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ἐντολή translated commandments in 1John 2:4 "Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments "ἐντολή" is a liar, and the truth is not in him"

How do we know the original author meant commandments rather than commandment? I ask because of what John says in chapter three 1Jn 3:23  "And this is his commandment "ἐντολή", that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us."

The same word is used plural in one place and singular in another place. To me, the distinction is very important, especially in these two instances.

Thanks for your help.

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    You are likely reading an interlinear which lists the lemma or dictionary form of the word, hence ἐντολή, but the actual Greek manuscript/text contains ἐντολὰς (plural). May 22, 2023 at 22:34
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    Thank you for pointing out the difference between a dictionary and an interlinear. I have compared bot and see the difference now. I was in a dictionary when I wrote the question.
    – Todd
    May 23, 2023 at 20:17

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First, the operative word is ἐντολὰς (entolas = commandments) is definitely plural and accusative. If John had intended a singular accusative noun, he would have written ἐντολὴν (entolen) such as in Matt 15:3.

The lexical form is always the nominative singular case which would be ἐντολὴ (entole) such as in Matt 22:36, 38, etc.

In the letter of 1 John, the noun ἐντολὴ occurs 14 times as follows:

  • plural: 1 John 2:3, 4, 3:22, 24, 5:2, 3
  • singular: 1 John 2:7, 8, 3:23, 4:21

In all cases, the plural is used as a collective term covering all of God's commandments collectively. The singular is used of a specific commandment about which John comments. For example, in 1 John 3:22-24, we have both singular and plural forms:

  • V22 - and we will receive from Him whatever we ask, because we keep His commandments and do what is pleasing in His sight.
  • V23 - And this is His commandment: that we should believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and we should love one another just as He commanded us.
  • V24 - Whoever keeps His commandments remains in God, and God in him. And by this we know that He remains in us: by the Spirit He has given us.

This is typical of John's writing, including the Gospel of John. Note that in 1 John 3:23, John is discussing a specific commandment to believe/trust in Jesus Christ. However, in V22 & 24 John talks about all of God's commandments generally.

Here are some further examples from the Gospel of John:

  • John 13:34 - A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another.
  • John 14:15 - If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
  • John 15:10 - If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.

Again, the distinction is clear in John's writings:

  • the plural, "commandments" refers to all of God's commandments collectively
  • the singular, "commandment" refers to a specific command under discussion.
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  • What are "all of God's commandments" you talk about? The Ten Commandments and the rest of the Torah of Moses? May 22, 2023 at 22:33
  • @ארקדיוס - that is another question.
    – Dottard
    May 22, 2023 at 22:47
  • I am asking because John in his gospel contrasts Jesus' commandment/commandments of love mentioned three times, as you pointed out, with the OT scriptures. He calls them “their law” (not His) three times too (8:17, 10:34, 15:25). May 22, 2023 at 23:47
  • @ארקדיוס - Jesus also calls the Torah law, the law based on love because he says that (Matt 22:26-40) that all the Torah laws were based on Deut 6:4, 5 and Lev 19:18 - the action of love.
    – Dottard
    May 23, 2023 at 1:05
  • The spirit of the law is love indeed. May 23, 2023 at 5:34

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