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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Introduction

CANONICITY OF.—The Canonicity, or Divine authority of this Epistle, as well as its authenticity, have never been questioned in the Church. It is, therefore, ranked among the Proto-canonical Books of Scripture. The only persons who ever questioned its authenticity, and denied it to be the genuine production of St. John, were Marcion and some other early heretics. Such denial, however, avails little; for, it bears all the marks, both intrinsic and extrinsic, of authenticity.

WHEN AND WHERE WRITTEN.—Both points are matters of great uncertainty. According to some, it was written about the year, 68, before his Gospel. According to others, after his Gospel, about the year 99, of the Christian Era; and the frequent repetition of the terms, “my little children,” throughout the entire Epistle, would seem to confirm the latter opinion, and show that this Epistle was written, at the close of the patriarchal age, which the Apostle reached. The place from which it was written cannot be ascertained with any degree of probability, unless we hold, that it was written about the year, 99. Ephesus might, in that case, be fixed upon, with very great probability, as it was there St. John closed his life.

OBJECT OF.—The chief object, which the Apostles had in view, in all the Catholic Epistles, as we are informed by St. Augustine (Libro de Fide et Operibus, ch. xiv.), was, to refute the pernicious and demoralizing error of Simon Magus, regarding the inutility of good works, and the sufficiency of faith alone for salvation. St. John devotes this Epistle, in a special manner, to the refutation of this error (1:6, 2:4, 3:7, 8, &c., 4:20). Besides this general object, he had specially in view to refute the errors which had sprung up in the very infancy of the Church, regarding the divinity and humanity of our blessed Lord. Hence, against Ebion and Cerinthus, who denied the divinity of Christ (his Gospel was also written against the same heretics), he asserts that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal Son of God, himself, true God. Against Basilides, who erred regarding his humanity, by asserting, that he assumed not a real, but a fantastical body, he declares Him to be true man, our advocate and intercessor with the Father. These, and all other heretics, who, at a future day, were to spring forth and promulgate errors; regarding the attributes of our divine Redeemer, whether in his divine or human nature, he terms, “antichrists;” “spirits that dissolve Jesus.” He dwells much in proving the truth of the two great fundamental mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation; but, his zeal is principally directed against the errors of Simon Magus. He also, in a special manner, insists on the precept of loving our neighbour; and repeats the same frequently, and in different ways, as being the most necessary and meritorious work we could perform.

STYLE OF.—The style of this Epistle is of the most simple and unadorned character. The sentences, viewed in themselves, quite easy and intelligible; but, viewed with reference to the context, it is not quite so easy to trace their connexion. A spirit of unction, benevolence, and charity, breathes throughout, to which is united a certain degree of parental authority, quite suited to the character of the aged Apostle of love.

TO WHOM ADDRESSED.—St. Augustine (lib. 2do Quest. Evangel., ch. 39), Pope Hyginus (Epist. 1), and others quote from it, as the Epistle to the Parthians, that is to say to the Christians scattered throughout the extent of country that lies between the Tigris and the Indus; and some assert, it was principally addressed to the converted Jews in these regions, whose fathers had been led into captivity under Salmanazar and Nebuchodonozor. It may be, that the Apostle himself preached among the Parthians, as Baronius and others assert and although these nations were converted by other Apostles, viz., Thomas, Simon, and Jude; still, it is not unlikely, that St. John wished, after their death, to confirm their converts in the faith. A similar course was pursued by St. Paul, with reference to those who were converted by other Apostles; the Romans, converted by St. Peter, and the Colossians, by Epaphras, a disciple of his own. To whomsoever, addressed, the Epistle is commonly reckoned among the Catholic Epistles, as being Catholic, in doctrine, and suited, at all times to Christians of every age and character.








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