3 John 1
ICC New Testament Commentary
The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.


1. ὁ πρεσβύτερος] Cf. 2 John 1:1 note.

Γαίῳ] Three persons of this name are mentioned in the N. T. (1) Gaius the Macedonian, who is mentioned together with Aristarchus in connection with the tumult in the theatre at Ephesus (Acts 19:29). They are described as Macedonians, fellow travellers of S. Paul. (2) Gaius of Derbe, one of S. Paul’s companions on his last journey to Jerusalem. (3) Gaius of Corinth. Cf. Romans 16:23, Γαίος ὁ ξένος μου καὶ ὅλης τῆς ἐκκλησίας: 1 Corinthians 1:14, Κρίσπον καὶ Γάιον, whom S. Paul mentions as the only Corinthians, besides the household of Stephanas, whom he had baptized himself. Of this Gaius, Origen says that according to tradition he was the first Bishop of Thessalonica. Cf. Origen, Comm. in Ro. x. 41, “Fertur sane traditione maiorum quod hic Gaius primus episcopus fuerit Thessalonicensis ecclesiae.” Dom Chapman’s ingenious attempt to connect the Epistle with Thessalonica on this ground is not convincing (see Introd.). Coenen (ZWTh., 1872, p. 264 ff.) has attempted to show that Gaius of Corinth is intended in the “fictitious” address of this Epistle, on the ground of the similarity of the conditions prevailing here and at Corinth, as testified by the Pauline Epistles. The similarities are of too general a character either to compel identification or even to make it probable. Coenen’s interpretation of ὁ ἐρχόμενος (2 Corinthians 11:4) as a “pillar apostle whom S. Paul’s opponents threatened to invite to Corinth to overthrow his authority,” is certainly not helped by the statement in our Epistle of the Elder’s intention of paying a visit to the Church of Gaius. But perhaps it is not necessary now to spend time in dealing with the theory that the two smaller Johannine Epistles owe their origin to the desire of the “great unknown” to gain credence for the view that his more important forgeries (the Gospel and First Epistle) were really the work of the son of Zebedee. As Windisch says, “III. (i.e. 3 Jn.) für Fiktion zu erklären, widerspricht allen gesunden Sinnen.” The statement in Const. Apostol. vii. 46, that Gaius was the first Bishop of Pergamus, is of too slight historical value to guide our conjectures as to the recipient of this Epistle (vid. Introd.). Bartlet’s suggestion of Thyatira does not claim more than relative probability. But all such attempts at identification of the Church or the individual addressed are mere speculation. Where our knowledge is inadequate the building up of hypothesis is of the nature of pastime rather than of serious work. Truer scholarship is seen in Harnack’s less interesting judgment, “Gaius, to whom (the Epistle) is addressed, receives no title of honour. That he occupied a prominent position in his Church is clear from what follows.” In Commentaries, if not in periodicals, the rule should be remembered that “there is a time to keep silence.”

τῷ ἀγαπητῷ] A favourite word of the writer of these Epistles, in which it occurs ten times, though it is not found in the Gospel. For its use in salutations, cf. Romans 1:7, Romans 1:16:5, Romans 1:8, Romans 1:9, Romans 1:12; Colossians 4:9, Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:2; Philemon 1:1.

ὃν… ἀληθείᾳ] Cf. 2 John 1:1 (notes).

εγω] om. boh-cod.

2. περὶ πάντων] must be taken with εὐοδοῦσθαι. The writer prays for the prosperity of Gaius in all respects, and especially in the matter of health. There is no need to alter περὶ πάντων into the conventional πρὸ πάντων of epistolary introductions. The converse change would be far more likely to have taken place.

εὐοδοῦσθαι] Bartlet’s ingenious conjecture that the other name of Gaius may have been Euodias, is again outside the sphere of commentary. The word is part of the common and conventional language of Epistles. For its use in the N. T., compare Romans 1:10; 1 Corinthians 16:2. Cf. also Hermas, Sim. vi. 3, 5.

δγιαίνειν] The word may possibly suggest that Gaius’ health had caused his friends anxiety; but it certainly does not necessarily do so. Its use in letters is conventional. Cf. Oxyrh. Pap. ii. 293 (p. 293), Διονύσιος Διδύμῃ τῇ ἀδελφῇ πλειστὰ χαίρειν καὶ διὰ παντὸ[ς] ὑγιαίνειν, and ii. 292 (p. 292), πρὸ δὲ πάντων ὑγιαίνειν σε εὔχομαι ἀβασκάντως τὰ ἄριστα πράσσων.

