2 John 1
ICC New Testament Commentary
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;


1-3. Introduction and salutation.

1. ὁ πρεσβύτερος] The use of πρεσβύτερος as a more or less official title in Asia Minor, the Islands, and Egypt has been discussed by Deissmann, Bibel Studien, 153 ff., NBS 60 ff. Cf. also H. Hauschildt, in Preuschen’s ZNTW, 1903, p. 235 ff., and Deissmann, Licht vom Osten, p. 25. Its use in Egypt as a title, and in connection with the Temples, as well as in other connections, is well established at an early date. The evidence of Papias and Irenaeus points to a prevalent Christian usage of the word, especially in Asia, to denote those who had companied with Apostles, and had perhaps been placed in office by them; who could, at any rate, bear trustworthy witness as to what Apostles taught. It is natural to suppose that throughout the fragment of his Introduction, which Eusebius quotes, Papias uses the expression πρεσβύτερος in the same sense. The elders are the men from whom he has himself well learnt and well remembered the illustrative matter for which he finds a place in his book beside his interpretations of the Lord’s words, or whose statements as to what the Apostles said he had learnt by inquiry whenever he met those who had companied with them. This interpretation is supported by the comments of Eusebius on the passage (H. E. 3:39. 7), τοὺς τῶν ἀποστόλων λόγους παρὰ τῶν αὐτοῖς παρηκολουθηκότων ὁμολογεῖ παρειληφέναι, i.e. he learnt from elders who had companied with Apostles the words of the Apostles, obtaining his information either directly from the elders themselves, or indirectly from those who had companied with the elders. Irenaeus uses similar language, adv. Haer. 5:33. 3, “Quemadmodum presbyteri meminerunt qui Iohannem discipulum Domini uiderunt audisse se ab eo quemadmodum de temporibus illis docebat Dominus et dicebat”: 111. xxxvi. I, ὡς οἱ πρεσβύτεροι λέγουσιν Τότε καὶ οἱ μὲν καταξιωθέντες τῆς ἐν οὐρανῷ διατριβῆς ἐκεῖσε χωρήσουσιν. Any individual member of such a class might naturally be styled ὁ πρεσβύτερος, as Papias speaks of ὁ πρεσβύτερος Ἰω ίννης, or ὁ πρεσβύτερος, and Eusebius (H. E. 3:39. 14) of τοῦ πρεσβυτέρου Ἰωάννου παραδόσεις. The absolute use of the phrase in Papias (καὶ τοῦθʼ ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἕλεγε) and in 2 and 3 John makes it the distinctive title of some member of the circle to whom the words are addressed, or at least of one who is well known to them. The circle is in all three cases Asiatic. It is natural to suppose that Papias is referring to the John whom he elsewhere describes as John the Elder. And it is equally natural to see in the author of these two Epistles, who so describes himself, the Elder John whom Papias so carefully distinguishes from the Apostle. The usage of the word is most naturally explained if he is the last survivor of the group, though the possibility of other solutions is by no means excluded.ἐκλεκτῇ κυρίᾳ] The interpretation of these words has been discussed generally in the Introduction. Those who have seen in this designation the name of an individual have explained it differently according as the first, or the second, or both words are regarded as proper names, or both are treated as descriptive adjectives, the actual name not being given. (i.) The view that Electa is a proper name is first found in Clement of Alexandria, “Scripta est ad Babyloniam quandam Electam nomine.” It is uncertain whether “Babyloniam” is due to some confusion with the First Epistle of S. Peter on the part of either Clement or his excerptor and translator, or whether it is a conclusion drawn from the title Πρὸς Πάρθους by which the First Epistle was known (cf. the title of Augustine’s Tractates). This view has been supported in recent years by Dr. J. Rendel Harris, who in an article in the Expositor (1901) to which reference has been made in the Introduction, collected several instances of the use of κύριος and κυρία by near relatives in letters contained in the Oxyrhynchus, and Fayum Papyri. Cf. Oxyrh. Pap. ii. 300 (p. 301), Ἰνδικὴ Θαεισοῦτι τῇ κυρίᾳ χαίρειν. He might have noticed a similar use of δέσποινα in one of the letters which he quotes (ἀσπάζομαι τὴν γλυκυτάτην μου θυγατέρα Μακκαρίαν καὶ τὴν δεσποίνην μου μητέραν ὑμῶν καὶ ὅλους τοὺς ἡμῶν κατʼ ὄνομα: cf. in the same letter, written by a father to his son, κἂν ὥς, δεσποτά μοι, ἀντίγραψον μοι ἐν τάχει). His view that κύριος, κυρία are thus proved to have been used as titles of affection, has been justly criticized by Professor Ramsay in a subsequent article in the same periodical, who sees in it more naturally a title of courtesy. Perhaps it would be better to regard its use as rather playful, or not to be taken too seriously. But the evidence adduced in any case does not go far towards proving that 2 John is addressed to an individual. The usage of individual address would necessarily be followed by a writer who wishes to personify a community to whom he writes. And the language of ver. 15 (τῆς ἀδελφῆς σου τῆς ἐκλεκτῆς) is almost fatal to the supposition that Electa is here used as a proper name.

