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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
2 John

Chapter 1

Book Overview - 2 John



THE General Editor of The Cambridge Bible for Schools thinks it right to say that he does not hold himself responsible either for the interpretation of particular passages which the Editors of the several Books have adopted, or for any opinion on points of doctrine that they may have expressed. In the New Testament more especially questions arise of the deepest theological import, on which the ablest and most conscientious interpreters have differed and always will differ. His aim has been in all such cases to leave each Contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment, only taking care that mere controversy should as far as possible be avoided. He has contented himself chiefly with a careful revision of the notes, with pointing out omissions, with suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, and the like.

Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere, feeling it better that each Commentary should have its own individual character, and being convinced that freshness and variety of treatment are more than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in the Series.


IN undertaking an edition of the Greek text of the New Testament with English notes for the use of Schools, the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press have not thought it desirable to reprint the text in common use[1]. To have done this would have been to set aside all the materials that have since been accumulated towards the formation of a correct text, and to disregard the results of textual criticism in its application to MSS., Versions and Fathers. It was felt that a text more in accordance with the present state of our knowledge was desirable. On the other hand the Syndics were unable to adopt one of the more recent critical texts, and they were not disposed to make themselves responsible for the preparation of an entirely new and independent text: at the same time it would have been obviously impossible to leave it to the judgment of each individual contributor to frame his own text, as this would have been fatal to anything like uniformity or consistency. They believed however that a good text might be constructed by simply taking the consent of the two most recent critical editions, those of Tischendorf and Tregelles, as a basis. The same principle of consent could be applied to places where the two critical editions were at variance, by allowing a determining voice to the text of Stephens where it agreed with either of their readings, and to a third critical text, that of Lachmann, where the text of Stephens differed from both. In this manner readings peculiar to one or other of the two editions would be passed over as not being supported by sufficient critical consent; while readings having the double authority would be treated as possessing an adequate title to confidence.

A few words will suffice to explain the manner in which this design has been carried out.

In the Acts, the Epistles, and the Revelation, wherever the texts of Tischendorf and Tregelles agree, their joint readings are followed without any deviation. Where they differ from each other, but neither of them agrees with the text of Stephens as printed in Dr Scrivener’s edition, the consensus of Lachmann with either is taken in preference to the text of Stephens. In all other cases the text of Stephens as represented in Dr Scrivener’s edition has been followed.

In the Gospels, a single modification of this plan has been rendered necessary by the importance of the Sinai MS. ([2]), which was discovered too late to be used by Tregelles except in the last chapter of St John’s Gospel and in the following books. Accordingly, if a reading which Tregelles has put in his margin agrees with [3], it is considered as of the same authority as a reading which he has adopted in his text; and if any words which Tregelles has bracketed are omitted by [4], these words are here dealt with as if rejected from his text.

In order to secure uniformity, the spelling and the accentuation of Tischendorf have been adopted where he differs from other Editors. His practice has likewise been followed as regards the insertion or omission of Iota subscript in infinitives (as ζῆν, ἐπιτιμᾶν), and adverbs (as κρυφῆ, λάθρα), and the mode of printing such composite forms as διαπαντός, διατί, τουτέστι, and the like.

The punctuation of Tischendorf in his eighth edition has usually been adopted: where it is departed from, the deviation, together with the reasons that have led to it, will be found mentioned in the Notes. Quotations are indicated by a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence. Where a whole verse is omitted, its omission is noted in the margin (e.g. Matthew 17:21; Matthew 23:12).

The text is printed in paragraphs corresponding to those of the English Edition.

Although it was necessary that the text of all the portions of the New Testament should be uniformly constructed in accordance with these general rules, each editor has been left at perfect liberty to express his preference for other readings in the Notes.

It is hoped that a text formed on these principles will fairly represent the results of modern criticism, and will at least be accepted as preferable to “the Received Text” for use in Schools.





A SKETCH of the life of S. John as a whole has been given in the Introduction to the Fourth Gospel. Here it will not be necessary to do more than retouch and somewhat enlarge what was there said respecting the closing years of his life, in which period, according to all probability, whether derived from direct or indirect evidence, our three Epistles were written. In order to understand the motive and tone of the Epistles, it is requisite to have some clear idea of the circumstances, local, moral, and intellectual, in the midst of which they were written.

(i) The Local Surroundings—Ephesus

Unless the whole history of the century which followed upon the destruction of Jerusalem is to be abandoned as chimerical and untrustworthy, we must continue to believe the almost universally accepted statement that S. John spent the last portion of his life in Asia Minor, and chiefly at Ephesus. The sceptical spirit which insists upon the truism that well-attested facts have nevertheless not been demonstrated with all the certainty of a proposition in Euclid, and contends that it is therefore right to doubt them, and lawful to dispute them, renders history impossible. The evidence of S. John’s residence at Ephesus is too strong to be shaken by conjectures. It will be worth while to state the main elements of it.

[1] The opening chapters of the Book of Revelation are written in the character of the Metropolitan of the Churches of Asia Minor. Even if we admit that the Book is possibly not written by S. John, at least it is written by some one who knows that S. John held that position. Had S. John never lived in Asia Minor, the writer of the Apocalypse would at once have been detected as personating an Apostle of whose abode and position he was ignorant.

[2] Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 150) probably within fifty years of S. John’s death writes: “Among us also a certain man named John, one of the Apostles of Christ, prophesied in a Revelation made to him, that the believers of our Christ shall spend a thousand years in Jerusalem.” These words occur in the Dialogue with Trypho (LXXXI.), which Eusebius tells us was held at Ephesus: so that ‘among us’ naturally means at or near Ephesus, though it might mean ‘in our time.’

[3] Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of S. John, writes thus (c. A.D. 190) in the celebrated Epistle to his fellow-pupil, the heretically inclined Florinus, of which a portion has been preserved by Eusebius (H. E. V. xx. 4, 5); “These views (δόγματα) those elders who preceded us, who also were conversant with the Apostles, did not hand down to thee. For I saw thee when I was yet a lad in lower Asia with Polycarp, distinguishing thyself in the royal court, and endeavouring to have his approbation. For I remember what happened then more clearly than recent occurrences. For the experiences of childhood, growing up along with the soul, become part and parcel of it: so that I can describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp used to sit and discourse, and his goings out and his comings in, the character of his life and the appearance of his person, and the discourses which he used to deliver to the multitude; and how he recounted his close intercourse with John (τὴν μετὰ Ἰ. συναναστροφήν), and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord[5]”). That Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna, where he spent most of his life and suffered martyrdom, is well known. And this again proves S. John’s residence in Asia Minor. Still more plainly Irenaeus says elsewhere (Haer. III. i. 1); “Then John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned back on His breast, he too published a gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.”

[4] Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, in his Epistle to Victor Bishop of Rome (A.D. 189–199) says; “And moreover John also that leaned back upon the Lord’s breast, who was a priest bearing the plate of gold, and a martyr and a teacher,—he lies asleep at Ephesus” (Eus. H. E. V. xxiv. 3.

[5] Apollonius, sometimes said to have been Presbyter of Ephesus, wrote a treatise against Montanism (c. A.D. 200), which Tertullian answered; and Eusebius tells us that Apollonius related the raising of a dead man to life by S. John at Ephesus (H. E. V. xviii. 13).

There is no need to multiply witnesses. That S. John ended his days in Asia Minor, ruling ‘the Churches of Asia’ from Ephesus as his usual abode, was the uniform belief of Christendom in the second and third centuries, and there is no sufficient reason for doubting its truth[6]. We shall find that S. John’s residence there harmonizes admirably with the tone and contents of these Epistles; as also with the importance assigned to these Churches in the Revelation and in several of the Epistles of S. Paul.

Ephesus was situated on high ground in the midst of a fertile plain, not far from the mouth of the Cayster. As a centre of commerce its position was magnificent. Three rivers drain western Asia Minor, the Maeander, the Cayster, and the Hermes, and of these three the Cayster is the central one, and its valley is connected by passes with the valleys of the other two. The trade of the eastern Aegean was concentrated in its port. Through Ephesus flowed the chief of the trade between Asia Minor and the West. Strabo, the geographer, who was still living when S. John was a young man, had visited Ephesus, and as a native of Asia Minor must have known the city well from reputation. Writing of it in the time of Augustus he says; “Owing to its favourable situation, the city is in all other respects increasing daily, for it is the greatest place of trade of all the cities of Asia west of the Taurus.” The vermilion trade of Cappadocia, which used to find a port at Sinope, now passed through Ephesus. What Corinth was to Greece and the Adriatic, and Marseilles to Gaul and the Western Mediterranean, that Ephesus was to Asia Minor and the Aegean. And its home products were considerable: corn in abundance grew in its plains, and wine and oil on its surrounding hills. Patmos, the scene of the Revelation, is only a day’s sail from Ephesus, and it has been reasonably conjectured that the gorgeous description of the merchandise of ‘Babylon,’ given in the Apocalypse (Revelation 18:12-13) is derived from S. John’s own experiences in Ephesus; ‘Merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stone, and pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet; and all thyine wood, and every vessel of ivory, and every vessel made of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble; and cinnamon, and spice, and incense, and ointment, and frankincense, and wine and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and cattle, and sheep; and merchandise of horses and chariots and slaves; and souls of men.’ The last two items give us in terrible simplicity the traffic in human beings which treated them as body and soul the property of their purchaser. Ephesus was the place at which Romans visiting the East commonly landed. Among all the cities of the Roman province of Asia it ranked as ‘first of all and greatest,’ and was called ‘the Metropolis of Asia.’ In his Natural History Pliny speaks of it as Asiae lumen. It is quite in harmony with this that it should after Jerusalem and Antioch become the third great home of Christianity, and after the death of S. Paul be chosen by S. John as the centre whence he would direct the Churches of Asia. It is the first Church addressed in the Apocalypse (Revelation 1:11; Revelation 2:1). If we had been entirely without information respecting S. John’s life subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem, the conjecture that he had moved to Asia Minor and taken up his abode in Ephesus would have been one of the most reasonable that could have been formed. With its mingled population of Asiatics and Greeks it combined more completely than any other city the characteristics of both East and West. With the exception of Rome, and perhaps of Alexandria, no more important centre could have been found for the work of the last surviving Apostle. There is nothing either in his writings or in traditions respecting him to connect S. John with Alexandria; and not much, excepting the tradition about the martyrdom near the Porta Latina (see p. xxx), to connect him with Rome. If S. John ever was in Rome, it was probably with S. Peter at the time of S. Peter’s death. Some have thought that Revelation 13, 18 are influenced by recollections of the horrors of the persecution in which S. Peter suffered. It is not improbable that the death of his companion Apostle (Luke 22:8; John 20:2; Acts 3:1; Acts 4:13; Acts 8:14) may have been one of the circumstances which led to S. John’s settling in Asia Minor. The older friend, whose destiny it was to wander and to suffer, was dead; the younger friend, whose lot was ‘that he abide,’ was therefore free to choose the place where his abiding would be of most use to the Churches of Asia, which had lost their first guide and protector, S. Paul. While the activity of other Apostles was devoted to extending the borders of the Church, S. John directed his energies towards consolidating and purifying it. They ‘lengthened the cords,’ he ‘strengthened the stakes’ (Isaiah 54:2), contending with internal corruptions in the doctrine and conduct of its converts, building up and completing its theology.

But there is no local colouring in S. John’s Epistles. For him everything local or national has passed away. His images are drawn, not from the scenery or customs of Ephesus, but from facts and feelings that are as universal as humanity and as old as creation itself: light and darkness, life and death, love and hate.

The Church of Ephesus had been founded by S. Paul about A.D. 55, and some eight years later he had written the Epistle which now bears the name of the Ephesians, but which was apparently a circular letter addressed to other Churches as well as to that at Ephesus. Timothy was left there by S. Paul, when the latter went on to Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3) to endeavour to keep in check the presumptuous and even heretical theories in which some members of the Ephesian Church had begun to indulge. Timothy was probably at Rome at the time of S. Paul’s death (2 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 4:21), and then returned to Ephesus, where, according to tradition, he suffered martyrdom during one of the great festivals in honour of ‘the great goddess Artemis,’ under Domitian or Nerva[7]. It is not impossible that ‘the angel of the Church of Ephesus’ praised and blamed in Revelation 2:1-7 is Timothy, although Timothy is often supposed to have died before the Apocalypse was written. He was succeeded, according to Dorotheus of Tyre (c. A.D. 300), by Gaius (Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14); but Origen mentions a tradition that this Gaius became Bishop of Thessalonica.

These particulars warrant us in believing that by the time that S. John settled in Ephesus there must have been a considerable number of Christians there. The labours of Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:19; 2 Timothy 4:19), of S. Paul for more than two years (Acts 19:8-10), of Trophimus (Acts 21:29), of the family of Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-18; 2 Timothy 4:9), and of Timothy for a considerable number of years, must have resulted in the conversion of many Jews and heathen. Besides which after the destruction of Jerusalem not a few Christians would be likely to settle there from Palestine. Between the downfall of Jerusalem and the rise of Rome as a Christian community, Ephesus becomes the centre of Christendom. Among those who came hither, if the tradition preserved in the Muratorian Canon may be trusted (p. xlix), was John’s fellow townsman and fellow Apostle, Andrew. And Philip, who died at Hierapolis, was possibly for a time at Ephesus: his third daughter was buried there (Eus. H. E. III. xxxi. 3). A Church which was already organized under presbyters in S. Paul’s day, as his own speech to them and his letters to Timothy shew, must have been scandalously mismanaged and neglected, if in such a centre as Ephesus it had not largely increased in the interval between S. Paul’s departure and S. John’s arrival. For that interval was probably considerable. No mention of S. John is made when S. Paul takes leave of the Ephesian elders at Miletus, nor in the Epistle to the Ephesians. The obvious conclusion is that S. John was not yet there, nor even expected. In the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Timothy, there is no hint that the Churches of Asia Minor have any other Apostolic overseer but S. Paul.

(ii) The Moral Surroundings—Idolatry

If there was one thing for which the Metropolis of Asia was more celebrated than another in the apostolic age, it was for the magnificence of its idolatrous worship. The temple of Artemis, its tutelary deity, which crowned the head of its harbour, was one of the wonders of the world. Its 127 columns, 60 feet high, were each one the gift of a people or a prince. In area it was considerably larger than Durham Cathedral and nearly as large as S. Paul’s; and its magnificence had become a proverb. ‘The gods had one house on earth, and that was at Ephesus.’ The architectural imagery of S. Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:9-17), which was written at Ephesus, and in the Epistles to the Ephesians (Ephesians 2:19-22) and to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Timothy 6:19; 2 Timothy 2:19-20), may well have been suggested by it. The city was proud of the title ‘Temple-keeper of the great Artemis’ (Acts 19:35), and the wealthy vied with one another in lavishing gifts upon the shrine. The temple thus became a vast treasure-house of gold and silver vessels and works of art. It was served by a college of priestesses and of priests. “Besides these there was a vast throng of dependents, who lived by the temple and its services,—theologi, who may have expounded sacred legends, hymnodi, who composed hymns in honour of the deity, and others, together with a great crowd of hierodulae, who performed more menial offices. The making of shrines and images of the goddess occupied many hands.… But perhaps the most important of all the privileges possessed by the goddess and her priests was that of asylum. Fugitives from justice or vengeance who reached her precincts were perfectly safe from all pursuit and arrest. The boundaries of the space possessing such virtue were from time to time enlarged. Mark Antony imprudently allowed them to take in part of the city, which part thus became free of all law, and a haunt of thieves and villains.… Besides being a place of worship, a museum, and a sanctuary, the Ephesian temple was a great bank. Nowhere in Asia could money be more safely bestowed than here” (P. Gardner). S. Paul’s advice to Timothy to ‘charge them that are rich’ not to amass, but to ‘distribute’ and ‘communicate’ their wealth, ‘laying up in store for themselves a good foundation,’ for ‘the life which is life indeed’ (1 Timothy 6:17-19) acquires fresh meaning when we remember this last fact. In short, what S. Peter’s and the Vatican have been to Rome, that the temple of Artemis was to Ephesus in S. John’s day.

It was in consequence of the scandals arising out of the abuse of sanctuary, that certain states were ordered to submit their charters to the Roman Senate (A.D. 22). As Tacitus remarks, no authority was strong enough to keep in check the turbulence of a people which protected the crimes of men as worship of the gods. The first to bring and defend their claims were the Ephesians. They represented “that Diana and Apollo were not born at Delos, as was commonly supposed; the Ephesians possessed the Cenchrean stream and the Ortygian grove where Latona, in the hour of travail, had reposed against an olive-tree still in existence, and given birth to those deities; and it was by the gods’ command that the grove had been consecrated. It was there that Apollo himself, after slaying the Cyclops, had escaped the wrath of Jupiter: and again that father Bacchus in his victory had spared the suppliant Amazons who had occupied his shrine” (Tac. Ann. III. 61).

We have only to read the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans (21–32), or the catalogue of vices in the Epistles to the Galatians (Galatians 5:19-21) and Colossians (Colossians 3:5-8) to know enough of the kind of morality which commonly accompanied Greek and Roman idolatry in the first century of the Christian era; especially when, as in Ephesus, it was mixed up with the wilder rites of Oriental polytheism, amid all the seductiveness of Ionian luxury, and in a climate which, while it enflamed the passions, unnerved the will. Was it not with the idolatry of Ephesus and all its attendant abominations in his mind that the Apostle of the Gentiles wrote Ephesians 5:1-21?

A few words must be said of one particular phase of superstition, closely connected with idolatry, for which Ephesus was famous;—its magic. “It was preeminently the city of astrology, sorcery, incantations, amulets, exorcisms, and every form of magical imposture.” About the statue of the Ephesian Artemis were written unintelligible inscriptions to which mysterious efficacy was attributed. ‘Ephesian writings,’ or charms (Ἐφέσια γράμματα) were much sought after, and seem to have been about as senseless as Abracadabra. In the epistles of the pseudo-Heraclitus the unknown writer explains why Heraclitus of Ephesus was called “the weeping philosopher.” It was because of the monstrous idiotcy and vice of the Ephesian people. Who would not weep to see religion made the vehicle of brutal superstition and nameless abominations? There was not a man in Ephesus who did not deserve hanging. (See Farrar’s Life of S. Paul, vol. II. p. 18.) Wicked folly of this kind had tainted the earliest Christian community at Ephesus. They had accepted the Gospel and still secretly held fast their magic. Hence the bonfire of costly books of charms and incantations which followed upon the defeat of the sons of Sceva when they attempted to use the name of Jesus as a magical form of exorcism (Acts 19:13-20). Timothy at Ephesus is warned against impostors (γόητες) of this kind, half knaves, half dupes (2 Timothy 3:13). It was at Ephesus that Apollonius of Tyana is said by some to have ended his days: and it is not improbable that he was teaching there simultaneously with S. John. In the Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians (XIX) he mentions first among the consequences of the Nativity that “every sorcery and every spell was undone” (ἐλύετο πᾶσα μαγεῖα καὶ πᾶς δεσμός).

Facts such as these place in a very vivid light S. John’s stern insistence upon the necessity of holding stedfastly the true faith in the Father and the incarnate Son, of keeping oneself pure, of avoiding the world and the things in the world, of being on one’s guard against lying spirits, and especially the sharp final admonition, ‘Guard yourselves from the idols.’

(iii) The Intellectual Surroundings—Gnosticism

It is common to speak of the Gnostic heresy or the Gnostic heresies; but such language, though correct enough, is apt to be misleading. We commonly think of heresy as a corrupt growth out of Christian truth, or a deflection from it; as when we call Unitarianism, which so insists upon the Unity of God as to deny the Trinity, or Arianism, which so insists upon the Primacy of the Father as to deny the true Divinity of the Son, heretical systems or heresies. These and many other corruptions of the truth grew up inside the bosom of the Church. They are onesided and exaggerated developments of Christian doctrines. But corruption may come from without as well as from within. It may be the result of impure elements imported into the system, contaminating and poisoning it. It was in this way that the Gnostic heresies found their way into the Church. The germs of Gnosticism in various stages of development were in the very air in which Christianity was born. They had influenced Judaism; they had influenced the religions of Greece and of the East: and the Christian Church had not advanced beyond its infancy when they began to shew their influence there also. While professing to have no hostility to the Gospel, Gnosticism proved one of the subtlest and most dangerous enemies which it has ever encountered. On the plea of interpreting Christian doctrines from a higher standpoint it really disintegrated and demolished them; in explaining them it explained them away. With a promise of giving to the Gospel a broader and more catholic basis, it cut away the very foundations on which it rested—the reality of sin, and the reality of redemption.

It is not easy to define Gnosticism. Its name is Greek, and so were many of its elements; but there was much also that was Oriental in its composition; and before long, first Jewish, and then Christian elements were added to the compound. It has been called a ‘philosophy of religion.’ It would be more true perhaps to call it a philosophy of being or of existence; an attempt to explain the seen and the unseen universe. But this again would be misleading to the learner. Philosophy with us presupposes a patient investigation of facts; it is an attempt to rise from facts to explanations of their relations to one another, and their causes, efficient and final. In Gnosticism we look almost in vain for any appeal to facts. Imagination takes the place of investigation, and what may be conceived is made the test, and sometimes almost the only test, of what is. Gnosticism, though eminently philosophic in its aims and professions, was yet in its method more closely akin to poetry and fiction than to philosophy. If on the one hand it was intended as a contrast to the πίστις of the Christian, on the other it was meant to supersede the φιλοσοφία of the heathen. While it professed to appeal to the intellect, and in modern language would have called itself rationalistic, yet it perpetually set intelligence at defiance, both in its premises and in its conclusions. We may describe it as a series of imaginative speculations respecting the origin of the universe and its relation to the Supreme Being. In reference to man its problem was, How can the human spirit be freed from the trammels of matter? And this led to the further question, How came the human spirit under such trammels? In other words, What is the origin of evil?

Gnosticism had in the main two ground principles which run through all the bewildering varieties of Gnostic systems. A. The supremacy of the intellect and the superiority of enlightenment to faith and conduct. This is the Greek element in Gnosticism. B. The absolutely evil character of matter and everything material. This is the Oriental element.

A. In N.T. knowledge or gnosis means the profound apprehension of Christian truth. Christianity is not the Gospel of stupidity. It offers the highest satisfaction to the intellectual powers in the study of revealed truth; and theology in all its branches is the fruit of such study. But this is a very different thing from saying that the intellectual appreciation of truth is the main thing. Theology exists for religion and not religion for theology. The Gnostics made knowledge the main thing, indeed the only thing of real value. Moreover, as the knowledge was difficult of attainment, they completely reversed the principle of the Gospel and made ‘the Truth’ the possession of the privileged few, instead of being open to the simplest. The historical and moral character of the Gospel, which brings it within the reach of the humblest intellectual power, was set on one side as valueless, or fantastically explained away. Spiritual excellence was made to consist, not in a holy life, but in knowledge of an esoteric kind open only to the initiated, who “knew the depths” (Hippol. Ref. Haer. V. vi. 1) and could say “this is profound.” (Tert. Adv. Valent. I.) In the fragment of a letter of Valentinus preserved by Epiphanius this Gnostic teacher says; “I come to speak to you of things ineffable, secret, higher than the heavens, which cannot be understood by principalities or powers, nor by anything beneath, nor by any creature, unless it be by those whose intelligence can know no change” (Epiph. Contra Haer. adv. Valent. I. 31). This doctrine contained three or four errors in one. [1] Knowledge was placed above virtue. [2] This knowledge treated the facts and morality of the Gospel as matter which the ordinary Christian might understand literally, but which the Gnostic knew to mean something very different. Besides which, there was a great deal of the highest value that was not contained in the Scriptures at all. [3] The true meaning of Scripture and this knowledge over and above Scripture being hard to attain, the benefits of Revelation were the exclusive property of a select band of philosophers. [4] To the poor, therefore, the Gospel (in its reality and fulness) could not be preached.

B. That the material universe is utterly evil and impure in character is a doctrine which has its source in Oriental Dualism, which teaches that there are two independent Principles of existence, one good and the other bad, which are respectively the origin of all the good and all the evil that exists. The material world, on account of the manifest imperfections and evils which it contains, is assumed to be evil and to be the product of an evil power. This doctrine runs through almost all Gnostic teaching. It involves the following consequences. [1] The world being evil, a limitless gulf lies between it and the Supreme God. He cannot have created it. Therefore [2] the God of the O. T., who created the world, is not the Supreme God, but an inferior, if not an evil power. [3] The Incarnation is incredible; for how could the Divine Word consent to be united with an impure material body? This last difficulty drove many Gnostics into what is called Docetism, i.e. the theory that Christ’s humanity was not real, but only apparent (δοκεῖν). In S. John’s time there were two forms of Docetism. (α) Some maintained that Christ’s body from His infancy to His Ascension was a phantom. This seems to have been the view of Simon Magus and of Saturninus. (β) Others allowed reality to the body of Jesus, but said that the Christ only seemed to be born and to suffer, for the Christ did not unite Himself with Jesus until the Baptism, and departed before the Passion. This was the teaching of Cerinthus. S. John seems to attack both forms: Ignatius specially the more thoroughgoing and simpler. Other modifications were invented later on by Basilides and Valentinus[8]. [4] There can be no resurrection of the flesh: the redeemed will be freed from the calamity of having bodies.

The first of these four consequences opened the door to boundless imaginations. The gulf between the material world and the Supreme God was commonly filled by Gnostic speculators with a series of beings or aeons emanating from the Supreme God and generating one another, in bewildering profusion and intricacy. It is this portion of the Gnostic theories which is so repugnant to the modern student. It seems more like a nightmare than sober speculation; and one feels that to call such things ‘fables and endless genealogies, the which minister questionings rather than a dispensation of God’ (1 Timothy 1:4; comp. 1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:4) is very gentle condemnation. But we must remember [1] that these were not mere wanton flights of an unbridled imagination. They were attempts to bridge the chasm between the finite and the Infinite, between the evil world and the Supreme God, attempts to explain the origin of the universe and with it the origin of evil. We must remember [2] that in those days any hypothesis was admissible which might conceivably account for the facts. The scientific principles, that hypotheses must be capable of verification, that existences must not rashly be multiplied, that imaginary causes are unphilosophical, and the like, were utterly unknown. The unseen world might be peopled with any number of mysterious beings; and if their existence helped to explain the world of sense and thought, then their existence might be asserted. If the Supreme God generated an aeon inferior to Himself, and that aeon other inferior aeons, we might at last arrive at a being so far removed from the excellence of God, that his creation of this evil world would not be inconceivable. Thus the Gnostic cosmogony was evolution inverted: it was not an ascent from good to better, but a descent from best to bad. And the whole was expressed in chaotic imagery, in which allegory, symbolism, mythology and astronomy were mixed up in a way that sets reason at defiance.

These two great Gnostic principles, the supremacy of knowledge, and the impurity of matter, produced opposite results in ethical teaching; asceticism, and antinomian profligacy. If knowledge is everything, and if the body is worthless, then the body must be beaten down and crushed in order that the emancipated soul may rise to the knowledge of higher things: “the soul must live by ecstasy, as the cicada feeds on dew.” On the other hand, if knowledge is everything and the body worthless, the body may rightly be made to undergo every kind of experience, no matter how shameless and impure, in order that the soul may increase its store of knowledge. The body cannot be made more vile than it is, and the soul of the enlightened is incapable of pollution.

Speculations such as these were rife in Asia Minor, both among Jews and Christians. They were foretold by S. Paul when he bade farewell to the Ephesian Elders at Miletus (Acts 20:29-30). They were already troubling the Churches when S. Paul wrote his letters to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:7-11; 1 Timothy 6:3-10; 2 Timothy 2:16; 2 Timothy 3:2-5; 2 Timothy 4:3-4). And when S. John wrote the Revelation they were rampant (Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:14-15; Revelation 2:20; Revelation 2:24). They are among the many proofs that we have that the Apostolic Church had blemishes both in thought and practice as serious as those which disfigure our own. ‘The gates of hell’ did not prevail then; nor will they now, if the Apostolic example in contending with such things be followed. That S. John would offer the most uncompromising opposition to them is only what we should expect. While professing to be Christian and to be a sublime interpretation of the Gospel, they struck at the very root of all Christian doctrine and Christian morality. They contradicted the O. T., for they asserted that all things were made, not ‘very good,’ but very evil, and that the Maker of them was not God. They contradicted the N.T., for they denied the reality of the Incarnation and the sinfulness of sin. Morality was undermined when knowledge was made of far more importance than conduct; it was turned upside down when men were taught that crimes which enlarged experience were a duty.

The classification of the Gnostic teachers and sects is a problem of well-known difficulty, which fortunately does not lie within the scope of our inquiry. But a rough table, based partly on local, partly on chronological considerations, will be of service to the student, in helping to shew the relation of the errors combated by S. John to the flood of wild speculation which passed over the Church in the century and a half that followed his death. The chronology in some cases is only tentative.




Simon Magus, said to be a pupil of Dositheus.

Menander, pupil and successor of Simon.

These early teachers cannot in any proper sense be called heretics. They did not deprave the Gospel, but simply opposed it. Their doctrine was thoroughly antichristian, not only in tendency, but in form. Simon Magus, though baptized, was not converted. He probably did not understand Christianity: he certainly never embraced it.


Jewish or Ebionite

The Ophite sects; the earliest Gnostic systems.

Cerinthus, contemporary with S. John.

Carpocrates, placed sometimes before, sometimes after Cerinthus.

In this group Gnosticism has not fully entered within the pale of the Church, but it is far less distinctly antichristian. Cerinthus and Carpocrates have a similar and well-defined Christology, against the errors of which S. John contends with all the intensity of his nature. In other respects Carpocrates was pagan rather than Jewish in his sympathies, and his moral teaching was utterly antinomian and licentious.



Saturninus or Saturnilus (c. A.D. 100–120): ascetic.

Tatian, converted to Christianity by Justin Martyr, after whose death he became a Gnostic (c. A.D. 160): ascetic.

Bardaisan or Bardesanes, born A.D. 155, died 223.


Basilides, flourished under Hadrian (A.D. 117–138): he made a great impression, became widely known, but founded no school.

Valentinus, came to Rome and taught in the time of Hyginus, Pius, and Anicetus (c. A.D. 140–160): he was the most successful of all Gnostic teachers in gaining able disciples.

Heracleon, pupil of Valentinus (c. A.D. 160–180): the earliest known commentator on S. John’s Gospel[9].

Asiatic or Anti-Judaic

Cerdon, came to Rome c. A.D. 135.

Marcion, taught at Rome simultaneously with Valentinus (c. A.D. 140–165): perhaps the most permanently influential and least Gnostic of all the Gnostic leaders: ascetic.

Apelles, chief disciple of Marcion (c. A.D. 150–190).

