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Bible Commentaries

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

3 John 1

Verse 1


1 .] ADDRESS. The elder (see prolegg. to the two Epistles) to Caius the beloved (on Caius, see prolegg. The epithet τῷ ἀγαπητῷ seems to be used this first time in a general sense: cf. ἐγώ below), whom I (for my own part: Caius was generally beloved, and the Apostle declares that he personally joins in the affection for him) love in ( the ) truth (see 2 John 1:1 , note. Ἐν ἀληθείᾳ ἀγαπᾷκατὰ κύριον ἀγαπῶν ἐνδιαθέτῳ ἀγάπῃ , Œc.).

Verses 2-4

2 4 .] Wish that Caius may prosper, as his soul prospers: and ground of this latter assertion . Beloved (the repetition of ἀγαπητέ is due perhaps more to the fact that the direct address begins here, than to any specific motive, such as the supposed ill-health of Caius, as Düsterd. from Lücke (but not in his 3rd edn.)), I pray that concerning all things thou mayest prosper ( περὶ πάντων is taken by many, e. g. Beza (E. V.), Wahl, Lücke (1st edn.), al., and recently by Düsterd., as signifying “above all things:” for which they allege Hom. Il. α . 287, ἀλλ ʼ ὅδ ʼ ἀνὴρ ἐθέλει περὶ πάντων ἔμμεναι ἄλλων . But it has been urged on the other side 1) that Homeric usage is no real index to N. T. usage: 2) that the meaning in Homer is not that sought here: 3) that it would be unnatural for the Apostle to pray for Caius’s bodily health and prosperity “above all things.” And hence the other modern Commentators, Lücke (edn. 2), De Wette, Huther, Sander, have taken the above meaning: which cannot be impugned, as Düsterd., by saying that περί is never found joined with εὐοδοῦσθαι , or that ἐν πᾶσιν would be more natural than περὶ πάντων . περί with a gen. is too usual signifying reference, to be set aside or judged of by the consideration of the verb which precedes: St. John himself uses it with verbs of very various classes. εὐοδοῦσθαι is pass. of εὐοδόω , of which the neut. form is εὐοδέω , from εὐοδία , to have a καλὴ ὁδός : - όω , to make, or give a καλή ὁδός . So Hesych., εὐοδώσει , κατευθυνεῖ · εὐωδώθη , ἡτοιμάσθη . So that the pass. εὐοδοῦσθαι comes to much the same as the intrans. εὐοδεῖν . Its use is common, and regular, in the LXX. See notes on reff., and Lücke’s and Düsterd.’s account of the usages, here) and be in health (i. e. bodily health. περὶ πάντων , in all probability, does not belong to ὑγιαίνειν , but only to εὐοδοῦσθαι : the latter verb is a particular, taken out of the former, which is general), even as thy soul prospereth (viz. ἐν τῇ κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον πολιτείᾳ , Œc.: as is shewn by what follows. There is a passage in Philo, Quis rer. div. hæres, § 58, vol. i. p. 514, in which the well-being of body and soul are similarly compared: ὅταν εὐοδῇ μοι τὰ ἐκτὸς πρὸς εὐπορίαν καὶ εὐδοξίαν · εὐοδῇ τὰ σώματος πρὸς ὑγείαν τε καὶ ἰσχύν , εὐοδῇ δὲ καὶ τὰ ψυχῆς πρὸς ἀπόλαυσιν ἀρετῶν ). For I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came and testified to thy truth (the participles ἐρχ . and μαρτ . are in reality timeless, and convey merely the reason of the ἐχάρην : but such a connexion is given in English by the temporal adverb, which has in this case rather a ratiocinative than a purely temporal force. In σου τῇ ἀληθείᾳ , the subst. is necessarily subjective thy share of that Truth in which thou walkest, see below), even as (almost = how that , see below) thou walkest in truth (this clause is not an independent one, adding the testimony of the Apostle to that of the brethren, “as (I know that) thou walkest &c.:” but is epexegetical of the former clause, and states the substance of the testimony of the brethren, as is shewn by what follows, ἀκούω τὰ ἐμὰ τ . κ . τ . λ .).

