Observations for discussion and questions:
The text of 2 John has been translated directly from the Greek in order to get a more literal rendition. Notice that the same sort of style regarding densities of word and phrase recurrence is used as in 1 John. This serves to highlight natural topical units of text: truth in 1:1-3, walking/ walk/commandment(s) in 1:4-6, various references to false teacher, i.e. deceiver(s)/antichrist/one who goes ahead in the first half and teaching in the second half of 1:7-11.
1:1 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us for ever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we received commandment from the Father.
5 And now I ask you, lady, not as though writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning, that we should love one another. 6 And this is love, that we should walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the teaching about Christ does not have God; he who abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If any one comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; 11 for he who greets him shares his wicked work.
12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 13 The children of your elect sister greet you.
In a sense, 2 John is something of an abbreviation of 1 John. If 1 John is more like a homily, 2 John has the genuine form of a letter with the prescript, thanksgiving report, the letter body containing exhortation and warning and the conclusion with its visit information and greetings sent.
Besides the similarity in style with 1 John, 2 John also has many parallels of key expressions and thought:
|2 John||1 John|
|know the truth 1:1||know the truth 2:22|
|walking in the truth 1:4||walk in the light 1:7|
|not as though writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning, 1:5||I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning 2:7|
|that we should love one another. 1:5||we also ought to love one another 4:10|
|antichrist 1:7||antichrist 2:18, 22|
|not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh 1:7||every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God 4:2|
|he who abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son 1:9||No one who denies the Son has the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also. 2:23|
Some commentators believe that 2 John and 3 John were written prior to 1 John where we find problems with false teachers and with a church leader who does not recognize the author”s authority. These situations are seen as leading to 1 John where we find a full scale schism referred to (2:17) and the issues are dealt with at length, possibly as a last will and testament by John.
- Why would a Christian letter writer not give either his name or the name of his addressee(s) as Paul, Peter, and James do? The ”elder” intimates someone with authority, but who is the ”lady”? Is it a cryptonym for the church he is writing to? Were circumstances too dangerous to give specific names?
- An aspect of this letter is very puzzling. Why does John give what seem to be instructions to ”ostracize” what he considers to be false teachers, i.e. not to offer them house hospitality or even to greet them? How can giving them a greeting implicate the one who greets them in their sins?
- If John places so much emphasis on love, why can this not be extended to those considered to be enemies and not just to insiders?
- Is the danger so great that even keeping civil company with such people is out of the question? Can this be relevant behavior for some situations in churches today?
- How was the religious, social, and political situation the same or different back then from many places where Christianity is practiced today?
- Are there any other parallels to this in the NT? Eph 5:6-7 has essentially the same message! What about Matt 10:14; 1 Cor 5:9, 11; 2 Cor 6:14 (”yoked together” may refer not only to marriage but also business!).