The Hypostatic Union
Who in here knows what the “Hypostatic Union” is?
First John was written to warn and instruct the readers about false teaching (2:26; 3:7) that denied Jesus Christ had come in the flesh (4:2, 3). This teaching held that Christ only appeared to be human, so that there was no real incarnation and no divine Savior who was able to die as an atonement for sinners. Christ only seemed to die. There is much speculation about precisely who these false teachers were, but the letter does not offer much information about them. The false teaching of 1 John is generally known from early Christian history and is called “Docetism” (from the Gk. dokeō, “to seem” or “to appear”).
Some scholars think that the false teaching was a variety of Gnosticism, a religious movement that connected salvation with an experience of individual, esoteric revelation (from the Gk. gnōsis, “knowledge”). An example would be the teaching of the late-first-century teacher Cerinthus. Later writers regarded Cerinthus as both Gnostic and Docetic, but there is little in 1 John to connect the false teaching opposed there with the specific ideas attributed to Cerinthus, or even to Gnosticism more generally.
Several considerations indicate that 1 John was written after the gospel of John. First, it refers very briefly to ideas that the gospel unfolds much more clearly and fully. Apparently the original audience is presumed to have knowledge of the gospel. Second, the conflict with Docetism is absent from the gospel and appears to be a later development. Third, there is no hint in 1 John of the ideological conflict with “the Jews” that pervades the first half of the gospel. The gospel shows the Christian community painfully distinguishing itself from the Jewish people, while 1 John reflects a later time, when Christian self-identification was well established and could be presupposed.
Another indication for the date of 1 John comes from comparison with the letters of Ignatius and Polycarp that are to be dated no earlier than c. 110 A.D. These writings criticize false teachings similar to but more developed than those addressed in 1 John. To accommodate this development, 1 John should be dated some years earlier than 110 and likely at some point in the 90s.