The Epistles of John are three letters in the New Testament of the Bible traditionally ascribed to Saint John the apostle. They are classed with the General, or Catholic, Epistles because they are addressed to a general readership rather than to specified churches or individuals. The first epistle bears no clue to its authorship, but in the other two epistles the author calls himself "the elder." The three letters were probably written in the Roman province of Asia (western Anatolia) toward the end of the 1st century.
The first epistle should probably be understood as a general pamphlet written to churches in Anatolia. Its message is about life, meaning eternal life, life in fellowship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. The book was written to give a series of standards by which people can know that they possess eternal life. Two features stand out in the series of tests. First, the validity of the Incarnation is affirmed against those who claimed special knowledge (see Docetism; Gnosticism) and denied that Christ came in the flesh (1 John 4:2 - 3). The second feature of the test is love. The true follower of Christ is to love as Christ loved (1 John 2:6; 4:7 - 12, 19).
The second epistle, the shortest book of the Bible, is a note to a church addressed as the "elect lady." In this letter the message of 1 John is applied to a local church situation. The people are warned about teachers with special knowledge. They are encouraged to be hospitable toward one another. The third epistle is a personal word to Gaius, a follower of the truth. He is encouraged to show kindness to traveling believers who pass his way.
W E Vine, Epistles of John (1970).
The First Epistle of John, the fourth of the catholic or "general" epistles. It was evidently written by John the evangelist, and probably also at Ephesus, and when the writer was in advanced age. The purpose of the apostle (1:1-4) is to declare the Word of Life to those to whom he writes, in order that they might be united in fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. He shows that the means of union with God are, (1) on the part of Christ, his atoning work (1:7; 2:2; 3:5; 4:10, 14; 5:11, 12) and his advocacy (2: 1); and (2), on the part of man, holiness (1:6), obedience (2:3), purity (3:3), faith (3:23; 4:3; 5:5), and love (2:7, 8; 3:14; 4:7; 5:1).
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
The Second Epistle of John is addressed to "the elect lady," and closes with the words, "The children of thy elect sister greet thee;" but some would read instead of "lady" the proper name Kyria. Of the thirteen verses composing this epistle seven are in the First Epistle. The person addressed in commended for her piety, and is warned against false teachers.
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
The Third Epistle of John is addressed to Caius, or Gaius, but whether to the Christian of that name in Macedonia (Acts 19: 29) or in Corinth (Rom. 16:23) or in Derbe (Acts 20:4) is uncertain. It was written for the purpose of commending to Gaius some Christians who were strangers in the place where he lived, and who had gone thither for the purpose of preaching the gospel (ver. 7). The Second and Third Epistles were probably written soon after the First, and from Ephesus.
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
From: Home Bible Study Commentary by James M. Gray
The second epistle of John is addressed to whom? The word "lady" in the Greek is
Kyria, which may be translated as a proper name, and perhaps in this case it
should be so understood. Kyria was a common name among the Greeks and refers
here, it may be, to some notable saint in the neighborhood of Ephesus, to which
John ministered in his old age. The letter is brief, for the writer is soon to
make a visit to this sister in Christ and to speak with her face to face (12).
1. The Salutation, verses 1-4, is interesting for three or four things: (a) The deep humility of the writer. (b) The tender regard for the sister to whom he writes. (c) The solicitude for the honor of Jesus Christ. (d) The insight into the spiritual condition of this sister's household.
2. The burden message of the letter follows, 5-11. This burden is the old one of John, love. But love in the New Testament means not a passion. not an emotion, a life. An abiding principle influencing for righteousness, this is Christian love. Is not that what John says here (6)? And see how the idea is emphasized in verse 7. Not to love is not to hold to the truth in doctrine and to practice it in life. False teachers do not love. They may be amiable in their social relations, but they have not this Gospel love. They are deceivers, and love and deceit do not go together.
And mark the central fact of that truth which consititutes love, the confession that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This strikes at the Jew's denial of Jesus, certainly, but also how can Christian Science, which denies the material body confess this? Changing the language again to conform to the Revised Version, we see that they are the deceivers and the anti-Christ in spirit who fail to confess that He "cometh in the flesh." It is Christ's second coming John has in mind as truly as His first coming. In the light of the above consider the warning in verse 8. There is danger of believers losing something which belongs to them. That something which belongs to them. That something is "a full reward." Compare Luke 19:15-27; I Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Peter I: 21; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Peter 1: them? See Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12.
