Re: The Epistolary Plural in 1 John 1:4?

From: Daniel L Christiansen (
Date: Tue Jan 04 2000 - 21:03:33 EST

"Carl W. Conrad" wrote [snipped]:
> Yes, it adds to the discussion (particularly when nobody on B-Greek has
> significant input into your question) to "cite the learned authorities" and
> find out that they hold to a variety of different views, some of which
> overlap.

        One has to wonder if Carl is "throwing down the gauntlet," here. Well,
I can provide some input: the significance may be judged by others. We
just finished watching "Fiddler on the Roof," and I can hear Tevye in my
head, so . . .
        "On the one hand": it is simpler to think that John's use is, indeed,
epistolary, or some such category. At least, that the author does not
truly have a plural referent in mind as he writes. First, I agree with
Carl's observation that John does not mention any fellow-writers, as
does Paul from time to time. To posit a plurality of
writers/authorities, is not something to be lightly done; certainly, we
should not do so on the mere strength of the verb's plurality.
        "On the other hand": John twice uses the very uncommon hHMETEROS, when
he wishes to clearly distinguish "us" from "you" (1:3) or "us" from
"them" (2:2). The 2:2 occurrence is not germane to this discussion,
since it appears to distinguish the Jewish believers from those
believers who were Gentiles by birth. However, the use in 1:3 appears
to distinguish the Johannine apostolic circle from the readership of the
letter: the point being that the readers are able to enter into that
same kind of fellowship with the incarnate God as is enjoyed by John and company.
        This distinguishing use of the emphatic pronoun is consistent
within the GNT, as well as within the LXX. The strength of this
emphatic form in 1:3 seems to me able to modify our understanding of the
plural in 1:4. The "we" whose fellowship is the pattern for that of the
letter's readers, is the same "we" who are referred to in 1:4 as being
the authorities behind the letter itself.
        "On the other hand": as Carl has said, the epistolary use is "customary
usage," and perhaps Wallace's plea for inconclusivity is warranted.
Though I think that the addition of hHMETEROS into the mix is worthy of
consideration. This may raise more difficulties than it solves.
However, in defense of what may seem to some a strange way of reading
the hHMETEROS, let me just say that I have backed it up much more
completely in a MA Thesis of a while back.
        "On the other hand": No, there is no "other hand!" At least not in
this post.

For those of you who are not familiar with "Fiddler of the Roof," don't
sweat it :)


Daniel L. Christiansen
Department of Bible
Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street
Portland, OR  97220
(Also Portland Bible College, Prof of Biblical Languages)

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