Preface to the Third Epistle of John
This epistle being of nearly the same complexion with the former, and evidently written about the same time, and incontestably by the same person, it is not necessary to give it any particular preface; as the subject of the authenticity of all the three epistles has been treated already so much at large, not only in the introduction to them, but in the notes in general.
This and the preceding epistle are, by Dr. Lardner, supposed to have been written between a.d. 80 and 90. There are no notes of time in the epistles themselves to help us to fix any date, therefore all is conjecture concerning the time in which they were written: but to me it appears as likely that they were written before the destruction of Jerusalem as after; for it is scarcely to be supposed that so signal a display of the justice of God, and such a powerful argument in favor of Christianity and of the truth of Christ's predictions, could be passed unnoticed and unappealed to by any of the inspired persons who wrote after that event. However, where there is no positive evidence, conjecture is useless.
The apostle's address to Caius, and his good wishes for his prosperity in body and soul, 3 John 1:1, 3 John 1:2. He commends him for his steadiness in the truth, and his general hospitality, especially to the itinerant evangelists, 3 John 1:3-8. Speaks of the bad conduct of Diotrephes; his abuse of his power in the Church; and his slander of the apostles, 3 John 1:9, 3 John 1:10. Exhorts Caius to avoid his example, and to follow what is good, 3 John 1:11. Commends Demetrius, 3 John 1:12. Excuses himself from writing more fully, and proposes to pay him a visit shortly, 3 John 1:13, 3 John 1:14.
The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.The elder - See on the first verse of the preceding epistle (2 John 1:1 (note), and also the preface.
The well-beloved Gaius - Γαιος Gaius, is the Greek mode of writing the Roman name Caius; and thus it should be rendered in European languages.
Several persons of the name of Caius occur in the New Testament.
1. In the Epistle to the Romans, Romans 16:23, St. Paul mentions a Caius who lived at Corinth, whom he calls his host, and the host of the whole Church.
2. In 1 Corinthians 1:14, St. Paul mentions a Caius who lived at Corinth, whom he had baptized; but this is probably the same with the above.
3. In Acts 19:29, mention is made of a Caius who was a native of Macedonia, who accompanied St. Paul, and spent some time with him at Ephesus. This is probably a different person from the preceding; for the description given of the Caius who lived at Corinth, and was the host of the whole Church there, does not accord with the description of the Macedonian Caius, who, in the very same year, traveled with St. Paul, and was with him at Ephesus.
4. In Acts 20:4, we meet a Caius of Derbe, who was likewise a fellow traveler of St. Paul. This person cannot be the Corinthian Caius, for the host of the Church at Corinth would hardly leave that city to travel into Asia: and he is clearly distinguishable from the Macedonian Caius by the epithet Δερβαιος, of Derbe.
5. And lastly, there is the Caius who is mentioned here, and who is thought by some critics to be different from all the above; for, in writing to him, St. John ranks him among his children, which seems, according to them, to intimate that he was converted by this apostle.
Now, whether this Caius was one of the persons just mentioned, or whether he was different from them all, is difficult to determine; because Caius was a very common name. Yet if we may judge from the similarity of character, it is not improbable that he was the Caius who lived at Corinth, and who is styled by St. Paul the host of the whole Church; for hospitality to his Christian brethren was the leading feature in the character of this Caius to whom St. John wrote, and it is on this very account that he is commended by the apostle. Besides, St. John's friend lived in a place where this apostle had in Diotrephes a very ambitious and tyrannical adversary; and that there were men of this description at Corinth is evident enough from the two epistles to the Corinthians, though St. Paul has not mentioned their names. See Michaelis.
The probability of this Caius being the same with the Corinthian Caius has suggested the thought that this epistle was sent to Corinth; and consequently that the second epistle was sent to some place in the neighborhood of that city. But I think the distance between Ephesus, where St. John resided, and Corinth, was too considerable for such an aged man as St. John is represented to be to travel, whether by land or water. If he went by land, he must traverse a great part of Asia, go through Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, and down through Greece, to the Morea, a most tedious and difficult journey. If he went by water, he must cross the Aegean Sea, and navigate among the Cyclades Islands, which was always a dangerous voyage. Now as the apostle promises, both in the second and in this epistle, to see the persons shortly to whom he wrote, I take it for granted that they could not have lived at Corinth, or anywhere in the vicinity of that city. That St. John took such a voyage Michaelis thinks probable; "for since Corinth lay almost opposite to Ephesus, and St. John, from his former occupation, before he became an apostle, was accustomed to the sea, it is not improbable that the journey or voyage which he proposed to make was from Ephesus to Corinth."