Does not the comparison of these passages bear out verse 7 as rendered by the Revised Version? What is it to transgress as given in verse 9? By the "doctrine of Christ" is not meant merely the things He taught while in the flesh, but the whole doctrine concerning Him, i. e., the whole of the Old and New Testaments. To deny the truth concerning Christ is to deny His first and HIs second coming, and He who denies this "hath not God." He may speak much of the "Father," but he only has the Father who has the Son. To have the One you must have the Other, (9). Observe how strenuous we should be in maintaining this doctrine (v. 10).
The command "receive him not into your house," is relative. It means not that we are to deny him meat and shelter altogether, if he be in need of them, but that we are not to fellowship him as a brother. Even our personal enemies we are to bless and pray for, if they hunger we are to feed them and if they thirst give them drink. But those who are the enemies of God by being enemies of His truth, we are to have nothing to do with in the capacity of fellow-Christians. We must not aid them in their plans or bid them God speed. How would such a course on our part involve us (II)?
The apostle closes with that allusion to his visit already referred to, and a greeting from Kyria's elect sister. Did this mean her sister in the flesh or only in the faith? And in this last case was it the apostle's wife?
Questions 1. How may we translate "lady" and to whom may it refer? 2. Can you discover in the text the four points under the "Salutation"? 3. What is the message of this letter? 4. What is Christian love? 5. What is its central fact? 6. Who are spiritual anti-Christs? 7. Have you examined the parallel scriptures on the subject of "reward"? 8. What is meant by the "doctrine of Christ"? 9. Explain "receive him not into your house."
From: Home Bible Study Commentary by James M. Gray
Gaius is a name frequently alluded to by Paul, but whether this were the same individual as any of those is problematical. In any event he seems to have been a convert of John (v. 4). Another form of the name is Caius and this was a very common name indeed. What distinction in spiritual things is ascribed to Gaius (2)? His soul was prospering even if his bodily health and his business were not, but the apostle is interested in other things as well. The Christian should be careful of his health, and it is compatible with a deep spiritual life that he should have a sucessful business.
As to the Christian character of Gaius, three particulars are named: (1) He possessed the truth (3). (2) He walked in the truth, i. e., his life and conduct measured up to the light he had received from God, (3, 4). (3) As walking in the truth he was "careful to maintain good works," especially in the distribution of his means (5, 6). It is noticeable that his "faithfulness" in this regard is mentioned. It was not a spasmodic thing on his part, but a steady flow of grace through him. His breadth of disposition is also mentioned since his giving was not limited to those he knew but extended to those he did not know (5). Some recipients of his bounty are referred to in verse 6, and a journey mentioned toward the expense of which he was contributing (6). All this is very realistic, and brings the life of the church in the first century "up to date" as we sometimes say. One or two facts are given concerning the recipients of Gaius' gifts equally honoring to them, (7). Look at the motive of their journey, "His Name's sake," and at the Gentiles," i. e., the heathen.
Whatever the journey was, they might have been assisted in it pecuniarily by those who were not actuated by a love for His name, but their conscience would not permit them to receive such aid. How valuable this example. And what a close relationship it bears to the teaching of the second epistle about fellowshipping with heretics. How should such loyal and self-denying workers as these be treated in the church, and why (8)? The Worldly Character of Diotrephes Here we have another type of the professing Christian in the worldly character of Diotrephes, 9-11. What seems to have been his besetting sin (9)? How this experience of John recalls that of Paul in the churches of Corinth, Galatia and Thessalonica? In what manner did John intend to deal with him (10)?
Does this recall anything similar in apostolic authority on Paul's part? How does verse 10 reveal the worldiness and insincerity of Diotrephes? What an awfully overbearing, autocratic, unholy man he must have been! How did he get into the church? What advice is given Gaius in verse 11? How does this testify to the relation between faith and works? What opposite kind of example is set before him in verse 12? How many kinds of witnesses testify to the Christian character of Demetrius? One can not help wondering if this were the Demetrius of Acts 19. Such trophies of grace are by no mean unusual, Paul was such an one. Note the similarities in the conclusions of this epistle and the one previously considered (13, 14), suggesting that they may have been penned at the same time.
The Scofield Bible has an interesting note here, saying that "historically, this letter marks the beginning of that clerical assumption over the churches in which the primitive church order disappeared. It also reveals the believers' resource in such a day. John addresses this letter not to the church, but to a faithful man in the church for the comfort of those who were standing fast in the primitive simplicity. Second John conditions the personal walk of a Christian in a day of apostasy; and Third John the personal responsibility in such a day of the believer as a member of the local church."