Almost all these teachers held Docetic views of Christ’s body, and therefore denied the Incarnation. The Syrian school was more Oriental and dualistic, the Alexandrian more Greek and pantheistic. It was mainly the heresy of Valentinus, as taught by his brilliant pupil Ptolemaeus, which occasioned the great work of Irenaeus on Heresies. The Asiatic school contended for a distorted and mutilated Christianity in opposition to both Jewish and pagan philosophy. All of them are condemned by anticipation by S. John no less than those who were his contemporaries. He mentions no one by name: it is not a personal or a local controversy. And he does not pause to go into details. He goes at once to first principles of faith and of morals, and with uncompromising sternness condemns all tampering with either. Thus, while guarding against the special errors of his own age, he taught how further developments of them must be met, and left to the Church of all ages a storehouse of truth that can never be exhausted or become inapplicable[10].

His unflinching severity seems to have anticipated the magnitude of the evil that was coming. The swiftness with which Gnosticism overtook (or even outran) Christianity, is without a parallel in the history of human thought. Even German philosophy since Kant has not developed systems with the rapidity with which new Gnostic schemes sprang up and spread between A.D. 100 and 250. In rather high-flown language Eusebius tells us that “when the sacred choir of Apostles had taken its departure from life, and when the generation of those who were privileged to hear with their own ears their inspired wisdom had passed away, then the conspiracy of godless error took its rise through the deceit of false teachers, who, now that none of the Apostles was any longer left, henceforth endeavoured with brazen face to preach their ‘knowledge falsely so called’ in opposition to the preaching of the truth” (H. E. VI. XXXII. 8). From Edessa to Lyons there was probably not a single educated congregation that was not more or less tainted with some form of this plague.

The result was by no means unmixed evil. These varying and often antagonistic speculations stimulated thought, broke down the barriers of formalism and literalism, forced upon the Church the necessity of clear ideas about fundamental doctrines, and promoted the study of Scripture. We have a close parallel in our own day. “The Gnostic heresy, with all its destructive tendency, had an important mission as a propelling force in the ancient Church, and left its effects upon patristic theology. So also this modern gnosticism [of the Tübingen school, Renan, &c.] must be allowed to have done great service to biblical and historical learning by removing old prejudices, opening new avenues of thought, bringing to light the immense fermentation of the first century, stimulating research, and compelling an entire scientific reconstruction of the history of the origin of Christianity and of the Church. The result will be a deeper and fuller knowledge, not to the weakening, but to the strengthening of our faith” (Schaff).

The fantastic speculations of the Gnostics as to the origin of the universe have long since perished, and cannot be revived. Nor is their tenet as to the evil nature of everything material much in harmony with modern thought. With us the danger is the other way;—of deifying matter, or materialising God. But the heresy of the supremacy of knowledge is as prevalent as ever. We still need an Apostle to teach us that mere knowledge will not raise the quality of men’s moral natures any more than light without food and warmth will raise the quality of their bodies. We still need a Bishop Butler to assure us that information is “really the least part” of education, and that religion “does not consist in the knowledge and belief even of fundamental truth,” but rather in our being brought “to a certain temper and behaviour.” The philosophic Apostle of the first century and the philosophic Bishop of the eighteenth alike contend, that light without love is moral darkness, and that not he that can ‘know all mysteries and all knowledge,’ but only ‘he who doeth righteousness is righteous.’ If the Sermons of the one have not become obsolete, still less have the Epistles of the other.

(iv) The Traditions respecting S. John

The century succeeding the persecution under Nero (A.D. 65–165) is a period that is exceedingly tantalising to the ecclesiastical historian and exceedingly perplexing to the chronologer. The historian finds a very meagre supply of materials: facts are neither abundant nor, as a rule, very substantial. And when the historian has gleaned together every available fact, the chronologer finds his ingenuity taxed to the utmost to arrange these facts in a manner that is at once harmonious with itself and with the evidence of the principal witnesses.

The traditions respecting S. John share the general character of the period. They are very fragmentary and not always trustworthy; and they cannot with any certainty be put into chronological order. The following sketch is offered as a tentative arrangement, in the belief that a clear idea, even if wrong in details, is a great deal better than bewildering confusion. The roughest map gives unity and intelligibility to inadequate and piecemeal description.

S. John was present at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), which settled for the time the controversy between Jewish and Gentile Christians. And here, as in the opening chapters of the Acts (Acts 1:15; Acts 2:14; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:4; Acts 3:12; Acts 5:3; Acts 5:8), his retiring character is seen, in that he is quite in the background, while Peter and James take the lead. He was at Jerusalem as one of the ‘pillars’ of the Church (Galatians 2:6), and in all probability Jerusalem had been his usual abode from the Ascension until this date (A.D. 50) and for some time longer[11]. It is by no means improbable that he was with S. Peter during the last portion of his great friend’s life and was in Rome when he was martyred (A.D. 64). Here will come in the well-known story, which rests upon the early testimony of Tertullian (Praescr. Haer. XXXVI.), and perhaps the still earlier testimony of Leucius, that S. John was thrown into boiling oil near the site of the Porta Latina and was preserved unhurt. Two churches in Rome and a festival in the Calendar (May 6th) perpetuate the tradition. The story, if untrue, may have grown out of the fact that S. John was in Rome during the Neronian persecution. The similar story, that he was offered poison and that the drink became harmless in his hands, may have had a similar origin. In paintings S. John is often represented with a cup from which poison in the form of a viper is departing.

It is perhaps too soon to take S. John to Ephesus immediately after S. Peter’s death[12]. Let us suppose that he returned to Jerusalem (if he had ever left it) and remained there until A.D. 67, when large numbers of people left the city just before the siege. If the very questionable tradition be accepted, that after leaving Jerusalem he preached to the Parthians, we must place the departure from Judaea somewhat earlier. Somewhere in the next two years (A.D. 67–69) we may perhaps place the Revelation, written during the exile, enforced or voluntary, in Patmos. This exile over, S. John went, or more probably returned, to Ephesus, which henceforth becomes his chief place of abode until his death in or near the year A.D. 100.

Most of the traditions respecting him are connected with this last portion of his life, and with his government of the Churches of Asia as Metropolitan Bishop. Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of S. John, says; “All the presbyters, who met John the disciple of the Lord in Asia, bear witness that John has handed on to them this tradition. For he continued with them until the times of Trajan” (A.D. 98–117). And again; “Then John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned back on His breast, he too published a gospel during his residence at Ephesus.” And again; “The Church in Ephesus founded by Paul, and having John continuing with them until the times of Trajan, is a truthful witness of the tradition of Apostles” (Haer. II. xxii. 5; III. i. 1, iii. 4). Here, therefore, he remained “a priest,” as his successor Polycrates tells us, “wearing the plate of gold;” an expression which some people consider to be merely figurative. “John, the last survivor of the Apostolate, had left on the Church of Asia the impression of a pontiff from whose forehead shone the spiritual splendour of the holiness of Christ” (Godet). And here, according to the anti-Montanist writer Apollonius, he raised a dead man to life (Eus. H. E. V. xviii. 13).

It would be in connexion with his journeys through the Churches of Asia that the beautiful episode commonly known as ‘S. John and the Robber’ took place. The Apostle had commended a noble-looking lad to the local Bishop, who had instructed and baptized him. After a while the lad fell away and became a bandit-chief. S. John on his next visit astounded the Bishop by asking for his ‘deposit;’ for the Apostle had left no money in his care. “I demand the young man, the soul of a brother:” and then the sad tale had to be told. The Apostle called for a horse and rode away to the haunts of the banditti. The chief recognised him and fled. But S. John went after him, and by his loving entreaties induced him to return to his old home and a holy life (Clement of Alexandria in Eus. H. E. III. xxxiii.).

The incident of S. John’s rushing out of a public bath, at the sight of Cerinthus, crying, “Let us fly, lest even the bath fall on us, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within,” took place at Ephesus. Doubt has been thrown on the story because of the improbability of the Apostle visiting a public bath, and because Epiphanius, in his version of the matter, substitutes Ebion for Cerinthus. But Irenaeus gives us the story on the authority of those who had heard it from Polycarp: and it must be admitted that such evidence is somewhat strong. If Christians of the second century saw nothing incredible in an Apostle resorting to a public bath, we cannot safely dogmatize on the point. The incident may doubtless be taken as no more than “a strong metaphor by way of expressing marked disapproval.” But at any rate, when we remember the downright wickedness involved in the teaching of Cerinthus, we may with Dean Stanley regard the story “as a living exemplification of the possibility of uniting the deepest love and gentleness with the sternest denunciation of moral evil;” or with Dean Plumptre as evidence of “the ardent spirit that alike loves strongly and strongly hates.” The charge given to the elect lady (2 John 1:10-11) is a strong corroboration of the story. Late versions of it end with the sensational addition that when the Apostle had gone out, the bath fell in ruins, and Cerinthus was killed.

Another and far less credible story comes to us through Irenaeus (Haer. V. xxxiii. 3) on the authority of the uncritical and (if Eusebius is to be believed) not very intelligent Papias, the companion of Polycarp.—The elders who had seen John, the disciple of the Lord, relate that they heard from him how the Lord used to teach about those times and say, “The days will come in which vines shall grow, each having 10,000 stems, and on each stem 10,000 branches, and on each branch 10,000 shoots, and on each shoot 10,000 clusters, and on each cluster 10,000 grapes, and each grape when pressed shall give 25 firkins of wine. And when any saint shall have seized one cluster, another shall cry, I am a better cluster, take me; through me bless the Lord.” In like manner that a grain of wheat would produce 10,000 ears, and each ear would have 10,000 grains, and each grain 5 double pounds of clear, pure flour: and all other fruit-trees, and seeds, and grass, in like proportion. And all animals feeding on the products of the earth would become peaceful and harmonious one with another, subject to man with all subjection.” And he added these words; “These things are believable to believers.” And he says that when Judas the traitor did not believe and asked, “How then shall such production be accomplished by the Lord?” the Lord said, “They shall see who come to those [times].”

This extraordinary narrative is of great value as shewing the kind of discourse which pious Christians of the second century attributed to Christ, when they came to inventing such things. Can we believe that those who credited the Lord with millenarian utterances of this kind, could have written a single chapter of the Gospels with nothing but their own imagination to draw upon. Even with the Gospels before them they can do no better than this. Possibly the whole is only a grotesque enlargement of Matthew 26:29. For the apocryphal correspondence between S. Ignatius and S. John and the Virgin, which again illustrates the character of fictitious Christian documents, see Appendix I.

Of S. John’s manner of life nothing trustworthy has come down to us. That he never married may be mere conjecture; but it looks like history. S. Paul certainly implies that most, if not all, of the Apostles did ‘lead about a wife’ (1 Corinthians 9:5). But the tradition respecting S. John’s virginity is early and general. In a Leucian fragment (Zahn, Acta Johannis, p. 248) the Lord is represented as thrice interposing to prevent John from marrying. We find the tradition in Tertullian (De Monog. XVII.); in Ambrosiaster (ad 2 Cor. xi. 2); in Augustine (Tract. CXXIV.), who quotes Jerome (Contra Jovinianum I.) as declaring that John was specially loved by Christ, because he never married, but adds, Hoc quidem in Scripturis non evidenter apparet; and in Epiphanius. See below, p. xliii. It may well be true that (as Jerome expresses it) to a virgin son the Virgin Mother was committed: ut hereditatem virginis Domini, virginem matrem filius virgo susciperet (Ep. ad Principiam). But Epiphanius (A.D. 357) is much too late to be good authority for S. John’s rigid asceticism. It is mentioned by no earlier writer, and would be likely enough to be assumed; especially as S. James, brother of the Lord and Bishop of Jerusalem, was known to have led a life of great rigour. The story of S. John’s entering a public bath for the purpose of bathing is against any extreme asceticism.

We may conclude with two stories of late authority, but possibly true. Internal evidence is strongly in favour of the second. Cassian (A.D. 420) tells us that S. John used sometimes to amuse himself with a tame partridge. A hunter expressed surprise at an occupation which seemed frivolous. The Apostle in reply reminded him that hunters do not keep their bows always bent, as his own weapon at that moment shewed. It is not improbable that Cassian obtained this story from the writings of Leucius, which he seems to have known. In this case the authority for the story becomes some 250 years earlier. In a Greek fragment it is an old priest who is scandalized at finding the Apostle gazing with interest on a partridge which is rolling in the dust before him (Zahn, p. 190).

The other story is told by Jerome (In Gal. VI. 10). When the Apostle became so infirm that he could not preach he used to be carried to church and content himself with the exhortation, “Little children, love one another.” And when his hearers wearied of it and asked him, “Master, why dost thou always speak thus?” “Because it is the Lord’s command,” he said, “and if only this be done, it is enough.”

Of his death nothing is known; but the Leucian fragments contain a remarkable story respecting it, to which Augustine also alludes as “found in certain apocryphal scriptures” (Tract. CXXIV. in Johan. xxi. 19). On the Lord’s Day, the last Sunday of the Apostle’s life, “after the celebration of the divine and awful mysteries and the breaking of the bread,” S. John told some of his disciples to take spades and follow him. Having led them out to a certain place he told them to dig a grave, in which, after prayer, he placed himself, and they buried him up to the neck. He then told them to place a cloth over his face and complete the burial. They wept much but obeyed him and returned home to tell the others what had taken place. Next day they all went out in prayer to translate the body to the great Church. But when they had opened the grave they found nothing therein. And they called to mind the words of Christ to Peter, ‘If I will that he abide till I come, what is that to thee?’ (Zahn, p. 191; comp. p. 162). The still stranger story, which S. Augustine seems almost disposed to believe[13], that the earth over his grave moved with his breathing and shewed that he was not dead but sleeping,—is another, and probably a later outgrowth, of the misunderstood saying of Christ respecting S. John. Yet another legend represents John as dying, but being immediately raised from the dead, and then translated, like Enoch and Elijah, to reappear on earth as the herald of the Christ and the opponent of the Antichrist[14]. Such legends testify to the estimation in which the last man living who had seen the Lord was held. After he had passed away people refused to believe that no such person remained alive. The expectations respecting Antichrist helped to strengthen such ideas. If Nero was not dead, but had merely passed out of sight for a time, so also had the beloved Apostle. If the one was to return as Antichrist to vex the Church, so also would the other to defend her. (See Appendix B.)

One point in the above sketch requires a few words of explanation,—the early date assigned to the Book of Revelation. This sets at defiance the express statement of Irenaeus, that the vision “was seen almost in our own days, at the end of the reign of Domitian” (Haer. V. xxx. 1), who was killed A.D. 97. The discussion of this point belongs to the commentary on Revelation. Suffice to say that the present writer shares the opinion which seems to be gaining ground among students, that only on one hypothesis can one believe that the Fourth Gospel, First Epistle, and Apocalypse are all by the same author; viz., that the Apocalypse was written first, and that a good many years elapsed before the Gospel and Epistle were written. [1] The writer of the Apocalypse has not yet learned to write Greek. The writer of the Gospel and Epistle writes Greek, not indeed elegantly, but with ease and correctness. [2] The antinomian licentiousness condemned in the Revelation (Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:14-15; Revelation 2:20) is of a crude and less philosophic kind than that which is opposed in the Epistle. [3] The Revelation is still fully under the influence of Judaism: its language and imagery are intensely Jewish. The Gospel and Epistle are much more free from such influence. “The Apocalypse winds up St John’s career in the church of the circumcision; the Gospel and the Epistles are the crowning result of a long residence in the heart of Gentile Christendom” (Bishop Lightfoot).



THE First Epistle of S. John has an interest which is unique. In all probability, as we shall hereafter find reason for believing, it contains the last exhortations of that Apostle to the Church of Christ. And as he long outlived all the rest of the Apostles, and as this Epistle was written near the end of his long life, we may regard it as the farewell of the Apostolic body to the whole company of believers who survived them or have been born since their time. The Second and Third Epistles may indeed have been written later, and probably were so, but they are addressed to individuals and not to the Church at large. “If it were not for the writings of S. John the last thirty years of the first century would be almost a blank. They resemble that mysterious period of forty days between the resurrection and the ascension, when the Lord hovered, as it were, between heaven and earth, barely touching the earth beneath, and appearing to the disciples like a spirit from the other world. But the theology of the second and third centuries evidently presupposes the writings of John, and starts from his Christology” (Schaff). An Introduction to this unique Epistle requires the discussion of a variety of questions, which can most conveniently be taken separately, each under a heading of its own. The first which confronts us is that of its genuineness. Is the Epistle the work of the Apostle whose name it bears?

(i) The Authority of the Epistle

Eusebius (H. E. III. XXV.) is fully justified in reckoning our Epistle among those canonical books of N.T. which had been universally received (ὁμολογούμενα) by the Churches. The obscure sect, whom Epiphanius with a scornful double entendre calls the Alogi (‘devoid of [the doctrine of] the Logos,’ or ‘devoid of reason’) probably rejected it, for the same reason as they rejected the Fourth Gospel; because they distrusted S. John’s teaching respecting the Word or Logos. And Marcion rejected it, as he rejected all the Gospels, excepting an expurgated S. Luke, and all the Epistles, excepting those of S. Paul; not because he believed the books which he discarded to be spurious, but because they contradicted his peculiar views. Neither of these rejections, therefore, need have any weight with us. The objectors did not contend that the Epistle was not written by an Apostle, but that some of its contents were doctrinally objectionable.

On the other hand, the evidence that the Epistle was received as Apostolic from the earliest times is abundant and satisfactory. It begins with those who knew S. John himself and goes on in an unbroken stream which soon becomes full and strong. See Professor Charteris, Canonicity, 319–326.

Whether the recently discovered DOCTRINE OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES indicates that the author knew S. John’s writings, is disputed. If this question is answered in the affirmative, then we have evidence which is probably even earlier than that of Polycarp. See Appendix F.

POLYCARP, the disciple of S. John, in his Epistle to the Philippians writes in a way which needs only to be placed side by side with the similar passage in our Epistle to convince any unprejudiced mind that the two passages cannot have become so like one another accidentally, and that of the two writers it is Polycarp who borrows from S. John and not vice versâ.

1 John.

Polycarp, Phil. 7

Every spirit which confesseth Jesus Christ as come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of Antichrist (1 John 4:2-3).

Every one that shall not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is Antichrist: and whosoever shall not confess the witness of the Cross is of the devil.

He that doeth sin is of the devil (1 John 3:8).

When we remember that the expression ‘Antichrist’ in N.T. is peculiar to S. John’s Epistles, that it is not common in the literature of the sub-Apostolic age, and that ‘confess,’ ‘witness,’ and ‘to be of the devil’ are also expressions which are very characteristic of S. John, the supposition that Polycarp knew and accepted our Epistle seems to be placed beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore about thirty years[15] after the date at which the Epistle, if genuine, was written we have a quotation of it by a man who was the friend and pupil of its reputed author. Could Polycarp have been ignorant of the authorship, and would he have made use of it if he had doubted its genuineness? Would he not have denounced it as an impudent forgery?

Eusebius tells us (H. E. III. xxxix. 16) that PAPIAS (c. A.D. 140) “made use of testimonies from the first epistle of John.” S. Irenaeus tells us that Papias was “a disciple of John and a companion of Polycarp.” Thus we have a second Christian writer among the generation which knew S. John, making use of this Epistle. When we consider how little of the literature of that age has come down to us, and how short this Epistle is, we may well be surprised at having two such early witnesses.

Eusebius also states (H. E. V. viii. 7) that IRENAEUS (c. A.D. 140–202) “mentions the first epistle of John, citing very many testimonies from it.” In the great work of Irenaeus on Heresies, which has come down to us, he quotes it twice. In III. xvi. 5 he quotes 1 John 2:18-22, expressly stating that it comes from the Epistle of S. John. In III. xvi. 8 he quotes 2 John 1:7-8, and by a slip of memory says that it comes from “the epistle before mentioned” (praedictâ epistolâ). He then goes on to quote 1 John 4:1-3. This evidence is strengthened by two facts. 1. Irenaeus, being the disciple of Polycarp, is in a direct line of tradition from S. John 2. Irenaeus gives abundant testimony to the authenticity of the Fourth Gospel; and it is so generally admitted by critics of all schools that the Fourth Gospel and our Epistle are by the same hand, that evidence to the genuineness of the one may be used as evidence to the genuineness of the other.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (fl. A.D. 185–210) makes repeated use of the Epistle and in several places mentions it as S. John’s.

TERTULLIAN (fl. 195–215) quotes it 40 or 50 times, repeatedly stating that the words he quotes are S. John’s.

The MURATORIAN FRAGMENT is a portion of the earliest attempt known to us to catalogue those books of N.T. which were recognised by the Church. Its date is commonly given as c. A.D. 170–180; but some now prefer to say A.D. 200–215. It is written in barbarous and sometimes scarcely intelligible Latin, having been copied by an ignorant and very careless scribe. It says; “The Epistle of Jude however and two Epistles of the John who has been mentioned above are received in the Catholic (Church),” or “are reckoned among the Catholic (Epistles).” It is uncertain what ‘two Epistles’ means. But if, as is probably the case (see p. lxix.), the Second and Third are meant, we may be confident that the First was accepted also and included in the catalogue. The opening words of the Epistle are quoted in the Fragment in connexion with the Fourth Gospel, and this quotation from it seems to be intended as equivalent to mention of it. The writer apparently regarded the First Epistle as a kind of postscript to the Gospel. See Lightfoot, Contemp. Rev. Oct. 1875, p. 835. We know of no person or sect that accepted the Second and Third Epistles and yet rejected the First.

ORIGEN (fl. A.D. 220–250) frequently cites the Epistle as S. John’s. DIONYSIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, his pupil (fl. A.D. 235–265), in his masterly discussion of the authenticity of the Apocalypse argues that, as the Fourth Gospel and First Epistle are by S. John, the Apocalypse (on account of its very different style) cannot be by him (Eus. H. E. VII. XXV). CYPRIAN, ATHANASIUS, EPIPHANIUS, JEROME, and in short all Fathers, Greek and Latin, accept the Epistle as S. John’s.

The Epistle is found in the Old Syriac Version, which omits the Second and Third as well as other Epistles.

In the face of such evidence as this, the suspicion that the Epistle may have been written by some careful imitator of the Fourth Gospel does not seem to need serious consideration. A guess, not supported by any evidence, has no claim to be admitted as a rival to a sober theory, which is supported by all the evidence that is available, that being both plentiful and trustworthy.

The student must, however, be on his guard against uncritical overstatements of the case in favour of the Epistle. Some commentators put forward an imposing array of references to Justin Martyr, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Ignatian Epistles. This is altogether misleading. All that such references prove is that early Christian writers to a large extent used similar language in speaking of spiritual truths, and that this language was influenced by the writers (not necessarily the writings) of N.T.

Where the resemblance to passages in N.T. is very slight and indistinct (as will be found to be the case in these references), it is at least as possible that the language comes from the oral teaching of Apostles and Apostolic men as from the writings contained in N.T.

The author of the Epistle to Diognetus knew our Epistle; but the date of that perplexing treatise, though probably ante-Nicene, is uncertain. “Notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary, the Epistle of Diognetus may, I think, with fair confidence be placed during the period with which we are concerned (A.D. 117–180), and not improbably in the earlier years of it” (Lightfoot, S. Ignatius and S. Polycarp, I. 517).

That the internal evidence in favour of the Apostolic authorship of the Epistle is also very strong, will be seen when we consider in sections iv. and v. its relation to the Gospel and its characteristics.

“The traces of Montanism which some have attempted to find (the sacredness of Christianity, χρῖσμα, distinction between mortal and other sins) depend upon exegetical extravagance, and overlook the parallels in the Gospels and Epistles; Matthew 12:31; 2 Corinthians 1:22; &c … The circumstance that destructive criticism should fix now upon the Gospel and now upon the Epistle as representing the higher stage of development is not calculated to arouse great confidence in its arguments” (Reuss).

(ii) The Persons addressed

The Epistle is rightly called catholic or general, as being addressed to the Church at large. It was probably written with special reference to the Church of Ephesus and the other Churches of Asia, to which it would be sent as a circular letter. The fact of its containing no quotations from the O. T. and not many allusions to it, as also the warning against idolatry (1 John 5:21), would lead us to suppose that the writer had converts from heathenism specially in his mind. But it has more the form of a homily than of a letter. There is no address or salutation at the beginning; no farewell or benediction at the close. Nevertheless, the frequent use of γράφω (1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:7-8; 1 John 2:12-13,) and ἔγραψα (2. [1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 2:21] 26; 1 John 5:13), with γράφομεν at the very outset (1 John 1:4), quite justify the appellation universally given to it of Epistle. It is a Pastoral Epistle, to be read aloud to those to whom it is addressed.

S. Augustine in the heading[16] to his ten homilies on the Epistle styles it ‘the Epistle of John to the Parthians’ (ad Parthos), and he elsewhere (Quaest. Evang. II. xxxix.) gives it the same title. In this he has been followed by other writers in the Latin Church. The title occurs in some MSS. of the Vulgate. The Venerable Bede states that “Many ecclesiastical writers, and among them Athanasius, Bishop of the Church of Alexandria, witness that the first Epistle of S. John was written to the Parthians” (Cave, Script. Eccles. Hist. Lit. ann. 701). But not all editions of Bede contain the statement; and Athanasius and the Greek Church generally seem to be wholly ignorant of this superscription, although in a few modern Greek MSS. ‘to the Parthians’ occurs in the subscription of the second Epistle. Whether the tradition that S. John once preached in Parthia grew out of this Latin superscription, or the latter produced the tradition, is uncertain. More probably the title originated in a mistake and then gave birth to the tradition. Gieseler’s conjecture respecting the mistake seems to be reasonable, that it arose from a Latin writer finding the letter designated ‘the Epistle of John the Virgin’ (τοῦ παρθένου) and supposing that this meant ‘the Epistle of John to the Parthians’ (πρὸς πάρθους). From very early times S. John was called ‘virgin’ from the belief that he never married. Johannes aliqui Christi spado, says Tertullian (De Monogam. XVII.). In the longer and interpolated form of the Ignatian Epistles (Philad. IV.) we read “Virgins, have Christ alone before your eyes, and His Father in your prayers, being enlightened by the Spirit. May I have pleasure in your purity as that of Elijah … as of the beloved disciple, as of Timothy … who departed this life in chastity.” So also the Pseudo-Clement De Virgin. i. 6, quoted by Lightfoot in loco (II. 792). See above, p. xxxiv. But there is reason for believing that Ad Virgines (πρὸς παρθένους) was an early superscription for the second Epistle. Some transcriber, thinking this very inappropriate for a letter addressed to a lady with children, may have transferred the heading to the first Epistle, and then the corruption from ‘virgins’ (παρθένους) to ‘Parthians’ (πάρθους) would be easy enough.

Other variations or conjectures are Ad Spartos, Ad Pathmios, and Ad sparsos. None are worth much consideration.

(iii) The Place and Date

Neither of these can be determined with any certainty, the Epistle itself containing no intimations on either point. Irenaeus tells us that the Fourth Gospel was written in Ephesus, and Jerome writes to the same effect. In all probability the Epistle was written at the same place. Excepting Alexandria, no place was so distinctly the home of that Gnosticism, which S. John opposes in both Gospel and Epistle, as Asia Minor, and in particular Ephesus. We know of no tradition connecting S. John with Alexandria, whereas tradition is unanimous in connecting him with Ephesus. In the next section we shall find reason for believing that Gospel and Epistle were written near about the same time; and this in itself is good reason for believing that they were written at the same place. Excepting occasional visits to the other Churches of Asia, S. John probably rarely moved from Ephesus.

As to the date also we cannot do more than attain to probability. [1] Reason has been given above why as long an interval as possible ought to be placed between the Apocalypse on the one hand and the Gospel and Epistle on the other. If then the Apocalypse was written about A.D. 68, and S. John died about A.D. 100, we may place Gospel and Epistle between A.D. 85 and 95. [2] Moreover, the later we place these two writings in S. John’s lifetime, the more intelligible does the uncompromising and explicit position, which characterizes both of them in reference to Gnosticism, become. [3] Again, the tone of the Epistles is that of an old man, writing to a younger generation. We can scarcely fancy an Apostle still in the prime of life, writing thus to men of his own age. But those who see in this forcible and out-spoken letter, with its marvellous combination of love and sternness, signs of senility and failing powers, have read either without care or with prejudice. ‘The eye’ of the Eagle Apostle is ‘not dim, nor his natural force abated.’ [4] The contents lead us to suppose that it was written at a time when the Church was free from persecution: therefore before the persecution under Domitian (A.D. 95). Later than that S. John would be too old to write. [5] No inference can be drawn from ‘it is the last hour’ (2:18): these words cannot refer to the destruction of Jerusalem (see note in loco). And perhaps it is not wise to dwell much on the fact that the introductory verses seem to imply that the seeing, hearing, and handling of the Word of Life took place in the remote past. This will not help us to determine whether S. John wrote the Epistle forty or sixty years after the Ascension.

(iv) The Object of the Epistle: its Relation to the Gospel

The Epistle appears to have been intended as a companion to the Gospel. No more definite word than ‘companion’ seems to be applicable, without going beyond the truth. We may call it “a preface and introduction to the Gospel,” or a “second part” and “supplement” to it; but this is only to a very limited extent true. The Gospel has its proper introduction in its first eighteen verses, and its supplement in its last chapter. It is nearer the truth to speak of the Epistle as a comment on the Gospel, “a sermon with the Gospel for its text.” It is “a practical application of the lessons of the life of Christ to the wants of the Church at the close of the first century” (Schaff). References to the Gospel are scattered thickly over the whole Epistle.

If this theory respecting its connexion with the Gospel be correct, we shall expect to find that the object of Gospel and Epistle is to a large extent one and the same. This is amply borne out by the facts. The object of the Gospel S. John tells us himself; ‘these have been written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye may have life in His name’ (20:31). The object of the Epistle he tells us also; ‘These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God’ (5:13). The Gospel is written to shew the way to eternal life through belief in the incarnate Son. The Epistle is written to confirm and enforce the Gospel; to assure those who believe in the incarnate Son that they have eternal life. The one is an historical, the other an ethical statement of the truth. The one sets forth the acts and words which prove that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; the other sets forth the acts and words which are obligatory upon those who believe this great truth. Of necessity both writings in stating the truth oppose error: but with this difference. In the Gospel S. John simply states the truth and leaves it: in the Epistle he commonly over against the truth places the error to which it is opposed. The Epistle is often directly polemical: the Gospel is never more than indirectly so.

