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Diotrephes was a man mentioned in the Third Epistle of John (verses 9–11). His name means "nourished by Jupiter". As Raymond E. Brown comments, "Diotrephes is not a particularly common name."[1]

In addition to being ambitious, proud, disrespectful of apostolic authority, rebellious, and inhospitable, the author of the letter says that Diotrephes tried to hinder those desiring to show hospitality to the brothers and to expel these from the congregation. Not even the location of Diotrephes' church can be determined from the letter. It is debatable whether the antipathy expressed in 3 John is based on "a theological dispute, a clash of competing ecclesiastical authorities, a disagreement about financial responsibilities for the mission, or personal dislike".[2]

Adolf von Harnack was of the view that Diotrephes was the earliest monarchical bishop whose name has survived.[3]

Biblical passage[edit]

The following is the passage and notes from the New English Translation.

1:9 I wrote something to the church,[4] but Diotrephes,[5] who loves to be first among them, does not acknowledge us.[6] 1:10 Therefore, if I come,[7] I will call attention to the deeds he is doing[8] – the bringing of unjustified charges against us with evil words! And not being content with that, he not only refuses to welcome the brothers himself, but hinders the people who want to do so and throws them out of the church! 1:11 Dear friend, do not imitate what is bad but what is good.[9] The one who does good is of God; the one who does what is bad has not seen God.[10]

Subsequent References[edit]

In 1588, the Elizabethan Puritan John Udall wrote a dialogue with a haughty bishop named Diotrephes. Writing anonymously, Udall claimed that his godly and witty protagonist, Paul, was merely cautioning the English bishops to be wary of false counselors, particularly the Catholics from whom they had inherited the structure of English ecclesiology. Although the dialogue's actual title is The state of the Church of Englande, laide open in a conference betweene Diotrephes a byshop, Tertullus a papist, Demetrius an vsurer, Pandocheus an inne-keeper, and Paule a preacher of the worde of God,[11] it is commonly referred to by scholars as Diotrephes.

In Jeremy Robinson’s Chess Team series, a man named Alexander Diotrephes served as the one who inspired the tales of the Greek hero Hercules. Hailing from another dimension, Alexander lived through over three thousand years of Earth’s history. In the process, he founded the Herculean Society, a clandestine origanization dedicated to preserving Alexander’s legacy by fabricating the accounts of his travels in an effort to keep humanity from learning the truths behind them. First appearing in Pulse, Alexander aids the Chess Team by giving them a conconction to defeat the Lernaean Hydra, recently [unintentionally]resurrected during the team’s battle against rogue geneticist Richard Ridley. Alexander returns in the third book Threshold, teaming up with Chess Team to battle Richard Ridley, who has returned to harness the Mother Tongue, the forgotten language of creation, and exterminate the last of the world’s known speakers of ancient languages, including 13 year old Fiona Lane, who was rescued by Alexander following the massacre of her entire tribe at the Siletz reservation in Oregon. In the Book’s epilogue, following Ridley’s defeat, Alexander captures Ridley, holdng him at an unknown location, and interrogates him for knowledge of the Mother Tongue. Alexander’s appears one final time in the fifth Chess Team book Omega. In the beginning of the book, Chess Team’s field leader Jack Sigler, callsign: King, alongside his newly discovered sister Asya, race to rescue their parents from Alexander, believing he has kidnapped them. After finding Alexander’s hidden base, Manifold Genetics’s Omega facility in Tunisia, Carthage, King and Alexander come to blows before King’s parents reveal themselves alive and well; they were not kidnapped, but intentionally came along with Alexander to be under his protection. It is here that King learns a startling truth about his family: they are all descendants of Alexander. Alexander also reveals he has created a machine using the same interdimensional travel technology Chess Team encountered in the previous book Ragnarok. A brief scuffle with King and Alexander leads them both being transported back in time to ancient Greece in the year 799 B.C. As several years pass, King learns that Alexander intends to save his wife, Acca, from an unfortunate death at the hands of The Forgotten, wraith-like creatures who serve Alexander. Saving Acca at the right moment, the young woman does not recognize Alexander at first, but further examination leads to realize he is her lover. Using the Mother Tongue, Alexander creates an exact duplicate of Acca’s corpse, and leaves just as Alexander’s younger self arrives. Some time later, Alexander informs King that he is the second leader of the Herculean Society before he and Acca depart for their homeworld, leaving King stranded in the past.


