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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 3 John 5-8 (or 3 John 1:5-8)

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 10, 2012

This third letter of St John’s is very short and, like the second letter, some translations assign a chapter number to its 14 verses (e.g., 3 John 1:1-14), others do not (e.g., 3 John 1-14).

3Jn 1:5  Dearly beloved, thou dost faithfully whatever thou dost for the brethren: and that for strangers,

Dearly beloved, thou dost faithfully, &c. Faithfully, i.e. thou actest in a Christian manner, thou doest that which becometh a believer, by showing hospitality towards and nourishing the faithful, especially pilgrims and strangers. For hospitality was of old most highly esteemed by Christians. It was a sure mark and sign of Christian faith, as the heathen Lucian testifies (in Peregrino).

Faithfully in this place not only signifies the faith, but also the fidelity of Caius. Thou art faithful to Christ. Thou fulfillest indeed that which thou hast promised to Christ in thy baptism. Listen to Tertullian recounting hospitality amongst the notes of the faithful (de Præscrip. c. 20): “Amongst the many and notable marks of the Church there is one prime note handed down by the Apostles by which all the chief and Apostolic Churches prove their oneness and their unity. This mark is the communion of peace, the attestation of brotherhood, the mutual bond (contesserationem) of hospitality. And the one principle which governs these rules of hospitality is the one tradition of the same Sacrament.” He makes use of the word contesseratio because of the tessera, or sign, which Christians were wont to exhibit to Christians to show that they were Christians, that so they might be received to brotherly hospitality. The heathen had similar tesseræ, or mutual tokens and pledges of hospitality. It was because the heathen discovered, and used these Christian tokens for purposes of deceit, as Lucian tells us Peregrinus did, that the Council of Mie substituted commendatory letters instead of tesseræ. On which see Baronius.

And that for strangers, Greek καί είς τοὺς ξένους. The καί here means especially. Thus Christ says, “Tell the disciples, and, i.e. especially, Peter.” (Mark 16:17.) The Greek phrasing implies an emphasis or distinction. See the NAB and RSV translation of 3 John 5.

Moreover, by peregrini (“strangers”) here we may understand with Bede apostolic men who went about spreading the Gospel. Also Christian exiles proscribed by the Gentiles. The reference is to traveling missionaries as the context (5-8) makes clear.

3Jn 1:6  Who have given testimony to thy charity in the sight of the church. Whom thou shalt do well to bring forward on their way in a manner worthy of God:

Who have given testimony to thy charity in the sight of the church. For of old the bishops and presbyters used to invite guests who came to give a sermon or exhortation in the church. And when they did this they would praise the charity and hospitality of Caius, of which they had experienced elsewhere. This duty of allowing hospitality to guests is spoken of by S. Clement (lib. 2 Constit. 62), and is sanctioned by the 4th Council of Carthage, cap. 4.

Whom thou shalt do well to bring forward on their way in a manner worthy of God.Or, To whom doing good thou shalt lead (deduces) worthily of God. The meaning is, To whom, if thou continuest to show kindness by receiving them to hospitality, thou wilt cause their journey to be easy, so that they will be able to reach the place whither they are going. This is a pious work and worthy of God. The word translated deduces in the Vulg. is πζοπέμψας in the Greek. It does not mean that S. John wished Caius personally to accompany his guests, but it refers to his affording them provisions for their journey, and other things, such as guides and letters of introduction.

Worthily of God. As it is worthy of God that His worshippers should treat worthily other worshippers of Him, honouring them as ministers of God, and honouring God in them, by treating them charitably and reverently as befits servants and members of Christ. As Christ saith, Matt 10:40, “He that receiveth you receiveth Me. He that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.”

Moral: let every believer examine himself, and see whether his works be full, perfect, and of such excellence as to be worthy of God; whether his charity be like to the charity of God and Christ; whether he live and act worthily of Christ. The gift which thou presentest to a king must not be of some mean sort. It should be excellent and regal. What then does it become us to offer unto God, who is King of kings and Lord of lords? This is what S. Paul admonishes the Ephesians,  “I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called” (Eph 4:1).

3Jn 1:7  Because, for his name they went out, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

Because, for his name they went out, viz., that they might preach the name of God and Christ, says Bede. Or else because for His name they have been driven into exile. The first of these is the more probable reason. And it is strengthened by what follows.

Taking nothing of the Gentiles. Because without price they preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, that they may not seem to gain any profit by the Gospel.

3Jn 1:8  We therefore ought to receive such: that we may be fellow helpers of the truth.

We therefore ought to receive such. The Greek for receive is κατα λάμβανίν. This means, not to wait until they come to us, but to invite them to our house, yea, to constrain them to come in. Œcumenius says, as the disciples constrained Christ at Emmaus (Luke 24:29). Moreover to receive and reception means in Scripture every sort of kindness and protection, care and assistance.

That we may be fellow helpers with the truth, by ministering necessary things to those who preach the truth or who suffer exile or tribulation for the truth’s sake.

Observe:  S. John by many arguments stirs up Caius to persevere in his liberality to pilgrims. 1st He praises his generosity because also his guests praised it before the whole Church. (Ver. 3.)  2d Because it was a work befitting a Christian believer. (Ver. 5.)  3d Because it was a work worthy of God. (Ver. 6.)  4th Because it was done to those who made known the name of God. (Ver. 7.)  5th Because it was done to those who were forsaken or despoiled by other Gentiles. (Ver. 7.)  6th Because by this means they became fellow-workers with the truth and the Gospel, and preached it themselves through the preachers and confessors whom they received and nourished.

Moreover, when S. John exhorts Caius to persevere in hospitality he makes use of the first person, “we ought therefore,” that his exhortation may be sweeter and more powerful. Certain it is that S. John was very hospitable to pilgrims. For he was the Bishop of Ephesus, and in that capacity was wont to dispense the goods of the Ephesian Church to the poor and strangers. Moreover, Bede says that S. John, like S. Paul, lived by the labour of his hands.

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Bishop MacEvily on the 3rd Epistle of St John

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 13, 2010

ANALYSIS:  After addressing GaiUs, the Apostle expresses the interest and concern which he feels in hiS temporal and spiritual welfare (verses 1-2). He congratulates him on his faith, and the charity manifested by him towards the poor and indigent Christians, and the different ministers of the gospel (3,4,5). He exhorts him to persevere in the same meritorious course of charity towards the visible representatives of God (6), who, having been bereft of all temporal means in his holy cause (7), have, therefore, a claim for support on all Christians whom God has blessed with the means of doing charity. Such deeds of charity will render the doers of them sharers in the merits of those to whose support they contribute (8.)

He next says, he would have addressed the entire Church on the subject of alms-giving, were it not that Diotrephes refuses to recognise his authority (9); and he threatens, on his arrival, to expose his misdeeds before the assembly of the faithful (10). He cautions Gaius against following so pernicious an example. He eulogises the charity of Demetrius (11, 12). He concludes the Epistle in verses13, 14.

COMMENTARY:

3Jn 1:1  The Ancient, to the dearly beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

The ancient Bishop (salutes) the dearly beloved Gaius whom I love with a sincere spiritual affection.

“The ancients,” &c.  (See 2nd Epistle 1). Here is what the Bishop wrote there: “The ancient.” St. John suppresses his title of Apostle, through modesty, in writing to a single individual, and calls himself “the ancient,” in Greek, πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros) which is a term not only employed to express age, but also ecclesiastical dignity in the Church.

3Jn 1:2  Dearly beloved, concerning all things I make it my prayer that thou mayest proceed prosperously and fare well, as thy soul doth prosperously.

I make it the subject of my prayer to God, dearly beloved, that you may prosper in all you undertakings, and enjoy health of body, as your soul prospers and progresses in sanctity, by the exercise of charity and good works.

“Concerning all things,” is understood by some to mean, above all things. However, it is better understand it to mean, in all thy undertakings, and in all thy concerns, namely, in thy family, wealth, &c., which thou renderest subordinate to the works of charity. “I make it my prayer that (in all these things) you should prosper.“And fare well.” The Greek word for this, υγιαινειν, means, enjoy bodily  health.  “As thy soul doth prosper,” i.e.., I pray that in other things you may be as prosperous, as I know you to be with regard to the health and prosperity of your soul, which progresses every day more and more in grace and virtue, owing to your charity and
hospitality.

3Jn 1:3  I was exceedingly glad when the brethren came and gave testimony to the truth in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.

It has been to me a source of great spiritual joy, to hear the testimony which the brethren, coming hither from thy country, have borne regarding thy true faith, and good works of mercy, as indeed in all thy actions thou dost display true faith and sincere charity.

In this and the following verse, the  Apostle congratulates Gaius, on his past
hospitality, so as to refer the glory of it to God, and exhort him to perseverance in the same meritorious course. “When the brethren,” i.e., the poor Christians, and probably Christian ministers of the gospel.

3Jn 1:4  I have no greater grace than this, to hear that my children walk in truth.

Nothing can afford me greater satisfaction and joy than to hear, that those whom I have spiritually begotten in Christ, advance in faith and Christian love.

“Grace,” in Greek, χάρις. The word, “joy,” differs in Greek only by a single
letter (χαρά, “joy,” is the word used in the ordinary Greek reading). The Vatican MS. supports the Vulgate.  “My children,” that is, those spiritually begotten by him. Hence, Gaius was either converted, or more fully instructed by him.

3Jn 1:5  Dearly beloved, thou dost faithfully whatever thou dost for the brethren: and that for strangers,

Dearly beloved, thou dost act a part worthy of a Christian when ministering to the necessities of our indigent Christian brethren, and particularly when exercising charity towards strangers.

“Faithfully,” i.e., a thing worthy of a Christian instructed in the true faith,
“Whatever thou dost,” i.e., in thy charitable ministrations towards the “brethren,” i.e., the Christian converts, “and that for strangers,” and particularly towards such as come to thee from other regions, and are the most friendless and unpitied.

3Jn 1:6  Who have given testimony to thy charity in the sight of the church. Whom thou shalt do well to bring forward on their way in a manner worthy of God:

Who have borne testimony to thy works of charity in the presence of all the faithful here, and in all places, and thou wilt act a meritorious part by continuing a course of charity towards such persons, not only by entertaining them at thy house, but also when they leave thee, by having them escorted out of the reach of danger, and by furnishing them in a manner suited to the ministers and representatives of God.

These Christian strangers whom thou hast befriended and aided by your charity, have announced thy praises publicly here, in presence of the assembled faithful, and they do the same wherever they go. “Whom thou shalt do well,” not only to entertain at thy house, but also “to bring forward on their way,” by having them escorted out of the reach of danger, and furnished with the necessary viatic for the journey.  “In a manner worthy of God.” In a manner befitting in us to treat those who are engaged in God’s service, and have renounced everything for him; or, in the same respectful
way in which we would treat God himself, whose visible representatives they are, “he who receives you receives me.”—(.Matt 10:40).

3Jn 1:7  Because, for his name they went out, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

For, they went forth, as it were, into voluntary exile, in his behalf, and to propagate his faith, refusing to receive anything for their support from the Gentiles, whom they converted.

“Because they went forth in his name.” You should treat,them with the respect due to the visible representatives of God; because in going forth from their home and in suffering the loss of everything else, it was on his account, and fir the advancement of his holy cause.  “Taking nothing of the Gentiles,” i e., declining all remuneration, as did St. Paul (1 Cor 9 &c.), lest they should obstruct the spread of the gospel and give the Gentiles any pretext for charging them with rri ere nary motives. If we understand the word “Gentiles ” to refer to the unconverted Gentiles, then, the word will mean, that the poor ministers of the gospel did not wish to receive any support from the Pagans, lest they might be scandalized at the want of charity in the Christian converts, who permitted their ministers to be in distress; or, the words may mean, that the Gentiles robbed them of their possessions.

3Jn 1:8  We therefore ought to receive such: that we may be fellow helpers of the truth.

All of us, therefore, whom God has blessed with the means of exercising charity, should receive such poor Christian ministers, in order that we may share in their merits by co-operating with them, and enabling them to announce the true faith.

“We, therefore,” i.e., all who are blessed with means; he joins himself, either because he had alms for distribution; or, he speaks in the first person as is often usual with those addressing others, even when the matter may apply solely to those to whom the the discourse is addressed.  “Ought to receive such,” i.e., help and relieve them, “that we may be fellow-helpers in the truth,” i.e., share in the merits of the preachers of the faith. “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet, receives the reward of a prophet,” (Matt 10:42). It is likely these poor ministers of the gospel were the bearers of this Epistle.

3Jn 1:9  I had written perhaps to the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, doth not receive us.

I would have written to the faithful at large of your Church, recommending to them the same, and not throw the burden of supporting the brethren on any single individual, if it were not that Diotrephes, who wished to hold the chief place among them, refuses to recognise our authority.

“I had written perhaps to the Church.” This he says, to excuse himself for throwing the burden of supporting the poor Christian ministers on one individual. In the ordinary Greek, the reading is absolute, εγραψα τη εκκλησια—I have written to the Church. In many Greek manuscripts is found the reading, “I had perhaps written.” Both readings may be easily connected in this way: I have written to the Church, but in vain, and would have written perhaps on the same subject.

“But Diotrephes, who loves to have the pre-eminence, does not receive us.” Some say, this Diotrephes was bishop of the Church in question; others, with Venerable Bede, that he was a heretic who had great
influence in that particular Church; a man probably of consideration amongst them.  It is conjectured by many that he was one of the ”Judaizantes,” who endeavoured to unite with he gospel the ceremonial law of the Jews. Against the opinion of Bede, it may, however, be fairly objected, that St. John does not speak of expelling him from the Church, as he certainly would have done, if this haughty man were a heretic; so strong were the feelings of the Apostle with regard to such persons (2 John 10).

3Jn 1:10  For this cause, if I come, I will advertise his works which he doth, with malicious words prating against us. And as if these things were not enough for him, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and them that do receive them he forbiddeth, and casteth out of the church.

On this account, should I come amongst you, I will expose in presence of the faithful his past misdeeds, maliciously indulging in detraction against us, and endeavouring to injure our good name by calumnious imputations. And as if he were not content with these things, he not only refuses to afford any aid to the distressed brethren, but he also prohibits others from doing so, and casts out from the assembly of the faithful, such as perform these works of charity.

St. John threatens to expose publicly his misdeeds. “With malicious words
prating against us.” He wished to lessen the authority of the Apostle, and by calumnious rumours to damage his character. And still more, he refuses to give the poor distressed Christian ministers any support; and prevents others from doing so, and even excludes from the Church such as exceed his prohibition.  This, probably, was a sort of unjust excommunication, and a fearful abuse of power. These are the heads of the charges, which the Apostle will bring against this wicked man.

3Jn 1:11  Dearly beloved, follow not that which is evil: but that which is good. He that doth good is of God: he that doth evil hath not seen God.

Dearly beloved, follow not the example of this wicked man, but follow the example of the good. He that does good, is a son of God, he that doth evil, hath not seen God nor known him practically, as he ought.

He tells Gaius not to follow the bad example of this man, but to follow rather the good example, of which he gives an instance, next verse, in the case of Demetrius. He that doth good is of God, &c.—( Vide 1 john 3:10, 4:7, 8).

3Jn 1:12  To Demetrius, testimony is given by all, and by the truth itself: yea and we also give testimony. And thou knowest that our testimony is true.

To Demetrius testimony is borne by all Christians, and by the evidence of his good works, nay, even we ourselves bear testimony to his goodness, and thou knowest that our testimony is true.

“To Demetrius testimony,” of his charity and hospitality, “is given by all”
Christians coming hither; or, by all men, whether Christians or infidels, who admire his charity; “and by the truth itself,” that is, by the public notoriety of the fact; and by ourselves, “yea, and we also,” &c.; “and thou knowest that our testimony is true.” Similar are his words in the gospel (21:24). The Greek reading for “thou knowest,” is, οιδατε, ye know.  An alternate reading, “thou knowest,” is found in the three chief MSS. Who this Demetrius was, cannot for certain be known.

3Jn 1:13  I had many things to write unto thee: but I would not by ink and pen write to thee.

I had many things of importance to impart to you, but I do not wish to do so through the medium of writing.

See verse 12, of 2nd Epistle; σοί, “to thee,” is omitted in the ordinary Greek ;
but it is found in the Alexandrian and Vatican MSS.

3Jn 1:14  But I hope speedily to see thee: and we will speak mouth to mouth. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Salute the friends by name.

But I shortly hope to see you, and speak to you in person. Peace be to you. Our friends salute you. Salute the friends by name.

“But I hope speedily to see thee, and we will speak mouth to mouth,” i.e. I shall speak to thee in person.  “Peace,” i.e., the secure possession of all spiritual blessings, “be to thee.”  “Our friends salute thee,” i.e., wish thee the abundance of all graces and blessings. “Salute the friends by name” i.e., convey our regards and Christian love to all the Christians who are with thee, severally and individually. which is expressive of greater respect.

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