Second Epistle of John
The Second Epistle of John, often referred to as Second John and often written 2 John or II John, is a book of the New Testament attributed to John the Evangelist, traditionally thought to be the author of the Gospel of John and the other two epistles of John.
The language of this epistle is remarkably similar to 3 John. It is therefore suggested by a few that a single author composed both of these letters. The traditional view contends that all the letters are by the hand of John the Apostle, and the linguistic structure, special vocabulary, and polemical issues all lend toward this theory.
Also significant is the clear warning against paying heed to those who say that Jesus was not a flesh-and-blood figure: "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." This establishes that, from the time the epistle was first written, there were those who had docetic Christologies, believing that the human person of Jesus was actually pure spirit or not come at all.
Alternatively, the letter's acknowledgment and rejection of gnostic theology may reveal a later date of authorship than orthodox Christianity claims. This can not be assured by a simple study of the context. Gnosticism's beginnings and its relationship to Christianity are poorly dated, due to an insufficient corpus of literature relating the first interactions between the two religions. It vehemently condemns such anti-corporeal attitudes, which also indicates that those taking such unorthodox positions were either sufficiently vocal, persuasive, or numerous enough to warrant rebuttal in this form. Adherents of gnosticism were most numerous during the second and third centuries.
Thus, in regard to this matter and this document, either one of two explanations is commonly held:
- Docetic and/or gnostic teachings were prevalent quite early in the history of Christianity, and these views were considered heretical and dangerous by the proto-orthodox Christian church.
- A late date of the composition (which often accompanies assertions of pseudepigraphal attribution).
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It reads as follows:
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us for ever:
Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.
Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.
Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
The children of your elect sister send you their greetings.
The doctrines of Doceticm and Gnosticism had made inroads among the followers of Jesus in the latter half of the First Century. Some said that Jesus never assumed human flesh, but only had the appearance of flesh, because they were scandalized that Divinity would soil itself by associating so closely with matter. Others said that Christ was raised as a spirit only, and did not experience a bodily resurrection. In this epistle John condemns such doctrines in no uncertain terms with the statement that such persons were antichrist.
Interpretation of "The Lady"
The text is addressed to "the elect lady and her children" (some interpretations translate this phrase as "elder lady and her children"), and closes with the words, "The children of thy elect sister greet thee." The person addressed is commended for her piety, and is warned against false teachers.
The lady has traditionally been seen as a metaphor for the church, the church being the body of believers as a whole and as local congregations. The children would be members of that local congregation. He also includes a greeting from another church in the last verse, "The children of thy elect sister greet thee." The term the elect was a fairly common term for those who believe in the gospel and follow Christ.
It is also possible that the letter refers to Mary, mother of Jesus; Jesus had entrusted his "beloved disciple" with Mary's life when Jesus was on the cross (John 19:26–27). The children would thus refer to the brothers of Jesus: James, Joses, Simon and Jude, and the sister to Mary's sister mentioned in John 19:25. Mary was likewise never referred to by name in John's gospel. Such an interpretation would assume a much earlier date of composition than modern scholars have suggested.
- John Painter, 1, 2, and 3 John (Sacra Pagina), Volume 18 of Sacra Pagina, Liturgical Press, 2008. pp. 57–59
- James Leslie Houlden, Johannine epistles, Black's New Testament commentaries, Edition 2, Continuum International Publishing Group, 1994. pp. 139–40
- Cf. Bart D. Ehrman. Lost Christianities. Oxford University press, 2003, pp. 116–26
- Burton, Ernest DeWitt (1896). "The Epistles of John". The Biblical World. University of Chicago Press. 7 (5): 368–69. JSTOR 3140373.
- Did Christ Die Only for the Elect?: A Treatise on the extent of Christ's Atonement ISBN 1-57910-135-6 pp. 113-114
- Wilder, Amos. "II John: Exegesis". In Harmon, Nolan. The Interpreter's Bible. 12. p. 303.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Easton, Matthew George (1897). "article name needed". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.
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Online translations of the Second Epistle of John:
- Online Bible at GospelHall.org
- Bible: 2 John public domain audiobook at LibriVox Various versions
Online articles on the Second Epistle of John:
- The Second General Epistle of John from Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the Bible
- An Exegesis of 2 John 7–11 by Mark A. Paustian
Second Epistle of John
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