Second Epistle of John

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The Second Epistle of John, often written as II John, is a letter canonized into the vast majority of Christian bibles.

Authorship

Even though the author identifies himself simply as "The Elder," most Christians believe the letter was written by John the Evangelist. This is primarily based on a supposed similar writing style to the other two epistles and the Gospel of John--which is also anonymously written--though many scholars have demonstrated stark contrasts between the writing styles. The letter is dated by scholars to around 95-110 CE, though John the Evangelist died in 100 CE.

Content

Like the First Epistle of John, the letter disavows docetism, the belief that Jesus was not a real man, but a spirit. The letter is addressed "to the chosen lady and her children," but her identity is never revealed.

The "lady" in question is unknown woman, but it might also be a metaphor for a church with her "children" being church followers, although, if that's the case, I don't know what to make of her "sister" in (1:13).

Status

I have several translations of this book from various bibles, and have read both the KJV and NIV translations.

Review

Good

  • Nothing.

Bad

  • There isn't much to say about such a short letter other than it's not applicable to anyone except the long dead lady and her children. It uses the same oddly-phrased rhetoric as First John and carries a similar message.
  • The author begins the letter saying that everyone who, "knows the truth," loves this woman and her children. Assuming this is a real woman, this is pathetic lip service, but if it's a metaphor for the church, it implies that all Christians must love the church, which is dangerous authoritarianism (just look at the protected child-rapists).
  • From growing up in the church, I had always assumed the antichrist was a single person who would rise to power and bring about the end of times, but the author says that anyone who doesn't believe that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood human, even if they still believe in the message and spirit of Jesus, is an antichrist (1:7)!
  • It seems suspect that the Christian church would canonize such a short anonymous letter, but after reading it, I see why. Not only does it denounce docetism (1:7), but it's also fiercely authoritarian (1:6), anti-Jewish (1:9), and anti-capitulation in general (1:10-11), definitely the kind of thing that would help the church.

Ugly

  • The author describes "love" as "walk[ing] in obedience to his commands," (1:6) which is a horrifying view of love.
  • The author says not to allow anyone but Christians into your house and anyone who even welcomes a non-Christian shares in their evil (1:10-11). Talk about paranoia!

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