or Son, or Express Image of God, in whom was inherent all life, material as well as moral or religious. (Comp. John 1:4; John 5:26; John 11:25; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:3.)

(2) For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.--The parenthesis reiterates with redoubled force that the whole essence of the relation of God to man lies in the audible, visible, tangible, historical appearance of God in Jesus. After the manner of St. John, the word "life" at the end of the last sentence suggests the form of the phrasing in the new sentence: Jesus was that Eternal Life which was at the side of the Father, in communion with Him, in equal intercourse with Him; that Life on which all other existence, physical and spiritual, depend (1) for its license to exist, (2) for its fulfilment of the end for which it was created. (See Note on John 1:4.)

Verse 1. - The first clause states what or how the object is in itself; the next three state St. John's relation to it; "which," in the first clause nominative, in the others is accusative. The neuter () expresses a collective and comprehensive whole (John 4:22; John 6:37; John 17:2; Acts 17:23, etc.); the attributes of the Λόγος rather than the Λόγος himself are indicated. Or, as Jelf expresses it, "the neuter gender denotes immaterial personality, the masculine or feminine material personality." In the beginning is not quite the same as in John 1:1; there St. John tells us that the Word was in existence before the world was created; here that he was in existence before he was manifested. Thus far all is indefinite; the philosopher, about to expound a law of nature, might begin, "That which was from the beginning declare we unto you." What follows is in a climax, making the meaning clearer at each step: seeing is more than hearing, and handling than seeing. The climax is in two pairs, of perfects and of aorists; the aorists giving the past acts, the perfects the permanent results. Together they sum up the apostolic experience of that boundless activity of Christ, of which the world could not contain the full account (John 21:25). Beheld ἐθεασάμεθα is more than have seen ἑωράκαμεν. Seeing might be momentary; beholding implies that steady contemplation, for which the beloved disciple had large and abundantly used opportunities. In our hands handled we may see a reference to Luke 24:39, where the same verb is used ψηλαφήσατε; and still more to John 20:27, where the demanded test of handling is offered to St. Thomas, provoking the confession of faith to which the whole Gospel leads up, "My Lord and my God!" Had St. John merely said "heard," we might have thought that he meant a doctrine. Had he merely said "heard and seen," we might have understood it of the effects of Christ's doctrine. But "our hands handled" shows clearly that the attributes of the Word become flesh are what St. John insists on, and probably as a contradiction of Docetism. "Those who read his letter could have no doubt that he was referring to the time when he saw the face of Jesus Christ, when he heard his discourses, when he grasped his hand, when he leaned upon his breast" (Maurice). Between the first clause and what follows lies the tremendous fact of the Incarnation; and St. John piles verb on verb, and clause on clause, to show that he speaks with the authority of full knowledge, and that there is no possible room for Ebionite or Cerinthian error. The first clause assures us that Jesus was no mere man; the others assure us that he was really man. Precisely that Being who was in existence from the beginning is that of whom St. John and others have had, and still possess, knowledge by all the means through which knowledge can have access to the mind of man. (For "seeing with the eyes," cf. Luke 2:30; for θεᾶσθαι of contemplating with delight [Stark 16:11, 14], John 1:14, 34; Acts 1:11.) Concerning the Word of life. "Concerning" περί may depend on "have heard," and, by a kind of zengma, on the other three verbs also; or on the main verb," we declare." "The Word of life" means "the Word who is the Life," like "the city of Rome,... the Book of Genesis;" the genitive case is "the characterizing or identifying genitive." The περί is strongly against the interpretation, "the word of life," i.e., the life-giving gospel. Had St. John meant this, he would probably have written ὅν ἀκηκόαμεν... τὸν λόγον τῆς ζωῆς ἀπαγγέλλομεν (John 5:24, 37; John 8:43; John 14:24); περί is very frequent of persons (John 1:7, 8, 15, 22, 30, 48, etc.). Moreover, the evident connexion between the introductions to his Gospel and Epistle compels us to understand ὁ Λόγος in the same sense in both (see on John 1:1 in this Commentary, and in the 'Cambridge Greek Testament' or 'Bible for Schools'). What St. John has to announce is his own experience of the Eternal Word incarnate, the Eternal Life made manifest (John 14:6); his hearing of his words, his seeing with his own eyes his Messianic works, his contemplation of the Divinity which shone through both; his handling of the body of the risen Redeemer.