Verse 4

4 .] Explains ἐχάρην λίαν above. I have no greater (the form μειζότερος is condemned by some (Phryn. Lob. p. 136, Œc. h. l.) as barbarous. But these comparatives of comparatives and superlatives are found both in classical and in N. T. Greek: see Ephesians 3:8 , and note) joy than this (lit. “than these things:” following the usage by which ταῦτα is so often put where one thing only is intended: cf. the formula, καὶ ταῦτα , “idque:” so Plato, Phæd. p. 62, D, ἀλλ ʼ ὁ ἀνόητος ἄνθρωπος τάχ ʼ ἂν οἰηθείη ταῦτα , φευκτέον εἶναι ἀπὸ τοῦ δεσπότου . See Kühner, Gr. ii. p. 48), that (explicative, as constantly in St. John after the demonstrative pronoun) I hear of my children walking in the truth (on the participial construction, see note on 2 John 1:7 . The expression τέκνα here seems rather to favour the idea that the κυρία of the 2nd Epistle is a Church; but see prolegg. to 2 John).

Verses 5-8

5 8 .] Praise of the hospitality shewn by Caius; and reason of that praise . Beloved (beginning again of new address: see above on 3Jn 1:2 ), thou doest a faithful act ( ἄξιον πιστοῦ ἀνδρός , as Œc. and most interpreters. De W. and Bengel explain it “fidele facis: facis quiddam quod facile a te pollicebar mihi et fratribus.” But the other is better. In πιστὸςλόγος , 1Ti 1:15 al., there is possibly the same allusion: not only a saying worthy of credit, but one belonging to those who are of the πίστις ) whatsoever thou workest (the aor. betokens these deeds as summed up in one and characterized as πιστόν ) towards (so the Lord in Mat 26:10 describes His anointing by Mary thus, καλὸν ἔργον εἰργάσατο εἰς ἐμέ ) the brethren, and that (and those brethren), strangers ( φιλοξενία is an especial mark of Christian ἀγάπη , Romans 12:13 , 1 Timothy 3:2 , Titus 1:8 , Hebrews 13:2 , 1Pe 4:9 ), who (the above-named ξένοι ἀδελφοί ) bore testimony to thy love in the presence of the church (viz. where St. John was at the time of writing. They were Evangelists, 3 John 1:7 ; and thus would naturally give the church an account of their missionary journey, during which they were so hospitably treated by Caius): whom thou wilt do well if thou forward on their way (as Bengel says, the future is a “morata formula hortandi.” The aor. part. presents no difficulty: it will then, and not till then, be a good act, when it is done. And this would only be expressed by the fut. with an aor. part.: οὓς καλῶς ποιήσεις προπέμπων would be liable to be rendered “whom thou wilt benefit by forwarding &c.” the present part. being, in such a conjunction, timeless, and merely ratiocinative. On προπέμψ ., see reff. and Tit 3:13 ) worthily of God (this qualification belongs to προπέμψας , not as Carpzov., who supplies a καί before ἀξίως , to ποιήσεις , “well and worthily of God.” The words mean, in a manner worthy of Him whose messengers they are and whose servant thou art). For on behalf of the Name ( of Christ : see the second ref., and cf. Ignat. ad Ephesians 3:0 and 7, pp. 648 f., and ad Philad. 