Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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2 JOHN - Introduction

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2 John - Introduction

Supplemental Commentary:



Authenticity 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.

External 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.

Internal evidence.  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 (, 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.

Confraternity Bible:



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 Asia Minor.

The 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.