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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
3 John 1

 

 

Introduction

THE title, like that of the Gospel and of the other two Epistles, is not original, and is found in various forms, the most ancient being the simplest. Ἰωάννου or Ἰωάνου γ̅ ([934][935]). Ἰωάννου ἐπιστολὴ γ̅ ([936]). ἐπιστολὴ τρίτη τοῦ ἁγίου ἀποστόλου Ἰωάννου ([937]). As in the Second Epistle, the title in [938] is missing. Some authorities insert καθολική, which is manifestly inappropriate. The Second Epistle may be addressed to a local Church and be intended to be encyclical: beyond doubt this is addressed to an individual.


Verse 1

1. This Epistle, like the Second, and most others in N.T., has a definite address, but of a very short and simple kind: comp. James 1:1. It has no greeting, properly so called, the prayer expressed in 3 John 1:2 taking its place.

ὁ πρεσβύτερος. See on 2 John 1:1. From the Apostle’s using this title in both Epistles we may conclude that he commonly designated himself thus. If not, it is additional evidence that the two letters were written about the same time: see on 3 John 1:13-14.

Γαΐῳ τῷ ἀγαπητῷ. To Gaius the beloved: the epithet is the same word as we have had repeatedly in the First Epistle (1 John 2:7; 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:21; 1 John 4:1; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:11) and have again in 3 John 1:2; 3 John 1:5; 3 John 1:11. The name Gaius being perhaps the most common of all names in the Roman Empire, it is idle to speculate without further evidence as to whether the one here addressed is identical with either Gaius of Macedonia (Acts 19:29), Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4), or Gaius of Corinth (Romans 16:23). See Introduction, Chap. IV. sect. ii. p. lxxix.

ὃν ἐγὼ ἀγ. ἐν ἀληθ. Whom I love in truth: see on 2 John 1:1. This is not mere tautology after ‘the beloved;’ nor is it mere emphasis. ‘The beloved’ gives a common sentiment respecting Gaius: this clause expresses the Apostle’s own feeling. There is no need, as in the Second Epistle, to enlarge upon the meaning of loving in truth. In this letter the Apostle has not to touch upon defects which a less true love might have passed over in silence. The emphatic ἐγώ again seems to imply that there are others who are hostile, or whose affection is not sincere. In veritate, hoc est, in Domino qui est veritas (A Lapide). Similarly Bede: id est, vero amore diligo, illo videlicet qui secundum Deum est.


Verse 2

2. περὶ πάντων εὔχομαι. I pray that in all respects; literally, concerning all things. It might well surprise us to find S. John placing health and prosperity above all things, as A.V. has it; and though περὶ πάντων has that meaning sometimes in Homer (Il. I. 287), yet no parallel use of it has been found in either N.T. or LXX. It belongs to εὐοδοῦσθαι rather than to εὔχομαι, a word which occurs here only in S. John.

εὐοδοῦσθαι. The word occurs elsewhere in N.T. only Romans 1:10 and 1 Corinthians 16:2, but is frequent in LXX. Etymologically it has the meaning of being prospered in a journey, but that element has been lost in usage, and should not be restored even in Romans 1:10.

ὑγιαίνειν. Bodily health, the chief element in all prosperity: Luke 7:10; Luke 15:27; comp. Luke 15:31. We cannot conclude from these good wishes that Gaius had been ailing in health and fortune: but it is quite clear from what follows that ‘prosper and be in health’ do not refer to his spiritual condition; and this verse is, therefore, good authority for praying for temporal blessings for our friends. In the Pastoral Epistles ὑγιαίνειν is always used figuratively of faith and doctrine.

The order of the Greek is striking, περὶ πάντων at the beginning being placed in contrast to ἡ ψυχή at the end of the sentence: in all things I pray that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as prospereth thy soul. The verse is a model for all friendly wishes of good fortune to others. Ἡ ψυχή here means the immaterial part of man’s nature; and the well-being of the ψυχή is the measure of all well-being, in a far higher sense than the Aristotelian (Nic. Eth. I. vii. 15). Ubi anima valet, omnia valere possunt (Bengel). For a similar use of ἠ ψυχή as including the πνεῦμα comp. Matthew 10:28; 1 Peter 1:9; 1 Peter 1:22.