10, p. 705, δοξάσαι τὸ ὄνομα . Bengel says, “subaudi, Dei. Leviticus 24:11 . Conf. Jac. 2:7.” But neither of these places applies. O. T. usage is naturally no guide for us here; and St. James alludes to the name of Christ ) they went forth (on their missionary journey: not, as Beza, Erasm.-Schmidt, Wolf, Carpzov., Bengel, “were driven forth:” see more below), taking nothing (receiving nothing by way of benefaction or hire: even as St. Paul in Achaia, 1 Corinthians 9:18 , 2 Corinthians 11:7 ff; 2 Corinthians 12:16 ff., 1 Thessalonians 2:9 ff.: against Huther, who denies the applicability of the comparison, seeing that in St. Paul’s case they were Christian churches : but so must these have been before they would contribute to the support of their missionaries. Notice μηδέν ; implying that it was their own deliberate purpose; refusing to take any thing: οὐδέν would have expressed only the fact , which might have arisen from the remissness of the ἐθνικοί , and might have been, considered by themselves as a hardship. This is the force of μηδέν , and not as Dusterd., that οὐδέν would only have stated the fact, but by μηδέν the Apostle presents it for the consideration of his readers) from the heathens (reff. The expositors spoken of above under ἐξῆλθον , take these words as belonging to it, “expulsi sunt a paganis,” and interpret μηδέν λαμβάνοντες , “nihil secum asportantes,” “omnibus rebus spoliati.” Grot., who takes ἐξῆλθον of expulsion, understands it to have been “a Judæa, per Judæos incredulos, ob Christum:” and takes the rest as meaning “potuerant in ista calamitate adjuvari misericordia τῶν ἔξω , sed maluerunt omnia Christianis debere.” But the whole interpretation is forced and unnatural, and the ordinary one obvious, and very suitable, considering the motive put forward in 3 John 1:8 , which clearly shews them to have been workers for God’s truth. The pres. part. λαμβάνοντες indicates, not what they did when they ἐξῆλθον , but their habit after their setting out: and is as so often, indicative of norm, without any particular time being pointed out. So that we need not, with Huther and Düsterd., imagine that there is an allusion to a missionary maxim , to take nothing from the heathen, in accordance with which they acted). We therefore ( ἡμεῖς , contrast to the ἐθνικοί : οὖν , because they μηδὲν λαμβάνουσιν ἀπὸ τ . ἐθνικῶν ) ought to support (see Strabo in reff. Notice the allusion to λαμβάνοντες above. The word does not seem to signify “receive hospitably,” as some have explained it, nor does it imply, as Œc., Thl., appealing to ὑπέλαβόν με ὡσεὶ λέων ἕτοιμος εἰς θήραν , Ps. 16:12, anticipating, not waiting to be asked, in the exercise of good offices) such persons, that we may become fellow-workers ( with them ) for the truth (this, and not as vulg. “ut cooperatores simus veritatis” (so Luth., Grot., Bengel, al.), is the construction. Those with whom one is συνεργός , are put in the gen. , see Romans 16:3 ; Romans 16:9 ; Romans 16:21 , 1Co 3:9 al. The dat. is commodi: to promote the cause of the truth: so συνεργοὶ εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τ . θεοῦ , Colossians 4:11 , συνεργὸν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ , 1Th 3:2 ).

