The Epistles
of 2 & 3 John
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It is not surprising that these brief and fugitive Epistles are among the New Testament writings
which have had the hardest struggle for canonical recognition. One is probably, the other
certainly, a private letter; and neither the same reason nor the same opportunity for their
circulation existed, as in the case of church letters. The 2nd Epistle contains little that is
distinctive; the 3rd Epistle is occupied with a vexatious episode in the internal history of a single
congregation. Both are written by a person who designates himself simply as "the Presbyter";
and the names of the person (or church) to which the one is addressed and of the church with
whose affairs the other is concerned are alike unknown. The fact, therefore, that, in spite of such
obstacles, these letters did become widely known and eventually attained to canonical rank is
proof of a general conviction of the soundness of the tradition which assigned them to the
apostle John.

Like all the catholic epistles, they were unknown to the early Syrian church; when 1 John, 1
Peter and James were received into its Canon, they were still excluded, nor are they found even
in printed editions of the Syriac New Testament till 1630. They were not acknowledged by the
school of Antioch. Jerome distinguishes their authorship from that of the 1st Epistle. They are
classed among the disputed books by Eusebius, who indicates that it was questioned whether
they belonged to the evangelist or "possibly to another of the same name as he." Origen
remarks that "not all affirm them to be genuine"; and, as late as the middle of the 4th century,
the effort to introduce them in the Latin church met with opposition in Africa (Zahn).

On the other hand, we find recognition of their Johannine authorship at an early date, in Gaul
(Irenaeus); Rome (Muratorian Canon, where, however, the reading is corrupt, and it is doubtful
whether their authorship is ascribed or denied to the apostle John); Alexandria (Clement, who
is reputed by Eusebius to have commented upon them, and who in his extant works speaks of
John's "larger epistle," implying the existence of one or more minor epistles); Africa (Cyprian
reports that 2 John was appealed to at the Synod of Carthage, 256 AD). Dionysius, Origen's
disciple and successor, speaks of John's calling himself in them "the Presbyter." Eusebius,
though conscientiously placing them among the antilegomena, elsewhere writes in a way
which indicates that he himself did not share the doubt of their authenticity.

The internal evidence confirms the ultimate decision of the early church regarding these letters.
Quite evidently the 2nd Epistle must have been written by the author of the 1st, or was an arrant
and apparently purposeless piece of plagiarism The 3rd Epistle is inevitably associated with
the 2nd by the superscription, "'the Presbyter," and by other links of thought and phraseology.

… walking in truth …
Love one another
A deceiver & an antichrist
The doctrine of Christ
Neither bid him Godspeed
An epistle written either to an individual, or to a church.

The emphasis is love – to keep His commandments. Not to listen to those who reject Jesus
(even to the point of saying He did not come in the flesh). They needed to live in the teachings of
Jesus, and not go beyond them.

Doctrine equals teachings. It is not merely the fact that Jesus came in the flesh.

No fellowship was to be extended to those who taught differently. Do not give them lodging, do
not wish them well in their endeavors. To do so is equal to teaching their error yourself.

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the
doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this
doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed
is partaker of his evil deeds. (2 John 1:9-11 KJV)
…thou walkest in the truth.
Fellowhelpers to the truth
who loveth…preeminence
… follow not that which is evil,
but that which is good.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul
prospereth. (3 John 1:2 KJV)

This verse is the basis of the “Prosperity Gospel” (health, wealth and righteousness). Paul
wishes them health & wealth, he does not guarantee them – or even promise them.

They walked in the truth as they kept His (Jesus’) commandments. Thus they were
fellowhelpers by their conduct and in their actions.

They are encouraged to turn away from evil, and to do that which is good. It is a simplistic
formula, but a complete and effective one for life: do not do wrong, do right.