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The 3rd Epistle of John: Commentary by the Early Christians

Verse-by-verse analysis from Christians of the first millennium

*Note: all commentary provided in this edition is from Saint Bede the Venerable (c. 673-735 A.D.)

Chapter 1

1 The elder unto the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

He praises Gaius because of his godliness, and he is exhorted so that he might remain in this same godliness. He scolds Diotrophes because of his ungodliness and pride. Demetrius, however, he presents as having a good testimony with the brothers everywhere.

To Gaius. Gaius, having received Christ's faith and good in his actions, received the preachers and hearers of the word of God, and was managing goods, as is indicated in the epistle. But he (John) recommends hospitality, and invites him not to depart from it by the example and incitement of Diotrephes. Diotrephes indeed claimed that hospitality was useless. It seems that Gaius was a Corinthian, whence Paul, "I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius" (Corinthians, 1:14), and in another place, "Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, salutes you" (Romans, 16:23).

2 Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.

Concerning all things I make my prayer, etc. As now abounds to you, and good will of those who lavishly give to the poor, and also the faculty of needs; thus you are able to lead a life always full of virtue by the Lord’s help.

3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, even as you walk in the truth.

I was exceedingly glad. It would be unbecoming if, if faith failed, I now grieved because of the one thanks to whom I until now rejoiced. And therefore, not only on account of your salvation, but also on account of my authority, do persevere in hospitality.

4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

Greater thanks I have. Therefore I rejoice because when their brother came, I did not have greater grace, that is: when the brothers came to me, in neither deed nor word is this when I was able to rejoice more than when they gave a report about my sons (to whom I have given birth by either preaching or baptizing). Observe the reality of true faith and good work [of the Spirit].

5 Beloved, you do faithfully whatsoever you do for the brethren, and for strangers;

My dearest, you do faithfully. Therefore you should not fail in hospitality and almsgiving. For whatever you do among the brothers faithfully, that is as a believer, that is you do as one ought for the believer, not for vainglory, but you demonstrate your faith by deeds.

6 Who have borne witness of your love before the church: whom if you send forward on their journey in a godly manner, you shall do well:

7 Because for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

For, for in his name. Which: Truly they are honored, because they are not driven out by the Father on account of their crimes, but of their own free will they have gone out to glorify the name of Christ and to suffer for his name.

8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth.

We therefore ought. John had renounced everything, and he counts himself among the rich, so that he may make others more keen and prompt to have compassion for the poor.

9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, receives us not.

I had written, perhaps, etc. You ought to persevere in almsgiving because I know there is such great benefit in it, not only for you, but also I have written about the excellence of almsgiving for the whole Church, but I have discharged this necessity because Diotrephes does not care about our authority. Diotrephes, the arch-heretic of that time, usurped the rulers with his own new teaching. Diotrephes (is understood as) attractively stupid, or beautifully insane, so that he signifies a treacherous heart even in name.

To the church, those of the church, who perhaps, that is he who is doubted by the Church, and I have written so that the perfection of the Church might be earned through the observation of almsgiving.

10 Therefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he does, speaking against us with malicious words: and not content with that, neither does he himself receive the brethren, and forbids them that would, and casts them out of the church.

I will advertise. That is, I will bring them to everyone's knowlegde by showing them more manifestly; and he nowhere has an example for them, but he does them, and he invents new ones, prating, using false reasonings to confute us and so to pull you back from faith.

Note in the same way as we must not excite the tongues of detractors by our vice for them not to perish, we must tolerate with calmness of mind the tongues that are excited by their own malice, so that our merit may grow, and sometimes we must even silence them, lest, while they disseminate (false things) about us, they should corrupt the hearts of those who were able to hear good words.

11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that does good is of God: but he that does evil has not seen God.

12 Demetrius has good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear witness; and you know that our witness is true.

To Demetrius testimony. Because he would like him to imitate that which is good, he lets him know that he would like him to imitate Demetrius, so that he may himself prove to be worthy of a similar praise from everyone.

13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto you:

14 But I trust I shall shortly see you, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.

Peace be to you. He sends the grace of peace and salutation to his friends, in order to show that the enemies of truth are excluded from the salutation

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