1. "We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him" 1 John 5:18 ESV him/auton Strong's 846.

Possibly meaning-Christ born of the Father protects the Christian.

  1. "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself". 1 John 5:18 KJB himself/heauton Strong's 1438.

Possibly meaning-the born again Christian keeps himself by not sinning.

1 Answer 1


The text of 1 John 5:18 is both disputed and quite uncertain. Indeed, the committee that edits UBS edition of the GNT changed its mind in this verse between UBS4 (αὐτόν) and UBS5 (ἐαυτὸν) but marked the selected text as {C} - uncertain.

For a list of MSS that support each reading, see UBS5 and NA28.

Note the comments of Bruce Metzger in his book, "A Textual Commentary on the GNT" prepared for UBS4 (not UBS5)

The committee understood ὁ γεννηθεὶς to refer to Christ, and therefore adopted the reading αὐτόν, which is supported by A* B 330 614 it(r) vg syr(bo) al. Copyists who took ὁ γεννηθεὶς to refer to the Christian believer (although elsewhere John uses ὁ γεγεννημένος, never ὁ γεννηθεὶς, of the believer) naturally preferred the reflexive ἑαυτόν (א A(c) K P psi 33 81 1739 al).

Metzger's point is tricky - the reading being decided on the basis of theology rather than pure textual evidence. Let me provide a literal translation of both versions:

UBS4 (αὐτόν)

We know that everyone having been born of God does not continue to sin; but the One [ie Christ] having been born of God protects him, and the evil [one] does not touch him.

UBS5 (ἐαυτὸν)

We know that everyone having been born of God does not continue to sin; but the one [ie, the Christian believer] having been born of God protects himself, and the evil [one] does not touch him.

The theological implication of this variation is significant because, at first sight, it appears that the UBS5 reading enables the believer to protect himself from sinning which is at variance with Paul's theology of the divine protection from sin.

Recall that the evidence for both variants is almost equally good. If we are to adopt the UBS5 reading (I personally prefer the UBS4 reading here) then we might have to assume that John's intention implies that the Christian protects himself from sinning, not by personal effort, but by having taken the precaution of being born of God and aligning himself with divine power; the latter not being explicit in the text itself.

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