Structural Outlines of the Fourth Gospel
by Rev. Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

1 John    |    2 John    |    3 John

Various Outlines of the First Epistle of John

C. H. Dodd, The Johannine Epistles (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1946).

    Exordium: Theme and Purpose of the Epistle (1:1-4)
    I. What is Christianity? (1:5—2:28)
      1. A criticism of "religious experience," with an excursus upon sin and forgiveness (1:5—2:6)
      2. The New Dispensation (2:7-17)
      3. The Truth and the Lie (2:18-28)
    II. Life in the Family of God (2:29—4:12)
      1. The children of God, their prerogatives and obligations,
          with an excursus upon the nature and gravity of sin (2:29—3:10)
      2. Love and Hatred; Life and Death (3:11-18)
      3. Fellowship with God (3:19-24); Excursus on inspiration, true and false (4:1-6)
      4. The Love of God (4:7-12)
    III. The Certainty of the Faith (4:13—5:13)
      1. The nature and grounds of Christian assurance (4:13-18)
      2. Love, obedience and faith (4:19—5:5)
      3. The witness to the faith (5:6-13)
    Postscript (5:14-21)
      1. On Prayer and Intercession (5:14-17)
      2. The great Christian certainties (5:18-21)
Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel and Epistles of John (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1988).
Text Headings:
    I. Prologue: The Word of Life (1:1-4)
    II. God as Light (1:5—3:10)
      God is Light (1:5-10)
      Christ and His Commandments (2:1-6)
      The New Commandment (2:7-11)
      Members of the Community (2:12-17)
      Antichrists (2:18-23)
      Life from God's Anointing (2:24-27)
      Children of God (2:28—3:3)
      Avoiding sin (3:4-10)
    III. Love for One Another (3:11—5:12)
      (no subsection subheading - 3:11-19)
      Confidence before God (3:19-24)
      Testing the Spirits (4:1-6)
      God's Love and Christian Life (4:7-21)
      Faith is Victory over the World (5:1-12)
    IV. Epilogue: Prayer for Sinners (5:13-21)
Commentary Headings:
    Prologue (1:1-4) - cf. John 1:1-18
    Part One: Walk in the Light of God (1:5—3:10)
      Walking in light (1:5-7)
      Opposition to sin (1:8—2:2)
      Keeping the commandments (2:3-11)
      Opposition to the world (2:12-17)
      Antichrists (2:18-27)
      Children of God (2:28—3:3)
      Avoiding sin (3:4-10)
    Part Two: Walk as Children of the God of Love (3:11—5:12)
      Keep the commandments (3:11-24)
      Test the spirits (4:1-6)
      Love (4:7—5:5)
      Witnesses to the faith (5:6-12)
    Conclusion (5:13-21) - cf. John 20:30-31

Dwight Moody Smith, "John, the Letters of," HCBD (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1996).
Smith's prefatory note says, "1 John has no clearly defined structure, but its essential content can be represented in the following way:"

    I. Prologue: the grounds of the testimony (1:1-4)
    II. The true message of Jesus (1:5—3:24)
      A. Fellowship, obedience, and forgiveness (1:5—2:17)
      B. Warnings against false teachings (2:18-28)
      C. The marks of life in the community (3:1-24)
    III. Testing the claims of those who testify (4:1—5:12)
      A. Testing the spirits (4:1-6)
      B. Love as the essential test (4:7-21)
      C. Obedience to the commandments (5:1-5)
      D. The true testimony (5:6-12)
    IV. Postscript: sins, forgiveness, and certain knowledge (5:13-21)

2 John
Greeting: from "the Elder" to "the elect Lady"  (vv. 1-3)
      The Love Commandment (vv. 4-6)
      Deceivers and True Teachings about Christ (vv. 7-11)
Conclusion (vv. 12-13)
3 John
Greeting: from the Elder to his friend Gaius (vv. 1-4)
      Hospitality toward Christian Missionaries (vv. 5-8)
            The Bad Example of Diotrephes (vv. 9-11)
      A Commendation of Demetrius (v. 12)
Conclusion (vv. 13-15)
[Note: Since 2 John and 3 John have only one chapter each, proper biblical references for these letters list only the verse numbers.]

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