S. John’s Gospel has been called a summary of Christian Theology, his first Epistle a summary of Christian Ethics, and his Apocalypse a summary of Christian Politics. There is much truth in this classification, especially as regards the first two members of it. It will help us to give definiteness to the statement that the Epistle was written to be a companion to the Gospel. They both supply us with the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. But in the Gospel these are given as the foundations of the Christian’s faith; in the Epistle they are given as the foundation of the Christian’s life. The one answers the question, ‘What must I believe about God and Jesus Christ?’ The other answers the question, ‘What is the believer’s duty towards God and towards man?’ It is obvious that in the latter case the direct treatment of error is much more in place than in the former. If we know clearly what to believe, we may leave on one side the consideration of what not to believe. But inasmuch as the world contains many who assert what is false and do what is wrong, we cannot know our duty to God and man, without learning how we are to bear ourselves in reference to falsehood and wrong.

Again, it has been said that in his three works S. John has given us three pictures of the Divine life or life in God. In the Gospel he sets forth the Divine life as it is exhibited in the person of Christ. In his Epistle he sets forth that life as it is exhibited in the individual Christian. And in the Apocalypse he sets forth that life as it is exhibited in the Church. This again is true, especially as regards the Gospel and Epistle. It is between these two that the comparison and contrast are closest. The Church is the Body of Christ, and it is also the collective body of individual Christians. So far as it comes up to its ideal, it will present the life in God as it is exhibited in Christ Himself. So far as it falls short of it, it will present the Divine life as it is exhibited in the ordinary Christian. It is therefore in the field occupied by the Gospel and Epistle respectively that we find the largest amount both of similarity and difference. In the one we have the perfect life in God as it was realised in an historical Person. In the other we have the directions for reproducing that life as it might be realised by an earnest but necessarily imperfect Christian.

To sum up the relations of the Gospel to the Epistle, we may say that the Gospel is objective, the Epistle subjective; the one is historical, the other moral; the one gives us the theology of the Christ, the other the ethics of the Christian; the one is didactic, the other polemical; the one states the truth as a thesis, the other as an antithesis; the one starts from the human side, the other from the divine; the one proves that the Man Jesus is the Son of God, the other insists that the Son of God is come in the flesh. But the connexion between the two is intimate and organic throughout. The Gospel suggests principles of conduct which the Epistle lays down explicitly; the Epistle implies facts which the Gospel states as historically true.

It would perhaps be too much to say that the Epistle “was written designedly as the supplement to all extant New Testament Scripture, as, in fact, the final treatise of inspired revelation.” But it will be well to remember in studying it that as a matter of fact the letter is that final treatise. We can hardly venture to say that in penning it S. John was consciously putting the coping stone on the edifice of the New Testament and closing the Canon. But in it the leading doctrines of Christianity are stated in their final form. The teaching of S. Paul and that of S. James are restated, no longer in apparent opposition, but in intimate and inseparable harmony. They are but two sides of the same truth. And just as the different forms of truth are blended, so also are the different forms of error. S. Paul constantly reminds us that the believer has to meet the hostility both of the Jew and of the Pagan. In this Epistle neither Jew nor Pagan is even named: “Their distinctive hostility to the Church has melted into the one dark background of ‘the world’ ” (Farrar).

But though S. John’s hand was thus guided to gather up and consummate the whole body of evangelical truth, it seems evident that this was not his own intention in writing the Epistle. The letter, like most of the Epistles in N.T., is an occasional one. It is written for a special occasion; to meet a definite crisis in the Church. It is a solemn warning against the seductive assumptions and deductions of various forms of Gnostic error; an emphatic protest against anything like a compromise where Christian truth is in question. The nature of God, so far as it can be grasped by man; the nature of Christ; the relation of man to God, to the world, and to the evil one; are stated with a firm hand to meet the shifty theories of false teachers. ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts’ (1 Kings 19:10) is the mental attitude of this polemical element in the Epistle. “We hear again the voice of the ‘son of thunder,’ still vehement against every insult to the majesty of his Lord.” But it is a thunder which is not simply destructive. It clears the air and prepares the way for the sunshine. Thus, he who professes knowledge of God without holiness of life, is a liar (1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:4): he who hates his brother is a murderer (1 John 3:15): he who habitually sins is a child of the devil (1 John 3:8): he who denies the Incarnation is a liar, and a deceiver, and an Antichrist (1 John 2:22 : 2 John 1:7). But, on the other hand, if any man sin we have an Advocate, a propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2): he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (1 John 2:17): we are in Him that is true, in His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 5:20). The intensity of his severity grows out of the intensity of his love; and both reflect that union of the two which is so conspicuous in the life of his Lord and Master.

The connexion between Gospel and Epistle is recognised by the writer of the Muratorian Canon, who probably lived within a century of the writing of both. We have no means of verifying his narrative, but must take it or leave it as it stands. “Of the fourth of the Gospels, John one of the disciples [is the author]. When his fellow-disciples and bishops[17] exhorted him [to write it], he said; ‘Fast with me for three days from to-day, and let us relate to each other whatever shall be revealed to each.’ On the same night it was revealed to Andrew[18], one of the Apostles, that, though all should revise, John should write down everything in his own name. And therefore, though various principles are taught in the separate books of the Gospels, yet it makes no difference to the faith of believers, seeing that by one supreme Spirit there are declared in all all things concerning the Birth, the Passion, the Resurrection, the life with His disciples, and His double Advent; the first in humility, despised, which is past; the second glorious in kingly power, which is to come. What wonder, therefore, is it, if John so constantly in his Epistles also puts forward particular [phrases], saying in his own person, what we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears, and our hands have handled, these things have we written to you.” Bishop Lightfoot conjectures that the author of the Canon, or some earlier authority whom he copied, had a MS. in which the First Epistle of S. John was placed immediately after his Gospel.

The following table of parallels between the Gospel and the Epistle will go far to convince anyone; [1] that the two writings are by one and the same hand; [2] that the passages in the Gospel are the originals to which the parallels in the Epistle have been consciously or unconsciously adapted; [3] that in a number of cases the reference to the Gospel is conscious and intentional.



John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word.

1 John 1:1. That which was from the beginning … concerning the Word of life.

John 1:14. We beheld His glory.

That which we beheld.

John 20:27. Reach hither thy hand, and put it into My side.

And our hands handled.

John 3:11. We speak that we do know, and bear witness of that we have seen.

1 John 1:2. We have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you.

John 19:35. He that hath seen hath borne witness.

1:1. The Word was with God.

The eternal life, which was with the Father.

John 17:21. That they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us.

1 John 1:3. Our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

John 16:24. That your joy may be fulfilled.

1 John 1:4. That our joy may be fulfilled.

John 1:19. And this is the witness of John.

1:5. The light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not.

1 John 1:5. And this is the message which we have heard from Him. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.

John 8:12. He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have that light of life.

3:21. He that doeth the truth, cometh to the light.

1 John 1:6. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness we lie, and do not the truth; but if we walk in light, as He is in the light …

John 14:16. I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Advocate.

1 John 2:1. We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

John 1:29. Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

1 John 2:1. And not for ours only, but also for the whole world.

John 4:24. The Saviour of the world.

John 14:15. If ye love Me, ye will keep my commandments.

1 John 2:3. Hereby know we that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.

John 14:21. He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.

1 John 2:5. Whoso keepeth His word, in Him verily hath the love of God been perfected.

John 15:5. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit.

1 John 2:6. He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked.

John 13:34. A new commandment I give unto you.

1 John 2:8. A new commandment write I unto you.

John 1:9. There was the true light.

The true light already shineth.

John 5:17. Even until now.

1 John 2:9. Even until now.

John 11:9. If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.

1 John 2:10. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.

John 12:35. He that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

12:40. He hath blinded their eyes.

1 John 2:11. He that hateth his brother is in the darkness, and walketh in the darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes.

John 13:33. Little children (τεκνία).

1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:12; 1 John 2:28. Little children (τεκνία).

John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word.

1 John 2:13. Ye know Him which is from the beginning.

John 5:38. Ye have not His word abiding in you.

1 John 2:14. The word of God abideth in you.

John 8:35. Abideth for ever.

1 John 2:17. Abideth for ever.

John 21:5. Children (παιδία).

1 John 2:18. Little children (παιδία).

John 6:39. This is the will of Him that sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing.

1 John 2:19. If they had been of us, they would have abided with us.

John 6:69. The Holy One of God (Christ).

1 John 2:20. The Holy One (Christ).

John 16:13. When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into all truth.

Ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things.

John 15:23. He that hateth Me hateth My Father also.

John 14:9. He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.

1 John 2:23. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father. He that confesseth the Son, hath the Father also.

John 14:23. If a man love Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.

1 John 2:24. If that which ye heard from the beginning abide in you, ye also shall abide in the Son, and in the Father.

John 17:2. That whatsoever Thou hast given Him, to them He should give eternal life.

1 John 2:25. And this is the promise which He promised us, even eternal life.

John 16:13. When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into all truth.

1 John 2:27. As His anointing teacheth you concerning all things.

These are but gleanings out of a couple of chapters[19], but they are sufficient to shew the relation between the two writings. Some of them are mere reminiscences of particular modes of expressions. But in other cases the passage in the Epistle is a deduction from the passage in the Gospel, or an illustration of it, or a development in accordance with the Apostle’s experience in the half century which had elapsed since the Ascension. But the fact that the Epistle at every turn presupposes the Gospel, does not prove beyond all question that the Gospel was written first. S. John had delivered his Gospel orally over and over again before writing it: and it is possible, though hardly probable, that the Epistle was written before the Gospel.

In this abundance of parallels between the two writings, especially between the discourses of the Lord in the Gospel and the Apostle’s teaching in the Epistle, “it is most worthy of notice that no use is made in the Epistle of the language of the discourses in John 3, 6.”

“Generally it will be found on a comparison of the closest parallels, that the Apostle’s own words are more formal in expression than the words of the Lord which he records. The Lord’s words have been moulded by the disciple into aphorisms in the Epistle.”—Westcott.

(v) The Plan of the Epistle

That S. John had a plan, and a very carefully arranged plan, in writing his Gospel, those who have studied its structure will scarcely be able to doubt. It is far otherwise with the Epistle. Here we may reasonably doubt whether the Apostle had any systematic arrangement of his thoughts in his mind when he wrote the letter. Indeed some commentators have regarded it as the rambling prattle of an old man, “an unmethodised effusion of pious sentiments and reflections.” Others, without going quite these lengths, have concluded that the contemplative and undialectical temper of S. John has caused him to pour forth his thoughts in a series of aphorisms without much sequence or logical connexion.

Both these opinions are erroneous. It is quite true to say with Calvin that the Epistle is a compound of doctrine and exhortation: what Epistle in N.T. is not? But it is a mistake to suppose with him that the composition is confused. Again, it is quite true to say that the Apostle’s method is not dialectical. But it cannot follow from this that he has no method at all. He seldom argues; one who sees the truth, and believes that every sincere believer will see it also, has not much need to argue: he merely states the truth and leaves it to exercise its legitimate power over every truth-loving heart. But in thus simply affirming what is true and denying what is false he does not allow his thoughts to come out hap-hazard. Each one as it comes before us may be complete in itself; but it is linked on to what precedes and what follows. The links are often subtle, and sometimes we cannot be sure that we have detected them; but they are seldom entirely absent. This peculiarity brings with it the further characteristic, that the transitions from one section of the subject to another, and even from one main division of it to another, are for the most part very gradual. They are like the changes in dissolving views. We know that we have passed on to something new, but we hardly know how the change has come about. And in addition to this there is the peculiarity that subjects touched upon and left are frequently reappearing further on for development and fresh treatment. The spiral movement, which is so conspicuous in the Prologue to the Gospel and in Christ’s Farewell Discourses, is apparent in the Epistle also. See Notes on the Gospel, pp. 75, 273.

A writing of this kind is exceedingly difficult to analyse. We feel that there are divisions; but we are by no means sure where to make them, or how to name them. We are conscious that the separate thoughts are intimately connected one with another; but we cannot satisfy ourselves that we have discovered the exact lines of connexion. At times we hardly know whether we are moving forwards or backwards, whether we are returning to an old subject or passing onwards to a new one, when in truth we are doing both and neither; for the old material is recast and made new, and the new material is shewn to have been involved in the old. Probably few commentators have satisfied themselves with their own analysis of this Epistle: still fewer have satisfied other people. Only those who have seriously attempted it know the real difficulties of the problem. It is like analysing the face of the sky or of the sea. There is contrast, and yet harmony; variety and yet order; fixedness, and yet ceaseless change; a monotony which soothes without wearying us, because the frequent repetitions come to us as things that are both new and old. But about one point most students of the Epistle will agree; that it is better to read it under the guidance of any scheme that will at all coincide with its contents, than with no guidance whatever. Jewels, it is true, remain jewels, even when piled confusedly into a heap: but they are then seen to the very least advantage. Any arrangement is better than that. So also with S. John’s utterances in this Epistle. They are robbed of more than half their power if they are regarded as a string of detached aphorisms, with no more organic unity than a collection of proverbs. It is in the conviction of the truth of this opinion that the following analysis is offered for consideration. It is, of course, to a considerable extent based upon previous attempts, and possibly it is no great improvement upon any of them. It has, however, been of service to the writer in studying the Epistle, and if it helps any other student to frame a better analysis for himself, it will have served its purpose.

One or two divisions may be asserted with confidence. Beyond all question the first four verses are introductory, and are analogous to the first eighteen verses of the Gospel. Equally beyond question the last four verses, and probably the last eight verses, form the summary and conclusion. This leaves the intermediate portion from 1:5 to 5:12 or 5:17 as the main body of the Epistle: and it is about the divisions and subdivisions of this portion that so much difference of opinion exists.

Again, nearly every commentator seems to have felt that a division must be made somewhere near the end of the second chapter. In the following analysis this generally recognised landmark has been adopted as central. Logically as well as locally it divides the main body of the Epistle into two fairly equal halves. And these two halves may be conveniently designated by the great statement which each contains respecting the Divine Nature—‘God is Light’ and ‘God is Love.’ These headings are not merely convenient; they correspond to a very considerable extent with the contents of each half. The first half, especially in its earlier portions, is dominated by the idea of ‘light’: the second half is still more clearly and thoroughly dominated by the idea of ‘love.’

As regards the subdivisions and the titles given to them, all that it would be safe to affirm is this;—that, like trees in a well-wooded landscape, the Apostle’s thoughts evidently fall into groups, and that it conduces to clearness to distinguish the groups. But it may easily be the case that what to one eye is only one cluster, to another eye is two or three clusters, and that there may also be a difference of opinion as to where each cluster begins and ends. Moreover the description of a particular group which satisfies one mind will seem inaccurate to another. The following scheme will do excellent service if it provokes the student to challenge its correctness and to correct it, if necessary, throughout.

An Analysis of the Epistle

1joh 1:1–4. INTRODUCTION.

1. The Subject-Matter of the Gospel employed in the Epistle (1 John 1:1-3).

2. The Purpose of the Epistle (1 John 1:4).

1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:28. GOD IS LIGHT.

a. 1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:11. What Walking in the Light involves: the Condition and Conduct of the Believer.

1. Fellowship with God and with the Brethren (1 John 1:5-7).

2. Consciousness and Confession of Sin (1 John 1:8-10).

3. Obedience to God by Imitation of Christ (1 John 2:1-6).

4. Love of the Brethren (1 John 2:7-11).

b. 1 John 2:12-28. What Walking in the Light excludes: the Things and Persons to be avoided.

1. Threefold statement of Reasons for Writing (1 John 2:12-14).

2. The Things to be avoided;—the World and its Ways (1 John 2:15-17).

3. The Persons to be avoided;—Antichrists (1 John 2:18-26).

4. (Transitional) The Place of safety;—Christ (1 John 2:27-28).

1 John 2:29 to 1 John 5:12. GOD IS LOVE.

c. 1 John 2:29 to 1 John 3:24. The Evidence of Sonship;—Deeds of righteousness before God.

1. The Children of God and the Children of the Devil (1 John 2:29 to 1 John 3:12).

2. Love and Hate; Life and Death (1 John 3:13-24).

d. 1 John 4:1 to 1 John 5:12. The Source of Sonship;—Possession of the Spirit as shewn by Confession of the Incarnation.

1. The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error (1 John 4:1-6).

2. Love is the Mark of the Children of Him who is Love (1 John 4:7-21).

3. Faith is the Source of Love, the Victory over the World, and the Possession of Life (1 John 5:1-12).

1 John 5:13-21. CONCLUSION.

1. Intercessory Love the Fruit of Faith (1 John 5:13-17).

2. The Sum of the Christian’s Knowledge (1 John 5:18-20).

3. Final Injunction (1 John 5:21).

Perhaps our first impression on looking at the headings of the smaller sections would be that these subjects have not much connexion with one another, and that the order in which they come is more or less a matter of accident. This impression would be erroneous. Fellowship with God involves consciousness of sin, and its confession with a view to its removal. This implies obedience to God, which finds its highest expression in love. Love of God and of the brethren excludes love of the world, which is passing away, as is shewn by the appearance of antichrists. He who would not pass away must abide in Christ. With the idea of sonship, introduced by the expression ‘begotten of God,’ the Epistle takes a fresh start. This Divine sonship implies mutual love among God’s children and the indwelling of Christ to which the Spirit testifies. The mention of the Spirit leads on to the distinction between true and false spirits. By a rather subtle connexion (see on 4:7) this once more leads to the topic of mutual love, and to faith as the source of love, especially as shewn in intercessory prayer. The whole closes with a summary of the knowledge on which the moral principles inculcated in the Epistle are based, and with a warning against idols.

The omissions are as remarkable as the contents. Unlike the Gospel, the Epistle contains no quotations from the O.T. It tells us nothing about the government, ministry, sacraments, or worship of the Apostolic Church. The word ἐκκλησία does not occur in it. There is no mention of bishop, presbyter, or deacon, of Baptism or the Eucharist Not that the Apostle is indifferent to these things, but that they are no part of his subject. He has to tell, not of the structure or discipline of the community, but of its spiritual life and organism:—the fellowship of believers with the Father and the Son and their consequent fellowship with one another.

(vi.) The Characteristics of the Epistle

“In reading John it is always with me as though I saw him before me, lying on the bosom of his Master at the last supper: as though his angel were holding the light for me, and in certain passages would fall upon my neck and whisper something in mine ear. I am far from understanding all I read, but it often seems to me as if what John meant were floating before me in the distance; and even when I look into a passage altogether dark, I have a foretaste of some great, glorious meaning, which I shall one day understand” (Claudius).

Dante expresses the same feeling still more strongly when he represents himself as blinded by the radiance of the beloved disciple (Paradiso xxv. 136–xxvi. 6).

“Ah, how much in my mind was I disturbed,

When I turned round to look on Beatrice,

That her I could not see, although I was

Close at her side and in the Happy World!

While I was doubting for my vision quenched,

Out of the flame refulgent that had quenched it

Issued a breathing, that attentive made me,

Saying—‘Whilst thou recoverest the sense

Of seeing which in me thou hast consumed,

’Tis well that speaking thou should’st compensate it.’ ”

(Longfellow’s Translation: see notes.)

Two characteristics of this Epistle will strike every serious reader; the almost oppressive majesty of the thoughts which are put before us, and the extreme simplicity of the language in which they are expressed. The most profound mysteries in the Divine scheme of Redemption, the spiritual and moral relations between God, the human soul, the world, and the evil one, and the fundamental principles of Christian Ethics, are all stated in words which any intelligent child can understand. They are the words of one who has ‘received the kingdom’ of heaven into his inmost soul, and received it ‘as a little child.’ They are the foolish things of the world putting to shame them that are wise. “They are still waters, which run deep.” Their ease, and simplicity, and repose irresistibly attract us. Even the unwilling ear is arrested and listens. We are held as by a spell. And as we listen, and stop, and ponder, we find that the simple words, which at first seemed to convey a meaning as simple as themselves, are charged with truths which are not of this world, but have their roots in the Infinite and Eternal. S. John has been so long on the mount in communion with God that his very words, when the veil is taken off them, shine: and, as Dante intimates, to be brought suddenly face to face with his spirit is well-nigh too much for mortal eyes.

Another characteristic of the Epistle, less conspicuous perhaps, but indisputable, is its finality. As S. John’s Gospel, not merely in time, but in conception and form and point of view, is the last of the Gospels, so this is the last of the Epistles. It rises above and consummates all the rest. It is in a sphere in which the difficulties between Jewish Christian and Gentile Christian, and the apparent discords between S. Paul and S. James, are harmonized and cease to exist. It is indeed no handbook or summary of Christian doctrine; for it is written expressly for those who ‘know the truth’; and therefore much is left unstated, because it may be taken for granted. But in no other book in the Bible are so many cardinal doctrines touched, or with so firm a hand. And each point is laid before us with the awe-inspiring solemnity of one who writes under the profound conviction that ‘it is the last hour.’

Closely connected with this characteristic of finality is another which it shares with the Gospel;—the tone of magisterial authority which pervades the whole. None but an Apostle, perhaps we may almost venture to say, none but the last surviving Apostle, could write like this. There is no passionate claim to authority, as of one who feels compelled to assert himself and ask, ‘Am I not an Apostle?’ There is no fierce denunciation of those who are opposed to him, no attempt at a compromise, no anxiety about the result. He will not argue the point; he states the truth and leaves it. Every sentence seems to tell of the conscious authority and resistless though unexerted strength of one who has ‘seen, and heard, and handled’ the Eternal Word, and who ‘knows that his witness is true.’

Once more, there is throughout the Epistle a love of moral and spiritual antitheses. Over against each thought there is constantly placed in sharp contrast its opposite. Thus light and darkness, truth and falsehood, love and hate, life and death, love of the Father and love of the world, the children of God and the children of the devil, the spirit of truth and the spirit of error, sin unto death and sin not unto death, to do righteousness and to do sin, follow one another in impressive alternation. The movement of the Epistle largely consists of progress from one opposite to another. And it will nearly always be found that the antithesis is not exact, but an advance beyond the original statement or else an expansion of it. ‘He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar’ (1 John 5:10). The antithetical structure and rhythmical cadence of the sentences would do much to commend them “to the ear and to the memory of the hearers. To Greek readers, familiar with the lyrical arrangements of the Greek Drama, this mode of writing would have a peculiar charm; and Jewish readers would recognise in it a correspondence to the style and diction of their own Prophetical Books” (Wordsworth).

If we say we have no sin,

We deceive ourselves,

And the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins,

He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins,

And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say that we have not sinned,

We make Him a liar;

And His word is not in us.

In this instance it will be noticed that we pass from one opposite to another and back again: but that to which we return covers more ground than the original position and is a distinct advance upon it. This progress by means of alternating statements is still more apparent in the following example.

He that saith he is in the light,

And hateth his brother,

Is in the darkness even until now.

He that loveth his brother

Abideth in the light,

And there is none occasion of stumbling in him.

But he that hateth his brother

Is in the darkness,

And walketh in the darkness,

And knoweth not whither he goeth,

Because the darkness hath blinded his eyes.

For other characteristics of S. John’s style which are common to both Gospel and Epistle see the Introduction to the Gospel, chapter v. Many of these are pointed out in the notes on these Epistles: see in particular the notes on 1 John 1:2; 1 John 1:4-5; 1 John 1:8; 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:3; 1 John 2:8; 1 John 2:24; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 3:15; 1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:9; 1 John 5:9-10.

“Every reader feels the calmness and the serenity which pervade this book. It tells of a soul that has reached peace, of the serenity of an aged man; and the very reading of it puts us in the rest, the quiet, the tranquillity of peace. He likes to dwell upon a great thought; he turns it this way and that, and sinks his soul into it. He ever leads us back to the same thoughts and gladly repeats them to us, so as to send them deep into the soul and make them stay there.…

This calmness of lingering contemplation, and this passive, peaceful tranquillity, is, however, not nature. It is command of the mind. For we can still discover in him the fiery, violent character of the youth. If the hasty glow of earlier days is no longer there, still a reminiscence of it is always at hand. We can see his natural character in his short decisive sentences, his emphatic way of building sentences, the want of connexion in his array of sentences, and in the use of contrasts in his speech. His nature is not destroyed. It is purified, brightened, raised to the truth, and so taken into the service of the loved Master.… The fire of youth has left its calm light and its warm enthusiasm. It breathes through the most quiet speech, and raises the language to the rhythmical beauty of Hebrew poetry, and to a very hymn of praise.”

These words, though written by Luthardt of the Gospel of S. John (Introduction II. 5, § 2), may be applied, without the alteration of a single sentence, to the Epistles.

The following characteristic words and phrases are common to S. John’s Gospel and one or more of his Epistles, those printed in thick type being found in the Apocalypse also:—

ἀγαπᾶν, ἀγάπη, ἁγνίζειν ἑαυτόν, ἀλήθεια, ἀληθής, ἀληθινός, ἀληθινὸς Θεός (comp. Revelation 6:10), ἀληθῶς, ἀλλʼ ἵνα (see on 1 John 2:19), ἁμαρτίαν ἔχειν, ἀνθρωποκτόνος, γινώσκειν, γεννηθῆναι ἐκ, εἶναι ἐκ, εἶναι ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας, εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ, εἶναι ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου, ἐντολὴ καινή, ζωή, ζωὴ αἰωνίος, θεᾶσθαι, θεωρεῖν, ἵνα in unusual constructions (see on 1 John 1:9), καινός in a good sense, κόσμος, Δόγος, μαρτυρεῖν, μαρτυρία, μένειν, μεταβαίνειν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωήν, μανογενής (of the Son of God), νικᾶν, νικᾶν τὸν κόσμον, ὁρᾶν in the perfect tense, παιδία, παρακλητός, περιπατεῖν ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ, πιστεύειν εἰς, παρρησία, πλανᾶν, τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ποιεῖν τὴν ἀλήθειαν, ποιεῖν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, ὁ πονηρός, σκοτία, σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου, τέκνα Θεοῦ, τεκνία, τηρεῖν τὰς ἐντολάς, τηρεῖν τὸν λόγον, τιθέναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὑτοῦ, φαίνειν, φανεροῦν, φῶς, χαρὰ πεπληρωμένη.

The following expressions occur in one or more of the Epistles, but not in the Gospel:—

ἀγγελία, ἁμαρτία πρὸς θάνατον, ἀντίχριστος, ἐπιθυμία τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν, ἐπιθυμία τῆς σαρκός, ἐν σαρκὶ ἔρχεσθαι, ἐν ἀληθείᾳ περιπατεῖν, ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατεῖν, ἱλασμός, κοινωνία, παρουσία (of the Second Advent), πλάνος, ποιεῖν τὴν ἀνομίαν, ποιεῖν δικαιοσύνην (Rev.), χρῖσμα.

(vii) Its relation to the Teaching of S. Paul

“John and Paul have depth of knowledge in common. They are the two apostles who have left us the most complete systems of doctrine. But they know in different ways. Paul, educated in the schools of the Pharisees, is an exceedingly acute thinker and an accomplished dialectician. He sets forth the doctrines of Christianity in a systematic scheme, proceeding from cause to effect, from the general to the particular, from premise to conclusion, with logical clearness and precision. He is a representative of genuine scholasticism in the best sense of the term. John’s knowledge is that of intuition and contemplation. He gazes with his whole soul upon the object before him, surveys all as in one picture, and thus presents the profoundest truths as an eye-witness, not by a course of logical demonstration, but immediately as they lie in reality before him. His knowledge of divine things is the deep insight of love, which ever fixes itself at the centre, and thence surveys all points of the circumference at once. He is the representative of all true mysticism.… Paul and John, in their two grand systems, have laid the eternal foundations of all true theology and philosophy; and their writings, now after eighteen centuries of study, are still unfathomed” (Schaff).

The theory that S. John “came to Ephesus with a view to upholding the principles of the Christianity of Jerusalem against the encroachments of the Christianity of S. Paul,” and that “John, the writer of the Apocalypse, as superintendent of the Churches of Asia Minor, made war upon Pauline Christianity,” would be sufficiently untenable even if S. John had written nothing but the Apocalypse. But this Epistle contains the most ample refutation of it. F. C. Baur, the great upholder of the theory, can make it look plausible only by attributing the Fourth Gospel, and with it of course this Epistle, to some unknown evangelist who assumed S. John’s personality. He admits that “inner points of connexion between the Apocalypse and the Gospel are not wanting.” But “the author of the Gospel felt his standpoint to be a new and peculiar one, and essentially distinct, both from the Pauline and the Jewish Christian: but this very fact forced upon him the necessity of giving a genuinely apostolic expression to the new form of Christian consciousness.”

This view has recently been elaborated afresh by Dr Pfleiderer in the Hibbert Lectures. He holds that Baur has proved “how profound was the antagonism between Paul and the first Apostles,” and with Baur he maintains that the Revelation is an attack on S. Paul by S. John. He goes on to suggest that the Gospel of S. Mark is a Pauline rejoinder to the Revelation, and that of S. Matthew a Judaic reply to S. Mark. Then comes the Third Gospel as a partial attempt at a reconciliation, an end which is ultimately reached by the writer of the Fourth.

We are asked, therefore, to believe that the first age of the Church was spent in a pamphlet war between the representatives of three totally different forms of Christianity. [1] The Gospel of S. Paul; [2] that of S. John, who in the Apocalypse “made war upon Pauline Christianity;” [3] that of the Fourth Evangelist, who usurped the name of S. John in order to take up a position “essentially distinct” both from that of S. John and of S. Paul. The theory that the Revelation is an attack on S. Paul has been sufficiently answered by Bishop Lightfoot in his Essay on S. Paul and the Three (Galatians , 6 th ed. pp. 308–311, 346–364), in which he points out the fundamental agreement between S. Paul’s Epistles and the Apocalypse on the one hand, and between the Apocalypse and the Fourth Gospel with our Epistle on the other. It remains to compare the last member in this series with the first. An examination of the following passages will enable the reader to judge whether in this Epistle the author of the Fourth Gospel teaches a Christianity “essentially distinct” from that of S. Paul. And it should be observed that in almost all cases the references are taken exclusively, or at least partly, from the four great Epistles on which even Baur admits “there has never been cast the slightest suspicion of unauthenticity,”—Romans , 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians. In addition to these Dr Pfleiderer accepts as genuine 1 Thessalonians, Philippians, and Philemon; and as partly genuine 2 Thessalonians and Colossians.

[1] The manifestation of the Eternal Son: 1 John 1:2; 1 John 3:5; Romans 16:26; 1 Timothy 3:16.

[2] Our fellowship with the Son: 1 John 1:3; 1 John 2:24; 1 Corinthians 1:9.

[3] No fellowship between light and darkness: 1 John 1:6; 2 Corinthians 6:15.

[4] Redemption through Christ’s blood: 1 John 1:7; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7.

[5] Christ our Advocate with the Father: 1 John 2:1; Romans 8:34; 1 Timothy 2:5.

[6] Christ a propitiation: 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10; Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:18.

[7] Obedience the test of a true Christian: 1 John 2:4, 1 John 3:24; 1 Corinthians 7:19. Imitation of Christ: 1 John 2:6; Ephesians 5.

[8] Darkness yielding to light: 1 John 2:8; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:8.

