Re: 2:7-8 and Contradictions?

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Tue Sep 23 1997 - 16:30:39 EDT

At 03:54 PM 9/23/97 -0400, Jim Beale wrote:
>On Sep 23, 1:48pm, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>> I'm not quite sure which one of us is playing the straight man here, Paul,
>> but I'll bite: is John writing a new commandment or not? According to 2:7
>> and 2:8, the answer is yes and no. On the literal level, I consider this a
>> contradiction. Of course, John is using this contradiction skilfully to make
>> a point...
>I don't think it is a real contradiction. The command is old in one
>sense and new in another, and we are supposed to think about the
>sense in which it is old (i.e., from the Law of Moses) and the sense
>in which it is new (i.e., it has been written on the heart; compare
>Heb 8:10).

But look carefully at the text: John says specifically that he is not
writing a new commandment (OUK ENTOLHN KAINHN GRAFW hUMIN) then says that he
*is* writing a new commandment (PALIN KAINHN ENTOLHN GRAFW hUMIN), and it
seems to me that he is talking about the same commandment in both cases.
This is not just a matter of being old in some senses and new in other
senses, he says that it is not new, then he says that it is new.
>One never wittingly uses a contradiction to make a point other than
>that he is confused. But this is usually an unwitting use. How can
>a contradiction be used skillfully when it is the epitome of blunder?
>Is there light in darkness, truth in falsehood? Is John's word "Yes
>and No"?

In this case, John's word is "No and Yes" (1 John 2:7,8).

1 John is neither logical, illogical, nor particularly theological; it is
psychological and epistemological. Nowhere in the Bible are we called to use
logical consistency as a criterion for truth, and Jesus never taught anybody
how to construct a syllogism. Is God's strength be made perfect in weakness?
Can one who is fully God be fully man? Can a virgin give birth? Can someone
born of God sin? Can we hold the treasure of God's glory in jars of clay?
Can someone who is fully God die for our sins? The light shines in the
darkness, and the darkness has never grasped it!

>> [...] I do think that one can understand John better by appreciating
>> the contradictions to see what they point to.
>Ack. Contradictions don't point to _any_thing_. A contradiction is
>an example of non-being; it is something that cannot possibly exist,
>therefore it couldn't possibly *do* anything, least of all point.
Meditate on any of the contradictions that I have mentioned in the above
paragraph, and see what they point to. Logic isn't everything!


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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