Questions 1. Analyze the Christian character of Gaius. 2. What two features marked his faithfulness? 3. Tell something of the character of the two other men named. 4. What epoch does this epistle mark? 5. Distinguish between second and third John.
Three canonical books of the New Testament written by the Apostle St. John.
The subject will be treated under the following heads:
V. Time and Place
VI. Destination and Purpose
A. External evidence
The very brevity of this letter (105 verses divided into five chapters) and the lateness of its composition might lead us to suspect no traces thereof in the Apostolic Fathers. Such traces there are, some unquestionable. St. Polycarp (A.D. 110-117, according to Harnack, whose chronology we shall follow in this article) wrote to the Philippians: "For whosoever confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the Flesh is Antichrist" (c. vi; Funk, "Patres Apostolici", I, 304). Here is an evident trace of I John, iv, 2-3; so evident that Harnack deems this witness of Polycarp conclusive proof that the first Epistle and, consequently, the Gospel of John were written toward the end of the reign of Trajan, i.e. not later than A.D. 117 (cf. Chronologie der Altchristlichen Litteratur, I, 658). It is true that Polycarp does not name John nor quote word for word; the Apostolic Fathers cite from memory and are not wont to name the inspired writer whom they cite. The argument from Polycarp's use of I John is strengthened by the fact that he was, according to Irenæus, the disciple of St. John. The distinctively Johannine phrase "come in the Flesh" (en sarki eleluthota) is also used by the Epistle of Barnabas (v, 10; Funk, op. cit., I, 53), which was written about A.D. 130. We have it on the authority of Eusebius (Hist. eccl., V, xx) that this First Epistle of John was cited by Papias, a disciple of John and fellow of Polycarp (A.D. 145-160). Irenæus (A.D. 181-189) not only cites I John ii, 18, and v, 1 but attributes the citation to John the Lord's disciple ("Adv. Hær." 3, 16; Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", V, viii). The Muratorian Canon (A.D. 195-205) tells the story of the writing of John's Gospel consequent upon a revelation made to the Apostle Andrew, and adds: "What wonder, then, that John so often in his letters gives us details of his Gospel and says of himself, etc." -- here I John. i, 1, is quoted. St. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 190-203) quotes v, 3, with his usual indubitable accuracy, and expressly assigns the words to John ("Pædag.", III, xi; Kirch. Comm., ed. I, p. 281). Tertullian (A.D. 194-221, according to Sunday) tells us that John, in his Epistle, brands as Antichrist those who deny that Christ is come in the flesh (De Præscrip. 33), and clearly attributes to "John the author of the Apocalypse" several passages of the First Epistle (cf. "Adv. Marc.", III, 8, and V, 16, in P. L., II, 359 and 543; "Adv. Gnost.", 12, in P. L., II, 169; "Adv. Prax.", 15, in P. L., II, 196).
B. Internal evidence
So striking is the internal evidence in favour of common authorship of the Gospel and First Epistle of John, as to be almost universally admitted. It cannot be by accident that in both documents we find the ever-recurring and most distinctive words light, darkness, truth, life, and love; the strictly Johannine phrases "to walk in the light", "to be of the truth", "to be of the devil", "to be of the world", "to overcome the world", etc. Only such erratic and sceptical critics as Holtzmann and Schmiedel deny the forcefulness of this argument from internal evidence; they conclude that the two documents come from the same school, not from the same hand.
The foregoing citations, the fact that there never was any controversy or doubt among the Fathers in the matter of the canonicity of the First Epistle of John, the existence of this document in all the ancient translations of the New Testament and in the great uncial manuscripts (Sinaitic, Alexandrian, etc.) -- these are arguments of overwhelming cumulative force to establish the acceptance of this letter by the primitive Church as canonical Scripture, and to prove that the inclusion of the First Epistle of John in the Canon of Trent was only a conciliar acceptance of an existing fact -- the feet that the letter had always been among the Homologoumena of Holy Writ.
The only part of the letter concerning the authenticity and canonicity whereof there is serious question is the famous passage of the three witnesses: "And there are three who give testimony (in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one. And there are three that give testimony on earth): the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three are one" (1 John 5:7-8). Throughout the past three hundred years, effort has been wade to expunge from our Clementine Vulgate edition of canonical Scripture the words that are bracketed. Let us examine the facts of the case.
