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Thread: "They were not of us" verse

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    tWebber
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    "They were not of us" verse

    I've been Googling for hours now. It's the verse from 1 John 2:19. I've always thought that it was about those who fell away from the faith. But upon reading it again, it looks like it's about antichrists... isn't there a verse about general people?? I feel like I've got the wrong interpretation all this time!

  2. Amen Obsidian amen'd this post.
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    tWebber tabibito's Avatar
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    They're definitely antichrists who had been counted as among John's immediate group, and possibly the Jerusalem Church. Except for passages which refer to falling away as a possibility, I can't think of anything that refers to a specific person or group apostasising.
    1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

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    Professor KingsGambit's Avatar
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    The theology of 1 John seems to have a theme of "you're either in Christ or you're not", and polemically, those who are not are antichrists.

    Arminians (of which I consider myself one) understandably find this to be an inconvenient verse as at face value, it seems to indicate that apostasy is inherently impossible, and the general Arminian explanation that this only refers to a specific group of defectors strikes me as special pleading. I think the tack of considering it polemically is more promising, but there is still exegetical work to do here, and I haven't made my mind up.
    For what was given to everyone for the use of all, you have taken for your exclusive use. The earth belongs not to the rich, but to everyone. - Ambrose, 4th century AD

    All cruelty springs from weakness. - Seneca the Younger

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    tWebber tabibito's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingsGambit View Post
    The theology of 1 John seems to have a theme of "you're either in Christ or you're not", and polemically, those who are not are antichrists.

    Arminians (of which I consider myself one) understandably find this to be an inconvenient verse as at face value, it seems to indicate that apostasy is inherently impossible, and the general Arminian explanation that this only refers to a specific group of defectors strikes me as special pleading. I think the tack of considering it polemically is more promising, but there is still exegetical work to do here, and I haven't made my mind up.
    I think his primary aim is directed at identification of true and false teachers, rather than a general overview of believers. Even so,
    1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
    is fairly solidly contra the "you either are or are not" idea. The Koine Greek makes it clear that neither sinning nor not sinning is a foregone conclusion. To over translate a tad:
    that ye sin not = to make it possible that you do not sin
    if any man sin = in the event that any-one might sin
    1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

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    tWebber Faber's Avatar
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    1 John 4:3 defines antichrists as those who deny that Jesus had come in the flesh. Possibly connected with the Docetae, or groups which later became the agnostics, who believe, among other things, that the flesh is sinful, therefore Jesus could not have come in the flesh. This heresy tried to associate itself with the early church, as is seen in Paul's letter to Colossians. Even John's Gospel, chapter 1, stresses, "The Word was made flesh...."

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    tWebber
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    In possibly siding with Tabibito, the passage speaks about false teachers who had been among the Jewish followers of Christ (in Judea). There were great pressures upon Jewish Christians to back off from the Messianic message.

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    tWebber
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    I don’t think verse 19 is really dealing with the idea of preservation or predestination. It’s using a play on words to emphasize that false teachers and false doctrines may have originated from within the church and gone out from the church, but that does not make them any part of the church. It’s more about these false teachers as representative of their false doctrine, a doctrine which was never a part of the true church.

    Antichrists (anti can mean “opposed to Christ,” but it more normally would have meant “in place of Christ,” those who substituted another gospel that was really no gospel at all and another Christ, by denying that he was the Son, so that they ended up not only with a substitute Christ but a substitute Father) went out into the world, claiming to come from and represent the church.

    The wordplay involves the “ex”. It can mean “from” or “out of,” but when no direction is implied it means “a part of.” They may have gone out from our churches as their origin, but that doesn’t imply that they or their teaching are or ever were a part of or representative of the true church.

    To paraphrase: They went out from our midst, but even when they were in our midst they were not a part of us (not saying that they had never had faith in the first place, but saying that even while they were physically within the church, they were outside the church; by their teachings they had no real part there). If they had been truly part of the church, then no matter where they went when they left, they would have remained with us, both in spirit and in teaching; they could have remained a part of us anywhere they went, but they didn’t.

    The key is the last, incomplete phrase: “But ... in order that they might be made manifest, that (or because) not all (who went out from us) are (present tense) a part of us.” John skips something, but what? It could be, “But it was God’s intention to bring to light the fact that these antichrists never had any part with us,” or it could be “But the reason I’m telling you this is to expose these antichrists.” I take it as the latter: My purpose here is to expose these false teachers and make clear the fact that not everyone (who goes out from us) is a part of us.