καθὼς… ψυχή] Cf. Philo, Quis rer. div. heres, p. 514 (Wendland, iii. p. 65). Philo is commenting on “μετʼ εἰρήνης τραφείς” (Genesis 15:15). Πότε οὖν τοῦτο συμβήσεταῖ; ὅταν εὐοδῇ μὲν τὰ ἐκτὸς πρὸς εὐπορίαν καὶ εὐδοξίαν, εὐοδῇ δὲ τὰ σώματος πρὸς ὑγίειάν τε καὶ ἰσχύν, εὐοδῇ δὲ τὰ ψυχῆς πρὸς ἀπόλαυσιν ἀρετῶν.The reference is to be found in Wettstein.

και ῦγιαινειν] om. boh-codd. " καθως] + καιIc 364 (137).3. ἐχάρην] Cf. 2 John 1:4; Php 4:10.

ἐρχομένων… καὶ μαρτυρούντων] The tense almost precludes the reference of the words to a single occasion, and their evidence should not be so interpreted in attempts to discover the historical setting of the Epistles. They suggest rather the means by which the Elder kept himself in touch with the Churches for whose welfare he regarded himself as responsible, and over which he exercised his supervision.

σου τῇ ἀληθείᾳ] As always in the Johannine writings, “truth” covers every sphere of life, moral, intellectual, spiritual. Those who visited Ephesus had from time to time borne witness that Gaius’ whole life corresponded to the highest standard of life and conduct.

περιπατεῖς] Cf. note on 1 John 1:6.

εχαρην γαρA B C K L P al. pler. boh-codd. syrbodl et p Thphyl. Oec.] om. γαρ א 4. 5. 6. 13. 25. 65. 100 dscr vg. boh-ed. sah. arm. aeth. " σου] σοιIa 64 (328) sah. (uid.) " τη αληθεια] την αληθειανIa 158, 1100 (395): caritati boh-cod. " συ] pr. και22. 56. 80. 98 arm-codd. (uid.): om. A 37.

4. μειζοτέραν] Cf. ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ, Ephesians 3:8; Deissmann, Bibel Studien, p. 142, who quotes Pap. Lond. 130, μεγιστότατος.

τούτων] explained by the clause introduced by ἵνα. The plural is used instead of the singular, as the writer is thinking of more than one occasion on which he had experienced the joy of which he speaks. If this explanation of the plural is correct there is no need to correct the text by supplying ἤ before ἵνα, as Wilamowitz suggests (Hermes, 1898, p. 531). In his interesting note on the Epistle he does not offer any explanation of τούτων. Cf. John 15:13, μείζονα ταύτης ἀγάπην οὐδεὶς ἔχει, ἵνα τις τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ θῇ. The ἤ is actually found in one Greek cursive.

χαράν] The variant χάριν is probably due to scribe, who substituted a commoner phrase. Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:15. For χαρά, cf. 1 John 1:4; 2 John 1:12; Philemon 1:7.

τὰ ἐμὰ τέκνα] Those over whom he exercises his fatherly supervision, whether actually his “children in the faith” or not. The bearing of this phrase on the meaning of τέκνα in the Second Epistle should not be overlooked.

μειζοτεραν] μειζοτερονIb 78-157 (—): μειζονα137 " τουτων ουκ εχω] post χαρανH 257 (33) Ia 505. 192 (69) O 46 (154) " τουτων] ταυτης27. 29. 31. 40. 66**. 68. 69. 73 dscr al. fere. 10 sah. boh-ed. syrbodl Dam. " ουκ εχω] post χαρανC 31. 68 aeth. " ουκ] om. Ic 364 (137) " εχων B* " χαραν א A C K L P al. pler. cat. tol. arm. sah.] χαριν B 7. 35 vg. cop. " ινα] pr. η69 vg. (maiorem horum … quam ut) vid. sup. " ακουσωIa 216 δ355 (301) " τεκνα] σπλαγχναIc 114 (335).

5. ἀγαπητέ] Cf. vv. 1, 2.πιστὸν ποιεῖς] either (1) “thou doest a faithful thing,” an action corresponding to the faith that is in thee, which is the natural meaning of the word, if we consider the general usage of the writer, though there is no exact parallel; or (2) “thou makest sure whatsoever thou mayest do,” thou doest that which shall not “fail of its true issue,” shall receive its due reward. Cf. Xen. (quoted by Wettstein) ἂν μὲν δέῃ ταῦτα ποιεῖν πιστά, ὁμήρους δοτέον.

ὃ ἐὰν ἐργάσῃ] The judgment is expressed absolutely, the present tense being used. The ὃ ἐὰν ἐργάσῃ covers both the past action, to which the recipients of Gaius’ hospitality have borne public witness before the Ephesian Church, and the future benefits, which the Elder feels confident that Gaius will confer at his request.

