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Bible Commentaries
3 John 1

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New TestamentMeyer's Commentary

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Ἰωάννου ἐπιστολὴ τρίτη


THE superscription runs in B א : Ἰωάννου γ ̄; in C: Ἰω . ἐπιστολὴ γ ̄; in G: ἐπιστολὴ τρίτη τοῦ ἁγίου ἀποστόλου Ἰωάννου ; in the Elzev. ed.: Ἰωάννου τοῦ ἀποστόλου ἐπιστολὴ καθολικὴ τρίτη .

3 John 1:3 . א omits γάρ . 3 John 1:4 . In some min. is found, plainly as a correction, ταύτης instead of τούτων .

Instead of ἔχω , B (teste Majo) has ἔχων (not mentioned by Buttm.), and instead of χαράν , B 7, 35, Vulg. etc., read: χαρίν ; Buttm. has retained the Rec.

Instead of the Rec. ἐν ἀληθείᾳ (according to C** G K א , Thph. Oec.), A B C* etc., read: ἐν τῇ ἀλ ., which Lachm. and Tisch. have accepted; the omission of the article is explained by the preceding ἐν ἀλ ., 3 John 1:3 . 3 John 1:5 . ἐργάσῃ ] Rec. according to B C G K S, all the min. Thph. Oec. (Tisch.). Lachm., following A, Vulg. (operaris), has accepted ἐργάζῃ , which, however, appears to be only an alteration on account of the present ποιεῖς .

Instead of καὶ εἰς τοὺς ξένους (Rec. according to G K, etc.), καὶ τοῦτο ξένους must be read, with A B C א , etc., most of the versions, Lachm. and Tisch. 3 John 1:6 . Ewald arbitrarily conjectures: οἷς ἐμαρτύρησα .

The reading of C: ποίησας προπέμψεις , is clearly a correction. 3 John 1:7 . After ὀνόματος the Elzev. ed., following several min. and some vss., has αὐτοῦ , which is found in none of the greater MSS. (nor, according to Tisch. 7, in B). Buttm. has accepted this αὐτοῦ , and that, too, as the reading of B; Tisch. 2 also ascribes it to this codex, but with the remark: e sil. collat. Reiche says: Lachm.: falso codicem B pro C αὐτοῦ citat. Codicem B αὐτοῦ non habere nunc e Maji atque Kuenii et Cobeti edit, constat.

On the reading ἐξῆλθαν (Lachm. Tisch. 7), comp. 2 John 1:7 .

Instead of ἐθνῶν , Rec. according to G K, etc., Lachm. and Tisch. have with justice accepted ἐθνικῶν , which is the reading of A B C א and many others; Reiche, however, regards ἐθνῶν as the original reading. 3 John 1:8 . ἀπολαμβάνειν ] Rec. following C** G K, etc. Instead of it A B C* א , etc., read ὑπολαμβάνειν , which Lachm. and Tisch. have accepted, and in favour of which Reiche also declares himself. Both words are, in the signification in which they are here used, ἅπ . λεγόμενα ; the overwhelming authorities are in favour of ὑπολ .

Instead of τῇ ἀληθείᾳ , א * reads τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ , clearly a correction. 3 John 1:9 . After ἔγραψα , A B C א (Lachm. Tisch.) read τι . The Rec. is only supported by G K, some min. etc. 1 [15] Two min.: 29, 66**, have ἌΝ ΤΙ ; and some others ἌΝ without ΤΙ ; the Vulg.: scripsissam forsitan. These readings have arisen from an erroneous interpretation of the thought. 3 John 1:10 . Instead of ΒΟΥΛΟΜΈΝΟΥς is found in C, several min. Vulg.: ἘΠΙΔΕΧΟΜΈΝΟΥς ; a correction.

In א the preposition ἘΚ is wanting before Τῆς ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑς . 3 John 1:11 . The ΔΈ between and ΚΑΚΟΠΟΙῶΝ (Rec . ) is, according to almost all the authorities, to be deleted; it was interpolated to mark the antithesis. 3 John 1:12 . In Cod. C, to the words τῆς ἀληθείας , τῆς ἐκκλησίας καί is further prefixed. In A the reading is uncertain; according to the statement of Tisch., A* probably reads “ ἐκκλησίας ” instead of ἀληθείας ; Lachm. states the reading thus: “ ἀλη … θίας corr. A, … θιας pr. A.”

οἴδατε ] Rec . according to G K, etc., several vss. Thph. Oec. (Tisch.). In A B C א , Vulg. etc., on the other hand, is found: ΟἾΔΑς , which Griesb. recommended, and Lachm. accepted.

If the overwhelming evidences were not for ΟἾΔΑς , we might regard it as a correction, as ΟἼΔΑΤΕ seemed objectionable in an Epistle addressed to one person. 3 John 1:13 . Instead of γράφειν (Rec . according to G K, etc., Oec.), the reading of A B C א , etc., almost all versions, Thph.: ΓΡΆΨΑΙ ΣΟΙ , accepted by Lachm. and Tisch., is to be preferred.