[9] Enlightenment worthless without love: 1 John 2:9; 1 Corinthians 13:2.

[10] The world passing away: 1 John 2:17; 1 Corinthians 7:31.

[11] The end close at hand: 1 John 2:18; 1 Corinthians 7:29; 1 Corinthians 10:11.

[12] Antichrists a sign of the end: 1 John 2:18; 1 Timothy 4:1.

[13] The use of heresies in sifting faithful from unfaithful Christians: 1 John 2:19; 1 Corinthians 11:19.

[14] The unction of the Spirit: 1 John 2:20; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22.

[15] The fulness of the Christian’s knowledge: 1 John 2:20-21; Romans 15:14.

[16] The Divine gift of sonship: 1 John 2:1-2; Romans 8:15; Galatians 3:26.

[17] The beatific vision: 1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 13:12.

[18] The Christian’s hope an incentive to self-purification: 1 John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 7:1.

[19] Our future glory not yet revealed: 1 John 3:2; Romans 8:18.

[20] The relation of sin to law: 1 John 3:4; Romans 4:15; Romans 5:13.

[21] The sinlessness of Christ: 1 John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21.

[22] Conduct more important than knowledge: 1 John 3:7; Romans 2:13.

[23] The world’s hatred of Christians natural: 1 John 3:13; 2 Timothy 3:12.

[24] The Divine love exhibited in the work of redemption: 1 John 3:16, 1 John 4:9; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25.

[25] Love without hypocrisy: 1 John 3:18; Romans 12:9.

[26] Conscience not infallible: 1 John 3:20; 1 Corinthians 4:4.

[27] Mutual indwelling of the Divine and the human: 1 John 3:24; Romans 8:9.

[28] Possession of the Spirit a proof of union with God: 1 John 3:24, 1 John 4:13; Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6.

[29] Prophets must be tested: 1 John 4:1; 1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Corinthians 14:32.

[30] Belief in the Incarnation a sure test: 1 John 4:2; 1 John 4:15, 1 John 5:1; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3.

[31] The spirit of Antichrist already in the world: 1 John 4:3 2 Thessalonians 2:7.

[32] God the source of the Christian’s victory: 1 John 4:4, 1 John 5:4; Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57.

[33] Submission to Apostolic authority: 1 John 4:6; 1 Corinthians 14:37.

[34] God invisible: 1 John 4:12; 1 Timothy 6:16.

[35] Fear giving place to love; 1 John 4:18; Romans 8:15; 2 Timothy 1:7.

[36] The whole world evil: 1 John 5:19; 1 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 1:4.

[37] Idolatry to be shunned: 1 John 5:21; 1 Corinthians 10:14.

The coincidences of doctrine rarely extend to language: but κοινωνία, περιπατεῖν (in the figurative sense) and ἐπιθ. τῆς σαρκός are almost peculiar to S. Paul and S. John. Some remarks of the late Professor Shirley respecting these theories of Baur and others may be added with profit. “Such views are only possible where the history of doctrine is extensively studied apart from the general history of the Church; and they stand as a warning against all that handling of history which reduces it to a branch of literary criticism. The relations in which the Apostles actually stood to each other are in fact to be ascertained far less by framing a theology out of the extant writings of each, than by considering how they must have been affected by the mode of their training and appointment, by the nature of their powers, and by the links which bound together the society of which they were the rulers. In point of fact the writings even of St Paul and St John are inadequate to express their whole theology. Each has contributed to the Canon not his whole system, but that special side of his teaching of which he seemed to the Holy Spirit to be the most appropriate organ; and the account of their opinions, based simply on an analysis of their writings, however perfect and however free from colouring such an analysis may be, must always exaggerate what is distinctive of the individual, and throw into the shade what belongs to the Christian and the apostle” (Apostolic Age, 79, 80).



SHORT as this letter is, and having more than half of its contents common to either the First or the Second Epistle, our loss would have been great had it been refused a place in the Canon, and in consequence been allowed to perish. It gives us a new aspect of the Apostle: it shews him to us as the shepherd of individual souls. In the First Epistle he addresses the Church at large. In this Epistle, whether it be addressed to a local Church, or (as we shall find reason to believe) to a Christian lady, it is certain definite individuals that he has in his mind as he writes. It is for the sake of particular persons about whom he is greatly interested that he sends the letter, rather than for the sake of Christians in general. It is a less formal and less public utterance than the First Epistle. We see the Apostle at home rather than in the Church, and hear him speaking as a friend rather than as a Metropolitan. The Apostolic authority is there, but it is in the background. The letter beseeches and warns more than it commands.

i. The Authorship of the Epistle

Just as nearly all critics allow that the Fourth Gospel and the First Epistle are by one hand, so it is generally admitted that the Second and Third Epistle are by one hand. The question is whether all four writings are by the same person; whether ‘the Elder’ of the two short Epistles is the beloved disciple of the Gospel, the author of the First Epistle. If this question is answered in the negative, then only two alternatives remain; either these twin Epistles were written by a person commonly known as ‘John the Elder’ or ‘the Presbyter John,’ a contemporary of the Apostle sometimes confused with him; or they were written by some Elder entirely unknown to us. In either case he is a person who has studiously and with very great success imitated the style of the Apostle.

The External Evidence

The voice of antiquity is strongly in favour of the first and simplest hypothesis; that all four writings are the work of the Apostle S. John. The evidence is not so full or so indisputably unanimous as for the Apostolicity of the First Epistle; but, when we take into account the brevity and comparative unimportance of these two letters, the amount is considerable. See Charteris, Canonicity, 327–330.

IRENAEUS, the disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of S. John, says; “John, the disciple of the Lord, intensified their condemnation by desiring that not even a ‘God-speed’ should be bid to them by us; For, says he, he that biddeth him, God speed, partaketh in his evil works” (Haer. I. xvi. 3). And again, after quoting 1 John 2:18, he resumes a little further on; “These are they against whom the Lord warned us beforehand; and His disciple, in his Epistle already mentioned, commands us to avoid them, when he says; Many deceivers are gone forth into this world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist. Look to them, that ye lose not that which ye have wrought” (III. xvi. 8). In one or two respects, it will be observed, Irenaeus must have had a different text from ours: but these quotations shew that he was well acquainted with the Second Epistle and believed it to be by the beloved disciple. And though in the second passage he makes the slip of quoting the Second Epistle and calling it the First, yet this only shews all the more plainly how remote from his mind was the idea that the one Epistle might be by S. John and the other not.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, and indeed the Alexandrian school generally (A.D. 200–300), testify to the belief that the second letter is by the Apostle. He quotes 1 John 5:16 with the introductory words; “John in his longer Epistle (ἐν τῇ μείζονι ἐπιστολῇ) seems to teach &c.” (Strom. II. xv.), which shews that he knows of at least one other and shorter Epistle by the same John. In a fragment of a Latin translation of one of his works we read; “The second Epistle of John, which is written to virgins, is very simple: it is written indeed to a certain Babylonian lady, Electa by name; but it signifies the election of the holy Church.” Eusebius (H. E. VI. xiv. 1) tells us that Clement in his Hypotyposes or Outlines commented on the ‘disputed’ books in N.T. viz. “the Epistle of Jude and the other Catholic Epistles.”

DIONYSIUS OF ALEXANDRIA in his famous criticism (Eus. H. E. VII. xxv.) so far from thinking ‘the Elder’ an unlikely title to be taken by S. John, thinks that his not naming himself is like the Apostle’s usual manner.

Thus we have witnesses from two very different centres, Irenaeus in Gaul, Clement and Dionysius in Alexandria.

CYPRIAN in his account of a Council at Carthage, A.D. 256, gives us what we may fairly consider to be evidence as to the belief of the North African Church. He says that Aurelius, Bishop of Chullabi, quoted 2 John 1:10-11 with the observation; Johannes apostolus in epistula sua posuit: “Si quis ad vos venit et doctrinam Christi non habet, nolite eum admittere in domum vestram et ave illi ne dixeritis. qui enim dixerit illi ave communicat factis ejus malis.” This quotation exhibits no less than ten differences from the Vulgate of Jerome (Cod. Am.) and proves the existence of an early African text of this Epistle. But Cyprian frequently quotes the First Epistle and several times with the formula Johannes in epistola sua, or in epistola: he nowhere adds prima or maxima any more than he here adds secunda.

The evidence of the MURATORIAN FRAGMENT is by no means clear. We have seen (p. xl.) that the writer quotes the First Epistle in his account of the Fourth Gospel, and later on speaks of “two Epistles of the John who has been mentioned before.” This has been interpreted in various ways. [1] That these ‘two Epistles’ are the Second and Third, the First being omitted by the copyist (who evidently was a very inaccurate and incompetent person), or being counted as part of the Gospel. [2] That these two are the First and the Second, the Third being omitted. [3] That the First and the Second are taken together as one Epistle and the Third as a second. And it is remarkable that Eusebius twice speaks of the First Epistle as “the former Epistle of John” (H. E. III. xxv. 2, xxxix. 16), just as Clement speaks of “the longer Epistle,” as if in some arrangements there were only two Epistles. But in spite of this the first of these three explanations is to be preferred. The context in the Fragment decidedly favours it.

ORIGEN knows of the two shorter letters, but says that “not all admit that these are genuine” (Eus. H. E. VI. xxv. 10). Yet he expresses no opinion of his own, and never quotes them. On the other hand he quotes the First Epistle “in such a manner as at least to shew that the other Epistles were not familiarly known” (Westcott).

EUSEBIUS, who was possibly influenced by Origen, classes these two Epistles among the ‘disputed’ books of the Canon, and suggests (without giving his own view) that they may be the work of a namesake of the Evangelist. “Among the disputed (ἀντιλεγόμενα) books, which, however, are well known and recognised by most, we class the Epistle circulated under the name of James, and that of Jude, as well as the second of Peter, and the so-called second and third of John, whether they belong to the Evangelist, or possibly to another of the same name as he” (H. E. III. xxv. 3). Elsewhere he speaks in a way which leaves one less in doubt as to his own opinion (Dem. Evan. III. iii. again p. 120), which appears to be favourable to the Apostolic authorship; he speaks of them without qualification as S. John’s.

THE SCHOOL OF ANTIOCH seems to have rejected these two ‘disputed’ Epistles, together with Jude and 2 Peter.

JEROME (Vir. Illust. ix.) says that, while the First Epistle is approved by all Churches and scholars, the two others are ascribed to John the Presbyter, whose tomb was still shewn at Ephesus as well as that of the Apostle.

The Middle Ages attributed all three to S. John.

From this summary of the external evidence it is apparent that precisely those witnesses who are nearest to S. John in time are favourable to the Apostolic authorship and seem to know of no other view. Doubts are first indicated by Origen, although we need not suppose that they were first propounded by him. Probably the belief that there had been another John at Ephesus, and that he had been known as ‘John the Presbyter’ or ‘the Elder,’ first made people think that these two comparatively insignificant Epistles, written by some one who calls himself ‘the Elder,’ were not the work of the Apostle. But, as is shewn in Appendix E., it is doubtful, whether any such person as John the Elder, as distinct from the Apostle and Evangelist, ever existed. In all probability those writers who attribute the two shorter letters to John the Presbyter, whether they know it or not, are really attributing them to S. John.

The Internal Evidence

The internal is hardly less strong than the external evidence in favour of the Apostolic authorship of the Second, and therefore of the Third Epistle: for no one can reasonably doubt that the writer of the one is the writer of the other. The argument is parallel to that respecting the Pastoral Epistles. There is much in these Epistles that cannot reasonably be ascribed to anyone but S. Paul: these portions cannot be severed from the rest: therefore those portions which are not in his usual style were nevertheless written by him. So here; the Second Epistle has so much that is similar to the First, that common authorship is highly probable: and the Third Epistle has so much that is similar to the Second, that common authorship is practically certain. Therefore the Third Epistle, though not like the First, is nevertheless by the same hand. We have seen in the preceding sections that Apostles were sometimes called Elders. This humbler title would not be likely to be assumed by one who wished to pass himself off as an Apostle; all the less so, because no Apostolic writing in N.T. begins with this appellation, except the Epistles in question. Therefore these Epistles are not like the work of a forger imitating S. John in order to be taken for S. John. On the other hand an ordinary Presbyter or Elder, writing in his own person without any wish to mislead, would hardly style himself ‘The Elder.’ ‘John the Elder,’ if he ever existed, would have given his name. Had he been so important a person as to be able to style himself ‘The Elder,’ we should find clearer traces of him in history. Assume, however, that S. John wrote the Epistles, and the title seems to be very appropriate. The oldest member of the Christian Church and the last surviving Apostle might well be called, and call himself, with simple dignity, ‘The Elder.’ “Nothing is more welcome to persons of simple character who are in high office than an opportunity of laying its formalities aside; they like to address others and to be themselves addressed in their personal capacity, or by a title in which there is more affection than form … Just as we might speak of some one person as ‘the Vicar,’ or ‘the Colonel,’ as if there were no one else in the world who held those offices, so St John was known in the family to which he writes by the affectionately familiar title of ‘the Presbyter’ ” (Liddon).

The following table will help us to judge whether the similarities between the four writings are not most naturally and reasonably explained by accepting the primitive (though not universal) tradition, that all four proceeded from one and the same author.

Gospel and First Epistle

Second Epistle

Third Epistle

1 John 3:18. Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deedandtruth.

John 8:31. If ye abide in My word … ye shall know the truth.

2 John 1:1. The Elder unto the elect lady … whom I love in truth: and not I only, but also all they that know the truth.

3 John 1:1. The Elder unto Gaius the beloved, whom I love in truth.

John 10:18. This commandment received I from My Father.

1 John 4:21. This commandment have we from Him.

2 John 1:4. I rejoiced greatly that I have found of thy children walking in truth, even as we received commandment from the Father.

3 John 1:3. I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and bare witness unto thy truth, even as thou walkest in truth.

2:7. No new commandment write I unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning.

John 13:34. A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.

2 John 1:5. And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote to thee a new commandment, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.

John 14:21. He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.

1 John 5:3. This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.

2 John 1:6. And this is love, that we should walk after His commandments. This is the commandment, even as ye heard from the beginning, that ye should walk in it.

1 John 2:24. Let that abide in you which ye heard from the beginning.

1 John 4:1-3. Many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the Antichrist.

2 John 1:7. For many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist.

1 John 2:23. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that confesseth the Son hath the Father also.

2 John 1:9. Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the doctrine, the same hath both the Father and the Son.

1 John 2:29. Every one that doeth righteousness is begotten of Him.

3 John 1:11. He that doeth good is of God: he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

1 John 3:6. Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither knoweth Him.

John 21:24. This is the disciple which beareth witness of these things: and we know that his witness is true.

3 John 1:12. Yea, we also bear witness; and thou knowest that our witness is true.

John 15:11. That your joy may be fulfilled.

1 John 1:4. That our joy may be fulfilled.

2 John 1:12-13. Having many things to write unto you, I would not write them with paper and ink: but I hope to come unto you, and to speak face to face that your joy may be fulfilled. The children of thine elect sister salute thee.

3 John 1:13-14. I had many things to write unto thee, but I am unwilling to write them to thee with ink and pen: but I hope shortly to see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be unto thee. The friends salute thee. Salute the friends by name.

The brevity and comparative unimportance of the two letters is another point in favour of their Apostolicity. “Under such intimate personal relations forgery is out of the question” (Reuss). What motive could there be for attempting to pass such letters off as the work of an Apostle? Those were not days in which the excitement of duping the literary world would induce anyone to make the experiment. Some years ago the present writer was disposed to think the authorship of these two Epistles very doubtful. Further study has led him to believe that the balance of probability is very greatly in favour of their being the writings, and probably the last writings, of the Apostle S. John.Third Epistle

ii. The Person or Persons addressed

It seems to be impossible to determine with anything like certainty whether the Second Epistle is addressed to a community, i.e. a particular Church, or the Church at large, or to an individual, i.e. some lady personally known to the Apostle.

In favour of the former hypothesis it is argued as follows: “There is no individual reference to one person; on the contrary, the children ‘walk in truth’; mutual love is enjoined; there is an admonition, ‘look to yourselves’; and ‘the bringing of doctrine’ is mentioned. Besides, it is improbable that ‘the children of an elect sister’ would send a greeting by the writer to an ‘elect Kyria and her children.’ A sister Church might naturally salute another” (Davidson).

In favour of the latter hypothesis: “There is no sufficient reason for supposing that by ‘elect lady’ St John is personifying a particular Christian Church. He is writing to an actual individual … She was an elderly person, probably a widow, living with her grown-up children. When St John says that she was loved by ‘all them that knew the truth,’ he makes it plain that her name was at least well known in the Asiatic Churches, and that she was a person of real and high excellence. There were many such good women in the Apostolic age” (Liddon).

A very great deal will depend upon the translation of the opening words (ἐκλεκτῇ κυρίᾳ), which may mean: [1] To the elect lady: [2] To an elect lady; [3] To the elect Kyria; [4] To the lady Electa; [5] To Electa Kyria. The first two renderings leave the question respecting a community or an individual open: the last three close it in favour of an individual. But the fourth rendering, though supported by the Latin translation of some fragments of Clement of Alexandria (see p. xviii), is untenable on account of v. 13. It is incredible that there were two sisters each bearing the very unusual name of Electa. The name is possible (for Electus occurs as a man’s name, e.g. the chamberlain of Commodus), but it has not been found. The third rendering is more admissible, and S. Athanasius seems to have adopted it. The proper name Kyria occurs in ancient documents: Lücke quotes examples. Like Martha in Hebrew, it is the feminine of the common word for ‘Lord’; and some have conjectured that the letter is addressed to Martha of Bethany. But, had Kyria been a proper name, S. John would probably (though not necessarily) have written Κυρίᾳ τῇ ἐκλεκτῇ like Γαίῳ τῷ ἀγαπητῷ. Moreover, to insist on this third rendering is to assume as certain two things which are uncertain: [1] That the letter is addressed to an individual; [2] that the individual’s name was Kyria. These two objections apply to the fifth rendering also. Besides which, the combination of two uncommon names is improbable. We therefore fall back upon one of the first two renderings; and of the two the first seems preferable. The omission of the Greek definite article is quite intelligible, and may be compared with ΑΓΝΩΣΤΩ ΘΕΩ in Acts 17:23, which may quite correctly be rendered, ‘To the unknown God,’ in spite of the absence of the article in the original. “The delicate suppression of the individual name in a letter which might probably be read aloud in the Christian assembly is perfectly explicable” (Farrar).

That ‘the elect lady’ may be a figurative name for a Church, or for the Church, must at once be admitted: and perhaps we may go further and say that such a figure would not be unlikely in the case of a writer so fond of symbolism as S. John. But is a sustained allegory of this kind likely in the case of so slight a letter? Is not the form of the First Epistle against it! Is there any parallel case in the literature of the first three centuries? And if ‘the elect lady’ be the Church universal, as Jerome suggests, what possible meaning is to be found for the elect lady’s sister? The common sense canon, that where the literal meaning makes good sense the literal meaning is right, seems applicable here. No one doubts that the twin Epistle is addressed to an individual. In letters so similar it is scarcely probable that in the one case the person addressed is to be taken literally, while in the other the person addressed is to be taken as the allegorical representative of a Church. It seems more reasonable to suppose that in both Epistles, as in the Epistle to Philemon, we have precious specimens of the private correspondence of an Apostle. We are allowed to see how the beloved Disciple at the close of his life could write to a Christian lady and to a Christian gentleman respecting their personal conduct.

Adopting, therefore, the literal interpretation as not only tenable but probable, we must be content to remain in ignorance who ‘the elect lady’ is. That she is Mary the Mother of the Lord is not merely a gratuitous but an incredible conjecture. The Mother of the Lord, during S. John’s later years, would be from a hundred and twenty to a hundred and forty years old. But it is not impossible that ‘the elect lady’ may be one who helped, if not to fill the place of the Virgin Mother, at any rate “to brighten with human affection the later years of the aged Saint, who had thus outlived all his contemporaries.”

iii. Place, Date and Contents

We can do no more than frame probable hypotheses with regard to place and date. The Epistle itself gives us vague outlines; and these outlines are all that is certain. But it will give reality and life to the letter if we fill in these outlines with details which may be true, which are probably like the truth, and which though confessedly conjectural make the drift of the letter more intelligible.

The Apostle, towards the close of his life—for the letter presupposes both Gospel and First Epistle—has been engaged upon his usual work of supervision and direction among the Churches of Asia. In the course of it he has seen some children of the lady to whom the letter is addressed, and has found that they are living Christian lives, steadfast in the faith. But there are other members of her family of whom this cannot be said. And on his return to Ephesus the Apostle, in expressing his joy respecting the faithful children, conveys a warning respecting their less steadfast brothers. ‘Has their mother been as watchful as she might have been to keep them from pernicious influences? Her hospitality must be exercised with discretion; for her guests may contaminate her household. There is no real progress in advancing beyond the limits of Christian truth. There is no real charity in helping workers of evil to work successfully. On his next Apostolic journey he hopes to see her.’ Near the Apostle’s abode are some nephews of the lady addressed, but their mother, her sister, is dead, or is living elsewhere. These nephews send their greeting in his letter, and thus shew that they share his loving anxiety respecting the elect lady’s household. It was very possibly from them that he had heard that all was not well there.

The letter may be subdivided thus:

2 John 1:1-3. Address and Greeting.

2 John 1:4-11. Main Body of the Epistle.

1. Occasion of the Letter (2 John 1:4).

2. Exhortation to Love and Obedience (2 John 1:5-6).

3. Warnings against False Doctrine (2 John 1:7-9).

4. Warnings against False Charity (2 John 1:10-11).

2 John 1:12-13. Conclusion.



IN this we have another sample of the private correspondence of an Apostle. For beyond all question, whatever we may think of the Second Epistle, this letter is addressed to an individual. And it is not an official letter, like the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, but a private one, like that to Philemon. While the Second Epistle is mainly one of warning, the Third is one of encouragement. As in the former case, we are conscious of the writer’s authority in the tone of the letter; which, however, is friendly rather than official.

i. The Authorship of the Epistle

On this point very little need be added to what has been said respecting the authorship of the Second Epistle. The two Epistles are universally admitted to be by one and the same person. But it must be pointed out that, if the Second Epistle did not exist, the claims of the Third to be Apostolic would be more disputable. Neither the external nor the internal evidence is so strongly in its favour. It is neither quoted nor mentioned so early or so frequently as the Second. It is not nearly so closely akin to the First Epistle and the Gospel. It labours under the difficulty involved in the conduct of Diotrephes: for it must be admitted that “there is something astonishing in the notion that the prominent Christian Presbyter of an Asiatic Church should not only repudiate the authority of St John, and not only refuse to receive his travelling missionary, and prevent others from doing so, but should even excommunicate or try to excommunicate those who did so” (Farrar). Nevertheless, it is impossible to separate these two twin letters, and assign them to different authors. And, as has been seen already, the balance of evidence, both external and internal, strongly favours the Apostolicity of the Second; and this, notwithstanding the difficulty about Diotrephes, carries with it the Apostolicity of the Third. That difficulty only forces on us once more the conviction that the Church in the Apostolic age was not, any more than in our age, an untroubled community of saints. The ideal primitive Church, bright in the unbroken possession of truth and holiness, is unknown to the historian. The First and Second Epistles of St John tell us of gross corruptions in doctrine and practice. The Third tells of open rebellion against an Apostle’s commands.

ii. The Person addressed

The name Gaius was so common throughout the Roman Empire that to identify any person of this name with any other of the same name requires specially clear evidence. In N.T. there are probably at least three Christians who are thus called. 1. Gaius of Corinth, in whose house S. Paul was staying when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:23), who is probably the same as he whom S. Paul baptized (1 Corinthians 1:14). 2. Gaius of Macedonia, who was S. Paul’s travelling companion at the time of the uproar at Ephesus, and was seized by the mob (Acts 19:29). 3. Gaius of Derbe, who with Timothy and others left Greece before S. Paul and waited for him at Troas (Acts 20:4-5). But these three may be reduced to two, for 1 and 3 may possibly be the same person. It is possible, but nothing more, that the Gaius of our Epistle may be one of these. Origen says that the first of these three became Bishop of Thessalonica. The Apostolical Constitutions (John 7:46) mention a Gaius, Bishop of Pergamos, and the context implies that he was the first Bishop, or at least one of the earliest Bishops, of that city. Here again we can only say that he may be the Gaius of S. John. The Epistle leaves us in doubt whether Gaius is at this time a Presbyter or not. Apparently he is a well-to-do layman.

iii. Place, Date, and Contents

The place may with probability be supposed to be Ephesus: the letter has the tone of being written from head-quarters. Its strong resemblance, especially in its opening and conclusion, inclines us to believe that it was written about the same time as the Second Epistle, i.e. after the Gospel and First Epistle, and therefore towards the end of S. John’s life. The unwillingness to write a long letter which appears in both Epistles (3 John 1:12-13) would be natural in an old man to whom correspondence is a burden.

The contents speak for themselves. Gaius is commended for his hospitality, in which he resembles his namesake of Corinth (Romans 16:23); is warned against imitating the factious and intolerant Diotrephes; and in contrast to him is told of the excellence of Demetrius, who is perhaps the bearer of the letter. These two opposite characters are sketched “in a few words with the same masterly psychological skill which we see in the Gospel.” In his next Apostolic journey S. John hopes to visit him. Meanwhile he and ‘the friends’ with him send a salutation to Gaius and ‘the friends’ with him.

The Epistle may be thus analysed.

1. Address.

3 John 1:2-12. Main Body of the Epistle.

1. Personal Good Wishes and Sentiments (3 John 1:2-4).

2. Gaius commended for his Hospitality (3 John 1:5-8).

3. Diotrephes condemned for his Hostility (3 John 1:9-10).

4. The Moral (3 John 1:11-12).

3 John 1:13-14. Conclusion.

“The Second and Third Epistles of S. John occupy their own place in the sacred Canon, and contribute their own peculiar element to the stock of Christian truth and practice. They lead us from the region of miracle and prophecy, out of an atmosphere charged with the supernatural, to the more average every-day life of Christendom, with its regular paths and unexciting air. There is no hint in these short notes of extraordinary charismata. The tone of their Christianity is deep, earnest, severe, devout, but has the quiet of the Christian Church and home very much as at present constituted. The religion which pervades them is simple, unexaggerated, and practical. The writer is grave and reserved. Evidently in the possession of the fulness of the Christian faith, he is content to rest upon it with a calm consciousness of strength.… By the conception of the Incarnate Lord, the Creator and Light of all men, and of the universality of Redemption, which the Gospel and the First Epistle did so much to bring home to all who received Christ, germs were deposited in the soil of Christianity which necessarily grew from an abstract idea into the great reality of the Catholic Church. In these two short occasional letters S. John provided two safeguards for that great institution. Heresy and schism are the dangers to which it is perpetually exposed. S. John’s condemnation of the spirit of heresy is recorded in the Second Epistle; his condemnation of the spirit of schism is written in the Third Epistle. Every age of Christendom up to the present has rather exaggerated than dwarfed the significance of this condemnation” (Bishop Alexander).



i. The Greek Text

OUR authorities for determining the Greek which S. John wrote, though far less numerous than in the case of the Gospel, are various and abundant. They consist of Greek MSS., Ancient Versions, and quotations from the Epistles in Christian writers of the second, third and fourth centuries. The Apostolic autographs were evidently lost at a very early date. Irenaeus, in arguing as to the true reading of the mystical number in Revelation 13:18, cannot appeal to S. John’s own MS., which would have been decisive (Haer. V. xxx. 1); and Origen knew no older copy of S. John’s Gospel than that of Heracleon. Papyrus is very perishable, and this was the material commonly employed (2 John 1:12 : comp. 2 Timothy 4:13).

It will be worth while to specify a few of the principal MSS. and Versions which contain these Epistles or portions of them.

Greek Manuscripts

Primary Uncials

CODEX SINAITICUS ([20]). 4th century. Discovered by Tischendorf in 1859 at the monastery of S. Catherine on Mount Sinai, and now at Petersburg. All three Epistles.

CODEX ALEXANDRINUS (A). 5th century. Brought by Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Constantinople, from Alexandria, and afterwards presented by him to Charles I. in 1628. In the British Museum. All three Epistles.

CODEX VATICANUS (B). 4th century. Brought to Rome about 1460. It is entered in the earliest catalogue of the Vatican Library, 1475. All three Epistles.

CODEX EPHRAEMI (C). 5th century. A palimpsest: the original writing has been partially rubbed out and the works of Ephraem the Syrian have been written over it. In the National Library at Paris. Part of the First and Third Epistles; 1 John 1:1 to 1 John 4:2; 3 John 1:3-14. Of the whole N.T. the only Books entirely missing are 2 John and 2 Thessalonians.

The fifth great Uncial, Codex Bezae (D), has lost the leaves in which all three Epistles were undoubtedly contained. Only the servile Latin translation of 3 John 1:11-14 remains.

Secondary Uncials

CODEX MOSQUENSIS (K). 9th century. All three Epistles.

CODEX ANGELICUS (L). 9th century. All three Epistles.

CODEX PORPHYRIANUS (P). 9th century. A palimpsest. All three Epistles excepting 1 John 3:19 to 1 John 5:1. There is a facsimile of a portion in Hammond’s Outlines of Textual Criticism showing the late leaning uncial letters of the 9th century (Acts 4:10-15), with cursives of the 13th (Hebrews 7:17-25) written over them.

Besides these four primary and three secondary Uncial MSS., more than two hundred Cursives contain the Epistles. These range from the 10th to the 15th centuries, and are of every degree of value, from the excellent Codex Colbert (13, or 33 in the Gospels) of the 11th century, and Codex Leicestrensis (31, or 69 in the Gospels) of the 14th century, to the worthless Codex Montfortianus (34, or 61 in the Gospels), of the 15th or 16th century, famous as the “Codex Britannicus” which induced Erasmus, in consequence of his unfortunate promise to yield to the evidence of a single Greek Codex, to insert the spurious text about the Heavenly Witnesses into his third edition (A.D. 1522).

But it cannot be too carefully remembered that the date of a document is a very different thing from the date of the text which it contains. Obviously the text must be at least as old as the document which contains it. But it may be centuries older, or it may be only a few years older. Comparison with readings in the Fathers of the second, third, and fourth centuries proves that while Codex [21] and Codex [22] are of the fourth century, yet they represent a text which can be traced to the second, whereas Codex [23], which is of the fifth century, represents a text which is no older than the fourth, at any rate as regards the Gospels. The scribe of [24] had evidently purer texts to copy when he transcribed the Epistles. We might arrange these witnesses roughly as follows.

Ancient Versions

VULGATE SYRIAC. (Peschito = ‘simple’ meaning perhaps ‘faithful’). 3rd century. The First Epistle.