Verses 9-10

9, 10 .] Notice of the hostility of Diotrephes . I wrote somewhat to the church (the τι does not imply that the thing written was specially important, nor on the other hand does it depreciate; but merely designates indefinitely: cf. Acts 23:17 , ἔχει γὰρ ἀπαγγεῖλαί τι αὐτῷ , and Luke 7:40 , Σίμων , ἔχω σοί τι εἰπεῖν : and Matthew 20:20 . The contents of the Epistle are not hinted at. The “scripsissem forsitan” of the vulgate ( ἔγραψα ἄν , see var. readd.) has arisen from a foolish notion that the Apostle must not be represented as having written any thing which has been lost to us. The ἐκκλησία is apparently the church of which Caius was a member: not as Bengel, that out of which the missionaries of 3Jn 1:7 had gone forth): howbeit ( ἀλλά after an affirmative sentence is stronger than the mere adversative but : see Kühner, Gr. ii. p. 436) Diotrephes who loveth pre-eminence ( ὁ ὑφαρπάζων τὰ πρωτεῖα as the ancient Schol. He appears to have been not, as Bed [1] , “hæresiarcha temporis illius quidam superbus et insolens, malens nova dicendo primatum sibi usurpare scientiæ quam antiquis sanctæ Ecclesiæ, quæ Johannes prædicabat, humiliter auscultare mandatis:” so much is not implied in the words, but only that be was an ambitious man who willed that not the Apostle but himself should rule the church) over them (the members of the church, implied in the word ἐκκλησία . The gen. after verbs of preeminence, as ὅς ἀριστεύεσκε μάχεσθαι Τρώων , Il ζ . 460: καλλιστεύσει πασέων τῶν ἐν Σπάρτγυναικῶν , Herod. vi. 161. See Kühner, ii. p. 197) receiveth us not (does not recognize our authority: here in an improper sense, but in the next verse probably literal: see there. Its more usual sense in Polybius, who uses it frequently, is to admit of , τοῦ καιροῦ οὐκ ἐπιδεχομένου καταμονήν , iii. 79. 12. The ἡμᾶς wants no explanation such as “monita nostra,” “ συστατικάς nostras,” or the like: in rejecting the Apostle’s person, he rejected all his influence). On this account, if I should come (see for ἐάν 1Jn 2:28 ), I will bring to mind (i. e. as Bed [2] , “in omnium notitiam manifestius arguendo producam:” see reff. No αὐτόν is understood: it is not to his mind, but to the minds of all) his works which he doeth (what they were, is explained by the participle following), prating against us (this is the best rendering of φλυαρῶν , which conveys not only the λοιδορῶν , κακολογῶν of Œc., but also that the reproaches were mere tattle, worth nothing, irrelevant: so Eustathius on Il. χ . 361, in Raphel, h. l., τὸ ἐν οὐ δέοντι λόγους προϊέναι φλυεῖν λέγεται κ . φλυαρεῖν . Cf. 1Ti 5:13 ) with wicked speeches: and not satisfied with ( ἀρκεῖσθαι is ordinarily (see reff.) with a dative: the ἐπί , as in χαίρειν ἐπί , and similar expressions, introduces the ground on which the ἀρκεῖσθαι superimponitur) this (more probably plur., as in 3 John 1:4 , where the whole matter in question is meant, than as agreeing with the λόγοι πονηροί , which had not been the only things mentioned of him), neither doth he himself receive the brethren (here ἐπιδέχομαι seems best taken in its literal sense, as in Polyb. xxii. 1. 3, ἅπαντας ἐπεδέχετο φιλανθρώπως (if the reading can be depended upon), of entertaining hospitably, see 2 John 1:10 . The ἀδελφοί are probably the same as in 3 John 1:5 , the travelling missionaries), and (so καί after οὔτε in reff., and Eur. Iph. Taur. 595 f., εἶ γὰρ οὔτε δυσγενής , καὶ τὰς Μυκήνας οἶσθα . τε is more frequently found, see Kühner, Gramm. ii. p. 441. The occurrence of the construction explains itself. It is found when the negative form of the first member of a series of connected clauses, is not possible or not convenient in the second or any following one. Here it might have been, but not so forcibly expressed, οὔτε τοὺς βουλομένους ἐᾷ ) hinders (by forbidding: cf. 1Th 2:16 ) those that would (receive them), and casts them (those that would receive the brethren: not, as C. F. Fritzsche, Carpzov., al., the travelling brethren themselves) out of the church (manifestly, by excommunication, which owing to his influence among them he had the power to inflict. There is no difficulty, nor any occasion to take the word as pointing at that which Diotrephes was attempting to do or threatening to do, and so as spoken in irony (Huther): the present tense indicates his habit, as ἐπιδέχεται and ποιεῖ above. He was evidently one in high power, and able to forbid, and to punish, the reception of the travelling brethren. See prolegg.).

[1] Bede, the Venerable , 731; Bedegr, a Greek MS. cited by Bede, nearly identical with Cod. “E,” mentioned in this edn only when it differs from E.

[2] Bede, the Venerable , 731; Bedegr, a Greek MS. cited by Bede, nearly identical with Cod. “E,” mentioned in this edn only when it differs from E.

Verse 11

11 .] Upon occasion of the hostility just mentioned, St. John exhorts Caius to imitate not the evil but the good , probably as shewn in the praises of Demetrius which follow. Beloved, imitate not evil ( τὸ κακόν , abstract), but good (abstract also). He that doeth good, is from God (is born of God, and has his mission and power from Him: as so often in the first Epistle): he that doeth evil, hath not seen God (so in ref., πᾶςἁμαρτάνων οὐχ ἑώρακεν αὐτόν , where see note. And yet this expression is called by Lücke and De Wette “unjohanneisch,” and 1 John 4:20 , adduced to prove it, where the word ἑώρακεν is used in its literal physical sense).

