"Children" and/or "little children" are found 13 times in 1 John. Seven (2:1, 12, 28;3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21) are the word τεκνίον, which is the diminutive of τέκνον which is used four times (3:1, 2, 10; 5:2). Two are the word παιδίον which is the diminutive of παῖς (which is not used):

I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children (παιδία), because you know the Father. (2:13) [ESV]

Children (παιδία), it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. (2:18)

While a meaning for the word is child, typically it is one who is mature or undergoing training, which is how it is used in the letter. Also, Jesus is called a παῖς:

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant (παῖδα) Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. (Acts 3:13) [also in Acts 3:26, 4:27, and 4:30]

If Peter called Jesus παῖς, then he and John would be the diminutive, παιδίον (cf, John 21:5). True, Jesus also called them by the diminutive, τεκνίον (John 13:33), yet that was before the Resurrection and before John and Peter believed (John 20:8-9).

This leads me to question what is the significance of παιδίον compared to τεκνίον?

  • What is the essential distinction between the two? Is one a believer and the other not? Or is one a mature believer and the other new or immature?
  • The comparison of the the "diminutive" παιδίον to Jesus (a παῖς) is straightforward, but what does this say about the relationship of the "diminutive" παιδίον to τέκνον?
  • Given context, the etymology, and the differences between the other words translated as "little children" or "children" is "children" or "little children" a good translation of παιδία?

2 Answers 2


From Young's (YLT), 1 John 2:12,

"12 I write to you, little children, because the sins have been forgiven you through his name;"

and 1 John 2:18,

" Little youths, it is the last hour; and even as ye heard that the antichrist doth come, even now antichrists have become many -- whence we know that it is the last hour;"

The sense is of young "children" or newly born Christians needing to mature in the faith, and receiving constant encouragement from the beloved apostle. The church of Christ, the body of Christ was young, have just been birthed in the first century A.D. The Christians were in that sense youths, or little children.

In vs 12 "teknia" is Strong's 5040 which is a little child, figuratively someone deeply loved or endeared; Thayers - a kindly address from teachers to their disciples. It is a diminutive from teknon for an infant, little children, and Christian converts.

In vs. 13 & 18, "paidia" is Strong's 3813 which is used for infants, newly born; a little child under training; and figuratively an immature Christian. Thayers has its use in these verses as an affectionate address.

The overall context is the same as the teacher addresses all of the audience in their several relationships to each other and to Christ in that they are newly born Christians, infants in the word, and John's beloved children in training.

It is not mysterious. Both terms are used figuratively for converted Christians, as the literal use would not apply to literal infants or very small children who are not yet baptized. The first has a sense of endearment added to it, while the second implies the need for more study and training.

  • I agree with you on rebirth and growing up. But the language John uses does not fit this. Verse 2:12 uses teknia the diminutive of tekna while 2:18 uses paidia the diminutive of pais. A teknia grows up to be a tekna and a paidia to a pais. But in John's letter and Gospel, one is born of God and becomes a child (tekna) of God. After being born a tekna of God it doesn’t make sense to refer to a teknia as one growing up to be what they already are (a tekna of God). The confusion is from the English which calls both “children” implying both are to grow up as you describe. May 24, 2017 at 0:22
  • Expanded the answer, and hope it may be more complete. Being born of God, newly converted Christians in need of milk will grow as they study, but no one stops growing in the word.
    – Gina
    May 24, 2017 at 11:24
  • The use of 2 different words describes either 2 different groups (most likely meaning IMO) or 2 different components/stages of a single group. The first description as teknia is one type of "little" tekna (the parent word); the second as paidia is one type pais (the parent word). If both uses apply to the growing up, what is the difference between the 2? Both linguistically and contextually, the second is more mature than the first. By calling both the same - "children" the differences are masked. Is there a better word/way to describe the second who are already more mature? May 24, 2017 at 14:11
  • He is not writing to two different groups, but one group in which he characterizes them with the two figurative appellations of "beloved" and "little children, and then later as young students still in need of training. Vs 1, addressing the entire letter to "tecknia" little children. Vs. 7 addressing them all as "agapetoi" beloved. Just as I still call my grown daughter as my "baby girl," for she always will be.
    – Gina
    May 24, 2017 at 22:20
  • @Gina - I like your answer (+1)
    – Dottard
    May 12, 2020 at 22:23

What is the proper understanding of παιδία in 1 John?

John is expressing his confidence in the "young children" (παιδία) because they have come to know God. Obviously, literally, young children cannot know God, let alone repent and be forgiven for their sins, " verse 12", so John, apparently was referring to the whole congregation.

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children (παιδία), because you know the Father. (2:12-13) [ESV]

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