1:1-4 That essential Good, that uncreated Excellence, which had been from the beginning, from eternity, as equal with the Father, and which at length appeared in human nature for the salvation of sinners, was the great subject concerning which the apostle wrote to his brethren. The apostles had seen Him while they witnessed his wisdom and holiness, his miracles, and love and mercy, during some years, till they saw him crucified for sinners, and afterwards risen from the dead. They touched him, so as to have full proof of his resurrection. This Divine Person, the Word of life, the Word of God, appeared in human nature, that he might be the Author and Giver of eternal life to mankind, through the redemption of his blood, and the influence of his new-creating Spirit. The apostles declared what they had seen and heard, that believers might share their comforts and everlasting advantages. They had free access to God the Father. They had a happy experience of the truth in their souls, and showed its excellence in their lives. This communion of believers with the Father and the Son, is begun and kept up by the influences of the Holy Spirit. The benefits Christ bestows, are not like the scanty possessions of the world, causing jealousies in others; but the joy and happiness of communion with God is all-sufficient, so that any number may partake of it; and all who are warranted to say, that truly their fellowship is with the Father, will desire to lead others to partake of the same blessedness.That which was from the beginning,.... By which is meant not the Gospel, as if the apostle's design was to assert the antiquity of that, and clear it from the charge of novelty; for though that is called the word, and the word of life, and is the Spirit which gives life, and is the means of quickening dead sinners, and brings the report of eternal life and salvation by Christ, yet the seeing of it with bodily eyes, and handling it with corporeal hands, do not agree with that; but Jesus Christ is here intended, who in his divine nature was, really existed as a divine person, as the everlasting Jehovah, the eternal I AM, which is, and was, and is to come, and existed "from the beginning"; not from the beginning of the preaching of the Gospel by John only, for he was before the Gospel was preached, being the first preacher of it himself, and before John was; yea, before the prophets, before Abraham, and before Adam, and before all creatures, from the beginning of time, and of the creation of the world, being the Maker of all things, even from everlasting; for otherwise he could not have been set up in an office capacity so early, or God's elect be chosen in him before the foundation of the world, and they have grace and blessings given them in him before the world began, or an everlasting covenant be made with him; see John 1:1;

which we have heard; this, with what follows, proves him to be truly and really man; for when the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among men, the apostles heard, and saw, and handled him; they not only heard a voice from heaven, declaring him to be the Son of God, but they often heard him speak himself, both in private conversation with them, and in his public ministry; they heard his many excellent discourses on the mount, and elsewhere, and those that were particularly delivered to them a little before his death; and blessed were they on this account, Matthew 13:16;

which we have seen with our eyes: with the eyes of the body, with their own, and not another's; and they saw him in human nature, and the common actions of life he did, as eating, drinking, walking, &c. and his many miracles; they saw him raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, restore sight to the blind, cause the lame to walk, the dumb to speak, and the deaf to hear; and they saw him transfigured on the mount. John was one that was present at that time, and saw his glory, as he also was when he hung upon the cross, and saw him bleeding, gasping, and dying there; they saw him after his resurrection from the dead, he showed himself to them alive, and was seen of them forty days; they saw him go up to heaven, and a cloud receiving him out of their sight:

which we have looked upon; wistly and intently, once and again, and a thousand times, and with the utmost pleasure and delight; and knew him perfectly well, and were able to describe exactly his person, stature, features, and the lineaments of his body:

and our hands have handled of the Word of life; as Peter did when Jesus caught him by the hand on the water, when he was just ready to sink; and as this apostle did, when he leaned on his bosom; and as Thomas did, even after his resurrection, when he thrust his hand into his side; and as all the apostles were called upon to see and handle him, that it was he himself, and not a spirit, which has not flesh and bones as he had. Now as this is said of Christ, the Word of life, who is so called, because he has life in himself, as God, as the Mediator, and as man, and is the author of life, natural, spiritual, and eternal, it must be understood as he, the Word, is made manifest in the flesh; for he, as the Word, or as a divine person, or as considered in his divine nature, is not to be seen nor handled: this therefore is spoken of the Word, or of the person of Christ, God-man, with respect to his human nature, as united to the Logos, or Word of God; and so is a proof of the truth and reality of his human nature, by several of the senses.

2 Peter 3:18
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