(ii.) If the name is given at all it must be found in Kyria and not in Electa. Kyria as a proper name is found occasionally, and even in Asia Minor. Lücke quotes (p. 444) Corp. Inscr. Gruter. p. 1127, n. xi. Φένιππος καὶ ἡ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ Κυρία, and other instances. According to Holtzmann it is a common name for women, but he does not cite instances. Cf. Zahn, Introd. vol. 3., Eng. tr p. 383, who refers to Sterrett, The Wolfe Expedition, pp. 138, 389. But on grammatical grounds this explanation is improbable. We should certainly expect the article with ἐκλεκτῇ. Cf. 3 John 1:1, Γαίῳ τῷ ἀγαπητῷ: Romans 16:13, Ῥοῦφον τὸν ἐκλεκτὸν ἐν κυρίῳ: Philem. Φιλήμονι τῷ ἀγαπητῷ: Oxyrh. Pap. 117, Χαιρέας Διονυσίῳ τῷ κυρίῳ ἀδελφῳ: 119, Θέων Θέωνι τῷ πατρὶ χαίρειν. These passages illustrate the grammatical difficulty of assuming that Κυρία is a proper name. The anarthrous ἐκλεκτῇ makes it very improbable.

(iii.) The language of ver. 13, ἀσπάζεταί σε τὰ τέκνα τῆς ἀδελφῆς σου τῆς ἐκλεκτῆς, makes it very unlikely that both words are to be regarded as proper names.

(iv.) The view, however, that an individual is addressed, has often been held by those who think that her name has not been recorded. As stated in the Introduction, the name of Mary the Mother of the Lord, and of Martha, have been suggested. The former suggestion was natural, if not inevitable, at an earlier date, in view of John 19:27 and the supposed residence of the Blessed Virgin in Asia, when the general historical setting of the Epistle was less carefully considered or understood than in recent times. A supposed play on the meaning of Martha was equally attractive to an earlier generation. No serious arguments can be brought forward in favour of either conjecture. If the theory of individual address is maintained, it is certainly better to assume that the name is not given. The combination of terms is a natural expression of Christian courtesy.But the general character of the Epistle is almost decisive against the view that it is addressed to an individual. The subjects with which it deals are such as affect a community rather than an individual or a family, though much of its contents might be regarded as advice needed by the leading member of a Church on whom the duty mainly fell of entertaining the strangers who visited it. We must also notice (1) that the language of vv. 1-3, “Whom I and all who know the truth love because of the truth that abideth in us,” suits a community far better than an individual. This is also true of the language of the salutation in ver. 13 which has been already quoted. (2) The interchange of singular and plural points to the same conclusion, εὕρηκα ἐκ τῶν τέκνων σου (ver. 4), ἐρωτῶ σε (ver. 5), βλέπετε ἑαυτούς (ver. 8), εἴ τις ἔρχεται πρὸς ὑμᾶς (ver. 10), ὑμῖν (ver. 12), ἀσπάζεταί σε (ver. 13). Mr. Gibbins in an interesting paper in the Expositor (series 6, 1902, p. 232) has drawn attention to the similar changes between singular and plural which are found in Is. liv., lv. and Bar. iv., v., where the City and her inhabitants are addressed under the image of a woman and her children. These parallels show clearly how natural was the transference of the prophetic language with regard to Jerusalem and its inhabitants to a Christian Church and its members. (3) The language of ver. 5, ἐρωτῷ σε, κυρία, οὐχ ὡς ἐντολὴν γράφων σοι καινήν, ἀλλὰ ἣν εἴχαμεν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, ἵνα ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, with its clear reference to the Lord’s “new commandment” given to His disciples, suggests a Church and not an individual. (4) The substance of what is said in vv. 6, 8, 10, 12 is clearly not addressed to children. The “children” of the “Elect Lady” must certainly have reached the age of manhood. (5) The nearest parallel in the N.T. is to be found in 1 P. 5:13, ἡ ἐν Βαβυλῶνι συνεκλεκτή, though we may hesitate to assume with Dom Chapman (JTS, 1904, pp. 357 ff., 517 ff.) that the reference in both cases is the same, the Church of Rome being addressed. We may perhaps also compare the language in which the Seer addresses the same Churches in the Apocalypse (i.-iii.).

The reference to the whole Church is already suggested by Clement, “signif cat autem electionem ecclesiae sanctae.” Cf. also Jerome, Ep. 123. 12, Ad Ageruchiam, “Una ecclesia parens omnium Christianorum … praue haeretici in plures ecclesias lacerant … Una est columba mea, perfecta mea, una est matris suae, electa genetrici suae (Song of Solomon 6:8). Ad quam scribit idem Iohannes epistolam, Senior Electae dominae et filiis eius, ” where the reference to the Church is clear, though he apparently regards Electa as a proper name.

The reference to a local Church is found in the Scholiast, ἐκλεκτὴν κυρίαν λέγει τὴν ἐν τινὶ τόπῳ ἐκκλησίαν. This explanation has been adopted by most modern commentators.καὶ τοῖς τέκνοις αὐτῆς] Cf. Bar. 4:30-32, θάρσει, Ἱερουσαλήμ,παρακαλέσει σε ὁ ὀνομάσας σε. δείλαιοι οἱ σε κακώσαντες καὶ ἐπιχαρέντες τῇ σῆ πτώσει· δείλαιαι αἱ πόλεις αἷς ἐδούλευσαν τὰ τέκνα σου, δειλαία ἡ δεξαμένη τοὺς υἱούς σου. v.5, ἴδε σου συνηγμένα τὰ τέκνα ἀπὸ ἡλίου δυσμῶν… χαίροντας τῇ τοῦ θεοῦ μνείᾳ. Galatians 4:25, δουλεύει μετὰ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς. The use of τέκνα, which emphasizes the idea of community of nature of those who have experienced the new spiritual birth, as contrasted with the Pauline υἱός, which often lays stress on the dignity of heirship, is characteristic of the author. But it is not always safe to press the distinction. The more general term, which includes the whole family, would in many cases naturally be preferred to υἱός, which, strictly speaking, applies only to sons.