Verses 2-4

2–4. PERSONAL GOOD WISHES AND SENTIMENTS


Verse 3

3. ἐχάρην γὰρ λίαν. The γάρ has been omitted in some important authorities, perhaps under the influence of 2 John 1:4. It means ‘I know that thy soul is in a prosperous condition, for I have it on good authority’. For ἐχάρην see on 2 John 1:4 : but here it cannot so well be the epistolary aorist, but refers to the definite occasions when information was brought to the Apostle. Of course if ἐχάρην be rendered ‘I rejoice’ as epistolary aorist ἐρχομένων and μαρτυρούντων must be treated in like manner; as in R.V. margin.

ἐρχομένων. Imperfect participle of what happened repeatedly: so also μαρτυρούντων. When brethren (no article) came and bare witness (see on 1 John 1:2) to thy truth (see on 3 John 1:6). The whole, literally rendered, runs thus; For I rejoiced greatly at brethren coming and witnessing to thy truth. John 5:33 is wrongly quoted as a parallel. There the Baptist ‘hath borne witness to the truth,’ i.e. to the Gospel or to Christ. Here the brethren bare witness to Gaius’s truth, i.e. to his Christian life, as is shewn by what follows. The σου is emphatic, as in 3 John 1:6; perhaps in contrast to the conduct of Diotrephes. Comp. Luke 4:22. What follows, καθὼς σὺ κ.τ.λ., is part of what these ἀδελφοί reported, explaining what they meant by Gaius’s truth.


Verse 4

4. μειζοτέραν τ. οὐκ ἔχω χαράν. The order is worth keeping, all the more so on account of the similar arrangement in John 15:13; μείζονα ταύτης ἀγάπην οὐδεὶς ἔχει, ἵνα τις τ. ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ θῇ. Greater joy have I none than this. The Vulgate is barbarously exact: majorem horum non habeo gratiam. Comp. majora horum for μείζω τούτων (John 1:50). ‘Gratiam’ implies the reading χάριν ([1032] and Memphitic), which Westcott and Hort adopt. The double comparative μειζοτέραν is analogous to ‘lesser’ in English. In Ephesians 3:8 we have ἐλαχιστότερος. Such forms belong to the later stages of a language, when common forms have lost strength. Comp. καλλιώτερος, καλλιστότατος, minimissimus, pessimissimus. Winer, 81. The plural pronoun τούτων (corrected in some copies to ταύτης) may either mean ‘these joys,’ or ‘these things,’ viz. the frequent reports of the brethren: comp. μείζω τούτων ὄψει (John 1:50). Winer, 201.

ἵνα ἀκούω. There is no need either here or in John 15:13 to suppose an ellipse of after the comparative. In both cases the ἵνα clause is epexegetic of the preceding genitive pronoun; and ἵνα ἀκούω = τοῦ ἀκούειν in apposition with τούτων. Winer, 745, 425.

τὰ ἐμὰ τέκνα. My own children. The emphatic ἐμά (contrast 1 John 2:1; 2 John 1:4) perhaps indicates those who not only were under his Apostolic care, but had been converted by him to the faith.

περιπατοῦντα. See on 2 John 1:4. For the participial construction comp. ὅσα ἠκούσαμεν γενόμενα εἰς τὴν Καφ. (Luke 4:23): ἀκούσας δὲ Ἰακὼβ ὄντα σιτία εἰς Αἴγυπτον (Acts 7:12): and especially ἀκούομεν γάρ τινας περιπατοῦντας ἐν ὑμῖν (2 Thessalonians 3:11). To hear of my own children walking in the truth.


Verse 5

5. ἀγαπητέ. The affectionate address marks a new section (comp. 3 John 1:2; 3 John 1:11), but here again the fresh subject grows quite naturally out of what precedes, without any abrupt transition. The good report, which caused the Apostle such joy, testified in particular to the Christian hospitality of Gaius.