The reading in A: ΟὐΚ ἘΒΟΥΛΉΘΗΝ , instead of Οὐ ΘΈΛΩ , has originated in 2 John 1:12 .

Though the Rec . (according to G K, etc., Thph. Oec.) has γράψαι at the close of the verse, A B C א , etc., here read: γράφειν , which is justly accepted by Lachm. and Tisch. The pronoun σοι is put after the verb in A, etc., Vulg. etc. (Laclim.); most of the authorities, however, decide in favour of its position before the verb (Tisch.). 3 John 1:14 . Instead of the Rec . ἸΔΕῖΝ ΣΕ (G K א , several versions, etc.), ΣΕ ἸΔΕῖΝ is probably to be read, with A B C, etc. (Lachm. Tisch.). 3 John 1:15 (3 John 1:14 ). Instead of ΟἹ ΦΊΛΟΙ , A has ΟἹ ἈΔΕΛΦΟΊ ; clearly a correction. א sol. has ἌΣΠΑΣΑΙ for ἈΣΠΆΖΟΥ .

Only a few codd. (G some min. etc.) have at the close the word ἈΜΉΝ .

The subscription runs in A B א : ἸΩΆΝΝΟΥ Γ ̄ ; in G: ἘΠΙΣΤΟΛῊ Γ ̄ ΤΟῦ ἉΓΊΟΥ ἉΠΟΣΤΌΛΟΥ ἸΩΆΝΝΟΥ ; in other codd. still more prolix.

[15] 1 Reiche incorrectly says: lectiones variae a rec. discedentes singulae non satis testatae sunt; whereas the overwhelming evidences decide in favour of τι being original. That B reads ἕγραψας (Reiche), has not been observed either by Tischendorf 7 or by Buttmann. Should it be the case, it must be regarded merely as a clerical error.

Verse 1

3 John 1:1 . Superscription. On ὁ πρεσβύτερος , see the Introd. sec. 1. With regard to the person of Caius nothing particular is known; that he is identical with one of two (or three) Caiuses who are mentioned as friends and helpers of the Apostle Paul (comp. Acts 19:29 ; Acts 20:4 ; 1 Corinthians 1:14 ; and Romans 16:23 ), is at least improbable. [16] It is also uncertain whether he is the same person as the Caius who, according to the Constitt. Apostol. vii. 46, is said to have been appointed by John as bishop in Pergamos (Mill., Whiston). That he was presbyter of the Church (Köstlin) does not follow from 3 John 1:8 . The apostle expresses his love to Caius in the epithet τῷ ἀγαπητῷ ; how sincere it was is shown by the fact that he not only adds: ὋΝ ἘΓῺ ἈΓΑΠῶ ἘΝ ἈΓΗΘΕΊᾼ (comp. with this 2 John 1:1 ), but also addresses him three times in the Epistle by ἈΓΑΠΗΤΈ . On ἘΝ ἈΛ . Oecumenius here well observes: ἘΝ ἈΛΗΘΕΊᾼ ἈΓΑΠᾷ ΚΑΤᾺ ΚΎΡΙΟΝ ἈΓΑΠῶΝ ἘΝΔΙΑΘΈΤῼ ἈΓΆΠῌ .

[16] Lücke thinks that if he was one of these, he would only be the Caius of Derbe (Acts 20:4 ); yet he states no reason for this opinion, but merely refers to Wolf’s Curae; Wolf, however, regards it as probable that he was the same as the Caius mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:14 , whom he distinguishes as the Corinthian Caius from the Caius of Derbe.

Verse 2

3 John 1:2 . Instead of with the usual formula of greeting, the Epistle begins with a wish for the welfare of Caius.

περὶ πάντων ] πάντων is not masculine (Paulus: “on account of all, i.e. for the good of all”), but neuter. Several commentators, Beza, Castellio, Wahl, Lücke (1st ed.), Ewald, Düsterdieck, etc., interpret περὶ πάντων = πρὸ πάντων here, and connect it with εὔχομαι ; but usus loquendi and thought are opposed to this. Although περί in some passages in Homer indicates precedence, yet this signification is utterly foreign to the LXX. and the N. T.; besides, it is not to be supposed that the apostle would have so specially emphasized the wish referring to the external circumstances of life; περὶ πάντων , with most of the commentators (even Lücke, 2d ed.), is rather to be connected with σε εὐοδοῦσθαι (though not with ὑγιαίνειν ) in its usual signification: “ in regard to all things. ” In reply to the objection which has been made out of the position of the words, Lücke with justice remarks: “it is put first with rhetorical emphasis, corresponding to ἡ ψυχή , which is compared with it, at the end.”

εὔχομαι ] it is true, means also “to pray” (James 5:15 ), but usually: “ to wish ,” so here also; that with John it was an εὔχεσθαι πρὸς τὸν Θεόν , is self-evident.

