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The Second Epistle of
The Second Epistle of John] This title, like that of the First Epistle and of the Gospel, exists in various forms both ancient and modern, and is not original: and here again the oldest authorities give it in the simplest form. 1. of John B ; 2. Second Epistle of John ; 3. Second Catholic Epistle of John ; 4. Second Epistle of the Holy Apostle John the Divine . In our Bibles the epithet ‘Catholic’ or ‘General’ has wisely been omitted. The Epistle is not addressed to the Church at large, but either to an individual, or to a particular Church.
1 3. Address and Greeting
1 3. Like most of the Epistles of S. Paul, the Epistles of S. Peter, S. James, and S. Jude, and unlike the First Epistle, this letter has a definite address and greeting. In its fulness the salutation reminds us of the elaborate openings of the Epistles to the Romans, Galatians, and to Titus.
1. The Elder ] It is probably on account of his age that the Apostle styles himself thus: and it is a designation which a writer personating S. John would scarcely have chosen, as being too indistinct. On the other hand an Elder, who did not wish to personate the Apostle, would hardly call himself ‘ The Elder.’ It is in addressing Elders that S. Peter calls himself a ‘fellow-elder’ (1 Peter 5:1 ). “The use of the word in this Epistle shews that he cannot have understood this title in the usual ecclesiastical sense, as though he were only one among many presbyters of a community. Clearly the writer meant thereby to express the singular and lofty position he held in the circle around him, as the teacher venerable for his old age, and the last of the Apostles” (Döllinger). “In this connexion there can be little doubt that it describes not age simply but official position” (Westcott). See Appendix E.
unto the elect Lady ] Or possibly, unto the elect Kyria : but the other is better, as leaving open the question, which cannot be determined with any approach to certainty, whether the letter is addressed to an individual or to a community. There is no article in the Greek, so that ‘to an elect lady’ is a possible translation. If we make κυρία a proper name (and no doubt there was such a name in use), we are committed to the former alternative. The rendering ‘to the lady Electa ’ may be safely dismissed, if only on account of v. 13. If Electa is a proper name here, it is a proper name there; which involves two sisters each bearing the same extraordinary name. Comp. ‘to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion’ (1 Peter 1:1 ), and ‘for the elect’s sake’ (2 Timothy 2:10 ). Every Christian is elect or chosen out of the antichristian world into the kingdom of God.
and her children ] Either the children of the lady, or the members of the community, addressed in the Epistle. For the Church as a mother comp. Galatians 4:26 .
whom I love in the truth ] Omit the article, and comp. ‘let us love in deed and truth ’ (1 John 3:18 ): ‘whom I love in all Christian sincerity’, or in a Christian temper. In the Greek ‘the lady’ is feminine, ‘the children’ are neuter, ‘whom’ is masculine. No argument can be drawn from this as to whether a Christian family or a Church is to be understood.
but also all they that have known ] Better, as R. V., but also all they that know : literally, that have come to know (see on 1 John 2:3 ). At first sight this looks like a strong argument in favour of the view that ‘the elect Lady’ is a Church. “How could the children of an individual woman be regarded as an object of the love of all believers”? The First Epistle is the answer to the question. Every one who ‘has come to know the truth’ enters that ‘Communion of Saints’ of which the love of each for every other is the very condition of existence. The Apostle speaks first in his own name, and then in the name of every Christian. “For all Catholics throughout the world follow one rule of truth: but all heretics and infidels do not agree in unanimous error; they impugn one another not less than the way of truth itself” (Bede).
2. For the truth’s sake ] The repetition of the word ‘truth’ is quite in S. John’s style. ‘The truth’ here and at the end of v. 1 means the truth as revealed in Christ and the Spirit.
which dwelleth in us ] Better, as R. V., which abideth in us : see on 1 John 2:24 .
and shall be with us for ever ] ‘With us’ is emphatic: and with us it shall be for ever . An echo of Christ’s farewell discourses: ‘He shall give you another Advocate, that He may be with you for ever , even the Spirit of truth ’ (John 14:16 ). Comp. ‘I am … the Truth’ (John 14:6 ) and ‘The Spirit is the Truth’ (1 John 5:6 ). The Apostle and all believers love the elect lady and her children on account of the ever-abiding presence of Christ in the gift of the Spirit. ‘For ever’ is literally ‘unto the age’: see on 1 John 2:17 .
