John, epistles of

John, epistles of
Three epistles traditionally, but improbably, attributed to John the Apostle. It is unlikely that an apostle would identify himself simply as an ‘elder[[➝ elders]] or presbyter (2 John 1, 3 John 1). The connection with the fourth gospel is, however, close; many of the characteristic terms of the gospel reappear in the epistles—‘light’, ‘love’, ‘world’, ‘truth’, for example. The letters are written in the light of problems: some members, and former members (1 John 2:19) are hating rather than loving, even though they claim to be without sin (1 John 1:8), and this seems to be associated with their heretical Christology; they deny the total humanity of Jesus (1 John 4:2), who was baptized and crucified (1 John 5:6).
The third epistle rebukes a certain Diotrephes, who appears to be usurping the elder's leadership role. He has been inhospitable (3 John 5 ff.) in defiance of Christian custom (Rom. 12:13; 1 Pet. 4:9), though 2 John 10 comes very near to the discourtesy of the upstart Diotrephes by urging its readers (‘the children’ loved in the truth, 2 John 1) to exclude any who deviate from strict orthodoxy.
Ephesus would seem to be the probable place of composition. It was a centre where Judaism and Hellenism met, both of which may have attracted some members of the Church; Ephesus was associated by Irenaeus with John.

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