σε εὐοδοῦσθαι καὶ ὑγιαίνειν ] εὐοδοῦσθαι , besides here, is only found in Romans 1:10 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 ; in both passages it means: “ to be fortunate ” (see Meyer on Romans 1:10 ); similarly it signifies here also prosperity; comp. the detailed account of the usage of the word in the classics and in the LXX. by Lücke and Düsterdieck on this passage.

The apostle wishes that it may go well and happily with Caius in all external circumstances; that it is just these he has in view in πάντων , is clear from the contrasted ψυχή . By means of ὑγιαίνειν (= “ to be in health ,” comp. Luke 5:31 ; Luke 7:10 , and other passages) one element of the general εὐοδοῦσθαι is brought specially out. It is not to be inferred from the wish which is expressed that Caius had been ill (Düsterdieck).

καθὼς εὐοδοῦταί σου ἡ ψυχή ] By the prosperity of the soul of Caius, to which the external welfare was to correspond, it is not the natural condition, as the sequel shows, but the Christian state of salvation that is to be understood.

Verse 3

3 John 1:3 . Confirmation of the foregoing statement.

ἐχάρην γὰρ λίαν ] see on 2 John 1:4 . When and why the apostle felt such a joy is stated in the two following participial sentences, of which, however, as far as the sense is concerned, the first is subordinate to the second; à Mons: lorsque les frères qui sont venus ont rendu témoignage.

μαρτυρεῖν , with the dative of the thing: “ to testify of anything; ” comp. 3Jn 1:6 ; 3 John 1:12 ; John 3:26 ; John 5:33 ; John 18:37 .

By σου τῇ ἀληθείᾳ it is not the truth in the objective sense (Calovius: veritas evangelii) in so far as Caius had received it, but the truth in the subjective sense, that is to be understood (so also Lücke, Düsterdieck, Braune, etc.): the inner Christian life, which is born of the truth, is itself truth; some commentators incorrectly limit the idea to a single element of it; e.g. Lorinus to liberalitas.

The addition: καθὼς σὺ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ περιπατεῖς (comp. 2 John 1:4 ), serves as an explanation of the preceding: “namely how thou,” etc. In the fact that the brethren testified that Caius was walking in the truth, they bore a testimony to the truth that was in him. The sentence is not “a direct sentence” (Baumgarten-Crusius: “as thou indeed art living in accordance with the truth”) by which “John adds his testimony to that of the brethren (Besser) in order to confirm it” (Ebrard), but “an indirect sentence” (Brückner) dependent on μαρτυρούντων , on which a special emphasis is laid, as also the ἀκούω in 3 John 1:4 shows (so also Düsterdieck, Braune). σύ is emphatically used in contrast to those who do not walk ἐν ἀληθείᾳ .

Verse 4

serves as confirmation of ἐχάρην λίαν

3 John 1:4 serves as confirmation of ἐχάρην λίαν .

μειζότεραν ] Grotius: est ad intendendam significationem comparativus e comparativo factus; similar formations occur in the classical language of poets and later writers; see Winer, p. 65; VII. p. 67; in the N. T. comp. Ephesians 3:8 .

τούτων οὐκ ἔχω χαρὰν ἵνα κ . τ . λ . “ I have not a greater joy than this, that; ” τούτων is not used for ταύτης , but “as an indefinite word is to be connected with the more definite ἵνα ” (Lücke); some commentators incorrectly supply “ ἤ ” before ἵνα . John 15:13 is to be compared with this passage; only that ταύτης is used there, but it does not refer, however, to something preceding, but finds its explanation in the following ἵνα . [17]

τὰ ἐμὰ τέκνα , not “all Christians;” but neither merely the converts of John, but the members of the Churches which were under the special fatherly direction of the apostle (so also Braune).

[17] In opposition to Meyer, who says on the passage cited: “the usual view, according to which ἵνα is taken as the explanation of ταύτης , does not correspond to the idea of purpose which is contained in ἵνα ,” it may be observed that in the usus loquendi of the N. T. ἵνα has by no means retained the idea of purpose in its distinctness, and often serves, in reference to the demonstrative pronoun, to state the meaning of the latter.

Verses 5-6

3 John 1:5-6 . Praise of Caius for his φιλοξενία , induced by that which he exhibited towards the brethren (3 John 1:3 ).

πιστὸν ποιεῖς ὃ ἐὰν κ . τ . λ .] By πιστόν the conduct ( ποιεῖς ) of Caius, which he had shown towards the brethren, is described as faithful, i.e. corresponding to the Christian profession. Ebrard’s view, that πιστὸν ποιεῖν is = the classical πιστὸν (= πίστιν ) ποιεῖσθαι in the sense of “to give a pledge of faithfulness, a guarantee,” cannot be grammatically justified. By ἐάν (= ἄν ) the idea is generalized: “ everything whatever.

εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τοῦτο ξένους ] With the construction ἐργάζεσθαι εἰς , comp. Matthew 26:10 . By καὶ τοῦτο it is brought out that the ἀδελφοί to whom Caius is showing his love are ξένοι ; even with the reading καὶ εἰς τοὺς ξένους the thought remains the same: καί , namely, is epexegetically used = “and that too;” as the ξένοι were Christians, they cannot be distinguished from the ἀδελφοί ; Lücke takes καί in a specializing sense: “and particularly or especially;” but it is not brotherly love in general, but just the φιλοξενία , that is the subject here. That is to say, the apostle in this praise has specially in view what Caius had done to the brethren who had come to him (the Ap.: 3 John 1:3 ), and who are also spoken of in 3 John 1:6-7 ; these, however, were ξένοι . [18] 3 John 1:6 . ΟἻ ἘΜΑΡΤΎΡΗΣΆΝ ΣΟΥ Τῇ ἈΓΆΠῌ ἘΝΏΠΙΟΝ ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑς ] That ΟἽ “dissociates the concrete representation of some from the generic representation of ΞΈΝΟΙ ” (de Wette) is incorrect; it rather refers directly to the previously-mentioned strange brethren. By ἐνώπιον ἐκκλησίας we are not to think of the Church to which Caius belonged, but of that in which John was sojourning.

ΟὛς ΚΑΛῶς ΠΟΙΉΣΕΙς Κ . Τ . Λ . ] The same brethren that had come from Caius to John wanted to return thither again, in order from thence to continue their missionary journey (3 John 1:7 ). John now recommends them to the loving care of Caius.

ΟὝς are not others (de Wette), but the same as were spoken of in the preceding sentence. The combination of the future ΠΟΙΉΣΕΙς and the aorist participle ΠΡΟΠΈΜΨΑς is strange, as the two verbs do not denote two different actions, but the ΚΑΛῶς ΠΟΙΕῖΝ consists in the ΠΡΟΈΜΠΕΙΝ ; it is different in Mark 13:13 , Acts 24:25 , Romans 15:28 , where two different actions are placed in connection with one another, and the aorist participle is used in the sense of the fut. exacti (see Winer, p. 306; VII. p. 321). This has not been properly noticed by the commentators. The explanation of Düsterdieck: “The aorist form is to be explained by the fact that the good deed will consist in this, that Caius will have worthily brought the brethren forward,” does not solve the difficulty, as the good deed consists in the bringing them forward itself. The apostle may have used the aorist, however, in the feeling that “the action of Caius is only completed when he has accomplished the equipment and escort of the brethren” (Braune). The same connection is found in Eurip. Orest. 1210 ff.: εὐτυχήσομεν … ἑλόντες , which Matthiae ( Ausf. Gramm. , 2d ed. p. 1087) translates: “if we are so fortunate as to take;” [19] in accordance with which we may translate here also: “thou shalt act worthily to accompany them.” Luther incorrectly: “thou hast done well that thou hast sent them on their journey;” in the revised ed. 1867 correctly: “thou shalt do well if thou sendest them on their journey.” Ebrard arbitrarily conjectures: ἐποίησας .

It is quite evident from the connection with the sequel, that by καλῶς ποιήσεις John wants to encourage Caius to the προπέμπειν . The reading ποιήσας προπέμψεις means: “whom thou, after thou hast treated them well, shalt bring forward on their journey.”

With καλῶς ποιεῖν , comp. Acts 10:13 , Philippians 4:14 ; with προπέμπειν = “to fit out for a journey,” Romans 15:24 , 1Co 16:6 ; 1 Corinthians 16:16 , Titus 3:13 .

ἀξίως τοῦ Θεοῦ (comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:12 ; Colossians 1:10 ) does not belong to καλ . ποιήσεις , but to προπέμψας = “as worthy of God, with all care and love” (Lücke).

[18] The present ποιεῖς is not opposed to this view, as it would seem to be; it is explained by the fact that the apostle regards the single, special case, as an evidence of the φιλοξενία of Caius in general.

[19] The whole passage in Euripides runs:

ἥξει δʼ ἐς οἴκους Ἑρμιόνη τίνος χρόνου ;

ὡς τἄλλα γʼ εἶπας , εἴπερ εὐτυχήσομεν ,

κάλλισθʼ , ἑλόντες σκύμνον ἀνοσίου δοκῶ .

Verse 7

3 John 1:7 . Confirmation of the exhortation that has been uttered: the brethren deserve such help, for, etc. ὑπὲρ γὰρ τοῦ ὀνόματος ἐξῆλθαν ] With the Rec. reading: ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ , αὐτοῦ refers back to τοῦ Θεοῦ ; but this αὐτοῦ is to be regarded as an interpolation; τὸ ὄνομα (without αὐτοῦ ) is neither “the Christian doctrine or religion,” nor “the name of the brethren” (Paulus: “because they were called missionaries”), but “the name of Christ” (Lücke, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, Sander, Braune, etc.), as in Acts 5:41 (according to the correct reading); comp. also James 2:7 , and Ignatii ep. ad Ephes. cap. 3 and 7.

