The Light is Winning: Isaiah’s Restored, Eschatological People of God in the Prologue of 1 John

In his article “1 John 5:21 Reconsidered” Julian Hills (Catholic Biblical Quaterly, 51, 1989) proposes that the final verse of 1 John constitute an inclusio with the prologue (1:1-4) on the basis of the Old Testament origins of the language of witness and proclamation in connect with idolatry. This paper builds on Hills’ work and proposes that the description of a restored, eschatological remnant found throughout Isaiah is the primary intertextual source behind the language and themes of 1 John’s prologue (1 John 1:1-4). 

A major theme in Isaiah is the spiritual blindness and deafness of Israel which, in the later half of Isaiah, keeps Israel from performing their vocation as divine witness. This theme is introduced in Isaiah’s commission in 6:9-10 and is repeated periodically throughout the book (for example: Isaiah 43:8; Isaiah 59:10). But according to Isaiah, in “the last days” God will restore his people’s sight and hearing so that they can see his glory and hear his word (for example: Isaiah 29:9, 18; 32:1-3; 35:5; 42:7). I John’s prologue stresses the witnesses’ ability to see and hear the salvation which the Father had manifested.

The paper begins with a brief overview of the discourse analysis of these opening verses. From this summary the key themes of Witness and Proclamation are identified. Based on the presence of these dual themes, in conjunction with the opening of eyes and ears to the glory of the Lord, Isaiah is then proposed as a potential intertextual source for 1 John 1:1-4. Isaiah’s use of these themes is investigated and compared to 1 John’s prologue. After establishing a potential intertextual, thematic connection between 1 John 1:1-4 and Isaiah’s theology of witness and proclamation, the remaining elements of 1 John’s prologue are re-read in the context of Isaiah. The study draws tentative conclusions about the alignment between the witnesses in 1 John 1:1-4 and God’s eschatological restoration of Israel from their spiritual blindness and deafness which had precluded the people from being his witnesses. The paper concludes with some potential implications of this intertextual reading for the rest of 1 John, its theology, situation, and argument.

5 thoughts on “The Light is Winning: Isaiah’s Restored, Eschatological People of God in the Prologue of 1 John”

  1. I doubt a distinctly Isaianic
    I doubt a distinctly Isaianic background–OT influence in John’s letters is ubiquitous but secondary (to Jesus) and diffused–but this serious attempt is worth airing.

    Reply

Leave a Comment