Second And Third Epistles
john epistle apostle
SECOND AND THIRD EPISTLES. - These are interesting as the only examples of apostolic letters to private persons, except the epistle to Philemon, which have descended to us. Their genuineness is well attested, though with less decisive evidence than that of the First Epistle. Ireneeus quotes 2 John 10, 11. Clement of Alexandria (Strom., ii. 66) alludes to the First Epistle in a way which implies another, Ev ,rn hrtcrroXii. Dionysius of Alexandria (248 A.D.) makes express mention of the Second and Third Epistles ; Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, cites a passage from the Second. The Dluratorian canon, as already stated, probably contains a reference to the two minor epistles.
On the other hand, Eusebius mentions those epistles among the etyrdicyOp,Eva,or disputed writings (II. E., iii. 25); Jerome writes that they were ascribed to John the Presbyter ; Cyprian appears never to cite from them in his own writings (though he records words of Bishop Aurelius, who, speaking in a synod, quotes 2 John 9) ; Tertullian is equally silent ; the Peshito does not contain either epistle.
In answer to the doubts thus raised it has been urged that the brevity and unimportance of the two minor epistles sufficiently account for the comparative silence of the first two centuries respecting them ; that the existence of John the Presbyter rests on the slender authority of tin inference from a statement by Papias (Eus., IL E., iii. 39); that the style and expressions in the disputed epistles are so manifestly Johannine that, if they did not proceed from John the apostle, they must be the work of a conscious imitator, who, if honest, would have used his own name, if an intentional deceiver, that of the apostle ; that the term O 7rpco-,131;7cpos (" tile elder," or " the aged "), 2 John 1, 3 John 1, is either a title of dignity or descriptive of age (if the first it may be paralleled by the use of o-vitorpccrPtircpos, I Pet. v. 1 ; if the second, by that of zpeo•gt;Tris, Phil. 9, both applied by an apostle to himself).
The greeting in the Second EpistleX _K_EKra KVpil is variously interpreted - either (a) of a person (to the elect lady, to the elect Kyria, or to the lady Eclecta), or (b) of a church mystically addressed under a personal appellation. The last hypothesis is unlikely, and is not supported either by New Testament usage or by the early apocryphal writings. If either ; A or KVpia be a proper name, it is better to regard Kvpia as such, since LXEKTO9 is a term applied to all the saints, and in this very letter to the lady's sister, ver. 13. On the whole it is more probable that both ;KXEKT;i and Kop(a bear their ordinary meanings, and that the A.V. is correct.
The Third Epistle is addressed to Gains or Caius, a name so common that all identifications must be regarded as purely conjectural. From the epistle we learn that he was a Christian of good report, probably a layman, whom the apostle commends for his hospitality to certain missionaries of the faith who seem to have visited his city. Two other j names are inentioned - Diotrephes, a leading and ambitious presbyter, who had refused to obey the apostle's injunctions, and Demetrius, either the bearer of the epistle or a member of the same church to which Caius belonged.
The time when and the place where these epistles were written must remain unknown from the absence of any data by which to determine them.
The works consulted for this article have been the commentaries of Alford, Ebrard, Lticke, and Reuss on the Epistles, and that of Westcott on the Gospel of St John (Speaker's Commentary); Westcott, The Canon of the New Testament; Neander's Planting of Christianity (Bohn's trans., vol. ii.); F. D. Maurice's Lectures on the Epistles of St John; and Davidson's Introduction, to the New Testament. There are also commentaries, among others, by Dlisterdieck, 1852; Luthardt, 186i0; Haupt, 186i9; 13aur, 1848; Ililgenfeld, 1854, the last two representing the Tilbingen school of criticism. (A. C.*)