ὑπέρ is here used in the same sense as in Romans 1:6 , and ἐξέρχεσθαι as in Acts 15:40 (Lücke, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, Sander, Braune, etc.); so that the sense is: for the sake of the name of Christ, i.e. for the spread of it, they went forth (as missionaries). Several commentators (Beza, Schmidius, Bengel, Carpzovius, Wolf) connect ἐξῆλθαν with ἀπὸ τῶν ἐθνικῶν [ ἔθνων ] in the sense: expulsi sunt a paganis; but this idea is arbitrarily imported into ἐξῆλθαν ; [20] besides, the connection with ἀπὸ τ . ἐθν . is unsuitable, because then the words ΜΗΔῈΝ ΛΑΜΒΆΝΟΝΤΕς remain too indefinite. The assertion of Wolf, that ΛΑΜΒΆΝΕΙΝ is not construed with ἈΠΌ , is refuted by Matthew 17:25 . By the addition: ΜΗΔῈΝ ΛΑΜΒΆΝΟΝΤΕς ἈΠῸ ΤῶΝ ἘΘΝΙΚῶΝ , the necessity of assisting these brethren is brought out. The present participle is either used in the imperfect sense (3 John 1:3 ), or as is more probable it is used in order to indicate the μηδὲν λαμβάνειν ἀπὸ τ . ἐθν . as the maxim of these missionaries (so also Düsterdieck and Braune). It is very usual to regard this maxim as the same as that which Paul took for his, and of which he speaks in passages like 1 Corinthians 9:18 ; 2 Corinthians 11:7 ff; 2 Corinthians 12:16 ff.; 1 Thessalonians 2:9 ff.; but ἈΠῸ ΤῶΝ ἘΘΝΙΚῶΝ (= ἜΘΝΩΝ , comp. Matthew 6:7 ; Matthew 18:17 ) does not suit this; the maxim of Paul was not to make the care for his support an obligation on the Churches among which he laboured, but here it is heathen that are spoken of. It was by these that these missionary brethren would not allow themselves to be assisted, because they did not want to build up Christ’s work by the wealth of the heathen, but trusted to Christians that in Christian love they would provide for them what was needful. [21]

[20] Grotius, indeed, correctly connects ἀπὸ τ . ἐθν . with λαμβάνοντες , but interprets ἐξῆλθον : a Judaea ejecti sunt per Judaeos incredulos; the erroneous idea that the apostle considered the Jews as the antithesis of the Gentiles has clearly led him to this arbitrary interpretation.

[21] Ewald unsuitably deduces this maxim from the command of Christ, Matthew 10:8-10 .

Verse 8

indicates “the highest point of view for Christian φιλοξενία ” (Lücke)

3 John 1:8 indicates “the highest point of view for Christian φιλοξενία ” (Lücke).

ἡμεῖς οὖν ] ἡμεῖς emphatically forms the antithesis to οἱ ἐθνικοί ; as they take nothing from the Gentiles, we Christians are bound to take an interest in them; ὀφείλομεν ὑπολαμβάνειν τοὺς τοιούτους ] ὑπολαμβάνειν is just as little used in the N. T. in the sense of hospitable reception (Oec. ὑποδέχεσθαι ) as the ἀπολαμβάνειν that is found in the Rec. In the classics it appears (but not ἀπολαμβάνειν ) both in this meaning and in the modified signification: “ to support ” (so in Strabo: οἱ εὔποροι τοὺς ἐνδεεῖς ὑπολαμβάνουσι ); so it is to be taken here also, and in connection with it the play upon words, between λαμβάνοντες and ὑπο … λαμβάνειν , must not be overlooked.

ἵνα συνεργοὶ γινώμεθα τῇ ἀληθείᾳ ] Confirmation of ὀφείλομεν . The dative τῇ ἀληθ . is not dependent on συν ; Vulg.: ut cooperatores simus veritatis; Luther: “so that we may be helpers of the truth” (so Grotius, Bengel, Besser, etc.), but it is the dative of reference, and συν refers back to τοὺς τοιούτους (Brückner, Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Braune): “so that we may be their fellow-workers for the truth;” comp. 2 Corinthians 8:23 ; Colossians 4:11 , where instead of the dative the preposition εἰς is used.

Verses 9-10

3 John 1:9-10 . Notice of Diotrephes.

ἔγραψά τι τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ] The τι , which according to the authorities is probably genuine, does not serve, as Lücke rightly remarks, to intensify = “something important,” but rather to weaken = “something, a little.”

The reading: ἔγραψα ἄν (Vulg.: scripsissem forsitan), has originated in the idea that the apostle would not write an epistle, of the unsuccessfulness of which he was previously convinced. The Church to which the apostle wrote is not that from which the brethren (3 John 1:7 ) went forth (Bengel, Besser), but that to which Caius belonged. The opinion that this writing is the so-called First Epistle of John (Wolf, Storr, etc.) is just as untenable as the view that it is the Second Epistle of John (Ewald, Besser, etc.), for the contents of these two have nothing in common with the circumstances which are here alluded to. This writing must, according to the context in which it is mentioned, have treated of the reception or support of the missionary brethren. If it was only such a short occasional writing, it is easily intelligible how it may have been lost; besides, however, it is natural to suppose that it was withheld from the Church by Diotrephes.