3. Grace be with you, mercy, and peace ] Rather, as R. V., Grace, mercy, and peace shall be with us . It is not so much a prayer or a blessing, as the confident assurance of a blessing; and the Apostle includes himself within its scope. This triplet of heavenly gifts occurs, and in the same order, in the salutations to Timothy (both Epistles) and Titus. The more common form is ‘grace and peace’. In Jude 1:2 we have another combination; ‘mercy, peace, and love’. In secular letters we have simply ‘greeting’ ( χαίρειν ) instead of these Christian blessings. ‘Grace’ is the favour of God towards sinners (see on John 1:14 ); ‘mercy’ is the compassion of God for the misery of sinners; ‘peace’ is the result when the guilt and misery of sin are removed. ‘Grace’ is rare in the writings of S. John; elsewhere only John 1:14 , John 1:16 , John 1:17 ; Revelation 1:4 , Revelation 22:21 .
from God the Father ] Literally, ‘ from the presence of , or from the hand of ( παρά ) God the Father ’: see on John 1:6 , John 16:27 : the more usual expression is simply ‘from’ ( ἀπό ), as in Romans 1:7 ; 1 Corinthians 1:3 ; 2 Corinthians 1:2 , &c.
and from the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of the Father ] Omit ‘the Lord’ with AB and the Vulgate; the title of ‘Lord’ for Jesus Christ, though found in the Gospel and in the Revelation, does not occur in S. John’s Epistles. The repetition of the preposition marks the separate Personality of Christ; whose Divine Sonship is emphasized with an unusual fulness of expression, perhaps in anticipation of the errors condemned in vv. 7 and 10.
in truth and love ] These two words, so characteristic of S. John (see on 1 John 1:8 , 1 John 2:8 , 1 John 3:1 ), are key-notes of this short Epistle, in which ‘truth’ occurs five times, and ‘love’ twice as a substantive and twice as a verb. ‘Commandment’ is a third such word.
4. The Occasion of the Epistle
4. The Apostle has met with some of the elect lady’s children (or some members of the particular Church addressed), probably in one of his Apostolic visits to some Church in Asia Minor. Their Christian life delighted him and apparently prompted him to write this letter.
I rejoiced greatly ] Or, I have rejoiced greatly , or perhaps, as R. V., I rejoice greatly , if it is the epistolary aorist, as in 1 John 2:26 , 1 John 5:13 . The same phrase occurs 3 John 1:3 and Luke 23:8 . The word for ‘rejoice’ ( χαίρω ) is cognate with ‘grace’ ( χάρις ) in v. 3. ‘Grace’ is originally ‘that which causes joy’: but there is no connexion between the two words here. Like S. Paul, the Elder leads up to his admonition by stating something which is a cause of joy and thankfulness: comp. Philemon 1:4 ; 2 Timothy 1:3 ; Romans 1:8 ; &c.
that I found ] Better, that I have found , or because I have found . There is nothing in ‘I have found’ ( εὕρηκα ) to shew that there had been any seeking on the part of the Apostle, still less that there had been any examination as to the rightness of their conduct.
of thy children ] This elliptical mode of expression ( ἐκ τῶν τέκνων ) is rather common in S. John (John 1:24 , John 1:7 :40, John 1:16 :17; Revelation 2:10 , Revelation 2:5 :9, Revelation 2:11 :9; see on 1 John 4:13 ). It is impossible to say whether the expression is a delicate way of intimating that only some of the children were walking in truth, or whether it merely means that the Apostle had fallen in with only some of the children. The expression of affection in v. 1 is in favour of the latter supposition; but the strong warnings against intercourse with heretical teachers favours the former: some of her children were already contaminated. ‘Walking’ indicates the activity of human life (see on 1 John 1:7 ): ‘in truth’ is in Christian truth, as in vv. 1 and 3; in Christian tone and temper.
