A Sample Passage from the Comments on Second John:
Robinson places the writing of this letter in the same general period as that of 1 John, AD 60-65.
1. The old person, to a chosen-out (selected) Lady (feminine form: mistress; lord, female owner or authority), and to her children (born-ones), whom I love in truth and in union with reality (or: I truly love), and not I only, but also all those having come to know the Truth by personal experience and are now having insight of Reality,
I have given the literal meaning of the word used for the writer. It is often rendered, "The elder," but this presumes an organizational structure that may not have existed at this early date. Bultmann states that "It is improbable that the term is the title of an office; in that case, one would expect the text to read: ... 'the elder of the church at...' In an earlier period the term could mean simply the 'old man'" (ibid. p 95). The assumption by other scholars that this letter is from a later date leads them to conclude that it meant the later office of an "elder" in the church system, such as with the letters of Ignatius. Tradition has identified this person as John, the writer of the other letters in this collection, and many believe him also to be the author of the gospel of John. Similar statements are made in all of these documents.
Scholars differ as to the significance of the word kuria, to whom the letter is addressed. It is the feminine form of the word "lord; master; etc." as shown above. Some take this to be a specific woman in a place of authority (perhaps the leader of the local group), or even a property owner. Others assume that it is a technical word to signify the called-out covenant community itself, with "her children" referring to the members of that community. Whichever the case, the letter is written to a specific person, or community.
If written to a community, then the word "old person" may have been used in a communal way signifying the writer had a relationship with them as being a part of their community, and was their leader. "Elders" was a term that referred to the older people within a community, and from their wisdom and experience they naturally function as the leaders. But it was not normal for there to be just one elder in a community. The leadership was usually a group. If this was written to a woman who was the head of her household (which may have comprised the entirety of the called-out folks of that town or area), then the term which he uses to identify himself may simply have been a relational term by which he had been know to them, a term of endearment and honor. He expresses covenant love for them which has its source in the reality which came with the resurrection of the Messiah, and in the Truth that had been brought to them.
He affirms that these folks, and perhaps others by now, have come to know (gino sko ) the Truth by personal experience, and are now having insight of the Reality of the new arrangement between God and humanity – what Paul also calls "the new creation." Using the word Truth, which also means Reality, instead of the term Christ may be setting the tone of this letter as a polemic against the gnosticizing false teachers of that time and place – just as 1 John is understood to be written.
2. because of the Truth and Reality [which is] continuously remaining (abiding; dwelling; staying) within us – and shall continue being with us on into the Age;
Note the affirmation of the Truth (which also refers to Christ Himself – John 14:6) constantly dwelling with "us." This inclusive plural pronoun shows that John considered these folks a part of the greater body of Christ. The term "Age" (aio n) signified an indefinite period of time whose end could not be discerned. In the Jewish world view, "the Age" referred to the Age of the Messiah, and since the story of the Messiah that had come to these folks had its roots in the story of Israel, this was probably John's meaning. This Truth and Reality of the new covenant would continue to be with them into the unforeseeable future into which this Age would extend. This was another way of saying that Christ would be with them from then on.
3. grace (or: Joyous favor), mercy [and] peace [= shalom] will continuously be with us from beside (or: in the presence of; along with) God the Father, and from beside (or: in the presence of; along with) Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, within Truth (or: in the midst of reality) and Love.
The Truth and Reality that he spoke of in the previous verse have three central components, which are also qualities of God the Father and Jesus Christ: "grace (or: joyous favor), mercy [and] love." These have their source in God and Jesus Christ, and are always present alongside of them (the Greek preposition is para). So since we have the Father and the Son (vs. 9, below), we have grace, mercy and peace. And all this is "within Truth and Love" – which also describe God, so this indicates the sphere within which the joyous favor, the mercy and the peace have come to humanity – as well as the environment within which humanity exists (Acts 17:28).
4. I was made exceedingly glad and joyful (or: was greatly graced) because I have met with and found folks from among your children [who are] continuously walking about within Truth (or: = living their lives in union with reality), according as we took in hand an implanted goal (impartation of the finished product within; inward purposed directive) from beside the Father.