  1. ^ Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New York: Doubleday, 1997), p. 403
  2. ^ Margaret M. Mitchell, "'Diotrephes Does Not Receive Us;: The Lexicographical and Social Context of 3 John 9-10," Journal of Biblical Literature 117.2 (1998:299-320), with bibliography of the conflict on each possible arena of the conflict
  3. ^ Harnack, "Über den dritten Johannesbrief" (series Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur) 15.3 (Leipzig 1897:3-27).
  4. ^ sn The church mentioned here, which the author says he may visit (3 John 10) is not the same as the one mentioned in 3 John 6, to which the author apparently belongs (or of which he is in charge). But what is the relationship of this church in v. 9 to Gaius, to whom the letter is addressed? It is sometimes suggested that Gaius belongs to this church, but that seems unlikely, because the author uses a third-person pronoun to refer to the other members of the church (among them). If Gaius were one of these it would have been much more natural to use a second-person pronoun: “Diotrephes, who loves to be first among you.” Thus it seems probable that Gaius belongs to (or is in charge of) one local church while Diotrephes is in another, a church known to Gaius but to which he does not belong.
  5. ^ sn Diotrephes appears to be an influential person (perhaps the leader) in a local church known to Gaius, but to which Gaius himself does not belong. The description of Diotrephes as one who loves to be first suggests he is arrogant, and his behavior displays this: He refuses to acknowledge the written communication mentioned by the author at the beginning of v. 9 (and thus did not recognize the author’s apostolic authority), and furthermore (v. 10) refuses to show any hospitality to the traveling missionaries (welcome the brothers) already mentioned by the author. It has been suggested that the description “loves to be first” only indicates that Diotrephes sought prominence or position in this church, and had not yet attained any real authority. But his actions here suggest otherwise: He is able to refuse or ignore the author’s previous written instructions (v. 9), and he is able to have other people put out of the church for showing hospitality to the traveling missionaries (v. 10).
  6. ^ tn Since the verb ἐπιδέχομαι (epidechomai) can mean “receive into one’s presence” (BDAG 370 s.v. 1; it is used with this meaning in the next verse) it has been suggested that the author himself attempted a previous visit to Diotrephes’ church but was turned away. There is nothing in the context to suggest an unsuccessful prior visit by the author, however; in 3 John 9 he explicitly indicates a prior written communication which Diotrephes apparently ignored or suppressed. The verb ἐπιδέχομαι can also mean “accept” in the sense of “acknowledge someone’s authority” (BDAG 370 s.v. 2) and such a meaning better fits the context here: Diotrephes has not accepted but instead rejected the authority of the author to intervene in the situation of the traveling missionaries (perhaps because Diotrephes believed the author had no local jurisdiction in the matter).
  7. ^ tn The third-class condition (ἐὰν ἔλθω, ean elthō) seems to be used by the author to indicate real uncertainty on his part as to whether he will visit Diotrephes’ church or not.
  8. ^ sn Because Diotrephes did not recognize the authority of the author, the author will expose his behavior for what it is (call attention to the deeds he is doing) if he comes for a visit. These are the charges the author will make against Diotrephes before the church: (1) Diotrephes is engaged in spreading unjustified charges against the author with evil words; (2) Diotrephes refuses to welcome the brothers (the traveling missionaries) himself; (3) Diotrephes hinders the others in the church who wish to help the missionaries; and (4) Diotrephes expels from the church (throws them out) people who aid the missionaries. (Diotrephes himself may not have had supreme authority in the local church to expel these people, but may have been responsible for instigating collective action against them.)
  9. ^ sn The exhortation do not imitate what is bad but what is good is clearly a reference to Diotrephes’ evil behavior. The author exhorts Gaius (whom he wishes to continue assisting the missionaries) not to follow the negative example of Diotrephes, but to do what is right. Implicitly there may be a contrast between the bad behavior of Diotrephes and the good reputation of Demetrius (mentioned in the following verse); but it seems more likely that Demetrius is himself one of the traveling missionaries (perhaps their leader), rather than the leader of a local congregation who, unlike Diotrephes, has supported the missionaries himself.
  10. ^ sn The statement The one who does what is bad has not seen God is asyndetic; its abrupt introduction adds emphasis. The statement reiterates the common Johannine theme of behavior as an indication of genuine faith, found in 1 John in 3:6, 10; 4:7, 20; and in the Gospel of John in 3:17-21. By implication, the genuineness of Diotrephes’ faith is called into question, because he has obviously done what is bad (v. 11b; cf. vv. 9-10). In John’s terminology it is clear that the phrase has not seen God is equivalent to “is not a genuine Christian” (see John 3:17-21 and 1 John 3:6, 10; 4:7, 20).
  11. ^ sn British Library's English Short Title Catalogue, STC (2nd ed.), 24505