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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

2 John

- 2 John

by Joseph Benson

SECOND EPISTLE OF JOHN.

PREFACE

“SOME,” says Bede, (in the beginning of the eighth century,) “have thought this and the following epistle not to have been written by John the evangelist, but by another, a presbyter of the same name, whose sepulchre is still seen at Ephesus, whom also Papias mentions in his writings. But now it is the general consent of the church, that John the apostle wrote also these two epistles, forasmuch as there is a great agreement of the doctrine and style between these and his first epistle, and there is also a like zeal against heretics.” Compare 2 John 1:5, with 1Jn 2:8 ; 2 John 1:6, with 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:7, with 1Jn 4:3 ; 3 John 1:12, with John 19:35. Of John’s peculiar manner of expressing things, compare 2 John 1:7, and 3 John 1:11. Of the second epistle, which contains only thirteen verses, eight may be found in the first, either in sense or in expression. It is true, Eusebius, in bearing testimony to the authenticity of the first epistle of John, hath insinuated that some ascribed the second and third epistles to another person of the name of John, called “the elder,” of whom he speaks, lib. 3. c. 39. And Jerome likewise hath mentioned this John in his catalogue. But the earliest and best Christian writers ascribe the second and third epistles, as well as the first, to the Apostle John. All the three were received as his by Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Jerome, and the council of Laodicea; as also by Ruffin, by the third council of Carthage, by Augustine, and by all those authors who received the same canon of the New Testament which we receive. All the three are in the Alexandrian MS. and in the catalogue of Gregory Nazianzen. The second epistle is cited twice by Irenæus as written by John the apostle, declaring, that “they who denied Jesus Christ to be ‘come in the flesh,’ were ‘seducers’ and ‘antichrists,’ 2 John 1:7-8; and that they who ‘bid’ the heretic ‘God speed,’ were ‘partakers of his evil deeds;’” which words are found in 2 John 1:10-11. And Aurelius cites the 10th verse as the words of St. John the apostle.

As to the title of “elder,” taken by the writer of these two short epistles, we cannot infer from this that they were not written by the Apostle John; the word “elder” being, it seems, only intended to denote that the person so called was of long standing in the Christian faith. It was, therefore, an appellation of great dignity, and entitled the person, to whom it belonged, to the highest respect from all the disciples of Christ: for which reason it was assumed by the Apostle Peter. Or, as some think, the word “elder” might be used with a reference to John’s great age, and that he was as well known by the name of “elder” as by his proper name; the word signifying the same as if it had been said, “The aged apostle.” The circumstance, that the writer of these epistles hath not mentioned his own name, is agreeable to John’s manner; who neither hath mentioned his name in his gospel, nor in the first epistle, which are unquestionably his.

These epistles have very improperly been termed “general” or “catholic,” since each is inscribed to a single person, one to a woman of distinction, styled “the elect lady,” or, as some render the words, “the elect Kuria,” (taking the latter word for a proper name,) and the other to “Gaius;” probably the same person with Gaius of Corinth, who is styled by St. Paul “his host,” and is celebrated for his hospitality to the brethren; a character very agreeable to that which is here given of Gaius by the Apostle John.

There is no fixing the date of these two epistles with any certainty. It in a great measure depends on the date of the first epistle; soon after which, it is generally agreed, both these were written. And this indeed appears exceeding probable from that coincidence, both of sentiment and expression, which occurs in all these epistles, as mentioned above.