The verb "met with and found" indicates that John had experienced a personal encounter with some of "her children." So he was not a stranger to this group, and thus had a relationship with them. He had observed their conduct and found their lives to be in union with this new reality of the covenant community that the risen Christ had gathered around himself.
I rendered the verb lambano with its very literal meaning, "took in hand," to stress metaphorically the personal involvement in "receiving" (a usual translation of the word) a gift with intent to make use of it. John spoke frequently in 1 John (e.g., cf 2:7 & 8 there) of the "implanted goal" – the impartation of the finish product (Christ) within us, which embodies His inward purposed directive: just love people!
The Greek word entole is often translated "commandment." I have opted instead for rendering it from the meaning of the elements of the word, en (in; within; in the midst; in union with; inner; inward) and telos (purposed end; goal; destiny; finished product). As just one example, when a father tells his child something that he wants the child to do or be, by his words he implants the goal of the desired action or being into the child's mind and heart. He imparts something from his mind or heart with a view to the finished product by or within the child. It can come in the form of a command or a directive, but its essence and meaning is the desired result – not the form in which the goal is given. As we see here, the context is familial. The word or thought comes to us from our Father, and as you see below in vs. 5, the intent of the goal is a love that is lived out to other people. He imparts this destiny into our very DNA, our heart and being – by placing Himself within us and thus we become "one spirit" (1 Cor. 6:17) and act from out of our renewed nature. Love is not commanded, but rather imparted via His Word of Truth, and the new Reality – it is His Seed that is planted within us (1 Pet. 1:23; 1 John 3:9). It is the sphere of the life of the covenant community.
The last phrase "from beside the Father" points to our unity with Him, as well as to the unity of the Father and the Son – the answer to Jesus' prayer in John 17:22-23. This also recalls 1 John 1:3.
5. And so now I am asking you, Lady, not as writing a new implanted goal (impartation of the finished product within; inward directive of destiny) to you, but one which we have had from [the] beginning (or: one which we originally had), to the intent that we may continuously be loving each other.
We meet this title "Lady" once again, rather than the more normal "brothers" – if he was speaking corporately – or, "little children," as we find in 1 John. It is almost an echo of the letters written to the called-out communities in Rev. 2 & 3, where the messages were addressed "to the agent" of the covenant group within each city. Of course, if this "Lady" is actually an individual, the head of a household, then this is quite reasonable.
This verse is almost identical to 1 John 2:7 (cf John 13:35-35), but here that "directed destiny" is simplified: "Be continuously loving each other." In this, the idea of community and interpersonal involvement can easily be seen. He is not talking about mere words, "I love you brother," but the entire sense of agape , as distilled from the writings of Paul Tillich:
"the whole being's drive and movement toward reunion with another, to overcome existential separation; an ecstatic manifestation of the Spiritual Presence; acceptance of the object of love without restriction, in spite of the estranged, profanized and demonized state of the object" – Systematic Theology III, pp 134-138.
6. And this is Love: that we may be continuously walking about (= go on living our lives and ordering our behavior) according to (or: down from; in line with; on the level of; in the sphere of; commensurate with) His implanted goals (impartations of the finished destiny within; inward directives). This is the imparted and implanted goal, even as you heard from [the] beginning (or: even which you originally heard): that you would (or: could) be continuously walking about within it (= go on living your lives in union with it)!
