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2. The Readers.
“Unto the elect lady and her children.” It is a question whether these words are to be taken literally, or in a figurative sense as the designation of a Church and its members. On the whole the latter seems the more probable, in view of expressions occurring in a number of the verses. Such figurative language need not surprise us in the case of a writer so fond of symbolism as the author of the Apocalypse and the Fourth Gospel. But which of the Churches in Asia is thus addressed we have no means of knowing.
3. Date and Place of Composition. It was probably written from Ephesus,-subsequently to the First Epistle.
4. Character and Contents. While the Epistle contains expressions of warm affection for the members of the Church in question (whom the apostle appears to have recently visited), its main object is to warn them against the insidious and corrupting
not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist "; 1 John iv. 1-3: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh ; and now it is in the world already." 9: “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son”; cf. 1 John ii. 23: “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father :
he that confesseth the Son hath the Father also.” 12: “Having many things to write unto you, I would not write them with paper and ink : but I hope to come unto you, and to speak face to face, that your joy may be fulfilled"; cf. i John i. 4: and these things we write, that our 'oy may be fulfilled."
i Vers. I, 4, 5 (quoted above); 10: “If any one cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting "; 13: “The children of thine elect sister salute thee.”
2 Cf. Peter's use of a similar expression with reference, probably, to the Church in Rome: She that is in Babylon, elect together with you, saluteth you” (1 Pet. v. 13).
influence of certain heretical teachers who were going about denying the reality of Christ's humanity. The apostle urges an uncompromising opposition to all such teachers, in terms that remind us of the story told by Irenæus on the authority of those who had received it from Polycarp, that finding Cerinthus in a public bath, the apostle rushed out at the sight of him, exclaiming, “Let us fly lest even the bath fall on us, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within,”—a speech that betrays a lingering of the spirit that had once been rebuked by his Lord. On the other hand, the blending of love with truth 3 in the earlier part of the epistle is equally characteristic of the disciple "whom Jesus loved ”; and it finds similar illustration in the beautiful story of “St. John and the Robber.” 4
“THE THIRD EPISTLE OF JOHN.”
1. Authorship. If we admit the Second Epistle to be the work of John, we can have no difficulty in accepting this also as his. The two epistles have been aptly termed “ twins”;5 and
1 Ver. 7: “For many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist."
2 Luke ix. 54: “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we bid fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?"
3 The word "love" (årátn) occurs four times in this short epistle, and its verb twice; “truth” (åandela) five times.
4 The story is told by Eusebius (iii. 33). The apostle John had left in charge of the local bishop a promising young man who was duly baptized and instructed. On his return he surprised the bishop by asking for his “deposit,” adding, in explanation of his words, “I
demand the young man, the soul of a brother." Thereupon the bishop had to confess that the young man had gone astray and become a robber-chief. The apostle immediately called for a horse and made his way to the haunts of the robber, who fled at his approach. The apostle pursued and overtook him, and by his persuasions and tears induced him to give up his evil life and return to his old home, to be restored to the Church.
The elder unto Gaius the beloved, whom I love in truth"; cf. 2 John 1: “The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not I only, but also all they that know the truth." 3, 4:
"For I rejoiced greatly, when brethren came and bare witness unto thy truth, even as
5 Ver. 1:
the contents of this epistle are so peculiar in their bearing on the position and the authority of the apostle, as to preclude the idea of forgery.
2. The Reader.
“Unto Gaius the beloved.” The name Gaius occurs several times in the New Testament ;1 but whether the receiver of this letter is to be identified with any of those who are elsewhere so called it is impossible to say, the name being a very common one. He is addressed as a faithful and liberal member of the Church.2
3. Date and Place of Composition.
Like the Second this epistle was probably written from Ephesus,—subsequently to the First.
4. Character and Contents.
This epistle, like the Second, gives us a momentary glimpse of Church life in Asia towards the close of the first century.
While the Second contains a warning against heresy, this relates rather to the evil of schism. It
thou walkest in truth.
