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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
2 John 1

 

 

Verse 1

Introductory Address and Benediction, 2 John 1:1-3.

1. The elder—According to his modest custom, St. John utters not his own name, nor gives his highest title, apostle. He was not, like St. Paul, compelled by gainsayers to such brave self-assertion. Every body knew he was the sole survivor of the twelve, and ready to call him apostle; or, as he was later styled, the theologos, theologian. As every apostle was by rank an elder, so St. John, like St. Peter, (1 Peter 5:1,) styles himself by that lesser title. But while St. Peter is a co-presbyter, St. John is the presbyter; the elder whom all Asia Minor knew. Elders there were in plenty, but there was but one the elder in Asia. He does not call himself episcopos, though that term designated the same rank; because, probably, 1, that term was just beginning to be appropriated to a superpresbyterial grade of men; and, 2, the term elder pointed to his venerable age, and was a proper antithesis to his frequent address to his hearers, little children. Some scholars have drawn an argument from this title to attribute the authorship of this epistle to a certain so-called Presbyter John, who, as they suppose, resided in Ephesus at the same time with the apostle. But, 1, the existence of such a John is too doubtful to permit any reasonable critic from attributing to him any writing, or anything else; and, 2, this shadow of a John did not bear the title of Presbyter. That title is a mistaken later addition to his name, arising from the fact that he seems to be mentioned as one in a number of presbyters; but presbyters in the sense of early or ancient fathers of the Church.

Elect lady—The epithet elect is here used, as in 2 John 1:13, as an honorary term. Chosen of God through a blessed faith in Christ, and so a choice one among women. Also adorning that faith with Christian graces, and so a choice one, a very elect lady, among Christians. But it is probable that the Greek word for lady here, Kyria, (or Cyria, like its masculine form Cyrus,) is a proper name. Examples of such a use are found. We would only have to print the word lady with a capital to preserve the double sense which, perhaps, St. John intended.

Many commentators, including Huther and Wordsworth, maintain that the word lady is symbolically used of a Christian Church to which this epistle was addressed. Others, that it was addressed to the universal Church under this title. It certainly can be read plausibly under either supposition. But the former of these suppositions is, we think, entirely improbable. 1. The allegorical is not to be adopted where the literal will, as in this case, suit as well or better. A Church is often signified under symbol of a woman, especially in St. John’s Apocalypse: but that a letter should be addressed to a Church through its officials under the symbol of a lady, ingeniously carried through, is eminently unnatural. 2. The analogy of the third epistle is against the allegory. It is a simple letter addressed to a leading man in a certain Church. We may safely infer, accordingly, that this is addressed to a certain Christian woman. In one case the address is, The elder unto the well beloved Gaius; in the other, The elder unto the elect lady.

Children, whom—The whom is, in the Greek, masculine, implying that some of the children were males; but it would also include with them females, just as our word mankind includes both sexes. The whom includes both lady and children.

In the truth—With that pure and holy love embraced in the sphere of Christian truth. But especially is meant, the truth of a real personal bodily Christ, in opposition to the phantasm of the Docetae.

All—All Christians love all Christians. And so all who have known the truth loved the elect lady.


Verse 2

2. And all love her for the indwelling truth’s sake; or on account of that indwelling truth. The common possession of that truth is a common ground and inspiration of mutual love. The Christian loves the Christian because he is a Christian.

Shall be… forever—It is intrinsically a permanent possession. Yet the condition of its being retained by us is expressed in 2 John 1:9, and is implied here. It will abide in us while we abide in it.


Verse 3

3. Grace… mercy… peace—See notes on Romans 1:7; 2 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2.

And from the Son—The Son is here mentioned with great distinctness because the question in vital debate was as to his real personality.

In truth—The truth of Christ’s real and divine nature.

Love—The vital communion of believers based on a real Christ. The truth recurs again in 2 John 1:4, and the love in 2 John 1:5.


Verse 4

The love and truth unfolded, 2 John 1:4-6.

4. Rejoiced greatly—Compare 3 John 1:3.

I found—Either on one of his circuits through the Churches of Asia Minor, or, perhaps, on a visit of some of them at Ephesus. Of—Understand some before of.

