Expositor's Greek Testament
ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΥ
ΕΠΙΣΤΟΛΗ ΚΑΘΟΛΙΚΗ ΤΡΙΤΗ  ιωαννου γ̄ א; ιωανου γ̄ B; ιωαννου επιστολη γ̄ C, many minusc.; ιωαννου επιστολη καθολικη γ̄ 101, 106; επιστολη τριτη του αγιου αποστολου ιωαννου L; του αυτου αγιου ιωαννου του θεολογου επιστολη τριτη 95; επιστολη του αγιου αποστολου και ηγαπημενου προς γαϊον ιωαννου 4.
THE THIRD EPISTLE
The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.3 John 1:1-4. Address and Commendation. “The Elder to Gaius the beloved, whom I love in Truth. Beloved, in all respects I pray that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. For I was exceedingly glad when brethren would come and testify to thy Truth, even as thou walkest in Truth. A greater gladness than this I have not—that I should hear of my children walking in the Truth.”
3 John 1:1. ὁ πρεσβύτερος, see Introd. pp. 159 ff. ἐγώ, see note on 2 John 1:1 ἐν ἀληθείᾳ, see note on 2 John 1:1.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.3 John 1:2. Cf. Law, Ser. Call, chap. vii. “Flavia would be a miracle of piety, if she was but half as careful of her soul as she is of her body. The rising of a pimple on her face, the sting of a gnat, will make her keep her room for two or three days, and she thinks they are very rash people that do not take care of things in time.” Penn, Fruits of Solitude: “He is curious to wash, dress and perfume his Body, but careless of his Soul. The one shall have many Hours, the other not so many Minutes.” περὶ πάντων, de omnibus, with εὐοδοῦσθαι καὶ ὑγιαίνειν, not præ omnibus, “above all things”. The latter use is epic (e.g., Horn. Il. i. 287: περὶ πάντων ἕμμεναι ἄλλων), and prosperity and health were not the summa bona in the Apostle’s estimation. εὐοδοῦσθαι, “prosper” in worldly matters. Trouble tests character. “A good knight is best known in battle, and a Christian in the time of trouble and adversity”; and Gaius had stood the test. The hostility of Diotrephes, probably a well-to-do member of the Church, had lessened his maintenance (εὐοδοῦσθαι) and affected his health (ὑγιαίνειν), yet St. John has only admiration for the spirit he has manifested and commendation for the part he has played.
For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.3 John 1:3. ἐχάρην, see note on 2 John 1:4. ἐρχομένων, repeatedly, not on one particular occasion (ἐλθόντων). The itinerant brethren (die reisenden Brüder) were always at work, going out from Ephesus on their missions and returning with their reports. Cf. 3 John 1:5-6. See Introd. p. 155.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.3 John 1:4. Cf. Senec. Ep. xxxiv.: “Si agricolam arbor ad fructum perducta delectat, si pastor ex fœtu gregis sui capit voluptatem, si alumnum suum nemo aliter intuetur quam adulescentiam illius suam judicet: quid evenire credis his qui ingenia educaverunt, et quæ tenera formaverunt adulta subito vident?” Ev. sec. Heb. (quoted by Jerome on Ephesians 5:4): “Et numquam, inquit (Dominus), læti sitis nisi cum fratrem vestrum videritis in caritate”. μειζοτέραν, a double compar.; cf. ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ (Ephesians 3:8); our “lesser”; Germ. mehrere. τούτων: this use of the plur. (ταῦτα) rather than the sing (τοῦτο) is common. See Moulton’s Winer, p. 201. ἵνα, epexegetic of τούτων. Cf. Luke 1:43 and 1 John 3:11. τέκνα implies that Ganius was a convert of St. John. Cf. marg. note.
Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;3 John 1:5-8. The Duty of Entertaining Itinerant Preachers. “Beloved, it is a work of faith that thou art doing in thy treatment of the brethren, strangers withal. They testified to thy love before the Church; and thou wilt do well in speeding them on their way worthily of God. For it was for the sake of the Name that they went forth, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore are bound to undertake for such, that we may prove fellow-workers with the Truth.”
A company of reisende Brüder had returned to Ephesus, and in reporting of their mission at a meeting of the Church had made special mention of the hospitality of Gaius. The Apostle commends him and bids him continue his good offices.
3 John 1:5. The adjective πιστός is either act., “believing” (cf. John 20:27), or passive, “worthy to be believed,” “trustworthy” (cf. 2 Timothy 2:2). It is passive here, and it is well explained by Œcumenius as equivalent to ἄξιον πιστοῦ ἀνδρός. The peculiarity is that, by a sort of hypallage, the adjective is transferred from the subjective to the objective. Transitive: “Thou makest whatever thou workest on the brethren a believing act, a work of faith”. It was not mere hospitality but a religious service. Westcott’s rendering: “thou makest sure whatsoever thou doest” gives πιστόν an unexampled and indeed impossible meaning. ποιεῖς, aor. of habitual and constant hospitality; ἐργάσῃ, aor. of each particular act. καὶ τοῦτο, “and that to”; more commonly καὶ ταῦτα (cf. Hebrews 9:12).