A. Greek Manuscripts
The disputed part is found in no uncial Greek manuscripts and in only four rather recent cursives -- one of the fifteenth and three of the sixteenth century. No Greek epistolary manuscript contains the passage.
No Syriac manuscript of any family -- Peshito, Philoxenian, or Harklean -- has the three witnesses; and their presence in the printed Syriac Gospels is due to translation from the Vulgate. So too, the Coptic manuscripts -- both Sahidic and Bohairic -- have no trace of the disputed part, nor have the Ethiopic manuscripts which represent Greek influence through the medium of Coptic. The Armenian manuscripts, which favour the reading of the Vulgate, are admitted to represent a Latin influence which dates from the twelfth century; early Armenian manuscripts are against the Latin reading. Of the Itala or Old Latin manuscripts, only two have our present reading of the three witnesses: Codex Monacensis (q) of the sixth or seventh century; and the Speculum (m), an eighth or ninth century manuscript which gives many quotations from the New Testament. Even the Vulgate, in the majority of its earliest manuscripts, is without the passage in question. Witnesses to the canonicity are: the Bible of Theodulph (eighth century) in the National Library of Paris; Codex Cavensis (ninth century), the best representative of the Spanish type of text: Toletanus (tenth century); and the majority of Vulgate manuscripts after the twelfth century. There was some dispute as to the canonicity of the three witnesses as early as the sixth century: for the preface to the Catholic Epistles in Codex Fuldensis (A.D. 541-546) complains about the omission of this passage from some of the Latin versions.
C. The Fathers
(1) Greek Fathers, until the twelfth century, seem one and all to have had no knowledge of the three witnesses as canonical Scripture. At times they cite verses 8 and 9 and omit the disputed portions of verses 7 and 8. The Fourth Lateran (A.D. 1215), in its decree against Abbot Joachim (see Denzinger, 10th ed., n. 431) quotes the disputed passage with the remark "sicut in quibusdam codicibus invenitur". Thereafter, we find the Greek Fathers making use of the text as canonical.
(2) The Syriac Fathers never use the text.
(3) The Armenian Fathers do not use it before the twelfth century.
(4) The Latin Fathers make much earlier use of the text as canonical Scripture. St. Cyprian (third century) seems undoubtedly to have had it in mind, when he quotes John, x, 30, and adds: "Et iterum de Patre et Filio et Spiritu Sancto scriptum est -- Et hi tres unum sunt" (De Unitate Ecclesiæ, vi). Clear also is the witness of St. Fulgentius (sixth century, "Responsio contra Arianos" in P. L., LXV, 224), who refers to the above witness of St. Cyprian. In fact, outside of St. Augustine, the Fathers of the African Church are to be grouped with St. Cyprian in favour of the canonicity of the passage. The silence of the great and voluminous St. Augustine and the variation in form of the text in the African Church are admitted facts that militate against the canonicity of the three witnesses. St. Jerome (fourth century) does not seem to know the text. After the sixth century, the disputed passage is more and more in use among the Latin Fathers; and, by the twelfth century, is commonly cited as canonical Scripture.
D. Ecclesiastical Documents
Trent's is the first certain ecumenical decree, whereby the Church established the Canon of Scripture. We cannot say that the decree of Trent on the Canon necessarily included the three witnesses. For in the preliminary discussions signs that led up to the canonizing of "the entire books with all their parts, as these have been wont to be read in the Catholic Church and are contained in the old Latin Vulgate", there was no reference whatsoever to this special part; hence this special part is not canonized by Trent, unless it is certain that the text of the three witnesses has "been wont to be read in the Catholic Church and is contained in the old Latin Vulgate". Both conditions must be verified before the canonicity of the text is certain. Neither condition has as yet been verified with certainty; quite the contrary, textual criticism seems to indicate that the Comma Johanninum was not at all times and everywhere wont to be read in the Catholic Church and is not contained in the original old Latin Vulgate.
However, the Catholic theologian must take into account more than textual criticism; to him the authentic decisions of all Roman Congregations are guiding signs in the use of the Sacred Scripture, which the Church and only the Church has given to him as the Word of God. He cannot pass over the disciplinary decision of the Holy Office (13 January, 1897), whereby it is decreed that the authenticity of the Comma Johanninum may not with safety (tuto) be denied or called into doubt. This disciplinary decision was approved by Leo XIII two days later. Though his approval was not in forma specifica, as was Pius X's approval of the Decree "Lamentabili", all further discussion of the text in question must be carried on with due deference to this decree. (See "Revue Biblique", 1898, p. 149; and Pesch, "Prælectiones Dogmaticæ", II, 250.)
