Are the uses of "darkness" in the first two chapters of First John all congruent in meaning? What does it mean to "walk in darkness?"

For example...

1 John 1:5-7 (NASB)
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 2:7-11 (NASB)
7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. 9 The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

  • Interesting Question!
    – Bagpipes
    Jul 13, 2014 at 11:13

5 Answers 5


A: To help us answer this question we need to examine both the Greek words from which are translated the terms “darkness”, “in the darkness” and “walk in the darkness”, and also the context in which the Apostle John uses these terms. Confining our focus to the Greek text of John's writings will help us avoid imposing our own preconceptions on what these terms mean as well as avoiding unnecessarily complicating their meaning.

The Greek Text in Context

1) “Walk” comes from the Greek word “peripatōmen”, which literally means “walk around” and in an ethical sense means “conduct (one’s) life”. I believe John is using “peripatōmen” in the moral sense because: a) he says the prerequisite for having “fellowship with one another” is for us to “walk in the light” (1:7). “Fellowship” comes from the richly textured Greek word “koinōnian”, which denotes the relational behaviour of sharing in community. It therefore follows that this “walk” is about relational behaviour, not a walk in the middle of the night. b) being out of “fellowship with God” is to “walk in the darkness” and to lie habitually.(1:6) Here too we see that “walk” can only refer to behaviour. c) the Greek phrase in 2 John 1:4 and 3 John 1:3,4, “peripatountas en alētheia”, means “walking in truth”, where “walking” is clearly used in the moral sense; d) the Greek phrase in 2 John 1:6, “peripatōmen kata tas entolas autou”, means “we walk according to His commandments”. John says that’s how we demonstrate our love. Again, John’s “peripatōmen” means “conduct”.

In view of the fact that John uses “walk” in its moral sense, many recent translations render “peripatōmen” as “live” or “conduct (one’s) life”. Since John’s use of “peripatōmen” clearly refers to a person’s conduct, I prefer the word “conduct” or “behaviour”.

2) “Darkness” comes from the Greek word “skotia”. It means “physical darkness, ie. the absence of light” or “spiritual darkness”, ie. “moral blindness”. The phrase “in the darkness” found in 1:6 and 2:11 comes from the Greek “en tō skotia”, where the “en” speaks of location within, as “in the realm of”. In this sense, “en tō skotia” can be rendered as “in the realm of the darkness”. This sense of “skotia” is where a person lies habitually (1:6b), where he hates his fellow human (2:9), where he causes conflict (the opposite of 2:10) and where he has no moral illumination (2:11). A more complete (and sinister) picture of "skotia" emerges when we study what John means by "(walking in) the light" (1:7). We know that God is "Light" (1:5), He is "in the Light" (1:7), "there is no darkness in Him at all" (1:5). Therefore we conclude that there is no trace of God in "the darkness". As well, "if we walk in the Light, ... we have fellowship with each other..." and Jesus forgives our sins (1:7). This means that "the darkness", being the opposite, is a place where there is the absence of fellowship (ie. where there is the discord & hatred referred to in 1 Jn. 2:10) and the absence of forgiveness of sins (because the person in this realm is blind to his sins, as described in 1 Jn. 2:11). To continue, let's compare the "walk in the light" of 1 Jn. 1:7 with the "walking in truth" of 2 Jn. 1:4. Follow my thinking to see how this sheds "light" on "tō skotia", ie. "the darkness". Are these expressions two different ways of saying the same thing? Yes, they are, and here's why. John says to "walk in truth" is "to love each other" (2 Jn. 1:5), which means to "walk according to His (God's) commandments" (2 Jn. 1:6). We have just seen in 1 Jn. 1:7 that walking in the Light means we have fellowship with each other. Now add John's assertion in 1 Jn. 2:10 that "the one who loves his brother abides in the Light". So we see that when we "walk in truth" we are loving each other, and when we are "walking in the Light" we are loving each other. This means that John is using "light" and "truth" as synonyms to describe the realm and essence of God. The opposite of truth is falsehood, so we can deduce that John's "skotia" must also be filled with falsehood.