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:3 John 1:6. On the anarthrous ἐκκλησίας, see note on 2 John 1:10. καλῶς ποιήσεις has the sense of “please” in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri; e.g., 300, 3–6: ἔπεμψά σοι διὰ τοῦ καμηλείτου Ταυρείνου τὸ πανάριον, περὶ οὗ καλῶς ποιήσεις ἀντιφωνήσασά μοι ὅτι ἐκομίσου, “I sent you the bread-basket by the cameleer Taurinus; please let me have word again that you got it”. προπέμψας: when a Rabbi visited a town, it was customary on his departure to escort him on his way (Lightfoot, Hor. Heb., on Matthew 5:41). The gracious usage was observed in the primitive Church, and it appears to have included the furnishing of provision for the journey (cf. Titus 3:13). Cf. Hom. Od. xv., 74: χρὴ ξεῖνον παρεόντα φιλεῖν, ἐθέλοντα δὲ πέμπειν. “welcome the coming, speed the parting guest”. ἀξίως τοῦ Θεοῦ, “in a manner worthy of God,” i.e. (1) “Since they are God’s representatives (John 13:20), weil ihr evangelistenwerk Gottes Werk ist (Holtzm.), treat them as you would treat God”; (2) “Since you are God’s representatives, treat them as God would treat them”.
Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.3 John 1:7. τοῦ Ὀνόματος, sc. of Jesus (cf. Acts 5:40-41). There is perhaps a reference to this verse in Ignat. ad Eph. 7:1: εἰώθασι γάρ τινες δόλῳ πονηρῷ τὸ ὄνομα περιφέρειν, ἄλλα τινὰ πράσσοντες ἀνάξια Θεοῦ. 3:1: δέδεμαι ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι. ἐξῆλθαν, sc. from Ephesus, the seat of the Apostle and therefore the headquarters of the Church in Asia Minor. Cf. Introd. p. 155. μηδέν, see note on 1 John 2:4. Winer (Moulton’s Winer, p. 463, note 1) draws a distinction, perhaps too fine, between λαμβάνειν παρά τινος and λαμβάνειν ἇπό τινος, The former would have been used here had the Gentiles “proferred an acknowledgment; the latter implies exaction. The missionaries might have accepted maintenance (Matthew 10:10), but like St. Paul they waived their right, “that they might cause no hindrance to the Gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9).
We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.3 John 1:8. ἡμεῖς, emphatic in contrast to the Gentiles. ὀφείλομεν, of moral obligation. See note on 1 John 2:6. ὑπολαμβάνειν, suscipere, “receive hospitably” (cf. ὑποδέχεσθαι), “take under one’s protection”. Observe the Wortspiel—λαμβάνοντες, ὑπολαμβάνειν. συνεργοὶ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ: a division of labour. If we cannot preach the Gospel ourselves, we may help others to do it. William Carey, comparing his missionary enterprise to the exploration of a mine, said: “I will go down if you will hold the ropes”.
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.3 John 1:9-10. Churlishness of Diotrephes. “I wrote something to the Church, but Diotrephes, who loveth pre-eminence over them, doth not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I shall call to remembrance his works which he doeth, prating about us with evil words; and, not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren and them that would he preventeth and casteth out of the Church.”
“Der Zweck des 3. Briefes liegt in der Empfehlung der Gastfreundschaft gegen wandernde Glaubensboten” (Holtzm.).
3 John 1:9. ἔγραψά τι, a brief letter of commendation, συστατικὴ ἐπιστολή (2 Corinthians 3:1), introducing and authorising a company of itinerant brethren, probably those referred to in 3 John 1:5. φιλοπρωτεύειν, “love to be first, to be chief” (ἅπαξ λεγόμενον). The noun is φιλοπρωτεία and the adj. φιλόπρωτος (Polyb., Plut). προάγειν (2 John 1:9) and φιλοπρωτεύειν denote two tempers which disturbed the Christian life of Asia Minor—intellectual arrogance and personal aggrandisement. αὐτῶν refers κατὰ σύνεσιν to ἐκκλησίᾳ. οὐκ ἐπιδέχεται ἡμᾶς, “doth not receive me in the person of my delegates” (cf. Matthew 10:40), i.e., “disowneth my authority”.
