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Bible Commentaries
2 John 1

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy ScripturesEverett's Study Notes

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Verses 1-3

Salutation (or Greeting) 2 John 1:1-3 serves as a salutation to this short epistle.

2 John 1:1 “The elder unto the elect lady and her children” “The elder” John the apostle uses this term partly out of respect for his old age, and perhaps out of respect for position in the church as the last living apostle. Although this title was commonly given to the leaders of local churches, John uses it in humility and in love for those whom he oversees. He also uses this same title in his third epistle.

3 John 1:1, “ The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.”

Note that Peter also uses this title in his first epistle.

1 Peter 5:1, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder , and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:”

The fact that John does not use his title as apostle like Paul did so often may lie in the fact that John’s office was not as challenged as Paul’s office. John was clearly one of the twelve chosen apostles. In comparison, Paul had to earn and defend his authority as an apostle.

“the elect lady” The Greek word for “lady” is κυρία , or “Cyria.” John Gill points out that this Greek name “Cyria” would be translated “Dominia” with the Romans, or “Martha” with the Hebrews, since ( מר ) signifies “lord” in the Hebrew, with the proper name rendered ( מרתא ), thus, “Martha.” [48]

[48] John Gill, 2 John, in John Gill’s Expositor, in e-Sword, v. 7.7.7 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on 2 John 1:1:1.

Albert Barnes tells us that the ancient Syriac and Arabic translators understand the Greek phrase “the elect lady” ( έκλεκτή κυρία ) to be an individual, for both have retained the proper name Cyria in their text. Barnes goes on to say that there is evidence in other literature of this period of people who carried this name. Therefore, he renders this passage, “The presbyter unto the elect Cyria.” [49]

[49] Albert Barnes, 2 John and 3 John, in Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1997), in P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000), comments on 2 John 1:1:1.

However, the Greek leaves off the definite article “the”, and allows for the subject to become “an elect lady.” I believe that the tone of this letter allows it to be for circulation among sister churches. He rejoices in the children walking in truth (verse 4). He addresses a warning in the plural, to all of you (verse 10). He desires to come and speak to them (in the plural) (verse 13).

Also, it is evident that John addresses in the plural his recipients throughout the entire epistle except in verse 5 (I beseech thee , lady…unto thee) and in 13 (the children of thy elect sister greet thee ). Otherwise, John mostly addresses in the plural.

Finally, verse 13 sends a greeting from “thy elect sister,” thus strongly implying a sister church.

“and her children” This term could have been used literally or figuratively to mean church members. Note:

Galatians 4:19, “ My little children , of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,”

Galatians 4:25, “For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children .”

1 Timothy 1:2, “Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.”

1 John 2:1, “ My little children , these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:”

John uses this term ten times in his first epistle to describe his recipients.

Comments - In giving titles to himself and the recipient of this letter, John both humbles himself and exalts this person or church to equal levels of honor and love, as Christ sees us. John does in love without diminishing the honor and responsibility that comes with his office of apostle.

2 John 1:3 Comments - In a similar way that the early apostles were instructed by Jesus to let their peace come upon the home of their host (Matthew 10:13), so did Paul the apostle opening every one of his thirteen New Testament epistles with a blessing of God’s peace and grace upon his readers. Peter did the same in his two epistles. Now John the apostles invokes this blessing in his second and third epistles and Revelation. Matthew 10:13 shows that you can bless a house by speaking God's peace upon it.

Matthew 10:13, “And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.”

This practice of speaking blessings upon God’s children may have its roots in the Priestly blessing of Numbers 6:22-27, where God instructed Moses to have the priests speak a blessing upon the children of Israel. We see in Ruth 2:4 that this blessing became a part of the Jewish culture when greeting people. Boaz blessed his workers in the field and his reapers replied with a blessing.

Ruth 2:4, “And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee.”

We also see this practiced by the king in 2 Samuel 15:20 where David says, “mercy and truth be with thee.”

2 Samuel 15:20, “Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee.”

Thus, this word of blessing was a part of the Hebrew and Jewish culture. This provides us the background as to why John was speaking a blessing upon the household of the elect lady and her children, especially that God would grant them more of His grace and abiding peace that they would have otherwise not known. In faith, we too, can receive this same blessing into our lives. John actually pronounces and invokes a blessing of divine grace and peace upon his readers with these words, “Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” I do not believe this blessing is unconditional, but rather conditional. In other words, it is based upon the response of his hearers. The more they obey these divine truths laid forth in this epistle, the more God’s grace and peace is multiplied in their lives. We recall how the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, with six tribes standing upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people and six tribes upon Mount Ebal to curse the disobedient (Deuteronomy 27:11-26). Thus, the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28:1-68 were placed upon the land. All who obeyed the Law received these blessings, and all who disobeyed received this list of curses. In the same way John invokes a blessing into the body of Christ for all who will hearken unto the divine truths of this epistle.

