What is the Story with 1 John 1:9? Appendix A: Koinonia
In my article, “What is the Story with 1 John 1:9? (Part One),” I asserted that the meaning of the Greek word translated “fellowship” (koinonia) in the first chapter of 1 John, is more accurately communicated by the word “partnership.” I briefly gave some evidence for that assertion. The purpose of this offering is to provide further evidence.
“Fellowship” invokes mind pictures of hanging out, singing by the fire, long talks, morning coffee together, and such like things. While these all may be very wonderful, they are not what koinonia (Strong’s #2842) means. The meaning of this word is crucial to our understanding of I John and other scriptures.
1John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship [koinonia] with us: and truly our fellowship [koinonia] is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Koinonia is a feminine noun derived from the adjective koinos (Strong’s #2839), which means “common.” Here are a few examples of Biblical uses of koinos.
Acts 2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common [koinos];
Acts 10:14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common [koinos] or unclean.
Titus 1:4 To Titus, mine own son after the common [koinos] faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.
The masculine form of the noun derived from koinos is koinonos (Strong’s #2844). It refers to people (or a person) who have (has) something common between or among them (or with something). The adjective describes the condition of commonality. The masculine form of the noun refers to one who has a share in common with someone or something. The feminine form, koinonia, refers to the common share, i.e. the partnership. Koinonos is usually translated “partaker” or “partner.” Luke 5 provides a clear example of its usage in God’s Word.
Luke 5:9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
Luke 5:10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners [koinonos] with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.
If what I have asserted is true regarding the relationship between the masculine and feminine forms of this noun, one would expect to be able to find other examples of this relationship in God’s Word; other words where the masculine form refers to an individual relative to some capacity, and the feminine form of the noun refers to what an individual in that capacity partakes in. A number of such examples would establish that such a relationship between the masculine and feminine forms is a pattern in Biblical Greek.
The examples below are not a complete list, but enough to document the pattern.
1. Matthew 18:23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
Basileus (king) is the masculine form. Basileia (kingdom) is the feminine form. The first definition of basileia given in Thayer’s lexicon is “royal power, kingship, dominion, rule.” A king partakes in his “kingship,” his royal power.
2. 1 Corinthians 9:2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.
Apostolos (apostle) is the masculine form. Apostole (apostleship) is the feminine form.
3. Luke 16:2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
Oikonomos (steward) is the masculine form. Oikonomia (stewardship) is the feminine form.
4. Romans 4:13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
Galatians 3:18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Kleronomos (heir) is the masculine form. Kleronomia (inheritance) is the feminine form.
5. Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
Prophetes (prophets) is the masculine form. Propheteia (prophecy) is the feminine form.
6. Acts 22:15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.
Acts 22:18 And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.
Martus (witness) is the masculine form. Marturi (testimony) is the feminine form.
7. Matthew 7:5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Mark 12:15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.
Hupokrites (hypocrite) is the masculine form. Hupokrisis (hypocrisy) is the feminine form.
8. Matthew 11:10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
1 John 3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
Aggelos (messenger, but usually translated, “angel”) is the masculine form. Aggelia (message) is the feminine form.
9. Acts 21:39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.
Polites (citizen) is the masculine form. Polis (city) is the feminine form.
10. 2 Corinthians 8:23 Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.
1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Koinonos (partner) is the masculine form. Koinonia, here translated “fellowship” is the feminine form. “Partnership” fits the pattern. “Fellowship” does not.
Koinonia is translated in the King James Version a number of different ways: “fellowship,” “communion,” “communication,” “distribution,” “contribution,” and “to communicate.” It is never translated as “partnership,” though in each of its 20 occurrences the idea of a common share is apparent. The share in common is not necessarily between two (or more) individuals who each share in some entity. The share in common might be the share that an individual has in whatever. He shares in common with whatever the entity is. “Partnership” is just the best word I can think of to communicate the meaning of koinonia in 1 John 1. “Partakership” would communicate accurately, but it is obviously awkward (and requires inventing a new English word). I am not saying that all these translations are necessarily wrong in their contexts, only that as we read them, we need to keep in mind the concept of a common share that koinonia communicates rather than, for example, call up mind pictures of hanging out just because the translation, “fellowship,” appears. Below are the 20 Biblical occurrences of koinonia for your review.
Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship [koinonia], and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Romans 15:26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution [koinonia] for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.
1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship [koinonia] of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
1Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion [koinonia] of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion [koinonia] hath light with darkness?
2 Corinthians 8:4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship [koinonia] of the ministering to the saints.
2 Corinthians 9:13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution [koinonia] unto them, and unto all men;
2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion [koinonia] of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
Galatians 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship [koinonia]; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
Ephesians 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship [koinonia] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Philippians 1:5 For your fellowship [koinonia] in the gospel from the first day until now;
Philippians 2:1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship [koinonia] of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship [koinonia] of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
Philemon 1:6 That the communication [koinonia] of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 13:16 But to do good and to communicate [koinonia] forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship [koinonia] with us: and truly our fellowship [koinonia] is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship [koinonia] with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship [koinonia] one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.