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Mark Dankof: An Overview of I John for the Catacomb Church and Homeschooling Study in The Latter Days


This study is dedicated to Christian believers in these latter days who face constant trials, tribulations, tragedies, illness, and spiritual depression and discouragement. Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

     As we begin our 3 hour session this evening in I John, let me emphasize at the outset that this presentation of an overview of the book is to be understood in the context of the larger Johannine corpus of the New Testament.  These Epistles (I John, II John, and III John) are fascinating letters with a wealth of information and insight in them.  We will eventually tackle the Gospel of John and his Apocalypse on Patmos, the work which finalizes the New Testament corpus even as it provides additional data on what that corpus reveals to us on the issues of eschatology and those things that must transpire in history before the Second Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.

     I am most appreciative of the opportunity to gather in this private home in South Texas. It is not an accident that there is no advertisement of our studies to the general public or the use of social media to disclose our location, our syllabus, or the names and numbers of our homeschoolers and homeschooling parents who gather here.  When I am invited here, it is understood that I am attempting to help parents and students tackle the tools and methods of study available for growth in the Word of God, to discuss matters never discussed in public schools, and to focus on prayer together as a family of remnant believers in Jesus Christ, the Holy Trinity, and the trustworthy character of the written revelation of God in the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books in its New Testament counterpart.


Class Assignment: Gnosticism on pages 42-60.

     For those of you who have been a part of my last several seminars and discussions here, it is understood that the covering of basic material necessary for study and comprehension is an essential part of anything I teach, but so is challenging give-and-take, and rigorous questioning during the 3 hours that have now begun.  Past examples of the work we have accomplished together have included my Overview of Jonah as Prototypical Primer for Catacomb and Homeschool Study; Christian Martyrdom and The American Empire; and The Church of Smyrna Speaks to the Confessing Church of Christ in This Darkening Hour of Tribulation, Remnant, and Martyrdom.  Whatever else may be said, we are willing together to tackle the real issues of these latter days against the backdrop of an American cultural, political, and educational revolution which has evolved in the last 50 years into an increasingly hostile monolith against any version of Biblical Christianity or its expression in the public marketplace of ideas in a darkening era of Cultural Marxism, Wars for Empire, the Surveillance State, and the proliferation of once-evangelical churches going down the road of the Personality Cult, the Church Growth Movement (CGM), the Entertainment/”Contemporary Worship” Scene, and an overall approach which has embraced mass popularity, existentialism and the sensory at the expense of time-tested, propositionally revealed truths in the Word of God. Is it any wonder that our Lord Jesus emphasizes that the end of history before His return shall be a time of unprecedented deception (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21)?


Christian believers in Iran at Christmas Time in an uncertain world.

     One other item before we move into the survey of I John:  Use electronic technology of this present era to your advantage in Biblical study and your search for God’s truth.  Because of the plethora of trash that exists on the Internet, evangelical Christians often make the mistake of denying themselves and their families access to wonderful theological and Biblical presentations online, and to musical and historical treasures not previously accessible to most of us in a pre-Internet age.  With prayerful discernment, this era enables all of us to grow in knowledge and resources over time.  I chose a few examples for your future use, and your future journey.  See Douglas Campbell and Douglas Moo:  Is the Lutheran Approach to Pauline Justification ‘Justified’? ; D. A. Carson’s multi-episode series on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Part One, Part Two, and Part Three; Dr. Gleason Archer on The Documentary Hypothesis and Higher Criticism; The Best of Bach; a marvelous journey for the Western Christian in Russian Orthodox Chant; or even what I wrote last month for Russia Insider on LGBTQ and the Culture of Death.  The point is this:  Learning and Discovery never end.  Keep learning, keep discovering, keep growing in the deepest things of God and the available works of some of His best laborers, wherever they till. Allow God’s Word to inform your thinking and your present and future pathway, not the mobs and masses increasingly on the loose in American institutions, seeking to destroy faith, freedom, morals, and the ability to think critically for oneself without dictation or coercion.  That is the ultimate reason why all of you are here.  This is why I have come to help you to the extent that the limitations of my gifts allow me to do so.  It is my ministry to you, even as each and everyone of you ministers to me in these encounters.


St John writes I John in Ephesus, the Apocalypse on the Isle of Patmos.

