Social Distance and the First and Second Person in 1 John

This study will adopt a sociolinguistic approach to the first and second person in 1 John. It will demonstrate how the author of 1 John portrays social distance to influence his audience to align with his point of view. The outcome of this study will enhance our understanding of 1 John’s persuasive strategy related to the interpersonal function of the set of verbs and pronouns used by the author to refer to himself, his associates, or his audience. There is a plethora of altogether 111 verbs in the first person in 1 John, 96 being in the plural and 15 being in the singular. In addition, this letter contains a total of 57 first-person pronouns, 56 being in the plural and only 1 being in the singular. The author also utilizes a total of 39 verbs and 34 pronouns in the second-person plural to refer to his audience. Broadly speaking, “I” draws attention to the author and indicates his own point of view. Yet it is evident that the author of 1 John is fond of using “we” rather than “I.” The referent of “we” can exclude or include the audience. As will be shown, the author employs the linguistic device of the exclusive or inclusive first-person plural to increase distance from his audience to imply a sense of authority or to get closer to them to show solidarity, respectively. Furthermore, the author occasionally attempts to create a dialogic style to shorten the distance from his audience and engage them by utilizing “we/I” and “you” frequently in the co-text in the discourse. After presenting an overview of the distribution and phenomenon of the first and second person in 1 John, this study will focus attention on the relevant features in several passages including 1 John 1:1-4 and 4:1-6 in the undertaking to point up the interpersonal implications and rhetorical power of the first and second person in this epistle.