Something more that I want to point out about His "inward directives," is that this is simply the leading by His Spirit (Rom. 8:14) – and He does this because we are His sons and daughters, His family. Take note of the expanded meanings of "according to" (kata). In 1 John 2:3 he states it differently. There we are to "keep, guard, observe and maintain" the internalized goals. Here we are shown the quality and extent that we are to "keep... maintain" them, as we live our lives. Furthermore, part of the implanted and imparted goal is the very living in union with it, and ordering our lives "accordingly." But the redundancy of this concluding clause is typical of the Asian rhetoric, a kind of communication that the recipients of that time and area would have been quite familiar. He was emphasizing his point. (cf 1 John 5:3; John 14:35)
7. Since many wandering-astray folks (or: many who lead astray; many deceivers) went out into the ordered System (world of religion, secular culture, economics and government) – those not continuously speaking like (saying the same thing as; confessing) Jesus presently coming in flesh (= a physical body; or: = in [their] inner self): this is the person wandering astray, even the one in opposition to Christ (the one instead of Christ; the one in place of Christ; or: the anti-anointing) –
Like 1 John, he now turns to addressing the issue of the false teachers and continues speaking on this topic through vs. 11. These admonitions are virtually the same as those presented in 1 John 2:18-27 and 4:1-6. This may be an indication that this was an individual letter, repeating what he had previously sent out in the general letter (1 John), but found that this particular group had not received that one.
See the comment on this topic in 1 John 2 & 4 for a more complete explanation of the last clause here.
8. be continuously seeing to yourselves (looking at yourselves), to the intent that you people would (or: may) not destroy (or: lose) what we [other MSS: you folks] did (produced; worked for), but rather may receive back full wages.
He is describing the life of the community like a building project, or a crop planted – familiar metaphors in Paul and Jesus. This negative admonition is the reverse side of the "keeping, guarding, observing and maintaining" that he spoke of in 1 John 2:3, and elsewhere. Paul gave a similar admonition in 1 Cor. 3:6-23. There Paul speaks of the "the wisdom (cleverness; skill) of this world System (or: pertaining to this ordered and controlling arrangement of culture, religion and politics; or: from this secular society)" in vs. 19, then cites Ps. 94:11 that says,
"the reasonings (thought processes; designs) of the wise ones, that they are and continue being fruitless and to no purpose" (vs. 20).
These were examples of those community members or groups that built upon God's "house" with wood hay and straw – things that would not stand the tests of God's dealings (fires). In vs. 14 Paul told them,
''If anyone's work which he built upon [it] will remain, he will receive wages (pay; compensation)."
John is saying the same thing here. He is using, as did Paul, analogies from the physical life of the community to point out that God's reign is in many ways similar. But our wages and rewards are things of the spirit. When we sow love into people, we reap love back.
9. Everyone leading forward (going ahead; leading in advance; [some MSS: transgressing]) and yet not remaining (abiding; dwelling; staying) within Christ's teaching does not have God; the person remaining (dwelling; abiding; staying) within that teaching, this one continuously has (or: holds; possesses) both Father and Son (or: the Father and the Son).
The false teachers thought that they were "leading in advance," or pressing forward in the realm of spirit and glory. But their self-centered efforts to be spiritual blinded them to the fact that they were not loving others, meeting their needs, serving them – as Jesus taught and demonstrated. They were on a religious quest into the heights, but forgot that the good news is that God had come here to dwell with people and make their communities His home. They were caught away in the raptures of their own imaginations and deceptive experiences, while leaving Lazarus outside their doors (Lu. 16:19-31). And they are unaware that they do "not have God." They have illusion.
But the group that remained in union with Christ's teaching "has (holds; possesses) both Father and Son." The verb that John used here is astounding, and the present tense instructs us that this is our constant possession. Can we hold and possess God? Yes, because He has given Himself to us as a bridegroom gives himself to his bride. Paul teaches us that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the called-out community (Eph 5:25). We have and hold both God and one another, in love. And as Christ loved His covenant family and "gave Himself for her" so are we to love others, thus carrying on the life and mission of Jesus.
10. If a certain person is continually coming toward you and yet is not normally carrying (or: habitually bearing; continually bringing) this teaching, do not repeatedly take him into a house, and do not continuously say to him, "Rejoice!" (= giving him a greeting). 11. You see, the person continually telling him to be rejoicing (= greeting him as an associate) is continually sharing in common his worthless deeds
(having fellowship with his acts which bring a gush of misery; maintaining partnership with his wicked and evil works; participating in his painful, toilsome and useless actions).