πιστὸν ποιεῖς. A.V., thou doest faithfully. So the Vulgate; fideliter facis: Wiclif, Tyndale, and other English Versions take the same view. So also Luther: du thust treulich. The Greek is literally, thou doest a faithful (thing), whatsoever thou workest (same verb as is rendered ‘wrought’ in 2 John 1:8) unto the brethren: which is intolerably clumsy as a piece of English, R.V. makes a compromise; thou doest a faithful work in whatsoever thou doest; which is closer to the Greek than A.V., but not exact. ‘To do a faithful act’ (πιστὸν ποιεῖν) possibly means to do what is worthy of a faithful man or of a believer, ostendens ex operibus fidem (Bede); and ‘to do faithfully’ expresses this fairly well: thou doest faithfully in all thou workest towards the brethren. But this use of πιστὸν ποιεῖν is unsupported by examples, and therefore Westcott would translate Thou makest sure whatsoever thou workest; i.e. ‘such an act will not be lost, will not fail of its due issue and reward.’ The change of verb should at any rate be kept, not only on account of 2 John 1:8, but also of Matthew 26:10, where ‘she hath wrought a good work upon Me’ (εἰργάσατο εἰς ἐμέ) is singularly parallel to ‘thou workest toward the brethren’ (ἐργάσῃ εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφούς). Cod. 80 has the singular reading μισθὸν ποιεῖς for πιστὸν ποιεῖς.

καὶ τοῦτο ξένους. And that strangers; i.e. towards the brethren, and those brethren strangers. Comp. 1 Corinthians 6:6; Philippians 1:28; Ephesians 2:8. The brethren and the strangers are not two classes, but one and the same. It enhanced the hospitality of Gaius that the Christians whom he entertained were personally unknown to him: Fideliter facis quidquid operaris in fratres, et hoc in peregrinos. Comp. Matthew 25:35.


Verses 5-8

5–8. GAIUS PRAISED FOR HIS HOSPITALITY: ITS SPECIAL VALUE


Verse 6

6. οἳ ἐμαρτύρησάν σου τῇ ἀγάπῃ. As R.V., who bare witness to thy love. There is no sufficient reason here for rendering the aorist as the perfect; and certainly in S. John’s writings (whatever may be our view of 1 Corinthians 13) ἀγάπη must always be rendered ‘love.’ In a text like this, moreover, ‘charity’ is specially likely to be understood in the vulgar sense of almsgiving, with which it is contrasted in 1 Corinthians 13.

ἐνώπιον ἐκκλησίας. Probably at Ephesus; but wherever S. John was when he wrote the letter. Only in this Third Epistle does he use the word ἐκκλησία: viz., here, and in 3 John 1:9-10 (and in some copies in 3 John 1:8, with or instead of ἀληθείᾳ). For the omission of the article before ἐκκλησίας comp. 1 Corinthians 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:35; as we say ‘in church.’

οὓς καλῶς ποιήσεις προπέμψας. The order may as well be preserved: whom thou wilt do well to forward on their journey. Προπέμπειν occurs Acts 15:3; Acts 20:38; Acts 21:5; Romans 15:24; 1 Corinthians 16:6; 1 Corinthians 16:11; 2 Corinthians 1:16; Titus 3:13. There would be abundant opportunity in the early Church for such friendly acts; and in telling Gaius that he will do a good deed in helping Christians on their way the Apostle gently urges him to continue such work. Comp. Philippians 4:14; Acts 10:33.

ἀξίως τοῦ Θεοῦ. Worthily of God (R.V.), or, in a manner worthy of God (Rhemish), or, as it beseemeth God (Tyndale and Genevan). ‘Help them forward in a way worthy of Him whose servants they and you are.’ Comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Colossians 1:10.


Verse 7

7. ὑπὲρ γὰρ τοῦ ὀνόματος. For for the sake of the Name: the αὐτοῦ of some texts is a weak amplification followed in several versions. A similar weakening is found in Acts 5:41, which should run, ‘Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the Name.’ ‘The Name’ of course means the Name of Jesus Christ: comp. James 2:7. This use of ‘the Name’ is common in the Apostolic Fathers; Ignatius, Eph. iii., vii.; Philad. x.; Clem. Rom. ii., xiii.; Hermas, Sim. viii. 10, ix. 13, 28. Bengel, appealing to Leviticus 24:11, wrongly explains τ. ὀνόματος as Nomine Dei: so also Lücke, appealing to John 17:11.

ἐξῆλθαν. The word is used in the same absolute way Acts 15:40; Παῦλος δὲ ἐπιλεξάμενος Σίλαν ἐξῆλθεν: i.e. on a missionary journey from a Christian centre.