ἀλλʼ ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων αὐτῶν Διοτρεφὴς οὐκ ἐπιδέχεται ἡμᾶς ] In these words the apostle expresses the experience which he had had of Diotrephes. It may be assumed that the apostle wrote to the Church of Diotrephes in regard to the reception of the missionary brethren, and that the bearers of the Epistle reported to him the conduct of Diotrephes, which he now tells to Caius. As to the more particular circumstances of Diotrephes nothing further is known. From what John says about him, it cannot be inferred either that he was presbyter, or that he was deacon of the Church; yet the contrary conclusion cannot either be drawn. When Grotius represents him as an opponent of the Jewish-Christians, and others, on the contrary, regard him as a false teacher of Jewish or Gnostic views, these are unfounded conjectures; if either the one or the other were the case, John would certainly have indicated it. John only accuses him of one thing, namely, the φιλοπρωτεύειν , from which his unchristian conduct resulted. φιλοπρωτεύειν is a ἅπ . λεγ .; yet in the later Greek writers φιλόπρωτος and φιλοπρωτεία appear. The scholion in Matthiae rightly explains ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων by: ὁ ὑφαρπάζων τὰ πρωτεῖα ; he ambitiously arrogated to himself the highest authority in the Church, which made himself an opponent of the apostle. By what means he was able to obtain validity for this assumptian we do not know; perhaps by assembling the Church in his house.

αὐτοῦ refers to ἐκκλησίᾳ , as a collective idea.

οὐκ ἐπιδέχεσθαι ἡμᾶς ] ἐπιδέχεσθαι , in the N. T. only here and in 3 John 1:10 , means “ to receive; ” it is incorrect to change ἡμᾶς into “our epistles or exhortations” (Grotius, Lücke, de Wette, etc.). In the fact that Diotrephes rejected the communication of the apostle, and refused to receive the brethren recommended in it, he justly obtained rejection for himself (so also Braune). It is unnecessary, therefore, to ascribe to ἐπιδέχεσθαι here the modified meaning: “to accept, to let pass,” in which it appears in the classics. 3 John 1:10 . διὰ τοῦτο , ἐὰν ἔλθω , ὑπομνήσω κ . τ . λ .] Though, in the absence of John, Diotrephes resisted his authority, yet John hoped by his presence to obtain for it its due weight, and therefore he had resolved to come himself to that Church and personally to oppose the intrigues of Diotrephes.

With ὑπομνήσω , which is here used with the secondary signification of blame, it is not necessary to supply αὐτόν ; although Diotrephes is meant, yet John did not write αὐτόν , because he had in view at the same time all those who adhered to him (so Braune correctly); comp. 2 Timothy 2:14 . In what the ἔργα of Diotrephes, to which the apostle intends the ὑπομιμνήσκειν to refer, consisted, the following participial clauses state. [22]

ΛΌΓΟς ΠΟΝΗΡΟῖς ΦΛΥΑΡῶΝ ἩΜᾶς ] ΦΛΥΑΡΕῖΝ (in the N. T. a ἍΠ . ΛΕΓ .; the adj. ΦΛΎΑΡΟς , 1 Timothy 5:13 ) = nugari; Oecumenius paraphrases it by ΛΟΙΔΟΡΕῖΝ , ΚΑΚΟΛΟΓΕῖΝ : this, however, does not express the idea of the chatter that sags nothing which is contained in φλυαρεῖν . The verb, in itself intransitive, is here construed with the accusative (as ΘΡΙΑΜΒΕΎΩ , Colossians 2:15 ; ΜΑΘΗΤΕΎΩ , Matthew 28:19 ), thus: “ he prates against us slanderously with wicked words.

καὶ μὴ ἀρκούμενος ἐπὶ τούτοις ] Diotrephes did not content himself with ΦΛΥΑΡΕῖΝ against the apostle alone ( ἈΡΚΕῖΣΘΑΙ is only here used in construction with ἘΠΊ ; elsewhere the dative is found: Luke 3:14 ; Hebrews 13:5 , and other passages); he injured the brethren also.

ΟὔΤΕ ΑὐΤῸς ἘΠΙΔΈΧΕΤΑΙ ΤΟῪς ἈΔΕΛΦΟῪς ΚΑῚ Κ . Τ . Λ . ] With ΟὔΤΕ the following ΚΑΊ corresponds; ΑὐΤΌς is contrasted with ΤΟῪς ΒΟΥΛΟΜΈΝΟΥς .

There is no reason to take ἘΠΙΔΈΧΕΣΘΑΙ here in a different sense from that of 3 John 1:9 , although it takes a different bearing towards different persons, one way in regard to the apostle, another way in regard to the ἈΔΕΛΦΟΊ , who are here mentioned, and who are to be regarded as ΞΈΝΟΙ ; they are the same as were spoken of previously (3 John 1:7 , etc.).

