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New Testament Survey: The Book Of Third John

Written By: Steve Shirley

The Book Of Third John


  • 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” (3 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, as was pointed out in 2nd John, because 2nd John and 3rd John share a number of similarities (including being written by “the elder”), most scholars agree that they share a common author. Since we established that 2nd John was almost certainly written by the Apostle John, 3rd John must have been as well.
  • Only 4 of the key early church fathers (Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius) affirmed that John authored this book. Eusebius placed it among the disputed Scriptures, even though he personally believed it was genuine.
  • The reasons why it didn’t gain early acceptance were most likely because of its brevity, personal content, and limited circulation.
  • The title of this letter has always been (Gr = “Ioannou G”)(Gamma is the 3rd letter of the Greek alphabet) or “Third of John.”
  • 3rd John is the shortest letter in the New Testament (296 words) (219 in words Greek).

The Stats:

  • Chapters: 1
  • Verses: 13

Date Written:

  • App. 90-95 A.D.

Place Written:

  • Ephesus (See: Survey: 1st John for more on this)

Written To:

  • Gaius
  • Gaius was a common name in the first century. There are three other men named Gaius in the Bible:
    • Gaius of Macedonia (Acts 19:29) – He traveled with Paul.
    • Gaius of Corinth (Rom 16:23)(1 Cor 1:14) – Paul stayed with him in Corinth and likely led him to the Lord.
    • Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4)
  • However, since reliable tradition says John was the “superintendent” of churches in the area around Ephesus (Asia Minor or modern Turkey, likely the 7 churches that John mentions in Rev 2 & 3), it is unlikely that he wrote to any of these men. There is some evidence that he was writing to a bishop at Pergamos named Gaius.

Key Verses:

(3 Jn 5, 11)


  • To commend Gaius for “walking in the truth” and showing hospitality to brothers and strangers and to encourage him to keep doing so (3 Jn 1-8).
  • To indirectly rebuke Diotrephes for his wicked behavior (3 Jn 9-11).
  • To give a good report on Demetrius (3 Jn 12).
  • To inform Gaius that he hoped to see him soon (3 Jn 13-14).

Special Emphasis:

  • Three key men are emphasized in 3rd John:

Gaius: A “beloved” (3 Jn 2,5,11) friend of John. It appears that he was a well-known, prominent, and wealthy Christian. He may have been a member of one of the churches that John was the “superintendent” of in Asia (possibly Diotrephes’ church). John commended him for “walking in truth” (3 Jn 3-4), and being “faithful” (3 Jn 5) by showing “love” (3 Jn 6) and hospitality to traveling missionaries. John warns him not to “follow that which is evil (Diotrephes), but that which is good” (3 Jn 11).

Diotrephes: He is depicted as an arrogant, prideful, unloving, self-centered man who “loves to be first” (3 Jn 9). He was likely a bishop in charge of one of the churches under John’s oversight. As the leader, he rejected a previous letter sent by John (3 Jn 9)(which may have been 2nd John), and slandered John “with malicious words” (3 Jn 10). He also refused to show hospitality to traveling missionaries, and even “put out of the church” those who did help them (3 Jn 10). It is interesting to note, however, that John does not accuse him of heresy, or teaching false doctrine.

Demetrius: John says that everyone has “a good testimony” of him, and that he stood for the truth (3 Jn 12). Most believe that he delivered 3rd John as John’s response to the reports from the traveling missionaries about the hospitality of Gaius, and their rejection by Diotrephes.

  • Just as in 2nd John, the word “truth” is emphasized. It is used 6 times in the 13 verses


  • There are three divisions:

1. Personal greetings, 1-4.

2. Instructions concerning ministering brethren, 5-8.

3. The apostate leader and the good Demetrius, 9-14.

(Survey from Scofield Reference Notes [1917 ed.]: Public Domain)

Copyright: © Steve Shirley