Walking in truth—A very expressive phrase. Truth, the truth of a real Christ and of his gospel, was the very atmosphere of light in which they visibly walked.

Their association was not with errorists, nor their conduct accordant with corruptionists. Their movements accorded with Christian doctrine and purity.


Verse 5

5. And now—In view of this evidence of adherence to Christian truth, I beseech that the Christian love be added.

A new commandment—See notes on 1 John 2:7-8.

From the beginning—From our first listening to the gospel of love.


Verse 6

6. This… love—It is not a mere emotion palpitating in the breast. If genuine the love will be alive. It will shape itself into an outward walk, a walk coinciding with the divine law, or commandment; namely, Christ’s “golden rule” of love.

In itIn love.


Verse 7

7. Deceivers—Leaders into antichristian error.

Are entered into—The better reading is, have gone out: as if the deceivers issued from some common hive or from some common teacher or school of error.

Into the worldFrom their headquarters into the broad public world.

An antichrist—Note on 1 John 2:18. According to St. John’s use here of the word, an antichrist signifies any emissary from the hive of antichristian leaders.


Verses 7-11

Reasons for this beseechthe widespread of the errorists, 2 John 1:7-11.

The main purpose of the epistle now discloses itself—to warn the faithful lady and her children against the Gnostic deceivers, who were teaching a phantasm Christ.


Verse 8

8. Look to yourselves—Words of solemn warning, warning against the deceptions of the deceivers. We—The apostles by whom the true doctrine was witnessed and the true Church established.

We have wrought—In your conversion and formation into genuine Christians.

A full reward— For the accomplishment of your full salvation. A reading preferred by Alford substitutes ye for we in both parts of the verse.


Verse 9

9. Transgresseth—Rather, Whosoever goeth before or leadeth. That is, every one that sets up as leader, and abideth not in the realistic doctrine of Christ. Hath not the true

God—Who is the Father of Christ, and of us in the gospel.

Both the Father and the Son—The same distinctness as in 2 John 1:3, and for the same reason. The Docetist, who idealized Christ, would be prone to idealize God, and be a pantheist; or he might accept Jove, and be a pagan. But as he destroyed the true Son, so he destroyed the true Father. Christianity evaporated when Christ was idealized.


Verse 10

10. If—Caution against any apparent endorsement of the travelling emissaries of idealism.

Any—Teacher of the phantasm.

Receive him not—Do not entertain and maintain him as a preacher of antichristianity. It must be remembered that these antinomians were as corrupt in morals as they were false in faith.

House—The home of the Christian lady. It might be the hospitable home of charity to the poor and of liberality to the itinerant preacher of the gospel, but not the dependence of the opposer and deceiver.

God speed—A cheering wish for his success.


Verse 11

11. For—Reason for this precaution. To sustain the errorist is to be responsible for his error.

Evil deeds—Both in destroying the true Christ and in introducing antinomianism. See note on 1 John 1:8.


Verse 12

Conclusion, 2 John 1:12-13.

12. Many things to write—Compare 3 John 1:13. Our venerable apostle had a heart full and a head full of matter touching the pure gospel, and the infinite importance of preserving it pure for future time. The reality and saving power of Christianity for ages depended upon such preservation.

Paper—The Egyptian papyrus.

Ink—Made of soot diluted with water, and thickened with gum.

Come unto you—At some near future in his apostolic visitations. Comp. 3 John 1:14.

Face to face— Literally, mouth to mouth, in Christian conversation.


Verse 13

13. Thy elect sister—Who should these be but the children of the writer’s deceased wife? His may be a widowed home; a home where the blessed mother of Jesus found a home; and from that home the greetings of the surviving children are sent. This verse is held by those who believe that the lady was a Church, to be a greeting from a Church to a Church. They hold it a strong proof of that interpretation. Alford concedes some force to the argument. But why should children represent one Church and lady the other? Why, children, unless because there was no mother of the children? To preserve the consistency of the symbol, it should read, Elect lady, thy co-elect sister greeteth thee.

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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 John 1:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-john-1.html. 1874-1909.

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