In answer to this I would just observe,
1. That the voyage was too long and dangerous for a man at John's advanced age to think of taking.
2. That John had never been accustomed to any such sea as the Aegean, for the sea of Galilee, or sea of Tiberias, on which, as a fisherman, he got his bread, was only an inconsiderable fresh water lake; and his acquaintance with it could give him very few advantages for the navigation of the Aegean Sea, and the danger of coasting the numerous islands dispersed through it.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.I wish above all things - Περι παντων ευχομαι· Above all things I pray that thou mayest prosper, and be in health, και ὑγιαινειν· to which one MS. adds εν αληθεια, which gives it a different meaning, viz., that thou mayest be sound in the truth. The prayer of St. John for Caius includes three particulars:
1. Health of body;
2. Health of soul; and
3. Prosperity in secular affairs. That thou mayest Prosper and be in Health, as thy Soul Prospereth. These three things, so necessary to the comfort of life, every Christian may in a certain measure expect, and for them every Christian is authorized to pray; and we should have more of all three if we devoutly prayed for them.
It appears from the last clause that the soul of Caius was in a very prosperous state.
For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.When the brethren came - Probably the same of whom he speaks in the fifth (3 John 1:5) and following verses, and who appear to have been itinerant evangelists.
The truth that is in thee - The soundness of thy faith and the depth of thy religion.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.To hear that my children - From this it has been inferred that Caius was one of St. John's converts, and consequently not the Corinthian Caius, who was converted, most probably, by St. Paul. But the apostle might use the term children here as implying those who were immediately under his pastoral care, and, being an old man, he had a right to use such terms in addressing his juniors both in age and grace; and there is much both of propriety and dignity in the appellation coming from such a person.
Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;Thou doest faithfully - Πιστον ποιεις. Kypke thinks that πιστον is put here for πιστιν, and that the phrase signifies to keep or preserve the faith, or to be bound by the faith, or to keep one's engagements. Thou hast acted as the faith - the Christian religion, required thee to act, in all that thou hast done, both to the brethren at home, and to the strangers - the itinerant evangelists, who, in the course of their travels, have called at thy house. There is not a word here about the pilgrims and penitential journeys which the papists contrive to bring out of this text.
Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:Which have borne witness of thy charity - Of thy love and benevolence.
Before the Church - The believers at Ephesus; for to this Church the apostle seems to refer.
Whom if thou bring forward - If thou continue to assist such, as thou hast done, thou shalt do well.
The brethren of whom St. John speaks might have been apostles; the strangers, assistants to these apostles, as John Mark was to Barnabas. Both were itinerant evangelists.
After a godly sort - Αξιως του Θεου· Worthy of God; and in such a way as he can approve. Let all Churches, all congregations of Christians, from whom their ministers and preachers can claim nothing by law, and for whom the state makes no provision, lay this to heart; let them ask themselves, Do we deal with these in a manner worthy of God, and worthy of the profession we make? Do we suffer them to lack the bread that perisheth, while they minister to us with no sparing hand the bread of life? Let a certain class of religious people, who will find themselves out when they read this note, consider whether, when their preachers have ministered to them their certain or stated time, and are called to go and serve other Churches, they send them forth in a manner worthy of God, making a reasonable provision for the journey which they are obliged to take. In the itinerant ministry of the apostles it appears that each Church bore the expenses of the apostle to the next Church or district to which he was going to preach the word of life. So it should be still in the mission and itinerant ministry.
Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.For his name's sake they went forth - For the sake of preaching the Gospel of the grace of God, and making known Jesus to the heathen.
Taking nothing of the Gentiles - Receiving no emolument for their labor, but in every respect showing themselves to be truly disinterested. Sometimes, and on some special occasions, this may be necessary; but the laborer is worthy of his hire is the maxim of the author of Christianity. And those congregations of Christians are ever found to prize the Gospel most, and profit most by it, who bear all expenses incident to it, and vice versa.
But some construe εξηλθον, they went out, with απο των εθνων, from the Gentiles, or rather by the Gentiles, and give the passage this sense: They went out, i.e., were driven out by the Gentiles, taking nothing with them, i.e., leaving all their property behind, so that they were in a state of great destitution. A curious reading here, εθνικων, heathenish men, for εθνων, Gentiles, which latter might imply those who were converted from among the Gentiles, while the sense of the other term seems to be restrained to those who were still unconverted, may seem to strengthen the above interpretation; and although the construction seems rather harsh, yet it is not, on the whole, unlikely. The reading above referred to is that of the most ancient and reputable MSS. That to be driven out or expelled is one scriptural meaning of the verb εξερχομαι, see Matthew 8:32 : And when they were come out, οἱ δε εξελθοντεσς, and when they were Driven Out. Matthew 12:43 : When the unclean spirit is gone out, εξελθη, is Driven Out. See Mark 5:13, Mark 7:29 : The devil is gone out of thy daughter, εξεληλυθε, is Expelled. Mark 9:29 : This kind can come forth by nothing εν ουδενι δυναται εξελθειν, can be Driven Out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. Luke 8:2 : Mary Magdalene; out of whom went, αφ' ἡς δαιμονια ἑπτα εξεληλυθει, out of whom were Cast, seven demons. See also 1 John 2:19; Revelation 3:12; and Schleusner, in voc. εξερχομαι.
