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Original Research

Understanding ‘sin’ in the Johannine epistles

D J van der Merwe

Verbum et Ecclesia; Vol 26, No 2 (2005), 543-570. doi: 10.4102/ve.v26i2.240

Submitted: 03 October 2005
Published:  03 October 2005


The author of the Johannine Epistles has a good deal to say about sin. He abhors sin, seeing it as incompatible with God’ s character (oJ qeo;" fw`" ejstin, 1:5; [oJ qeo;"] divkaiov" ejstin, 2:29; and oJ qeo;" ajgavph ejstivn, 4:8) and with the status of believers as God’ s children. In this article attention is given to the following relevant aspects for understanding ‘hamartiology’  in the Johannine epistles from a ‘family perspective’: (1) the ‘family of God’  metaphor is used as the setting in which the author describes his symbolic narrative; (2) a differentiation is made between sin inside and sin outside the family; (3) sin outside the family is also described in terms of reciprocals to emphasize its condemnation; (4) finally, he focuses on the ‘forgiveness of sin’. This investigation is done against the socio-religious circumstances of the Johannine community in order to understand the Elder’ s ethical and doctrinal definitions of sin.

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Author affiliations

D J van der Merwe, University of South Africa, South Africa



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ISSN: 1609-9982 (print) | ISSN: 2074-7705 (online)

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