as we have received a commandment ] The changes made in R. V., even as we received commandment , are all improvements in the direction of accuracy. ‘Even as’ ( καθώς ) points to the completeness of their obedience: comp. 1 John 2:6 , 1 John 2:27 , 1 John 2:3 :3, 1 John 2:7 , 1 John 2:23 , 1 John 2:4 :17. The aorist points to the definite occasion of their reception of the commandment: comp. ‘heard’ 1 John 2:7 , 1 John 2:24 , 1 John 2:3 :11; and ‘gave’ 3:23, 24. ‘Commandment’ is the third key-word of the Epistle, in which it occurs four times. Love, truth, and obedience; these are the three leading ideas, which partly imply, partly supplement one another. Obedience without love becomes servile; love without obedience becomes unreal: neither of them can flourish outside the realm of truth.
from the Father ] Literally, as in v. 3, from the hand of the Father ( παρὰ τοῦ Πατρός ). The Divine command has come direct from the Giver.
5 11. We now enter upon the main portion of the Epistle, which has three divisions: Exhortation to Love and Obedience (5, 6); Warnings against False Doctrine (7 9); Warnings against False Charity (10, 11). As usual, the transitions from one subject to another are made gently and without any marked break.
5, 6. Exhortation to Love and Obedience
5. And now ] As in 1 John 2:28 (see note there), this introduces a practical exhortation depending on what precedes. ‘It is my joy at the Christian life of some of thy children, and my anxiety about the others, that move me to exhort thee’.
I beseech thee ] S. John uses the same verb ( ἐρωτᾷν ) as that used of making request about ‘sin unto death’ (1 John 5:16 ). It perhaps indicates that he begs as an equal or superior rather than as an inferior. In both passages the Vulgate rightly has rogo , not peto . In classical Greek the verb = interrogo , ‘I ask a question’, a meaning which it frequently has in N. T. S. Paul uses it very seldom, and always in the sense of ‘I request’: his usual word is παρακαλῶ , which S. John never employs.
a new commandment ] See on 1 John 2:7 .
from the beginning ] See on 1 John 2:7 .
that we love one another ] ‘That’ ( ἵνα ) introduces the purport of the command; but perhaps the notion of purpose is not wholly absent (see on 1 John 1:8 and comp. 3:23). It is doubtful whether ‘that we love’ depends upon ‘commandment’ or upon ‘I beseech thee’.
6. And this is love ] Or, And the love is this : the love which I mean consists in this (see on 1 John 1:5 ). In v. 5 obedience prompts love; here love prompts obedience. This is no vicious logical circle, but a healthy moral connexion, as is stated above on v. 4. Love divorced from duty will run riot, and duty divorced from love will starve. See on 1 John 5:3 . The Apostle has no sympathy with a religion of pious emotions: there must be a persevering walk according to God’s commands . In writing to a woman it might be all the more necessary to insist on the fact that love is not a mere matter of feeling.
This is the commandment ] Or, as before, The commandment is this , i.e. consists in this. We had a similar transition from plural to singular, ‘commandments’ to ‘commandment’ in 1 John 3:22 , 1 John 3:23 .
In these verses (5, 6) S. John seems to be referring to the First Epistle, which she would know.
as ye have heard ] Better, as R. V., even as ye heard , referring to the time when they were first instructed in Christian Ethics. See on ‘received’ in v. 4. R. V. is also more accurate in placing ‘that’ after, instead of before, ‘even as ye heard’. But A. V. is not wrong, for ‘even as ye heard’ belongs to the apodosis, not to the protasis: still, this is interpretation rather than translation.
ye should walk in it ] In brotherly love; not, in the commandment, as the Vulgate implies. S. John speaks of walking in ( ἐν ) truth, in light, in darkness; but of walking according to ( κατά ) the commandments. S. Paul speaks both of walking in love (Ephesians 5:2 ) and according to love (Romans 14:15 ). Neither speaks of walking in commandments: and in Luke 1:6 a different verb is used. Moreover the context here is in favour of ‘in it’ meaning in love.