μηδὲν λαμβάνοντες. The tense indicates that this was their custom, not merely that they did so on one occasion. Hence the greater necessity for men like Gaius to help. These missionaries declined to ‘spoil the Egyptians’ by taking from the heathen, and therefore would be in great difficulties if Christians did not come forward with assistance. We are not to understand that the Gentiles offered help which these brethren refused, but that the brethren never asked them for help. ‘The Gentiles’ (οἱ ἐθνικοί) cannot well mean Gentile converts. What possible objection could there be to receiving help from them? Comp. Matthew 5:47; Matthew 6:7; Matthew 18:17, the only other places where the word occurs. There was reason in not accepting money or hospitality at all, but working for their own living, as S. Paul loved to do. And there was reason in not accepting help from heathen. But there would be no reason in accepting from Jewish converts but not from Gentile ones.

Some expositors render this very differently. ‘For for the Name’s sake they went forth from the Gentiles, taking nothing’; i.e. they were driven out by the heathen, penniless. But ἐξῆλθαν is too gentle a word to mean this; and the negative (μηδέν not οὐδέν) seems to imply that it was their determination not to accept anything, not merely that as a matter of fact they received nothing. For λαμβάνειν ἀπο in a similar sense comp. Matthew 17:25. Winer, 463.


Verse 8

8. ἡμεῖς οὖν. ‘We’ is in emphatic contrast to the heathen just mentioned. The Apostle softens the injunction by including himself; comp. 1 John 2:1.

ὀφείλομεν ὑπολ. τ. τ. Ought to support such, to undertake for them: the verb (ὑπολαμβάνειν not ἀπολαμβάνειν) occurs elsewhere in N.T. only in S. Luke’s writings, and there with a very different meaning. Comp. Xen. Anab. I. i. 7. There is perhaps a play upon words between the missionaries taking nothing from the Gentiles, and Christians being therefore bound to undertake for them.

ἵνα συνεργοὶ γινώμεθα. That we may become fellow-workers with. ‘Fellow-workers’ rather than ‘fellow-helpers’ on account of 3 John 1:5; see also on 2 John 1:11. Cognate words are used in the Greek, and this may as well be preserved in the English. ‘Fellow-workers’ with what? Probably not with the truth, as both A.V. and R.V. lead us to suppose; but with the missionary brethren. In N.T. persons are invariably said to be ‘fellow-workers of’ (Romans 16:3; Romans 16:9; Romans 16:21; 1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 1:24; Philippians 2:25; Philippians 4:3; [1 Thessalonians 3:2; ] Philemon 1:24), never ‘fellow-workers to’ or ‘fellow-workers with’; those with whom the fellow-worker works are put in the genitive, not in the dative. The dative here is the dativus commodi, and the meaning is, that we may become their fellow-workers for the truth. Sometimes instead of the dative we have the accusative with a preposition (Colossians 4:11; Comp. 2 Corinthians 8:23). In classical Greek those with whom the συνεργός works are more commonly in the dative than in the genitive.


Verse 9

9. ἔγραψά τι τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ. I wrote somewhat to the Church; i.e. ‘I wrote a short letter, a something on which I do not lay much stress.’ This was perhaps an ἐπιστολὴ συστατική respecting φιλοξενία. The other reading (I would have written to the Church, ἔγραψα ἄν, scripsissem forsitan) is an obvious corruption to avoid the unwelcome conclusion that an official letter from S. John has been lost (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:9). The reference cannot be to either the First or the Second Epistle, neither of which contains any mention of this subject: though some do consider that the Second Epistle is meant. There is nothing surprising in such a letter having perished: and Diotrephes would be likely to suppress it. That the brethren whom Gaius received were the bearers of it, and that his hospitality was specially acceptable on account of the violence of Diotrephes, does not seem to fit in well with the context. ‘To the Church’ probably means ‘to the Church’ of which Diotrephes was a prominent member: that he was in authority seems to be implied from what is stated 3 John 1:10.

ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων. The expression occurs nowhere else in N.T.; but it comes very close to “whosoever willeth to be first among you” (Matthew 20:27). Φιλόπρωτος occurs in Polybius. Perhaps the meaning is that Diotrephes meant to make his Church independent: hitherto it had been governed by S. John from Ephesus, but Diotrephes wished to make it autonomous to his own glorification. Just as the antichristian teachers claimed to be first in the intellectual sphere (2 John 1:9), so the unchristian Diotrephes claimed to be first in influence and authority. This looks as if ecclesiastical government by a single official was in existence in Asia Minor in S. John’s lifetime.