PHILOXENIAN SYRIAO. “Probably the most servile version of Scripture ever made.” 6th century. All three Epistles.

OLD LATIN. 2nd century. Nearly the whole of an Old Latin text of 1 John 1:1 to 1 John 5:3 can be constructed from Augustine’s Homilies on the Epistle: but Augustine’s text is of a mixed character, somewhat remote from the original. Another Old Latin text of 1 John 3:8 to 1 John 5:21 exists in a Munich MS. of the 7th century (Scrivener, 339, 346). See W. and H. small ed., 1885, p. 571.

VULGATE LATIN (mainly the Old Latin revised by Jerome, A.D. 383–385). All three Epistles.

THEBAIC or SAHIDIC (Egyptian). 3rd century. All three Epistles.

MEMPHITIC or BAHIRIC (Egyptian, but independent of the Thebaic). Most of it 3rd century. All three Epistles.

ARMENIAN. 5th century. All three Epistles.

AETHIOPIC. 4th or 5th century. All three Epistles.

To these Greek MSS. and ancient Versions must be added the evidence of the Fathers who comment upon or quote these Epistles. The Greek commentaries of Clement of Alexandria, of Didymus, and of Diodorus of Tarsus, are unhappily lost: but portions of the two former survive in translations. Considerable quotations, however, especially from the First Epistle, exist in various Greek and Latin writers from the second to the fourth centuries. Quotations by writers later than the fourth century are of little value. By that time the corruption of the text was complete. The Diocletian persecution had caused the destruction of most of the ancient MSS., and a composite text, formed with very imperfect knowledge, and emanating mainly from Constantinople, gradually took their place.

In examining the text of S. John’s Epistles, which is more free from corruption than perhaps that of any other book in N.T., the great excellence of the text found in [29] is again conspicuous[30]. There are very few cases in which it gives an unquestionably corrupt reading. And this is the test of excellence in a witness:—To what extent does it give evidence which is obviously false? Tried by this test [31] stands easily first, and [32] second, though considerably behind [33]. Codex [34], though inferior to the other two, is found to give a purer text here than in the Gospels. A few of the indefensible readings in each of these three great authorities are worth noting.

1 John 1:2. ὃ ἑοράκαμεν for ἑωράκαμεν.

1 John 2:14. τὸ ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς for τὸν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς.

1 John 2:27. χάρισμα for χρῖσμα.

3 John 1:9. ἔγραψας for ἔγραψα.

1 John 2:4. ἡ ἀλήθεια τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν for ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν.

1 John 2:9. ψεύστης ἐστὶν καὶ ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ ἐστίν for ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ ἐστίν.

1 John 3:5. οἴδαμεν for οἴδατε.

1 John 3:14. μεταβέβηκεν for μεταβεβήκαμεν.

1 John 3:21. ἀδελφοί for ἀγαπητοί.

1 John 4:10. ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ for ἡ ἁγάπη.

1 John 4:17. μεθʼ ἡμῶν ἐν ἡμῖν for μεθʼ ἡμῶν.

ἔχομεν for ἔχωμεν.

τῇ ἀγάπῃ τῆς κρίσεως for τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως.

ἐσόμεθα for ἐσμέν.

2 John 1:4. ἔλαβον for ἐλάβομεν.

3 John 1:8. τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ for τῇ ἀληθείᾳ.

1 John 1:6. ἐὰν γὰρ εἴπωμεν for ἐὰν εἴπωμεν.

1 John 2:8. ἡ σκιά for ἡ σκοτία.

1 John 2:27. τὸ αὐτὸ χρῖσμα for τὸ αὐτοῦ χρῖσμα.

καθὼς ἐδίδαξεν for καὶ καθὼς ἐδίδαξεν.

1 John 4:7. ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὸν Θεόν for ὁ ἀγαπῶν.

1 John 4:8. οὐ γινώσκει for οὐκ ἔγνω.

1 John 4:10. ἐκεῖνος for αὐτός.

1 John 5:6. πνεύματι for αἴματι.

1 John 5:14. ὄνομα for θέλημα.

2 John 1:3. omits ἔσται μεθʼ ἡμῶν.

In a good many of its peculiar readings [40] is supported by the Vulgate. This fact is significant. “By a curious and apparently unnoticed coincidence the text of [41] in several books agrees with the Latin Vulgate in so many peculiar readings devoid of Old Latin attestation, as to leave little doubt that a Greek MS. largely employed by Jerome in his revision of the Latin Version must have had to a great extent a common original with [42]. Apart from this individual affinity, A both in the Gospels and elsewhere may serve as a fair example of MSS. that, to judge by patristic quotations, were commonest in the fourth century” (Westcott and Hort, II. 152).

1 John 4:19. ἡμεῖς οὖν ἀγαπῶμεν τὸν Θεόν, ὅτι ὁ Θεός for ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν, ὅτι αὐτός.

1 John 4:21. ἔχομεν ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ for ἔχομεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ.

1 John 5:10. τὴν μαρτυρίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ for τὴν μαρτυρίαν.

τῷ υἱῷ for τῷ Θεῷ.

1 John 5:20. τὸν ἀληθινὸν Θεόν for τὸν ἀληθινόν.

omits Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ.

2 John 1:9. τὸν υἱὸν καὶ τὸν πατέρα for τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὸν υἱόν.

In Westcott’s Epistles of St John much more complete lists are given; and from them nearly all of these instances have been taken. But these suffice as examples. In all of them the balance of evidence is conclusive against the rejected reading; and in most cases it is much easier to understand how the reading of [44] became corrupted into that of [45], or of [46], or of [47], than the converse process would be. That reading is most likely to be original which best explains the origin of the other readings.

The superiority of [48] may be exhibited in another way from the text of these Epistles. As we have seen, [49] is occasionally in error when it stands alone among the primary authorities. It is very rarely in error when it is united with any one of them. It would be difficult to find a reading supported by [50][51], or [52][53], or [54][55], or even [56][57], or [58] with any Version, which is certainly false. In the following instances the original text seems to have been preserved by [59] and some one other authority: 1 John 2:14; 1 John 2:20 ([60], Thebaic); 3:21 ([61][62], [63][64]); 4:12 ([65][66]); 4:15 ([67], Armenian); 5:13 ([68][69]). The other three Uncials not unfrequently go wrong in pairs, and sometimes all three of them go wrong together: e.g. 1 John 3:21; 1 John 5:6; 2 John 1:6; 2 John 1:12 ([70][71]):—1:9; 2:6; 3:5, 11, 13, 19, 21 ([72][73]):—1:4; 2:15; 3:7, 10 ([74][75]):—2:5 and possibly 2:10; 2:29; 3:23 ([76][77][78]). Various instances have been given above in which [79] and the Vulgate are both at fault. In the following passages [80] is in error in company with one or more Versions: 2:4, 9, 24, 26, 27; 3:18, 24; 4:3, 19; 3 John 1:3. And almost as often (making allowance for what is missing) [81] goes wrong with the support of one or more Versions:—1:5; 3 John 1:4; 3 John 1:6; 3 John 1:10; 3 John 1:12.

[48] 4th century. Brought to Rome about 1460. It is entered in the earliest catalogue of the Vatican Library, 1475. All three Epistles.

In the two instances of conflate readings which these Epistles supply, [82][83] are among those authorities which preserve the original text.

1 John 2:15. ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ πατρός ([84][85], and Versions).

ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ ([86][87]).

ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ πατρός.

3 John 1:12. ὑπὸ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀληθείας ([88][89] and Versions).

Only one case of omission through homoeoteleuton occurs in [92], and there the omitted words are inserted in the margin, perhaps by the original scribe.

1 John 4:21. [τὸν Θεὸν ἀγαπᾷ καὶ] τὸν κ.τ.λ. ([93]1[94]1).

Other instances of homoeoteleuton are

1 John 4:6. ἀκούει ἡμῶν ̇ [ὃς οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐκ ἀκούει ἡμῶν.] ἐκ or ἐν κ.τ.λ. ([96][97]).

One important omission through homoeoteleuton has found its way into the Textus Receptus and thence into A.V., where the translation of the omitted words is in italics, implying that the passage is wanting in the original. The italics come from the Great Bible of 1539. But the passage is in all the primary Uncials and Versions.

1 John 2:23. τὸν πατέρα ἔχει [ὁ ὁμολογῶν τὸν υἱὸν καὶ τὸν πατέρα ἔχει.] ὑμεῖς κ.τ.λ. ([102][103])

Thus out of seven cases of omission through homoeoteleuton only one is found in [104], while [105] and [106] each admit four. And though frequent cases of omission through this cause prove nothing as to the purity of the text, they do prove something as to the accuracy of the scribe. The scribe of [107] was evidently a more careful worker than the scribes of [108] and [109].

Whatever reasonable test we select, the preeminence of [110] as an authority becomes conspicuous: but the superiority of [111] to [112] is not nearly so apparent as in the Gospels, where the scribe of [113] must have used inferior copies. The absence of [114] in so much of the First Epistle (4:2 to the end) and the whole of the Second makes comparison less easy: but “the peculiar readings of [115] have no appearance of genuineness” (Westcott).

From the notes on the text at the head of the notes on each chapter the student may collect many more instances, all tending to show that where the Textus Receptus needs revision [1] [116] is almost always among the authorities which preserve the original reading, and that [2] the combination [117][118] is practically conclusive—at any rate in these Epistles: e.g. 1 John 5:13. The apparatus criticus in Alford will supply facts for still further inductions. Any analysis of the evidence supplied there will lead to the conclusion that [119] is a preeminently trustworthy witness.

In conclusion it may be worth while to repeat a caution already given in the volume on S. John’s Gospel. The sight of a large collection of various readings is apt to produce a very erroneous impression. It may lead to very exaggerated ideas as to the amount of uncertainty which exists with regard to the Greek text of N.T. “If comparative trivialities, such as changes of order, the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, and the like, are set aside, the words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than A THOUSANDTH PART of the N.T.” (Westcott and Hort, The N.T. in Greek, Macmillan, 1881, I. p. 561). Every student of the Greek Testament who can afford the time should study the work just quoted. Those who cannot, should at least read the Appendix to the small edition in one volume, Macmillan, 1885. Schaff’s Companion to the Greek Testament and the English Versions, Harper, New York, 1883, will by many readers be found more useful than the larger edition of Westcott and Hort. Hammond’s Outlines of Textual Criticism, Clarendon Press, is a clear, interesting and inexpensive manual. Scrivener’s Introduction to the Criticism of N.T. contains an immense store of information not easily accessible elsewhere. The latest edition [1883] is somewhat disappointing in being not quite up to date in its statement of facts: and the conclusions drawn from the facts are in some cases to be accepted with caution.

ii. The English Versions

The earliest translation of the N.T. into English of which we have any knowledge is the translation of the Gospel of S. John made by the VENERABLE BEDE, in completing which he died (A.D. 735). It must have been almost the earliest piece of prose literature written in the English language. Unfortunately it has long since disappeared; and two or more centuries elapsed before anything of the same kind which has come down to us was attempted[120]. WICLIF began his work of translating the Scriptures into the vulgar tongue with parts of the Apocalypse. So that for a second time in history S. John was the first N.T. writer made known to the English people. In the Last Age of the Church (A.D. 1356) there is a translation and explanation of the portion of the Revelation which Wiclif believed to be applicable to his own age. Whether Wiclif completed his translation of the Apocalypse at this time or not seems to be uncertain. A version of the Gospels with a commentary was given next; and then the rest of the N.T. A complete N.T. in English was finished about 1380. This, therefore, we may take as the date at which our Epistle first appeared in the English language. While the O. T. of Wiclif’s Bible was by various hands, the N.T. seems to have been mainly, if not entirely, the work of Wiclif himself. The whole was revised by JOHN PURVEY about 1388. Specimens of both will be found in Appendix H.

But these early English Versions, made from a late and corrupt text of the Latin Vulgate, exercised little or no influence on the later Versions of Tyndale and others, which were made from late and corrupt Greek texts. TYNDALE translated direct from the Greek, checking himself by the Vulgate, the Latin of Erasmus, and the German of Luther. Dr Westcott in his most valuable work on the History of the English Bible, from which the material for this section has been largely taken, often takes the First Epistle of S. John as an illustration of the variations between different versions and editions. The present writer gratefully borrows his statements. Tyndale published his first edition in 1525, his second in 1534, and his third in 1535; each time, especially in 1534 making many alterations and corrections. “Of the thirty-one changes which I have noticed in the later [1534] version of 1 John, about a third are closer approximations to the Greek: rather more are variations in connecting particles or the like designed to bring out the argument of the original more clearly; three new readings are adopted; and in one passage it appears that Luther’s rendering has been substituted for an awkward paraphrase. Yet it must be remarked that even in this revision the changes are far more frequently at variance with Luther’s renderings than in accordance with them” (p. 185). “In his Preface to the edition of 1534, Tyndale had expressed his readiness to revise his work and adopt any changes in it which might be shewn to be improvements. The edition of 1535, however enigmatic it may be in other respects, is a proof of his sincerity. The text of this exhibits a true revision and differs from that of 1534, though considerably less than the text of 1534 from that of 1525. In 1 John I have noted sixteen variations from the text of 1534 as against thirty-two (thirty-one?) in that of 1534 from the original text” (p. 190). But for the ordinary student the differences between the three editions of Tyndale are less interesting than the differences between Tyndale and the A.V. How much we owe to him appears from the fact that “about nine-tenths of the A.V. of the first Epistle of S. John are retained from Tyndale” (p. 211). Tyndale places the three Epistles of S. John between those of S. Peter and that to the Hebrews, S. James being placed between Hebrews and S. Jude. This is the order of Luther’s translation, of Coverdale’s Bible [1535], of Matthew’s Bible [1537], and also of Taverner’s [1539].

The GREAT BIBLE, which exists in three typical editions (Cromwell’s, April, 1539; Cranmer’s, April, 1540; Tunstall’s and Heath’s, Nov. 1540) is in the N.T. “based upon a careful use of the Vulgate and of Erasmus’ Latin Version. An analysis of the variations in the first Epistle of S. John may furnish a type of its general character. As nearly as I can reckon there are seventy-one differences between Tyndale’s text [1534] and that of the Great Bible: of these forty-three come directly from Coverdale’s earlier revision (and in a great measure indirectly from the Latin): seventeen from the Vulgate where Coverdale before had not followed it: the remaining eleven variations are from other sources. Some of the new readings from the Vulgate are important, as for example the additions in 1:4, ‘that ye may rejoice and that your joy may be full.’ 2:23, ‘he that knowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.’ 3:1, ‘that we should be called and be indeed the sons of God.’ 5:9, ‘this is the witness of God that is greater.’ All these editions (like 5:7) are marked distinctly as Latin readings: of the renderings adopted from Coverdale one is very important and holds its place in our present version. 3:24, ‘Hereby we know that he abideth in us, even by the Spirit which he hath given us,’ for which Tyndale reads: ‘thereby we know that there abideth in us of the Spirit which he gave us.’ One strange blunder also is corrected; ‘that old commandment which ye heard’ (as it was in the earlier text) is replaced by the true reading: ‘that old commandment which ye have had’ (2:7). No one of the new renderings is of any moment” (pp. 257, 258).

The revision made by TAVERNER, though superficial as regards the O. T., has important alterations in the N.T. He shews an improved appreciation of the Greek article. “Two consecutive verses of the first Epistle of S. John furnish good examples of his endeavour to find English equivalents for the terms before him. All the other versions adopt the Latin ‘advocate’ in 1 John 2:1, for which Taverner substitutes the Saxon ‘spokesman.’ Tyndale, followed by Coverdale, the Great Bible, &c. strives after an adequate rendering of ἱλασμός (1 John 2:2) in the awkward periphrasis ‘he it is that obtaineth grace for our sins: Taverner boldly coins a word which if insufficient is yet worthy of notice: ‘he is a mercystock for our sins’ ” (p. 271).

The history of the GENEVA N.T. “is little more than the record of the application of Beza’s translation and commentary to Tyndale’s Testament.… An analysis of the changes in one short Epistle will render this plain. Thus according to as accurate a calculation as I can make more than two-thirds of the new renderings in 1 John introduced into the revision of 1560 are derived from Beza, and two-thirds of these then for the first time. The rest are due to the revisers themselves, and of these only two are found in the revision of 1557” (pp. 287, 288).

The RHEMISH BIBLE, like Wiclif’s, is a translation of a translation, being based upon the Vulgate. It furnished the revisers of 1611 with a great many of the words of Latin origin which they employ. It is “simply the ordinary, and not pure, Latin text of Jerome in an English dress. Its merits, and they are considerable, lie in its vocabulary. The style, so far as it has a style, is unnatural, the phrasing is most unrhythmical, but the language is enriched by the bold reduction of innumerable Latin words to English service” (p. 328). Dr Westcott gives no examples from these Epistles, but the following may serve as such.

In a few instances the Rhemish has given to the A.V. a word not previously used in English Versions. ‘And he is the propitiation for our sins’ (2:2). ‘And sent his son a propitiation for our sins’ (4:10). ‘These things have I written to you concerning them that seduce you’ (2:26).

In some cases the Rhemish is superior to the A.V. ‘Every one that committeth sin, committeth also iniquity: and sin is iniquity’ (3:4). The following also are worthy of notice. ‘We seduce ourselves’ (1:8). ‘Let no man seduce you’ (2:6). ‘Because many seducers are gone out into the world’ (2 John 1:7).

But we may be thankful that King James’s revisers did not adopt such renderings as these. ‘That you also may have society with us, and our society may be with the Father and with his Son’ (1:3). ‘And this is the annuntiation’ (1:5, 3:11). ‘That he might dissolve the works of the devil’ (3:8). ‘The generation of God preserveth him’ (5:18). ‘The Senior to the lady elect’ (2 John 1:1). ‘The Senior to Gaius the dearest’ (3 John 1:1). ‘Greater thanke have I not of them’ (3 John 1:4). ‘That we may be coadjutors of the truth’ (3 John 1:8) [121].

This is not the place to discuss the REVISED VERSION of 1881. When it appeared the present writer had the satisfaction of finding that a very large proportion of the alterations which he had suggested in notes on S. John’s Gospel in 1880 were sanctioned by alterations actually made by the Revisers. In the notes on these Epistles it will be found that in a large number of cases he has followed the R.V., of the merits of which he has a high opinion. Those merits seem to consist not so much in skilful and happy treatment of very difficult passages as in careful correction of an enormous number of small errors and inaccuracies. Of the Revisers, even their most severe and most unreasonable critic has said, “that their work bears mark of conscientious labour which those only can fully appreciate who have made the same province of study to some extent their own.” The late Dr Routh of Magdalen College, Oxford, when asked what he considered to be the best commentary on the N.T., is said to have replied, ‘The Vulgate.’ If by that he meant that in the Vulgate we have a faithful translation made from a good Greek text, we may say in a similar spirit that the best commentary on the N.T. is now the Revised Version. The A.V. is a sufficiently faithful translation of a corrupt Greek text. The R.V. is a very faithful translation of an excellent Greek text. It is in the latter particular that its great value lies. The corrections made through revision of the Greek are far more important than the corrections made through revision of the renderings. Tastes may continue to differ respecting the Revisers’ merits as translators. Scientific criticism will in the large majority of cases confirm their decisions as to the Greek to be translated. The rules laid down for determining the text in the Cambridge Greek Testament have resulted in producing a text very similar to that of the Revisers. Out of about seventy-three corrections made by them in these Epistles all but four or five are adopted in this edition: and in these four or five cases and a few more the reading must remain a little doubtful[122].



Although not so voluminous as that of the Gospel of S. John, the literature of the Epistles is nevertheless very abundant. It would be simply confusing to give anything approaching to an exhaustive list of the numerous works on the subject. All that will be attempted here will be to give the more advanced student some information as to where he may look for greater help than can be given in a handbook for the use of schools.

Of ancient commentaries not a very great deal remains. In his Outlines (Ὑποτυπώσεις) CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (c. A.D. 200) commented on detached verses of the First and Second Epistles, and of these comments a valuable fragment in a Latin translation is extant. DIDYMUS, who was placed by S. Athanasius in the catechetical chair of Clement at Alexandria a century and a half later (c. A.D. 360), commented on all the Catholic Epistles; and his notes as translated by Epiphanius Scholasticus survive, together with some fragments of the Greek original. Specimens of each are given by Lücke. “The chief features of his remarks on S. John’s three Epistles are [1] the earnestness against Docetism, Valentinianism, all speculations injurious to the Maker of the world, [2] the assertion that a true knowledge of God is possible without a knowledge of His essence, [3] care to urge the necessity of combining orthodoxy with right action” (W. Bright). The commentary of DIODORUS OF TARSUS (c. A.D. 380) on the First Epistle is lost. S. CHRYSOSTOM is said to have commented on the whole of the N.T., and Oecumenius and Theophylact appeal to him in discussing the Catholic Epistles. But his commentary exists no longer. We have ten Homilies by S. AUGUSTINE on the First Epistle; but the series ends abruptly in the tenth Homily at 1 John 5:3. They are translated in the Library of the Fathers, vol. 29, Oxford 1849. In our own country the earliest commentary is that of the VENERABLE BEDE (c. A.D. 720), written in Latin. Like S. Augustine’s, it is doctrinal and hortatory: quotations from both will be found in the notes. It is possible that we have the substance of Augustine’s commentary on 1 John 5:3-21 in Bede, who elsewhere sometimes adopts Augustine verbatim. If so, we have further evidence that Augustine knew nothing of the spurious passage 1 John 5:7, for Bede omits it. Bede’s notes on the Second and Third Epistles are very slight and are perhaps wholly his own. In the tenth and eleventh centuries we have the Greek commentaries of OECUMENIUS and THEOPHYLACT. The former is highly praised by Lücke, who quotes a good deal of it.

Of the reformers, Beza, Bullinger, Calvin, Erasmus, Luther, and Zwingli have all left commentaries on one or more of these Epistles. Besides these we have the frequently quoted works of Grotius (c. A.D. 1550), of his critic Calovius (c. A.D. 1650), and of Bengel (c. A.D. 1750). Bengel’s Gnomon N.T. has been translated into English; but those who can read Latin will prefer the epigrammatic terseness of the original.

Among original English commentaries those of Bishop Alexander (in the Speaker’s Commentary), Alford, Blunt, Jelf, Pope (in Schaff’s Commentary), Sinclair (in Bishop Ellicott’s Commentary), and of Bishop Chr. Wordsworth are easily accessible. But superior to all these is that of Canon Westcott, Macmillan, 1883.

Neander’s work on the First Epistle has been translated by Mrs Conant, New York, 1853. The commentaries of Braune, Ebrard, Haupt, Huther, and Lücke have been published in an English form by T. and T. Clark, Edinburgh. Of these that of Haupt on the First Epistle may be specially commended.

Among untranslated foreign commentaries may be mentioned those of Düsterdieck, 1852; Rothe, 1879; C. A. Wolf, 1881: Erdmann, 1855; Luthardt, 1860; Stockmeyer, 1873. The last three are chiefly concerned with the structure of the First Epistle.

Other works which give valuable assistance are Cox’s Private Letters of S. Paul and S. John, F. W. Farrar’s Early Days of Christianity, several of Liddon’s Easter Sermons, Macdonald’s Life and Writings of S. John with Introduction by Dean Howson, F. D. Maurice’s Epistles of S. John, Schaff’s History of the Church vols. I. and II. [1883], Stanley’s Sermons and Essays on the Apostolic Age, with various articles in the Dictionary of Christian Biography edited by Smith and Wace, in the Religious Encyclopaedia edited by Schaff, and in the Real-Encyklopädie edited by Herzog, Plitt, and Hauck.

The references to Winer’s Grammar of N.T. Greek in this volume are from the second English edition by Moulton: those to Cremer’s Lexicon of N.T. Greek are from the English edition by Urwick. The latter volume has by no means superseded the similar work by Archbishop Trench, The Synonyms of the N.T., the references to which are from the edition of 1865.

The present writer desires to express his obligations, which in some cases are very great, to many of the works mentioned above, as well as to others. Almost all that can be said with truth about S. John’s writings has already been said, and well said, by some one. The most that a new commentator can hope to do is to collect together what seems to him to be best in other writers, to think it out afresh, and recoin it for his own and others’ use. What might have remained unknown, or unintelligible, or unattractive to many, if left in the original author and language, may possibly become better known and more intelligible when reduced to a smaller compass and placed in a new light and in new surroundings. Be this as it may, the writer who undertakes, even with all the helps available, to interpret S. John to others, must know that he incurs serious responsibility. He will not be anxious to be original. He will not be eager to insist upon views which have found no favour among previous workers in the same field. He will not regret that his conclusions should be questioned and his mistakes exposed. He will be content that a dirge should be sung over the results of his own work, if only what is true may prevail.

αἴλινον αἴλινον εἰπὲ, τὸ δʼ εὖ νικάτω.



The three forms of evil ‘in the world’ mentioned in 1 John 2:16 have been taken as a summary of sin, if not in all its aspects, at least in its chief aspects. ‘The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the vainglory of life’ have seemed from very early times to form a synopsis of the various modes of temptation and sin. And certainly they cover so wide a field that we cannot well suppose that they are mere examples of evil more or less fortuitously mentioned. They appear to have been carefully chosen on account of their typical nature and wide comprehensiveness.

There is, however, a wide difference between the views stated at the beginning and end of the preceding paragraph. It is one thing to say that we have here a very comprehensive statement of three typical forms of evil; quite another to say that the statement is a summary of all the various kinds of temptation and sin.

To begin with, we must bear in mind what seems to be S. John’s purpose in this statement. He is not giving us an account of the different ways in which Christians are tempted, or (what is much the same) the different sins into which they may fall. Rather, he is stating the principal forms of evil which are exhibited ‘in the world,’ i.e. in those who are not Christians. He is insisting upon the evil origin of these desires and tendencies, and of the world in which they exist, in order that his readers may know that the world and its ways have no claim on their affections. All that is of God, and especially each child of God, has a claim on the love of every believer. All that is not of God has no such claim.

It is difficult to maintain, without making some of the three heads unnaturally elastic, that all kinds of sin, or even all of the principal kinds of sin, are included in the list. Under which of the three heads are we to place unbelief, heresy, blasphemy, or persistent impenitence? Injustice in many of its forms, and especially in the most extreme form of all—murder, cannot without some violence be brought within the sweep of these three classes of evil.

Two positions, therefore, may be insisted upon with regard to this classification.

1. It applies to forms of evil which prevail in the non-Christian world rather than to forms of temptation which beset Christians.

2. It is very comprehensive, but it is not exhaustive.

It seems well, however, to quote a powerful statement of what may be said on the other side. The italics are ours, to mark where there seems to be over-statement. “I think these distinctions, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, prove themselves to be very accurate and very complete distinctions in practice, though an ordinary philosopher may perhaps adopt some other classification of those tendencies which connect us with the world and give it a dominion over us. To the lust of the flesh may be referred the crimes and miseries which have been produced by gluttony, drunkenness, and the irregular intercourse of the sexes; an appalling catalogue, certainly, which no mortal eye could dare to gaze upon. To the lust of the eye may be referred all worship of visible things, with the divisions, persecutions, hatreds, superstitions, which this worship has produced in different countries and ages. To the pride or boasting of life,—where you are not to understand by life, for the Greek words are entirely different, either natural or spiritual life, such as the Apostle spoke of in the first chapter of the Epistle, but all that belongs to the outside of existence, houses, lands, whatever exalts a man above his fellow,—to this head we must refer the oppressor’s wrongs, and that contumely which Hamlet reckons among the things which are harder to bear even than the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.’ In these three divisions I suspect all the mischiefs which have befallen our race may be reckoned, and each of us is taught by the Apostle, and may know by experience, that the seeds of the evils so enumerated are in himself” (Maurice).

Do we not feel in reading this that S. John’s words have been somewhat strained in order to make them cover the whole ground? One sin produces so many others in its train, and these again so many more, that there will not be much difficulty in making the classification exhaustive, if under each head we are to include all the crimes and miseries, divisions and hatreds, which that particular form of evil has produced.

Some of the parallels and contrasts which have from early times been made to the Apostle’s classification are striking, even when somewhat fanciful. Others are both fanciful and unreal.

The three forms of evil noticed by S. John in this passage are only partially parallel to those which are commonly represented under the three heads of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Strictly speaking those particular forms of spiritual evil which would come under the head of the devil, as distinct from the world and the flesh, are not included in the Apostle’s enumeration at all. ‘The vainglory of life’ would come under the head of the world; ‘the lust of the flesh’ of course under that of ‘the flesh’; while ‘the lust of the eyes’ would belong partly to the one and partly to the other.

There is more reality in the parallel drawn between S. John’s classification and the three elements in the temptation by which Eve was overcome by the evil one, and again the three temptations in which Christ overcame the evil one. ‘When the woman saw that the tree was good for food (the lust of the flesh), and that it was pleasant to the eyes (the lust of the eyes), and a tree to be desired to make one wise (the vainglory of life), she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat’ (Genesis 3:6). Similarly, the temptations [1] to work a miracle in order to satisfy the cravings of the flesh, [2] to submit to Satan in order to win possession of all that the eye could see, [3] to tempt God in order to win the glory of a miraculous preservation (Luke 4:1-12).

Again, there is point in the contrast drawn between these three forms of evil ‘in the world’ and the three great virtues which have been the peculiar creation of the Gospel (Liddon, Bampton Lectures VIII. iii. B), purity, charity, and humility, with the three corresponding ‘counsels of perfection,’ chastity, poverty, and obedience.

But in all these cases, whether of parallel or contrast, it will probably be felt that the correspondence is not perfect throughout, and that the comparison, though striking, is not quite satisfying, because not quite exact.

It is surely both fanciful and misleading to see in this trinity of evil any contrast to the three Divine Persons in the Godhead. Is there any sense in which we can say with truth that a lust, whether of the flesh or of the eyes, is more opposed to the attributes of the Father than to the attributes of the Son? Forced analogies in any sphere are productive of fallacies; in the sphere of religious truth they may easily become profane.


In the notes on 1 John 2:18 it has been pointed out that the term ‘Antichrist’ is in N.T. peculiar to the Epistles of S. John (1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7), and that in meaning it seems to combine the ideas of a mock Christ and an opponent of Christ, but that the latter idea is the prominent one. The false claims of a rival Christ are more or less included in the signification; but the predominant notion is that of hostility. The origin of the word is obscure; but S. John uses it as a term well known to his readers. In this respect the use of ὁ ἀντίχριστος is parallel to that of ὁ λόγος.

It remains to say something on two other points of interest. I. Is the Antichrist of S. John a person or a tendency, an individual man or a principle? II. Is the Antichrist of S. John identical with the great adversary spoken of by S. Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2? The answer to the one question will to a certain extent depend upon the answer to the other.