Verse 12

12 .] The praise of Demetrius . Testimony hath been borne to Demetrius by all (scil. who know him, and have brought report concerning him: “nemo qui non”), and by the truth itself (it is not very easy to explain this expression. If we understand it that the reality of facts themselves supports the testimony of the πάντες , we have abundance of authority for the expression in classical usage: Wetst. gives, from Demost. contra Neær. (qu. page?), δεῖ δ ʼ ὑμᾶς ἑξ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀληθείας τὴν ἀκρίβειαν ἀκούσαντας τῆς τε κατηργορίας καὶ τῆς ἀπολογίας οὕτως ἤδη τὴν ψῆφον φέρειν : de corona, p. 232, τούτων τοιούτων ὄντων καὶ ἐπ ʼ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀληθείας οὕτω δεικνυμένων . And from Æsch., contra Timarch., καταμεμαρτυρημένος ὑπὸ τοῦ ἑαυτοῦ βίου καὶ τῆς ἀληθείας . And thus Œc. ( ὑπ ʼ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀλ ., τοῦ ἐνεργοῦς λόγοι · εἰσὶ γάρ τινες οἷς μαρτυρεῖται μὲν ἀρετή , κατεψευσμένη δὲ ἐπὶ ἀπράκτῳ λόγῳ ), Corn.-a-lap., Bart.-Petr., Grot., (“rebus ipsis”), Joach.-Lange, Carpzov., G. Lange, al., and Beausobre, who (Düsterd.) explains it “sa conduite est un témoin réel de sa vertu.” But there are two reasons against this view: 1) that it does not correspond to the objective fact asserted in the μεμαρτύρηται , nor to the parallelizing of this testimony with that of the πάντες and that of the Apostle: and 2) that thus the Christian and divine sense of ἡ ἀλήθεια which St. John seems always to put forward, would be entirely sunk. Nor is the former of these met either by Schlichting, who says, “si ipsa veritas loqui posset, homini isti præberet testimonium virtutis et probitatis,” or by Lücke, “if infallible Christian truth itself, cf. 3 John 1:3 , could be asked, it would bear favourable witness of him.” Against both there is the μεμαρτύρηται , as matter of fact, not of hypothesis. Baumg.-Crus. would understand that Demetrius had done much for the truth, and his deeds were his witness: but this is hardly a witness of ἡ ἀλήθεια to him. Sander takes refuge in the extraordinary supposition, that the Holy Spirit had revealed to the Apostle the truth respecting Demetrius. Huther regards the testimony borne by the truth to be that furnished by the πάντες , whose evidence was decisive, not from their credit as men, but because they all spoke of and from the truth of Christ dwelling in them. This would reduce this new μαρτυρία to the former, and would in fact besides include the following in it likewise. The best interpretation is that of Düsterdieck (from whom much of this note is derived). The objective Truth of God, which is the divine rule of the walk of all believers, gives a good testimony to him who really walks in the truth. This witness lies in the accordance of his walk with the requirement of God’s Truth. It was the mirror in which the walk of Demetrius was reflected: and his form, thus seen in the mirror of God’s Truth, in which the perfect form of Christ is held up to us ( 1Jn 2:6 ; 1 John 3:3 ; 1Jn 3:16 ), appeared in the likeness of Christ; so that the mirror itself seemed to place in a clear light his Christian virtue and uprightness, and thus to bear witness to him): yea, we too (see ref. and note there. The contrast here is between his own personal testimony (for to that and not to any collective one does ἡμεῖς refer) and the two testimonies foregoing) bear testimony, and thou knowest that our testimony is true (see reff.).

Verses 13-14

13 15 .] Close of the Epistle . I had (not, as Huther, for εἶχον ἄν : it is a pure imperfect, describing that which has not come to pass, but might have done so under certain conditions: cf. Acts 25:22 ; Romans 9:3 , also alleged by Düsterd. is not quite a case in point. He gives the meaning here well: “I had indeed much to write: that I have not written it is owing to this, that I wish not, &c.”) many things to write to thee, howbeit I will not to write (present, not only “to write them,” which would be aorist, but to write at all, to write any more) by means of ink and reed (see on 2Jn 1:12 ): but (on the other hand) I hope immediately to see thee, and (then) we shall speak mouth to mouth (see 2Jn 1:12 ). Peace be to thee (beautifully paraphrased by Lyra, “interna conscientiæ, pax fraterna amicitiæ, pax superna gloriæ.” Remember our Lord’s legacy, John 14:27 , and His greeting after the Resurrection, εἰρήνη ὑμῖν , John 20:19 ; Joh 20:26 ). The friends salute thee. Salute the friends by name (“non secus ac si nomina eorum præscripta essent.” Bengel). The reason why St. John mentions φίλοι (see John 11:11 ; John 15:15 ; Act 27:3 ), and not ἀδελφοί (1 Corinthians 16:20 ; Philippians 4:21 ; Eph 6:23 ), is probably to be found in the personal character of the Epistle, not addressed as from an Apostle to a church, but as from a friend to his friend, in which mutual friends on both sides would be the senders and receivers of salutation.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 3 John 1". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.