Greater joy have I none than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth"; cf. 2 John 4:“I rejoice greatly that I have found certain of thy children walking in truth,
we received commandment from the Father." 13: “I had many things to write unto thee, but I am unwilling to write them to thee with ink and pen"; cf. 2 John 12:
“ Having many things to write unto you, I would not write them with paper and ink : but I hope to come unto you, and to speak face to face, that your joy may be fulfilled."
1 Acts xix. 29 ; xx. 4; Rom. xvi, 23 ; 1 Cor. i. 14.
2 Vers. 1-8 : “ The elder unto Gaius the beloved, whom I love in truth.
Beloved, I pray that in all things thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. For i rejoiced greatly, when brethren came and bare witness unto thy truth, even as thou walkest in truth. Greater joy have I none than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. Beloved, thou doest a faithful work in whatsoever thou doest toward them that are brethren and strangers withal; who bare witness to thy love before the church : whom thou wilt do well to set forward on their journey worthily of God: because that for the sake of the Name they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to welcome such, that we may be fellowworkers with the truth."
shows us the practical difficulties which even the Apostle John had to encounter in the government of the Church. In Gaius (the recipient of the letter) we have a sincere and charitable Christian whose influence and example John invokes in opposition to the factious and intolerant conduct of an ambitious ecclesiastic named Diotrephes, who had gone so far as to close his doors on “the brethren who had come in the apostle's name, apparently bearing a letter from him-perhaps our Second Epistle. The aged head of the Church in Asia feels that it will be necessary, the next time he visits the district, to hold a reckoning with the offender for his malice and presumption. Meanwhile he warns Gaius against being led astray by the example of Diotrephes; and in pleasing contrast with the latter he refers to one Demetrius—apparently the bearer of this letter—who "hath the witness of all men, and of the truth itself.” 2 Finally the apostle pleads the same excuse for his brevity as he does in the case of the Second Epistle, viz., that he hopes soon to visit his readers, when they “shall speak face to face."
1 Vers. 9, 10: “I wrote somewhat unto the church : but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Therefore, if I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he doeth, prating against us with wicked words : and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and them that would he forbiddeth, and casteth them out of the church."
2 " Another point which deserves notice is the view which is given of the independence of Christian societies.
Diotrephes in no remote corner is able for a time to withstand an Apostle in the administration of his particular Church. On the other side, the calm confidence of St. John seems to rest on himself more than on his official power. His presence will vindicate his authority. Once more, the growth of the Churches is as plainly marked as their independence. The first place in them has become an object of unworthy ambition. They are able, and as it appears, for the most part willing to maintain missionary teachers ” (Westcott).
"THE REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE.”
1. Authorship. THERE is very strong external evidence to prove that this book was written by the Apostle John. Passing over some earlier apparent witnesses, we find unmistakable mention of it in the writings of Justin Martyr. He expressly refers to it as the work of the apostle, in the Dialogue which he held with Trypho, an unbelieving Jew, in the very city of Ephesus where John lived, and within half-a-century after his death. Equally clear and explicit is the testimony of Irenæus, who, as we have seen, was a disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of John. In one passage Irenæus even gives as his authority for preferring 666 to 616 as “the number of the beast,” the testimony of those who had seen John face to face. The book is twice mentioned in the Canon of the Muratorian Fragment, once in such a way as to imply that it was publicly read in church ; it was one of the books on which Melito, Bishop of Sardis, wrote a commentary (about 170 A.D.); and it is expressly quoted as “the Scripture” in the letter sent by the persecuted Christians of Vienne and Lyons to their brethren in Asia Minor (177 A.D.).
But soon after the middle of the second century the book began to be regarded with suspicion, owing to the use made of it by a heretical party called the Montanists, who indulged in extravagant notions regarding the
1 xiii. 18: “Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast ; for it is the number of a man : and his number is
Six hundred and sixty and six.” “Some ancient authorities read six hundred and sixteen,” Marginal Note, R.V.