I. It will be observed that S. John introduces the term ‘Antichrist,’ as he introduces the term ‘Logos’ (1 John 1:1; John 1:1), without any explanation. He expressly states that it is one with which his readers are familiar; ‘even as ye heard that Antichrist cometh.’ Certainly this, the first introduction of the name, looks like an allusion to a person. All the more so when we remember that the Christ was ‘He that cometh’ (Matthew 11:3; Luke 19:38). Both Christ and Antichrist had been the subject of prophecy, and therefore each might be spoken of as ‘He that cometh.’ But it is by no means conclusive. We may understand ‘Antichrist’ to mean an impersonal power, or principle, or tendency, exhibiting itself in the words and conduct of individuals, without doing violence to the passage. In the one case the ‘many antichrists’ will be fore-runners of the great personal opponent; in the other the antichristian spirit which they exhibit may be regarded as Antichrist. But the balance of probability seems to be in favour of the view that the Antichrist, of which S. John’s readers had heard as certain to come shortly before the end of the world, is a person.

Such is not the case with the other three passages in which the term occurs. ‘Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, even he that denieth the Father and the Son’ (1 John 2:22). There were many who denied that Jesus is the Christ and thereby denied not only the Son but the Father of whom the Son is the revelation and representative. Therefore once more we have many antichrists, each one of whom may be spoken of as ‘the Antichrist,’ inasmuch as he exhibits the antichristian characteristics. No doubt this does not exclude the idea of a person who should have these characteristics in the highest possible degree, and who had not yet appeared. But this passage taken by itself would hardly suggest such a person.

So also with the third passage in the First Epistle. ‘Every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the (spirit) of the Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh, and now it is in the world already’ (1 John 4:3). Here it is no longer ‘the Antichrist’ that is spoken of, but ‘the spirit of the Antichrist.’ This is evidently a principle; which again does not exclude, though it would not necessarily suggest or imply, the idea of a person who would embody this antichristian spirit of denial.

The passage in the Second Epistle is similar to the second passage in the First Epistle. ‘Many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist’ (2 John 1:7). Here again we have many who exhibit the characteristics of Antichrist. Each one of them, and also the spirit which animates them, may be spoken of as ‘the Antichrist’; the further idea of an individual who shall exhibit this spirit in an extraordinary manner being neither necessarily excluded, nor necessarily implied.

The first of the four passages, therefore, will have to interpret the other three. And as the interpretation of that passage cannot be determined beyond dispute, we must be content to admit that the question as to whether the Antichrist of S. John is personal or not cannot be answered with certainty. The probability seems to be in favour of an affirmative answer. In the passage which introduces the subject (1 John 2:18) the Antichrist, of which the Apostle’s little children had heard as coming, appears to be a person of whom the ‘many antichrists’ with their lying doctrine are the heralds and already existing representatives. And it may well be that, having introduced the term with the personal signification familiar to his readers, the Apostle goes on to make other uses of it; in order to warn them that, although the personal Antichrist has not yet come, yet his spirit and doctrine are already at work in the world.

Nevertheless, we must allow that, if we confine our attention to the passages of S. John in which the term occurs, the balance in favour of the view that he looked to the coming of a personal Antichrist is far from conclusive. This balance, however, whatever its amount, is considerably augmented when we take a wider range and consider—(a) The origin of the doctrine which the Apostle says that his readers had already heard respecting Antichrist; (b) The treatment of the question by those who followed S. John as teachers in the Church; (c) Other passages in the N.T. which seem to bear upon the question. The discussion of this third point is placed last because it involves the second question to be investigated in this Appendix;—Is the Antichrist of S. John identical with S. Paul’s ‘man of sin’?

(a) There can be little doubt that the origin of the primitive doctrine respecting Antichrist is the Book of Daniel, to which our Lord Himself had drawn attention in speaking of the ‘abomination of desolation’ (Matthew 24:15; Daniel 9:27; Daniel 12:11). The causing the daily sacrifice to cease, which was one great element of this desolation, at once brings these passages into connexion with the ‘little horn’ of Daniel 8:9-14, the language respecting which seems almost necessarily to imply an individual potentate. The prophecies respecting the ‘king of fierce countenance’ (Daniel 8:23-25) and ‘the king’ who ‘shall do according to his will’ (Daniel 11:36-39) strongly confirm this view. And just as it has been in individuals that Christians have seen realisations, or at least types, of Antichrist (Nero, Julian, Mahomet), so it was in an individual (Antiochus Epiphanes) that the Jews believed that they saw such. It is by no means improbable that S. John himself considered Nero to be a type, indeed the great type, of Antichrist. When Nero perished so miserably and obscurely in A.D. 68, Romans and Christians alike believed that he had only disappeared for a time. Like the Emperor Frederick II. in Germany, and Sebastian ‘the Regretted’ in Portugal, this last representative of the Caesars was supposed to be still alive in mysterious retirement: some day he would return. Among Christians this belief took the form that Nero was to come again as the Antichrist (Suet. Nero, 40, 56; Tac. Hist. II. 8). All this will incline us to believe that the Antichrist, of whose future coming S. John’s ‘little children’ had heard, was not a mere principle, but a person.

(b) “That Antichrist is one individual man, not a power, not a mere ethical spirit, or a political system, not a dynasty, or a succession of rulers, was the universal tradition of the early Church.” This strong statement seems to need a small amount of qualification. The Alexandrian School is not fond of the subject. “Clement makes no mention of the Antichrist at all; Origen, after his fashion, passes into the region of generalizing allegory. The Antichrist, the ‘adversary,’ is ‘false doctrine’; the temple of God in which he sits and exalts himself, is the written Word; men are to flee, when he comes, to ‘the mountains of truth’ (Hom. xxix. in Matt.). Gregory of Nyssa (Orat. xi. c. Eunom.) follows in the same track.” Still the general tendency is all the other way. Justin Martyr (Trypho XXXII.) says “He whom Daniel foretells would have dominion for a time, and times, and an half, is even already at the door, about to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High.” He speaks of him as ‘the man of sin.’ Irenaeus (V. XXV. 1, 3), Tertullian (De Res. Carn. XXIV., XXV.), Lactantius (Div. Inst. VII. xvii.), Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. XV. 4, 11, 14, 17), and others take a similar view, some of them enlarging much upon the subject. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, XX. xix.) says “Satan shall be loosed, and by means of that Antichrist shall work with all power in a lying but wonderful manner.” Jerome affirms that Antichrist “is one man, in whom Satan shall dwell bodily”; and Theodoret that “the Man of Sin, the son of perdition, will make every effort for the seduction of the pious, by false miracles, and by force, and by persecution.” From these and many more passages that might be cited it is quite clear that the Church of the first three or four centuries almost universally regarded Antichrist as an individual. The evidence, beginning with Justin Martyr in the sub-Apostolic age, warrants us in believing that in this stream of testimony we have a belief which prevailed in the time of the Apostles and was possibly shared by them. But as regards this last point it is worth remarking how reserved the Apostles seem to have been with regard to the interpretation of prophecy. “What the Apostles disclosed concerning the future was for the most part disclosed by them in private, to individuals—not committed to writing, not intended for the edifying of the body of Christ,—and was soon lost” (J. H. Newman).

(c) Besides the various passages in N.T. which point to the coming of false Christs and false prophets (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22-23; Acts 20:29; 2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 2:1), there are two passages which give a detailed description of a great power, hostile to God and His people, which is to arise hereafter and have great success;—Revelation 13 and 2 Thessalonians 2. The second of these passages will be considered in the discussion of the second question. With regard to the first this much may be asserted with something like certainty, that the correspondence between the ‘beast’ of Revelation 13 and the ‘little horn’ of Daniel 8 is too close to be accidental. But in consideration of the difficulty of the subject and the great diversity of opinion it would be rash to affirm positively that the ‘beast’ of the Apocalypse is a person. The correspondence between the ‘beast’ and the ‘little horn’ is not so close as to compel us to interpret both images alike. The wiser plan will be to leave Revelation 13 out of consideration as neutral, for we cannot be at all sure whether the beast [1] is a person, [2] is identical with Antichrist. We shall find that 2 Thessalonians 2 favours the belief that Antichrist is an individual.

II. There is a strong preponderance of opinion in favour of the view that the Antichrist of S. John is the same as the great adversary of S. Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:3). 1. Even in the name there is some similarity; the Antichrist (ὁ ἀντίχριστος) and ‘he that opposeth’ (ὁ ἀντικείμενος). And the idea of being a rival Christ which is included in the name Antichrist and is wanting in ‘he that opposeth,’ is supplied in S. Paul’s description of the great opponent: for he is a ‘man,’ and he ‘setteth himself forth as God.’ 2. Both Apostles state that their readers had previously been instructed about this future adversary. 3. Both declare that his coming is preceded by an apostasy of many nominal Christians. 4. Both connect his coming with the Second Advent of Christ. 5. Both describe him as a liar and deceiver. 6. S. Paul says that this ‘man of sin exalteth himself against all that is called God.’ S. John places the spirit of Antichrist as the opposite of the Spirit of God. 7. S. Paul states that his ‘coming is according to the working of Satan.’ S. John implies that he is of the evil one. 8. Both Apostles state that, although this great opponent of the truth is still to come, yet his spirit is already at work in the world. With agreement in so many and such important details before us, we can hardly be mistaken in affirming that the two Apostles in their accounts of the trouble in store for the Church have one and the same meaning.

Having answered, therefore, this second question in the affirmative we return to the first question with a substantial addition to the evidence. It would be most unnatural to understand S. Paul’s ‘man of sin’ as an impersonal principle; and the widely different interpretations of the passage for the most part agree in this, that the great adversary is an individual. If, therefore, S. John has the same meaning as S. Paul, then the Antichrist of S. John is an individual.

To sum up:—Although none of the four passages in S. John’s Epistles are conclusive, yet the first of them (1 John 2:18) inclines us to regard Antichrist as a person. This view is confirmed (a) by earlier Jewish ideas on the subject, (b) by subsequent Christian ideas from the sub-Apostolic age onwards, (c) above all by S. Paul’s description of the ‘man of sin,’ whose similarity to S. John’s Antichrist is of a very close and remarkable kind.

For further information on this difficult subject see the articles on Antichrist in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible (Appendix), and Dictionary of Christian Biography, with the authorities there quoted; also four lectures on The Patristical Idea of Antichrist in J. H. Newman’s Discussions and Arguments.


The name of this extravagant Gnostic sect varies considerably in different authors who mention them: Cainistae, Caiani, Cainani, Cainaei, Cainiani, Caini, and possibly other varieties, are found. Cainites were a branch of the Ophites, one of the oldest forms of Gnosticism known to us. Other branches of the Ophites known to us through Hippolytus are the Naassenes (Naash) or ‘Venerators of the serpent,’ the Peratae (πέραν or περᾷν) ‘Transmarines’ or ‘Transcendentalists,’ the Sethians or ‘Venerators of Seth,’ and the Justinians or followers of Justin, a teacher otherwise unknown. Of these the Naassenes, as far as name goes, are the same as the Ophites, the one name being Hebrew, and the other Greek (ὄφις) in origin, and both meaning ‘Serpentists’ or ‘Venerators of the serpent.’

All the Ophite sects make the serpent play a prominent part in their system, and that not out of sheer caprice or extravagance, but as part of a reasoned and philosophical system. In common with almost all Gnostics they held that matter is radically evil, and that therefore the Creator of the material universe cannot be a perfectly good being. The Ophites regarded the Creator as in the main an evil being, opposed to the Supreme God. From this it followed that Adam in disobeying his Creator did not fall from a high estate, nor rebel against the Most High, but defied a hostile power and freed himself from its thraldom: and the serpent who induced him to do this, so far from being the author of sin and death, was the giver of light and liberty. It was through the serpent that the human race was first made aware that the being who created them was not supreme, but that there were higher than he; and accordingly the serpent became the symbol of intelligence and enlightenment.

Logically carried out, such a system involved a complete inversion of all the moral teaching of the Old Testament. All that the Creator of the world (who is the God of the Jews) commands, must be disobeyed, and all that He forbids must be done. The negative must be struck out of the Ten Commandments, and everything that Moses and the Prophets denounced must be cultivated as virtues. From this monstrous consequence of their premises most of the Ophites seem to have recoiled. Some modified their premises and made the Creator to be, not an utterly evil being, but an inferior power, who through ignorance sometimes acted in opposition to the Supreme God. Others, while retaining the Ophite doctrine that the serpent was a benefactor and deliverer of mankind in the matter of the temptation of Eve, endeavoured to bring this into harmony with Scripture by declaring that he did this service to mankind unwittingly. His intention was evil; he wished to do a mischief to the human race. But it was overruled to good; and what the serpent plotted for the ruin of man turned out to be man’s enlightenment.

The Cainites, however, accepted the Ophite premises without qualification, and followed them without shrinking to their legitimate conclusion. Matter and the Creator of everything material are utterly evil. The revolt of Adam and Eve against their Creator was a righteous act, the breaking up of a tyranny. The serpent who suggested and aided this emancipation is a good being, as worthy of veneration, as the Creator is of abhorrence. The redemption of man begins with the first act of disobedience to the Creator. Jesus Christ is not the redeemer of the human race. He merely completed what the serpent had begun. Indeed some Cainites seem to have identified Jesus with the serpent. Others again, with more consistency, seem to have maintained that Jesus was an enemy of the truth and deserved to die.

The moral outcome of such a system has been already indicated, and the Cainites are said to have openly accepted it. Everything that the God of the Old Testament forbids must be practised, and everything that He orders abjured. Cain, the people of Sodom, Esau, Korah, Dathan and Abiram, are the characters to be imitated as saints and heroes; and in the New Testament, Judas. These are the true martyrs, whom the Creator and His followers have persecuted. About Judas, as about Jesus Christ, they seem not to have been agreed, some maintaining that he justly caused the death of one who perverted the truth; others, that having higher knowledge than the Eleven, he saw the benefits which would follow from the death of Christ, and therefore brought it about. These benefits, however, were not such as Christians commonly suppose, viz. the deliverance of mankind from the power of the serpent, but the final extinction of the dominion of the Creator. Irenaeus (Haer. I. xxxi. 1) tells us that they had a book called the Gospel of Judas. In the next section he states the practical result of these tenets. “They say, like Carpocrates, that men cannot be saved until they have gone through all kinds of experience. They maintain also that in every one of their sinful and foul actions an angel attends them and listens to them as they work audacity and incur pollution. According to the nature of the action they invoke the name of the angel, saying, ‘O thou angel, I use thy work. O thou great power, I accomplish thy action.’ And they declare that this is ‘perfect knowledge,’—fearlessly to rush into such actions as it is not right even to name.”

These are developments of those ‘depths of Satan’ of which S. John speaks in the Apocalypse (Revelation 2:24) as a vaunted form of knowledge. Into the fantastic details of the system it is not necessary to enter. Suffice to say that, taking an inverted form of the Old Testament narrative as their basis, they engrafted upon it whatever took their fancy in the Egyptian rites of Isis and Osiris, the Greek mysteries of Eleusis, the Phoenician cultus of Adonis, the speculative cosmogony of Plato, or the wild orgies of Phrygian Cybele. Purpurei panni from all these sources find place in the patchwork system of the Ophite Gnostics. Christianity supplied materials for still further accretions, and probably acted as a considerable stimulus to the development of such theories. In several of its Protean forms we trace what appear to be adaptations of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

“The first appearance of the Ophite heresy in connexion with Christian doctrines,” says Dean Mansel (The Gnostic Heresies, p. 104), “can hardly be placed later than the latter part of the first century”; which brings us within the limits of S. John’s lifetime. It is not probable that the monstrous system of the Cainites was formulated as early as this. But the first beginnings of it were there; and it is by no means impossible that 1 John 3:10-12 was written as a condemnation of the principles on which the Cainite doctrine was built. Be this as it may, the prodigious heresy, although it probably never had very many adherents and died out in the third century, is nevertheless very instructive. It shews us to what results the great Gnostic principle, that matter is utterly evil, when courageously followed to its logical consequences, leads. And it therefore helps us to understand the stern and uncompromising severity with which Gnostic principles are condemned, by implication in the Fourth Gospel, and in express terms in these Epistles.


The outcry which has been made in some quarters against the Revisers for omitting the disputed words in 1 John 5:7, and without a hint in the margin that there is any authority for them, is not creditable to English scholarship. The veteran scholar Döllinger expressed his surprise at this outcry in a conversation with the present writer in July, 1882: and he expressed his amazement and amusement that anyone in these days should write a book in defence of the passage, in a conversation in September, 1883. The Revisers’ action is a very tardy act of justice; and we may hope that, whether their work as a whole is authorised or not, leave will before long be granted to the clergy to omit these words in reading 1 John 5 as a Lesson at Morning or Evening Prayer, or as the Epistle for the First Sunday after Easter. The insertion of the passage in the first instance was quite indefensible, and it is difficult to see upon what sound principles its retention can be defended. There would be no difficulty in treating this case by itself and leaving other disputed texts to be dealt with hereafter. The passage stands absolutely alone (a) in the completeness of the evidence against it, (b) in the momentous character of the insertion. A summary of the evidence at greater length than could conveniently be given in a note will convince any unprejudiced person that (as Dr Döllinger observed) nothing in textual criticism is more certain than that the disputed words are spurious.

(i) The External Evidence

1. Every Greek uncial MS. omits the passage.

2. Every Greek cursive MS. earlier than the fifteenth century omits the passage.

3. Out of about 250 known cursive MSS. only two (No. 162 of the 15th century and No. 34 of the 16th century) contain the passage, and in them it is a manifest translation from a late recension of the Latin Vulgate.

Erasmus hastily promised that if he could find the words in a single Greek MS. he would insert them in his text; and on the authority of No. 34 (61 of the Gospels) he inserted them in his third edition [1522]; Beza and Stephanus inserted them also: and hence their presence in all English Versions until the Revised Version of 1881.

4. Every Ancient Version of the first four centuries omits the passage.

5. Every Version earlier than the fourteenth century, except the Latin, omits the passage.

6. No Greek Father quotes the passage in any of the numerous discussions on the doctrine of the Trinity. Against Sabellianism and Arianism it would have been almost conclusive.

It has been urged that the orthodox Fathers did not quote 1 John 5:7 because in conjunction with 1 John 5:8 it might be used in the interests of Arianism; in other words that they shirked a passage, which they saw might tell against them, instead of proving that it did not tell against them! And Cyril must not only have shirked but suppressed the disputed words, for he thrice quotes the passage without them. But in that case why did not the Arians quote 1 John 5:7? Had they done so, the orthodox would have replied and shewn the true meaning of both verses. Evidently both parties were ignorant of its existence.

Again, it has been urged that the Greek Synopsis of Holy Scripture printed in some editions of the Greek Fathers, and also the so-called Disputation with Arius, “seem to betray an acquaintance with the disputed verse.” Even if this ‘seeming’ could be shewn to be a reality, the fact would prove no more than that the interpolation existed in a Greek as well as a Latin form about the fifth century. Can we seriously defend a text which does not even ‘seem’ to be known to a single Greek Father until 350 years or more after S. John’s death? Could we defend a passage as Chaucer’s which was never quoted until the nineteenth century, and was in no edition of his works of earlier date than that?—And the ‘seeming’ can not be shewn to be a reality.

7. No Latin Father earlier than the fifth century quotes the passage.

It is sometimes stated that Tertullian possibly, and S. Cyprian certainly, knew the passage. Even if this were true, it would prove nothing for the genuineness of the words against the mass of testimony mentioned in the first six of these paragraphs. Such a fact would only prove that the insertion, which is obviously of Latin origin, was made at a very early date. But the statement is not true. “Tertullian and Cyprian use language which makes it morally certain that they would have quoted these words had they known them” (Westcott and Hort Vol. II. p. 104).

Tertullian’s words are as follows:—‘De meo sumet,’ inquit, sicut ipse de Patris. Ita connexus Patris in Filio, et Filii in Paracleto, tres efficit cohaerentes alterum ex altero: qui tres unum sunt, non unus; quomodo dictum est, ‘Ego et Pater unum sumus,’ ad substantiae unitatem, non ad numeri singularitatem. “He saith, He shall take of Mine (John 16:14), even as He Himself of the Father. Thus the connexion of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, maketh Three that cohere together one from the other: which Three are one Substance, not one Person; as it is said, I and My Father are one (John 10:30), in respect to unity of essence, not to singularity of number” (Adv. Praxean xxv.).

S. Cyprian writes thus; Dicit Dominus, ‘Ego et Pater unum sumus’; et iterum de Patre et Filio et Spiritu Sancto scriptum est, ‘Et tres unum sunt.’ “The Lord saith, I and the Father are one; and again it is written concerning the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, And three are one” (De Unit. Eccl. vi.).

It is very difficult to believe that Tertullian’s words contain any allusion to the disputed passage. The passage in S. Cyprian seems at first sight to look like such an allusion; but in all probability he has in his mind the passage which follows the disputed words; ‘the spirit, the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one’; the Latin Version of which runs, spiritus et aqua et sanguis; et hi tres unum sunt. For the Vulgate makes no difference between the conclusions of John 10:7-8; in both cases the sentence ends with et hi tres unum sunt. That S. Cyprian should thus positively allude to ‘the spirit, the water, and the blood’ as ‘the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’ will seem improbable to no one who is familiar with the extent to which the Fathers make any triplet found in Scripture, not merely suggest, but signify the Trinity. To take an example from Cyprian himself: “We find that the three children with Daniel, strong in faith and victorious in captivity, observed the third, sixth, and ninth hour, as it were, for a sacrament of the Trinity, which in the last times had to be manifested. For both the first hour in its progress to the third shews forth the consummated number of the Trinity, and also the fourth proceeding to the sixth declares another Trinity; and when from the seventh the ninth is completed, the perfect Trinity is numbered every three hours” (Dom. Orat. XXXIV.).

But perhaps the most conclusive argument in favour of the view that Cyprian is alluding to ‘the spirit, the water and the blood,’ and not to ‘the Three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit,’ is S. Augustine’s treatment of the passage in question. In all his voluminous writings there is no trace of the clause about the Three Heavenly Witnesses; but about ‘the spirit, the water and the blood’ he writes thus:—“Which three things if we look at as they are in themselves, they are in substance several and distinct, and not one. But if we will inquire into the things signified by these, there not unreasonably comes into our thoughts the Trinity itself, which is the one, only, true, supreme God, Father, and Son and Holy Spirit, of whom it could most truly be said, There are Three Witnesses, and the Three are One. So that by the term ‘spirit’ we should understand God the Father to be signified; as indeed it was concerning the worshipping of Him that the Lord was speaking, when He said, God is spirit. By the term ‘blood,’ the Son; because the Word was made flesh. And by the term ‘water,’ the Holy Spirit; as, when Jesus spake of the water which He would give to them that thirst, the Evangelist saith, But this said He of the Spirit, which they that believed on Him were to receive. Moreover, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are witnesses, who that believes the Gospel can doubt, when the Son saith, I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me, He beareth witness of Me? Where, though the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, yet He is not to be thought separated from them” (Contra Maxim. II. xxii. 3). Is it credible that S. Augustine would go to S. John’s Gospel to prove that the Father and the Son might be called witnesses if in the very passage which he is explaining they were called such? His explanation becomes fatuous if the disputed words are genuine. A minute point of some significance is worth remarking, that in these passages both S. Cyprian and S. Augustine invariably write ‘the Son,’ not ‘the Word,’ which is the expression used in the disputed passage.

Facundus of Hermiana in his Defence of the “Three Chapters” (c. A.D. 550) explains 1 John 5:8 in the same manner as S. Augustine, quoting the verse several times and evidently knowing nothing of 1 John 5:7. This shews that late in the sixth century the passage was not generally known even in North Africa. Moreover he quotes the passage of S. Cyprian as authority for this mystical interpretation of 1 John 5:8. This shews how (300 years after he wrote) S. Cyprian was still understood by a Bishop of his own Church, even after the interpolation had been made. Attempts have been made to weaken the evidence of Facundus by asserting that Fulgentius, who is a little earlier in date, understood Cyprian to be referring to 1 John 5:7, not to 1 John 5:8. It is by no means certain that this is the meaning of Fulgentius; and, even if it is, it proves no more than that in the sixth century, as in the nineteenth, there were some persons who believed that Cyprian alludes to 1 John 5:7. Even if such persons were right, it would only shew that this corruption, like many other corruptions of the text, was in existence in the third century.

This may suffice to shew that the passage in Cyprian probably refers to 1 John 5:8 and gives no support to 1 John 5:7. And this probability becomes something like a certainty when we consider the extreme unlikelihood of his knowing a text which was wholly unknown to S. Hilary, S. Ambrose, and S. Augustine; which is absent from the earliest MSS. of the Vulgate (and consequently was not known to Jerome); and which is not found in Leo I.[123] Neither Codex Amiatinus, c. A.D. 541, “doubtless the best manuscript of the Vulgate” (Scrivener), nor Codex Fuldensis, A.D. 546, contains the passage, though the latter inserts the Prologus, which defends the interpolation.

The anonymous treatise On Rebaptism (which begins with a fierce attack on the view of S. Cyprian that heretics ought to be rebaptized, and was therefore probably written before the martyrdom of the bishop) twice quotes the passage (15 and 19), and in each case says nothing about the Three bearing witness in heaven, but mentions only the spirit, the water, and the blood. This confirms the belief that the words were not found in the Latin Version in use in North Africa at that time.

Lastly, the letter of Leo the Great to Flavianus in B.C. 449 (The Tome of S. Leo, v.), shortly before the Council of Chalcedon, “supplies positive evidence to the same effect for the Roman text by quoting 1 John 5:4-8 without the inserted words” (Westcott and Hort, Vol. II. p. 104).

Therefore the statement, that No Latin Father earlier than the fifth century quotes the passage, is strictly correct. The words in question first occur in some Latin controversial writings towards the end of the fifth century, but are not often quoted until the eleventh. The insertion appears to have originated in North Africa, which at the close of the fifth century was suffering from a cruel persecution under the Arian Vandals. The words are quoted in part in two of the works attributed to Vigilius of Thapsus, and a little later in one by Fulgentius of Ruspe. They are also quoted in a confession of faith drawn up by Eugenius, Bishop of Carthage, and presented to Hunneric c. A.D. 484. But it is worth noting that in these first appearances of the text the wording of it varies: the form has not yet become set. Moreover, in the earliest MSS. which contain it, the Heavenly Witnesses come after ‘the spirit, and the water, and the blood,’ indicating that the insertion was originally a gloss: and one form of the reading introduces the gloss with a sicut, thus: Quia tres sunt qui testimonium dant, spiritus et aqua et sanguis, et tres unum sunt. Sicut in caelo tres sunt, Pater Verbum et Spiritus, et tres unum sunt. “This momentous SICUT explains how the words, from being a gloss or illustration, crept into the text” (Dobbin, Codex Montfortianus, p. 45). The Prologus Galeatus to the Catholic Epistles, falsely written in the name of Jerome, blames the Latin translators of the Epistle for omitting Patris et Filii et Spiritus testimonium, while the writer of it naively confesses that his contemporaries condemned him as falsarium corruptoremque sanctarum scripturarum. The date of it is certainly far later than Jerome. But not until some centuries later are the inserted words often cited even by Latin writers. Bede, the representative scholar of Western Christendom in the eighth century, omits all notice of them in his commentary, and probably did not know them; for he comments on every other verse in the chapter. Still later (A.D. 797) Alcuin was commissioned by Charles the Great to prepare a critical edition from the best Latin MSS. without reference to the original Greek; and he also omitted the passage.

The external evidence against them could not well be much stronger. If S. John had written the words, who would wish to expel such conclusive testimony to the doctrine of the Trinity from Scripture? If anyone had wished to do so, how could he have kept the words out of every MS. and every Version for four centuries? And had he succeeded in doing this, how could they have been recovered? Let us grant, for the sake of argument, that the passage was known to Tertullian, Cyprian, and some later Latin writers; is it therefore even possibly genuine? No reasonable hypothesis can be framed to account for a genuine portion of the Greek Testament being known to certain Latin authorities but to no others, whether Greek, Syriac, or Egyptian.

In short, we may use in this case the argument which Tertullian uses with such force in reference to the Christian faith. “Is it credible that so many and such important authorities should have strayed into giving unanimous testimony?” Ecquid verisimile est ut tot et tantae ecclesiae in unam fidem erraverint?

(ii) Internal Evidence

But it is sometimes said that, although the external evidence is no doubt exceedingly strong, yet it is not the whole of the case. The internal evidence also must be considered, and that tells very powerfully the other way. Let us admit for the sake of argument that the internal evidence is very strongly in favour of the genuineness of the disputed words. Let us assume that the passage, though making sense without the words (as is indisputably the case), makes far better sense with the words. Let us suppose that the sense of the passage when thus enlarged is so superior to the shorter form of it, that it would be incredible that anyone to whom the longer form had occurred would ever write the shorter one. Can all this prove, in the teeth of abundant evidence to the contrary, that the longer and vastly superior passage was written, and not the shorter and inferior one? If twenty reporters quite independently represent an orator as having uttered a very tame and clumsy sentence, which the insertion of a couple of short clauses would make smooth and far more telling, would this fact convince us that the orator must have spoken the two clauses, and that twenty reporters had all accidentally left just these two clauses out? The fact that in a few out of many editions of the orator’s collected speeches, published many years after his death, these two clauses were found, but not always in exactly the same words, would hardly strengthen our belief that they were actually uttered at the time. No amount of internal probability, supplemented by subsequent evidence of this kind, ought to shake our confidence in the reports of the twenty writers who took down the speaker’s words at the moment. Where the external evidence is ample, harmonious, and credible, considerations of internal evidence are out of place. If the authorities which omit the words in question had united in representing S. John as having written nonsense or blasphemy, then, in spite of their number and weight and unanimity, we should refuse to believe them. But here no such doubts are possible; and the abundance and coherence of the external evidence tell us that the internal evidence, whatever its testimony, cannot be allowed any weight.

And here it is very important to bear in mind an obvious but not always remembered truth. Although internal evidence by itself may be sufficient to decide what an author did not write, it can never by itself be sufficient to decide what he did write. Words may be in the highest degree appropriate to the subject and harmonious with the context; but that does not prove that they were written. Without any external evidence we may be certain that S. John did not write ‘The Word cannot come in the flesh’; but without external evidence we cannot know what he did write. And if the external evidence amply testifies that he wrote ‘The Word became flesh,’ it is absurd to try and ascertain from the internal evidence what (in our judgment) he must have written. So also in the present case it is absurd to say that the internal evidence (even if altogether in favour of the disputed words) can prove that S. John wrote the passage. In other words, although internal evidence alone may suffice to prove a passage spurious, it can never suffice to prove a passage genuine.

The case has been discussed on this basis for the sake of argument and to meet the extraordinary opinion that the internal evidence is in favour of the inserted words. But as a matter of fact internal considerations require us to expel the clauses in question almost as imperatively as does the testimony of MSS., Versions, and Fathers.

