Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ Β
1-3.] Address and greeting. The elder (the Apostle, known by this name: see prolegg., “On the writer of the Epistle”) to the (not, an: see prolegg. “whom the Epistle was written”) elect lady (see prolegg. ibid.), and to her children whom (οὕς, masc., probably embraces the whole, mother and children of both sexes: see 3John 1:1. Ver. 4 is no reason why we should regard the masc. relative as applying to sons only: when proceeding to single out some for praise, as there, he naturally speaks in the masculine) I love in truth (not merely, in reality, as Œc., ἔστι γὰρ καὶ ἐπιπλάστως ἀγαπᾷν, στόματι: but in truth, such truth being the result, as stated below, of the truth of the Gospel abiding in him: “amor non modo verus amor, sed veritate evangelica nititur.” Bengel. See 1John 3:18, and note on 3:19), and not I alone, but also all who know the truth (there is no need to limit this πάντες to all dwelling in or near the abode of the Writer, as Grot., Carpzov., De Wette, al., or all who were personally acquainted with those addressed, as Lücke: it is a general expression: the communion of love is as wide as the communion of faith), on account of the truth (objective: God’s truth revealed in His Son, see 1John 2:4), which abideth in us, and shall be with us (the Apostle continues the construction as if he had previously written ἣ μένει) for ever (cf. John 14:16, John 14:17. These words are a reminiscence of our Lord’s words there, παρʼ ὑμῖν μένει, καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν ἐστίν. The future is not the expression of a wish, as some, e. g. Lücke, have supposed; but of confidence, as that also which follows, which takes its tinge and form from this): there shall be with us (by the ἡμῶν the Apostle includes himself in the greeting, as he had before done in the introductory clauses. ἔσται, again, not a wish: see above: we must of necessity connect this second ἔσται with the first. But the very fact of a greeting being conveyed, must somewhat modify the absolute future sense, and introduce something of the votive character. It is as Bengel, “votum cum affirmatione”—a wish expressed by a confident assertion of its fulfilment) grace, mercy, peace (see reff. Trench says well, N. T. Synonyms, pp. 164, 5, edn. 1865, “χάρις has reference to the sins of men, ἔλεος to their misery. God’s χάρις, His free grace and gift, is extended to men as they are guilty: His ἔλεος is extended to them as they are miserable.” And thus χάρις always comes first, because guilt must be done away, before misery can be assuaged: see further in Trench, and in Düsterdieck, h.l. εἰρήνη is the whole sum and substance of the possession and enjoyment of God’s grace and mercy; cf. Luke 2:14; Romans 5:1 (10:15); John 14:27, John 16:33) from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father (from the Father as their original fountain, who of His great love hath decreed and secured them for us: from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father, this solemn title being used for the more complete setting forth of the union of Jesus with the Father in the essence of the Godhead), in truth and love (not to be understood of the Holy Spirit, the third Person in the blessed Trinity, as Lyra,—nor to be joined with τοῦ υἱοῦ τ. πατρός, “filio verissimo et dilectissimo,” as Barthol.-Petrus (continuator of Estius) and Whitby, nor to be filled up by “ut perseveretis,” as Corn.-a-lap.,—nor to be taken as adding two more to χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη, making ἐν = cum, as Tirinus and Schlichting;—nor as Grot., al.—is it “per cognitionem veri et dilectionem mutuam: nam per hæc Dei beneficia provocamus, conservamus, augemus:” but the real sense is an approximation to this last;—truth and love are the conditional element in which the grace, mercy, and peace are to be received and enjoyed. So Bengel, Lücke, De Wette, Huther, Düsterdieck).
4-11.] Truth and love: These were the two ground-tones of the Epistle. And now the Apostle proceeds to describe his joy at finding the children of the ἐκλεκτὴ κυρία walking in truth (ver. 4), and to enforce the commandment to love one another (5, 6): and this in presence of the fact that many deceivers are in the world who would rob us of our Christian reward, and of our share in God (7-9). These are not to be treated as brethren, nor greeted, lest we partake of their evil deeds (10, 11).
4.] I rejoiced greatly (at some definite time indicated by the aor., perhaps: and so it is taken by Huther and Düsterdieck; but it may also be the epistolary aor., as ἔγραψα so often: and this is made more probable by the perf. εὕρηκα which follows. See however 3John 1:3), that I have found (there is not a word nor a hint of the assumption of Sander, that this finding was the result of proof and trial. The most obvious interpretation is, that at some place where the Apostle was, he came upon these who are presently mentioned: as in Acts 18:2, (ὁ Παῦλος) … ἦλθεν εἰς Κόρινθον· καὶ εὑρών τινα Ἰουδαῖον ὀν. Ἀκύλαν, κ.τ.λ.) of thy children (no τινάς is needed as a supply: it is contained in the participle which follows) walking in truth (i. e. not only in honesty and uprightness, but in that truth which is derived from and is part of the truth of God and Christ: see above on ver. 1.