We have established in 1) that “peripatōmen” (ie. "walk") refers to “conduct”, and in 2) that “skotia” (ie. "darkness") must be interpreted in its moral sense. Therefore, a complete, nuanced rendering of “peripatōmen en tō skotia” (ie. "walk in the darkness") could be “embody the behavior which typifies the realm in which there is no trace of God, and from which falsehood, discord, hatred, and moral blindness emanate and propagate”.


The Idea in Brief

The images of the word (light) coming from darkness are from the Torah, with particular development in the Book of Deuteronomy. That is, the Word of God comes down from heaven (out of the darkness) and provides life and light to man, so that man may live (walk) in that light. When one rejects that revelation, the result is to walk in darkness, which is to live the lie, or live in the absence of divine revelation. In this regard, Satan can appear as an angel of light (and therefore exemplify positive ethical behavior), but he lives in "darkness" because he rejects special divine revelation. Thus the emphasis is qualitative (light versus darkness), which means that those who hate the light (to include hating those who live in that same light) are the ones who walk in "the darkness." So the emphasis is not so much on positive ethical behavior (which Satan and his emissaries can mimic) as is whether or not one embraces and loves "the light."

In other words, if one does not embrace and love special divine revelation as embodied and epitomized in the Person of the Christ (and therefore is someone who walks in "the darkness"), then that person will hate those who live in "the light." To put it another way, those who love the special divine revelation as embodied and epitomized in the Person of the Christ (and therefore are people who walk in "the light") will be hated by those who walk in "the darkness" notwithstanding that these latter may live exemplary ethical lives.


The Book of Deuteronomy was the re-iteration of the Law to the obedient generation. That is, the generation that entered the Promised Land were the children of the disobedient first generation, which had escaped Egypt with Moses. Because of their disobedience, they did not enter the Promised Land. Thus, Moses gave to this second generation the "second law-giving," which is the meaning of the title of the Fifth Book of Moses: Deuteronomy.

There are three places in the Book of Deuteronomy that suggest light is divine revelation and darkness is the absence (or rejection) of that divine revelation. The principal emphasis is not ethical, but qualitative.

Deuteronomy 4:11 (NASB)
11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom.

Deuteronomy 5:23 (NASB)
23 And when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders.

In other words, the Lord gave the Law (words of God) to Moses, and thus light appeared through the darkness. The image here of light therefore is special divine revelation from heaven (thus the qualitative emphasis).

Deuteronomy 28:27-29 (NASB)
27 The Lord will smite you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors and with the scab and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed. 28 The Lord will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart; 29 and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you.

The point here is that the rejection of special divine revelation results in the absence of the "light" and therefore "darkness" is the result. The emphasis here is qualitative (divine revelation from heaven, which is particular and special). So the interpretation of the imagery of light and darkness in the writings of John comes from Deuteronomy, where the emphasis was qualitative. John even borrows the idea of the word, which descends from heaven, which provides "light" (special revelation) to man in order to save him. (Please click here for further development of this concept.) Thus, the imagery of "light" and "darkness" have the technical meaning of special divine revelation and the lack thereof. Again, the emphasis is qualitative.

For example, Satan can appear as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), and therefore appear ethical or perhaps even loving. In the qualitative sense however, he is a liar (Jn 8:44) and therefore he denies (refutes, resists) the words of God, and therefore he walks in "the darkness." So he does not walk in the darkness because he cannot appear ethical, but because he can appear ethical and reject divine revelation at the same time. The qualitative aspect of light and darkness are therefore in contrast with the secondary emphasis on ethical behavior.

So the term "light" and "darkness" carry not so much an ethical sense (although ethics always plays a role), but a qualitative sense, since the ideas stem from the Book of Deuteronomy. In his three epistles, John therefore alludes to those who love the light will be loved by others who live in that same light. Those who are in the darkness will hate those who live in the light, notwithstanding that these haters may appear as emissaries of light (2 Cor 11:14-15), but they will in fact hate the light, because the light has to do with loving and embracing special divine revelation as embodied in the Person of the Christ. If they hate Christ, they will also hate His disciples: that is, "the slave is not greater than his master" (John 15:20).