οὐκ ἐπιδέχεται ἡμᾶς. Such inhospitality was unheard of: Romans 12:13; Romans 16:23; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 5:10; Titus 1:8; Acts 16:15; Acts 17:7; Acts 21:8; Acts 21:16. So also in the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles: “Let every Apostle that cometh to you be received as the Lord” (xi. 4); where ‘Apostle’ is used in the generic sense of Romans 16:7 for an itinerant Evangelist, such as are described by Eusebius (H. E. III. xxxvii. 2–4). The passage throws much light on this Epistle, as also does what follows in the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles. ‘The Apostle is not to remain more than one day, or if need be two: but if he remains three, he is a ψευδοπροφήτης. And when he departs, he is to take nothing (μηδὲν λαμβανέτω) but bread to last him to his next night-quarters: but if he asks for money, he is a ψευδοπροφήτης.’ These precautions shew that the hospitality, universally shewn to missionaries, was sometimes abused. The chapter ends thus: “Whoever says in the spirit, Give me money, or any other thing, ye shall not listen to him; but if for the sake of others who are in want he bid you give, let no one judge him.”


Verse 9-10

9, 10. DIOTREPHES CONDEMNED FOR HIS ARROGANCE AND HOSTILITY

This is the most surprising part of the letter; and of the internal evidence this is the item which seems to weigh most heavily against the Apostolic authorship. That any Christian should be found to act in this manner towards the last surviving Apostle is nothing less than astounding. Those who opposed S. Paul, like Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14), afford only remote parallels (1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 1:15). They do not seem to have gone the lengths of Diotrephes: the authority of Apostles was less understood in S. Paul’s time: and his claim to be an Apostle was at least open to question; for he was not one of the Twelve, and he had himself been a persecutor. But from the very first the N.T. is full of the saddest surprises. And those who accept as historical the unbelief of Christ’s brethren, the treachery of Judas, the flight of all the Disciples, the denial of S. Peter, the quarrels of Apostles both before and after their Lord’s departure, and the flagrant abuses in the Church of Corinth, with much more of the same kind, will not be disposed to think it incredible that Diotrephes acted in the manner here described even towards the Apostle S. John.


Verse 10

10. διὰ τοῦτο. For this cause. See on 1 John 3:1.

ὑπομνήσω. ‘I will direct public attention to the matter’; equivalent to ‘bear witness of it before the Church’ (3 John 1:6). For the construction comp. ὑπομνήσει ὑμᾶς πάντα (John 14:26). I will call to remembrance his works (see on 2 John 1:11).

λόγοις πονηροῖς. With evil words: the connexion with ‘the evil one’ must not be missed either here or in 2 John 1:11.

φλυαρῶν ἡμᾶς. The verb occurs nowhere else in N.T., and the construction with an accusative is quite exceptional. It is frequent in Aristophanes and Demosthenes, and means literally ‘to talk nonsense.’ Therefore ‘prates against us,’ garriens in nos, cannot well be improved: it conveys the idea that the words were not only wicked, but senseless. Comp. ‘And not only idle, but tattlers (φλύαροι) also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not’ (1 Timothy 5:13). Other renderings are ‘garringe, or chidinge, in to us’ (Wiclif), ‘chiding against us’ (Purvey), ‘jesting on us’ (Tyndale and Cranmer), ‘pratteling against us’ (Genevan), ‘chatting against us’ (Rhemish), plaudert wider uns (Luther). ‘Prating about us’ may be right: comp. ἀλλάλαις λαλέοντι τεὸν γάμον αἱ κυπάρισσοι (Theocr. XXVII. 58).

The description of the ψευδοπροφήτης in the Shepherd of Hermas (Mand. xi. 12) illustrates this account of Diotrephes: “He exalts himself and wishes to have the chief seat (πρωτοκαθεδρίαν), and forthwith is hasty, and shameless, and talkative.” Comp. 1 Peter 5:3.

ἀρκούμενος ἐπὶ τ. The ἐπί is unusual. Both in N.T. and in classical Greek ἀρκεῖσθαι usually has the dative without a preposition: Luke 3:14; 1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5.

οὔτεκαὶ … The combination οὔτετε … is not uncommon in classical Greek, but οὔτεκαὶ … is late. It seems to occur, however, in Eur. I. T. 591 εἶ γὰρ, ὡς ἔοικας, οὔτε δυσγενὴς καὶ τὰς ΄υκήνας οἶσθα. Comp. οὔτε ἄντλημα ἔχεις καὶ τὸ φρέαρ ἐστὶν βαθύ (John 4:11). Winer, 619.