With ΤΟῪς ΒΟΥΛΟΜΈΝΟΥς we are to understand ἘΠΙΔΈΧΕΣΘΑΙ ΑὐΤΟΎς (C reads just ἘΠΙΔΕΧΟΜΈΝΟΥς instead of ΒΟΥΛ .); there were therefore some persons in the Church who were ready to receive the strangers, in opposition to Diotrephes; but Diotrephes did not permit it, nay, he opposed them with all force.

ΚΑῚ ἘΚ Τῆς ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑς ἘΚΒΆΛΛΕΙ ] It is not ΤΟῪς ἈΔΕΛΦΟΎς , but ΤΟῪς ΒΟΥΛΟΜΈΝΟΥς that is the object.

ἘΚΒΆΛΛΕΙΝ ἘΚ Τῆς ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑς signifies expulsion from the Church, as the object is not ΤΟῪς ἈΔΕΛΦΟΎς , but ΤΟῪς ΒΟΥΛΟΜΈΝΟΥς ; the expression is arbitrarily weakened if we understand by it merely that “Diotrephes no longer admitted those who opposed him to the meetings of the Church which he held in his house” (Braune). The common opinion is, that Diotrephes had actually already expelled some persons from the Church, whether irregularly by means of faction, or with arrogant violence, or whether by intrigues he had brought about resolutions of the Church to that effect; but it is also possible that the apostle describes as an act of Diotrephes what he in his pride had threatened to do, so that the expression then is one of keen irony.

If arbitrary hypotheses are not admitted, we must regard as the cause of the behaviour of Diotrephes only his vanity which showed itself in his ΦΙΛΟΠΡΩΤΕΎΕΙΝ . By the way in which a part of the Church (especially Caius) had interested itself in the strangers, and had been mentioned in John’s communications on the subject, Diotrephes, in his vanity, had probably felt offended, and this had excited his anger, which led him to the conduct which John rebukes in such simple but severe words.

[22] Ewald strangely overlooks the following words when, after translating the preceding words, he says: “But the author cannot dwell on this painful incident; he breaks off abruptly, to turn back to the good, exclaiming: Beloved!” etc.

Verse 11

3 John 1:11 . From the special case the apostle deduces an exhortation of general import.

μὴ μιμοῦ τὸ κακόν , ἀλλὰ τὸ ἀγαθόν ] On μιμεῖσθαι , comp. especially Hebrews 13:7 .

The expressions: τὸ κακόν and τὸ ἀγαθόν , can so much the less be regarded as un-Johannean (de Wette) as in John 5:29 the corresponding antithesis: τὰ ἀγαθά and τὰ φαῦλα , is found, and in John 18:23 the neuter singular τὸ κακόν . The additional sentence: ὁ ἀγαθοποιῶν … τὸν Θεόν , expresses the same thought that frequently appears in the First Epistle of John, especially in chap. 3:6.

The ideas: ἀγαθοποιεῖν and κακοποιεῖν , are to be taken quite generally, and must not be limited to the special virtue of benevolence (a Lapide, Lorinus, Grotius, Paulus); comp. 1 Peter 2:14-15 ; 1 Peter 2:20 ; 1 Peter 3:6 ; 1 Peter 3:17 .

The corresponding expressions: ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ εἶναι and ἑωρακέναι τὸν Θεόν , are used also in the First Epistle of John; but why the Johannean: οὐκ ἔγνω τὸν Θεόν (1 John 4:8 ), should be more conformable to the style of John than the equally Johannean: οὐχ ἑώρακε τὸν Θεόν (1 John 3:6 ), as Lücke and de Wette think, is not quite perceptible.

Verse 12

3 John 1:12 . As the apostle, by μὴ μιμοῦ τὸ κακόν , has warned Caius against imitation of Diotrephes, so he now puts Demetrius before him as an example for imitation corresponding to ἀλλὰ τὸ ἀγαθόν . Who this Demetrius was, however, and where he had his abode, is not stated. Ebrard thinks that he had been one of the βουλόμενοι (3 John 1:10 ) in the Church of Diotrephes, and had perhaps been excommunicated by him; but in that case Caius must have known him, so that he did not require this strong testimony of the apostle in his favour; the view that he was the bearer of the Epistle (Düsterdieck. Lücke, etc.) is more probable.

μεμαρτύρηται refers in accordance with John’s usage of the perfect not merely to a past, but also to a present record. μαρτυρεῖσθαι frequently appears in the same absolute way as here, especially in the Acts; comp. chap. Acts 6:3 ; Acts 10:22 , and passim.

πάντων is not to be extended to the heathen, with Oecumenius and Theophylact, but refers to the Church to which Demetrius belonged; Ebrard incorrectly understands by it “the brethren,” 3 John 1:10 ; 3 John 1:7 ; 3 John 1:5 ; the apostle would have distinctly mentioned them, and besides, the πάντων , which is clearly used emphatically, would be unsuitable in reference to them.