In conclusion, the term "the darkness" in John refers to the rejection of special revelation from heaven (in keeping with the imagery from the Book of Deuteronomy). The "word" that descended from heaven (in keeping with the imagery from the Book of Deuteronomy) was that light. He became flesh, and therefore was the incarnation of divine revelation to mankind (John 1:1-4 and John 1:14). Those who love the light will love, and be loved, by others in that same light. However, the rejection of special divine revelation (to include the Christ) is equivalent to the rejection of "light," and therefore the result is "darkness." Those that reject and hate the light will therefore hate and reject those that live in that light.

Finally, while ethical behavior is in view, what is the primary focus is whether or not one walks in the light. Thus while one may live an exemplary ethical life, if such a person yet hates his brother (someone who loves and embraces the truth of divine revelation as embodied in the Person of the Christ), then the hating person is a liar, which means that such a person walks in "the darkness" like the liar Satan. That person therefore (like Satan) denies "the light." The hating therefore does not come so much from hating someone obnoxious, but hating someone who lives in, and loves, the light of God's revelation. In summary, darkness hates light.


Amplified bible translation of 1 John 1:6 says that

[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents].

So what i understand that in the three chapters he meant that we need to follow the gospel instruction to stay in the light and if we follow the false doctrine, we will be walking in the darkness. 1, 2 and 3 john epistles are all about fellowship with God and stay away from the false teachings.


WHAT DOES DARKNESS REPRESENT IN SCRIPTURE? In Genesis 1:2 & 3, we are confronted with the word "darkness" and with the word "light". To properly understand darkness, we need to know what God implied when He said: "Let there be light".

In the previous season we understood this Light to be the sun, but through the Holy Spirit, who opened our understanding, we now know that the sun, moon and stars were only created on day four. So this light was something else! Here's the first testimony of the revelation: God said, and in so doing, released His Word by revealing Himself as Light. God Himself, comes out of obscurity, He steps out of timelessness (eternity) and reveals Himself in the earth (temporal). He was the Light, the revelation of the Word in a place of darkness or the absence of Light (absence of the Word of truth of who He is). We will later see that God actually revealed Himself as Father.

   With this knowledge we can now also better understand the second testimony, the testimony of Jesus Christ, when John writes: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Light shines in the darkness; and the darkness *apprehended it not". Then in verse 14: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory (of a Son) the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth".

So to summarize, "light" is the revelation of truth and darkness" is the absence of revelation or truth; hence the expression, when someone withholds a secret from us:- "don't keep me in the dark" and then afterwards, "now I see the light".

*Apprehension has three meanings. 1) The understanding of a principle. 2) The act of capturing a criminal and 3) Fear, doubt or missgiving.

Laurie Lombard (South Africa)


Let us start at the beginning to understand. When God was on the mountain he gave to Moses the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17 NKJV).

The people where scared to hear these Commandments.

Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (Exodus 20:18-19 NKJV)

So God Promised to Raise a Prophet to Teach these Commandments.

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’

17 “And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:15-22 NKJV)

God desired to fix the problem created from the fruit of the Knowledge of Function and Dysfunction.

but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17 NKJV)

He Explains the Way to Life, and the Way of Death

if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:10-20 NKJV)

The Israelites Failed to Follow the Commandments by Worshiping Other Gods

For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods (2 Kings 17:7 NKJV)

Note: There is context to 2 Kings 17:7, yet there are many examples, I just pick this one to show that it occurred.

The question for Eternal Life was Directly asked to Jesus.

Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 NKJV)

The answer to the question was to Keep the Commandments

So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17 NKJV)

What Commandment?

He said to Him, “Which ones?”

Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 19:18-19 NKJV)

We can see from the list that he mentions the Ten Commandments
It should be noticed though, that not all ten was listed! He listed only Five of the Ten!

The Young Man Responds

The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19:20 NKJV)

Here comes the Summary of the Remaining Ten Commandments

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21 NKJV)

The Error Made by the Rich Man
When he hears "sell what you have", he thought of things as his possessions, neither did he understand what it means to have "treasure in heaven" So he leaves sad. (Ref: Matthew 19:22 NKJV)

Let us Understand the Light
Let us take this summary and compare it to his other teachings to understand what he means. Because he taught to them in parables.

