John, three epistles of the New Testament

John, three letters of the New Testament. Traditionally, they are ascribed to John son of Zebedee, the disciple of Jesus. All three letters probably date to the end of the 1st cent. a.d., and may have been written as a corpus. First John is a homily. Owing much philosophically to the fourth Gospel, it was written on the occasion of a schism in the community. The schismatics claim to know God but do not live in fellowship with other believers, a contradiction according to the author. The writer takes issue with their apparent denial of the significance of the human reality of Jesus for his sacrifice for sin on the cross. The schismatics do not perceive that failure to love fellow believers is both a sin and a denial of their claim to know God. The necessity of love to reveal the authentic Christian is stressed throughout. In Second John, the author refers to himself as “elder” and is addressing some “elect lady,” perhaps an allegorical title for a particular church. The letter warns against showing hospitality to false teachers who deny the historicity of Jesus. Third John is addressed to a certain Gaius of an unidentified church. It protests against the failure of Diotrephes, the leader of the church, who fails to receive itinerant teachers and missionaries in fellowship with the author and who does not acknowledge the authority of the letter-writer.

See R. E. Brown, The Epistles of John (1982); D. Moody Smith, First, Second, and Third John (1991).

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