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.3 John 1:10. ἐὰν ἔλθω: the aged Apostle with his failing strength can only “hope” (cf. 3 John 1:14) to undertake the journey. ὑπομνήσω αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα, not “remind him of his works” (contrast the “work” of Gaius in 3 John 1:5), but “bring his works to remembrance,” by reciting them at a meeting of the Church. St. John does not threaten excommunication or any sort of discipline, but simply that he will state the facts and let them speak for themselves. A terrible reckoning, like that of the Day of Judgment (cf. Revelation 20:12)—to hear a recital of all one’s passionate speeches and inconsiderate actions. Contrast St. Paul’s threats (1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Corinthians 13:1-3). St. John deserved to be called “the Apostle of Love”. φλυαρεῖν (nugari, verschwatsen), of foolish chattering. Suid.: φλύαρος· φλήναφος καὶ λῆρος καὶ μάταιος λόγος. The chatter of Diotrephes was not only foolish but malevolent (λόγοις πονηροῖς). μὴ ἀρκ., see note on 1 John 2:4. οὔτε … καί, cf. John 4:11. κωλύει, ἐκβάλλει, pres. implying not that he actually did it but that he tried to do it. ἐκβάλλει, here not of literal ejection (cf. John 2:15 = Matthew 21:12 = Mark 11:15) but of excommunication from the fellowship of the congregation.
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.3 John 1:11-12. Testimony to Demetrius. “Beloved, do not imitate what is bad but what is good. He that doeth what is good is of God; he that doeth what is bad hath not seen God. To Demetrius testimony hath been borne by all and by the Truth itself; yea, and we testify, and thou knowest that our testimony is true.”
3 John 1:11. A warning against evil example. The pres. participles ἀγαθοποιῶν, κακοποιῶν denote continuance in and practice of good or bad. See note on 1 John 3:6. ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ, “a child of God” (cf. 1 John 3:10). Observe the gentleness of the Apostle: the natural antithesis of ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ would be ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου (1 John 3:8), but he says οὐχ ἑώρακεν τὸν Θεόν.
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.3 John 1:12. Application of the warning against evil example: Do not imitate Diotrephes, but imitate Demetrius. Demetrius was probably the bearer (Ueber-bringer) of the epistle. There is no reason for identifying him with Demetrius the silversmith of Ephesus (Acts 19:24). B. Weiss (Einleit.), supporting the ecclesiastical interpretation of 2 John (see Introd. p. 162) and finding a reference to it in 3 John 1:9, regards Demetrius as the recipient (Empfänger) of the former—a member of the Church and a striking contrast to his fellow-member Diotrephes. But evidently he was a stranger to Gaius and needed introduction and commendation. St. John gives him a threefold testimony: (1) that of the whole community at Ephesus (ὑπὸ πάντων); (2) that of “the Truth” (see note on 1 John 1:8): he fulfilled the requirements of the Gospel and exemplified its saving power; (3) that of the Apostle and his colleagues at Ephesus (ἡμεῖς): he has long been honoured by his community as an embodiment of the Truth (μεμαρτύρηται), and the Apostle testifies this when he is going among strangers ignorant of his past (μαρτυροῦμεν). καὶ … δὲ, see note on 1 John 1:3. οἶδας ὅτι, κ.τ.λ.: because St. John knew him so well. Demetrius belonged to the Church of Ephesus and was probably a convert of the Apostle.
I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:3 John 1:13-14. The Conclusion. “I had many things to write to thee, but I am not minded to be writing to thee by pen and ink. However, I hope presently to see thee, and we shall talk face to face. Peace to thee! The friends salute thee. Salute the friends by name.”
Cf. 2 John 1:12-13. The similarity of the conclusions suggests that the two epistles were written at the same time. The Apostle meditated a visitational circuit (see Introd. p. 155) in the course of which he would see both Kyria and Gaius.
3 John 1:13. γράψαι, aor. of the complete composition in the Apostle’s mind; γράφειν, pres. of the process of putting it on paper. κάλαμος (in full κάλαμος γραφεύς), a reed-pen, as distinguished from γραφεῖον, a sharp-pointed stilus for writing on waxed tablets. Plutarch (Dem., 29, 3) says that Demosthenes, when meditating and writing, was accustomed to bite his κάλαμος.
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.3John 1:15. εἰρήνη σοι, pax tibi, the Jewish greeting, שָׁלוֹם לְךָ (Jdg 6:23; Jdg 19:20), οἱ φίλοι, those at Ephesus; τοὺς φίλους, those with Gaius. St. John knew all “by name,” and would have named them had space permitted. He had the true shepherd’s heart (cf. John 10:3, the only other place where κατʼ ὄνομα occurs in N.T.). Ignat., ad Smyrn., xiii. 2: ἀσπάζομαι Ἄλκην, τὸ παθητόν μοι ὄνομα, καὶ Δάφνον, τὸν ἀσύγκριτον καὶ εὔτεκνον, καὶ πάντας κατʼ ὄνομα.