οὓς ἐγὼ ἀγαπῶ] Cf. Galatians 4:19, τέκνα (v.l. τεκνία) μου, οὓς πάλιν ὠδίνω. Arguments, in favour of the view that a Church is addressed, which are based on the use of the masculine relative are very precarious. In any case it would be the natural construction κατὰ σύνεσιν. For the use of ἐγώ, cf. 3 John 1:1. It may be characteristic of the writer’s style. But the emphatic language of the rest of the verse suggests that the author is thinking of those who do not love, and love “in truth.”

ἐν ἀληθείᾳ] Cf. 3 John 1:1, where the word is again anarthrous. The phrase is not “merely adverbial,” a periphrasis for “truly.” It suggests a love which is exercised in the highest sphere, which corresponds to the truest conception of love. Cf. περιπατεῖν ἐν ἀληθείᾳ, conduct in which everything is regulated by “truth.”

καὶ οὐκ ἐγὼ κ.τ.λ.] The unsuitability of this language, if addressed to the members of a single family, has already been pointed out. As addressed to members of a Church in which the Elder can confidently reckon on faithful support, while he is fully conscious of the existence of divisions and of strenuous opposition to himself and his teaching, they offer no difficulty and have their special significance.

τὴν ἀλήθειαν] Cf. 1 John 1:6 (note). The truth, as revealed by the Christ, and gradually unfolded by the Spirit, who is “Truth.” It covers all spheres of life, and is not confined to the sphere of the intellect alone.

ο πρεσβυτερος] η συμπρεσβυτερος 93: Iohannes senior tol. Cassiod. " εκλεκτη] pr. τη 73 " Κυρια] pr. τη 31 " αυτης] αυτοις Isa_65 (317) " ους] οιςIb 62. 161 (498) " εν αληθεια αγαπωIa 158 (395) " και ουκ εγω א B K P al.pler. vg. sah. cop. syrp arm. aeth.] ουκ εγω δε A 73 syrbodl Thphyl.: + δε L " kai 3:0] om. Ia 170 (303) " εγνωκοτες] αγαπωντες Ia δ157(547).

2. διὰ τὴν ἀλήθειαν] The possession of the “truth” as an abiding force which dominates the whole life calls out the love of all who share the possession.

ἐν ἡμῖν]The author includes the Church to whom he is writing, or at least its faithful members, in the numbers of those who “know the truth.”

καὶ μεθʼ ἡμῶν ἔσται] An expression of sure confidence rather than of a wish. The truth must always “abide” in the Society, though individual members may fall away. For the parenthetical construction, cf. 1 John 3:1, ἵνα τέκνα θεοῦ κληθῶμεν, καὶ ἐσμέν.

δια την αληθειαν] om. 27. 29. 66**. 106* fu. syrp txt " μενουσαν B K L P etc.] ενοικουσαν A : 13. 65 dscr: om. 66** " ημιν] υμιν 22. 68. 100. 104 cscr jscr " και … αιωνα] quia et uobiscum erit et nos in aeternum uobiscum eritis arm. " ημων] υμωη 22. 68. 100. 104 ascr cscr jscr al. " εσται εστιν 31 syrbodi et p: εστωIa 200f (83).

3. ἔσται μεθʼ ἡμῶν]The taking up of the language of the preceding verse is thoroughly in accord with the writer’s habit. Compare the repetition of ἀλήθεια in the preceding verse. The wish expressed in ordinary salutations here “passes into assurance.” Perhaps in view of their circumstances the need of assurance was specially felt by writer and recipients as well.

χάρις, ἔλεος, εἰρήνη] This exact form of salutation is found elsewhere in the Epistles to Timothy. It is a natural expansion of the commoner χάρις καὶ εἰρήνη which in some sense combines the Greek and Hebrew forms of salutation; and it fits in well with the general tone of later Epistles. Neither ἔλεος nor the cognate verb occurs elsewhere in the Johannine writings. Cf. Judges 1:2, ἔλεος ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη καὶ ἀγάπη πληθυνθείη: Polycarp, ad Phil. ἔλεος ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη, and the Letter of the Smyrnaeans, ἔλεος καὶ εἰρήνη καὶ ἀγάπη… πληθυνθείη.

παρὰ Ἰησοῦ κ.τ.λ.] The whole phrase brings into prominence the views on which the author throughout lays most stress—the Fatherhood of God, as revealed by one who being His Son can reveal the Father, and who as man (Ἰησοῦ) can make Him known to men. Cf. John 20:31, ἵνα πιστεύητε ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. The words used contain implicitly the author’s creed.

ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἀγάπῃ] The two vital elements of the Christian Faith, the possession of the highest knowledge and its expression in action. They are the keynotes of the Epistle.