7 9. Warnings against False Doctrine
7 9. The third element in the triplet of leading thoughts once more comes to the front, but without being named. Love and obedience require, as the condition of their existence, truth. It is in truth that ‘the Elder’ and all who love the truth love the elect lady and her children; and they love them for the truth’s sake. Truth no less than love is the condition of receiving the threefold blessing of grace, mercy, and peace. And it was the fact that some of her children were walking in truth, while others seemed to be deserting it, which led the Apostle in the fulness of his heart to write to her. All this tends to shew the preciousness of the truth. Love of the brethren and loyal obedience to God’s commands will alike suggest that we should jealously guard against those who by tampering with the truth harm the brethren and dishonour God and His Son.
7. For ] Or, Because . Some would make this conjunction introduce the reason for v. 8: ‘Because many deceivers have appeared … look to yourselves.’ But this is altogether unlike S. John’s simple manner; to say nothing of the very awkward parenthesis which is thus made of ‘This is … Antichrist.’ ‘For’ or ‘Because’ points backwards to vv. 5 and 6, not forwards to v. 8. ‘I am recalling our obligations to mutual love and to obedience of the Divine command, because there are men with whom you and yours come in contact, whose teaching strikes at the root of these obligations.’
many deceivers ] The word for ‘deceiver’ ( πλάνος ) reaches that meaning in two ways. 1. ‘Making to wander, leading astray.’ 2. ‘Vagabond,’ and hence ‘a charlatan’ or ‘impostor.’ The former meaning is predominant here. It is rare in N. T. Comp. Matthew 27:63 . S. John uses it nowhere else, but not unfrequently uses the cognate verb, ‘to lead astray’ (1 John 1:8 , 1 John 2:26 , 1 John 3:7 ).
are entered into the world ] Rather, are gone forth ( א AB and Versions) into the world : literally, went forth ; but here the English perfect idiomatically represents the Greek aorist: in 1 John 4:1 we have the perfect in the Greek. ‘The world’ here may mean ‘the earth’ or ‘human society’: or we may take it in S. John’s special sense of what is external to the Church and antichristian; see on 1 John 2:2 . The meaning may be that, like the many antichrists in 1 John 2:18 , they went out from the Church into the unchristian world. Possibly the same persons are meant in both Epistles. Irenaeus (a.d. 180) by a slip of memory quotes this passage as from the First Epistle ( Haer. III. xvi. 8).
who confess not ] More accurately, as R. V., even they that confess not : the many deceivers and those who confess not are the same group, and this is their character, unbelief and denial of the truth. ‘Confess not’ = deny.
that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh ] This is not quite accurate; nor does R. V., ‘that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh’, seem to be more than a partial correction. Rather, that confess not Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh , or possibly, that confess not Jesus as Christ coming in the flesh . See on 1 John 4:2 , where the Greek is similar, but with perfect instead of present participle. These deceivers denied not merely the fact of the Incarnation, but its possibility. In both passages A. V. and R. V. translate as if we had the infinitive mood instead of the participle. The difference is, that with the participle the denial is directed against the Person , ‘they deny Jesus ’; with the infinitive it is directed against the fact , ‘they deny that He cometh ’ or ‘ has come .’ Note that Christ is never said to come into the flesh; but either, as here and 1 John 4:2 , to come in the flesh; or, to become flesh (John 1:14 ). To say that Christ came into the flesh would leave room for saying that the Divine Son was united with Jesus after He was born of Mary; which would be no true Incarnation.
This is a deceiver and an Antichrist ] Rather, This is the deceiver and the Antichrist : a good example of inadequate treatment of the Greek article in A. V. (see on 1 John 1:2 ). Luther is more accurate; ‘Dieser ist der Verführer und der Widerchrist’. The transition from plural to singular (see on v. 6) may be explained in two ways; 1. The man who acts thus is the deceiver and the Antichrist; 2. These men collectively are the deceiver and the Antichrist. In either case the article means ‘him of whom you have heard’: ‘the deceiver’ in reference to his fellow men; ‘the Antichrist’ in reference to his Redeemer.
