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The letter of 1 John begins in verse 1:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

The testimonies are all given in the first person plural—"we have heard", "we have seen", "we have looked", "our hands have touched", "we proclaim."

Yet, the second chapter begins with the first person singular:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.

Do the opening statements indicate that multiple people are writing this letter? Or does the first person singular in 2:1 suggest a single hand? If so, why is 1:1 in the first person plural? Who is the "we" in 1 John 1:1?

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I have a hunch that the context of fellowship is the key here, i.e. those of us who are in fellowship are telling you the basis of true fellowship. There seems to be an us vs. them polemic occurring, most likely between Christians and Gnostics. I don't have time to write up a formal answer right now but figured I'd throw this out there as food for thought. Great question. –  Daи Jun 5 '13 at 16:31

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The 'we' here may be reference to the congregation who are being addressed by their absent Pastor. It could also be an address to disciples widely scattered. John feels that the things he declares demand the strongest evidence. He has not believed them lightly, and he does not expect others to believe them lightly.

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Since he is using the 'I' without further reference, he is the author. (No one else is being named explicitly who could be co-author.)
The 'we' in the beginning therefore can only be understood as standing for the group of witnessing disciples (apostles).

Regarding witness the commonness (plural) of the experience is important (as not being just an individual perception). It is the common ground of having come to know the Christ as the Word of God and living human which the author calls to the reader's (and listeners') attention.

Regarding encouragement and counsel and personal address the softness and closeness of the personal relation is what calls for the (here) more intimate singular (since it is the single author who witnesses and knows their situation, and they know him, but perhaps none of the others).

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