εσται μεθ ημων] om. A " εσται] + δε15. 36 " ημων א B L P al. sat. mu. cat. am. sah. boh-ed. syrbodl aeth. Thphylcom Oeccom] υμων K al. plu. vg. (et. fu. demid. harl. tol.) arm. boh-codd. (εστ. μεθ υμ. post αγαπη arm. boh.) syrp. An obvious correction to the more usual 2nd pers. of salutations " χαρις] χαρα Ib 260 (440): + υμων και Ic 116, 486, 356 (-) " ειρηνη] pr. και Ia 200f (83) " παρα אc A B L P al. pler.] απο א* 11. 18. 19. 32. 40. 57. 68. 98. 105. 126 cscr. A natural correction to the more common usage of salutations; cf. Ro., 1, 2 Co. Gal. Eph. Ph. Col., 2 Th., 1, 2, Ti. Philem. Apoc. Clement. Polycarp has παρά " (θεου… και 1:0) om. sah. " θεου (? ver. 3)] om. Ia δ254 (?) Ic 486 (-) " πατρος (? 1:0)] pr. και Ia 256 (24) " παρα 2:0] om. א* 99 fscr am. " ιησου χριστου] pr. κῡ א K L P al. pler. cat. tol. cop. syr. arm. Thphyl. Oec.: χῡ ιῡ H257 (33) Ia δ203ff. 192 (808) " του 1:0] om. H δ6 (Ψ) Ic 114 (335) " του 2:0] pr. αυτου א* " αγαπη και αληθεια Ia 506 (60) " και αγαπη] αγαπητη H δ6 (Ψ) " αγαπη] pr. εν Ia δ203 (808): ερανη Ib 365 (214).

4-11. “Counsel and warning”

4. ἐχάρην λίαν] Cf. 3 John 1:3; Luke 23:8. We may compare also St. Paul’s use of εὐχαριστεῖν in the opening verses of eight of his Epistles. It is part of the usual order of epistolary composition to strike first the note of praise or thankfulness. The aorist is probably not epistolary, the contrast of νῦν in ver. 5 makes it almost certain that it refers to past time.εὕρηκα] The connection of this word with ἐχάρην shows that we have here one of the instances, of which there are several in the N. T., which prove that in certain words the perfect is in this period beginning to lose its special force, though the process has not yet gone so far as is often maintained. Cf. Burton, N. T. Moods and Tenses, p. 44, who regards the usage as confined in the N.T. to a few forms, ἔσχηκα, εἴληφα, ἑώρακα, εἴρηκα,γέγονα. To distinguish in this verse between the initial moment (ἐχάρην) and the ground of it which still continues is precarious.

A comparison of 3 John 1:3 suggests that the information which caused his joy came to the Elder through travelling brethren who, perhaps from time to time (cf. περιπατοῦντας), brought him news of the sister Church. There is no suggestion of an earlier visit of his own to the Church to which he is now writing. In that case he would probably have used the aorist.

ἐκ τῶν τέκνων σου] He cannot praise the whole Church without distinction. All the members of the community had not remained faithful to the “truth.” If “many” had not themselves gone out into the world as deceivers (ver. 7), many had listened to the seductive teaching of such deceivers. It seems probable that even the majority had been led astray.

περιπατοῦντας ἐν ἀληθείᾳ] Cf. ver. 1, and 3 John 1:4. The “truth” corresponds to perfection in every sphere of being.

καθὼς ἐντολὴν ἐλάβομεν παρὰ τοῦ πατρός] Cf. John 10:17 f. διὰ τοῦτό με ὁ πατὴρ ἀγαπᾷ ὅτι ἐγὼ τίθημι τὴν ψυχήν μου, ἵνα πάλιν λάβω αὐτήν. οὐδεὶς ἦρεν αὐτὴν ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ, ἀλλʼ ἐλὼ ἐγὼ τίθημι αὐτὴν ἀπʼ ἐμαυτοῦ. ἐξουσίαν ἔχω θεῖναι αὐτήν, καὶ ἐξουσίαν ἔχω πάλιν λαβεῖναὐτήν. ταύτην τὴν ἐντολὴν ἔλαβον παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου. Cf. John 12:49; 1 John 3:23. The phrase ἐντολὴν λαβεῖν is used elsewhere in the N. T.; cf. Acts 17:15; Colossians 4:10. Dom Chapman’s ingenious suggestion, that the meaning of this verse should be determined by the passage quoted from Jn. 10., breaks down, as Prof. Bartlet has shown, on a point of grammar. The present participle (περιπατοῦντας) could not be used in such a sense. Men could hardly be said to continue in the exercise of the “remarkable virtue” of martyrdom. The command referred to here must be either the “new commandment” to love as Christ loved (cf. 1 John 4:21), which perhaps suits ver. 5 best, or the commandment to faith and love; cf. 1 John 3:23, καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἐντολὴ αὐτοῦ, ἵνα πιστεύσωμεν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους, καθὼς ἔδωκεν ἐντολὴν ἡμῖν. On the whole the latter suits the whole context better.

λιαν] om. Ib δ260 (440): + μεγαλως Isa_65 (317) " ευρηκα] ευρον Ia δ254* (?) K306 (119) " σου] μου Ia 70 (505) " περιπατουντας] post. αληθεια O 46 (154): περιπατουντα 40. 67. 69. 101. 180 Iscr " καθως εντολην] secundum mandatum quod arm. " καθως] + και Ia 70 (505) " ελαβομεν] ελαβον א 13. 28. An accidental error (? from John 10:18) " παρα] απο A 73 " του] om. B.

5. νῦν] The adverb is temporal. Cf. ver. 4, ἐχάρην.