This completes the series of condemnatory names which S. John uses in speaking of these false teachers; liars (1 John 2:22 ), seducers (1 John 2:26 ), false prophets (1 John 4:1 ), deceivers (2 John 1:7 ), antichrists (1 John 2:18 , 1 John 2:22 ; 1 John 4:3 ; 2 John 1:7 ). On the Antichrist of S. John see Appendix B.
8. Look to yourselves ] Exactly as in Mark 13:9 , excepting the emphatic pronoun; ‘But look ye to yourselves’.
that we lose not ] The persons of the three verbs are much varied in our authorities. The original reading probably was, as R. V., ye lose … we have wrought … ye receive . To make the sentence run more smoothly some have made all the verbs in the first person, others have made them all in the second. For the construction comp. 1 Corinthians 16:10 . The meaning is, ‘Take heed that these deceivers do not undo the work which Apostles and Evangelists have wrought in you, but that ye receive the full fruit of it’.
a full reward ] Eternal life. The word ‘reward’ has reference to ‘have wrought’. ‘Apostles have done the work, and you, if you take heed, will have the reward’. Eternal life is called a full reward in contrast to real but incomplete rewards which true believers receive in this life; peace, joy, increase of grace, and the like. Comp. Mark 10:29 , Mark 10:30 .
9. Explains more fully what is at stake; no less than the possession of the Father and the Son.
Whosoever transgresseth ] This is a simplification (KL) of a much more difficult reading ( א AB), Whosoever , or Every one that (see on 1 John 3:16 ) goeth before ( πᾶς ὁ προάγων ) or that goeth onwards . The verb is fairly common in the Synoptists and the Acts, but occurs nowhere else in S. John’s writings. It may be interpreted in two ways: 1. Every one who sets himself up as a leader; 2. Every one who goes on beyond the Gospel. The latter is perhaps better. These antichristian Gnostics were advanced thinkers: the Gospel was all very well for the unenlightened; but they knew something higher. This agrees very well with what follows: by advancing they did not abide. There is an advance which involves desertion of first principles; and such an advance is not progress but apostasy.
in the doctrine ] ‘In the teaching’, as R. V., is no improvement. Of the two words used in N. T., διδαχή (as here) and διδασκαλία (which S. John does not use), the former should be rendered ‘doctrine’, the latter, as being closer to διδάσκαλος and διδάσκειν , should be rendered ‘teaching’. But no hard and fast line can be drawn.
of Christ ] The doctrine which He taught (John 18:19 ; Revelation 2:14 , Revelation 2:15 ), rather than the doctrine which teaches about Him.
hath not God ] This must not be watered down to mean ‘does not know God’: it means that he has Him not as his God; does not possess Him in his heart as a Being to adore, and trust, and love.
he that abideth ] The opposite case is now stated, and as usual the original idea is not merely negatived but expanded. ‘Of Christ’ in this half of the verse must be omitted: it has been inserted in some authorities to make the two halves more exactly correspond.
hath both the Father and the Son ] This shews that ‘hath not God’ implies ‘hath neither the Father nor the Son’. See on 1 John 2:23 .
10, 11. Warnings against False Charity
10. If there come any unto you ] Better, as R. V., if any one Cometh unto you: it is εἰ with the indicative, not ἐάν with the subjunctive. It is implied that such people do come; it is no mere hypothesis: comp. 1 John 5:9 ; John 7:4 , John 7:23 , John 7:8 :39, John 7:46 , John 7:18 :8. ‘Cometh’ probably means more than a mere visit: it implies coming on a mission as a teacher; comp. 3 John 1:10 ; John 1:7 , John 1:30 , John 1:31 , John 1:3 :2, John 1:4 :25, John 1:5 :43, John 1:7 :27, &c.; 1 Corinthians 2:1 , 1 Corinthians 2:4 :18, 19, 21, 1 Corinthians 2:11 :34, &c.
