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New Testament: 2 John

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Summary

John, Hans Memling  (1468)

John the Elder writes to a local church leader and her "children" (that is, the local house church), encouraging them to continue to walk in the truth and love of God. He warns them to avoid false teachers or "deceivers" who deny that Jesus Christ has come fully in the flesh.

So What?

This letter reminds readers that theology matters to our "walk in the truth," our daily lives in faith. Especially important to any Christian's life is one's view of Jesus Christ.

Where Do I Find It?

The Second Letter of John is the twenty-fourth book in the New Testament. It is the second of the three "Johannine Letters," a collection of writings that share much in common with each other and with the Gospel of John.

Who Wrote It?

The "elder" who wrote this letter is often identified as John, the same person who probably wrote the Gospel of John (maybe in cooperation with other writers). This elder may or may not be the Apostle John, son of Zebedee.

When Was It Written?

The Second Letter of John comes from around 90 C.E. It was probably written before 1 John, but after the Gospel of John.

What's It About?

John the Elder opposes the false teachers who deny that Jesus came in the flesh, and he encourages a local church and its leader to continue to walk in the truth.

How Do I Read It?

Read this letter in its context, written to a local house church to keep its members from heresy. Recognize the importance that John the Elder puts on sound theology. The simple language conveys profound issues, and so we should read also for the deeper messages that continue to speak to us.

AUTHOR: Alan Padgett, Professor of Systematic Theology

I. Greeting and Blessing (2 John 1-4)
John greets the "elect lady" (the leader of a congregation) and opens with a blessing.

II. John's Central Concerns (2 John 5-11)
John instructs the church to continue in the truth and love of Christ and to shun the false teachers who deny that Jesus came in the flesh.

III. Closing (2 John 12-13)
John ends his letter with a short note about his possible arrival in person.

AUTHOR: Alan Padgett, Professor of Systematic Theology

This letter takes its place among the three Letters of John. It was probably written before 1 John, because the false teachers that 2 John refers to have just appeared and not yet left to form their own churches, as we find in 1 John 2:19. The concern in 2 John is about false teachers who are in the church. The style of 2 John corresponds to a type of ancient letter, an epistle of petition, that is, a letter asking for something from someone.

AUTHOR: Alan Padgett, Professor of Systematic Theology

Nature and content of the false teachings. The exact nature and content of the false teachings that this letter opposes continue to attract scholarly debate. It is very likely that these are the same false teachers opposed also in 1 John. A popular option is that the heresy was a very early form of gnostic Christianity. Among other things, many gnostic teachings denied that Jesus had a body like ours. They also dismissed the realities of life in the world, claiming salvation as a purely spiritual existence.


Relationship with the Gospel of John and the other letters of John. The relationships among this letter, the Gospel of John, and the other two letters remain issues among biblical scholars. The letter is likely written by the same person or people responsible for the Gospel of John. It is probably older than 1 John, but its relationship to 3 John remains an open question. One idea is that both 2 and 3 John were written at the same time, one to the church at large (2 John) and one to a key leader in a house church (3 John).


Elect lady and her children. The "elect lady" that this letter addresses could refer to an actual woman church leader and members of her house church, or it could be a metaphor for the church as a whole. The fact that her title is "elect" lady and she has "children" suggests that John writes to an actual woman leader, and the members of the house-church are referred to as her children.

AUTHOR: Alan Padgett, Professor of Systematic Theology

Heresy. The letter notes how damaging false teaching can be to the church. It prompts contemporary readers to consider whether Christians should continue to be concerned about heresy in the present day.


Incarnation. This letter insists on the full coming of the Son of God into human flesh--a fully human Savior. Many philosophies and religions of the first and second centuries saw the body or flesh as inherently evil, and this led some people to resist the idea of Jesus as God incarnate.

AUTHOR: Alan Padgett, Professor of Systematic Theology