     And please do not make the mistake of failing to be informed on secular political issues and developments both nationally and globally, even as you search for the best sources with which to receive information and analysis as to the larger implications of these matters.  There is no Biblical prophet or apostle who failed to write about these matters in the context of the principles to be learned about God’s sovereign control of all of linear redemptive history throughout the entirety of the Biblical corpus, both in terms of the larger landscape of what was happening in the time contemporaneous with the author and the critical increase in discernment on the part of modern remnant believers in Christ now living in these latter days.  The Holy Spirit superintended the process of inspiring and illumining the minds and hearts of these men in regard to each word, each chapter, each book of the Scriptures.  Thus it is the Spirit of God Himself who has insured the inclusion of these materials on the historical and political times of long ago with application to the wisdom of God’s remnant people in days many centuries later (2 Peter 1:21). When I look at my own life and the passage of years accompanied by past work as a journalist, a broadcaster, a traveler and wanderer, and a Lutheran pastor, one example of these many strange intersections and the superintendence of God occurred in 2012 traveling to and from South Africa.  I wrote about that in “A Reminder of God’s Existence From Long Ago.”


Pastor Dankof to Homeschoolers:  The Lifelong Study of Scripture and Solid History is Your Pathway as God Directs.

     I will give you one example of something to read on the history of America seen through the lenses of discernment and not those of an Empire-driven mythology about that history, designed to befuddle those who are unwitting pawns of that Empire and its agenda of world government and what we have discussed here in past sessions as the so-called New World Order.  It is written by my evangelical friend and past colleague in national political wars in the Constitution Party, Pastor Chuck Baldwin.  It is entitled, “These Are The Dates That Destroyed America, 1865-2016.” Follow and research the events he mentions in this terrific article in Russia Insider over months and years, and you are guaranteed to learn things the American political elite and its educational system and news media do not want you to know about. That includes the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas when I was a boy.  My late friend Michael Collins Piper wrote a book on that subject.  You can now read the entire manuscript online thanks to the people at The Unz Review.


Mark Dankof to Homeschooling Parents and Students:  I can return to my collegiate youth in Iran, or return to the Achaemenid Empire of Ancient Persia anytime I desire.

     I will add two additional resources for your future use in the study of the Old Testament as it pertains to the ancient Achaemenid Kings of the Persian Empire, before we commence with I John tonight as the beginning of some work in the Johannine literature of the New Testament.  Put these in your seminar notes that pertain to what I have been doing with all of you up to this point.  One is the website of Dr. Kaveh Farrokh of the University of British Columbia, a past guest on my radio show a decade ago.  His new article on Pasargadae and Cyrus the Great just issued may be accessed here.  His pivotal book, Shadows in the Desert:  Ancient Persia at War, is a future must for all of you to use in any homeschooling seminar or Catacomb Church study.  The other volume is entitled, Persia and the Bible by Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, past President of the Evangelical Theological Society.  As you will later discover on your own, one cannot see how the Old Testament and the New Testament’s constant use of the Old document the entirety of redemptive history without understanding how Persia, the Achaemenid Empire, and Cyrus the Great fit into the entirety of the picture on Prototype, Predictive Prophecy, Eschatology, and God’s superintendence of the Biblical narrative and all of history, as but one significant example among many.


Mark Dankof’s Radio Studio doubles as Pastor Mark Dankof’s Research Library, where denizens like Kaveh Farrokh and Edwin Yamauchi reside.


     Speaking of history, let our own history record in perpetuity the number of words I have already employed as a mere preliminary to beginning the launch of our journey into the Johannine literature of the New Testament by first examining I John (That total is 1,628 words.)

     One more preliminary suggestion.  Go back to our study of Jonah to be refreshed on some ideas on tools to be used now for I John and the entirety of the Johannine corpus. Remember that I said then:

     “Where tools are concerned, the multi-volume Zondervan Charts are critically valuable.  I have been collecting them for years.

     “And finally, if one desires to learn enough Greek and Hebrew through a reputable online course, the best tools for subsequent word studies and research include the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Harris, Archer, Waltke), the updated version of the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Moises Silva, ed.), and the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (10 vols, Kittel/Friedrich).  The classic Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, the accompanying Index to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, the infamous Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich or “BAG”) and An Index to the Revised Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek Lexicon (John R. Alsop, Zondervan) round out some of the basics for those who want to dabble in these scholarly arenas. We do not have to be world-famous scholars to use these.  Over time, I can easily show you how.  By the way, the Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich (“BAG”) edition is a first edition.  Later, there was a second edition in 1979 that involved my late Lutheran colleague William Danker, hence the later acronym BAGD.  And to make matters even more ridiculous for you, when a 3rd edition of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature was subsequently issued in 2000, the acronym for the 4 scholars was rearranged for reasons beyond me. This 3rd edition is referred to by insiders as BDAG (Bauer-Danker-Arndt-Gingrich).  Go figure.  As for me, I still have the 2nd edition known as BAGD.”