It was of chief moment to determine that this letter is authentic, i.e., belongs to the Apostolic age, is Apostolic in its source, and is trustworthy. Among those who admit the authenticity and canonicity of the letter, some hold that its sacred writer was not John the Apostle but John the Presbyter. We have traced the tradition of the Apostolic origin of the letter back to the time of St. Irenæus. Harnack and his followers admit that Irenæus, the disciple of Polycarp, assigns the authorship to St. John the Apostle; but have the hardihood to throw over all tradition, to accuse Irenæus of error in this matter, to cling to the doubtful witness of Papias, and to be utterly regardless of the patent fact that throughout three centuries no other ecclesiastical writer knows anything at all of this John the Presbyter. The doubtful witness of Papias is saved for us by Eusebius ("Hist. eccl." III, xxxix, Funk, "Patres Apostolici", I, p. 350): "And if any one came my way who had been a follower of the elders, I enquired the sayings of the elders -- what had Andrew, or what had Peter said, or what Philip, or what Thomas or James, or what John (he ti Ioannes) or Matthew or any one else of the disciples of the Lord; and what were Aristion and John the elder, the disciples of the Lord, saying?" (a te Apistion kai ho presbuteros Ioannes, oi tou kuriou mathetai legousin). Harnack insists that Eusebius read his sources thoroughly; and, on the authority of Eusebius and of Papias, postulates the existence of a disciple of the Lord named John the Elder, who was distinct from John the Apostle; and to this fictitious John the Elder assigns all the Johannine writings. (See Geschichte der Altchristliche Litteratur, II, i, 657.) With all Catholic authors, we consider that either Eusebius alone, or Papias and Eusebius, erred, and that Irenæus and the rest of the Fathers were right, in fact we lay the blame at the door of Eusebius. As Bardenhewer (Geschichte der Altkirchlichen Literatur, I, 540) says, Eusebius set up a straw man. There never was a John the Elder. So think Funk (Patres Apostolici, I, 354), Dr. Salmon (Dictionary of Christian Biography, III, 398), Hausleiter (Theol. Litteraturblatt, 1896), Stilting, Guerike, and others.
Eusebius is here a special pleader. He opposes the millennium. Wrongly fancying that the Apocalypse favours the Chiliasts, he assigns it to this John the Elder and tries to rob the work of its Apostolic authority, the clumsiness of expression of Papias gives occasion to Eusebius in proof of the existence of two disciples of the Lord named John. To be sure, Papias mentions two Johns -- one among the Apostles, the other in a clause with Aristion. Both are called elders; and elders here (presbuteroi) are admitted by Eusebius to be Apostles, since he admits that Papias got information from those who had met the Apostles (substituting ton apostolon for ton presbuteron; see Hist. eccl., III, xxxix, 7). Hence it is that Papias, in joining John with Aristion, speaks of John the Elder and not of Aristion the Elder; Aristion was not an elder or Apostle. The reason for joining the Aristion with John at all is that they were both witnesses of the present to Papias, whereas all the Apostles were witnesses of the past generation. Note that the second aorist (eipen) is used in regard to the group of witnesses of the past generation, since there is question of what they had said, whereas the present (legousin) is used in regard to the witnesses of the present generation, i.e. Aristion and John the Elder, since the question is what they are now saying. The Apostle John was alive in the time of Papias. He and he alone can be the elder of whom Papias speaks. How is it, then, that Papias mentions John twice? Hausleiter conjectures that the phrase he ti Ioannes is a gloss (Theol. Litteraturblatt, 1896). It is likelier that the repetition of the name of John is due to the clumsiness of expression of Papias. He does not mention all the Apostles, but only seven; though he undoubtedly means them all. His mention of John is quite natural in view of the relation in which he stood to that Apostle. After mention of the group that were gone, he names the two from whom he now receives indirect information of the Lord's teaching; these two are the disciple Aristion and John the Apostle.
V. Time and Place
Irenæus tells us the letter was written by St. John during his stay in Asia (Adv. Hær., III, i). Nothing certain can be determined in this matter. The arguments are probable in favour of Ephesus and also for the last few years of the first century.
