2 John - Introduction
THE SECOND AND THIRD EPISTLES OF ST. JOHN
and Canonicity. It is quite commonly admitted that the second and third Epistles of St. John were written by
the one author. That this author was John the Apostle may be established on the following evidence.
The Muratorian Canon, St. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Denis of Alexandria, all witness to this opinion.
The writers of the church of North Africa, Tertullian and St. Cyprian, do not mention these Epistles, but in a council held
at Carthage in 256 A.D. the Bishop Aurelius quotes 2 John 10 as words of John the Apostle. Eusebius held these Epistles
authentic, though he enumerates them among the "antilegomena." St. Jerome also testifies that while many ascribed them
to the presbyter John, he himself held them to be written by John the Apostle. In the fourth century both Epistles were
commonly recognized as authentic, and are found in the canons of the Synods of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). They
are not found in the Peschitto, and possibly not in the writings of St. Ephrem. Their very brevity and their private
character are sufficient to explain this tardiness in the general recognition of their canonicity.
It is very probable that the "Presbyter" in the writings of Papias is John the Apostle, known by that title throughout Asia
Minor. The tone of the letters, one of gentle and affectionate authority, agrees with this. The vocabulary of
both letters contains characteristic Johannine words and expressions.
Time and Place of Composition. It is impossible to determine anything
with certitude touching these points for either Epistle. It is probable that they were written in Asia Minor, some time
after the composition of the first Epistle.
Destination. The second Epistle is addressed to "the Elect Lady."
It seems probable that this title refers to a church rather than to an individual. The references within the letter
are plural (184.108.40.206), and the use of the same title in 13 seems to imply that one "elect" group is addressing another.
The third Epistle is addressed to a certain Gaius, a man of character and authority. His further identification is uncertain.
Cf. Acts 19, 29; 20, 4; Rom. 16, 23; 1 Cor. 1, 14.
Purpose. The second
Epistle has practically the same purpose as the first: to confirm the recipients in the truth, i.e., in the faith and in love.
It cannot be determined if a special occasion provoked the letter. The third Epistle envisages the conditions in a particular
church, in which the authority of St. John was being rejected by a certain Diotrephes.
SECOND EPISTLE OF ST. JOHN THE APOSTLE
The ideas and expressions of the Second Epistle
are the same as those of the First; hence its composition must have been prompted by the same or similar occasions.
It was probably written towards the end of the first century.
The recipient of the Second Epistle is addressed as "Elect Lady." The meaning of the
title is obscure. Many have thought that an individual is meant, one whose name was Kuria or Elect, or simply "an elect
lady." Others have seen in the title a mere symbol, either of the universal Church, or of some particular church in
Apostle commends the recipients of the letter for their steadfastness in the true faith, and exhorts them to persevere, lest
they lose the reward of their labors. He exhorts them to love one another, but warns them to have no fellowship with
heretics, and not even to greet them.