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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

2 John

- 2 John

by Thomas Constable

Introduction

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The writer identified himself as "the elder" (2Jn_1:1). The writings of the early church fathers attribute authorship of this epistle to the Apostle John. The early Christians commonly recognized him as "the elder" in view. We might have expected John to describe himself as "the apostle," as Paul usually did, since this is an office of higher authority than elder. However, John’s apostleship was not open to challenge as Paul’s was. There is no evidence that the early Christians questioned it as they did Paul’s apostleship. "Elder" was a more affectionate title, and it undoubtedly represented John’s role among the churches, at least unofficially if not officially. He was probably an older man at this time too.

"Unlike 1 John , 2 and 3 John fall into the category of personal letters." [Note: I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John, p. 9.]

The identity of the recipient or recipients of this epistle is in question. Some scholars have concluded that John wrote to a specific lady and her children (2Jn_1:1). [Note: E.g., Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2:534.] Of these interpreters some believe her name was Eklekta (from the Greek word eklekte meaning "chosen", 2Jn_1:1). This seems unlikely, however, because John also called this lady’s sister eklekte in verse 13. Others who believe he wrote to a specific lady have suggested that her name was Kyria (the Greek word translated "lady," 2Jn_1:1). However this too seems unlikely in view of the plural address John used in verse 8. A more probable explanation is that John personified a particular local church as a lady and the Christians in it as her children (cf. 1Pe_5:13). [Note: See William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, pp. 152-53, for discussion of these views.] This view harmonizes with the personification of the church as Christ’s bride (Eph_5:22-23; 2Co_11:2; Rev_19:7). Since John’s arena of ministry was Asia Minor, the probability of this being a church in that Roman province is good.

The conditions existing in the church that John addressed are very similar to those he referred to in his first epistle. Therefore the time of composition seems to have been very close to that of 1 John: A.D. 90-95. Ephesus seems to be the most probable site from which John wrote both letters. [Note: Donald A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, p. 675.]

OUTLINE

I.    Introduction 2Jn_1:1-3

II.    The importance of the truth 2Jn_1:4-11

A.    Practicing the truth 2Jn_1:4-6

B.    Protecting the truth 2Jn_1:7-11

III.    Conclusion 2Jn_1:12-13

The following is a good expository outline of the book. [Note: Roy Clements, Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge, England, July 19, 1992.]

The truth generates an exclusive Christian community (2Jn_1:1-3).

The truth demands a distinctive Christian ethic (2Jn_1:4-6).

The truth involves propositional Christian doctrine (2Jn_1:7).

The truth requires unceasing Christian vigilance (2Jn_1:8-11).

Bibliography

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