Again, there is no hint whatever given that the rest, or that others, of her children were not walking in truth. The Apostle apparently, as above, in some place where he was, lit upon these children of the κυρία, and sends her their good report. Respecting the rest, he makes no mention nor insinuation) according as we received commandment from the Father (viz. to walk in the truth: not, as Lücke, to love one another, making this clause a further description of the manner in which they were walking in truth. And τοῦ πατρός must not be taken with Œc., πατέρα νῦν· τὸν χριστὸν καλεῖ, ἐπεὶ καὶ πατήρ ἐστι τῶν διὰ τῆς οἰκονομίας αὐτῷ παρὰ τοῦ ἑαυτοῦ πατρὸς δοθέντων υἱῶν, which is unlikely and unprecedented,—but as applying to the Father, as in ver. 6).
5.] And now (so καὶ νῦν, coupling to what has gone before, 1John 2:28. It has also a force of breaking off, and passing to that which is the main subject, or most in the Writer’s thoughts, which here is, that this walking in truth is a walking after God’s commandments in love) I entreat thee (see on ἐρωτάω and αἰτέω, 1John 5:15, 1John 5:16. Here ἐρωτῶ carries, as Schlichting, “blandior quædam admonendi ratio:” with the assumed fact of a right thus to entreat) lady, not as writing to thee a new commandment, but (as writing to thee …: the construction is not strictly logical) that which we had from the beginning (see on this, 1John 2:7), that (ἵνα here is not epexegetic of ἐντολή, as so often in St. John, but is to be taken in its proper sense, as the aim of ἐρωτῶ, and dependent on it) we love one another (the expression of the commandment in the first person is a mark of gentleness and delicacy: a sign that he who wrote it kept the commandment himself.)
6.] And (“eine eigenthumliche Kreisbewegung der Gedanken, wie Johannes sie liebt.” Düsterd.) this is the love (ἡ ἀγάπη here is subject, not predicate: the love (intended by this command) is this, i. e. may be thus described), that (the explicative ἵνα of St. John) we walk according to His commandments. The commandment (the one commandment in which God’s other commandments are summed up) is this, even as ye heard from the beginning that ye should walk in it (the apodosis to αὕτη ἐστίν begins with καθώς: = “is this, even that which ye heard from the beginning, that ye should walk in it,” viz. in ἀγάπη.
ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, as above, ver. 5, and 1John 2:7).
7.] The condition of Love is Truth, see ver. 3. And the necessity of fresh exhortation to walk in love, in that love whose condition is truth, lies in the fact that there are many deceivers gone forth, denying the Truth: of whom we are to beware, and not, by extending to them a spurious sympathy, to become partakers with them. Because (see above. ὅτι cannot be referred to βλέπετε ἑαυτούς, ver. 8, for its apodosis, as is done by Grot., Carpzov., J. Lange, as this would involve a length of protasis, broken by a parenthetical clause, οὗτός ἐστιν κ.τ.λ., quite alien from St. John’s style. Nor can we well understand ὅτι with Bengel, “ratio cur jubeat retinere audita a principio:” because the foregoing is not a command “retinere audita a principio;” this latter particular being only introduced by the way, not as a principal feature) many deceivers (makers to wander, see reff.) went forth (here probably, on account of the aor., “from us,” as in 1John 2:19. In 1John 4:1, it is perf., ἐξεληλύθασιν, where I have preferred the sense, “are gone forth from him who sent them,” viz. the evil one. Huther prefers this latter sense here also) into the world (namely) they who confess not (instead of οὐχ ὁμολογοῦντες, the Apostle writes οἱ μὴ ὁμολογοῦντες, thereby not merely characterizing the πλάνοι as not confessing &c., but absolutely identifying all who repudiate the confession which follows, as belonging to the class of πλάνοι. The subjective μή is the necessary consequence of such an arrangement, involving an hypothesis within the limits of the relative οἵ,—the repudiation of the confession: see 1John 4:3, note) Jesus Christ coming in (the) flesh (ἐρχόμενον, altogether timeless, and representing the great truth of the Incarnation itself, as distinguished from its historical manifestation (ἐλθών, 1John 5:6), and from the abiding effect of that historical manifestation (ἐληλυθότα, 1John 4:2): and all three, as confessions of the Person Ἰησοῦς χριστός, distinguished from the accus. with infin. construction: see note on 1John 4:2. He who denies the ἔρχεσθαι ἐν σαρκί, denies the possibility of the Incarnation: he who denies the ἐλθεῖν or ἐληλυθέναι, denies its actuality. Other interpretations, such as that of Œc., εἰπὼν δέ, … ἐρχόμενον ἐν σαρκί, ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἐλθόντα, ἐμφαίνοντός ἐστιν ὡς τοὺς ἀθετοῦντας λέγει τὴν δευτέραν τοῦ κυρίου παρουσίαν, … that of Erasm., Schlicht., Bengel,—“qui veniebat,” and of Baumg.-Crus., “who was to come,” are beside the mark). This (viz., “he that fulfils the above character.” No supply, such as ὂς οὖν μὴ ταῦτα ὁμολογεῖ, Œc., is needed. See the same construction, 1John 2:22) is the deceiver and the antichrist (see notes on 1John 2:18, 1John 2:22, as to the personal relation of these πολλοί to the one great Antichrist of prophecy. The οὗτος, pointing to a class, makes each one of these, in his place, a representative and “præcursor Antichristi”).