    Verses 24-27 imply that a fall from faith is possible; it’s the reason he’s warning them about the antichrists. John is writing to believers. They have the truth. They have the anointing of the Spirit. But they could be led astray. “If (what you have heard from the beginning) remains in you, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.” Implies that if you do not remain, neither the Father nor the Son nor the eternal life he promised us will remain in you.

  9. Amen Obsidian amen'd this post.
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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Faber View Post
    1 John 4:3 defines antichrists as those who deny that Jesus had come in the flesh. Possibly connected with the Docetae, or groups which later became the agnostics, who believe, among other things, that the flesh is sinful, therefore Jesus could not have come in the flesh. This heresy tried to associate itself with the early church, as is seen in Paul's letter to Colossians. Even John's Gospel, chapter 1, stresses, "The Word was made flesh...."
    Small typo there, but they would later go on to develop into Gnostics, not Agnostics . It seems to me that this is one of the more widely held views among NT scholars, but Ben Withering III offers another suggestion,

    Source: Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume 1: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John by Ben Witherington, InterVarsity Press, 2006, pp. 488-9

    We are told at 1 John 2:19 that these antichrists once were members of this community but "went out from us." This does not suggest their expulsion or excommunication, but simply that they left. The author says that "they were not of us," and the clearest proof of this seems to be that they were schismatic, thus violating the love ethic, which is paramount in the Johannine community. "Secession proves a want of fundamental union from the first."191 Whatever else one might make of this admission, it appears clear that the church is viewed as a corpus mixtum, as both wheat and chaff at the time. It also suggests that the evidence of the antichrists' true spiritual character was not clear until they left, or at least until they denied that Jesus is the Christ and then split off.

    But what exactly were they denying about Jesus? Were they docetics who denied his humanity and affirmed only his divinity?192 Or did they agree there was such a thing as the Son of God, the Messiah, but denied that the man Jesus was the one, denying that he was anything more than an ordinary human being? It is unnecessary to posit two schismatic groups with different errant Christologies.193 The Jewish and the Jewish Christian expectation was for a human messiah, yet he would be one uniquely empowered by God and could even be called the Son of God. Perhaps the nub of the denial was that the schismatics were suggesting that the human being Jesus was not the Messiah, and thereby they denied that the Messiah had come in the flesh, at least not yet. If this is the thrust of the false teaching, then likely these are Jewish schismatics—a far more likely scenario than seeing them as Cerinthian docetists or gnostics before the second century and before Cerinthus's time.194 In any case, "the old man" believed that Jesus had anointed all true Christians with the Spirit. The antichrists were not the only ones who could claim spiritual inspirations and insight.





    191Plummer, Epistles of St. John, p. 58. Plummer makes the interesting suggestion that our author is not denying the possibility of apostasy here, but that apostasy "is possible, but only for those who have never really made Christ their own, never fully given themselves to Him" (p. 59).

    192The Greek verb dokeō means "to seem" or "to appear." Smith (First, Second, and Third John, p. 74) thinks that Docetism is at issue here.

    193Contra Smalley, 1, 2, 3, John, pp. 111-13.

    194We might compare what is said about the synagogue in Revelation 2—3, where clearly there is tension between the synagogue and the Johannine churches at a somewhat later period. Did the schismatics begin to turn Christians in to the governing authorities, saying that they were not really Jews but rather belonged to some illicit sect or superstition? This might account for the "synagogue of Satan" polemic.

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    Last edited by Adrift; 06-22-2019 at 11:30 AM.

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    tWebber Faber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    Small typo there, but they would later go on to develop into Gnostics, not Agnostics .
    Oops, sorry.

    Long time ago I was doing research on ionized meteor trails in the upper limits of the mesosphere. I wrote to some college professors, and they replied that they got a kick out of the way I misspelled mesopause.

  12. Amen Adrift amen'd this post.
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    Professor KingsGambit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Faber View Post
    1 John 4:3 defines antichrists as those who deny that Jesus had come in the flesh. "
    Wouldn't this by definition include all non-Christians (other than members of certain cults considered so aberrant that they are grouped as such but who do nonetheless not deny the incarnation)? This seems like further evidence for my theory that all outside the faith are in mind.

    This would seem consistent with the view of Plummer (per one of Adrift's footnotes). Craig Blomberg has expressed a similar view on his personal non-academic blog.
    Last edited by KingsGambit; 06-22-2019 at 08:18 PM.
    For what was given to everyone for the use of all, you have taken for your exclusive use. The earth belongs not to the rich, but to everyone. - Ambrose, 4th century AD

    All cruelty springs from weakness. - Seneca the Younger

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