Exegetical Comments on 2 John 4-11

Exegetical Comments on 2 John 4-11

The brief letter of 2 John has the theme of warning against false teachers and heresies. John begins this portion of his letter by commending those who have remained faithful to the gospel (vs. 4). John continues in vs. 5 by using the same address to his audience in his opening in vs. 1. The ἐκλεκτῇ κυρίᾳ could be one person, or it could be a wider ecclesiastical audience by personifying the greater church in the phrase.[1] Vs. 5 drives home the same theme John pursued in his first letter chapter two – the commandment to love. Specifically in this passage to “love one another.” John is so adamant on this that he uses ἀλήθειαν, which puts love in the present subjunctive active first-person plural – “we love.” John owns what he is writing to his audience. Vs. 6 expound on this love as obeying the command to walk in love. In this context, John is saying that love is staying in the messianic community, not leaving it.[2]

John addresses a specific heresy starting in vs. 7 – the denying of Jesus’ incarnation. This denial speaks to the teachings of the Docetists who taught Jesus only appeared to be human.[3] These people who are separating themselves from the messianic community (and trying to drag others with them) are labeled by John as ἀντίχριστος. This title will have significance in the Apocalypse when referring to figures who are against Christ.

Vs. 8 presents some linguistic challenges. The NIV and the RSV translate the verse “Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for,” while the CSB (and others) translate it as “what we have worked for.” The “we” translation seems to be the better option and coincides with the nature of the letter.[4] John is continuing his warning in vs. 9 that the teaching (the gospel of love) and “goes beyond it” is not a part of the Messianic community. He finishes the verse with a commendation to those who “remain in that teaching” as having the Father and the Son. Vss. 10-11 bring home the warning message, encouraging the community not to receive anyone who is a part of this false teaching. This notion seems to fly in the face of our cultural value to “tolerate” others. Loving someone who is false means that the believer cannot accept their falsehood and cannot entertain fellowship with them.[5]


[1] John R. W. Stott, The Letters of John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 19, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 203.

[2] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 2 Jn 4–6.

[3] Ibid, 2Jn.

[4] Glenn W. Barker, “2 John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 364.

[5] Tom Wright, Early Christian Letters for Everyone: James, Peter, John and Judah, For Everyone Bible Study Guides (London; Louisville, KY: SPCK; Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 178.

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