Pastor Dankof at the Podium for 3 Hours. Put on Your Helmets, Class, and Let’s Go!

First John Survey

A Roadmap of Structures and Concepts for Studying a Biblical Book:  Test Case today is First John.

Place of the Book in the Canon and in the Redemptive History Timeline: For your Prototypical Analysis, think of the Epistles of John as subsequent to the Gospel of John and prior to The Apocalypse/The Revelation of John on the island of Patmos during the reign of Emperor Domitian (A. D. 81-96 A. D.)


Two Guarantees of Pastor Dankof to Homeschoolers:  “When we get to the Gospel of John, a guaranteed word study is Logos.  For I John, we will try Advocate and Propitiation with our Tools.”

Title:  “First of John” (Πρώτα από τον Ιωάννη)

Author:  The author is the Apostle John, although I John does not tell us who its author is.  The earliest identification we have of John comes from the Church Fathers.  See Irenaeus (circa 140-203 A. D.), Clement of Alexandria (circa 155-215 A. D.), Tertullian (circa 150-222 A. D.), and Origen (circa 185-253 A. D.) who unanimously designated the author as the Apostle John.  There is no evidence of anyone else being brought forward as an alternative by the Church Fathers. The book was used by Polycarp (who knew John in his youth) and Papias in the second century.  All of the Greek and Latin Church Fathers accepted this Epistle as Johannine.  

The identification of the Apostle John as the author by the Church Fathers is undoubtedly the result of the strongest evidence contained within the text of 1 John itself: This evidence is overwhelming based upon the style of 1 John in comparison to the Gospel of John and the use of antithetical contrasts in expressions (light v darkness; life and death; truth and lies; love and hate.)

Compare phrases and expressions in the two books:  Example of First John 1:1 and the Gospel of John 1:1,14Assignment for next session: Find two more, among many.

Eyewitness Testimony (First John 1: 1-4; 4:14). See “we” (Apostles), “you” (readers), and “they” (false teachers) phraseology.

John’s Background:  Acts 8:14; Galatians 2:9.  Christian tradition indicates uniformly that he left Jerusalem (probably not long before its destruction in A. D. 70) and ministered in and around Ephesus.

Date and Historical Background:  You will find that the precise dating of the book is impossible to determine, which compels us to bring in the scholarly detectives (the orthodox, evangelical scholars) to narrow the field to a reasonable time frame based on the Biblical and historical data available. Here is what can safely be said:  We are looking at a time frame nearing the end of the first century.  Factors to be included in any analysis of this shall include the evidence from early Christian writers (Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria), an early form of Gnosticism which provides the backdrop of the letter’s denunciations, and the indications of John’s advancing age.  One evangelical source concludes that since I John builds on the themes and concepts found in the 4th Gospel, it would be reasonable to conclude with the other arguments already advanced that a date between A. D. 85-95 is an excellent deduction.  No persecution is mentioned, suggesting a date prior to A. D. 95 when persecution broke out during the end of Emperor Domitian’s reign (A. D. 81-96). I cannot overemphasize the importance of a basic understanding of Gnosticism.  In addition to the one Internet Link already provided, the class will have two background reading assignments on this topic:  One is to read what Dr. Harold O. J. Brown tells us in Heresies about Gnosticism in pages 42-60.  There is a correlation between Gnosticism and Docetism, we are told.  Hint:  Look up Gnosticism in The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary.  You will be told to “See Incarnation (pp. 613-613).” Why?

Christ in I JohnThe Lord is indeed found throughout the book.  My favorite section, if pressed, would be the section marked off as 1:5-2:22.  This section does highlight the present ministry of Christ, especially in the emphasis on His blood continually cleansing the believer from all sin, and the articulation of the idea that He is our righteous Advocate before the Father. Pay special attention to the specific refutations of the Gnostic heresy here (see 2:22 and later 4:2-3).  Jesus comes by “water and blood” (5:6); He is the same indivisible person from the beginning to the end of his life, in an idea later framed by systematic theologians as the Hypostatic Union of the Human and Divine Natures in One Indivisible Person. The Nicene Creed discusses the mystery of the “Word who Became Flesh” (John 1:1,14 with comparison to 1 John 1:1) by discussing the correct verdict of the Council of Nicaea that the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, is “of the same substance as God the Father.”