1. The inserted words break the sense. In 1 John 5:6 we have the water, the blood, and the spirit mentioned; and they are recapitulated in S. John’s manner in 1 John 5:8. The spurious words in 1 John 5:7 make an awkward parenthesis; which is only avoided when, as is sometimes the case, 1 John 5:7 is inserted after 1 John 5:8. And in this position it betrays its origin, as having been in the first instance a comment on 1 John 5:8.

2. S. John nowhere speaks of ‘the Father’ and ‘the Word’ together. He either says ‘God’ and ‘the Word’ (John 1:1-2; John 1:13-14; Revelation 19:13), or ‘the Father’ and ‘the Son’ (1 John 2:22-24, &c. &c.). John 1:14 is no exception; ‘father’ in that passage has no article in the Greek, and should not have a capital letter in English. S. John never uses πατήρ for the Father without the article; and the meaning of the clause is ‘the glory as of an only son on a mission from a father.’ Contrast, as marking S. John’s usage, John 1:1 with 1:18.

3. Neither in his Gospel, nor in the First Epistle, does S. John use the theological term ‘the Word’ in the body of the work: in both cases this expression, which is peculiar to himself in N.T., is confined to the Prologue or Introduction.

4. The inserted words are in the theological language of a later age. No Apostle or Evangelist writes in this sharp, clear-cut style respecting the Persons in the Trinity. The passage is absolutely without anything approaching to a parallel in N.T. If they were original, they would throw the gravest doubt upon the Apostolic authorship of the Epistle. As Haupt observes, “No one can deny that in the whole compass of Holy Writ there is no passage even approaching the dogmatic precision with which, in a manner approximating to the later ecclesiastical definitions, this one asserts the immanent Trinity. Such a verse could not have been omitted by inadvertence; for even supposing such a thing possible in a text of such moment, the absence of the words ἐν τῇ γῇ of v. 8 would still be inexplicable. The omission must then have been intentional, and due to the hand of a heretic. But would such an act have remained uncondemned? And were all our MSS. produced by heretics or framed from heretical copies?”

5. The incarnate Son bears witness to man; and the Spirit given at Pentecost bears witness to man; and through the Son, and the Spirit, and His messengers in Old and New Testament, the Father bears witness to man;—respecting the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ. But in what sense can the Three Divine Persons be said to bear witness in heaven? Is there not something almost irreverent in making Them the counterpart of the triple witness on earth? The incongruity recalls that of the ignorant petition once seen placarded in a Roman Catholic Church, “Holy Trinity, pray for us.” And for whose benefit is the witness in heaven given? Do the angels need it? And if they do, what has this to do with the context? Nor can we avoid this difficulty by saying that the Three are in heaven, but bear witness on earth. It is expressly stated that the Three bear witness in heaven, while three other witnesses do so on earth.

6. The addition ‘and these Three are one,’ though exactly what was required by the interpolators for controversial purposes, is exactly what is not required here by the context. What is required is, not that the Three Witnesses should in essence be only One, which would reduce the value of the testimony; but that the Three should agree, which would enhance the value of the testimony.

On this part of the evidence the words of S. T. Coleridge and of F. D. Maurice respecting the passage are worth considering. The former says, “I think the verse of the three witnesses spurious, not only because the balance of external authority is against it, as Porson seems to have shewn; but also because, in my way of looking at it, it spoils the reasoning.” (Table Talk, Jan. 6, 1823.) The latter writes, “If it was genuine, we should be bound to consider seriously what it meant, however much its introduction in this place might puzzle us, however strange its phraseology might appear to us. Those who dwell with awe upon the Name into which they have been baptized; those who believe that all the books of the Bible, and St John’s writings more than all the rest, reveal it to us; those who connect it with Christian Ethics, as I have done; might wonder that an Apostle should make a formal announcement of this Name in a parenthesis, and in connexion with such a phrase as bearing record, one admirably suited to describe the intercourse of God with us, but quite unsuitable, one would have thought, as an expression of His absolute and eternal being. Still, if it was really one of St John’s utterances, we should listen to it in reverence, and only attribute these difficulties to our own blindness. As we have the best possible reasons for supposing it is not his, but merely the gloss of some commentator, which crept into the text, and was accepted by advocates eager to confute adversaries, less careful about the truth they were themselves fighting for,—we may thankfully dismiss it” (Epistles of St John, pp. 276, 277). Add to this the emphatic declaration of Sir Isaac Newton; “Let them make good sense of it who are able: for my part I can make none.”

We have, therefore, good grounds for saying that the internal evidence, no less than the external, requires us to banish these words from the text. They are evidence of the form which Trinitarian doctrine assumed in North Africa in the fifth century, and possibly at an earlier date. They are an old gloss on the words of S. John; valuable as a specimen of interpretation, but without the smallest claim to be considered original. Had they not found a place in the Textus Receptus, few people not bound (as Roman Catholics are) to accept the later editions of the Vulgate without question, would have dreamed of defending them. Had the translators of 1611 omitted them, no one (with the evidence, which we now possess, before him) would ever have dreamed of inserting them. In Greek texts the words were first printed in the Complutensian edition of A.D. 1514, the addition being made, not from any Greek authority, but by translation from the Vulgate. Erasmus in his first two editions (1516 and 1518) omitted them; but having given his unhappy promise to insert them if they could be found in any Greek MS., he printed them in his third edition [1522], on the authority of the worthless Codex Britannicus (No. 34). Yet even in his third edition, though he inserts the words in the text, he argues against their genuineness in the notes. Stephanus and Beza inserted them also: and thus they obtained a place in the universally used Textus Receptus. Luther never admitted them to his translation, and in the first edition of his commentary declared them to be spurious; but in the second edition he followed the third edition of Erasmus and admitted the words. They first appear in translations published in Switzerland without Luther’s name, as in the Zürich edition of Froschover [1529]. They were at first commonly printed either in different type or in brackets. The Basle edition of Bryllinger [1552] was one of the first to omit the brackets. Perhaps the last edition which omitted the words in the German Version is the quarto of Zach. Schürer [1620]. Among English Versions the Revised of 1881 has the honour of being the first to omit them. Tyndale in his first edition [1525] printed them as genuine, in his second [1534] and third [1535] he placed them in brackets, in the second edition with a difference of type. Cranmer [1539] follows Tyndale’s second edition. But in the Genevan [1557] the difference of type and the brackets disappear, and are not restored in the Authorised Version [1611].

The following by no means complete list of scholars who have pronounced against the passage will be of interest. After Richard Simon had led the way in this direction towards the close of the seventeenth century he was followed in the eighteenth by Bentley, Clarke, Emlyn, Gibbon, Griesbach, Hezel, Matthaei, Michaelis, Sir Isaac Newton, Porson, Semler, and Wetstein. In the nineteenth century we have, among others, Ezra Abbott, Bishop Alexander, Alford, Bishop Blomfield, J. H. Blunt, S. T. Coleridge, Davidson, Döllinger, Düsterdieck, Bishop Ellicott, F. W. Farrar, Field, Haddan, Hammond, Haupt, Holzendorff, Horne, Hort, Huther, Lachmann, Bishop Lightfoot, Bishop Marsh, Macdonald, McClellan, F. D. Maurice, Meyrick, Oltramare, Plumptre, Pope, Renan, Reuss, Sanday, Schaff, Schmidt, Scrivener, Scholz, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Bishop Turton, Weiss, Weiszäcker, Westcott, De Wette, Bishop Chr. Wordsworth, and the Revisers. Even the most conservative textual critics have abandoned the defence of this text. As Dr Scrivener says, “to maintain the genuineness of this passage is simply impossible” (Introduction to the Criticism of N.T. 649). If this passage is possibly genuine, then scores of other passages are possibly or probably spurious, for the evidence in their favour is less weighty than the evidence against this passage. There is no escape from this conclusion.

Some will perhaps think that this Appendix is wasted labour: that it is a needlessly elaborate slaying of the slain. But so long as any educated Englishman, above all, so long as any English clergyman[124], believes, and indeed publicly maintains, that the passage is genuine, or even possibly genuine, trouble to demonstrate its spuriousness will not be thrown away.


For some time past the writer of this Appendix has been disposed to doubt the existence of any such person as John the Elder as a contemporary of S. John the Apostle at Ephesus. It was, therefore, with much satisfaction that he found that Professor Salmon in the article on Joannes Presbyter in the Dictionary of Christian Biography, Vol. III. pp. 398–401, and Canon Farrar in The Early Days of Christianity, Vol. II. pp. 553–581, take a similar view. Dr Salmon’s conclusion is this; “While we are willing to receive the hypothesis of two Johns, if it will help to explain any difficulty, we do not think the evidence for it enough to make us regard it as a proved historical fact. And we frankly own that if it were not for deference to better judges, we should unite with Keim in relegating, though in a different way, this ‘Doppelgänger’ of the apostle to the region of ghostland.” Keim, with Scholten and others, would get rid of the second John by denying that John the Apostle was ever in Asia. This utterly untenable hypothesis has been discussed in the Introduction, chap. I. Dr Farrar, with more confidence, concludes thus; “A credulous spirit of innovation is welcome to believe and to proclaim that any or all of S. John’s writings were written by ‘John the Presbyter.’ They were: but ‘John the Presbyter’ is none other than John the Apostle.” Professor Milligan, Riggenbach, and Zahn are of a similar opinion, and believe that this personnage douteux, sorte de sosie de l’apôtre, qui trouble comme un spectre toute l’histoire de l’Église d’Éphèse[125], has no separate existence. Professor Charteris speaks of him as “leaving only vague and doubtful traces, not so much in the reminiscences of his contemporaries as in the half-imaginary historical notes of later ages” (Canonicity, p. 327).

The question mainly depends upon a quotation from Papias and the interpretation of it by Eusebius, who quotes it (H. E. III. xxxix.; Routh, Rel. Sac. I. 7, 8). Papias is stating how he obtained his information. “If on any occasion any one who had been a follower of the Elders came, I used to inquire about the discourses of the Elders—what Andrew or Peter said, or Philip, or Thomas or James, or John or Matthew, or any of the Lord’s disciples; and what Aristion and the Elder John, the disciples of the Lord, say.”

Certainly the meaning which this at first sight conveys is the one which Eusebius adopts; that Papias here gives us two Johns, the Apostle and the Elder. But closer study of the passage raises a doubt whether this is correct. With regard to most of the disciples of the Lord Papias could only get second-hand information; he could learn what each said (εἶπεν) in days long since gone by. But there were two disciples still living at the time when Papias wrote, Aristion and John; and about these he had contemporary and perhaps personal knowledge: he knows what they say (λέγουσι). Of one of these, John, he had knowledge of both kinds; reports of what he said long ago in the days when Philip, and Thomas, and Matthew were living, and knowledge of what he says now at the time when Papias writes. If this be the meaning intended, we may admit that it is rather clumsily expressed: but that will not surprise us in a writer, who (as Eusebius tells us) was “of very mean intellectual power, as one may state on the evidence of his own dissertations.” The title ‘Elder’ cuts both ways, and tells for and against either interpretation. It may be urged that ‘the Elder’ before the second ‘John’ seems to be intended to distinguish him from the Apostle. To which it may be replied, that it may quite as probably have been added in order to identify him with the Apostle, seeing that throughout the passage, Andrew, Philip, Peter, &c. are called ‘Elders’ and not Apostles. May not ‘the Elder’ be prefixed to John to distinguish him from Aristion, who was not an Apostle? In any case the first John is called ‘elder’ and ‘disciple of the Lord’; and the second John is called ‘elder’ and ‘disciple of the Lord.’ So that the view of Eusebius, which primâ facie appears to be natural, turns out upon examination to be by no means certain, and perhaps not even the more probable of the two.

But other people besides Eusebius studied Papias. What was their view? Among the predecessors of Eusebius none is more important than Irenaeus, who made much use of Papias’s work, and independently of it knew a great deal about Ephesus and S. John; and he makes no mention of any second John. This fact at once throws the balance against the Eusebian interpretation of Papias. Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, would be likely to know the work of Papias; and certainly knew a great deal about S. John and his later contemporaries. In the letter which he wrote to Victor, Bishop of Rome, on the Paschal Controversy (Eus. H. E. III. xxxi. 2; V. xxiv. 1–6) he proudly enumerates the ‘great lights,’ who have fallen asleep and lie buried at Ephesus, Smyrna, Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Sardis, as authorities in favour of the Quartodeciman usage. Among these the Presbyter John is not named. At Ephesus there are the graves of ‘John who rested on the Lord’s bosom’ and of the martyred Polycarp. But no tomb of a second John is mentioned. And would not the reputed author of two canonical Epistles and possibly of the Apocalypse have found a place in such a list, had such a person existed distinct from the Apostle? Whether Dionysius of Alexandria (Eus. H. E. VII. XXV.) knew Papias or not we cannot tell; but he had heard of two tombs at Ephesus, each bearing the name of John. And yet he evidently knows nothing of the Presbyter John. For while contending that the John who wrote the Apocalypse cannot be the Apostle, he says that it is quite uncertain who this John is, and suggests as a possibility ‘John whose surname was Mark,’ the attendant of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 12:25; Acts 13:5). The fragments of Leucius, writings of unknown date, but probably earlier than Dionysius, contain many traditions respecting S. John the Apostle, but nothing respecting any other John. The fragments are sufficient to render it practically certain that the compiler of the stories which they contain knew no second John.

It would seem therefore that the predecessors of Eusebius, whether they had read Papias or not, agreed in believing in only one John, viz. the Apostle. Therefore those of them who had read Papias (and Irenaeus certainly had done so) must either have understood him to mean only one John, or must have ignored as untrue his statement respecting a second. There is no independent evidence of the existence of a second John. Papias, as interpreted or misinterpreted by Eusebius, is our sole witness. Eusebius seems to have got the hypothesis of a second John from Dionysius. But Dionysius never quotes Papias as supporting it, and if he had read him must have believed him to mention only John the Apostle.

Indeed Eusebius himself would seem at one time to have held the same view. In his Chronicon (Schoene, p. 162) he states that Papias and Polycarp (to whom Jerome adds Ignatius) were disciples of John the Divine and Apostle. That Papias was the disciple of another John, is a later theory of his, adopted (as there is good reason for believing) in order to discredit the Apocalypse. Eusebius was greatly opposed to the millenarian theories which some people spun out of the Apocalypse; and in order to attack them the better he wished to shew that the Apocalypse was not the work of the Apostle. But the Apocalypse claims to be written by John. Therefore there must have been some other John who wrote it. And as evidence of this other John he quotes Papias, whose language is so obscure that we cannot be certain whether he means one John or two.

The two tombs at Ephesus, each said to have borne the name of John, need not disturb us much. Polycrates, writing on the spot within a hundred years of the Apostle’s death, seems to know nothing of a second tomb. Dionysius, writing a century and a half after his death and far away from Ephesus, has heard of two monuments, but (much as it would have suited his theory to do so) he does not venture to assert that they were the tombs of two Johns. Jerome, writing still later and still farther away from the spot, says that a second tomb is shewn at Ephesus as that of John the Presbyter, and that “some think that they are two monuments of the same John, viz. the Evangelist”—nonnulli putant duas memorius ejusdem Johannis evangelistae esse (De Vir. Illust. ix.). The probabilities are that these people were right. Either there were rival sites (a very common thing in topography), each claiming to be the grave of the Apostle; or there were two monuments commemorating two different things, e.g. the place of his death and the place of his burial. Very possibly they were churches (Zahn, Acta Johannis, clxiv.).

The evidence, therefore, of the existence of this perplexing Presbyter is of a somewhat shadowy kind. It amounts simply to the statement of Papias, as conjecturally interpreted by Eusebius, and the two monuments. But the Eusebian interpretation is not by any means certainly correct, and the two monuments do not by any means necessarily imply two Johns. Moreover, Eusebius himself was not always of the same opinion, making Papias sometimes the disciple of the Apostle, sometimes the disciple of the supposed Presbyter. And in this inconsistency he is followed by Jerome. Assume the Eusebian interpretation to be correct, and it will then be very difficult indeed to explain how it is that Irenaeus and Polycrates know nothing of this second John, and how even Dionysius does not seem to have heard of him. Assume that Eusebius was mistaken, and that Papias mentions the Apostle twice over, and then all runs smoothly.

Does this hypothetical Presbyter explain a single difficulty? If so, let us retain him as a reasonable hypothesis. But if, as seems to be the case, he causes a great deal of difficulty and explains nothing that cannot be quite well explained without him, then let him be surrendered as a superfluous conjecture. Personae non sunt multiplicandae. We may heartily welcome the wish of Zahn (Acta Johannis, p. cliv.) that the publication of the fragments of Leucius will “give the coup de grace to the erudite myth created by Eusebius about ‘the Presbyter John.’ The latter has quite long enough shared in the lot of the undying Apostle. Had this doublet of the Apostle ever existed, he could not have failed to appear in Leucius: and in his pages the Apostle of Ephesus could never have been called simply John, if he had had at his side a second disciple of Jesus of this name.” We, therefore, give up the second John as unhistorical. (See Salmon, Historical Introduction to N.T., 109, 274, 330–334.)

It would seem as if ‘Presbyter John’ was destined to plague and perplex historians. A spectral personage of this name troubles, as we have seen, the history of the Church of Ephesus. Another equally mysterious personage of the same name confronts us in the history of Europe in the twelfth century; when the West was cheered with the news that a mighty Priest-King called Presbyter Johannes had arisen in the East, and restored victory to the Christian cause in the contest with the Saracens. For this extraordinary story, which appears first perhaps in Otto of Freisingen, see Col. Yule’s article in the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Baring Gould’s Myths of the Middle Ages, p. 32. Probably in this case an unfamiliar oriental name was corrupted into a familiar name which happened to sound something like it.

The date of the now famous Διδαχὴ τῶν δώδεκα Ἀποστόλων has still to be determined. But it can hardly be later than A.D. 140, and may easily be as early as A.D. 95. In other words it is almost certainly earlier than the Apologies of Justin Martyr, and may possibly be earlier than the Epistle of Clement. In any case, if it contains evidence of a knowledge of S. John’s writings it is one of the earliest witnesses, or is perhaps the very earliest witness, that has come down to us.

The proof of its early date is negative rather than positive. There is an entire absence of all those features of which Church History between A.D. 140 and 200 is so full. There is no attempt at a Canon of the New Testament Scriptures. The Evangelists are still treated as one: their writings are “the Gospel.” There are still only two orders in the Church, bishops and deacons, the former (as in N.T.) identical with presbyters, who are not mentioned. No outline of a Creed is given. No Christian festival is mentioned. No doctrinal errors are attacked; not even Gnosticism or Ebionism, which were in full bloom by A.D. 140. The only error which is attacked is the moral error of an evil life. The language of the treatise is Scriptural, not patristic. It has been ascertained that it has a vocabulary of 552 words, of which 504 occur in N.T., while of the remaining 48 about 17 are found in LXX. and others are compounds of N.T. words.

All these facts, with others pointing in the same direction, force on us the conviction, that in the Διδαχή we have a very early witness to whatever Books of N.T. were evidently known to the author.

Did he know the Epistles of S. John? A tabular arrangement of passages will help the student to decide this question for himself.

1 John


1 John 4:18. ὁ δὲ φοβούμενος οὐ τετελείωται ἐν ἀγάπῃ.

1 John 4:12. ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ τετελειωμένη ἐν ἡμῖν ἐστίν.

x. μνήσθητι, Κύριε, τῆς ἐκκλησίας σου, τοῦ ῥύσασθαι αὐτὴν ἀπὸ παντὸς πονηροῦ, καὶ τελειῶσαι αὐτὴν ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ σου.

1 John 4:17. τετελείωται ἡ ἀγάπη.

1 John 2:5. ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ τετελείωται.

The phrases “to be perfected in love” and “to have love perfected in” occur nowhere in Scripture but in these four passages. Comp. John 17:23.

1 John


1 John 2:17. ὁ κόσμος παράγεται.

x. παρελθἑτω ὁ κόσμος οὑτος.

The force of this instance is weakened by the similar passage 1 Corinthians 7:31, παράγει γὰρ τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου: and the Διδαχή elsewhere exhibits traces of 1 Corinthians.

1 John


1 John 4:1. δοκιμάζετε τὰ πνεύματα.

xi. πᾶς δὲ προφήτης δεδοκιμασμένος, ἀληθινός, κ.τ.λ.

The addition of ἀληθινός, which is one of S. John’s characteristic expressions (see on 1 John 2:8), strengthens the parallel in this case.

2 John


2 John 1:10. εἴ τις ἔρχεται πρὸς ὑμᾶς, καὶ ταύτην τὴν διδαχὴν οὐ φέρει, μὴ λαμβάνετε αὐτον.

xi. ἐὰν δὲ αὐτὸς ὁ διδάσκων στραφεὶς διδάσκῃ ἄλλην διδαχὴν εἰς τὸ καταλῦσαι, μἠ αὐτοῦ ἀκούσητε.

The weight of these instances from the Epistles is considerably augmented when we find apparent reminiscences of the Fourth Gospel and of the Apocalypse in the Διδαχή. It is almost universally admitted that evidence for S. John’s Gospel may be accepted as evidence for his First Epistle, and vice versâ. They were very possibly published together, and the author of the Muratorian Canon seems to treat them as one book.

In the eucharistic thanksgiving (Did. x.) we have the address Πάτερ ἅγιε This occurs in “the prayer of the Great High Priest” (John 17:11) and nowhere else in N.T. And there are several other expressions in the thanksgiving which look like echoes of Christ’s prayer.

John 17

Διδαχή x.

δόξασόν σου τὸν υἱόνἵναδώσῃ αὐτοῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον. αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωή, ἵνα γινώσκωσί σεκαὶ ὅν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν.

ὑπὲρ τῆς γνώσεως καὶ πίστεως καὶ ἀθανασίας, ἧς ἐγνώρισας ἠμῖν διὰ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ παιδός σου. ζωὴν αἰώνιον διὰ τοῦ παιδός σου.

ἵνα ὦσιν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἡγιασμένοι.

τὴν ἁγιασθεῖσαν (ἐκκλησίαν).

The phrase ἐγνώρισας ἡμῖν διὰ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ παιδός σου occurs thrice in the eucharistic prayers and thanksgivings in the Διδαχή. Comp. καὶ ἐγνώρισα αὐτοῖς τὸ ὄνομά σου, καὶ γνωρίσω (John 17:26), and πάντα ἄ ἤκουσα παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου ἐγνώρισα ὑμῖν (John 15:15). Moreover, the prayer for unity in the Διδαχή (ix.), though very differently expressed, may easily be inspired by the similar prayer in John 17:11; John 17:22-23. “Just as this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one (ἐγένετο ἕν), so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom.” Comp. 1 Corinthians 10:17.

There are two other passages which look like reminiscences of the Fourth Gospel.



John 15:1. ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος ἡ ἀληθινή, καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ γεωργός ἐστιν.

ix. εὐχαριστοῦμέν σοι, πάτερ ἡμῶν, ὑπὲρ τῆς ἁγίας ἀμπέλου Δαβίδ.

John 1:14. ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν.

x. ὑπὲρ τ. ἁγίου ὀνόματός σου οὗ κατεσκήνωσας ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμῶν.

The source of “the holy vine of David” may be the Targum on Psalms 80:18 and not John 15:1; and God’s “causing His Name to tabernacle within us” may come from Revelation 7:15 or 21:3 rather than John 1:14. Σκηνόω used intransitively is a favourite term with S. John in allusion to the Shekina, the ‘tabernacling’ of Jehovah among His people in the Holy of Holies. But the idea of the Divine Name being enshrined in the heart at the reception of the heavenly food may have been suggested by Revelation 2:17. ‘I will give him of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written.’

There are four other passages which may be connected with the Apocalypse.

[1] Σύ, δέσποτα παντοκράτορ (Did. x.). The epithet παντοκράτωρ occurs nine times in the Revelation and nowhere else in N.T., excepting 2 Corinthians 6:18, where it is a quotation from the LXX. For δεσπότης in an address to the Almighty comp. Revelation 6:10.

[2] At the close of the eucharistic prayer we have Εἴ τις ἅγιός ἐστιν, ἐρχέσθω (Did. x.). Comp. ὁ ἅγιος ἁγιασθήτω ἔτι (Revelation 22:11); καὶ ὁ διψῶν ἐρχέσθω (Revelation 22:17).

[3] In chap. xi., respecting the ministry, we read Καὶ πάντα προφἡτην λαλοῦντα ἐν πνεύματι οὐ πειράσετε, a use of πειράζειν in the sense of ‘testing’ ministers which may have been suggested by Revelation 2:2; καὶ ἐπειράσω τοὺς φάσκοντας εἶναι ἀποστόλους, καὶ οὐκ εἰσί. For ἐν πνεύματι in the sense of ‘in ecstasy’ comp. Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:2; 1 Corinthians 12:3.

[4] Lastly, Κατὰ κυριακὴν δὲ Κυρίου (Did. xiv.) is probably the earliest instance of the use of κυριακή as a substantive in the sense of the Lord’s Day or Sunday. In Revelation 1:10 it is still an adjective; ἐν τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ: where, however, some understand it as meaning, not the Lord’s Day, but the Day of the Lord, i.e. the Day of Judgment.

These numerous coincidences in so short a treatise as the Διδαχή appear to constitute a fairly strong case. Not one of them can be considered decisive, although the first is certainly strong; and being from the First Epistle is of special interest in the present inquiry. Taken altogether they seem to justify the conclusion that the author of the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles was acquainted with much of the teaching of S. John, either in a written, or at least in an oral form.

For a very full discussion of the phraseology of the Διδαχή, especially in connexion with the Canon of Scripture, see Dr Schaff’s excellent edition, New York, 1885, from which one or two of the above parallels are taken. He entirely agrees with the conclusion just stated.


Critical editions of Latin Versions are among the desiderata in textual appliances: but excellent work is being done in this most promising and interesting field. See especially the valuable essays in Studia Biblica (Oxford, 1885) by Professors Wordsworth and Sanday, to the latter of whom this Appendix is much indebted.

The object of the Appendix is not to arrive at any conclusions (which would necessarily be premature), but merely to give some indication of the problems to be solved, and to show from the First Epistle of S. John the kind of facts which form materials for conclusions.

What was the origin of the Old Latin Version out of which Jerome formed the Vulgate? Was it originally one? And, if more than one, how many independent translations existed? In the Roman Empire the need of a Latin translation of the Scriptures would very soon be felt. And there would be nothing surprising in the fact, if fact it be, that several Latin Versions, i.e. translations for general use, were made in different parts of the Empire almost simultaneously.

The best working hypothesis at present seems on the whole to be, that there were two such original translations; and that the great variety of Latin texts that have come down to us are modifications of these caused [1] by crossing of the two main stocks and [2] by local revision of them. When the two translations came into contact, each would influence the other: and if the English of a Northumbrian miner is not easily followed by a Cornish one even in these days of railways and newspapers, we may be sure that a Latin Version made in one part of the Roman Empire might need a good deal of change in its vocabulary before it could become popular in another part. The two main classes of Latin texts are commonly distinguished as African and European; and the characteristics which have been already ascertained as belonging to each are so numerous and so definite, that it is unlikely that these two great families will eventually be traced to one parent.

But it does not necessarily follow that each of these two original translations covered the whole N.T. Both may have contained the Gospels, but only one of them the remainder. Both may have contained the Epistles of S. Paul, but only one of them the Catholic Epistles. It would be very rash to argue from phenomena found in the Gospels to conclusions respecting the Epistles, and perhaps even from phenomena found in the text of S. James to the text of the Epistles of S. John.

Still it is very interesting to notice that one of the conclusions reached by Professor Sanday with regard to S. James does seem to hold good of our Epistle. “What inferences are we to draw from all this as to the character of the Vulgate text in this Epistle (S. James)? Extremely little is due to Jerome himself. There is hardly a word that cannot be proved to have been in use before his time: in many cases where the evidence is slenderest as to the use of the word elsewhere the quotations in St Augustine and Ambrosiaster prove that it was already found in this Epistle” (Studia Biblica, 252). In the following tables, which were not drawn up with a view to eliciting this fact, it will be noticed that in the first passage (1 John 2:1-2) not a single word in the Vulgate text is Jerome’s own; in the second (1 John 2:15-17) only superbia vitae; in the third (1 John 4:2-3) only the second Christum, which has no business to be there.

The passages were selected [1] because they are quoted by Cyprian, of whose works we now have a critical edition by Hartel; [2] because they each contain something of special interest in the way of reading or translation. The arrangement of the quotations in their respective columns is not intended to prejudge the question as to which writer gives an African, and which a European text. But we may safely consider Cyprian as having mainly the former, and the Vulgate as being, at any rate in its base, the latter. Tertullian is either omitted or placed below Cyprian, in spite of his priority. “The presence of a reading in Tertullian,” says Dr Sanday, “does not, I believe, necessarily prove that it is African; for I strongly suspect that besides his own direct translations from the Greek, he also became acquainted with the European text during his stay at Rome, and made use of it together with the African. But I wish to speak on all points relating to Tertullian as yet with great reserve. Cyprian is our true starting point in the history of the African Version” (S. B. 245).

It is worth while observing that several renderings, which by evidence obtained in other parts of N.T. have been proved to be decidedly African in character, are in these passages found in Cyprian, or in Cyprian and Tertullian, and for the most part there alone. Thus iste for hic (ista scribo); si qui for si quis (si qui deliquerit and si qui dilexerit); delinquere for peccare (ne delinquatis: et si qui deliquerit); delictum for peccatum (pro delictis nostris); quomodo for sicut (quomodo et ipse [Deus] manet—four times). To such small points do the characteristic differences between the two main families of Old Latin texts extend.

These passages serve also to illustrate that tendency to interpolation which is one of the marked features of all Western texts. We have the insertion of concupiscentia in 1 John 2:16 (sed ex concupiscentia saeculi) and the spurious addition to 1 John 2:17 (quomodo et ipse manet in aeternum). Comp. the addition of Dei after caritatem (1 John 3:16) and after caritati (1 John 4:16); of quod majus est after hoc est testimonium Dei (1 John 5:9); and (in some copies) of ecce praedixi vobis ut in die Domini non confundamini (2 John 1:11). From Wiclif’s and Purvey’s “The grace of God be with thee” (2 John 1:13) we infer that there also some Latin texts had a spurious addition to the text. Western interpolation reached a climax in the famous Latin addition to 1 John 5:7-8.


CYPRIAN (EP. Leviticus 18).

Filioli mei, ista scribo [scripsi Q] vobis ne delinquatis: et si qui [quis BQR] deliquerit, advocatum habemus apud patrem, Iesum Christum justum [suffragatorem Q], et ipse est deprecatio pro delictis nostris.


