Author: John (Son of Zebedee)
(For more on John see: Survey: Gospel of John)
Because the author of this letter does not call himself John, but instead,
"the elder" (2 Jn 1),
there has been speculation by some (based in part on writings by Papias and Eusebius) that the
author may have been another man called John The Elder ("presbyter John") who was a
contemporary of John and also lived in Ephesus.
However, the vocabulary, style, and content of 2nd John are very similar to the Gospel of John
and 1st John, both of which were unquestionably written by John. Compare:
2 Jn 5
(1 Jn 2:7)(1 Jn 3:11) / (Jn 13:34-35)
2 Jn 6
(1 Jn 5:3) / (Jn 14:23)
2 Jn 7
(1 Jn 2:18,22)(1 Jn 4:3) (the only times "antichrist(s)" is used in the NT) / (Jn 3:19-21)
2 Jn 9
(1 Jn 2:23) / (Jn 13:34)
2 Jn 12
(1 Jn 1:4) / (Jn 15:11)(1 Jn 16:24)
In addition, it was not unprecedented for an apostle to call himself an
"elder." Peter did this
as well in (1 Pet 5:1).
Very few of the key early church fathers (Polycarp, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus,
Eusebius) affirmed that John authored this book. Irenaeus thought it was a part of 1st John.
Eusebius stated in his writings that both 2nd and 3rd John were among the disputed scriptures,
although they were "well known and acknowledged by most." He believed they were genuine.
Origen, in particular, doubted that John authored it.
The reasons why it didn't gain early acceptance were most likely because of its brevity, personal
content, and limited circulation.
2nd John (298 words) and 3rd John (294 words) are the two shortest letters in the New Testament.
They also share similarities, which point to a common author:
"I love in truth"
(2 Jn 1) / (3 Jn 1)
"I rejoiced greatly"
(2 Jn 4) / (3 Jn 3) (used nowhere else in the New Testament)
"children walk(ing) in truth"
(2 Jn 4) / (3 Jn 4)
"many things to write"
(2 Jn 12) / (3 Jn 13)
"face to face"
(2 Jn 12) / (3 Jn 14)
This was the 7th of the 8 "General (Catholic="universal") Epistles"
(Heb, James, 1&2 Pet, 1,2,3 Jn, Jude).
App. 90-95 A.D.
This was likely written very soon after 1st John, with both 1st and 2nd John (and 3rd John) being
written after the Gospel of John (app. 85-90 A.D.). The Gospel of John and 1,2,3 John are
believed to have been written before John was banished to the isle of Patmos where he wrote
Revelation (Rev 1:9)(app. 95-97 A.D.).
Place Written: Ephesus (See: Survey: 1st John for more on this)
"the elect lady and her children"(2 Jn 1)
Scholars are about evenly split as to whether John was writing to a single
("the elect lady") with children, or whether "the elect lady" was symbolic of a church and the
"children" it's members. There are points to consider for each position.
For the figurative position:
Several verses are plural (i.e. "look to yourselves," Verse 8), which might point a church.
The church is pictured as a woman (or bride) in other places in the Bible (Jn 3:29)(2 Cor 11:2)(Eph 5:22-32)(Rev 19:7)(Rev 21:2,9)(Rev 22:17).
(3rd Jn 9) points to a previous letter written to "the church" which could be 2nd John.
For the literal position:
The plural verses could refer to the woman and her children.
Some scholars believe that the Greek word for "elect" (Eklektos) could have actually been
the woman's name. Therefore, he was writing to the "lady"
named "Eklektos." Some also
believe that the Greek word for "lady" (Kuria= feminine of Kurio) could have been the
woman's name. Therefore, he was writing to the "elect"
woman named "Kuria."
If this was written to an actual lady, she almost certainly was a very pious Christian woman of
high social standing and influence who often showed hospitality to traveling teachers.
It is clear that whomever this personal letter was written to, it's readers were well known to
the author, and he was well known to them. They were likely a part of one of the 7 churches of
Asia Minor (modern Turkey) that are mentioned in Revelation 2 & 3, of which tradition says John
was the "superintendent."
Key Verses: (2 Jn 6-7,10-11)
To give a warning not to associate with, support, or show hospitality to traveling false teachers
who were denying the incarnation of Christ.
To emphasize that they were to "walk in truth" and "walk in love."
The word "truth" is used 5 times in the first 4 verses. This emphasis on
"truth" does not only
refer to the Bible, but also to Jesus Christ who is the "truth" (Jn 14:6)(Jn 1:14).
The word "lady" (2 Jn 1,5) is used nowhere else in the New Testament.
The Epistle is in 3 divisions.
1. The pathway of truth and love, 1-6.
2. The peril of unscriptural ways, 7-11.
3. Superscription, 12-13.
(Survey from Scofield Reference Notes [1917 ed.]: Public Domain)