ἐρωτῶ σε Κυρία] If ἐρωτᾶν has the special force of suggesting some sort of equality of position between the two parties concerned (“in the exercise of the full privilege of Christian fellowship,” Wsct.), the emphasis is laid on the words οὐχ ὡς ἐντολήν. The Elder who has the right to command merely grounds a personal request, as between equals, on the old command laid on both alike by the Master. If, however, the special meaning of ἐρωτᾶν is to be found in the emphasis which it lays on the person addressed, as opposed to the thing asked (αἰτεῖν), then Κυρία is the emphatic word. He can ask in full confidence of the “Elect Lady” that which is no new command, pleading for the fulfilment of the old commandment laid on her and on all by the Lord. But ἐρωτᾶν was the natural word to use. Cf. Oxyrh. Pap. 2:292, ἠρώτησα δὲ καὶ Ἑρμίαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν διὰ γραπτοῦ ἀνηγεῖσθαί σοι περὶ τούτου.

εἴχαμεν] The writer includes himself and all Christians among the recipients of the command. There is no need to limit his application of the first person plural to those who originally heard the command given.

ἵνα ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλληλούς] These words should probably be taken, not as dependent on ἐρωτῶ, but as defining the ἐντολή. The instances of the purely definitive ἵνα have been collected before.

ερωτω] ερωτωμενIa 101. 7f, 65 (40) boh-cod. " γραφων σοι καινην B K L P al. pler. cat. sah. Thphyl. Oec.] καινην γραφων σοι א A 5. 13. 31. 68 dscr vg. cop. Lcif. " γραφων] γραφω 64. 65. 66. 106 dscr * al. uix. mu. arm. aeth. " καινην] inc. sahb " αλλα] + εντολην א : + εντολην παλαιαν syrp " ειχαμεν א A] ειχομεν B K L P al. pler.: εχομεν 31. 38. 68 ascr al. fere. 20 " ινα] pr. αλλIa δ254 (?).

6. αὕτη ἐστίν … ἵνα] Cf. 1 John 5:3, 1 John 3:23. In the first Epistle the love which is said to consist in the “keeping” of His commandments is more clearly defined as the love of God. Here it is left undefined. The immediate context (ἵνα ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους) suggests that the writer is thinking especially of Christian brotherly love. The highest expression of this love is found in obedience to all the commands (however variously expressed) which God has enjoined in regulation of the relations between brethren. The clearest expression of love is obedience to the will of God, so far as He has revealed His will in definite precepts. It is quite in the writer’s style to make the more absolute statement, even if he is thinking particularly of a special application.

αὕτη ἣ ἐντολή ἐστιν] The order of the words, if this is the true text, lays stress on ἡ ἐντολή. This is the one command in which all precepts are summed up.καθὼς ἠκούσατε] If the reading ἵνα καθώς is correct, the ἵνα which precedes ἐν αὐτῇ must be resumptive. Cf. 1 John 3:20, according to a possible interpretation of that verse. The omission of ἵνα certainly appears to be an attempt at simplification. In either case the clause must be taken with what follows, and regarded as thrown forward for the sake of emphasis.

ἵνα … περιπατῆτε] In order to avoid the appearance of tautology most commentators interpret ἐν αὐτῇ as referring to ἀγάπη, the main subject of the verse. It would be tempting to refer it to the subject of the sentence ἀληθεία (ver. 4). The one command is that we should walk in truth as we have heard it from the beginning. This would suit the following verse. But the more natural reference is to the command. Cf. the Vulgate rendering in eo (sc. mandato). If this is possible, the emphasis must be on περιπατεῖν and καθὼς ἠκούσατε. The command which sums up all the precepts, which men show their love in obeying, is the command to active obedience to God’s will as it has been revealed from the beginning of the Christian life, to “abide” in what they have always known, and to let it regulate their whole conduct and life.

και … αγαπη] om. aeth. " αυτου] του θῡ Ia 70 (505) " αυτη 20] pr. et arm. boh-ed. " η εντολη] post εστιν א (+αυτου) L P al. pler. ugcle et. demid. harl. tol. sah. cop. arm. Lcif. Thphyl. Oec. " καθως… περιπατητε] ut incedamus in hoc quod audiuistis antiquitus aeth. " καθως B ñ P al. pler. syrbodl et p Lcif. Thphyl. Oec] pr. ινα א A K 13. 31. 73. al. mu. cat. vg. sah. cop. arm. " ινα 20] om. K 13 al. mu. cat. vg. sah. boh. (uid.) arm. " εν αυτη] om. Ia 175 (319) " περιπατητε] περιπατειτε L 13 al. aliq. Thphyl.: περιπατησητε א: incedamus arm-codd. boh-ed.

7. ὅτι] gives the reason for the preceding ἵνα ἐν αὐτῇ περιπατῆτε. If this refers to love, the reason given must be either (1) that the presence of such false teachers as are here described is likely to prove destructive to the exercise of mutual love among Christians, or (2) that their teaching, in denying the reality of the Incarnation, cuts away the whole foundation of Christian love as called out by the great act of love in which God expressed His love for the world. But both these interpretations are forced, and the contents of this verse point to a different interpretation of ver. 6, that, namely, which throws the emphasis on the word περιπατῶμεν.The command to mutual love grounded on true faith must be obeyed so as to find expression in action and conduct (περιπατεῖν).Otherwise the forces which make against obedience will be too strong. Many have joined the world, and their power to lead astray is great.πλάνοι] Cf. 1 John 2:26, τῶν πλανώντων ὑμᾶς, and the accusation brought against the Lord by some of the crowd in John 7:12, πλανᾷτὸν ὄχλον: cf. also Justin Martyr’s λαοπλάνον.The substantive does not occur in the Johannine writings except in this verse. The verb is fairly common in the Apocalypse.