To understand what on the surface seems like a harsh admonition, we need to first of all note that the verb "take" is in the present tense. They were not to "repeatedly" bring such folks into "[the] house" – i.e., into their covenant community, for the called-out groups of that day met in homes. They were not to receive them into union with their love-community because their false teachings were void of love, which was the very essence of the covenant group. Their teachings were self-centered and divisive, and promoted prejudiced elitism.
Verse 11 gives the reason for this behavior, which at first glance can seem un-Christlike. Telling them to "Rejoice" in their teachings would be hypocrisy and give a false approval of what they were teaching. Furthermore, in that culture, such a greeting was a marker of social union with the person, and as John said, would indicate that the covenant community was in continued "sharing in common with [their] worthless deeds."
The parenthetical expansions of vs. 11's final clause paint the dire picture of joining such folks in common partnership with their group. This is in line with Jesus separating His sheep from His kids, in Matt. 25:31-46, and His taking the kingdom away from the corrupt Jewish leadership (of which this very parable spoke). In the same way Jesus spoke of shutting the door to those that did not have the "oil" of the Anointing so as to be the Light of the world, when they tried to enter the wedding festivities (symbol of the celebrating of the arrival of the age of the Messiah – Matt. 25:1-12). Cf also Matt. 10:14; Lu. 10:10. We can love folks that are caught in such deception, but until they are joined unto the Lord in His Truth and Reality, there must for a time be a separation from what they are doing or teaching.
12. Having many things to write to you folks, I resolved not to – by means of paper and ink. For I am expecting (or: hoping) to come to y'all and to speak mouth-to-mouth, so that our [other MSS: your] joy can be "having been filled" (= be completely happy)!
13. The children of your chosen-out (selected) sister (= female fellow believer; or: = sister community of summoned forth folks) draw you to themselves (= greet you).
John, the old man, was being to them a father. His solidarity with them is unmistakable. The word normally translated "greet" here (aspazomai) literally mean "to embrace," and thus "draw" to oneself. This is a beautiful picture, and is instructive, for John uses it of those who were in another town, where John was staying – but it was used of welcoming someone into a person's house, in direct contrast to what he had advised in vs. 10. The children (probably = members) of her "chosen-out sister" were including her (the "you's" of vs. 13 are singular, so this closing is speaking directly to the "elect Lacy") and her "children" into the house (body) of Christ, welcoming them as joint-participants in the Messiah. Although perhaps a letter written to an individual woman, the message has obviously been for the entire congregation that likely meets in her home.
My normal indicator of a "you" being plural has been to add the word "folks," or "people," but I decided to end these comments with a smile, and follow J.R. Daniel Kirk's suggestion, "y'all" for plural personal pronouns (ibid. p 58). As to the MS differences on "our [your]" in vs. 12, Nyland's translation resolves this by rendering the clause: "so that we will be totally happy" (ibid. p 483). On this same phrase, see: 1 John 1:4; John 15:11; 16:24.
Observations on John
Ad: Order from Amazon.com*
NEW - Download the complete
Gospel of John Commentary PDF
Paul to Corinth
Ad: Order from Amazon.com*
NEW - Download the complete
The End of the Old & The Beginning of the New
Ad: Order from Amazon.com*
NEW - Download the complete
Great JMNT Companions:
ALL 5 OF JONATHAN'S
(Updated 2019 Edition)
Ad: Order from Amazon.com*
JONATHAN'S 4TH COMMENTARY
Peter's Encore & Later Paul
Comments on 2 Peter & Ephesians
Ad: Order from Amazon.com*
JONATHAN'S 3RD COMMENTARY
JONATHAN'S 2ND COMMENTARY
JONATHAN'S 1ST COMMENTARY
Jonathan's six volumes in a series of New Testament commentaries
Great companions to:
The New Testament
If you like the Amplified Bible, this translation unpacks more Word!
GOD'S MESSAGE OF
WHICH BRINGS GOD'S
GIFTS OF HIS SPIRIT,
HIS LIFE, HIS GRACE,
HIS POWER, HIS
FAIRNESS, HIS PEACE
AND HIS LOVE