Interpreting John’s Writings

We now turn to interpreting a specific passage from 1 John. Working with 1
John gives a range of choice without having to deal with the whole of John’s Gospel. Remember that 1 John does not so much seem to be a letter as a sermon or a collection of material taken from various sermons and woven
together. Also, you will run across a few key issues that gave rise to the writing of 1 John. The first is the nature of the Christian community. Apparently, this church had to deal with a schism and learn how to live and love together after it. Second, this schism may have been instigated by some people who believed that Jesus had not truly taken up human embodied existence—they denied the incarnation (that Jesus came in real human physicality). Third, there seems to be some confusion about the role of love and sin in a believer’s life. The book reminds the audience that those who have been born of God do not live lives of sin because they are the children of God (1 John 3:9). Love, not sin,
characterizes the life of one who has trusted in Jesus. Understanding some of these pressing issues gives you some useful context for interpreting this

Upon successful completion of the course material, you will be able to:

Interpret a passage from 1 John.


Background Information
Many people find the writings of John some of the easiest to understand in the New Testament. They turn to John’s writings regularly for insight and
encouragement. Again, take this as an opportunity to hear the Spirit speaking to you through John’s writings. If you feel pulled to a passage, then go with
that, study it, and see what you learn.


  1. View the rubric to be sure you understand the criteria for earning your
  2. You are allowed to choose a passage of your preference from anywhere in 1 John. Your passage should contain a complete idea or story. You should not start in the middle of something or cut a unit off early. Generally, your selection should be at least 3 verses long but no longer than 10 verses.
  3. Once you have chosen your passage. You will want to read it closely,
    attending to its overall flow, the structure of sentences, key nouns, key verbs, and any important descriptive elements. Then you will want to consider the four contexts (immediate, literary, cultural-historical, and canonical) and see how they may inform your understanding of the
    passage. Remember that you can draw on the videos on “Literary Styles in the Bible,” “Cultures in and of the Bible,” and “The Story of the Bible” to help provide some material for these various contexts.
  4. A brief introduction that identifies your passage and explains why you chose it (approximately 50-75 words).
    a. A section that explores the details of the passage’s flow, sentence structure, nouns, verbs, and descriptors (approximately 250-300 words).
    b. A section that explains the passage more fully by using two of the following contexts with connections to details in the passage: immediate, literary, historical-cultural, and canonical (approximately 250-300 words).
    c. A short conclusion that states your main takeaway from your interpretive work and how that point may apply to our time and place (approximately 100-150 words).
  5. Proofread your paper for content, organization, and mechanics. Save a copy for yourself and upload a copy to Brightspace.

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