Studies in 3 John Part 1: An Exposition of 3 John 1-4 -- By: D. Edmond Hiebert

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 144:573 (Jan 1987)
Article: Studies in 3 John Part 1: An Exposition of 3 John 1-4
Author: D. Edmond Hiebert

Studies in 3 John
Part 1:
An Exposition of 3 John 1-4

D. Edmond Hiebert

Professor Emeritus of New Testament
Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California

Third John is the shortest book in the New Testament. It is about a line shorter than 2 John,1 its “twin sister.” Each letter filled a single sheet of ordinary papyrus paper. Both are precious examples of Christian correspondence which passed between local churches and individuals in the early church. They reveal the problems encountered by a vigorously growing Christian faith. These letters center around the conflicts and triumphs experienced in connection with the coming of varied traveling missionaries who presented themselves in the local churches. They shatter the notion that things in the first-century churches were ideal or nearly so.

The messages of these two epistles complement each other. In both letters the basic concern is connected with the extension of the true faith and the question of giving aid to traveling missionaries. Second John speaks of the kind of people from whom aid is to be withheld; the third epistle speaks of those to whom Christian aid is to be extended. It is in connection with this obligation that three individuals, in three distinct roles, are named in 3 John.

The structural outline of 3 John is not so obvious as the simple three-part outline of 2 John.2 The last two verses of 3 John naturally form the epistolary conclusion,3 but it is difficult to determine how far the opening salutation extends before the epistolary message begins.4 Verse 1 contains the usual epistolary designation of the writer and reader, but it lacks the usual epistolary greeting. Verse 2, however, continues with the conventional epistolary health-wish for the reader, but verses 3–4 are generally accepted as closely connected with verse 2 as giving the writer’s reason for his prayer for the reader. Since verses 13–14 clearly have the character of the conventional conclusion of a letter, it seems natural to accept verses 5–12 as constituting the body of the letter. Thus the letter has three main parts: the opening salutation (vv. 1–4), the apostolic message with its parts (vv...

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