We see this obligation of the recipients in the translation of Beck, “As you know God and our Lord Jesus, may you enjoy more and more of His love and peace. ” (2 Peter 1:2)

Verses 4-6

The Commandment of Love In 2 John 1:4-6 John gives the divine commandment to love one another.

2 John 1:4 “I rejoice greatly” Comments - Joy is the manifestation of someone who is genuinely walking in love. It is the product of a clean conscience and the fullness of the Holy Spirit indwelling us.

With so many believers being confused or led astray, it was a great joy to see believers who were walking correctly in the truth.

2 John 1:4 Comments - Love always sees the good in others (1 Corinthians 13:7). In 2 John 1:4, John commends the good things that he saw in the elect lady.

1 Corinthians 13:7, “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

Verses 7-11

The Warning of Anti-Christ In 2 John 1:7-11 John warns his reader(s) about the anti-christ.

2 John 1:7 Comments - It is obvious that John was dealing with the same issue in his first epistles. Note a similar comment.

1 John 4:2, “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:”

2 John 1:10-11 Comments John’s Zeal for His Children - This harsh tone reveals the burning zeal that John had for his “children,” the churches of Asia Minor that he was overseeing.

Verses 12-13

Final Greeting In 2 John 1:12-13 John gives a final greeting.

2 John 1:12 Word Study on “paper” Strong says the Greek word “paper” ( χάρτης ) (G5489) means, “a sheet of writing material.” This would be a sheet of papyrus in the first century. This is the only use of this Greek word in the New Testament.

Comments - Papyrus was a reed plant, growing beside rivers, the inner bark of which was extracted and dried in flat strips. These strips were laid in a row while another row was laid in crisscross fashion, and gummed together. Many ancient Greek New Testament manuscripts have been found on papyrus.

2 John 1:12 Word Study on “ink” Strong says the Greek word “ink” ( μέλαν ) (G3188) means, “ink.” Strong says this word, found in its neuter form, is derived from the word ( μέλας ) (G3189), which literally means, “black.” This black ink was a compound of charcoal, gum and water or oil.

The word ( μέλαν ) (G3188) is only used two other times in the New Testament”

2 Corinthians 3:3, “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink , but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.”

3 John 1:13, “I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:”

2 John 1:12 “that our joy may be full” Comments This phrase means that God has made a way for us to live in all of the fullness of heaven’s joy while we are still hear on this earth. The very fullness of joy that we will have when we are living in heaven is ours today because Jesus has made the way for us into “full” fellowship with the Father and the Son.

2 John 1:13 The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.

2 John 1:13 “The children of thy elect sister greet thee” - Comments - The phrase “ σου της έκλεκτης ” (of thy elect) is the last phrase of the Greek text. It is interesting to note that one ancient Greek manuscript, a minuscule parchment of the eleventh century numbered “465,” [50] has written in the margin of this verse the phrase, ( σου της έκλεκτης της έν Έφέσω ˛), which means, “of thy elect [sister] in Ephes us.” [51] One Old Latin manuscript reads “electe ecclesia,” which means the “elect church.” This is an indication that many Christian scholars for ages past have considered the epistle to be addressed to a church, and not to an individual lady. This manuscript indicates that some early Church scholars believed that John wrote this epistle from the city of Ephesus, which history tells us he lived during the later part of his life.

[50] Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, M. Robinson, and Allen Wikgren, The Greek New Testament, Third Edition (United Bible Societies, 1975), xxiii.

[51] Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, in Word Biblical Commentary: 58 Volumes on CD-Rom, vol. 51, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Inc., 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 3.0b [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2004), 314.

2 John 1:13 “Amen” Comments - In the Textus Receptus the word “Amen” is attached to the end of all thirteen of Paul’s epistles, as well as to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and to the General Epistles of Hebrews , 1 and 2 Peter , 1 and 2 John, and to the book of Revelation. However, because “Amen” is not supported in more ancient manuscripts many scholars believe that this word is a later liturgical addition. For example, these Pauline benedictions could have been used by the early churches with the added “Amen.”

Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on 2 John 1". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/2-john-1.html. 2013.
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