and bring not this doctrine ] Better, and bringeth not this doctrine , The negative ( οὐ not μή should be emphasized in reading: it “does not coalesce with the verb, as some maintain, but sharply marks off from the class of faithful Christians all who are not faithful” (Speaker’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 16:22 ). The phrase ‘to bring doctrine’ occurs nowhere else in N. T., but it is on the analogy of ‘to bring a message, to bring word’ (Hom. Il. XV. 15, 175 &c.): comp. ‘What accusation bring ye’? (John 18:29 ).
receive him not into your house ] ‘Refuse him the hospitality which as a matter of course you would shew to a faithful Christian’. Charity has its limits: it must not be shewn to one man in such a way as to do grievous harm to others; still less must it be shewn in such a way as to do more harm than good to the recipient of it. If these deceivers were treated as if they were true Christians, (1) their opportunities of doing harm would be greatly increased, (2) they might never be brought to see their own errors. “S. John is at once earnestly dogmatic and earnestly philanthropic; for the Incarnation has taught him both the preciousness of man and the preciousness of truth” (Liddon). The famous story respecting S. John and Cerinthus in the public baths is confirmed in its main outlines by this injunction to the elect lady, which it explains and illustrates. See the Introduction, p. 24.
The greatest care will be necessary before we can venture to act upon the injunction here given to the elect lady. We must ask, Are the cases really parallel ? Am I quite sure that the man in question is an unbeliever and a teacher of infidelity? Will my shewing him hospitality aid him in teaching infidelity? Am I and mine in any danger of being infected by his errors? Is he more likely to be impressed by severity or gentleness? Is severity likely to create sympathy in others, first for him, and then for his teaching? In not a few cases the differences between Christianity in the first century and Christianity in the nineteenth would at once destroy the analogy between these antichristian Gnostics visiting Kyria and an Agnostic visiting one of ourselves. Let us never forget the way in which the Lord treated Pharisees, publicans and sinners.
neither bid him God speed ] ‘Give him no greeting’ is perhaps too narrow, whether as translation or interpretation. And do not bid him, God speed will perhaps be a better rendering; and the injunction will cover any act which might seem to give sanction to the false doctrine or shew sympathy with it. The word for ‘God speed’ ( χαίρειν ) is used in a similar sense Acts 15:23 , Acts 15:23 :26; James 1:1 : comp. John 19:3 , &c.
11. For he that biddeth him God speed ] Much more, therefore, he that by receiving him into his house affords a home and head-quarters for false teaching.
is partaker of his evil deeds ] More accurately, as R. V., partaketh in his evil works : literally, with much emphasis on ‘evil’, partaketh in his works, his evil ( works ). The word for ‘partake’ ( κοινωνεῖν ) occurs nowhere else in S. John, but is cognate with the word for ‘fellowship’ ( κοινωνία ), 1 John 1:3 , 1 John 1:6 , 1 John 1:7 . The word for ‘evil’ ( πονηρός ) is the same as that used of ‘the evil one’, 1 John 2:13 , 1 John 2:14 , 1 John 2:3 :12, 1 John 2:5 :18, 1 John 2:19 . What is involved, therefore, in having fellowship with such men is obvious. At a Council of Carthage (a.d. 256), when Cyprian uttered his famous invective against Stephen, Bishop of Rome, Aurelius, Bishop of Chullabi, quoted this passage with the introductory remark, “John the Apostle laid it down in his Epistle”: and Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria (c. a.d. 315), quotes the passage as an injunction of “the blessed John” (Socrates H.E. I. vi.). The change from ‘deeds’ to ‘works’ may seem frivolous and vexatious, but it is not unimportant. ‘Works’ is a wider word and better represents ἔργα : words no less than deeds are included, and here it is specially the words of these deceivers that is meant. Moreover in 1 John 3:12 the same word is rendered ‘works’ of the ‘evil works’ of Cain. See on John 5:20 , John 5:6 :27, John 5:29 . Wiclif and the Rhemish have ‘works’ here.
