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The Epistles of John (Part 10): 1 John 2:12

by Stephen Hebert on Thursday - 12 April 2007

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

This is the 10th part in an ongoing series on the Epistles of John.

English Standard Version Nestle-Aland 27
I am writing to you little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. Γράφω ὑμῖν, τεκνία, ὅτι ἀφέωνται ὑμῖν αἱ ἁμαρτίαι διὰ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ.

I want to examine verse 12 on its own, largely because here begins a bit of poetry that has some interesting features, and because I’m going to slip into a little bit of translational minutiae. In the following posts we’ll catch this section in its entirety.

This section of John purports to explain why John is writing. We already know from 1 John 1:4 that John is writing “so that our joy may be complete.” Here, however, he is defining his audience a little more.

Each little bit has a vocative—an address—to a specific group of people. First is “children.” This is followed by fathers, young men, children (this time a different word in Greek), and then fathers and young men again. John has already engaged in this use of the vocative in 2:1 (“children”) and 2:7 (“beloved”).

Are all of these terms masculine? Probably not. The word for “children” in v. 12 is neuter. However, it is unclear to me whether “fathers” and “young men” could possibly be thought of as “fathers and mothers” and “young men and women.”

So John tells the children that he is writing to them because their sins have been forgiven on account of his (presumably Jesus’) name.

Translational Note: I’m not so sure that I agree with the ESV translation. The word ἀφέωνται is the perfect passive indicative third person plural of ἀφίημι. It certainly means “forgiven” here, however, because it is perfect, I would be inclined to translate it as “have been forgiven.” The perfect implies that this is a past condition, this forgiveness is not happening as we speak, but it has already happened through some process in the past.

John’s audience, then, is not a bunch of folks who don’t know God. John is writing to those who share in his faith. I don’t think John pretends to be “seeker-sensitive” (there’s my obligatory 21st century church buzz word). His interest is in strengthening, fortifying those who already have fellowship (1:3) with this God.

Article Series - The Epistles of John

  1. The Epistles of John (Part 1): 1 John 1:1–4
  2. The Epistles of John (Part 2): 1 John 1:5
  3. The Epistles of John (Part 3): 1 John 1:6–7
  4. The Epistles of John (Part 4): 1 John 1:8–10
  5. The Epistles of John (Part 5): 1 John 2:1
  6. The Epistles of John (Part 6): 1 John 2:2
  7. The Epistles of John (Part 7): 1 John 2:3–6
  8. The Epistles of John (Part 8): 1 John 2:7–8
  9. The Epistles of John (Part 9): 1 John 2:9–11
  10. The Epistles of John (Part 10): 1 John 2:12
  11. The Epistles of John (Part 11): 1 John 2:13
  12. The Epistles of John (Part 12): 1 John 2:14
  13. The Epistles of John (Part 13): 1 John 2:15
  14. The Epistles of John (Part 14): 1 John 2:16
  15. The Epistles of John (Part 15): 1 John 2:17
  16. The Epistles of John (Part 16): 1 John 2:18
  17. The Epistles of John (Part 17): 1 John 2:19
  18. The Epistles of John (Part 18): 1 John 2:20
  19. The Epistles of John (Part 19): 1 John 2:21
  20. The Epistles of John (Part 20): 1 John 2:22
  21. The Epistles of John (Part 21): 1 John 2:23–25
  22. The Epistles of John (Part 22): 1 John 2:26–27
  23. The Epistles of John (Part 23): 1 John 2:28
  24. The Epistles of John (Part 24): 1 John 2:29
  25. The Epistles of John (Part 25): 1 John 3:1–3
  26. The Epistles of John (Part 26): 1 John 3:4–6
  27. The Epistles of John (Part 27): 1 John 3:7–10
  28. The Epistles of John (Part 28): 1 John 3:11–12
  29. The Epistles of John (Part 29): 1 John 3:13
  30. The Epistles of John (Part 30): 1 John 3:14-18
  31. The Epistles of John (Part 31): 1 John 3:19–22
  32. The Epistles of John (Part 32): 1 John 3:23–24
  33. The Epistles of John (Part 33): 1 John 4:1–3
  34. The Epistles of John (Part 34): 1 John 4:4–6
  35. The Epistles of John (Part 35): 1 John 4:7-8
  36. The Epistles of John (Part 36): 1 John 4:9
  37. The Epistles of John (Part 37): 1 John 4:10
  38. The Epistles of John (Part 38): 1 John 4:11-12
  39. The Epistles of John (Part 39): 1 John 4:13–14
  40. The Epistles of John (Part 40): 1 John 4:15
  41. The Epistles of John (Part 41): 1 John 4:16–17
  42. The Epistles of John (Part 42): 1 John 4:18–19
  43. The Epistles of John (Part 43): 1 John 4:20–21
  44. The Epistles of John (Part 44): 1 John 5:1
  45. The Epistles of John (Part 45): 1 John 5:2-3

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