ἐξῆλθαν] Cf. 1 John 4:1, πολλοὶ ψευδοπροφῆται ἐξεληλύθασιν εἰς τὸν κόσμον. The verb probably does not refer to the excommunication or withdrawal of the false teachers (contrast 1 John 2:19, ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν). It suggests the idea that these deceivers have received their mission from the Evil One, in whose power “the whole world lieth.”

οἱ μὴ ὁμολογοῦντες] The subjective negative is naturally used when a class is described and characterized. They are distinguished by their refusal to confess the truth of the Incarnation.

Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐρχόμενον ἐν σαρκί] Cf. 1 John 4:2 ff., esp ὃ ὁμολογεῖ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα, of which the present passage is almost certainly a reminiscence; cf. the notes on the earlier passage. The chief difference is in the tense of the participle. By the use of ἐρχόμενον instead of ἐληλυθότα the confession is taken out of all connection with time and made timeless. In the First Epistle stress was laid on the historical fact and its permanent consequences. Here the writer regards it as a continuous fact. The Incarnation is not only an event in history. It is an abiding truth. It is the writer’s view that humanity has been taken up into the Deity. The union is permanent and abiding. His view as to the exact difference in the relation of the Logos to the world and to mankind, which was brought about by the Incarnation, is not so clear. All creation was “life in Him.” Before the Incarnation “He came to His own.” But it is clear that he regarded it as a completely new revelation of what human nature was capable of becoming, and as establishing the possibility for all future time of a more real union between God and man. The Incarnation was more than a mere incident, and more than a temporary and partial connection between the Logos and human nature. It was the permanent guarantee of the possibility of fellowship, and the chief means by which it is brought about.1

οὗτος κ.τ.λ.] Cf. 1 John 2:22 and 18. The coming of Antichrist is fulfilled in the sum-total of all the evil tendencies in the work and influence of those who refuse to confess “Jesus Christ come in flesh.”ὁ πλάνος] The deceiver, par excellence, known as Antichrist in popular expectation. As in the First Epistle, the writer uses the term as the convenient expression of the evil tendencies of his time. He thus spiritualizes the popular idea, but he nowhere throws any light on the general character or the details of the popular legend. The use of the plural in some Latin and Syriac authorities, supported by one or two cursives, bears witness to the difficulties felt by those who did not easily understand the drift of his language.

εξηλθον (-θαν Α) א A B al. plus15 cat. vg. (et. am. fu. demid. harl. Bed. m8 tol. prodierunt, Lcif. progressi sunt) sah. syrbodlet p arm. Ir. Ps. Chr.] εισηλθον K L P al. pler. Thphyl. Oec. Clearly a correction caused by the εις which follows. The form found in A is probably original " οι μη ομολογουντες] ο μη ομολογων Ia 200f (83) " ερχομενον] om. Isa_55* (236) Ib 209f (386) " σαρκι] + ει τις ουκ ομολογει Ιν̄ Χν̄ ερχομενονεν σαρκι Ib396-398 (-) K51δ359 (17) " ουτος … αντιχριστος] hii fallaces et antechristi sunt m 8: isti sunt fallaces et antichristi Lcif.: hi sunt seductores et antichristi syrp mg: ουτοι εισιν οι πλανοι και οι αντιχριστοιIa 70, 7 (505) Ic 258 (56).

8. βλέπετε ἑαυτούς] Cf. Mark 13:9, βλέπετε ὑμεῖς ἑαυτούς: 1 Corinthians 16:10, βλέπετε ἵνα ἀφόβως γένηται πρὸς ὑμᾶς: and for the form of expression, 1 John 5:21, φυλάξατε ἑαυτά. “The use of the active with the reflexive pronoun … emphasizes the duty of personal effort.”

ἵνα μὴ ἀπολέσητε κ.τ.λ.] The reading of B, etc., ἀπολέσητε—ἠργασάμεθα—ἀπολάβητε, is almost certainly the true text. The other variants are easily explained as attempts to reduce this reading to uniformity, by using either the first or the second person throughout.

ἠργασάμεθα] Cf. John 6:27, John 6:28, ἐργάζεσθε … τὴν βρῶσιν τὴν μένουσαν: and for the thought of the reward, John 4:36, ἤδη ὁ θερίζων μισθὸν λαμβάνει καὶ συνάγει καρπὸν εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, ἵνα ὁ σπείρων ὁμοῦ χαίρῃ καὶ ὁ θερίζων. Perhaps these passages offer a more probable source for the ideas of this verse than the quotation from Ruth 2:12, ἀποτίσαι Κύριος τὴν ἐργασίαν σου· γένοιτο ὁ μισθός σου πλήρης παρὰ Κυρίου θεοῦ Ἰσραήλ, πρὸς ὅν ἦλθες πεποιθέναι ὑπὸ τὰς πτέρυγας αὐτοῦ, out of which Dr. Rendel Harris has elaborated his ingenious suggestion that the Lady to whom the Epistle is addressed was “a proselyte, a Gentile Christian, and a widow.” Holtzmann`s criticism of this suggestion as “allzu scharfsinnig” is not unmerited. It may be of interest to notice that the reference to Ruth 2:12 is to be found in Wettstein, who has provided or anticipated far more of the best illustrative parallels than the acknowledgments of his work in later Commentaries would lead us to suppose. Wettstein also quotes the Targum, “retribuat tibi Deus retributionem bonam operum tuorum in hoc seculo et erit merces tua perfecta in seculo futuro a Deo Israelis,” and also Xen. Cyr. Exp. vii. ἧκες ἄν πλήρη φέρων τὸν μισθόν.