καὶ τοῦτο ξένους] For καὶ τοῦτο, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:6, ἀδελφὸς μετὰ ἀδελφοῦ κρίνεται, καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ ἀπίστων: Php 1:28, ἔνδειξις… ὑμῶν δὲ σωτηρίας, καὶ τοῦτο ἀπὸ θεοῦ: Ephesians 2:8, τῇ γὰρ χάριτι ἐστὲ σεσωσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν. Its use in Romans 13:11 is rather different.

The recognition of the duty of φιλοξενία among Christians is fully testified, 1 Timothy 5:10; Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; Heb_1 P. 4:9, as also the special duties of the leaders in this respect, 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8. Cf. also Herm. Sim. ix. 27, ἐκ δὲ τοῦ ὄρους τοῦ δεκάτου, οὗ ἦσαν δένδρα σκεπάζοντα πρόβατά τινα, οἱ πιστεύσαντες τοιοῦτοί εἰσιν· ἐπίσκοποι φιλόξενοι, οἵτινες ἡδέως εἰς τοὺς οἴκους ἑαυτῶν πάντοτε ὑπεδέξαντο τοὺς δούλους τοῦ θεοῦ ἄτερ ὑποκρίσεως… οὗτοι οὗν πάντες σκεπασθήσονται ὑπὸ τοῦ κυρίου διαπαντός. Justin, Apol. i. 67, αὐτὸς (sc. ὁ προεστὼς) ἐπικουρεῖ… καὶ τοῦς παρεπιδήμοις οὖσι ξένοις.

πιστον] pr. uenim et boh-cod.: πιστωςIa 175 (319) "εργαση א B C K L Pal. omnuid cat. etc.] εργαζη A " τους] om. H δ6 (Ψ) " και τουτοא A B C 17. 27. 29. 33. 66**. 68. 81. 97. 126mg vg. syrbodl et p sah. cop. arm. aeth.] και ταυταIa 200f (83): και εις τους K L P al. pler. dscr (om. τους) cat. Thphyl. Oec.

6. οἳ ἐμαρτύρησαν κ.τ.λ.] The ἀγάπη to which they bore witness was clearly manifested in the hospitable reception of those who were strangers to him, some of whom must subsequently have visited Ephesus. It is natural to interpret this verse as referring to one of the occasions mentioned in ver. 3, or more than one if the witness is to be regarded as a single fact, though including a series of acts.

ἐνώπιον ἐκκλησίας] The absence of the article is significant. The anarthrous phrase denotes a meeting of the Church at which the witness was borne. Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:19, 1 Corinthians 14:35, ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ: John 18:20, ἐν συναγωγῇ καὶ ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ: also 6:59.καλῶς ποιήσεις προπέμψας] The reading ποιήσας προπέμψεις is probably a correction. καλῶς ποιήσεις is a common phrase in letters, and no special stress should be laid on it. It is a conventional expression. In many papyrus letters the double future occurs. Many letter writers would have written καλῶς ποιήσεις προπέμψεις. But the textual evidence does not justify our attributing such a solecism to the author. For the phrase, cf. Tebtunis Pap. i. 56, p. 167, καλῶς οὖν ποιήσῃς εὐχαριστῆναι πρῶτον μὲν τοῖς θεοῖς δεύτερον δὲ σῶσαι ψυχὰς πολλάς: 57, p. 168, καλῶς οὖν ποιήσεις ἀπολύσας αὐτούς: Oxyrh. Pap. ii. 294 (p. 294), εὖ οὖν ποιήσις γράψας μοι ἀντιφώνησιν: 297 (p. 298), καλῶσποιήσεις γράψεις διὰ πιττακίων: 299 (p. 300), καλῶς ποιήσεις πέμψεις μοι αὐτάς: 300 (p. 301), καλῶς ποιήσεις ἀντιφωνήσασάμοι ὅτι ἐκομίσου: i. 116 (p. 182), καλῶς οὖν ποιήσαντες δότε παράμμωνι. It is so common that a schoolboy uses it sarcastically, ii. 119, καλῶς ἐποίησες οὐκ ἀπένηχές με μετὲ σοῦ εἰς πόλιν. Cf. also ps.-Aristias, 39, καλῶς οὖν ποιήσεις καὶ τῆς ἡμετέρας σπουδῆς ἀξίως ἐπιλεξάμενος ἄνδρας κ.τ.λ.: 46, καλῶς οὖν ποιήσεις… προστάξας.

προπέμψας] Cf. Titus 3:13, σπουδαίως πρόπεμψον ἵνα μηδὲν αὐτοῖς λείπῃ. It is also found in Acts and the earlier Pauline Epistles (Ro.; 1, 2 Co.).

ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ] Cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:12, εἰς τὸ περιπατεῖν ὑμᾶς ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ καλοῦντος ὑμᾶς κ.τ.λ. The adverb is also found with the following genitives: τῶν ἁγίων (Romans 16:2), τῆς κλήσεως (Ephesians 4:1), τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τοῦ Χριστοῦ (Php 1:27), τοῦ κυρίου (Colossians 1:10).