We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.We therefore ought to receive such - Those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, and have professed the truth at the hazard of their lives, and the loss of all their worldly substance. Instead of απολαμβανειν, to receive, the most ancient and reputable MSS. have ὑπολαμβανειν, to take up, undertake for, or kindly receive.
Fellow helpers to the truth - And thus encourage the persecuted, and contribute to the spread and maintenance of the Gospel.
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.I wrote unto the Church - The Church where Caius was; but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence, φιλοπρωτευων, who loves the presidency, or chief place in the Church. He was doubtless an officer in the Church, at least a deacon, probably a bishop; and, being one, he magnified himself in his office; he loved such eminence, and behaved himself haughtily in it.
Receiveth us not - Does not acknowledge the apostolical authority. As some MSS. supply αν after εγραψα, and several judicious critics believe it is implied, the translation will run thus: I would have written to the Church to receive these men kindly, but Diotrephes, who affects the presidency; and into whose hands, if I wrote to the Church, my letter must come, receiveth us not - would not acknowledge my authority to interfere with any of the matters of his Church; and therefore I have written unto thee, whose love to the brethren and general hospitality are well known, that thou wouldst receive those strangers and persecuted followers of our common Lord.
Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.If I come, I will remember - I will show him the authority which, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, Ipossess.
Prating against us - Diotrephes might have been a converted Jew, who was unwilling that the Gentiles should be received into the Church; or a Judaizing Christian, who wished to incorporate the law with the Gospel, and calumniated the apostles who taught otherwise. This haughty and unfeeling man would give no countenance to the converted Gentiles; so far from it, that he would not receive any of them himself, forbade others to do it, and excommunicated those who had been received into the Church by the apostles. This appears to be the meaning of neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the Church. He had the complete dog in the manger principle: he would neither do, nor let do; and when good was done that he did not approve, he endeavored to undo it.
Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.Follow not that which is evil - Μμ μιμου το κακον· Do not imitate that wicked man, i.e., the conduct of Diotrephes; be merciful, loving, and kind. For whatever profession any man may make, it will ever appear that he who doeth good is of God - he alone is the person who uses rightly the grace received from God, and he alone shall enjoy the Divine approbation;
While he that doeth evil - He who is unfeeling, unmerciful, unkind, hath not seen God - has no proper knowledge of that God whose Name is mercy, and whose Nature is love.
Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.Demetrius hath good report - Perhaps another member of the Church where Caius was; or he might have been one of those whom the apostle recommends to Caius; or, possibly, the bearer of this letter from John to Caius. He seems to have been an excellent person: all testified of his righteousness; the truth - Christianity, itself bore testimony to him; and the apostles themselves added theirs also.
I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:I had many things to write - That is, I have many things that I might write; but having the hope of seeing thee shortly, I will not commit them to paper. Ink and pen are here mentioned; paper and ink in the preceding epistle.
But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.Peace be to thee - Mayest thou possess every requisite good, both of a spiritual and temporal kind.
Our friends salute thee - Desire to be affectionately remembered to thee. Greet the friends by name - remember me to all those with whom I am acquainted, as if I had specified them by name. This is a proof to me that this epistle was not sent to Corinth, where it is not likely John ever was; and where it is not likely he had any particular acquaintances, unless we could suppose he had seen some of them when he was an exile in Patmos, an island in the Aegean Sea.
For other particulars concerning John, the reader is requested to refer to the preface to his gospel.
Instead of φιλοι and φιλους, friends, the Codex Alexandrinus and several others read αδελφοι and αδελφους, brethren. The former (friends) is a very singular appellation, and nowhere else found in Scripture; the latter is of frequent occurrence.
Subscriptions in the Versions: -
In the ancient Syriac. - Nothing.
The Third Epistle of John the apostle is ended. - Syriac Philoxenian.
Aethiopic. - Nothing.
Vulgate. - Nothing.
The end of the epistles of the pure Apostle and Evangelist John. - Arabic.
The Third Epistle of St. John the apostle is ended. - Latin text of the Complutensian.
The end of the Third catholic Epistle of St John. - Ditto, Greek text.
Subscriptions in the Manuscripts: -
The third of John. - Codd. Alex. and Vatican.
The Third catholic Epistle of John the evangelist and divine.
The third of John to Caius concerning Demetrius, of whom he witnesses the most excellent things.
I have already shown in the preface to those epistles termed catholic, that the word καθολικος is not to be taken here, and elsewhere in these epistles, as signifying universal, but canonical; for it would be absurd to call an epistle universal that was written to a private individual.
We seldom hear this epistle quoted but in the reproof of lordly tyrants, or prating troublesome fellows in the Church. And yet the epistle contains many excellent sentiments, which, if judiciously handled, might be very useful to the Church of God. But it has been the lot both of the minor prophets and the minor epistles to be generally neglected; for with many readers bulk is every thing; and, no magnitude no goodness.
This and the preceding epistle both read over in reference to a new edition, Jan. 3rd, 1832. - A. C.