For ἀπολαμβάνειν, cf. Romans 1:27, ἀντιμισθίαν ἥν ἔδει … ἀπολαμβάνοντες: Oxyrh. Pap. ii. 298 (p. 299), ἐὰν δέ τι ἄλλο προσοφειληται … εὐθέως ἀπολήμψῃ.

εαυτους א A B P Dam. etc.] αυτους Κ Λ Dam. Ir. Lcif. " απολεσητε, απολαβητε א (απολησθε א) A B 5. 13 40, 66**. 68. 73. 137 dscr fscr jscr al. fere. 15 cat. vg. sah. cop. syrutr arm. aeth. Ir. Lcif. Ps. Chr. Isid. Dam. Thphyl com Oeccom] απολεσωμεν, απολαβωμεν K L P 31 al. plu. Thphyl txt Oectxt " ειργασμεθα B (ηργ-) K L P 31 al. plu. sah. syrp mg Thphyltxt Oectxt] ειργασασθε א A 5. 13. 40. 66**. 68. 73. 137 d f jscr cat. vg. cop. syrbodl et p txt arm. aeth. Ir. Lcif. Ps.-Chr. Isid. Dam. Thphylcom Oeccom: ειργασαμεθα καλα K 186 δ364 (223) " πληρη] πληρης L Dam. (? cf. John 1:14). According to Tischendorf’s note it would seem that what is probably the true text is supported by B sah. syrp mg only. See note above.

9. ὁ προάγων καὶ μὴ μένων ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ] The phrase should be taken as a whole. The sarcastic reference of προάγων to the claims of false teachers to the possession of a higher knowledge and more progressive intelligence was naturally misunderstood. The παραβαίνων of the Receptus was the inevitable result. What was not understood had to be corrected into an intelligible commonplace. If this were the true text, we should have to supply as object τὴν διδαχήν from the following ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ. But the originality of προάγων is obvious. For the use of προάγειν, Windisch quotes Sir. 20:27, ὁ σοφὸς ἐν λόγοις προάξει ἑαυτόν.

The non-repetition of the article before μὴ μένων is significant. All “progress” is not condemned, but only such progress as does not fulfil the added condition of “abiding in the teaching.”

ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ] There is nothing in the context or the usage of the N.T. to suggest that τοῦ Χριστοῦ should be regarded as an objective genitive, the writer meaning by the phrase “the apostolical teaching about Christ.” Such an interpretation would seem to be the outcome of preconceived notions of what the author ought to have meant rather than of what his words indicate. Cf. John 18:19, ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν … περὶ τῆς διδαχῆς αὐτοῦ: John 7:16, ἡ ἐμὴ διδαχὴ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὴ ἀλλὰ τοῦ πέμψαντός με … γνώσεται περὶ τῆς διδαχῆς, where there is the same transition to the absolute use of the word which is found in this verse. Cf. also Matthew 7:28; Mark 4:2; Luke 4:32; Acts 2:42; Revelation 2:14 (τὴν διδαχὴν Βαλαάμ), 2:15 (τῶν Νικολαιτῶν). The “teaching” no doubt includes the continuation of Christ’s work by His Apostles, but it begins in the work of Christ Himself. In the view of the writer all true teaching is but the application of “ὁ λόγος ὁ ἐμός” He did not regard Paul or any other Apostle as the inventor of most of what was characteristic of the Christian Faith as he knew it.

θεὸν οὐκ ἔχει] Cf. 1 John 2:22f., a passage of which this verse is probably a summary. It is hardly intelligible except in the light of that passage, or of teaching similar to that which it contains. The true revelation of God was given in Jesus Christ. He who rejects the truth about Christ cannot enjoy the fellowship with God which Christ has made possible for men.οὗτος καὶ κ.τ.λ.] Cf. 1 John 2:23 ff. and notes. As was pointed out in the Introduction and also in the notes on that passage, the words can refer equally well to Gnostic claims to a superior knowledge of the Father, and to Jewish opponents who shared with their Christian antagonists the belief in the God of Israel.

τας (? πας)] om. Ia 1100 (310) " ο προαγων א A B 98mg am. fu. harl. sah. boh. aeth.] ο παραβαινων K L P al. pler. cat. syrbodl et p (qui transgreditur) arm. Eph. Thphyl. Oec.: qui recedit vgcle demid. tol. Lcif. Didlat " μενων εν τη 10] εμμενων τη 31 " διδαχη 10] αγαπη 13 " του—διδαχη 20] om. Ib 365*. 356*. δ 260f (214) Ic 353, 174, 506 (58) " του χριστοῡ του θῦ Isa_55 (236) Ib δ370 (1149): om. Ib 157 (29) " εχει] nouit arm. " μενων εν τη 20] εμμενων τη100 " μενων (? 20)] παραμενωνIb δ260 (440) " εν 20] om. H δ6 (Ψ)" διδαχη 20 א A B 13. 27, 29, 66**. 68 vg. sah. syrp txt arm. Didlat Fulg.] + eius syrbodl et p Lcif.: + του χριστου K L P al. pler. cat. boh-ed. aeth. Thphyl. Oec.: (?)+ του θῦ Ia δ 459 (125) " και τον πατερα και τον υιον] א B K L P al. pler. cat. vgcle sah. cop. syrbodl et p aeth. Lcif. Did.] και τον και ῦν του πρ͂α A 13, 31 (om. τον 20). 68 am. fu. demid. harl. tol. arm. Fulg. " και τον υιον] post εχει Isa_7 (?) Ic 208-116 (307) " εχει 20] pr. ουκ Ib δ260 (440).

