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The Epistles of John (Part 11): 1 John 2:13

by Stephen Hebert on Friday - 13 April 2007

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

This is the 11th part in an ongoing series on the Epistles of John.

English Standard Version Nestle-Aland 27
I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have conquered the evil one. γράφω ὑμῖν, πατέρες, ὅτι ἐγνώκατε τὸν ἀπ‘ ἀρχῆς. γράφω ὑμῖν, νεανίσκοι, ὅτι νενικήκατε τὸν πονηρόν.

Continuing through this little section, John addresses “fathers” and “young men.”

Fathers

John says that he is writing to fathers “because [they] have known the one who was from the beginning.” In my mind, this recalls 1 John 1:1 which begins with “that which was from the beginning”—a description of the “word of life.” The fathers to whom John writes have known this character.

I’ll be honest. I don’t get a lot more out of this. I feel like it’s a continuation of the previous verse insofar as it reinforces the idea that this epistle is written to those who are believers. It is not written to those seeking. These fathers know what John preaches; they have known this God who was from the beginning.

Young Men

This sentence is a bit more difficult to think about. What exactly does John mean when he says that the young men “have conquered the evil one”?

Who is the evil one?

Presumably, this is Satan. But, if this is so, in what way have the young men conquered Satan? I’ll hazard a guess and assume that it might have to do with the idea of ἐγκρατεία (enkrateia). This ancient notion is one of self-mastery — differentiated from asceticism by the fact that it doesn’t require self-inflicted suffering. Rather, enkrateia is more about mastering the mind and the body and the passions. An encratic person was one who was able to abstain from certain activities.

Is this the sort of conquering that these young men have done?

If memory serves, the Greek word νεανίσκος (neaniskos, young man) typically refers to an unmarried youth. Perhaps it is because these guys have remained unmarried that they have defeated the evil one.

This is conjecture…but it’s worth thinking about. I’m not sure if 1 John has typically been associated with these notions of self-mastery. Perhaps as I move on through the text we’ll gain some more insight into these issues.

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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