The concept of sinlessness and sinfulness in the first letter of John : with reference to the paradox encountered in 1:6-10/3:6-10
The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the meaning and function of an apparently paradoxical statement encountered in the first letter of John. The method chosen for this investigation is an exegetical study of two passages namely 1Jn 1:6-10 and 3:6-10, which are supposed to be in juxtaposition. The argument, reduced to its bare minimum, will move as follows. Firstly, the first chapter sets the context for this study by addressing the issue of sin and its parameters in contemporary Jewish literature. Jewish writers of the time were much occupied with such themes as sin, sinfulness and sinlessness, need of cleansing, forgiveness, the reward of the righteous and punishment of the wicked. The Jewish world of thought of the time provides us with the ideological framework in which John is to be better understood. We are to witness the coexistence of apparently contradictory modes of thought concerning eschatology and by extension anthropology; for instance, statements supporting the exercise of free will on man's part and God's predestination or references to the idea of demonic powers being accountable for sin and man's own responsibility for sin, 'like those of a railway, run side by side, crisscross, or overlap in various ways', even in the same piece of work. Bearing in mind the result of the study of this background, chapter two undertakes an examination of the history of the community whose products the Fourth Gospel and the Epistles were. According to our findings, the Johannine community never became a sect alienated from the rest of Christianity, in spite of the presence of sectarian traits such as perfectionist ideas and ethical rigorism, the exaggeration of which led finally to an inner schism. Next, chapter three investigates the identity of those in combat to 1John, the so-called opponents of John, concluding that having being former members of the Johannine community, they misinterpreted the Johannine tradition conveyed by the Fourth Gospel, drawing radical conclusions about their sinlessness/perfection from its realised eschatology.