VI. Destination and Purpose
The form is that of an encyclical letter. Its destination is clearly the churches which St. John evangelized, he speaks to his "little children", "beloved", "brethren", and is affectionate and fatherly throughout the entire letter. The purpose is identical with the purpose of the Fourth Gospel -- that his children may believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and that believing may have life eternal in His name (1 John 5:13; John 20:31).
A logical analysis of the letter would be a mistake. The thought is built up not analytically but synthetically. After a brief introduction, St. John works up the thought that God is Light (i, 5); so, too, should we walk in the light (i, 7), keep from sin (i, 6-ii, 6), observe the new commandment of love (ii, 7), since he that loves is in the light and he that hates is in darkness (ii, 8-iii). Then follows the second leading Johannine thought that God is Love (iii-v, 12). Love means that we are sons of God (iii, 1-4); Divine sonship means that we are not in sin (iii, 4-13), that we love one another (iii, 13-44), that we believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God (iv, 5, 6); for it was love that impelled God to give us His only Son (iv, 7-v, 12). The conclusion (v, 13-end) tells the reader that the purpose of the letter is to inculcate faith in Jesus Christ, since this faith is life eternal. In this conclusion as well as in other parts of the letter, the same salient and leading Johannine thoughts recur to defy analysis. John had two or three things to say; he said these two or three things over and over again in ever varying form.
These thirteen verses are directed against the same Docetic errors and germs of Gnosticism which St. John strives to uproot in his Gospel and First Epistle. Harnack and some others, who admit the canonicity of the Second and Third Epistles, assign them to the authorship of John the Elder; we have shown that this John the Elder never existed. The authenticity of this second letter is attested by very early Fathers. St. Polycarp ("Phil.", VII, i; Funk, "Patres Apostolici", I, 304) cites rather II John, 7, than I John, 4. St. Irenæus expressly quotes II John, 10, as the words of "John the Disciple of the Lord". The Muratorian Canon speaks of two Epistles of John. St. Clement of Alexandria speaks of the larger Epistle of John; and, as a consequence, knows at least two. Origen hears witness to the two shorter letters, which "both together do not contain a hundred lines" and are not admitted by all to be authentic. The canonicity of these two letters was long disputed. Eusebius puts them among the Antilegomena. They are not found in the Peshito. The Canon of the Western Church includes them after the fourth century; although only Trent's decree set the question of their canonicity beyond the dispute of such men as Cajetan. The Canon of the Eastern Church, outside that of Antioch, includes them after the fourth century. The style and manner of the second letter are very like to those of the first. The destination of the letter has been much disputed. The opening words are variously interpreted -- "The ancient to the lady Elect, and her children" (ho presbuteros eklekte kuria kai tois teknois autes). We have seen that the elder means the Apostle. Who is the lady elect? Is she the elect Kyria? The lady Eklekte? A lady named Eklekte Kyria? A lady elect, whose name is omitted? A Church? All these interpretations are defended. We consider, with St. Jerome, that the letter is addressed to a particular church, which St. John urges on to faith in Jesus Christ, to the avoidance of heretics, to love. This interpretation best fits in with the ending to the letter -- "The children of thy sister Elect salute thee."
Fourteen verses addressed to Gaius, a private individual. This Gaius seems to have been not an ecclesiastic but a layman of means. He is praised by John for his hospitality to visiting brethren (verses 2-9). The Apostle then goes on: "I had written perhaps to the church; but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, doth not receive us" (verse 9). This Diotrephes may have been the bishop of the Church. He is found fault with roundly, and Demetrius is set up for an example. This short letter, "twin sister", as St. Jerome called it, to the second of John's letters, is entirely a personal affair. No doctrine is discussed. The lesson of hospitality, especially of care for the preachers of the Gospel is insisted on. The earliest certain recognition of this letter as Apostolic is by St. Denis of Alexandria (third century). Eusebius refers to the letters called "the second and third of John, whether these chance to belong to the evangelist or to someone else with a name like to his" ("Hist. eccl.", III xxv; Schwartz, II, 1, p. 250). The canonicity of the letter has already been treated. The greeting and ending of this letter are internal evidence of composition by the author of the previous Johannine letter. The simple and affectionate style, the firmness of the rebuke of Diotrephes are strictly Johannine. Nothing certain is known as to time and place of writing; but it is generally supposed that the two small letters were written by John towards the end of his long life and in Ephesus.