10. εἴ τις ἔρχεται κ.τ.λ.] Cf. Didache xi. I, 2, ὃς ἂν οὖν ἐλθὼν διδάξῃ ὑμᾶς ταῦτα πάντα τὰ προειρημένα δέξασθε αὐτόν· ἐὰν δὲ αὐτὸς ὁ διδάσκων στραφεὶς διδάσκῃ ἄλλην διδαχὴν εἰς τὸ καταλῦσαι, μὴ αὐτοῦ ἀκούσητε. There is nothing in the Epistle itself to indicate that this verse “at last discloses the special purpose of the whole Epistle.” Its purpose is clearly to encourage those to whom it is addressed to continue in the active exercise of the faith and love which they had learned from Christ and His Apostles, even to the point of refusing hospitality to those who claimed to come in Christ’s name, but who, in the writer’s opinion, were destroying the work of Christ by their teaching.

The form of the conditional sentence used presents the case as more than a mere possibility, rather as something not unlikely to happen.

ἔρχεται πρὸς ὑμᾶς] The usage of ἔρχεσθαι in the Johannine Epistles is confined to the “coming” of Christ, or Antichrist, or of the brethren visiting another Church (3 John 1:3), or of the Elder paying a formal visit (3 John 1:10, ἐὰν ἔλθω). It is dangerous to read a special sense into common words. But clearly the accompanying condition, καὶ ταύτην τὴν διδαχὴν οὐ φέρει, limits the reference to those who claim to come as Christians, and to have a “teaching” to communicate to the members of the Church. The context excludes the idea that the writer is thinking of “casual visits of strangers.” Those to whom he would refuse recognition claim to be received as brethren by fellow-Christians. In his view their conduct has made that impossible.

μὴ λαμβάνετε εἰς οἰκίαν] For the use of the verb, cf. John 1:12, ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν: 6:21, λαβεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον: 13:20, ὁ λαμβάνων ἄν τινα πέμψω ἐμὲ λαμβάνει.χαίρειν … μὴ λέγετε] Elsewhere in the N.T. χαίρειν is only used in the greeting at the beginning of Epistles (Acts 15:23, Acts 15:23:26; Jam 1:1). These passages throw no light on the question whether the welcome at meeting or the farewell greeting is meant. There is really nothing in the usage of the word or in the context to decide the question. We may perhaps compare Luke 10:5, εἰς ἣν δʼ ἂν εἰσέλθητε οἰκίαν πρῶτον λέγετε· Εἴρηνη τῷ οἴκῳ τούτῳ. In the LXX the use of χαίρειν in this sense is confined to the letters contained in the Books of the Maccabees.

ει τις ερχεται] οτι εισερχεται Ic 506 (60) " ταυτην] post διδαχην 31 " αυτω] pr. ενIc 114 (335).

11. This verse gives the grounds on which the injunctions of the preceding verse are based. The welcome and greeting contemplated are clearly such as express approval of the character and work of those who claim such reception.

κοινωνεῖ] always expresses a participation realized in active intercourse. It never denotes a mere passing sharing. Cf. 1 Timothy 5:22; 1Ti_1 P. 4:13.

τοῖς πονηροῖς] The form of expression is chosen which lays greatest stress on the adjective. Cf. 1 John 2:7, 1 John 2:8, 1 John 2:1:2, 1 John 2:3; John 10:11.

ο (?)] om. Ia 1402 (219) K2 (S) " λεγων] post γαρ K L P al. pler. cat. Ir. Thphyl. Oec. " αυτω] om K al. 25 Oec. " πονηροις] + ecce praedixi nobis ne in diem Domini condemnemini m63 : + ecce praedixi nobis ut in diem Domini nostri Jesu Christi non confundamini vgsix Such additions are not uncommon in the text of the Speculum.

12, 13. Conclusion

12. ὑμῖν] The position of the pronoun is perhaps emphatic. The writer of these Epistles is clearly well acquainted with the circumstances of those whom he addresses.

οὐκ ἐβουλήθην] One of the more certain instances in the N.T. of the epistolary aorist.

χάρτου καὶ μέλανος] Cf. the similar phrase in 3 John 1:13, μέλανος καὶ καλάμου, and 2 Corinthians 3:3, οὐ μέλανι ἀλλὰ πνεύματι. The material denoted is, of course, papyrus, the usual material for correspondence and for the cheaper kinds of books. Contrast 2 Timothy 4:13, μάλιστα τὰς μεμβράνας.Cf. Jer_43. (36.) 23, ἐξέλιπεν πᾶς ὁ χάρτης εἰς τὸ πῦρ.γενέσθαι] If there is any difference of meaning between this word and the more usual ἐλθεῖν into which it has been altered in the Textus Receptus, γενέσθαι seems rather to mean to “pay a visit” (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:3, 1 Corinthians 16:10, ἵνα ἀφόβως γένηται πρὸς ὑμᾶς). The intercourse which the coming makes possible is emphasized rather than the actual fact of coming. But cf. Tebtunis Pap. ii. 298 (p. 421), ἅμα τῷ λαβεῖν σε ταῦτά μου τὰ γράμματα γενοῖ πρὸς μέ, and also John 6:21 (ἐγένετο ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς), 25. πότε ὧδε γέγονας

For the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.
Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.
And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
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.
Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.
The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.
ICC New Testament commentary on selected books

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