ἐπιδέχεται. The word occurs nowhere in N.T. but here and 3 John 1:9, though common enough elsewhere. In 3 John 1:9 the meaning seems to be ‘admits not our authority,’ or ‘ignores our letter.’ Here of course it is ‘refuses hospitality to.’ But perhaps ‘closes his doors against’ may be the meaning in both places; ‘us’ being S. John’s friends. By saying ‘us’ rather than ‘me,’ the Apostle avoids the appearance of a personal quarrel.

ἐκ τῆς ἐκκλ. ἐκβάλλει. He excommunicates those who are willing to receive the missionary brethren. The exact meaning of this is uncertain, as we have not sufficient knowledge of the circumstances. The natural meaning is that Diotrephes had sufficient authority or influence in some Christian congregation to exclude from it those who received brethren of whom he did not approve. For the expression comp. John 9:34-35.


Verse 11

11. ἀγαπητέ. The address again marks transition to a new subject, but without any abrupt change. The behaviour of Diotrephes will at least serve as a warning.

μὴ μιμοῦ τ. κακὸν ἀ. τ. ἀγ. Imitate not the ill, but the good. Κακός, though one of the most common words in the Greek language to express the idea of ‘bad,’ is rarely used by S. John. Elsewhere only John 18:23; Revelation 2:2; Revelation 16:2 : in Revelation 16:2 both words occur. Perhaps ‘ill’ is hardly strong enough here, and the ‘evil’ of A.V. had better be retained. Nothing turns on the change of word from πονηρός in 3 John 1:10, so that it is not absolutely necessary to mark it. For μιμεῖσθαι comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Hebrews 13:7; the word occurs nowhere else in N.T.

ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐστίν. He has God as the source (ἐκ) of his moral and spiritual life; he is a child of God. In its highest sense this is true only of Him who ‘went about doing good’; but it is true in a lower sense of every earnest Christian. See on 1 John 2:16; 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:8-9; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 4:6-7.

οὐχ ἑώρακεν τὸν Θεόν. See on 1 John 3:6. Of course doing good and doing evil are to be understood in a wide sense: the particular cases of granting and refusing hospitality to missionary brethren are no longer specially in question.


Verse 11-12

11, 12. This is the main portion of the Epistle. In it the Apostle bids Gaius beware of imitating such conduct. And if an example of Christian conduct is needed there is Demetrius.


Verse 12

12. While Diotrephes sets an example to be abhorred, Demetrius sets one to be imitated. We know of him, as of Diotrephes, just what is told us here and no more. Perhaps he was the bearer of this letter. That Demetrius is the silversmith of Ephesus who once made silver shrines for Artemis (Acts 19:24) is a conjecture, which is worth mentioning, but cannot be said to be probable.

Δημητρίῳ μεμαρτ. κ.τ.λ. Literally, Witness hath been borne to Demetrius by all men and by the truth itself; or less stiffly, as R. V., Demetrius hath the witness of all men. See on 1 John 1:2. ‘All men’ means chiefly those who belonged to the Church of the place where Demetrius lived, and the missionaries who had been there in the course of their labours. The force of the perfect is the common one of present result of past action: the testimony has been given and still abides.

καὶ ὑπʼ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀληθείας. A great deal has been written about this clause; and it is certainly a puzzling statement. Of the various explanations suggested these two seem to be best. 1. ‘The Truth’ means “the divine rule of the walk of all believers”; Demetrius walked according to this rule and his conformity was manifest to all who knew the rule. Thus the rule bore witness to his Christian life. This is intelligible, but it is a little far-fetched. 2. ‘The Truth’ is the Spirit of truth (1 John 5:6) which speaks in the disciples. The witness which ‘all men’ bear to the Christian conduct of Demetrius is not mere human testimony which may be the result of prejudice or of deceit: it is given under the direction of the Holy Spirit. This explanation is preferable. The witness given respecting Demetrius was that of disciples, who reported their own experience of him: but it was also that of the Spirit, who guided and illumined them in their estimate. See note on John 15:27, which is a remarkably parallel passage, and comp. Acts 5:32; Acts 15:28, where as here the human and Divine elements in Christian testimony are clearly marked.