At the end of this verse some Latin versions insert, ‘Lo I have told you beforehand, that ye be not confounded (or, condemned) in the day of the Lord (or, of our Lord Jesus Christ)’. Wiclif admits the insertion, but the Rhemish does not: Cranmer puts it in italics and in brackets. It has no authority.
12, 13. Conclusion
12, 13. The strong resemblance to the Conclusion of the Third Epistle seems to shew that the two letters are nearly contemporaneous.
12. Having many things to write ] The First Epistle will give us some idea of what these were.
I would not write with paper and ink ] There is here no ‘write’ in the Greek; and in the first clause ‘write’ is almost too limited in meaning for γράφειν , which like our ‘say’ covers a variety of methods of communication. Having many things to say to you, I would not (say them) by means of paper and ink . Perhaps we may here trace a sign of the failing powers of an old man, to whom writing is serious fatigue.
‘Paper’ ( χάρτης ) occurs nowhere else in N.T.; but it occurs in LXX. of Jeremiah 36:23 ; and its diminutive ( χαρτίον ) is frequent in that chapter. In 3 Macc. 4:20 we have a cognate word ( χαρτήρια ), which probably, like ‘paper’ here, means Egyptian papyrus, as distinct from the more expensive ‘parchment’ ( μεμβράναι ) mentioned 2 Timothy 4:13 . But both papyrus and parchment were costly, which may account for the Apostle’s brevity. See Dict. of the Bible , writing, and Dict. of Antiquities , liber.
‘Ink’ ( μέλαν ) is mentioned again 3 John 1:13 ; elsewhere in N.T. only 2 Corinthians 3:3 : comp. LXX. of Jeremiah 36:18 . It was made of lampblack and gall-juice, or more simply of soot and water.
but I trust ] Or, as R. V., but I hope : the verb ( ἐλπίζω ) is frequent in N.T., and there seems to be no reason for changing the usual rendering: comp. 1 Timothy 3:14 ; Philippians 2:19 , Philippians 2:23 . A.V. wavers needlessly between ‘hope’ and ‘trust’.
to come unto you ] More exactly, according to the true reading ( γένεσθαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς ), to appear before you : literally, ‘to come to be in your presence’. Comp. 1 Corinthians 2:3 , 1 Corinthians 16:10 . The phrase is used of words as well as of persons: John 10:35 ; Acts 10:13 , and as a various reading, 7:31. In all these cases the coming is expressed with a certain amount of solemnity.
The ‘you’ ( ὑμῖν, ὑμᾶς ) in this verse includes the children mentioned in v. 1. This, when contrasted with ‘thee’ ( σε, σοι ) in v. 5, seems to be in favour of understanding the ‘lady’ literally. The change from ‘thee’ to ‘you’ seems more in harmony with a matron and her family than with a Church and its members.
face to face ] Literally, mouth to mouth : it is not the phrase which is used in 1 Corinthians 13:12 and Genesis 32:31 . Comp. Numbers 12:8 ; Jeremiah 39:0 (32):4.
that our joy may be full ] Better, as R. V., that your (AB and Vulgate) joy may be fulfilled : see on 1 John 1:4 . “The high associations with which” the phrase “is connected lead us to suppose that it would scarcely have been applied by S. John to any meeting but one of peculiar solemnity after a cruel and prolonged separation which had threatened to be eternal” (Bishop Alexander). Comp. Romans 1:12 .
13. The children of thy elect sister greet thee ] Better, for the sake of uniformity with 3 John 1:14 , salute thee : the same verb is used in both passages. That the elect sister herself sends no greeting is taken as an argument in favour of the ‘elect lady’ being a Church, and the ‘elect sister’ a sister Church, which could send no greeting other than that of its members or ‘children’. But the verse fits the other hypothesis equally well. Kyria’s nephews may be engaged in business at Ephesus under S. John’s Apostolic care: their mother may be living elsewhere, or be dead. It was perhaps from these children of her sister that the Apostle had knowledge of, the state of things in the elect lady’s house. Their sending a salutation through him may intimate that they share his anxiety respecting her and hers.
Amen ] As in 1 John 5:21 (where see note), this is the addition of a copyist.
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the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30