Some claim that the “perfect” of 1 Corinthians 13:10, although neuter gender, refers to Christ. To support their position they refer to 1 John 1:1 as another example where Jesus is referred to in the neuter gender.
In a long and grammatically complicated sentence, John announces his theme by stating first the object of his proclamation “which was from the beginning” which he later defines as “concerning the word of life.”
Does this refer to Jesus himself, as the living Word (Logos) of God (cf. John 1:14), or to the life-giving message, the “word” (logos) preached about him?
This has puzzled many scholars. F.F. Bruce states that the neuter gender of ‘that which was from the beginning’ points to the gospel rather than to the personal Christ, although indeed the gospel is so completely bound up with the personal Christ that which is primarily true of the one may be said of the other; R.C.H. Lenski proposes the neuter allows not only a reference to Jesus as the Son of God, but also all “he was and is and will ever be for us.” Roy Lanier, Jr. adds, “this unique person compassed both time and eternity, earth and heaven, God and man. The use of “Word” (LOGOS) both here and in the Gospel will have much of the same connotation, a comprehensiveness, an entirety of Jesus’ earth-bound experiences being told by John and his associates.” Finally, Stephen Smalley suggests that, even if John has the person of Jesus at the back of his mind, the stress at the opening of this verse is on the message about Jesus.
No doubt John refers to the Person of the Son of God, much the same as he did in the introduction to the Gospel (John 1:1–3). In 1 John 1:1 John used the neuter gender word (ho – “that which”) four times rather than (he – “who”) which is a masculine word. John Dobbs says that the four relative pronouns are a literary device to attract the attention of the readers. The neuter relative pronoun noun is used instead of the masculine, because at the start John does not want to reveal his subject is a man. Another consideration for using the neuter pronoun is to refer to all that for which Christ stands, hence the neuter for the collective whole.
These are a few possibilities for John’s use of the neuter gender instead of the masculine gender.
Bob Cowles is the Interim Director at Southeast. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, Bob teaches New Testament Greek. He is also the preacher for the Norwood Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN.