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Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on 2 John 4-9 (or 2 John 1:4-9)

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 10, 2012

Some versions of the bible give a chapter number to the 13 verses that make up this letter (e.g., 2 John 1:1-13), others do not (e.g., 2 John 1-13). This post includes Bishop MacEvilly’s brief summary analysis of the entire epistle, followed by his notes on verses 4-9. I’ve also included (in purple text) the Bishop’s paraphrasing of these verse.

Summary Analysis of 2 John~The Apostle conveys to Electa and her children the love and spiritual affection not only of himself, but also of all true Christians, who are incorporated with them in the profession of the same faith (ver. 1-2). He wishes them the fulness of all heavenly and spiritual blessings (3). He next congratulates her and her children on their progress in Christian virtue (4); and exhorts them to the performance of good works, especially the works relating to fraternal charity (5). He thus confutes the demoralizing error of Simon Magus, regarding the sufficiency of faith only (see note at the end of this analysis). He then exhorts them to fulfil God’s commandments; and, in a particular manner, specifies his commandment to persevere in the true faith (6).

He enters on the second part of the Epistle, which is to warn them against being seduced from the faith by the heretics who then sprang forth. He alludes to Basilides, Ebion and Cernthus, &c., who erred regarding the human and divine natures of Jesus Christ (7) He cautions them against forfeiting eternal life, by following these heretics (8). He shows the disadvantage and ruin entailed by the doctrine of the heretics, and the reward, both here and hereafter, of perseverance in the true faith (9). He next tells them to deny all entrance into their houses, to all false teachers, as also to refuse them the common civilities of life (10)—lest they might be chargeable with countenancing or approving of their wicked works (11 ).

He puts off many things of importance which he wished to impart to her, not desiring to commit them to writing; he hopes soon to see her (13). He conveys to her the salutation of her sister’s children (13).

Note: The view that the Epistles of John were written in part to contend with the early heretic Simon Magus was popularly held in the Bishop’s day. In his Introduction to First John the Bishop wrote: The chief object, which the Apostles had in view, in all the Catholic Epistles, as we are informed by St. Augustine (Libro de Fide et Operibus, ch. xiv.), was, to refute the pernicious and demoralizing error of Simon Magus, regarding the inutility of good works, and the sufficiency of faith alone for salvation. Modern commentators are much more nuanced concerning the errors dealt with in the catholic epistles. Concerning the question of who the opposition is in the johannine epistle one can consult and compare the following works: THE OPPONENTS IN 1 JOHN (New Testament Studies, 32) by John Painter. 1, 2 AND 3 JOHN (Sacra Pagina vol. 18) by John Painter. THE EPISTLES OF JOHN (Anchor Bible, vol 30) by Raymond Brown. THE JOHANNINE EPISTLES (New Testament Message, Vol. 21). THE THEOLOGY OF THE JOHANNINE EPISTLE by Judith Lieu.

2Jn 1:4  I was exceeding glad that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.

It has been to me a subject of great spiritual joy to find your children advancing and progressing in the profession of the true faith, and in the practice of Christian virtue, as we have been commanded by the Father.

He now enters on the subject of the Epistle, “that I found of thy children,”
which some understand to mean, by a Hebrew idiom, I found thy children, as “adorabunt de ipso” i.e., ipsum (Psalm 72:15), “dabitur ei deauro Arabiæ,” i.e., “aurum Arabiæ, docebit vos de viis suis,” i.e., vias suas (Isaiah 2:3). Others understand the words to mean, some of your children, “walking in truth,” i.e., progressing, as the word “walking” implies, in Christian faith and virtue, “as we have received a commandment from the Father,” ie., as the Father has commanded all to walk and progress. Of course, this congratulation for their past

2Jn 1:5  And now I beseech thee, lady, not as writing a new commandment to thee, but that which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.

And now, lady, I entreat you, and I also entreat your children, to attend to a precept by no means new (for I have no idea of proposing to you any such), but to a precept which you have heard from the very beginning of your conversion-viz., that we love one another.

“And I now beseech thee, lady,”—of course, the admonition is through her conveyed to her children and all Christians—”not as writing a new precept,” when recommending that which he beseeches them to practise, “but that which we have heard from the beginning,” viz., of their conversion (vide 1 John 2:7). What he beseeches of her and her children, and proposes to them as an old precept is, “that we love one another.”

2Jn 1:6  And this is charity: That we walk according to his commandments. For this is the commandment that, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in the same:

And the true test of our love of God, with which the love of our neighbor is inseparably connected, is the observance of his commandments. Now, one of his chief commandments is, that we should persevere in the same faith which we have heard from the beginning, through the preaching of the Apostles.

The charity of God is inseparably connected with the love of our neighbour, since the love of God must be the motive of the love of our neighbour, and without it we could not love our neighbour as we ought (1 John 5:2); and our love of God is most sincerely attested by observing his commandments (1 John 5:3). “For this is the commandment.” “For,” is not in the Greek, and the sense will be more clearly expressed without it, by substituting either, and, or, but, for it, thus: “but this is the commandment,” or one of the commandments, the observance of which will be a sincere test of our love for God, it is, “that as you have heard from the beginning,” &c., i.e., that you persevere in the faith which has been taught from the beginning of your conversion. This perseverance in the true faith he insists on, in consequence of the pernicious errors then disseminated, of which he treats in the followmg.

2Jn 1:7  For many seducers are gone out into the world who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a seducer and an antichrist.

(It is not without cause I exhort you to perseverance in the faith, and wish to put you on your guard); for, many deceitful seducers have gone forth into the world, who deny Jesus Christ, descending from the bosom of the eternal Father, assumed real flesh; the leader of this heretical swarm is a deceiver, and one of the principal precursors of Antichrist.

In this verse he commences the second part of the Epistle, wherein, after exhorting them to charity and good works in the preceding part, he encourages them to perseverance in the true faith, and cautions them against the wiles of the heretics. He, in a particular manner, alludes to Basilides and his followers, who denied that Christ assumed real flesh; they asserted that he assumed merely fantastical flesh; and hence, they subverted the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption. What he says applies also to the heretics, who erred either regarding Christ’s Divinity or Humanity. “This is a seducer and antichrist.” He employs the singular number to mark out the leader of these heretics; or, to show that each of them is a precursor
of Antichrist (vide 1 John 2:18), “are gone out.” In the ordinary Greek, εισηλθον εις τον κοσμον, are entered into the world. The Vatican supports the Vulgate, εξηλθον εις τον κοσμον, gone out into the world.

2Jn 1:8  Look to yourselves, that you lose not the things which you have wrought: but that you may receive a full reward.

Take heed, therefore, and beware, lest, seduced by these, you may lose the reward of the good works which you have heretofore wrought; rather, strive to secure the full and abundant reward which is in store for you.

“Look to yourselves,” and be cautious, “that you lose not the things which you wrought,” lest being seduced by them, you lose the merit and fruit of the good works which, aided by divine grace, you heretofore performed; “but that you may receive a full reward,” i.e., but rather endeavour, by persevering in the true failh, to secure the possession of the reward, the “full,” i.e., copious and abundant reward which is reserved for you in heaven. The word “full” does not imply that, should they not persevere, they would receive a reward, not full; it only expresses the quality of the reward they would receive in case of perseverance, and forfeit altogether, should they be seduced by the heretics from the true faith. From this verse it follows— first, that good works merit a reward with God; secondly, that charity, as also the merit of our former good wotks, may be lost. In the ordinary Greek, the reading is in the first person thus: μη απολεσωμεν….απολαβωμεν. (The Alexandrian and Vatican MSS. have these verbs in the second person; and, thus, support the Vulgate: μη απολεσητε….απολαβητε), “that we lose not….we have wrought…that we may receive,” &c. The meaning is, however, the “same, since the Apostle identifies himself with them, as is frequently done by orators when speaking of disagreeable or saddening matters; or, it may be, that he refers to the accidental reward, the aureola, which the preachers of the gospel enjoy from seeing their people saved (see 1 Peter 5:4).

2Jn 1:9  Whosoever revolteth and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God. He that continueth in the doctrine, the same hath both the Father and the Son

Whosoever recedes from the Church, and passes over to the heretics, and perseveres not in professing the doctrine and obeying the precepts of Christ, has not God as his friend, neither has he him residing in him, and united to him by sanctifying grace; but, on the other hand, whosoever perseveres in the doctrine and precepts of Christ, the same is united to the Father and Son, by sanctifying grace here, and shall be eternally united to them in glory hereafter.

“Whosoever revolteth;” for which the ordinary Greek is, πας ο παραβαινων,
passes over, and means, whosoever deserts the standard of God, and passes over to the camp of the heretics, Basilides, Ebion, Cerinthus, &c. The Vatican has, πας ο προαγων, “and continueth not in the doctrine of Clirist,” including faith and morals, “hath not God” dwelling m him, by sanctifying grace. “He that continueth in the doctrine,” to which is added in the ordinary Greek, of Christ, i.e., whosoever professes his faith, and obeys his precepts, “the same haih the Father and the Son” (see 1 John 2:23). Of Christ, is wanting in the Alexandrian and Vatican MSS.

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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 2 John 4-9 (or 2 John 1:4-9)

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 10, 2012

The second letter of John is quite short, some translation assign to its 13 verse a chapter number, others do not. Text in red, if any, are my additions.

2Jn 1:4  I was exceeding glad that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.

I was exceeding glad that I found of thy children walking in truth. Of thy children. This is a Hebraism. There is a similar grammatical form in Ps 72:16, “To Him shall be given of the gold of Arabia, and they shall worship of Him” (de ipso), i.e. “shall worship Him.”

Electa seems to have had many sons or grandsons, for they too are called children. This letter is addressed unto the elect lady (εκλεκτη = electa) and her children (verse 1) and Lapide was of the opinion that this was a reference to a Christian Matron. See the footnote to 2 John 1 in the NAB.

Walking in Truth: ordering their lives according to the rule of the Gospel. Observe, he does not say standing, or sitting, to signify that they made daily progress in the Christian life, and went on from virtue to virtue, in which he proposes them as a model for imitation.

As we have received a commandment from the Father. For the Father has commanded through the Son, even as Christ saith (John 15:15), “All things whatsoever I have heard of the Father I have made known unto you.”

2Jn 1:5  And now I beseech thee, lady, not as writing a new commandment to thee, but that which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another

And now, I beseech thee, Lady, &c. This must be referred to the end of the verse, that we love one another. I beseech thee, lady, to exercise thyself, and those who belong to thee, in mutual love. For this commandment of love is not recent and new, but delivered by Christ to me and the rest of the Apostles at the very beginning of the Gospel. Observe the modesty of S. John as something which ought to be imitated by Prelates, in that he says, I beseech thee, Lady, when he might have said, I command thee, 0 my daughter.

2Jn 1:6  And this is charity: That we walk according to his commandments. For this is the commandment that, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in the same:

For this is the commandment . . . you should walk in the same, &c. Viz., that ye should make careful progress in evangelical truth and love, growing and making progress in the love of God and your neighbours, as I enjoined upon you in the very beginning of my preaching.

2Jn 1:7  For many seducers are gone out into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a seducer and an antichrist.

For many seducers are gone out into the world.  He now passes to the second branch of his epistle, from charity to evangelical truth. For these two virtues are inseparable sisters and companions. Now the word because gives the reason for what he had said in the verse preceding. “I have said that ye should walk in charity, should make progress in the commandment of Gospel truth and charity, because many seducers are gone out into the world, who endeavour to overturn this truth, and as a consequence Christian charity, and to tear it from you. Of such therefore ye ought to beware as of wolves. For they strive to draw you away from union with Christ to their own conventicles of Satan.”

This is a seducer and an antichrist. Whosoever thinks, or teaches, that Christ has not come in the flesh, has not been incarnate; this man is a deceiver.

2Jn 1:8  Look to yourselves, that you lose not the things which you have wrought: but that you may receive a full reward.

Look to yourselves, that you lose not the things which you have wrought: the Greek reads in the first person, lest we lose, &c. Lest I should have preached to you in vain, and lest both I and you should lose all our former labour. As the old saying hath it, “There is no greater unhappiness than to remember that we once were happy.”

But that you may receive a full reward. That is, if ye take heed to yourselves, and persevere, your perseverance will bring you a full reward. Full, i.e. copious and abundant. For he who falls back, even though he afterwards repent, receives only a half reward, for he loses all the time and the works of the period of his apostasy. The Greek has α̉πολάβωμεν, that we may receive, for the reward of an Apostle and teacher is full when he sees the fruit of his works in his disciples, and when he is honoured and crowned, not only in himself, but in them. As S. Paul says, “What is our hope, or joy, or crown of glory? Ye are our glory and joy.

2Jn 1:9  Whosoever revolteth and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God. He that continueth in the doctrine, the same hath both the Father and the Son

Whosoever revolteth, &c. The Greek is παζαβαινιν, i.e., who transgresses. The Syriac reads, he who passes by, and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, has not God for his friend.

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