John 3.8-12

 

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Many exegetes nowadays lean to the idea that Jesus in John 8.44 is likening “the Jews” to Cain, the son of Devil, for wanting to kill Jesus, just as Cain killed his brother Abel.  We know that rabbinic interpreters would eventually identify Satan as Cain’s father by substituting “Satan” for “Yahweh” in the passage in Genesis where Eve says, “I have produced a man with Yahweh” (Gen. 4.1).  It may be that this tradition had already been established and lies behind the discussion in John 8.44.5  We will see that in the First Epistle of John, Cain and all sinners are identified as children of Devil (1 John 3.8-12).

 

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3) Another John, another Worldview: 

Devil and anti-Christs in the Epistles of John the Presbyter

 

The three Epistles of John were written by a teacher in the Johannine tradition (that is, the tradition of the Gospel of John).  He identifies himself as an Elder (Presbuter) of the community.  “Prester John,” as we may call him, wrote the First Epistle around the year 100.  The

 

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Gospel of John, as we have it, was put together around the year 90.  Prester John shows no knowledge of the Revelation to John, which is dated around 95 A.D.

The First Epistle picks up on the discourse of Jesus in John’s Gospel about the Jews as children of Devil, and his implied history of Devil as beginning with Cain and his murder of his brother Abel (John 8.44).  Prester John emphasizes that Jesus, who was without sin, was revealed to take away sins and his followers must avoid sin.  Everyone who does what is right is righteous, like Jesus.  He continues:

But everyone who commits sin is of Devil, for Devil sins from the beginning.  The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to undo the works of Devil.

No one who is a child of God sins, because God’s seed remains in him, and he cannot sin because he is a child of God.

The difference between the children of God and the children of Devil is that whoever does not do what is right and whoever does not love his brother is not of God.

For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.  We must not be like Cain, who was from the Harmful One (ho Poneros) and killed his brother.  And why did he kill him?  Because his works were harmful (ponera), whereas the works of his brother were just.  (1 John 3.8-12)

Prester John goes on to speak of more abstract enemies, namely, the World (ho Kosmos) and Death (ho Thanatos):  “Do not be surprised, brothers, if the World hates you.  We know that we have passed from Death to Life because we love one another.  Whoever does not love remains in Death” (1 John 3.13-14).  But he does not connect them with Devil.

There are other likely themes in Prester John’s writings which are similarly not given an explicit Diabolical dimension.  For instance, he begins the First Epistle by making much of the contrast between Light and Dark.  The message we have heard from Jesus, he says, is

 

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that God is Light and in Him there is no Darkness at all.  “If we say that we have fellowship with Him while we are walking in Darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1.5-7).

 

 

4.4          5For Cain and “the Jews” as sons of Satan in John 8.44, see Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, AB, 2 vols. (1966-70), 1:358.