There are three main views regarding the three titles (‘little children’, ‘fathers’, ‘young men’) mentioned in 1 John 2:12-14. First, some believe that the three titles refer to three different groups. They see the titles as denoting physical or spiritual ages. Second, others believe that the title ‘little children’ refers to the entire audience, while ‘fathers’ and ‘young men’ refer to two groups within the audience. Third, some believe that all three titles refer to the entire audience.
Recently, most scholars have argued for the second view, but this study supports the third view for the following reasons. The characteristics of ‘little children’, ‘fathers’, and ‘young men’ in 1 John 2:12-14 are features that refer to the general audience throughout the entire context of 1 John. Additionally, John's writing style supports the idea of one group. In the Gospel of John and 1 John, different words are often used to convey the same meaning, enriching the content with different expressions. Finally, the characteristics of the three titles in 1 John 2:12-14 contain elements of the new covenant: forgiveness of sins, knowledge of God, and interiorized Word. However, these three elements are blessings that all people, without distinction, will enjoy together as part of the new covenant in the end times (Jeremiah 31:33-34). Therefore, making distinctions between the three titles in 1 John 2:12-14 is not convincing.
For these reasons, the three titles mentioned in 1 John 2:12-14 can be seen as referring to the entire audience as one group. The author praises the recipients as beloved children, mature fathers, and victorious young men, while encouraging them to live according to their faith and status.