Filioli, haec scribo vobis, ne delinquatis, et si deliqueritis, advocatum habemus apud Deum patrem, Iesum Christum justum, et ipse placatio est pro delictis nostris.


Haec vobis scribo ut non peccetis. Quod si peccaverimus, paraclitum habemus ad patrem.

Elsewhere Vigilius has advocatum.


Haec scribo vobis, ne peccetis. Sed et si quis peccaverit, paraclitum habemus apud patrem, Iesum Christum.


Ipse est placatio pro peccatis nostris.



Nolite diligere [ins. huc [127]] mundum neque ea quae in [ins. hoc [128]] mundo sunt. Si qui [quis AMB] dilexerit [ins. hunc [129]] mundum, non est caritas patris in illo: quoniam omne quod in mundo est, concupiscentia carnis est et concupiscentia oculorum et ambitio saeculi, quae non est a patre, sed ex concupiscentia saeculi: et mundus transibit et concupiscentia ejus. Qui autem fecerit voluntatem Dei manet [thus WLMB, manebitrel] in aeternum, quomodo et ipse [et Deus M omit et [130][131]] manet in aeternum.

Cyprian quotes this passage four times. Twice he has quia for quoniam, twice concup. mundi for concup, saeculi, once manebit for manet, thrice Deus for ipse.


Et mundus transit et concupiscentia ejus. Qui autem fecerit voluntatem Dei manet in aeternum, quomodo et Deus manet in aeternum.


As Cyprian Test. III. xi, with si quis for si qui, and Deus for ipse.


As Lucifer, but with vero for autem.


Nolite diligere mundum, neque ea quae sunt in mundo. Si quis dilexerit mundum, dilectio patris non est in ipso: quia omne quod in mundo est, desiderium est carnis et desiderium oculorum et ambitio saeculi: quae non sunt ex patre, sed ex mundo sunt. Et mundus transit et desideria ejus. Qui autem fecerit voluntatem Dei, manet in aeternum, sicut et ipse manet in aeternum.

Elsewhere Augustine has Et mundus transit et concupiscentia ejus. Qui autem facit vol. Dei, manet in aeternum, sicut et Deus m. in aeternum: and again Qui autem fecit.


Nolite diligere mundum neque ea quae in mundo sunt. Si quis diligit mundum, non est caritas patris in eo: quoniam omne quod in mundo est, concupiscentia carnis est et concupiscentia oculorum et superbia vitae, quae non est ex patre, sed ex mundo est. Et mundus transibit et concupiscentia ejus: qui autem facit voluntatem Dei, manet in aeternum.

Elsewhere Jerome has Omne quod in mundo est, desiderium carnis est et desiderium oculorum et superbia hujus vitae; quae non est de patre, sed de mundo. Et mundus praeterit et desiderium ejus. (Contra Jovin. I. 40.)



Omnis spiritus, qui confitetur Iesum Christum in earne [carnem WB] venisse, de Deo est. Qui autem negat in carne [carnem [132]] venisse, de Deo non [natus non M] est, sed est de antichristi spiritu [est antichristus M].

Comp. TERTULLIAN (Adv. Marc. v. 16) who combines either two readings or 1 John 4:3 with 2 John 1:7 : Ioannes apostolus qui jam antichristos dicit processisse in mundum praecursores antichristi spiritus, negantes Christum in carne venisse, et solventes Iesum.


Omnis spiritus qui confitetur Iesum [Christum] in carne venisse ex Deo est: et omnis spiritus qui non confitetur Iesum ex Deo non est; et hoc est illius antichristi.


Omnis spiritus qui non confitetur Iesum Christum in carne venisse ex Deo non est; et hic est antichristus.

Elsewhere he has Omnis spiritus qui solvit Iesum ex Deo non est; et hic est antichristus.


Omnis spiritus qui confitetur Iesum [Christum] in carne venisse, ex Deo est. Et omnis spiritus qui solvit Iesum, non est ex Deo, sed ex [de] antichristo est.


Omnis spiritus qui solvit Iesum non est ex Deo.


Omnis spiritus qui destruit Iesum ex Deo non est; et hic est antichristus.


Omnis spiritus qui solvit Iesum et negat in carne venisse de Deo non est, sed hic de antichristo est.

Conflation, as in Augustine.


Omnis spiritus qui confitetur Iesum Christum in carne venisse, ex Deo est: et omnis spiritus qui solvit Iesum Christum, ex Deo non est; et hic est antichristus.

The Clementine Vulgate omits the second Christum.

AUGUSTINE reads qui non confitetur but explains both qui non confitetur and qui solvit without noting the change. Finally he combines the two like Tertullian, but in reverse order: solvis Iesum et negas in carne venisse.


A comparison of the three English Versions which are based on the Vulgate is interesting and instructive, not only in reference to the history of the English Bible, but also as throwing light on the manner in which the Vulgate was formed. Two centuries separate Wiclif’s work (c. 1380) from the Rhemish [1582], and much had taken place in the way of translation of the Scriptures in the interval. Wiclif’s Version, even when revised by Purvey, was a mere translation from the Latin without reference to the Greek. The Rhemish, while professing to be the same, was influenced by Tyndale’s translation from the original. The precise Latin texts used by Wiclif and Purvey cannot be ascertained; but their translation is much nearer to the ordinary Vulgate of the Sixtine and Clementine editions than to the original Vulgate of Jerome. This will be apparent from the tabular arrangement of the Second and Third Epistles given below. The Latin text there printed is the Clementine, which in these Epistles agrees almost exactly with the Sixtine, excepting as regards the spurious addition to 2 John 1:11, and some smaller points in 1 John 2:4; 1 John 2:24; 1 John 5:14 The chief readings of the Codex Amiatinus (our best authority for the text of Jerome) are added in brackets at the end of each verse; and the chief readings of the Old Latin are added at the end of each Epistle. It will be seen that neither Wiclif nor Purvey used texts that were closely akin either to the Old Latin or to Jerome. Purvey tells us in his Prologue (chap. xv.) that he “hadde myche travaile, with diverse felawis and helperis, to gedere manie elde biblis, and othere doctouris, and comune glosis, and to make oo Latyn bibel soumdel trewe.” But all these “old bibles,” which he and his “fellows” collected, seem to have had in the main the ordinary Vulgate text; and his “one Latin bible somewhat correct” is of the same character. In a few cases he appears to have had an older text than Wiclif: e.g. 1 John 5:10 in filio for in filium; 2 John 1:9 praecedit for recedit: but this is not common. And in a few instances both Wiclif and Purvey seem to have had the reading of Jerome rather than that of the Sixtine or Clementine text: e.g. 1 John 2:17 transibit and not transit; 1 John 3:19 suademus and not suadebimus. But the large majority of instances are the other way. In 1 John 2:4 they read Deum for eum; 1 John 2:24 Quia si for Si; 1 John 2:29 et omnis for omnis; 1 John 3:11 diligatis for diligamus; 1 John 3:12 qui ex for Exodus 3:13 vos for nos; 1 John 3:17 hujus mundi for mundi; 1 John 4:10 ipse prior for ipse; 1 John 4:17 charitas Dei for caritas; 1 John 4:19 diligamus Deum for diligamus, or dil. invicem; 1 John 5:7 the great interpolation; 1 John 5:13 scribo for scripsi; 1 John 5:14 Deum for eum; 1 John 5:16 petat et dabitur for petit et dabit.

The MSS. of Purvey’s Version do not exactly agree: those of Wiclif’s differ very considerably. The text adopted here is that of Forshall and Madden. A slightly different text will be found in Lewis’s edition [1731] reprinted by Baber [1810]; and yet another in Bagster’s very useful English Hexapla [1841]. But neither Baber nor Bagster give Wiclif’s Version: they give Purvey’s under the name of Wiclif. The variations between these three texts of Purvey’s Version do not often in these Epistles go beyond spelling and punctuation. The spelling of Middle English being phonetic, differences of spelling are considerable even in the same document. Thus in one and the same text of 3 John we have ‘brother’ and ‘brothir,’ ‘most’ and ‘moost,’ ‘welefuly’ and ‘welefuli,’ ‘wryte’ and ‘write,’ ‘Y’ and ‘I.’ But the MSS. have no stops: the differences in punctuation are due to the editors. In the Clementine Vulgate and in the Rhemish Version the punctuation is sometimes very peculiar.

In the N.T. the work of Purvey is very analogous to that of Jerome. Both revisers had a complete translation, made by their predecessors, to work upon. Both knew of variations from that translation as sources whence improvements might possibly be drawn. In both cases many of the changes actually introduced by the reviser were already in existence as alternative renderings in commentaries or translations. Comparison of Old Latin texts tends to reduce within very narrow limits the amount of work on the N.T. done by Jerome that can justly be called original. And a study of the various readings given by Forshall and Madden under Wiclif’s Version will shew how often the changes actually made by Purvey have been anticipated in some copy of the earlier translation. This is so frequently the case in the MS. styled by the editors V (New College 67), that one suspects this document of representing an early attempt at revision made by Purvey himself. In any case Purvey’s merits are great. Out of existing materials he made numerous excellent selections and added many improvements which were entirely his own. And his work improved as he went on. The glosses which disfigure Wiclif’s work, and which Purvey for the most part retains and sometimes adds to in the O.T., are dismissed from the N.T.[133] And the clumsy ‘forsothe’ and ‘sotheli,’ very frequent throughout the earlier translation, and still frequent in the first half of Purvey’s recension, almost disappear in the last part[134]. Therefore in these Epistles we have the reviser at his best.

The alterations made by Purvey are not as a rule either emendations of the Latin text, or corrections of mistranslations, real or supposed. Some emendations and corrections no doubt occur: e.g. he rightly inserts ‘Jhesu’ before ‘Crist’ in 1 John 4:2 and substitutes ‘bileveth in the sone’ for ‘bileveth in to the sone’ (in filio for in filium) in 1 John 5:10 : and less well he changes ‘for Crist is treuthe’ into ‘that Crist is treuthe’ in 1 John 5:6. But far more often his alterations are improvements in the English, with a view to making a stiff and over literal translation more suitable for popular use as a Version. A few instances from the First Epistle will illustrate this.

1 John 1:8. Si dixerimus quoniam peccatum non habemus, ipsi nos seducimus.

Wiclif. If we shulen seie, for we han not synne, we oure silf deceyven us.

Purvey. If we seien, that we han no synne, we disseyven us silf.

1 John 2:1-2. Sed si quis peccaverit, advocatum habemus apud patrem, Iesum Christum justum: et ipse est propitiatio pro peccatis nostris (Am. sed et si).

Wiclif. But and if ony man shal synne, we han avoket anentis the fadir, Jhesu Crist just, and he is helpyng for oure synnes.

Purvey. But if ony man synneth, we han an advocat anentis the fadir, Jhesu Crist, and he is the foryyvenes for oure synnes.

1 John 2:6. Qui dicit se in ipso manere, debet, sicut ille ambulavit, et ipse ambulare.

Wiclif. He that seith him for to dwelle in him, and he owith for to walke, as he walkide.

Purvey. He that seith that he dwellith in hym, he owith for to walke, as he walkide.

1 John 2:21. Non scripsi vobis quasi ignorantibus veritatem, sed quasi scientibus eam.

Wiclif. I wroot not to you as to men unknowinge treuthe, but as to knowinge it.

Purvey. Y wroot not to you as to men that knowen not treuthe, but as to men that knowen it.

But a much fairer estimate of the amount and kind of difference between Wiclif and Purvey and between Purvey and the Rhemish Version will be formed from a continuous passage. After these verses selected from the First Epistle let us compare Wiclif with Purvey throughout the Second Epistle, and Purvey with the Rhemish throughout the Third; in each case placing the ordinary Vulgate text between the two English Versions.

WICLIF, c. 1380.


PURVEY, c. 1388.

1. THE eldre man to the chosen lady, & to hir children, the whiche I love in treuthe; and not I aloone, but & alle men that knewen treuthe.

1. SENIOR Electae dominae et natis ejus, quos ego diligo in veritate, et non ego solus, sed et omnes qui cognoverunt veritatem,

1. THE eldere man, to the chosun ladi, & to her children, whiche Y love in treuthe; and not Y aloone, but also alle men that knowen treuthe;

2. for the treuthe that dwellith in you, & with you shal ben in to with outen ende.

2. propter veritatem, quae permanet in nobis, et nobiscum erit in aeternum.

2. for the treuthe that dwellith in you, and with you schal be with outen ende.

3. Grace be with you, mercy, & pees of God the fadir, and of Jhesu Crist, the sone of the fadir, in treuthe and charite.

3. Sit vobiscum gratia, miserieordia, pax a Deo Patre et a Christo Jesu, Filio Patris, in veritate et charitate (Am. nobiscum: omits the second a).

3. Grace be with you, merci, and pees of God the fadir, and of Jhesu Crist, the sone of the fadir, in treuthe and charite.

4. I joyede ful miche, for I foond of thi sones goynge in treuthe, as we receyveden maundement of the fadir.

4. Gavisus sum valde, quoniam inveni de filiis tuis ambulantes in veritate, sicut mandatum accepimus a Patre.

4. I joiede ful myche, for Y foond of thi sones goynge in treuthe, as we resseyveden maundement of the fadir.

5. And now I preye thee, lady, not as writinge a newe maundement to thee, but that that we hadden at the bigynnynge, that we love eche other.

5. Et nunc rogo te, domina, non tanquam mandatum novum scribens tibi, sed quod habuimus ab initio, ut diligamus alterutrum.

5. And now Y preye thee, ladi, not as writinge a newe maundement to thee, but that that we hadden fro the bigynnyng, that we love ech other.

6. And this is charite, that we walke up his maundementes. Sotheli this is the comaundement, that as ye herden at the bigynnyge, in him walke ye.

6. Et haec est charitas, ut ambulemus secundum mandata ejus. Hoc est enim mandatum, ut quemadmodum audistis ab initio in eo ambuletis (Am. omits enim).

6. And this is charite, that we walke after his maundementis. For this is the comaundement, that as ye herden at the bigynnyng, walke ye in him.

7. For many deceyvours wenten out in to the world, whiche knowlechen not Jhesu Crist for to have come in flesch; this is deceyvour and antecrist.

7. Quoniam multi seductores exierunt in mundum, qui non confitentur Jesum Christum venisse in carnem. Hic est seductor, et Antichristus (Am. venientem in carne).

7. For many disseyveris wenten out in to the world, which knoulechen not that Jhesu Crist hath come in fleisch: this is a disseyvere and antecrist.

8. See ye youre silf, lest ye leese the thinges that ye han wrought, but that ye receyve ful meede;

8. Videte vosmet ipsos, ne perdatis quae operati estis: sed ut mercedem plenam accipiatis.

8. Se ye you silf, lest ye lesen the thingis that ye han wrouyt, that ye resseyve ful mede;

9. witynge that ech man that goith awey, & dwellith not in the techinge of Crist, hath not God. He that dwellith in the techinge, hath and the sone and the fadir.

9. Omnis, qui recedit, et non permanet in doctrina Christi, Deum non habet: qui permanet in doctrina, hic et Patrem et Filium habet (Am. praecedit: manet: filium et patrem).

9. witynge that ech man that goith before, & dwellith not in the teching of Crist, hath not God. He that dwellith in the teching, hath bothe the sone and the fadir.

10. If ony man cometh to you, & bringeth not to this teching, nyle ye receyve him in to hous, nether ye shulen sei to him, Heyl.

10. Si quis venit ad vos, et hanc doctrinam non affert, nolite recipere eum in domum, nec ave ei dixeritis.

10. If ony man cometh to you, & bryngith not this teching, nyle ye resseyve hym in to hous, nether seie ye to hym, Heil.

11. Sotheli he that seith to hym, Heyl, comuneth with his yvele werkis. Lo! I bifore seide to you, that ye be not confoundid in the day of our Lord Jhesu Crist.

11. Qui enim dicit illi ave, communicat operibus ejus malignis (Am. illius). [Ecce praedixi vobis, ut in die Domini non confundamini.]

11. For he that seith to hym, Heil, comyneth with hise yvel werkis. Lo! Y biforseide to you, that ye be not confounded in the dai of oure Lord Jhesu Crist.

12. I havynge mo thinges for to wrijte to you, wolde not by parchemyn & ynke; sotheli I hope me to comynge to you, & speke mouth to mouth, that youre joye be ful.

12. Plura habens vobis scribere, nolui per chartam et atramentum: spero enim me futurum apud vos, et os ad os loqui: ut gaudium vestrum plenum sit.

12. Y have mo thingis to write to you, & Y wolde not bi parchemyn & enke; for Y hope that Y schal come to you, & speke mouth to mouth, that your joye be ful.

13. The sones, or douytres, of thi systir chosen greten thee wel. The grace of God with thee. Amen.

13. Salutant te filii sororis tuae Electae.

13. The sones of thi chosun sistir greten thee wel. The grace of God be with thee. Amen.

The chief variations between the Vulgate and the Old Latin in this Epistle are the following (Sabatier, Bibliorum Sacrorum Latinae Versiones Antiquae, Remis, 1743, III. 981, 982):—

5. Oro te domina, non sicut … ut diligamus nos alterutrum.

6. Hoc est mandatum, sicut audistis ab initio, ut in eo ambuletis.

7. Quoniam multi fallaces progressi sunt in saeculo … venisse in carne: isti sunt fallaces et antichristi.

8. Videte eos, ne perdatis quod … recipiatis.

9. Non manet … qui autem manet in doctrina ejus, ille.

10. Si quis veneritet ave nolite dicere ei.

Now we may go on to compare Purvey with the Rhemish in 3 John. But first it may be worth while to point out one or two characteristic renderings both in the Latin and in the English Versions. They shew the desire to keep very closely, in the one case to the Greek, in the other to the Latin, even at the risk of being scarcely intelligible, or at least very uncouth (comp. Wiclif’s rendering of 2 John 1:6 quoted above). Thus we have the use of the genitive after a comparative; μειζοτἑραν τούτων οὐκ ἔχω χάριν (as [135] and the Memphitic for χαράν), majorem horum non habeo gratiam, ‘Y have not more grace of these thingis’ or ‘Greater thanke have I not of them’ (v. 4; comp. μείζω τούτων, majora horum, John 1:50): the introduction of quoniam for ὅτι in the sense of ‘that’; οἶδας ὅτι nosti quoniam (3 John 1:12; comp. 1 John 1:8; 1 John 1:10; 1 John 2:5; 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:15; 1 John 4:13-14; 1 John 4:20; and with quia for ὅτι 1 John 2:18; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 5:15; 1 John 5:18): and the attempt to express the Greek particle ἄν by a separate word; ἔγραψα ἄν (as [136]3 and the Syriac Versions for ἔγραψά τι), scripsissem forsitan, ‘I hadde write peradventure’ or ‘I had written perhaps’ (3 John 1:9 : see note on μεμενήκεισαν ἄν, permansissent utique, 1 John 2:19).

The italics in the Rhemish Version indicate renderings which seem to have come from Tyndale.

PURVEY, c. 1388.


RHEMISH, 1582.

1. THE eldere man to Gayus, most dere brother, whom Y love in treuthe.

1. SENIOR Gaio charissimo, quem ego diligo in veritate.

1. THE seniour to Gaius the deerest, whom I love in truth.

2. Most dere brothir, of alle thingis Y make preyer, that thou entre, and fare welefully, as thi soul doith welefuli.

2. Charissime, de omnibus orationem facio prospere te ingredi, et valere, sicut prospere agit anima tua.

2. My deerest, concerning al thinges I make my praier that thou proceede prosperously, & fare wel, as thy soule doth prosperously.

3. Y ioyede greetli, for britheren camen, & baren witnessing to thi treuthe, as thou walkist in treuthe.

3. Gavisus sum valde venientibus fratribus, et testimonium perhibentibus veritati tuae, sicut tu in veritate ambulas.

3. I was exceding glad when the brethren came, & gave testimonie to thy truth, even as thou walkest in truth.

4. Y have not more grace of these thingis, than that Y here that my sones walke in treuthe.

4. Majorem horum non habeo gratiam, quam ut audiam filios meos in veritate ambulare (Am. ambulantes).

4. Greater thanke have I not of them, then that I may heare my children do walke in truth.

5. Most dere brother, thou doist faithfuli, whatever thou worchist in britheren, and that in to pilgrymys,

5. Charissime, fideliter facis, quidquid operaris in fratres, et hoc in peregrinos,

5. My deerest, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou workest on the brethren, & that upon strangers.

6. which yeldiden witnessing to thi charite, in the siyt of the chirche; which thou leddist forth, and doist wel worthili to God.

6. qui testimonium reddiderunt charitati tuae in conspectu Ecclesiae, quos, benefaciens, deduces dignè Deo (Am. benefacies ducens).

6. they have rendred testimonie to thy charitie in the sight of the church; whom, thou shalt doe wel, bringing on their way in maner worthie of God.

7. For thei wenten forth for his name, and token no thing of hethene men.

7. Pro nomine enim ejus profecti sunt, nihil accipientes a gentibus (Am. omits ejus).

7. For, for his name did they depart, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

8. Therfor we owen to resseyve siche, that we be even worcheris of treuthe (Bagster, such manner men).

8. Nos ergo debemus suscipere hujusmodi, ut cooperatores simus veritatis.

8. We therefore ought to receive such: that we may be coadjutors of the truth.

9. I hadde write peradventure to the chirche, but this Diotrepes, that loveth to bere primacie in hem, resseyveth not us.

9. Scripsissem forsitan Ecclesiae: sed is, qui amat primatum gerere in eis, Diotrephes, non recipit nos (Am. Diotripes).

9. I had written perhaps to the church: but he that loveth to beare primacie among them, Diótrepes. doth not receive us.

10. For this thing, if Y schal come, Y schal moneste hise werkis, which he doith, chidinge ayens us with yvel wordis. And as if these thing is suffisen not to hym, nether he resseyveth britheren, and forbedith hem that resseyven, and puttith out of the chirche.

10. Propter hoc, si venero, commonebo ejus opera, quae facit, verbis malignis garriens in nos: et quasi non ei ista sufficiant: neque ipse suscipit fratres: et eos, qui suscipiunt, prohibet, et de Ecclesia ejicit (Am. commoneam: cupiunt).

10. For this cause, if I come, I will advertise his workes which he doeth: with malicious wordes chatting against us, and as though these thinges suffise him not: neither him self doth receive the brethren, & them that do receive, he prohibiteth, and casteth out of the church.

11. Moost dere brothir, nyle thou sue yvel thing, but that that is good thing. He that doith wel, is of God; he that doith yvel, seeth not God.

11. Charissime, noli imitari malum, sed quod bonum est. Qui benefacit, ex Deo est: qui malefacit, non vidit Deum (Am. videt).

11. My deerest, do not imitate evil, but that which is good. He that doeth well, is of GOD: he that doeth il, hath not seen God.

12. Witnessing is yoldun to Demetrie of alle men, and of treuthe it silf; but also we beren witnessing, & thou knowist, that oure witnessing is trewe.

12. Demetrio testimonium redditur ab omnibus, et ab ipsa veritate, sed et nos testimonium perhibemus: et nosti quoniam testimonium nostrum verum est (Am. omits sed).

12. To Demetrius testimonie is given of al, & of the truth it self, yea & we give testimonie: & thou knowest that our testimonie is true.

13. Y hadde many thingis to wryte to thee, but I wolde not write to thee bi enke and penne.

13. Multa habui tibi scribere: sed nolui per atramentum, et calamum scribere tibi (Am. scribere tibi).

13. I had many thinges to write unto thee: but I would not by inke and penne write to thee.

14. For Y hope soone to se thee, and we schulen speke mouth to mouth.

14. Spero autem protinus te videre, et os ad os loquemur.

14. But I hope forthwith to see thee, and we wil speake mouth to mouth.

15. Pees be to thee. Frendis greten thee wel. Greete thou wel frendis bi name.

15. Pax tibi. Salutant te amici. Saluta amicos nominatim (Am. per nomen).

15. Peace be to thee. The freendes salute thee. Salute the freendes by name.

The chief variations between the Vulgate and the Old Latin in this Epistle are the following (Sabatier, Bibliorum Versiones Antiquae, III. 983, 984):—

1. Senior Gaio dilectissimo.

4. Majus autem horum non habeo gaudium … ambulantes.

5. quodcunque operaris in fratribus, et hoc peregrinis.

6. dederunt dilectioni tuae coram Ecclesia: quos optime facis, si praemiseris Deo digne.

7. Pro nomine enim Domini exierunt.

9. Scripsi etiam Ecclesiae: sed qui primatus agere cupit eorum.

10. Propterea cum venero, admonebo ejus opera, quae facit, malis verbis detrahens de nobis: et non sufficit ei, quod ipse non recipit fratres; sed et volentes prohibet.

12. Demetrio testimonium perhibetur … et nos vero testimonium perhibemus: et scis, testimonium nostrum verum est.

13. Plura habui scribere tibi: sed nolo.

14. Spero enim protinus te visurum, et os ad os locuturum.

15. Pax tecum. Salutant te amici tui.

Excepting enim in v. 14, and perhaps in fratribus in v. 5, there is no evidence that these readings were known to Purvey.


This Appendix, with the exception of a few sentences, is taken almost verbatim from Bishop Lightfoot’s great work on S. Ignatius and S. Polycarp, recently published.

The Latin Version of the Ignatian Epistles in their middle form has a special interest for Englishmen, as being a product of the remarkable but premature literary revival which distinguished the thirteenth century, and as giving the Ignatian letters in the only form in which they were known in this country till several years after the invention of printing. It does not seem to be quoted except by English writers, or to have been known out of England. It is with much probability conjectured to be a translation made by Robert Grossteste, Bishop of Lincoln, c. A.D. 1250.

The collection comprises sixteen epistles in all besides the Acts of the Martyrdom, and it falls into two parts.

[1] The first, which ends with the Acts of Martyrdom and the accompanying Epistle to the Romans, includes twelve epistles. This portion is a translation from a Greek original. It corresponds exactly in arrangement and contents with the Greek collection represented by the Medicean and Colbert MSS. and must have been translated by Bishop Grossteste or his assistants from some similar Greek MS. At the close of this part is a summary of the contents. This is the main indication in the Latin MSS. that the first part is separate from the second.

[2] The second part consists of the four short epistles, which make up the correspondence of the saint with the Virgin and S. John. These epistles appear never to have existed in the Greek, and therefore cannot have formed part of Grossteste’s version. How they came to be attached to this version it is impossible to say; but inasmuch as they occur in both the MSS. [137]1 [138]2, in the same form and arrangement, though these two MSS. are independent of each other, they must have held this position at a very early date, and it is not improbable that they were appended soon after the version was made. They were very popular in the middle ages, and appear to have been much read about this time; so that no collection of the Ignatian Epistles would have appeared complete without them.

The great importance of this Anglo-Latin version of the Ignatian Epistles for textual criticism consists in its extreme literalness, to which the construction of the Latin is consistently sacrificed. This remark cannot of course apply to the correspondence with the Virgin and S. John which probably is not a translation and is comparatively unimportant. It is found in a considerable number of MSS. sometimes by itself, sometimes in connexion with the Epistles of the Long Recension. The various readings are very numerous, and the order of the four Epistles is different in different copies. Like so many other apocryphal writings, they help by contrast to confirm the authenticity of genuine writings. The wide difference between the two is fully accounted for by the fact that the one are spurious and the other not.


Johanni Sancto Seniori Ignatius et qui cum eo sunt Fratres

De tua mora dolemus graviter, allocutionibus et consolationibus tuis roborandi. Si tua absentia protendatur, multos de nostris destituet. Properes igitur venire, quia credimus expedire. Sunt et hic multae de nostris mulieribus Mariam Jesu videre cupientes et discurrere a nobis quotidie volentes, ut eam contingant et ubera ejus tractent, quae Dominum Jesum aluerunt, et quaedam secretiora ejus percunctentur eam. Sed et Salome quam diligis, filia Annae, Hierosolimis quinque mensibus apud eam commorans, et quidam alii noti referunt eam omnium gratiarum abundam et omnium virtutum foecundam. Et, ut dicunt, in persecutionibus et afflictionibus est hilaris; in penuriis et indigentiis non querula; injuriantibus grata; et molestata laetatur; miseris et afflictis coafflicta condolet, et subvenire non pigrescit. Contra vitiorum pestiferos insultus in pugna fidei discrepitans enitescit. Nostrae novae religionis est magistra; et apud fideles omnium operum pietatis ministra. Humilibus quidem est devota, et devotis devotius humiliatur. Et mirum ab omnibus magnificatur; cum a scribis et Pharisaeis ei detrahatur. Praeterea et multi multa nobis referunt de eadem: tamen omnibus per omnia non audemus fidem concedere, nec tibi referre. Sed sicut nobis a fide dignis narratur, in Maria Jesu humanae naturae natura sanctitatis angelicae sociatur. Et haec talia excitaverunt viscera nostra, et cogunt valde desiderare aspectum hujus (si fas sit fari) prodigii et sanctissimi monstri. Tu autem diligenti modo disponas cum desiderio nostro, et valeas. Amen.


Johanni Sancto Seniori suus Ignatius

Si licitum est mihi apud te ad Hierosolimae partes volo ascendere, et videre fideles sanctos qui ibi sunt; praecipue Mariam Jesu, quam dicunt universis admirandam et cunctis desiderabilem. Quem vero non delectet videre eam et alloqui, quae verum Deum deorum peperit, si sit nostrae fidei et religionis amicus? Similiter et illum venerabilem Jacobum qui cognominatur Justus; quem referunt Christo Jesu simillimum vita et modo conversationis, ac si ejusdem uteri frater esset gemellus; quem, dicunt, si videro, video ipsum Jesum secundum omnia corporis ejus lineamenta: praeterea ceteros sanctos et sanctas. Heu, quid moror? Cur detineor? Bone praeceptor, properare me jubeas, et valeas. Amen.


Christiferae Mariae suus Ignatius

Me neophitum Johannisque tui discipulum confortare et consolari debueras. De Jesu enim tuo percepi mira dictu, et stupefactus sum ex auditu. A te autem, quae semper ei familiarius fuisti conjuncta et secretorum ejus conscia, desidero ex animo fieri certior de auditis. Scripsi tibi et etiam alias, et rogavi de eisdem. Valeas; et tui neophiti, qui mecum sunt, ex te et per te et in te confortentur. Amen.


Ignatio Dilecto Condiscipulo Humilis Ancilla Domini

De Jesu quae a Johanne audisti et didicisti vera sunt. Illa credas, illis inhaereas, et Christianitatis susceptae votum firmiter teneas, et mores et vitam voto conformes. Veniam autem una cum Johanne te et qui tecum sunt visere. Sta et viriliter age in fide; nec te commoveat persecutionis austeritas, sed valeat et exultet spiritus tuus in Deo salutari tuo. Amen.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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