1 John 1:1 (ESV)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—
Imagine that you’re watching someone being cross-examined in court. The lawyer asks, “Did you actually see this?” The witness replies, “I saw it with my eyes and touched it with my hands.”
Bam. It doesn’t get more solid than that.
John’s point in this verse is to say, in the strongest possible terms, that this actually, physically happened. We have seen (ἑωράκαμεν “eh-oh-rah-ka-men”) with our eyes (ὀφθαλμοῖς “oph-thal-mois”) and have touched (ἐψηλάφησαν “eps-ay-la-phay-sahn”) with our hands (χεῖρες “keir-es”).
John isn’t confused. He isn’t unsure. He knows what he saw. He saw Jesus. He even touched Him.
And what he saw and touched was, “That which was from the beginning … concerning the word of life.” John is making a clear reference to the beginning of his gospel.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. — John 1:1 (ESV)
John’s mention of touch is especially important. Much of First John is written to counter Docetism, an early heresy that denied that Jesus had a physical body.
This seems impossibly nutty to us. (What do they think Mary gave birth to?) But clarifying the fundamental Christian doctrines was one of the main challenges of the early church.
Theology is complicated; the concepts surely extend beyond human comprehension. The apostles worked hard to sort through various doctrines, including things like circumcision and whether Christians should eat a kosher diet.
But regular folks were even more challenged than the apostles. The bodily resurrection and ascension of Jesus was hard to conceive of. Many people tried to make it simple by explaining it away.
Modern Christians need to avoid trying to reinvent the wheel on these doctrines. The ancient creeds were written to set an easily memorized baseline that would keep them from getting confused.
Reciting these creeds is a great way to worship.
These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.