The letter of 1 John contains a unique structure:

12 I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one. (1 John 2:12-14 NKJV)

In studying this, I noticed similarities to the form used to address messages to the churches in Revelation. Those were written on a single scroll so each church would hear their individual message as well as the messages to the other churches.

The letter employs the same concept of different messages to different groups embedded within a larger message written on a single scroll. Like Revelation, when the letter is read, each group would hear their individual message as well as the message to the other groups.

While Revelation addresses 7 different churches the letter addresses only 4 different groups, little children (τεκνία), fathers, young men, and little children (παιδία). However, unlike Revelation where each group is addressed in the same tense, the letter addresses each group more than once using a different tense or verb. When the recipient-verb combinations are considered, the letter takes on the same form as Revelation where seven different messages follow the introduction:

enter image description here Also, if the letter was written by John in Ephesus, as tradition holds, then the letter would very likely be taken to other churches and read there. In this case the seven churches in Revelation would receive the same message having the seven-fold messages to the different groups at each location.

Is this evidence that the author of the letter was familiar with Revelation and patterned their letter using the concept of the letters addressed to the seven chruches in Asia?

  • Nice pattern matching. Why is the question important? What is the meaning of the pattern, if it is more than an accident?
    – Bob Jones
    Jan 13, 2018 at 0:47
  • @BobJones I think it would mean the letter was originally addressed to the seven churches in Asia. Jan 15, 2018 at 17:05
  • I guess I am asking why it is significant, rather than an interesting tidbit if it were true.
    – Bob Jones
    Jan 15, 2018 at 17:10
  • 1
    @BobJones The Revelation address is such that its applicability to others is secondary to the specific 7 addressees. So IMHO, "....because the time is near" etc is specific to the 7 churches (not for others). At the same time, those to whom the Revelation is not specifically addressed (us) should understand not being in Ephesus et al does not exempt us from the same judgment(s). The letter OTOH was addressed so as to create the opposite condition. It is addressed to all generations of believers despite being originally delivered specifically to the 7 churches (with the Revelation?). Jan 15, 2018 at 18:30
  • Either way, the church compromised with the flesh (doctrine of Balaam), invited in the Judaisers as the ceremonies were adopted into the mass, lost their first love as they deified Mary, and conquered the laity with the establishment of the clergy. There is not much more we could have done wrong no matter who it is addressed to. Still a nice pattern match and significant as a Hebrew hermeneutic (drash). Thanks.
    – Bob Jones
    Jan 15, 2018 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


According to Wikipedia, early Church tradition dates the Book of Revelation to end of the the reign of emperor Domitian (81–96), or some time in the early to middle 90s, and most modern scholars agree. This means that the author of the Johannine epistles could have known the Book of Revelation, as long as he was writing during the early years of the second century, a view now held by most critical scholars.

I expect that the seven letters contained at the start of Revelation were originally separate letters sent to each church and only later consolidated into this book, but it is also possible that they are only symbolic and were never really sent to these churches. In any case, this does not answer the question because if the 'elder', author of the Johannine epistles, did know Revelation, he probably knew it in its completed form with letters included as we see them now.

True, we can argue that 1 John chapter 2 contains messages for seven groups, but only by assuming that τεκνία and παιδία are not synonyms and then by ignoring the poetic use of repetition in 2:24-18.

Malcolm Coombes ('A Different Approach To The Structure Of 1 John') says that particular features of rhetorical style in 1 John prominently feature the use of repetition for amplification and emphasis. This observation in itself explains the fact that the ideas in verse 2:13 are substantially repeated in verses 2:14-18.

It is most unlikely that the elder would write to "little children" who are by etymology less than seven years old, so we do not need to consider that the elder is writing to one or two groups of little children. We often use synonyms in English, even in a short essay, and so it was in Koine Greek. No doubt the elder was simply referring to members of his flock in the same way as the Church Fathers would later do, and even some modern priests still do.

I think it is evident that the messages of this epistle were addressed to just one group, whose members the presbyter often referred to as his "little children". Given that there is no evidence that he was addressing seven distinct groups, we have no evidence that 1 John was patterned on the Book of Revelation.


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