Introduction to the Second Epistle of John

“Introduction to the Second Epistle of John,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Why study this book?

In his Second Epistle, John expressed concern regarding apostate influences in the Church. At the same time, he also expressed joy for Church members who had remained strong and loyal to the gospel (see 2 John 1:4). These words illustrate the joy and gratitude that Church leaders feel for those who remain faithful to the Lord. As students study 2 John, they can be strengthened by John’s reminder to love one another, obey God’s commandments, and faithfully abide in the doctrine of Christ.

Who wrote this book?

The author identified himself as “the elder” (2 John 1:1), and tradition holds that John, one of the original Twelve Apostles, wrote this epistle (see Bible Dictionary, “John, Epistles of”).

When and where was it written?

It is unknown exactly when and where 2 John was written.

If the tradition of John’s long residence in Ephesus is correct, he could have written this epistle from there between A.D. 70 and 100.

To whom was it written and why?

The Second Epistle of John was written to “the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1:1). It is unknown whether John was addressing his family or another specific group of people or was speaking to the Church collectively in figurative language.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote that 2 and 3 John may be letters that John wrote to members of his immediate family (see Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 3:409–10, 412–14).

Another possibility is that “the elect lady” actually refers to a Christian congregation (see 2 John 1:13). The Greek word for church is feminine, and it was common to personify the Church as a woman (see Ephesians 5:25–27, 32; Joseph Smith Translation, Revelation 12:1–3, 7 [in the Bible appendix]; Revelation 19:7–8).

As with 1 John, John apparently wrote this epistle to respond to false teachings that Jesus Christ did not literally come to earth in the flesh. He explained that members who taught that Christ did not have a physical body should not be received into one’s house, or congregation (see 2 John 1:7–10).

What are some distinctive features of this book?

In this epistle John warned about false teachers who had entered into the Church. He advised Church members not to heed or keep company with these individuals.

Outline

2 John 1 John reminds the Church of the commandment to love one another. He warns of false teachers and deceivers within the Church and counsels Church members to not allow them to remain in their congregations.