καὶ ἡμεῖς δὲ μαρτ. As R.V., yea, we also bear witness (see on 1 John 1:2): the ‘and’ of A.V. is redundant. The Apostle mentions his own testimony in particular as corroborating the evidence of ‘all men.’ For καὶδὲ see on 1 John 1:3.

καὶ οἶδας ὅτι κ.τ.λ. As R.V. and thou knowest that our witness is true. The evidence for the singular, οἶδας ([1033][1034][1035][1036] and most Versions), as against the plural, οἴδατε ([1037][1038]), is quite decisive; a few authorities, under the influence of John 21:24, read οἴδαμεν: comp. John 19:35. The plural has perhaps grown out of the belief that the Epistle is not private but Catholic. John 21 is evidently an appendix to the Gospel, and was possibly written long after the first twenty chapters. It may have been written after this Epistle; and (if so) John 21:24 may be “an echo of this sentence” (Westcott). The form οἶδας for οἶσθα is common in later Greek (John 21:15; 1 Corinthians 7:16), and occurs in Xenophon and Euripides. Similarly we have οἴδαμεν (John 3:2, &c.), οἴδατε (Mark 10:38, &c.), οἴδασιν (John 10:5, &c.).


Verse 13

13. πολλὰ εἶχον. Imperfect; at the time of his writing there were many things which he had to communicate to Gaius. οὐ θέλω. ‘I do not care to.’ See on John 6:67; John 7:17; John 8:44.

διὰ μέλανος καὶ καλάμου. In 2 John 1:12 it is διὰ χάρτου καὶ μέλανος. Κάλαμος occurs nowhere else in the sense of ‘reed for writing with, pen,’ but only in the general sense of ‘reed,’ calamus. Quills were not used as pens until the fifth century. The earliest certain evidence as to their use is in the writings of Isidore, early in the seventh century. In LXX. of Psalms 44:1 κάλαμος is used of ‘the pen of a ready writer.’


Verse 13-14

13, 14. The marked similarity to the Conclusion of the Second Epistle is strong evidence that the two letters were written about the same time. See notes on 2 John 1:12-13.


Verse 14

14. ἐλπίζω δὲ εὐθέως σε ἰδεῖν. But I hope immediately to see thee. The punctuation of this verse and of 2 John 1:12 should be alike. There is no reason for placing a comma before ‘but I hope’ in the one case and a full stop in the other. For στόμα πρὸς στόμα see notes there, and comp. the French bouche a bouche.

15. εἰρήνη σοι. This εἰρήνη takes the place of the ἔρρωσο in ordinary letters; comp. Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 6:23; 1 Peter 5:14. It is an ordinary blessing, suitable either for salutation or farewell, with a Christian fulness of meaning. Comp. John 20:19; John 20:26.

ἀσπάζονταί σε οἱ φίλοι. The friends salute thee: there is no authority for ‘our’ either as translation or interpretation. If any pronoun be inserted, it should be ‘thy’: the friends spoken of are probably the friends of Gaius. It is perhaps on account of the private character of the letter, as addressed to an individual and not to a Church, that S. John says ‘the friends’ rather than ‘the brethren.’ Comp. ‘Lazarus, our friend, is fallen asleep’ (John 11:11); and ‘Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him leave to go unto the friends and refresh himself’ (Acts 27:3), where ‘the friends’ probably means ‘his friends,’ just as it probably means ‘thy friends’ here. In ‘Lazarus, our friend’ the pronoun is expressed in the Greek.

ἀσπάζου τ. φ. As R.V., Salute the friends: the same verb as in the previous sentence and in 2 John 1:13 : ‘greet’ may be reserved for the verb used Acts 15:23; Acts 23:26; James 1:1; comp. 2 John 1:10-11 (χαίρειν). The former is much the more common word in N.T. to express salutation. For other instances of capricious changes of rendering in the same passage in A.V. comp. 1 John 2:24; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 5:10; 1 John 5:15; John 3:31.

κατʼ ὄνομα. The phrase occurs in N.T. in only one other passage (John 10:3); ‘He calleth His own sheep by name.’ The salutation is not to be given in a general way, but to each individual separately—ὀνομαστί. S. John as shepherd of the Churches of Asia would imitate the Good Shepherd and know all his sheep by name.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 3 John 1:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/3-john-1.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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