Re: Children of God in 1 John 3:1

Paul Zellmer (
Tue, 12 Nov 1996 01:36:16 -0800

Jonathan Robie wrote (in response to Carl):
> 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
> LXX:

I'm not quite sure how important it is to Carl that he used B'NAI-YHWH
and not B'NAI ELOHIM, but, Jonathan, you are not differentiating between
the two. For example, in:

> 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.

the personal name for God is not found. While some of us would still
see the "sons of God" referring to those who were true believers (as
opposed to the "daughters of men," who came from those who no longer
worshipped the true God), I admit that many would say that the phrase is
not referring to people in a covenant relationship with God. A very big
distinction is the lack of the name YHWH.

[BTW, Carl. In your response to Jonathan, you stated that this verse
would be hard for those who do not see a residual mythology in the early
part of the Bible. The view which contrasts worshippers of the true God
and worshippers of false gods is one of the ways that this passage is
handled which eliminates the need for a mythological joining of the
spirit world and the human world. But I realize that this is not the
forum to discuss these matters.]

> 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...

If Carl is trying to identify B'NAI-YHWH as those in a covenantal
relationship, this is probably very relevant. It is an outward sign of
an identification with God, and that is just what I see John bringing
out in the 1 John passage.

> 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.

Actually, the term "false sons" is equal to "lying sons" in the Hebrew.
Surely you can see the case where some true children of God might rebel,
lie, or refuse to listen, right?

> 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.
Once again, this "clear use of the term" is using B'NAI-ELOHIM, not
B'NAI-YHWH. I do not know how significant this is in Carl's initial

Anyway, Jonathan, I would appear as if Carl clearly responded to your
initial hypothesis as to whether the phrase in 1 John was referring to a
derogatory name applied to believers. It appears clear that the term
"Children of God" has long and distinguished history, even if someone
might feel that John is using it in a different manner than it was used

Paul Zellmer
Southern Methodist Missions