Page images
[ocr errors]

1 John, and James. Still, Ephrem Syrus quotes the second Epistle, as also 2 Peter (see Introduction to 2 Pet. § iv. 13) and Jude : possessing them probably, as he did not understand Greek, in another Syriac version.

7. Eusebius reckons both Epistles among the disputed books : saying, Among the disputed books are .... that named the second, and third of John, whether they belong to the Evangelist, or to some one else of the same name."

Still, Eusebius's own opinion may be gathered from another passage, where he says of St. John, “ In his Epistles he does not even make mention of his own name, or calls himself presbyter (elder), but never Apostle or Evangelist.” Whence it would appear that he received the two smaller Epistles as genuine.

8. Origen mentions them with a similar expression of doubt.

9. Theodore of Mopsuestia, if we are thus to interpret Leontius of Byzantium (see above, ch. iii. & iv. 11), rejected these in common with the other catholic Epistles.

10. Theodoret makes no mention of them.

11. In a Homily on Matt. xxi. 23 ascribed to Chrysostom, but written probably by some Antiochene contemporary of his, we read, “But the second and the third the fathers exclude from the canon."

12. Jerome says, “ John wrote one Epistle which is approved by all ecclesiastical and learned men ; but the other two, of which the beginning is the elder,' are ascribed to John the Presbyter, whose tomb, besides that of St. John, is to this day shewn at Ephesus.”

13. In the middle ages there seems to have been no doubt on the authenticity of the Epistles, till Erasmus revived the idea of their being the work of John the Presbyter. This view, grounded on the fact that the Writer names himself “the Presbyter,” has been often maintained since: e.g. by Grotius, Beck, Fritzsche, and others.

14. If we take into strict account the import of this appellation, it will appear, as Lücke, Huther, and Düsterdieck have maintained, to make rather for than against the authorship by St. John. For in the first place, assuming, which is very doubtful, the existence of such a person as John the Presbyter, this name could only have been given him by those who wished to distinguish him from the Apostle, and would never have been assumed by himself as a personal one, seeing that he bore it in common with many others his co-presbyters.

15. Again, such an appellation is not without example as used of Apostles, and might bear two possible senses, either of which would here be preferable to the one just impugned. In the very fragment of Papias from which the existence of the presbyter John is inferred, he several times uses the term presbyter of Apostles and apostolic men as a class. He tells of “the things which he had learned from the presbyters




(elders) :” he says that if he met with any one who had conversed with “the presbyters ” (“elders "), he enquired about “the sayings of the presbyters ” (“elders ”). Here it is certain that the term “presbyter? must not be taken officially, but of priority in time and dignity: it bears that meaning from which its official was derived, not that official sense itself.

16. And this leads us to the other meaning, that of the old age of the Writer St. Paul in Philem. 9, calls himself “ Paul the aged” (presbytés) in this sense : and “presbyterosis but another form of the same word, though a form carrying a different possible meaning.

17. It is impossible to decide for which of these reasons the Apostle might choose thus to designate himself, or whether any other existed of which we are not aware. But we may safely say that inasmuch as St. Peter (1 Pet. v. 1), writing to the presbyters, calls himself their fellow-presbyter, there was no reason why St. John might not thus have designated himself. And we may hence lay down that the occurrence of such a word, as pointing out the Writer of these Epistles, is no reason against their having been written by that Apostle.

18. On the whole then we infer, from the testimony of the ancient Fathers, and from the absence of sufficient reason for understanding the title “ presbyter” of any other person than the Apostle himself, that these two smaller Epistles were written by St. John the Apostle and Evangelist.



1. The third Epistle leaves no doubt on this question. It is addressed to one Gaius (Caius). Whether this Caius is identical with Gaius of Macedonia (Acts xix. 29), with Gaius of Corinth (1 Cor. i. 14; Rom. xvi. 23), or with Gaius of Derbe (Acts xx. 4), it is impossible to say. The name was one of the commonest : and it is possible, as Lücke remarks, that the persons of St. John's period of apostolic work in Asia may have been altogether different from those of St. Paul's period. A Caius is mentioned in the Apostolic Constitutions as bishop of Pergamus: and Mill and Whiston believe this person to be addressed in our Epistle.

2. It is not so plain to whom the second Epistle was written. The

8 This is taken by Piscator, Erasm.-Schmid, Hermann, G. C. Lange, Wolf, Rosenmüller, Benson, Carpzov, Augusti, and others. Some of the above, and Aretius and Guericke, unite the two.

address is in the Greek to “ eclecté Kyria and her children :" " thy children" are mentioned in ver. 4: Kyria in the vocative occurs ver. 5: " the children of thine elect sister" are mentioned as sending greeting, ver. 13.

3. On these data the following doubts arise. Is it an individual lady who is addressed ? And if so, is either of the two words a proper name, Eclecté or Kyria, and which ? Or is it a church, thus called figuratively? And if so, is it some particular body of Christians, or the Church universal ?

4. These questions were variously answered even in ancient times. The Scholiast says, “ Either to a church, or to some woman ruling her house spiritually by the evangelic commandments.” We have also in Ecumenius and Theophylact, as a comment on the last verse of the Epistle, “ Some maintain on this account that the Epistle is written not to a woman, but to a church: which matter we do not wish to dispute." The individual hypothesis has been held in its various forms by numerous Commentators: there is a tradition that she was named Drusia or Drusiana: and a conjecture that she was Martha the sister of Lazarus and Mary. Another conjecture has been, that she was Mary, the mother of our Lord.

