A Sample Passage from the Comments on Third John:

Robinson places this letter in the same time period of 2 John.


1. The old person, to Gaius, the beloved one, whom I myself am continuously loving in (or: within the midst of) truth and reality (or: truly loving).


This is obviously a personal letter to a man that was likely a dear friend (vs. 2) who would have known John by this curious reference to himself. From this we are to assume that it was written by the same person as 2 John. In this opening we see again the importance to John of "truth and reality," as he uses the word ale theia to set the scene, the realm of this new creation "within the midst of" which he dwells.


2. O beloved one! I am continuously having (or: thinking and speaking) goodness, ease and well-being (or: wishing and professing loudly; claiming) concerning all things [for] you to be constantly having a prosperous journey (or: to progressively travel a good path; to habitually be prospered unto success; to be continuously helped along the Way) and to be constantly sound and healthy [in mind, thought and body] just as (or: to the same degree as) your soul (inner being; or: = your life) is progressively being prospered on its journey (helped along the Way; prospered unto success; caused to travel the Good Path).


What an expression from a heart of love. This form of address, "O beloved one" was common among Christians (cf Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 4:14; 10:14; 1 Pet. 2:11), but it could also have been used from close personal relationship, and argues for the rendering "old person" in vs. 1, as likewise in 2 John. The first verb of the first clause is commonly translated "pray" and it might fit into the category of this English word. It is euchomai, a shortened version of the usual proseuchomai. Ann Nyland, in an extended note in her volume The Source New Testament (ibid. p 250-1), stresses that it does not mean "pray" (and here Bultmann concurs, ibid. p 97), but rather "claim, or vow." The literal meaning is "have goodness, ease and well-being." It would seem that John is experiencing the goodness, ease and well-being while he is considering everything concerning Gaius' "journey" in life.


3. You see, I was made exceedingly glad (or: I am caused to greatly rejoice) at the coming of the brothers (= fellow believers or members), from time to time, and their bearing witness of your [being] in the Truth, according as you yourself are continually walking about within Truth

(or: testifying to the reality concerning you in correspondence to the fact that you yourself are habitually living your life in union with truth and reality).


His "having goodness, ease and well-being" (in vs. 2) from considering Gaius' situation in regard to the Truth, gained expression in his greatly rejoicing when his associates brought the news about him. The parenthetical alternate rendering presents another way of understanding the Greek of the last clause. Both readings make sense. The same sentiment is expressed in 2 John 4. The reason for the joy is Gaius' conduct in life. Gaius is actually living out what he was taught when he learned of the presence of the Messiah.


4. I do not presently have greater joy than from these things: that I am repeatedly hearing that my own children (born-ones) are continuously walking about within the Truth (= living their lives in union with reality).


Again we see the closeness of their relationship: John considers Gaius as one of his own children in this new reality. Gaius is continuing the story of Jesus, walking the Path of the Truth within the Life of the Messiah (John 14:6). In observing this relationship, we can think of Paul referring to himself as a father to the community in Corinth (1 Cor. 4:15). In these examples we are instructed concerning the family characteristics of the reign of God – Who is our Father.


5. O beloved one! You are continually doing (performing; constructing; forming; producing) a faithful and loyal thing (act of loyalty and allegiance), whatsoever you yourself may work unto (or: actively accomplish into the midst of) the brothers (= fellow believers and members of the family) and unto (or: into) the strangers (or: foreigners)


John commends Gaius' work and accomplishments within the covenant community – the local family members – and also "unto the strangers." This last term can apply to itinerant missionaries (as Bultmann suggests, p 98), but it would not be limited to such folks. The communities were to be a light unto the ethnic multitudes (or: nations), and so this comment could refer to his hospitality to and care for alien residents, or visitors from other countries. As with Philip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-39), bringing God's sovereign activity to foreigners is an important means of extending Christ's existential presence into the world.