οι] o K " σου] σοιIa 64 (328): om. Ib δ309 (35) " την αγαπηνH 162 (61) Ic 364 (137) " εκκλησιας] pr. τηςIa 200. 175. 101 (83) O46 (154): ecclesiarum eorum boh-ed. " ους] ου B* " ποιησεις προπεμψας א A B K L P etc. (ποιεις7. 18. 27. 29. 68 demid. tol. al.) am. fu. tol. demid. boh-sah.] ποιησασπροπεμψεις C vg. (benefaciens deduces) arm. (deducis) " αξιως] αξιουςIa 70. 175 (505) " του θεου] τω θῶIa 70.f (505) O46 (154): om. Isa_55 (236).

7. ὑπὲρ γὰρ τοῦ ὀνόματος] gives the reason why they deserve such help. For the phrase, cf. Acts 5:41, χαίροντες… ὅτι κατηξιώθησαν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος ἀτιμασθῆναι. We may also compare Romans 1:5, ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. Dom Chapman’s interpretation of the phrase as hinting at “withdrawal from the scene of persecution,” or even banishment, at a time when the mere fact of being a Christian was enough to procure condemnation (cf. 1 P. 4:14, εἰ ὀνειδίζεσθε ἐν ὀνόματι Χριστοῦ: 15, μὴ ὡς φονεύς… εἰ δὲ ὡς Χριστιανός, μὴ αἰσχυνέσθω) is wholly unnatural. As Bartlet has pointed out, it might be possible if the phrase used were διὰ τὸ ὄνομα.The absolute use of τὸ ὄνομα, which is found in the passage quoted from Acts (cf. also Php 2:9), is also to be found in Ignatius (ad Eph. iii. εἰ γὰρ καὶ δέδεμαι ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι: vii. εἰώθασινγάρ τινες δόλῳ πονηρῷ τὸ ὄνομα περιφέρειν ἄλλα τινὰ πράσσοντες ἀνάξια θεοῦ: ad Philad. x. δοξάσαι τὸ ὄνομα). The “name” is clearly that of Christ. The fact that their having gone out on behalf of the name is put forward as the reason why they deserve hospitality, certainly does not carry with it the necessity of regarding the “name” as that of “brother.” Missionaries no doubt proclaimed the brotherhood of believers, but their first duty was to proclaim the name of Christ.

ἐξῆλθαν] probably from Ephesus, though Dr. Westcott’s more cautious statement, “from some Church well known to the Apostle and Gaius,” is alone completely justified by the facts known to us from the Epistle and by the language used.

μηδὲν λαμβάνοντες] The form of the sentence (μηδέν) states more than the bare fact. It was their custom, a custom which emphasized the character of their work, to carry out the spirit of the Commission to the Twelve (Matthew 10:8, δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε), and the tradition established by Paul (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:14, ἑτοίμως ἔχω ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, καὶ οὐ καταναρκήσω οὐ γὰρ ζητῶ τὰ ὑμῶν ἀλλʼ ὑμᾶς: 1 Thessalonians 2:9, νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας ἐργαζόμενοι πρὸς τὸμὴ ἐπιβαρῆσαί τινα ὑμῶν ἐκηρύξαμεν εἰς ὑμᾶς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦθεοῦ. They carried out as their rule of mission work the Pauline custom of refusing support from those amongst whom they were working as Missionaries. They had therefore a special claim on the hospitality and help of the Churches in places through which they had to pass. There is an interesting parallel to the sentence in the Didache xi. 6, ἐξερχόμενος δὲ ὁ ἀπόστολος μηδὲν λαμβανέτω εἰ μὴ ἄρτον, ἕως οὗ αὐλισθῇ, ἐὰν δὲ ἀργύριον αἰτῇ ψευδοπροφήτης ἐστίν. It is hardly necessary to deal at length with the interpretation which connects ἐξῆλθαν with ἀπὸ τῶν ἐθνικῶν, and bases their claim to help on the fact that they had been expelled from their home because of their faith, “eiecti erant propter religionem ab extraneis, nihilque secum apportauerunt” (Carpzov quoted by Poggel).

ἀπὸ τῶν ἐθνικῶν] For λαμβάνειν with ἀπό, cf. Matthew 17:25, ἀπὸ τίνων λαμβάνουσιν τέλη; and for the contrast between Christians and ἐθνικοί, cf. Matthew 5:47, ἐὰν ἀσπάσησθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς ὑμῶν μόνον,τί περισσὸν ποιεῖτε; οὐχὶ καὶ οἱ ἐθνικοὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;
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:
Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.
We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
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.
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.
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.
I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:
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.
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