8.] The warning is suddenly introduced without any coupling particle, and becomes thereby so much the more solemn and forcible. Look to yourselves (the construction with the reflective pronoun is not usual, see reff. ἑαυτούς here probably implies not as Bengel, “me absente,” but “yourselves,” as contrasted with the deceivers, that ye too become not as they), that ye lose not the things which we wrought (i. e. that ye, Christian converts, lose not that your Christian state of truth and love which we, Apostles and Teachers, wrought in you. This not being understood, the verbs have been altered in the various texts to the first or to the second person to conform to one another. The Apostles were God’s ἐργάται, Matthew 9:37, Matthew 9:38; Luke 10:2, Luke 10:7; 2Timothy 2:15: the ψευδαπόστολοι were ἐργάται δόλιοι, 2Corinthians 11:13, κακοὶ ἐργάται, Philippians 3:2: the true ἔργον was to cause men to believe on Christ, John 6:29: and this ἔργον the false teachers put in peril of loss), but receive reward in full (what μισθός? The connexion of εἰργασάμεθα with μισθόν must not be broken. The idea is a complex one. Ye, our converts, are our μισθός in the day of the Lord: and this has suggested the use of the well-known word, even where it manifestly applies not to the teachers but to the taught, whose μισθός is the eternal life, which shall receive on that day its glorious completion: which is ἔχειν τὸν υἱόν, κ. τὸν πατέρα: see 1John 3:2.
If this reading be right, the use which Roman-Catholic expositors, as Bart.-Petrus, Mayer, al., have tried to make of this verse to establish the merit of human works (“opera bona per Spiritum Dei facta mercedem apud Deum mereri,” B.-Petrus), falls at once to the ground. Nor indeed does it fare much better if either of the other readings be taken. If the whole be in the first person, then the apostolic μισθός, the souls which are to be their hire, must be understood: if in the second, no human merit, but the reward laid up for faithfulness, and for every thing done in His name, must be understood, which is reckoned of grace, and not of debt).
9.] Explanation of this loss, that it is the non-possession of God, which is incurred by all who abide not in Christ’s teaching. Every one that goeth before (you) (such I believe to be the meaning of the somewhat difficult προάγων: every one who would set up for a teacher, ἔμπροσθεν τῶν προβάτων πορευόμενος, as John 10:4, and they following. The expositors who take this reading interpret it, “goeth forward too fast,” “maketh false and unsound advance,” regarding it, either as ironical (so Huther), or as serious (so Düsterdieck)), and not abiding in the doctrine of Christ (i. e. in Christ’s doctrine,—that truth which Christ Himself taught. This is far more likely than that the gen. should be objective, as Bengel (“in doctrina, quæ Jesum docet esse filium Dei”), Lücke, Sander, al.: and thus we have the personal gen. after διδαχή wherever it occurs in the N. T.: cf. Matthew 7:28 , Mark 4:2, John 18:19, Acts 2:42, al. fr.), hath not God (see 1John 2:23, 1John 5:12, notes): he that abideth in the doctrine, that man hath both the Father and the Son (see as above. The order in the text is the theological one, the Father being mentioned first, then the Son. That in &c. (see digest) is the logical and contextual one, seeing that the test is, abiding in the doctrine of Christ. Thus he has Christ, and through Him, the Father).