Notice also John's referring to Gaius' active accomplishment as "a faithful and loyal thing" – a central aspect of "believing into" Christ: acts of loyalty and allegiance, which are voluntary charitable actions. The living-out of our allegiance to Him is a core quality of being the "kingdom" and of being "in Him."

6. who bear witness of you for the love (or: testified to your love) before (in the sight of; in the presence of) [the] called-out community – [for] whom you will do (or: perform; produce) beautifully (finely; ideally), sending [them] forward (or: escorting them on; = attending to their needs in their travels, giving them supplies and finances) in a manner worthy of God (or: = in a way equal to God's value of them),


Again, this could refer both to the missionaries (or, itinerant teachers), or to actual foreigners. Members of either category would "bear witness of [his] love," either within the community or to the people to whom these folks were "sent forward." Note the parenthetical paraphrase of this term, showing the practical consideration involved for folks being sent on. Treatment of people in this manner expresses "God's value of them," so in doing so we are true representatives of our King.


7. for they came out for the sake of (or: went forth in behalf of) the Name, continually taking (or: receiving) not even one thing from the nations (the ethnic multitudes; the non-Israelites).


Probably the best reading of this verse is to see it as referring to the itinerant missionaries, but like the Queen of Sheba of old, pilgrims from nearby countries could well have traveled to the closest towns of Asia minor to learn more about this new teaching, and may have done it on their own without seeking support from the residents of those nations from which they came.


Notice "for the sake of (in behalf of) the Name." This designation presents a picture to us of 1) the importance of the "Name" that it would be used to designate the whole of the Christian movement of that time; 2) the fact that the name "Jesus," or "Jesus the Messiah," was considered the embodiment of the message, or as vs. 8 puts it, "the Truth;" or 3) that either the name Jesus, or the designation Christ/Messiah, was shorthand for "the Way, the Truth and the Life."

8. We ourselves, then, are constantly obligated to continuously take [them] up, while placing ourselves underneath to support such people as these, to the end that we would progressively come to be folks working together (co-workers) in (or: for; by; with) the Truth (or: reality).


So here John describes the responsive quality of the loyal community of faith: actually attending to the needs of such folks. It is this care for those with needs that makes us "co-workers" with God (1 Cor. 3:9), or as John puts it here, "folks working together in the Truth." On this last phrase, also consider the meanings on offer from the prepositions that represent the other functions of the dative case: for the Truth; by the Truth; with the reality [e.g., of the new creation]. As is often the case throughout the NT, there is no expressed preposition for this phrase – thus the options, based upon the case of the noun.


9. I wrote something to (or: for) the called-out community, but Diotrephes, the one constantly liking to be their leader (to be pre-eminent among them and dominate them), is habitually not thoroughly receiving or accepting us (or: repeatedly not fully acknowledging us).


Since no accusation of false teaching is brought up, Bultmann (saying that Harnack long ago pointed it out) suggests that it is an issue of "congregational organization" (ibid. p 110). From John's characterization of Diotrephes' conduct of liking to dominate people, Bultmann is probably correct. However, it may have been that there was a personality conflict between Diotrephes and John, and the former did not want to acknowledge anything whatsoever that John may have said to the group. Verses 9 and 10 peel back the layers of ordinary human relations to give us a peek at some of the things with which the folks whom the Messiah sent out had to deal.


10. Because of this, if I can come, I will remind him of his actions (or: call to mind his works and bring them up [for discussion]) which he is repeatedly doing (or: progressively producing) by worthless, irresponsible and abusive words – unjustified charges

(or: in messages causing a gush of misery; by ideas leading to painful labor; with evil or wicked verbal expressions; by laying out thoughts leading to a bad situation), continually speaking nonsense of us or gossiping against us, and then, not being satisfied or content upon these things, neither is he himself fully receiving or accepting (showing complete hospitality to) the brothers (= fellow believers; Family members; [or: = the itinerant missionaries of 5-8, above]). And further, those continuously intending (or: determining) [to do so] he is habitually hindering (or: forbidding) – even casting [them] out of the called-out community!