Structure of the Book: Let’s keep this as simple as possible:

I.  Introduction (1:1-4)

II. Fellowship’s Conditions (1:5-2:14)

III. Cautions to the Believer (2:15-27) [Love of the World/Spirit of the Antichrist]

IV.  The Believer’s Walk with God in Fellowship (2:28-5:21) [Characteristics and Positive Consequences of Fellowship]

Key Verses: When I was a boy in Lutheran parochial school in Hawaii, and later a young Lutheran confirmand in Dayton, Ohio, memorization of the Word of God was an absolute emphasis.  I remember so many verses from I John that it seems almost absurd to discuss key verses, except in the context of my own personal preferences and those quoted most often by my teachers and scholars who guided me in my past educational endeavors.

But I will give you a few:  I John 1:5-10; I John 2: 1-2; I John 2: 17; I John 2: 18-19; I John 2:22-23; I John 2:26; I John 3:1b; I John 3:16; I John 3:23; I John 4:1-3; I John 5:5-7; 1 John 5: 11-12; I John 5: 13-15; I John 5:16; I John 5:18-20.

Key Chapter: There is so much key material throughout this Epistle that I find isolating the key chapter to be a bit of a dicey proposition.  Nonetheless, I will post here the majority evangelical consensus that the key chapter is Chapter 1, with the key idea/word being that of fellowship.  In my notes from a D. A. Carson lecture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the early 1980s, he made reference to the ” .  .  . two central passages in the New Testament for continued fellowship with God are John 15 and First John 1.  The former relates the positive side of fellowship, namely abiding in Christ.  The latter gives us the opposite side of the equation, that when Christians do not abide in Christ, they must seek forgiveness before fellowship can be restored.” Yes, I have all of my notes and handouts from my entire time in three different seminaries.  I recopied my notes after each lecture, which enables me to read my handwriting decades later.  . . .

Good Commentaries:  I am going to suggest a good possibility.  I use the word possibility because I haven’t used it personally, but the evangelical credentials of the author and the endorsements suggest one would be safe in selecting this one as part of a larger personal Bibliography.  I will reiterate what has been said in this seminar each time I have been invited to teach: For beginners in this minefield, select those who actually believe the Word of God is infallible and divinely inspired; then subdivide that further when it comes to schools graduated from, theological tradition identified with the author, and special expertise in a specific Biblical book or research emphasis.  Once we reach the Gospel of John and the Apocalypse, I will have other suggestions for you. Hint:  A man I once knew is a name you need to remember.  It will come up time and time again:  Leon Morris. Another name for your future interest:  Donald W. Burdick. His The Letters of John the Apostle is something to remember and to consult. Finally, don’t make the mistake of failing to consult the Lutheran tradition when it is out of the orthodox, evangelical wing of that strand.  One of the great ironic shortcomings of Protestant Evangelical publishing houses and schools is the tendency to forget that the Sola Christus, Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide rallying cry of the Reformation stems originally from the Lutheran Reformation, not the later development of what would become known as the Reformed version.  On the issues of forensic declaration and imputation as these concepts relate to the salvation of the believer, they are of one mind, whatever the other significant differences.


The Lutheran “Solas” and the Monergistic Action of God in Salvation. Avoid Synergism.  What is Synergism, Class????

Word StudiesAdvocate (Παράκλητον) I John 2:1: Volume 3 of New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis, Moises Silva (Revision Editor), pages 627-633.  BAGD, page 618.

Propitiation (ἱλασμός) I John 2:2: Volume 2 of New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis, Moises Silva (Revision Editor), pages 531-541. Also BAGD on page 375. Detail on page 375: Luther’s Gnadenstuhl and his exegesis of Hebrew 9:5.


Was ist ein Gnadenstuhl? See Luther on Hebrews 9:5. 

Key Ideas for Discussion and Reflection: Dr. Harold O. J. Brown tells us that the entire history of the Church is the constant battle between Heresy and Orthodoxy.  One example is Gnosticism and Docetism.  Does heresy creep into evangelical churches today? What kinds? How does it happen?  Are there patterns in Scripture and history which can be adduced? What false ideas do you see by Biblical definition as mainstream or majority views in American society and culture today?

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