10, 11.] The exercise of the love of the brethren is conditioned and limited by the truth: and is not to be extended to those who are enemies and impugners of the truth. Those who harbour or encourage such, make common cause with them, and their evil deeds. If any cometh to you, and bringeth not (the indic. after εἰ shews that the case supposed actually existed: that such persons were sure to come to them: cf. John 11:12, 2Corinthians 2:5, 1John 4:11. It is not = ἐάν with subj., which always carries a purely hypothetical force, corresponding to an interrogation, whereas the other corresponds to an assertion: e. g. in 1John 2:15, ἐάν τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν κόσμον, which may be resolved, “Does any among you love the world? If he do,” &c. On the other hand, εἴ τις ἔρχεται πρὸς ὑμᾶς may be resolved, “Some will come to you,” &c., “If any does,” &c.) this doctrine (the expression ταύτην τὴν διδαχὴν οὐ φέρει points out the person as a teacher, not a mere traveller seeking hospitality. And the οὐ, not μή, distinctly reverses the φέρει: he not only comes without this doctrine, but by so doing brings the contrary doctrine. The absence of testimony for the truth is, in one who brings any testimony at all, equivalent to testifying for error), receive him not into (your) house, and do not bid him good speed: for he that biddeth him good speed, partaketh in his evil deeds (these words must be understood with their right reference: “non de iis qui alieni semper fuerunt ab ecclesia, 1Corinthians 5:10, sed de iis qui volunt fratres haberi et doctrinam evertunt,” as Grot. These were not to be received with the φιλοξενία with which all Christian brethren were to be entertained. Such reception of them would in fact be only opening an inlet for their influence. But this is not the point on which the Apostle mainly dwells. It is the κοινωνία which the host in such a case would incur with them and their antichristian designs, by encouraging them. And this is further impressed by the caution against saying χαίρειν to them: which is to be understood not with , of the solemn salutation after prayer, “quoniam in oratione quæ fit in domo, postquam ab orando surgitur salutatio gaudii est et pacis indicium,” Adumbrat. in 2 Joan. juxt. fin., p. 1011 P. (not in Migne): nor with Corn.-a-lap., of all intercourse whatever, “omne colloquium, omne consortium, omne commercium cum hæreticis:” but it is a further intensification of the exclusion from the house, and forms a climax, καὶ μὴ = μηδέ: do not even, by wishing him χαίρειν, good speed, and if spoken by a Christian, God speed, identify yourselves with his course and fortunes. If you do, you pronounce approval of his evil deeds, and so far share his guilt, advancing their success by your wishes for it.
This command has been by some laid to the fiery and zealous spirit of St. John, and it has been said that a true Christian spirit of love teaches us otherwise. But as rightly understood, we see that this is not so. Nor are we at liberty to set aside direct ethical injunctions of the Lord’s Apostles in this manner. Varieties of individual character may play on the surface of their writings: but in these solemn commands which come up from the depths, we must recognize the power of that One Spirit of Truth which moved them all as one. It would have been infinitely better for the Church now, if this command had been observed in all ages by her faithful sons).
12, 13.] Conclusion. Having many things to write to you, I would not (communicate them) by means of paper and ink (“ὁ χάρτης,” says Lücke, “the Egyptian papyrus, probably the so-called Augustan or Claudian,—τὸ μέλαν, the ink, commonly made of soot and water thickened with gum,—ὁ κάλαμος (3John 1:13), the writing-reed, probably split, μεσοσχιδής or μεσότομος,—were the N. T. writing materials”), but I hope to come to you (reff., and note on Revelation 1:9) and to speak mouth to mouth (so πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον 1Corinthians 13:12. στόμα πρὸς στόμα in Xen. Mem. ii. 6. 32 is not said of conversation), that your joy may be filled full (see 1John 1:4, viz. by hearing from the mouth of the Apostle himself those messages of life and truth which he forbore writing now; not, as Schlichting and Benson, by his bodily presence: still less as Bart.-Petrus, “Apostolos non omnia voluisse scripto committere quæ ad salutem pertinentia vellent nota esse fidelibus, sed multa sermone solo tradidisse” (see also Corn.-a-lapide h. l.), than which it is hardly possible to imagine a sillier comment: for the first Epistle was written with this very same view, 1:4). There greet thee the children of thine elect sister (these words are variously interpreted according as the κυρία is understood of a lady, or of a church. The non-mention of the κυρία herself here seems, it must be confessed, rather to favour the latter hypothesis). See on the whole, the prolegomena.