5. On the other hand, the ecclesiastical hypothesis has been held by Jerome, taking the words as meaning the whole Christian church :so also apparently Clement of Alexandria, as cited above, ch. v. § i.

Some wish on this account to prove that the Epistle was not written to a woman, but to a church.” Some have carried conjecture so far as to designate the particular church addressed : e.g., Serrarius, supposing the Caius of the third Epistle to have belonged to this church, and that it consequently was at Corinth: Whiston, arguing for Philadelphia : Whitby, for Jerusalem, as being the Lady, the mother of all churches: Augusti, for the same, as being founded by our Lord Himself.

6. In now proceeding to examine these various opinions, I have maintained in the corresponding place in the Prolegomena to my Greek Test., that no argument can fairly be founded on grammatical considerations, which suit one hypothesis as well as the other.

7. In weighing the probability of either hypothesis, the following considerations are of importance. It would seem, as I have remarked in my note on ver. 13, as if the salutation there rather favoured the idea of a church being addressed, because we have no mention there of the elect sister herself, but only of her children. But then we must set against this the fact, that in the process of the Epistle itself, the Kyria (lady) herself does distinctly appear and is personally addressed. It would be, to say the least, strange, to address the whole church in the one case, and not to send greeting from the whole church in the other. 297

u 2

par. 5:

8. Again, would it have been likely that the salutation should have run,

The children of thy elect sister greet thee,” if the Kyria had been a mere abstraction ? Does not this personal address, as well as that in ver. 5, And now I beseech thee, Kyria," imply personal reality of existence ?

9. Let us, again, compare the address of this Epistle with that of the third, confessedly by the same Writer. The one runs, The elder [to Gaius the beloved], whom I love in the truth.The other, The elder [to eclecté Kyria and her children], whom I love in the truth." Can any one persuade us that the well-known simplicity of St. John's character and style would allow him thus to write these two addresses, word for word the same, and not to have in the words enclosed in brackets a like reference to existing persons in both cases ?

10. Besides, as Lücke has well observed, we are not justified in thus attributing to St. John a mystic and unaccountable mode of expression, not found in any other writer of the apostolic age, nor indeed even in the apocryphal writings which followed it.

11. St. Peter's expression, “ She that is elected with you in Babylon," 1 Pet. v. 13, even if understood of a church, which I have questioned in my note at the place, would not justify a like interpretation of “ Kyria here: though in the use of “electthe passages are closely connected. If a person be addressed here, it is highly probable that we must understand a person there also: if a church be conceded to be addressed there, we have still the strange and unaccountable“ Kyriato deal with here

12. On all these grounds I believe that an individual and not a church is addressed. And if so, first, is either of the words “ Eclecté" or Kyria" a proper name? We may safely answer this in the affirmative, for a reason deduced from the construction in the Greek.

13. Then if so, which of the two words is the proper name? Here again there can be little doubt, if we compare Eclecté Kyria” with

thy sister who is Eclecté.” Both sisters were elect : but both had not the same name. Hence it would appear, that Eclecté is not the name, but an epithet. And if so, then Kyria is the name, and ought perhaps to be substituted for the rendering ladyin the notes. The name is elsewhere found. We have an inscription mentioning “Phenippus and his wife Kyria,and other examples of its occurrence.

14. This Kyria then appears to have been a Christian matron generally known and beloved among the brethren, having children, some of whom the Apostle had found at a previous visit to her?) walking in

9 It appears certain that Clem.-Alex. must have confused the two passages in his memory, when he stated (see above, ş i. par. 4) that this Epistle was written "to a certain Babylonian lady, Electa by name.”

the truth. She had a sister, also a Christian matron, whose children seem to have been with the Apostle when he wrote this Epistle.

15. In the third Epistle, mention is made of Demetrius with praise, and of Diotrephes with blame, as a turbulent person, and a withstander of the Apostle's authority. But it is quite in vain to enquire further into the facts connected with these names. We know nothing of them, and conjectures are idle.

16. On the occasion and object of these Epistles, it is hardly needful to remark. Both are too plainly declared in the letters themselves, to require further elucidation.



1. It is impossible to lay down either of these with any degree of certainty. From the similarity in style of both Epistles, it is probable that the times of writing were not far apart. The journeys mentioned in 2 John 12 and 3 John 10, 14, may be one and the same. Eusebius relates that the Apostle, “when he returned from his exile in the island after Domitian's death, .... made a journey by invitation to the neighbouring Gentiles, in some places to appoint bishops, in others to set in order whole churches, in others again to ordain some one of them pointed out by the Spirit.” It may have been in prospect of this journey that he threatens Diotrephes in 2 John 10. If so, both Epistles belong to a very late period of the Apostle's life: and are probably subsequent to the writing of the Apocalypse. See below in the Introduction to that book, $ ii. par. 7.

2. With regard to the place of writing, probability points to Ephesus : especially if we adopt the view suggested by the passage of Eusebius just cited.





1. The author of this Epistle calls himself, in ver. 1, "servant of Jesus Christ,” and “ brother of James.The former of these appella

« PreviousContinue »