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ (Matthew 13:10-15)

From that Passage we can clearly see that the requirement to being healed is to see, hear, and understand

Where is Heaven? It is Inside you.

nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21 NKJV)

So to have treasure in Heaven
The treasure needs to get inside you.

The Parable of the Sower
Jesus explains to us that their are four situations that our minds can be in. He labels them as "The Wayside", "The Stoney Ground", "The Thorny Ground", and "The Good Ground". To Hear how he explains it Read without the analogies read it here.

Now if you study the Hebrew Hieroglyphs you will learn the true meaning to the first commandment. For the Hieroglyphs work like a story. I will quickly try to explain it to you, I hope to add more references later if you want a deeper study on it. Of all your memories you can think of all of your knowledge as a sea. And you can think of each person also this way, as each person having their own sea of knowledge. Now when you decide to speak this water comes out metaphorically.

Again Jesus uses another analogy, this time he calls it the "Water of Life".

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. (John 7:37-38 NKJV)

Now the breath of truth when it is working allows for no distraction. If you remain in the water you are in the light. If you break the water and place your attention on anything even like it. You break the commandment, and live in the darkness. Therefore selling everything you own, is in relations to your thoughts, and to give all of your attention to the one speaking to you.

Jesus explains this harvesting of the truth as a garden.

In the Parable of Weeds, both Good and Bad are sown into the Garden (you). And instead of picking what is wrong. Then entire speech was first listened to, then the bad was thrown away, and the Good was gathered into your memory.

Jesus again explains this sorting after all is gathered Like Fishing

which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. (Matthew 13:48 NKJV)

In conversation it is greater to be last.

But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:30 NKJV)

The One Who Listens Gains Everlasting Life

And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. (John 4:36 NKJV)

The Example of Mary Doing it Right

But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42 NKJV)

What was she doing? Listening to his Word

And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. (Luke 10:39 NKJV)

Those that are in the Darkness do not understand how to listen. For they do not know how to have communion with the light. The eyes become distracted when the one talking is speaking, and the focus of the mind goes to something else. Leaving the words being spoken to them.

The Works of the Darkness

Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. (Romans 13:12-13 NKJV)

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (Ephesians 4:17-19 NKJV)

Being alienated from the life of God
If we do not listen to the one talking to us we are in darkness.

However once you begin to harvest from the one that is speaking

But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 NKJV)

Nothing can be more important the the words that are coming at you!

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. (Matthew 10:37 NKJV)

How important is this teaching?

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:19-21 NKJV)

Another way to say 1 John 1:6

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:6 NKJV)

If I say that I am listening to you, yet am focused on something else altogether, I lie and do not practice the truth.

To Walk in Darkness Means: To focus on something else besides the words being spoken to you.

What are we to do about the darkness?

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:11-14)

Quit ignoring the one speaking to you, expose yourself to the light. It is shameful to even speak about the secret thing you do when you do not pay attention. However you become visible when your exposed by the light. So awaken from your living in the dying darkness and let the Word give you Light!

One more way to explain just for good measure

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. (Matthew 6:22 NKJV)

The word for Good (ἁπλοῦς) means "Unfolded". So if your attention is Unfolded you are in the Light. If your attention is Folded you are in the Darkness.

But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:23 NKJV)

The word for Bad (πονηρὸς) means "pain-ridden" from a root meaning "laborious". A folded mind is pain-ridden from labor. So a sign that you are in the darkness, is a head ache.

Now you can clearly understand this

Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:46 NKJV)

While Jesus was gone their conversation died away. So he suggests to them to continue asking questions to prevent entering into temptation.

Prayer and Fasting

So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29 NKJV)

To explain how he drove the demon out, he did it by asking questions, and fasting from the world. Nothing took his attention away from the light. Therefore the Light did the healing. And Jesus remained in God's Light.

For some bible study time, if you would like to research times when Jesus says "into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth". The Teacher himself can explain the rest to you.

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