Re: Children of God in 1 John 3:1

Jonathan Robie (
Mon, 11 Nov 1996 06:50:03 -0500

At 08:01 PM 11/10/96 -0600, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>At 6:55 PM -0600 11/10/96, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>>1Joh 3:1 (GNT) idete potaphn agaphn dedwken hmin o pathr, ina tekna qeou
>>klhqwmen, kai esmen. dia touto o kosmos ou ginwskei hmas, oti ouk egnw auton.
>>In 1 John 3:1, I've always assumed that "we would be called children of God"
>>meant that *God* calls us his children. In my "Bible coloring class" at
>>church today, another possibility occured to me. I'm not aware that the term
>>"children of God" was ever used before Jesus. Was it? If not, perhaps some
>>Jews in "the world" were mocking Christians, calling them "children of God"
>>to make fun of them. Anybody want to argue for or against this theory?
>Let me first note that I truly love this passage especially because it has
>become the standard coda of our congregation's (infant) baptismal rite,
>when the pastor, accompanied by the parents, carries the child away from
>the baptismal font toward the congregation, then goes all the way down the
>center aisle, showing him/her to the congregation, and concluding with
>those words: "See what love the Father has given us: that we should be
>called God's children--and so we are!"

I also love this passage, because it tells me who we are when it comes right
down to it. If we can just let ourselves be God's little children
and abide in him and trust in him, we have done the most important thing.

I'm omitting lots of good stuff because there is too much good stuff to
quote here. People will have to read Carl's original...

>That's why the Messiah is Son of
>God--because Israel is God's children and the King is the stand-in for
>Israel. Of course, it is also true that ancient near eastern kings (Greek
>kings too, for that matter, in early tradition were DIOGENEIS, "born of
>Zeus") were all deemed sons of the nation's god, but I really think that
>the Israelite conception as expressed in the prophecy of Nathan in 2 Sam 7
>involves an already existing sense that Israel as a people is the
>collective child of God: they may be called B'NAI-ISRAEL, but they are
>certainly understood to be B'NAI-YHWH. So this metaphor of the covenant
>relationship, like the husband-wife metaphor, derives from the OT and is
>carried forward in the NT. Which is why the NT needs to be understood in
>the light of the OT as well as of just about everything else imaginable.

Interesting, to me 1 John isn't really talking about the covenant
relationship, a term which he never uses, nor about being children of God by
being part of a nation, since he never refers to a nation that I can recall.
To John, we become God's children by abiding in him and in his love. Of
those who adoped other teachings, he says, "they went out from us". Looking
at John's use of "we", "you", and "they", it is clear that those who are not
abiding in God are not God's children as John is using the term. Abiding is
key. And I get the impression that God's spirit did not rest on individuals
in the same way in the OT era, God was with the nation and in the temple. In
the NT, God is in us and we are in God.

To me, there is a big difference between B'NAI-ISRAEL and B'NAI-YHWH. In
fact, there are quite a few OT usages which have nothing to do with this, or
which are phrased in the future. I haven't had time to look at this in
depth, but here are the first few that my search program dredged up from the

Gene 6:2 (LXX) idontes de oi uioi tou qeou tas qugateras twn anqrwpwn oti
kalai eisin elabon eautois gunaikas apo paswn wn exelexanto
Gene 6:2 (NASU) that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were
beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.

A clear use of the term, but not at all relevant to John's use.

Deut 14:1 (LXX) uioi este kuriou tou qeou umwn ou foibhsete ouk epiqhsete
falakrwma ana meson twn ofqalmwn umwn epi nekrw
Deut 14:1 (NASU) "You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut
yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead.

I'm not sure how relevant this is...

Isai 30:9 (LXX) oti laos apeiqhs estin uioi yeudeis oi ouk hboulonto akouein
ton nomon tou qeou
Isai 30:9 (NASU) For this is a rebellious people, false sons,
Sons who refuse to listen
To the instruction of the Lord;

I would also have a hard time relating this to John's usage, which would not
allow for false sons. In 1 John, only true sons are children of God.

Hose 1:10 (LXX) kai hn o ariqmos twn uiwn Israhl ws h ammos ths qalasshs h
ouk ekmetrhqhsetai oude exariqmhqhsetai kai estai en tw topw ou erreqh
autois ou laos mou umeis ekei klhqhsontai uioi qeou zwntos
Hose 1:10 (NASU) Yet the number of the sons of Israel
Will be like the sand of the sea,
Which cannot be measured or numbered;
And in the place
Where it is said to them,
"You are not My people,"
It will be said to them,
"[You are] the sons of the living God."

Now this is a clear use of the term. It is expressed in the future in the LXX.


Jonathan Robie
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