καὶ ὑπʼ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀληθείας ] Whilst the commentators are agreed in this, that the truth is here personified, they deviate widely from one another in their more particular definition of the idea; most of them understand by it the life of Demetrius as that which testifies for him, whether they interpret ἀλήθεια = reality (Hornejus: ipsa rei veritas; Grotius: res ipsae) or as the life itself, in so far as it is a testimony to his virtue (Beausobre: c’est à dire, que sa conduite est un témoin réel de sa vertu). This, however, is incorrect, as both the expression itself ( αὐτὴ ἡ ἀλήθεια ) and also its position (between πάντες and ἡμεῖς ) indicate that the apostle meant by ἡ ἀλήθεια something objectively contrasted with Demetrius. Düsterdieck (with whom Braune agrees) has rightly perceived this; but as he at the same time retains the reference to the life, he finds the testimony of the objective Christian truth in the fact that it gives commandments to man, and that inasmuch as Demetrius fulfils them, it is by these commandments that the truth bears a good testimony to him. But apart from the fact that this introduction of the commandments cannot be justified, the whole interpretation has something too artificial to permit of its being regarded as correct. The hypothetical interpretation of Lücke: “if the infallible Christian truth, comp. 3 John 1:3 , itself were asked, it would give him a good testimony” (similarly Schlichting), does not suit the positive μεμαρτύρηται . It is too far-fetched, with Baumgarten-Crusius, to regard the result of the Christian activity of Demetrius as the testimony of the truth to him. A simple, clear idea would be brought out if, with Sander, we could regard it as “a special testimony which John had received through the Holy Ghost in reference to Demetrius;” but there is no justification for this. The correct way will be to interpret ὑπʼ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀληθείας in close connection with ὑπὸ πάντων , and to conclude that the apostle adds the former in order to bring out the fact that the good report of all has its origin not merely in their human judgment, but in the testimony of the ἀλήθεια which dwells in them (so also Brückner); and that the expression αὐτὴ ἡ ἀλήθεια is not merely a personification, but is a description of the Holy Ghost (comp. 1 John 5:6 : τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν ἡ ἀλήθεια ). The opinion that αὐτὴ ἡ ἀλήθεια , in contrast with πάντες , cannot be the truth that produces their testimony, and that testifies for Demetrius (Ebrard, [23] Braune), is refuted by John 15:26-27 , as here, in a quite similar way, the testimony of the Spirit of truth is conjoined with the testimony of the disciples, the latter being produced and confirmed by the former.

To the testimony of all the apostle further specially adds his own: καὶ ἡμεῖς δὲ μαρτυροῦμεν ] By καὶ … δέ a stronger emphasis is laid on ἡμεῖς .

With καὶ οἶδας κ . τ . λ ., comp. John 19:35 ; John 21:24 .

By the reading: οἴδατε , Caius and his friends are addressed together.

[23] Ebrard’s view that we are here “to consider the truth as a power and might showing itself in the life of Demetrius; the truth which mightily showed itself in him in those days in the relations with Diotrephes, without doubt (!) in the fact that for the sake of the ἀλήθεια he endured serious ill-treatment or suffering” is clearly affected, apart from other defects, by arbitrary importations.

Verses 13-14

3 John 1:13-14 . The same thoughts as in 2 John 1:12 ; even the expression is little different; this agreement is most naturally explained by the contemporaneousness of the two Epistles.

πολλὰ εἶχον γράψαι ] “ I would have many things to write to thee, but …; ” as in Acts 25:22 ; comp. Winer, p. 253; VII. p. 265; A. Buttmann, p. 187 (de Wette); an ἄν is not omitted. Düsterdieck and Ebrard translate: “I had much to write,” unsuitably, because the apostle is not speaking of the past, but of the present.

Instead of paper (Second John), it is the κάλαμος , “ the writing-reed ,” that is mentioned as the writing material along with the ink.

On ἐλπίζω δὲ κ . τ . λ ., see ἐὰν ἔλθω , 3 John 1:10 .

3 John 1:15. εἰρήνη σοι ] The blessing at the end of the First Epistle of Peter runs similarly; comp. besides, Galatians 6:16 ; Ephesians 6:23 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (also Romans 15:33 ; 2 Corinthians 13:11 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ; Hebrews 13:20 ).

ἀσπάζονταί σε οἱ φίλοι κ . τ . λ .] It is in harmony with the character of the Epistle, as a private communication, that John does not send greetings from the whole Church, but from the special friends of Caius, and so also commissions him with greetings only to his (the apostle’s) φίλοι . The latter was the more natural, as indeed a part of the Church was at enmity with John.

On κατʼ ὄνομα , comp. John 10:3 ; it belongs to ἀσπάζου , and is = ὀνομαστί (see Meyer on this passage); the personal relationship is thereby emphasized, as Caius is to greet every one of the friends specially (by name).

Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 3 John 1". Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hmc/3-john-1.html. 1832.
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