Whatever the issue was, John is not at all concerned about being able to handle things when he arrives. He will address the issue with him. We see from the verb tense which John chose that this man has a habitual problem (Bultmann says, "The present tense indicates the customary conduct of Diotrephes...'' ibid. p 101) and is causing disruption and division within the covenant community and denying hospitality to strangers.


We find in this verse the same intensified verb "fully or thoroughly receiving or accepting" (epi-dechomai) that John used in vs. 9 in regard to himself and his associates. Here we see it as signifying "receive (as a guest)," i.e., show complete hospitality to someone.


It is not clear from the text whether those whom Diotrephes excludes from the communities are members of the community, or the strangers to whom he refuses hospitality. Bultmann thought the former, suspecting that they were "followers of the elder, or at least his line of thinking in the congregation" and footnotes Schnackenburg (note 13) as also interpreting it this way (ibid. p 101).


11. O beloved one [i.e., Gaius]! Do not have the habit of imitating this ugly thing (or: that which ought not to be; the base; the worthless; that which is of bad quality; the malicious; the wicked; the evil), but rather the Good (or: the thing of excellent quality; the virtuous)! The person habitually doing good (progressively producing virtue; repeatedly creating excellence) is continuously existing from out of God; the one habitually doing what is ugly (base; what ought not to be; worthless; evil) has not seen or perceived God.


The "ugly thing (that which ought not to be)" had two parts: the denial of hospitality and the casting of folks out of the community. The "Good and virtuous" refers to acts of hospitality and inclusion of strangers or foreigners. In the restatement of Asian rhetoric, John emphasizes his point by connecting the dots: "The person habitually doing good (progressively producing virtue; repeatedly creating excellence) is continuously existing from out of God," while those doing "what is ugly, etc." have "not seen or perceived God." Bultmann describes the last two statements of this verse – connected without a conjunction – as "antithetical parallelism."


12. Demetrius has been attested (= has received supportive testimony) by all and by the Truth itself. Now we ourselves are also continuously bearing witness (or: testifying), and you have seen, and so know, that our witness (testimony; evidence) is (exists being) real and true.


Nothing is known of this Demetrius. He may have been the bearer of this letter to the community, and thus the recommendation. John says that all the folks of their area attest to him, as well as "the Truth itself" (which may refer to Christ, the new Reality evident in Demetrius, or the truth of the revelation within the message that they live). The "we" of the second sentence refers to John and his associates, and he calls to their experiential knowledge of John and his circle of friends – that their testimony and evidence is "real and true" for they have "seen" it. The verb "seen... know" is the second perfect form oida of the obsolete eido (to see).


13. I have been having (or: holding) many things to write to you, however, I do not normally want to be constantly writing to you by means of pen and ink!


This is very similar to John 20:30, but its purpose is simply to say that he would say all that when he next sees them, as vs. 14 explains.

14. So I am continuing in expecting (or: hoping) to see you immediately, and then we will speak mouth to mouth!


This "mouth to mouth" is the same thing as "face to face" – i.e., in their presence. John expected this to be "immediately" – the familiar eutheo s that is frequently used in the Gospels.


15. Peace (or: Harmony; [= Shalom]) to you. The friends continually greet (pay respect to; send salutations to) you. Be continuously greeting the friends by name (= individually).


The closing of this letter corresponds to the Jewish wish, which actually signified well-being and prosperity. The Greek term also carries the meaning of "Harmony," which would be most appropriate in consideration of the activities of Diotrephes. The first "friends" refer to John's associates, who were likely also friends of Gaius. Note the singular "you" (no "folks" added), as this is a personal letter. He again uses the word "friends," now to describe those of Gaius' community. This time it might be referring to the associates of Gaius in the same way that John used it of his own circle of friends, or, he might be using it emphatically to refer to those who supported John and Gaius and who opposed the assumed "authority" of Diotrephes.


Here, as indicated in the parenthetical paraphrase, "by name" was an idiom meaning "individually." In this we see John emphasizing the intimacy of his relationship to them.

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