The Second Epistle of John (often simply called 2nd John or II John) is a book in the Christian Holy Scriptures, the authorship of which has been traditionally attributed to John the Evangelist by the Christian Church, although this is debated heatedly. It is the 70th of 73 books in the Bible, located near the end of the New Testament. The epistle is the shortest book in the Bible, comprising a mere thirteen verses.
The Letter's Contents
It reads as follows:
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us for ever:
Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.
Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.
Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
The children of your elect sister send you their greetings.
Interpretation of “The Lady”
The text is addressed to “the elect lady and her children,” and closes with the words, “The children of thy elect sister greet thee.” However, some translators prefer to transliterate the Greek word for "lady" with the proper name Kyria. The person addressed is commended for her piety, and is warned against false teachers.
Naturally, another interpretation is possible. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation, the writer speaks of a woman and a dragon. The dragon plots maliciously against the woman and one of her children, but is frustrated in his attempts to do them harm. In anger he then pursues the rest of her children.
Verse four of 2nd John reads, “I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth.” It may be the woman of portent from Revelation to which this epistle is addressed.
Authorship and Purpose
The language of this epistle is remarkably similar to 3 John. It is therefore suggested by a few that a single author composed both of these letters, although it has been doubted that the same person also wrote the Gospel of John, the First Epistle, or the Book of Revelation. Still, the traditional view contends that all the letters are by the hand of John the apostle, and the linguistic structure, special vocabulary, and polemical issues all lend toward this theory.
Also significant is the clear warning against paying heed to those who say that Jesus was not a flesh-and-blood figure: “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” This establishes that, from the time the epistle was first written, there were those who had docetic Christologies, believing that the human person of Jesus was merely an illusion and he was actually pure spirit. I.e. this establishes the possibility of the presence of gnosticism at the dawn of Christianity. Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, amongst others contend, that the epistle's content indicates that Jesus was a purely mythical figure from the start.
Alternatively, the letter's acknowledgment and rejection of gnostic theology may reveal a later date of authorship than orthodox Christianity claims. This can not be assured by a simple study of the context. Gnosticism's beginnings and its relationship to Christianity is poorly dated, due to an insufficient corpus of literature relating the first interactions between the two religions. It vehemently condemns such anti-corporeal attitudes, which also indicates that those taking such unorthodox positions were either sufficiently vocal, persuasive, or numerous enough to warrant rebuttal in this form. Adherents of gnosticism were most numerous during the second and third centuries.
Thus, in regard to this matter and this document, either one of two explanations is commonly held:
- ↑ Cf. Bart D. Ehrman. Lost Christianities. Oxford University press, 2003, p.116-126